Quantum World and Ionesco¶s Anti-Theater

Basarab Nicolescu

The part of yes which is inside no and the part of no which is inside yes come out of their beds sometimes and join each other in another bed that is no longer yes or no. In this bed flows the river Of the most vivid waters. Roberto Juarroz, Nouvelle poésie verticale1

For a Yes or For a No

It is not known whether Nathalie Sarraute did or did know about the logic of contradiction. But his theater play For a Yes or For a No is a superb example of the logic of contradiction in the everyday life. The character H.2 tells the character H.1: ³It was learned that it happened to me to definitively argue with very close people [...] for reasons that nobody could understand [...] I was convicted [...] at their request [...] contumaciously [...]. I knew nothing [...] I found out that I had a criminal record that designated me as "The one who argues for a yes or for a no". That gave me reason to think. [...] "2 In fact, we do not know why we are saying the words ³yes´ and ³no". When we say ³yes´, we should, little by little, embrace the entire universe, the truth in all its nudity, stripped of our prejudices, of the conditionings of birth and education, of the faiths of all kinds. And when we say ³no´, we put at risk the truth, the whole truth. This is an untenable, absurd position, which transforms us into puppets. Therefore, we will inevitably be convicted, contumaciously, of course. We understand why the theater is a privileged site to study the intimate mechanisms of the ³yes´ or "no." 1

We always argue for a ³yes´ or for a "no." We can even get to kill each other for it. What is the meaning of wars between religions and civilizations if not that of breaking life for a ³yes´ or for a ³no´? It is for a ³yes´ or for a ³no´ that people are murdered in concentration camps, adulterous women are stoned, works of art are destroyed and books are burned in the name of one ideology or another. The life that oscillates between ³yes´ and ³no´, always uttered with absolute conviction, can only be that of a puppet. But who pulls the strings of these puppets? Is the modern world ready for the long initiation trip that could pull us out of this infernal circle? The artists were the first ones to understand what the stake is, what is between ³yes´ and "no." At the end of her play, Nathalie Sarraute makes her characters (³yes´ and ³no´ interchangeable) utter these words: ³H.1: For a yes [...]; or for a no? Silence. H.2: Yes or no? [...] H.1: And yet, it is not the same thing [...] H.2: True: Yes. Or no. H.1: Yes. H.2: No!´3 And thus the hate continues its infinite work.

Ionesco and the Non-Aristotelian Theater Ionesco read carefully Lupasco's work and he was certainly influenced by his philosophy. In his book, Eugène Ionesco ± Mystical or Unbeliever?), Marguerite Jean-Blain stresses Lupasco's key role in Ionesco's spiritual itinerary4, along with Jacob Boehme and Saint John of the Cross and in the company of The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo-Thödol) and of the Christian Orthodox ritual. Ionesco read carefully both Logic and contradiction and The principle of antagonism and the logic of energy, Lupasco's fundamental work about the included third - this mysterious third between Good and Evil, Beautiful and Ugly, Truth and Falsehood. In Fragments of a journal, Ionesco writes: ³It is precisely because the Greeks had the feeling of the archetypal immutability, that they must have had necessarily the feeling of the non-immutable: Lupasco explains it very well. Nothing truly exists and nothing is thought otherwise than in opposition with a contrary which also exists and which we repress.5 Naturally, Lupasco's name and ideas appear in the play Victims of the duty6, mounted at Théâtre du Quartier Latin, directed by Jacques Mauclair, six years after the publication of Logic and contradiction. The characters of this ³pseudo-dramas´ are: Choubert, Madeleine, The Policeman, 2

Nicolas d'Eu, The Lady and Mallot with one ³t´. The action occurs in a ³small-bourgeois indoor´. The name ³Nicolas d'Eu´ is interesting: ³Eu´ means ³I´ in Romanian. Nicolas d'Eu ³is tall, has a big black beard, bloated eyes because of too much sleep, disheveled hair, wrinkled clothes, the figure of someone who just woke up, after having slept with his clothes on.´ Nicolas d'Eu shares with the Policeman his ideas about theater: "I have long thought about the possibility of a renewal of the theater. How can there be something new in the theater? What do you think, Mr. Superintendent? "The policeman asked him:" A nonAristotelian theater?" "Exactly"- responds Ionesco, alias Nicolas d'Eu. And he continues: ³However, it is necessary that we take into account the new logic, the revelations brought by a new psychology [...] a psychology of antagonisms [...]. While getting inspiration from another logical and from another psychology, I would introduce the contradiction into noncontradiction, the non-contradiction into what the common sense believes contradictory [...]. The principle of identity and of the unity of characters will be character, in favor of the motion, of a dynamic psychology [...]. We are not ourselves [...] no personality exists. Inside us there are only contradictory and non-contradictory forces [...]. In fact, it might help you to read Logic and Contradiction, Lupasco's excellent book [...]. Characters lose their shape in the shapeless becoming. Each character is less itself than the other [...]. As for action and causality, one should not even mention it. One should completely ignore them, at least in their old form, too rough, too obvious, and too false, like everything that is obvious [...]. There is no drama or tragedy: the tragedy becomes comedy, the comedy is tragic, life becomes joyful [...] life becomes joyful [...].´ The Policeman reacts in a politically correct way: ³As far as I'm concerned, I remain a logical Aristotelian, faithful to myself, faithful to my job, respectful towards my bosses [...]. I do not believe in absurd, everything is consistent, everything can be understood [...] due to the effort of the human thinking and that of science.´7 It is interesting to note what the Policeman says: ³everything is consistent, everything can be understood [...] due to the effort of the human thinking and that of science´ The director of Victims of duty, Jacques Mauclair said, on May 7, 1988, at the Third Day of Molières Awards: ³Mr. Ionesco, Master, my dear Eugène, you have promised to come this evening and you came. For sure, you will always amaze us. Lupasco's disciple, whose name rhymes with yours, curiously, you reconcile logic and contradiction without any apparent difficulty. Thus, you are staying away from gossips, but you do not miss any of them; you despise the honors, but you accept all of them. You have a very shiny green frock coat, a two-horned, a sword, but you attend the meetings of the Academy without wearing a tie. You insult grammar, you martyrize vocabulary, but your picture can be found inside the 3

dictionary Petit Larousse.´8 Critics became aware of the role of Lupasco's philosophy in the genesis and development of the so-called ³absurd theater´, a terminology which is rejected by Ionesco in favor of ³anti-theater´. Emmanuel Jacquart writes about The lesson: ³Without being like Lewis Carroll, a professional of the logic, Ionesco is passionate about it whenever this amuses and surprises. The simplest form of his approach is to counteract or to cancel the principle of identity and non-contradiction. In this way, the intellectual understanding becomes a mathematical reasoning that is both inductive and deductive. Latin, Spanish and neo-Spanish rely on "identical similarities!" Finally, it happens that a character states and refutes the phrase that it advances [...]. In this upside down world, the most simple and most complex thing are equally possible [...]. When logic affords all the liberties, the causality does the same [...]. In the extreme case, Ionesco imagines a fictitious logic which structures the world in a strange manner.´9 But the critic who pertinently emphasized the influence of Lupasco's work on Ionesco's theater is the great American theorist of literature and art, Wylie Sypher, in his book Loss of the Self10. Wylie Sypher unambiguously states: ³[...] Ionesco eliminates the laws of cause and effect on which have been built both theater and science. Instead, Ionesco accepts [...] Stéphane Lupasco's logic, whose work gives us the key to Ionesco's work about the theater.11 Wylie Sypher starts with the observation that Ionesco, like Heidegger, was fascinated by the abyss of emptiness that embraces our existence. Ionesco purposely wants to capture the unsustainable. Meanwhile, Wylie Sypher points out that science has altered the nature of literature. Any verbal language becomes a cliché in relation to the truths captured by the mathematical language. ³The new mathematics, and the abstract painting or the new music can no longer be expressed through the verbal language - writes Wylie Sypher. Mathematics has invaded so deeply all sciences and philosophy, that it is no longer possible to express reality through a verbal language, while our world is like a game played inside topology, that is able to pretend structures beyond the borders of the old logic, structures that can no longer be described by a vocabulary, with the exception of the non-verbal one.´12 The old logic excluded the feeling. Feelings, Wylie Sypher writes, are ³[«] unique no feeling is exactly the same with another feeling. Therefore, our feelings are discontinuous and are not subject to any logical sequence. Moreover, feelings are beyond thinking - they cannot be rationalized. In short, the old logic was a means to exclude or reduce the experience 4

- it was not a means of apprehension of the experience.´13 According to Lupasco, Wylie Sypher noted, tragedy has always had the ability to capture the absurdity of life, what logic is unable to do: the tragedy describes the contradictions of our human experience. ³In his own way - writes Wylie Sypher, Lupasco is seriously taking into account what I have always said about the tragic nature of life, he considers it seriously enough to try to enrich logic with the tragic understanding of the human experience [...]´. There is, Wylie Sypher notes dialectic of the comic, as there is dialectic of the tragic: ³[...] the comedy has its own look on the human folly.´ According to Wylie Sypher ³Lupasco searches for an existential logic, a logic full of creative contradictions » and considers the absolute as a threat. [...] Lupasco evokes a logical of the absurdity, a logic that has something in common with those koans from the Zen Buddhism. [...] Zen seeks a direct perception of reality, without any intellectual contamination.'´14 These considerations open an unsuspected research route for exploring art and its connection to reality thanks to the included middle.

Roberto Juarroz, Nouvelle poésie verticale (Paris: Lettres Vives, 1984), 29. Nathalie Sarraute, Pour un oui ou pour un non (Paris: Gallimard, 1998, 16. 3 Ibid., 57. 4 Marguerite Jean-Blain, Eugène Ionesco - mystique ou mal-croyant? (Bruxelles: Lessius, 2005), 63-64. 5 Eugène Ionesco, Journal en miettes (Paris: Mercure de France, 1967), 62. 6 Eugène Ionesco, Victimes du devoir, in Théâtre I (Paris, Gallimard, 1984), 159-213 ; first edition : 1954. 7 Ibid., 200-201, 203-205. 8 Eugène Ionesco, Théâtre complet (Paris: Gallimard, Pléiade, 1990), CI-CII. 9 Emmanuel Jacquart, Notice », in Ionesco, Théâtre complet, 1500-1502. 10 Wylie Sypher, Loss of the Self - in Modern Literature and Art (New York: Random House, 1962), 87-109. 11 Ibid., 99. 12 Ibid., 97. 13 Ibid., 100. 14 Ibid., 104-105.
2

1

 

5

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful