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Society, Soschmiety

April 28, 2014 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

A few posts ago I noted that Ernst Juenger, in defining the difference between the anarch and the forest-goer (aka the forest fleer) in his novel Eumeswil, defined both of these figures in opposition to “society”:

The difference is that the forest fleer has been expelled from society, while the anarch has expelled society from himself.

How barbaric is that? Even most anarchists would say with Thomas Paine that “Society in every state is a blessing,” while most libertarians would conclude with him that “government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” (I, on the other hand, would say with Nietzsche that “the song of the necessary [is] the single and irreplaceable melody,” and that what is necessary is not evil. I’d say with Tolkien that government is not some thing or institution, which can be in a better or worse “state,” but is only an act or process. I’d say with Isabel Paterson that this act or process originates in and proceeds from the  individual’s moral faculty, and that its defining purpose is only to inhibit those who won’t inhibit, i.e., govern, themselves. I’d say that the presumption of innocence, which rests in part on the likelihood that Tony Serra was right when he said “We’re all either innocent or we’re all guilty”, is the song of the necessary in the act or process of governing. I’d say, in other words, that from both a materialistic / neurological and a metaphysical / religious perspective the existence of what is commonly called “free-will” is reasonably doubtful.)

It’s logical to look for an answer to whether the anarch and the forest-goer are barbaric figures in Max Stirner, on whose thinking Juenger expressly based his figure of the anarch:

The word Gesellschaft (society) has its origin in the word Sal (hall). If one hall encloses many persons, then the hall causes these persons to be in society. They are in society, and at most constitute a parlor-society by talking in the traditional forms of parlor speech. When it comes to real intercourse, this is to be regarded as independent of society: it may occur or be lacking, without altering the nature of what is named society. Those who are in the hall are a society even as mute persons, or when they put each other off solely with empty phrases of courtesy. Intercourse is mutuality, it is the action, the commercium, of individuals; society is only community of the hall, and even the statues of a museum-hall are in society, they are “grouped.” People are accustomed to say “they haben inne [“Occupy”; literally, “have within”] this hall in common,” but the case is rather that the hall has us inne or in it. So far the natural signification of the word society. In this it comes out that society is not generated by me and you, but by a third factor which makes associates out of us two, and that it is just this third factor that is the creative one, that which creates society. . . .

Not isolation or being alone, but society, is man’s original state. Our existence begins with the most intimate conjunction, as we are already living with our mother before we breathe; when we see the light of the world, we at once lie on a human being’s breast again, her love cradles us in the lap, leads us in the go-cart, and chains us to her person with a thousand ties. Society is our state of nature. And this is why, the more we learn to feel ourselves, the connection that was formerly most intimate becomes ever looser and the dissolution of the original society more unmistakable. To have once again for herself the child that once lay under her heart, the mother must fetch it from the street and from the midst of its playmates. The child prefers the intercourse that it enters into with its fellows to the society that it has not entered into, but only been born in.

But the dissolution of society is intercourse or union. A society does assuredly arise by union too, but only as a fixed idea arises by a thought — to wit, by the vanishing of the energy of the thought (the thinking itself, this restless taking back all thoughts that make themselves fast) from the thought. If a union [Verein] has crystallized into a society, it has ceased to be a coalition; [Vereinigung] for coalition is an incessant self-uniting; it has become a unitedness, come to a standstill, degenerated into a fixity; it is — dead as a union, it is the corpse of the union or the coalition, i.e. it is —society, community. A striking example of this kind is furnished by the party. . . .

No, community, as the “goal” of history hitherto, is impossible. Let us rather renounce every hypocrisy of community, and recognize that, if we are equal as men, we are not equal for the very reason that we are not men. We are equal only in thoughts, only when “we” are thought, not as we really and bodily are. I am ego, and you are ego: but I am not this thought-of ego; this ego in which we are all equal is only my thought. I am man, and you are man: but “man” is only a thought, a generality; neither I nor you are speakable, we are unutterable, because only thoughts are speakable and consist in speaking.

The anarch, then, remains in society, but not of society (as the Christian remains “in the world but not of the world”). So, too, does the forest-goer: “Freedom is completely different to mere opposition, and cannot be achieved by flight. We called this place the forest. . . . Those for whom another form of existence is impossible are also forced to rely on following the forest way. . . . As far as its location is concerned, the forest is everywhere. It is in the wasteland and in the cities, wherever the follower of the forest way lives in hiding or concealed beneath the mask of his profession. . . . Freedom is the big issue today. It is the power that masters fear. It is the main concern of the free human being; not just freedom itself, but also the way in which it can effectively be represented and made visible in resistance.”

Note that in Juenger’s definitions the anarch expels society from himself, which is clear enough, while it’s not specified who or what expels the forest-goer from society. Society is a wheel in the head, a spook, a fixed idea, the living corpse of a dead thought. “It,” therefore, does not expel anyone from it. But just because you don’t believe in ghosts doesn’t mean that belief in ghosts isn’t alive and well. It is the believers in society, rather than society itself, who give this ghost (which is all in their heads) their hands and arms, and who expel the forest-goer from “society.” On the other hand, the pervasiveness of this spectral infestation gives it certain definite contours, e.g., in its customs and laws, so that it can be said to take on, even for unbelievers, an effective reality of its own, somewhat apart from its carriers. Hence Nietzsche reified the state as “the coldest of all cold monsters.” Hence there is no hypocrisy in an unbeliever invoking, e.g., the Fifth Amendment of a Constitution whose authority he does not “acknowledge,” or endeavoring to avoid running afoul of society unnecessarily.

In this day and age, both the expulsion from society and the passage into the forest are less literal and more symbolic than they were in Grettir’s day. After all, today there are few frontiers and wild places left to which one might actually flee from society, and, so far from society allowing the outlaw to follow his own lonely and perilous path away from it, it is most likely to cast him into society in its purest form — i.e., into prison. The forest-goer, then, is typically expelled from society while still remaining in the midst of society.

It can also be said that, in the final analysis, while the anarch expels society from himself, the forest-goer (rather than society or the spooked) expels himself from society, but that this expulsion is decided by an inner necessity. After all, there is comfort in “belonging,” in “fitting in,” in the hall, and being expelled from it is intrinsically painful. It’s not something one goes out of one’s way to incur, just for the hell of it. The anarch, Juenger wrote in Eumeswil, “is and remains his own master in all circumstances. When he decides to flee to the forest, his decision is less an issue of justice and conscience for him than a traffic accident.” (What are “justice” and “conscience” in this context other than self-congratulatory names we give to things we want to do?)

An intriguing example of the relationship and difference between the anarch and the forest-goer is supplied from the life story of Juenger himself. I mentioned a couple posts ago that in an interview Juenger gave when he was one hundred years old, a couple years before he died, he manifested a reluctance to commit himself to the anarch as a “position.” But in conversations about ten years earlier, published under the title The Details of Time, he expressly said that “the anarch’s position . . . is the position that I favor at present.” He explains this position in this extraordinary exchange:

HERVIER: May I quote you? On June 14, 1934, you wrote in the Nazi Party newspaper, Der Volkische Beobachter: “My efforts are aimed at preventing even the slightest suspicion of ambiguity about the nature of my political substance.”

JUNGER: Perfectly: but I wouldn’t do it again today. I made myself fairly vulnerable. And a quoi ca peut servir [what good would it do]? I would willingly ask the question. Today, my mindset is that of an anarch, who says: “Go ahead, but as for me, I’m keeping quiet.” But anyway, I did it. Actually, I had largely forgotten about it; there are a whole series of proclamations along those lines. Incidentally, it was a Jewish researcher named Wulf who dug up all that business in the Prussian archives — especially the stories concerning the Pour le merite decoration — and he published them in a book entitled Literature in the Third Reich. I appear there as a rara avis, in a class by myself; he cites a number of analogous items. Those are things that one forgets. But today, as I’ve said, I see all that from very far away, and I would act more prudently.

I assume the series of proclamations and analogous items Juenger was referring to here are essentially the same as those described in this paragraph from the Wikipedia article on Juenger:

Never a member of the National Socialist movement around Adolf Hitler, Jünger refused a chair offered to him in the Reichstag following the Nazi Party‘s ascension to power in 1933, and he refused the invitation to head the German Academy of Literature (Die deutsche Akademie der Dichtung).[6] On June 14, 1934, Jünger wrote a “letter of rejection” to the Völkischer Beobachter, the official Nazi newspaper, in which he requested that none of his writings be published in it.[7] Jünger also refused to speak on Goebbels’s radio. He was one of the few “nationalist” authors whose name was never found on the frequent declarations of loyalty to Hitler. He and his brother Friedrich Georg quit the “Traditionsverein der 73er” (veteran’s organization of the Hanoverian regiment they had served during World War I) when its Jewish members were expelled.[8] An attack on Jünger appeared in the Bavarian Völkischer Beobachter of October 22, 1932, with the title “Das endlose dialektische Gesprach” (the Endless Dialectical Discussion), taking Jünger to task for not being an adherent of Blood and Soil racial doctrine, and accusing him of being an “intellectualist” and a liberal.[9]

These were acts characteristic not of an anarch but of a forest-goer. On the other hand, Juenger’s chilling description of an execution of a deserter he supervised during WWII, at the beginning of the following video, was characteristic of the position of an anarch:

Although it is certain that Max Stirner inspired the figure of the anarch as described in Eumeswil (1977), I have seen no indication either way as to whether Juenger had read Stirner prior to writing The Forest Passage (1951). In any event, it appears to me that Stirner’s “insurgent” illuminates almost exactly Juenger’s forest-goer. I regard the following passage as the crescendo of Stirner’s masterpiece, The Only One and His Own:

Propertylessness or ragamuffinism, this then is the “essence of Christianity,” as it is essence of all religiousness (i.e. godliness, morality, humanity), and only announced itself most clearly, and, as glad tidings, became a gospel capable of development, in the “absolute religion.” We have before us the most striking development in the present fight against property, a fight which is to bring “Man” to victory and make propertylessness complete: victorious humanity is the victory of —Christianity. But the “Christianity exposed” thus is feudalism completed. the most all-embracing feudal system, i.e. perfect ragamuffinism.

Once more then, doubtless, a “revolution” against the feudal system? —

Revolution and insurrection must not be looked upon as synonymous. The former consists in an overturning of conditions, of the established condition or status, the State or society, and is accordingly a political or social act; the latter has indeed for its unavoidable consequence a transformation of circumstances, yet does not start from it but from men’s discontent with themselves, is not an armed rising, but a rising of individuals, a getting up, without regard to the arrangements that spring from it. The Revolution aimed at new arrangements; insurrection leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and sets no glittering hopes on “institutions.” It is not a fight against the established, since, if it prospers, the established collapses of itself; it is only a working forth of me out of the established. If I leave the established, it is dead and passes into decay. Now, as my object is not the overthrow of an established order but my elevation above it, my purpose and deed are not a political or social but (as directed toward myself and my ownness alone) an egoistic purpose and deed.

The revolution commands one to make arrangements, the insurrection [Empörung] demands that he rise or exalt himself.[sich auf-oder empörzurichten] What constitution was to be chosen, this question busied the revolutionary heads, and the whole political period foams with constitutional fights and constitutional questions, as the social talents too were uncommonly inventive in societary arrangements (phalansteries etc.). The insurgent [93] strives to become constitutionless.

While, to get greater clearness, I am thinking up a comparison, the founding of Christianity comes unexpectedly into my mind. On the liberal side it is noted as a bad point in the first Christians that they preached obedience to the established heathen civil order, enjoined recognition of the heathen authorities, and confidently delivered a command, “Give to the emperor that which is the emperor’s.” Yet how much disturbance arose at the same time against the Roman supremacy, how mutinous did the Jews and even the Romans show themselves against their own temporal government! In short, how popular was “political discontent!” Those Christians would hear nothing of it; would not side with the “liberal tendencies.” The time was politically so agitated that, as is said in the gospels, people thought they could not accuse the founder of Christianity more successfully than if they arraigned him for “political intrigue,” and yet the same gospels report that he was precisely the one who took least part in these political doings. But why was he not a revolutionist, not a demagogue, as the Jews would gladly have seen him? Why was he not a liberal? Because he expected no salvation from a change of conditions, and this whole business was indifferent to him. He was not a revolutionist, like e.g. Caesar, but an insurgent; not a State-overturner, but one who straightened himself up. That was why it was for him only a matter of “Be ye wise as serpents,” which expresses the same sense as, in the special case, that “Give to the emperor that which is the emperor’s”; for he was not carrying on any liberal or political fight against the established authorities, but wanted to walk his own way, untroubled about, and undisturbed by, these authorities. Not less indifferent to him than the government were its enemies, for neither understood what he wanted, and he had only to keep them off from him with the wisdom of the serpent. But, even though not a ringleader of popular mutiny, not a demagogue or revolutionist, he (and every one of the ancient Christians) was so much the more an insurgent, who lifted himself above everything that seemed sublime to the government and its opponents, and absolved himself from everything that they remained bound to, and who at the same time cut off the sources of life of the whole heathen world, with which the established State must wither away as a matter of course; precisely because he put from him the upsetting of the established, he was its deadly enemy and real annihilator; for he walled it in, confidently and recklessly carrying up the building of his temple over it, without heeding the pains of the immured.

Now, as it happened to the heathen order of the world, will the Christian order fare likewise? A revolution certainly does not bring on the end if an insurrection is not consummated first!

My intercourse with the world, what does it aim at? I want to have the enjoyment of it, therefore it must be my property, and therefore I want to win it. I do not want the liberty of men, nor their equality; I want only my power over them, I want to make them my property, i.e. material for enjoyment. And, if I do not succeed in that, well, then I call even the power over life and death, which Church and State reserved to themselves — mine. Brand that officer’s widow who, in the flight in Russia, after her leg has been shot away, takes the garter from it, strangles her child therewith, and then bleeds to death alongside the corpse — brand the memory of the — infanticide. Who knows, if this child had remained alive, how much it might have “been of use to the world!” The mother murdered it because she wanted to die satisfied and at rest. Perhaps this case still appeals to your sentimentality, and you do not know how to read out of it anything further. Be it so; I on my part use it as an example for this, that my satisfaction decides about my relation to men, and that I do not renounce, from any access of humility, even the power over life and death.

It is probably safe to say that under no circumstances would the founder of Christianity have found himself, like Juenger did in WWII, supervising the execution of a deserter from the army. Jesus exemplified one of the defining characteristics of Juenger’s figure of the forest-goer — the man who has conquered fear in his own heart. It’s interesting that Juenger converted to the Catholic Church in the year before his death at age 102. It also seems to me worthwhile to contemplate in this context the meaning and connotations of the word “Passion” as it’s used to describe the expulsion of Jesus from “society.”

1 Comments to “Society, Soschmiety”

  1. Allison Williams Esq. says:

    Very interesting.


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