Acéphale was a journal and a secret society that existed between 1936 and 1939. Writing of the association in his brief ‘autobiographical note’, Bataille records that after the dissolution of his anti-fascist group Counterattack, he ‘immediately resolved to form … a “secret society” which, turning its back on politics, would pursue goals that would be solely religious (but anti-Christian, essentially Nietzschean)’ (1997, 115). Bataille mentions other members, including the physicist Georges Ambrosino, Pierre Klossowski and Patrick Walberg, but omits the poet and writer Laure (Colette Laure Lucienne Peignot), with whom Bataille had a passionate relationship until her death in 1938. The ‘intentions’ and programme of the society are partly expressed in the journal and in Bataille’s short article ‘The Sacred Conspiracy’ (see 1997, 121; 1985, 178–81). The society investigated forms and rituals of mythic, archaic and tribal groupings, interested in the forces that bind and unbind community. Particularly interested in sacrifice, the group met in secret and in locations like the Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI was executed. They also met in ominous places deep in the woods where plans were made for a human sacrifice, an act of criminal violence that would bind the group together in shared guilt.
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