“Indirect death: ennui and void” (Mircea Lăzărescu)

Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity, New York, Summer 2015, vol III, no. 2 (10).

The questions that Emil Cioran asks time and again could be phrased like: What was God doing before creating the world, time and man? What does God do when he leaves man all alone in the world? What does God do when man turns away from Him who wishes to be worshipped? What about the man who merges with God, the man who has cursed God? And further, what would it be like if God sees how he stands, and commits suicide? What if, all of a sudden, they have just disappeared, both God and the world he created? With respect to God, Cioran puts forward as a starting point for reasoning that He is left with the challenges of sheptical, tireless, scrutinizing, malign interrogation. With respect to man, the philosopher answers that he is left with ennui and void.
Keywords: Emil Cioran; indirect death; ennui; void; acedia

Emil Cioran is probably the author of the greatest rhetorical excellence of ennui, interpreted as an experience of inner spiritual void.

But was it indeed a mere rhetorical excellence?!

From the notes in his diary, to confessions and to many published texts, it issues that this special type of dissolvent feeling was experienced ever since he was five years old; and then, all through his adolescence, his education in Sibiu, his teaching in Braşov, he was haunted by it so far as Berlin affd Leipzig, in Paris, actually throughout his whole life and in all places. Although sometimes associated with anxiety, and melancholy, experiencing the depersonalizing ennui is characteristic of a special class, Cioran himself associating it with monastic acedia. Ennui welds to those few fundamental experiences that vertebralize the whole Cioranian work, thus providing it with an attitudinal coherence: ecstasy, (cosmic) loneliness, pride, sloth, the wakefulness of insomnia, the doubt and the concern for sickness and suicide. Of this succession, along with insomnia, this ennui that invaded his soul ever since childhood, could be considered like a stigma, a constitutional bio-psychological particularity. In provisionally accepting even this hypothesis, it is worth tracing how Cioran managed the stigma in the cultural and spiritual field. Especially since ennui, although apparently the earliest personal experience of his array, is not even mentioned in his first book.

Decomposition

When writing On the Heights of Despair, Cioran was utterly fascinanted with ecstasy, a state of hyperconsciousness that made him feel like reaching ‘the ultimate roots of existence.” But ectastic states do not articulate the young Romanian with divinity, like in the case of the mystics, but with eternity. This nuance is explicity commented in Treaty of Decomposition, in which he writes:

By what sffangeness of fate certain beings, arrived where they could merge into a faith, turn backwards, on a road that leads only to themselves – that is, nowhere. (Cioran 2011: 56)

Thus, in his debut book, the theme of God is only approached tangentially, in the paragraph developing the hypothesis of a Jesus who would dawn uopin escaping from the cross. Significantly, it is here that the theme of boredom is first brought forth; but not placed in man, as a personal experience, but rather present in the very supreme being. “I imagine a God who is beyond, bored of these people who only know how to beg, a God sick of the triviality of his creation, disgusted by earth and sky. And I imagine a God dashing into void, like Jesus on the Cross…”

So the theme of ennui os placed and commented from the very start in the binomial relationship God-man. And so it will remain. But from The Heights of Despair it is worth retaining a passage, with an important theme in the dialectics of ennui. We can read: “My inner void will swallow me, I will be swallowed by my own void. To feel collapsing within yourself, in your own nothingness, the risk of thinking of yourself, how you fall into internal chaos…”

A particularly interesting fact is that this internal collapse by no means refers to anguish, after the pattern already advanced by Heidegger in the twentieth century… [PDF]