Saturday, March 18, 2006


It is a common misapprehension that Surrealists, with our love of the irrational, the mad and the nonsensical, favour the Imagination over Reason. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of Surrealism.

For us, it is only Imagination which can grasp Truth, perceive Reality, or apprehend Freedom. Imagination is what provokes and is provoked by the Marvellous, that manifestation of poetry in everyday life which gives Surrealism its meaning; Imagination is what touches and is touched by the surreality which Surrealism seeks; Imagination does all things Reason is supposed to do, but does them more passionately, more perceptively, more freely. In other words, for Surrealists, Imagination is the highest form of Reason.

In the words of our comrades in the Stockholm Surrealist Group, ‘Surrealism is the imaginary solution of the contradiction between Enlightenment and Romanticism’. Our surrationality is found at the vanishing point between these two great intellectual movements: it transubstantiates both and is reducible to neither. This must be understood clearly as the politico-philosophical grounds of our repeated attacks on liberalism even – indeed especially – at a time when liberal Enlightenment values such as secularism, tolerance and democracy are coming under attack from the forces of fundamentalism and totalitarianism. Our own attacks on liberalism do not simply rest on a rejection of Enlightenment rationalism in favour of the adrenaline thrills of revolutionary Romanticism. Surrealists spurn liberalism not because we reject the Enlightenment, but because as a movement we have already passed through and beyond it.

It is well known that Surrealism opposes rationalism – culturally, philosophically and politically. Our fanatical devotion to poetry, eroticism, Mad Love and the Marvellous is in itself a total refusal of rationalism in all its forms: bureaucracy, technocracy, the equation of knowledge with domination, the calculation of ends and means, in short, all that can be designated under the rubric of the disenchantment of everyday life. But Surrealism refuses with no less vehemence those bogus forms of re-enchantment, commoditised and/or supernaturalised, which are today being taken as palliatives for the ills of global capitalism and imperialism. Religion, superstition, off-the-peg ‘spirituality’, New Age beliefs ranging from ley lines to crystal healing to goddess worship, all this is just so much delusional shit. Surrealists’ deployment of such apparently mystical forces as tarot, divination, ecstatic visions, the conjuring of demons and the like is not an endorsement of the belief in the supernatural but an alchemical transformation of it into poetry: the distinctively analogical movement of thought of Surrealism is akin to that of magical systems, with the crucial difference that Surrealists revolt against all supernatural or mystical ‘explanations’ which are the enemies of the Marvellous no less than of politico-philosophical materialism.

We treasure the Marvellous not because it offers any glimpses of another world, but because it demonstrates the revolutionary truth of what this world can and must become.

Surrealist Imagination is the only viable form of Reason.

Reason demands Surrealist Revolution as the only viable form of Freedom.

‘Transform the world,’ Marx said; ‘change life,’ Rimbaud said. These two watchwords are one for us.