I.DOMINANTS GROUNDED IN THE STRUCTURE OF TRANSCENDENCE
1. SANCTITY AND MYSTICAL ECSTASY
Cioran’s obsession about sanctity goes back to the inner biography of the thinker, rather than to the factual one. Having an indisputable weakness for the voluptuousness of ecstasy, he also maintains a queer duplicity towards his ultimate aspiration. The co-habitation of a mystic and a sceptic, this is eventually the equation of Cioran’s inner genetics. Apostate with the vocation of holiness, denier who weeps when facing the seduction of Transcendence, anarchic character and irrefutable disputer, Cioran remains sensitive to the nostalgia for holiness, to the convulsions and tensions that were denied to him, but about which he had always had an intimate intuition. Fervently impassioned by sanctity, especially women saints, Cioran does not resist the temptation, the morbid indiscretion of exploring the immodest mixture of holiness and eroticism.
The eroticism of the feminine mystic does not only refer to affective propensity, or to a nuptial metaphor, but reaches almost an organic identification between the woman saint and the “betrothed”. This does, as such, express the spiritual insufficiency of women, their inability of approaching the Absolute in a manner that overcomes the sensual. Beyond the physiological dimension, the issue of mystical ecstasy remains basically a metaphysical one. The contradiction between the emptiness of the heart and the ecstatic plenitude becomes the antithesis and unity between nothingness and being.
Cioran does not offer any definition of ecstasy beside the one of holiness in the area of a metaphysical pathology. What his aphorisms though offer would represent rather a phenomenology of holiness, than a scholastic definition of it. The God that constantly shrinks away from our adoration becomes our bone of contention, and the relentless thirst of/for Eternity becomes the active force of its detraction.
Cioran’s preoccupation with music is not of a cultural or an esthetical order, neither is it in any way ‘existential’. This preoccupation occurs mainly due to the recollections of a lost Transcendence that almost all the saints refer to, regardless of the reading of this anamnesis in the sense of a pre-existence in a world of the spirit; or, on the contrary, as the recollections of a species which maintains the feeling of paradise in every individual that comes into being. Music is thus a sort of profane mystic allowing the access to Transcendence to those incapable of bringing to completion the burdens of asceticism.
If Cioran’s attitude toward holiness has been ambiguous, vacillating between eulogy and debunking; when it comes to music, his negating propensity suffers a strange paralysis. The one blasphemous of God, the cosmos, man, life and the woman, alike; cannot be blasphemous of music. Music becomes the limit of Cioranian nihilism. His stance to music is essentially his stance to theEdenthat music fundamentally actualises. Among the musical experiences ranking in their power to convey the greatness of the Absolute, are those connected to Bach and Mozart. The counterpart to the music of the above mentioned composers is the music of Beethoven, which stands for the tragic and titanic condition of man banished from paradise. The final hypostatisation of music occurs with Wagner and the cross-fertilisation of metaphysics and eros.
Due to their infinitism, and in spite of their different traits, Bach and Wagner are kindred spirits, Bach focussing on a theological infinite, whereas Wagner focuses on an erotic one. Faithfully expressing any existential register, from the edenic to the tragic one, music remains for Cioran the ultimate consolation, the point where the nihilist capitulates in front of the sonorous blackmail of Divinity.
As mystical ecstasy was the intersecting point bringing Cioran’s thinking in connection with Eternity; whereas sickness, death, boredom, the absurd and suicide become points of intersection with nothingness. Eros, on the other hand, presents a dual condition, being a sum of contradictions. Cioran re-interprets love as a defensive reflex when facing the void, a genuine horror vacui occurring at the biological level. The erotic ecstasy undergoes a desperate expansion through its attempt at saturating the ontological void over which we are suspended. Owing to the inseparability between eros and thanatos, the depths of love would mainly refer to the inseparable interweaving between being and non-being.
The entire ontological trajectory of the position that the woman would occupy in a topography of being, vacillates between the ecstatic extreme of Transcendence and the abyssal one of the mechanics of death, which reveals itself through eros. Femininity under all its forms vacillates between these two metaphysically oppositional registers. This metaphysical spectrum circumscribes the condition of women, as seen by a nihilist. Cioran’s itinerary as regards femininity and eros is not unambiguous, as the nihilistic overtones overlap with eulogy and vehement debunking.
II. DOMINANTS GROUNDED IN THE STRUCTURE OF SEIN ZUM TODE : CIORANIAN EXISTENTIALS
The existentials are the correlative and complementary term as regards the categories. These existentials refer mainly to the relationship with nothingness, death and the world. This Heideggerian phenomenological indication undergoes a radical reorientation with regard to Hegel and Husserl, a reorientation that has an echo even in the Romanian space, especially when it comes to Nae Ionescu, who – being a thorough connoisseur of the fundamental basis of mathematics – would be the one to establish its limits in the name of the existential experience.
With Cioran, the distance to logic does not originate in the haughty conscience of a historical phase in European thinking, but rather in the awareness of the inability of abstraction to bring to expression the human organic convulsions. Cioran fundamentally defines not only his existential attitude, but also his cosmological one, suggesting also the possibility – absolutely improbable in our age so very much dominated by science – of a metaphor-grounded cosmos. From now on the use of syllogisms becomes completely futile, and theorems become signs of gratuitous excess. On the other hand, the Cioranian system of thought becomes consistent only in the proximity of what Heidegger had called existentials.
The erotic, the mystical and the musical ecstasy can be justified, as we have mentioned before, at the hand of the luminous attribute of Transcendence, which triggers in man the urge to break free from his own condition and to ecstatically unite with the Absolute. The existentials refer basically to those dominants of the Cioranian thinking which present an obvious affinity with care (Sorge) and with (Sein zum Tode). In the following we will make some remarks on the main Cioranian existentials.
1. THE ENNUI
Boredom is for Cioran equivalent with the void, as a state of perpetual disintegration of the cosmos. The ennui wipes away all differences and peculiarities of things, becoming a foreshadowing of chaos. The most acute form of boredom, which is essentially an inverted eleatism, a sterile stagnation of being, is the ascetic ennui, the akedia. Boredom is the counterpart of ecstasy; for they both aspire to the suspension of time. As ecstasy is basically the experience of the mystics, ennui – more generous and accessible – reveals itself to those that have not come close enough to the Absolute, yet this boredom will still lead to the Absolute that man is ignoring.
Boredom transcendents the level of the individual by involving whole communities during the ages of historical decline. When the resources of a people are devoid of any energy, boredom assists decadence. The example that Cioran offers is the transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages running through the Hellenistic dawn. Ennui as such has one single source, i.e. ‘the unwillingness of blood to adhere to the way of the world’.
2. SICKNESS AND DEATH
One cannot accede to nothingness, says Cioran, if one does not undergo the experience of reaching nothingness. The meaning of the title of his first book published in French, Treatise of Decomposition (Tratat de descompunere), which also brought him full acknowledgement in the Parisian cultural environment, is that of a refined alchemy of dissolution. Cioran opens our eyes to the fact that both life and death have their own physiology. Thus, his thinking remains attached to the economy of disarticulation, whether it regards sickness, spleen or death. This process is the only form which transfers the theme of nothingness from the impersonal territory of abstraction to that of experience, for it is far from relevant to have a clearly defined concept on nothingness, if there is no actual encounter with it.
Therefore, Cioran transforms his preoccupation with our organic derangements into as many forms of awareness of the body. Aristotle defined the soul as the only form of the body that is provided with organs; Cioran, on the other hand, is interested precisely in these organs, or, more exactly, in the relationship they entertain with their formal principle. Health remains the vegetative form of life, i.e. eminently unaware, for this is the condition which allows us to ignore our anatomy. Health is synthetic and unitary, whereas sickness reveals, by means of the disarticulation of the whole, a genuine phenomenology of nuances. There is an inverted relationship between our own vitality and the divine presence in us. Only through the lamentations of the flesh do we become permeable to Eternity. Sickness has the ability of transfiguring, of revealing, and this is the reason for Cioran seeing in it an accomplishment. The cognitive function of melody is likewise emphasized several times by Cioran, who asserts that by means of sufferance even animals can reach some degrees of consciousness.
The maturity and fulfilment of sickness is death. Death in its most obsessive forms cannot be swept away by the artifices of syllogism. The only way to use it, to wear it out, remains living it to the end, relishing the subtleties it can provide. Sickness as well as death, far from drying out life, enhances its content. Death can also have a therapeutic function when it becomes the object of meditation, and by that we refer to a therapeutics of detachment. Without the obsession of death, any form of consciousness, as refined and familiarised with the realm of abstraction as it may be, is frail and inessential.
3. THE ABSURD
If life is, according to Cioran, the result of an insoluble equation, it follows that this valorisation does not originate in biographical deception or in a psycho-analytical collapse. If Cioran had resorted to facile psychological arguments, he would not have overcome the simple status of mere chronicler of deceptions. Cioran is yet much more than that, for he attempts at a transcendental explanation of these deceptions. He is not satisfied with simply mentioning them, but claims to accede to the principles that trigger them. The instrumental principle of the phenomenological intended nihilism (the reduction of meaning) seems to be precisely the embryonic, i.e. the virtual structure of the absurd.
As the nonsense of life is not a purely abstract notion (as is for instance the Kantian concept of nihil negativum), but a sensitive transcription of absurdity, its best translation is the experience of the vertigo. This represents par excellence the invalidation of the vertical position of man, of his specific difference as regards animality. As compared to the horizon of infinity, the natural condition of man appears improbable, i.e. absurd. The experience of vertigo is for Cioran the connection between the essence of the absurd and the endlessness which definition of the abyss analytically involves.
The ontological source of the abyss finds its location in the corrosive activity of temporality. More than Ecclesiastes himself, the mere contemplation of an aging face, of the wrinkles as prints of becoming, is quite sufficient for us to overcome our daily wantonness. A wrinkled epidermis becomes in itself a “treatise on the absurd”, a form of organically elaborated nonsense. The vindication of existential nonsense is for Cioran of a physiological and cosmological nature. A mere organic derangement becomes equivalent to the cosmic immensity and stillness that surrounds the human drama.
A characteristic attitude of Cioran regards the fact that suicide is reconsidered in the sense of regaining full liberty, a sort of sovereignty towards death. We recognise here the main Dostoyevskian thesis, which, theologically speaking, relates suicide to the abyssal exertion of freedom. Man is in such a measure free that he has the ability to give up to hid own life. The gratuity of such a supreme decision generates an intoxication with freedom, and implicitly a real or deluding ascendent to the tragedy of death. Having such an alternative in the panoply of our elections, existence becomes suddenly bearable, while the limits which seemed to define it as being implacable, can be at least placated, if not transgressed.
In a different perspective, suicide becomes the natural consequence of our status of existence. The self-contradictory character of existence involves its accidental character as well. Out of this contingent structure, which occurs with every ontological positivity, results the inability to justify it, either from a categorical imperative perspective, or from a sacred perspective. As existence is basically delusive, evanescent in character, it cannot share the consistency and stability that the sacred enjoys. The relationship which the vindication of suicide establishes with the sacred or on the contrary with desacralisation, is reminiscent of the problem of the nature of divinity. As divinity is responsible for the cosmogony, it presently becomes reflected by the latter one. Therefore, the vindication of suicide involves the thesis of a precarious cosmos, of a flawed created world.
Under such circumstances, one can conceive of an abolition of responsibility and implicitly, of the rehabilitation of suicide as no longer being a gesture insulting the Being. We can also decipher in the intimate causality of suicide, in its secret genesis, the result of an excessive longing for the absolute. But as this absolute is beyond our reach, deception and its corollary, suicide, are according to Cioran almost inevitable. The one committing suicide is unable to claim his belonging to the world. This outwardness is generated by the break between subject and the world and it is also the one creating a predestination of suicide, which overcomes by far mere psychological predispositions. For those organically sensing their inadherence to the world, the idea of the suicide may play a therapeutical role by a simple contradictory reasoning: “as long as I have the freedom to commit the supreme act, the jump into the abyss, it means that I am free enough to become invulnerable to destiny. Having such an alternative, destiny can establish no limits, and consequently I can negotiate with it co-equally.”
TIME AND HISTORICITY BETWEEN IMMANENT AND TRANSCENDENT
The relationship between time and historicity appears as a major problem with the appearance of Christianity. The Christian Deity descends into history assuming its convulsions. Moreover, a God that allows himself to be judged in history, becomes in the end its very judge. Consequently, the end is par excellence the Judgement (krisis) and it is preceded by ever extending historical convulsions. Christianity stretches to the limit the tension of the awareness of the cosmic degradation, transforming it into an obsession and a central problematic: the problem of original sin. Cioran’s nihilism is the natural outcome of a religion that has lost its object, its soteriology. His existential stance announces a fall that is no longer balanced by redemption, but has a definite and irreparable character, Christianity without salvation, without resurrection.
As opposed to the Christian vision, but in the fashion ofIndiaand Gnosticism, Cioran conceives of fall as unconnected to the freedom of man, and as connected to the very act of cosmic creation. The transition from the Absolute to the temporal dimension is the very quintessence of the fall. The end of civilization is but its profound nature; thus, the problem of man’s headlong marching into the abyss, is after all another type of revelation of the corrupt nature of time. Cioran talks about a second stage of the fall, which he calls “the fall into sub-time”, the fall into an infernal and not edenic form of eternity. In this second phase of ontological descend, time itself becomes – as compared to infratemporality (sub-time) – what Eternity is to time. The major horror would thus be not only the fall out of time, but also the concomitant loss of time and Eternity.
Another theme that Cioran approaches as regards the nature of historical time, is the mechanism of utopia. He identifies as the origin of the projective structure of any utopia the Christian eschatology. Cioran’s excursus on utopia becomes a almost theological thesis, for it reduces history to the conflict of spiritual forces that transcend it.
Ph. D. In Philosophy
Lecturer at the “Andrei Şaguna” Faculty of Theology
“Lucian Blaga” University of Sibiu, Romania