May 27, 2010

"My Thing" and "God's Thing"

Max Stirner's "The Ego and its Own" (Der Einziger und sein Eigentum) was a fundamental text for Ernst Jünger´s development of the figure of the Anarch. In Eumeswil, Ernst Jünger summarizes the "cardinal points or the axioms of Stirner's system, if one cares to call it that" as being just two - two however which "suffice for thorough reflection":

1) That is not My business.
2) Nothing is more important than I.

During my own reading of Stirner, I find myself regularly re-reading the first chapter, "All things are nothing to me". I see in this chapter the whole metaphysical basis for Stirner's radical concept of individual autonomy; it also suffices to corroborate Jünger's summary. A few quotes from the chapter are in order. This first one opens it:
What is not supposed to be my concern? First and foremost the good cause, then God's cause, the cause of mankind, of truth, of freedom, of humanity, of justice; further, the cause of my people, my prince, my fatherland; finally, even the cause of mind and a thousand other causes. Only my cause is never to be my concern. 'Shame on the egoist who thinks only of himself!'
Stirner goes on to explain how God, mankind, the Sultan have all only concerned themselves with their own egoistic concerns. The individual on the other hand is supposed to forget his own egoistic cause and serve theirs. To which Stirner protests:
God and mankind have concerned themselves with nothing and for nothing but themselves. Let me then likewise concern myself for myself, who am equally with God the nothing of all others, who am my all, who am the only one (der Einzige).

If God, if mankind, as you affirm, have substance enough in themselves to be all in all to themselves, then I feel that I shall still less lack that, and that I shall have no complaint to make of my 'emptiness'. I am not nothing in the sense of emptiness, but I am the creative nothing (schöpferische Nichts), the nothing out of which I myself as creator create everything.

Away, then, with every concern that is not altogether my concern! You think at least the 'good cause' must by my concern? What's good, what's bad? Why, I myself am my concern, and I am neither good nor bad. Neither has meaning for me.

The divine is God's concern; the human, 'man's'. My concern is neither the divine nor the human, not the true, the good, just, free, etc, but solely what is mine (das Meinige), and it is not a general one, but is - unique (einzig), as I am unique.

Nothing is more to me than myself!
Stirner wants to create a tabula rasa by actively clearing the field of his consciousness from all the egoistic external causes which impose themselves on him and want to manipulate him - religion ('God'), humanity ('mankind'), other powerful men ('the Sultan'). He reduces them all to nothing by actively annihilating their psychological relevence to him - they mean nothing to him. An inner void is created, which, he explains, is not emptiness, but rather a creative nothing, within which he, as all that remains, is free to create his world anew.

For when nothing else such as God, mankind, society fills him with its claims, then all that remains is he, the ego, alone in a state of absolute creative freedom. And out of himself, what is his naturally arises to fill the void
, which is to say, 'his property'. Thus the title of the book, "The Ego and his Property".

(A double title would be more accurate - "The Ego/Only One and his Property" - since it is not just the ego that is critical but the fact that it alone remains when all else has been psychologically annihilated.)

At this point, I would make a personal distinction regarding the Ego and God. It is a departure from Stirner's personal feelings towards 'God', but perhaps not from the spirit of the Only One. And I suspect not from the spirit of Jünger´s Anarch.

As a result of his own personal and cultural background, Stirner clearly saw 'God' as one of the foreign causes that had so often distracted or perverted the attention of egoists through the ages from their own causes. Thus God and religion had to be effectively annihilated within the ego's consciousness, so that it was empty and free to realize its own cause.

I fully agree with psychologically annihilating all external egos that want to steal my cause from me. But in my personal case, I never had a strong influence of religion in my upbringing; thus,
in this respect at least, I have nothing to annul or fight against within myself. "God and religion are already nothing within me", to put it in his terms.

However I like to believe that higher powers exist in the universe, and even that they may see a bigger and clearer picture than I do. I call these powers 'the force of destiny', but others may call them 'God'; and in what follows, destiny should be remembered when the word 'God' is used.

Ideally I would like to reconcile myself as an ego with God-destiny. For me, this is possible, and I express it as "doing my thing":

God-destiny - no less than I - wants nothing more and nothing less than that I 'do my thing'. Doing my thing will be suffice me for my lifetime, and it will also be right for me, since it corresponds to what I am.

God-destiny would be as disappointed by my straying into irrelevent philanthropy as into irrelevent 'vice'. But do not misunderstand me -
my thing will certainly comprehend activities and natural impulses that are normally called philanthropic and vicious. But what meaning have these categories for me - from my perspective, I can do no 'good' or 'bad' thing, only my thing. Indeed, what is 'good' for me is doing my thing; and what is 'bad' is not doing my thing, but the things of someone or something else's.

I can equally well call this God's perspective, because he too only wants me to do my thing. Indeed, he prays that I will do it, because he created me to do my thing.

If, as a do-gooder, I try to do more than my thing, that is, someone or something else's things, then I necessarily go off-track, I 'sin' in the original Greek meaning of missing the mark.
Neither will doing some other 'good', thing compensate for not realizing my thing, for I can only ever do that other thing imperfectly, bungle it in comparison to how I would succeed in my thing. This mistake may even go very sour, as Jünger points out in Eumeswil:  
"As for the do-gooders, I am familiar with the horrors that were perpetrated in the name of humanity, Christianity, progress. I have studied them. I do not know whether I am correctly quoting a Gallic thinker: ‘Man is neither an animal nor an angel; but he becomes a devil when he tries to be an angel.’ ”
I have time, energy and ability only enough for my thing - anything else I do will result in an imperfect realization of what I was born for, what God, nature, my destiny created me for - doing my thing, nothing else.

So make yourself, your 'God' and your destiny happy and do your thing - nothing more is asked of you and you can do nothing better than that!


1 comment:

Adrian said...

Nice post.

Political thinking and "believing" do often not go well together.

But I see very clearly how the Anarch, the Only One, Zen and Magick (as in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magick) overlap.

A quote from Crowley:

"One must find out for oneself, and make sure beyond doubt, who one is, what one is, why one is...Being thus conscious of the proper course to pursue, the next thing is to understand the conditions necessary to following it out. After that, one must eliminate from oneself every element alien or hostile to success, and develop those parts of oneself which are specially needed to control the aforesaid conditions."

I'm sure Crowley was influenced by Stirner or Nietzsche. But I'm sure Zen was not :)

"Zen Master Seung Sahn says that in this life we must all kill three things: First we must kill our parents. Second, we must kill the Buddha. And lastly, we must kill him!"

I couldn't read "Der Einzige und sein Eigentum" yet (got my copy today), but as I see it, Stirner is more against the institutionalized representation of god, the church and less against "believing" or how you construct your world.

I also don't think that you have to believe in higher powers, since they are very obvious. It doesn't matter how you call it or in what abstract terms you describe it. We are all interdependent and dependent to a certain degree from the other(-ness).


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