[-empyre-] Just wondering where all of this can fit into Artaud

Jonathan Marshall Jonathan.Marshall at uts.edu.au
Wed Oct 17 11:08:48 EST 2012

In the unlikely event that people are not aware of the passage, it appears the first modern use of the term 'virtual reality' was by Artaud in 1938 discussing the relationship between theatre and alchemy, and expresses precisely the particular fusing of potency with illusion. He writes: 

"all true alchemists know alchemical symbols are mirages just as the theatre is a mirage. And the continual references to the objects and principles of theatre, which are found in nearly all alchemical texts must be understood as a feeling (of which the alchemists have the most extraordinary awareness) of the similarity that exists between the plane on which the characters, objects, images and everything else which make up theatre's virtual reality evolve, and the purely assumed, illusory (fantastical)  level on which the symbols of alchemy evolve" 
(Artaud 1978: 47, my translation). 

My guess is that Artaud was implying some kind of Jungian, or 19-20thC occultist view in which the archetypal images of alchemy, like those of the theatre, have a power to do something initiatory to the human soul (or to express something initiatory), to transform it. In which case is the internet also such a place of drama, without deliberation..... and that this relates to the experience of cruelty....

you can find most of the surrounding passages at


"We are told that the Mysteries of Eleusis confined themselves to the mise en scene of a certain number of moral truths. I believe instead that they must have consisted of projections and precipitations of conflicts, indescribable battles of principles joined from that dizzying and slippery perspective in which every truth is lost in the realization of the inextricable and unique fusion of the abstract and the concrete, and I think that by the music of instruments, the combinations of colors and shapes, of which we have lost every notion, they must have brought to a climax that nostalgia for pure beauty of which Plato, at least once in this world, must have found the complete, sonorous, streaming naked realization: to resolve by conjunctions unimaginably strange to our waking minds, to resolve or even annihilate every conflict produced by the antagonism of matter and mind, idea and form, concrete and abstract, and to dissolve all appearances into one unique expression which must have been the equivalent of spiritualized gold."

I'm not enonugh of an Artaud person to know whether he does anything further with this comment in his other works.....


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