“The snares of wisdom” (E. M. Cioran)

The Hudson Review, vol. 19, No. 4 (Winter, 1966-1967), pp. 539-550 Translated from French by Frederick Brown.

Once we realize to what depth appearances are credited by the normal consciousness, it becomes impossible to endorse the Vedantic thesis according to which “non-distinction is the soul’s natural state.” What is meant here by natural state is the state of being awake, which, as it happens, is anything but natural. The living man apprehends existence everywhere; directly he wakes up, directly he has ceased being nature, he starts detecting falsity in the apparent, appearance in the real, and ultimately enterttains doubts about the notion of reality itself. Gone are all distinctions, and with them go tension and drama. When viewed from too great a height, the kingdom of diversity and of the many vanishes. On a certain level of knowledge, only non-being can hold up.

We live only out of ignorance. As soon as we gain awareness we feel at odds with everything, but while we are benighted, appearances thrive, and clinging to them is a scent of the inviol? able that moves us to love or to hate them, to come to grips with them. How could we level off against phantasms? Yet that is what they become once we are disabused of their claim to rank as essences. Knowing, or being awake rather, opens between them and us a rift that, unfortunately, represents no conflict; if only it did, we would have no complaint. But no, it is, rather, the silencing of all conflicts, the dire abolition of the tragic. . . . [Pdf]