Georges Bataille on the festival as sacrifice

Intimacy cannot be expressed discursively.


Paradoxically, intimacy is violence, and it is destruction, because it is not compatible with the positing of the separate individual.


The constant problem posed by the impossibility of being human without being a thing and of escaping the limits of things without returning to animal slumper receives the limited solution of the festival. /…/
there is an aspiration for destruction that breaks out in the festival, but there is a conservative prudence that regulates and limits it. /…/
Thus the letting loose of the festival is finally, if not fettered, then at least confined to the limits of a reality of which it is the negation.


For the sake of a real community, of a social fact that is given as a thing – of a common operation in view of a future time – the festival is limited: it is itself integrated as a link in the concatenation of useful works. As drunkenness, chaos, sexual orgy, that which it tends to be, it drowns everything in immanence in a sense; it then even exceeds the limits of the hybrid world of spirits, but its ritual movements slip into the world of immanence only through the mediation of spirits. To the spirits borne by the festival, to whom the sacrifice is offered, and to whose intimacy the victims are restored, an operative power is attributed in the same was it is attributed to things. In the end the festival itseld is viewed as an operation and its effectiveness is not questioned.


There is no clear consciousness of what the festival actually is /…/ and the festival is not situated distinctly in consciousness except as it is integrated into the duration of the community. This is what the festival (incendiary sacrifice and the outbreak of fire) is consciously (subordinated to that duration of the common thing, which prevents it from enduring), but this shows the festival’s peculiar impossibility and man’s limit, tied as he is to clear consciousness. /…/ The virtue of the festival is not integrated into its nature and conversely the letting loose of the festival has been possible only because of this powerlessness of consciousness to take it for what it is. The basic problem of religion is given in this fatal misunderstanding of sacrifice.

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