“Magic and Fatality” – CIORAN

It is hard for me to imagine the joy of people with magical sensitivity, those people who feel that everything is within their power, for whom there are no obstacles. Magical sensitivity leads only to joy; it knows nothing of the irrevocability and fatality of existence. To feel that you can do anything, that you can hold the absolute in the palm of your hand, that your exuberance is one with the world’s, that you are the world, and that its heart beats in you frenetically—these are the ingredients of an unimaginable joy, the exclusive monopoly of those possessed of magical sensitivity. Magic knows nothing of illnesses, or if it does, they are never incurable ones. Magical optimism finds equivalences in everything. Magic rejects the negative, demonic essence of life. He who has this kind of sensitivity cannot understand the triumphs of pain, misery, destiny, death. The illusions of magic negate the irrevocable, reject the inevitability and universality of death. Subjectively, magic is very important because it leads to a state of euphoric exaltation. In it, man lives as if he were never to die. The question of death consists of nothing but the subjective consciousness of death. For those who do not have it, it is totally irrelevant that, through death, they will fall into nothingness. We reach the climax of consciousness through incessant contemplation of death.

Infinitely more complex are those who are conscious of fatality, for whom the insoluble and the irrevocable are real, who feel that effort is vain, and regret, impossible. Essential reality unfolds under the sign of fatality, life’s inability to overcome its limited condition. Magic is useful for small and inessential things, but powerless when confronted with metaphysical reality, which requires, most of the time, silence, something magical sensitivity is incapable of. To live with an acute consciousness of fatality, of one’s own impotence in the face of life’s great problems, which you cannot even pose without tragically implicating yourself in existence, means to engage directly the capital question of life, that of inaccessible and unknowable infinity.


CIORAN, “Magic and fatality”, On the heights of despair. Transl. by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Chicago/London: Chicago University Press, 1992.

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