Culture. Everything-assumptions and common ideas, roles, structures, etc.-which enables human beings to exist together without being overcome by chaos, violence, random murder. According to the mimetic scapegoat theory, culture is founded by scapegoating and maintained by a system of differences which is rooted in a nonconscious, concealed scapegoat mechanism (see Scapegoating). "Difference" here refers to the basic distinction arising from victimage and the beginning of culture (which of course may have actually taken place over hundreds of thousands of years). The originary distinction is the one between "here" or "us" by contrast to "it" or "that," the victim. This could have been originally a reflexive gesture or sign rather than spoken words. From this distinction all others stem: language, roles, rules, institutions, etc.

The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Dionysus. Known also as Bacchus, he was a wandering god, associated with wine and madness, and the bringing of culture. The myths of Dionysus include a version in which the Curetes, or Cretan warriors, encircle the infant Dionysus and save him from Zeus, while another version narrates that the Titans, predecessors of the Olympian gods, seduce him with trinkets, encircle him, cook him, and devour him. Dionysian ritual was associated with the dismemberment of a sacrificial victim, probably a ritual repetition of what was believed to have happened to the god/victim himself. Friedrich Nietzsche was fascinated with Greek culture and with Dionysus in particular. In one of his early books, The Birth of Tragedy, he maintained that music first emerged from the cult of Dionysus. In that early work "Dionysian" was a metaphor for the vital, passionate, sacrificial, and destructive side of human culture, whereas the "Apollonian," from the god Apollo, was a metaphor of human imposition of order and constraints. It was, according to him, a kind of veil covering the Dionysian abyss. Although Nietzsche came to modify this distinction between the Dionysian and Apollonian, Dionysus continued to be his paradigm of the concrete reality of life in all its fruitfulness and destructiveness, a paradigm that he opposed to Christ or "the Crucified." In The Will to Power no. 1052 Nietzsche wrote of "Dionysus versus the ‘Crucified’" as the fundamental antithesis of his thought. After his mental breakdown he signed letters alternately as "Dionysus," "the Crucified," and a nonsense word that may have included part of Cosima Wagner’s name (the wife of the composer with whom he was probably infatuated).

The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Faith. The person’s complete trust-or "existential" knowledge if faith is considered a kind of knowing – that s/he belongs to the God who sides with victims, with scapegoats; for Christians the trust or existential knowledge directed to God is based on Jesus Christ as model or mediator (see Model/Mediator). In mimetic desire (see Mimesis) the tendency is for the relationship between subject and model to become one of conflictual, potentially destructive rivalry. The tenor or "spirit" of the relationship is satanic (see Satan). But in faith the person enters into communion with others through the relationship of perfect love shared between God the Father and Christ the Son. The Spirit of the relationship is union, trust, self-giving.

The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

“Psychological movement is, from the beginning of human life, mimetic. The only act that deserves to be called a human act is one that is mimetic. It is mimesis, and that alone, that makes one human, that constitutes the self, and that makes possible one’s entry into the sphere of language. This means that from the very start psychological activity is to be found between individuals. This is why Rene Girard, Guy Lefort and I were led to propose a pure psychology, for which we could find no better name than ‘interdividual psychology.’”

Taken from: The Puppet of Desire: The Psychology of Hysteria, Possession, and Hypnosis, Jean-Michel Oughourlian. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991)

Mimesis/Mimetic Desire.

A. Mimetic Desire. Mimesis is practically synonymous with mimetic desire. Mimesis evokes desire. Desire constitutes mimesis.’ Mimetic desire is a kind of nonconscious imitation of others, but it is important to stress that the word "imitation" has to be joined with the adjective "appropriative" or "acquisitive." Mimesis seeks to obtain the object that the model desires. The function of culture is to control and channel this potential conflict over the object.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

B. Metaphysical Desire. As mimetic or interdividual beings we associate being or reality with the other, the model or mediator. Our deepest desire is not for things or objects, but to be. In struggles with the modelrival, and particularly when the subject seems to come to a dead-end against the model-obstacle, it becomes apparent from a mimetic analysis that the subject wants the being of the model-mediator. This is the source of fascination, hypnosis, idolatry, the "double," and possession. The experience of the double occurs when the model-obstacle as overpowering other is so internalized that the subject does not experience a distinction of self and the model-mediator. The subject is thus "possessed" by the other. The extreme alternatives are suicide or murder of the model-obstacle. Other possibilities are schizophrenia, escape into a new identity, and liberation through the release experienced in love and forgiveness. This latter is the work of a good or conversionary mimesis.

The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

C. Mimesis as Good. Girard does not hold that mimetic desire is inherently bad or destructive. It is the structure and dynamic enabling human beings to open themselves to the world and engage in loving relationships. It is what he has in mind in Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World when he speaks of "good contagion" and "nonviolent imitation." If it becomes effective in a fundamental change of personality through the imitation of God or Christ, it could be termed "conversionary mimesis" or "conversionary imitation."


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Model/Mediator.

The person, group, or human reality with which the individual is in a mimetic relationship (see Mimesis). We are never immediately conscious of mimesis and for the most part we are involved in mimesis unconsciously. The model mediates reality (world, experience, specific assumptions about life-settings, etc.) to the subject. We are thus always interdividuals, Girard’s only neologism. It refers to our intersubjective make-up; as human beings we are not the other or model, but on the other hand, we are constituted by the other or model, and so the self is a set of mimetic relationships operative in the individual, both in the present and from the past.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

A. Internal and External Mediation. In Deceit, Desire, and the Novel Girard distinguished between internal mediation, the situation when the subject’s and the model’s objects of desire overlap and become a matter of rivalry; and external mediation, where the model or mediator is removed from the individual (whether historically, ontologically, or however) and so there is no competition for an object of desire.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

B. Model-Rival. Strictly speaking, if a model is a person in our immediate life setting (parent, authority figure, peer), then he or she is always potentially a rival. Likewise, a rival in this same immediate setting is always basically a model, although this may not be apparent to the subject. The model-rival is associated with an object of desire which the subject wants to obtain, but the important thing is not as much the object as the defeat of the model-rival. Continually putting oneself in situations of rivalry may be exhilarating if one is winning, but losing may lead to extreme depression. The situation becomes a crisis if the person is entrapped in a model-obstacle relationship.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

C. Model-Obstacle. The model-obstacle is someone or something over whom the subject cannot win, or in some cases it would be accurate to say that the subject will not allow himself to defeat the modelobstacle, for to achieve that would be to lose the model. All sorts of self-defeating behavior, including addictions (so well described in Dostoyevsky’s writings), stem from this predicament. From the standpoint of the mimetic theory, it can only be understood in terms of the mimetic, interdividual character of human existence. The person in this predicament could be described as stumbling over or being blocked by the skandalon. The skandalon of the Gospels is a an obstacle or stumblingblock (the older meaning of "scandal" in English and French, from the Latin and Greek). The skandalon is associated with Satan. This is seen particularly, e.g., in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has spoken of his suffering, death, and resurrection, and Peter rebukes him for saying he will suffer and die. Jesus in turn rebukes Peter: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a skandalon to me… " (Matt. 16:23). That is, "you are a scandal, an obstacle, a hindrance to me." Here Satan, usually named as the personification of the mimetic model-obstacle, is "deconstructed" or "demythologized" in that Jesus uses the name to express the mimetic rivalry that obsesses Peter. Peter wants to identify himself with a worldly winner and in anger he begins telling his master what he can and cannot do. Something quite similar is reported concerning James and John, who ask to be Jesus’s chief lieutenants when he comes into his glory (Mark 10:35-45; Matt. 20:20-28).


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Religion. Indistinguishable from culture in archaic societies. It is that generative and protective aspect of culture that serves to control mimetic desire and violence through sacrifice (see Mimesis and Sacrifice), which is at the center of ritual and closely connected to prohibition and myth (see both under Scapegoat/Scapegoating). The violence at the heart of the traditional sacred is therefore twofold: the negative sacred of the collective violence that is associated with the dangerous aspects of the god or the hero, which may become split off into a devil or demon or trickster; and the positive sacred that is associated with the formation and maintenance of order.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Ritual. See Sacrifice and Scapegoat/Scapegoating.

Sacrifice.

see also Scapegoat/Scapegoating.

A. Sacrifice – its primary sense. Sacrifice stems from originary victimization or scapegoating. It refers first and primarily to the ritual immolation of a human or animal victim. Girard holds it likely that humans were the first sacrificial victims,’ and only subsequently were animals substituted, and eventually various objects as gifts.

The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)


B. Sacrifice – its positive sense, primarily in the case of Christ. In recent years Girard has begun to affirm, or at least make explicit, a positive, derived sense of "sacrificial" as the willingness to give of oneself to others and to commit oneself to God, not for sadomasochistic purposes (i.e., to inflict injury on others or oneself, ostensibly for the sake of faith), but out of love and faithfulness to the other.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

C. Sacrifice and Atonement or Redemption. The word "sacrifice," if retained in the derived, positive sense, should be understood as having its basis in faith in a God of love who does not make a secret pact with his Son that calls for his murder in order to satisfy God’s wrath.’ The suffering and death of the Son, the Word, are inevitable because of the inability of the world to receive God or his Son, not because God’s justice demands violence or the Son relishes the prospect of a horrible execution.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Satan. (See also Model-Obstacle under Model/Mediator.) Aside from the question whether Satan refers to an objective transcendent reality, in the mimetic scapegoat theory the name refers to the personification of the rivalrous mimesis, the mimesis engendering accusation and violence. But this is also the mimesis that is effective in subduing violence and maintaining order. Satan is thus the arche, the "beginning" in the sense of the spirit of rivalry and accusation responsible for the originary murder; and the archon, the prince or ruler of this world. As the ruler of the world of order, as the principle of Realpolitik, he is elegantly and beautifully described by Dostoyevsky through Ivan Karamazov’s Grand Inquisitor legend in The Brothers Karamazov. The Christian revelation exposes Satan as "the father of lies" by disclosing not only the innocence of one victim, Jesus, but of all victims. Satan attempts to cast out Satan through murder, especially collective violence, but he is defeated by the Cross. This defeat is accomplished because the disciples, with the aid of the Paraclete, the Spirit of God as defender of the falsely accused, break away from the mimetic consensus of the social order that is undergirded and constantly regenerated by the scapegoat mechanism.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Scapegoat/Scapegoating.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

A. Scapegoating and Culture. As noted above (see Culture), culture stems from the disorder, the actual or potential violence that is experienced when mimetic desire gets out of hand and the hominids in the process of becoming human make the discovery that convergence upon a victim brings them unanimity and thus relief from violence.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

B. Scapegoating and Sacrifice. Both sacrifice and rituals of scapegoating represent, in camouflaged form, the disorder resulting in the originary violence of immolation or expulsion of the victim and the order stemming from the newly found relief from conflict and violence.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

C. Double Transference. This disorder and order are the function of the double transference of the originary victimization: those involved in the collective violence transfer the disorder and the offenses producing it to the victim, but they transfer also their newly found peace to the victim, ascribing to him or her the power that brings it about.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

D. Prohibition. Prohibition in its basic, originary sense is the taboo of the alleged offense of the victim/scapegoat, the crime that is blamed for the mimetic crisis. The two universal prohibitions are parricide and incest, which are often attributed, whether spontaneously or more formally in ritual and myth, to gods, heroes, and supernatural beings, who represent the disguised form of the victim.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

E. Myth. Myth is narrative centered in scapegoat events. Myth was probably developed much later than ritual and prohibition and offers the greatest possibility of displacement and disguise because its verbal, narrative character is a stage well beyond the reflexive imitation of the earliest forms of sacrifice and prohibition.


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

F Scapegoat Mechanism. As Girard states in the concluding interview, "scapegoat mechanism" means basically and simply a generative scapegoat principle which works unconsciously in culture and society. He quotes Peter in Acts: "And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. So repent, and turn again… " (Acts 3:17-19a).


The preceding glossary entry is taken from "The Girard Reader," edited by James G. Williams. (Click Here to open the page for this book at Amazon.com.)

Skandalon. See Model-Obstacle under Model/Mediator.