May 21, 2008

Human equality

“When in the course of my work at the Luminar, I was reviewing public law, from Aristotle to Hegel and beyond, I thought of an Anglo Saxon's axiom about human equality. He seeks it not in the ever-changing distribution of power and means, but in a constant: the fact that anyone can kill anyone else.
This is a platitude, albeit reduced to a striking formula. The possibility of killing someone else is part of the potential of the anarch whom everyone carries around inside himself, even though he is seldom aware of that possibility. It always slumbers in the underground, even when two people exchange greetings in the street or avoid each other. When one stands atop a tower or in front of an oncoming train, that possibility is already drawing closer. Aside from the technological dangers, we also register the nearness of the Other. He can even be my brother. An old poet, Edgar Allen Poe, grasped this possibility in “Descent into the Maelstrom”. In any case, we watch our backs. Then comes the thronging in the catastrophe, the raft of the Méduse, the starving in the lifeboat….
I want to indicate this only insofar as it concerns my service. In any event, I brought this knowledge into the Condor’s range, into the inner sanctum that Monseigneur described as his “Parvulo.” I can kill him, dramatically or discreetly. His beverages – he especially likes a light red wine – ultimately pass through my hands.
Now granted, it is unlikely that I would kill him, albeit not impossible. Who can tell what astrological conjunctions one may get involved in? So, for now, my knowledge is merely theoretical, though important insofar as it puts me in his level. Not only can I kill him; I can also grant him amnesty. This is in my hands.
Naturally, I would not try to strike him just because he is tyrant – I am too well versed in history, especially the model that we have attained in Eumeswil. An immoderate tyrant settles his own hash. The execution can be left to the anarchists; that is all they think about. Hence, tyranny is seldom bequeathed; unlike the monarchies, it barely endures beyond the grandson. Parmenides inherited tyranny from his father “like a disease.” According to Thales, the rarest thing he encountered in his travels was an old tyrant.
That is my basic attitude in performing my job, and perhaps I do so better than any number of others. I am his equal; the difference lies in the clothing and the ceremonies, which only blockheads despise; you doff your clothes only when things start getting serious.
My awareness of my equality is actually good for my work; I am free enough to perform it lightly and agreeably – as if dancing. Often it gets late, and if things have gone well, I pat myself on the back before closing the bar, like a performer whose act has succeeded. "
, Page 44-45
I am unaware of where Ernst Jünger found the “Anglo Saxon’s axiom about human equality” to which he refers in this quote, yet I find it a remarkably powerful concept. We are fundamentally equal because we are all equally mortal; we are thus equally vulnerable to the reciprocal power we hold over each others’ life and death, however unequal our lives may be in the things of this world. Our equality is based on this equally tenuous relationship to existence itself and on the fact that we can potentially end this relationship for another – as they can for us. In the end, no-one can do no more to you than take your life, and since the same is true in reverse, an equality exists.
In the absolute last resort, when the pretensions of one mortal over another become intolerable, equality can be restored, psychologically by remembering that the other’s life is potentially in one’s hands, practically by taking their lives – as Jünger says, one may grant them amnesty, or not.
Naturally, in almost all cases we reciprocally grant each other amnesty, and the possibility remains in the realm of the theoretical. Nevertheless, to be psychologically effective, the individual must understand the reality of this possibility, it must be an actual possibility which he has consciously thought about and understands to possess. It is unlikely that most people have realized this consciously, we are mostly too frightened, too moral, to look at these hard, nasty truths. Yet they can free us within – not least from egalitarian illusions that men are, or can be made equal in the things of this world and even of the spirit.

May 7, 2008

The anarch and the rules of society

“ The anarch differs from the anarchist in that he has a very pronounced sense of the rules. Insofar as and to the extent that he observes them, he feels exempt from thinking.

This is consistent with normal behavior: everyone who boards a train rolls over bridges and through tunnels that engineers have devised for him and on which a hundred thousand hands have labored. This does not darken the passenger’s mood; settling in comfortably, he buries himself in his newspaper, has breakfast, or thinks about his business.

Likewise, the anarch – except that he always remains aware of that relationship, never losing sight of his main theme, freedom, that which also flies outside, past hill and dale. He can get away at any time, not just from the train, but also from any demand made on him by state, society, or church, and also from existence. He is free to donate existence to Being, not for any pressing reason but just as he likes, whether out of exuberance or out of boredom.

Why do so many people strive for the career of petty functionary? No doubt because they have a sensible notion of happiness. They know the rules and their taboos. Time flows by nonchalantly. You are already half-way to Tibet. Plus the security. No state can do without minor officials, no matter how high the waves may surge. Of course, you have to keep a low profile.” Eumeswil, Pages 154 - 155


A fundamental operating principle for the anarch is his preference for operating within society, albeit inconspicuously. By harmonizing with and apparently “believing in” society, but at the same time preserving his essential, that is, his inner freedom, he is able to draw more personal profit from his existence. Were he outside of society, either by choice or from being driven out, he would retain his freedom but would lose the personal advantages he gets by being integrated.

To maintain this equilibrium between freedom and personal utility, he must retain constant awareness of two points: his essential freedom and the rules of the society. Were he to lose sight of his freedom, the game would be lost before it began. Since he understands that his freedom can manifest in different dimensions, depending on the external situation, he is not bothered when he must hide his freedom from the world – he is aware of it, possesses it and is ready to exercise it when needed, and that is all he requires. (He does not need to show off or boast of his freedom to others – this would attract undesirable, potentially dangerous attention.) Nor does he need to reject the social structure per se, as the anarchist does, for within himself he has already rejected it in its essence – his freedom is based on the practicalities of actually being free and not on ideals.

Instead, the anarch finds a modest, unassuming position within society and uses society's tried and tested infrastructure for his own purposes, settling in for the journey while quietly and secretly pursuing his own agenda. This requires that he have an intimate, even instinctive understanding of the rules of the society. In as much then as he chooses and is able to obey these rules, he need not waste energy on thinking about them. Rather, he lets the captain and crew run the ship, while he concentrates on his own affairs. If he senses the limits of his freedom threatened beyond what he is prepared to accept, he is ready and able to abandon the ship at a moment’s notice and survive outside society. But he reserves this contingency for an emergency, since it is the weaker, less personally profitable path. Indeed, in the extreme case that he irretrievably loses control or becomes estranged from the personal purpose of his life, he is even ready to sacrifice his life for his freedom, that is, to give up his existence and return to pure Being.

May 1, 2008

The anarch on May Day

Today, May Day 2008, we came across a relevant passage in Eumeswil, which happily also deals with the anarch/anarchist contrast we need to clarify at this early stage in our blog. Martin Venator, Jünger´s model anarch in this book, is discussing political changes in a prelude to the following quotation, in particular the overthrows of governments that happen periodically in the state of Eumeswil, indeed in any society.
“For the anarch, little has changed; flags have meaning for him, but not sense. I have seen them in the air and on the ground like leaves in May and November; and I have done so as a contemporary and not just as a historian. The May Day celebration will survive, but with a different meaning. New portraits will head up the processions. A date devoted to the Great Mother is re-profaned. A pair of lovers in the wood pays more homage to it. I mean the forest as something undivided, where every tree is still a liberty tree.
For the anarch, little is changed when he strips off a uniform that he wore partly as fool’s motley, partly as camouflage. It covers his spiritual freedom, which he will objectivate during such transitions. This distinguishes him from the anarchist, who, objectively unfree, starts raging until he is thrust into a more rigorous straitjacket.” Eumeswil, Page 114
As Jünger makes clear here, seasonal political changes have no essential meaning for the anarch, other than their practical implications for his survival. Regimes change like the seasons,
flags are like leaves on a tree, with practical meaning but no higher sense in and of themselves. New leaves grow on the ancient tree of civilization and at the end of their natural season their life blood is cut off, they dry up, fall, and become no more than compost for the new leaves of the next season. In this earthly progression, there is no human progress, no net spiritual gain, only external cycling in time. This can be observed by the historian in his objective studies of the past and by the anarch in his neutral observation of the changes of his present world. As the historian does not identify with particular moments in the continuous flux of history, so the anarch does not identify with (or against) the personally-random political situation he finds himself in at any one moment.
But seasonal change is real, with causes that lie deeper than any social expression of it. May Day, once a pagan feast day dedicated to the Great Mother, is usurped by the state, which subverts the natural revitalizing energy of the spring season for its own propaganda purposes. The holy-day has been profaned, and now each new regime merely provides new faces, new ideals, for its self-celebratory feast. As Jünger says, a pair of lovers in the forest celebrates seasonal renewal far more profoundly than any great processions. Moreover, in the forest, every individual tree still stands as a freedom tree.
In the midst of the seasonal change of the flags, the anarch is essentially unaffected. While the flag was blue, he wore a blue uniform, partly to blend in and maintain anonymity, partly as the costume his role in the world comedy required. The uniform was in any case unessential, he never identified with it, never confused it with his own skin. He can thus throw it off and assume a different colored one, one that will best aid, or camouflage, his personal cause in the social reality .
Underneath the unessential covering lies his essential spiritual freedom, which, in the moment between the fall of the old system and the implementation of the new one, between his ditching the old and putting on the new uniform, he can bring into the objective world and live out. In the anarchic interim, the anarch can momentarily express what was already his objective inner state. His inner freedom can manifest in the world for a time. On the other hand, when anarchy becomes the order of the day, the anarchist is no freer than he was before. For he is unfree in himself, he has no free self-identity and thus needs the uniform he defines only in negative relation to the normal one imposed by the hated state. During anarchy, he loses his defining cause, the hated state, the hateful external rules and restraints, and in this vacuum he loses all control. This quickly leads to his confinement or elimination by the new powers.