Cioran + Morita + Crowley

I found this aphorism by E.M. Cioran and would like to share it with you. It is from his book “The Trouble with Being Born”:

“To think is to undermine-to undermine oneself. Action involves fewer risks, for it fills the interval between things and ourselves, whereas reflection dangerously widens it.
…So long as I give myself up to physical exercise, manual labor, I am happy, fulfilled; once I stop, I am seized by dizziness, and I can think of nothing but giving up for good (192).”

A Moritist Connection

Surprisingly, we can see a similar line of thought in Morita therapy, which is the call to action, the way of thinking that by blending oneself with one’s actions, the pain and the hurt that one is feeling may temporarily pass, dissolve. I find it odd how difficult it can be sometimes to simply hang up the laundry when it is finished washing. I have been known to re-wash clothes that I simply neglected by leaving them. It is an odd combination of feeling relaxed by the sound of the washing machine and failing to do what needs to be done. How often do we talk ourselves into convenient excuses for failing to live up to our potential. And yet…


This aphorism leaves me with questions. Is Cioran suggesting that reflection is not a beneficial exercise to self-development? Perhaps he is leading us down the path of someone suffering from an extreme form of unhappiness. The last fragment “and I can think of nothing but giving up for good.” leaves us wondering about the stream of our thoughts and how overwhelming it can be if we let it run its meandering course without recourse to action.


I have been known to play music and have worked a lot in the style that could be called “noise.” In noise performance and improvisation, I have given myself over to the moment of the action and eradicated the conscious thought process as to what I should do next. Usually, operating through this form of performance, I listen to the recording afterward and am quite pleased with the results. I think that many people who create, whether it be music, fiction, film, art, etc. can relate to this sensation of self-forgetting and total-immersion. In fact, even working a day job can be artfully acted out through total-immersion in the task at hand.

Perhaps Cioran is calling us to approach that Blank state of minding the world, that Nothingness that rejoins us to the Earth and to the higher levels of existence simultaneously, that state that fills one’s very being when melded to action: the action of doing or non-doing.

A Crowleyan Connection

Although I focused on Cioran in this short piece, I would like to end with a quotation from Aleister Crowley‘s “The Book of Lies”, which proves relevant in this context. I have often returned to this passage and have passed it along to friends in need of consolation or encouragement. I hope you find it beneficial to your life situation as well:

“Practice a thousand times, and it becomes difficult; a thousand thousand, and it becomes easy; a thousand thousand times a thousand thousand, and it is no longer Thou that doeth it, but It that doeth itself through thee. Not until then is that which is done well done. Thus spoke FRATER PERDURABO as he leapt from rock to rock of the moraine without ever casting his eyes upon the ground (74).”


3 thoughts on “Cioran + Morita + Crowley

  1. Pingback: Regret « Jeff Jefferson

  2. Jeff Jefferson

    Thank you for the excellent post here, Jamie. Very inspiring to see that interpretation of that particular Cioran aphorism which is similar to my own, as well as these other ways you’ve driven that interpretation through others’ ideas. It inspired a lot of thought for me; my full reply is over at my blog:

    I certainly relate to the idea of “Total-Immersion” that you mention here. It’s something that I strive for in my writing; when I find that kind of immersion in my writing I become delirious with happiness as I pour myself into my work. I love thinking about how other people see me at the coffee shop when I’m that entranced.

  3. Pingback: The Beast of Fame - E.M. Cioran: An Explication of “Fame: Hopes and Horrors” (Lesson One) « The Eyeslit-Crypt

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