From the Archives: Evelyn Lord on ‘Scandalous Societies’ past and present


From Secessio Vol.1 No.2, an excerpt of Evelyn Lord’s fascinating history of the secret clubs that have scandalised civilised society over the centuries. Evelyn is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and author of The Hellfire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies and The Knights Templar in Britain. Read the full essay here.

In 1937 Bataille founded his own scandalous and secret society Acephale. Its aims and rites are still secret, but some hints of these were disclosed by a member later in the twentieth century, and can be tentatively reconstructed from the articles in the journal Acephale and Bataille’s other writings. Bataille’s aim was to bind together a community and awaken it to the fatality of destruction and death, through a new religion based on that of the Aztecs ‘fierce and malevolent’ religion, promoting an intense spirituality throughout either blackest death or intense eroticism (Surya 2002, 245).

The community was to be male, with one or two women, and at its inception had nine members. However, some members of Bataille’s circle were notably absent, and like the Beggar’s Benison pool of potential members they may well have been deterred by what might happen at the society’s meetings, as in 1927 Bataille wrote a gruesome and anally fixated account of a sacrifice, and there was evidence that Bataille was looking for a willing human sacrifice, and a sacrificer. Unsurprisingly, neither was forthcoming.

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