Lines of Flight

To Liberate the Earth of Celestial Illusions and Their Tyranny

By inaugurating close to two thousand years ago a system of exploitation of terrestrial and human nature, the agrarian revolution gave birth to a market economy of which the evolution and the forms are, despite their great diversity, marked by the persistance of several traits that are dominant everywhere: social inequality, exclusive appropriation, the cult of power and profit, work and separation that was introduced into the body between the impulses of life and the spirit, which tames them and represses them, just as it tames and represses the natural elements.

The relation that, in the economy of [hunting-]gathering (anterior to the appearance of intensive agriculture) was established by osmosis between the human species and the mineral, vegetal and animal kingdoms has ceded place to its alienated form, to religion, which claims to subjugate the earth to a celestial empire, swarming with fantastic creatures called Gods, Goddesses, Spirits.

The bonds, interlaced with affection and comprehension (which emanate), have become the chains of a tutelary tyranny that cracks down from the foggy heights in which the beyond of existence begins its vacuity.

The institutional religions were born from the fear and hatred of nature. They unanimously reflect the hostility engendered -- over two thousand years -- by the pillaging of the goods lavished by the earth for lucrative ends. Especially where the natural elements are celebrated in the name of fecundity, their cults witness barbaric rituals, holocausts, bloody sacrifices, cruelties that can only be imagined by men who repress their life-impulses and guarantee, by the pastorals [mandiments] of the spirit, the bestial predatory instinct that belongs precisely to humanity, not to transcend but to surpass it.

The human situation consists in controlling the chaotic proliferation of life, intervening in such a way that creative exuberance propagates itself without destroying itself through superabundance,and in preventing vital radiation from inverting itself into mortal radiation, as a need for love that is not satisfied transforms itself into animosity.

This would also be good: to maintain among the wild animals an equilibrium between prey and predators; to prevent the decay of the trees due to excessive number and the combustion of the shubbery by thinning the forests; to give birth to children who will be desired, loved, pampered, educated in the love of life, and to not encourage the birth-rate's growth and thus condemn them to poverty, sickness, boredom, work, suffering and violence.

Without exception, all the religions oppress the body in the name of the spirit, scorn the earth in the name of the heavens, propagate hatred and cruelty in the name of love. The [political] ideologies do not act otherwise, under the pretext of assuring the social order and public well-being. Restraining themselves from opposing the non-religious nature of power to the power of the religions, they combat the sacred lie with a profane one.

The priests derive their hegemony from social chaos and misery. They need this swarming in which survival proliferates at the cost of real life, so as to arrogate to themselves the privilege of working, according to a supposedly celestial mandate, to clear-cut the abundance of the people. They punish, they sacrifice, they eliminate the surplus; they legalize bloodshed in the name of the All Powerful. They extol the health of the clan, the tribe, the community, the species, by the leveling of sovereign death. They open the invisible door of their dogmatic certitudes on the beyond and a mythic life, of which the richness makes up for the failings of the here-below.

The individual is sacrificed to the herd. Under the pressure of the rituals of indoctrination, the joy of living is compressed, tread upon, crushed, covered over, worked to death, and left with its cadaver oozing faith. A belief that extolls health at the price of a mutilated, murdered life. How can one be surprised?

The principle of fatality, according to which death seizes life at every instant, illustrates the mechanism of self-regulation, to which proliferating chaos spontaneously appeals. Obscurantism, stoppered intelligence, and the credo quia absurdum,[1] by occulting the creative power of man, have for millennia revoked our unique contingency from acceding to life and propagating it.

The alleged return of the religions only translates the regressions in which the past is manifested by a fictitious and passenger-like resurgence. They are only spectacular and parodic mobilizations of archaisms. By leveling [arasant] our mode of beliefs and traditional ways of thinking to the benefit of short-term calculations, planetary mercantilism has made the various religions and political ideologies into simple short-term elements in the chessboard of its needs. It restores them and disencumbers itself according to what the market judges to be necessary or superfluous.

The sickening principle "All is permitted provided that it yields [profits]" has struck the most diverse societies with nausea and makes nihilism the philosophy of business.

Consumerism has devoured Christianity. After Jesus, Jehovah, [Sun Yung] Moon and the Dalai Lama, Mohammed will also be imported by Mac Donald [sic] as a nugget offered as a premium. One will rejoice if the cult of money serves to empty out all of the others.

The religious spirit has lingered on, like the stagnant water of an old swamp; the ecclesiastical institutions are no longer the packaging of the mercantile product. Wheeler-dealer ecumenism mixes in the same bucket-seat Vaticanesque Catholicism, the Calvinism of Wall Street, the mafias operating under the flags of Sunni-ism, Shia-ism, Wahabi-ism, and Zionism. The God of currency-exchange and faith in whatever serves to wrap up all of these obsolete beliefs and these phantasmagoria in the manner of Jerome [Hieronymous] Bosch, of whom one has forgotten too quickly that they, not so long ago, contributed to the extraordinary vogue for sects. It is in [the nature of] market logic to recuperate for its profit the loss of soul that it provokes. In this matter, one method is worth the other.

In all the climates that it degrades, capital manages a veritable cold war against the totality of the world's population. It parodies the old confrontation that opposed East to West, the empire of Moscow to the American empire. Today, it is a war at the planetary level, a war of gangs and tribes, commanded by the markets in armaments, petroleum, narco-pharmaceuticals, agri-business, bio-technologies, computerized information, financial groups, parasitical services, intensive sin, trafficking in human beings and animals, the pillaging of the forests.

The only actual and effective International is henceforth that of the living-dead, who need to make a cemetery of the earth. It is true that the workers' movement had already abandoned internationalism to the Stalinists of the old Soviet empire and its henchmen, the Maos, Pol Pots, Ceausescus, Castros and other caudillos.[2] The reflex of voluntary servitude, obtained with such zeal by the bludgeon of information and and education: how does it not furnish a part of a growing audience to the promotional methods of fatalism, whether they are non-religious or religious? (Those who, under the circumstances, rally the resignation of the Muslim world would be better off asking themselves about the delusion.)

Originally issued from the economic system that regurgitates them today by attaining its apogee and point of collapse, the religions -- all derisory and menacing at the same time -- are in the image of virtual money which, from the heights of absurdity and abstract, stock-market ratings, destroys by hedge-hopping [en rase motte] metallurgy, textiles, natural agriculture, health and sanity, education, public services and the existence of millions of people.

From the speculative financial bubble, inflated without cease and of which the economists foresee the bursting, proceeds an apocalyptic spirit, less marked by fear than by cynicism.

Reproducing the old schema of the end of the world -- so frequently associated in the past with egalitarian demands -- the programme of the destruction of the planet and terrestrial life today brazenly identifies itself with the health of the world of business. How would this eminently religious vision not assume a preponderant role in the spectacle? Nothing any longer arouses trivial and morbid fascination, except for the staging, which is regulated according to a variable-function Manicheanism of good and bad exterminating angels, whose interchangeable militias indifferently mobilize corrupters of climates, poisoners of food, polluters of all types, instigators of war and poverty, killers, massacrers, and terrorists brandishing (or not) the flag of a Cause.

A single thing does not appear in the universal spectacle and its scenarios of live and backstage death: the simple evidence that, for millions of human beings, life exists and merits being lived.

Patriarchal societies have always scorned the quest for terrestrial happiness. Now that the founding values of the herd [gregaire] society are dissolving in the waters of the drainage of egotistical calculations, each person finds herself alone to mark her own road, alone to wander in the absence of references, with the anguish of losing oneself, alone to bet on herself, to discover her own personal resources, her faculty of creating, her true desires and the resolution to lead them to satisfaction.

It is here, at the same spot where, in this planetary crisis, a mutation begins, that the plausible birth of a new world could bring back from the past the figures who resisted obscurantism, who were dead set against oppression, extolled the emancipation of men and women, who anticipated by their insolent modernity the behaviors of the radicality that is emerging today: Aleydis of Cambrai, Marguerite Porete of Valenciennes, William Cornelius of Antwerp, Heilwige Bloemardine of Brussels, Dolcino and Margarita of Novara, Thomas Scoto of Lisbon, Francisca Hernandez of Salamine, Herman of Rijwijk, Eloi Pruystinck of Antwerp . . . .

One will note that, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, many women -- with pertinence -- have combatted religious oppression in the name of love, the freedom of desire, and the generosity of life. The emancipation of women goes hand-in-hand with the decline of the patriarchy, whose lot is tied to the system of the exploitation of nature. This is why women today constitute the driving force of human consciousness.

Is it necessary to recall that Sicilian women were the first to successfully combat the Mafia; that the courage of Arab, Iranian and Afghan women gets the better of the despotism that men exercise over them, so that they forget that they themselves are tread upon by a similar oppression?

There is no religion that does not profess fear and scorn of nature. But, after having convinced women for so long to assume this servitude, of which the man avails himself in his obsession with [not] being cuckholded, the patriarchal tradition totters and is battered. The fear of the male being dethroned is not at all foreign to the spasms of rage of the non-religious populist movements, of which religious extremisms are only the archaic religious versions.

That ordinary machismo, everywhere contested and threatened, finds comfort in the citadels of fundamentalism, nationalism, and ethnic tribalism: doesn't this explain why the will to eradicate the resurgence of religious and ideological totalitarianism implicates the listless indignation of the woven hats and homelies of bleating humanism?

All religions are fundamentalist from the moment that they have power. If, as Holbach[3] says, "parish priests, preachers, rabbis, imams, etc. enjoy infallibility every time that there is the danger of them being contradicted," take care [not] to forget how they excel at showing themselves to be sweet, flattering and conciliatory at the times that the commodity that they oppress has been removed.

Abandon the State to Islam and you will get Talibans and Shari'a; tolerate Papist totalitarianism and the Inquisition will be reborn, as will the crime of blasphemy and natalist Propaganda, which is the purveyor of massacres. Endure rabbis and you shouldn't be surprised that the old anathema of the Hebraic religion against the goyim will re-emerge: "May their bones rot!"

It is time to say it again, with force: nothing prevents someone from practicing a religion, following a belief, defending an ideology, but no one should impose it upon others and -- a still more unacceptable thing -- to indoctrinate the children. All convictions can freely express themselves, even the most aberrant, the stupidest, the most odious, the most ignoble, on the express condition that, dwelling in the state of singular opinions, they can not oblige anyone [else] to receive them against their will.

Nothing is sacred. Each person has the right to criticize, to rally, to ridicule all of the beliefs, all of the religions, all of the ideologies, all of the conceptual systems, all the [schools of] thought. Each one has the right to shit upon in their totality all of the gods, messiahs, prophets, popes, priests, rabbis, imams, bonzes, pastors, gurus -- all as much as the heads of state, kings and caudillos of all types.

But a freedom repudiates itself from the moment that it doesn't emanate from a will to live fully. The religious spirit revives everywhere that sacrifice, resignation, guilt, self-hatred, the fear of pleasure, sin, redemption, and the denaturation and impotence of man becoming human are perpetuated.

Those who attempt to destroy religion by repressing it have only ever succeeded in reviving it, because it is the spirit of oppression reborn from the cinders par excellence. It feeds on cadavers and it is hardly important to it that intermixed in its mass graves the living and the dead are indifferently martrys of its faith or victims of its intolerance. The religious virus will reappear as long as there are people who groan and show off -- as if it were a title of nobility -- their poverty, their sick state, their debility, their dependence, nay, their revolt that they dedicate to failure.

God and his avatars are only ever fantasies of a mutilated body. The only guarantee of putting an end to the celestial empire and the tyranny of dead ideas is the renewal of the bonds between the impulses of the body and the responsive intelligence that refines them. We must re-establish communication between consciousness and the only [true] radicality: the aspiration of the greatest number of people to happiness, pleasure and creativity.

Only the invention of a terrestrial life, vested in [devolue] the richness of our desires, that will accomplish the supercession of religion and philosophy, its servant master.

1 January 2005[4]

[1] Latin: "I believe because it is absurd."

[2] 19th century dictators in Argentina.

[3] Baron d'Holbach (1723 to 1789) was a French materialist philosopher.

[4] It seems that Vaneigem attached the following statement to this preface: "The majority of the ideas evoked here were developed in On the Inhumanity of Religion. Whereas a mixed menu of praise and execration most often accompanies the publication of my texts, this book is distinguished by an absolute silence (except for two articles in Belgian reviews that are outside of commerce) that has welcomed it in a revelatory fashion."

(Written by Raoul Vaneigem as a new preface to his book The Movement of the Free Spirit: Generalities and Testimonies concerning Life coming to the Surface of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and, Incidentally, our Epoch, which was originally published in 1986 and translated from the French in 1994 by Randall Cherry and Ian Patterson. The new edition of the book was printed in 2005 by L'or des fous editeur, Paris. New preface translated from the French by NOT BORED!, 30 September 2006. All footnotes by the translator.)

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