THE PEYOTE DANCE by Antonin Artaud


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Messianic madman, founder of the Theater of Cruelty (a limiting misnomer), Antonin Artaud's most immediate impact was on Genet, Brecht, Beckett, etc. But he continually searched for a suprareality far older and larger than the state of ""conscious chaos"" and triviality he saw in modern times. In this small book, based on a journey in the mountains of Mexico to an inaccessible tribe who ""live as if they were already dead,"" and through the peyote rite they practiced, Artaud found many of the transcendent concepts he had earlier articulated--the Great Ancient Myths he here relates to Plato, the ""no God"" but Male and Female principles in Nature (which he certainly, castrated man that he was, never found in life), even if later at the end of his peyote transfiguration there will be mention of both the doctrine of Grace and Jesus-Christ-Peyote. Artaud wrote much of this, with additional later comments, in the various Maisons de Sante where he spent his last years. He had always been deranged, and prefiguring Laing, he commented earlier in The Theater and Its Double, ""everything that disturbs the mind without causing it to lose its equilibrium is a moving means of expressing the innate pulsations of life."" And those innate pulsations--expressed, for example, through motion and sound, by ""act and perpetual emanation""--were his essential contribution. Here on the via dolorosa, further heightened by peyote, there were also the emblems (""trefoils, spears, crosses"") of the penitential ritual and symbolism so much a part of this demon-ridden, metaphysical genius ""guided by the Invisible"" toward an early death. A small but significant addition to the canon and the claque.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux