The True Fundamental of the Body is Nothing but the Body Itself

‘The “I” with which I shall occupy myself will not be the “I” that relates back strictly to myself, but something else, some residue, that remains after all the other words I have uttered have flowed back into me, something that neither relates back nor flows back.

As I pondered the nature of that “I,” I was driven to the conclusion that the “I” in question corresponded precisely with the physical space that I occupied. What I was seeking, in short, was a language of the body.

Interestingly enough, my stubborn refusal to perceive the body was itself due to a beautiful misconception in my idea of what the body was. I did not know that a man’s body never shows itself as “existence.” But as I saw things, it ought to have made itself apparent, clearly and unequivocally, as existence.

When I was small, I would watch the young men parade the portable shrine through the streets at the local shrine festival. They were intoxicated with their task, and their expressions were of an indescribable abandon, their faces averted; some of them even rested the backs of their necks against the shafts of the shrine they shouldered, so that their eyes gazed up at the heavens. And my mind was much troubled by the riddle of what it was that those eyes reflected.

As to the nature of the intoxicating vision that I detected in all this violent physical stress, my imagination provided no clue. For many a month, therefore, the enigma continued to occupy my mind; it was only much later, after I had begun to learn the language of the flesh, that I undertook to help in shouldering a portable shrine, and was at last able to solve the puzzle that had plagued me since infancy. They were simply looking at the sky. In their eyes there was no vision: only the reflection of the blue and absolute skies of early autumn.’

Yukio Mishima, Sun and Steel, translated by John Bester.

‘The theology of Mazdaism, the doctrine of bodies regained after the last judgement, in Christianism, Tertullian’s small book De Carne Christi, all of these have been fundamentals which have underlain my present thinking. I do not believe in essences devoid of flesh. There, as on other occasions, I discovered once more the thinking of Nietzsche, who had once claimed that the Greeks were profound through being superficial. Indeed, the glory of the sensual world is not, except perhaps as  a marginal note, the radiance of the trans-sensual world, and the true fundamental of the body is nothing but the body itself. What justifies appearance is not essence. In contrast to Goethe, I do not believe that the justification of the world is its symbolic nature, but its overwhelming literalness. To say that flowers redeem themselves by their smell is just as inane as saying that the soul struggles, miserable, imprisoned and condemned, when the body knows the pleasure of another body. Since our life is a consequence of words we use, what is difficult to express in words is difficult to express in life as well. Nietzsche has said that the surest way to do something wrong is to do it consciously…We know more by living than by thinking, because the inner acts (including those of a physiological nature) – ignored by our awareness, which plays its own part in the continuation of our lives – are all more replete with intelligence than the acts which become words in the process of assuming the world through awareness…I, for one, still live today in the horizon of that mutation which would eventually allow man to think of the world and himself in such terms as those in which, when it does not rebel against its own fundamentals (as in cancer), our organism thinks of its life.’

Horia-Roman Patapievici, Flying Against the Arrow: An Intellectual in Ceausescu’s Romania.



Neither Dream, Nor Fantasy, Nor Mystery

‘At bottom what is Greek art? It is realism of the beautiful, with nothing of the ideality preached by the art teachers of the institute. In Greek beauty there is neither dream, nor fantasy, nor mystery.’

Jules and Edmond de Goncourt, as quoted in French Folly in Maxims of Art, translated and edited by Henri Pène du Bois.

‘In ancient Greece there was no such thing as ‘conscience’, just the balance of body and intellect…I found the conclusion of my leanings toward classicism here. That’s to say, making a beautiful work and making yourself into something beautiful are discoveries of the same ethical principles.’

Yukio Mishima, as quoted in Yukio Mishima by David Flanagan.

‘What Mishima wanted from Greece was an antidote to his Romantic affliction. It was not only the reason, the rule and measure of classicism that he sought; he wanted physical and mental sunlight in place of darkness, radiant surfaces in place of deep interiors, a balance between the intelligence and the body uncompromised by the “spirit”, the conscience, the poetic imagination.’

John Nathan, Mishima: A Biography.

‘According to Maulnier, the truth of classical art and all great art in general for Nietzsche is that art is “a mode of expression different from life, more perfect than life whose awkwardness, insignificances, and stammerings it ignores. No one, perhaps, got closer to defining the lively value of classical discipline, which claims to make passion more ardent and more intelligible, not mutilate it or moderate it. A style of life, a classical style consists thus not in restraining life but in maintaining it, by a skilful and severe constraint, at  its height and at the point of its most expansive intensity. Such a constraint allows for a more exposed, more essential, more violent existence.”‘

Theirry Maulnier quoted by David Carrol in French Literary Fascism: Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and the Ideology of Culture.

The Diversities and the Contradictions

‘A man should not rivet himself too fast to his own humours and temperament. Our chief talent is the power of suiting ourselves to different ways of life. To be tied and bound of necessity to one single way is not to live but to exist. The best minds are those that are most voracious and most supple. Here is an honourable testimony to the elder Cato: ‘His versatile genius was so equally adapted to everything that, whatever he happened to be doing, you would say he was born to do that thing alone.’ If it were in my power to mould myself as I would, there is no form, however good, in which I should wish to be so fixed that I could not depart from it.’

‘Life is an unequal, irregular, and multiform movement. Incessantly to follow one’s own track, to be so close a prisoner to one’s own inclinations that one cannot stray from them, or give them a twist,is to be no friend to oneself, still less to be one’s master; it is to be one’s slave.’

Michel de Montaigne, ‘On Three Kinds of Relationships’, Essays, translated by J. M. Cohen.

‘Montherlant points to Shakespeare as a supreme example of a man who renounces nothing, accepting all… “A healthy soul, with that basic simplicity which both distinguishes and makes possible great things, will always be flexible, copious and vigorous enough to reconcile in a higher and joyous unity, most of these so-called contradictions which give pause to the many spineless creatures we see around us.”…The virtues he sees in Shakespeare are essentially those he seeks for himself, when he prays: “Let me live all the lives, the diversities, and the contradictions in the world intensely…Do everything, in order to experience everything; experience everything, in order to understand everything; understand everything in order to express everything: how great will our reward be when we look at ourselves and see ourselves as the mirror of creation and think of God as made in the image of man.” – To be truly human is to “comprehend all the movements of men”.’

Jonathan R. Price, ‘Montherlant’s Exemplar’, Yale French Studies, 1964.


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