I can see him sitting there and smoking, a delicate profile. The sketch that Friedrich Engels drew from memory in London captures only the middle part of the face: the straight nose and the fine mouth. It was revised by the media service in the luminar. The new version also had the high, though less receding, forehead, which is Stirn in German. And indeed, he, Johann Kaspar Schmidt, had been nicknamed Stirner by one of his fellow students at the University of Königsberg; later on, he used the pseudonym “Max Stirner.”
His signatures are likewise delicate; one notices that the final stroke sinks with the years. Incidentally, he died not by his own hand but from a fly sting that became infected. A banal life: misspent in profession and business, a failed marriage, debts, a regular tavern table with the standard blabber preceding the German revolution, a high-level philistine – the usual stuff.
His literary output – essays and critiques in newspapers and journals – is equally unimportant; it was already forgotten during Stirner’s lifetime and would have been consumed by the firestorms had it not been preserved by the luminar. Yet these little leaves, which, in times of crisis, sprout like mushrooms from the humus and then perish, are invaluable for the historian who wishes to study ideas in statu nascendi. They are covered by the rubble of revolutions.
And the Marx-Engels pamphlet attacking Stirner – Saint Max, a folio manuscript of several hundred pages – also very nearly disappeared. By the time it was excavated, it was already well gnawed by the mice. Engels had entrusted it to a cabinetmaker named Bebel. The luminar restored the text.
The manuscript was begun in 1845 of the Christian era, the year when Stirner’s magnum opus, The Only One and His Own, was published. This study is the exception I mentioned above. Thus, the polemics must have sprung from an immediate impression.
. . .
The characteristic feature of the great saints – of whom there are very few – is that they get at the very heart of the matter. The most obvious things are invisible because they are concealed in human beings; no thing is harder to evince than what is self-evident. Once it is uncovered or rediscovered, it develops explosive strength. Saint Anthony recognized the power of the solitary man, Saint Francis that of the poor man, Stirner that of the only man. “At bottom,” everyone is solitary, poor, and “only” in the world.
It takes no genius to make such discoveries, only intuition. They can be granted to a trivial existence, they are as clear as day. That is why they cannot be studied like systems; they are revealed through meditation. To get back to the art of archery: it is not certain that the most skillful archer has the truest aim. A dreamer, a child, a crackpot may be the one who pulls it off. Even the bull’s-eye has a midpoint: the center of the world. It is not spatial, it is hit not in time but in the timeless interval. One of Stirner’s benign critics (he had few of these; but lots of enemies) called him the “metaphysician of anarchism.”
. . .
Stirner, incidentally, is no solipsist. He is the Only One, like Tom, Dick, or Harry. His special trait is simply that he recognizes himself as such. . . .
. . .
Now just what are the cardinal points or the axioms of Stirner’s system, if one cares to call it that? They are only two, but they suffice for thorough reflection:
I. That is not My business.
2. Nothing is more important than I.
. . .
The rebukes against him concentrated – nor could it be otherwise – in the reproach of egoism, a concept with which Stirner himself never fully came to terms. Still, he annexed it, often replacing Einziger (Only One) with Eigner (owner, proprietor). The owner does not fight for power, he recognizes it as his own, his property. He owns up to it, appropriates it, makes it his own. This process can be nonviolent, especially as a strengthening of the self-awareness.
. . .
What had touched me so deeply? Stirner’s arrow grazed the point at which I suspected the presence of the anarch. The dissimilarity presupposes a very subtle distinction, and, I believe, Vigo is the only person in Eumeswil who could make it. After all, he instantly caught the difference between owner and egoist. It is the same as the difference between anarch and anarchist. These concepts appear to be identical, but are radically different.
. . .
To draw an important demarcation, we had envisaged a comparison between the Only One and the Superman. It would make little difference whether, as Mackay assumes, Nietzsche, Old Gunpowderhead, was acquainted with Stirner’s work – ideas float in the air. Originality lies in rendering them – in the strength of the tackling and shaping.
First of all: The Superman recognizes the world as the will to power; “there is nothing else.” Even art is a will to power. The Superman joins in the rivalries of the world while the Only One is content to watch the spectacle. He does not strive for power; he dashes neither after nor ahead of it, because he possesses it and enjoys it in his self-awareness. This recalls Far Eastern empires of images.
Naturally, because of external circumstances, power can fall into the hands of the Only One as well as the anarch. But power is burdensome for the Only One. Periander, tyrant of Corinth, “inherited it like a disease” from his father. Incidentally, it strikes me that certain features of Periander and also Tiberius, especially in their good times, are to be found in our Condor, though in the effete and ahistorical framework of Eumeswil. I have already said that the anarch and the monarch have a polar resemblance; basically, each contains both.
Secondly: the famous “God is dead.” By then, Old Gunpowderhead was forcing an open door. A universal awareness was unveiled. That explains the sensation he caused. The Only One, on the other hand: “God … is none of my business.” That leaves all doors open: the Only One can depose or impose God or let the matter rest – whichever he likes. He can show him the door or “form an association” with him. As with the Silesian mystic, “God cannot be without me.” Like the Biblical Jacob, the Only One can wrestle for power until dawn. That alone is the message in the history of God’s redemption plan.