April 21, 2008

Personal happiness and the anarch

"It is no coincidence that precisely when things started going downhill with the gods, politics gained its bliss-making character. There would be no reason for objecting to this, since the gods, too were not exactly fair. But at least people saw temples instead of termite architecture. Bliss is drawing closer; it is no longer in the afterlife, it will come, though not momentarily, sooner or later in the here and now - in time.

The anarch thinks more primitively; he refuses to give up any of his happiness. "Make thyself happy" is his basic law. It is his response to the "Know thyself" at the temple of Apollo in Delphi. These two maxims complement each other; we must know our happiness and our measure.” Eumeswil, page 192.

COMMENTARY
In this quote, Jünger discusses one of the anarch’s basic goals in life, personal happiness. He begins with an observation that illustrates where most people, in contrast to the anarch, look for happiness. When religions still breathed real life, when gods still had credible forms, man looked for his final happiness through their means and methods. As belief in the gods declined, so man began to look for happiness in the mundane world, through the non-transcendent means of politics. Politics, with the aid of technological progress, began promising personal happiness in the material here and now. In a similar manner to his ineradicable illusion that social progress is about to outlaw war forever, so is man reassured and continues to believe, despite ever-repeating disappointment, that his personal happiness is also around, if not this, then the next corner. Politics thus capitalises on one of man’s chronic ailments, the all-pervasive disease of “tomorrow”.

But on this point, we should not conclude that the anarch is necessarily on the side of the gods, for as Jünger says, they, or at least their cultic representatives in religions, also promised man happiness in the hereafter, while treating him unfairly in the present. The anarch is not automatically on anyone’s side, but decides for himself when and to whom he gives his allegiance. “No god above me”, as Manuel states elsewhere in Eumeswil. (Touching on the anarch’s relationship to art, Jünger comments that at least the gods brought more attractive forms along with them, art instead of machines, temples instead of termite mounds.)

The anarch, in contrast, keeps thing simple – he looks to no external providers or guarantors of happiness but makes himself responsible for it. He is thus untouched by the promises and failures of religions and regimes; he neither hopes in nor is disappointed by what worldly powers or gods offer him. “Make thyself happy” - and to the degree that he also knows himself, understands his own measure, he knows how to make that happen.

Again, the self-reliance of the anarch is emphasised. He does not look outside himself - to religions, regimes, or insurance companies - for his happiness and security, but finds them within and creates them for himself without.

3 comments:

beowulf1723 said...

Jünger is right on target in that the decline in belief in an afterlife of any sort paralleled the rise of the state as the "new idol", to use Nietzsche's term.

"He [the Anarch] does not look outside himself to religions, regimes, or insurance companies for his happiness and security but finds them within or creates them for himself without."

Nor to the State, a point that might be missed by those who get worked up by Manuel's position with the Condor.

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Thomas M. Basch said...

I believe that Junger's commitment to finding happiness and security either within himself or through his own creativity likely arose during his years in the trenches. Indeed, Junger's diaries from his World War One years are a veritable how-to manual for anyone seeking to create some modicum of happiness and enjoyment while living in what must have been the closest thing to hell on earth. I'd be intensely interested in knowing just how Junger managed to find some level of garden variety happiness after the death of not just one, but two sons. In my experience, fathers and mothers who live through the deaths of their children have a hard enough time just enduring day to day.