August 28, 2012

"The Adventurous Heart": Solitary Sentinels

ON SALE FROM SEPT 1
One last appetizer has been conceded by the publishers before this new Jünger translation goes on sale Sept 1....

Solitary Sentinels - Berlin 

Swedenborg condemned the “spiritual stinginess” that locked away his dreams and insights.

But what of the spirit’s contempt for minting and issuing itself into general circulation, what of its aristocratic self-sufficiency in Ariosto’s magical castles? The inexpressible is degraded when it expresses and makes itself communicable; it is like gold that must be mixed with copper to make it useful as currency. A dreamer, attempting to catch his dreams in the light of dawn, watches them slip away through the mesh of his thoughts, like a Neapolitan fishermen watching the fleeing silver shoals that occasionally stray up into the surface waters of the bay.

In the collections of the Leipzig Mineralogical Institute, I once observed a foot-high rock crystal won from the inner depths of the Sankt Gotthard during tunneling work – a most solitary and exclusive dream of matter. Among the things that Nigromontanus taught me was the certain existence among us of a select group of men who have long withdrawn from the libraries and from the dust of the public arena, who are at work in the innermost spaces, in the obscurest of Tibets. He spoke of men who sit alone in nocturnal rooms, immobile as the rock through whose hollows that current flashes, which keeps all the mill-wheels and hordes of machines running in the outside world - but here it is liberated from all purpose and captured by hearts, which, as the hot, trembling cradles of all forces and powers, have withdrawn forever from the outer light.


At work? Are these the vital arteries in which the blood becomes visible under the skin? The weightiest dreams are dreamed on anonymous beds of soil, in zones from whose perspective work has something of an accidental character, a lesser degree of necessity. Michelangelo chiseled just the contours of the faces into the marble as his last step, then he left the raw blocks to slumber in grottos like the cocoons of butterflies, whose inwardly enfolded life he entrusted to eternity. The prose of “Will to Power” – an uncleared battlefield of thought, the relic of a terrible, solitary accountability, a workshop full of keys, thrown down by someone with no time to unlock. Even someone in the zenith of his creativity like Cavaliere Bernini speaks of an aversion to the completed work, and Huysmans writes in a late introduction to “A Rebours” of the impossibility of reading one’s own books. This too is a paradoxical image – like that of the owner of an original work who studies poor commentaries on it. The great, unfinished novels that were not completed because their very conception overwhelmed them - they resemble the construction of cathedrals.

At work? Where are those cloisters of the holy in which souls have won the treasure of grace in wondrous midnight triumphs, where are the hermits’ towers that rise as monuments to higher companionships? And where has the awareness remained that thoughts and feelings are really immortal, that something like a secret double accounting exists, by which all expenditures rematerialize as income in some very distant place? My only consoling memory in this regard is connected with moments from the war, when the sudden light of an explosion tore from the darkness the lonely figure of a sentinel who must have long been standing there. From these innumerable, dreadful night watches in the blackness, treasures have been accumulated that will only later be consumed.

Belief in these solitary men springs from a longing for a fraternity without name, for a deeper spiritual relationship than is possible between human beings.

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