Mimesis, Ritual Sacrifice, and Ceremony of Proskynesis
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Mimesis, Ritual Sacrifice, and Ceremony of Proskynesis


The aim of this work is to analyze a political concept derived from a religious myth. I will analyze both by means of the genealogical method of the mimetic violence because this genealogical method looks for the origin of concepts and myths within the human culture. Its basic assumption goes like this: the mimetic sacrifice causes the ritual sacrifice, and the ritual sacrifice causes in its turn the myth and the prohibitions. The political concept, derived from the mimetic violence, is the notion of concord or unanimity (homonoia).

One critic says of René Girard: "Girard is one of the last hedgehog types who survive, according to Isaiah Berlin's typology subtly deduced of Archilochus's dictum: the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The single biggest thing that Girard knows has a name: scapegoat."1 Indeed, Girard fits within the profile that is attributed to the philosopher "hedgehog," if we consider the mimetic desire and its victimizer effects like monomania or a fixed idea of his research contribution. [End Page 57]

The constitutional structure of the human being is the mimetic desire. Man is a consequence of a complex and ambivalent process, the result of an "anthropological paradox." This paradox stems from the triangular structure of human desire. The mimetic triangle consists of three elements: the subject, the object, and the mediator of desire.2 The mimetic character of desire is the content of his first book, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1961). We borrow our desires from others. Our desire for a certain object is always aroused by the desire of another person (the model) for this same object. This means that the relationship between the subject and the object isn't direct: there's always a triangular relationship of subject, model, and object. One is thrown to the object through the model, who Girard calls the mediator. Girard calls desire "metaphysical" in the measure that a desire is something more than a simple need or appetite because "all desire is a desire to be"; it's the being of the model that is sought.3

Within this perspective, one could say that every human conflict is rooted in the mimetic, through mimesis of appropriation: the instinct of wanting what the model suggests as desirable. The desire of each person specifically pursues the most sought-after objects and desired by its model. Its conflicting nature is thus inherent.

Mimesis of appropriation can be derived, therefore, from mimesis of antagonist. This is when the rivalries and the object in dispute become secondary to the prevailing antagonistic relationship. Girard describes this change from "model as an obstacle" to "obstacle as model" with a biblical term: the "scandal." Girard began to study anthropological literature and he proposed his second great hypothesis: the victimization process, which is the origin of archaic religion as he sets in his second book, Violence and the Sacred (1972).4

Forgetfulness, or ignorance, of this functional paradox predisposes to the emergence of mimetic rivalry between model and imitator through appropriation. Ignorance (or méconnaissance) causes the desire to initiate the genesis of his enemies (or "Double") and his troubled symmetry. Since the mimetic rivalry that develops from the struggle for the possession of the objects is contagious, it leads to the menace of violence.

In this mimetic secondary phase, the relationship of antagonism depends on desire for prestige that is disputed between the double. The more we want to be independent with respect to the other the more we depend on them. Forgetfulness, or ignorance, this evolved form of the initial paradox leads to the transition from "unbridled desire" (or "runaway"), ending in the mimetic crisis, or a crisis of differences. The paradox is exacerbated because the desire to distinguish with respect to each other leads to total lack of differentiation. [End Page 58]

When this collective paradox completes the dissolution of all social links, the runaway process generates a war of "all against all." The mimetic trend that maintains the dissensions of "all-against-all" is what determines the dispute to become "all-against-one." Therein the paradox lies...

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