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Acéphale

the name of a public review created by Georges Bataille (which numbered five issues, from 1936 to 1939) and a secret society formed by Bataille and others who had sworn to keep silent.

Because of its very nature, it is difficult to describe the society’s acts. Bataille referred several times to Marcel Mauss who had studied secret societies in Africa, describing them as a “total social phenomenon”. On this model, he organized several nocturnal meetings in the woods, near an oak which had been struck by lightning. Members of the Acéphale society were required to adopt several rituals, such as refusing to shake hand with anti-semites and celebrating the decapitation of Louis XVI, an event which prefigured the “chiefless crowd” targed by “acéphalité”. Members of the society were also invited to meditation, on texts of Nietzsche, Freud, Sade and Mauss read during the assemblies.

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