Inner Experience  

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"Il existe à la base de la vie humaine, un principe d'insuffisance. Isolément, chaque homme imagine les autres incapables ou indignes d'"être". Une conversation libre, médisante, exprime une certitude de la vanité de mes semblables ; un bavardage apparemment mesquin laisse voir une aveugle tension de la vie vers un sommet indéfinissable."


"There exists at the basis of human life a principle of insufficiency. On his own, each man imagines others to be incapable or unworthy of "being". A slanderous and free conversation expresses the certainty of the vanity of my fellow beings; what is apparently a mean-spirited chat reveals a blind straining of life towards an undefinable summit."

"By inner experience I understand that which one usually calls mystical experience: the states of ecstasy, of rapture, at least of meditated emotion. But I am thinking less of confessional experience, to which one has had to adhere up to now, than of an experience laid bare, free of ties, even of an origin, of any confession whatever. This is why I don't like the word ‘mystical’."

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Inner Experience (L'expérience intérieure) is a 1943 book by Georges Bataille. His first lengthy philosophical treatise, it was followed by Guilty (1944) and On Nietzsche (1945). Together, the three works constitute Bataille's Summa Atheologica, in which he explores the experience of excess, expressed in forms such as laughter, tears, eroticism, death, sacrifice and poetry.

The line "Il existe à la base de la vie humaine, un principe d'insuffisance" was used by James Dickey as epigraph for his novel Deliverance.


Inner Experience received a negative reception from several authors due to having been published during the Second World War. Bataille was criticized for this privately by Jules Monnerot, and publicly by Patrick Waldberg. Boris Souvarine regarded its publication as a sign of Bataille's acceptance of the occupation of France. Bataille was attacked by surrealists in a pamphlet entitled Nom de Dieu. The surrealists considered Bataille an idealist. The philosopher Gabriel Marcel criticized the work from a Christian perspective.

Leslie Anne Boldt translation

It was translated by as Inner Experience by Leslie Anne Boldt in 1988 for the State University of New York.

In her preface to Bataille's Inner Experience, translator Leslie Anne Boldt clarifies Bataille' :"In fusion [of one and other], the subject is absent, the object is dissolved in continuity, yet this continuity is radically outside of any continuity which a discontinuous being might envisage. It is NIGHT, but a night which 'is' not–a night which can only be apprehended by a vision which has been decentered, rendered 'ex-orbitant' by the emptying of its contents into the abyss of non-knowledge. The eye is a privileged image in Bataille's texts. In the appropriation of an image during the course of normal vision, the blind spot where the rays of light intersect is of little consequence. It is both a place of non-being (on its own, it can generate no image) and the site where the power of vision is concentrated (where the elements of image are condensed). It is of great consequence, however, at the moment of fusion: when the stores of knowledge are released, the blind spot of the eye is dilated. In it, knowledge is absorbed into the NIGHT of non-knowledge–the intersection of rays opens violently in a movement of catastrophe."

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