—Would you like to see my rags? she said.
With both hands gripping the table, I turned towards her. Seated, she lifted a leg high: in order better to open the slit, she drew apart the skin with both hands. Thus the ‘rags’ of Edwarda gazed at me, hairy and pink, full of life like a repugnant octopus. I stammered softly:
—Why do you do that?
—You see, she said, I am GOD…[III 21]
The narrator of Madame Edwarda proceeds to kiss the whore’s ‘rags’ as the Christian mystics kiss the wounds of Christ. There can be little doubt that Bataille imagines the vulva as a wound, but this is not because of a negative relation to castration. Far from being an excised penis, the vulva is a complex terrain of contact with death, of exactly the kind castration proscribes. Nor can the flowing wound that breaks open being into communication be one pole of a sexual relation—matched by a plenitude—since this vulvic opening would be sexuality itself, except there is no such thing as sexuality itself.
The ancient Romans are only the most famous example of the arithmetical gratuitousness of zero. When zero is absent it is not missed; no one notices the default ofdefault. Nevertheless, counting systems enriched by zero—and the place-order associated with it—are of massively enhanced sophistication over those in which nothing is missing. Introducing nothing makes an inestimable difference.
Zero is indivisible, so that zero belief cannot be rigorously differentiated from belief in zero. It is in this sense that atheism is a religion. Not that atheism is committed to a specific conviction, quite the opposite; it is precisely the specificity of conviction that it attacks. Understood negatively it denies the false absolute of theos, but understood positively it affirms the true absolute marked by the ‘privative’ a-; the nihil from which creation proceeds, the undifferentiable cosmic zero.
When the valet touched the slit he groaned:
—In the name of God]!
I drink in your rending
and I spread your naked legs
I open them like a book
where I read that which kills me.
I am God
I knock on your head
I kill you
I am a cunt
Everything has obviously gone wrong for us in order for Plato to begin with One rather than Zero. To take One as originary is to presuppose everything; such as unity, individuation, achieved form, and dogmatic plenitude. The One is the phallomorphic base of Occidental culture, in the sense that Irigaray understands it. It is the mono—of monotheism, and monotheism is condensed irreligion; the definitive patriarchal effacing of intra-uterine indifferentiation (and thus of the primary ripple from out of chaotic zero).
The differentiated one is the Father, and his adorers understand nothing of religion. Even in writing the nothing, as Aquinas does, they eclipse it with absolute ego (Him). Nor is it the case that primary immanence is merely crushed with arbitrariness beneath a partially inadequate metaphorics, since—far from being neutral between the sexes—it is precisely because indifferentiation (= 0) is sexually unsegmented that it is even more feminine than the mother. The femininity of zero is uncompromised by its indifference, due to the unilateral character of individualizing deviation. Whilst zero is certainly alien to the Father, there is no differentiation from zero. Indeed, zero is so utterly vulvo-uterine that patriarchy is synonymous with irreligion (faith).
Between barter systems and money systems there is a difference strictly analogous to that between Roman arithmetics and the place-value system from India, transmitted by the Arabs to the West. Like zero, money is a redundant operator; adding nothing in order to make things hum. When Marx associates capital with death he is only drawing the final consequence from this correspondence. Surplus value comes out of labour-power, but surplus production comes out of nothing. This is why capital production is the consummating phase of nihilism, the liquidation of theological irreligion, the twilight of the idols. Modernity is virtual thanocracy guided insidiously by zero; the epoch of the death of God. There is no God but (only) zero—indifferentiation without unity—and nihil is true religion.
Schopenhauer remarks of the cosmic vulva (=0):
We must not even evade it, as the Indians do, by myths and meaningless
words, such as reabsorption in Brahman, or the Nirvana of the Buddhists.
On the contrary, we freely acknowledge that what remains after the
complete abolition of the will is, for all who are still full of the will,
assuredly nothing. But also conversely, to those in whom the will has
turned and denied itself, this very real world with all its suns and galaxies,