Method of Meditation


If man didn’t close his eyes sovereignly,
 he would end up no longer seeing
what is worth being seen.
René Char


My goal — in the following pages — is the loftiest there has ever been.

However worthy of interest a political task might be — or any other equivalent to such bold ideas — (at such moments, I think, I make rough assessments, fully aware of my limits: the humility of a comical character, indifference to oneself, a happy negation of what is not rapid movement frees me from hesitation): I am aware of nothing intended by a man who does not diminish himself by yielding, to a subordinate operation (one which differs in some way from that which arrests me, namely a sovereign operation).

I believe that I would undermine the affirmation of my intent if I were to explain myself further. So, I have purposely limited this foreword to these few words, but I believe what follows will clear up, if at all possible, any misunderstandings that may have arisen due to the disorder of any books of mine, which touch upon the subjects discussed below.


I see my efforts as a continuation,
parallel to Surrealism

A daring, challenging demand appeared under the name Surrealism. It was confused, it is true, often letting go of its prey for its shadow. The present confusion, general collapse (these days, who expresses the least demand?) sometimes appears preferable to me. Nevertheless, the Surrealist ambition persisting, I do not believe that I could say exactly what I just said. And, anyway, I am astonished by what now comes to light: with few exceptions, I do not see any intellectual consciousness, boldness, desire, or strength around me. Just the same, I am only able to express myself with  exasperation.[1]


My method is nothing like “yoga”

A method of meditation should, in theory, address the teachings of yoga (Hindu exercises of concentration).

It would be wonderful if some manual existed that stripped yogic practices of all their moral and metaphysical excrescences. Besides, these methods could be simplified.

The calm, the deep breathing, prolonged like in sleep, like an incantatory dance, the slow, ironic focusing of thoughts on an emptiness, the mind’s cunning sleight of hand on the themes of meditation, where sky, earth, and subject successively collapse, could be the object of such a teaching. A description removed from this discipline would help to bring about the “ecstasy of the yogis.

There is a lot at stake here, in that there is no shorter means to escape the “sphere of activity” (if you prefer the real world).

But this is the very reason that it is the best means. On the subject of yoga, the question is narrowly defined: if resorting to means defines the sphere of activity, how can we destroy this sphere, when from the very outset we speak of means? But yoga is nothing if not this destruction.


my reflections are founded on a “privileged” experience; yet “going as far as possible” only has meaning once the pre-eminence of a “continuum” is recognized.

By continuum I mean the continuous milieu that is the human collective, as opposed to a rudimentary representation of indivisible and clearly separate individuals.[2]

Among the criticisms I made in Inner Experience, the one which gives an exclusively individual meaning to “torture” reveals the limit, in relation to continuum, of the individuals who comprise it. That there exists a point in the continuum where the experience of “torture” is inevitable, not only can be denied, but this point, located at the extreme, actually defines the human being (the continuum).


I do not separate myself in any way from man in general; I take the totality of what is upon myself

The common exclusion of the worst (folly, vice, indolence …) seems to me to denote servility. The servile intelligence serves folly, but folly is sovereign: I can do nothing about it.


The essential is shameful

That which is not servile is shameful: a cause for laughter, for … : ecstasy is the same. That which is not useful must hide (under a mask). Addressing himself to the crowd, a dying criminal was the first to formulate this commandment,: “Never confess.”


The apparent laxity of rigour only expresses a greater rigour,
to which one had to respond in the first place.

This principle must again be inverted.

The rigour apparently affirmed every now and then is only the effect of a deep laxity, of the abandonment of something essential that is, in any case, the sovereignty of being.


Part One

The idea of silence (the inaccessible) is disarming!

I cannot speak of an absence of meaning, except by giving it a meaning that it doesn’t have.

The silence was broken, when I said…

Some lamma sabachtani always ends the story, betrays our inability to keep our mouth shut. I must give meaning to what has none. In the end, being is offered to us as impossible!


This immense folly, this arrogant childishness, this vulgar futility of laughter and all of the ignorance frozen in servile mania, returns to me from every side the same reply: impossible! Man, the being that is here, is in every sense the impossible incarnated. He is the inadmissible and only admits, only tolerates that which makes his essence deeper: inadmissible, intolerable! Lost in a maze of aberrations, of deafness, of horrors, eager for tortures (eyes, fingernails torn-out), endlessly thrown into the satisfying contemplation of an absence.

Whether one dares hope for an escape, amending this, cursing that, denouncing, condemning, decapitating or excommunicating, depriving (it seems) of value (of meaning) that which others…, one enages a new platitude, a new ferocity, a new hypocritical stupor.


But how (I am addressing everyone) can I renounce your folly? When I know that, without it, I wouldn’t exist! What would I be — what stones or wind are— if I wasn’t an accomplice to your errors?


I am a cry of joy!

There is no mistake, not a single horror that doesn’t fuel my flames.


I think like a girl takes off her dress.

At the extremity of its movement, thought is shameless, even obscene.


On no account is an excessive blaze contrary to the murderer, the ususer, or the teacher. It forsakes neither the lost girl nor the ‘man of the world’.

It completes the movement of stupidity, of insipid facetiousness, of cowardice.



Being an important person, I demand an audience.

With a kick in the ass, the minister leaves me in a huff.

I enter the waiting room in ecstasy: the kick thrills me, fills me, penetrates me; it opens within me like a rose.



Between two graves I find a glistening worm.

In the night, I put it in my hand.

The worm looks at me, penetrates even my shame.

And both of us vanish in its glow: we merge into one another in the light.

The astonished worm laughs at me and at the dead and I too am astonished, laughing at being divined by a worm and by the dead.



The sun enters my room.

It has the thin neck of flowers. Its head resembles the skull of a bird.

It grabs a button on my jacket.

Strangely, I take hold of a button on my underwear.

And we look at one another like children:


“I take you,

you take me,

by the goatee.

The first …”



In a certain sense, every problem is one of the use of time.

This implies the preliminary question:

‘What do I have to do (what must I do or what is in my interest to do or do I want to do) here (in this world where I have my human, personal nature) and now?’

By writing, I wanted to touch the heart of these problems. And having taken up this occupation, I fell asleep.


My response expressed the day’s fatigue. But this image remains faithful to how I see the world. This profoundly expresses the nature of being in the operation of knowledge: being cannot be indifferent considering an inclination thwarts the desire to know.


If it is being striving to reach its limits, philosophy must, from the outset, resolve an initial problem in the person of the philosopher: is this occupation (this striving to reach one’s limits) urgent? for me? for humanity in general?


The fact that philosophy is not for the majority is, on the one hand, usually attributed to primum vivere (that is “to eat”); on the other hand, to an inadequacy on the part of those who actually have the time (lack of intelligence, weak character).


If philosophy is only one science among many, except with a different domain, the most vital thing is to consider a subordinate task, in which the calculations of inconveniences and advantages is brought to bear on judgements foreign to the problem at stake. [202] But if it is knowledge with no other end than itself, the calculations relating to other means deprive the operation of its exceptional character (emasculate it, align it with the minor and voluntarily limited activities of knowledge). Hence the professorial tradition of philosophy and the accumulation of materials which in no way resemble the sovereign operation. And not only do these kinds of efforts not lead to this operation, they are also a diversion (blinding, preventing us from sensing its urgency).

Hegel’s criticism of Schelling (in the preface to the Phenomenology) is no less annoying. The preliminary tasks of the operation are not easily accessible to an unprepared intelligence (as Hegel said: likewise it would be senseless, for someone who is a not cobbler, to make a shoe). These tasks, in their mode of application, nevertheless inhibit the sovereign operation (being going as far as it can). Specifically, the sovereign character demands our refusal to subject the operation to preliminary conditions. The operation takes place only if its urgency appears: if it does appear, there is no longer time to proceed with efforts which are essentially subordinated to ends external to oneself, efforts which are not ends in themselves.


Scientific work is more than servile, crippled. The needs to which it responds are foreign to knowledge. These are:

1) the curiosity of those who do crossword puzzles: a discovery does not provoke interest, the quest for truth as practiced assumes a “pleasure of of not knowing” (Claude Bernard): scientific truths only have appreciable value when new; we measure the novelty of old discoveries centuries later;

2) the need of the collector (to collect and arrange curiosities);

3) the love of work, intense productivity;

4) the taste for a rigorous honesty;

5) the concerns of an academic (career, honour, money).

Initially, there is often a desire for sovereign knowledge, for going as far as one can: immediately upon arising, this desire nullifies itself, by accepting subordinate tasks. The disinterested character —independent of its application [203] — and the persistent use of empty words put one off the track. Science is practiced by people in whom the desire to know is dead.

For the moment, I am not trying to define the sovereign operation. It is possible that I have spoken about it without realizing it. And, if worse comes to worst, I would admit that speaking of it as I have is childish (it indicates an inability to gauge the extent of the effort toward the possible). Nevertheless, the lure of the operations which subordinate us still remains to be revealed to me, if only due to having imagined it.


Now I must start over:

Usually, servility sets its limits: to contribute to the advancement of mathematical sciences, or of others … From one limit to another, we come to place, at the peak, a sovereign operation. And I add: the path that leads to the summit is not the subservient operation. One must choose: we cannot both subordinate ourselves to some ulterior result and “be sovereignly”. (For “to sovereignly be” means “not being able to wait”). However, I cannot do without subordinate operations whose authentic sovereignty requires them to be as complete as possible. At the height of intelligence is an impasse where the “immediate sovereignty of being” – a region of supreme folly and sleep – seems to definitely alienate itself.


Beyond a certain point, a feeling of stupidity is inescapable. Intelligence grants me the certainty of being stupid (a calm certitude). The idea is dizzying. Still, it suffices to be indifferent: commence a friendship with vile chatter, silences, terrors and caprices. An unimaginable friendship. To me, nothing seems more foolish than a sovereign contempt for others to which my position condemns me. My feeling of vanishing into a void, opens illumination to a lightness “without form or mode.” I would gladly define ecstasy as: the joyous, but anguished, feeling — of my utter stupidity.




I no longer bear this poignant emotion, this light and airy intoxication, linked to excessive tensions.

My feelings already enclose me like a tomb and yet, above, I imagine a song similar to the modulation of light, from cloud to cloud, afternoon, in the unbearable expanse of the skies …

How avoid the intimate, never-ending horror of being? … this heart crying out a thousand tender joys, how fail to open it to the void?

My joy extends an ungraspable game to infinity. But, I know, night is falling. On all sides, black curtains fall.

The long, sad death, the muffled silence of a tomb, under the grass which is crawling with worms, sustain this feeling of airy elation, this gaiety lost at the height of the stars.

And nothing …


I walk with the help of feet, I philosophize with the help of fools. Even with the help of philosophers.

I have incarnated the ungraspable.

If I lead Being and its misunderstanding of itself, like the infinite, starry expanse of night, to the very end of reflection, I fall asleep.


And the impossible is there. (I am it.)

How could I not feel grateful to philosophers of all ages whose endless cries (powerlessness) tell me: you are the impossible?

How could I lack, who better than I, an adoration for these voices echoing, in the silence of the infinite expanse, the misunderstanding that people have of themselves and the world?


Sleep of reason! … and as Goya said: the sleep of reason begets monsters.

The essential is the aberration. The greatest comedy…


What is the worst aberration?

That which we are ignorant of, solemnly considering it wisdom?

That which, upon perceiving it, we know that there is no way out?




Between extreme knowledge and vulgar understanding—often the most reviled—there isn’t the slightest difference. [205] In Hegel, knowledge of the world is that of the first person who happens along (the passerby, not Hegel, decides the key question, touching upon the difference between madness and reason, for Hegel: on this point “absolute knowledge” confirms the vulgar notion, is based on it, is one form of it). Vulgar understanding is like another tissue within us! The human being is not made from visible tissues (bony, muscular, adipose) only; a tissue of understanding, more or less extensive, practically the same in each of us, found equally in all adults.

The works preparatory to philosophy are (negative) criticisms or growths of tissue.


In a sense, the condition on which I would see would be coming out of, emerging from the “tissue.

And obviously I should immediately say that this condition on which I would see would be dying.

The possibility of seeing never arises!


Of those philosophers that one opposes to me, who are just so many ways of weaving in the fabric of the tissue, stupidity is the only contribution acceptable to me. Stupidity (linking them to this series of ruptures, which make us laugh endlessly, that undo the mirage in which activity encloses us) is, strictly speaking, the window through which I would see, if it was not, from the outset, the sleep (a death) of intelligence (of the visual apparatus).


The sphere of known elements in which our activity is inscribed is merely its product.

A car and a man enter a village: I see neither of them, but merely the tissue woven by an activity of which I am a part. There, where I imagine seeing “what is,” I see the links subordinating what is there to this activity. I do not see: I am in a tissue of consciousness, reducing the freedom (the initial sovereignty and non-subordination) of what is to itself and its servitude.


This world of objects which transcends me (in the emptiness within me) and encloses me in its sphere of transcendence, somehow encloses me in my exteriority, weaving a web of exteriority inside of me. In this way, my own [206] actions annihilate me, opening a void within me, a void to which I am subordinate. Nevertheless, I survive this modification by tying together the bonds of immanence (bringing me back to undefined immanence, which does not admint any superiority whatsoever):

1) erotic; I manage to see a woman, I extract her, stripping her, from the sphere of objects that are connected with activity — the obscœna are immanence itself, generally we are absorbed, integrated in the sphere of objects, but through sex, we still cling to a vague immanence (as if with an indestructible, hideous and hidden root); (otherwise genitalia, erotic connections, it’s true, would be perishable: no matter to whom we might bind them, ordinary activity tends to substitute those objects that subordinate us for erotic connections…);

2) comic; we are swept along by the flood of hilarity: laughter is the effect of a rupture in the chain of transcendent connections; these comic links with our fellow men, continually broken and retied, are the most fragile, the least heavy;

3) of kinship; we bound to our parents by birth, then to our children;

4) sacred; uniting ourselves with the fundamental immanence of a whole of which we are a part; beyond that, as in each relation of immanence, to the indefinite immanence (the limitations of a group define the hybrid character of the ensemble united by the bonds of immanence); as with finite objects, these ensembles have the possibility of transcendence (the community transcends its members, God the soul of the faithful, thus introducing new voids into the domain of activity); they substitute themselves for pure activity, subordinating themselves to the chain of objects, and propose themselves as an end, but conceived on the transcendent mode of the objective world of activity, and in the long run, ceasing to differ from this world, these ensembles are its luxurious doublets);

5) romantic; concerning the love of nature (of the wild, hostile nature foreign to man); the exaltation of eroticism of the heart, the cult of poetry, of poetic rending; granting fiction a value at the expense of the order of things, of the official and real world.



 The domination of activity is accomplished more than corrupted by that of the State, this “empty block” which introduces into the inert consciousness a dominant share of dull elements (transcendent, of another nature, colourless).

Within myself, the State opens a sad and dominant void that, truly, gives me a tainted character.


Activity dominates us (as does the State) by making acceptable — possible — what would otherwise be impossible with it (if no one worked, if we had no police or laws…). The domination of activity is that of the possible, is that of a sad void, a decay in the sphere of objects.


To subordinate ourselves to the possible is to allow ourselves to be banished from the sovereign world of stars, wind and volcanoes.


God subordinates himself to the possible, dismisses randomness, abandons the choice to exceed any limits. The star exceeds divine intelligence. The tiger has the silent and lost grandeur that God lacks. Man is genuflection …


Fear spreads God’s shadow over the earth like a school uniform over a perverse adolescent girl’s nudity.


Whatever fever bears it, the love of God announces: 1) an aspiration to the state of an object (to transcendence, to definitive immutability); 2) the idea of the superiority of such a state. The order of things asked of God, not arbitrarily but essentially, is submitted to the principle of the possible: the impossible is no longer my disadvantage, it is my crime.


It is said that the content of the word God exceeds the limits of thought — but no! It admits, in one respect, a definition, limits. This strict sense is even more striking: God condemns the child’s shame (if the guardian angel sees him in the closet), he condemns the unlimited right to stupidity and to  infinite, discordant laughter: which, being neither God nor matter, nor the identity of God or matter — being unbearable, yet still there, impossible —screaming! impossible — to the point of wanting to die!



The empty character of the transcendant world is remedied by sacrifice. By the destruction of an object of vital importance (but whose alteration, resulting from a utilitarian usage, was painfully felt), we come to shatter the limit of the possible in one blow: the impossible was, at this point, freed by a crime, laid bare, revealed.


Earlier, I said: “… my own actions destroy me, open within me a void to which I am subordinate. Nevertheless I survive this corruption by tying the bonds of immanence: 1) erotic …; 2) comic …; 3) of kinship …; 4) sacred …; 5) romantic …”. I have not separately shown that it was necessary, in order to form these connections, “to shatter at a certain point the limit of the possible.” A bond of immanence requires a prior rending from the transcendent web of activity: such as stripping naked, childbirth, putting to death … (In the realm of comedy, a joke reveals the impossible at the heart of the possible. In principle, the romantic impulse established this tearing, but not without vain ostentation.)


 At the limit of silence, to speak in the heavy dissolution of thought, slipping lightly into sleep — without sadness, without irony, without surprise — softly responding to the demand of the night, already leads not to absence, but to the disorder of all processes.


Quite often, I have enough spare time to order my thoughts, to obey the rules. But today I express this movement: “sleep overtakes me …”: it is more difficult! In other words, I reach the sovereign operation, where thought accepts no subordinate object and losing itself in a sovereign object, destroys the demand for thought within itself.


If my book means: “you, the most intelligent person, the new Hegel … (or any other), are nonetheless the most stupid, narrow and nailed to the “possible” by inertia… (how conceal the fact that, generally, existence seems to me to be under water, sunk in stupidity [209] — in error — which is its condition; this is the condition of consciousness, on the verge of the laughter that denounces it …): I don’t mean that I … “You are more intelligent, but I anesthetize my intelligence in order to briefly relieve myself of yours.”


Reassured: “Humanity aspires to stupidity … more than to philosophy (a baby leaves us enrapt).”




I’m not too concerned with myself: I would like to depend on others (the distribution of being in numerous individuals is of little importance).


But I haven’t known any line of questionning more tedious than mine.


All around, I perceive, as a fruit of labour, a naive feeling of power connected to mankind’s great capacity to exercise its intelligence!


With a peurile carelessness, we grant possibility (the possible character) to existence, that everything contradicts in the end: this is the result, the postulate, of labour. When I laugh or have an orgasm I am facing the impossible. I am happy but each thing is impossible.


The simple truth:

Servile activity is possible (it is on the condition of remaining enslaved, subordinate — to other people, to principles, or even to the necessity of production — that human existence has a possible ahead of it);

But sovereign existence is in no way, not even for an instant, separated from the impossible; I will live sovereignly only at the heights of the impossible and what does this book imply if not:


leave the possible to those who are fond of it.

In spite of everything, my life was also an immense chore: in paying this price I have known a, to my taste, sufficient share of the human possible (which now allows me to say: “the possible, yes, I bowed my head!”). [210] Nevertheless, what gave me the power to write was having, sometimes, prefering to do nothing.


I am not very interested in being lazy, (rather I imagine I have an excess of vitality). That said, at thirteen or so, I asked a fellow student who was the laziest in their studies: it was me; even when considering the entire school, it was still me. In those days, I made my life difficult, by failing to write under dictation. The teacher’s first words obediently flowed from my pen. Looking at my exercise book again: I had soon limited myself to doodling (to give the impression that I was writing). I wouldn’t be able do the next day’s homework as I hadn’t listened to the text: under repeated punishment, I lived for quite a while as the martyrdom of indifference.


What is an accomplishment if it is not granted in a privileged experience? In the end, it is a moment of foolishness.


And the master himself,  if he commands, is subordinate to his own orders: sleep and laughter, at the summit, mock him, become detached, forget. So much anguish in indifference? But whom believe? Do these words announce the raptures of ecstasy?

…  words! They exhaust me without respite: I shall, however, go to the very end of the miserable possibility of words.

There I want to find some that would reintroduce — in one respect — the sovereign silence that articulated language interrupts.


Second Part
Decisive Position


1) If I want, to laugh is to think, but it is a sovereign moment.


2) To say that in laughing, I open the ground of worlds is a gratuitous affirmation. The open ground of worlds has no meaning in itself. But that is the very reason I can relate other objects of thought to it.


3) In common knowledge (which philosophy surpasses, but to which it is connected), every object of thought corresponds to a solid. This point of departure is such that no other is conceivable: knowledge proceeds from the solid, posited as the known, which one assimilates, in order to know that which is still not knwon.


4) Every operation returning thought to the position of a solid subordinates it. Not only by its particular end but by the following method: the solid object is an object that one can make and use. The known is what one can make and use (or what one assimilates in order to know what one can make and use).

Common sense returns the world to the sphere of activity.


5) Returning to an attitude (long affirmed), I will now say:

— that I have not received (accepted) a subordinated world that wanted me to be subordinate;

— that I considered the revelations brought by a burst of laughter to be the essence of things, to which I freely agreed;

— that I did not differentiate between laughing at a thing and possessing the truth; that I imagined not seeing any object which I hadn’t laughed at;[3]

— that it wasn’t only comic themes, but the existence of “what is” in general, and myself in particular, that made me laugh;

— that my laughter engaged me, completely delighted me and had no limit;

— that I already had a vague awareness of the reversal that I had effected; I thought that, having explained laughter, I would know the meaning of man and the universe: that conversely if laughter was left unexplained, knowledge avoided the essential;

— but all of this with authority.


6) Today I add:

— I do not see the object that I does not make me laugh but only its relation to the sphere of activity (the relation of this object to a solid — to what one can make and use);

— just as common knowledge returns objects to solidity, in other words at the moment of their subordinate activity, I can return them to a sovereign moment, when I laugh.


7) To return objects of thought to sovereign moments assumes a sovereign operation, different from laughter and, generally, from all common effusion. This is the operation in which thought arrests the movement that subordinates it and, laughing — or abandoning itself to any other sovereign outburst –, identifies itself with the rupture of the bonds that subordinated it.


8) The sovereign operation is arbitrary and although its effects justify it from the point of view of given subordinate operations, it is indifferent to the judgement of this point of view.


9) Descartes’ “I think” is connected, in spite of everything, to our awareness of not being subordinate, but:

— this awareness cannot exist at the starting point of objective knowledge;

—Descartes understood that thought, in its developed — and subordinated — form beyond the “I think,” does has no basis in itself, but only in the manipulation of solids;

— the relation of objects to thought free of chains is a point of arrival; before which a multitude of operations develops without thought ever having any other “object” than a subordinated one (in principle, the idea of freedom designates the ability to choose between two or more subordinations).


10) In the sovereign operation, not only is thought sovereign (as it is when we laugh) but its object too is sovereign, and recognized as such, independently of its insertion in the useful order: what is, is subordinate to nothing and, revealing itself as such, makes us laugh, etc. …


11) The sovereign operation, had it been possible only once, the science returning the objects of thought to sovereign moments[4] remains possible (does not present insoluble difficulties).

[216] Nevertheless it does encounter obstacles:

— not only does the sovereign operation not subordinate itself to anything, it is indifferent to the effects that may result; if, after the fact, I want to attempt the reduction of subordinated thought to sovereign thought, I can do it, but the authentically sovereign has no cure, at every moment it disposes me in another way (this is what was said in above in the first part);

— the voluntary subordination of operations of subordinate thought to the sovereign moment, although it does not introduce a particular presupposition (like a theology or philosophy) — but only the arbitrarily chosen position of a given moment of being (to which one could relate, or not relate, objects of thought)

— no longer allows thought to proceed haphazardly like science commonly does, advancing only where it can and, for lack of means, placidly leaving decisive problems to be resolved. From the outset I had to operate in a global fashion, from the outset tend to propositions chosen for a reason other than the possibility of establishing them: an approximation, even an error, was at first preferable to nothing (I could have come back to this point through what followed, in any case, I could not leave a void): the description that I had to make could only bear on the whole of the tableau. This method proceeded from the authenticity of my process, this authenticity imposed itself, and if I may then, to speak of it, describe an outward apect of it, I cannot prove it by considerations that only a subordinate mind would know to introduce.


12) Consequences of such a usage of thought proceed, on the other hand, from the possibility of misunderstanding: knowledge relating objects to the sovereign moment in the end risks becoming confused with this moment itself.

This knowledge that might be called free (but that I prefer to call neutral) is the use of a function detached (free) from the servitude that is its principle: the function related the unknown to the known (to the solid), whereas dating it from the moment when it detaches itself, it relates the known to the unknown.


13) What I have just said seems to contradict the fact that without the sketch, at least, of a neutral knowledge, a sovereign operation could not be represented. I may, if I want, have an attitude, a sovereign manner, but if I thinkwhen a man cannot distinguish himself from his thought — I, in principle, am responsible for the subordinate character of the common operations of thought. Sovereign thought (without which the basic sovereign moments would finally insert themselves into the order of things) wants a conscious coincidence of a sovereign moment and an operation of thought. But if any movement, any outline of neutral knowledge, begins a sovereign operation, the possible developments of this mode of new knowledge are distinct.

The sovereign operation engages these developments: they are the residue of a trace left in the memory and of the continuance of these functions, but, insofar as it occurs, it is indifferent to and mocks this residue.[5]


the sovereign operation


14) Essentially, neutral knowledge (connaissance neutre), within the common domain, reverses the movement of thought. In a sense, it is also a new domain, but this is a [218] secondary aspect (this new domain could just as easily, let nothing appear that might differentiate it from other domains). The movement that founds the sovereign operation is also founded on it: but above all (any effort, at any hour, appears vain to me, like works to a Calvinist) this operation is the end, it is the path of an experience.


15) In the first place, this discipline is a method of meditation. Its teaching is closer to the teachings of the yogis than that of the  professors. The smallest, inexact image of a sovereign operation is the ecstasy of saints.


16) In order to better describe it, I would loveto place it in a group of apparently sovereign behaviours. Besides ecstasy, these are:

— intoxication;

— erotic effusion;

— laughter;

— the effusion of sacrifice;[6]

— poetic effusion.[7]


17) This descriptive effort seeks to clarify the movement to which the different objects of thought are related afterwards, though, in itself, it is already obliged to establish the relationships of some objects of common thought to the sovereign moment.


18) The behaviours I have just listed are effusive in that they demand muscular movements of little importance and consume energy without any other effect than a [219] kind of inner illumination (that sometimes precedes anguish — even, in certain cases, entirely restricts itself to anguish).


19) Previously, I used the names inner experience or the extreme of the possible to designate the sovereign operation. Now I also use: meditation. Changing words implies the boredom of using any word whatsoever (sovereign operation is the most fastidious of all names: comic operation, in a sense, would be less misleading); I prefer meditation even though it has a pious ring to it.


20) In laughter, sacrifice or poetry, even somewhat in eroticism, effusion is obtained through a modification, voluntary or not, in the order of objects: poetry affects changes on the level of images; sacrifice, in general, destroys beings; laughter results from various changes.

In drunkenness, on the contrary, and willingly, the subject himself is modified: it is the same in meditation.


21) Intoxication and meditation still have this in common: the vague effusions of each are connected, are able at least to  be connected, to other determined effusions. The change of the object — erotic, comic — in intoxication responds appropriately to the modification of the subject. This is limitless in meditation. The origin of effusion is no less, in both cases, the activity of the subject: in intoxication, a toxic substance releases it; in meditation, the subject contests himself, hunts himself (capriciously, often even with gaiety).


22) In meditation, the subject, exasperated, seeks himself.

He denies himself the right to remain enclosed in the sphere of activity.

Still he denies external means: toxic substances, erotic partners or alterations in objects (comic, sacrificial, poetic).

The resolute subject seeks himself, grants himself self-encounters in an auspicious shadow.

And more completely than with a toxic substance, he puts himself, not objects, at stake.


23) Meditation is a comedy in which even the meditator is comic. But it is also a tragedy in which he is tragic. But the comic in a comedy or the tragic in a tragedy are limited. Whereas a meditator is prey the comic or tragic without limits.


24) The closest effusion to meditation is poetry.

Poetry is a natural means for the expression of tragedy, eroticism, and the comic (and above all of heroism): through word order, it expresses great squanderings of energy; poetry is the power of words to evoke effusion, the excessive expenditure of its own forces: in this way, poetry adds to the determined effusion (comic, tragic …) not only the flow and rhythm of verses, but the particular faculty of disordered images to annihilate the ensemble of signs that is the sphere of activity.

If one eliminates the theme, and simultaneously admits the negligible interest of rhythm, a hecatomb of words without gods or reasons for being is, for mankind, a major means to affirm, with an effusion devoid of meaning, a sovereignty upon which nothing, apparently, encroaches.

The moment poetry renounces theme and meaning is, from the point of view of meditation, the rupture that opposes it to the humiliated stammerings of the ascetic. But in becoming a game without any rules, and in the impossibility, lacking a theme, of determining violent effects, the exercise of modern poetry subordinates itself, in turn, to possibility.


25) If poetry wasn’t accompanied by the affirmation of sovereignty (providing a commentary on its absence of meaning), it would be like laughter and sacrifice, or like eroticism and intoxication, inserted into the sphere of activity. Inserted is not exactly subordinated: laughter, intoxication, sacrifice or poetry, even eroticism, subsist in a reserve, autonomous, inserted in the sphere of activity like children in a house. Within their limits they are sovereign minors, unable to contest the empire of activity.


26) It is clear, at this point, that the question of power was raised and poetry was unable to avoid it. In the end, poetry is only an evocation; it only changes the order of words and cannot change the world. The feeling of poetry is linked to the nostalgia to change more than the order of words, the extablished order. But the idea of a revolution resulting from poetry leads to one of poetry in the service of a revolution. My sole intention is to bring to light the drama hidden beneath words: limited, poetry could not affirm complete sovereignty, the negation of all limits: it was, from the outset, condemned to insertion; escaping these limits, it had to bind itself to (try to bind itself) to the contesting of the facts of the order of things.


27) Now, what does the contesting —political, in fact — of the established order mean? It claims power and could, theoretically, exercise it in the name of what exceeds servile necessity (this used to be the principle of the poetic revolution). They act differently, it is true, but one must not contradict them. The major positions of political sovereignties (meaning those of the past, founded on heroism and sacrifice[8]) were nothing less than minor ones inserted into the sphere of activity. The classical idea of sovereignty is connected to that of commandment.[9] The sovereignty of the gods, of God, of monarchs, subjugated all activity: but this altered it more than a burst of laughter or a child. For by engaging the order of things, this became its reason to exist and it was no longer independent. Under these conditions, the sovereignty that would like to remain sovereign, quickly abandons power to those who want to maintain it authentically out of ineluctable necessity.


28) Sovereignty is revolt, it is not the exercise of power. Authentic sovereignty refuses…


29) Complete sovereignty differs from minor sovereignty in that it demands unreserved adherence from its subject, who must, if possible, be a free man, having, in the sphere of activity, real resources.


30) From the outset the sovereign operation presents a difficulty so great that it must be sought in a shift (glissement).

[222] The slave-subject of Christianity attributed (returned) sovereignty to a god-object, whose purpose was to be taken, basically, as an object of possession. The god of the mystics is free (relatively) by definition; the mystic is not (quite to the contrary, he is voluntarily submissive to moral servitude).


31) A Buddhist is more proud. The Christian submits, in suffering, to the empire of activity, where he believes he reads a divine will that wants his subordination. The Buddhist denies this empire, yet behaves in turn as a slave: he considers himself fallen, and he must situate the sovereignty that he desires in another world. He also engages in the contradictions of effort in view of a sovereign moment.


32) But mankind only has to make the effort, if for no other reason than to assure and restore his strength. Yet ascetic labour is bound to the condemnation of every sovereign moment other than the one he aspires to! Whatever its power of seduction and whatever successes, in spite of its principles, that the mystic tradition, laden with subordinate presuppositions, might have known, it is still a platitude, ambiguous, a foot stuffed in a shoe.


33) It is impossible to fabricate a sovereign moment from a servile state: sovereignty cannot be acquired. I can become conscious of it, in the sovereign operation, but the operation supposes a sovereign moment, it cannot fabricate it.


34) This sovereignty cannot even be defined as a property. I am fond of it, but would I like it if I wasn’t sure I could just as easily laugh? On such a summit (or rather the tip of a needle), I can live in this condition: each time I say: “sovereign? But why?” I define a neutral knowledge, describing sovereign moments: my sovereignty accepts this knowledge like a bird sings and I derive no pleasure from my work.


35) I write to nullify a game of suborinate operations (when all is said and done, it is superfluous).


36) The sovereign operation, which is the sole possessor of authority — expiates this authority at the same time.[10] If it does not expiate it, it would have some point of application, it would seek an empire, duration. But authenticity refuses these: it is only powerlessness, absence of duration, malicious (or merry) destruction of itself, dissatisfaction.


37) Still, I want to further clarify as much as possible. Not that I must or can speak …, but it speaks, gathering at one time the totality of the “meditator” …


What it says is the object of the next chapter …


Part Three


In the end everything puts me in jeopardy, I remain suspended, stripped, in a definitive solitude: faced with the impenetrable simplicity of what is; and, the ground of the world rent, what I see and what I know no longer has any meaning, any limits, and I shall only stop when I have gone as far as I can.


Now I can laugh, drink, abandon myself to the pleasures of the senses, surrender myself to the delirium of words; I can sweat in torment and I can die: if I hadn’t entirely dissolved the world within me, I would remain subordinate to necessity, I cannot risk myself more than in joy, torture or death.


I risk myself if sensuality or pain project me beyond a sphere in which I have only one meaning: the sum of the responses that I give to the demands of utility; I am at risk when, at the end of the possible, I strive for what will convince me so strongly that the idea of death pleases me — and I laugh at being excited by it.


But the slightest activity or the least project puts an end to the game — and I am, for lack of play, led back to the prison of objects that are useful and loaded with meaning.




. .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . yet this is the instant . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . .   . .   . . . . . . . . . . . this one, now, neither my absence nor me, neither death nor light — and my absence and me, death and light — a light-hearted laugh swells within me like the sea, fills the absence immensely. All that is — is too much.




. . . it doesn’t matter any more, I am writing this book, clearly and distinctly,[11] I have wanted it to be what it is.




In the plenitude of rapture, when nothing counted except the instant itself, I escaped the common rules. But only  to quickly find them again, unchanged; and similarly that, in the burst, the ecstasy — or the freedom of the instant — disappears into possible utility, even the useful being, which defines humanity, appears to me to be bound to the need for material goods, and I imagine, to give them falsely superior ends. My method is the very opposite of lofty ideas, of salvation, of all mysticism.




Translated by Michael Tweed. This version August 1998. Revised January 2002.

Méthode de méditation   Gallimard 1973.

[1] I couldn’t avoid expressing my thought in a philosophical mode. But I am not addressing philosophers. Besides, what I have to say is not difficult to grasp. Even skipping the obscure passages, due to the intensity of emotion, would lead to fewer misunderstandings than a professor would read into them.

[2] The separation of beings, the abyss separating you and me, habitually has a primary meaning. In our sphere of life, however, the difference between one and another is only a deepening of precarious possibilities. If it is true that in one case, that at a given time the passage from you to me has a continuous character, then the apparent discontinuity of beings is no longer a fundamental quality.

Such is the case of twins born from the same egg. Mark Twain said that if one of the twins drowned, you would never know which one. The egg, that I was, was able to divide into two different individuals, different from one another in that the one saying “me” would in this way radically exclude the other, but I don’t know how either of them would differ from this me who is neither one nor the other. In fact, this difference that we deepen like a wound is only a lost continuum.

[3] Few propositions are more agreeable to me than this one in Zarathustra (Part Three “Old and New Tables, 23): “And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh!” [Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in Walter Kaufmann, ed. and trans., The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin, 1959), 322.—Trans.]

[4] If we had knowledge worthy of the name, which didn’t limit itself to fragmentary perceptions, we could relate each object to any other, indifferently. But this operation only has value if one of the terms of this relation occupies one or the other of the two positions in the series of appearances: solidity or sovereignty. The former in that it withdraws, at most, an object others depend on, assuring its autonomous subsistence. The latter in that it challenges the possibility of other objects in relation to which the sovereign moment would have meaning. Solidity however maintains its autonomy by remaining apart, through a principle of conservation. And this conservation of solidity has its meaning in definitive ends: this is the condition of activity. In sovereignty, autonomy proceeds contrary to a refusal of preservation, to a prodigality without limit. In a sovereign moment, the object is not a substance for it vanishes. Sovereignty in no way differs from a limitless dissipation of “wealth,” of substance: if we limited this dissipation, there would be a reserve for other moments, which would limit — abolish — the sovereignty of an immediate moment. The science which compares objects of thought to sovereign moments is in fact only a general economy, considering the meaning of these objects in relation to others, finally in relation to the loss of meaning. The question of this general economy is situated on the plain of political economy, but the science which goes by this name is only a restricted economy (namely restricted to market values). This is a question of the essential problem of the science which deals with the use of wealth. General economy shows in the first place that surpluses of energy is produced that, by definition, cannot be used. Excess energy can only be lost if there is no goal, and consequently is meaningless. It is this useless, senseless loss that is sovereignty. (In this the sovereign like the solid is an inevitable and constant experience.) The science which considers it, far from being in the domain of dreams, is the only completely rational economy, changing Keynes’ “bottle” paradox into a fundamental principle.

In conjunction to this short exposé I will simply allude to the “work” that it introduces (the Accursed Share).

[5] The parallels between Heidegger’s descriptions and this position are indisputable:

They develop:

— despite the reserve that Heidegger inspires in me;

— despite the difference between the paths followed.

Even more, however, than the text of Book I of Being and Time, (in appearance at least) his inability to write Book II that reconciles me with Heidegger.

On the other hand, I want to indicate notable differences:

— I started from laughter and not from anguish like Heidegger does in What is Metaphysics?: some consequences result from this perhaps, justifiably, on the level of sovereignty (anguish is a sovereign moment, but in fleeing itself, negative);

— Heidegger’s published work, or so it seems to me, is more a fabric than a glass of alcohol (it is really only a treatise on fabrication); it is a professorial work, in which the subordinate method clings to its results: in my eyes, what counts, on the contrary, is the moment of detachment, what I teach (if it is true that …) is an intoxication, not a philosophy: I am not a philosopher but a saint, maybe a madman.

[6] By sacrifice, I mean not only the rite, but any representation or story in which the destruction (or threat of destruction) of a hero or more generally of a being plays an essential role; and, by extension, the representations and stories where the hero (or being) plays an erotic role (by sacrificial effusion I also designate the effusions that the processes of film and the novel strive to obtain, however poorly).

[7] This statement is not complete: heroic behaviour, anger among others, and finally absurdity, are also sovereign moments.

[8] Sacrifice which, under the guise of art, formerly held a major position, has a minor postion in modern societies.

[9] But not, however, what we can call archaic sovereignty, which seems to have implied a kind of powerlessness.

[10] In this conclusion I purposely return to the terms of a passage from Inner Experience, borrowed from Maurice Blanchot (see Inner Experience, trans. Leslie Anne Boldt (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988, 102—trans.),.

[11] Evidently, I have only been able to define in the night what I call the sovereign operation. I have described the interplay of complex elements, of still ambiguous movements but sovereign moments are outside my efforts. These moments are of a relative banality: a little ardour and abandon suffice (a little cowardice however distracts us from it and the next moment we are babbling). To laugh to the point of tears, to sensually enjoy screaming, evidently nothing is more common (strangest is our servility when we speak of serious affairs after the fact, as if they were nothing). Ecstasy is close-by: one imagines the alluring enchantment of poetry, the intensity of crazed laughter, a dizzying feeling of absence, but these simplified elements, reduced to a geometric point, in indistinctness. Again I will show the apparition of a beloved face, in the night, at the window of an isolated house, but it’s frightening, a dead woman’s face: suddenly, under this blow, night changed into day, a cold shiver into a crazy smile, as if it was nothing — for this acute ravishing hardly differs from any ordinary state (only the painful, boring moments offer an exhange, betraying the richness of means).