Headless and Unborn, or the Baphomet Restored Interfering with Bataille and Masson’s Image of the Acephale


  • Leon Marvell


This paper investigates Bataille and Masson’s drawing of the Acephale, the escutcheon of Bataille’s esoteric cabal and the journal ( Acéphale) that espoused his vision of a violently sacralised society. Masson’s drawing of the acephalic monster is the emblem of Bataille’s negative Absolute, and is therefore the final image, a talisman to wipe out all other images. I unearth a hitherto unsuspected connexion between the Acephale and a magical text, one of the Papyri Graecae Magicae. Noting that the Acephale is an ”˜emblem’, I point towards the tradition of the emblematic books, a tradition that began with Horapollo’s Hieroglyphica. I then propose that Caillois’s ”˜objective ideograms’ and the idea of mantic decaptitation was in part responsible for the production of Masson’s image. Capitalising on these imaginal connexions, I conclude by re-imagining the image of the Baphomet, and in particular Eliphas Levi’s famous drawing of the ”˜Goat of Mendes. ’ I suggest that the Baphomet is the secret twin of the Acephale, and that it is Levi’s aim to make his Baphomet the ultimate hieroglyphic emblem, the supreme condensation of the mysteries of the occult tradition. Thus the Baphomet is the necessary occult complement to the headless monster of Bataille and Masson.