Manichaeism


Manichaeism
  ---- by Jonathan Smith
  The ideas of Mani (AD 215-77), a Persian philosopher of good and evil, helped Baudrillard locate his thinking within the dual form, thereby enabling his production of concepts like symbolic exchange, seduction and the perfect crime. Mani's ideas were revived following translations into French, German and English of Manichean scrolls discovered in Chinese Turkestan (1908) and Egypt (1930). This material seems to have influenced the young Baudrillard. For example, Baudrillard's passage 'this upright one . . . on this Persian stake' (UB, 78) apparently echoes references in the Manichean Psalm-book (Coptic, AD 350) to Mani's execution and to Mani on 'the upright Bema [seat] of the great judge' (Allberry, 1938: 8). In the same passage, Baudrillard also refers to 'the Taillades', once a Cathar village in southern France. Furthermore, the life-forming duality of good and evil in The Novels of Italo Calvino (UB) appears well-informed by the intermingled and creative Demonic and Divine in Chinese Manichean Text \# three (AD 731; Greenlees, 1956). Thereafter, Baudrillard would regularly refer to Manichean ideas. To appreciate these references, readers need to know about Mani's 'Two Roots, Three Epochs' doctrine.
  'Mani's developed doctrine . . . undertook to expound "beginning, middle and end" of the total drama of being,' explains Jonas (1963: 209). Referring to Light (Good) and Darkness (Evil), Jonas notes: 'The foundation of Mani's teaching is the infinity of the primal principles; the middle part concerns their intermingling; and the end, the separation of the Light from the Darkness'. Here, creation happens in the second epoch, when Light (God) lets Darkness trap some of it in matter (Jonas, 1963). This is done, Mani reckoned, to seduce Evil into the third epoch, where God will be unmixed from matter, reality reversed and the world destroyed; leaving Good once again separate from Evil (Jonas, 1963). These ideas animated the Albigensian (French Cathar) tradition and then Baudrillard via 'a prophetic moralism . . . inherited from my ancestors, who were peasants' (Baudrillard, 1995b: unpaginated). Riding with his peasant grandparents on an oxcart attacked by Nazi dive-bombers while fleeing the Ardennes in 1940, Baudrillard the boy may have thought that the world was created by 'the Evil Genius of matter' (FF, 95).
  Given these sources and circumstances, readers could expect to find Manichean ideas in Baudrillard's early major work. Indeed, some distaste for the signified material world is apparent in his first four books (SO, CS, CPS, MP). There is, for example, his emphasis on the 'faecality' of reality (CS, 30). However, it was six years later that Baudrillard first announced his preference for Manichean dualism (SED, 149). Writing in light of Freud's duality of Eros (life) and Thanatos (death), he noted Mani's 'very powerful vision' to emphasise 'the irreducible duality' of good and evil and thereby critique a persecuting church seeking to make evil 'dialectically subordinate' within a Good/Evil binary opposition.
  Baudrillard deepened his Manichean critique of binaries in Seduction (1990a [1979]) by showing how twin terms like 'good and evil' need not be conceived as 'diacritical oppositions', but can be thought of 'within the framework of an enigmatic duel and an inexorable reversibility?' (S, 103). Here, Mani's roots and epochs are brought to mind, but Baudrillard waited until Fatal Strategies (2008a [1983]) to be explicit: 'Imagine a good resplendent with all the power of Evil: this is God, a perverse god creating the world on a dare and calling on it to destroy itself . . .' (FS, 29). Furthermore, he boldly drew on Mani to intensify Hume's critique of causation (FS). During this period, Baudrillard also used Manichaeism and Scepticism to inform Simulacra and Simulation (1994a [1981]) and lectured in Australia, telling interviewers: 'For me the reality of the world has been seduced, and this is really what is so fundamentally Manichean in my work' (ED, 46). By the time he published work done for a doctoral degree at the Sorbonne, Baudrillard was writing openly as a Manichean metaphysician (EC).
  An epiphany of Good and Evil during his Tautavel Gorges accident (CM3) drew Baudrillard further into Manichaeism in the 1990s (TE, PC, IEx). At this time, he even dared to anticipate Mani's third epoch (PC) before carrying his Manichean torch into the new century (PW, F , ST). This move led him to interpret 9/11 via Manichean illusion (PC) and intermingled good and evil (ST). Elsewhere he noted the Cathars, confessing 'my transcendental Manicheism' (F, 81) and echoing Voltaire's Manichean Martin (F). 'Oh yes, I love the world of the Cathars because I am Manichean', he later told Der Speigel (Baudrillard, 2004b: unpaginated).
  Even so, as death beckoned, Baudrillard began to critique his Manichean career. In The Intelligence of Evil or The Lucidity Pact (2005a [2004]), he declared: 'The idea of evil as a malign force, a maleficent agency, a deliberate perversion of the order of the world, is a deep-rooted superstition' (LP, 160). And yet, in the same book, he upholds 'the agon' as a key symbolic form (LP, 161). This suggests that Baudrillard's mature Manichaeism involved moving away from Mani's metaphysical story towards the form of duality itself.
  Passwords
   § duality
   § evil
   § metaphysics
   § perfect crime
   § seduction

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

Look at other dictionaries:

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