Much more than skeleton, it is flash, I mean the carrion flesh, which disturb and alarm us – and which alleviates us as well. The Buddhists monks gladly frequented charnel houses: where corner desire more surely and emancipate oneself from it? The horrible being a path of liberation in every period of fervor and inwardness, our remains have enjoyed great favor. In the Middle Ages, a man made a regimen of salvation, he believed energetically: the corpse was in fashion. Faith was vigorous than, invincible; it cherished the livid and the fetid, it knew the profits to be derived from corruption and gruesomeness. Today, an edulcorated religion adheres only to „nice” hallucinations, to Evolution and to Progress. It is not such a religion which might afford us the modern equivalent of the dense macabre.
„Let a man who aspires to nirvana act so that nothing is dear to him”, we read in a Buddhist text. It is enough to consider these specters, to meditate on the fate of the flash which adhered to them, in order to understand the urgency of detachment. There is no ascesis in the double rumination on the flesh and on the skeleton, on the dreadful decrepitude of the one and the futile permanence of the other. It is a good exercise to sever ourselves now and then from our face, from our skin, to lay aside this deceptive sheathe, then to discard – if only for a moment – that layer of grease which keeps us from discerning what is fundamental in ourselves. Once exercise is over, we are freer and more alone, almost invulnerable.
In other to vanquish attachments and the disadvantages which derive from them, we should have to contemplate the ultimate nudity of a human being, force our eyes to pierce his entrails and all the rest, wallow in the horror of his secretions, in his physiology of an imminent corpse. This vision would not be morbid but methodical, a controlled obsession, particularly salutary in ordeals. The skeleton incites us to serenity; the cadaver to renunciation. In the sermon of futility which both of them preach to us happiness is identified with the destruction of our bounds. To have scanted no detail of such a teaching and even so to come to terms with simulacra!
Blessed was the age when solitaries could plumb their depths without seeming obsessed, deranged. Their imbalance was not assigned a negative coefficient, as is the case for us. They would sacrifice ten, twenty years, a whole life, for a foreboding, for a flash of the absolute. The word „depth” has a meaning only in connection with epochs when the monk was considered as the noblest human exemplar. No one will gain – say the fact that he is in the process of disappearing. For centuries, he has done no more than survive himself. To whom would he address himself, in a universe which calls him a „parasite”? In Tibet, the last country where monks still mattered, they have been ruled out. Yet is was a rare consolation to think that thousands of thousands of hermits could be meditating there, today, on the themes of the prajnaparamita. Even if it had only odious aspects, monasticism would still be worth more than any other ideal. Now more then ever, we should build monasteries … for those who believe in everything and for those who believe in nothing. Where to escape? There no longer exist a single place where we can professionally execrate this world.
Emil M. Cioran