- Posted by The Ontaryan
1. Will to Power vs. Self-Preservation. Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results. (Beyond Good and Evil, Section 13)
2. Truth and Will to Power. The falseness of a judgment is for us not necessarily an objection to a judgment; in this respect our new language may sound strangest. The question is to what extent it is life-promoting, species-preserving, perhaps even species-cultivating. (Beyond Good and Evil, Section 4)
3. Will to Power and Organic Functions. Suppose we succeeded in explaining our entire instinctive life as the development and ramification of one basic form of the will — namely, of the will to power, as my proposition has it; suppose all organic functions could be traced back to this will to power and one could also find in it the solution of the problem of procreation and nourishment — then one would have gained the right to determine all efficient force univocally as will to power. The world viewed from the inside, the world defined and determined according to its "intelligible character" — it would be "will to power" and nothing else. (Beyond Good and Evil, Section 36)
4. Will to Power and Equality. To refrain from mutual injury, mutual violence, mutual exploitation, to equate one’s own will with that of another: this may In a certain rough sense become good manners between individuals if the conditions for it are present (namely, if their strength and value standards are in fact similar and they both belong to one social group). As soon as there is a desire to take this principle further, however, and if possible even an the fundamental principle of society, it at once reveals itself for what it is: as the will to the denial of life, as the principle of dissolution and decay. Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and, at the least and mildest, exploitation. ‘Exploitation’ does not pertain to a corrupt or imperfect or primitive society: it pertains to the essence of the living thing as a fundamental organic function, it is a consequence of the intrinsic will to power which is precisely the will of life. (Beyond Good and Evil, Section 259)
5. Life and Obedience. But that you may understand my teaching about good and evil, I shall relate to you my teaching about life and about the nature of all living creatures. Wherever I found living creatures, there, too, I heard the language of obedience. All living creatures are obeying creatures. And this is the second thing: he who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures. . . .What persuades the living creature to obey and to command and to practice obedience even in commanding? Where I found a living creature, there I found will to power: and even in the will of the servant I found the will to be master. The will of the weaker persuades it to serve the stronger; its will wants to be master over those weaker still: this delight alone it is unwilling to forgo. And as the lesser surrenders to the greater, that it may have delight and power over the least of all, so the greatest, too, surrenders and for the sake of power stakes — life. He who shot the doctrine of — will to existence — at truth certainly did not hit the truth: this will does not exist. For what does not exist cannot will; but that which is in existence, how could it still want to come into existence? Only where life is, there is also will: not will to life, but — so I teach you — will to power. The living creature values many things higher than life itself: yet out of this evaluation itself speaks —the will to power. (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II, Of Self-Overcoming)
- Posted by The Ontaryan
Alain de Benoist considers the achievement of the writer Ernst Juenger and his ideal of the Worker in the context of the Conservative Revolution.
This article first appeared as part of the central theme in Nouvelle Ecole No.40 (41, rue Barrault, 13 arr. 75 Paris) under the title Ernst Juenger: La Figure du Travailleur entre les Dieux et les Titans. We have translated it and are reprinting it in two parts in considerably abridged form with acknowledgements. Ernst Juenger is arguably the most provocative of all the writers of the Conservative Revolution. (Among other remarks attributed to him is the one that the abolition of torture is an indication of decadence in a society.) Even his most provocative utterences have the intellectual virtue, however, of forcing his opponents to articulate their opposition to him in an intelligent manner. Scorpion readers able to read French may be interested to know that Alain de Benoist is the general editor responsible for the publication of a new series of French translations of the writers of the Conservative Revolution, published by Pardes, (B.P. 47, 45390 Puiseaux 45390 France).
FOR ARMIN MOHLER, author of the classic manual on the German Conservative Revolution (Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland), Ernst Juenger's Der Arbeiter was one of those which he "still could not pick up without his hands shaking". For Mohler Der Arbeiter is more than a philosophy, it is a work of poetry. The word is apt, above all if we consider that all poetry possesses an incipient quality: it simultaneously penetrates the world and unveils the divine. Der Arbeiter possesses a metaphysical quality which takes it far beyond the historical and political context in which it was written.
Ernst Juenger was born on 28th March 1895 in Heidelberg, the son of Ernst Georg (1868-1943), a chemist and assistant to research chemist Viktor Meyer. He had one sister and five brothers, two of whom died very young. Juenger went to school in Hannover and Scwarzenberg, later in Brunswick and finally in Hannover again, as well as having attended Scharnhorst Realschule (secondary school). In 1911 he joined the Wunstdorf section of the Wandervogel and in the same year published his first poem, Unser Leben, in their local journal. In 1913 he left home to sign up at Verdun for the French Foreign Legion. After a few months, when the young man had already begun training in Algeria, his father was able to persuade him to return to Germany, where he attended the Hannover Guild Institute. It was at this time that he became familiar with the works of Nietzsche.
The First World War began for Germany on August 1st 1914 and Juenger signed up on the first day. He rose in the ranks to become lieutenant, was wounded three times before being awarded the Iron Cross First Class on December 16th 1916. In February 1917 he became Stosstruppfuehrer (leader of an assault battalion). This led to the experience of hand-to-hand fighting in the trenches. Juenger was decorated with the Ritterkreuz of the Order of the Hohenzollerns. He finished the war in hospital, having been wounded fourteen times. Juenger was also awarded the Cross Pour le merite, the highest award in the German army. Only twelve subalterns in the German army received this award during the First World War, among the other eleven the future Marshal Rommel.
Between 1918 and 1923, in the barracks at Hannover, Juenger began to write in earnest, inspired by his experiences at the front. In Stahlgewittern (In Hurricans of Steel), first published in 1919 and reedited in 1922, was an immediate success. There followed Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis (1922) Das Waeldchen 125 (1924) and Feur und Blut (1925) (The Fight within, Copse 125, Fire and Blood). Juenger also wrote on specialist military themes in Militaer-Wochenblatt and became known as something of an expert on military matters; but he did not feel at ease in a peacetime army. In 1923 he left the Reichswehr and entered Leipsic University to study biology, zoology and philosophy. In 1925 he married the 19 year old Gretha von Jeinsen. His political views developed rapidly in the political tumult of the time. In the space of a few months Juenger had become one of the principle representatives of the so-called national-revolutionaries of the Conservative Revolution. In September 1925, a former commando leader, Helmut Franke, launched the review Die Standarte which set out to "contribute towards a spiritual deepening of the Front mentality". Juenger was on the editorial board along with another "nationalist soldier", Franz Schauwecker. The journal began life as a supplement to the magazine Der Stahlhelm, which was the organ of the Stahlhelm movement. (This was an active association of former combatants opposed to the Treaty of Versailles. In 1925 it had 250 thousand members. After the national socialists came to power in 1933, the association was forcibly amalgamated with the regime's official old combattants' organization (NSDFB) and by 1935 no trace of Der Stahlhelm remained.) In Die Standarte Juenger immediately adopted a radical tone, quite different to that of most of the Stahlhelm adherents. In an article published in October 1925, he criticised the theory of the "stab in the back" (Dolchstoss), which was accepted by almost all nationalists, namely that the German army was not defeated at the front but by a "stab in the back" at home. Juenger also pointed out that certain revolutionaries of the far left had fought in the war with distinction. This caused an uproar in Die Stahhelm and the movement distanced itself from the young writer. In March 1926 it closed down Die Standarte. Juenger started the magazine again a month later however with the same name, but dropping the "Die". Nevertheless, not all lines had been severed and Standarte was supported financially by several members of Der Stahlhelm. In the pages of Standarte on June 3rd 1926, Juenger made an appeal to all former soldiers to unite for the creation of a "Nationalist Workers' Republic". In August, Otto H<148>rsing, co-founder of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot Gold, the Social Democrats' security force, proposed to the government that the journal should be banned, which it was, but for only five months. Franz Seldte, the leader of Der Stahlhelm and still proprietor of the journal, took the opportunity to sack its leading editor, Helmut Franke. Juenger went with him. With Wilhelm Weiss the two launched another review, called Armenius. (Standarte, under different editorship, continued until 1929.) In 1927 Juenger moved from Leipsic to Berlin, where he made contact with the Buendisch youth. The Bunds were an attempt to unite the romantic spirit of the Wandervogel with an organization more permanent and hierarchical. Juenger became the leader (Schirmherr) of one of these youth groups. In 1927 Juenger was associated with the launching of yet another publication, Der Vormarsch (Advance) which was the brain-child of Captain Ehrhardt.
"Losing the War to Win the Nation"
At this time Juenger was subject to several literary and philosophical influences. There was a French fin de siecle influence in his early works, notably Der Kampf als innere Erlebnis also a kind of Baudelairian dandyism in Sturm, a very early work. Mohler draws a comparison between Juenger and the Barres of Roman de l'Energie nationale: in the works of both writers nationalism is a substitute for religion, a manner of enlargening and strengthening the soul, the result of a conscious choice, a factor which emerged as a result of the destruction of old norms in the wake of the Great War. The influence of Spengler and Nietzsche is also evident. In 1929, in an interview given to an English journalist, Juenger defined himself as a "disciple of Nietzsche", stressing with approval the fact that Nietzsche was the first to challenge the fiction of an abstract universal man, by dividing mankind into the strong and the feeble. In 1922 Juenger read the first volume of Der Untergang des Abendlandes with great passion, but he was no passive disciple of Spengler, as we shall see. The experience of war, however, remained the strongest influence in Juenger's writings. He distinguished between the Gegner (opponent) and Feind (enemy); it is because there was not an absolute enemy but only the opponent of the moment, that the Great War and war as such has something "holy" about it.
Another lesson which Juenger claimed to have learned was that "life is nourished by death" and that life, in its essence, is "indestructable". The war had been lost but this defeat had a potentially positive aspect, according to Juenger. Formal defeat or victory is not the "bottom line" in war. The aim is not the be all and end all of struggle. The war had not been so much a war between nations as between a certain kind of man. As an epigraph to his book Aufbruch der Nation (National Reveille) published in 1930, Franz Schauwecker wrote "we needed to lose the war in order to win the nation". Juenger had written in a similar vein. For Juenger after the Great War there could be "no going back". The old roads led nowhere. He called the Great War an Umbruch, an irreparable break with the past. The war had provided a model for the peace. War has a profound significance and the sacrifice of millions must have a meaning but the meaning can not be so much rationalised as felt (geahnt). From 1926 onwards, Juenger appealed incessantly for a united front of nationalist groups and movements. At the same time he tried, without notable success, to change them. Nationalism should become revolutionary. From this perspective the crux of the national struggle was the struggle against liberalism. In Armenius and in Der Vormarsch he attacked the humanists who favoured an "anaemic" society, the cynics who wished to see the Great War as nothing but futility and madness. At the same time he opposed the sentimentality of conservative nationalism ("the cult of museums") and distinguished between healthy neo-nationalism and the sentimentality of what he called "grand-daddy nationalism". The nation is more than a country, it is an idea and Germany exists there where the idea of Germany fires the spirit.
In the April issue of Arminius Juenger took a nominalist position: for him there is no universal truth, no universal moral, no universal man with a just claim to equal rights. Value is found in the particular. While Voelkisch groups sought a return to the soil, Juenger on the contrary exalted the power of technics and repudiated the individual. Born of bourgeois rationality, technology was now going to turn on the spirit which had engendered it. As technology advances, so the individual will disappear. In the meantime the town had become the "front" in the national struggle and in Berlin representatives of many different currents of the Conservative Revolution met around Juenger, including the writer Ernst von Saloman, the Nietzschean Friedrich Hielscher, who was editor of Das Reich, the neo-conservatives August Winnig (whom Juenger met through Alfred Baeumler) and A.E. Guenther, co-editor with Wilhelm Stapel of Deutsches Volkstum, the national-Bolsheviks Ernst Niekisch and Karl Paetel and of course his own brother Friedrich Georg Juenger, who had become quite well known in his own right.
In April 1928 Juenger handed over editorship of Der Vormarsch to Hielscher, who was a close friend of his. (Among other things Hielscher was the coordinator of a European regionalist movement and the founder of a neo-Pagan church. In the Third Reich he was to hold an important position in the Ahnenerbe while maintaining contact with the "internal immigration". He was arrested in September 1944 and thrown into prison and only escaped execution thanks to the special pleading of Wolfram Sievers, (most of whose writings, apart from an autobiography, have never been published.) In 1930 Juenger became, with Werner Lass, the editor of Die Kommenden, a point of contact with national-Bolsheviks, as these wrote regularly for the paper. He also wrote for Widerstand (Opposition) edited by Ernst Niekisch, whom he knew personally. For Niekisch the future man was collective man, who alone would be able to face up to the "murderous consequences" of technological discovery. The national movement and the communist movement had the same enemy: the bourgeois West. Although fascinated by Bolshevism, Juenger was at no time a national-Bolshevik. He and Lass left Die Kommenden in July 1931, Lass to found an out and out national-Bolshevik publication: Der Umsturz (Overthrow), but Juenger had not the least inclination to take part in this project, nor in the national-socialist movement. In an article written for Suedeutsche Monatshefte in September 1931 he included national-socialism among the nationalisms which were inspired by the past and therefore, according to him, tainted with liberal and bourgeois ideas. As Marcel Decombis noted in his work on Juenger published in 1943, "Juenger, the perfect Prussian officer, who subjects himself to the most intense self-discipline, could never submit again to a collectivity." His brother evolved politically in much the same direction. At that time they went on a number of voyages to Southern Europe together. From 1929 onwards, Juenger spent less time writing for publications and more on writing books. In 1929 the first version of Das abenteurliche Herz (Adventurous Heart) was published, followed by Die totale Mobilmachung (Total Mobilisation) in 1931 and Der Arbeiter (The Worker) in 1932.
The first part of the book revolves around the notion of what the writer called Gestalt (form, figure). This Gestalt is seen as a global type, of which the totality includes characteristics which can not be found in any of the separate constituent parts. It is at the root of sense, a supreme reality which gives sense to phenomena. Sense is not here intended to have exactly the meaning we associate with cause and effect, rather it is sense in being an imprint which marks a period in time and gives that period in time.. sense. Man here is the measure of all things. Gestalt is the "pre-formed power" (vorgeformte Macht) which only accedes to being to the extent that it is willed into being by man who feels its appeal. The Gestalt is not dependent on man to be what it is, but it does depend on man to assume the status of existence, which it endows with the dimesion of profundity. It can only be understood dialectically, for it encompasses many different aspects. It is at once unchanging and localised. Its relationship to history is complex: it is not so much the product of history as what permits history to take place. It determines historical movement. History does not bring forth historical types but is transformed through its interaction with them. (Juenger noted elsewhere that our epoch was rich in types but poor in great men.) History is the metaphysics of being. The Gestalt is beyond Good and Evil. Not only is it not subject to a morality, it alone makes morality possible. The same goes for Truth and Beauty. The role of the theorist is not therefore to judge a figure but instinctively to recognise it. To identify with it is to commit a revolutionary act.
What is the dominant form of our time? Work, according to Juenger. It is therefore in the figure of the Worker that Juenger claimed to see the Gestalt of the generation to come. Juenger does not mean work as the key to economic activity or work as the "law of humanity", nor work as the consequence of original sin, nor does work here represent an "alienation". Juenger uses the term "work" to describe all creation which aims at giving form in the world; it is the affirmation of power, the deployment of energy. Work is the means by which the modern world is totally mobilised, the expression of a special form of being. Science, love, art, faith, culture, war: all is Work; Work too the vibration of molecules and the force which drives the stars and planets. Work is not so much an activity as the will which is "at work" within an activity, the "will to will", which is the creative force of history. The notion of the Worker as an economic creation is too restrictive and betrays the bourgeois reference frame of whoever sees Work in such a restrictive light. The Worker is not be confused with the proletariat, unless we conceive him as a "proletarian" within all classes. Juenger thus distinguishes sharply between the Worker's State as he saw it and the Marxian notion of "the workers' state". Against the Marxist Arbeiterschaft (work force), Juenger opposed the Arbeitertum, identification with work, the community of those dedicated to work. (This distinction was also made by August Winnig, notably in his Der Glaube an das Proletariat and Vom Proletariat zum Arbeitertum, but his stress was much more political in the practical sense of the word than Juenger's.) But Juenger himself stressed that his work was not anti-Marxist. Marx had his place in an understanding of the concept of the Worker, but that place should not be exclusive. Marxism, "useful because corrosive", had to be surpassed. Marx limited the notion of work to the economic field, but for Juenger work had a breadth which extended "from the atom to the galaxies". Marx believed that the worker would one day be transformed into an artist. Juenger believed that the artist was being transformed into a worker.
The worker reveals himself by virtue of his power. He will dominate by virtue of his Will to Power, which is expressed through work, a work which succeedes in mobilising. The Gestalt represents the spirit of the world at a given period. The key to all is power, for behind the representations of spirit in the world are not pure ideas but matter. Contrary to what Hegel claimed, theory does not determine reality but on the contrary reality engenders ideas. Economy plays a secondary role for Juenger, as he underlined in an interview given to Le Monde (2oth June 1978). The figure of the Worker is metaphysical and in its fundamental character is not transformed. Juenger called the Worker a "titanic personage". The antithesis of the Worker is the Bourgeois; for Juenger, to be anti-liberal is to be first and foremost anti-bourgeois. The Bourgeois too is a Gestalt which encapsulates a mode of life and thought, a scale of values, a state of mind, which can be found in all classes, not just the middle-classes. The Bourgeois has no metaphsical worth, he only reasons in a utilitarian manner. The Bourgeois wants to take as much as possible from life and give as little as possible. Above all else the Bourgeois is worried about safety. The Bourgeois is represented by the type of person who is afraid of life and is who is incapable of acting historically. The Bourgeois avoids all commitment to the decisive, the creative act. War and love, nature and death, all the elementary forces are "irrational" to him and do not belong to his society, for society, as he sees it, is the result of a voluntarily made and rationally conceived contract based on the principle of equality for all. Worker and Bourgeois are as different as dawn and dusk.
The advent of the figure of the Worker is linked to a new state of society which Juenger calls "total mobilisation" (totale Mobilmachung). This expression was clarified by Juenger in a long essay which served as a kind of preface to Der Arbeiter. It is the effects of the evolution of the techniques of war which heralds, in the most characteristic manner, entry into the era of total mobilisation. Since Clausewitz described the condition of "total war", the situation had rapidly evolved. Especially from 1916, the spirit of progress and the development of the techniques of war went hand in hand. Technology dominates the scene more and more. The Great War thus marked the end of the era of chivalry and traditional heroic values. From his own experience in the trenches, Juenger had seen the evolution of war into the pitting of abstract material force against abstract material force. The troops become canon fodder. War is impregnated with the same spirit as that which created the machines. Technical instruction becomes more and more crucial for every soldier. "...the men who march at the head, the tank drivers, the pilots, the U-boat captains, are all accomplished technicians." (Waeldchen 125) The technician then represents the modern state at war. The question must then be raised: in such a situation what meaning does the soldier's sacrifice have? The answer lies in the notion of total mobilisation. At the same time as war becomes a technical undertaking, the traditional distinction between combattant and non-combattant breaks down. Even the notion of war and peace gives way to the reality of permanent global conflict. Even the pacifist has to be ready to fight for his beliefs! The decisive aspect of the new state of affairs is the fact that all are potentially involved in war and all are available for mobilisation. The capacity to mobilise becomes increasingly the key factor in the destiny of peoples. Modern war has become an aspect of Work. The world as we know it is transformed into a universal factory, a "Vulcan's forge". The world is now mobile and mobilised. The Great War therefore exceeds the French Revolution in historical importance, for it has brought forth a new man, the man with a hammer in his hand. Worker and Soldier become one and the same. The military front and the industrial front are the same. The Great War also witnessed the emergence of the collectivist era (Wirzeit) as opposed to the individualistic one (Ichzeit). The rural world is in decline, motorways are built, leisure becomes an industry, political parties blossom, the screen takes precedence over the stage, the photograph over the portrait, national planning becomes very important, the value of money is controlled, production is standardised, statistics and typologies abound, the "metallic" (male) or "cosmetic" (female) fixidness of the face, the restrictions on individual liberty brought about by automation, the convergence of effort towards economic objectives which exceed their own frame of reference, the collaboration of state and industry: these among other factors accompany the replacement everywhere of the individual by the uniform and typical. In Juenger's eyes these factors are positive. His tone in evoking the power and importance of machines sometimes recalls Italian Futurism. The critic Henri Plard called Der Arbeiter "the richest and most provocative of his works", in which is allied "an effectively and passionately reactionary ideology with a modernism which clears all the dead wood of whatever is not 100% up-to-date." (Etudes Germaniques July-September 1979). The standardisation or uniformation of the world is taken as the bearing of a uniform. This is not a sign of decadence but a promise of the future and the precondition of the destruction of the Bourgeois type. The Worker must accelerate this process. The Worker arises as a result of the death of the individual. Only decomposition allows for recomposition at a higher level. The individual whose demise Juenger so joyously proclaims is not altogether identical with the individual person; rather it is the bourgeois individual, the Individuum, born of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, a creature struck from its roots, from its heritage, is in contrast with the Einzelne, the individual person, whose identity is situated in an "organic environment". The Individuum is "most charming invention of burgeois sentimentality..a part of the mass, which is the contrary of a people." So the individual is just "mass" in smaller letters. Work is indissociable from Liberty. Man puts most energy into something at a command. Liberty is a voluntary adhesion to a Gestalt in service to which the full capacity of the Worker is able to express itself. To be free means to take part, the will to be free is the will to work. Liberty presupposes a life filled with sense, an attachment rather than freedom from restraint. As a result of attaining liberty the Worker is able to realise his integration (Eingliederung) in the general structure of society through which the Worker is fully realised. Man is not to be considered as an individual but as an incarnation of Gestalt and attains liberty through participation in the attainment of the figure of which he is, as individual person, a representation. In the future society envisaged by Juenger, each person's place will not be determined by birth, fortune, or rank, but by the degree of adhesion to the type of the Worker.
Clearly Juenger's thought has gone way beyond drawing from the experience of war. When he speaks of the war of material forces he is not only making an observation concerning the technological evolution of war, he is pointing to the idea that the technical transformation of war has produced a rupture which affects the entire planet. This rupture marks the end of the rule of man or gods made in the image of man, and the emergence of the titanic force of the elemental in daily life. Ancient religions tell us that at the origin of civilizations there was a struggle between Gods and Titans. For millennia the Titans held the Gods in awe and kept their distance but now it is the Twilight of the Gods and the Giants are returning. They are returning by means of the immense force which technology has unleashed. Confronted with the unchaining of the elemental, all the old defences, old attitudes, old doctrines are withered. Anachronistic too are the traditional forms of political action. Defeat must be turned into victory. Life must be intensified and the Worker will prevail.
According to Julius Evola, "Juenger should be credited in this first stage of his thought, with having recognised the fatal error of thinking that all could be restored to what it was before, that the new world which was looming could be mastered or halted on the basis of a vision of a bygone era" (Oriente e Occidente Arche, Milan 1982 p.69) and, "man must become the instrument of the mechnical and yet at the same time master it, not only in the physical sense, but also spiritually. This is only possible in the context of a new human type...a being more the subject than the object, one who accepts those aspects of destruction which lead to a surmounting of individualism in favour of a new active impersonalism, towards a "heroic realism"." (Il cammino del cinabro, Arche, Milan 1983 pp. 99 191-192). What is important for man, according to Juenger, is neither happiness nor wealth. It is to enter into a state of resonance with respect to the Figure which is the way to achieve determination, destiny, a discovery which endowes sacrifice with a meaning. The Worker considers the military esprit de corps as nothing exceptional: for him it is the discipline on which he bases his whole life and therein lies his innate superiority. The great force of heroic realism is to be able to face anything, even the certainty of failure with equananimity: nothing can shake the resolve of the Worker. This equananimity is not to be confused with fatalism, it does not preclude the will to action. On the contrary, it provides a lucidity which stimulates action. The key notion of movement, of not being passive, recalls Nietsche's amor fati or Evola's "riding the tiger". Not life in itself is important but the nobility of life, that we can lead a life in the "grand style". The Worker gives form to a chaotic world. The Worker is a demi-urge.
Whether one welcomes it or not, the Worker's day will come. For Juenger force will solve many future problems and will resolve, in the most radical way, many of the tensions of society. The Worker must mobilise, that is to say, be prepared to act forcibly and to be mobile, swift to take advantage of the technical opportunities opening up, the source of the creation of the modern Worker in the first place. Only the Worker is capable of an authentic rapport with the "totalistic character of work", of a genuine relationship with the machine. Being as revealed in the Worker as Gestalt and the essence of the machine is The Will to Power. Technics constitute not only the "symbol of the figure of the Worker" but also the "manner in which that figure mobilises the world". And technology is not here to accelerate progress but to intensify power. Not only progress, but also the notion of the "infinite possibilities of technological development" are illusions. Technology will reach a point of perfection which will mark the furthest stage it can reach, and as with all form, its perfection is reached at the point that it is used to the maximum extent of its inherent potential. At this point there is a difference to be noted between Ernst Juenger and his brother, Friedrich Georg Juenger. The idea of technical perfection in the sense of achievement and fulfillment (Vollendung), is one which the latter examines critically in his writings but which Ernst Juenger sees in a positive light, arguing that one day technology, reaching its amplitude, its perfection, will be able to dominate the entire world, but that this can only be realised by the coming to power of the non-individualist Worker.
By rejecting the "myth of Progress", Juenger denies that technology is neutral, at the service of everyone, or that it is either intrinsically liberating or intrinsically oppressive. Technology enslaves those who are not adequate to cope with it and the form of life which it ushers in. The bourgeois mentality, on the other hand, is terrified of the Golom which it has created but is unable to master. Technology has its own langauge which the Worker is equipped to speak, but not the Bourgeois. Technology is a formation of the elementary forces of the world. This is the end of individualism. The "individual" will become a slave to the machine. The question, already posed by Juenger in Feuer und Blut, is whether man will dominate or be dominated by, his own inventions. Although Juenger rejects the notion that biologically race is important, but metaphysically technology calls forth a new elite and the will to form a new race (Wille zur Rassenbildung) and this new race must be "prudent, strong, shorn of equivocation, drunk with energy". Art will then become the "putting into form" (Gestaltung) of the world of Work. The advent of the Worker will herald the end of individualism and of proletarianism. It will reject the utopias of the materialists and the idealists and will interpret the world in its own image. Marxism and the old religions will all disappear.
Just as technology can not be neutral, nor can the state. The supposed neutrality of the liberal bourgeois state is a sham. In opposition to parliamentary democracies and democratic socialists, Juenger opposes the "democracy of the state", a society with a pyramidal structure founded on the Prussian principles of command and obedience, but in which the leader is not a despot but the "first servant, the first soldier, the first worker". For the Worker liberty and obedience are one. This notion of the "total state" was distinguished by Evola from that of the "totalitarian state", the first being supple, living, organic and marking the beginning of a cycle, the second being moribund, inflexible, mechanised, petrified and representing the end of a cycle. Juenger's state was to be tripartite: the first level with an economic funtion and passively reflecting the Gestalt of the Worker; the second level with an administrative and instructive function and actively reflecting the Gestalt of the Worker; the third level being the sovereign level, whose action would directly reflect the totality of Work and whose imperial authority would represent the Gestalt in its "pure" form. This tripartite system appears to be an adaption of an ancient model of a social scheme which to a certain extent was also reflected in the old German tripartite system of Staende.
In his work Die Totale Mobilmachung (Total Mobilisation) Juenger's perspective was essentially national: only the German people was capable of "affronting" itself, of undertaking a mobilisation of itself. It is in this sense that Juenger saw something positive emerging from the war for Germany: it gave Germany the opportunity to "realise itself". Mobilisation was to be mobilisation of everything which was German "and nothing else". In Der Arbeiter, on the other hand, Juenger abandoned the typical nationalist position in favour of a universal perspective. In the future the nations would become "planning areas" later to be followed by the rule of the Worker over the entire planet. The instauration of the Worker would signal the end of Western nihilism, for which the bourgeois system was responsible. The sovereignity of the "grand style" could only be realised on a global level. Man has reached the point where he must choose between mastering the world or renouncing his humanity.
- Posted by The Ontaryan
Chapter II of Considerantions on
by Joseph de Maistre France
Every nation, like every individual, has a mission which it must fulfill. It would be futile to deny that
It is long since such an appalling punishment has been seen, visited on so many sinners. No doubt there are innocent people among the unfortunates, but they are far fewer than is commonly imagined.
All those who have worked to separate the people from their religious beliefs; all those who have opposed metaphysical sophistries to the laws of property; all those who have said, "Attack anything, so long as we gain by it"; all those who have meddled with the fundamental laws of the state; all those who have recommended, approved, favored the violent methods used against the king; even our restricted vision can perceive that all these have willed the Revolution, and all who willed it have most appropriately been its victims.
It is frightening to see distinguished intellectuals fall under Robespierre's ax. From a humane standpoint they can never be too much mourned, but divine justice is no respecter of mathematicians or scientists. Too many French intellectuals were instrumental in bringing about the Revolution; too many approved and encouraged it so long as, like Tarquin's wand, it cut off only the ruling heads. Like so many others, they said, A great revolution cannot come about without some distress. But when a thinker justifies such means by the end in view; when he says in his heart, A hundred thousand murders are as nothing, provided we are free; then, if
The details would be odious; but, among those who are called innocent victims of the Revolution, it is not much of a Frenchman whose conscience would not remind him:
Now you see the sad fruits that your faults have produced,
You can feel the blows that you yourselves have induced.
Our ideas on good and evil, on innocence and guilt, are too often affected by our prejudices. We frown on men who fight with daggers, but a duel with swords is considered honorable. We brand a man who steals a halfpenny from a friend, but think it nothing if he steals his wife. We pardon even if we do not make a virtue of all those flashy offenses involving great or likable qualities, above all those rewarded by success: whereas, the brilliant qualities which surround the guilty man blacken him in the eyes of true justice, for whom his greatest crime is the abuse of his gifts.
Every man has certain duties to perform, and the extent of these duties depends on his position in society and the extent of his means. The same action is by no means equally culpable when committed by two different men. Not to stray from our subject, the same act which results only from a mistake or a foolish characteristic in an obscure person, thrust suddenly into unlimited power, could be a foul crime in a bishop or a duke or a peer.
Indeed, some actions, which are excusable and even praiseworthy from an ordinary point of view, are fundamentally infinitely criminal. For example, if someone says, I have espoused the cause of the French Revolution in good faith, through a pure love of liberty and my country; I have believed in my soul and conscience that it would lead to the reform of abuses and to the general good, we have nothing to say in reply. But the eye of him who sees into every heart discerns the stain of sin; he discovers in a ridiculous misunderstanding, in a small puncturing of pride, in a base or criminal passion, the prime moving force behind those ambitions we wish to present to the world as noble: and for him the crime is compounded by grafting the falsehood of hypocrisy onto treason. But let us look at the nation in general.
One of the greatest possible crimes is undoubtedly an attack upon sovereignty, no other having such terrible consequences. If sovereignty resides in one man and this man falls victim to an outrage, the crime of lese-majesty augments the atrocity. But if this sovereign has not deserved his fate through any fault of his own, if his very virtues have strengthened the guilty against him, the crime is beyond description. This is the case in the death of Louis XVI; but what is important to note is that never has such a great crime had more accomplices. The death of Charles I had far fewer, even though it was possible to bring charges against him that Louis XVI did not merit. Yet many proofs were given of the most tender and courageous concern for him; even the executioner, who was obliged to obey, did not dare to make himself known. But in
The indifference of the army was no less remarkable. It served the executioners of the king much better than it had served the king himself since it had betrayed him. It never showed the slightest sign of discontent. In sum, never have so many taken part in such a great crime (although no doubt in varying degrees).
It is necessary to add one important remark: it is that every offense committed against sovereignty, in the name of the nation, is always to a greater or lesser degree a national crime, since it is always to some degree the fault of the nation if any faction whatever is put in a position to commit the crime in its name. Thus, although no doubt not all Frenchmen have willed the death of Louis XVI, the immense majority of the people have for more than two years willed all the follies, injustices and offenses leading up to the catastrophe of January 21st.
Now, every national crime against sovereignty is punished swiftly and terribly; that is a law without exception. Not many days after the death of Louis XVI, someone wrote in the Mercure universel, "Perhaps it was not necessary go to so far; but since our legislators have taken this act on their shoulders, let us rally round them: let us smother all hatreds and question it no longer." Good - it was not perhaps necessary to assassinate the king, but since the deed is done, let us talk of it no more and let us all be good friends. What madness! Shakespeare showed more understanding when he said:
"The single and peculiar life is bound,
With all the strength and armour of the mind,
To keep itself from noyance; but much more
That spirit upon whose weal depend and rest
The lives of many. The cease of majesty
Dies not alone; but, like a gulf, doth draw
What's near it with it."
[Hamlet, Act III, Scene iii.] Each drop of Louis XVI's blood will cost
Where are the first national guards, the first soldiers, the first generals who swore an oath to the nation? Where are the leaders, the idols of that first guilty Assembly, for whom the epithet constituent will stand as a perpetual epigraph? Where is Mirabeau, where is Bailly with his "beautiful day"? Where is Thouret who invented the term "to expropriate"? Where is Osselin who reported to the Assembly on the first law proscribing the emigres? The names of revolutionary activists who have died a violent death would be numbered in the thousands.
Yet it is here that we can appreciate order in disorder; because it is evident, however little one reflects on it, that the great criminals of the Revolution can fall only under the blows of their accomplices. If force alone were to bring about what is called the counter-revolution and replace the king on the throne, there would be no means of doing justice. For a sensitive man, the greatest misfortune would be to judge the murderer of his father, relatives, and friends or even the usurper of his property. However, this is precisely what would happen in the case of a counter-revolution, as the word is understood, because the higher judges, by the very nature of things, would belong to the injured class, and justice, even when it was aimed only at punishment, would have the air of vengeance. Moreover, legitimate authority always retains some moderation in the punishment of crimes in which large numbers have been involved. When it executes five or six criminals for the same crime, this becomes a massacre; if it goes beyond certain limits, it becomes detestable. In short, great crimes unfortunately demand great punishments; and in this way it is easy to pass the limits when it is a question of crimes of lese-majesty and flattery becomes the executioner. Would the sacred sword of justice have fallen as relentlessly as Robespierre's guillotine? Would all the executioners of the kingdom and every artillery horse have been summoned to
There have been nations literally condemned to death like guilty individuals, and we can understand the reasons for this. If it was part of God's designs to reveal to us his intentions with regard to the French Revolution, we should read the chastisement of the French as if it were a legal decree. But what should we understand beyond this? Is not this chastisement apparent? Have we not seen
Yet, in this cruel and disastrous war, there are points of interest, and admiration follows grief turn by turn. Let us take the most terrible epoch of the Revolution; let us suppose that, under the government of the diabolical Committee of Public Safety, the army by a startling change became suddenly royalist; let us suppose that it rallied the primary assemblies to its side and freely named the worthiest and most enlightened men to guide it in this difficult position; let us suppose, finally, that one of these representatives of the army rose and said:
"Brave and loyal soldiers, there are occasions when all human wisdom is reduced to choosing between different evils. It is no doubt hard to fight for the Committee of Public Safety, but it would be yet more disastrous to turn our arms against it. The moment the army meddles in politics, the state will be dissolved and the enemies of
This man would have spoken very wisely. In fact, the army has appreciated this hypothetical argument without knowing it; and the terror on the one hand and immorality and extravagance on the other, have done precisely what a consummate and almost prophetic wisdom would have dictated to the army. Fundamentally, it can be seen that, the revolutionary movement once having taken root,
The king has never had an ally; although he was never imprudent enough to state the fact, it is quite evident that the coalition had no love for French territorial integrity. However, how was the coalition to be resisted? By what supernatural means could the European conspiracy be broken? Only the evil genius of Robespierre could achieve this miracle. The revolutionary government hardened the French spirit, by drenching it in blood: it heightened soldiers' morale and doubled their power by a ferocious despair and contempt for life which derived from fury. The horror of the gallows, pushing the citizen to the frontiers, built up military strength in proportion as it destroyed the least internal resistance. Every life, all wealth, every power was in the hands of the revolutionary government; and this Leviathan, drunk with blood and success, the most appalling phenomenon ever seen and doubtless that ever will be seen, was both a frightful punishment of the French and the only means of saving France.
What were the royalists asking for when they demanded a counter-revolution such as they envisaged, that is to say, brought about suddenly and by force? They were asking for the conquest of
It seems that all the monsters spawned by the Revolution have worked only for the monarchy. Through them, the luster of victories has won the world's admiration and has surrounded the name of
This same idea that everything works for the advantage of the French monarchy leads me to believe that any royalist revolution is impossible before the war ends; for the restoration of the Crown would weaken suddenly the whole machinery of the state. The black magic operating at this moment would vanish like a mist before the sun. Kindness, clemency, justice, all the gentle and peaceful virtues would suddenly reappear and bring back with them a certain general gentleness of character, a certain cheerfulness entirely opposed to the somber rigor of the revolutionary regime. No more requisitions, no more legal thefts, no more violence. Would the generals, preceded by the white flag, call revolutionary the inhabitants of the invaded areas who legitimately defended themselves? And would they enjoin them not to move on pain of being shot as rebels? These horrors, very useful to the future king, could not, however, be employed by him; he would then have only human means at his disposal. He would be on a level with his enemies; and what would happen at that moment of suspension which necessarily accompanies the transition from one government to another? I do not know. I am well aware that the great conquests of the French seem to put the integrity of the kingdom beyond dispute. (I even intend to touch here on the reason for these conquests.) However it still appears more advantageous to
On the other hand, it is clear that a violent revolution, far from curing the people, would confirm them in their errors and they would never pardon the power that snatched their dreams from them. Since it was the people, properly speaking, or the masses, that the rebels needed to overturn
Let us now glance at the outrageous persecution stirred up against the national religion and its ministers: it is one of the most interesting facets of the Revolution.
It cannot be denied that the French clergy was in need of reform; and, though I am very far from taking up the vulgar attacks on the clergy, nonetheless it appears to me incontestable that wealth, luxury, and a general tendency toward laxity had lowered this great body of men; that it was often possible to find under the surplice a man of the world rather than an apostle; and finally that, in the years immediately before the Revolution, the clergy had fallen, almost as much as the army, from the place it had occupied in public esteem.
The first blow aimed at the Church was the appropriation of its estates; the second was the constitutional oath; and these two tyrannical measures started the reformation. The oath screened the priests, if it can be so expressed. All who took it, save a few exceptions whom we can ignore, saw themselves led by stages into the abyss of crime and disgrace; opinion has only one view of these apostates.
The faithful priests, recommended to this same opinion by an initial act of firmness, won even more renown by the bravery with which they have been able to bear sufferings and even death in defense of their faith. The massacre of Carmes is comparable in its beauty to anything of this sort that ecclesiastical history can offer.
No more revolting tyranny can be imagined than that which expelled them from their country by thousands, against all justice and decency; but on this point, as in all the others, the crimes of the French tyrants became the weapons of
The property of the clergy having been dissipated, no despicable motive can for a long time to come attract new members to it: so that everything combines to revive the clergy. There is reason to believe, moreover, that the contemplation of the work with which it is charged will give to it a degree of exaltation which raises men above themselves and makes them capable of great things.
Add to these circumstances the ferment of ideas in certain European countries, the inspiring opinions of several great men, and that kind of disquiet which is affecting religious people, especially in Protestant countries, and is pushing them along unwonted paths.
Notice at the same time the storm rumbling over Italy, Rome menaced as well as Geneva by the power that wants the destruction of all sects, and the national supremacy of religion abolished in Holland by a decree of the National Convention. If Providence deletes, it is no doubt in order to rewrite. I notice that when great systems of belief have established themselves in the world, they have been favored by great conquests in the formation of great sovereignties, and the reason can clearly be seen.
How indeed have these remarkable schemes which have baffled all human foresight come about in one day? In truth, there is a temptation to believe that political revolution is only a secondary object of the great plan which is developing before our eyes with such terrible majesty.
I talked, at the beginning, of the leadership that France exercises over the rest of Europe. Providence, which always fits means to ends and gives to nations, as to individuals, the instruments necessary to accomplish their destiny, has in this way given to the French nation two weapons and, so to speak, two hands with which to mold the world, its language and the spirit of proselytism that forms the core of its character; so that it has always the ability and the wish to influence other men.
The power, I almost said the royalty, of the French language is apparent; this cannot be seriously disputed. As for the spirit of proselytism, it is as obvious as the sun; from the dress designer to the philosopher, it is the foremost trait of the national character.
This proselytism is commonly ridiculed, and really it often merits it, particularly in the forms it takes, but fundamentally it has a function.
It is a constant law of the moral world that every function produces a duty. The Gallican Church was the cornerstone of the Catholic system or, more properly, since there is in truth only one system, the Christian system. Although perhaps they doubt it, the Churches opposing the universal Church exist only by virtue of it, being like those parasitic plants, those sterile mistletoes which draw their nurture from and weaken the tree that supports them.
From the fact that the action and reaction of opposing powers is always equal, the greatest efforts of the goddess of Reason against Christianity were made in France; the enemy attacked the citadel.
The French clergy should not therefore fall asleep; it has a thousand reasons for believing that it is called to a high destiny; and the same arguments that show it why it is suffering allow it also to believe itself fated for a crucial task.
In a word, if a moral revolution does not occur in Europe, if religious feeling is not strengthened in this part of the world, the social bond will be destroyed. Nothing can be predicted, and anything may be expected. But if any change for the better does come, either analogies, induction, and conjectural skills are useless or else it is France that is called to produce the change.
This is above all what leads me to believe that the French Revolution is a watershed in history and that its consequences of every kind will be felt far beyond the time of its outburst and the limits of its birthplace.
Political considerations confirm this view. How many European powers have deceived themselves over France! How many have dreamed up vain endeavorsl You who think yourselves free because you have no judges on this earth, never say: This suits me; DISCITE JUSTITIAM MONITE! What hand, at once severe and paternal, scourged France with every imaginable plague, and held sway with supernatural means by turning every effort of its enemies against themselves? Let no one come to speak to us of assignats and the power of numbers, for the possibility of assignats and of the power of numbers is itself the work of the supernatural. Moreover it is neither through paper money nor through numerical advantage that the winds guided the French ships and thrust back those of their enemies; that winter gave the French bridges of ice just when they needed them; that kings who impede them die conveniently; that they invade Italy without artillery, and that the most reputedly brave armies of the world, although equal in number, throw down their arms and allow themselves to be taken captives....
In fact, the punishment of the French breaks all the ordinary rules, as does also the protection accorded to France: but these two miracles combined serve to reinforce one another, and present one of the most astonishing sights of human history.
As events unfold, other and more wonderful reasons and relationships will show themselves. Moreover, I see only a fraction of those which a more perceptive insight could have discovered at this time.
- Posted by The Ontaryan
Excerpted from Chapter II of Spengler's Man and Technics, Oswald Spengler
To development belongs fulfilment — every evolution has a beginning, and every fulfilment is an end. To youth belongs age; to arising, passing; to life, death. For the animal, tied in the nature of its thinking to the present, death is known or scented as something in the future, something that does not threaten it. It only knows the fear of death the moment of being killed. But man, whose thought is emancipated from the fetters of here and now, yesterday and tomorrow, boldly investigates the "once" of past and future, and it depends on the depth or shallowness of his nature whether he triumphs over the fear of the end or not. An old Greek legend — without which the lliad could not have been — tells how his mother put before Achilles the choice between a long life or a short life full of deeds and fame, and how he chose the second.
Man was, and is, too shallow and cowardly to endure the fact of the mortality of everything living. He wraps it up in rose-coloured progress-optimism, he heaps upon it the flowers of literature, he crawls behind the shelter of ideals so as not to see anything. But impermanence, the birth and the passing, is the form of all that is actual — from the stars, whose destiny is for us incalculable, right down to the ephemeral concourses on our planet. The life of the individual — whether this be animal or plant or man — is as perishable as that of peoples of Cultures. Every creation is foredoomed to decay, every thought, every discovery, every deed to oblivion. Here, there, and everywhere we are sensible of grandly fated courses of history that have vanished. Ruins of the "have-been" works of dead Cultures lie all about us. The hybris of Prometheus, who thrust his hand into the heavens in order to make the divine powers subject to man, carries with it his fall. What, then, becomes of the chatter about "undying achievements"?
World-history bears a very different face from that of which even our age permits itself to dream. The history of man, in comparison with that of the plant and animal worlds on this planet — not to mention the lifetimes prevailing in the star world — is brief indeed. It is a steep ascent and fall, covering a few millennia, a period negligible in the history of the earth but, for us who are born with it, full of tragic grandeur and force. And we, human beings of the twentieth century, go downhill seeing. Our eye for history, our faculty of writing history, is a revealing sign that our path lies downward. At the peaks of the high Cultures, just as they are passing over into Civilizations, this gift of penetrating recognition comes to them for a moment, and only for a moment.
Intrinsically it is a matter of no importance what is the destiny, among the swarms of the "eternal" stars, of this small planet that pursues its course somewhere in infinite space for a little time; still less important, what moves for a couple of instants upon its surface. But each and every one of us, intrinsically a null, is for an unnamably brief moment a lifetime cast into that whirling universe. And for us therefore this world-in-little, this "world-history," is something of supreme importance. And, what is more, the destiny of each of these individuals consists in his being, by birth, not merely brought into this world-history, but brought into it in a particular century, a particular country, a particular people, a particular religion, a particular class. It is not within our power to choose whether we would like to be sons of an Egyptian peasant of 3000 B.C., of a Persian king, or of a present-day tramp. This destiny is something to which we have to adapt ourselves. It dooms us to certain situations, views, and actions. There are no "men-in-themselves" such as the philosophers talk about, but only men of a time, of a locality, of a race, of a personal cast, who contend in battle with a given world and win through or fail, while the universe around them moves slowly on with a godlike unconcern. This battle is life — life, indeed, in the Nietzschean sense, a grim, pitiless, no-quarter battle of the Will-to-Power.
- Posted by The Ontaryan
Chapter I of Considerations on
by Joseph de Maistre France
We are all bound to the throne of the Supreme Being by a flexible chain which restrains without enslaving us. The most wonderful aspect of the universal scheme of things is the action of free beings under divine guidance. Freely slaves, they act at once of their own will and under necessity: they actually do what they wish without being able to disrupt general plans. Each of them stands at the center of a sphere of activity whose diameter varies according to the decision of the eternal geometry, which can extend, restrict, check, or direct the will without altering its nature.
In the works of man, everything is as poor as its author; vision is confined, means are limited, scope is restricted, movements are labored, and results are humdrum. In divine works, boundless riches reveal themselves even in the smallest component; its power operates effortlessly: in its hands everything is pliant, nothing can resist it; everything is a means, nothing an obstacle: and the irregularities produced by the work of free agents come to fall into place in the general order.
If one imagines a watch all of whose springs continually vary in power, weight, dimension, form, and position, and which nevertheless invariably shows the right time, one can get some idea of the action of free beings in relation to the plans of the Creator.
In the political and moral world, as in the physical, there is a usual order and there are exceptions to this order. Normally, we see a series of effects following the same causes; but in certain ages we see usual effects suspended, causes paralyzed and new consequences emerging.
A miracle is an effect produced by a divine or superhuman cause which suspends or is inconsistent with an ordinary cause. If in the middle of winter a man, before a thousand witnesses, orders a tree to cover itself suddenly with leaves and fruit, and if the tree obeys, everyone will proclaim a miracle and prostrate themselves before the thaumaturge. But the French Revolution, as well as everything that is happening in
I don't understand anything is the popular catchphrase. The phrase is very sensible if it leads us to the root cause of the great sight now presented to men; it is stupid if it expresses only spleen or sterile despondency. The cry is raised on all sides, "How then can the guiltiest men in the world triumph over the world? A hideous regicide has all the success for which its perpetrators could have hoped. Monarchy is dormant all over
Doubtless, because its primary condition lays it down, there are no means of preventing a revolution, and no success can attend those who wish to impede it. But never is purpose more apparent, never is
The most striking aspect of the French Revolution is this overwhelming force which turns aside all obstacles. Its current carries away like a straw everything human power has opposed to it. No one has run counter to it unpunished. Purity of motive has been able to make resistance honorable, but that is all; and this jealous force, moving inexorably to its objective, rejects equally Charette, Dumouriez, and Drouet.
It has been said with good reason that the French Revolution leads men more than men lead it. This observation is completely justified; and, although it can be applied more or less to all great revolutions, yet it has never been more strikingly illustrated than at the present time. The very villains who appear to guide the Revolution take part in it only as simple instruments; and as soon as they aspire to dominate it, they fall ingloriously. Those who established the Republic did so without wishing it and without realizing what they were creating; they have been led by events: no plan has achieved its intended end.
Never did Robespierre, Collot, or Barere think of establishing the revolutionary government or the Reign of Terror; they were led imperceptibly by circumstances, and such a sight will never be seen again. Extremely mediocre men are exercising over a culpable nation the most heavy despotism history has seen, and, of everyone in the kingdom, they are certainly the most astonished at their power.
But at the very moment when these tyrants have committed every crime necessary to this phase of the Revolution, a breath of wind topples them. This gigantic power, before which
It is often astonishing that the most mediocre men have judged the French Revolution better than the most talented, that they have believed in it strongly while skilled men of affairs were still unbelievers. This conviction was one of the foremost elements of the Revolution, which could succeed only because of the extent and vigor of the revolutionary spirit or, if one can so express it, because of the revolutionary faith. So untalented and ignorant men have ably driven what they call the revolutionary chariot; they have all ventured without fear of counter-revolution; they have always driven on without looking behind them; and everything has fallen into their lap because they were only the instruments of a force more farsighted than themselves. They have taken no false steps in their revolutionary career, for the same reason that the flutist of Vaucanson never played a false note.
The revolutionary current has taken successively different courses; and the most prominent revolutionary leaders have acquired the kind of power and renown appropriate to them only by following the demands of the moment. Once they attempted to oppose it or even to turn it from its predestined course, by isolating themselves and following their own bent, they disappeared from the scene....
- Posted by The Ontaryan
excerpted from the opening chapter of Spengler's Decline of the West (1918-1923)
Oswald Spengler It is a quite indefensible method of presenting world-history to begin by giving rein to one's own religious, political or social convictions and endowing the sacrosanct three-phase system [i.e. ancient-medieval-modern] with tendencies that will bring it exactly to one's own standpoint. This is, in effect, making of some formula—say, the "Age of Reason," Humanity, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, enlightenment, economic progress, national freedom, the conquest of nature or world-peace—a criterion whereby to judge whole millennia of history. And so we judge that they were ignorant of the "true path," or that they failed to follow it, when the fact is simply that their will and purposes were not the same as ours. Goethe's saying "What is important in life is life and not a result of life" is the answer to any and every senseless attempt to solve the riddle of historical form by means of a programme.
It is the same picture that we find when we turn to the historians of each special art or science (and those of national economics and philosophy as well). We find:
"Painting" from the Egyptians (or the cave-men) to the Impressionists, or
"Music" from Homer to Bayreuth and beyond, or
"Social Organization" from Lake Dwellings to Socialism, as
the case may be,
presented as a linear graph which steadily rises in conformity with the values of the (selected) arguments. No one has seriously considered the possibility that arts may have an allotted span of life and may be attached as forms of self-expression to particular regions and particular types of mankind, and that therefore the total history of an art may be merely an additive compilation of separate developments, of special arts, with no bond of union save the name and some details of craft-technique.
We know it to be true of every organism that the rhythm, form and duration of its life, and all the expression-details of that life as well, are determined by the properties of its species. No one, looking at the oak, with its millennial life, dare say that it is at this moment, now, about to start on its true and proper course. No one as he sees a caterpillar grow day by day expects that it will go on doing so for two or three years. In these cases we feel, with an unqualified certainty, a limit, and this sense of the limit is identical with our sense of the inward form. In the case of higher human history, on the contrary, we take our ideas as to the course of the future from an unbridled optimism that sets at naught all historical, i.e. organic, experience, and everyone therefore sets himself to discover in the accidental present terms that he can expand into some striking progression-series, the existence of which rests not on scientific proof but on predilection.
"Mankind," however, has no aim, no idea, no plan, any more than the family of butterflies or orchids. "Mankind" is a zoological expression, or an empty word. But conjure away the phantom, break the magic circle, and at once there emerges an astonishing wealth of actual forms—the Living with all its immense fullness, depth and movement—hitherto veiled by a catchword, a dry-as-dust scheme and a set of personal "ideals."
I see, in place of that empty figment of one linear history which can be kept up only by shutting one's eyes to the overwhelming multitude of the facts, the drama of a number of mighty Cultures, each springing with primitive strength from the soil of a mother-region to which it remains firmly bound throughout its whole life-cycle; each stamping its material, its mankind, in its own image; each having its own idea, its own passions, its own life, will and feeling, its own death. Here indeed are colours, lights, movements, that no intellectual eye has yet discovered. Here the Cultures, peoples, languages, truths, gods, landscapes bloom and age as the oaks and the pines, the blossoms, twigs and leaves—but there is no aging "Mankind." Each Culture has its own new possibilities of self-expression which arise, ripen, decay and never return. There is not one sculpture, one painting, one mathematics, one physics, but many, each in its deepest essence different from the others, each limited in duration and self-contained, just as each species of plant has its peculiar blossom or fruit, its special type of growth and decline. These Cultures, sublimated life-essences, grow with the same superb aimlessness as the flowers of the field. They belong, like the plants and the animals, to the living Nature of Goethe, and not to the dead Nature of Newton. I see world-history as a picture of endless formations and transformations, of the marvellous waxing and waning of organic forms. The professional historian, on the contrary, sees it as a sort of tapeworm industriously adding onto itself one epoch after another.
But the series "ancient-mediaeval-modern history" has at last exhausted its usefulness. Angular, narrow, shallow though it was as a scientific foundation, still we possessed no other form that was not wholly unphilosophical in which our data could be arranged, and world-history (as hitherto understood) has to thank it for filtering our classifiable solid residues. But the number of centuries that the scheme can by any stretch be made to cover has long since been exceeded, and with the rapid increase in the volume of our historical material—especially of material that cannot possibly be brought under the scheme—the picture is beginning to dissolve into a chaotic blur.
When Plato speaks of humanity, he means the Hellenes in contrast to the barbarians, which is entirely consonant with the ahistoric mode of the Classical life and thought, and his premisses take him to conclusions that for Greeks were complete and significant. When, however, Kant philosophizes, say on ethical ideas, he maintains the validity of his theses for men of all times and places. He does not say this in so many words, for, for himself and his readers, it is something that goes without saying. In his aesthetics he formulates the principles, not of Phidias' art, or Rembrandt's art, but of Art generally. But what he poses as necessary forms of thought are in reality only necessary forms of Western thought, though a glance at Aristotle and his essentially different conclusions should have sufficed to show that Aristotle's intellect, not less penetrating than his own, was of different structure from it.
It is this that is lacking to the Western thinker, the very thinker in whom we might have expected to find it—insight into the historically relative character of his data, which are expressions of one specific existence and one only; knowledge of the necessary limits of their validity; the conviction that his "unshakable" truths and "eternal" views are simply true for him and eternal for his world-view; the duty of looking beyond them to find out what the men of other Cultures have with equal certainty evolved out of themselves. That and nothing else will impart completeness to the philosophy of the future, and only through an understanding of the living world shall we understand the symbolism of history. Here there is nothing constant, nothing universal. We must cease to speak of the forms of "Thought," the principles of "Tragedy," the mission of "the State." Universal validity involves always the fallacy of arguing from particular to particular.
But something much more disquieting than a logical fallacy begins to appear when the centre of gravity of philosophy shifts from the abstract-systematic to the practical-ethical and our Western thinkers from Schopenhauer onward turn from the problem of cognition to the problem of life (the will to life, to power, to action). Here it is not the ideal abstract "man" of Kant that is subjected to examination, but actual man as he has inhabited the earth during historical time, grouped, whether primitive or advanced, by peoples; and it is more than ever futile to define the structure of his highest ideas in terms of the "ancient-mediaeval-modern" scheme with its local limitations. But it is done, nevertheless.
Consider the historical horizon of Nietzsche. His conceptions of decadence, militarism, the transvaluation of all values, the will to power, lie deep in the essence of Western civilization and are for the analysis of that civilization of decisive importance. But what, do we find, was the foundation on which he built up his creation? Romans and Greeks, Renaissance and European present, with a fleeting and uncomprehending side-glance at Indian philosophy—in short "ancient, mediaeval and modern" history. Strictly speaking, he never once moved outside the scheme, nor did any other thinker of his time. And is the thought-range of Schopenhauer, Comte, Feuerbach, Hebbel or Strindberg any wider? Is not their whole psychology, for all its intention of world-wide validity, one of purely West European significance?
What the West has said and thought, hitherto, on the problems of space, time, motion, number, will, marriage, property, tragedy, science, has remained narrow and dubious, because men were always looking for the solution of the question. It was never seen that many questioners implies many answers, that any philosophical question is really a veiled desire to get an explicit affirmation of what is implicit in the question itself, that the great questions of any period are fluid beyond all conception, and that therefore it is only by obtaining a group of historically limited solutions and measuring it by utterly impersonal criteria that the final secrets can be reached. In other Cultures the phenomenon talks a different language, for other men there are different truths. Thethinker must admit the validity of all, or of none. How greatly, then, Western world-criticism can be widened and deepened! How immensely far beyond the innocent relativism of Nietzsche and his generation one must look—how fine one's sense for form and one's psychological insight must become—how completely one must free oneself from limitations of self, of practical interests, of horizon—before one dare assert the pretension to understand world-history, the world-as-history.
THE HISTORICAL EYE
In opposition to all these arbitrary and narrow schemes, derived from tradition or personal choice, into which history is forced, I put forward the natural, the "Copernican," form of the historical process which lies deep in the essence of that process and reveals itself only to an eye perfectly free from prepossessions.
Such an eye was Goethe's. That which Goethe called Living Nature is exactly that which we are calling here world-history, world-as-history. Goethe, who as artist portrayed the life and development, always the life and development, of his figures, the thing-becoming and not the thing-become (Wilhelm Meister and Dichtung und Wahrheit), hated Mathematics. For him, the world-as-mechanism stood opposed to the world-as-organism, dead nature to living nature, law to form. As naturalist, every line he wrote was meant to display the image of a thing-becoming, the "impressed form" living and developing. Sympathy, observation, comparison, immediate and inward certainty, intellectual flair—these were the means whereby he was enabled to approach the secrets of the phenomenal world in motion. Now these are the means of historical research—precisely these and no others. It was this godlike insight that prompted him to say at the bivouac fire on the evening of the Battle of Valmy: "Here and now begins a new epoch of world history, and you, gentlemen, can say that you 'were there.'" No general, no diplomat, let alone the philosophers, ever so directly felt history "becoming." It is the deepest judgment that any man ever uttered about a great historical act in the moment of its accomplishment.
And just as he followed out the development of the plant-form from the leaf, the birth of the vertebrate type, the process of the geological strata - the Destiny in nature and not the Causality—so here we shall develop the form-language of human history, its periodic structure, its organic logic, out of the profusion of all the challenging details.
In other aspects, mankind is habitually, and rightly, reckoned as one of the organisms of the earth's surface. Its physical structure, its natural functions, the whole phenomenal conception of it, all belong to a more comprehensive unity. Only in this aspect is it treated otherwise, despite that deeply felt relationship of plant destiny and human destiny which is an eternal theme of all lyrical poetry, and despite that similarity of human history to that of any other of the higher life-groups which is the refrain of endless beast-legends, sagas and fables. But only bring analogy to bear on this aspect as on the rest, letting the world of human Cultures intimately and unreservedly work upon the imagination instead of forcing it into a ready-made scheme. Let the words "youth," "growth," "maturity," "decay"—hitherto, and today more than ever, used to express subjective valuations and entirely personal preferences in sociology, ethics and aesthetics—be taken at last as objective descriptions of organic states. Set forth the Classical Culture as a self-contained phenomenon embodying and expressing the Classical soul, put it beside the Egyptian, the Indian, the Babylonian, the Chinese and the Western, and determine for each of these higher individuals what is typical in their surgings and what is necessary in the riot of incident. And then at last will unfold itself the picture of world-history that is natural to us, men of the West, and to us alone.