Let us listen to what is said in these fantastic fragments. Imagination is not madness. Even if in the arbitrariness of hallucination, alienation finds the first access to its vain liberty, madness begins only beyond this point, when the mind binds itself to this arbitrariness and becomes a prisoner of this apparent liberty. At the moment he wakes from a dream, a man can indeed observe: "I am imagining that I am dead": he thereby denounces and measures the arbitrariness of the imagination—he is not mad. He is mad when he posits as an affirmation of his death—when he suggests as having some value as truth—the still-neutral content of the image "I am dead." And just as the consciousness of truth is not carried away by the mere presence of the image, but in the act which limits, confronts, unifies, or dissociates the image, so madness will begin only in the act which gives the value of truth to the image. There is an original innocence of the imagination: "The imagination itself does not err, since it neither denies nor affirms but is fixed to so great a degree on the simple contemplation of an image"; and only the mind can turn what is given in the image into abusive truth, in other words, into error, or acknowledged error, that is, into truth: "A drunk man thinks he sees two candles where there is but one; a man who has a strabismus and whose mind is cultivated immediately acknowledges his error and accustoms himself to see but one." Madness is thus beyond imagination, and yet it is profoundly rooted in it; for it consists merely in allowing the image a spontaneous value, total and absolute truth. The act of the reasonable man who, rightly or wrongly, judges an image to be true or false, is beyond this image, transcends and measures it by what is not itself; the act of the madman never oversteps the image presented, but surrenders to its immediacy, and affirms it only insofar is it is enveloped by it: "Many persons, not to say all, succumb to madness only from being too concerned about an object." Inside the image, confiscated by it, and incapable of escaping from it, madness is nonetheless more than imagination, forming an act of undetermined content.
What is this act? An act of faith, an act of affirmation and of negation—a discourse which sustains and at the same time erodes the image, undermines it, distends it in the course of a reasoning, and organizes it around a segment of language. The man who imagines he is made of glass is not mad, for any sleeper can have this image in a dream; but he is mad if, believing he is made of glass, he thereby concludes that he is fragile, that he is in danger of breaking, that he must touch no object which might be too resistant, that he must in fact remain motionless, and so on. Such reasonings are those of a madman; but again we must note that in themselves they are neither absurd nor illogical. On the contrary, they apply correctly the most rigorous figures of logic. And Paul Zacchias has no difficulty finding them, in all their rigor, among the insane. Syllogism, in a man letting himself starve to death: "The dead do not eat; I am dead; hence I do not eat." Induction extended to infinity, in a man suffering from persecution delusions: "A, B, and C are my enemies; all of them are men; therefore all men are my enemies." Enthymeme, in another sufferer: "Most of those who have lived in this house are dead, hence I, who have lived in this house, am dead." The marvelous logic of the mad which seems to mock that of the logicians because it resembles it so exactly, or rather because it is exactly the same, and because at the secret heart of madness, at the core of so many errors, so many absurdities, so many words and gestures without consequence, we discover, finally, the hidden perfection of a language. "From these things," Zacchias concludes, "you truly see how best to discuss the intellect." The ultimate language of madness is that of reason, but the language of reason enveloped in the prestige of the image, limited to the locus of appearance which the image defines. It forms, outside the totality of images and the universality of discourse, an abusive, singular organization whose insistent quality constitutes madness. Madness, then, is not altogether in the image, which of itself is neither true nor false, neither reasonable nor mad; nor is it, further, in the reasoning which is mere form, revealing nothing but the indubitable figures of logic. And yet madness is in one and in the other: in a special version or figure of their relationship.
Let us consider an example borrowed from Diemerbroek. A man was suffering from a profound melancholia. As with all melancholies, his mind was attached to a fixed idea, and this idea was for him the occasion of a constantly renewed sadness. He accused himself of having killed his son, and in the excess of his remorse, declared that God, for his punishment, had assigned a demon to tempt him, like the demon which had tempted the Lord. This demon he saw, spoke to, heard, and answered. He did not understand why those around him refused to acknowledge such a presence. Such then is madness: this remorse, this belief, this hallucination, these speeches; in short, this complex of convictions and images which constitutes a delirium. Now Diemerbroek tries to find out what are the "causes" of this madness, how it can have originated. And this is what he learns: this man had taken his son bathing and the boy had drowned. Hence the father considered himself responsible for his son's death. We can therefore reconstitute in the following manner the development of this madness: judging himself guilty, the man decides that homicide is execrable in the sight of God on High; whence it occurs to his imagination that he is eternally damned; and since he knows that the chief torment of damnation consists in being delivered into Satan's hands, he tells himself "that a horrible demon is assigned to him." This demon he does not as yet see, but since "he does not cease thinking of it," and "regards this notion as necessarily true," he imposes on his brain a certain image of this demon; this image is presented to his soul by the action of the brain and of the spirits with such insistence that he believes he continually sees the demon itself."
Hence madness, as analyzed by Diemerbroek, has two levels; one is manifest to all eyes: an unwarranted melancholia in a man who wrongly accuses himself of having killed his son; a depraved imagination which pictures demons; a dismantled reason which converses with a phantom. But at a deeper level, we find a rigorous organization dependent on the faultless armature of a discourse. This discourse, in its logic, commands the firmest belief in itself, it advances by judgments and reasonings which connect together; it is a kind of reason in action. In short, under the chaotic and manifest delirium reigns the order of a secret delirium. In this second delirium, which is, in a sense, pure reason, reason delivered of all the external tinsel of dementia, is located the paradoxical truth of madness. And this in a double sense, since we find here both what makes madness true (irrefutable logic, perfectly organized discourse, faultless connection in the transparency of a virtual language) and what makes it truly madness (its own nature, the special style of all its manifestations, and the internal structure of delirium).
But still more profoundly, this delirious language is the ultimate truth of madness insofar as it is madness's organizing form, the determining principle of all its manifestations, whether of the body or of the soul. For if Diemerbroek's melancholic converses with his demon, it is because the demon's image has been profoundly impressed by the movement of spirits on the still-ductile substance of the brain. But in its turn, this organic figure is merely the other side of a preoccupation which has obsessed the patient's mind; it represents what might be called the sedimentation in the body of an infinitely repeated discourse apropos of the punishment God must reserve for sinners guilty of homicide. The body and the traces it conceals, the soul and the images it perceives, are here no more than stages in the syntax of delirious language.
And lest we be criticized for elaborating this entire analysis around a single observation from a single author (a privileged observation, since it concerns melancholic delirium), we shall also seek confirmation of the fundamental role of delirious discourse in the classical conception of madness in another author, of another period, and apropos of a very different disease. This is a case of "nymphomania" observed by Bienville. The imagination of a young girl, "Julie," had been inflamed by precocious reading and aroused by the remarks of a servant girl "initiated into the secrets of Venus, ... a virtuous handmaiden in the mother's eyes" but "a dear and voluptuous stewardess of the daughter's pleasures." Yet Julie combats these—to tier-new desires with all the impressions she has received in the course of her education; to the seductive language of novels, she opposes the lessons of religion and virtue; and despite the vivacity of her imagination, she does not succumb to disease so long as she possesses "the strength to reason thus with herself: it is neither lawful nor virtuous to obey so shameful a passion." But the wicked remarks, the dangerous readings increase; at every moment, they render more intense the agitation of the weakening fibers; then the fundamental language by which she had hitherto resisted gradually gives way: "Nature alone had spoken hitherto; but soon illusion, chimera, and extravagance played their part; at length she acquired the unhappy strength to approve in herself this horrible maxim: nothing is so beautiful nor so sweet as to obey the desires of love." This fundamental discourse opens the gates of madness: the imagination is freed, the appetites continually increase, the fibers reach the final degree of irritation. Delirium, in its lapidary form of a moral principle, leads straight to the convulsions which can endanger life itself.
At the end of this last cycle which had begun with the liberty of the hallucination and which closes now with the rigor of delirious language, we can conclude:
1. In madness, for the classical age, there exist two forms of delirium. A special, symptomatic form, proper to some of the diseases of the mind and especially to melancholia; in this sense we can say that there are diseases with or without delirium. In any case, such delirium is always manifest; it forms an integral part of the signs of madness; it is immanent to madness's truth and constitutes only a sector of it. But there exists another delirium which is not always manifest, which is not formulated by the sufferer himself in the course of the disease, but which cannot fail to exist in the eyes of anyone who, seeking to trace the disease from its origins, attempts to formulate its riddle and its truth.
2. This implicit delirium exists in all the alterations of the mind, even where we would expect it least. In cases of no more than silent gestures, wordless violence, oddities of conduct, classical thought has no doubt that madness is continually subjacent, relating each of these particular signs to the general essence of madness. James's Dictionary expressly urges us to consider as delirious "the sufferers who sin by fault or excess in any of various voluntary actions, in a manner contrary to reason and to propriety; as when they use their hand, for example, to tear out tufts of wool or in an action similar to that which serves to catch flies; or when a patient acts against his custom and without cause, or when he speaks too much or too little against his normal habits; if he abounds in obscene remarks, being, when in health, of measured speech and decent in his discourse, and if he utters words that have no consequence, if he breathes more faintly than he must, or uncovers his private parts in the presence of those who are near him. We also regard as being in a state of delirium those whose minds are affected by some derangement in the organs of sense, or who use them in a fashion not customary to them, as when, for example, a sufferer is deprived of some voluntary action or acts inhabitually."
3. Thus understood, discourse covers the entire range of madness. Madness, in the classical sense, does not designate so much a specific change in the mind or in the body, as the existence, under the body's alterations, under the oddity of conduct and conversation, of a delirious discourse. The simplest and most general definition we can give of classical madness is indeed delirium: "This word is derived from lira, a furrow; so that deliro actually means to move out of the furrow, away from the proper path of reason." Hence it is not surprising to find the eighteenth-century nosographers often classifying vertigo as a madness, and more rarely hysterical convulsions; this is because it is often impossible to find in hysterical convulsions the unity of a language, while vertigo affords the delirious affirmation that the world is really "turning around." Such delirium is a necessary and sufficient reason for a disease to be called madness.
4. Language is the first and last structure of madness, its constituent form; on language are based all the cycles in which madness articulates its nature. That the essence of madness can be ultimately defined in the simple structure of a discourse does not reduce it to a purely psychological nature, but gives it a hold over the totality of soul and body; such discourse is both the silent language by which the mind speaks to itself in the truth proper to it, and the visible articulation in the movements of the body. Parallelisms, complements, all the forms of immediate communication which we have seen manifested, in madness are suspended between soul and body in this single language and in its powers. The movement of passion which persists until it breaks and turns against itself, the sudden appearance of the image, and the agitations of the body which were its visible concomitants—all this, even as we were trying to reconstruct it, was already secretly animated by this language. If the determinism of passion is transcended and released in the hallucination of the image, if the image, in return, has swept away the whole world of beliefs and desires, it is because the delirious language was already present—a discourse which liberated passion from all its limits, and adhered with all the constraining weight of its affirmation to the image which was liberating itself.
It is in this delirium, which is of both body and soul, of both language and image, of both grammar and physiology, that all the cycles of madness conclude and begin. It is this delirium whose rigorous meaning organized them from the start. It is madness itself, and also, beyond each of its phenomena, its silent transcendence, which constitute the truth of madness.
A last question remains: In the name of what can this fundamental language be regarded as a delirium? Granting that it is the truth of madness, what makes it true madness and the originating form of insanity? Why should it be in this discourse, whose forms we have seen to be so faithful to the rules of reason, that we find all those signs which will most manifestly declare the very absence of reason?
A central question, but one to which the classical age has not formulated a direct answer. We must approach it obliquely, interrogating the experiences which are to be found in the immediate neighborhood of this essential language of madness: that is, the dream and the delusion.
The quasi-oneiric character of madness is one of the constant themes in the classical period. A theme which doubtless derives from a very old tradition, to which Andre du Laurens, at the end of the sixteenth century, still testifies; for him melancholia and dreams have the same origin and bear, in relation to truth, the same value. There are "natural dreams" which represent what, during the preceding day, has passed through the senses or the understanding but happens to be modified by the specific temperament of the subject. In the same way, there is a melancholia which has a merely physical origin in the disposition of the sufferer and alters, for his mind, the importance, the value, and so to speak the coloration of real events. But there is also a melancholia which permits the sufferer to predict the future, to speak in an unknown language, to see beings ordinarily invisible; this melancholia originates in a supernatural intervention, the same which brings to the sleeper's mind those dreams which foresee the future, announce events to come, and cause him to see "strange things."
But in fact the seventeenth century preserves this tradition of the resemblance between madness and dreams only to break it all the more completely and to generate new, more essential relations. Relations in which madness and dreams are not only understood in their remote origin or in their imminent value as signs, but are confronted as phenomena, in their development, in their very nature.
Dreams and madness then appeared to be of the same substance. Their mechanism was the same; thus Zacchias could identify in sleepwalking the movements which cause dreams, but which in a waking state can also provoke madness.
In the first moments when one falls asleep, the vapors which rise in the body and ascend to the head are many, turbulent, and dense. They are so dark that they waken no image in the brain; they merely agitate, in their chaotic dance, the nerves and the muscles. The same is true in the frenzied, in maniacs: they suffer few hallucinations, no false beliefs, but an intense agitation which they cannot manage to control. Let us continue the evolution of sleep: after the first period of turbulence, the vapors which rise to the brain are clarified, their movement organized; this is the moment when fantastic dreams are born; one sees miracles, a thousand impossible things. To this stage corresponds that of dementia, in which one is convinced of many things "which are not in real life." Then at last the agitation of the vapors is calmed altogether; the sleeper begins to see things still more clearly; in the transparency of the henceforth limpid vapors, recollections of the day before reappear in accordance with reality; such images are at most transposed, on one point or another—as occurs in melancholies, who recognize all things as they are, "in particular those who are not merely distracted." Between the gradual developments of sleep—with what they contribute at each stage to the quality of the imagination—and the forms of madness, the analogy is constant, because the mechanisms are the same: the same movement of vapors and spirits, the same liberation of images, the same correspondence between the physical qualities of phenomena and the psychological or moral values of sentiments. "To emerge from the insane no differently than from the sleeping."
The important thing, in Zacchias's analysis, is that madness is not associated with dreams in their positive phenomena, but rather to the totality formed by sleep and dreams together: that is, to a complex which includes—besides the image—hallucination, memory, or prediction, the great void of sleep, the night of the senses, and all that negativity which wrests man from the waking state and its apparent truths. Whereas tradition compared the delirium of the madman to the vivacity of the dream images, the classical period identified delirium only with the complex of the image and the night of the mind, against which background it assumed its liberty. And this complex, transposed entire into the clarity of the waking state, constituted madness. This is how we must understand the definitions of madness which insistently recur throughout the classical period. The dream, as a complex figure of image and sleep, is almost always present in that definition. Either in a negative fashion—the notion of the waking state then being the only one that distinguishes madmen from sleepers; or in a positive fashion, delirium being defined as a modality of the dream, with the waking state as the specific difference:
"Delirium is the dream of waking persons." The ancients' notion of the dream as a transitory form of madness is inverted; it is no longer the dream which borrows its disturbing powers from alienation—showing thereby how fragile or limited reason is; it is madness which takes its original nature from the dream and reveals in this kinship that it is a liberation of the image in the dark night of reality.
The dream deceives; it leads to confusions; it is illusory. But it is not erroneous. And that is why madness is not exhausted in the waking modality of the dream, and why it overflows into error. It is true that in the dream, the imagination forges "impossible things and miracles," or that it assembles lifelike figures "by an irrational method"; but, Zacchias remarks, "there is no error in these things, and consequently nothing insane." Madness occurs when the images, which are so close to the dream, receive the affirmation or negation that constitutes error. It is in this sense that the Encyclopedic proposed its famous definition of madness: to depart from reason "with confidence and in the firm conviction that one is following it— that, it seems to me, is what is called being mad." Error is the other element always present with the dream, in the classical definition of insanity. The madman, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is not so much the victim of an illusion, of a hallucination of his senses, or of a movement of his mind. He is not abused; he deceives himself. If it is true that on one hand the madman's mind is led on by the oneiric arbitrariness of images, on the other, and at the same time, he imprisons himself in the circle of an erroneous consciousness: "We call madmen," Sauvages was to say, "those who are actually deprived of reason or who persist in some notable error; it is this constant error of the soul manifest in its imagination, in its judgments, and in its desires, which constitutes the characteristic of this category."
Madness begins where the relation of man to truth is disturbed and darkened. It is in this relation, at the same time as in the destruction of this relation, that madness assumes its general meaning and its particular forms. Dementia, Zacchias says, using the term here in the most general sense of madness, "lay in this, that the intellect did not distinguish true from false." But this breakdown, if we can understand it only as negation, has positive structures which give it singular forms. According to the different forms of access to the truth, there will be different types of madness. It is in this sense that Chrichton, for example, distinguishes in the order of vesanias, first the class deliria, which alter that relation to the truth which takes shape in perception ("general delirium of the mental faculties, in which the diseased perceptions are taken for realities"); then the class hallucinations, which alter representation ("error of the mind in which imaginary objects are taken for realities, or else real objects are falsely represented"); and last, the class dementias, which without abolishing or altering the faculties that afford access to truth, weaken them and diminish their powers.
But we can also analyze madness starting with truth itself and with the forms proper to it. It is in this manner that the Encyclopedic distinguishes "physical truth" from "moral truth." "Physical truth consists in the accurate relation of our sensations with physical objects"; there will be a form of madness determined by the impossibility of acceding to this form of truth; a kind of madness of the physical world which includes illusions, hallucinations, all perceptual disturbances; "it is a madness to hear choirs of angels, as certain enthusiasts do." "Moral truth," on the other hand, "consists in the exactitude of the relations we discern either between moral objects, or between those objects and ourselves." There will be a form of madness consisting of the loss of these relations; such is the madness of character, of conduct, and of the passions. "Veritable madnesses, then, are all the derangements of our mind, all the illusions of self-love, and all our passions when they are carried to the point of blindness; for blindness is the distinctive characteristic of madness."
Blindness: one of the words which comes closest to the essence of classical madness. It refers to that night of quasi-sleep which surrounds the images of madness, giving them, in their solitude, an invisible sovereignty; but it refers also to ill-founded beliefs, mistaken judgments, to that whole background of errors inseparable from madness. The fundamental discourse of delirium, in its constitutive powers, thus reveals to what extent, despite analogies of form, despite the rigor of its meaning, it was not a discourse of reason. It spoke, but in the night of blindness; it was more than the loose and disordered text of a dream, since it deceived itself; but it was more than an erroneous proposition, since it was plunged into that total obscurity which is that of sleep. Delirium, as the principle of madness, is a system of false propositions in the general syntax of the dream.
Madness is precisely at the point of contact between the oneiric and the erroneous; it traverses, in its variations, the surface on which they meet, the surface which both joins and separates them. With error, madness shares non-truth, and arbitrariness in affirmation or negation; from the dream, madness borrows the flow of images and the colorful presence of hallucinations. But while error is merely non-truth, while the dream neither affirms nor judges, madness fills the void of error with images, and links hallucinations by affirmation of the false. In a sense, it is thus plenitude, joining to the figures of night the powers of day, to the forms of fantasy the activity of the waking mind; it links the dark content with the forms of light. But is not such plenitude actually the culmination of the void? The presence of images offers no more than night-ringed hallucinations, figures inscribed at the comers of sleep, hence detached from any sensuous reality; however vivid they are, however rigorously established in the body, these images are nothingness, since they represent nothing; as for erroneous judgment, it judges only in appearance: affirming nothing true or real, it does not affirm at all; it is ensnared in the non-being of error.
Joining vision and blindness, image and judgment, hallucination and language, sleep and waking, day and night, madness is ultimately nothing, for it unites in them all that is negative. But the paradox of this nothing is to manifest itself, to explode in signs, in words, in gestures. Inextricable unity of order and disorder, of the reasonable being of things and this nothingness of madness! For madness, if it is nothing, can manifest itself only by departing from itself, by assuming an appearance in the order of reason and thus becoming the contrary of itself. Which illuminates the paradoxes of the classical experience: madness is always absent, in a perpetual retreat where it is inaccessible, without phenomenal or positive character; and yet it is present and perfectly visible in the singular evidence of the madman. Meaningless disorder as madness is, it reveals, when we examine it, only ordered classifications, rigorous mechanisms in soul and body, language articulated according to a visible logic. All that madness can say of itself is merely reason, though it is itself the negation of reason. In short, a rational hold over madness is always possible and necessary, to the very degree that madness is non-reason.
There is only one word which summarizes this experience, Unreason: all that, for reason, is closest and most remote, emptiest and most complete; all that presents itself to reason in familiar structures—authorizing a knowledge, and then a science, which seeks to be positive—and all that is constantly in retreat from reason, in the inaccessible domain of nothingness.
And if, now, we try to assign a value, in and of itself, outside its relations with the dream and with error, to classical unreason, we must understand it not as reason diseased, or as reason lost or alienated, but quite simply as reason dazzled.
Dazzlement is night in broad daylight, the darkness that rules at the very heart of what is excessive in light's radiance. Dazzled reason opens its eyes upon the sun and sees nothing, that is, does not see; in dazzlement, the recession of objects toward the depths of night has as an immediate correlative the suppression of vision itself; at the moment when it sees objects disappear into the secret night of light, sight sees itself in the moment of its disappearance.
To say that madness is dazzlement is to say that the madman sees the daylight, the same daylight as the man of reason (both live in the same brightness); but seeing this same daylight, and nothing but this daylight and nothing in it, he sees it as void, as night, as nothing; for him the shadows are the way to perceive daylight. Which means that, seeing the night and the nothingness of the night, he does not see at all. And believing he sees, he admits as realities the hallucinations of his imagination and all the multitudinous population of night. That is why delirium and dazzlement are in a relation which constitutes the essence of madness, exactly as truth and light, in their fundamental relation, constitute classical reason.
In this sense, the Cartesian formula of doubt is certainly the great exorcism of madness. Descartes closes his eyes and plugs up his ears the better to see the true brightness of essential daylight; thus he is secured against the dazzlement of the madman who, opening his eyes, sees only night, and not seeing at all, believes he sees when he imagines. In the uniform lucidity of his closed senses, Descartes has broken with all possible fascination, and if he sees, he is certain of seeing that which he sees. While before the eyes of the madman, drunk on a light which is darkness, rise and multiply images incapable of criticizing themselves (since the madman sees them), but irreparably separated from being (since the madman sees nothing).
Unreason is in the same relation to reason as dazzlement to the brightness of daylight itself. And this is not a metaphor. We are at the center of the great cosmology which animates all classical culture. The "cosmos" of the Renaissance, so rich in internal communications and symbolisms, entirely dominated by the interacting presence of the stars, has now disappeared, without "nature" having yet assumed its status of universality, without its having received man's lyrical recognition, subjecting him to the rhythm of its seasons. What the classical thinkers retain of the "world," what they already anticipate in "nature," is an extremely abstract law, which nonetheless forms the most vivid and concrete opposition, that of day and night. This is no longer the fatal time of the planets, it is not yet the lyrical time of the seasons; it is the universal but absolutely divided time of brightness and darkness. A form which thought entirely masters in a mathematical science— Cartesian physics is a kind of mathesis of light—but which at the same time traces the great tragic caesura in human existence: one that dominates the theatrical time of Racine and the space of Georges de la Tour in the same imperious fashion. The circle of day and night is the law of the classical world: the most reduced but the most demanding of the world's necessities, the most inevitable but the simplest of nature's legalities.
A law which excludes all dialectic and all reconciliation; which establishes, consequently, both the flawless unity of knowledge and the uncompromising division of tragic existence; it rules over a world without twilight, which knows no effusion, nor the attenuated cares of lyricism; everything must be either waking or dream, truth or darkness, the light of being or the nothingness of shadow. Such a law prescribes an inevitable order, a serene division which makes truth possible and confirms it forever.
And yet on either side of this order, two symmetrical, inverse figures bear witness that there are extremities where it can be transgressed, showing at the same time to what degree it is essential not to transgress it. On one side, tragedy. The rule of the theatrical day has a positive content; it forces tragic duration to be poised upon the singular but universal alternation of day and night; the whole of the tragedy must be accomplished in this unity of time, for tragedy is ultimately nothing but the confrontation of two realms, linked to each other by time itself, in the irreconcilable. Every day, in Racine's theater, is overhung by a night, which it brings, so to speak, to light: the night of Troy and its massacres, the night of Nero's desires, Titus's Roman night, Athalie's night. These are the great stretches of night, realms of darkness which haunt the day without yielding an hour, and disappear only in the new night of death. And these fantastic nights, in their turn, are haunted by a light which forms a kind of infernal reflection of the day: the burning of Troy, the torches of the Praetorians, the pale light of the dream. In classical tragedy, day and night are arranged like a pair of mirrors, endlessly reflect each other, and afford that simple couple a sudden profundity which envelops in a single movement all of man's life and his death. In the same fashion, in De la Tour's Madeleine au miroir, light and shadow confront each other, divide and at the same time unite a face and its reflection, a skull and its image, a vigil and a silence; and in the Image Saint-Alexis, the page holding the torch reveals under the shadow of the vault the man who was his master—a grave and luminous boy encounters all of human misery; a child brings death to light.
On the other side, facing tragedy and its hieratic language, is the confused murmur of madness. Here, too, the great law of the division has been violated; shadow and light mingle in the fury of madness, as in the tragic disorder. But in another mode. In night, the tragic character found a somber truth of day; the night of Troy remained Andromache's truth, as Athalie's night presaged the truth of the already advancing day; night, paradoxically, revealed; it was the profoundest day of being. The madman, conversely, finds in daylight only the inconsistency of the night's figures; he lets the light be darkened by all the illusions of the dream; his day is only the most superficial night of appearance. It is to this degree that tragic man, more than any other, is engaged in being, is the bearer of his truth, since, like Phedre, he flings in the face of the pitiless sun all the secrets of the night; while the madman is entirely excluded from being. And how could he not be, lending as he does the day's illusory reflection to the night's non-being?
We understand that the tragic hero—in contrast to the baroque character of the preceding period—can never be mad; and that conversely madness cannot bear within itself those values of tragedy, which we have known since Nietzsche and Artaud. In the classical period, the man of tragedy and the man of madness confront each other, without a possible dialogue, without a common language; for the former can utter only the decisive words of being, uniting in a flash the truth of light and the depth of darkness; the latter endlessly drones out the indifferent murmur which cancels out both the day's chatter and the lying dark.
Madness designates the equinox between the vanity of night's hallucinations and the non-being of light's judgments.
And this much, which the archaeology of knowledge has been able to teach us bit by bit, was already offered to us in a simple tragic fulguration, in the last words of Andromaque.
As if, at the moment when madness was vanishing from the tragic act, at the moment when tragic man was to separate himself for over two centuries from the man of unreason—as if, at this very moment, an ultimate figuration were demanded of madness. The curtain which falls on the last scene of Andromaque also falls on the last of the great tragic incarnations of madness. But in this presence on the threshold of its own disappearance, in this madness incarcerating itself for good, is articulated what it is and will be for the entire classical age. Is it not precisely at the moment of its disappearance that it can best present its truth, its truth of absence, its truth which is that of day at the limits of night? This had to be the last scene of the first great classical tragedy; or if one prefers, the first time in which the classical truth of madness is expressed in a tragic movement which is the last of the preclassical theater. A truth, in any case, that is instantaneous, since its appearance can only be its disappearance; the lightning-flash is seen only in the already advancing night.
Orestes, in his frenzy, passes through a triple circle of night: three concentric figurations of dazzlement. Day has just dawned over Pyrrhus's palace; night is still there, edging this light with shadow, and peremptorily indicating its limit. On this morning which is a festival morning, the crime has been committed, and Pyrrhus has closed his eyes on the dawning day: a fragment of shadow cast here on the steps of the altar, on the threshold of brightness and of darkness. The two great cosmic themes of madness are thus present in various forms, as omen, decor, and counterpoint of Orestes' frenzy. It can then begin: in a pitiless clarity which denounces the murder of Pyrrhus and the treachery of Hermione, in that dawn where everything finally explodes in a truth so old and at the same rime so young, a first circle of shadow: a dark cloud into which, all around Orestes, the world begins to withdraw; the truth appears in this paradoxical twilight, in this matinal night where the cruelty of truth will be transformed into the fury of hallucination:
Mais quelle epaisse nuit, tout a coup, m'environne?
(But what thick night suddenly surrounds me?)
It is the empty night of error; but against the background of this first obscurity, a brilliance, a false light will appear: that of images. The nightmare rises, not in the bright light of morning, but in a somber scintillation: the light of storm and of murder.
Dieux! quels ruisseaux de sang content autour de moi!
(O Gods! What streams of blood flow around me!)
And then appears the dynasty of the dream. In this night the hallucinations are set free; the Erinnyes appear and take over. What makes them precarious also makes them sovereign; they triumph easily in the solitude where they succeed one another; nothing challenges them; images and language intersect, in apostrophes which are invocations, presences affirmed and repulsed, solicited and feared. But all these images converge toward night, toward a second night which is that of punishment, of eternal vengeance, of death within death. The Erinnyes are recalled to that darkness which is their own—their birthplace and their truth, i.e., their own nothingness.
Venez-vous m'enlever dans Fetemelle nuit?
(Do you come to bear me off into eternal night?)
This is the moment when it is revealed that the images of madness are only dream and error, and if the sufferer who is blinded by them appeals to them, it is only to disappear with them in the annihilation to which they are fated.
A second time, then, we pass through a circle of night. But we are not thereby restored to the daylight reality of the world. We accede, beyond what is manifested in madness, to delirium, to that essential and constitutive structure which had secretly sustained madness from the first. This delirium has a name, Hermione; Hermione who no longer reappears as a hallucinatory vision, but as the ultimate truth of madness. It is significant that Hermione intervenes at this very moment of the frenzy: not among the Eumenides, nor ahead of them—to guide them; but behind and separated from them by the night into which they have dragged Orestes and in which they themselves are now scattered. Hermione intervenes as a figure of delirium, as the truth which secretly reigned from the start, and of which the Eumenides were ultimately only the servants. Here we are at the opposite of Greek tragedy, where the Erinnyes were the final destiny and truth which, in the night of time, had awaited the hero; his passion was merely their instrument. Here the Eumenides are merely figures in the service of delirium, the primary and ultimate truth, which was already appearing in passion, and now declares itself in its nakedness. This truth rules alone, thrusting images away:
Mais non, retirez-vous, laissez faire Hermione.
(But no, begone, let Hermione do her work.)
Hermione, who has always been present from the beginning, Hermione who has always lacerated Orestes, destroying his reason bit by bit, Hermione for whom he has become "parricide, assassin, sacrilege," reveals herself finally as the truth and culmination of his madness. And delirium, in its rigor, no longer has anything to say except to articulate as imminent decision a truth long since commonplace and laughable:
Et je lui porte enfin mon coeur a devorer.
(And I bring her at last my heart to devour.)
Days and years ago Orestes had offered up this savage sacrifice. But now he expresses this principle of his madness as an end. For madness cannot go any farther. Having uttered its truth in its essential delirium, it can do no more than collapse in a third night, that night from which there is no return, the night of an incessant devouring. Unreason can appear only for a moment, the instant when language enters silence, when delirium itself is stilled, when the heart is at last devoured.
In the tragedies of the early seventeenth century, madness, too, released drama; but it did so by liberating truth; madness still had access to language, to a renewed language of explanation and of reality reconquered. It could be at most only the penultimate moment of the tragedy. Not the last, as in Andromaque, in which no truth is uttered except the truth, in delirium, of a passion which has found with madness the perfection of its fulfillment.
The movement proper to unreason, which classical learning followed and pursued, had already accomplished the whole of its trajectory in the concision of tragic language. After which, silence could reign, and madness disappear in the—always withdrawn— presence of unreason.
What we now know of unreason affords us a better understanding of what confinement was.
This gesture, which banished madness to a neutral and uniform world of exclusion, did not mark a halt in the evolution of medical techniques, nor in the progress of humanitarian ideas. It assumed its precise meaning in this fact: that madness in the classical period ceased to be the sign of another world, and that it became the paradoxical manifestation of non-being. Ultimately, confinement did seek to suppress madness, to eliminate from the social order a figure which did not find its place within it; the essence of confinement was not the exorcism of a danger. Confinement merely manifested what madness, in its essence, was: a manifestation of non-being; and by providing this man ifestation, confinement thereby suppressed it, since it restored it to its truth as nothingness. Confinement is the practice which corresponds most exactly to madness experienced as unreason, that is, as the empty negativity of reason; by confinement, madness is acknowledged to be nothing. That is, on one hand madness is immediately perceived as difference: whence the forms of spontaneous and collective judgment sought, not from physicians, but from men of good sense, to determine the confinement of a madman; and on the other hand, confinement cannot have any other goal than a correction (that is, the suppression of the difference, or the fulfillment of this nothingness in death); whence those options for death so often to be found in the registers of confinement, written by the attendants, and which are not the sign of confinement's savagery, its inhumanity or perversion, but the strict expression of its meaning: an operation to annihilate nothingness. Confinement sketches, on the surface of phenomena and in a hasty moral synthesis, the secret and distinct structure of madness.
Then did confinement establish its practices in this profound intuition? Was it because madness under the effect of confinement had really vanished from the classical horizon that it was ultimately stigmatized as non-being? Questions whose answers refer to each other in a perfect circularity. It is futile, no doubt, to lose oneself in the endless cycle of these forms of interrogation. Better to let classical culture formulate, in its general structure, the experience it had of madness, an experience which crops up with the same meanings, in the identical order of its inner logic, in both the order of speculation and the order of institutions, in both discourse and decree, in both word and watchword—wherever, in fact, a signifying element can assume for us the value of a language.
MICHEL FOUCAULT, MADNESS AND CIVILIZATION (A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason )
Translated from the French by RICHARD HOWARD
Vintage Books, A DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE, New York
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