Alain on Radical Minds – Extracts

by donyapress


There is a part of dancing and singing in all joint action, and it is not that which matters the less. Order is then cause and effect. The attention we give it is adherence; it is not much to say we approve it, we are master and servant as it takes place. Thus order is neither endured nor wanted; it ranges below endurance and will; it belongs to life, in the same manner as breathing does.

I followed these thoughts, that bring all of our thoughts back so well, just as I observed a starling flight. They made one, though each one of them moved in its own circle of fantasy. They shifted away, stretched out the edges and gathered again, as though they were held by elastic threads. The whole undulated like a drapery in the wind. Not a leader in sight — the whole then governed the parts, or rather, each one of the birds found itself governed and governing; each imitating its neighbour, and the least shift by one of the birds had all of them lean a little. Where there was nothing else but this, one of them flying communicated its own movement to the others through its eyes and ears, hence triggering what is called emotion — that is to say, by resemblance, precisely the same movement — every change functioned similarly. The watchword came from all of them and led them all. That is how in dance one must not think that movements are synchronized by some external sound; that, is appearance. In reality, dance is synchronized by its own sound; and the more ancient dancing music was the sound of feet, where differences are continuously erased. That is how everywhere fellow men are assembled, order is born and reborn. One king, present, yet invisible; in other words, God.

18 January 1930.

Where am I going? There is only one object who is man in society and across the world. And everyone has, for centuries, chosen to believe before knowing. Yet, this fanatical belief is the source of all human misery; since belief cannot be measured, one throws himself into it, locks himself up in it and until this extreme point of madness where it is taught that believing blindly is good. It is always religion and religion, by its very weight, descends into superstition. Follow the partisan’s proceedings —even cries, even a happy crush he will take for evidence. Power comes back to rule over the mind; and, according to power’s law, it comes back all at once. Such is the spirit of war and domination, which is not only in the despot, but also in the slave. There is evidence; it’s understood; no need to keep thinking about it — and here is thought. Yet, look closely, I say content hardly matters, the way of believing spoil everything. All the more so since the reasonable despot is not reasonable for long. Men therefore must choose to judge, think, doubt. Obeying is a necessary evil; but nothing is more simple, and nothing is healthier than to resist belief, and for the mind to guard itself. And you should see, before these eyes — attentive and free, strong from true knowledge — you should see how the despot would promptly become one good little king.

14th December 1929

Source : Alain, Propos sur les Pouvoirs. Folio essais, pp. 319-320; 350-351.