We escape too rarely from the grip of dualism. Dualism is a hell of which heaven is a part. We have forever been confronted by an agonising reality, the vicissitudes of a good and evil that are strictly interchangeable. A reality organised and patched up for centuries by a worldwide culture in which imbecility trumps intelligence and universalising thought mulls interminably over platitudes: le mort saisit le vif; after the rain comes the sunshine; everything becomes wearisome, everything breaks; six of one and half a dozen of the other; the wheel of fortune revolves around a void. Each of us is driven to the edge of a swamp where there is no choice but to plunge in and drift in a state of nausea for a lifetime before drowning.
Despite the spectacle of everyday horror sustained by the media’s lies, are we not on the point of reconnecting with the evolutionary process due to overwhelm our present state of survival, which is a social jungle where the laws of predation hold sway and make our existence ever more unliveable?
The fact that Bosch was, historically speaking, a premature Renaissance man also marks him out as the alchemist of an ongoing mutation. He belongs to the tradition of those who, by peering deeply and without indulgence into themselves, have obstinately advanced the excavation of our desperately inhuman history. The dream of a society where life triumphs over the contempt visited on us by the rule of the commodity is not an illusory restoration of some golden age, but instead the way out of the nightmare that chokes us ever more tightly each day. Bosch’s contribution is to have held up a looking-glass to our anguish as well as to our irrepressible will to live. A looking-glass that we must pass through if we are to make our way beyond the realities it reflects.
A Thousand Erotic Games
Raoul Vaneigem writes about Hieronymus Bosch in the London Review of Books