There is something occulted inside us: our death. But something else is hidden there, lying in wait for us within each of our cells: the forgetting of death. In our cells our immortality lies in wait for us. It’s common to speak f the struggle of life against death, but there is an inverse peril. And we must struggle against the possibility that we will not die. At the slightest hesitation in the fight for death-a fight for division, for sex, for alterity, and so far death-living beings become once again indivisible, identical to one another-and immortal.
Contrary to everything that seems obvious and “natural”, nature’s first creatures were immortal. It was only by obtaining the power to die, by dint of constant struggle, that we became the living beings we are today. Blindly we dream of overcoming death through immortality, when all the time immortality is the most horrific of possible fates. Encoded in the earliest life of our cells, this fate is now reappearing on our horizons, so to speak, with the advent of cloning. (The death drive, according to Freud, is precisely this nostalgia for a state before the appearance of individuality and sexual differentiation, a state in which we lived before we became mortal and distinct from one another. Absolute death is not the end of the individual human being; rather, it is a regression toward a state of minimal differentiation among living beings, of a pure repetition of identical beings.)
The evolution of the biosphere is what drives immortal beings to become mortal ones. They move, little by little, from the absolute continuity found in the subdivision of the same-in bacteria-toward the possibility of birth and death. Next, the egg becomes fertilized by a sperm and specialized sex cells make their appearance. The resulting entity is no longer a copy of either one of the pair that engendered it; rather, it is a new and singular combination. There is a shift from pure and simple reproduction to procreation: the first two will die for the first time, and the third for the first time will be born. We reach the stage of beings that are sexed, differentiated, and mortal. The earlier order of the virus-of immortal being-is perpetuated, but henceforward this world of deathless things is contained inside the world of the mortals. In evolutionary terms, the victory goes to beings that are mortal and distinct from one another: the victory goes to us.
But the game isn’t over yet, and reversion is always possible. It can be found not only in the viral revolt of our cells but also in the enormous enterprise we living beings ourselves undertake today: a project to reconstruct a homogeneous and uniformly consistent-an artificial continuum this time-that unfolds within a technological and mechanical medium, extending over our vast information network, where we are in the process of building a perfect clone, an identical copy of our world, a virtual artifact that opens up the prospect of endless reproduction. We are in the process of reactivating this pathological immortality, the immortality of a cancer cell, both at the individual level and at the level of the species as a whole. This is the revenge taken on mortal and sexed beings by immortal and undifferentiated life forms. This is what could be called the final solution.
After the great revolution in the evolutionary process-the advent of sex and death-we have the great involution: it aims, through cloning and many other techniques, to liberate us from sex and death. Where once living creatures strove, over millions of years, to pull themselves free of this kind of incest and primitive entropy, we are now, through scientific advances themselves, in the process of reacting precisely these conditions. We are actively working at the We are actively working at the “dis-information” of our species through the nullification of differences. Here we must pose the question of the destination of the scientific project. We must consider the possibility that the very “progress” of science in fact does not follow a line, but a curve-a twisted or hairpin curve that turns back toward total involution. And we must ask if the final solution toward which we unconsciously work is not the secret destination of nature, as well as of all our efforts. This throws a fairly harsh light on everything we still, today, persist in regarding as a positive evolution, as a step forward.
“The vital illusion”