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A taboo is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake.


  • Acts that offer a glimpse of transcendence to one group are condemned by another. We are pressured from every side - by peers, by church, by state - to accept the consensual definition of taboo; though so often what excites our imaginations most is the violation of taboo.
    • Clive Barker introduction to "One Flesh" exhibition, April 4-27, 1997
  • There are many taboos, intolerance and extremism. And our task is — to destroy them. I believe that clever and artistic, reasoned and convincing humor can push more and more walls in our world. And it can be done without insult or aggression.
  • The invasion of technique desacralizes the world in which man is called upon to live. For technique nothing is sacred, there is no mystery, no taboo.
  • There is no way to understand the character of the taboo rules, except as a survival from some previous more elaborate cultural background. We know also and as a consequence that any theory which makes the taboo rules … intelligible just as they are without any reference to their history is necessarily a false theory... why should we think about [the theories of] analytic moral philosophers such as Moore, Ross, Prichard, Stevenson, Hare and the rest in any different way? … Why should we think about our modern use of good, right and obligatory in any different way from that in which we think about late eighteenth-century Polynesian uses of taboo?
  • The pornographic "drama," though as fraudulent as professional wrestling, makes a claim for being about something absolutely serious, if not humanly profound: it is not so much about itself as about the violation of a taboo. That the taboo is spiritual rather than physical, or sexual — that our most valuable human experience, love, is being is being desecrated, parodied, mocked — is surely at the core of our culture’s fascination with pornography.
  • The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.
    • Alan Watts, in The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (1966), Inside Information

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