Seems appropriate to, every once in a while, post quotes from books that we list down our sidebar. So I today selected a section from Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.
Jean-Michel Oughourlian: Within the human community, which is the prisoner of unanimous violence and of mythical meanings, there is no opportunity for this truth to be entertained, let alone to carry the day.
Excerpt from René Girard's Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. Research undertaken in collaboration with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987, pages 215-223.
Rene Girard: This differentiation between the two forms of transcendence appears negligible and absurd from the point of view of the violent mentality that possesses us -- a mentality concerned with detecting the structural similarities between the gospel enactment and the basic workings of all other religions: workings that we have ourselves been concerned to expose. These analogies are real ones, just as are analogies between the evil reciprocity of violence and the benevolent reciprocity of love. Since both surpass all cultural differences, the two structures, paradoxically, amount to very much the same thing, which is why it is possible to pass from one to the other by means of an almost instantaneous conversion. But at the same time, there is also a radical, an abysmal opposition between them, something that no form of structural analysis can detect: we see in a mirror, darkly, in aenigmate.
J.-M. O.: Precisely because the revelation of violence has always been greeted with incomprehension, it becomes easier to understand why the Christian text puts before us someone who triumphs over violence by not resisting it, and as the direct emissary of the God of nonviolence, shows his message emanating directly from him.
Within the human community, which is the prisoner of unanimous violence and of mythical meanings, there is no opportunity for this truth to be entertained, let alone to carry the day.
People are most open to the truth at the stage when false differences melt away, but this is also the point when they are most in the dark, since it is the point at which violence becomes even more intense. Whenever violence starts to reveal itself as the basis of the community, it is accompanied by the manifestations one might expect at an acutely violent crisis, when mankind lacks the least vestige of lucidity. It almost seems as if violence is always able to conceal the truth about itself, whether by causing the mechanism of transference to operate and re-establish the regime of the sacred, or by pushing destruction as far as it will go.
Either you are violently opposed to violence and inevitably play its game, or you are not opposed to it, and it shuts your mouth immediately. In other words, the regime of violence cannot possibly be brought out into the open. Since the truth about violence will not abide in the community, but must inevitably be driven out, its only chance of being heard is when it is in the process of being driven out, in the brief moment that precedes its destruction as the victim. The victim therefore has to reach out at the very moment when his mouth is being shut by violence. He has to say enough for the violence to be incited against him. But this must not take place in the dark, hallucinatory atmosphere that characterizes other religions and produces the intellectual confusion that helps conceal their founding mechanism. There must be witnesses who are clear-sighted enough to recount the event as it really happened, altering its significance as little as possible.
For this to happen, the witnesses must already have been influenced by this extraordinary person. They themselves will not escape the hold of the collective violence; but it will be temporary. Afterwards, they will recover and write down in a form that is not transfigured the event that is primarily a transfiguration.
This unprecedented task of revealing the truth about violence requires a man who is not obliged to violence for anything and does not think in terms of violence -- someone who is capable of talking back to violence while remaining entirely untouched by it.
It is impossible for such a human being to arise in a world completely ruled by violence and the myths based on violence. In order to understand that you cannot see and make visible the truth except by taking the place of the victim, you must already be occupying that place; yet to take that place, you must already be occupying that place; yet to take that place, you must already be in possession of the truth. You cannot become aware of the truth unless you act in opposition to the laws of violence, and you cannot act in opposition to these laws unless you already grasp the truth. All mankind is caught within this vicious circle. For this reason the Gospels and the whole New Testament, together with the theologians of the first councils, proclaim that Christ is God not because he was crucified, but because he is God born of God from all eternity.