RIDE

THE
TIGER
SURVIVAL
MANUAL
FOR THE
ARISTOCRATS
OF THE SOUL
JULIUS EVOLA
gre by Edizioni
ized ί η any form
.g, recording, or
;sion ί η writing
la.-
s.
2003012871
hich granted
.rk ο η this
Contents
Part 1: Orientations 1
1. The Modern World and Traditional Man 2
2. The End of a Cycle-"Ride the Tiger" 8
Part 2: Ι η the World Where God IS Dead 15
3. European Nihilism-The Dissolution of Morals 16
4. From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth"
and the Protest Movement 20
5. Disguises of European Nihilism-
The Socioeconomic Myth and the Protest Movement 27
6. Active Nihilism-Nietzsche 34
7. "Being Oneself" 41
8. The Transcendent Dimension-
"Life" and "More Than Life" 47
9. Beyond Theism and Atheism 54
10. Invulnerability-Apollo and Dionysus 60
11. Acting without Desire-The Causal Law 68
Part 3: The Dead End of Existentialism 77
12. Being and Inauthentic Existence 78
13. Sartre: Prisoner without Walls 83
14. Existence, ' Ά Project Flung into the World" 86
15. Heidegger: "Retreating Forwards" and "Being-for-Death"-
Collapse of Existentialism 95
Part 4: Dissolution of the l η d ί ν ί d u a l 105
16. The Dual Aspect of Anonymity 106
17. Destructions and Liberations ί η the New Realism 112
18. The "Animal Ideal"-The Sentiment of Nature 120
Part 5: Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism 129
19. The Procedures of Modern Science 130
20. Covering υ ρ Nature-Phenomenology 137
Part 6: The Realm of Art-
From "Physical" Music to the Drug Regime 149
..
21. The Sickness of European Culture 150
22. Dissolution ί η Modern Art 153
23. Modern Music and Jazz 159
24. Excursus ο η Drugs 166
Part 7: Dissolution ί η the Social Realm 171
25. States and Parties-Apoliteia 172
26. Society-The Crisis of Patriotic Feeling 177
27. Marriage and the Family 185
28. Relations between the Sexes 195
Part 8: The Spiritual Problem 207
29. The "Second Religiosity" 208
30. Death-The Right over Life 218
Notes 229
Index 239
12
m 129
RIDE Τ Η Ε TIGER
e 149
,,-'
1 1 .
Ή V
d
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1
The Modern World
and Traditional Man
This book sets out to study some ο ί the ways ί η which the present age
appears essentially as an age ο ί dissolution. At the same time, it addresses
the questioR ο ί what kind ο ί conduct and what form ο ί existence are
appropriate under the circumstances for α particular human type.
This restriction must be kept ί η mind. What Ι am about to say does
not concern the ordinary man ο ί our day. Ο η the contrary, Ι have ί η
mind the man who finds himself involved ί η today's world, even at
its most problematic and paroxysmal points; yet he does not belong
inwardly to such a world, nor will he give ί η to it. He feels himself, ί η
essence, as belonging to a different race from that ο ί the overwhelming
majority ο ί his contemporaries.
The natural place for such a man, the land ί η which he would not
be a stranger, is the world ο ί Tradition. Ι use the word tradition ί η a
special sense, which Ι have defined elsewhere.
1
It differs from the com-
mon usage, but is close to the meaning given to it by Rene Guenon ί η
his analysis ο ί the crisis ο ί the modern world.
2
l η this particular mean-
ing, a civilization or a society is "traditional" when it is ruled by prin-
ciples that transcend what is merely human and individual, and when
all its sectors are formed and ordered from above, and directed to what
is above. Beyond the variety ο ί historical forms, there has existed an
essentially identical and constant world ο ί Tradition. Ι have sought else-
where to define its values and main categories, which are the basis for
any civilization, society, or ordering ο ί existence that calls itself normal
ί η a higher sense, and is endowed with real significance.
Everything that has come to predominate ί η the modern world is
the exact antithesis ο ί any traditional type ο ί civilization. Moreover, the
2
---------------------------------------------------------------------
The Modern World and Traditional Man 3
circumstances make it increasingly unlikely that anyone, starting from
the values ο ί Tradition (even assuming that one could still identify and
adopt them), could take actions or reactions ο ί a certain efficacy that
would provoke any real change ί η t h ~ current state ο ί affairs. After the
last worldwide upheavals, there seems to be η ο starting point either for
nations or for the vast majority ο ί individuals-nothing ί η the institu-
tions and general state ο ί society, nor ί η the predominant ideas, inter-
ests, and energies ο ί this epoch.
Nevertheless, a few men exist who are, so to speak, still ο η their
feet among the ruins and the dissolution, and who belong, more or less
consciously, to that other world. Α little group seems willing to fight on,
even ί η lost positions. So long as it does not yield, does not compromise
itself by giving ί η to the seductions that would condition any success it
might have, its testimony is valid. For others, it is a matter ο ί completely
isolating themselves, which demands an inner character as well as privi-
leged material conditions, which grow scarcer day by day. Α Ι Ι the same,
this is the second possible solution. Ι would add that there are a very few
ί η the intellectual field who can still affirm "traditional" values beyond
any immediate goal, so as to perform a "holding action." This is cer-
tainly useful to prevent current reality from shutting ο ί ί every horizon,
not only materially but also ideally, and stifling any measures different
from its own. Thanks to them, distances may be maintained-other
possible dimensions, other meanings ο ί life, indicated to those able to
detach themselves from looking only to the here and nQ.w.
But this does not resolve the practical, personal problem-apart from
the case ο ί the man who is blessed with the opportunity for material iso-
lation-of those who cannot or will not burn their bridges with current
life, and who must therefore decide how to conduct their existence, even
ο η the level ο ί the most elementary reactions and human relations.
This is precisely the type ο ί man that the present book has ί η mind.
Τ ο him applies the saying ο ί a great precursor: "The desert encroaches.
Woe to him whose desert is within!"3 He can ί η truth find η ο fur-
ther support from without. There η ο longer exist the organizations and
institutions that, ί η a traditional civilization and society, would have
allowed him to realize himself wholly, to order his own existence ί η a
clear and unambiguous way, and to defend and apply creatively ί η his
4 Orientations
own environment the principal values that he recognizes within him-
self. Thus there is η ο question of suggesting to him lines of action that,
adequate and normative ί η any regular, traditional civilization, can η ο
longer be so ί η an abnormal one-in an environment that is utterly dif-
ferent socially, psychically, intellectually, and materially; ί η a climate of
general dissolution; ί η a system ruled by scarcely restrained disorder,
and anyway lacking any legitimacy from above. Thence come the spe-
cific problems that Ι intend to treat here.
There is an important point to clarify at the outset regarding the
attitude to be taken toward "survivals." Even now, especially ί η Western
Europe, there are habits, institutions, and customs from the world of
yesterday (that is, from the pourgeois world) that have a certain persis-
tence. Ι η fact, when crisis is mentioned today, what is meant is precisely
the bourgeois world: it is the bases of bourgeois civilization and society
that suffer these crises and are struck by dissolution. This is not what Ι
call the world of Tradition. Socially, politically, and culturally, what is
crashing down is the system that took shape after the revolution of the
Third Estate and the first industrial revolution, even though there were
often mixed υ ρ ί η it some remnants of a more ancient order, drained of
their original vitality.
What kind of relationship can the human type whom Ι intend to
treat here have with such a world? This question is essential. Ο η it
depend both the meaning to be attributed to the phenomena of crisis
and dissolution that are ever more apparent today, and the attitude to
be assumed ί η the face of them, and toward whatever they have not yet
undermined and destroyed.
The answer to this question can ο η Υ be negative. The human type
Ι have in mind has nothing to do with the bourgeois world. He must
consider everything bourgeois as being recent and antitraditional, born
from processes that ί η themselves are negative and subversive. Ι η many
cases, one can see ί η the present critical phenomena a kind of nem-
esis or rebound effect.
4
Although Ι cannot go into details here, it is the
very forces that, ί η their time, were set to work against the previous,
traditional European civilization that have rebounded against those
who summoned them, sapping them ί η their turn and carrying to a
further degree the general process of disintegration. This appears very
clearly, for e
relationship
the successi,
and liberalis
revolution si
ter, having Ι
eradicating t
Ι η view ι
the solution
world, defen
currents of d
mate or rein
tional values
Ι η the fi
clearer evef)
wars and th
self-deceptio
formations ti
The energies
liberation, aJ
yesterday's V\
to those stru
has made th(
the second ρ
be inadmissil
traditional ν
values, but tl
Thus to]
ι η any way V\
with the inte
a feeble gras]
them and dr.
mise. Ι say Ά
to the
attack-in sc
rently mount,
ο him-
η that,
can η ο
rly dif-
o.ate ο ί
>order,
le spe-
ng the
Testern
)fld ο ί
persis-
ecisely
.ociety
what Ι
vhat is
ofthe
ewere
ned ο ί
end to
Ο η it
f crisis
ude to
tot yet
n type
must
, born
many
: nem-
. is the
γ
those
g to a
'S very
The Modern World and Traditional Man 5
clearly, for example, ί η the socioeconomic field, through the obvious
relationship between the bourgeois revolution ο ί the Third Estate and
the successive socialist and Marxist movements; through democracy
and liberalism ο η the one hand, and socialism ο η the other. The first
revolution simply prepared the way for the second, whereupon the lat-
ter, having let the bourgeoisie perform that function, aimed solely at
eradicating them.
Ι η view ο ί this, there is one solution to be eliminated right away:
the solution ο ί those who want to rely ο η what is left ο ί the bourgeois
world, defending and using it as a bastion against the more extreme
currents ο ί dissolution and subversion, even ί Ε they have tried to reani-
mate or reinforce these remnants with some higher and more tradi-
tional values.
Ι η the first place, considering the general situation that becomes
clearer every day since those crucial events that are the two world
wars and their repercussions, to adopt such an orientation signifies
self-deception as to the existence ο ί material possibilities. The trans-
formations that have already taken place go too deep to be reversible.
The energies that have been liberated, or which are ί η the course ο ί
liberation, are not such as can be reconfined within the structures ο ί
yesterday's world. The very fact that attempts at reaction have referred
to those structures alone, which are void ο ί any superior legitimacy,
has made the subversive forces all the more vigorous and aggressive. Ι η
the second place, such a path would lead to a that would
be inadmissible as an ideal, and perilous as a tactic. As Ι have said, the
traditional values ί η the sense that Ι understand them are not bourgeois
values, but the very antithesis ο ί them.
Thus to recognize any validity ί η those survivals, to associate them
ί η any way with traditional values, and to validate them with the latter
with the intentions already described, would be either to demonstrate
a feeble grasp ο ί the traditional values themselves, or else to diminish
them and drag them down to a deplorable and risky form ο ί compro-
mise. Ι say "risky" because however one attaches the traditional ideas
to the residual forms ο ί bourgeois civilization, one exposes them to the
attack-in some respects inevitable, legitimate, and necessary-cur-
rently mounted against that civilization.
. ι
Ι
!
6 Orientations
One is therefore obliged to turn to the opposite solution, even ί ί
things thereby become still more difficult and one runs into another
type ο ί risk. It is good to sever every link with all that which is des-
tined sooner or later to collapse. The problem will then be to maintain
one's essential direction without leaning ο η any given or transmitted
form, including forms that are authentically traditional but belong to
past history. Ι η this respect, continuity can ο η Υ be maintained ο η an
essential plane, so to speak, as an inner orientation ο ί being, beside the
greatest possible externalliberty. As we shall soon see, the support that
the Tradition can continue to give does not refer to positive structures,
regular and recognized by some civilization already formed by it, but
rather to that doctrine that contains its principles ο η Υ ί η their supe-
rior, preformal state, anterior to particular historical formulations:
a state that ί η the past had η ο pertinence to the masses, but had the
character ο ί an esoteric doctrine.
For the rest, given the impossibility ο ί acting positively ί η the sense ο ί
a real and general return to the normal system, and given the impossibil-
ity, within the climate ο ί modern society, culture, and customs, ο ί mold-
ing one's whole existence ί η an organic and unitary manner, it remains
to be seen ο η what terms one can accept situations ο ί utter dissolution
without being inwardly touched by them. What ί η the current phase-
which is, ί η the last analysis, a transitional one-can be chosen, sepa-
rated from the rest, and accepted as a free form ο ί behavior that is not
outwardly anachronistic? Can one thus measure oneself against what is
most advanced ί η contemporary thought and lifestyle, while remaining
inwardly determined and governed by a completely different spirit?
The advice "Don't go to the place ο ί defense, but to the place ο ί
attack," might be adopted by the group ο ί differentiated men, late chil-
dren ο ί the Tradition, who are ί η question here. That is to say, it might
be better to contribute to the fall ο ί that which is already wavering and
belongs to yesterday's world than to try to prop it up and prolong its
existence artificially. It is a possible tactic, and useful to prevent the
final crisis from being the work ο ί the opposition, whose initiative one
would then have to suffer. The risks ο ί such a course ο ί action are more
than obvious: there is η ο saying who will have the last word. But ί η the
present epoch then
advantage that it ο
The basic ideas
summarized as folll
The significan<
people deplore tod;
object ο ί the destru
But measured agair
first negation ο ί a v
the crisis ο ί the m(
"negation ο ί a
own way, is positive
ί η the nothingness t
rebellion, and "pr01
generations; or ί η th.
the organized system
ί η question here it m
become the premise j
tion, even if
into another
vhich is des-
to maintain
transmitted
l1t belong to
ained ο η an
~ , beside the
,upport that
~ structures,
:d by it, but
their supe-
rmulations:
Jut had the
the sense of
impossibil-
ls, of mold-
• it remains
dissolution
nt phase-
Dsen, sepa-
that is not
r ι s t what is
remaining
pirit?
le place of
, late chil-
γ , it might
rering and
.rolong its
:event the
iative one
. are more
But ί η the
The Modern World and Traditional Man 7
present epoch there is nothing that is not risky. This is perhaps the one
advantage that it offers to those who are still ο η their feet.
The basic ideas to be drawn from what has been said so far can be
summarized as follows:
The significance of the crises and the dissolutions that so many
people deplore today should be stated, indicating the real and direct
object ο ί the destructive processes: bourgeois civilization and society.
But measured against traditional values, these latter were already the
first negation ο ί a world anterior and superior to them. Consequently
the crisis ο ί the modern world could represent, ί η Hegel's terms, a
"negation ο ί a negation," so as to signify a phenomenon that, ί η its
own way, is positive. This double negation might end ί η nothingness-
ί η the nothingness that erupts ί η multiple forms ο ί chaos, dispersion,
rebellion, and "protest" that characterize many tendencies of recent
generations; or ί η that other nothingness that is scarcely hidden behind
the organized system ο ί material civilization. Alternatively, for the men
ί η question here it might create a new, free space that could eventually
become the premise for a future, formative action.
2
The End of a Cycle
"Ride the Tiger"

The idea just mentioned refers to a perspective that does not really enter
into the argument ο ί this book, because it is not concerned with inner,
personal behavior, but with oute1'"circumstances; not with present-day
reality, but with an unpredictable future upon which one's own conduct
should ί η η ο wise depend.
This is a perspective already alluded to, which sees that the present
time may, ί η the last analysis, be a transitional epoch. Ι will say ο η l Υ a
little about it before approaching our principal problem. The reference
point here is given by the traditional doctrine ο ί cycles and by the idea
that the present epoch, with all its typical phenomena, corresponds to
the terminal phase ο ί a cycle.
The phrase chosen as the title ο ί this book, "ride the tiger," may
serve as a transition between what has been said hitherto, and this
other order ο ί ideas. The phrase is a Far Eastern saying, expressing the
idea that ί ί one succeeds ί η riding a tiger, not ο η l Υ does one avoid hav-
ing it leap ο η one, but ί ί one can keep one's seat and not fall off, one
may eventually get the better ο ί it. Those who are interested may be
reminded ο ί a similar theme found ί η the schools ο ί traditional wisdom,
such as the ''ox-herding'' episodes ο ί ]apanese Zen; while ί η classical
antiquity there is a parallel ί η the trials ο ί Mithras, who lets himself be
dragged by the bull and will not let go until the animal stops, where-
upon Mithras kills it.
This symbolism is applicable at various levels. First, it can refer to
a line ο ί conduct ί η the interior, personal life; then to the appropriate
attitude ί η the face ο ί critical, historical, and collective situations. Ι η
the latter case, we are interested ί η the relation ο ί the symbol to the
8
doctrine ο ί cycles, w
and the particular as
Ages." This is a teacl
cal traits ί η the East ~
caught an echo ο ί it.)
Ι η the classical w
gressive descent fron
Age. Ι η the correspo
Kali Yuga (Dark Ag
a climate ο ί dissolu1
lective, material, pS)
check by a higher la,
state ο ί freedom anc
for this situation, s a ~
Kali is a female divil
ο ί the world and ο ί 1
as a goddess ο ί sex a
ing," that is, latent ί l
to be completely aw:
Everything ρ ο ί η
reached ί η recent tin
ety ο ί the West, fron
It is not too forced :
present epoch stand:
which everything tu
made many centuri
strangely timely tod
above regarding the
associated here witl
Ι η fact, the texl
also declare that tht
forces were more ο
celled ί η the final a
ferent human type
Not ο η l Υ that, but ~
circumstances, such
cle
"
loes not really enter
Incerned with inner,
ot with present-day
1 one's own conduct
;ees that the present
ch. Ι will say on1y a
b1em. The reference
c1es and by the idea
ena, corresponds 10
ride the tiger," may
l hitherto, and this
ying, expressing the
does one avoid hav-
.nd not fall off, one
~ interested may be
traditiona1 wisdom,
1; whi1e ί η c1assica1
who 1ets himself be
llima1 s1ops, where-
First, it can refer 10
1 to the appropriate
ective situations. Ι η
f the symbo1 10 the
The End of α Cycle 9
doctrine of cyc1es, with regard 10 both the genera1 structure of his10ry
and the particu1ar aspect of it that refers 10 the sequence of the "Four
Ages." This is a teaching that, as Ι have shown e1sewhere,! bears identi-
ca1 traits ί η the East and ί η the ancient West. (Giambattista Vico simp1y
caught an echo of it.)
Ι η the c1assica1 wor1d, it was presented ί η terms of humanity's pro-
gressive descent from the Go1den Age 10 what Hesiod called the Iron
Age. Ι η the corresponding Hindu teaching, the fina1 age is called the
Ka1i Yuga (Dark Age). Its essentia1 qua1ity is emphatically said 10 be
a c1imate of disso1ution, ί η which all the forces-individua1 and co1-
1ective, materia1, psychic, and spiritua1-that were previous1y he1d ί η
check by a higher 1aw and by influences of a superior order pass in10 a
state of freedom and chaos. The texts of Tantra have a striking image
for this situation, saying that it is the time when Ka1i is "wide awake."
Ka1i is a fema1e divinity symbo1izing the e1ementary, primordia1 forces
of the wor1d and of 1ife, but ί η her "lower" aspects she is a1so presented
as a goddess of sex and orgiastic rites. Ι η previous ages she was "sleep-
ing," that is, 1atent ί η the 1atter aspects, but ί η the Dark Age she is said
10 be comp1ete1y awake and active.
2
Everything points 10 the fact that exact1y this situation has been
reached ί η recent times, having for its epicenter the civi1ization and soci-
ety of the West, from which it has rapid1y spread over the who1e p1anet.
It is not 100 forced an interpretation to 1ink this with the fact that the
present epoch stands under the z o d i a ~ a 1 sign of Aquarius, the waters ί η
which everything turns 10 a fluid and form1ess state. Thus predictions
made many centuries ago-for these ideas go back that far-appear
strange1y time1y 1oday. One finds here an ana10gy 10 what Ι have said
above regarding the prob1em of what attitude is proper 10 the fina1 age,
associated here with riding the tiger.
Ι η fact, the texts that discuss the Ka1i Yuga and the Age of Ka1i
a1so dec1are that the norms of 1ife, va1id during epochs ί η which divine
forces were more or 1ess a1ive and active, must be considered as can-
celled ί η the fina1 age. During the 1atter there 1ives an essentially dif-
ferent human type who is incapab1e of following the ancient precepts.
Not on1y that, but because of the different historica1 and even p1anetary
circumstances, such precepts, even if followed, wou1d not yie1d the same
10 Orientations
results. For this reason, different norms apply, and the rule ο ί secrecy is
lifted from certain truths, a certain ethic, and particular "rites" to which
the rule previously applied ο η account ο ί their dangerous character and
because they contravened the forms ο ί a normal existence, regulated by
the sacred tradition. Ν ο one can fail to see the significance ο ί this con-
vergence ο ί views. Ι η this as ί η other points, my ideas, far from having a
personal and contingent character, are essential1y linked to perspectives
already known to the world ο ί Tradition, when abnormal situations ί η
general were foreseen and analyzed.
We shal1 now examine the principle ο ί "riding the tiger" as applied
to the external world and the total environment. lts significance can
be stated as follows: ~ h e n a cycle ο ί civilization is reaching its end, it
is difficult to achieve anything by resisting it and by directly opposing
the forces ί η motion. The current is too strong; one would be over-
whelmed. The essential thing is not to let oneself be impressed by the
omnipotence and apparent triumph ο ί the forces ο ί the epoch. These
forces, devoid ο ί connection with any higher principle, are ί η fact ο η
a short chain. One should not become fixated ο η the present and ο η
things at hand, but keep ί η view the conditions that may come about
ί η the future. Thus the principle to fol1ow could be that ο ί letting the
forces and processes ο ί this epoch take their own course, while keeping
oneself firm and ready to intervene when "the tiger, which cannot leap
ο η the person riding it, is tired ο ί running." The Christian injunction
"Resist not evil" may have a similar meaning, ί ί taken ί η a very par-
ticular way. One abandons direct action and retreats to a more internal
position.
The perspective offered by the doctrine ο ί cyclical laws is implicit
here. When one cycle closes, another begins, and the point at which
a given process reaches its extreme is also the point at which it turns
ί η the opposite direction. But there is still the problem ο ί continuity
between the two cycles. Τ ο use an image from Hoffmansthal, the posi-
tive solution would be that ο ί a meeting between those who have been
able to stay awake through the long night, and those who may appear
the next morning. But one cannot be sure ο ί this happening. lt is impos-
sible to foresee with certainty how, and ο η what plane, there can be any
continuity between the cycle that is nearing its end and the next one.
Thereforc
have an :
mean to!
term, shc
lacking rl
a new ml
after us,
results ο ι
BefoI
maybeu:
concerns
zations, e
the crisis
that mod
measure
see there.
life that ]
tive orga
wondere(
revival aI
lt is i
a propos
"intel1ec1
note tha1
least paI
to η ο η - Ε
this, hov
between
one is m(
ο η existe
is now f(
influenc(
"modern
forms ο ί
steadily]
"colonia
nd the rule of secrecy is
rticular "rites" to which
langerous character and
existence, regulated by
,ignificance of this η
ideas, far from having a
ly linked to perspectives
abnormal situations ί η
,ng the tiger" as applied
π Its significance can
η is reaching its end, it
1d by directly opposing
ι one would be over-
elf be impressed by the
:es of the epoch. These
)rinciple, are ί η fact ο η
ο η the present and ο η
s that may come about
ld be that of letting the
η course, while keeping
iger, which cannot leap
he Christian injunction
if taken ί η a very par-
:reats to a more internal
cyclical laws is implicit
and the point at which
point at which it turns
: problem of continuity
the posi-
η those who have been
those who may appear
• happening. It is impos-
: plane, there can be any
• end and the next one.
The End of α Cycle 11
Therefore the line of conduct to be followed ί η the present epoch must
have an autonomous character and an immanent, individual value. Ι
mean to say that the attraction of positive prospects, more or less short-
term, should not play an important part ί η it. They might be entirely
lacking right up to the end of the cycle, and the possibilities offered by
a new movement beyond the zero point might concern others coming
after us, who may have held equally firm without awaiting any direct
results or exterior changes.
Before leaving this topic and resuming my principal argument, it
may be useful to mention another point connected to cyclicallaws. This
concerns the relationship between Western civilization and other civili-
zations, especially those of the East. Among those who have recognized
the crisis of the modern world, and who have also abandoned the idea
that modern civilization is the civilization par excellence, the zenith and
measure of all others, some have turned their eyes to the East. They
see there, to a certain degree, a traditional and spiritual orientation to
life that has long ceased to exist ί η the West as the basis for the effec-
tive organization of the various realms of existence. They have even
wondered whether the East might furnish useful reference points for a
revival and reintegration of the West.
It is important to have a clear view of the domain to which such
a proposition might apply. If it is simply a matter of doctrines and
"intellectual" contacts, the attempt is legitimate. But one should take
note that valid examples and pQints of reference are to be found, at
least partially, ί η our own traditional past, without having to turn
to non-European civilizations. Not much is to be gained by any of
this, however. It would be a matter of conversations at a high level
between isolated individuals, cultivators of metaphysical systems. If
one is more concerned with real influences that have a powerful effect
ο η existence, one should have η ο illusions about them. The East itself
is now following ί η our footsteps, ever more subject to the ideas and
influences that have led us to the point at which we find ourselves,
"modernizing" itself and adopting our own secular and materialistic
forms of life. What is still left of Eastern traditions and character is
steadily losing ground and becoming marginalized. The liquidation of
"colonialism" and the material independence that Eastern peoples are
12 Orientations
acquiring vis-a-vis Europe are closely accompanied by an ever more
blatant subjection to the ideas, the mores, and the "advanced" and
"progressive" mentality ο ί the West.
Based ο η the doctrine ο ί cycles, it may be that anything ο ί value
from the point ο ί view ο ί a man ο ί Tradition, either ί η the East or
elsewhere, concerns a residual legacy that survives, υ ρ to a point, not
because it belongs to areas that are truly untouched by the principle ο ί
decline, but merely because this process is still ί η an early phase there.
For such civilizations it is ο η Υ a matter ο ί time before they find them-
selves at the same point as ourselves, knowing the same problems and
the same phenomena ο ί dissolution under the sign ο ί "progress" and
modernity. The tempo may even be much faster ί η the East. We have
the example ο ί China, which in-two decades has traveled the whole way
from an imperial, traditional civilization to a materialistic and atheist
communist regime-a journey that the Europeans took centuries to
accomplish.
Outside the circles ο ί scholars and specialists ί η metaphysical
disciplines, the "myth ο ί the East" is therefore a fallacy. "The desert
encroaches": there is η ο other civilization that can serve as support;
we have to face our problems alone. The ο η Υ prospect offered us as a
counterpart ο ί the cyclicallaws, and that ο η Υ hypothetical, is that the
process ο ί decline ο ί the Dark Age has first reached its terminal phases
with us ί η the West. Therefore it is not impossible that we would also be
the first to pass the zero point, ί η a period ί η which the other civiliza-
tions, entering later into the same current, would find themselves more
or less ί η our current state, having abandoned-"superseded"-what
they still offer today ί η the way ο ί superior values and traditional forms
ο ί existence that attract us. The consequence would be a reversal ο ί
roles. The West, having reached the point beyond the negative limit,
would be qualified to assume a new function ο ί guidance or command,
very different from the material, techno-industrial leadership that it
wielded ί η the past, which, once it collapsed, resulted ο η Υ ί η a general
leveling.
This rapid overview ο ί general prospects and problems may have
been useful to some readers, but Ι shall not dwell further ο η these mat-
ters. As Ι have said, what interests us here is the field ο ί personal life;
and from that ρ ο
certain experien(
ferent from whal
ι we nee,
anything the futt
more
" and
va1ue
ast or
Lt, not
ip1e of
there.
them-
LS and
" and
: have
leway
ttheist
'ies to
ysica1
desert
: ψ ο r t ;
lS as a
.at the
)hases
lso be
vi1iza-
more
-what
forms
sa1 of
1imit,
nand,
:hat it
enera1
r have
: mat-
t11ife;
The End ο ( α Cycle 13
and from that point of view, ί n defining the attitude to be taken toward
certain experiences and processes of today, having consequences dif-
ferent from what they appear to have for practically all our contem-
poraries, we need to estab1ish autonomous positions, independent of
anything the future may or may not bring.
ό r
-0- PART 2
Ι π the World
Where God
IS Dead
3
European Nihilism
The Dissolution of Morals
For the symbolic expression ο ί the complex process that has led to the
present situation ο ί crisis ί η matters ο ί morals and the vision ο ί life, the
best formulation is that ο ί "God is dead."l
For our purposes, we can take Nietzsche's theme as our point ο ί
departure, because it has lost nothing ο ί its validity and relevance. It
has been rightly said that Nietzsche's personality and thought also have
a symbolic character. Robert Reininger writes: "This is a struggle for
the sake ο ί modern man, that man who η ο longer has any roots ί η the
sacred soil ο ί tradition, wavering ί η search ο ί himself between the peaks
ο ί civilization and the abysses ο ί barbarism, trying to find a satisfactory
meaning for an existence completely left to itself."2
Friedrich Nietzsche is the one who best foresaw ''European nihil-
ism" as a future and a destiny "which proclaims itself everywhere by
the voice ο ί a thousand signs and a thousand presages." The "great
event, obscurely suspected, that God is dead," is the principle ο ί the
collapse ο ί all values. From this point, morality is deprived ο ί its sanc-
tion and "incapable ο ί maintaining itself," and the interpretation and
justification formerly given to all norms and values disappear.
Dostoyevsky expressed the same idea ί η the words, Ί ί God does
not exist, everything is permitted."3
"The death ο ί God" is an image that characterizes a whole histori-
cal process. The phrase expresses "unbelief turned to daily reality," a
desacralization ο ί existence and a total rift with the world ο ί Tradition
that, beginning ί η the West at about the period ο ί the Renaissance and
humanism, has increasingly assumed the character ο ί an obvious and
irreversible state ο ί affairs for present-day humanity. This state is η ο
16
=
less real where it ί
and surrogates ο ί
We must disti:
elementary fact is
human life loses
ments ο ί nihilism
rendered indepenc
the sole authority
first phenomenon
it from consciousr
principle descends
rationalistic phase
which, incidentall
speculative philosc
theory ο ί the catej
mous morality."
But once mon
tive relationship c
invulnerable ί ο υ η
"autonomous mOI
tance to any natul
shalt" that is a mc
where one tries to
tify that content, .
capable ο ί thinkin
Kantian ethics. Ir
does not imply th,
premises that dep(
state ο ί affairs ί η
The phase ο ί ι
defined by utilitat
absolute basis for
what is left ο ί mOI
advantage and for
already visible beh
nal restraint, every
L
)rals
ι has led to the
ision of life, the
as our point of
nd relevance. It
ought also have
s a struggle for
ι η Υ roots ί η the
:ween the peaks
Id a satisfactory
nihil-
everywhere by
The "great
principle of the
ived of its sanc-
and
ι
, Ί God does
ι whole histori-
laily reality," a
rld of Tradition
enaissance and
ι obvious and
rhis state is η ο
-
European Nihilism 17
less real where it is η ο yet clearly visible, owing to a regime of doubles
and surrogates of the "God who is dead."
We must distinguish various stages of the process ί η question. The
elementary fact is a fracture ο ί an ontological character, through which
human life loses any real reference to transcendence. Α Ι Ι the develop-
ments of nihilism are already virtually contained ί η this fact. Morality
rendered independent from theology and metaphysics and founded ο η
the sole authority of reason-so-called "autonomous" morality-is the
first phenomenon to take shape after the death of God, trying to hide
ί from consciousness. When the level of the sacred is lost, the absolute
principle descends to the level ο ί pure human morality. This defines the
rationalistic phase ο ί the "stoicism ο ί duty" and ο ί "moral fetishism,"
which, incidentally, is one ο ί the characteristics ο ί Protestantism. Ι η
speculative philosophy, this phase has as its sign ο τ symbol the Kantian
theory of the categorical imperative, ethical rationalism, and "autono-
mous morality."
But once morality has lost its root, which is the original and effec-
tive relationship ο ί man with a higher world, ί ceases to have any
invulnerable foundation, and the critics soon have the better of it. Ι η
"autonomous morality," which is secular and rational, the ο η Υ resis-
tance to any natural impulse is an empty and rigid command, a "thou
shalt" that is a mere echo ο ί the ancient, living law. Then at the ρ ο ί η
where one tries to give this "thou shalt" some firm content and to jus-
tify that content, the ground gives way._ There is η ο support for those
capable ο ί thinking it through to the end. This is already the case with
Kantian ethics. Ι η reality, there is η ο "imperative" at this stage that
does not imply the presumed, axiomatic value ο ί certain unexplained
premises that depend simply ο η a personal equation or ο η the accepted
state ο ί affairs ί η a given society.
The phase ο ί dissolution that follows that of ethical rationalism is
defined by utilitarian ο τ "social" ethics. Renouncing any intrinsic ο τ
absolute basis for "good" and "evil," the justification proposed for
what is left of moral norms is whatever suits the individual for his own
advantage and for his material tranquility ί η sociallife. But nihilism is
already visible behind this morality. When there is η ο longer any inter-
nal restraint, every action and behavior appears licit so long as the outer
18 1n the World Where God Is Dead
sanctions of society's laws can be avoided, or if one is indifferent to
them. Nothing any 10nger has an intrinsic norm and an imperative char-
acter. lt is just a matter of adjusting to society's codes, which take the
place of the superseded laws ο ί religion. After Puritanism and ethical
rigorism, this is the orientation of the bourgeois world: toward social
idols and conformism founded ο η convenience, cowardice, hypocrisy,
or inertia. But the individualism of the end of the nineteenth century
marked ί η its turn the beginning of an anarchic dissolution that rapidly
spread and intensified. It had already prepared the chaos hiding behind
the ς ο ί apparent orderliness.
The previous phase, limited ί η its extent, had been that ο ί the
Romantic hero: the man who feels himself alone ί η the face of divine
indifference, and the superior individual who despite everything reaf-
firms himself ί η a tragic context. He breaks accepted laws, but not ί η
the sense of denying their validity; rather, he claims for himself excep-
tional rights to what is forbidden, be it good or ί Ι The process exhausts
itself, for example, ί η a man like Max Stirner, who saw ί η all moral-
ity the ultimate form ο ί the divine fetish that was to be destroyed. He
denounced the "beyond" that exists within man and that tries to give
him rules as being a "new heaven" that is merely the insidious transposi-
tion ο ί the external, theological beyond, which has been negated.
4
With
this conquest of the "interior god" and the exaltation of the "Unique"
that is free from rules and "rests its cause ο η nothingness," opposing
itself to every value and pretense ο ί society, Stirner marks the end of
the road trodden by the nihilistic social revolutionaries (to whom the
term nihilism was originally applied)-but trodden ί η the name of uto-
pian social ideas ί η which they always believed: ideas such as "justice,"
"liberty," and "humanity," as opposed to the injustice and tyranny that
they saw ί η the existing order.
Turning to Nietzsche, the European nihilism that he predicted as
a general, not just a sporadic, phenomenon attacks not ο η Υ the field
of morality ί η a strict sense, but also that of truth, of worldviews, and
of ends. The "death ο ί God" is associated with this 10ss ο ί any mean-
ing to life, any superior justification for existence. Nietzsche's theme
is well known: that a need for evasion and a surrender ο ί life have
brought about the invention of a "world of truth" or a "world of val-
μ ι
ues" separate from,
ized as false and wo
of being, goodness,
world of becoming,
structed world diss
sion. Nietzsche reve;
human"-and irrati
spirit" and "immon
"superior" and "spi
ί η most cases as the
Ο η these
or rejected from th
"God" and "truth"
conclusion is that "
to be." This is wha
is the beginning of
devoid of any meal
and restraints hav4
find a parallel ί η Ι
invented God just
"alienation of the
by Sartre, when h
the sense ο ί being
it says that even ί
reduced to itself ί η
itself that could gi
Thus there ar,
moral rebellion. Τ
had implicitly nou
type of man, they
sense, whose chie!
nality of the hum:
European Nihilism 19
ues" separate from, and ί η opposition to, this world, now character-
ized as false and worthless. Another world has been ν a world
ο ί being, goodness, and spirit as a negation or condemnation ο ί the
world ο ί becoming, ο ί the senses, and ο ί ν reality. But that con-
structed world ν once it was ν that it was an ί Ι Ι υ
sion. Nietzsche ν its genesis and pointed out its human-"all ο
human" -and irrational roots. His contribution to nihilism as a "free
spirit" and "immoralist" has been precisely his interpretation ο ί certain
"superior" and "spiritual" ν not ο η Υ as simple ν impulses, but
ί η most cases as the results ο ί a "decadent" and enfeebled life.
Ο η these terms, all that remains real is what had been negated
or rejected from the point ο ί ν ο ί that other, "superior" world ο ί
"God" and "truth"-the world ο ί what ought to be, not ο ί what is. The
conclusion is that "what ought to be is not; what is, is what ought not
to be." This is what Nietzsche called the "tragic phase" ο ί nihilism. It
is the beginning ο ί the "misery ο ί man without God." Existence seems
ν ο ί any meaning, any goal. While all ν moral ν
and restraints ν fallen away, so ν all supports. Once more we
find a parallel ί η ν where he makes ν say that man
ν God just to be able to go ο η ν

God, therefore, as an
"alienation ο ί the 1." The terminal situation is ν ί η drastic form
by Sartre, when he declares that "existenkalism is not an atheism ί η
the sense ο ί being reduced to ν that God does not exist. Rather
it says that ν ί ί God existed, nothing would change." Existence is
reduced to itself ί η its naked reality, without any reference point outside
itself that could ν it a real meaning for man.
Thus there are two phases. The first is a sort ο ί metaphysical or
moral rebellion. The second is the phase ί η which the ν ν that
had implicitly nourished that rebellion ν way and ν For a new
type ο ί man, they are empty. That is the nihilistic phase ί η the proper
sense, whose chief theme is the sense ο ί the absurdity, the pure irratio-
nality ο ί the human condition.
4
From the Precursors
of Nihilism to the
"Lost Youth" and
the Protest Movement
Α current of thought and a "historiography" exist that represent this
process of rebellion and dissolution, or at least its first phases, as hav-
ing been something positive and as a victory. It is another aspect of
contemporary nihilism, whose undeclared basis is a sort of "shipwreck
euphoria." It is well known that the phases of dissolution, beginning
with illuminism and liberalism and proceeding gradually to immanen-
tist historicism (first "idealistic," then materialist and Marxist), have
been interpreted and celebrated as those of the emancipation and reaf-
firmation of man, of progress of the spirit, and of true "humanism."
We shall see later how Nietzsche's program for the postnihilist period
arose, ί η its worse aspects, out of this very mentality. For the present,
there is just one point to be made.
Ν ο God has ever controlled man. Divine despotism is a fantasy,
and so is most of that to which, ί η the illuminist and revolutionary
interpretation, the world of Tradition owes its ordering from above
and its orientation toward the above, its hierarchical system, its vari-
ous forms of legitimate authority and sacral power. No-the true and
essential foundation of this whole system is the particular inner struc-
ture, the capacity of recognition, and the various inborn interests of a
type of man who nowadays has virtually disappeared. Man, at a given
moment, wanted to "be free." He was allowed to be so, and he was
allowed to throw ο Η the chains that did not bind him so much as sus-
tain him. Thereupon he was allowed to suffer all the consequences of
20
-
his liberation, fo
"God is dead" ( ο
tence becomes th
everything is allo
is known ί η the ]
objectively "beyo
Ι η recent timl
the existential an
and shaken only
relevance for gen
dealing with "prc
alist pathos of ye
incongruous. For
sidered it a natur;
it not to be orderl
most bearable an
its counterpart aI
and more reducec
solution of any u
process is a regil
deceptive for not
summarizes it wl
Religion is the c
ο ί the people; a
was that an ο ρ ί
the people, oh.
another opium
But once this
assemblage to cc
the denial of ever
senselessness of a
tential theme of n
whole system of 1
new, earthbound
occur forms of θ
resent this
es, as hav-
, aspect ο ί
shipwreck
beginning
lmmanen-
xist), have
1 and reaf-
lmanism."
list period
le present,
a fantasy,
olutionary
above
Ω its vari-
le true and
lner struc-
:erests ο ί a
ι at a given
nd he was
IlCh as sus-
quences ο ί
From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" 21
his liberation, following ineluctably up to his present state ί η which
"God is dead" (or "God has withdrawn," as Bernanos says), and exis-
tence becomes the field of absurdity where everything is possible and
everything is allowed. Nothing has acted ί η all of this but the law that
is known ί η the Far East as the law of actions and reactions, which is
objectively "beyond good and evil" and beyond any petty morality.
Ι η recent times, the fracture has extended from the moral plane to
the existential and ontological. Values that were previously questioned
and shaken only by a few precursors ί η relative isolation now lose all
relevance for general consciousness ί η everyday life. One is η ο longer
dealing with "problems" but with a state of affairs ί η which the immor-
alist pathos ο ί yesterday's rebels seems increasingly old-fashioned and
incongruous. For some time, a good part ο ί Western humanity has con-
sidered it a natural thing for existence to lack any real meaning, and for
it not to be ordered by any higher principle, arranging their lives ί η the
most bearable and least disagreeable way they can. Ο ί course this has
its counterpart and inevitable 'consequence ί η an inner life that is more
and more reduced, formless, feeble, and elusive, and ί η a growing dis-
solution ο ί any uprightness and character. Another aspect of the same
process is a regime ο ί compensations and anesthetics that is η ο less
deceptive for not being recognized as such. Α character ί η Hemingway
summarizes it when he says:
Religion is the opium ο ί the people ... And Π Ο Σ economics is the opium
ο ί the people; along with patriotism ... What about sexual intercourse;
was that an opium of the people? ... But drink was a sovereign opium of
the people, oh, an excellent opium. Although some prefer the radio,
another opium of the people, a cheap one ... 1
But once this sensation occurs, the ς may start to waver, the
assemblage to collapse, and the dissolution ο ί values is followed by
the denial of everything one has resorted to ί η order to make up for the
senselessness ο ί a life henceforth reduced to itself. Then comes the exis-
tential theme ο ί nausea and disgust, ο ί the void that is sensed behind the
whole system ο ί bourgeois life, the theme ο ί the absurdity ο ί the whole
new, earthbound "civilization." Where the sensation is most acute there
occur forms ο ί existential trauma and states that have been called "the
i -
22 1n the World Where God Is α
spectrality of ν "the degradation of ν reality," "existential
alienation." One also notices that the sporadic experiences of intellectu-
als and artists of the past become modes of ν occurring ί η the
natural course of things for certain groups of the younger generation.
Ο η Ι Υ yesterday it was a matter of writers, painters, and "damned
poets" ν ο η the edge, often alcoholics, mingling their talents with
the climate of existential dissolution and with rebellion against
established ν Typical ί η this regard is the case of Rimbaud, whose
extreme form of rebellion was the renunciation of his own genius,
poetic silence, and immersion ί η practical ν Another is the case
of Lautreamont, ν by existential trauma to the morbid exaltation
of ν horror, and formless elementarity (Maldoror, the personage of
his poems, says that ι has ν life like a wound, and forbidden
the suicide from curing his injury"). Then there are those isolated indi-
ν ν to ν like ]ack London and the early Ernst ί
who seek new horizons ο η distant lands and seas; while for the others
ν seems ί η order, safe and sound, as under the banner of sci-
ence they hymn the triumphal march of progress, scarcely troubled by
the noise of anarchist bombs.
Already after World War Ι processes of this type had begun to
spread, announcing the final phases of nihilism. At first such harbin-
gers remained at the margins of life, ο η the frontier-zone of art. The
most significant and radical of them all was perhaps Dadaism, the end
result of the deepest impulses that had nourished the ν ν
ments of ν art. But Dadaism negated the ν categories of
art, showing the transition to the chaotic forms of a life ν of any
rationality, any restraint, any coherence; it was not just the acceptance
but the exaltation of the absurd and the contradictory, of nonsense and
pointlessness taken just as they are.
Surrealism took υ ρ some similar themes, ί η part, when it refused
to adapt life to the "derisory conditions of all existence down here."
Sometimes the path was ί η fact followed to the ν end, as with
the suicide of surrealists like Vache, ν and Rigault; the latter
reproached the others for being able to do nothing but literature and
poetry. Indeed, when the young Andre Breton declared that the simplest
surrealist act would be to go out into the street and shoot passersby
22
μ
at rand,
World'
to pract
ο η Υ ρ ο
solutior
Wit
and wi1
was effI
a youth
inauthe:
sign of 1
Ο η
young r
like str:
and figl
where (
thing-
ί η a jus1
rifice of
ν c
not to tl
Ι ί ο η is a
Thii
logs the
rubble].
ν
to their
More siJ
Beat get
tial posi
is merel
cold anI
pseudo-
meaninj
less ragt
ι
existentia1
intellectu-
:ing ί η the
teration.
. "damned
l1ents with
.onagainst
,ud, whose
ι τ η ι
is the case
exa1tation
rsonage ο ί
forbidden
11ated indi-
nst ί
the others
lner ο ί sci-
roub1ed by
Ι begun to
.ch harbin-
)f art. The
m, the end
.ous move-
Itegories ο ί
ived ο ί any
acceptance
nsense and
1 it refused
Dwn here."
.d, as with
; the 1atter
:rature and
:he simp1est
t passersby
\
L
From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" 23
at random,2 he was anticipating what happened more than once after
Wor1d War Π when some ο ί the younger generation passed from theory
to practice. Β Υ absurd and destructive actions, they sought to attain the
on1y possib1e meaning ο ί existence, after rejecting suicide as the radica1
solution for the metaphysically abandoned individual.
With the further traumatization brought about by Wor1d War Π
and with the collapse ο ί a new set ο ί fa1se va1ues, the same current
was effective1y diffused ί η characteristic and endemic fashion among
a youth that regarded itself as burned-out or 10st. Its broad margin ο ί
inauthenticity, pose, and caricature does not 1essen its va1ue as a 1iving
sign ο ί the times now approaching their fina1 nadir.
Ο η the one hand there were the "rebe1s without a cause," the "angry
young men" with their rage and aggression ί η a wor1d where they fe1t
1ike strangers, where they saw η ο sense, η ο va1ues worth embracing
and fighting for. As we have seen, that was the 1iquidation, ί η the wor1d
where God is dead, ο ί those previous forms ο ί revo1t that, despite every-
thing-and even ί η utopian anarchism-still had a fundamenta1 be1ief
ί η a just cause to defend, at the price ο ί any destruction and at the sac-
rifice ο ί one's own 1ife. "Nihi1ism" there referred to the negation ο ί the
va1ues ο ί the wor1d and ο ί the society against which one was rebelling,
not to those ο ί the rebe1s themse1ves. But ί η its current forms, the rebe1-
ί ο η is a sheer, irrationa1 movement "without a flag."
This trend appeared with the "teddy boys," with their German ana-
10gs the Halbstarken, and the generazione deUe macerie [generation ο ί
rubb1e]. Their sty1e was one ο ί aggressive protest, expressed through
vanda1ism and 1aw1ess actions va1ued as "pure acts" ί η co1d witness
to their otherness. Ι η the Slavic countries there were the "hoo1igans."
More significant was the American counterpart, the "hipsters" and the
Beat generation. Rather than intellectua1 attitudes, these were existen-
tia1 positions 1ived out by the young, ο ί which a certain type ο ί nove1
is mere1y a reflection. Compared to the British types, they were more
co1d and unadorned, more corrosive ί η their opposition to everything
pseudo-order1y, rationa1, and coherent-everything that was "square,"
meaning solid, justified, and safe. They showed "a destructive, voice-
1ess rage," as somebody put it, a contempt for "those incomprehensib1e
characters who are capab1e ο ί being serious1y invo1ved with a woman, a
Ι -
24 1n the World Where God 1s Dead
job, a cause" (Norman Podhoretz). 3 The absurdity ο ί what is considered
normal, "the organized insanity ο ί the normal world," seemed all the
more evident to the hipsters ί η the climate ο ί industrialization and fre-
netic activity that, despite all the triumphs ο ί science, was meaningless.
Alienation from their surroundings, absolute refusal to collaborate or
to have any defined position ί η society were the rule ί η this milieu,
which did not ο η Υ include the young, and which recruited its members
not ο η Υ from the lower classes but from all sociallevels, including the
wealthy. Some preferred a new form ο ί nomadic existence; others, to
live at the most elementary level. The methods used by the hipsters to
survive the existential void through strong sensations included alco-
hol, sex, negro jazz, high speed, drugs, and even acts ο ί gratuitous
criminality like those suggestetl ί η Breton's surrealism. They did not
fear experiences ο ί any kind, but sought them out to "receive tremen-
dous blows ο η their own selves" (Norman Mailer). The books ο ί Jack
Kerouac and the poetry ο ί Allen Ginsberg were inspired ί η part by this
climate.
4
But it had already been announced by some authors who were
rightly called the Walt Whitmans, not ο ί the optimistic and hopeful
world ο ί the young American democracy, but ο ί a world ί η collapse.
Beside Dos Passos and others ο ί the same group, the early Henry Miller
may be called the spiritual father ο ί the currents under discussion. It
has been said ο ί him that he is "more than a writer or an artist, a kind
ο ί collective phenomenon ο ί his epoch-an incarnate and vociferous
phenomenon, a raw manifestation ο ί the anguish, the furious despair,
and the infinite horror extending behind the crumbling ς It is
the sense ο ί a tabula rasa, the cosmic silence, the void, the end ο ί a
whole epoch, ί η a prophet who proclaims the end ο ί a world at the
very moment when it is flowering and radiating, at the apogee ο ί its
grandeur and its pestilential contagion."
Miller himself wrote these characteristic words: "From the begin-
ning it was never anything but chaos: it was a fluid which enveloped
me, which Ι breathed ί η through the gills."6 Ά stone forest the center
ο ί which was chaos"7 is the sensation ο ί the ambience ί η which today's
man moves. "Sometimes ί η the dead center, ί η that very heart ο ί chaos,
Ι danced or drank myself silly, or Ι made love, or Ι befriended someone,
1
or Ι planned a new
and bewildering."g
Α partly conveJ
Hermann Hesse ρ υ
feel burned by a d
surroundings. Α w
sations, a rage aga
and a wish to dest
or myself-and to
Ι have always mOS1
complacent health
the mediocre, norn
enfants de l'absura
not fought .... Η
are more than any
the senselessness ο
to us that God has
are not embittered;
When we were bor
The heritage (
been translated, ί ι
forms ο ί life as it
any social-revoluti.
can change things.
als who condemn ]
"Work, read, prep.
η ο thanks, that's n
the end result at
after its triumph, a
it quite plain after 1
has betrayed its ο ι
conformism, more
It is not neces:
traumatized existe
ο ί modern progre!
value as symptom.
dered
11 the
d fre-
gless.
lte or
lilieu,
nbers
19 the
rs, to
ers to
alco-
titous
d not
:men-
f Jack
Υ this
were
tpeful
lapse.
\1iller
on.It
ι kind
:erous
ι
5 It is
1 ο ί a
at the
ο ί its
)eglll-
:loped
:enter
)day's
:haos,
leone,
From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" 25
or Ι planned a new life, but it was all chaos, all stone, and all hopeless
and bewildering."8
Α partly convergent testimony from another direction is that which
Hermann Hesse puts into the mouth ο ί one ο ί his characters: "I'd rather
feel burned by a diabolic pain than to live ί η these sanely temperate
surroundings. Α wild desire flares υ ρ ί η me for intense emotions, sen-
sations, a rage against this whole toneless, flat, normal, sterilized life,
and a wish to destroy something-perhaps a warehouse, a cathedral,
or myself-and to commit outrageous follies .... This ί η fact is what
Ι have always most hated, abhorred, and cursed: this satisfaction, this
complacent healthiness, this plump bourgeois optimism, this life ο ί
the mediocre, normal, common man."9 Paul van den Bosch, ί η his Les
enfants de /'absurde, wrote: "We are the ghosts ο ί a war that we have
not fought .... Having opened our eyes ο η a disenchanted world, we
are more than any others the children ο ί the absurd. Ο η certain days,
the senselessness ο ί the world weighs ο η us like a deformity. It seems
to us that God has died ο ί old age, and we exist without a goal. ... We
are not embittered; we start from zero. We were born among the ruins.
When we were born, the gold was already transmuted into lead."lO
The heritage ο ί the precursors ο ί European nihilism has largely
been translated, ί η these movements ο ί ruined youth, into the crude
forms ο ί life as it is lived. Α η important trait here is the absence ο ί
any social-revolutionary motive and the belief that η ο organized action
can change things. That is the difference from the intellectu-
als who condemn bourgeois society, and from the nihilists ο ί the past.
"Work, read, prepare ί η groups, believe, then have your back broken-
η ο thanks, that's not for me," says one ο ί Kerouac's characters. This is
the end result at which the "revolution" ο ί the left has practically arrived
after its triumph, after passing the phase ο ί simple revolt. Camus made
it quite plain after the period ο ί his communist illusions: The revolution
has betrayed its origins with the constitution ο ί new yokes and a new
conformism, more obtuse and absurd than ever.
It is not necessary to dwell any further ο η these testimonies ο ί a
traumatized existence, nor ο η those whom one might call the "martyrs
ο ί modern progress." As Ι have said, all that interests us here is their
value as symptomatic indices ο ί the times. The forms mentioned here
26 1n the World Where God Is Dead
have also degenerated into extravagant and ephemeral fashions. But
there is η ο denying the causal and necessary connection that unites
them to the world where "God is dead" and η ο substitute has yet been
found for him. When these forms pass, others ο ί the same type will
certainly crop up, according to circumstances, until the present cycle
is exhausted.
=
Ε ι
The S
and tl
It is an important
shown such indiffel
it is time to broadc
evasion and anestb
the meaning ο ί exi
. .
ern SOClOeconomlc
ο ί Marxist-commu
within the orbit ο Ι
proportions than tt.
acute and undisgui:
Ι have already ~
is the interpretatior
the processes that ι : :
ress. This basis is e
ί η that ο ί communj
relationship, which
It is easier to f
the communist my
explicit reference t(
the communist my
the phenomena ο ί :
phenomena are re4
lions. But
h.at unites
.s yet been
type will
:sent cycle
5
Disguises of
European Nihilism
The Socioeconomic Myth
and the Protest Movement
It is an important fact that some ο ί the young people ί η crisis have
shown such indifference to the prospects ο ί social revolution. But now
it is time to broaden our horizons by showing the particular type ο ί
evasion and anesthetization, ο η the part ο ί a humanity that has lost
the meaning ο ί existence, that lurks behind the varieties ο ί the mod-
ern socioeconomic myth, both that ο ί Western "prosperity" and that
ο ί Marxist-communist ideology. Ι η both cases, we still find ourselves
within the orbit ο ί nihilism, and a nihilism ο ί far more spectacular
proportions than those ο ί the extremist groups where the crisis remains
acute and undisguised.
1
Ι have already shown that the actual basiS"Of the myth ί η question
is the interpretation, ο η the part ο ί a well-organized historiography, ο ί
the processes that prepared for European nihilism as constituting prog-
ress. This basis is essentially identical both ί η the "Western" myth and
ί η that ο ί communism. But the two ο ί them are ί η a kind ο ί dialectical
relationship, which reveals their true existential significance.
It is easier to find the elements that betray this ultimate sense ί η
the communist myth, because ο ί its blatant coarseness and its more
explicit reference to the basic motive: the economy. As is well known,
the communist myth takes the form ο ί a violent polemic against all
the phenomena ο ί spiritual crisis that Ι have treated υ ρ to now. These
phenomena are recognized, certainly, but are blamed ο η bourgeois
27
28 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
decadence, the fin de siecle, and anarchic individualism: the symptoms
of bourgeois elements alienated from reality. These are supposed to be
the terminal stages of decomposition of a doomed economic system,
that of capitalism. The crisis is thus presented exclusively as one of val-
ues and ideals serving as superstructure to that system, which, hav-
ing become hypocritical and deceptive, have nothing more to do with
the practical conduct of individuals or with the driving forces of the
epoch. Humanity's existentiallesion is generally explained as an effect
of material, economic organization ί η a society such as the capitalist
one. The true remedy, the start of a "new and authentic humanism," a
human integrity and a "happiness never known before," would then be
furnished by the setting υ ρ of a different socioeconomic system, by the
abolition of capitalism, aoo by the institution of a communist society
of workers, such as is taking place ί η the Soviet area. Karl Marx had
already praised ί η communism "the real appropriation of the human
essence ο η the part of man and for the sake of man, the return of man
to himself as a social being, thus as a human man,"2 seeing ί η it the
equivalent of a perfect naturalism and even a true humanism.
Ι η its radical forms, wherever this myth is affirmed through the
control of movements, organizations, and people, it is linked to a corre-
sponding education, a sort of psychic lobotomy intended methodically
to neutralize and infantilize any form of higher sensibility and interest,
every way of thought that is not ί η terms of the economy and socio-
economic processes. Behind the myth is the most terrible void, which
acts as the worst opiate yet administered to a rootless humanity. Yet
this deception is η ο different from the myth of prosperity, especially
ί η the form it has taken ί η the West. Oblivious of the fact that they are
living ο η a volcano, materially, politically, and ί η relation to the strug-
gle for world domination, Westerners enjoy a technological euphoria,
encouraged by the prospects of the "second industrial revolution" of
the atomic age.
Ι have mentioned a type of dialectic that leads to the demolition
of this theory from the inside, insofar as ί η the communist world the
myth has drawn most of its energy from a misrepresentation. The idea
of states ί η which "individual" problems and "decadent" crises η ο ο η
ger exist is presented as something ο η Υ to be attained ί η the future,
=
whereas thes
and the Ν ο η
the moment
proletarian h
Western soci
a climate of ]
plentiful, eas
does not con
lege of an U]
property of a
same, and ί η
sions the so-,
At all evc
economic idl
misery can b
rial want, ar
tem. Theyas
proletariat tl
nomic condit
dom from w
of existence.
can be lacki1
is η ο correla
lowest and d
human happ
well-being th
epochs of ma
Toynbee has
and spiritual
that
not paradoxi
difficult for b
attenuate an,
to prove him
ter ί η such si
natural selec1
mptoms
ed to be
system,
e ο ί val-
ch, hav-
do with
:8 ο ί the
ι η effect
apitalist
ι a
Ι then be
1, by the
t society
.arx had
: human
l ο ί man
ί η it the
lugh the
a corre-
Iodically
interest,
d socio-
1, which
ility. Yet
Ipecially
theyare
1e strug-
uphoria,
tion" ο ί
molition
'orld the
rheidea
; η ο ο η
: future,
Disguises of European Nihilism 29
whereas these are the very conditions that already obtain ί η the West
and the Nordic countries. It is the fascination ο ί a goal that vanishes at
the moment one reaches it. Ι η fact, the future socioeconomic ideal ο ί
proletarian humanity already exists, spiritually bought and paid for, ί η
Western society, where, to the shame ο ί Marx and Engels' prognosis,
a climate ο ί prosperity has spread to vast social strata ί η the form ο ί a
plentiful, easy, and comfortable existence-a condition that Marxism
does not condemn as such, but ο η Υ because it thinks ο ί it as the privi-
lege ο ί an upper class ο ί capitalist "exploiters," not as the common
property ο ί a homogenized society. But the horizons are essentially the
same, and ί η regard to recent developments, we shall see what conclu-
sions the so-called protest movement has drawn from them.
At all events, the error and the illusion are the same ί η both socio-
economic ideologies, namely the serious assumption that existential
misery can be reduced to suffering ί η one way or another from mate-
rial want, and to impoverishment due to a given socioeconomic sys-
tem. They assume that misery is greater among the disinherited or the
proletariat than among those living ί η prosperous or privileged eco-
nomic conditions, and that it will consequently diminish with the "free-
dom from want" and the general advance ο ί the material conditions
ο ί existence. The truth ο ί the matter is that the meaning ο ί existence
can be lacking as much ί η one group as ί η the other, and that there
is η ο correlation between material and spiritual misery. Ο η Ι Υ to the
lowest and dullest levels ο ί society can one Ρ ι the formula for all
human happiness and wholeness as the well-named "animal ideal," a
well-being that is little better than bovine. Hegel rightly wrote that the
epochs ο ί material well-being are blank pages ί η the history book, and
Toynbee has shown that the challenge to mankind ο ί environmentally
and spiritually harsh and problematic conditions is often the incentive
that awakens the creative energies ο ί civilization.
3
Ι η some cases, it is
not paradoxical to say that the man ο ί good will should try to make life
difficult for his neighbor! It is a commonplace that all the higher virtues
attenuate and atrophy under easy conditions, when man is not forced
to prove himself ί η some way; and ί η the final analysis it does not mat-
ter ί η such situations ί ί a good number fall away and are lost through
natural selection. Andre Breton was right when he wrote that "we must
30 1n the World Where God Is Dead
prevent the artificial precariousness of social conditions from conceal-
ing the real precariousness of the human condition."
But to avoid straying too far from my argument, the point is that the
most acute forms ο ί the modern existential crisis are appearing today at
the margin of a civilization of prosperity, as witness the currents ί η the
new generation that have been described. One sees there rebellion, dis-
gust, and anger manifesting not ί η a wretched and oppressed subprole-
tariat but often ί η young people who lack nothing, even ί η millionaires'
children. And among other things it is a significant fact, statistically
proven, that suicide is much rarer ί η poor countries than ί η rich ones,
showing that the problematic life is felt more ί η the latter than ί η the
former. Blank despair can occur right up to the finishing-post ο ί socio-
economic messianism, asin the musical comedy about a utopian island
where they have everything, "fun, women, and whiskey," but also the
ever-recurrent sense ο ί the emptiness ο ί existence, the sense that some-
thing is still missing.
There exists, therefore, η ο correlation, except possibly a negative
one, between the meaning of life and conditions ο ί economic well-
being. There is a famous example, not recent but from the traditional
world, ο ί the Buddha Shakyamuni. He who ο η a metaphysical plane
radically denounced the emptiness ο ί existence and the deceptions ο ί
the "god of life," pointing out the way of spiritual awakening, was not
a victim ο ί oppression and hunger, not a representative ο ί social strata
like the plebeians ο ί the Roman empire, to whom the revolutionary
sermons ο ί Christianity were first addressed; no, he was ο ί the race
of princes, ί η all the splendor ο ί his power and all the fullness ο ί his
youth. The true significance ο ί the socioeconomic myth, ί η any ο ί its
forms, is as a means ο ί internal anesthetization or prophylaxis, aimed
at evading the problem ο ί an existence robbed ο ί any meaning and at
consolidating ί η every way the fundamental insignificance ο ί modern
man's life. We may therefore speak either ο ί an opiate that is much more
real than that which, according to the Marxists, was fed to a human-
ity as yet unillumined and unevolved, mystified by religious beliefs, or,
from another point ο ί view, ο ί the organized method ο ί an active nihil-
ism. The prospects ί η a goodly part ο ί today's world are more or less
those that Zarathustra attributed to the "last man": "The time is near

ο ί the most
last man "c
happiness, 1
where life ί 1
Ι η this
heavy with
It took its J
the wake ο ]
there is a b
between thl
capitalist w
letarian re,
realized, ί η ;
tem, being;
geois: the v
But alongsil
lng power (
to destroy a
or less corrt
vidual ί η cc
expensive,
that this evl
freedom. TJ
ings ο ί the
tionary Ma
a "global Ρ
lacks any h
character. F
outsiders, ο
World ( ί η w
being the Ο Ι
nothingnes!
ground,'" ο
selves frene1
way the gen
larger scale,
1m conceal-
lt is that the
ng today at
rents ί η the
)ellion, dis-
d subprole-
lillionaires'
statistically
ι rich ones,
than ί η the
1st ο ί socio-
ipian island
)ut also the
that some-
. a negative
Iomic well-
traditional
rsical plane
'ceptions σ ί
ng, was not
ocial strata
volutionary
ο ί the race
lness ο ί his
η any ο ί its
axis, aimed
ning and at
ο ί modern
muchmore
D a human-
; beliefs, or,
lctive nihil-
nore or less
:ime is near
Disguises of European Nihilism 31
ο ί the most despicable ο ί men, who can η ο longer despise himself," the
last man Ό ί the tenacious and pullulating race." "We have invented
happiness, say the last men with a wink," having "abandoned the lands
where life is hard."4
η this context, there is another more recent phenomenon that is
heavy with significance: that ο ί the so-called global protest movement.
It took its rise ί η part from the order ο ί ideas already mentioned. η
the wake ο ί theories such as Marcuse's, it came to the conclusion that
there is a basic similarity, ί η terms σ ί technological consumer society,
between the system ο ί advanced communist countries and that ο ί the
capitalist world, because ί η the former, the original impulse ο ί the pro-
letarian revolution is much diminished. This impulse has now been
realized, inasmuch as the working class has entered the consumer sys-
tem, being assured ο ί a lifestyle that is η ο longer proletarian but bour-
geois: the very thing whose absence was the incentive for revolution.
But alongside this convergence there has become visible the condition-
ing power σ ί one and the same "system," manifesting as the tendency
to destroy all the higher values ο ί life and personality. At the level more
or less corresponding to the "last man" foreseen by Nietzsche, the indi-
vidual ί η contemporary consumer society reckons that it would be too
expensive, indeed absurd, to do without the comfort and well-being
that this evolved society offers him, merely for the sake ο ί an abstract
freedom. Thus he accepts with a good grace all the leveling condition-
ings ο ί the system. This realization has a bypassing ο ί revolu-
tionary Marxism, now deprived σ ί its original motive force, ί η favor σ ί
a "global protest" against the system. This movement, however, also
lacks any higher principle: it is irrational, anarchic, and instinctive ί η
character. For want σ ί anything else, it calls ο η the abject minorities σ ί
outsiders, ο η the excluded and rejected, sometimes even σ η the Third
World ί η which case Marxist fantasies reappear) and σ η the blacks, as
being the ο η Υ revolutionary potential. But it stands under the sign ο ί
nothingness: it is a hysterical "revolution σ ί the void and the 'under-
ground,'" ο ί "maddened wasps trapped ί η a glass jar, who throw them-
selves frenetically against the walls." η all ο ί this it confirms ί η another
way the general nihilistic character ο ί the epoch, and indeed ο η a much
larger scale, for the current protest is η ο longer that ο ί the individuals
32 1n the World Where God 1s Dead
and small groups mentioned earlier, whose intellectuallevel was indu-
bitably higher.
5
Another point should be mentioned, at least cursorily, ί η the cur-
rent climate of dissolution. The collapse of superstructures-of all that
can henceforth only be regarded as superstructures-did not manifest
only ί η the sociological form of denouncing the lies and hypocrisy of
bourgeois life (as ί η Max Nordau, or as ί η the words of Relling to
Gregers ί η Ibsen: "Why do you use that odd word 'ideals'? We have our
own perfectly good word: 'lies"')6 or ί η moral and philosophical nihil-
ism. It is prolonged and completed today by means of a science that,
though false and contaminating if applied to men of other times and
other civilizations, has the power of persuasion when applied to trauma-
tized modern man; this science is none other than psychoanalysis. The
impassioned effort of that philosopher who sought out the secret origin,
the "genealogy" of predominant moral values at the very roots of all
those vital impulses that morality avoids or condemns, who sought thus
to "naturalize" morality by denying it any autonomous or preeminent
dignity, this impassioned effort has given place to the cold, cynical, and
"scientific" methods of "depth psychology," of the exploration of the
subconscious and the unconscious. Ι η the latter, the irrational subsoil
of existence, it has recognized the motive force essential to the whole
life of the soul; from that it deduces the proofs that make an illusion
of the upper world of moral and social conscience with all its values,
all its inhibitions and prohibitions, and its hysterical will to dominate.
Meanwhile, ί η the subterranean zone nothing is at work but a mess of
compulsions toward pleasure and death: Lustprinzip and Todestrieb?
This, as everyone knows, is the essence of Freudianism. Other psy-
choanalytic currents that diverge ί η part from Freud are not substan-
tially different. The evident theme ί η all of them is the regression to the
psychic subsoil, together with a profound traumatization of the human
personality. It is one further aspect of contemporary nihilism, and,
moreover, the symptom of a sickly consciousness, too weak to hold ί η
check the lower regions of the soul with their so-called archetypes, and
which might well be compared to Goethe's "world of the Mothers."g
It is hardly worth pointing out how these destructions converge
with the atmosphere of another typical genre of contemporary litera-

ture, ί η
with th;
absurd 4
the actu
foundat
filled da
T h i ~
speculat
Ι wish ι
truth di
more de
Europe2
death oJ
Disguises of European Nihilism 33
ture, ί η which the sense ο ί the "spectrality ο ί existence" is associated
with that ο ί an obscure, incomprehensible destiny, a fatality, and an
absurd condemnation hanging over man's eternal solitude, taken to be
the actual human condition. It is like the sense ο ί an incomprehensible
foundation ο ί human life that fades into impenetrable and anguish-
filled darkness.
This theme, shown ί η its typical form by Kafka, is not foreign to
speculative existentialism, to which Ι shall return ί η due course. What
Ι wish to underline at this point is that we are not dealing with a
truth discovered by someone who "has been able to feel more and see
more deeply"; it is merely what is perceived ί η the very atmosphere ο ί
European nihilism, and ο ί a humanity that has taken shape after the
death ο ί God.
6
Active Nihilism
Nietzsche
We can now return to the problem that really interests us. Ι η all the
critical situations treated υ ρ to now, their predominant trait is that of
being the obje,fts, indeed the victims, of the destructive processes set ί η
motion: processes which are simply suffered by current humanity. This
holds good both for those who have adapted to a life based ο η noth-
ing and lacking any true direction, helping themselves with a system of
anesthetics and surrogates, and eventually resorting to the surviving
forms of a secure bourgeois existence, and for those who feel the exis-
tential crisis of modern man ί η all of their being, and are consequently
driven toward the kinds of revolt or risky existence that were mentioned
above.
This applies, therefore, to the vast majority of our contemporaries.
Ι η contrast, there is a different and much smaller category of modern
men who, instead of submitting to the nihilist processes, seek to accept
them actively. Ι η particular, there are those who not ο η l Υ admit that
the processes of dissolution are irreversible and that there is η ο going
back, but who would not want to follow that path even if it existed.
They willingly accept their condition of being without support or roots.
Then the problem arises of how far the negative can be transformed
into something positive.
Τ ο someone who has the necessary character to assume such an
attitude, the possibility opens of a new interpretation of the adventure
of mankind wanting to be free, and of the crisis that is the consequence
of this adventure. Thus arises the idea of a trial, and of destructions
that are simply the consequence of not being equal to it, or as one might
say, not being equal to one's own action. Those who are interested may
34
Active Nihilism 35
recall the ancient myths concerning an audacious sacrilege ί η which it
is not the sacrilege ί η itself that brings about the ruin ο ί some symbolic
personage, but lack ο ί the necessary dignity or strength to accomplish
an act that frees one from the divine bonds.
The special human type who concerns us here and who partially fits
the category ί η question may adopt the same point ο ί view. As we recall,
his differentiated character consists ί η facing the problems ο ί modern
man without being a "modern man" himself; he belongs to a different
world and preserves within himself a different existential dimension.
Unlike the others, his problem is not the dramatic search for a basis ( ί η
principle, he already possesses one), but that ο ί his own expression and
confirmation ί η the modern epoch, ί η his life here and now.
With this human type ί η mind, let us examine the theme ο ί "positive
nihilism," or, ί ί one prefers, the transition to the postnihilist stage. Since
it is better to do so from a standpoint inside the modern world, rather
than outside it, we can take as a provisional basis some ο ί Nietzsche's
fundamental ideas, to test their solidity. We may find, ί η fact, that the
more recent exponents ο ί modern thought have gone little further than
Nietzsche ί η their search for a new meaning ο ί life, despite all that is
inconsistent and negative ί η his philosophy.
Nietzsche considered himself "the first perfect nihilist ί η Europe,
because he has already overcome nihilism, having lived it ί η his soul-
having it behind himself, beneath himself, outside himself."l Having
seen that "nihilism is the final, logical conclusion ο ί our great values
and ideals," and having asserted that "we must pass through this nihil-
ism ί η order to grasp the true nature ο ί the 'values' ο ί the past,"2 he
nevertheless considered nihilism as "a pathological, transitional stage"3
and proclaimed the "countermovement" that was destined to supplant
it, without giving up the ground already won.
Nietzsche showed that the point at which one realizes that "God is
dead," that the whole world ο ί "spirit," ο ί good and evil, is only an illu-
sion, and that the only true world is that which was negated or rejected
ί η the name ο ί the former, is the crux ο ί a decisive test. "The weak shat-
ter, the strong destroy what does not shatter them, while those stronger
still go beyond the values that once served them."4 Nietzsche calls this
the "tragic phase" ο ί nihilism, which leads to a reversal ο ί perspectives;
36 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
nihilism at this point appears as a sign of strength, signifying "that the
power to create, to will, has developed far enough that one has η ο fur-
ther need for this general interpretation (of existence), of this introduc-
tion of a meaning (into it)."S ''1t is a measure of one's strength of will
to know how far one can do without a meaning to things, how far one
can bear to live ί η a meaningless world: for then one will organize part
of it."6 Nietzsche calls this positive pessimism, or "the pessimism of
strength,"7 and makes it the premise of a higher ethic. ''1f at first man
needed a god, now he is thrilled with a universal, godless disorder, with
a world of chance, where the fearful, the ambiguous, and the seductive
are part of his very existence." Ι η this world once again made "pure"
and uniquely itself he stands erect, "conqueror of God and of nothing-
ness."8 The probtem of the meaning of life is thus resolved with the
affirmation that life is and can be a value ί η itself.
This brings us to the precise point made above. The significance
of all the crises of recent times can be summarized as follows: a man
wanted to be free, for whom a life of freedom could spell only ruin. Τ ο
say "God is dead" is only an emotional way of stating the basic fact
of the epoch. But Nietzsche himself remarks that having "killed God,
wasn't that perhaps rather too grand of us? Shouldn't we become gods
ί η order to be worthy of it?"9 After recognizing that "nothing exists,
all is permitted,"lO and the "freedom of the spirit," the inevitable conse-
quence is the challenge: "Now prove the nobility of your nature."
Α famous passage of Zarathustra gives the most pregnant formula-
tion to the essence of the crisis. ' Ύ ο υ call yourself free? Let me hear
your ruling thoughts, and not that you have escaped bondage. Are you
one who deserved to escape from it? There are many who threw away
their only worth when they threw away their servitude. Free from what?
Why should Zarathustra care? Your eyes should answer plainly: free
{or what?"ll And Zarathustra warns that it will be terrible to be alone,
without any laws from above oneself, alone with one's own freedom
ί η a desert place and an icy air, judge and avenger of one's own law.
For him who only acquires any worth by serving, for him who had ί η
his bonds not a cause of paralysis but a support, solitude appears as a
curse; he loses courage and his initial pride deflates. These are the sen-
timents, continues Zarathustra, that then assail the free man, and that
Active Nihilism 37
will not fail to kill him ί ί he does not kill them first. Ι η precise terms,
and from a higher point ο ί view, this is the essential ground ο ί modern
man's unhappiness.
Dos1Oyevsky points out the same thing ί η analogous fashion: it is
Kirilov's doctrine. The framework is identical: "Man only invented
God so that he could live without killing himself. And this is the his-
tory ο ί mankind from its origins υ ρ 10 the present day," says Kirilov.
12
The implication is plain: it is a necessity for man to have a center, a
basic value. When he did not find it within himself, he placed it outside
himself, projecting it onto God, whom he supposed to exist, certainly,
but incarnated ί η an ''other,'' and faith ί η this other provisionally solved
the existential problem. Naturally this is not really, as Kirilov says, the
whole meaning ο ί the history ο ί mankind; it is only that ο ί the devo-
tional phase ο ί a theistic religion, a phase that already represents a dis-
integration ο ί the world ο ί Tradition and precedes the critical point
ο ί metaphysical breakdown ο ί which Ι have spoken. The eyes ο ί the
"free man" Kirilov are open: " Ι don't want to believe. Ι know that God
doesn't exist, and can't exist." The consequence is therefore "If God
does not exist, Ι am God .... Τ ο recognize that there is η ο God and not
10 recognize at the same time that one has become God is an absurdity
and an incongruity, because otherwise one would not fail to kill one-
self." One can dispense with the suicide that is an obsession ο ί Kirilov's
lucid folly, and speak simply ο ί breakdown, disintegration, becoming
10st ί η meaninglessness. Ι η the face ο ί this situatiq.n, terror and anguish
arise: ''He's like a wretch who has received a legacy but takes fright and
won't set his hand to it, because he doesn't think himself worthy ο ί it."
We should not take seriously the act with which Kirilov thinks he can
destroy his terror ί η the face ο ί the divine legacy that he should accept,
demonstrating at the same time "his divinity." And we can set aside all
this emphatic talk ο ί God and being God, ί ο ι the real problem posed
here is one ο ί values, and ο ί "being free for what?"
Nothing better characterizes failure ί η the crucial test, the nega-
tive result ο ί the nihilistic experience, than the sentiment expressed by
Sartre ί η these words: "We are condemned to be free."13 Man takes
absolute freedom for himself, but he can only feel this freedom as a
condemnation. Metaphysical anguish is its counterpart.
38 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
Later we shall examine the specific themes of existentialism. For
now, we shall see what can be retained of Nietzsche's views, not as a
nihilist but as one who thought that he had left nihilism behind him,
and thus created the premises for a higher existence and a new state of
health.
Once the idols have fallen, good and evil have been surpassed,
along with all the surrogates of the old God, and the mist has lifted
from one's eyes, nothing is left to Nietzsche but "this world," life, the
body; he remains "faithful to the earth." Thereupon, as we know,
the theme of the superman appears. "God is dead, now we want the
superman to come."14 The superman will be the meaning of the earth,
the justification of existence. Man is "a bridge, not a goal," "a rope
stretched bttween the brute and the superman, a rope stretched above
an abyss."15 This is not the place for a deep analysis of the manifold
and divergent themes that crystallize ί η Nietzsche's work around this
central motif. The essential can be spelled out as follows.
The negative, destructive phase of Nietzsche's thought ends with
the affirmation of immanence: all transcendent values, systems of ends
and of higher truths, are interpreted as functions of life. Ι η its turn, the
essence of life-and more generally of nature-is the will to power.
The superman is also defined as a function of the will to power and
domination. One can see from this that Nietzsche's nihilism stops half-
way. It sets up a new table of values, including a good and an evil.
It presents a new ideal with dogmatic affirmation, whereas ί η real-
ity this ideal is ο η l Υ one of many that could take shape ί η "life," and
which is not ί η fact justified ί η and of itself, without a particular choice
and without faith ί η it. The fact that the fixed point of reference set
up beyond nihilism lacks a true foundation so long as one insists ο η
pure immanence is already apparent ί η the part of Nietzsche's thought
that deals with historical criticism and sociology. The entire world of
"higher" values is interpreted there as reflecting a "decadence." But at
the same time these values are seen as the weapons of a hidden will
to power ο η the part of a certain human group, which has used them
to hamper another group whose life and ideals resemble those of the
superman. The instinct of decadence itself is then presented as a special
variety of the will to power. Now, it is obvious that ί η function of a
Active Nihilism 39
mere will to power, all distinctions vanish: there are η ο more super-
men or sheep-men, neither affirmers nor negators of life. There is only
a variety of techniques, of means (far from being reducible to sheer
physical force), tending to make one human class or another prevail;
means that are indiscriminately called good ί η proportion to their suc-
cess. If ί η life and the history of civilization there exist phases of rise
and decline, phases of creation and destruction and decadence, what
authorizes us to ascribe value to one rather than to the others? Why
should decadence be an evil? It is all life, and all justifiable ί η terms
of life, if this is truly taken ί η its irrational, naked reality, outside any
theology or teleology, as Nietzsche would have wished. Even "anti-
nature" and "violence against life" enter ί η t o it. Once again, all firm
ground gives way.
Nietzsche moreover wanted to restore its "innocence" to becom-
ing by freeing it from all finality and intentionality, so as to free man
and let him walk ο η his own feet-the same Nietzsche who had justly
criticized and rejected evolutionism and Darwinism because he could
see that the higher figures and types of life are only sporadic and for-
tuituous cases.
16
They are positions that man gains only ί η order to lose
them, and they create η ο continuity because they consist of beings who
are more than usually exposed to danger and destruction. The philoso-
pher himself ends with a finalistic concession when, ί η order to give
meaning to present-day humanity, he proposes the hypothetical future
man ί η the guise of the superman: a goal w o r t ~ dedicating oneself to,
and even sacrificing oneself and dying for. Mutatis mutandis, things
here are not very different from the Marxist-communist eschatology,
ί η which the mirage of a future human condition after the worldwide
revolution serves to give meaning to everything inflicted ο η the man of
today ί η the areas controlled by this ideology. This is a flagrant con-
tradiction of the demands of a life that is its own meaning. The second
point is that the pure affirmation of life does not necessarily coincide
with the will to power ί η the strict, qualitative sense, nor with the affir-
mation of the superman.
Thus Nietzsche's solution is only a pseudosolution. Α true nihilism
does not spare even the doctrine of the superman. What is left, if one
wants to be radical and follow a line of strict coherence, and what we
40 In the World Where God Is Dead
can accept ί η our investigations, is the idea that Nietzsche expressed
through the symbol ο ί the eternal return. It is the affirmation, now truly
unconditional, ο ί all that is and ο ί all that one is, ο ί one's own nature
and one's own situation. It is the attitude ο ί one whose self-affirmation
and self-identity come from the very roots ο ί his being; who is not scared
but exalted by the prospect that for an indefinite repetition ο ί identical
cosmic cycles he has been what he is, and will be again, innumerable
times. Naturally we are dealing with nothing more than a myth, which
has the simple, pragmatic value ο ί a test ο ί strength. But there is another
view that ί η fact leads beyond the world ο ί becoming and toward an
eternalization ο ί the being. Nietzsche differs little from Neoplatonism
when he says: "For everything to return is the closest approximation ο ί
a world ο ί becoming'"to a world ο ί being."17 And also: " Τ ο impose the
character ο ί being υ ρ ο η becoming is the supreme test ο ί power."18 At its
base, this leads to an opening beyond immanence unilaterally conceived,
and toward the feeling that "all things have been baptized ί η the font ο ί
eternity and beyond good and evil."19 The same thing was taught ί η the
world ο ί Tradition; and it is uncontestable that a confused thirst for eter-
nity runs through Nietzsche's works, even opening to certain momen-
tary ecstasies. One recalls Zarathustra invoking "the joy that wills the
eternity ο ί everything, a deep eternity"20 like the heavens above, "pure,
profound abyss ο ί light."21
7
"Being Oneself"
For now we must set aside such allusions to a higher dimension ο ί expe-
rience ο ί a liberated world ί η order 10 define more precisely what such a
vision ο ί existence offers us ί η realistic terms. It is, ί η fact, the principle
of purely being oneself. This is what remains after the elimination ο ί
what philosophy calls "heteronomous morality," or morality based ο η
an external law or command. Nietzsche said this about it: "They call
you destroyers ο ί morality, but you are ο η l Υ the discoverers ο ί your-
selves";l and also: "We must liberate ourselves from morality so that
we can live morally."2 Β Υ the latter phrase, he means living according to
one's own law, the law defined by one's own nature. (This may result ί η
the way ο ί the superman, but ο η l Υ as a very special case.)
This is ο η the same lines as the "au1onomous morality" ο ί Kant's
categorical imperative, but with the difference that the command is
absolutely internal, separate from any external mover, and is not based
ο η a hypothetical law extracted from practical reason that is valid for
all and revealed 10 man's conscience as such, but rather ο η one's own
specific being.
Nietzsche himself often presented these issues as though they were
equivalent to naturalism. One frequently finds ί η him the simplistically
physiological and materialistic interpretation ο ί human nature, but it
is basically inauthentic, accessory, and prompted by his well-known
polemic against "pure spirit." l η fact, Nietzsche saw deeper than that,
and did not stop at the physical being when he spoke ο ί the "greater
reason"3 contained ί η the body and opposed 10 the lesser reason: that
which "does not say Ι , but is Ι , " and which uses the "spirit" and even
the senses as "little 100ls and 1oYs." It is a "powerfullord, an unknown
sage that is called oneself (Selbst}," "the guiding thread ο ί the Ι that
suggests all its ideas to it," which "looks with the eyes ο ί the senses and
41
42 In the World Where God Is Dead
listens with the ears ο ί the spirit." He is not speaking here ο ί the physis
but ο ί the "being" ί η the full ontological significance ο ί the word. The
term he uses, das Selbst, can also be rendered by "the Self" as opposed
to the Ι (Ich): an opposition that recalls that ο ί the traditional doctrines
already mentioned between the supra-individual principle ο ί the person
and that which they call the "physical Ι "
Once the crude physiological interpretation is cleared away, there
emerges a valid attitude for the man who must stay standing as a free
being, even ί η the epoch ο ί dissolution: to assume his own being into
a willing, making it his own law, a law as absolute and autonomous as
Kant's categorical imperative, but affirmed without regard for received
values, for "good" or "evil," nor for happiness, pleasure, or pain.
(Nietzsche too -regarded hedonism and eudaemonism, the abstract,
inorganic search for pleasure and happiness, as symptoms ο ί weaken-
ing and decadence.) The man ί η question affirms and actualizes his
own being without considering rewards or punishments, either here
or ί η an afterlife, saying: "The way does not exist: this is my will, nei-
ther good nor bad, but my OWIl."4 l η short, Nietzsche hands ο η the
ancient sayings "Be yourself," "Become what you are,"5 as proposi-
tions for today, when all superstructure has fragmented. We shall see
that the existentialists take υ ρ a similar theme, albeit less confidently.
Stirner is, however, not to be counted among its antecedents, because
ί η his idea ο ί the "Unique" there is virtually η ο opening ο ί the deepest
dimensions ο ί existence. One has to go back to Μ . Guyau, who equally
posed the problem ο ί a line ο ί conduct beyond any sanction or duty; he
wrote: ''Authoritarian metaphysics and religion are leading-strings for
babies: it's time to walk by oneself. ... We should look for revelation
ί η ourselves. Christ is η ο more: each ο ί us must be Christ for himself,
and be joined to God as far as he will or can be, or even deny God."6 It
is as though faith still existed, but "without a heaven waiting for us or
a positive law to guide us," as a simple state. Strength and responsibil-
ity must be η ο less than they were long ago, when they were born from
religious faith and from a given point ο ί support, ί η a different human
type and a different climate. Nietzsche's idea is identical.
For our part, ί ί this system is to be made acceptable as valid for
the problem ί η hand, every unspoken but limiting implication has to
"Being Oneself" 43
be eliminated from it, everything from which one might draw a new,
illusory support.
Post-Rousseau anarchic doctrines were already characterized by
premises ο ί this kind: the nihilism ο ί the anarchist classics had as its
counterpart the supposition ο ί the fundamental goodness ο ί human
nature. Guyau, who has just been quoted, offers another example. He
sought to found a morality "without sanctions or obligations," a "free"
morality, ο η "life."7 But his notion ο ί life was not the naked, authentic
life free from attributes, but rather a life conceived as preventively and
arbitrarily moralized or sterilized, a life ί η which certain tendencies
are taken for granted: expansion, altruism, superabundance. Guyau
formulated a new idea ο ί duty: a duty that derived from power, from
the life impulse, from the sense ο ί one's own strength "that demands to
be exercised"g Ί can, therefore Ι must"). Its limitation becomes obvi-
ous when Guyau endows the expansive life impulse with an exclusively
positive, even a social character, while presenting pure self-affirmation,
expansion not toward others and for others but against them, as a self-
negation and a contradiction ο ί life, opposed to its natural expressive
motion ο ί increase and enrichment. It is enough to ask what could ever
prevent a life that wanted to "negate" or "contradict" itself from doing
so, and what would be censurable ί ί it decided to take this route, to real-
ize that Guyau has by η ο means made a tabula rasa, but has furtively
introduced restrictions that more or less return to one ο ί the systems ο ί
the old morality that he intended to supersede, he recognized
their vulnerability to nihilist criticism.
The elimination ο ί every presupposition also causes a crisis for
much ο ί the Nietzschean doctrine ο ί the superman, which is η ο less
unilateral because ο ί its frequent emphasis ο η aspects ο ί life contrary
to those just posited by Guyau: will to power, hardness, and so ο η Ι η
all strictness, to be purely oneself and to have a fully free existence, one
should be able to accept, will, and say an absolute ''yes'' to whatever
one is-even when there is nothing ί η one's nature that approaches the
ideal ο ί the superman; even ί ί one's own life and destiny do not present
heroism, nobility, splendor, generosity, and altruism, but decadence,
corruption, debility, and perversion. Α distant reflection ο ί this path
is to be found even ί η the Christian world, ί η Calvinism. It is the
44 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
doctrine of fal1en man, broken by original sin but redeemed through
"faith"; of man simultaneously justified and a sinner, ί η the face of the
Absolute. But ί η the world without God, the result of such an attitude
is to leave one to oneself ί η an extreme trial of strength and denuda-
tion of the Ι . Hence the Nietzschean claim of having "rediscovered
the way that leads to a yes and a η ο : Ι teach you to say yes to al1 that
strengthens, that gathers energy, that justifies the feeling of vigor."9
This claim is justified only when the corresponding command is trans-
posed, internalized, and purified, detached from any specific content
and especially from any reference to a greater or lesser vitality. It is
rather a matter of either being capable or incapable of holding firm
within, ί η one's own naked absolute being, with nothing to fear and
nothing to hope fo!":"
At this level, the words about the liberation from every sin may
become valid: "There is η ο place, η ο aim, η ο sense, ί η which we can
be ί η any way unburdened of our own being"10-not ί η the physical
world, nor ί η society, nor ί η God. It is an existential mode. As for the
content of one's own law, as Ι have said, that remains and must remain
undetermined.
We can now summarize the positive gains to be made from the
systems of Nietzsche and other thinkers along the same lines as his. For
our purposes, however, we should remember that this analysis is not
being made ί η the abstract, but ί η view of what may have value, not for
everyone but for α special human type.
This requires some extra considerations, because without this
premise it is easy to see that even the solution of "being oneself" cannot
really serve as a solid foundation. We shall see ί η due course that it is
only a "first-grade solution," but before that there is a difficulty to be
dealt with.
It is clear that the rule of being oneself implies that one can speak
of a "proper nature" for everyone, whatever it may be, as something
well defined and recognizable. But this is problematic, especially at the
present time. It may have been less difficult ί η societies that did not
know individualism, ί η traditional societies organized along groups and
castes where the factors of heredity, birth, and environment favored a
high degree of internal unity and the differentiation of types, and where
Φ Ζ
"Being Oneself" 45
the natural articulations were reinforced and nurtured by customs, eth-
ics, laws, and sometimes even by η ο less differentiated religious forms.
Α Ι Ι this has long ceased to exist for modern Western man, and has long
been "superseded" along the road ο ί "liberty"; thus the average modern
man is changeable, unstable, devoid ο ί any real form. The Pauline and
Faustian lament, "two souls, alas, live ί η my breast,"ll is already an
optimistic assumption; all ο many have to admit, like a typical char-
acter ί η Hesse, that they have a multitude ο ί souls! Nietzsche himself
admitted this state ο ί affairs when he wrote: ''One should not assume
that many men are 'persons.' There are also men composed ο ί several
persons, but the majority possess none at all."12 And again: "Become
yourself: an injunction addressed ο η Υ to a few, and which to an even
smaller number appears redundant."13 One can see now how prob-
lematic is the very point that has hitherto seemed fixed: fidelity to
oneself, the absolute, autonomous law based ο η one's own "being,"
when it is formulated ί η general and abstract terms. Everything is
subject to debate-a situation accurately exemplified by characters ί η
Dostoyevsky, like Raskolnikov or Stavrogin. At the moment when they
are thrown back ο η their own naked will, trying to prove it to them-
selves with an absolute action, they collapse; they collapse precisely
because they are divided beings, because they are deluded concern-
ing their true nature and their real strength. Their freedom is turned
against them and destroys them; they fail at the very point at which
they should have reaffirmed themselves-in depths they find
nothing to sustain them and carry them forward. We recall the words
ο ί Stavrogin's testament: Ι have tested my strength everywhere, as you
advised me to do ί η order to know myself .... What Ι have never seen,
and still do not see, is what Ι should apply my strength to. Μ Υ desires
lack the energy; they cannot drive me. One can cross a river ο η a log,
but not ο η a splinter."14 The abyss wins out over Stavrogin, and his
failure is sealed by suicide.
The same problem evidently lurks at the center ο ί Nietzsche's doc-
trine ο ί the will to power. Power ί η itself is formless. It has η ο sense
without the basis ο ί a given "being," an internal direction, an essential
unity. When that is wanting, everything slides back ί η chaos. ''Here
is the greatest strength, but it does not know what it is for. The means
46 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
exist, but they have η ο end." We shall soon see how this situation is
aggravated when the transcendent dimension is activated ί η it.
For the moment, we note that ί η general, the phenomenon ο ί remorse
is closely linked to the situation ο ί a divided and self-contradictory
being. Remorse occurs when, despite everything, a central tendency
survives ί η the being and reawakens after actions that have violated or
denied it, arising from secondary impulses that are not strong enough
to completely supplant it. Guyau speaks ί η this sense ο ί a morality "that
is none other than the unity ο ί the being," and an immorality that, " ο η
the contrary, is a splitting, an opposition ο ί tendencies that limit one
another." We know Nietzsche's image ο ί the "pale criminal," a true
mirror ο ί the Dostoyevskian character just mentioned, "whose action
has paralyzed his poor reason, as a chalk line paralyzes a chicken."15
We have clearly reached the point at which one must go beyond the
"neutral" posing ο ί the problem. Τ ο continue our agenda, Ι will now
consider a line ο ί conduct during the reign ο ί dissolution that is not
suitable for everyone, but for a differentiated type, and especially for
the heir to the man ο ί the traditional world, who retains his roots ί η
that world even though he finds himself devoid ο ί any support for it ί η
his outer existence.
The Transcendent Dimension
"Life" and "More Than Life"
Ο η Ι Υ this kind of man can use those ν aspects gleaned from
the preceding analysis as his elementary basis, because when he looks
within himself, he does not find a changeable and ν substance,
but a fundamental direction, a "dominant," ν though shrouded or
limited by secondary impulses. What is more, the essential thing is that
such α man is characterized by an existential dimension not present in
the predominant human type of recent times-that is, the dimension
of transcendence.
The problems raised by these last considerations can be exemplified
with reference to Nietzsche himself, for the tacit assumption of many
of his attitudes is η ο different: it is the action, albeit unconscious, of the
transcendent dimension. This alone can explain the otherwise arbitrary
and contradictory quality of some of his statements; ο η Υ this point of
ν also offers the possibility of integrating and consolidating them by
not taking the wrong path of "naturalism." Ο η the one hand, Nietzsche
really felt the ν of the particular human type just mentioned,
both ί η his ν role and ί η his effort to get beyond the zero point
of ν Ο η the other hand, rather than consciously taking υ ρ the
existential dimension of transcendence, he was, as it were, its ν
the object rather than the subject of the corresponding energy ί η action.
This ν one a sure guide for orientation throughout Nietzsche's phi-
losophy, for recognizing both its limitations and its high ν for our
purposes.
Ν ο less ν here is the solution ν by turning the tragic and
absurd ν of life into its opposite. Nietzsche's solution of the problem
of the meaning of life, consisting in the affirmation that this meaning
47
48 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
does not exist outside of life, and that life in itself is meaning (from
which derive all the themes already mentioned, including the myth ο ί
the eternal return), is valid only on the presupposition of α being that
has transcendence as its essential component.
This is η ο place for the detailed proof ο ί this thesis, which would
belong ί η a special study ο ί Nietzsche. We have already seen with regard
to the "will to power" that it is not so much the general characteristic ο ί
life, but one ο ί its possible manifestations, one ο ί its many faces. Τ ο say
that life "always surpasses itself," "wants to ascend, and to regenerate
itself by rising and surpassing itself,"l or that the life's secret is " Ι am
that which must always conquer itself"2 -all that is simply the result ο ί
a very unusual vocation projecting itself to the dimensions ο ί a world-
view. It is merely the reflection ο ί a certain nature, and by η ο means the
general or objective character ο ί every existence. The foundation that
really prevails ί η existence is much closer to Schopenhauer's formula-
tion than to this one ο ί Nietzsche's; that is, the will to live as eternal
and inexhaustible desire, not the will to power ί η the true sense, or the
positive, ascending drive to dominance.
It is ο η l Υ , ί η fact, through the other dimension, that ο ί transcen-
dence, that life presents those characteristics that Nietzsche mistakenly
generalizes and thinks he can attribute to it when he sets up his new
values. His imperfect understanding ο ί what was going ο η inside him
explains not ο η l Υ the oscillations and limitations ο ί his philosophy, but
also the tragic side ο ί his human existence. Ο η the one hand, we have
the theme ο ί a pure, naturalistic exaltation ο ί life, albeit ί η forms that
betray a surrender ο ί being to the simple world ο ί instincts and pas-
sions; for the absolute affirmation ο ί the latter ο η the part ο ί the will
runs the danger ο ί their asserting themselves through the will, making
it their servant. Ο η the other hand, many and indeed prevalent are
the testimonies to a reaction to life that cannot arise out ο ί life itself,
but solely from a principle superior to it, as revealed ί η a characteristic
phrase: "Spirit is the life that cuts through life" (Geist ist das Leben,
das selber ins Leben schneidet}.3
Α Ι Ι the positive aspects ο ί the way ο ί the superman belong to this
second aspect: the power to make a law for oneself, the "power to
refuse and not to act, when one is pressed to affirmation by a prodi-
The Transcendent Dimension 49
gious force and an enormous tension"\ the natural and free asceticism
moved to test its own strength by gauging "the power ο ί a will accord-
ing to the degree ο ί resistance, pain, and torment that it can bear ί η
order to turn them to its own advantage"S (so that from this point
ο ί view everything that existence offers ί η the way ο ί evil, pain, and
obstacles, everything that has nourished the popular forms ο ί savior
religions, is accepted, even desired); the principle ο ί not obeying the
passions, but ο ί holding them ο η a leash ("greatness ο ί character does
not consist ί η not having such passions: one must have them to the
greatest degree, but held ί η check, and moreover doing this with sim-
plicity, not feeling any particular satisfaction thereby"6); the idea that
"the superior man is distinguished from the inferior by his intrepidity,
by his defiance ο ί unhappiness"7 ("it is a sign ο ί regression when plea-
sure begins to be considered as the highest principle"B); the responding
with incredulity to those who point "the way to happiness" ί η order to
make man follow a certain behavior: "But what does happiness matter
to US?"9; the recognition that one ο ί the ways to preserve a superior
species ο ί man is "to claim the right to exceptional acts as attempts
at victory over oneself and as acts ο ί freedom . . . to assure oneself,
with a sort ο ί asceticism, a preponderance and a certitude ο ί one's
own strength ο ί will,"lO without refusing any privation; to affirm that
freedom whose elements include "keeping the distance which sepa-
rates us, being indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privations, even
to life itself,"ll the highest type ο ί the free m < ι η being seen ί η "he who
always overcomes the strongest resistances ... great danger making
him a being worthy ο ί veneration"12; to denounce the insidious confu-
sion between discipline and enfeeblement (the goal ο ί discipline can
ο η l Υ be a greater strength-"he who does not dominate is weak, dissi-
pated, inconstant") and holding that "indulgence can ο η l Υ be objected
to ί η the case ο ί him who has η ο right to it, and when all the passions
have been discredited thanks to those who were not strong enough to
turn them to their own advantage"13; to point the way ο ί those who,
free from all bonds, obeying ο η l Υ their own law, are unbending ί η
obedience to it and above every human weakness; all those aspects, ί η
fine, ί η which the superman is not the "blond beast ο ί prey"14 and the
heir to the equivocal virtus ο ί Renaissance despots, but is also capable
50 ln the World Where God 15 Dead
of generosity, quick to offer manly aid, of "generous virtue," magna-
nimity, and superiority to his own individuality15-all these are the
positive elements that the man of Tradition also makes his own, but
which are only comprehensible and attainable when "life" is "more
than life," that is, through transcendence. They are values attainable
only by those ί η whom there is something else, and something more,
than mere life.
This is η ο place to go into detail about all the finer shades of mean-
ing ί η the mass ofNietzsche's thought concerning these main points, nor
into the confusions and deviations of which one must beware when one
passes the point at which most of Nietzsche's admirers, as well as his
detractors, have stopped. Life and transcendence are continually mud-
dled ί η his philoso1Jhy, and of all the consequences of his anti-Christian
polemic, this confusion has been one of the worst. He characterizes
the values negated by Christian ideals-the ideals of the pariah, the
chandala-and which supposedly constitute the opposite, affirmative,
antinihilistic ideals, as follows: "dignity, distance, great responsibility,
exuberance, proud animality, the martial and victorious instincts, the
apotheosis of the passions, of revenge, cunning, anger, voluptuousness,
the spirit of adventurous knowledge"16; then he enumerates among the
positive passions "pride, happiness, health, love between the sexes, hos-
tility and war, reverence, beautiful attitudes, good manners, strong will,
the discipline of higher intellectuality, the will to power, respect for the
earth and for life-all that is rich, which wants to give and to justify
life, eternalize it, divinize it."17 The muddle is evident; it is a confusion
of the sacred and the profane.
But there is another point, and for us it is an even more important
one. Even if one extracts from all this the effective forms of a self-
transcendence, one faces an awkward situation when trying to speak of
an "ascesis as a goal ί η itself" and when the superman is presented as
the utmost limit of the human species, rather than as "more than man"
and a being of a different nature, wielder and witness of a different dig-
nity. One danger is that all the experiences not marked by a simple adher-
ence to the pure, irrational, and instinctive substratum of life, ί η which
the simple will to power is surpassed and the path is not that of a domi-
nator of men and of external forces, but rather a dominator of oneself,

The Transcendent Dimension 51
remain closed ο Η ί η the field ο ί mere sensation. There is a significant
passage ί η Nietzsche concerning this, ί η which the "saying η ο " to all
the force surging within oneself is presented as a "Dionysism,"18 whereas
a more fitting term would perhaps be auto-sadism. Α lifelong discipline
and an asceticism pursued inexorably for better or worse, through
extreme trials, regardless ο ί oneself and others, may have the mere value
ο ί an increased and exasperated sensation ο ί "life," ο ί an ' ' Ι " whose
sense ο ί itself comes ο η l Υ from this savage and embittered sensation. Α Ι Ι
too often, it is ί η such terms that Nietzsche interpreted his own experi-
ence and the way that he proclaimed. For our purposes it is all the more
important to signal this wrong turning, because, all theory aside, it is
easy to see that it lies at the basis ο ί many extreme experiences ο η the
part ο ί those contemporary generations who courted disaster, as men-
tioned above.
As for the internal, "esoteric" interpretation ο ί Nietzsche's per-
sonal experience, taken as a whole beyond this pseudosolution, Ι have
already indicated that the key to it is given by a passive experience
ο ί transcendence and ο ί its activation. The cutting ο ί all bonds, the
intolerance ο ί alllimits, the pure and incoercible impulse to overcome
without any determined goal, to always move ο η beyond any given
state, experience, or idea, and naturally and even more beyond any
human attachment to a given person, fearing neither contradictions
nor destructions, thus pure movement, with all that that implies ο ί dis-
solution-"advancing with a devouring fire tb.,at leaves nothing behind
itself," to use an expression from an ancient wisdom tradition, though
it applies to a very different context-these essential characteristics
that some have already recognized ί η Nietzsche can be explained pre-
cisely as so many forms ί η which the transcendent acts and manifests.
But the fact that this is not recognized and admitted as such, the fact,
therefore, that this energy remains ί η the closed circle ο ί immanence
and ο ί "life," generates a higher voltage than the circuit can sustain.
This fact, moreover, may be the true and deeper cause ο ί the final
collapse ο ί Nietzsche the man. Besides, he always had a sensation ο ί
living dangerously. Β Υ 1881 he was writing to Gast: ' ' Ι have the feeling
ο ί living a life that is risky to the highest degree-Ι am one ο ί those
machines that might explode."19 At other times he spoke ο ί a "continual
52 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
proximity to danger," and it was surely from this that he drew the
generalization that "superior men find themselves ί η continual inner
and outer peril."
It is clear, even ί η this particular respect, how important Nietzsche
is as a symbolic figure for our entire investigation. His case illustrates
ί η precise terms what can, and indeed must, occur ί η a human type ί η
which transcendence has awakened, yes, but who is uncentered with
regard to it. We shall see that the essential themes of existentialism are
to be interpreted η ο differently.
This is not the way of the man we have ί η mind, who has quite
another constitution. Α clean line of division must be drawn. But first it
is useful to see what is to be expected ί η the case of those who remain
ο η this side of the line, that is, ί η those who follow the way of imma-
nence unflinchingly, without turning back, without lowering their level,
but also without the capacity to reach the turning point that alone can
make good their lack, from the very start, of the quality Ι have indi-
cated ί η the man of Tradition, ί η the man who is constitutionally not
modern. Once they have entered ο η the way of absolute affirmation,
and have mastered all those forms of "ascesis" and the activation of a
higher intensity of life that we have mentioned, their ο η l Υ saving solu-
tion is ί η a conscious change of polarity; ί η the possibility that at a
given point, ί η given situations or environments, by a kind of ontologi-
cal rupture of level, their life would be turned upside down, as it were,
and transformed into a different quality-the mehr leben [living more]
would give place to a mehr-als-Ieben [more than living], to use the neat
expression suggested ί η another context by Georg Simmel. 20
This is a possibility that can be entertained even ί η this present
epoch. The few who can accomplish it may achieve, even under current
conditions, a qualification analogous to what was inborn ί η the type
under consideration. Certain gropings toward openings of the kind are
not unknown today, alongside the traumatization of existence. One
typical sign, for example, is the interest ί η Zen felt by some members
of the Beat Generation. The condition for it is something like a sudden
illumination-the satori of Zen. Without it, the path of those who have
undergone experiences like Nietzsche's-and, ί η general, of those ί η
whom, for one reason or another and with or without their volition,
The Transcendent Dimension 53
transcendence has awakened ί η the human circuit as an energy ί η the
world where God is dead-is a path that leads to the abyss. It is cold
comfort ί η such cases to speak ο ί "the damned saints ο ί our time" or of
"angels with the face ο ί a criminal or a pervert"; that is pure, gratuitous
romanticism.
Ι η the contrary and positive case, the result might be expressed as a
transition from the plane ο ί "Dionysus" to that of a spiritual superior-
ity, known ί η antiquity under the Apollonian or Olympian symbol. It
is ο ί capital importance to recognize that this is the only solution that
does not involve a regression, and that it is the antithesis ο ί any solu-
tion of the religious or devotional type. The "conversion" of certain
contemporaries who found themselves unable to sustain the tension ο ί
the nihilistic climate, or who faced the experiences ί η question superfi-
cially, as mere intellectuals, represent cases ο ί surrender that are devoid
ο ί any interest for us.
9
Beyond Theism
and Atheism
Following ο η from this, and before taking υ ρ the positive part ο ί our
subject, Ι should return to what was said earlier when specifying what
had reached, or w a ~ reaching, the point ο ί crisis ί η the modern world.
Ι have explained that the crisis ο η the social plane concerned bour-
geois society and civilization. From the spiritual point ο ί view, Ι spoke
ο ί the double aspect ο ί the process ο ί "emancipation" that has led to the
present situation: first ο ί its solely destructive and regressive aspect, then
ο ί how it faces a differentiated human type with the risky ordeal ο ί a com-
plete internalliberation. Pursuing the latter aspect, Ι would make another
point, namely that one ο ί the causes favoring the processes ο ί dissolution
has been the confused sense ο ί a true fact: the sense that everything ί η
the recent West ο ί a religious nature, especially Christianity, belongs to
the "all too human" and has little to do with really transcendent values,
beside being fairly incompatible, as a general climate and an internal atti-
tude, with the dispositions and vocations proper to a higher human type.
Ι η particular, an important factor has been the mutilated charac-
ter ο ί Christianity when compared to the majority ο ί other traditional
forms; mutilated, because it does not possess an "esotericism," an inner
teaching ο ί a metaphysical character beyond the truths and dogmas ο ί
the faith offered to the common people. The extensions represented by
sporadic experiences that are simply "mystical" and little understood
cannot make υ ρ for this essentiallack ί η Christianity as a whole. This
is why the work ο ί demolition was so easy with the rise ο ί so-called free
thought, whereas ί η a different, complete tradition the presence ο ί a
body ο ί teachings above the simply religious level would probably have
prevented it.
54
Beyond Theism and Atheism 55
What is the God whose death has been announced? Nietzsche him-
self replies: ' Ό η Ι Υ the god ο ί morality has been conquered."l He also
asks: ''Is there sense ί η conceiving ο ί a god beyond good and evil?"2 The
reply must be affirmative. "Let God slough ο ί ί his moral skin, and we
shall see him reappear beyond good and evil."3 What has disappeared
is therefore not the god ο ί metaphysics, but the god ο ί theism, the per-
sonal god who is a projection ο ί moral and social values and a support
for human weakness. Now, the conception ο ί a god ί η different terms
is not ο η l Υ possible but essential within all the great traditions before
and beside Christianity, and the principle ο ί nonduality is also evident
ί η them. These other traditions recognized as the ultimate foundation ο ί
the universe a principle anterior and superior to all antitheses, includ-
ing those ο ί immanence and transcendence considered unilaterally. This
conferred ο η existence-on a Ι Ι ο ί existence, including that part ο ί it that
appears problematic, destructive, and "evil" -the supreme justification
that was being sought through a liberated worldview, to be affirmed
beyond the demolitions ο ί nihilism. Zarathustra ί η fact announces noth-
ing new when he says: ''Everything that becomes seems to me divine
dance and divine whim, and the liberated world returns to itself"\ it
is the same idea that Hinduism casts ί η the well-known symbol ο ί the
dance and play ο ί the naked god Shiva. As another example, we might
recall the doctrine ο ί the transcendent identity ο ί samsara (the world
ο ί becoming) with nirvana (the unconditioned), that ultimate peak ο ί
esoteric wisdom. Ι η the Mediterranean regio".n, the saying ο ί the final
mystery initiation, "Osiris is a black god," refers to a similar level; and
one could also include the teachings ο ί Neoplatonism and ο ί a few mys-
tics ο ί high stature concerning the metaphysical, impersonal, and super-
personal One, and so forth-right up to William Blake's allegory ο ί the
"Marriage ο ί Heaven and Hell" and the Goethean idea ο ί the God ο ί
the "free glance" who does not judge according to good and evil, an
idea encountered from the ancient West right up to Far Eastern Taoism.
We see one ο ί the most drastic proofs ο ί this wisdom ί η the words ο ί an
ascetic ο η the point ο ί being murdered by a European soldier: "Don't
deceive me! You too are God!"
Ι η the course ο ί the involutional process described ί η the introduc-
tion, such horizons have gradually vanished from view. Ι η cases like
56 1n the World Where God Is Dead
Buddhism and Taoism it is very evident that they have passed from the
metaphysical plane to the religious and devotional one, ί η terms ο ί a
regression due to the diHusion and profanation ο ί the original inner
doctrine, which most people are incapable ο ί understanding and follow-
ing.
5
Ι η the West, the conception ο ί the sacred and the transcendent ί η
devotional and moral terms, which ί η other systems belonged ο η Υ to the
popular or regressive forms, became predominant and all but exclusive.
We should mention, however, that even ί η the Christian world there
have been some allusions ο η the margins ο ί ]ohannine mysticism to a
future epoch ο ί a higher freedom. ]oachim de Flore gave out that the
"third age," the age ο ί the Spirit following those ο ί the Father and the
Son, would be that ο ί freedom; and the "Brethren ο ί the Free Spirit,"
along similar lines, an "anomie," a liberty from the Law,
from good and evil, ί η terms that even Nietzsche's superman would not
have dared to profess. Echoes ο ί these anticipations are to be found
ί η ]acopone da Todi himself, when ί η his Hymn to Holy Poverty and
Its Threefold Heaven
6
he tells us "do not fear Hell, do not hope for
Heaven," and that one should "not rejoice ί η any good, nor mourn any
adversity"; when he refers to a "virtue that asks not why" and goes so
far as to dispense with virtue itself, possessing all things ί η freedom
ο ί spirit," this being for him the inner and symbolic sense ο ί true "pov-
erty."
The conclusion to be drawn from all ο ί this is that a group ο ί con-
cepts considered ί η the Christian West as essential and indispensable for
any "true" religion-the personal god ο ί theism, the morallaw with the
sanctions ο ί heaven and hell, the limited conception ο ί a providential
order and a "moral and rational" finalism ο ί the world, faith resting ο η
a largely emotional, sentimental, and subintellectual basis-all ο ί these
are foreign to a metaphysical vision ο ί existence such as is well attested
ί η the world ο ί Tradition. The God who has been attacked is God con-
ceived as the center ο ί gravity ο ί all this merely religious system. But ί η
fact this may open the horizon ο ί a new essentiality for those who accept
as a trial ο ί their strength-one might even say, ο ί their faith ί η the
higher sense-all the dissolving processes brought about by the direc-
tion that civilization has taken ί η recent times. The "moral skin" falls ο Η
a God who has finished υ ρ as opium ο ί the people, or as the counterpart
Ι
~
Beyond Theism and Atheism 57
of the petty morality that the bourgeois world substitutes for the greater
morality. But the essential core, represented by metaphysical teachings
such as those just mentioned, remains inviolate for those who can per-
ceive and live them, remains inaccessible to all those nihilistic processes,
and withstands any dissolution.
After this essential clarification and widening of perspectives, we
are now ready to gather υ ρ everything from the themes considered
hitherto that may have a positive value today for the human type with
whom we are concerned.
As far as worldviews are concerned, we are dealing with a concep-
tion of reality freed from the categories of good and evil, but with a meta-
physical foundation, not a naturalistic or pantheistic one. Being knows
nothing of good or evil, nor do the great laws of things, nor the Absolute.
Α good or an evil exists solely ί η function of an end, and what is the stan-
dard by which to judge this end and thereby fix the ultimate legitimacy
of an action or a being? Even the theology of Providence and the efforts
of theistic theodicy to prop υ ρ the concept of the moral God cannot do
away with the idea of the Great Economy that includes evil, ί η which
evil is ο η l Υ a particular aspect of a higher order, transcending the little
human categories of the individual and the collectivity of individuals.
The ''other world" attacked by European nihilism, presented by the
latter as sheer illusion or condemned as an evasion, is not another real-
ity; it is another dimension of reality ί η which the real, without being
negated, acquires an absolute significance ί η the inconceivable naked-
ness of pure Being.
Ι η an epoch of dissolution, this is the essential basis of a vision of
life that is appropriate for the man reduced to himself, who must prove
his own strength. Its counterpart is to be central or to make oneself so,
to know or discover the supreme identity with oneself. It is to perceive
the dimension of transcendence within, and to anchor oneself ί η it,
making of it the hinge that stays immobile even when the door slams
(an image from Meister Eckhart). From this point ο η , any "jnvocation"
or prayer becomes existentially impossible. The heritage of "God" that
one dared not accept is not that of the lucid madness of Kirilov; it is the
calm sense of a presence and an intangible possession, of a superiority
to life whilst ί η the very bosom of life. The deeper sense of what has
58 1n the World Where God 1s Dead
been said about the "new nobility" is π ο different: "Divinity consists
ί η precisely this: that the gods exist, but η ο God." We could use the
image of a ray of light proceeding with η ο need to turn back, and car-
rying its luminous energy and the impulse from the center from which
it originated. It is also the absolute claim to one's own position ί η terms
that exclude the theme of religious crisis, "feeling oneself abandoned by
God." Ι η such a state, that would be equivalent to a God who had aban-
doned himself. Similarly, η ο negation of God is possible: to negate or
doubt God would be to negate or doubt oneself. Once the idea of a per-
sonal God has disappeared, God ceases to be a "problem," an object of
"belief," or a need of the soul; the terms "believer," "atheist," or "free-
thinker" appear nonsensical. One has gone beyond both attitudes.
Once this Ρ ο ί η t . ί s grasped, we can indicate the terms ί η which
to deal with the existential challenge ί η relation to life's negativity,
tragedy, pain, problems, and absurdities. Seneca said that η ο specta-
cle is more pleasing to the gods than that of the superior man grap-
pling with adversity. Ο η Ι Υ thus can he know his own strength-and
$eneca adds that it is the men of valor who are sent to the riskiest
positions or ο η difficult missions, while the spineless and feeble are
left behind. There is the well-known maxim: "That which does not
destroy us makes us stronger."7 Ι η our case, the basis for this courage
refers to the dimension of transcendence in oneself: it is attested and
confirmed ί η all situations of chaos and dissolution, thus turning them
to our own advantage. It is the antithesis of an arrogant hardening of
the physical individuality ί η all its forms, whether unilaterally Stoic
or Nietzschean. Instead, it is the conscious activation ί η oneself of the
other principle and of its strength, ί η experiences, moreover, that are
not merely undergone but also sought, as Ι shall explain later. This
must be kept firmly ί η mind.
Ι η some cases nowadays, the shock of reality and the consequent
trauma may serve not to validate and increase a strength that is already
present, but to reawaken it. These are the cases ί η which ο η l Υ a thin
film separates the principle of being ί η a person from that of the merely
human individuality. Situations of depression, emptiness, or tragedy
whose negative solution is the return to religion may through a positive
reaction lead to this awakening. Even ί η some of the most advanced
,
Ι
~
Beyond Theism and Atheism 59
modern literature one finds curious testimonies of moments of libera-
tion realized ί η the midst of disintegration. One example will suffice,
from an author already cited. Henry Miller, after all the signs of the
chaotic disintegration of a meaningless life, after stupefaction at "the
grandiose collapse of a whole world," speaks of a vision that justifies
everything as it is-"a sort of eternity ί η suspense ί η which everything
is justified, supremely justified." One looks for a miracle outside, he
says, "while a counter counts within and there is η ο hand that can
reach it or stop it." Only a sudden shock can do it. Then a new current
arises ί η the being. This makes him say: "Perhaps ί η reading this, one
has still the impression of chaos but this is written from a live center
and what is chaotic is merely peripheral, the tangential shreds, as it
were, of a world which η ο longer concerns me."8 This brings us back,
ί η a way, to the rupture of levels mentioned above, which h".s the virtue
of instilling a different quality ί η the circuit of mere "life."
10
Invulnerability
Α ρ ο l l ο and Dionysus

Up to now we have been establishing the rule for being oneself. Now
we must bring 10 light the rule for proving oneself, then unite and
specify the two principles wlth particular reference 10 the human type
that concerns us. Just as this type is dual ί η its essential structure-
ί η its determination as an individual, and its dimension of transcen-
dence-being itself, and knowing itself through proving itself, present
two quite distinct degrees.
With regard 10 the first degree, we have already noted the difficulty,
especially ί η our times, that the principle of being oneself encounters ί η
the vast majority of individuals, given their lack of a basic unity or even
of one predominant and constant tendency among a multitude of oth-
ers. Only ί η exceptional cases are these words of Nietzsche's valid: "One
does best never to speak of two very lofty things, measure and mean.
Α few know their powers and their signs, thanks 10 the mystery paths
of inner experiences and conversions. They venerate something divine
ί η them, and abhor speaking out loud."l But ί η an age of dissolution, it
is difficult even for one who possesses a basic internal form to know it,
and thereby to know "himself," otherwise than through an experiment.
Hence we recall the line already mentioned, 10 be unders100d now as the
search for, or the acceptance of, those situations or alternatives ί η which
the prevailing force, one's own "true nature," is compelled 10 manifest
and make itself known.
The only actions that can be valid for this purpose are those that
arise from the depths. Peripheral or emotional reactions do not qual-
ify, for those are like reflex movements provoked by a stimulus, aris-
ing "long before the depth of one's own being has been touched or
60
Invulnerability 61
questioned,"2 as Nietzsche himself said, seeing ί η this very incapacity
for deep impressions and engagement, and ί η this skin-deep reactivity
at the mercy ο Ε every sensation, a deplorable characteristic ο Ε modern
man. For many people it is as though they have to relearn how to act
ί η the true sense, actively, as one might say, and also typically. Even
for the man whom we have ί η mind, taken ί η his worldly aspect, this
is an essential requirement today. We might note the corresponding
discipline that is so important ί η traditional "inner teachings": that ο Ε
self-remembering or self-awareness.
3
G. Ι Gurdjieff, who has taught
similar things ί η our time, describes the contrary state as that ο Ε being
"breathed" or "sucked" into ordinary existence without any aware-
ness ο Ε the fact, without noticing the automatic or "somnambulistic"
character that this existence has from a higher point ο Ε view. Ι am
sucked ί η by my thoughts, my memories, my desires, my sensations, by
the steak Ι eat, the cigarette Ι smoke, the love Ι make, by the sunshine,
the rain, by this tree, by that passing car, by this book." Thus one is
a shadow ο Ε oneself. Life ί η a state ο Ε being, the "active act," "active
sensation," and so ο η are unknown states. But this is not the place to
digress further about this special method ο Ε realization.
4
This trial through self-knowledge under the stimulus ο Ε various
experiences and various encounters with reality may be associated ί η a
certain sense with the maxim ο Ε amor (ati (love ο Ε fate).5 Karl ]aspers
has rightly said that this is not so much a precept ο Ε passive obedi-
ence to a necessity presumed to be and knowable, as
an injunction to face each experience and everything ί η one's existence
that is uncertain, ambiguous, and dangerous with the feeling that one
will never do anything other than follow one's own path. The essential
thing ί η this attitude is a kind ο Ε transcendent confidence that gives
security and intrepidity, and it can be included among the positive ele-
ments ί η the line ο Ε conduct that is gradually being delineated.
The problem ο Ε being oneself has a particular and subordinate solu-
tion ί η terms ο Ε a unification. Once one has discovered through experi-
ment which ο Ε one's manifold tendencies is the central one, one sets about
identifying it with one's will, stabilizing it, and organizing all one's sec-
ondary or divergent tendencies around it. This is what it means to give
oneself a law, one's own law. As we have seen, the incapacity to do this,
62 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
"the many discordant souls enclosed ί η my own breast," and the refusal
to obey even before one is capable ο ί commanding oneself are causes
ο ί the disaster that may well end the path ο ί a being driven toward the
boundary situation ί η the world without God. There is a relevant saying:
''He who cannot command himself must obey. And more than one can
command himself, but is still far from being able to obey himself."6
There is an example from the world ο ί Tradition that may be ο ί
interest here. l η Islam, long before nihilism, the initiatic Order ο ί the
Ismaelis used the very phrase "Nothing exists, everything is permit-
ted."7 But it applied ί η this order exclusively to the upper grades ο ί the
hierarchy. Before attaining these grades and having the right to adopt
this truth for oneself, one had to pass four preliminary grades that
involved, among otherthings, a rule ο ί unconditional, blind obedience,
taken to limits that are almost inconceivable for the Western mentality.
For example, at a word from the Grand Master one had to be prepared
to throw one's life away without any reason or purpose.
This brings us to the consideration ο ί the second degree ο ί the trial
through self-knowledge, which belongs to the transcendent dimen-
sion and which conditions the final solution ο ί the existential prob-
lem. With the first degree, ί η fact, with the recognition ο ί "one's own
nature" and the making ο ί one's own law, this problem is ο η l Υ resolved
partially, ο η the formal plane. That is the plane ο ί determination, or, ί ί
one prefers, individuation, which furnishes one with an adequate base
for controlling one's conduct ί η any circumstances. But this plane has
η ο transparency for one who wants to get to the bottom ο ί things;
absolute meaning is not yet to be found therein. When the situation
remains at this stage, one is active ί η wanting to be oneself, but not
with regard to the fact ο ί being thus and not otherwise. Τ ο a certain
type, this can seem like something so irrational and obscure as to set ί η
motion a crisis that endangers everything he has gained hitherto along
the lines indicated. It is then that he must undergo the second degree ο ί
self-proving, which is like an experimental proof ο ί the presence within
him, ί η greater or lesser measure, ο ί the higher dimension ο ί transcen-
dence. This is the unconditioned nucleus that ί η life does not belong to
life's sphere, but to that ο ί Being.
It depends ο η this last trial to resolve, or not to resolve, the problem
*
Invulnerability 63
ο ί the ultimate meaning ο ί existence ί η an ambience lacking any support
or "sign." After the whole superstructure has been rejected or destroyed,
and having for one's sole support one's own being, the ultimate meaning
ο ί existing and living can spring only from α direct and absolute rela-
tionship between that being (between what one is ί η a limiting sense)
and transcendence (transcendence ί η itself). This meaning is not given
by anything extrinsic or external, anything added to the being when the
latter turns to some other principle. That might have occurred ί η a dif-
ferent world, a traditionally ordered world. But ί η the existential realm
under consideration, such a meaning can ο η l Υ be given by the transcen-
dent dimension directly perceived by man as the root ο ί his being and
ο ί his ''own nature." Moreover, it carries an absolute justification, an
indelible and irrevocable consecration, which completely destroys the
state ο ί negativity and the existential problem. Ο η this basis alone does
"being what one is" cease to constitute a limitation. Otherwise every
path will be limited, including that ο ί "supermen" and any other kind
ο ί being that serves with its outward traits to deflect the problem ο ί ulti-
mate meaning, thereby hiding its own essential vulnerability.
This unity with the transcendent is also the condition for prevent-
ing the process ο ί self-unification from taking a regressive path. There
is ί η fact a possibility ο ί a pathological unification ο ί the being from
below, as ί η the case ο ί an elementary passion that takes over the whole
person, organizing all his faculties to its own ends. Cases ο ί fanaticism
and possession are η ο different ί η kind. 0pe must consider this pos-
sible reduction to absurdity ο ί "being oneself" and ο ί the unity ο ί the
self. This is a further reason to require our particular type ο ί man to
undergo the trial ο ί self-knowledge at the second degree, which con-
cerns, as we have said, the presence ο ί the unconditioned and the supra-
individual as his true center.
It is easy to see how this requires one to surpass and prove oneself,
beyond one's own nature and one's own law. The autonomy ο ί him
who makes his own will coincide with his own being is not enough.
Moreover, it requires a rupture ο ί levels that can sometimes have the
character ο ί violence done to oneself, and one has to be sure to remain
ο η one's feet even ί η the void and the formless. This is positive anomie,
beyond autonomy. Ι η less qualified types, ί η those ί η which the original
64 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
inheritance, as Ι called it, is not sufficiently alive existentially, this trial
almost always requires a certain "sacrificial" disposition: such a man
has to feel ready to be destroyed, ί ί need be, without being hurt thereby.
The result ο ί trials or experiences ο ί this kind remains undetermined,
and has always been so, even when the ultimate consecration ο ί inner
sovereignty was sought within the institutional frameworks provided
by Tradition. It is all the more so ί η today's social climate, ί η circum-
stances where it is almost impossible to create a magical circle ο ί pro-
tection ί η this confrontation with transcendence, with that which is ί η
fact not human.
But we repeat: Ι η a meaningless world, the absolute sense ο ί being
depends almost exclusively ο η this experience. If it has a positive out-
come, the last limit fallS""away; transcendence and existence, freedom
and necessity, possibility and reality coincide. Α centrality and invul-
nerability are realized without restriction ί η any situation, be it dark or
light, detached or apparently open to every impulse or passion ο ί life.
Above all, the essential conditions are thereby created for adapting,
without losing oneself, to a world that has become free but left to its
own devices, seized by irrationality and meaninglessness. And this is
exactly the problem with which we began.
Having established this basic point regarding the ultimate clarifi-
cation ο ί oneself, Ι turn now to some special aspects ο ί the integrated
rnan's orientation within current experience.
If we follow the method used up to now and take some ο ί Nietzsche's
categories as our provisional reference point, we might immediately
relate this to "Dionysism." But ί η fact, the philosopher ο ί the superman
has given this term differing and contradictory meanings. One ο ί the
signs ο ί his incomprehension ο ί ancient traditions is his interpretation ο ί
the symbols ο ί Dionysus and Α ρ ο l Ι ο ο η the basis ο ί a modern philoso-
phy like Schopenhauer's. As Ι have already pointed out, he uses the term
"Dionysus" for a sort ο ί divinized immanence, an intoxicated and fre-
netic affirmation ο ί life ί η its most irrational and tragic aspects. Ο η the
other hand, Nietzsche makes Apollo into the symbol ο ί a contemplation
ο ί the world ο ί pure forms, as though taking flight to free oneself from
the sensations and tensions ο ί this irrational and dramatic substratum ο ί
existence. Α Ι Ι ο ί this is without foundation.
Invulnerability 65
Without entering into the special field ο ί the history ο ί religions and
ancient civilization, Ι will limit myself to recalling that the Dionysian
way was a way ο ί the Mysteries, apart from a few decayed and spuri-
ous popular forms. Just like other Mysteries that correspond to it ί η
other cultural areas, it can be defined ί η the terms already used: an
experience ο ί life raised to a particular intensity that emerges, over-
turns, and frees itself ί η something more than life, thanks to an onto-
logical rupture ο ί levels. But this conclusion, which is equivalent to the
realization, revival, or reawakening ο ί transcendence ί η oneself, can
equally well be referred to the true content ο ί the symbol ο ί Apollo;
hence the absurdity ο ί Nietzsche's antithesis between "Apollo" and
"Dionysus."
This serves as a preliminary to our real intention, which can only
concern a "Dionysism" that is integrated, as one might say, with
Apollonism. Here one possesses the stability that is the result ο ί the
Dionysian experience not as a goal before oneself, but ί η a certain sense
behind oneself. Or else we can speak ο ί a "Dionysian Apollonism," and
define ί η these terms one ο ί the most important ingredients ο ί the atti-
tude ο ί the modern human type ί η his encounter with existence, beyond
the special domain ο ί his trials.
Naturally, we are not dealing here with normal existence, but with
those possible forms ο ί it that are already differentiated, that have a
certain intensity, while still being defined ί η a chaotic ambience, ί η the
domain ο ί pure contingency. They are not today, and ί η the
times to come they will surely proliferate. The state ί η question is that
ο ί the man who is self-confident through having as the essential cen-
ter of his personality not life, but Being. He can encounter everything,
abandon himself to everything, and open himself to everything without
losing himself. He accepts every experience, η ο longer ί η order to prove
and know himself, but to unfold all his possibilities ί η view ο ί the trans-
formations that they can work ί η him, and ο ί the new contents that
offer and reveal themselves ο η this path.
Nietzsche often spoke ί η similar terms ο ί the "Dionysian soul,"
albeit with his usual dangerous confusions. It was for him "the soul
that, having being, plunges into becoming"8; that which can run
beyond itself, almost fleeing from itself, and find itself ί η a vaster
66 1n the World Where God 15 Dead
sphere; the soul that feels the need and joy of adventuring ί η the world
of chance or even the irrational. Ι η the process, "by transfiguring itself,
it transfigures existence"9: existence here to be taken ί η all its aspects,
just as it iS, "without withdrawal, exception, or choice."10 The domain
of the senses is not excluded, but included. The Dionysian state "is the
state ί η which the spirit rediscovers itself right down to the senses, while
the senses rediscover themselves ί η the spirit."l1 This concerns superior
types ί η which even experiences largely tied to the senses "end by turn-
ing into the image and inebriation of the highest spirituality."12
One could show many correspondences between the latter point
and the doctrines, paths, and very elaborate practices of the world of
Tradition.
13
One of the aspects of Dionysism ί η the broad sense can
ί η fact be seen ί η its c a p a ~ t y to overcome the antithesis of spirit and
senses, an antithesis typical of the previous Western religious morality
that is now ί η crisis. That which enables this antithesis to be overcome
is the other quality, introduced into the sense domain to transform its
motive force as it were catalytically.
Moreover, the capacity to open oneself without losing oneself takes
ο η a special importance ί η an epoch of dissolution. It is the way to
master every transformation that may occur, even the most perilous
ones. Α passage ί η the Upanishads marks its extreme limit, speaking
of him against whom death is powerless, because it has become part of
his being.
14
Ι η this state, outside events that might affect or upset his
being can become the stimulus that activates an ever greater freedom
and potential. The transcendent dimension, which holds firm through
all turns of the tide, all ups and downs, will also play the part here of
a transformer. It prevents any intoxicated self-identification with the
life force, not to mention what might be induced by a thirst for life,
or by the disorderly impulse to seek ί η mere sensation a surrogate for
the meaning of existence, and to lose oneself ί η actions and "achieve-
ments." Detachment coexists with a fully lived experience; a calm
"being" is constantly wedded to the substance of life. The consequence
of this υ η ί ο η , existentially speaking, is a most particular kind of lucid
inebriation, one might almost say intellectualized and magnetic, which
is the absolute opposite of what comes from the ecstatic opening to the
world of elementary forces, instinct, and "nature." In this very special
- - Γ , - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
..
Invulnerability 67
inebriation, subtilized and clari(ied, is to be seen the vital element nec-
essary (or an existence in the (ree state, in α chaotic world abandoned
to itself.
Later ο η , Ι may have occasion to enter into more detail about this
inebriation. The important point here is to grasp the essential opposition
between this state and attitudes that have taken shape ί η the modern
world alongside the rebellion against rationalism or puritanism. It often
calls itself a new "paganism" and follows a path like that ο ί Nietzsche's
worst "Dionysism" ("exuberance, innocence, plenitude, the joy ο ί life,"
the agape, ecstasy, eros, cruelty, intoxication, springtime,15 "a whole
scale ο ί lights and colors going from semidivine forms, ί η a sort ο ί
divinification ο ί the body, to those ο ί a healthy semi-animality and
the simple pleasures ο ί uncorrupted natures"16-as he wrote with par-
ticular reference to the ancient world). We have noticed a similar spirit
pervading much ο ί the modern cult ο ί action, despite the mechanical
and abstract traits often present ί η it. But the perspective that interests
us here is one ο ί clarity and presence ο ί mind ί η every encounter and
evocation, and a calm that coexists with movement and transforma-
tions. It imparts stability to every step ο ί the way, and a continuity that
is also that ο ί invulnerability and an invisible sovereignty.
This also demands a kind ο ί freedom from the past and the future,
the intrepidity ο ί a soul free from the bonds ο ί the lesser Ι , the "being"
that manifests itself ί η the form ο ί "being ί η action." The naturalness
required by this mode ο ί being prevents ~ s from using the term "hero-
ism" to describe some ο ί its incidental features, for there is nothing ί η
it ο ί the pathos, romanticism, individualism, rhetoric, and even exhi-
bitionism that nearly always accompany the current idea ο ί heroism.
And we hardly need underline the difference between this use ο ί the
word "act" and a certain empty academic philosophy, an outmoded
neo-Hegelianism that took the concept as its center.
17
11
Acting without Desire
The Causal Law

Ι now address a particular aspect of the attitude ί η question, applicable
to a wider and less exclusive field: that of life seen as the field of works,
activities, and achievements..in which the individual deliberately takes
the initiative. We are not dealing now with simple, lived experiences,
but with procedures aimed at a goal. The character of the human type Ι
have been describing must result ί η a certain orientation whose essence
was defined ί η the traditional world by two basic maxims.
The first of these is to act without regard to the fruits, without being
affected by the chances of success or failure, victory or defeat, winning
or losing, any more than by pleasure or pain, or by the approval or
disapproval of others. This form of action has also been cal1ed "action
without desire." The higher dimension, which is presumed to be present
ί η oneself, manifests through the capacity to act not with less, but with
more application than a normal type of man could bring to the ordi-
nary forms of conditioned action. One can also speak here of "doing
what needs to be done," impersonal1y.
The necessary coexistence of the two principles is even more dis-
tinct ί η the second traditional maxim, which is that of "action without
acting." It is a paradoxical, Far Eastern way of describing a form of
action that does not involve or stir the higher principle of "being" ί η
itself. Yet the latter remains the true subject of the action, giving it its
primary motive force and sustaining and guiding it from beginning to
end.
1
Such a line of conduct obviously refers to the domain ί η which one's
own nature is al10wed to function, and to that which derives from the
particular situation that one has actively assumed as an individual. This
68
Acting without Desire 69
is the very context ί η which the maxims ο ί "acting without regard to
the fruits" and ο ί "doing what needs to be done" apply. The content ο ί
such action is not what is given by initiatives that arise from the void ο ί
pure freedom; it is what is defined by one's own natural inner law.
Whereas the Dionysian attitude mainly concerns the receptive side
ο ί the testing and confirmation ο ί oneself while ί η the midst ο ί becom-
ing, and perhaps when facing the unexpected, the irrational, and the
problematic, the orientation ο ί which Ι have been speaking concerns
the active side, ί η the specific and, ί η a way, external sense ο ί personal
behavior and expression. Another saying from the world ο ί Tradition
may apply here: "Be whole ί η the broken, straight ί η the bent."2 Ι have
already alluded to it when evoking a whole category ο ί actions that are
really peripheral and "passive," which do not engage the essence but
are automatic reflexes, unreflecting reactions ο ί the sensibility. Even
the supposed plenitude ο ί pure "living," which is largely biologically
conditioned, does not belong to a much higher plane. Very different
is the action that arises from the deep and ί η a way supra-individual
core ο ί being, ί η the form ο ί "being inasmuch as one acts." Whatever
their object, one is involved ί η these actions. Their quality never varies,
divides, ο τ multiplies: they are a pure expression ο ί the self, whether
ί η the humblest work ο ί an artisan ο τ ί η precise mechanical work, ί η
action taken ί η situations ο ί danger, ο ί command, ο τ ο ί controlling
powerful material ο τ social forces. Charles Peguy was ο η l Υ stating a
principle ο ί broad application ί η the w ο ι ; . l d ο ί Tradition when he said
that a work well done is a reward ί η itself, and that the true artisan puts
the same care into a work to be seen, and into one that remains unseen.
Ι will return to this theme ί η a later chapter.
Α particular point that deserves to be highlighted concerns the real
significance ο ί the idea that neither pleasure η ο τ pain should enter as
motives when one must do what must be done. It might easily make
one think along the lines ο ί a "moral stoicism," with all the aridity
and soullessness inherent ί η that concept. Ι η fact, it will be difficult ί ο τ
someone who is acting from a basis ί η "life" and not from "being" to
imagine the possibility ο ί this kind ο ί orientation, ί η which one obeys
η ο abstract rule, η ο "duty" superimposed ο η the natural impulse ο ί
the individual, because his impulse would instead be to seek pleasure
-
70 In the World Where God Is Dead
and ν pain. This, ν is a commonp1ace ν from the
fa1se genera1ization of what ο η Υ app1ies to certain situations, where
p1easure and pain are right1y ν as detached ideas, which a pre-
1iminary rationa1 consideration transforms into goa1s and ν of
action. Situations of this kind are rarer than one might think ί η any
"sane" nature (and the expression right1y app1ies here); there are many
cases ί η which the starting point is not a reflection, but a ν motion
that resonates as p1easure or pain as it ν One can ί η fact speak
of a ν "decadence" when ν of hedonism and comfort take first
p1ace ί η one's conduct of 1ife. It imp1ies a sp1itting and a 10ss of sou1
that are ana1ogous to the form sexua1 p1easure takes for ν and
ν types. Ι η them, what otherwise arises naturally from the motion
of eros and conC1udes with the possession and embrace of the woman
becomes a separate end, to which the rest ν as a means.
Ι η any case, the important thing is to make the distinction, well
known to traditiona1 teachings, between the happiness or p1easure that
is ardent, and that which is heroic-using the 1atter term with due res-
ν The distinction corresponds to that between two opposite
attitudes and two opposite human types. The first type of happiness
or p1easure be10ngs to the natura1istic p1ane and is marked by ν
ity toward the wor1d of impu1ses, instincts, passions, and inc1inations.
Tradition defines the basis of natura1istic existence as desire and thirst,
and ardent p1easure is that which is tied to the satisfaction of desire ί η
terms of a momentary dampening of the fire that ν 1ife onward.
Heroic p1easure, ο η the other hand, is that which accompanies a deci-
ν action that comes from "being," from the p1ane superior to that of
1ife, and ί η a way it b1ends with the specia1 inebriation that was men-
tioned ear1ier.
The p1easure and pain that are not to be taken account of, accord-
ing to the ru1es of pure action, are those of the first type, the natu-
ra1istic. Pure action ν ν the other kind of p1easure or happiness,
which it wou1d be wrong to imagine as inhabiting an arid, abstracted,
and soulless c1imate. There, too, there can be fire and ν but of
a ν specia1 kind, with the constant presence and transparency of
the higher, ca1m, and detached princip1e-which, as Ι ν said, is the
true acting princip1e here. It is a1so important ί η this context not to
Acting without Desire 71
confuse the form of action (that is, its inner significance, the mode of
its validity for the Ι ) with its content. There is η ο object of ardent or
passive pleasure that cannot ί η principle be also the object of heroic or
positive pleasure, and vice versa. It is a matter of a different dimension,
which includes everything but which also includes possibilities that fall
outside the realm of natural, conditioned existence. Ι η practice, there
are many cases ί η which this is true and possible ο η the sole condition
of this qualitative change, this transmutation of the sensible into the
hypersensible, ί η which we have just seen one of the principal aspects of
the orientation of an integrated and rectified Dionysism.
Finally there is an analogy between positive or heroic pleasure and
that which, even ο η the empirical plane, accompanies any action ί η
its perfection, when its style shows a greater or lesser degree of dili-
gence and integrity. Everyone has experienced the particular pleasure
obtained from the exercise of an acquired skill, when after the neces-
sary efforts to develop it (without being driven by the idea of "ardent
pleasure") it becomes an ability, a spontaneity of a higher order, a mas-
tery, a sort of game. Thus all the elements considered ί η this paragraph
complement each other.
There are some further observations to be made ί η a more external
field: that of the interactions to which the individual is exposed, even
if he is integrated ί η our sense, by virtue of being placed ί η a specific
society, a civilization, and a cosmic environment.
Pure action does not mean blind action,:. The rule is to care nothing
for the consequences to the shifting, individualistic feelings, but not ί η
ignorance of the objective conditions that action must take into account
ί η order to be as perfect as possible, and so as not to be doomed to fail-
ure from the start. One may not succeed: that is secondary, but it should
not be owing to defective knowledge ο Ε everything concerning the c o η ­
ditions of efficacy, which generally comprise causality, the relations of
cause to effect, and the law of concordant actions and reactions.
One can extend these ideas to help define the attitude that the inte-
grated man should adopt ο η every plane, once he has done away with
the current notions of good and evil. He sets himself above the moral
plane not with pathos and polemics but with objectivity, hence through
knowledge-the knowledge of causes and effects-and through conduct
72 1n the World Where God Is Dead
that has this knowledge as its ο η l Υ basis. Thus for the moral concept
of "sin" he substitutes the objective one of "fault," or more precisely
"error."3 For him who has centered himself ί η transcendence, the idea
of "sin" has η ο more sense than the current and vacillating notions of
g·ood and evil, licit and illicit. Α Ι Ι these notions are burnt out of him
and cannot spiritually germinate again. One might say that they have
been divested of their absolute value, and are tested objectively ο η the
basis of the consequences that ί η fact follow from an action inwardly
free from them.
There is an exact correspondence with traditional teachings here,
just as there was ί η the other behavioral elements suggested for an epoch
of dissolution. Τ ο name a well-known formula that is nearly always mis-
understood, thanks to overblown moralizing, there is the so-called law
of karma.
4
It concerns the effects that happen ο η all planes as the result
of given actions, because these actions already contain their causes ί η
potentiality: effects that are natural and neutral, devoid of moral sanc-
tion either positive or negative. It is an extension of the laws that are
nowadays considered appropriate for physical phenomena, laws that
contain η ο innate obligation concerning the conduct that should fol-
low once one knows about them. As far as "evil" is concerned, there is
an old Spanish proverb that expresses this idea: "God said: take what
you want and pay the price"; also the Koranic saying: ''He who does
evil, does it ο η l Υ to himself." It is a matter of keeping ί η mind the pos-
sibility of certain objective reactions, and so long as one accepts them
even when they are negative, one's action remains free. The determin-
ism of what the traditional world called "fate," and made the basis
of various forms of divination and oracles, was conceived ί η the same
way: it was a matter of certain objective directions of events, which
one might or might not take into account ί η view of the advantage or
risk inherent ί η choosing a certain course. Β Υ analogy, if someone is
intending to make a risky alpine climb or a flight, once he has heard
a forecast of bad weather he may either abandon or pursue it. Ι η the
latter case, he accepts the risk from the start. But the freedom remains;
η ο "moral" factor comes into play. Ι η some cases the "natural sanc-
tion," the karma, can be partially neutralized. Again by analogy: one
may know ί η advance that a certain conduct of life will probably cause
Acting without Desire 73
harm to the organism. But one may give it η ο thought and eventually
resort to medicine to neutralize its effects. Then everything is reduced
to an interplay ο ί various reactions, and the ultimate effect will depend
ο η the strongest one. The same perspective and behavior are also valid
ο η the nonmaterial plane.
If we assume that the being has reached a high grade ο ί unification,
everything resembling an "jnner sanction" can be interpreted ί η the
same terms-positive feelings will arise ί η the case ο ί one line ο ί action,
negative ί η the case ο ί an opposite line, thus conforming to "good"
or "evil" according to their meanings ί η a certain society, a certain
social stratum, a certain civilization, and a certain epoch. Apart from
purely external and social reactions, a man may suffer, feel remorse,
guilt, or shame when he acts contrary to the tendency that still prevails
ί η his depths (for the ordinary man, nearly always through hereditary
and social conditioning active ί η his subconscious), and which has only
apparently been silenced by other tendencies and by the dictate ο ί the
"physical 1." Ο η the other hand, he feels a sense ο ί satisfaction and
comfort when he obeys that tendency. Ι η the end, the negative "jnner
sanction" may intervene to cause a breakdown ί η the case mentioned,
where he starts from what he knows to be his deepest and most authen-
tic vocation and chooses a given ideal and line ο ί conduct, but then
gives way to other pressures and passively recognizes his own weakness
and failure, suffering the internal dissociation due to the uncoordinated
plurality ο ί tendencies.
These emotional reactions are purely psychological ί η character and
origin. They may be indifferent to the intrinsic quality ο ί the actions,
and they have η ο transcendent significance, η ο character ο ί "moral
sanctions." They are facts that are "natural" ί η their own way, ο η which
one should not superimpose a mythology ο ί moral interpretations ί ί
one has arrived at true inner freedom. These are the objective terms
ί η which Guyau, Nietzsche, and others have treated ί η realistic terms
such phenomena ο ί the "moral conscience," ο η which various authors
have tried to build a kind ο ί experimental basis-moving illegitimately
from the plane ο ί psychological facts to that ο ί pure values-for an
ethics that is not overtly founded ο η religious commandments. This
aspect disappears automatically when the being has become one and
74 In the World Where God Is Dead
his actions spring from that υ η ί Ι Υ . Ι η order to eliminate anything imply-
ing limitation or support Ι would rephrase that: when the being has
become one through willing it, having chosen υ η ί Ι Υ ; because a choice
is implied even here, whose direction is η ο ! obligatory. One might even
accept and will η ο η υ η ί Ι Υ , and ί η the same class ο ί superior types that
we are concerned with here, there may be those who permit themselves
to do so. Ι η such a case their basal υ η ί Ι Υ does η ο ! cease Ι ο exist, but
rather dematerializes and remains invisibly ο η a deeper plane.
Incidentally, ί η the same tradition ι ο which the doctrine ο ί karma
belongs there is the possibility η ο ! ο η l Υ ο ί eliminating the emotive
reactions mentioned above (through "impeccability," inner neutrality
toward good and evil), but also ο ί the "magical" neutralization ο ί kar-
mic reactions ί η 1he case ο ί a being who has real1y burnt out his natu-
ralistic part, and thereby become actively de-individualized.
This partial digression may serve to clarify how the "moral"
plane can be eliminated impersonally, without any pathos, through
considering the law ο ί cause and effect ί η its ful1est extension. Earlier
ο η , Ι examined the field ο ί external actions ί η which this law must
be taken into account. Ι η the inner realm it is a question ο ί knowing
what "blows to one's own self" may result from certain behaviors,
and ο ί acting accordingly, with the same objectivity. The "sin" com-
plex is a pathological formation born under the sign ο ί the personal
God, the "God ο ί morality." The more metaphysical traditions, ο η the
other hand, are characterized by consciousness ο ί an error committed,
rather than by the sense ο ί sin; and this is a theme that the superior
man ο ί our own time should make his own, beyond the dissolution ο ί
religious residues, by following the course Ι have described. Α η addi-
tional clarification comes from these observations ο ί Frithjof Schuon:
"The Hindus and Far Easterners do η ο ι have the η ο ι ί ο η ο ί 'sin' ί η the
Semitic sense; they distinguish actions η ο ! according to their intrin-
sic value but according Ι ο their opportuneness ί η view ο ί cosmic or
spiritual reactions, and also ο ί social υ ι ί Ι ί Ι Υ ; they do η ο ι distinguish
between 'moral' and 'immoral,' but between advantageous and harm-
ful, pleasant and unpleasant, normal and abnormal, Ι ο the ρ ο ί η ι of
sacrificing the former-but apart from any ethical classification-to
spiritual interests. They may push renunciation, abnegation, and mor-
Acting without Desire 75
tification to the limits of what is humanly possible, but without being
'moralists' for all that."s
With that we can conclude the principal part of our investigation.
Τ ο sum up, the man for whom the new freedom does not spell ruin,
whether because, given his special structure, he already has a firm base
ί η himself, or because he is ί η the process of conquering it through an
existential rupture of levels that reestablishes contact with the higher
dimension of "being" -this man will possess a vision of reality stripped
of the human and moral element, free from the projections of subjectiv-
ity and from conceptual, finalistic, and theistic superstructures. This
reduction to pure reality of the general view of the world and of exis-
tence will be described ί η what follows. Its counterpart is the return of
the person himself to pure being: the freedom of pure existence ί η the
outside world is confirmed ί η the naked assumption of his own nature,
from which he draws his own rule. This rule is a law to him to the
degree that he does not start from a state of unity, and to the degree
that secondary, divergent tendencies coexist and external factors try to
influence him.
Ι η the practical field of action, we have considered a regime of
experiments with two degrees and two ends. First there is the proving
knowledge of himself as a determined being, then of himself as a being
ί η whom the transcendent dimension is positively present. The latter is
the ultimate basis of his own law, and its s ~ p r e m e justification. After
everything has collapsed and ί η a climate of dissolution, there is only
one solution to the problem of an unconditioned and intangible mean-
ing to life: the direct assumption of one's own naked being as a function
of transcendence.
As for the modes of behavior toward the world, once a clarifica-
tion and confirmation of oneself has been achieved as described, the
general formula is indicated by an intrepid openness, devoid of ties but
united ί η detachment, ί η the face of any possible experience. Where
this involves a high intensity of life and a regime of achievement that
enliven and nourish the calm principle of transcendence within, the
orientation has some features ί η common with Nietzsche's "Dionysian
state"; but the way ί η which this state should be integrated suggests that
76 1n the World Where God Is Dead
a better term would be "Dionysian Apol1onism." When one's relations
with the world are not those ο ί lived experience ί η general, but ο ί the
manifestation ο ί oneself through works and active initiatives, the style
suggested is that ο ί involvement ί η every act, ο ί pure and impersonal
action, "without desire," without attachment.
Attention was also drawn to a special state ο ί lucid inebriation that
is connected with this entire orientation and is absolutely essential for
the type ο ί man under consideration, because it takes the place ο ί that
animation that, given a different world, he would receive from an envi-
ronment formed by Tradition, thus fil1ed with meaning; or else from the
subintellectual adhesion to emotion and impulses at the vital base ο ί
existence, ί η pure bios. Finally, Ι devoted some attention to the reality
ο ί actions and the regime ο ί knowledge that should take the place ο ί the
mythology ο ί inner moral sanctions and ο ί "sin."
Those who know my other works wil1 be aware ο ί the correspon-
dence between these views and certain instructions ο ί schools and
movements ί η the world ο ί Tradition, which almost always concerned
only the esoteric doctrine. Ι repeat here what Ι have said already: that
it is only for incidental and opportune reasons that Ι have taken into
consideration themes from modern thinkers, especial1y Nietzsche. They
serve to create a link with the problems that preoccupy Europeans who
have already witnessed the arrival ο ί nihilism and ο ί the world without
God, and have sought to go beyond these ί η a positive way. It must
be emphasized that such references could have been dispensed with
altogether. With the intention ο ί creating a similar link to what some
contemporary thinkers have presented ί η a more or less muddled way,
it seems useful to treat briefly that contemporary current known as
existentialism, before proceeding to some particular sectors ο ί today's
culture and lifestyles, and to the proper attitude to take toward them.
--PART 3
The Dead End of
Existentialism
12
Being and
Inauthentic Existence
It is well known that there are two different types σ ί existentialism.
The first belongs to a group σ ί philosophers by trade, whose ideas
until recently were unk.Q,.own outside their narrow intellectual circles.
Second, there is a practical existentialism that came into ν after
World War 11 with groups that borrowed a few themes from the philo-
sophical existentialists. They adapted them ί σ τ literary purposes σ τ
as grounds ί σ τ anticonformist, pseudo-anarchist, σ τ rebellious ν
ί σ τ as ί η the well-known case σ ί yesterday's existentialists σ ί Saint-
Germain-des-Pres and other Parisian locales, inspired ν all by
Jean-Paul Sartre.
Both types σ ί existentialism ν ν essentially as signs σ ί the
times. The second type, ί σ τ all its forced and snobbish nature, still has
this ν η σ less than the "serious," philosophical existentialism. Ι η
fact, the practical existentialists are presented, σ τ present ν
as a ν σ ί that "generation at risk," ν σ ί the final crisis σ ί the
modern world. Thus they may actually find ν at an ν
ν the philosophical existentialists, who are mostly professors, and
whose academic table talk certainly reflects some motifs σ ί the crisis σ ί
contemporary man, but whose lifestyle has remained petit bourgeois,
far from the practical, personal, anticonformist conduct that the second
existentialist current displays.
ν it is the philosophical existentialism that concerns us
here. Let it be understood that Ι certainly do not intend to discuss its
positions "philosophically," to see ί ί they are ν "true" σ τ
"false." Apart from the fact that this would require a much longer treat-
ment than Ι can ν it here, it would be σ ί η σ interest ί σ τ σ υ τ purposes.
78
Being and Inauthentic Existence 79
Ι will examine instead a few of the more typical ν of existential-
ism ί η terms of their symbolic and, indeed, "existential" significance,
that is, as indirect testimonies ο η the abstract and ν ν of the
sensation of existence belonging to a certain human type of our time.
ν this examination is necessary for drawing the line between
the positions defined so far and the existentialists' ideas, which is all the
more important since my usage of a certain terminology could ν rise
to the mistaken idea of nonexistent affinities.
Apart from their systematizing and their more elaborate philosoph-
ical apparatus, the philosophical existentialists' situation is analogous
to Nietzsche's: they too are modern men, that is, men ν from
the world of Tradition and ν of any knowledge or comprehension
of that world. They work with the categories of "Western thought,"
which is as much as to say profane, abstract, and rootless. Noteworthy
is the case of Karl ]aspers, perhaps the ο η Υ one among the existential-
ists to make a few superficial references to "metaphysics,"l confused
by him with mysticism; at the same time he exalts "rational illumi-
nation," "the liberty and independence of the philosophical," and is
intolerant of any form of spiritual and secular authority, and of any
claim to obedience for men ν to be God's microphones"-as
if nothing else were imaginable.
2
These are the typical horizons of the
intellectual of liberal-bourgeois origin. Ι ο η the contrary, ν though Ι
ν considered and will be considering modern problems, will not use
modern categories to clarify or dismiss them. ν ν when the
existentialists partially follow the right p;th, it happens as if by chance,
not based ο η sound principles but with ν ν omissions,
and confusions, and ν all ί η a state of internal surrender. Worse
yet, philosophical existentialists use an arbitrary terminology that they
ν specially ν and which, especially ί η Heidegger, is of an
ν abstruseness, both superfluous and intolerable.
The first point to be emphasized ί η existentialism is the affirmation
of the ''ontic-ontological'' primacy of that concrete and irreplicable being
that we always are. This is also expressed by saying that "existence pre-
cedes essence." The "essence" here is ν to ν that can
be judgment, ν and name. As for existence, it is immediately related
to the "situation" ί η which ν ν himself concretely ί η
80 The Dead End of Existentialism
space, time, and history. The expression used by Heidegger for this ele-
mentary reality is "being-there" or "being-here" (Da-sein).3 He connects
it closely to "being-in-the-world," to the extent of seeing it as an essential
constituent element of the human being. Τ ο recognize the conditionality
imposed by the "situation" ί η the treatment of every problem and the
vision of the world is necessary, he says, ί η order not to fall into mystifica-
tion and self-deception.
Whatever value they may have, the consequences of this first basic
existentialist motif add little to what we have already established
regarding the affirmation of one's own nature and one's own law, and
regarding the rejection of all doctrines and norms that claim universal,
abstract, and normative validity. Obviously it confirms the direction ί η
which to seek the only-support ί η a climate of dissolution. ]aspers, espe-
cially, brings to light the fact that every Ό ί ν consideration, when
detached from the context of the problems and visions of the world,
leads inevitably to relativism, skepticism, and ultimately to nihilism.
The ο η Υ viable path is that of an "elucidation" (Erhellung) of the ideas
and principles ο η the basis of their existential foundation, or of the truth
of the "being" that each one is. It is like enclosing oneself ί η a circle.
Heidegger, however, says of this, and not unjustly, that the important
thing is not to leave the circle, but to remain there ί η the right way.
The relation between this orientation and an environment by
now devoid of meaning is given by the existential opposition between
authenticity and inauthenticity. Heidegger speaks of the state of inau-
thenticity, of swooning, of "covering" oneself or fleeing from oneself to
find oneself, of "being flung"4 into the anodyne existence of everyday
life with its platitudes, chattering, lies, entanglements, expedients, its
forms of "tranquilization" and "dejection," and its escapist diversions.
5
Authentic existence is seen and sought when one senses the emptiness
underlying that existence and is recalled to the problem of one's own
deepest being, beyond the social Ι and its categories. Here we have a
recapitulation of all the critiques that conclude by showing the absur-
dity and insignificance of modern life.
The affinity of these ideas with the positions already defined here
is, however, relative, because existentialism is characterized by an unac-
ceptable overvaluation of "situationality." "Dasein" for Heidegger is
Being and Inauthentic Existence 81
always "being-in-the-world."6 The destiny of the "boundary situation"7
is, for ]aspers as well as for Marcel, a liminal fact, a given ί η the face
of which thinking halts and crashes. Heidegger repeats that the charac-
teristic of "being-in-the-world" is not accidental for the Self: it is not as
though the latter could exist without it, it is not that man firstly is, and
then has a relation with the world-a causal, occasional, and arbitrary
relationship with that which is. Α Ι Ι this might well be the case, but
only for a human type different from that which concerns us. As we
know, ί η this human type an inner detachment, albeit coupled with an
absolute assumption of his determined nature, limits any "situational"
conditions and, from a superior point of view, minimizes and relegates
to contingency any "being-in-the-world."
There is an evident incongruence ί η the existentialists, since at the
same time they generally consider a rupture of that "enclosure" of the
individual, and an overcoming of that simple immanence, which, as we
have seen, gravely prejudice the positions of Nietzsche. Already ί η S0ren
Kierkegaard, considered as the spiritual father of the existentialists,
"existence" is presented as a problem; with a special use of the German
term Existenz, different from current usage, he defines Existenz as a
paradoxical point ί η which the finite and the infinite, the temporal and
the eternal, are copresent, meeting but mutually excluding each other.
So it would seem to be a matter of recognizing the presence ί η man of
the transcendent dimension. (Following the abstract habit of philoso-
phy, the existentialists t o ο speak of man ί η gt;peral, whereas one should
always refer to one or another human type.) Still, we can accept the
conception of Existenz as the physical presence of the Ι ί η the world,
ί η a determined, concrete, and unrepeatable form and situation (cf. the
theory of one's own nature and law ί η chapter 7) and, simultaneously, as
a metaphysical presence of Being (of transcendence) ί η the Ι
Along these lines, a certain type of existentialism could also lead to
another point already established here: that of a positive antitheism, an
existential overcoming of the God-figure, the object of faith or doubt.
Since the center of the Ι is also mysteriously the center of Being, "God"
(transcendence) is a certainty, not as a subject of faith or dogma, but
as presence ί η existence and freedom. The saying of ]aspers: "God is a
certainty for me inasmuch as Ι exist authentically,"8 relates ί η a certain
82 The α End of α
way to the state already indicated, ί η which calling Being into question
would amount to calling oneself into question.
From this first dissection ο ί existentialist ideas we can reckon ο η
the ν side its highlighting ο ί the dual structure ο ί a ν human
type (not ο ί man ί η general) and the piercing ο ί the plane ο ί "life" to
admit a higher type ο ί presence. But we shall see the problem that all
this entails, and that existentialism does not ν

13
Sartre:
Prisoner without Walls
Of all the existentialists, Sartre is perhaps the one who has most empha-
sized "existential freedom." His theory essentially reflects the movement
toward detachment that has led to the nihilistic world. Sartre speaks of
the nihilating (neantisant) act of the human being, which expresses his
freedom and constitutes the essence and the ultimate meaning of every
motion directed at a goal, and, ί η the final instance, of his whole exis-
tence ί η time. The speculative "justification" of such an idea is that " ί η
order to act it is necessary to abandon the plane of being and resolutely
attack that of nonbeing," because every goal corresponds to a situa-
tion not yet ί η existence, hence to a nothingness, to the empty space of
that which is mere possibility. Freedom ί η action introduces, then, the
"nothingness" into the world: "the human being first rests ί η the bosom
of being, then detaches himself from it with a'nihilating recoil" (recul
neantisant). This occurs not only when freedom calls being into ques-
tion by doubting, interrogating, seeking out, and destroying it, but also
ί η any desire, emotion, or passion, without any exception. Freedom is
then presented to us as "a nihilating rupture with the world and with
oneself," as pure negation of the given: not being that which is, but being
that which is not.
1
Through repetition, this process of rupture and tran-
scendence that leaves nothing behind itself and goes forward toward
nothing, gives rise to the development of existence ί η time (to "tem-
poralization.") Sartre says precisely: "Freedom, choice, nihilation, and
temporalization are one and the same thing."2
This view is shared by other existentialists, especially by Heidegger,
83
84 The Dead End of Existentialism
when he locates ί η "transcendence" the essence, the fundamental struc-
ture of the subject, the self, the ipseity, or whatever else one wants to call
"the entity that we always are." But it is Sartre who is responsible for
relating such views to their "existential" underpinning, made from the
specific experience of the last man who, having burned every support or
bond, finds himself consigned to himself.
Sartre employs every subtle argument to demonstrate Ό ί Ι Υ
that the final ground of any human action is absolute freedom, that
there is η ο situation ί η which man is not compelled to choose, having η ο
other basis ί η his choice outside of himself. Thus Sartre points out that
even not choosing is a choice, so that basically the act of volition entails
η ο more freedom than the impassioned act, than surrendering oneself,
obeying, or giving way instinct. Referring to "nature," "physiology,"
"history," and so on, is not a valid excuse, because according to the
given terms one's own fundamental freedom and one's own responsi-
bility still subsist. Thus what ί η Nietzsche was an imperative-that the
superior man should know nothing to which to consign his responsibil-
ity and sensation of living-is here posited as a given fact proven by
philosophical analysis. But Sartre's state of mind is very different. For
him, man is like someone ί η a prison without walls; he cannot find,
either ί η himself or outside himself, any refuge from his freedom; he is
destined, is sentenced to be free. He is not free to accept or refuse his
freedom; he cannot escape it. Ι have already mentioned this state of the
mind as the most characteristic evidence of the specific, negative sense
that freedom has assumed ί η a certain human type ί η the epoch of
nihilism. Freedom that cannot cease to be such, that cannot choose to
be or not to be freedom, is for Sartre a limitation, a primordial, insuper-
able, and distressing "given."
Ι η his philosophy, everything else, including the outside world, the
totality of limitations belonging to men, things, or events, is suppos-
edly never a real constriction; every impotence, every tragedy, even
death itself, can be assumed, ί η principle, within freedom. Ι η most
cases, everything will be reduced to factors that one must still take into
account, but that are not internally binding (as if following the objective
line of conduct considered below ί η chapter 16). Here Sartre has taken
from Heidegger the concept of "instrumentality" (Zuhandenheit), of
Sartre: Prisoner without Walls 85
the character ο ί "mere usable means" that everything that comes to us
from the outside, from people and things, may present to us: it always
presupposes not ο η l Υ my particular structure or formation, but also any
attitude, goal, or direction selected or accepted by me alone, to which
the external factors cease to have a neutral character and make them-
selves known as favorable (usable) or adverse. Α η Υ ο ί these characters
may be inverted to the point at which they change my position, the
order ο ί my goals and tendencies. Once again, there is η ο exit from the
enclosed circle ο ί one's own basic freedom. "[Man] has ο η l Υ done what
he willed; he has ο η l Υ willed what he has done."
Ι will not digress here over the details ο ί Sartre's often paradoxi-
cal arguments ο η this subject. It is more interesting to realize that all
these describe the specific image ο ί the free, "nihilating" man, alone
with himself. Sartre writes: "We do not have behind or before us the
luminous realm ο ί values, justifications, or causes." Ι am abandoned to
my freedom and responsibility, without refuge ί η or outside ο ί me, and
without excuse.
As for the emotional tone, it amounts to feeling absolute free-
dom not as a victory, but as a burden. Heidegger even uses the term
"weight" (Last) to characterize the sensation that one feels, once find-
ing oneself "hurled" into the world: one is very alive to the sense ο ί
"being-here" but ί η the dark as to "whence" and "whither." Moreover,
the introduction ο ί the concept ο ί responsibility already reveals one ο ί
the principal flaws ο ί all existentialis!p: to whom is one responsible?
Α radical "nihilation," when interpreted with regard to our special
human type as an active manifestation ο ί the dimension ο ί transcen-
dence, should not tolerate anything that could give the word "respon-
sibility" such a sense: naturally, we mean a "moral" sense, aside from
the consequences, external repercussions, either physical or social,
that can be expected for a given act, internally free. One finds oneself
already faced with the well-known situation ο ί a freedom that is suf-
fered, rather than claimed: modern man is not free, but finds himself
free ί η the world where God is dead. ''He is delivered υ ρ to his free-
dom." It is from this that his deep suffering comes. When he is fully
aware ο ί this, anguish seizes him and the otherwise absurd sensation
ο ί a responsibility reappears.
14
Existence, Α Project Flung
into the World"
We now consider another characteristic and symptomatic theme of
existentialism: that of the problematical nature of "Dasein."l For
Heidegger, the basis of pasein is nothingness; one is only flung into
the world as a mere possibility of being. Ι η existence, for the entity
that Ι am, the metaphysical question concerns my own being: Ι may
either attain it, or fail to do so. Heidegger's odd definition of what the
ν represents is "an existent potentiality of being," and also "a
project flung into the world" (and a mere project is not necessarily real-
ized). Sartre: "The Ι which Ι am depends, ί η itself, ο η the Ι that Ι ν
not yet become, precisely as the Ι that Ι ν not yet become depends ο η
the Ι that Ι am."2 Here we meet the existential angst, which Heidegger
rightly distinguishes from fear. Fear arises ί η the face of the world, due
to external, physical situations or perils; it would not exist if angst did
not exist, caused by the feeling of the generally problematic nature of
one's own being, and by the feeling that one not yet is; that one might
be, but also might not be. This theory is another witness to the climate
of modern existence and to a basic traumatization of being. It goes
without saying that it would be absolutely incomprehensible ί η an inte-
grated human type, who is ignorant of angst, hence also of fear.
Ι η the existentialism that knows η ο openings ο η a religious basis,
a ν but logical consequence of the conception of the Self as a mere
uncertain possibility of being is the temporality or historicity of exis-
tence. If Ι am nothing, if Ι lack a preexistent metaphysical basis, if Ι only
am if that mere project of myself becomes realized, ν Ι exist only
ί η time, wherein that actuation of my project of being wil1 unfold-or
not, as the case may be. Thus the ν process of "transcendence"
86
Existence, Ά Project Flung into the World" 87
envisaged by this type of existentialism is purely horizontal, not vertical
ί η character. As we shall see, Heidegger speaks of a "horizontal ecstasy
ί η the temporal,"3 meaning that the entity of each of us is not tempo-
ral because it happens to find itself within history, but because it is so
ί η its own basic nature: it is able to be solely within time. Given this
anguished resort to becoming for the source of one's being, and also
given the recognition of the insignificance of "inauthentic" existence
ί η a life that is socialized, superficial, and anodyne, we have evidently
reached the extreme limit of a true "philosophy of crisis," which we
could have included among the varieties of modern nihilism.
Quite obviously, we cannot harvest anything worthwhile from
these existential themes to bear ο η the problems and orientation of the
man who concerns us. Just as we have excluded the intrinsic and fun-
damental value of "being-in-the-world," we must also exclude, for the
integrated man, temporality ί η the limiting sense used up to now. The
idea of the simple possibility of being, of my being ontologically my
own project, realizable or otherwise, is ο η Υ acceptable to us within
precise limits. What is ί η question is not "being," but one of its deter-
mined modalities: recognized, willed, and assumed. Since being ί η the
transcendent dimension is not at stake, the sense of one's own problem-
atic nature is relativized and defused, and one does away with the meta-
physical angst that the existentialists' man, having a different internal
constitution, feels, and indeed is bound to feel.
Turning to another point, by introducing the con-
cept of a "project," finds that it has to admit a nondeducible act that
took place before individual existence ί η the world: a mysterious deci-
sion that has determined the scheme of this existence. Yes, it is ο η Υ a
possibility of existence, but it is always determined and incontrovertible
ί η the case when it is realized. We can see here how a motif belonging
to traditional metaphysics, ί η both East and West (for the latter, see
Plotinus) has fallen onto most unsuitable soil. Traditional doctrines
accepted a predetermination that is ί η a way timeless, precosmic, and
prenatal, and connected with it the concept of one's "own nature" (the
Hindu svadharma, the ''original face" of Far Eastern philosophy). They
thereby justified within certain limits the precepts of fidelity to oneself,
self-election, and responsibility. But ο η these grounds one can η ο longer
88 The Dead End of Existentialism
hold to the existentialist principle: "existence precedes essence." Essence
should rightly refer to the preformation that contains potentially that
which is to be realized ί η human existence ί ί one follows a path ο ί
"authenticity," that is, ο ί profound unity with oneself.
Even Sartre, for all his emphasis ο η the "nihilating" freedom ο ί the
Ι , arrives at this order ο ί ideas without ever suspecting that they belong
to a millenary wisdom. He speaks ο ί a "fundamental project,"4 due to
an original freedom, which is the basis ο ί all the particular plans, goals,
and passional or voluntary motions that may take form ί η my "situa-
tion." Even for him there is a pretemporal, timeless choice, "a unitary
synthesis ο ί all my present possibilities," which remain ί η the latent
state ί η my being until "particular circumstances bring them to light,
without thereby suppressing tlreir membership ί η a whole." We might
think ο ί an analogy ο ί such ideas with what was said about the testing
self-knowledge, the amor fati, and even the Dionysian state, but always
as limited to that part ο ί my being that is tied to form. There is, how-
ever, an essential difference ί η the fact that for existentialist conscious-
ness the way leading "back" is blocked: it strikes against something
that seems impenetrable, unjustifiable, indeed fatal to it. Sartre even
says drastically that any particular use ο ί that inescapable freedom,
whether ί η voluntary or passionate, rational or irrational decisions,
occurs "when the bets are already laid." Thus he compares the original
choice to the act ο ί throwing the ball ο η t o the roulette wheel, an act
with which everything is already potentially decided.
We therefore face a curious contrast between two distinct themes:
that ο ί formless freedom having nothingness as its basis, and that ο ί
a species ο ί destiny, a primal determination that basical1y annuls the
former or renders it as illusory as ever. This mirrors an inner sensation
typical ο ί a period ο ί dissolution.
Against this background, two motifs ο ί Heidegger's seem fairly
insignificant, which might otherwise correspond to the elements already
mentioned for the attitude ο ί the integrated man. One is his concept ο ί
decision (Entschlossenheit), which corresponds to acts that are true to
one's own Self and awaken one from the state ο ί anodyne and semicon-
scious living among others. The other is the concept ο ί the instant as an
active and continuous opening ί η time to circumstances as they present
Existence, Ά Project Flung into the World" 89
themselves, as chances for realizing one's own possibilities. The cor-
respondence is only an outward one. Ι η fact, the existentialist perspec-
tives do not seem much different from those of theistic theology when
it talks about the "freedom of the creature," meaning the freewill that
God has given to man while leaving him the sole alternatives of either
renouncing it, or else being banished and damned if he makes real use
of it by deciding and acting ί η any way but to accept and follow the
divine will and law.
This religious framework is obviously lacking when existentialism
reflects the climate of the world without God, but the same situation
exists ί η covert form, with the same emotional complexes. It is directly
admitted ί η the existentialism that has deviated ί η the religious direc-
tion (Jaspers, Marcel, Wust, not to mention the Italian epigones of this
trend). ]aspers, for example, ends by limiting existential freedom to that
which enables the project presented as a given possibility to be actuated
or not actuated, but not changed. He draws from this a moral impera-
tive ί η these terms: "This is how you must be, if you are faithful to
yourself."5 Ε ν ί Ι the non-value, is referred instead to the will that denies
itself because it contradicts itself, because it does not choose that which
it has already chosen to be. This may again appear to be partly the path
that we have traced, until we reach the moment of divergence, which is
]aspers's passivity ί η the face of a "boundary situation" whose opaque-
ness causes him to swerve and abdicate. He even cites the Christian
saying: "Thy will be done," and adds: Ι feel certainty that ί η my
freedom Ι am not free by virtue of myself, but that Ι am therein given
to myself; Ι can even fail ί η myself and not attain my freedom."6 For
him, the supreme freedom is to be "aware of oneself as freedom from
the world and as supreme dependence ο η the transcendent," and he also
mentions the "hidden and ever uncertain demand that comes from the
divinity."7
Heidegger also speaks of having oneself before one as "an inexo-
rable enigma,"8 of the possible being (of the Ι delivered or entrusted
to itself, involved ί η a given possibility about which ί can η ο
longer be indifferent. γ et this author denies that there is any entity from
which to derive "Dasein," that is, my concrete and determined being
ί η the world and ί η time. Worse yet, Heidegger can find nothing better
90 The Dead End of Existentialism
than to revive the concept ο ί the "voice ο ί conscience,"9 interpreted as
"a call that comes from myself, and yet from above me,"10 when Ι am
deafened by the din ο ί inauthentic, anodyne, exterior life, and have η ο
heart for the choice already made. The fact that Heidegger sees ί η the
voice ο ί conscience an objective, constitutional phenomenon ο ί Dasein
and abstains, following his phenomenological method, from interpret-
ing it ί η a religious or moral sense, does not ί η the least affect the passiv-
ity ο ί the experience and the relative transcendence ("above me") ο ί this
voice. Thus he treats as nonexistent the critical effort ο ί the nihilistic
period, which showed how indeterminate and relative this "voice" is,
lacking any normative, objective, or unequivocal value.
When Sartre treats the ''original project" and says Ι choose the
whole ο ί myself ί η the-whole ο ί the world,"ll he admits the possibility ο ί
a change affecting the original choice, but ί η terms ο ί a breakdown, an
abyssal menace that 100ms over the individual from birth till death. We,
ο η the other hand, have seen that it is only through such awakenings
that the norm ο ί absolutely being oneself can receive its confirmation
and its supreme legitimization as freedom, unconditionality, and tran-
scendence. It is the second degree ο ί the testing knowledge ο ί oneself
that was considered earlier. How distant it is frOln the existentialists'
horizons will become clear from once more addressing ]aspers.
]aspers speaks ο ί the "unconditioned demand" through which is
manifested "the Being, the eternal, or whatever one likes to call the
other dimension ο ί being." It is a command to act ί η a way that has η ο
motive or justification ί η objective, rational, or ι ι terms. One
might almost think that it was the detached, "pure action" that Ι have
described.
The framework, ί η itself, is acceptable: "The 10ss ο ί positions falsely
believed to be safe opens υ ρ a possibility ο ί wavering that reveals not an
abyss but a realm ο ί freedom; that which appeared to be nothingness
manifests as the place from which the most authentic being speaks."
But when we try to see what ]aspers means by "the hidden uncon-
ditioned, which only ί η extreme ι ι governs the course ο ί life
with tacit decision," we find the categories ο ί "good" and "evil" reap-
pearing, at three levels. At the first level, what appears as "evil" is
the existence ο ί the man who remains ί η the conditioned state where
Existence, Ά Project Flung into the World" 91
animal life unfolds, ruly or unruly, mutable, and void ο ί decision. Up
to this point Ι might agree, ί ί ]aspers did not add that such an existence
must be subject to "moral values" (where do these come from? what
justifies them?), and ί ί he would make it clear that this is not a matter ο ί
the particular contents ο ί action, but ο ί the various forms ί η which any
action whatever, without restrictions or exclusions, can be lived. Thus
it would not necessarily exclude those actions that ί η a different human
type would belong to "naturalistic" or conditioned life.
At ]aspers' second level, "evil" is human weakness ί η the face ο ί
what ought to done; it is the self-deception and impurity ο ί motives
with which we justify certain actions and behaviors ί η our own eyes.
Here too Ι find nothing to object to. But at the third level, "evil" is
the "will to evil,"12 defined as "the nihilistic will to destruction for its
own sake," the impulse to cruelty, "the nihilistic will to destroy all that
is and has value." Ο η the other hand, "good" is love, which carries
one toward being and creates a relationship with transcendence that
ί η the opposite case would be dissolved ί η the egotistic affirmation ο ί
the Ι Ν ο comment is needed to indicate how little unconditioned is the
"unconditioned demand" ο ί which ]aspers speaks. One does not have
to go as far as Nietzsche ί η exalting the opposite kind ο ί behavior, such
as lawlessness, cruelty, and "superhuman" hardness, ί η order to real-
ize that ]aspers has fallen headfirst into the orbit ο ί religious or social
moralizing, and that the case ο ί a deconditioning rupture that Ι have
described, which incurs the extreme test Ο Ι one's own ontological status
and the verification ο ί one's sovereignty, has η ο place ί η his system.
Τ ο conclude this part ο ί my analysis, it can be said that existential-
ism leaves the fundamental problem unresolved: that ο ί a specific, pos-
itive, and central relationship with the transcendent dimension. For it is
ο η Υ the place of α within us that can decide ο η the value
and ultimate sense ο ί the existential tasks relating to the absolute mas-
tery ο ί Dasein, that is, what Ι am or can be ί η a determinate way. That
we have to call a draw ί η this regard is evident from the way the existen-
tialists conceive ο ί the pretemporal act ί ί they do conceive ο ί it, and not
simply leave it to the oblivion ο ί absurdity), which they have rightly
posited as the origin ο ί individuation, real or possible as the case may
be. We see motifs here that seem to replicate those ο ί Orphic or
92 The Dead End of Existentialism
Schopenhauerian pessimism: existence, Dasein, is felt not only as expul-
sion and as "being flung" (Geworfenheit) irrationally into the world,
but also as a "fall" (Heidegger's Ab-fallen, Verfallen) and even as a debt
or a fault (which is the double meaning ο ί the German word Schuld).
Existential angst, then, is caused by the act or choice with which one
obscurely willed to be what one now is, or what one ought to be ί ί one
can); it is caused by the use made ο ί a freedom that is ί η a way transcen-
dent, for which there is η ο meaning or explanation but for which one
remains responsible.
None ο ί the philosophical eHorts ο ί the existentialists, especially
Heidegger and Sartre, have managed to give meaning to such notions,
which really derive from a covert, tenacious residue ο ί an extroverted
religious attitude, from the oHshoot ο ί the idea ο ί original
sin as given ί η Spinoza's axiom: Omnis determinatio est negatio (every
determination is a negation). This comes down to saying that Dasein
is blameworthy "just by the simple fact ο ί existing"; existence, both
ί η fact and as a simple project, is ί η every case determined and finite,
hence it necessarily excludes all the infinite possibilities ο ί pure being,
which might equally well have been the object ο ί the original choice.
That is why it is "guilty." ]aspers ί η particular underlines this point: Μ Υ
guilt lies ί η the destiny ο ί having chosen (and ο ί not having been able
not to choose) only the one direction that corresponds to my real or
possible being, and negating all the others. This is also the source ο ί my
responsibility and "debt" toward the infinite and the eternal.
Such an order ο ί ideas could obviously only appeal to a human
type who was so ο Η center with regard to transcendence as to feel that
it was external to himself. This makes him incapable ο ί identification
with the principle ο ί his own choice and his own freedom before time;
and hence, as counterpart, the Sartrean sensation ο ί freedom as some-
thing alien to which one is condemned. Α further and more particular
implication appears ί η a rigid, false, substance-bound concept ο ί tran-
scendence-of the Absolute, Being, the Infinite, or whatever one prefers
to call the principle ί η which occurred the original individualizing and
finalizing act that is presented as a fall. The absurdity ο ί this view can
be illustrated by a parallel from everyday life. It is as though Ι had been
left entirely to myself ί η deciding how to pass the evening-going to a
Existence, Ά Project F/ung into the World" 93
concert, staying at home to read, going out to dance or drink, and so
on-and then made to feel guilty and indebted simply because Ι had
decided for one ο ί these possibilities and excluded the others. Someone
who is really free, when he does what he wants, has η ο "complexes"
or soul-searching ο ί this kind, nor does he feel "finalized" and fallen
because he thereby excludes other possibilities. He knows that he could
have done otherwise, but ο η Υ a hysteric or neurotic would be driven by
such a thought ί η "existential anguish." Admittedly, the transparency
ί η oneself ο ί one's own original basis, the Grund, may be ο ί very differ-
ent degrees, but it is the orientation that counts here. Measured by this
touchstone, existentialism condemns itself.
Making a short digression to the abstract, metaphysical plane, Ι
find false and constricting the conception ο ί an absolute and an ί η ί ί
nite that are condemned to indetermination and to fluctuation ί η the
merely possible. Rather, the truly infinite is free power: the power ο ί a
self-determination that is not at all its own negation, but its own affir-
mation. It is not the fall from a sort ο ί substantialized "totality," but
the simple use ο ί the possible. Arising from this idea, one can see the
absurdity ο ί speaking ο ί existence as a fault or sin, merely by virtue ο ί
being a determined existence. Nothing prevents us from adopting the
contrary point ο ί view, for example, that ο ί classical Greece, which sees
ί η limit and form the manifestation ο ί a perfection, a completion, and
a kind ο ί reflection ο ί the Absolute.
The human type to whom all these ideas appeal is
characterized by a (ractured will and remains so; the will (and the free-
dom) ο ί the "before" to which the mystery ο ί Dasein refers, and the
will (and the freedom) ο ί this same Dasein ί η the world and ί η the
"situation," are not rejoined (rejoining the two parts ο ί a broken sword
was an esoteric theme used ί η the symbolism ο ί medieval chivalric lit-
erature).13 When ]aspers asserts that knowing my own origin as an exis-
tence determined by a choice does not "possibilize" me, that is, does
not release the obscure bonds and the irrationality that this represents
and thereby give me freedom (or the presentiment ο ί freedom), this evi-
dently derives from the fact ο ί feeling separated from that origin, cut ο Η
from the transcendent dimension, sundered from the original being. For
the same reason, Kierkegaard conceived the coexistence ο ί the temporal
94 The Dead End of Existentialism
and the eternal, of the transcendent and the unrepeatable ν
tion ί η existence, as a paradoxical "dialectic" situation, anguishing and
tragic, to be accepted as it is rather than ν by posing the second
term ί η function of the first, so as to restore to unity that which ί η man
"js fragment and mystery and terrible chance."
When ]aspers himself says that without the presence of transcen-
dence, freedom would be purely arbitrary without any sense of blame,
he confirms ί η the clearest way possible how existence senses tran-
scendence-namely, as a species of paralyzing and anguishing "stone
guest." Β Υ projecting it outside oneself, one's relationship to transcen-
dence is ο Η center, exterior, and dependent. This is so much like the
relationship ί η religious consciousness that one might well accuse this
philosophy of Κ a 10t of fuss about nothing, and of being just a
prolongation of the religious world ί η crisis, not a space that can open
itself ν beyond that world. Transcendence, like freedom,
ought to furnish existence with a foundation of calm and incompa-
rable security, with a purity, a wholeness, and an absolute ν
ί η action. Instead, it feeds all the emotional complexes of the man ί η
crisis: angst, nausea, disquiet, finding his own being problematical, the
feeling of an obscure guilt or fall, deracination, a feeling of the absurd
and the irrational, an unadmitted solitude (though some, like Marcel,
fully admit it), an ν of the "jncarnate spirit," the weight of an
incomprehensible responsibility-incomprehensible, because he can-
not resort to ν religious (and hence coherent) positions like those
of Kierkegaard or Barth, where angst refers to the sentiment of the soul
that is alone, fallen, and abandoned to itself ί η the presence of God. Ι η
all of this, feelings appear like those that Nietzsche warned about ί η
the case of a man who has made himself free without ν the neces-
sary stature: feelings that kill and shatter a man-modern man-if he
is incapable of killing them.
15
Heidegger:
"Retreating Forwards"
and "Being-for-Death"
Collapse ο ί Existentialism
Τ ο complete this "existential" analysis ο ί the basis ο ί existentialism,
it will be useful to return to Heidegger, who, like Sartre, excludes the
"vertical opening" ο ί religion and claims to be "phenomenologically"
agnostic.
We have seen that the obscurity already inherent ί η existentialism is
exacerbated ί η Heidegger by his view ο ί man as an entity that does not
include being within itself (or behind it, as its root), but rather before
it, as ί ί being were something to be pursued and captured. Being is
conceived here as the totality ο ί possibilities, with regard to which one
is to blame, or, taking the other meaning ο ί Schuld, ί η debt. The exis-
tentialists never explain why this is the case, or why one shoula feel
this destiny ο ί seizing a pandemic totality at all costs. We can explain it
with reference to what Ι have already said: that it is all symptomatic ο ί
someone who suffers the unfolding or activity ο ί the transcendent as a
coercive force, with η ο feeling ο ί freedom. It is as though the possibili-
ties necessarily excluded from a finite being (finitude being negation,
as explained ί η chapter 14) were projected onto goals and situations
deployed ί η time; as though man had being before him, running ahead
ο ί him (the term used is actually Sich-vorweg-sein) ί η a process that can
never lead to a real possession, ί η a "horizontally ecstatic"l succession
(ecstasy here ί η the literal meaning ο ί exit from a stasis) that consti-
tutes "authentic temporality." This is how Heidegger presents things;
95
96 The Dead End of Existentialism
η ο other meaning is permitted for man's being, as long as he is alive,
because he always suffers from nontotality.
The prospects could not be darker. Dasein, the Ι , which is noth-
ing ί η itself, pursues being that is outside and before it, and thus runs
through time, ί η the same dependent relationship as the thirsty man
seeking water-with the difference that it is inconceivable that he will
ever reach Being, when he does not already possess it (as the Eleatic
philosophers said, η ο violence can make that to be which is not). The
view of life ί η Heideggerian existentialism could well be characterized
by Bernanos's expression: a retreat forward (une fuite en avant). It also
underlines the absurdity of speaking of a "decision" (Entschlossenheit),
ί η a really affirmative sense, for any action or moment ί η which the
"horizontal ecstasy" is developing, whereas that is exactly what applies
to the human type who interests us: becoming and existing ί η time are
substantially transformed ί η their structure and significance. The dark
downward pull, the neediness, compulsion, and unquiet tension are
destroyed, and existence takes ο η a character of acting and living deci-
sively, arising from an existing principle that is detached and free with
regard to itself and its determined action. This happens naturally when
the accent falls away from the Ι , or is transferred to the transcendent
dimension-to Being.
Someone has spoken of a "frenetic desire to live, to live at any
price, which is not the result of the rhythm of life within us, but of
the rhythm of death." This is one of the principal traits of our time.
One would not be rash ί η saying that this is the ultimate meaning of
Heidegger's existentialism, when thought through to its foundations,
that is, of existentialism that admits η ο religious opening. This is its
effective "existential" content, however it may seem to the philosopher
himself.
This significance seems to be confirmed by the ideas one meets
with ί η Heidegger concerning death, which are otherwise fairly
strange. Basically, it is ο η l Υ ί η death that he sees, and problematically
confines, the possibility of capturing this that is always escaping and
fleeing before us ί η time. Therefore Heidegger speaks of existence ί η
general as a "Being-towards-death," as a "Being-for-the-end."2 Death
overcomes being because it halts its constant, irremediable privation
Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" 97
and non-totality, and offers it "its very own possibility, unconditioned
and insuperable." And the individual's anguish ί η the face of death,
which deals the deathblow to Dasein, is the anguish ί η the face of this
possibility. This emotional coloring is again typical and significant,
showing how the condition of passivity persists even here, ί η the face
of that "end" that represents the "accomplishment," as ί η the dual
sense of the Greek word telos, ί η the context of the traditional doctrine
of mors triumphalis (triumphal death). Heidegger proceeds with an
accusation of a form of "inauthenticity" and diversionary tranquil-
ization aimed not ο η l Υ at the stupid indifference to death but also at
the attitude that judges the preoccupation with death, and anguish ί η
the face of it, as effeminate and cowardly, preferring to face it with
impassibility. He speaks of the "courage to have anguish ί η the face of
death,"3 which is absolutely inconceivable, not to say ridiculous, for an
integrated human type.
The negative character of the whole existential process, which
includes death and gravitates around it, is once again confirmed by
Heidegger's talk of "dying as being flung into one's very own possibil-
ity ο ί being, unconditioned and insuperable."4 It sounds like a destiny
of the most somber kind. And just as what lies before Dasein, the prior
state ο ί what we are, falls outside the zone illuminated by Heideggerian
(and non-Heideggerian) existential awareness, so everything "after
death" is left ί η obscurity, including the problems of survival and post-
humous states, of a higher or lower existence after this mortal one.
Even less attention is given to that "typology of death" that h a ~ had
such an important part ί η traditional doctrines: they have seen ί η the
various ways of approaching death a most important factor regarding
what death itself might represent, and, moreover, what may occur post-
mortem ί η each case.
The few positive motifs casually touched ο η by Heidegger are thus
neutralized by an essentiallimitation. Remarks such as that freedom "is
the foundation" (that is, the basis of "that being which is our truth")
"and as such is also the bottomless abyss of Dasein," turn out to
lack any real significance, η ο more than the need to "free oneself
from Egoity [Ichheit, the quality of being an Ι ] to conquer oneself
ί η an authentic selfhood" (which would return to that abyssal free-
98 The Dead End of Existentialism
dom}. Replying to the accusation of affirming an "anthropocentric"
freedom, Heidegger hastens to recall that for him the essence of Dasein
is "ecstatic, hence eccentric" (sic!), and that thus the feared freedom is
an error; so that after all there remains the simple alternative of inau-
thentic existence, which is fleeing from oneself and dissolving ί η the
irrelevant and anodyne life of everyday society, or else the obedience
to the demand of being that translates into accepting one's "Being-
towards-death," after spending one's life ί η the vain pursuit of that
fata morgana, the totality of being; that is, after having experienced
transcendence solely as that which unfolds and urges from within the
individual and his becoming, acting almost as a vis a tergo (force from
behind).
A ~ a last point, Ι would mention the final collapse of existential-
ism as seen ί η ]aspers's views ο η foundering, defeat, and failure (das
Scheitern). One must first accept two fairly incompatible conditions.
One concerns that free realization of the being that we are not, but are
able to be-and strictly speaking, we could stop here and resolve the
existential problem ί η these terms, which is the elementary or partial
solution that Ι have repeatedly considered. At the same time, ]aspers,
like Heidegger, speaks of man's impulse to embrace being, not as this
or that particular being, but as pure and total being. This impulse is
destined to fail ί η all its positive forms. Pure being may present itself
outside us through a "ciphered language," by means of symbols, but
ί η its essence it is "transcendent" ί η the negative sense, thus impos-t
sible to be attained ί η any way. This character of the object of our
deepest metaphysical impulse manifests itself ί η the "boundary situa-
tions" against which we are powerless. For ]aspers, examples of these
are guilt, chance, death, the ambiguity of the world, and being taken by
surprise. Ι η the face of all these situations that "transcend" us, one can
supposedly react either inauthentically with self-mystifications, decep-
tions, and attempted evasions, or else authentically, facing υ ρ to reality
with desperation and anguish.
It is hardly necessary here to point out the absolute falsity of these
alternatives, because there are other reactions possible, such as those Ι
have defined for the integrated man-not to mention everything Sartre
has discovered about the fundamental freedom and intangibility of the
Ι

Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" 99
Ι . But it is interesting to see what solution appears to ]aspers as the
"authentic" reaction. This solution consists of recognizing one's own
defeat, one's own checkmate or foundering, even ί η the effort of gaining
or somehow attaining being: ο η l Υ at that point, as the negative som-
ersaults into the positive, does one enter the presence of being, and
existence opens itself to being. "It is decisive how man lives defeat (or
failure or foundering-Scheitern): whether it remains hidden ί n order
to crush him ί η the end, or whether it appears unveiled, placing itself
ί η front of the inescapable limits of his own Dasein; either he seeks
solutions and palliatives that are inconsistent and fantastic, or else he
frankly keeps silence ο η account of the presence of the inexplicable."
At that point, nothing is left but faith. For ]aspers, the way consists
precisely ί η desiring one's own defeat, one's foundering, more or less
like the Gospel principle of losing one's life ί η order to find it. Let go,
quit the game: "the will to eternity, far from refusing failure, recognizes
there its own goa1." The tragic collapse of the self is identified with the
epiphany or opening to transcendence. At the very moment when Ι , as
myself, see Being escaping me, it reveals itself to me, and thereupon Ι
attain the supreme enlightenment of the existential duplicity ί η itself-
the point of departure for all existentialism since Kierkegaard-which
is supposed to clarify the relationship between my finite existence and
transcendence. It is a sort of ecstatic and believing opening, ί η defeat.
This is the price of superseding the anguish and disquiet of living, seek-
ing, and striving, with a state of peace, of which one can hardly miss
its basis ί η Christianity, and specifically ί η the dialectical theo1ogy of
Protestantism.
]aspers's only attempt to go beyond this truly creaturely level con-
cerns the concept of the "All-encompassing" (das Umgreifende). This
is a far echo of ideas that also belong to traditional teaching. The prob-
lem is posed by that dual consciousness that is always led to objectiv-
ize, to juxtapose an object to the Ι as subject, and can therefore never
grasp the ultimate root of being, the reality ί η which we are contained,
which is anterior and superior to this duality. ]aspers seems to allow the
possibility of overcoming the subject-object division and experiencing
unity, the "All-encompassing." It is necessary for every object (anything
juxtaposed to myself as Ι ) to disappear, and for the Ι to dissolve. But
100 The Dead End of Existentialism
given the sentiment of oneself that, as we have seen exhaustively, is the
ο η l Υ one known to the human type considered by this philosopher, it is
natural that everything would be reduced to another sort of foundering,
to the simple mystical experience of "diving into the All-encompasslng"
(these are ]aspers's words). It is the equivalent of Heidegger's confused,
passive, and ecstatic bursting into Being through death, after "living
for death." It is just as antithetical to any positive, clear, and sovereign
realization or opening to the transcendent as the true ground of being
and of Dasein, ί η an effective and creative conquest of the dual state.
With this, we can conclude our analysis of existentialism. Τ ο summa-
rize it, existentialism takes over some of the Nietzschean demands, but
... cannot go beyond them except as concerns the point highlighted ί η the
preceding examination: by including transcendence as a constitutive
element. Ο η Ι Υ here can existentialism relate to the human type who
concerns us; and the logical consequence should have been the break
with all naturalism and with every immanent religion of life. Including
this dimension ί η existentialism, however, causes it to fall right into cri-
Si8, and none of the solutions offered ο η the grounds of emotional and
subintellectual complexes-anguish, guilt, destiny, extraneity, solitude,
disquiet, nausea, the problem of Dasein, and so on-go beyond the
point one could have reached by developing and rectifying the postni-
hilist positions of Nietzsche, or even go as far as that.
As we have seen, ί η Kierkegaard, ]aspers, and Marcel, not to men-
tion other exponents of a "Catholic existentlalism" that passes for
"positive existentialism," the transcendent ί η question ends υ ρ as the
object of faith and devotion. It makes little difference that they use a
novel, abstract, and abstruse terminology instead of the more honest
one of orthodox theistic theology. The "free" man again looks back-
ward to the abandoned earth, and with an "lnvocatlon" (the actual
term used by Marcel) tries to reestablish a tranquilIzing contact with
the dead God.
Taken as a whole, the existential balance adds υ ρ to a negative. It
acknowledges the structural duality of existence and transcendence,
but the center of gravity of the Ι does not fall ο η the transcendent,
but ο η the existent side. Transcendence is basically conceived as the
Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" 101
"other," whereas one ought rather to conceive it the other way around,
with one's own determined, "situationa1" being, one's Dasein, as
''other'' to the true Self that one is. The former represents a simp1e
manifestation ί η the human state, and is subject to the correspond-
ing conditions, which are re1ative because they often act ί η various
ways according to the attitudes one assumes. (As Ι have said, this is
the positive contribution ο ί Sartre's ana1ysis.) Even though the re1ation
between the terms may often seem obscure and prob1ematic-and that
is the ο η Υ rea1 prob1em ο ί the inner 1ife-it does not destroy the fee1ing
that the integrated man has ο ί centra1ity, ca1m, sovereignty, superiority
over himself, and "transcendent confidence."
This confirms the fundamenta1 difference between the human type
who finds his reflection ί η existentia1 phi1osophy, and the one who
still preserves, as an inde1ib1e character, the substance ο ί the man ο ί
Tradition. Existentia1ism is a projection ο ί modern man ί η crisis, rather
than ο ί modern man beyond crisis. Anyone who a1ready possesses that
inner dignity described above, as natura1 as it is detached, or who "has
10ng wandered ί η a strange 1and, 10st among things and contingencies,"
finds this phi1osophy abso1ute1y a1ien to him. Through crises, tests,
errors, destructions, and successes he has rediscovered the Self, and he
is reestab1ished ί η the Self, ί η Being, ί η a ca1m and unshakab1e mode.
Equally distant is the man who has 1earned to give a 1aw to himself
from the heights ο ί a superior freedom, so that he can wa1k ο η that rope
stretched over an abyss, ο ί which it is said: "It is peri10us to cross from
one side to the other, peri10us to find oneself ί η the midd1e, to
tremb1e or to stop."
It is perhaps not so unkind to think that 1itt1e e1se was to be expected
from the specu1ations ο ί men who, 1ike a1most all the "serious" exis-
tentia1ists (as distinct from those ο ί the new "generation at risk"), are
professors, mere armchair intellectua1s whose 1ifesty1e, aside from their
so-called prob1ems and positions, has a1ways been ο ί the petit bourgeois
type. They are far from being "burned out" or beyond good and evi1 ί η
their actua1 existence, which is conformist except ί η the few cases that
flaunt a po1itica1 p1umage, sometimes 1ibera1, sometimes communist.
Men ί η revo1t within the chaotic 1ife ο ί the great cities, or men who
have passed through the storms ο ί stee1 and fire and the destructions ο ί
102 The Dead End of Existentialism
the last total wars, or have grown υ ρ ί η the bombed-out zones, are the
ones who possess ί η greater measure the premises for the reconquest ο ί
a higher sense ο ί life and for an existential overcoming, η ο τ theoretical
but genuine, ο ί all the problems ο ί man ί η crisis; and these are also the
points ο ί departure for any corresponding speculative expressions.
Ι η conclusion, ί τ may be interesting to give an example ο ί the value
that some themes touched ο η ί η existentialism may have, when assimi-
lated τ ο a different human type and integrated into traditional teaching.
The example is offered by the idea ο ί that sort ο ί transcendent decision
or choice that, as we have seen, many existentialists place at the ί ο υ η ­
dation ο ί every individual's Dasein ί η the world. Ι τ underlies his having
a certain range ο ί possibilities and types ο ί experience, and η ο τ others,
"and his awareness ο ί having come from far away; thus ί τ also supplies
him at least with a line ο ί less resistance, and maybe even with the basis
for authentic existence and fidelity τ ο himself.
Ι have already mentioned the presence ο ί a similar teaching ί η the
traditional world. Ι would add that ί τ is η ο τ ο η l Υ part ο ί the esoteric
doctrine ο ί that world, but often ο ί the general, exoteric view ο ί life,
where ί τ takes the form ο ί the doctrine ο ί preexistence ( η ο τ to be con-
fused with that ο ί reincarnation, which is ο η l Υ a popular symbolic for-
mulation, and absurd ί ί taken literally). The rejection ο ί the doctrine ο ί
preexistence must be counted among the limitations ο ί the theistic and
creationist theology that has come τ ο predominate ί η the West. Ο η the
one hand, this has mirrored, and ο η the other, ί τ has furthered a sup-
pression or silence about the prehuman and nonhuman dimension ο ί
the person, ο ί Dasein.
Now, we have seen that existentialism often exhibits a presenti-
ment ο ί this ancient truth, giving rise either Τ ο the anguishing sensa-
τ ί ο η ο ί an insuperable limitation that is obscure ί ί η ο τ absurd, or else
to the abdication and retreat into a creatural attitude ί η a more or less
religious sense. Ι η the differentiated type who interests us, ο η the con-
trary, the same presentiment can ο η l Υ act as ί τ has always acted ί η the
upper strata ο ί the traditional world, being a most essential part ο ί the
attitude required for staying ο η one's feet and "riding the tiger." As
an opening to the doctrine ο ί preexistence, ί τ generates an unequalled
force. Ι τ reawakens the consciousness ο ί one's origins and ο ί a higher
Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" 103
freedom ί η the heart of the world, the awareness of having come from
far away, thus also that of a distance. The natural effects will be along
the lines indicated: the relativization of everything that seems so impor-
tant and decisive ί η human existence as such, but ί η terms absolutely
opposed to indifference, sloth, and alienation. It is ο η l Υ ο η the basis of
this sensation that the dimension of Being can open υ ρ more and more,
beyond the physical Ι , thereby strengthening the capacity for involving
and giving one's whole self, not for the sake of exaltation, ecstasies,
or a merely vital task, but according to the duality already mentioned
when speaking of pure action. Ι η fact, the ultimate criterion of being
able to be destroyed, even, without thereby being wounded-which can
easily present itself ί η an epoch such as we live ί η , and such as will
very likely continue-is closely related to the lived experience of pre-
existence, which indicates the direction ί η which the "two parts of the
sword" may be reunited.
--PART4
Dissolution of
the Individual
16
The Dual Aspect
of Anonymity
Turning to a more concrete realm than that ο ί the last chapter, Ι shall
now examine the problem ο ί the personality and the individual ί η the
cQ.ntemporary world. There are many today who deplore the "crisis ο ί
the personality," and while they still pose as defenders ο ί Western civi-
lization, they often appeal to the "values ο ί the personality," holding
them to be a most essential part ο ί the European tradition.
Thus a problem presents itself, one that cannot simply be solved by
the facile polemic against the collectivism, mechanization, standardiza-
tion, and soullessness ο ί modern existence. Moreover, we must make
it very clear: What exactly is to be saved? Today's intellectuals who
have at heart the "defense ο ί the personality" give η ο satisfactory reply,
because they hold ο η to what Ι have called the regime ο ί residual forms
(see chapter 1), and, almost without exception, they think and evaluate
ί η terms ο ί liberalism, naturallaw, or humanism.
The true point ο ί departure should instead be the distinction
between person and individual. Strictly speaking, the concept ο ί the
individual is that ο ί an abstract, formless, numerical unity. As such,
the individual has η ο quality ο ί its own, hence nothing that really dis-
tinguishes it. Considered simply as individuals, one can assume that
all men and women are equal, so that we can ascribe equal rights and
responsibilities to them and presumably equal "dignity" as "human
beings" (the concept ο ί "human being" is ο η l Υ a dignified version ο ί
that ο ί the individual). Ι η social terms, this defines the existentiallevel
proper to "natural rights," liberalism, individualism, and absolute
democracy. One ο ί the principal and most apparent aspects ο ί modern
decadence refers, ί η fact, to the advent ο ί individualism as a conse-
106
The D u α l Aspect of Anonymity 107
quence of the collapse and destruction of the former organic and tradi-
tionally hierarchical structures, which have been replaced primarily by
the atomic multiplicity of individuals ί η the world of quantity, that is to
say the masses.
The "defense of the personality" appears insignificant and absurd
when measured ο η any individual basis. It makes η ο sense to position
oneself against the world of the masses and of quantity without real-
izing that it is individualism itself that has led to it, ί η the course of one
of those processes of "liberation" that historically have ended by taking
the opposite direction. l η our epoch this process has already had irre-
versible consequences.
When we turn from the social to the cultural arena, things ο η l Υ seem
to present themselves ί η a different way. The cultural field has remained
somewhat isolated, detached from the larger forces ί η motion today, and
that is the ο η l Υ reason the misunderstanding exists. Although atomized
individualism is not ί η question here, the idea of the personality is still
bound to a subjectivism based ο η the individual, ί η which the poverty,
or even the nonexistence of a spiritual basis is concealed by literary and
artistic talent, by an intellectualism and rootless originality, and by a
creativity devoid of any profoundsignificance.
Ι η fact, ί η the West there has been a collusion between individual-
ism, subjectivism, and "personality" that goes back to the Renaissance
period and which developed ί η the light of that "discovery of man"
exalted by antitraditional historiography. Historians have care(ully
ignored, or considered as positive, the counterpart, that is, the more
or less conscious and complete separation from transcendence. Α Ι Ι the
splendor and power of "creativity" of that period should not blind us
to this basic tendency. Schuon has clarified the true state of affairs
regarding the artistic realm as follows: "Speaking ί η human terms, cer-
tain Renaissance artists are without a doubt great, but their grandeur
becomes insignificant when faced with the grandeur of the sacred. l η
the sacred, it is as if the genius is concealed; what predominates is an
impersonal, vast, mysterious intelligence. The sacred work of art has a
perfume of infinitude, the imprint of the absolute. The individual talent
is there disciplined; it mingles with the creative function of the entire
tradition, which cannot be substituted, much less surpassed by the mere
108 Dissolution of the Individual
resources ο ί man."l One can say the same regarding self-affirmation ο η
other levels ο ί the "personality" ί η that epoch: from the Machiavellian
Prince type, with its more or less perfect historical incarnations, to the
condottieri and demagogues and, ί η general, all those who received
Nietzsche's approbation for their prodigious yet unformed accumula-
tion ο ί power.
Later, the emphasis ο η the human and individual Ι , the basis ο ί
humanism, would survive ο η l Υ ί η the by-products ο ί the nineteenth-
century bourgeois cult ο ί the Ι , associated with a certain aesthetic cult
ο ί heroes, geniuses, and "nobility ο ί spirit." But to meet many ο ί the
current defenders ο ί "personality" one must descend yet another degree,
to where all the vanity ο ί the Ι predominates: its exhibitionism, worship
' Ό ί one's own "interiority," the craze ο ί originality, the boastfulness ο ί
brilliant literati and ambitious belletrists. Even with regard to art alone,
this "personalism" almost always appears joined to an inner impov-
erishment. Luk<ics, though generally opposed to our position, made
this legitimate remark: "The present-day practice ο ί overestimating and
exaggerating the importance ο ί creative subjectivity actually betrays
the weakness and poverty ο ί the writers' individuality. They distinguish
themselves merely by 'eccentricity,' either spontaneous or painstakingly
cultivated; their worldview is at such a low level that any attempt they
make to go beyond subjective immediacy threatens to leave their 'per-
sonality' completely flat. The more that this is the case, the more weight
is placed ο η pure, immediate subjectivity, which sometimes is ί η fact
identified with literary talent."2 The character ο ί "normative objectiv-
ity" that was proper to true, traditional art is altogether lacking. The
category that Schuon has effectively characterized as "intelligent stu-
pidity"3 includes almost all the intellectual efforts ί η this area. But Ι
will not dwell further ο η considerations at this level-I will return to
the subject later-beyond pointing out that ί η contemporary celebrity
worship we can see the popular, updated edition that takes the former
"cult ο ί the personality" to ridiculous lengths.
Whether one is speaking ο ί social individualism, artistic individual-
ism, narcissistic individualism, or humanistic individualism, it is certain
that manifold, objective processes ο ί recent times tend to eliminate and
dissolve these forms ο ί the individualistic personality. Ι η view ο ί the ο η l Υ
The Dual Aspect of Anonymity 109
human type who concerns us, and ο ί the general situation, we cannot
see this as a negative phenomenon, but ο η the contrary, Ι would even say
that the further the dissolution ο ί the "values ο ί the personality" goes,
whether due to intrinsic or extrinsic causes, the better it will be.
This is the premise. Ι η order to go further ί η our analysis, we need
to leave ambiguity behind and clarify its terms, which is ο η l Υ possible
ί ί we restore the original and proper meaning to the term "person."
Originally persona signified "mask": the mask that ancient actors wore
ί η playing a given part, ί η incarnating a given personage. Thereby the
mask possessed something typical, nonindividual, especially ί η the case
ο ί divine masks and even more clearly when used ί η many archaic rites.
At this point Ι can resume and apply the ideas ο ί the preceding chapter
about the dual structure ο ί the being: the "person" is that which the
man presents concretely and sensibly ί η the world, ί η the position he
occupies, but always signifying α form of expression and manifestation
of α higher principle in which the true center of being is to be recog-
nized, and ο η which falls, or should fall, the accent ο ί the 5elf.
Α "mask" is something very precise, delineated, and structured.
50 man as person (= mask) is already differentiated thereby from the
mere individual; he has a form, is himself, and belongs to himself.
Consequently, whenever a civilization has had a traditional character,
the values ο ί the "person" have made ο ί it a world ο ί quality, diversity,
and types. And the natural consequence has been a system ο ί organic,
differentiated, and hierarchical relationships: something that cannot be ...
said ο ί mass regimes, but also not ο ί regimes ο ί individualism, ο ί "val-
ues ο ί the personality," or ο ί real or pretended democracy.
Like the individual, the person itself is ί η a certain sense closed
to the external world, and ί η relation to it, all the existential situa-
tions whose legitimacy we have already recognized can be ο ί value ί η
the present age. Unlike the individual, the person is not closed to the
above. The personal being is not himself, but has himself (like the rela-
tion between the actor and his part): it is presence to that which he is,
not coalescence with that which he is. Moreover, a kind ο ί antinomy
is brought to light: ί η order to be truly such, the person needs a refer-
ence to something more than personal. When this reference is absent,
the person transforms itself into an "individual," and individualism and
110 Dissolution of the Individual
ν come into play. Then, ί η a first phase, the impression may
ν arise that the ν ο ί personality ν ν ν and are ν
stronger, because the center, so to speak, is more displaced toward the
outside, is more externalized-and this is ί η fact the position ο ί the
cultural and ν humanism just mentioned, and ί η general ο ί the
so-called great ν One can see, ν that the "defense ο ί
the personality" at this ν is a precarious thing, because it has already
passed into the realm ο ί contingency; nothing acts anymore that has
deep roots and the force ο ί the original. Henceforth, that which is per-
sonalloses its symbolic ν its ν as a sign ο ί something that tran-
scends it and by which it is sustained; it loses also, little by little, the
typical characteristics, that is, the ν ν ones
due solely to that higher reference. Where an independent and distinct
form still subsists, it affirms itself ί η a disordered, arbitrary, and purely
ν regime.
As a last aid to orientation, Ι shall now define the meaning ο ί
"typicality" ί η a traditional ν It represents the meeting
point between the ν (the person) and the ν the
boundary between the two corresponding to a perfect form. Typicality
ν ί η the sense that the person then essentially incar-
nates an idea, law, or function. Ι η such a case, one cannot speak ο ί the
ν ί η the modern sense; the ν disappears ί η its casual
features, when faced with a meaningful structure that could ν reap-
pear almost identically ν the same perfection is reached. The
ν is ί η fact made "typical," that is to say suprapersonal. Β Υ
ν ο ί the Far Eastern saying, "The absolute Name is η ο longer a

Δ
is likewise anonymous. Traditionality ί η the higher sense is
a type ο ί confirmation ο ί such anonymity, or an approach to it within a
particular field ο ί action. One could ν speak ο ί the ν
and eternalization ο ί the person; but these expressions ν deterio-
rated through rhetorical and abstract usages that ν concealed any
possible concrete or existential meaning. It would be better to define
the situation ί η question as that ο ί a being ί η which the ν
principle-the Self, transcendence-remains conscious, and ν to
the ν "part" (the person) the objective perfection correspond-
ing to a ν function and a ν meaning.
The Dual Aspect of Anonymity 111
As a result, two concepts ο ί impersonality exist, related through
analogy and at the same time through opposition: ο η the personallevel,
one is inferior, the other superior. One has for a limit the individual, ί η
the formlessness ο ί a numerical and undifferentiated unity that through
multiplication produces the anonymous mass; the other is the culmina-
tion typical ο ί a sovereign being, the absolute person.
The latter possibility rests ο η a foundation ο ί active anonymity
that appears ί η traditional civilizations, defining a position opposed
to every activity, creativity, or affirmation based merely ο η the Ι . And
the aforementioned conversion, apparently paradoxical, ο ί the personal
being into an impersonal being, makes itself known ί η the fact that a
grandeur ο ί the personality indeed exists, ί η which the work is more
visible than the creator, the objective more than the subjective; where
ί η the human field something is reflected ο ί that nudity and purity that
belongs to the grand forces ο ί nature: ί η history, art, politics, spiritual
disciplines, and ί η all the degrees ο ί existence. One could speak ο ί a
"civilization ο ί anonymous heroes"; but the style ο ί anonymity is also
realized ί η the speculative domain, where it goes without saying that
what is thought according to the truth cannot be signed with the name
ο ί an individual. One also recalls the custom ο ί abandoning one's own
name and taking another that η ο longer refers to the individual, to the
man, but to the function or superior vocation, where the personality is
summoned to a higher obligation (for instance, royalty and pontificate,
monastic orders, and so ο η ) .
Α Ι Ι this finds its full significance ί η a traditional environment . .Jn
the modern world, ί η an epoch ο ί dissolution, even ί η this regard ο η l Υ
the essential orientation can be preserved. And we find that its principal
aspect faces us with an alternative, and a test.
,1
ι ,
Ι !
Ι
il
ι
1.
17
Destructions and Liberations ί n
the Ν ew Realism
It is said that the crisis ο ί individual and personal values seems des-
tined to become an irreversible process throughout the modern world,
despite the existence ο ί residual oases or reservations that withdraw
into "culture" and empty ideologies, and still accord to these values
a semblance ο ί life. Ι η practice, the mortal blow to the individual has
not been dealt by materialism alone, by the world ο ί the masses and
modern metropolises, but even more by the realm ο ί technology: by
elementary energies reawakened and controlled ί η objective processes.
Also the existential effects ο ί collective, catastrophic experiences, such
as total warfare with all its cold destruction, have acted ί η a dehuman-
izing way, eliminating everything from the old bourgeois world that
was varied, personal, subjective, arbitrary, and intimate.
The best illustration ο ί these processes is that ο ί Ernst Junger, ί η
his work Der Arbeiter.
1
Ι can certainly agree with Junger when he says
that these processes ο ί the current world have caused the individual to
be superseded by the "type," together with an essential impoverish-
ment ο ί his traits and ways ο ί life, and a dissolution ο ί cultural, human,
and personal values. Ι η the vast majority ο ί cases, the destruction is
suffered passively: the man ο ί today is the mere object ο ί it. The result
is an empty, mass-produced human type, marked by standardization
and flat uniformity; a "mask" ί η the negative sense; an insignificant,
multiple product.
The de-individualization that stems, however, from these very
causes, this environment, these spiritual ravages, may actually take an
active and positive course. This is the case that concerns us, and which
the differentiated type ο ί man whom we have ί η view should consider.
112
Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism 113
ί himself refers to that which sometimes manifested ί η recent
times ί η extreme, life-threatening situations, mainly ί η modern war-
fare. Ι η the material battle, ί η which technology seems to turn against
man with its systematic destruction and its activation ο ί elementary
forces, the individual as combatant cannot face it without being blown
apart-not ο η Υ physical1y but spiritual1y-unless he passes into a new
form ο ί existence. This form is characterized by two things: first, by an
extreme lucidity and objectivity, and second, by a capacity to act and
stay upright that is drawn from profound forces, beyond the categories
ο ί the individual, ο ί ideals, ο ί values, and ο ί the goals ο ί bourgeois
civilization. What is important here is a natural union ο ί life with risk,
beyond the instinct ο ί self-preservation, including situations ί η which
one's own physical destruction is paral1el to the attainment ο ί the abso-
lute sense ο ί existence, and actualizes the "absolute person." We might
cal1 this the ultimate case ο ί "riding the tiger."
ί believed that he could recognize a symbol ο ί this style ί η
the "unknown soldier" (adding that there are not ο η Υ unknown sol-
diers, but also unknown officers). Apart from situations ο ί which η ο
report ever comes to light, anonymous actions at the limits ο ί the life
ο ί the physical individual that remain without spectators and have
η ο pretence to recognition or glory, nor are attributable to romantic
heroism-apart from these, ]unger showed that through processes ο ί
this kind men ο ί a recognizably new type often tend to take form and
differentiate themselves, not ο η Υ by their behavior but by their actual
physical traits, their "mask." This modern type contains the destruc-
tion within himself and is η ο longer comprehensible ί η terms ο ί the
"jndividual": he is outside the values ο ί humanism. But the essential
thing is to recognize the reality ο ί processes that, ί ί they act ί η extreme
mode during modern total warfare, may repeat ί η other forms and
other degrees ο ί intensity when they encounter a suitable substance.
This can even occur ί η peacetime, ί η al1 ο ί today's highly mechanized
existence, striking the individual and supplanting him with an imper-
sonal "type" marked by a certain uniformity. The faces ο ί men and
women take ο η the appearance ο ί masks, "metallic masks ί η the one,
cosmetic masks ί η the other." Ι η their gestures and expressions there
is a sort ο ί "abstract cruelty," correlating with the ever-increasing
Ι
ι
I1
11
i1
Ι
114 Dissolution of the Individual
space ί η today's world that is taken υ ρ by technology, quantity, geom-
etry, and everything that refers to objective relationships.
These are indubitably some of the essential aspects of contemporary
existence, ί η view of which people have spoken of a new barbarism. But
what, then, is the culture that might oppose it and serve as refuge for
the person? There is truly a lack of valid reference points. J ϋ η g e r was
certainly mistaken ί η thinking that the active process of depersonaliza-
tion is the main trend ί η the postbourgeois world; and later he him-
self had to return to a very different order of ideas. The prevalent and
determining trends are, and will be increasingly ί η future, the passive
destructive processes from which can ο η l Υ arise a squalid uniformity, a
reduction to types that lack the dimension of depth and any metaphysi-
- cal quality, defining themselves at an existential level even lower than
the already problematic one of the individual and the person.
The positive possibilities can ο η l Υ apply to a small minority: to
those beings ί η whom the transcendent dimension is preexistent or can
be awakened. This brings us back, of course, to the one problem that
concerns us. These are the ο η l Υ ones who can give new values to a soul-
less world of machines, of technology, of modern mega-cities, and of
all that is sheer reality and objectivity, which appears cold, inhuman,
menacing, devoid of intimacy, depersonalizing, and barbaric. Β Υ fully
accepting this reality and these processes, the differentiated man can
essentialize and form himself according to a valid personal equation,
activating the transcendent dimension within, burning out the dregs of
individuality, and thus revealing the absolute person.
For this it is not necessary to consider ο η l Υ exceptional and bor-
derline situations. It is a matter of the general style of a new active
realism that opens υ ρ pathways even ί η the midst of chaos and medioc-
rity. Among other things, the machine itself may appear as a symbol,
and everything that has taken form ί η certain sectors of the modern
world ί η terms of pure functionality, especially ί η architecture. The
machine symbolizes a form born from an exact, objective adjustment
of the means to the end, with the exclusion of everything superfluous,
arbitrary, irrelevant, or subjective. It is a form that precisely realizes an
idea: the idea, ί η this case, ο ί the purpose for which it is made. Ο η its
own plane, it reflects ί η a way the same value as the classical world
Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism 115
knew through geometrical form, number as entity, and the whole Doric
principle ο ί "nothing ί η excess." Some have spoken ο ί a metaphysics ο ί
the machine, and ο ί new archetypes heralded ί η the perfect functional
forms ο ί our time. If this is meaningless ο η the prosaic plane ο ί every-
day modern reality, it may have meaning ο η its own, symbolic plane,
where one certainly does not envisage mechanization, rationalization,
and utility, but rather the value ο ί form and the love ο ί form. Here the
style ο ί objectivity should not be confused with that ο ί disanimation,
but can be taken along the lines already mentioned: ο ί impersonal per-
fection ί η every work.
It is interesting to notice an orientation ο ί this kind among the cur-
rents ο ί the post-World War Ι period, whose slogan was "new objectiv-
ity" (Neue Sachlichkeit). Books like F. Matzke's ]ugend bekennt: 50
5ind wir! (Youth admits: That's how we are!) do not deal with demands
satisfiable ο η the artistic and literary plane, but with the inner form
that a human type ο ί the new generation involuntarily finds itself with,
simply as the effect ο ί the general objective processes ο ί the times. Ο η
this plane one can define a realism that signifies coolness, clarity, seri-
ousness, and purity; detachment from the world ο ί sentimentalism, ο ί
ego problems, ο ί melodramatic tragedy, ο ί the whole legacy ο ί twilight
romanticism, idealism, and expressionism: a realism that entails the
sense ο ί the vanity ο ί the Ι and ο ί believing oneself important as an
individual. 2 Matzke wrote: "We are objective, because for us the real-
ity ο ί things is great, infinite, and everything human is too small, lim-
ited, and polluted with 'soul'."3 He spoke ο ί the language ο ί things and
actions, to be substituted for that ο ί feelings; ο ί an inner form that has
nothing to do with books, culture, or science, so that it can be much
more precise ί η the "barbarian" than ί η the "civilized" being ο ί the
bourgeois world. Hence the term ' Ό b j e c t ί v e asceticism" has been used
ο ί this attitude; and one may also recall the expression ο ί Stravinsky:
"to freeze things."4
Ι must emphasize that this attitude is based neither ο η pessimism
nor ο η a concealed philosophy ο ί desperation. It is not concerned with
values and goals that it now recognizes as illusory, or with its impotence
to control reality, or its own inadequacy. The very sense ο ί these values
and goals is nonexistent, leaving action to be free, ί η a pure and cool
116 Dissolution of the Individual
atmosphere. Drawing an analogy from the world ο ί the arts, Matzke
refers to the criteria that Albrecht Schaeffer followed ί η translating
Homer: he wanted to convey "the loftiness ο ί the far-off, the differ-
ent, the strange," and to highlight "not the episodic or sentimental, but
a laconic monumentality, rigid rather than moving, enigmatic rather
than familiar, obscure and weighty rather than smooth and polished."5
The essential traits ο ί the new attitude were well described as distance,
otherness, loftiness, monumentality, a laconic quality, and the revulsion
against all that is warm proximity, humanity, effusiveness, expression-
ism; the line ο ί objectivity ί η figures, ο ί coolness and grandeur ί η forms.
But apart from art, we are dealing with the general elements ο ί a
conduct and sentiment ο ί existence, because the thesis that art stands
a l Π O n g the supreme capabilities ο ί man and reveals the essence ο ί the
universe rightly appeared to these writers as tired and anachronistic.
The love ο ί clarity is part ο ί the style ο ί objectivity: "Better ugly and
clear, than beautiful and veiled."6 The world must return to its stable,
calm, clear, and naked state. ' Ί η the last analysis, even the life ο ί the
soul has value for us ο η l Υ as a thing, as a given ο ί existence, with equal
characteristics ο ί objectivity and fatality,"7 wrote Matzke. "Rather than
looking at the world from the point ο ί view ο ί the soul, we look at the
soul from the point ο ί view ο ί the world.
8
And then everything seems to
us clearer, more natural, more evident, and that which is merely subjec-
tive appears to us ever more irrelevant and laughable."9
Between the two world wars, functional architecture received
impulses from currents analogous to those ο ί the Neue Sachlichkeit.
The theme ο ί a new classicism generally surfaced ί η them, understood
precisely ί η the sense ο ί a tendency toward form and simplification,
toward a linear and essential "Doricism," affirmed ί η opposition to
the arbitrariness, fantasy, and "gracefulness" ο ί the preceding art ο ί
bourgeois individualism. One may also recall ί η France the so-called
esprit nouveau that was closely related to the exponents ο ί functional
architecture. And at the time when Bontempelli launched his "nove-
centismo,"lO a parallel demand, though ο η a merely dilettantish plane
ο ί literati and unrealized intentions, was proclaimed ί η Italy. Then
Bontempelli opposed to "the romantic era, that lasted from Jesus Christ
to the Ballets Russes" (!) the new era, which was supposed to unfold
Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism 117
under the sign ο ί a magical realism and a new classicism, just as others
were speaking ο ί the new Doricism ο ί the skyscraper era, ο ί white metal
and crystal.
Despite its limited pertinence to our concerns, this motive ο ί a new
realism contains values that are susceptible to transposition onto a
higher, spiritual plane, ί η view ο ί the task ο ί turning what one experi-
ences ί η the modern world into something positive. There are objective
processes today that certainly involve an impoverishment compared to
the preceding world ο ί the individual and the person, and to its sur-
vival. But ί η him who can maintain the inner tension proper to the
transcendent dimension, such an impoverishment may acquire the posi-
tive value ο ί a simplification and essentialization ο ί being, ί η a spiritual
world ί η dissolution.
Ι have treated the new realism with the reservation that what is ο ί
value ί η it is generally out ο ί sight. But now that this is pointed out, it
is best to draw a clear demarcation between the realism that may con-
tain this potential significance, and its subproducts ο ί neorealism and
Marxist realism that belong to the ambitus ο ί pure nihilism, not least
because there have been collusions between the different types.
Generally speaking, the second type has manifested almost exclu-
sively ί η the domain ο ί art and literary criticism, and as a function ο ί
politics. It is hardly worth dwelling ο η the neorealism that surfaced after
World War π It was characterized by the tendency ί η the artistic field
to present as human reality ο η Υ the most trivial and wretched sides ο ί
existence, mostly relating to the lowest and most vulnerable social
The whole pose exhausted itself ί η a single phase; it appeared wanting ί η
any dimension ο ί depth, even virtual depth, and served as a sophisticated
formula for certain intellectuals disguised as common folk. When it was
not reiterating banalities about the pathos ο ί wretched people, it often
took pleasure ί η ugliness and ί η masochism, ί η the complacent depiction
ο ί everything most abject, corrupt, and defeated ί η man. There is a whole
genre ο ί novels, unnecessary to name by title, ί η which this tendency
appears undisguised, sometimes ί η combination with the most irrational
and dark side ο ί existentialism. That which ί η actuallife is ο η Υ a sector
ο ί a complex reality is here characterized as reality itself: a misrepresenta-
tion too obvious to require further comment.
Ι
,
,
Ί
;
1
ι
Ι
Ι
j
Ι
ι
Ι
ι
118 Dissolution of the Individual
More noteworthy is the tendentious use made ο ί something that is
less a realism than a narrow-ranged verismo ο η the part ο ί the Marxist
"new realism," which realistically depicts the negative aspects ο ί exis-
tence for purposes ο ί propaganda and sociopolitical action, starting
from the wel1-known formula that "the damage done to humanity is
the consequence ο ί the bourgeois and capitalistic socioeconomic struc-
ture." We have already mentioned the kind ο ί "human integrity" that is
offered as an alternative: it is that ο ί Nietzsche's "last man," a human
integrity traded for that which might suit socialized cattle. The corre-
sponding realism and anti-idealism is to be judged accordingly. Its anti-
bourgeois and anti-individualist polemic takes for granted a regression
ο ί the human unit to a purely collective ("social") existence determined
- by material and economic values: a regression that is given out to be an
"integration" and a ''new proletarian humanism." (At one point Lukacs
lets slip its true name, when he speaks ο ί "plebeian humanism.") Here
realism seems to be synonymous with a banal primitivism, which we
have mentioned as the formula for one type ο ί existential anesthetiza-
tion ί η the world where God is dead.
The truth, as we know, is that the realism ί η question draws its
specific character from the theory ο ί historical materialism and from
other conceptions that, while they aspire to being objective and scien-
tific, ί η fact contain just as much "mythology" and mere social ideol-
ogy as is found ί η those great despised words, written ί η capitalletters,
ο ί bourgeois idealism. Words ο ί this kind are not eliminated from the
underpinnings ο ί the Marxist new realism, but replaced by others ο ί
a still lower level; they form the center ο ί a mystic nihilism sui generis
through their translation into energized ideas, made to work ο η the
subintellectual strata ο ί the masses. This is enough to deprive Marxist
realism ο ί any "realistic" character, and to show that it is far from hav-
ing reached the zero point ο ί values. That zero point may become the
start ο ί a clear, detached, objective vision ο ί existence, and ο ί a positive,
existential incapacity to submit to "myths" ο ί any kind whatsoever. This
last trait belongs rather to the deepest demand ο ί the "new realism" dis-
cussed above, the Neue Sachlichkeit and kindred tendencies, ί η which
we can find something ο ί positive value from our point ο ί view. It is a
, .
Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism 119
simplification that may well involve an impoverishment and a lack ο ί
colorfulness compared to the "values ο ί the person," but that does not
necessarily descend to a lower level, and that may give rise to a kind ο ί
conduct ί η the free man that fits the objective structures ο ί the contem-
porary world.
18
The "Animal Ideal"
The Sentiment of Nature
The transcendent dimension may also become ν ί η reaction to
the processes responsible for a steady erosion ο ί many ties to nature,
_ leading to a rootless state. It is ν for example, that the stay-at-
home bourgeois lifestyle is increasingly and ν affected by the
progress ο ί communication technology, opening υ ρ great expanses ο η
land, sea, and air. Modern life takes place ν less ί η a protected, self-
contained, ν and organic ν one is immersed ί η
the entire world by new and rapid ν that can bring us to faraway
lands and landscapes ί η little time. Hence, we tend toward a general
cosmopolitanism as "world citizens" ί η a material and ν sense,
not an ideological, much less a humanitarian one. At least the times ο ί
ν are ν
Τ Ο see what ν effect such situations can ν ο η the ν
opment ο ί the differentiated and self-possessed man, it is enough to
glance at the ideas ο ί certain traditional spiritual disciplines. η them,
the metaphysical idea ο ί the transience ο ί earthly existence and the
detachment from the world ν had two characteristic expressions,
whether symbolic or actual: the first ί η hermit life, ν alone ί η
desert or forest, the second ί η the wandering life, going through the
world without house or home. This second type has ν occurred ί η
some Western religious orders; ancient Buddhism had the characteristic
concept ο ί "departure," as the start ο ί a nonprofane existence, and ί η
traditional Hinduism this was the last ο ί the four stages ο ί life. There is
a significant analogy with the idea ο ί the ν "knight errant," to
which we might add the enigmatic and sometimes disconcerting figures
120
The ''Animalldeal'' 121
of "noble travelers" whose homeland was unknown, who did not have
one, or must not be asked about it.
Although our case is different from that of ascetics who remove
themselves from the world, the situation of the latest technological civi-
lization might offer the incentive for commitments of this kind. Ι η a
large city, ί η mass society, among the almost unreal swarming of face-
less beings, an essential sense of isolation or of detachment often occurs
natural1y, perhaps even more than ί η the solitude of moors and moun-
tains. What Ι have hinted at concerning recent technology that annihi-
lates distances and the planetary spread of today's horizons, feeds inner
detachment, superiority, calm transcendence, while acting and moving
ί η the vast world: one finds oneself everywhere, yet at home nowhere.
1
Ι η this way, the negative can again be turned into positive. The experi-
ence increasingly offered, and often imposed ο η our contemporaries,
of going to other cities, across frontiers, even to other continents, out-
side the sphere of a secure existence with its peculiarities can be banal,
matter-of-fact, touristic, utilitarian, and ί η our day almost always is.
Alternatively, it can be an integrated part of a different, liberated life,
with a more profound meaning ί η the above-mentioned terms, but only
if the proper capacity of reaction is present ί η oneself.
Given that the speed factor has an essential role ί η the modern, tech-
nical mastery of distances, a passing al1usion could be made to the value
of the experience of speed itself. It is wel1 known that today it is used by
many men, and even women, almost like alcohol, to obtain a physical
intoxication that feeds an essential1y physical Ι , needing distraction from
unpleasant thoughts and drugging itself with strong emotions.
2
Like the machine itself, some situations of speed ί η the technolo-
gized world can have a virtual, symbolic, and realizable dimension,
often involving risk: the greater the speed, the more it requires a supe-
rior lucidity, bringing into play a higher type of calmness and internal
immobility. Ι η this context the intoxication of speed can even change
its nature; it can pass from one plane to another and have some traits ί η
common with the type of intoxication of which Ι have spoken describ-
ing the state of integrated Dionysism. If this were the proper place, Ι
could develop this theme much further.
Returning to what was mentioned earlier, the expression "nomad
ι
ι
122 Dissolution of the Individual
of the asphalt," although scathing, is significant of the ν and
depersonalizing effect ο η life of the destruction of natural ties ί η large,
modern cities. Also ί η this regard, Ι am not concerned with those forms
of ν or protest that, with the idea of defending "human ν
end up going "back to nature," starting from the antitheses between
city and nature, between ν and nature. That theme already
belonged to the nineteenth-century bourgeois repertory. But today it
occurs ί η the context of what we might call the "physical" ν
tion of existence.
Here is one effect of that regression, through which ί η the course of
his "liberation" Western man has come to feel ν less as a ν
being of creation, and ν more as one of so many natural species-
ν as an animal. The defining and spread of Darwinism and ν
tionism were already barometric indicators of this inner attitude. But
apart from the domain of theories and science, ί η the field of ordi-
nary, modern life, it has manifested ί η terms of ν ν rise to
what has been called the "animal ideal," especially referring to North
America, where it was first realized.
The term applies to that ideal of biological well-being, comfort,
optimistic euphoria emphasizing ν that is sheer health, youth,
physical ν security, and material success, ν satisfaction of
hunger and sexual desire, athletic life, and so forth, whose counter-
part is the atrophy of ν superior form of sensibility and interest. Ι
ν already treated this.
3
The kind of man who is thus ν to the
summit of "modern" ν is ν one who has ν
ο η Υ the aspects through which he belongs to an animal species. It goes
without saying that this idea finds its counterpart ί η the nihilism that
underlies many of today's predominant sociopolitical currents. Here Ι
ο η Υ want to emphasize the "back to nature" idea as an instance of the
physical cult of the personality.
It is not a matter of mere forms, legitimate but banal, of organic
compensation. It is η ο wonder that today's man feels a need for physical
reintegration, relaxation of ν and ν of the body away
from the ν of large, modern cities. For this reason, natural
ν the culture of the body, and ν certain types of ν sport
may be useful. Things appear otherwise, ν when people start to
- - - ~ - - - - - - ~
The ''Anima/ldea/'' 123
claim that some kind of spiritual factor is involved; that is, when it is
thought that natural surroundings and physical strength make a man
feel closer to himself than ί η the experiences and tensions of civilized
life, and above all when it is supposed that physical sensations of well-
being and comfort have any profound significance, or anything to do
with human integrity considered from a higher point of view.
Apart from that position, which leads to the "animal ideal" and
modern naturalism, Ι deplore the general confusion of a "return to ori-
gins" with a return to Mother Earth and even to Nature. Although it
has often been misapplied, that theological doctrine that holds that a
purely natural state for man has never existed is stilllegitimate; at the
beginning he was placed ί η a supranatural state from which he has
now fallen. Ι η fact, for the true type of man, it can never be a question
of those origins and that "mother" wherein the individual cannot dif-
ferentiate himself from his fellow men, or even from the animals. Every
return to nature is a regressive phenomenon, including any protest ί η
the name of instinctual rights, the unconscious, the flesh, life uninhib-
ited by the intellect, and so forth. The man who becomes "natural" ί η
this way has ί η reality become denatured.
Here Ι must return to an earlier point: a consequence of rejecting
this view is the overcoming of the antithesis between city and nature ί η
the behavior that should be "natural" for the human type who concerns
us. It is the attitude of him who feels ί η place as little ί η nature as ί η
the city, for whom it is normal and honest ί η a higher sense to keep ~ i s
distance with respect to both; he sees the need and pleasure of surren-
der, expatiation, and feeling ί η animal, physical terms as an evasion, a
symptom of fatigue and internal inconsistency. The body is part of the
"person" as a definite instrument of expression and action ί η the situa-
tion actually lived; therefore it is obvious that one must also extend to
it discipline and control, ί η order to assure completeness of being. This,
however, has nothing to do with the cult of the physical personality,
much less with the mania for sports, especially for team sports, one of
today's most vulgar and widespread opiates of the masses.
As for the "sentiment of nature," ί η general, the human type that
concerns us must consider nature as part of a larger and more objective
whole: nature for him includes countrysides, mountains, forests, and
Ι
124 Dissolution of the α
seacoasts, but also dams, turbines, and foundries, the tentacular system
of ladders and cranes of a great modern port or a complex of functional
skyscrapers. This is the space for a higher freedom. He remains free and
self-aware before both types of nature-being η ο less secure ί η the mid-
dle of a steppe or ο η an alpine peak than amid Western city nightlife.
The counterpart of the "animal ideal" occurs when the senti-
ment of nature and landscape is made banal. This was already the
case with idyllic nature, which was made into a myth ί η the period of
the Encyclopedie and by Rousseau. Later, along these lines, there was
the nature beloved by the bourgeois: Arcadian or lyric nature charac-
terized by beauty and grace, by the picturesque, the restful, by that
which inspires "noble sentiments"; nature with its brooks and groves,
the romance of sunset and the pathos of moonlight; nature to which
one declaims verses, weaves idylls, and evokes the poets who speak of
"beautiful souls." Though sublimated and dignified, the mood immor-
talized by Beethoven's Pastorale is η ο different.
Ι η the end, the phase of nature for the plebeians arrives, with the
breakout of the masses, the common people everywhere with or with-
out their automobiles, the travel agencies, the dopolavori,4 and all the
rest; nothing is spared. The naturists and nudists form the extreme of
this phenomenon. The beaches-teeming insect-like with thousands
and thousands of male and female bodies, offering to the glance an
insipid, almost complete nudity-are another symptom. Still another
is the assault ο η the mountains by cable cars, funiculars, chair lifts,
and ski lifts. Α Ι Ι this is part of the regime of final disintegration of our
epoch. There is η ο point ί η dwelling ο η it.
Ι prefer to clarify the function that authentic contact with nature
can have for the active, impersonal attitude, starting with some notions
along the lines of the Neue Sachlichkeit, which can ο η Υ acquire a full
significance ί η our differentiated human type.
Matzke said of this: "Nature is the great realm of things, which
demands nothing of us, which neither pursues us nor asks for sentimen-
tal reactions, which stands mutely before us as a world to itself, exter-
nal and alien. This is exactly what we need ... this reality, always
grand and distant, resting ί η itself, beyond all the little joys and the
little sorrows of man. Α world of objects, enclosed ί η itself, ί η which we
The ''Animalldeal'' 125
ourselves feel like an object. Completely detached from everything
merely subjective, from every personal vanity and nullity: this is what
nature is for us."s lt is a question ο ί restoring to nature-to space, to
things, to landscape-those characteristics ο ί distance and foreignness
to mankind that were hidden ί η the epoch ο ί individualism, when man
projected his feelings, his passions, his lyrical ardor, onto reality to
make it closer to him. lt is a question ο ί rediscovering the language of
the inanimate that cannot manifest until the "soul" has ceased to
impose itself ο η things.
This is the sense ί η which nature can speak to us ο ί transcen-
dence. Our attention automatically shifts from some principal aspects
ο ί nature to others that are more propitious for opening us υ ρ to
the nonhuman and the nonindividual. Nietzsche also spoke ο ί the
"superiority" ο ί the inorganic world, calling it "spirituality without
individuality." For a "supreme clarification ο ί existence" he refers
as an analogy to the "pure atmosphere ο ί the Alps and ice fields,
where there are η ο more clouds or veils, where the elementary quali-
ties ο ί things are revealed naked and uncompromising but with abso-
lute intelligibility" and one hears "the immense, ciphered language
ο ί existence," "the doctrine ο ί becoming made stone."6 Τ Ο return
the world to a calm, stable, clear, and cool state; to restore to it its
elementarity, its self-contained grandeur-this was also said to be the
demand ο ί the "new objectivity." Here prominence was justly given
not to insensibility, but to a different kind ο ί sensibility. Also for u.s,
it is a matter ο ί a human type whom nature η ο longer interests by
offering him what is "artistic," rare, characteristic; he who η ο longer
seeks ί η nature the "beauty" that merely feeds confused nostalgias
and speaks to fantasy. For this human type, there can be η ο land-
scape more beautiful than another, but some landscapes can be more
distant, boundless, calm, cool, harsh, and primordial than others. He
hears the language ο ί things ο ί the world not among trees, brooks,
beautiful gardens, before oleographic sunsets and romantic moon-
light, but rather ί η deserts, rocks, steppes, glaciers, murky Nordic
fjords, the implacable, tropical sun, great ocean currents-in fact, ί η
everything primordial and inaccessible. lt naturally follows that the
man with this sentiment ο ί nature relates to it more actively-almost
. ι '
126 Dissolution of the Individual
by absorbing its own pure, perceived force-than ί η a vague, lax, and
rambling contemplation.
If for the bourgeois generation nature was a kind of idyllic Sunday
interlude of small-town life, and if for the latest generation it is the
stage for acting out its vacuous, invasive, and contaminating vulgarity,
it is for our differentiated man a school of objectivity and distance; it is
something fundamental ί η his sense of existence, exhibiting an absolute
character. At this point one can clearly speak of a nature that ί η its
elementarity is the great world where the stone and steel panoramas of
the metropolis, the endless avenues, the functional complexes of indus-
trial areas are ο η the same level, for example, as great, solitary forests
as symbols of a fundamental austerity, objectivity, and impersonality.
With regard to the problems of inner orientation ί η our epoch, Ι have
always valued ideas present ί η traditional esoteric doctrines. This also
applies to what Ι have just said. The liberation of nature from the human,
the access to it through the language of silence and the inanimate seems
congenial to one who would turn the objective, destructive processes
of the modern world to his own advantage. But the direction is η ο dif-
ferent from that which schools of traditional wisdom, like Zen, knew
through a real cleansing and transparency of the glance or an opening
of the eye, an enlightening revelation of the consciousness that has over-
come the fetters of the physical Ι , of the person, and his values.
The result here is an experience that already belongs to a different
level from that of ordinary consciousness. It does not exactly concern
the matter of this book, but it is still interesting to point out its relation-
ship with the vision of the world centered ο η free immanence, which
was mentioned ί η an earlier chapter ( ί η which a fleeting allusion to
Zen itself was made) and which Ι now reconsider as the limit of a new
realism. Ancient tradition has a saying: "The infinitely distant is the
return." Among the maxims of Zen that point ί η the same direction
is the statement that the "great revelation," acquired through a series
of mental and spiritual crises, consists ί η the recognition that " η ο one
and nothing 'extraordinary' exists ί η the beyond"; ο η l Υ the real exists.
Reality is, however, lived ί η a state ί η which "there is η ο subject of the
experience nor any object that is experienced," and under the sign of a
The ''Animalldeal'' 127
type ο ί absolute presence, "the immanent making itself transcendent
and the transcendent immanent." The teaching is that at the point at
which one seeks the Way, one finds oneself further from it, the same
being valid for the perfection and "realization" ο ί the self. The cedar
ί η the courtyard, a cloud casting its shadow ο η the hills, falling rain, a
flower ί η bloom, the monotonous sound ο ί waves: all these "natural"
and banal facts can suggest absolute illumination, the satori. As mere
facts they are without meaning, finality, or intention, but as such they
have an absolute meaning. Reality appears this way, ί η the pure state ο ί
"things being as they are." The moral counterpart is indicated ί η say-
ings such as: "The pure and immaculate ascetic does not enter nirvana,
and the monk who breaks the rules does not go to hell," or: ' Ύ ο υ have
η ο liberation to seek from bonds, because you have never been bound."7
The extent that these peaks ο ί the inner life can be attained, ί η the
framework already indicated, remains undetermined. Ι merely wish to
point out a convergence ο ί themes and a direction.
--PART5
Dissolution of
Consciousness
and Relativism
19
The Procedures
ο ί Modern Science

One of the principal justifications for Western civilization believing
itself, since the nineteenth century, to be the civilization par excellence
is natural science. Based ο η the myth of this science, preceding civiliza-
tions were judged to be obscurantist and infantile; prey to superstitions
and to metaphysical and religious whims. Apart from a few casual dis-
coveries, they were ignorant of the path of true knowledge, which can
be reached only with the positive, mathematical-experimental methods
developed ί η the modern era. Science and knowledge have been made
synonymous with experimental "positive science," while the epithet
"prescientific" has come to signify a disqualification beyond appeal of
any other type of knowledge.
The apogee of the myth of physical science coincided with that
of the bourgeois era, when positivist and materialist scientism was ί η
favor. Then there was talk of a crisis of science, and an internal critique
occurred, resulting ί η a new phase inaugurated by Einstein's theory. As
an offshoot of this, the scientistic myth has revived recently with an
appraisal of scientific knowledge that ί η certain cases has had curious
developments. Among them, it is claimed that the latest science, having
now passed the phase of materialism and cleared the field of old, use-
less speculations, has reconciled its conclusions about the nature of the
universe with metaphysics, presenting themes and views that agree with
the certainties of philosophy, and for some, even of religion. Besides
the popularizers of Reader's Digest, certain scientists like Eddington,
Planck, and even Einstein have made informal pronouncements of this
kind. Hence there is a kind of euphoria, confirmed by the prospects of
130
The Procedures of Modern Science 131
the a10mic era and the "second industrial revolution," whose very point
ο ί departure was modern physics.
Α Ι Ι these are only developments ο ί one ο ί the great illusions ο ί the
modern world, one ο ί the mirages ο ί an epoch ί η which, ί η reality, the
dissolving processes have besieged the field ο ί knowledge itself. η order
to realize this, it is enough to look beyond the ς If it is not a mat-
ter ο ί popularizers, but ο ί the scientists themselves, and ί ί it is not a case
like the knowing smiles between mystifying augurs, which Cicero speaks
ο ί it reveals a η ϊ that ο η Υ an unequaled limitation ο ί horizons and
intellectual interests could explain.
None ο ί modern science has the slightest value as knowledge; rather,
it bases itself ο η a formal renunciation ο ί knowledge ί η the true sense.
The driving and organizing force behind modern science derives noth-
ing at all from the ideal ο ί knowledge, but exclusively from practical
necessity, and, Ι might add, from the will to power turned ο η things
and ο η nature. Ι do not mean its technical and industrial applications,
even though the masses attribute the prestige ο ί modern science above
all to them, because there they see irrefutable proof ο ί its validity. It is
a matter ο ί the very nature ο ί scientific methods even before their tech-
nical applications, ί η the phase known as "pure research." η fact, the
concept ο ί "truth" ί η the traditional sense is already alien to modern
science, which concerns itself solely with hypotheses and formulae that
can predict with the best approximation the course ο ί phenomena and
relate them to a certain unity. And as it is not a question ο ί "truth,"
but a matter less ο ί seeing than ο ί touching, the concept ο ί certainty
ί η modern science is reduced 10 the "maximum probability." That all
scientific certainties have an essentially statistical character is openly
recognized by every scientist, and more categorically than ever ί η recent
suba10mic physics. The system ο ί science resembles a net that draws
ever tighter around a something that, ί η itself, remains incomprehen-
sible, with the sole intention ο ί subduing it for practical ends.
These practical ends ο η Υ secondarily concern the technical appli-
cations; they constitute the criterion ί η the very domain that belongs to
pure knowledge, ί η the sense that here, 100, the basic impulse is sche-
matizing, an ordering ο ί phenomena ί η a simpler and more manageable
way. As was rightly noted, ever since that formula simplex sigillum veri
> Ι
,
ι
Ι i
! '
132 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
(simplicity is the seal of the true), there has appeared a method that
exchanges for truth (and knowledge) that which satisfies a practical,
purely human need of the intellect. Ι η the final analysis, the impulse
to know is transformed into an impulse to dominate; and we owe to a
scientist, Bertrand Russell, the recognition that science, from being a
means to know the world, has become a means to change the world.
Ι will not dwell further ο η these commonplace considerations.
Epistemology, that is, reflection applied to the methods of scientific
research, has honestly recognized all of them already, with Bergson,
Leroy, Poincare, Meyerson, Brunschvicg, and many others, to say
nothing of what Nietzsche himself had seen perfectly well. They have
brought to light the altogether practical and pragmatic character of sci-
entific methods. The more "comfortable" ideas and theories become
"true," ί η regard to the organization of the data of sensorial experience.
Α choice between such data is made consciously or instinctively, exclud-
ing systematically those that do not lend themselves to being controlled;
thus also everything qualitative and unrepeatable that is not susceptible
to being mathematized.
Scientific "objectivity" consists solely ί η being ready at any moment
to abandon existing theories or hypotheses, as soon as the chance
appears for the better control of reality. Thereupon it includes ί η the
system of the already predictable and manageable those phenomena not
yet considered, or seemingly irreducible; and that, without any prin-
ciple that ί η itself, ί η its intrinsic nature, is valid once and for all. Ι η
the same way, he who can lay his hands ο η a modern long-range rifle is
ready to give υ ρ a flintlock.
Based ο η the above, one can demonstrate that final form of disso-
lution of knowledge corresponding to Einstein's theory of relativity.
Ο η Ι Υ the profane, ί η hearing talk of relativity, could believe that the
new theory had destroyed every certainty and almost sanctioned a
kind of Pirandellian "thus it is, if you think so." Ι η fact, it is quite a
different matter, ί η the sense that this theory has brought us even closer
to absolute certainties, but of α purely formal character. Α coherent
system of physics has been constructed to keep all relativity ί η check,
to take every change and variation into account, with the greatest inde-
pendence from points of reference and from everything bound to obser-
The Procedures of Modern Science 133
vations, to the evidence ο ί direct experience, and to current perceptions
ο ί space, time, and speed. This system is "absolute" through the flexi-
bility granted to it by its exclusively mathematical and algebraic nature.
Thus once the "cosmic constant" is defined (according to the speed ο ί
light), the so-called transformation equations suffice to introduce a cer-
tain number ο ί parameters into the formulae used to account for phe-
nomena ί η order to get over a certain "relativity" and to avoid any
possible disproof from the facts ο ί experience.
Α simpleminded example can make this state ο ί affairs plain.
Whether Earth moves around the Sun, or the Sun around Earth, from
the point ο ί view ο ί Einstein's "cosmic constant" is more or less the same.
One is η ο more "true" than the other, except that the second alternative
would involve the introduction ο ί many more elements to the formulae,
thus a greater complication and inconvenience ί η the calculations. For
the person unconcerned with one system being more complicated and
inconvenient than another, the choice remains free; this person could cal-
culate the various phenomena starting either from the premise that Earth
revolves around the Sun, or from the opposite premise.
This banal and elementary example clarifies the type ο ί "certainty"
and knowledge to which Einstein's theory leads. Ι η that regard, it is
important to point out that there is nothing new here, that his the-
ory represents only the latest and most accessible manifestation ο ί the
characteristic orientation ο ί all modern science. This theory, though far
from common or philosophical relativism, is willing to admit the most ...
unlikely relativities, but arms itself against them, so to speak, from the
start. It intends to supply certainties that either leave out or anticipate
them, and thus from the formal point ο ί view are almost absolute. And
ί ί reality should ever revolt against them, a suitable readjustment ο ί
dimensions will restore these certainties.
It would be good to look further into the kind and presuppositions
ο ί this "knowing." The cosmic constant is a purely mathematical con-
cept; ί η using it to speak ο ί the speed ο ί light, one η ο longer imagines
speed, light, or propagation, one must only have ί η mind numbers and
symbols. If someone were to ask those scientists what is light, without
accepting an answer ί η mathematical symbols, they would look stupe-
fied and not even understand the request. Everything that ί η recent
134 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
physics proceeds from that stronghold participates rigorously ί η its
nature: physics is completely algebraized. With the introduction ο ί the
concept ο ί a "multidimensional continuum" even that final sensible
intuitive basis that survived ί η yesterday's physics ί η the pure, sche-
matic, categories ο ί geometrical space is reduced to mathematical for-
mulae. Space and time here are one and the same; they form a
"continuum," itself expressed by algebraic functions. Together with
the current, intuitive notion ο ί space and time, that ο ί force, energy,
and movement also disappears. For example, ί η terms ο ί Einstein's
physics the motion ο ί a planet around the Sun only means that ί η the
corresponding field ο ί the space-time continuum there is a certain
"curvature"-a term that, to be sure, cannot have made him imagine
dealing again with pure, algebraic values. The idea ο ί a
motion produced by a force is reduced to the bare bones ο ί an abstract
motion following the "shortest geodetic line," which ί η our universe
would approximate an ellipse. As ί η this algebraic scheme nothing
remains ο ί the concrete idea ο ί force, even less so can there be room
for cause. The "spiritualization" alleged by the popularizers ο ί mod-
ern physics, due to the disappearance ο ί the idea ο ί matter and the
reduction ο ί the concept ο ί mass to that ο ί energy, is an absurdity,
because mass and energy are made interchangeable values by an
abstract formula. The only result ο ί all this is a practical one: the
application ο ί the formula ί η order to control atomic forces. Apart
from that, everything is consumed by the fire ο ί algebraic abstraction
associated with a radical experimentalism, that is, with a recording ο ί
simple phenomena.
With quantum theory one has the impression ο ί entering into a
cabalistic world ί η the popular meaning ο ί the term). The paradoxi-
cal results ο ί the Michelson-Morley experiment provided the incentive
for the formulation ο ί Einstein's theory. Another paradox is that ο ί the
discontinuity and improbability discovered by nuclear physics through
the process ο ί expressing atomic radiations ί η numerical quantities. Ι η
simple terms: it deals with the evidence that these quantities do not
make υ ρ a continuous series; it is as ί ί ί η the series ο ί numbers, three
were not followed by four, five, etc., but skipped to a different number,
without even obeying the law ο ί probability.) This new paradox has led
The Procedures of Modern Science 135
to a further algebraizing of the so-called mechanics of matrices, used
to explain them away, beside a new and entirely abstract formulation
of fundamentallaws, like the energy constant, action and reaction, and
so ο η . Here one has not ο η l Υ relinquished the law of causality, replac-
ing it by statistical averages, because it seemed to have to do with pure
chance: ί η addition, ί η the latest developments of this physics one sees
the paradox of having to relinquish experimental proofs because their
results were found to be variable. The very doing of an experiment
allows that one may have one result now and another later, because
the experiment itself influences the object; it alters it due to the interde-
pendent values of "position" and "motion," and to any description of
the subatomic phenomena another, just as "true," can be opposed. It is
not the experiment, whose results through this method would remain
inconclusive, but rather the pure, algebraic function, the so-called wave
function, that serves to provide absolute values ί η this domain.
According to one most recent theory, which integrates Einstein's
relativity, purely mathematical entities that ο η the one hand magically
spring forth ί η full irrationality, but ο η the other are ordered ί η a com-
pletely formal system of algebraic "production," exhaustively account
for everything that can be positively checked and formularized regard-
ing the ultimate basis of sensible reality. This process was the intellec-
tual background to the atomic era's inauguration-parallel, therefore,
to the definitive liquidation of a Ι Ι knowledge in the proper sense. One
of the principal exponents of modern physics, Heisenberg, has explic-
itly admitted this ί η his book: it is about a formal knowledge enclosed
ί η itself, extremely precise ί η its practical consequences, ί η which, how-
ever, one cannot speak of knowledge of the real. For modern science, he
says, "the object of research is η ο longer the object ί η itself, but nature
as a function of the problems that man sets himself"; the logical conclu-
sion ί η such science being that "henceforth man ο η l Υ meets himself."
There is an aspect ί η which this latest natural science represents a
type of inversion or counterfeit of that concept of catharsis, or purifica-
tion, that ί η the traditional world was extended from the moral and
ritual field to the intellectual; it referred to an intellectual discipline that,
through overcoming the perceptions furnished by the animal senses and
more or less mixed with the reactions of the Ι , would lead to a higher
Ί
:1
ι
Ι
Ι
ι
136 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
knowledge, to true knowledge. Ι η effect, we have something similar ί η
modern algebraized physics. Not only has it gradually freed itself from
any immediate data of sense experience and common sense, but even
from all that which imagination could offer as support. The current con-
cepts of space, time, motion, and causality fall one by one, so to speak.
Everything that can be suggested by the direct and living relationship of
the observer to the observed is made unreal, irrelevant, and negligible.
It is then like a catharsis that consumes every residue of the sensory, not
ί η order to lead to a higher world, the "intelligible world" or a "world
of ideas," as ί η the ancient schools of wisdom, but rather to the realm of
pure mathematical thought, of number, of undifferentiated quantity, as
opposed to the realm of quality, of meaningful forms and living forces:
a spectral and cabalistic world, an extreme intensification of the abstract
intellect, where it is η ο longer a matter of things or phenomena, but
almost of their shadows reduced to their common denominator, gray
and indistinguishable. One may well speak of a falsification of the eleva-
tion of the mind above human sense-experience, which ί η the traditional
world had as its effect not the destruction of the evidences of that expe-
rience, but their integration: the potentizing of the ordinary, concrete
perception of natural phenomena by also experiencing their symbolic
and intelligible aspects.
20
Covering υ ρ Nature
Phenomenology
This, then, is the state ο ί affairs: Modern science has led to a prodigious
increase ο ί information about phenomena ί η formerly unexplored or
neglected fields, but ί η so doing it has not brought man any closer to
the depths ο ί reality, but has rather distanced and estranged him from
them; and what nature "really" is, according to science, escapes any
concrete intuition. From this point ο ί view, the latest science has η ο
advantage over earlier, materialistic science. The atoms ο ί yesteryear
and the mechanistic conception ο ί the universe at least allowed one to
represent something, ί η however primitive a fashion; but the entities ο ί
the latest mathematical physics serve to represent absolutely nothing.
They are simply the stitches ο ί a net that has been fabricated and per-
fected not for the sake ο ί knowing ί η a concrete, intuitive, and living
sense-the only sense that would matter to an undegenerate human-
ity-but ί η order to gain an ever greater power, yet still an external
one, over nature, whose depths remain closed to man and as
as ever. Nature's mysteries have simply been covered over, and atten-
tion diverted from them by the spectacular successes ο ί technology and
industry, where one η ο longer tries to know the world, but to change it
for the purposes ο ί an earthbound humanity-following the program
explicitly laid out by Karl Marx.
Ι will repeat that it is a fraud to speak ο ί a spiritual value ί η today's
science, just because instead ο ί matter, it talks about energy, or because
it sees mass as "coagulated radiations" or a sort ο ί "congealed light,"
and because it considers spaces ο ί more than three dimensions. None
ο ί that has any existence outside the theories ο ί specialists ί η purely
abstract mathematical notions. When these notions are substituted for
137
Ι :
ι
i
138 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
those of earlier physics, they still change nothing of modern man's
effective experience of the world. This substitution of one hypothesis
for another does not concern real existence, but ο η l Υ interests minds
given to pointless divagations. After it has been said that energy, not
matter, exists, that we live not ί η a Euclidean, three-dimensional space
but ί η a curved space of four or more dimensions, and so forth, things
remain as they were; my actual experience has not changed a whit, and
the significance of what Ι see-light, the sun, fire, seas, sky, flowering
plants, dying beings-the ultimate significance of every process and
phenomenon is η ο more transparent to me. One cannot begin to speak
of transcendence, of a deepened knowledge ί η spiritual or truly intel-
lectual terms. One can ο η l Υ speak of a quantitative extension of notions
about other sectors of the external world, which aside from practical
utility has ο η l Υ curiosity value.
Ι η every other respect, modern science has made reality more alien
and inaccessible to men of today than it ever was ί η the era of material-
ism and so-called classical physics. And it is infinitely more alien and
inaccessible than it was to men of other civilizations and even to primi-
tive peoples. It is a cliche that the modern scientific vision has desacral-
ized the world, and the world desacralized by scientific knowledge has
become one of the existential elements that make up modern man, all
the more so to the degree that he is "civilized." Ever since he has been
subject to compulsory education, his mind has been stuffed with "posi-
tive" scientific notions; he cannot avoid seeing ί η a soulless light every-
thing that surrounds him, and therefore acts destructively. What, for
example, could the symbol of the sunset of a dynasty, like the ]apanese,
mean to him when he knows scientifically what the sun is: merely a star,
at which one can even fire missiles. And what is left of Kant's pathetic
appeal to "the starry sky above me," when one is educated by the latest
astrophysics and its equations about the constitution of space?
The boundary that defines the range of modern science from the
very start, whatever its possible developments, appears ί η the fact that
its constant and rigid point of departure has been and is based ο η
the dualistic and exteriorized relationship between the Ι and the not-
Ι , which is proper to simple sense-knowledge. This relationship is the
immutable foundation of all modern science's edifices: all its instru-
Covering up Nature 139
ments are just like so many extensions, improvements, and refinements
of the physical senses. They are not instruments of another kind of
knowledge, that is, of true knowledge. Thus, for example, when mod-
ern science introduces the idea of a fourth dimension, it is always as
another dimension ί η the physical world, not as that of a perception
that goes beyond physical experience.
Given this basic situation of a limitation exalted to a method, one
can well understand that the consequence of all scientific and techno-
logical progress is an inner stagnation or even a return to savagery.
Such progress is not accompanied by any inner progress but develops
ο η a plane apart; it does not intersect with man's concrete, existential
situation, which instead is left to itself. It is hardly worth mentioning
the absurdity or the disarming η a ϊ v e t e of that modern social ideology
that makes science a sort of substitute for religion, giving it the task of
showing man the way to happiness and progress, and sending him ο η
that way. The truth is that man has gained nothing from the progress
of science and technology, neither ί η regard to knowledge (and Ι have
already spoken of that), nor ί η regard to his own power, and stillless ί η
regard to any higher law of conduct. At best, one could make an excep-
tion for medicine, but still ο η l Υ ο η the physicallevel. As for power, let
η ο one claim that the ability of the hydrogen bomb to destroy an entire
metropolis, or the promise of nuclear energy that heralds the "second
industrial revolution," or the games for grown-up children that are
space exploration, have made a single person more potent and superior
ί η himself, ί η his concrete being. These forms of a mechanical, external,
and extrinsic power leave the real human being untouched; he is η ο
more powerful or superior using space missiles than he ever was when
using a club, except ί η its material effects; apart from those he remains
as he was, with his passions, his instincts, and his inadequacies.
As for the third point, the laws of action, obviously science has put
at man's disposal a prodigious system of means, while leaving the prob-
lem of ends altogether indeterminate. The image of the modern world's
situation mentioned above is again appropriate: ' Ά petrified forest, hav-
ing chaos at its center." Some have tried to argue a finalistic view of
the unprecedented accumulation of energy ί η the atomic era. Theodor
Litt, for example, has suggested that man might realize his own nature
Ι
140 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
ί η the face ο ί a crisis situation by using his free will, deciding ί η full
responsibility, taking the risk, ί η one direction or the other. Currently
the decision is over the destructive and military use ο ί atomic energy, or
its "constructive," peaceful use.
l η an epoch ο ί dissolution, such an idea seems completely abstract
and fantastic, typical ο ί intellectuals with η ο sense ο ί reality. First it
presupposes the existence ο ί men who still possess an inner law and
sure ideas about what course should really be followed-and this,
beyond anything that relates to the purely material world. Second, it
presumes that these hypothetical men are the very ones entrusted with
the use ο ί the new means ο ί power, ί η one direction or the other. Both
suppositions are chimerical, especially the second. Today's leaders are
~ a u g h t ί η a tangle ο ί actions and reactions that evade any real control;
they obey irrational, collective influences, and are almost always at the
service ο ί special interests, ambitions, and material and economic rival-
ries that leave η ο room for a decision based ο η an enlightened freedom,
a decision as an "absolute person."
l η fact, even the alternative suggested above, over which our con-
temporaries agonize so much, may present itself ί η terms very different
from those advanced by a pacifist, progressivist, moralizing humani-
tarianism. Ι truly cannot say what the person who still has hope for
man should think ο ί the imminence ο ί quasi-apocalyptic destruction.
It would certainly force many to face the existential problem ί η all its
nakedness, and subject them to extreme trials; but is this a worse evil
than that ο ί mankind's safe, secure, satisfied, and total consignment to
the kind ο ί happiness that befits Nietzsche's "last man": a comfortable
consumer civilization ο ί socialized human animals, aided by all the
discoveries ο ί science and industry and reproducing demographically ί η
a squirming, catastrophic crescendo?
These are the terms ί η which questions about modern science and
its applications must clearly appear to the differentiated human type
whom we have ί η mind. It remains to add a few considerations ο η the
consequences that he can draw from this field for his own conduct.
Ι will not dwell further ο η the world ο ί technology, having already
spoken ο ί how the differentiated man can let it act ο η him. Ι have
mentioned the machine as symbol; and among the challenges that may
Covering up Nature 141
serve, ί η crisis situations, to activate the transcendent dimension ί η
him, we may a1so inc1ude everything that, after the tota1 wars a1ready
experienced, the atomic era may ho1d for us, thanks to the "mirac1es ο ί
science." One need ο η Υ emphasize that the state ο ί affairs is given and
irreversib1e, to be accepted and turned to one's own advantage, as one
might do, for examp1e, when faced with a catac1ysm. Apart from that,
my verdict ο η the intrinsic value ο ί science and techno1ogy remains
va1id, and what Ι have said ο η the subject shou1d be kept ί η mind.
Α different point ο ί view may enter into consideration regarding
the scientific method ί η itself. Modern science ί η η ο way revea1s the
essence ο ί the wor1d, and has nothing to do with rea1 know1edge, but
more often puts the sea1 ο η its disso1ution. Still, scientific activity has
an idea1 ο ί c1arity, impersona1ity, objectivity, rigor, and the exc1usion
ο ί persona1 sentiments, impu1ses, and preferences. The scientist thinks
that he can exc1ude himse1f and 1et objects speak for themse1ves; he is
concerned with Ό ί 1aws that have η ο respect for what p1eases
or does not p1ease the individua1, and nothing to do with mora1ity.
Now, these are a1so traits ο ί the rea1ism that Ι have inc1uded among the
e1ements va1id for the integrated man. Ι η c1assica1 antiquity, after all,
mathematics was recognized as a discip1ine for cu1tivating intellectua1
c1arity. The practica1 character with which Ι have reproached modern
science does not prejudice this: Ι am speaking ο ί the orientation or basic
formu1a ο ί every science ο ί the modern type, and not ο ί the direct and
arbitrary interventions ο ί individua1s ί η the course ο ί research that pro-
ceeds ο η this basis, and that will not to1erate them. Scientific activity
thus reflects ί η its own way something ο ί that ascesis ο ί active objectiv-
ity mentioned ear1ier, having a symbo1ic va1ue simi1ar to that which the
machine possesses ο η another p1ane.
Anyone endowed with rea1 c1arity ο ί vision, however, cannot fai1 to
see the part p1ayed by irrationa1 e1ements ί η the scientist's makeup,
quite aside from his forma1 research methods, especially regarding his
choice ο ί hypotheses and interpretive theories. There is a substratum ο ί
which the modern scientist is unaware: a substratum ί η regard to which
he is passive and subject to precise influences that originate ί η part from
the forces that have shaped a civi1ization at one or another point ο ί its
cyc1e. Ι η our case it is the termina1 and twi1ight phase ο ί the Western
142 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
cycle. One gains a presentiment of how important this substratum is
from the criticism of science and its "superstition of the fact" (as Guenon
puts it
1
), showing that the fact means little ί η itself, but that the essential
factor is the system into which it fits and ο η whose basis it is inter-
preted. This also indicates the limitations that prejudice the ideal of
clarity and objectivity ί η the modern type of scientist. The secret and
true history of modern science is still waiting to be written.
It may seem contradictory that ί η the previous chapter Ι approved
of an attitude of distance and the detachment of the Ι from things,
whereas now Ι have disapproved of the dualistic system ί η which the Ι is
juxtaposed to the not-I of the external world, nature, and phenomena,
which is the basic premise of all modern science and also the origin of
""a system where true knowledge is out of the question. This contradic-
tion vanishes with insight into the inner formation, the attitude, and
the possibilities of someone who faces things and nature after having
ceased to project feelings and subjective, emotional, and imaginary
contents onto them. It is becausethe inner being is extinct ί η the mod-
ern scientist, leaving him with ο η l Υ gross physical perceptions and an
abstract, mathematical intellect, that the relationship between the Ι and
the not-I grows rigid and soulless, so that his detachment can ο η l Υ act
negatively. His science is ο η l Υ good for grasping and manipulating the
world, not for understanding it or for enlarging his knowledge ί η a
qualitative way.
As for the integrated man, his situation is quite different; the vision
of naked reality imposes ο η him η ο limits of this kind. The very latest
science, as ί η a reductio ad absurdum, has made painfully visible the
characteristics belonging to all of modern science, which must therefore
add υ ρ to a negative balance; but this signifies for him the end of equiv-
ocation. He will put it aside as meaningless, abstract, and purely prag-
matic, devoid of any interest or any "scientific" theory of the world. He
will judge it, ί η Othmar Spann's words, as "knowledge of that which is
not worth the trouble of knowing." Having made a tabula rasa, what
remains is Nature, the world ί η its original state. Thus he arrives at a
natural relationship, just as described at the end of chapter 19. Ο η Ι Υ ί η
the present context, to dissipate completely the apparent contradiction,
it is well to introduce a further idea: that of the multidimensional nature
Ι
1
Ι
Ι
1
j
!
Covering up Nature 143
of experience. This multidimensionality is quite distinct from the math-
ematical and merely cerebral one of the latest physics. For a summary
explanation Ι again follow the method of not referring directly (as well
Ι might) to traditional teachings, but of examining one of the modern
currents ί η which it is detectable as a sort of involuntary reflection. Ι
will take for this the "phenomenological ontology" of Edmund Husserl,
which has sometimes been confused with existentialism itself.
Husserl's philosophy also seeks to liberate the direct experience
of reality from all the theories, problems, apparently precise concepts,
and practical ends that hide it from our minds; also from any abstract
idea about what might be behind it, either ί η philosophical terms (like
"essence" or Kant's "thing ί η itself") or ί η scientific ones. From the
objective viewpoint, this almost revives the Nietzschean aspiration to
banish any "beyond," any ''other world," while from the correspond-
ing subjective viewpoint, it revives the ancient principle of the epoche,
that is, the suspension of any judgment, any individual interpretation,
any application of concepts and predicates to experience. Ι η addition,
one seeks to overcome all current ο ρ ί η ί ο η , the sense of false familiarity,
false obviousness, and habit that one may have about things, ί η short
everything that has overlaid the primordial surprise ί η the face of the
world. That is the initial phase.
Next, one is meant to let the facts or "presences" of experience
speak for themselves, ί η direct relation to the Ι The phenomenological
school uses the unfortunate term of "intentionality" for this relation,
whereas it is really the opposite of any intention ί η the current s e n s ~
(See chapter 18, where it is explained that at this degree there cannot be
any more "intentions," either ί η reality or ί η the Ι )
Ι must explain here what the movement ί η question really means by
the "phenomenon" from which it takes its name. It has restored the
original meaning to the word, connected to a Greek verb that means to
be manifested or revealed. Thus it is supposed to mean "that which is
directly manifested," that which is offered directly as a content of con-
sciousness. It is far removed from the usage of the term "phenomenon"
prevalent ί η modern philosophy, where the phenomenon has been given
an implicitly or overtly denigratory meaning, for instance, that of a
"mere phenomenon" as opposed to what really is, or as hiding what
144 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
really is: ο η the one hand is being, ο η the other appearance, the "world
ο ί phenomena." This antithesis is now rejected, with the idea that being
can manifest itself as it truly is, ί η its essence and its significance. Hence
the expression "phenomenological ontology" (that is, the doctrine ο ί
being, based ο η the phenomenon) is not a contradiction ί η terms.
"Beyond the phenomena as phenomenology understands them, there
can be nothing else."
The next stage is to explain that, ί ί being is not hidden but mani-
fested ί η the phenomenon, such manifestation has various degrees.
The lowest is the obtuse, opaque state ο ί simple sensible presences. But
a "disclosing" (Erschliessung) ο ί the phenomenon is possible, which
may relate ί η a certain way to the idea Ι have mentioned ο ί the living
pluridimensionality ο ί the real. Knowing, from the point ο ί view ο ί
phenomenology, means to proceed with this disclosure: a procedure
that, however, is not logical or inductive, scientific, or philosophical. If
anything, Husserl's idea ο ί what is involved reproduces-even plagia-
rizes-a traditional teaching. His "reduction" (a technical term ο ί this
school) or "phenomenological destruction" with regard to the external
world is, as Ι have said, the stripping ο ί all the conceptual and dis-
cursive accretions that cover υ ρ the pure and direct experience. When
applied to the inner world, this "reduction" or "destruction" is said to
lead, as though to an altogether original element, to the perception ο ί
the pure Ι , or, as Husserl calls it, the "transcendent Ι . " This would con-
stitute that one point ο ί certainty, that original evidence, already sought
by Descartes after doubting everything else. Using our terminology,
this element or residuum that is left after applying phenomenological
reduction to the inner world, and that manifests nakedly, is the "being"
within us, the superindividual "Self." It is a center ο ί clear and immo-
bile light, a pure luminous source. When its light is projected onto phe-
nomena, it determines their disclosure, that is, it reveals ί η them a more
profound dimension, the "living presence" that the phenomenologists
also call "the immanent content ο ί meaning" (immanenter Sinngehalt).
Thereupon the inner and the outer meet.
There is a further aspect ο ί phenomenology that at least pretends to
reflect a traditional view. One is supposed to overcome the antithesis or
hiatus that usually exists between the data ο ί direct experience and its
Covering up Nature 145
significances. The school ί η question seeks to distinguish itself both from
the irrational and vitalistic, and from the positivistic and empirical
schools. What remains ί η those schools, after they have made a tabula
rasa after their fashion, is the simple, "positive," sensible reality (the
point ο ί departure for correspondingly "positivist" science), or the pure
experience lived as something instinctive, irrational, and subintellectual.
Ι η contrast, the disclosure or animation ο ί the phenomenon when the
light ο ί the Self, ο ί Being, is projected onto it causes to appear ί η the
phenomenon itself, as its ultimate essence, something one might call
"intellectual" (intelligible), ί ί intellectuality did not nowadays mean that
which belongs to the rational and abstract mind. One can clarify the
idea by saying that what intervenes, beyond the stage ο ί direct experi-
ence, certainly, but disanimate and opaque, is a "vision ο ί the sense ο ί
things as a presence." "Understanding coincides with vision, intuition
(direct perception) with meaning." Whereas normally the world is given
us ί η the form ο ί sensible presences ("phenomena") without significance,
or else as merely subjective meanings (ideas ο ί thought) without a sensi-
ble presence (without a real intuitive basis), the two things are supposed
to coincide ί η the "phenomenological deepening" ο η the plane ο ί a
higher objectivity. Ι η this way, phenomenology does not present itself as
irrationalism or positivism, but as an "eidetics": a knowledge ο ί intel-
lectual essences. It aims toward an "intellectual" transparency ο ί the
real, ο ί which naturally there are very different degrees.
When medieval philosophers spoke ο ί intuitio intellectualis (intel-
lectual intuition), they were not referring to anything different. Ο η the
whole, and keeping strictly to the essential points that have been raised
so far, and to the way ί η which Ι have raised them, the assumptions
ο ί phenomenology would seem to correspond to those that Ι have for-
mulated. Nevertheless, such a correspondence between the phenom-
enologists' motives and traditional teachings is superficial and illusory,
though as Ι have said, one sometimes wonders whether it is a case ο ί
plagiarism pure and simple. The phenomenological school ο ί Husserl
and his followers deals with simple philosophy; it is like the parody ο ί
things belonging to an absolutely different world. The whole ο ί phe-
nomenology, being the invention ο ί modern thinkers and academic spe-
cialists, has as its sole basis the existential plane ο ί modern man, for
146 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
whom the disclosure ο ί phenomena, that is, the concrete, living pluridi-
mensionality ο ί the real presented ί η its nakedness (Nietzsche would say
ί η its "innocence") is and must be mere fancy. Everything ί η this school
is confined to more or less abstruse books, with the usual vain critical
examinations ο ί various systems ο ί the history ο ί profane philosophy,
with logical analyses and the usual fetishism for "philosophy," not to
mention the mixture ο ί the valid motives that Ι have isolated here with
many suspect ideas. Among the latter are the significance attributed to
time, to history, and to becoming; the misuse ο ί the term Lebenswelt
(world ο ί living) for that ο ί pure experience; another misuse, already
mentioned, ο ί the concept ο ί "intentionality"; the ϊ ν and irrelevant
pictures ο ί a world ο ί "harmony" and "rationality," and so forth. But
ι is not the place for a critical analysis or any further discrimination,
given that phenomenology has served us η ο better or worse than exis-
tentialism as a simple, incidental point ο ί reference.
Ι have now pointed out a direction, and the only direction possible
once one has realized the great illusion and the spiritual irrelevancy ο ί
everything that passes for "knowledge" today, at the end ο ί a cycle. Ι
repeat: This direction was well known to the traditional world, and
anyone with the chance ο ί referring to it directly can do perfectly well
without Husserl and all the rest. Thus he will avoid from the start the
error ο ί "mistaking the finger pointing to the ο ο η for the ο ο η itself,"
to use a Far Eastern expression. "Phenomenological destruction" rig-
orously applied cannot spare phenomenology itself; and one can say
the same ο ί this recently fashionable movement as ο ί the others ο ί our
time: vu, entendu, interre (seen, heard/understood, buried). Nothing
has changed: we have not arrived at any real transcendence.
Ι η traditional teachings, the symbol ο ί the eye ί η the middle ο ί the
forehead, whose glance burns υ ρ all appearances, corresponds precisely
to the idea ο ί "phenomenological destruction." Similarly, the traditional
esoteric doctrine concerning the multiple states ο ί the being has always
admitted an "essence" or a "being" that is not the hypothetical coun-
terpart, purely thought or believed ί η ο ί the phenomena, but the object
ο ί an "intellectual" experience as direct as the common sensorial type.
The same doctrine also speaks, not ο ί an "other reality" but ο ί other
experienceable dimensions ο ί the one reality. Incidentally, the so-called
Covering up Nature 147
symbolic conception ο ί the cosmos has the same significance: it is the
pluridimensionality of the degrees ο ί significance that reality may pres-
ent ί η a differentiated experience, obviously conditioned by the nature
of the experiencer (at whose limit there may be that which Husserl calls
the "transcendental Ι " ) . The final dimension of the object ο ί such an
experience might correspond to the views ο ί Zen Buddhism that Ι have
mentioned: pure reality that acquires an absolute meaning just as it is,
when it knows η ο goals, when η ο intentions are attributed to it, when it
has η ο need ο ί justifications or proofs, and manifests the transcendent
as immanent.
Ι have already treated the echo of such views ί η Nietzsche's and
]aspers' ideas about the "language ο ί the real." But it is as well to repeat
that ί η speaking ο ί these ideas ί η order to warn of their errors and offer
alternatives, Ι do not mean to present any of this as an actual possibil-
ity, either for my contemporaries ί η general, or even for the type ο ί
man Ι always have ί η mind. One cannot ignore everything that modern
progress and culture have created, and that is now an established fact
ί η modern man's makeup, largely neutralizing the faculties necessary
for an effective "opening" ο ί the experience of things and beings-an
opening that has nothing to do with the philosophical lucubrations of
today's phenomenologists.
The sensation ο ί the current dissolution of knowledge and of the
character ο ί that which now passes as knowledge may be a helpful
premise; but to go any further, the essential thing is not a simple mental ,
orientation but an inner awakening. Given that throughout this book Ι
have chosen not to consider the differentiated type who wants to, and
can, isolate himself from the modern world, but one who lives ί η the
thick of it, it is difficult for him to get beyond a certain limit ο η the
path ο ί knowledge that leads through the multiple dimensions of real-
ity. Apart from the forms ο ί conduct and opening already mentioned
ί n connection with the new realism (forms that remain valid and pos-
sible), perhaps only special and traumatic situations can momentarily
overcome this limit. And Ι have already spoken of those.
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--PART 6
The Realm of Art
From IIPhysical
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Music
to the Drug Regime
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Ι i
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21
The Sickness of
European Culture
Ι η my discussion of personal values and the new realism, Ι have men-
tioned the nature of culture and art ί η the modern world. Ι return to that
subje<;,t but from a slightly different point of view, ί η order to define the
potential significance of this realm for the differentiated human type.
When speaking of the relationship between recent art and culture
and the entire dissolutive process, one can call υ ρ ο η the principal thesis
expounded by Christoph Steding ί η The Empire and the Sickness of
European Culture
1
-a good study of the genesis of the cultural char-
acteristics that took form ί η Europe after the decline of its traditional
unity. Steding emphasizes that present culture had its point of depar-
ture ί η the dissociation, neutralization, emancipation, and absolutiza-
tion of particular realms, which therefore ceased to be more or less
organic parts of a whole. He refers especially to a formative center of
all existence that gave a meaning to life, a center that also guaranteed
a sufficiently organic character to the culture. The positive and neces-
sary manifestation of this center ο η the political level corresponded to
the principle of the Empire, not ο η l Υ ί η its secular significance (that is,
political ί η a limited sense), but spiritual as well, which it preserved ί η
the medieval European ecumene and which was marked by a political
theology of high Ghibellinism, as supported by Dante himself.
Ι η Europe, this process of dissolution, which always follows the dis-
appearance of any higher point of reference, had two connected causes.
The first was a kind of paralysis of the idea of European tradition as a
center of gravity-which also corresponded to an obscuration, mate-
rializing, and decline of the Empire and its authority. Then, as if by
counterpoint, there ensued the second cause: the centrifugal motion of
150
The Sickness of European Culture 151
the parts, the dissociation and autonomization ο ί partial areas, condi-
tioned precisely by the weakening and disappearance ο ί the originating
force ο ί gravity. From the political point ο ί view, there was the well-
known consequence that we need not dwell ο η : the end ο ί the unified
whole that the preceding European world still presented politically and
socially, despite a system ο ί ample regional autonomies and multiple
tensions. Steding calls this a "Swissifying" and "Dutchifying"2 ο ί areas
previously organically included ί η the complex ο ί the Empire, and the
fragmentation consequent ο η the rise ο ί national states. But ο η the
intellectual level the effect was necessarily the formation ο ί a divided,
"neutral" culture, devoid ο ί any objective character.
This is indeed the genesis and the predominant character ο ί cul-
ture, science, and art that have come to prevail ί η the modern era. It is
not necessary to make a detailed examination ο ί that realm here. If Ι
continued the discussion ο ί modern science and its technical applica-
tions, it would be easy to highlight this process ο ί increasing auton-
omy, a process neither checked nor restrained by any higher limits or
guidance: hence one often has the impression that technical-scientific
development takes man ί η hand and faces him with difficult, unex-
pected situations full ο ί unknowns. Ι need not dwell ο η the specialized
fragmentation, the lack ο ί a higher and unifying principle ο ί modern
knowledge, as it is quite evident. These are the consequences ο ί one
ο ί the dogmas ο ί progressive thought, the unassailable "freedom ο ί
science" and ο ί scientific research, which is a simple, euphemistic w ~ y
to indicate and legitimize the development ο ί one activity dissociated
from the whole.
That "freedom" is not unlike the "freedom ο ί culture" celebrated as
a victory, with which the active processes ο ί dissolution likewise mani-
fest ί η an inorganic civilization (as opposed to what Vico recognized as
proper to all the "heroic periods" ο ί preceding civilizations). One ο ί the
most typical expressions ο ί the ''neutralization'' ο ί such a culture is the
antithesis between culture and politics: pure art and pure culture are
supposed to have nothing to do with politics. Ι η the direction ο ί literary
liberalism and humanism, separation has often turned into overt opposi-
tion. There is a well-known intellectual and humanist type who fosters
an almost hysterical intolerance for anything referring to the political
Ι
152 The Realm of Art
world-state ideals and authority, strict discipline, war, power, and
domination-and denies them any spiritual or cultural value. Accordingly,
there are those who have dealt with a "cultural history" carefully sepa-
rated from "political history," making it a realm ί η itself. Naturally, the
antipolitical pathos and alienation of this "neutral" art and culture have
been largely justified by the degradation of the political sphere, by the
low level to which political values have fallen ί η recent times. But it is
more a case of an orientation ο η principle, which excludes any consider-
ation of how anomalous this situation is: ί η modern culture the "neu-
tral" character has ί η fact become a constituent feature.
Here, to anticipate any misunderstanding, it is prudent to empha-
size that the opposite condition, the normal and creative one, is not
t l τ a t of a culture at the service of the state and of politics (politics ί η
the degraded, modern sense). It is that ί η which a unique idea, the
basic and central symbol of a given civilization, shows its strength and
exerts a parallel, positive action, often invisible, both ο η the political
plane (with all the values, not just the material ones, that should con-
cern every true state) and ο η that of thought, culture, and the arts: it
excludes any major schism or antagonism between the two realms, as
well as any need for outside interventions. Precisely because an organic
type of civilization η ο longer exists, precisely because the processes of
dissolution have penetrated every realm of existence, all of that has
ceased to exist. Today we seem fated to have the alternative, false and
deleterious ί η itself, of either a "neutral" art and culture devoid of
every higher warrant and meaning, or of an art and culture subject to
pure and simple, degraded political forces, as is the case ί η totalitarian
systems, and chiefly ί η those informed by the theories of "Marxist real-
ism" and the corresponding polemic against the decadence and alien-
ation of bourgeois art.
The separation of art and culture is a direct consequence of subjec-
tivism, the disappearance of any objective and impersonal style, and the
generallack of the dimension of depth, following what has already been
stated ί η broad terms about the "values of the personality" and over-
coming them. What remains to be added is a summary examination of
the most recent forms that "neutral" art has given rise to, ί η order to
take stock of the situation.
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22
Dissolution
ι n Modern Art

When speaking ο Ε modern art, the Eirst thing to mention is its "inti-
mate" quality, typical ο Ε a Eeminine spirituality that wants nothing to
do with great historic and political Eorces; out ο Ε morbid sensitivity
(sometimes brought about by a trauma), it retreats into the world ο Ε
the artist's private subjectivity, valuing ο η l Υ the psychologically and
aesthetically "interesting." The works ο Ε Joyce, Proust, and Gide mark
the extreme ο Ε this tendency ί η literature.
Ι η some cases, the trend with "pure art" as its slogan is associated
with the above speciEically ί η the sense ο Ε a pure Eormalism ο Ε expressive
perEection; the "subject" becomes irrelevant, so that any intrusion ο Ε it is
deemed a contamination. (Benedetto Croce's aesthetics, ί Ε it were not so
insipid, could be cited here.) Ι η these cases an even greater degree ο Ε dis-
sociation is present than ί η the Eetishism ο Ε the artist's own interiority.
There is η ο point ί η speaking ο Ε the current desire to hold ο η to
a "traditional art." Today η ο one has any idea ο Ε what can rightly be
called traditional ί η a higher sense. We Eind here ο η l Υ academicism
and the withered reproduction ο Ε models, which lack-and must needs
lack-any originaI creative Eorce. It is a variety ο Ε the "regime ο Ε resi-
dues"; the so-called great art relegated to the past is merely the stuff ο Ε
rhetoric.
Ι η the opposite, avant-garde trend, value and meaning are reduced
to those ο Ε a revolt and an illustration ο Ε the general process ο Ε dissolu-
tion. Its works are oEten interesting, not Erom an artistic point ο Ε view
but rather as indices ο Ε the climate ο Ε modern liEe. They reflect the criti-
cal situation already alluded to ί η speaking ο Ε European nihilism, but
give rise to nothing constructive, permanent, or durable. We should note
amidst the chaos ο Ε styles the cases ο Ε rapid retreat Erom the most
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154 The Realm of Art
advanced positions: almost all those avant-gardists who were most revo-
lutionary ί η an existential situation that was originally authentic have
accepted a new academicism, a new conventionality, and the commer-
cialization ο ί their work. Equal1y typical is the subsequent turn, ο η the
part ο ί some ο ί these artists, ί η an abstract, formal, and neoclassical
direction, which is an evasion that puts an end to the relentless tension
ο ί their former, more authentic, revolutionary phase. One could speak
here ο ί an ''Apollonism,'' ί η the admittedly arbitrary sense ί η which
Nietzsche used the term ί η The Birth of Tragedy.
Nonetheless, from the differentiated man's point ο ί view the process
ο ί dissolution found ί η the most extreme art ( Ι will address music later),
with its atmosphere ο ί anarchic or abstract freedom, may actual1y have
-a liberating value, as opposed to much ο ί yesterday's bourgeois art.
Aside from this, after the exhaustion ο ί expressionism as a shapeless
eruption ο ί dissociated, psychic contents, and after the exhaustion ο ί
dadaism and surrealism, ί ί their attitudes had persisted we would have
witnessed the self-dissolution ο ί modern art, which would have left an
empty spiritual space. Ι η a different epoch, it is precisely ί η that space
that a new "objective" art might have taken shape, ί η that "grand style"
to which Nietzsche referred: "The greatness ο ί an artist is not measured
by the beautiful sentiments that he arouses-only girls can think along
these lines-but by the degree to which he approaches the grand style.
This has ί η common with great passion the disdain ο ί pleasure; he for-
gets to persuade, he wills ... Τ ο make himself master ο ί the chaos that
one is, to force his own chaos to become form, mathematics, law-that
is the grand ambition. Around such despotic men a silence is born, a
fear, similar to what is felt at a great sacrilege."l But to think this way
ί η the present world is absurd: our epoch lacks any center, any meaning,
any objective symbol that could give soul, content, and power to this
"grand style."
Similarly, ί η the field ο ί fiction what is ο ί interest today belongs
to the documentary genre, which, with more or less expressive power,
makes us aware ο ί the state ο ί contemporary existence. Ο η Ι Υ here, and
ί η a few cases, is subjectivism overcome. But ί η the majority ο ί liter-
ary works, ί η short stories, dramas, and novels, the regime ο ί residues
persists, with its typical forms ο ί subjective dissociation. Their constant
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Dissolution in Modern Art 155
background, rightly called the "fetishism of human relationships," con-
sists of the insignificant, sentimental, sexual, or social problems of
insignificant individuals, reaching the extreme of dullness and banality
ί η a certain epidemic type of American novel.
Having mentioned "social problems," Ι must also squelch the claims,
or more accurately, the aesthetic and artistic ambitions, of "Marxist
realism." The Marxist critic condemns the "bourgeois novel" as a phe-
nomenon of alienation, but as Ι have already said, the intent of giving a
social content or interpretation to the narrative, specifically mirroring
the dialectic evolution of classes, the impulse of the proletariat, and so
ο η is merely a simian parody of realism and the organic integration of a
divided and neutral culture. Here one kind of dissociation is replaced by
another more serious one: that of making the socioeconomic element an
absolute, detached from the rest. "Social" problems are, ί η themselves,
of as little interest and importance as those of personal relationships and
fetishist sentimentalities. None of these touches the essence; they fall
far short of what might be the object of fiction and of a high art ί η an
organic civilization. The few fictional writings brought to a difficult and
artificial birth under the sign of "Marxist realism" speak for themselves;
they are coarse material forced into a straitjacket by the demands of pure
propaganda and "communist edification." One cannot speak here either
of aesthetic criticism or of art, but rather of political agitation ί η the
lowest meaning of the term. However, the present world is such that
even where there was a demand for "functional art," for a
art" (Gropius's expression) that was not "alienated," it was obliged more
or less to end at the same level. The ο η Υ sector that was preserved was
perhaps architecture, because its functionalism does not require reference
to any higher meanings, which are nonexistent today. When a Marxist
critic like Lukacs writes: Ί η recent times art has become a luxury item
for idle parasites; artistic activity, ί η its turn, has become a separate pro-
fession with the task of satisfying those luxury needs,"2 he sums up what
art is practically reduced to ί η our day.
This reductio ad absurdum of an activity sundered from every
organic and necessary context parallels the other forms of internal dis-
solution that are present today, and as such facilitates the radical revi-
sion that the differentiated human type is forced to make concerning
156 The Realm of Art
the importance of art ί η the earlier period. Ι ν already mentioned
how, ί η the climate of the present ν and its ν elemen-
tary, ν barbaric tendencies, many people ν discarded the notion
of the period of bourgeois romanticism that art is one of the "supreme
ν of the spirit," ν the meaning of the world and of life.
The man whom we ν ί η mind can of course agree with this ν
ation of art today. The fetishizing of art ί η the bourgeois period, con-
nected with the cult of the ν personality," the "genius," is alien
to him. ν when it comes to some of the so-called great art of yester-
day, he may feel η ο less distant than certain men of action today, who
pay η ο attention to appearances, not ν for "recreation," but are inter-
ested ί η other things. We may well share and ν this attitude-
based, ν ο η the higher realism of which Ι ν spoken, and ο η
the sentiment of the "merely human" that is the constant basis of that
art, ί η all its pathos and tragedy. It may ν be that a differentiated
man finds himself more comfortable with certain ν modern art,
because ί η itself it represents art's self-dissolution.
Incidentally, this ν of art, justified by the latest conse-
quences of its "neutralization" and the new, ν realism, had some
general precedents ί η the traditional world. Art ί η a traditional and
organic ν ν occupied the central spiritual position that
the period of humanist and bourgeois culture accorded to it. Before the
modern era, when art had a true, higher meaning, this was thanks to
its preexisting contents, superior and prior to it, neither ν nor
"created" by it as art. These contents ν meaning to life and could
exist, manifest, and act ν ί η the ν absence of what is called art,
ί η works that sometimes might seem "barbaric" to the aesthete and the
humanist who ν η ο sense of the elementary and primordial.
We can draw an analogy with the attitude toward art ί η general that
the differentiated man, looking to a new freedom, can assume ί η this
period of dissolution. He is ν little interested ί η or preoccupied with,
the current "crisis of art." Just as he sees η ο ν authentic knowledge ί η
modern science, similarly he recognizes η ο spiritual ν ί η the art that
has taken shape ί η the modern era through the processes mentioned at
the beginning of this chapter; he sees η ο substitute for the meanings that
can be kindled by direct contact with reality ί η a cool, clear, and essential
Dissolution in Modern Art 157
clima.te .. υ ρ ο η objective consideration ο ί the processes at work, one has
the dIstlnct feeling .that art η ο longer has a future: that it is relegated to
an ever more Π position with respect to existence, its value being
reduced to a luxury, ι η accord with Lukacs's criticism quoted above
ί helpful to return for a moment to the particular realm ο ί
ern fICtlOll, where one deals with works that are corrosive and defeatist
so as to the same possibility ο ί misunderstanding as ί η th;
ο ί neorealIsm. Clearly, my position has nothing ί η common with
Judgments based ο η bourgeois points of view; thus the accusation of the
divided and neutral character of art must not be confused with moral-
izing, or with the censuring ο ί art ο η the part ο ί current petty morality.
Ι η the artistic works ί η question, it is not a matter ο ί those "existential
testimonies" pure and simple, to which one can apply this saying about
Schoenberg: Ά his happiness lay ί η recognizing unhappiness; aII his
beauty ί η forbidding himself the appearance ο ί beauty."3 It concerns a
particular art that directly or indirectly works to undermine any ideal-
ism, to deride any principles, to attack institutions, to reduce to mere
words ethical values, the just, the noble, and the dignified-and all this
without even obeying an explicit agenda (hence its difference from a
corresponding literature ο ί the Left, or the use and political exploita-
tion ο ί that literature ο η the part ο ί the Left).
We know which groups raise an indignant protest against a similar,
popular type ο ί art. This is not the correct reaction, ί η my view, because
it disregards its potential significance as a touchstone, especially for the
differentiated man. Without anticipating coming chapters, Ι shalr just
say here that the difference between depraved and mutilated realism,
and positive realism, lies ί η the latter's affirmation that there are values
that, for a given human type, are not mere fictions or fantasies, but
realities-absolute realities. Among these are spiritual courage, honor
(not ί η the sexual sense), straightforwardness, truth, and fidelity. Α η
existence that ignores these is by η ο means "realistic," but sub-real. For
the man who concerns us, dissolution cannot touch these values, except
ί η extreme cases ο ί an absolute "rupture ο ί levels." One must neverthe-
less distinguish between the substance and certain expressions ο ί it, and
also recognize that, ο η account ο ί the general transformations ο ί men-
tality and environment that have already happened or are ί η process,
158 The Realm of Art
these expressions have already been prejudiced by the conformism, the
rhetoric, the idealistic pathos, and the social mythology ο ί the bour-
geois period; thus their foundations are already undermined. Whatever
is worth saving ί η the field ο ί conduct needs to be liberated ί η an inte-
rior and simplified form, needing η ο consensus, and sound enough not
to lean ο η any ο ί the institutions or value systems ο ί yesterday's world.
As for the rest, it may as well collapse.
Once this point is settled (and it was already explained ί η the
introduction), one can recognize that the corrosive action exercised by
contemporary literature rarely touches ο η anything essential, and that
many ο ί its targets are not worth defending, cherishing, or regretting.
Those scandalized, alarmist, and moralizing reactions stem from an
undue confusion ο ί the essential and the contingent, from the incapac-
ity to conceive ο ί any substantial values beyond limited forms ο ί expres-
sion that have become alien and ineffective. The differentiated man is
not scandalized, but adopts a calm attitude ο ί understatement; he can
go even further ί η overthrowing the idols, but then he asks: ''And now
what?" At most, he will trace an existential line ο ί demarcation, ί η
the direction that Ι have repeatedly indicated. It does not matter that
this corrosive and "immoral" literature does not obey any higher goals
(though it likes to pretend that it does), and is ο η l Υ ο ί value as evidence
ο ί the somber, tainted, and often filthy horizons ο ί its authors. The
evidence remains valid: it defines a certain distance. Times like these
justify the saying that it is good to give the final push to that which
deserves to fall.
From our point ο ί view, a reactionary "re-moralizing" ο ί literature
appears inauspicious, even ί ί it were possible, ί η the sense ο ί a return to
the style ο ί Manzoni, and ί η general ο ί the nineteenth-century specialists
ί η the theatrical presentation ο ί concepts ο ί honor, family, homeland,
heroism, sin, and so ο η . One has to go beyond both positions: that ο ί the
moralizers, and that ο ί the proponents ο ί this corrosive art whose tran-
sitional and primitive forms are destined to exhaust themselves, leaving
for some a void, and for others, the free space for a higher realism. And
these considerations should make it plain that my former accusations ο ί
divided and indifferent art are not to be interpreted as the desire to give
art a moralizing, edifying, or didactic content.
23
Modern Music
and Jazz
There is another particular area worth paying attention to, because it
reflects some typical processes ο ί the epoch, and examining it willlead
us ο η to some general phenomena ο ί contemporary life. Ι am speaking
ο ί music.
It is ν that, unlike what is proper to a ν ο ί being,"
the music ο ί a ν ο ί becoming," which is unquestionably the
modern one, must ν ν ί η a peculiar way to enable us to
speak ο ί it as a Western demon ο ί music. The processes ο ί dissociation
behind all modern art naturally play a part here, so that ί η the latest
phases ο ί music we find ν situations just like the general
ones spoken ο ί ν
It is η ο ν to say that the most modern Western
music has been characterized by an ν more distinct separation from
its origin, whether ί η melodramatic, melodious, pretentious, heroic
romanticism (most recently ί η the line represented by Wagnerism), or
ί η tragic pathos (we need ο η Υ refer to ν usual ideas). This
separation has been realized through two ν ο η Υ appar-
ently opposed.
The first is intellectualization, ί η which the cerebral element pre-
ν with an interest focused ο η harmony, often leading to a technical
radicalism to the detriment ο ί immediacy and sentiment ("human con-
tents"), resulting ί η abstract rhythmic-harmonic constructs that often
seem to be ends ί η ν The extreme case ο ί this is recent ν
tone music and strict serialism.
The second is the physical character found ί η the most recent music.
This term has already been used for a music, mostly symphonic and
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descriptive, that returns ί η a certain sense to nature, removing itself
from the subjective world ο ί pathos, and is inclined to draw its principal
inspiration from the world ο ί things, actions, and elementary impulses.
Here the process is similar to the intolerance for intimist, academic stu-
dio painting during the rise ο ί early impressionism and plein air paint-
ing. This second musical tendency had already begun with the Russian
school and the French impressionists, having as its limit compositions
such as Honegger's Pacific 231 and Mossolov's The Iron Foundry.
When the second, physical current met with the first, superintellectu-
alized one, this meeting came to define a most interesting situation ί η
recent music. One need only think ο ί early Stravinsky, where an intel-
lectualism ο ί pure, overelaborated rhythmic constructions blossomed
into the evocation ο ί something pertaining less to psychology, or to the
passionate, romantic, and expressionistic world, than to the substratum
ο ί natural forces. One can see The Rite of Spring as the conclusion ο ί
this stage. It represents the almost complete triumph over nineteenth-
century bourgeois music; music becomes pure rhythm, an intensity ο ί a
sonorous and tonal dynamism ί η action. It is "pure music," but with an
additional Dionysian element, hence the particular reference to dance.
The predominance ο ί dance music over vocal and emotional music has
also characterized this current.
Up to this point, such a process ο ί liberating dissolution ί η the realm
ο ί music might have a positive aspect from our point ο ί view. One could
well approve ο ί a revolution that has caused Italian operatic music ο ί
the early nineteenth century, and German as well, to appear out ο ί
phase, heavy, and false, and likewise even symphonic music with high
"humanist" pretensions. The fact is, however, that, at least ί η the field
ο ί "serious" concert music, the next phase after the revolutionary stage
mentioned above consisted ο ί abstract forms dominated by technical
virtuosity: forms whose inner meaning recal1s what Ι have interpreted
as an existential refusal or diversion, taking it beyond the plane ο ί dan-
gerous intensity.
Here one can refer to Stravinsky's second period, where dance music
gave way to a formal music that was sometimes parodistic, sometimes
neoclassically inspired, or else characterized by a pure, dissociated
sonorous arithmetic that had begun to appear ί η the preceding period,
Ι ;
Modern Music and Jazz 161
producing a timeless spatialization of sounds. One also thinks of
Schoenberg, considering his development from free atonal music, often
ί η the service of an exasperated, existential expressionism (the existen-
tial revolt being expressed here as the atonal revolt against the "common
chord," a symbol of bourgeois idealism), to a phase of dodecaphony
(twelve-tone system). This development ί η itself is very significant for the
terminal crisis of modern music. After the chromatic limit had been
reached, from a technical point of view, step-by-step from post-Wagne-
rian music to that of Richard Strauss and Alexander Scriabin, atonal
music abandoned the traditional tonal system, the basis of all preceding
music, transporting, so to speak, the sound to a pure and free state,
almost as if it were an active musical nihilism. After that, with all twelve
tones of the chromatic scale taken without hierarchical distinction and
ί η all their unlimited possibilities of direct combination, the twelve-tone
system sought to impose a new abstract law, beyond the formulae of
common-practice harmony. Recently, music has experimented with
sounds created by electronic technology, which transcend traditional
orchestral means of production. This new territory also incurs the prob-
lem of finding an abstract law to apply to electronic music.
One can see ί η the extremes of dodecaphony reached ί η Anton ν ο η
Webern's compositions that the trend can go η ο further. While Adorno
could state ί η his Philosophy of Modern Music: "The twelve-tone tech-
nique is our destiny,"l others have justly spoken of a musical "ice age."
We have arrived at compositions whose extreme rarefaction and formal
abstraction depict worlds similar to that of modern physics with its
pure algebraic entities or, ο η the other hand, that of some surrealists.
The very sounds are freed from traditional structures and propelled
into a convoluted system where the complete dissolution into the form-
less, with skeletal and atomically dissociated timbres, is contained ο η l Υ
by the pure algebra of the composition. As ί η the world created by
machine technology, the technical perfection and force of these new
musical resources is accompanied by the same emptiness, soullessness,
spectrality, or chaos. It is inconceivable that the new twelve-tone and
post-serial language, with its foundation of inner devastation, could
express contents similar to those of earlier music. At most, this language
can be conducive to exasperated, existential expressionistic contents
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162 The Realm of Art
such as surface ί η A1ban Berg's works. The 1imit is crossed by the so-
called musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer, with its "organization of
noises" and "montage" of ν and orchestra1 sounds. Α
typica1 case is that of John Cage, a musician who dec1ares exp1icit1y
that his compositions are η ο 10nger music. Going beyond the disintegra-
tions of traditiona1 structures through seria1 music and ν behind
Webern and his schoo1, Cage mixes music with pure noise, e1ectronic
sound effects, 10ng pauses, random insertions, ν spoken ones such as
radio transmissions. The goa1 is to produce disorientation ί η the 1istener
ί η the same way as dadaism, so that one is hur1ed toward unexpected
horizons, beyond the rea1m of music, and ν of art ί η general.
If we 100k instead for the continuing ro1e of dance music, we shall
not find it ί η the "c1assica1" symphonic genre but ί η modern dance
music, specifically ί η jazz. lt is with good reason that the present epoch,
besides being called the "age of the emergence of the masses," the "age
of the economy," and "the age of omnipotent techno1ogy," has been
called the "Jazz Age." This shows that the extension of the trend ί η
question now goes beyond esoteric musica1 circ1es and saturates our
contemporaries' genera1 manner of 1istening. Jazz reflects the same
tendency as ear1y ν ί η terms of the pure rhythmic or synco-
pated e1ement; apart from its e1ements of song, it is a "physica1" music
that does not stop at the sou1, but direct1y arouses and stirs the body.
This is quite different from the ear1ier European dance music; ί η fact
the ν gracefu1ness, impetus, ν and sensua1ity permeating
those dances-for examp1e, the Viennese or Eng1ish wa1tz, and ν
the tango-are substituted ί η jazz by something mechanica1, disjointed,
a1together ν ecstatic, and ν paroxysma1 through the use of
constant repetition. This e1ementa1 content cannot be 10st ο η anyone
who finds himself ί η great European and American metropo1itan dance
halls, amidst the atmosphere of hundreds of coup1es shaking ν
to the syncopation and ν energy of this music.
The enormous and spontaneous spread of jazz ί η the modern wor1d
shows that meanings η ο different from those of the physico-cerebra1
"c1assica1" music, which superseded nineteenth-century bourgeois
me10drama and pathos, ν ί η fact thorough1y penetrated the younger
generation. But there are two sides to this phenomenon. Those who
Modern Music α n d ] α Ζ Ζ 163
once went crazy for the waltz or delighted ί η the treacherous and con-
ventional pathos ο ί melodrama, now find themselves at ease surrounded
by the convulsive-mechanical or abstract rhythms ο ί recent jazz, both
"hot" and "cool," which we must consider as more than a deviant,
superficial vogue. We are facing a rapid and central transformation ο ί
the manner ο ί listening, which is an integral part ο ί that complex that
defines the nature ο ί the present. Jazz is undeniably an aspect ο ί the
resurfacing ο ί the elemental ί η the modern world, bringing the bour-
geois epoch to its dissolution. Naturally, the young men and women
who like to dance to jazz today do so simply "for fun" and are not con-
cerned with this; yet the change exists, its reality unprejudiced by its
lack ο ί recognition, since its true meaning and possibilities could only
be noted from the particular point ο ί view employed by us ί η all ο ί our
analyses.
Some have included jazz among the forms ο ί compensation that
today's man resorts to when faced with his practical, arid, and mechan-
ical existence; jazz is supposed to provide him with raw contents ο ί
rhythm and elemental vitality. If there is any truth ί η this idea, we must
consider the fact that to arrive at this, Western man did not create origi-
nal forms, nor utilize elements ο ί European folk music, which, for exam-
ple ί η the rhythms ο ί southeastern Europe (Romanian or Hungarian),
has a fascination and an intensity comprising not only rhythm but also
authentic dynamics. He instead looked for inspiration ί η the patrimony
ο ί the lower and more exotic races, the Negroes and mulattoes of ... the
tropical and subtropical zones.
According to one ο ί the scholars ο ί Afro-Cuban music, Fernando
Ortiz, all the primary elements ο ί modern dance actually have these
origins, including those whose origins are obscured by the fact that they
have come through Latin America. One can deduce that modern man,
especially North American man, has regressed to primitivism ί η choos-
ing, assimilating, and developing a music ο ί such primitive qualities as
Negro music, which was even originally associated with dark forms ο ί
ecstasy.
Ι η fact, it is known that African music, the origin ο ί the principal
rhythms ο ί modern dances, has been one ο ί the major techniques used
to open people up to ecstasy and possession. Both Alfons Dauer and
164 The Realm of Art
Ortiz have rightly seen the characteristic of this music as its polyrhyth-
mic structure, developed ί η such a way that the static [on-beat] accents
that mark the rhythm constantly act as ecstatic [off-beat] accents; hence
the special rhythmic figures that generate a tension intended to "feed an
uninterrupted ecstasy."2 The same structure has been preserved ί η all
so-called syncopated jazz. These syncopations are like delays that tend
to liberate energy or generate an impulse: a technique used ί η African
rites to induce possession of the dancers by certain entities, the Orisha
of the Yoruba or the Loa of the Voodoo of Haiti, who took over their
personalities and "rode" them. This ecstatic potential still exists ί η jazz.
But even here there is a process of dissociation, of abstract development
of rhythmic forms separated from the whole to which they originally
belonged. Thus, given the desacralization of the environment and the
nonexistence of any institutional framework or corresponding ritual
tradition, any suitable atmosphere or appropriate attitude, one cannot
expect the specific effects of authentic African music with its evocative
function; the effect always remains a diffuse and formless possession,
primitive and collective ί η character.
This is very apparent ί η the latest forms, such as the music of the so-
called beat groups. Here the obsessive reiteration of a rhythm prevails
(similar to the use of the African tom-tom), causing paroxysmal con-
tortions of the body and inarticulate screams ί η the performers, while
the mass of the listeners joins ί η , hysterically shrieking and throwing
themselves around, creating a collective climate similar to that of the
possessions of savage ritual and certain Dervish sects, or the Macumba
and the Negro religious revivals.
The frequent use of drugs both by performers of this music and by
the enraptured young people is also significant, causing a true, frenetic
"crowd mentality," as ί η beat or hippie sessions ί η California involving
tens of thousands of both sexes.
Here we are η ο longer concerned with the specific compensation
that one can find ί η syncopated dance music as the popular counterpart
and extension of the extremes reached, but not maintained, by modern
symphonic music; we are concerned with the semi-ecstatic and hysteri-
cal beginnings of a formless, convoluted escapism, empty of content, a
beginning and end ί η itself. Hence, it is completely inappropriate when
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Modern Music and Jazz 165
some compare it to certain frenetic, collective, ancient rites, because the
latter always had a sacred background.
Quite apart from similar extreme and aberrant forms, one can still
consider the general problem of all these methods that provide elemen-
tal, ecstatic possibilities, which the differentiated man, not the masses,
can use ί η order to feed that particular intoxication described earlier,
which is the only nourishment he can existentially draw from an epoch
of dissolution. The processes of recent times tend precisely toward these
extremes; and whereas some of the present youth merely seek to dull
their senses and to use certain experiences merely for extreme sensa-
tions, others can use such situations as a challenge that demands the
right response: a reaction that arises from "being."
/
24
Excursus σ η Drugs
Going beyond music and dance, we are led to an even larger and
more problematic realm, which embraces many other methods being
increasingly used by the younger generation. The North American Beat
Generation, ί η putting together alcohol, the sexual orgasm, and drugs
a.s essential ingredients to give them a sense ο ί life, radically associ-
ated techniques that ί η reality have a common background that Ι have
alluded to earlier.
Ι need not dwell much ο η this realm. Apart from what will be said
ο ί sex ί η another chapter, Ι shall address here ο η l Υ a few considerations
ο η drugs, which are the means that, among all those used ί η certain
sectors ο ί the contemporary world, most visibly have the goal ο ί an
ecstatic escape.
The increasing spread ο ί drugs among today's youth is a very sig-
nificant phenomenon. Α specialist, Dr. Laennec, writes: ' Ί η our lands,
the most widespread category ο ί drug addicts is represented by the neu-
rotics and psychopaths for whom the drug is not a luxury but an essen-
tial food, the response to anguish .... Toxicomania now appears as an
additional symptom ο ί the patient's neurotic syndrome, one symptom
among others, a last defense, soon becoming the one and ο η l Υ defense."l
These considerations can be generalized, or rather extended, to an even
larger circle ο ί people who are not clinically neurotic: Ι am speaking
above all about young people who have more or less distinctly per-
ceived the emptiness and boredom ο ί modern existence, and are seek-
ing an escape from it. The impulse can be contagious: drug use extends
to individuals who did not have this original impetus as a point ο ί
departure, and ί η such people it can ο η l Υ be regarded as an avoidable
bad habit. Once starting ο η drugs to fit ί η or be ί η vogue, they succumb
166
Excursus on Drugs 167
to the seduction of the states caused by the drug, which often wrecks
their already weak personality.
With drugs we have a situation similar to that of syncopated music.
Both were often transpositions onto the profane and "physical" plane
of means that were originally used to open one υ ρ to the suprasensible
ί η initiation rites or similar experiences. Just as dances to modern syn-
copated music derive from ecstatic Negro dance, the various drugs used
today and created ί η laboratories correspond to drugs that were often
used for "sacred" ends ί η primitive populations, according to ancient
traditions. This is even true for tobacco; strong extracts of tobacco were
used to prepare young Native Americans ί η their withdrawal from pro-
fane life to obtain "signs" and visions. Α similar claim can be made for
alcohol, within certain limits; we are aware of the tradition centered ο η
"sacred beverages," as ί η the use of alcohol ί η Dionysian and similar
rituals. For example, alcoholic beverages were not prohibited ί η ancient
Taoism: ο η the contrary, they were considered "life essences" induc-
ing an intoxication that, like dance, could lead to a "magical state of
grace," sought by the so-called real men. Ι η addition, the extracts of
coca, mescal, peyote, and other narcotics have been, and often still are,
used ί η the rituals of secret societies of Central and South America.
Ν ο one has a clear or adequate idea about all this anymore, because
there is not enough emphasis today ο η the fact that the effects of these
substances are quite different according to the constitution, the spe-
cific capacity for reaction, and-in these cases of nonprofane use-the
spiritual preparation and intent of the user. Lewin has even spoken of
a "toxic equation" that is different ί η every individual, but this concept
has not been given the necessary emphasis, nor has the available field of
observations been broad enough, given that the blocked existential situ-
ation of the great majority of our contemporaries considerably restricts
the possible range of reaction to drugs.
However, the "personal equation" and the specific zone ο η which
drugs, here including alcohol, act, lead the individual toward alienation
and a passive opening to states that give him the illusion of a higher free-
dom, an intoxication and an unfamiliar intensity of sensation, but that
ί η reality have a character of dissolution that by η ο means "takes him
beyond." Ι η order to expect a different result from these experiences, he
ι
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168 The Realm of Art
would have to have at his command an exceptional degree ο ί spiritual
activity, and his attitude would be the opposite ο ί those who seek and
need drugs to escape from tensions, traumatic events, neuroses, and feel-
ings ο ί emptiness and absurdity.
Ι have already pointed out the African polyrhythmic technique: one
energy is locked into continuous stasis ί η order to unleash an energy
ο ί a different order. Ι η the inferior ecstaticism ο ί primitive peoples this
opens the way for possession by dark powers. Ι have said that ί η our
case, this different energy should be produced by the response ο ί the
"being" (the Self) to the stimulus. The situation created by the reac-
tion to drugs and even alcohol is η ο different. But this kind ο ί reac-
tion almost never occurs; the reaction to the substance is too strong,
rapid, unexpected, and external to be simply experienced, and thus the
process cannot involve the "being." It is as ί ί a powerful current pene-
trated the consciousness without requiring assent, leaving the person to
merely notice the change ο ί state: he is submerged ί η this new state, and
"acted ο η " by it. Thus the true effect, even ί ί not noticed, is a collapse, a
lesion ο ί the Self, for all his sense ο ί an exalted life or ο ί a transcendent
beatitude or sensuality.
For the process to proceed differently, it would go schematically
as follows: at the point ί η which the drug frees energy Χ ί η an exterior
way, an act ο ί the Self, ο ί "being," brings its own double energy, Χ + Χ ,
into the current and maintains it υ ρ to the end. Similarly, a wave, even
ί ί unexpected, serves a skilled swimmer with whom it collides by pro-
pelling him beyond it. Thus, there would be η ο collapse, the negative
would be transformed into positive, η ο condition ο ί passivity would be
formed with respect to the drug, the experience ί η a certain way would
be deconditioned, and, as a result, one would not undergo an ecstatic
dissolution, devoid ο ί any true opening beyond the individual and ο η l Υ
substantiated by sensations. Instead, ί η certain cases there would be the
possibility ο ί coming into contact with a superior dimension ο ί reality,
which was the intention ο ί ancient, nonprofane drug use. Τ ο a certain
degree, the harmful effect ο ί drugs would be eliminated.
At this point it will be helpful to add some details. Ι η general, drugs
can be divided into four categories: stimulants, depressants, halluci-
nogens, and narcotics. The first two categories do not concern us; for
--_.. ------- ---
Excursus on Drugs 169
example, the use ο ί tobacco and alcohol is irrelevant unless it becomes
a vice, that is, ί ί it leads to addiction.
The third category includes drugs that bring ο η states ί η which one
experiences various visions and seemingly other worlds ο ί the senses
and spirit. Ο η account ο ί these effects, they have also been called "psy-
chedelics," under the assumption that the visions project and reveal
the hidden contents ο ί the depths ο ί one's own psyche, but are not rec-
ognized as such. As a result, physicians have even tried to use drugs
like mescaline for a psychic exploration analogous to psychoanalysis.
However, when all is reduced to the projection ο ί a psychic substratum,
not even experiences ο ί this kind can interest the differentiated man.
Leaving aside the perilous contents ο ί the sensations and their artifi-
cial paradise, these illusory phantasmagoria do not take one beyond,
even ί ί one cannot exclude the possibility that what is acting may not
be merely the contents ο ί one's own subconscious, but dark influences
that, finding the door open, manifest themselves ί η these visions. We
might even say that those influences, and not the simple substratum
repressed by the individual psyche, are responsible for certain impulses
that can burst out ί η these states, even driving some compulsively to
commit criminal acts.
Α η effective use ο ί these drugs would presuppose a preliminary
"catharsis," that is, the proper neutralization ο ί the individual uncon-
scious substratum that is activated; then the images and senses could
refer to a spiritual reality ο ί a higher order, rather than being r,;duced
to a subjective, visionary orgy. One should emphasize that the instances
ο ί this higher use ο ί drugs were preceded not ο η l Υ by periods ο ί prepa-
ration and purification ο ί the subject, but also that the process was
properly guided through the contemplation ο ί certain symbols.
Sometimes "consecrations" were also prescribed for protective pur-
poses. There are accounts ο ί certain indigenous communities ί η Central
and South America whose members, ο η l Υ while under the influence ο ί
peyote, hear the sculpted figures ο η ancient temple ruins "speak,"
revealing their meaning ί η terms ο ί spiritual enlightenment. The impor-
tance ο ί the individual's attitude clearly appears from the completely
different effects ο ί mescaline ο η two contemporary writers who have
experimented with drugs, Aldous Huxley and R. Η . Zaehner. And it is
170 The Realm of Art
a fact that ί η the case ο ί hallucinogens like opium and, ί η part, hashish,
this active assumption ο ί the experience that is essential from our point
ο ί view is generally excluded.
There remains the category ο ί narcotics and ο ί substances that are
also used for total anesthesia, whose normal effect is the complete sus-
pension ο ί consciousness. This corresponds to a detachment that would
exclude all intermediate "psychedelic" forms and the insidious, ecstatic,
and sensual contents, leaving a void. However, ί ί consciousness were
maintained, with the pure Ι at the center, it could facilitate the open-
ing to a higher reality. But the advantages would be outweighed by the
extreme difficulty ο ί any training capable ο ί maintaining detached con-
ι
Ι η general, one must keep ί η mind that drug use even for a spiritual
end, that is, to catch glimpses ο ί transcendence, has its price. How drugs
produce certain psychic effects has not yet been determined by modern
science. It is said that some, like LSD, destroy certain brain cells. One
point is certain: Habitual use ο ί drugs brings a certain psychic disorga-
nization; one should substitute for them the power ο ί attaining analo-
gous states through one's own means. Therefore, when one has chosen
a path based ο η the maximum unification ο ί all one's psychic faculties,
these drawbacks must be kept firmly ί η mind.
The common reader probably finds these ideas tedious, and lacking
ί η personal points ο ί reference to give him bearings. But, again, it is the
development ο ί our argument that has required even this brief excursus.
Ι η fact, ο η Υ by dwelling ο η these possibilities, as unusual as they are,
can one adequately identify the necessary antitheses. This shows us the
blockage that prevents any positive value ί η the evocation ο ί the elemen-
tal ί η today's world, leaving ο η Υ those purely dissolutive and regressive
processes that prevail increasingly ί η the younger generations.
-----=- PART 7
Dissolution ί π the
Social Realm
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States and Parties
Apoliteia
As a result of today's general processes of dissolution, the sociopolitical
is the realm that most displays the lack of any truly legitimate structure
.. possessing a link to higher meanings. Given this state of affairs, we
must frankly recognize that the human type who concerns us must gov-
ern his own behavior by entirely different principles from those which,
ί η sociallife, would be proper to him under other circumstances.
Ι η the present epoch, η ο nation-states exist that, by their nature,
can claim any principle of true, inalienable authority. Furthermore, one
cannot even speak of states today ί η the proper traditional sense. Ο η Ι Υ
"representative" and administrative systems exist, ί η which the primary
element is η ο longer the state, understood as an entity ί η itself and
an incarnation of a higher idea and power, but "society," conceived ί η
terms of "democracy." This background even persists ί η totalitarian
communist regimes, which so insist ο η the quality of "popular democ-
racies." For a long time there have been η ο true sovereigns, monarchs
by divine right capable of wielding sword and scepter, and symbols of
a higher human ideal. More than a century ago, Juan Donoso Cortes
stated that η ο kings existed capable of proclaiming themselves as such
except "by the will of the nation," adding that, even if any had existed,
they would not have been recognized. The few monarchies still surviv-
ing are notoriously impotent and empty, while the traditional nobility
has lost its essential character as a political class and any existential
prestige and rank along with it. Its current representatives may still
interest our contemporaries when put ο η the same plane as film actors
and actresses, sport heroes and opera stars, and when through some
private, sentimental, or scandalous chance, they serve as fodder for
magazine articles.
172
States and Parties 173
Even outside traditional frameworks, true leaders do not exist today.
" Ι turned my back ο η the rulers when Ι saw what they called ruling:
bartering and haggling with the rabble .... Among all the hypocrisies,
this seems to me the worst: that even those who commanded feigned
the virtues of the serfs"l-Nietzsche's words are without exception still
true of the so-called ruling class of our times.
Like the true state, the hierarchical, organic state has ceased to
exist. Ν ο comparable party or movement exists, offering itself as a
defender of higher ideas, to which one can unconditionally adhere and
support with absolute fidelity. The present world of party politics con-
sists ο η l Υ of the regime of petty politicians, who, whatever their party
affiliations, are often figureheads at the service of financial, industrial,
or corporate interests. The situation has gone so far that even if par-
ties or movements of a different type existed, they would have almost
η ο following among the rootless masses who respond ο η l Υ to those
who promise material advantages and "social conquests." When strik-
ing these chords does not suffice, the ο η l Υ influence over the masses
today-and now even more than ever-is ο η the plane of impassioned
and subintellectual forces, which by their very nature lack any stabil-
ity. These are the forces that demagogues, popular leaders, manipula-
tors of myths, and fabricators of "public ο ρ ί η ί ο η " count ο η . l η this
regard we can learn from yesterday's regimes ί η Germany and Italy that
positioned themselves against democracy and Marxism: that potential
enthusiasm and faith that animated masses of people, even to the ρ ο ί η ι ; ,
of fanaticism, has completely vanished ί η the face of crisis, or else been
transferred to new, opposing myths, replacing the preceding ones by
the sole force of circumstances. One must expect this from every collec-
tive current that lacks a dimension of depth, inasmuch as it depends ο η
the forces Ι have mentioned, corresponding to the pure demos and its
sovereignty-which is as much as to say, literally, "democracy."
The ο η l Υ realms left for any efficacious political action after the end
of the old regimes are this irrational and subintellectual plane, or the
other one, determined by pure material and "social" utility. As a result,
even if leaders worthy of the name were to appear today-men who
appealed to forces and interests of a different type, who did not promise
material advantages, who demanded and imposed a severe discipline ο η
174 Dissolution in the Social Realm
everyone, and who did η ο ! prostitute and degrade themselves just to
ensure a personal, ephemeral, revocable, and formless power-they
would have almost η ο hold ο η present society. The "immortal princi-
ples" ο ί 1789 and the rights ο ί equality granted by absolute democracy
to the atomized individual regardless ο ί qualification or rank, and the
irruption ο ί the masses into the political structure, have effectively
brought about what Walther Rathenau calls a "vertical invasion by bar-
barians from below."2 Consequently, the following observation ο ί essay-
ist Ortega Υ Gasset remains true: "The characteristic fact ο ί the moment
is that the mediocre soul, recognizing itself as mediocre, has the audacity
to assert the right ο ί mediocrity and impose it everywhere."3
Ι η the introduction Ι mentioned the few who by temperament and
vocation still think today, ί η spite ο ί everything, about the possibility ο ί
a rectifying, political action. Men among the Ruins was written with
their ideological orientation ί η mind. But ο η the basis ο ί experience we
must admit the lack ο ί the necessary premises to reach any concrete,
appreciable results ί η a struggle ο ί this kind. Ο η the other hand, Ι have
specified within these pages a human type ο ί a different orientation,
although spiritually related to those others who will fight ο η even ί η
hopeless positions. After taking stock ο ί the situation, this type can ο η l Υ
feel disinterested and detached from everything that is "politics" today.
His principle will become apoliteia, as it was called ί η ancient times.
It is important to emphasize that this principle refers essentially
to the inner attitude. Ι η the present political situation, ί η a climate ο ί
democracy and "socialism," the rules ο ί the game are such that the man
ί η question absolutely cannot take part ί η it. He recognizes, as Ι have
said before, that ideas, motives, and goals worthy ο ί the pledge ο ί one's
own true being do not exist today; there are η ο demands ο ί which he
can recognize any moral right and foundation outside that which they
derive as mere facts ο η the empirical and profane plane. However, apo-
liteia, detachment, does not necessarily involve specific consequences
ί η the field ο ί pure and simple activity. Ι have already discussed the
capacity to apply oneself to a given task for love ο ί action ί η itself and
ί η terms ο ί an impersonal perfection. So, ί η principle, there is η ο reason
to exclude the political realm itself as a particular case among others,
since participating ί η it ο η these terms requires neither any objective
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α α Parties 175
value of a higher order, nor impulses that come from emotional and
irrational layers ο ί one's own being. But if this is how one dedicates
oneself to political activity, clearly all that matters is the action and the
impersonal perfection ί η acting for its own sake. Such political activ-
ity, for one who desires it, cannot present a higher value and dignity
than dedicating oneself, ί η the same spirit, to quite different activities:
absurd colonization projects, speculations ο η the stock market, science,
and even-to give a drastic example-arms traffic or white slavery.
As conceived here, apoliteia creates η ο special presuppositions ί η
the exterior field, not necessarily having a corollary ί η practical absten-
tion. The truly detached man is not a professional and polemic outsider,
nor conscientious objector, nor anarchist. Once it is established that life
with its interactions does not constrain his being, he could even show the
qualities of a soldier who, ί η order to act and accomplish a task, does not
request ί η advance a transcendent justification and a quasi-theological
assurance of the goodness of the cause. We can speak, ί η these cases, of
a voluntary obligation that concerns the "persona," not the being, by
which-even while one is involved-one remains isolated.
Ι have already said that the positive overcoming of nihilism lies pre-
cisely ί η the fact that lack of meaning does not paralyze the action of
the "persona." Ι π existential terms, the only exc<::ption would be the
possibility of action being manipulated by some current ί or
social myth that regarded today's political life as serious, significant,
and important. Apoliteia is the inner distance unassailable by this
society and its "values"; it does not accept being bound by anything
spiritual or moral. Once this is firm, the activities that ί η others woulri
presuppose such bonds can be exercised ί η a different spirit. Moreover,
there remains the sphere of activities that can be made to serve a higher-
ordained and invisible end, as when Ι mentioned the two aspects of
impersonality and what is to be gained from some forms of modern
existence.
Turning to a particular point, one can ο π Υ maintain an attitude of
detachment when facing the confrontation of the two factions con-
tending for world domination today: the democratic, capitalist West
and the communist East. Ι η fact, this struggle is devoid of any meaning
from a spiritual point of view. The "West" is not an exponent of any
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j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
176 Dissolution in the Social Realm
higher ideal. Its very civilization, based ο η an essential negation of tra-
ditional values, presents the same destructions and nihilistic back-
ground that is evident ί η the Marxist and communist sphere, however
different ί η form and degree. Ι will not dwell ο η this, given that Ι have
outlined a total conception of the course of history, and dismissed any
illusion about the final result of that struggle for world control, ί η
Revolt Against the Modern World. Since the problem of values does not
come into question, at most it presents a practical problem to the dif-
ferentiated man. That certain margin of material freedom that the
world of democracy stillleaves for external activity to one who will not
let himself be conditioned inwardly, would certainly be abolished ί η a
communist regime. Simply ί η view of that, one may take a position
... against the soviet-communist system: not because one believes ί η some
higher ideal that the rival system possesses, but for motives one might
almost call basely physical.
Ο η the other hand, one can keep ί η mind that for the differentiated
man, having η ο interest ί η affirming and exposing himself ί η external
life today, and his deeper life remaining invisible and out of reach, a
communist system would not have the same fatal significance as for
others; also an "underground front" could very well exist there. Taking
sides ί η the present struggle for world hegemony is not a spiritual prob-
lem, but a banal, practical choice.
Ι η any case, the general situation characterized by Nietzsche remains:
"The struggle for supremacy amidst conditions that are worth nothing:
this civilization of great cities, newspapers, fever, uselessness."4 Such is
the framework that justifies the inner imperative of apoliteia: to defend
the world of being and dignity of him who feels himself belonging to a
different humanity and recognizes the desert around himself.
- - _._- -------------------------
26
Society
The Crisis ο ί
Patriotic Feeling
We now come to the social realm ί η the proper sense. Here we can
ο η Υ conclude that ν organic unity has been ν or is ν
ing: caste, stock, nation, homeland, and ν the family. ν when
all these ν not completely disappeared, their social foundation is
not a ν force full of significance, but the mere force of inertia. We
ν already seen this when speaking of the person: what exists today
is essentially the shifting mass of ν ν of organic con-
nections, a mass contained by external structures or ν by collec-
ν formless, and unstable currents. The differences between them,
as they exist today, are η ο longer true differences. The classes are ο η Υ
fluid, economic classes. Again, the words of Zarathustra are timely:
"Rabble ν rabble below! What do 'poor' or 'rich' mean today? Ι
ν forgotten how to tell the difference."l The ο η Υ real hierarchies
are those technical ones of the specialists who ν material utility, the
needs (largely unnatural), and the distractions of the human animal:
hierarchies ί η which rank and spiritual superiority η ο longer ν any
meaning or place.
Instead of the traditional unification through particular bodies,
orders, functional castes or classes, guilds-frameworks to which the
ν felt an attachment, based ο η a ν principle that
informed his entire life, ν it a specific meaning and orientation-
today's associations are determined ο η Υ by the material interests of
ν united ο η Υ ο η this basis, such as trade unions, professional
organizations, parties. The formless state of the people, turned into mere
177
- ,
176 Dissolution in the Social Realm
higher ideal. Its very civilization, based ο η an essential negation of tra-
ditional values, presents the same destructions and nihilistic back-
ground that is evident ί η the Marxist and communist sphere, however
different ί η form and degree. Ι will not dwell ο η this, given that Ι have
outlined a total conception of the course of history, and dismissed any
illusion about the final result of that struggle for world control, ί η
Revolt Against the Modern World. Since the problem of values does not
come into question, at most it presents a practical problem to the dif-
ferentiated man. That certain margin of material freedom that the
world of democracy stillleaves for external activity to one who will not
let himself be conditioned inwardly, would certainly be abolished ί η a
communist regime. Simply ί η view of that, one may take a position
~ against the soviet-communist system: not because one believes ί η some
higher ideal that the rival system possesses, but for motives one might
almost call basely physical.
Ο η the other hand, one can keep ί η mind that for the differentiated
man, having η ο interest ί η affirming and exposing himself ί η external
life today, and his deeper life remaining invisible and out of reach, a
communist system would not have the same fatal significance as for
others; also an "underground front" could very well exist there. Taking
sides ί η the present struggle for world hegemony is not a spiritual prob-
lem, but a banal, practical choice.
Ι η any case, the general situation characterized by Nietzsche remains:
"The struggle for supremacy amidst conditions that are worth nothing:
this civilization of great cities, newspapers, fever, uselessness."4 Such is
the framework that justifies the inner imperative of apoliteia: to defend
the world of being and dignity of him who feels himself belonging to a
different humanity and recognizes the desert around himself.
ι
Τ
178 Dissolution in the Social Realm
masses, ensures that any possible order will necessarily have a centralistic
and coercive character. The inevitable, centralizing, overgrown struc-
tures of modern states, which increase their interventions and restrictions
even when "democratic freedoms" are proclaimed, if ο η the one hand
they hold ο Η complete disorder, ο η the other they destroy whatever might
still remain of organic bonds and unity. And this social standardization
reaches its limit when openly totalitarian forms take over.
Furthermore, the absurdity of modern life is blatantly revealed by
those economic aspects that essentially, and regressively, determine
it. Ο η the one hand, an economy of necessities has decidedly become
an economy ο ί excess, one ο ί whose causes is the overproduction and
p1'ogress ο ί industrial technology. Ο η the other hand, overproduction
requires, for the sake ο ί the market, that a maximum volume ο ί needs
be fed and maintained among the masses: needs that, ο η the brink of
becoming customary and "normal," entail a corresponding, growing
conditioning of the individual. The first factor here is the very nature
ο ί the dissociated productive process that has, as it were, taken mod-
ern man by the hand, like an unleashed giant incapable ο ί restraint,
thus confirming the saying: Fiat productio, pereat homo! (Let there
be production! Let man perish! -Werner Sombart). While ί η a capi-
talist regime not ο η l Υ greed for profits and dividends has a part ί η
this senseless increase ί η production, but also the objective necessity
for capital reinvestment ί η order to prevent a blockage paralyzing the
entire system, another more general cause ο ί the senseless increase ο ί
production along the lines of an excessive consumer economy is the
necessity Ι ο employ labor to combat unemployment. As a result, ί η
many states the principle ο ί overproduction and overindustrializa-
tion, exacerbated by the demands ο ί private capitalism, has become
the very dictator ο ί sociopolitical planning. So a vicious circle forms,
the opposite of a system ί η equilibrium, ο ί processes well contained
within sensible boundaries.
This naturally brings us to an even more prominent aspect of the
absurdity ο ί modern existence: the unrestrained increase and growth ο ί
the population, occurring along with the regime ο ί the masses, fostered
by democracy, the "conquests ο ί science," and the unselective welfare
system. The procreative pandemic or demon is effectively the principal
Society 179
force that incessantly feeds and sustains the entire system ο ί the modern
economy, with its mechanism ever more conditioning the individual.
Proof positive ο ί the derisory character ο ί the craze for power nurtured
by today's man is the fact that this creator ο ί machines, this dominator
ο ί nature, this inaugurator ο ί the atomic era, is not far above an animal
or a savage when it comes to sex. He is incapable ο ί controlling the
most primitive forms ο ί the sexual impulse and everything connected
with it. 50, as though obeying a blind destiny, he ceaselessly, irrespon-
sibly, increases the formless human mass and supplies the chief driving
force to the entire system ο ί the paroxysmal, unnatural, and ever more
conditioned economic life ο ί modern society, creating at the same time
innumerable hotbeds ο ί social and international instabilities and ten-
sions. The vicious circle then becomes that ο ί the mass, which, with the
excess potential ο ί a workforce, feeds overproduction, which ί η its turn
seeks ever-larger markets and masses to absorb the products. Nor can
we ignore the fact that demographic growth has an index inversely pro-
portional to the social scale, thus adding a further factor to the general
regresslve process.
Evidence ο ί this is absurdly obvious, and could easily be developed
and supported by specific analyses. But this summary ο ί the essential
points is enough to validate the principle ο ί inner detachment not only
toward the present political world but also, more generally, the social
world. The differentiated man cannot feel part ο ί a "society" like the
present one, which is formless and has sunk to the level ο ί purely mate-
rial, economic, "physical" values, and moreover lives at this level and
follows its insane course under the sign ο ί the absurd. Therefore, apo-
liteia requires the most decided resistance to any social myth. Here it is
not just a matter ο ί its extreme, openly collectivist forms, ί η which the
person is not recognized as significant except as a fragment ο ί a class
or party or, as ί η the Marxist-50viet area, is denied any existence ο ί his
own outside the society, so that personal destiny and happiness distinct
from those ο ί the collective do not even exist. We must equally reject
the more general and bland ideal ο ί "sociability" that today often func-
tions as a slogan even ί η the so-called free world, after the decline ο ί the
ideal ο ί the true state. The differentiated man feels absolutely outside ο ί
society, he recognizes η ο moral claim that requires his inclusion ί η an
180 Dissolution in the Social Realm
absurd system; he can understand not only those who are outside, but
even those who are against "society" -meaning against this society.
Putting aside everything that does not directly concern him (because his
way does not match that ο ί his contemporaries), he would be the last
to endorse efforts to normalize and rehabilitate within "society" those
who have had enough ο ί the game and are stigmatized as "unsuitable"
and "asocial"-the anathema ο ί democratic societies. The ultimate
intention ο ί such efforts is to narcotize those who can see through the
absurd and nihilistic character ο ί today's collective life, behind all the
"social" masks and the corresponding lay mythology, as Ι have already
said.
Based ο η these general considerations, we can now examine the
- crisis that some particular ideals and institutions ο ί the previous
period are undergoing, ί η order to clarify the position to be taken ί η
that regard.
We turn first to the ideas ο ί homeland and nation. The crisis that
such ideas are suffering is evident, especially after World War Π . Ο η the
one hand, it is a consequence ο ί objective processes: the great economic
and political forces ί η motion are such as to increasingly relativize the
frontiers and to reduce the principle ο ί national sovereignty. One tends
to think ί η terms ο ί large spaces and blocs or supranational systems,
and given the growing uniformity ο ί mores and ways ο ί life, given the
transformation ο ί the population into masses, and given the develop-
ment and ease ο ί communications, everything that has a solely national
reference is assuming the quasi-provincial character ο ί a local curiosity.
Ο η the other hand, the crisis regards the way ο ί feeling itself; it is
connected to the decline ο ί yesterday's myths and ideals, to which men
respond less and less after the upheavals and downfalls ο ί recent times,
and which are ever less capable ο ί awakening the old enthusiasm ί η the
collectivity.
As ί η so many previous occasions, it is also necessary here to see
clearly what exactly is suffering the crisis, and to define its value. Again,
it is not about the reality ο ί the traditional world, but ο ί conceptions
essentially born and introduced with its destruction, and above all with
the revolution ο ί the Third Estate. The words "homeland" and
"nation," ί η the modern sense ο ί political myths and collective ideals,
Ι
,
Ι
Ι
Society 181
were virtually unknown ί η the traditional world. The traditional world
knew "nationalities," ethnicities, and races ο η l Υ as natural facts,
devoid of that specific political value that they would receive ί η mod-
ern nationalism. They represented a primary material differentiated by
hierarchies and subject to a superior principle of political sovereignty.
Ι η many cases, this elevated principle represented the primary element,
the nation the secondary and derived element, since at the beginning
there was η ο unity of language, territory, "natural borders," or relative
ethnic homogeneity beyond the encounter and miscegenation of differ-
ent bloods; these were often ο η l Υ the effect of a long formative process
determined over centuries by a political center and its loyalist and feu-
dal bonds.
Ι η addition, it is well known that ί η the West, political nations
and nation-states emerged from the decline of the medieval ecumeni-
cal unity, due to a process of dissociation, a freeing of particular units
from a whole (as indicated ί η chapter 25). The process replicates ο η
the international and continental plane the same features as would give
rise within every state to the freeing of individuals, to social atomism
and the dissolution of the organic concept of the state.
Τ ο an extent, the formation of nations has run parallel with the
revolutionary idea. Already ί η the oldest historical example, that of the
France of Philip the Fair, one can see how the move toward a national
state went hand ί η hand with a process of anti-aristocratic leveling, an
incipient destruction of the articulations of an organic society due ~ o
absolutism, and the constitution of those centralized "public powers"
that would become ever more prominent ί η modern states. We are well
aware of the close relationship between the dissolution corresponding
to the declaration of the "rights of man and the citizen" of 1789 and the
patriotic, nationalistic, and revolutionary idea. The very word "patriot"
was unknown before the French Revolution; it first appeared between
1789 and 1793 to indicate one who supported the revolution against the
monarchies and aristocracies. Similarly, ί η the European revolutionary
movements of 1848 and 1849, "people," "national idea," and "patrio-
tism" ο η the one hand, and revolution, liberalism, constitutionalism,
republican and antimonarchical tendencies ο η the other, were concor-
dant and often inseparable elements.
182 Dissolution in the Social Realm
It was ί η this climate, ο η the eve of the bourgeois or Third Estate
revolution, that "homeland" and "nation" took ο η a primarily politi-
cal meaning and that mythical value that would become ever more
evident ί η the openly nationalistic ideologies that followed. Thus
"patriotic" and "national sentiments" are tied to the mythology of
the bourgeois era, and it was ο η l Υ then, during the relatively brief
period from the French Revolution to the First or perhaps the Second
World War, that the idea of nation actually played a determining role
ί η European history, ί η close connection with the democratic ideolo-
gies. The same idea is now playing the same role for the non-European
peoples as they become emancipated, following the same presupposi-
tions, or rather following the internal antitraditional and modernizing
dissolutions.
When bland patriotism turned into radical nationalistic forms, the
regressive character of such tendencies and the contribution from the
emergence of the mass-man ί η the modern world became clearly evi-
dent. For the essence of nationalistic ideology is to hold homeland and
nation as supreme values, conceiving them as mystical entities almost
with a life of their own and having an absolute claim ο η the individual;
whereas, ί η reality, they are only dissociated and formless realities, by
way of their negation of any true hierarchical principle, and of any sym-
bol or warrant of a transcendent authority. Ι η general, the foundation
of political unities that have taken form ί η this direction is antithetical
to the traditional state. Ι η fact, as Ι have said, the cement of the latter
was a loyalty and fidelity that could dispense with the naturalistic fact
of nationality; it was a principle of order and sovereignty that, by not
being based ο η this fact, could even be valid ί η areas including more
than one nationality. It was the dignities, particular rights, and castes
that united or divided individuals "vertically," beyond the "horizontal"
common denominator of "nation" and "homeland." Ι η a word, it was
unification from above, not from below.
Once all this is recognized, we can see ί η a different light the pres-
ent crisis, both objective and ideal, of the concepts and sentiments of
homeland and nation. Again, one might speak of destructions that
attack something already having a negative and regressive character, so
that they could even signify a potentialliberation, if the direction of the
Society 183
whole process were not toward something still more problematic.
Therefore, ν if ο η Υ a ν remained, it would be η ο reason for the
differentiated man to deplore that crisis and concern himself with the
reactions ί η the "realm of residues." The ν could be ί the nega-
ν could ν rise to the ν ο η Υ if the ancient principles returned
to replace the ν naturalistic unities with those of a different
type; if it were η ο longer homelands and nations that united or ν
but rather ideas; if the ν thing were not sentimental and irratio-
nal adhesion to a ν myth, but a system of loyal, free, and
strongly personalized connections-something that would naturally
require as a fundamental point of reference leaders ν with a
supreme and intangible authority. Along this line they could ν be
formed by transnational groupings such as were known ί η ν
imperial epochs and, partially, ί η the Holy Alliance. Today, the degraded
counterfeit of all that is taking form alongside the crisis of national
ν power blocs determined solely by factors that are mate-
rial, economic, and "political" ί η the worst sense, ν of ν ideal.
Hence the insignificance of the antithesis between the two principal
blocs of this type existing today, between the democratic West and the
communist and Marxist East. For lack of a third force of a different
character, and a true ideal to unite and ν beyond homelands,
nations, and anti-nations, the only prospect is that of an ν unity,
ί η a world without frontiers, of those few ν who are associ-
ated by their ν nature, which is different from that of the man of
today, and by the same inner law-in short, almost ί η the same ι
as Plato used, speaking of the true state, which idea was then taken υ ρ
by the Stoics. Α similar, dematerialized type of unity and state was at
the basis of the Orders, and its last reflection, deformed to the point of
being unrecognizable, can be seen ί η secret societies like Freemasonry.
If new processes are to ν when the present cycle exhausts itself,
perhaps they could ν their point of departure ί η this ν kind of
unity. Then we could see ί η action the ν side of ν the
idea of homeland, whether as myth of the romantic bourgeois period or
as a naturalistic fact almost ν to a unity of a different type.
Being from the same country or homeland would be replaced by being,
or not being, for the same cause. Apoliteia, the detachment of today,
Ι
Ι
i "
184 Dissolution in the Social Realm
contains this ν possibility for tomorrow. Ι this case too it is
necessary to see the distance existing between the attitude indicated
here and certain recent products of modern political erosion: a formless
and humanitarian cosmopolitanism, a paranoid pacifism, and the
whims of those who want to feel ν only as "citizens of the
world," ν becoming the "conscientious objectors."
,...-------
27
Marriage
and the Family
Social factors present a closer connection with those ο ί private life and
mores, when one considers the problem ο ί relations between the sexes,
marriage, and the family as they are today.
Ι η our time, the crisis ο ί the family as an institution is η ο less salient
than that ο ί the nineteenth-century romantic idea ο ί homeland, and is
largely an effect ο ί processes that are irreversible, being tied to all the
factors that characterize existence ί η recent times. Naturally, today's
crisis ο ί the family also arouses preoccupations and moral reactions,
with more or less hopeless attempts at restoration that can offer nothing
but conformism and an empty and false traditionalism.
Here, too, Ι see things ί η a different way and, as ί η the case ο ί the
other phenomena already considered, must coldly recognize the reality
ο ί the situation. We have to face the consequences ο ί the fact that the
family has 10ng since ceased to have any higher meaning, or been
cemented by living factors that go beyond the merely The
organic and, to a certain degree, "heroic" character that its unity pre-
sented ί η the past has been 10st ί η the modern world, just as the insti-
tution's residual veneer ο ί "sacrality" bestowed by religious marriage
has disappeared, or nearly so. Ι η reality, ί η the great majority ο ί cases
the modern family is presented as a petit bourgeois institution deter-
mined almost exclusively by conformist, utilitarian, primitive, or at best
sentimental factors. Above all, its essential fulcrum has disappeared,
which was constituted by the primarily spiritual authority ο ί its head,
the father: that is shown by the etymological meaning ο ί the word pater
as "lord," or "sovereign." At this rate one ο ί the principal goals ο ί the
family, procreation, is reduced to the mere mindless propagation ο ί
185
11
i:
186 Dissolution in the Social Realm
one's bloodline: propagation, moreover, that is promiscuous, given that
with modern individualism any limitation of conjugal unions by stock,
caste, and race has collapsed, and given that, ί η any case, it η ο longer
has as counterpart the most essential continuity, that is, the transmis-
sion of a spiritual influence, a tradition, and an ideal heritage from
generation to generation. Yet how could it be otherwise? How could the
family continue to have a firm, binding center, if its natural head, the
father, is so often estranged from it today-even physically, when the
practical mechanism of materiallife takes him away from it, ί η a soci-
ety that is intrinsically absurd? What authority can the father have,
especially ί η the so-called upper classes, if he is reduced to a money-
making machine, a busy professional, and the like? Moreover, this often
~ holds for both parents, owing to the emancipation of the woman and
her entrance into the world of the professions and work. Even less con-
ducive to the climate within the family or to a positive influence ο η the
children is the alternative, the "lady" who devotes herself to a frivolous
and mondaine existence. l η such a situation, how can the erosive and
disintegrating processes not work against the unity of the modern fam-
ί Ι Υ , and how can the claim of a "sacred character" of the institution not
be counted among the mendacious hypocrisies of our society?
The interrelation between the disappearance of the preexisting prin-
ciple of authority and the unleashing of individualism, already revealed
ί η the political realm, is also manifested ί η the realm of the family. The
decline of any prestige of the father has resulted ί η the estrangement of
the children, the ever more clear and severe gap between new and old
generations. The dissolution of the organic links ί η space (castes, bod-
ies, and so ο η ) corresponds to a dissolution ί η time, ί η the breaking of
the spiritual continuity between the generations, between fathers and
sons. The detachment and estrangement ί η both cases is undeniable and
ever increasing, being exacerbated by the ever more rapid and confused
rhythm of existence ί η today's world. Thus it is significant that such
phenomena are particularly severe ί η the upper classes and the remains
of the ancient nobility, where one would have expected the bonds of
blood and tradition to persist. It is more than a humorous remark that
parents are "an unavoidable evil" for "modern" children. The new gen-
eration wants its parents "to mind their own business" and not to med-
Marriage and the Family 187
dle ί η the lives of their children, since they "don't understand" (even
when there is absolutely nothing to understand); and it is η ο longer just
the boys who make such a claim: the girls too have filed a similar pro-
test. Naturally, all this intensifies the general rootless condition.
Therefore, the privation of any higher meaning of the family ί η a mate-
rialistic and dispirited civilization is also one of the causes of the extrem-
ism of the "burnt-out generation," and of the growing criminal activity
and corruption among the youth.
Given this state of affairs, whatever its principal cause-whether
this cause lies ί η the children or the parents-procreation itself assumes
an absurd character and cannot maintain its validity as one of the prin-
cipal reasons of being for the family. Thus, as Ι have said, ί η innumer-
able cases today's family owes its existence merely to a force of inertia,
conventions, practical convenience, and weakness of ι ί η a
regime of mediocrity and compromises. Nor can one expect external
measures to bring about a change. Ι must repeat that familial unity
could ο η Υ remain firm when determined by a suprapersonal way of
thinking, so as to leave mere individual matters ο η a secondary level.
Then the marriage could even lack "happiness," the "needs of the soul"
could be unsatisfied, and yet the unity would persist. η the individual-
istic climate of present society η ο higher reason demands that familial
unity should persist even when the man or the woman "does not agree,"
and sentiment or sex leads them to new choices. Therefore, the increase
of so-called failed marriages and related divorces and separations is •
natural ί η contemporary society. It is also absurd to think of any effi-
cacy ί η restraining measures, since the basis of the whole is by now a
change of an existential order.
After this evaluation, it would almost be superfluous to specify what
can be the behavior of the differentiated man today. η principle, he can-
not value marriage, family, or procreation as Ι have just described them.
Α Ι Ι that can ο η Υ be alien to him; he can recognize nothing significant
to merit his attention. (Later Ι will return to the problem of the sexes ί η
itself, not from the social perspective.)
The contaminations ί η marriage between sacred and profane and
its bourgeois conformism are evident to him, even ί η the case of religious,
indissoluble, Catholic marriage. This indissolubility that is supposed
188 Dissolution in the Social Realm
to safeguard the family ί η the Catholic area is by now little more than
a ς η fact, the indissoluble unions are often profoundly cor-
rupted and loosened, and ί η that area petty morality is not concerned
ί η the least that the marriage is actually indissoluble; it is important
ο η Υ to act as if it were such. That men and women, once duly mar-
ried, do more or less whatever they want, that they feign, betray, or
simply put υ ρ with each other, that they remain together for simple
convenience, reducing the family to what Ι have already described, is
of little importance there. Morality is saved: One can believe that the
family remains the fundamental unit of society so long as one con-
demns divorce and accepts that social sanction or authorization-as
if it had any right-for any sexually based cohabitation that corre-
Ρ Ό η to marriage. What is more, even if we are not speaking of the
"indissoluble" Catholic rite of marriage, but of a society that permits
divorce, the hypocrisy persists: one worships at the altar of social con-
formism even when men and women separate and remarry repeatedly
for the most frivolous and ridiculous motives, as typically happens ί η
the United States, so that marriage ends υ ρ being little more than a
puritanical veneer for a regime of high prostitution or legalized free
love.
Nevertheless, the issue of Catholic marriage deserves some addi-
tional theoretical and historical consideration to prevent ambiguity.
Naturally ί η our case it is not the arguments of "free thinkers" that
turn us against this kind of marriage.
Earlier Ι mentioned the contamination between the sacred and the
profane. It is worth recalling that marriage as a rite and sacrament
involving indissolubility took shape late ί η the history of the Church,
and not before the twelfth century. The obligatory nature of the reli-
gious rite for every υ η ί ο η that wished to be considered more than mere
concubinage was later still, declared at the Council of Trent (1563). For
our purposes, this does not affect the concept of indissoluble marriage
ί η itself, but its place, significance, and conditions have to be clarified.
The consequence here, as ί η other cases regarding the sacraments, is
that the Catholic Church finds itself facing a singular paradox: pro-
posals intending to make the profane sacred have practically ended υ ρ
making the sacred profane.
j
1
;1
!
1
i
Marriage and the Family 189
The true, traditional significance of the marriage rite is outlined
by Saint Paul, when he uses not the term "sacrament" but rather "mys-
tery" to indicate it ("it is a great mystery," taken verbatim-Ephesians
5:31-32). One can indeed allow a higher idea of marriage as a sacred
and indissoluble υ η ί ο η not ί η words, but ί η fact. Α υ η ί ο η of this type,
however, is conceivable ο η l Υ ί η exceptional cases ί η which that absolute,
almost heroic dedication of two people ί η life and beyond life is present
ί η principle. This was known ί η more than one traditional civilization,
with examples of wives who even found it natural not to outlive the
death of their husbands.
Ι η speaking of making the sacred profane, Ι alluded to the fact that
the concept of an indissoluble sacramental υ η ί ο η , "written ί η the heav-
ens" (as opposed to one ο η the naturalistic plane that is generically sen-
timental, and even at base merely social), has been applied to, or rather
imposed ο η , every couple who must join themselves ί η church rather
than ί η civil marriage, ο η l Υ to conform to their social environment. It
is pretended that ο η this exterior and prosaic plane, ο η this plane of
the Nietzschean "human, all too human," the attributes of truly sacred
marriage, of marriage as a "mystery," can and must be valid. When
divorce is not permitted ί η a society like the present, one can expect this
hypocritical regime and the rise of grave personal and social problems.
Ο η the other hand, it should be noted that ί η Catholicism itself the
theoretical absoluteness of the marriage rite bears a significant limita-
tion. It is enough to remember that if the Church insists ο η the indis-
solubility of the marriage bond ί η space, denying divorce, it has ceased
to observe it ί η time. The Church that does not allow one to divorce and
remarry does permit widows and widowers to remarry, which amounts
to a breach of faithfulness, and is at best conceivable within an openly
materialistic premise; ί η other words, ο η l Υ if it is thought that when
one who was indissolubly united by the supernatural power of the rite
has died, he or she has ceased to exist. This inconsistency shows that
Catholic religious law, far from truly having transcendent spiritual val-
ues ί η view, has made the sacrament into a simple, social convenience,
an ingredient of the profane life, reducing it to a mere formality, or
rather degrading it.
This is not all. Together with the absurdity proper to democratizing
190 Dissolution in the Social Realm
the marriage rite and imposing it ο η all, there is an inconsistency ί η
Catholic doctrine when it claims that the rite, as well as being indissolu-
ble, renders natural unions "sacred" -which represents one incongru-
ence associating with another. Through precise, dogmatic premises, the
"sacred" is here reduced to a mere manner ο ί speech. It is well known
that Christian and Catholic attitudes are characterized by the antithesis
between "flesh" and spirit, by a theological hatred for sex, due to the
illegitimate extension to ordinary life ο ί a principle valid at best for a
certain type ο ί ascetic life. With sex being presented as something sinful,
marriage has been conceived as a lesser evil, a concession to human
weakness for those who cannot choose chastity as a way ο ί life, and
renounce sex. Not being able to ban sexuality altogether, Catholicism
has tried to reduce it to a mere biological fact, allowing its use ί η mar-
riage ο η l Υ for procreation. Unlike certain ancient traditions, Catholicism
has recognized η ο higher value, not even a potential one, ί η the sexual
experience taken ί η itself. There is lacking any basis for its transforma-
tion ί η the interests ο ί a more intense life, to integrate and elevate the
inner tension ο ί two beings ο ί different sexes, whereas it is ί η exactly
these terms that one should conceive ο ί a concrete "sacralization" ο ί the
υ η ί ο η and the effect ο ί a higher influence involved ί η the rite.
Ο η the other hand, since the marriage rite has been democratized,
the situation could not be otherwise even ί ί the premises were differ-
ent; otherwise, it would be necessary to suppose an almost magical
power ί η the rite to automatically elevate the sexual experiences ο ί any
couple to the level ο ί a higher tension, ο ί a transforming intoxication
that alone could lift it beyond the "natural" plane. The sexual act
would constitute the primary element, whereas procreation would
appear absolutely secondary and belonging to the naturalistic plane.
As a whole, whether through its conception ο ί sexuality, or through its
profanation ο ί the marriage rite as something put ί η everyone's reach
and even rendered obligatory for any Catholic couple, religious mar-
riage itself is reduced to the mere religious sanction ο ί a profane,
unbreakable contract. Thus the Catholic precepts about the relations
between the sexes reduce everything to the plane ο ί a restrained, bour-
geois mediocrity: tamed, procreative animality within conformist lim-
its that have not been fundamentally changed by certain hesitant,
Marriage and the Family 191
fringe concessions made for the sake ο ί "updating" at the Second
Vatican Council.
So much for clarifying the principles ο ί the matter. Ι η such a mate-
rialized and desecrated civilization and society as the present ones, it is
then natural that the very barriers against dissolution that the Christian
conception ο ί marriage and family provided-however problematic it
might have been-have become less and less, and that as things now
stand, there is η ο longer anything worth being sincerely defended and
preserved. None ο ί the consequences ο ί the crisis as seen ί η this realm,
including all today's problems surrounding divorce, free love, and the
rest, can be ο ί much interest to the differentiated man. Upon final anal-
ysis, he cannot consider the overt individualistic disintegration ο ί mar-
riage as a worse evil than the line followed by the communist world,
which, having liquidated the fads ο ί free unions cultivated by early rev-
olutionary, antibourgeois socialism, tended ever more to substitute the
state or some collective for the family, while vindicating the "dignity"
ο ί the woman only as worker side by side with the man, and ί η terms
ο ί a mere reproductive mammal. Ι η fact, ί η present-day Russia decora-
tions as lofty as ''Heroine ο ί the Soviet υ η ί ο η " are being contemplated
for fruitful women-even unmarried comrades-who have given at
least ten babies to the world, which, ί ί they desire, they can even rid
themselves ο ί by handing them over to the state, which supposes it can
educate them more directly and rationally to make them into "Soviet
men." It is known that a comment ί η Article 12 ο ί the Soviet constitu-
tion has essentially inspired such a view ο ί the female sex: "Work, ί η
other times considered as a useless or dishonorable labor, becomes a
question ο ί dignity, glory, a question ο ί valor, heroism." The title ο ί
"Hero ο ί Socialist Labor," equaled by the ''Hero ο ί the Soviet υ η ί ο η , "
is the counterpart ο ί the title just indicated bestowed υ ρ ο η the repro-
ductive woman. These are the happy horizons offered as the alternative
to the "decadence" and "corruption" ο ί bourgeois capitalist society,
where the family is dissolving amid anarchy, indifference, and the so-
called sexual revolution ο ί the younger generation, along with the dis-
appearance ο ί any organic link or principle ο ί authority.
Ι η any case, these alternatives also lack any significance. Ι η this
epoch ο ί dissolution it is hard for the differentiated man to become
190 Dissolution in the Social Realm
the marriage rite and imposing it ο η all, there is an inconsistency ί η
Catholic doctrine when it claims that the rite, as well as being indissolu-
ble, renders natural unions "sacred" -which represents one incongru-
ence associating with another. Through precise, dogmatic premises, the
"sacred" is here reduced to a mere manner ο ί speech. 1t is well known
that Christian and Catholic attitudes are characterized by the antithesis
between "flesh" and spirit, by a theological hatred for sex, due to the
illegitimate extension to ordinary life ο ί a principle valid at best for a
certain type ο ί ascetic life. With sex being presented as something sinful,
marriage has been conceived as a lesser evil, a concession to human
weakness for those who cannot choose chastity as a way ο ί life, and
renounce sex. Not being able to ban sexuality altogether, Catholicism
nas tried to reduce it to a mere biological fact, allowing its use ί η mar-
riage ο η l Υ for procreation. Unlike certain ancient traditions, Catholicism
has recognized η ο higher value, not even a potential one, ί η the sexual
experience taken ί η itself. There is lacking any basis for its transforma-
tion ί η the interests ο ί a more intense life, to integrate and elevate the
inner tension ο ί two beings ο ί different sexes, whereas it is ί η exactly
these terms that one should conceive ο ί a concrete "sacralization" ο ί the
υ η ί ο η and the effect ο ί a higher influence involved ί η the rite.
Ο η the other hand, since the marriage rite has been democratized,
the situation could not be otherwise even ί ί the premises were differ-
ent; otherwise, it would be necessary to suppose an almost magical
power ί η the rite to automatically elevate the sexual experiences ο ί any
couple to the level ο ί a higher tension, ο ί a transforming intoxication
that alone could lift it beyond the "natural" plane. The sexual act
would constitute the primary element, whereas procreation would
appear absolutely secondary and belonging to the naturalistic plane.
As a whole, whether through its conception ο ί sexuality, or through its
profanation ο ί the marriage rite as something put ί η everyone's reach
and even rendered obligatory for any Catholic couple, religious mar-
riage itself is reduced to the mere religious sanction ο ί a profane,
unbreakable contract. Thus the Catholic precepts about the relations
between the sexes reduce everything to the plane ο ί a restrained, bour-
geois mediocrity: tamed, procreative animality within conformist lim-
its that have not been fundamentally changed by certain hesitant,
Marriage and the Family 191
fringe concessions made for the sake ο ί "updating" at the Second
Vatican Council.
So much for clarifying the principles ο ί the matter. Ι η such a mate-
rialized and desecrated civilization and society as the present ones, it is
then natural that the very barriers against dissolution that the Christian
conception ο ί marriage and family provided-however problematic it
might have been-have become less and less, and that as things now
stand, there is η ο longer anything worth being sincerely defended and
preserved. None ο ί the consequences ο ί the crisis as seen ί η this realm,
including all today's problems surrounding divorce, free love, and the
rest, can be ο ί much interest to the differentiated man. Upon final anal-
ysis, he cannot consider the overt individualistic disintegration ο ί mar-
riage as a worse evil than the line followed by the communist world,
which, having liquidated the fads ο ί free unions cultivated by early rev-
olutionary, antibourgeois socialism, tended ever more to substitute the
state or some collective for the family, while vindicating the "dignity"
ο ί the woman only as worker side by side with the man, and ί η terms
ο ί a mere reproductive mammal. Ι η fact, ί η present-day Russia decora-
tions as lofty as ''Heroine ο ί the Soviet υ η ί ο η " are being contemplated
for fruitful women-even unmarried comrades-who have given at
least ten babies to the world, which, ί ί they desire, they can even rid
themselves ο ί by handing them over to the state, which supposes it can
educate them more directly and rationally to make them into "Soviet
men." It is known that a comment ί η Article 12 ο ί the Soviet constitu,;
tion has essentially inspired such a view ο ί the female sex: "Work, ί η
other times considered as a useless or dishonorable labor, becomes a
question ο ί dignity, glory, a question ο ί valor, heroism." The title ο ί
''Hero ο ί Socialist Labor," equaled by the "Hero ο ί the Soviet υ η ί ο η , "
is the counterpart ο ί the title just indicated bestowed υ ρ ο η the repro-
ductive woman. These are the happy horizons offered as the alternative
to the "decadence" and "corruption" ο ί bourgeois capitalist society,
where the family is dissolving amid anarchy, indifference, and the so-
called sexual revolution ο ί the younger generation, along with the dis-
appearance ο ί any organic link or principle ο ί authority.
Ι η any case, these alternatives also lack any significance. Ι η this
epoch ο ί dissolution it is hard for the differentiated man to become
/
192 Dissolution in the Social Realm
involved ί η marriage and family ί η any way. lt is not a matter ο ί osten-
tatious anticonformism, but a conclusion drawn from a vision consis-
tent with reality, ί η which the imperative ο ί an inner freedom remains.
Ι η a world like the present, the differentiated man must be able to have
the self at his disposal, all his life long. lt is not for him to form any ties
ί η this realm, any more than ascetics or mercenaries ί η another epoch
would have done. lt is not that he is unwilling to assume even graver
burdens: the problem refers instead to that which, ί η itself, is devoid ο ί
any meanlllg.
This saying ο ί Nietzsche is well known: "Nicht fort sollst du dich
pflanzen, sondern hinauf. Dazu helfe dir der Garten der Ehe" (Do not
plant for the future but for the heights. May the garden ο ί marriage help
you ί η that). It refers to the idea that today's man is a mere form ο ί
transition whose ο η Υ purpose is to prepare the birth ο ί the "super-
man," being ready to sacrifice himself for him, and to withdraw at his
arising. We have already done justice to the craze ο ί the superman and
this finalism that postpones the possession ο ί an absolute meaning ο ί
existence to a hypothetical future humanity. But from the wordplay ο ί
Nietzsche's saying, one can deduce the endorsement ο ί a concept that
marriage should serve to reproduce not "horizontally" (such is the
meaning ο ί fortpflanzen), simply breeding, but rather "vertically,"
toward the summit α elevating one's own line. Ι η fact,
this would be the ο η Υ higher justification ο ί marriage and family.
Today it is nonexistent, because ο ί the objective existential situation ο ί
which we have spoken, and because ο ί the processes ο ί dissolution that
have severed the profound ties that can spiritually unite the generations.
Even a Catholic, Charles Peguy, had spoken of being a father as the
"great adventure ο ί modern man," given the utter uncertainty ο ί what
his own offspring may be, given the improbability that ί η our day the
child might receive anything more than mere "life" from the father. Ι
have already emphasized that it is not about having or not having that
paternal quality, not ο η Υ physical, that existed ί η the ancient family
and that grounded his authority. Even ί ί this quality were still present-
and, ί η principle, one should assume that it could still be present ί η the
differentiated man-it would be paralyzed by the presence ο ί a refrac-
tory and dissociated material ί η the younger generation. As we have
t,;
Marriage and the Family 193
said, the state ο ί the modern masses is by now such that, even ί ί figures
having the stature ο ί true leaders were to appear, they would be the last
to be followed. Thus one should not deceive oneself about the forma-
tion and education still possible for an offspring born ί η an environ-
ment like that ο ί present society, even ί ί the father were such ί η a more
than legal sense.
The objection that such a position could provoke is certainly not
that it involves the danger ο ί a depopulation ο ί the earth, because there
is more than a sufficient pandemic and catastrophic reproduction ο ί
common humanity, but that thus the differentiated men would renounce
the assurance ο ί a lineage that would carry ο η the heritage ο ί their ideas
and way ο ί being, leaving the masses and the most insignificant classes
to breed their ever more numerous progeny.
One can overcome this objection by dissociating the physical gen-
eration from the spiritual one. Ι η a regime ο ί dissolution, ί η a world
where neither castes, traditions, nor races exist ί η the proper sense, the
two types ο ί generation have ceased to be parallel, and the hereditary
continuity ο ί blood η ο longer represents a favorable condition for a
spiritual continuity. We might refer here to that spiritual paternity to
which the traditional world accorded priority over solely biological
paternity, as when speaking ο ί the relationship between teacher and
student, initiator and initiate. This extended to the idea ο ί a rebirth or
second birth as a fact independent ο ί any physical paternity, and which
created ί η the person concerned a more intimate and essential tie than
any ο ί those that could unite him to the physical father, the family, or
t'
ί
Ι any naturalistic community and unity.
~ . This, then, is the special possibility that can be considered as a sub-
"
Ι stitute: it goes back to an order ο ί ideas analogous to the principle ο ί

Ι
ι .
i
~
r
f
t:
the nation, when we said that a naturalistic unity entering crisis could
ο η l Υ be replaced by a unity determined by an idea. Τ ο the "adventure"
ο ί physically procreating beings who may become isolated, "modern"
individuals good only for increasing the senseless world ο ί quantity, one
can then oppose the action ο ί awakening, which those who do not spiri-
tually belong to the present world may exert ο η suitably qualified peo-
ple, so that the physical disappearance ο ί the former does not leave an
unfilled void. Besides, the few differentiated men existing today rarely
ii
, Ι
Ι !
ι
i;
i
".
194 Dissolution in the Social Realm
find themselves sharing their inner form and orientation ο η account ο ί
sharing the same blood or stock, through heredity. So there is η ο rea-
son to suppose that things should go otherwise for the next generation.
However important the task ο ί assuring oneself a spiritual succession
is, its practicability depends ο η circumstances. It will be realized ί ί and
where it can be, without one having to search frantically and, least
ο ί all, resort to any kind ο ί proselytism. Above al1 ί η this realm, that
which is authentic and valid is accomplished under the guidance ο ί a
higher, inscrutable wisdom, with the external appearance ο ί casuality,
rather than through a direct initiative "wil1ed" by any individual.
28
Relations
between the Sexes

Ι have taken care to distinguish the social problem ο ί the family and mar-
riage from the personal problem ο ί sex. Once again, it is a matter ο ί a
separation that, neither normal nor legitimate ί η a normal world, except
ί η special cases, imposes itself when the world is dissolving. 50 we come
to consider the relationship between man and woman ί η itself.
Here too, Ι will first consider the positive aspects that, at least
potentially, are offered by certain processes ο ί dissolution, to the extent
that what is dissolved belongs to the bourgeois world and, moreover,
suffers from distortions and obscurities ί η sexual matters, due to the
predominant religion ο ί the West.
Ι turn first to that characteristic complex caused by the interference
between morality and sexuality, as well as that between spirituality and
sexuality. The importance that has been attributed to sexual matters
ί η the field ο ί ethical and spiritual values, often to the point ο ί making
them the sole criterion, is nothing less than aberrant.
Vilfredo Pareto
1
spoke ο ί a "sexual religion" that ί η the nineteenth
century, with its taboos, dogmas, and intolerance, accompanied reli-
gion as usually understood. It was particularly virulent ί η Anglo-5axon
countries, where it had, and ί η part still has as its worthy companions,
two other brand-new, dogmatic, secular religions: humanitarian pro-
gressivism and the religion ο ί democracy. But, apart from this, there
are distortions concerning a much wider field. For example, one ο ί
them concerns the very meaning ο ί the term "virtue."2 It is known that
virtus ί η antiquity and even during the Renaissance had the meaning
ο ί a force ο ί the soul, ο ί virile quality, ο ί power, while later its preva-
lent meaning became sexual, so much that Pareto could coin the term
195
196 Dissolution in the Social Realm
"virtuism" itself to characterize the said puritanical religion. Another
typical case ο ί the interference between sexuality and ethics and ο ί tlle
distortion ο ί them is the notion ο ί honor. It is true that this primarily
concerned the female sex, but the matter was η ο less significant for
that. For a long time it was held, and still is ί η certain social strata
and regions, that a girl loses her "honor" not ο η l Υ when she has free
sexual experiences outside ο ί marriage, but even when she is a victim
ο ί rape. Α similar absurdity even inspired the theme ο ί some "great
art," the grotesque extreme ο ί this perhaps being reached by Lope de
Vega's drama The Best Judge Is the King, ί η which a girl, having been
kidnapped and violated by a feudal lord, loses her "honor"; but she
quickly regains it when the king has the rapist executed and has the girl
marry her fiance. Α parallel absurdity is the idea that a man loses his
own "honor" ί ί his wife betrays him, whereas, ί ί anything, the ο ρ ρ ο ­
site would be true; ί η adultery, it is the woman, and not the man who
loses "honor": not by the sexual fact itself, but from a superior point
ο ί view, because where marriage is something serious and profound,
the woman ί η marrying freely binds herself to a man, and through
her adultery she, first disgracing herself, breaks this ethical tie. So,
incidentally, one can see how foolish it was ο ί the bourgeois world to
let the blow land ο η the betrayed husband. It would be equivalent to
ridiculing one who suddenly discovers a thief, or a leader when one ο ί
his followers breaks his oath ο ί fideltty and betrays him-unless one
wants the defense ο ί "honor" to engender ί η the husband the quality
ο ί a jailer or a despot, which is certainly not compatible with a higher
ideal ο ί virile dignity.
Even from such banal examples we can clearly see the contamina-
tion suffered by ethical values through sexual prejudices. Ι have already
indicated the principles ο ί a "greater morality" that, being dependent
ο η a kind ο ί interior race, cannot be damaged by nihilistic dissolu-
tions: these include truth, justice, loyalty, inner courage, the authen-
tic, socially unconditioned sentiment ο ί honor and shame, control over
oneself. These are what are meant by "virtue"; sexual acts have η ο part
ί η it except indirectly, and ο η l Υ when they lead to a behavior that devi-
ates from these values.
The value that was attributed to virginity by Western religion, even
.. ~ !
~ Ι
KetattOns oetween tne ;:,exes 171
ο η a theological plane, relates to the complex mentioned earlier. It is
already evident ο η this plane throngh the importance and the emphasis
ο η the virginity ο ί Mary, the "Mother ο ί God," which is altogether
incomprehensible except ο η the pnrely symbolic level. Bnt it was also
attested ο η the moral and normative plane by many opinions recog-
nized as "probable" by Catholic moral theology (that is, recommended
becanse prevalent and defended by thinkers ο ί a particnlar doctrine,
althongh not nneqnivocally binding). For example, it wonld be prefer-
able for a girl to kill herself rather than allow herself to be violated
(an idea that even led to the recent "sanctification" ο ί a certain Maria
Goretti), or that it wonld be permissible for her to kill the assailant, ί ί
she conld save her own anatomical integrity thereby. Α similar senti-
ment is defended ί η the same terms by the casnistry ο ί moral theology
that, when for the salvation ο ί a city the enemy had reqnired the sacri-
fice ο ί an innocent, she conld be sacrificed and the city conld consent
to snrrender her-not, however, ί ί a girl were demanded ί η order to be
raped. So we can see that the sexnal taboo was given a greater emphasis
than life itself, and many more examples ο ί this conld easily be pro-
vided. Bnt when, with a regime ο ί interdictions and anathemas, one
is so preoccnpied with sexnal matters, it is evident that one depends
ο η them, η ο less than ί ί one made a c r ι ι d e exhibition ο ί them. Ο η the
whole, this is the case ί η Christianized Enrope-and all the more so
since positive religion lacks both the contemplative potential and the
orientation toward transcendence, high asceticism, and trne sacrality.
The realm ο ί morality has become contaminated by the idea ο ί sex, to
the extent ο ί the complexes mentioned earlier.
Although all this abnormal order ο ί things is not ο ί recent date, the
characteristic fact ο ί the bourgeois period is that it assumed the principal,
dissociated, and antonomons characteristics ο ί a "social morality" -pre-
cisely with the "virtuism" ο ί which Pareto accnses it, which to a certain
extent was η ο longer snbject to religious morality. Now, it is exactly this
morality with a sexnal basis that is the principal object ο ί the processes
ο ί dissolution ί η recent times. We hear ο ί a "sexnal revolution" supposed
to remove both inner inhibitions and repressive social taboos. Ι η fact, ί η
today's world "sexual freedom" is being affirmed ever more, as a current
practice. Bnt we have to consider this ί η more detail.
198 Dissolution in the Social Realm
Ι must emphasize above all that the direction ο ί the processes at
work is toward a freeing of sex, but ί η η ο way a freeing from sex.
3
Sex
and women are instead becoming dominant forces ί η present society,
an evident fact that is also part ο ί the general phenomenology ο ί every
terminal phase ο ί a civilization's cycle. One might speak ο ί a chronic
sexual intoxication that is profusely manifested ί η public life, conduct,
and art. Its counterpart is a gynocratic tendency, a sexually oriented
preeminence ο ί the woman that relates to the materialistic and practi-
cal involvement ο ί the masculine sex: a phenomenon that is clearest ί η
those countries, like the United States, where that involvement is more
excesslve.
Since Ι have dealt with it ο η other occasions,4 Ι shall not dwell ο η
this subject here, limiting myself to the collective and, ί η a certain way,
abstract character ο ί eroticism and the fascination centered ο η the latest
female idols, ί η an atmosphere fed by countless means: cinema, maga-
zines, television, musicals, beauty contests, and so ο η . Here the real
persona ο ί the woman is often a quasi-soulless prop, center ο ί crystal-
lization ο ί that atmosphere ο ί diffuse and chronic sexuality, so that the
majority ο ί "stars" with their fascinating features have as persons quite
poor sexual qualities, their existential basis being close to that ο ί com-
mon, misguided, and rather neurotic girls. Τ ο describe them someone
has aptly used the image ο ί jellyfish ~ i t h magnificent iridescent colors
that are reduced to a gelatinous mass and evaporate ί ί brought out ο ί
the water into sunlight-the water corresponding to the atmosphere ο ί
diffuse and collective sexuality.5
As for our concerns, my principle is not simply to deplore the fact
that all the mores ο ί the past based ο η sexual prejudices are ever more
losing their force; and it should not surprise us that what seemed corrup-
tion yesterday is now becoming normal ί η much ο ί contemporary society.
The important thing would be to take advantage ο ί the changed situation
ί η order to affirm a healthier conception ο ί life than that ο ί bourgeois
morality, by freeing ethical values from their sexual connections. What
was said ο ί the contamination suffered by that morality's interference with
the concepts ο ί virtue, honor, and fidelity, can already indicate the right
direction. We must recognize that continence and chastity have their
proper place ο η l Υ ί η the framework ο ί a certain type ο ί ascesis and ί η the
α between the Sexes 199
uncommon vocations corresponding to it, as was always thought ί η the
traditional world. Contrary to puritanical ο ρ ί η ί ο η a free sexual life ί η
the case of persons of a certain stature can tell us nothing about their
intrinsic value-history is rich ί η examples of that. What they allow
themselves should be measured solely by what they are, by the power that
they have over themselves.
Relationships between men and women, with regard to living
together, should be clearer, more important, and interesting than those
defined by bourgeois mores and sexual exclusivism, which understands
the significance of female integrity ί η mere anatomical terms. Ι η prin-
ciple, the processes of dissolution at work could favor many similar
rectifications, if one has a particular human type ί η sight. However, if
one refers to the majority, those possibilities remain entirely hypotheti-
cal, because here too, the necessary existential premises are lacking.
Today's situation is such that increased freedom ί η the realm of sex is
not connected to a conscious reacquisition of values that accord little
importance to "important" sexual matters and oppose the "fetishiza-
tion" of intersexual human relations, but is caused by the general weak-
ening of any value, of any restraint. The positive advantages that might
be drawn from the processes at work are then only virtual, and should
not delude us about the actual-and future-tendencies of modern life.
Aside from the atmosphere of a diffuse, pandemic, erotic intoxication,
"sexual freedom" can lead to banal relationships between men and
women, to a materialism, a petty immoralism, and an insipid promis-
cuity where the most elementary conditions for sexual experiences of
any interest or intensity do not exist. It is easy to see that this is the
effective outcome of the proclaimed "sexual revolution": sex "free of
complexes" that becomes a general current of mass consumption.
The aspects of the crisis of female modesty are another part of
this.
6
Beside the cases ί η which almost full female nudity feeds the
atmosphere of abstract, collective sexuality, we should consider those
cases ί η which nudity has 10st every serious "functional" character-
cases which by their habitual, public character almost engender an
involuntarily chaste glance that is capable of considering a fully
undressed girl with the same aesthetic disinterest as observing a fish
or a cat. Furthermore, by adding the products of commercialized mass
200 Dissolution in the Social Realm
pornography, the polarity between the sexes is diluted, as seen ί η the
conduct ο ί "modern" life where the youth ο ί both sexes are every-
where intermingled, promiscuously and "unaffectedly," with almost
η ο tension, as ί ί they were turnips and cabbages ί η a vegetable garden.
We can see how this particular result ο ί the processes ο ί dissolution
relates to what Ι have said ο ί the "animal ideal," as wel1 as the corre-
spondence between the East and the West. The primitive, erotic life so
typical among American youth is not at al1 far from the promiscuity
ο ί male and female "comrades" ί η the communist realm, free from
the "individualistic accidents ο ί bourgeois decadence," who ί η the end
reflect little ο η sexual matters, their prevalent interests being chan-
neled elsewhere into col1ective life and class?
We can consider separately the cases ί η which the climate ο ί dif-
fuse and constant eroticism leads one to seek ί η pure sexuality, more
or less along the same lines as drugs, frantic sensations that mask the
emptiness ο ί modern existence. The testimonies ο ί certain beatniks and
similar groups reveal that their pursuit ο ί the sexual orgasm causes an
anguish aroused by the idea that they and their partner might not reach
it, even to the point ο ί exhaustion.
This use ο ί sex deals with negative forms and quasi-caricatures that
may, however, refer to something more serious, because the pure sexual
experience also has its metaphysical 'value, the intensity ο ί intercourse
being able to produce an existential rupture ο ί planes and an opening
beyond ordinary consciousness. Along with the sacralization ο ί sex,
these possibilities were recognized ί η the traditional world. Having
dealt with this ί η Eros and the Mysteries of Love, Ι shall ο η l Υ include
here a brief reference as it concerns the differentiated man.
As Ι have said, the present situation excludes the possibility ο ί inte-
grating sex ί η a life full ο ί meaning within institutional frameworks. 50
we can ο η l Υ think ο ί certain cases ί η which, despite everything, favor-
able conditions exceptionally and sporadically converge. Certainly, the
romantic bourgeois idea ο ί love as a union ο ί "souls" can η ο longer
have any place for the man ί η question. The significance ο ί human
relationships can ο η l Υ be relative to him, and he can η ο more seek the
meaning ο ί existence ί η a woman than ί η family and children. Ι η par-
ticular, he must put aside the idea, or ambition, ο ί human possession,
Relations between the Sexes 201
ο ί completely "having" the other being as a person. Here too, a sense
ο ί distance would be natural, and could indicate a mutual respect. The
positive use ο ί the greater freedom ο ί modern conduct and ο ί the modern
transformation ο ί the woman can be seen ί η relationships that, without
being superficial or "naturalistic," have an evident character, grounded
ο η the social and ethical side ί η loyalty, camaraderie, independence,
and courage. The man and woman always remain conscious as two
beings with distinct paths, who, ί η the world ί η dissolution, can over-
come their fundamental, existential isolation ο η l Υ through the effect ο ί
pure sexual polarity. If there is η ο need to "possess" another human
being, the woman will not be a mere object ο ί "pleasure," a source ο ί
sensations that are sought as means to assert oneself. The integrated
being has η ο need ο ί such assurances; at most he requires "nourish-
ment." That which can be gained from the polarity just mentioned, ί ί
adequately used, can provide one ο ί the principal materials to feed that
special active and living intoxication ο ί which Ι have repeatedly spoken,
above all when discussing the Dionysian experience.
This brings us to the other possibility, that offered by the regime
ο ί sexuality that renders it ί η a certain way autonomous, and detached.
As we have seen, the first possibility is "naturalistic" degeneracy. This
contrasts with the second possibility, which is that ο ί the "elementary":
the assumption ο ί the sexual experience ί η its elementarity. One ο ί the
themes ο ί Eros and the Mysteries of Love was shown ί η the words:
"Since psychoanalysis has emphasized the subpersonal primordialism
ο ί sex by applying a degrading inversion, it is necessary to oppose it
with a metaphysical perspective." 8 Ο η the one hand, Ι have examined
to this end certain dimensions ο ί transcendence that exist ί η latent or
hidden forms ί η profane love itself, while ο η the other hand Ι have gath-
ered from the world ο ί Tradition many testimonies about the use ο ί sex
ί η the sense indicated, when Ι spoke ο ί how higher influences could
transform the general rule ο ί υ η ί ο η between men and women. Ι ί , how-
ever, we do not want to deal with mere concepts, but with their practi-
cal application, today Ι can ο η l Υ refer to sporadic, unusual experiences
open ο η l Υ to the differentiated human type, because they presuppose a
special interior constitution that survives ί η him alone.
Another presupposition regards the woman: it is that the erotic,
202 Dissolution in the Social Realm
fascinating quality widespread ί η today's environment is concentrated
and almost "precipitated" ( ί η a chemical sense) ί η certain female types
precisely ί η terms of an "elementary" quality. Therefore, ί η a sexual
relationship with a woman, the situation Ι have often considered would
reappear-that is, a dangerous situation that requires a self-mastery,
the surpassing of an inner limit by anyone who intends actively to
attempt it. Despite a certain exasperation or crudeness due to the dif-
ferent environment, the meanings originally connected to the polarity
of the sexes could reappear ί η this context, if not yet suffocated by the
puritan religion of the "spirit," and if they were not enfeebled, senti-
mentalized, and made bourgeois, but also not primitivized or simply
corrupted. These significances are found ί η many legends, myths, and
sagas of very different traditions. Ι η the true, typical, absolute woman,
they recognized a spiritually dangerous presence, a fascinating and
even dissolutive force; this explains the attitude and the precepts of that
particular line of ascesis averse to sex and woman, as if to cut off their
danger. The man who has not chosen either to renounce the world or
to be impassively detached from it can face the danger and even derive
nourishment from the poison, if he uses sex without becoming a slave
to it, and if he is able to evoke the profound, elemental dimensions ί η a
certain transbiological sense.
As Ι have said, ί η the present world 'these possibilities are the excep-
tion and can only offer themselves by happy chance, given their presup-
positions, and also under the unfavorable circumstances of the dullness
often presented by the woman as current civilization has made her. Α η
"absolute woman" cannot ί η fact easily imagine herself ί η the guise of
an "up-to-date" and "modern" girl. More generally, she cannot easily
imagine the necessary feminine qualities mentioned earlier as compat-
ible with those required for relationships that, as we have said, should
also have a character of freedom, clarity, and independence. As a result,
an entirely unique form of woman would be necessary, a seemingly
paradoxical form, because ί η a certain sense she should reproduce that
"duality" (inner duality) of the differentiated male type; which, despite
certain appearances, is far from the typical orientation of modern
woman's life.
Ι η reality, the entrance of the woman with equal rights into practi-
Relations between the Sexes 203
cal modern life, her new freedom, her finding herself side by side with
men ί η the streets, offices, professions, factories, sports, and now even
ί η political and military life, is one ο ί those dissolutive phenomena ί η
which, ί η most cases, it is difficult to perceive anything positive. Ι η
essence, all this is simply the renunciation ο ί the woman's right to be
a woman. The promiscuity ο ί the sexes ί η modern existence can only
"relieve" the woman to a greater or lesser degree ο ί the energy with
which she is endowed; she enters freer relationships only by regressing,
because they are primitivized, prejudiced by all the factors and the prac-
tical, predominating interests ο ί modern life. 50 the processes at work
ί η present society, with woman's new status, can satisfy only one ο ί the
two requirements, that ο ί clearer, freer, and more essential relationships,
beyond both moralism and the erosive quality ο ί bourgeois sentimental-
ism and "idealism," but certainly cannot satisfy the second-the activa-
tion ο ί the most profound forces that define the absolute woman.
It lies outside ο ί the scope ο ί this book to consider the meaning
ο ί existence not only from the man's point ο ί view, but also from the
woman's. It is certain that ί η an epoch ο ί dissolution the solution for
the woman is more difficult than that for the man. One should bear ί η
mind the already irreversible consequences ο ί the error through which
the woman believed herself to win a "personality" ο ί her own using the
man as a model: the "man," ί η a manner ο ί speaking, because today's
typical forms ο ί activity are almost all anodyne, they engage "neuter"
faculties ο ί a predominantly intellectual and practical order that have η ο
specific relation to either sex, or even to any particular race or nation-
ality, and are exercised under the sign ο ί the absurdity that character-
izes all the systems ο ί contemporary society. It is a world ο ί existence
without quality and ο ί mere masks, ί η which the modern woman ί η
most cases simply takes care ο ί the cosmetic aspect, being so inwardly
diminished and displaced, and lacking any basis for that active and
essentializing depersonalization ο ί which Ι have spoken, regarding the
relations between person and mask.
Ι η an inauthentic existence, the regime ο ί diversions, surrogates,
and tranquilizers that pass for today's "distractions" and "amusements"
does not yet allow the modern woman to foresee the crisis that awaits
her when she recognizes how meaningless are those male occupations
204 Dissolution in the Social Realm
for which she has fought, when the illusions and the euphoria ο ί her
conquests vanish, and when she realizes that, given the climate ο ί dis-
solution, family and children can η ο longer give her a sense ο ί satisfac-
tion ί η life. Meanwhile, as a result ο ί diminished tension even man and
sex can η ο longer mean a great deal to her; they cannot be her natural
center ο ί existence as they were for the traditional absolute woman, but
can only be ο ί value as one ingredient ο ί a diffused and externalized
existence, η ο more important than fashion, sport, a narcissistic cult ο ί
the body, practical interests, and so on. The destructive effects so often
produced ί η modern women by a mistaken vocation or warped ambi-
tions, and also the force ο ί circumstances, enter into the equation. Thus,
when the race ο ί true men is also nearly extinct, and modern man has
little left ο ί virility ί η a higher sense, there is little point ί η the saying
about the true man's capacity to "redeem," to "save the woman within
woman." There is more ο ί a danger that a true man today, ί η many
cases, might find appropriate another maxim, that spoken by the old
woman to Zarathustra: "Are you going to women? Don't forget your
Whip!"9 - ί ί it could be applied with impunity and fruitfully ί η these
progressive times. The possibility ο ί restoring to sex, even sporadically,
its elementarity, its transcendence, and perhaps even its danger ί η the
context mentioned, appears very much prejudiced by all these factors.
Ι η summary, the general picture that today's society presents ί η the
field ο ί sex reflects ί η a particular way the negative aspects ο ί a period
ο ί transition. The regime ο ί residues, influenced ί η Latin countries by
Catholic and bourgeois conformism, and by Puritanism ί η Protestant
countries, still possesses a certain force. Where only the outer inhibi-
tions have been removed, sexuallife frequently assumes neurotic forms.
Ι η the opposite case ο ί the younger generation's completely emancipated
behavior, without complexes, the tendency is toward an insipid natu-
ralism and primitivism ί η sexual relations. At the same time the gen-
eral climate prevails ο ί a fascination with sex and the predominance ο ί
woman as its object, without any effective differentiation, often to the
point ο ί regression, ο ί the absolute types ο ί femininity and virility. Ι η
particular, the emancipated feminine element becomes dimmed when
involved ί η the social mechanism. Final1y, there are the marginal cases
ο ί an exasperated use ο ί sex, often associated with drugs, by a youth
Relations between the Sexes 205
that is existentially traumatized and at risk, ί η the context of a chaotic
search for surrogates for a firm sense of existence.
Thus ί η the current situation, for the type that concerns us, the pros-
pect of the use of more profound sexual possibilities ί η freer and clearer
relationships between men and women can ο η l Υ occur ί η rare, unex-
pected cases. Apart from this, considering the current processes and
their effects, the ο η l Υ ones of value to him are those disintegrating ones
that may help to separate the realms, and which articulate the principles
belonging to a higher law of life than the preceding sexual morality.
Lacking anything better, he takes stock of the free space that is opened
when important sexual and erotic matters are rendered less important,
though not discounting what they can offer ο η their own level.
--PART 8
The Spiritual
Problem
29
The "Second Religiosity"
Ι η chapter 19 Ι showed how utterly baseless is the idea of certain popu-
larizers of the latest physics, who claim that it has graduated beyond
its previous materialism and is leading toward a new, spiritual vision of
reality. Now a similar deception lies at the basis of the pretences of what
we might call "neospiritualism."l Ι η some circles the same conclusion
is drawn, namely that we are returning to spirituality, because of the
proliferating tendencies toward the supernatural and the supersensible
ο η the part of movements, cults, sects, lodges, and conventicles of every
description. They have ί η common the ambition to supply Western man
with something more than the forms of positive and dogmatic religion,
reckoned inadequate, empty, and inefficient, and to lead him beyond
materialism.
This too is an illusion, caused by the lack of principles so typical of
our contemporaries. The truth is that here too, we are facing phenom-
ena that ί η most cases are part and parcel of the dissolving processes of
the age, and that despite all appearances have an existentially negative
character, representing a kind of counterpart ί η alliance with Western
materialism.
Τ ο understand the true place and significance of this new spiritu-
alism, one can refer to what Spengler wrote about the "second religi-
osity." Ι η his principal work, The Decline of the West, this author
expounded ideas that, for all their grave confusions and personal
digressions of every kind, partly reproduce the traditional conception
of history. He speaks there of a process ί η the various cycles of civili-
zation that leads from the organic forms of life at their origin, ί η
which quality, spirituality, living tradition, and race prevail, to late
and soulless urban forms ί η which the abstract intellect, economy and
finance, pragmatism, and the world of the masses predominate, resting
208
The "Second Religiosity" 209
ο η a grandeur that is purely material. When such forms appear, a civi-
lization is heading for its end. The terminal state has been characterized
more forcibly by GuenOll,2 who, using an image drawn from the decom-
position ο ί organisms, mentions two phases: first that ο ί rigor mortis
(corresponding ί η civilization to the period ο ί materialism), and follow-
ing that the ultimate phase ί η which the corpse disintegrates.
According to Spengler, one ο ί the phenomena that consistently
accompanies the terminal phase ο ί a civilization is the "second religios-
ity." Ο η the fringes ο ί structures ο ί barbaric grandeur-rationalism,
practical atheism, and materialism-there spring υ ρ sporadic forms ο ί
spirituality and mysticism, even irruptions from the supersensible, which
do not indicate a re-ascent but are symptoms ο ί decay. Their expres-
sions η ο longer take their stamp from the religion ο ί the origins, from
the severe forms inherited from the dominating elites who stood at the
center ο ί an organic and qualitative civilization (this being exactly what
Ι call the world ο ί Tradition). Ι η the phase ί η question, even the posi-
tive religions lose any higher dimension; they become secularized, one-
dimensional, and cease to exercise their original functions. The "second
religiosity" develops outside them-often even ί η opposition to them-
but also outside the principal and predominant currents ο ί existence,
and signifies, ί η general, a phenomenon ο ί escapism, alienation, and
confused compensation that ί η η ο way impinges seriously ο η the reality
ο ί a soulless, mechanistic, and purely earthly civilization. This then is
the place and the sense ο ί the "second religiosity." The picture can be
completed by referring to Guenon, an author ο ί far deeper doctrine than
Spengler. He has stated that after nineteenth-century materialism and
positivism had closed man ο ί ί to what was effectively above him-the
truly supernatural, the transcendent-the many twentieth-century cur-
rents appearing under the guise ο ί "spirituality" or "new psychology"
tended to open him υ ρ to that which was beneath him-beneath the
existentiallevel that generally corresponds to the complete human being.
One might also use an expression ο ί Aldous Huxley, who speaks ο ί a
"self-transcendence downwards" as opposed to a "self-transcendence
upwards."
Since the West truly finds itself today ί η the soulless, collectivistic, and
materialistic phase corresponding to the closing ο ί a cycle ο ί civilization,
21 Ο The Spiritual Problem
there can be η ο doubt that the great majority ο ί facts interpreted as the
prelude to a new spirituality simply belong to this "second religiosity."
They represent something promiscuous, fragmented, and subintellectual;
they resemble the fluorescence that appears when corpses decompose.
Thus the currents ί η question should not be seen as counteracting our
present twilight civilization, but as its counterpart, and ί ί they take hold,
they might even be the prelude to a more acute phase ο ί regression and
dissolution. This is so particularly when it is not merely a matter ο ί states
ο ί mind and theories, but when a morbid interest ί η the sensational and
the occult is accompanied by practicing evocations and opening υ ρ the
underground strata ο ί the human psyche-as happens not infrequently
ί η spiritualism and even ί η psychoanalysis. Here one may well speak,
with Guenon, ο ί "fissures ί η the Great Wall,"3 dangerous faults ί η that
protecting barrier that, despite everything, protects every normal and
sound-minded person ί η ordinary ί from the action ο ί genuine dark
forces that are hidden behind the ς ο ί the sense-world and beneath
the threshold ο ί sound and conscious human thoughts. From this point
ο ί view, neospiritualism appears even more dangerous than materialism
or positivism, whose primitivity and intellectual myopia at least serve to
reinforce that "wall" which, while limiting, also protects.
Ι η another respect, nothing is more indicative ο ί the level ο ί this
neospiritualism than the human ο ί the majority ο ί those who
cultivate it. While the ancient sciences had the prerogative ο ί a superior
humanity drawn from the royal and priestly castes, today's new anti-
materialist gospel is bandied about by mediums, popular "maguses,"
dowsers, spiritists, Anthroposophists, newspaper astrologers and seers,
Theosophists, "healers," popularizers ο ί an Americanized yoga, and
so forth, accompanied by a few exalted mystics and extemporizing
prophets. Mystification and superstition are constantly mingled ί η
neospiritualism, another ο ί whose typical traits, especially ί η Anglo-
Saxon countries, is the high percentage ο ί women (women who are
failures, dropouts, or "past it"). Ι η fact, its general orientation may well
be described as a "feminine" spirituality.
This is a topic Ι have already addressed and explained ο η many
occasions. For the order ο ί ideas that concerns us here, all that matters
is to lay bare the appalling confusion that can arise from the frequent
j
The "Second Religiosity" 211
references ί η neospiritualism stemming from Anglo-Indian Theosophy,
to certain doctrines related to what Ι call the world of Tradition, par-
ticularly ί η its Eastern varieties.
Now a clear distinction is necessary. Whatever of Tradition is to be
found ί η the currents ί η question is nearly always reduced to counter-
feits of those doctrines, to residues or fragments of them mixed ί η with
the worst of Western prejudices and with purely personal divagations.
Neospiritualism ί η general has not the slightest notion of the plane to
which the ideas it borrows truly belong, any more than of what its fol-
lowers are really seeking. Such ideas usually end up as mere surrogates
for the same needs as propel others toward faith and simple religion-a
serious error, because the ideas really concern metaphysics, and, quite
often, those teachings that even ί η the traditional world belonged exclu-
sively to the esoteric doctrines that were not divulged. Besides, while it
is said that the reason the neospiritualists are interested ί η promulgat-
ing them and even taking them into the marketplace is to be found ί η
the decadence and aridity of Western religion, another reason is that
many of them believe that these teachings are more ''open'' and consol-
ing, and that they exempt one from the duties and bonds belonging to
the positive faiths; whereas the opposite is the case, even if it is a matter
of very different bonds. Α typical example is the kind of moralizing,
humanitarian, and pacifist values recently attached to the Buddhist
doctrine (according to Nehru, Buddhism is "the ο η l Υ alternative to the
H-bomb"). Ο η a different level, we see someone like Jung "valuing"
ί η psychoanalytic terms every type of mystery teaching and symbol,
adapting them for the treatment of neurotic and schizoid individuals.
After all this, one has to wonder about how far the practical effect
of neospiritualism is negative ί η another direction: that of throwing
discredit ο η the teachings concerned, which are traceable to the esoteric
doctrines of the world of Tradition, because of the distorted and spuri-
ous way ί η which they have been publicized and propagandized by the
currents ί η question. One must ί η fact have a very precise inner orien-
tation, and η ο less precise an instinct, to be capable of separating the
positive from the negative, and of gaining from these currents an incen-
tive toward a true reconnection with the origins and the rediscovery of
a lost knowledge. And should this occur, and one enter the right path,
212 The Spiritual Problem
one should not hesitate to abandon everything to do with that casual
point ο ί departure, that is, the spiritualism ο ί today and especially the
spirituallevel corresponding to it: a level that is completely alien to the
grandeur, the power, the severe and sovereign character proper to that
which is situated, ί η effect, beyond the human, and which alone can
open a way beyond the world that is stillliving out the "death ο ί God."
This will suffice regarding the doctrinal plane; and the differenti-
ated man with whom we are concerned, ί ί his attention is drawn to that
domain, should be quite clear about the distinction made here. Should
he lack more direct and authentic sources ο ί information, beyond the
by-products and the ambiguous glamour ο ί the "second religiosity," he
will need to undertake a task ο ί discrimination and integration. This
task is at least made easier by the fact that the modern science ο ί reli-
gions and kindred disciplines have published the fundamental texts ο ί
various great traditions, ί η versions that may show their academic and
specialist limitations (philology, orientalism, and so ο η ) , but that are
free from the distortions, the irrelevancies, and the adulterations ο ί
neospiritualism. Thus one has the basis, the "materia prima," for going
further after the initial and occasional impulse.
4
There is also the practical problem to be considered. Neospiritualism
often looks to practice and inner experience, borrowing from the differ-
ent worlds ο ί antiquity or the East n6t ο η l Υ ideas ο ί the supersensible,
but also paths and disciplines for removing the limits ο ί ordinary human
consciousness. Here is the same dubious situation as was mentioned ί η
the context ο ί Catholic rites that have ended υ ρ profaned and deprived
ο ί any effective ''operative'' significance, through being applied to the
masses without considering the conditions required for their efficacy.
Ι η the present case the situation is even more dubious, because the goal
is more ambitious.
We can set aside the most spurious, ''occultist'' varieties ο ί neospiri-
tualism, dominated by the interest ί η "clairvoyance," ί η this or that
supposed "power," and any kind ο ί contact with the invisible. The dif-
ferentiated man can ο η l Υ be indifferent to all ο ί that; the problem ο ί the
meaning ο ί existence is not going to be resolved ί η that way, because
there one is still always within the realm ο ί phenomena. Instead ο ί a pro-
found existential change, it may even cause an evasion and a greater dis-
)
The "Second Religiosity" 213
persion, like that caused ο η another plane by the stupefying proliferation
ο ί scientific knowledge and technology. However, neospiritualism does
occasionally envisage something more and different, even ί ί confusedly,
when it refers to "initiation" and when this is postulated as the goal ο ί
various practices, "exercises," rites, yogic techniques, and so ο η .
Ι cannot simply condemn this out ο ί hand, but it is necessary to
dispel some illusions. Initiation, taken ί η its strict and legitimate sense,
means a real ontological and existential change ο ί man's state, an open-
ing to the fact ο ί the transcendent dimension. It would be the undeni-
able realization, the integral and deconditioning appropriation, ο ί the
quality that Ι have considered as the basis ο ί the human type who con-
cerns us, the man still spiritually rooted ί η the world ο ί Tradition. Thus
the problem arises ο ί what one should think when some neospiritualist
current exhumes and presents "initiatic" paths and methods.
This problem has to be circumscribed by the limits ο ί this book,
which is not concerned with those who leave their environment and
concentrate all their energies ο η transcendence, as the ascetic or the
saint can do ί η the religious realm. Ι am concerned rather with the
human type who accepts living ί η the world and the age, despite hav-
ing a different inner form from that ο ί his contemporaries. This man
knows that it is impossible, ί η a civilization like the present one, to
revive the structures that ί η the world ο ί Tradition gave a meaning
to the whole ο ί existence. But ί η that same world ο ί Tradition, what
might correspond to the idea ο ί initiation belonged to the summit, to
a separate domain with precise limits, to a path having an exceptional
and exclusive character. It was not a question ο ί the realm ί η which
the general law, handed down from the heights ο ί Tradition, shaped
common existence within a given civilization, but ο ί a higher plane,
virtually released from that very law by the fact ο ί being at its origin.
Ι cannot go here ί η t o the distinctions to be made within the domain ο ί
initiation itself; we must just keep firmly ί η mind the higher and more
essential significance that initiation has when one is placed ο η the
metaphysical plane: a significance already mentioned as consisting ο ί
the spiritual deconditioning ο ί the being. Those lesser forms that cor-
respond to caste and tribal initiations, and also to the minor initiations
linked to one or another cosmic power, as ί η certain cults ο ί antiquity-
214 The α Problem
forms quite different, therefore, from the "great liberation" -must be
left aside here, not least because η ο basis for them exists any longer ί η
the modern world.
Well then, ί ί initiation is taken ί η its highest, metaphysical sense,
one must assume a priori that it is not even a hypothetical possibility
ί η an epoch like the present, ί η an environment like the one we live ί η
and also given the general inner formation ο ί individuals (now feeling
the fatal effect ο ί a collective ancestry that for centuries has been abso-
lutely unfavorable). Anyone who sees things differently either does not
understand the matter, or else is deceiving himself and others.
5
What
has to be negated most decisively iS the transposition to this field ο ί the
individualistic and democratic view ο ί the "self-made man," that iS, the
idea that anyone who wants can become an "initiate," and that he can
also become one ο η his own, through his own strength alone, by resort-
ing to various kinds ο ί "exercises" and practices. This iS an illusion, the
truth being that through his own strength alone, the human individual
cannot go beyond human individuality, and that any positive result ί η
this field iS conditioned by the presence and action ο ί a genuine power
ο ί a different, nonindividual order. And Ι can say categorically that ί η
this respect, the possible cases are reduced to only three.
The first case is where one already naturally possesses this other
power. This is the exceptional case ί what was called "natural dig-
nity," not derived from simple human birth; it is comparable to what ί η
the religious domain is called election. The differentiated man posited
here does possess a structure akin to the type to whom this first possi-
bility refers. But for "natural dignity" ί η this specific, technical sense to
be validated ί η him, a host ο ί problems arise that can only be overcome
ί ί the trial ο ί the self, spoken ο ί ί η chapter 1, happens to be oriented ί η
this direction.
The other cases concern an "acquired dignity." The second case is
the possibility ο ί the power ί η question appearing ί η cases ο ί profound
crises, spiritual traumas, or desperate actions, with the consequence ο ί
a violent breakthrough ο ί the existential and ontological plane. Here it
is possible that ί ί the person is not wrecked, he may be led to partici-
pate ί η that force, even without his having held it consciously as a goal.
Ι should clarify the situation by adding that ί η such cases a quantity ο ί
·1
ι
The "Second Religiosity" 215
energy must already have been accumulated, which the circumstances
cause to suddenly appear, with a consequent change ο ί state. Therefore
the circumstances appear as an occasional cause but not a determining
cause, being necessary but not sufficient. It is like the last drop ο ί water
that makes the vase overflow, but ο η l Υ when it is already ί υ Ι Ι , or the
breaking ο ί a dike that does not cause an inundation unless the water
is already pressing ο η it.
The third and last case concerns the grafting ο ί the power ί η ques-
tion onto the individual by virtue ο ί the action ο ί a representative ο ί a
preexistent initiatic organization who is duly qualified to do so. It is the
equivalent ο ί priestly ordination ί η the religious field, which ί η theory
imprints ο η the person an "indelible character," qualifying him for
the efficacious performance ο ί the rites. The author already cited here,
Rene Guenon-who ί η modern times has been almost alone ί η treating
such arguments with authority and seriousness, not without denounc-
ing, too, the deviations, errors, and mystifications ο ί neospiritualism-
considers this third case almost to the exclusion ο ί the others. For my
part, Ι think that ί η our time this case is virtually excluded ί η practical
terms, because ο ί the almost complete nonexistence ο ί the organiza-
tions ί η question. If organizations ο ί the kind have always had a more
or less underground character ί η the West, because ο ί the nature ο ί the
religion that has come to predominate there, with its repressions and
persecutions, ί η recent times they have virtually disappeared. As for
other areas, especially the East, such organizations have become ever
more rare and inaccessible, even when the forces that they control have
not been withdrawn, ί η parallel with the general process ο ί degenera-
tion and modernization that has now invaded those areas, too. Most
ο ί all, today the East itself is η ο longer ί η a position to furnish most
people with anything but by-products, ί η a "regime ο ί residues." That
much is obvious ί ί one examines the spiritual stature ο ί those from
the East who have set to exporting and publicizing ''Eastern wisdom"
among us.
6
Guenon did not see the situation ί η such pessimistic terms because
ο ί two misunderstandings. The first derived from his not ο η l Υ consider-
ing initiation ί η the integral and actual sense, as described here, but
introducing the concept ο ί a "virtual initiation" that can take place
216 The Spiritual Problem
without any effect being perceptible by the COnsclOusness; thus it
remains as inoperative ί η concrete terms as-to take another parallel
from the Catholic religion-the supernatural quality ο ί being a "son ο ί
God" is ί η the vast majority ο ί cases, though this is dispensed at bap-
tism, even to retarded infants. Guenon's second misunderstanding
comes from supposing that the transmission ο ί such a force is real even
ί η the case ο ί organizations that once had an initiatic character, but
which time has brought to a state ο ί extreme degenerescence. There is
good reason to suppose that the spiritual power that originally consti-
tuted their center has withdrawn, leaving nothing behind the f a ς a d e but
a sort ο ί psychic cadaver? Ι η neither point can Ι agree with Guenon,
and so Ι think that today the third case is even more improbable than
the other two.
Referring now to the man who concerns us, ί ί the idea ο ί an "initia-
tion" is to figure ο η his mental horizon, he should clearly recognize the
distance between that and the climate ο ί neospiritualism, nor should
he have any illusions about it. The most he can conceive ο ί as a practi-
cal possibility is a basic orientation ί η terms ο ί preparation, for which
he will find a natural predisposition ί η himself. But realization has to
be left undetermined, and it is well for him to recall the postnihilistic
vision ο ί life, described above, which excludes any reference point that
might cause a deviation or decenterin'g-even ί ί the diversion, as ί η this
case, were linked to the impatient awaiting ο ί the moment ί η which he
would finally achieve an opening. The Zen saying is again valid ί η this
context: ''He who seeks the Way, leaves the Way."
Α realistic view ο ί the situation and an honest self-evaluation indi-
cate that the ο η l Υ serious and essential task today is to give ever more
emphasis to the dimension ο ί transcendence ί η oneself, more or less
concealed as it may be. Study ο ί traditional wisdom and knowledge ο ί
its doctrines may assist, but they will not be effective without a pro-
gressive change affecting the existential plane, and more particularly,
the basic life force ο ί oneself as a person: that force that for most peo-
ple is bound to the world and is simply the will to live. One can com-
pare this effect to the induction ο ί magnetism into a piece ο Ι iron-an
induction that also imprints ο η it a direction. Afterwards one can sus-
pend the iron and move it about as one wishes, but after oscillating for
The "Second Religiosity" 217
a certain time and amplitude, it will always return to point toward the
pole. When the orientation toward the transcendent η ο longer has a
merely mental or emotional character, but has come to penetrate a per-
son's being, the most essential work is done, the seed has penetrated the
earth, and the rest is, ί η a way, secondary and consequential. Α Ι Ι the
experiences and actions that, when one lives ί η the world, especially ί η
an epoch like ours, may have the character ο ί a diversion and be tied to
various contingencies, will then have the same irrelevant effect as the
displacing ο ί the magnetized needle, after which it resumes its direc-
tion. Anything more that may eventually be realized, as Ι have said, is
left to circumstance and to an invisible wisdom. And here the horizons
should not be restricted to those ο ί the individual, finite existence that
the differentiated man finds himself living here and now.
Thus, setting aside the far-off and overly pretentious goals ο ί an
absolute and actual initiation understood ί η metaphysical terms, even
the differentiated man should think himself fortunate ί ί he can actually
succeed ί η producing this modification, which integrates quite natu-
rally the partial effects ο ί the attitudes defined for him, ί η many differ-
ent domains, ί η the preceding pages.
30
Death
The Right Over Life
Ι η our examination ο ί existentialism, we encountered Heidegger's con-
ception ο ί existence as "living for death." He makes death a sort ο ί
center ο ί gravity, because it is there that the realization ο ί the absolute
and final sense ο ί existence, ο ί "Dasein," has been displaced: some-
thing that even recalls the religious conception ο ί life as preparation
for death. We have seen that all the premises ο ί Heidegger's philoso-
phy certainly make this outcome ο ί existence ending ί η death appear
negative-almost ecstatically negative.
This does not prevent the idea ο ί death from having a particular
meaning for the differentiated man; ο η the contrary, ί η a certain way it
can be his touchstone. Here too, it is a matter ο ί seeing how far he has
been invaded, even beneath the threshold ο ί his ordinary consciousness,
by the way ο ί feeling that has come to be existentially determined ί η
Western man ί η general, whether through complex processes ο ί involu-
tion, or through the conceptions ο ί the dominant, theistic religion.
Facing the idea ο ί death, the end ο ί the "person," his first test natu-
rally refers to establishing ί η the self the incapacity for that anguish
that, according to Heidegger, one should "have the courage to feel,"
while also discounting all those prospects ο ί the beyond and those oth-
erworldly judgments that popular forms ο ί religion have used to control
the individual by working ο η the subintellectual part ο ί his soul.
Here too, we can see that some processes ο ί dissolution ί η the mod-
ern world are virtually ambivalent. Not ο η l Υ have atheism and materi-
alism contributed to banishing the terrors ο ί the soul facing death, but
the tragedy ο ί death itself has often been trivialized by the collective
catastrophic events ο ί recent times. Today death occurs more simply
and easily than ί η earlier times, and ί η turn diminishes the importance
218
Death 219
of human life, parallel to the growing insignificance and irrelevance
that have marked the individual ί η the modern mechanized world of
the masses. Ι η addition, during the indiscriminate carpet bombings of
the recent war, many could arrive at an attitude ί η which the death of
any person, even a relative, became a natural and habitual event, having
η ο more impact than the destruction of something merely material and
external. Meanwhile, the idea of the uncertainty of life also enters into
the order of habitual events, along with the prospect that tomorrow one
could cease to exist.
Ι η most cases the result of all this is a numbing, which alone can per-
haps explain the strange Heideggerian reaction of approving anguish ί η
the face of death. But a contrary, positive result should not be excluded
when similar experiences favor an inner calm, under the sign of that
which remains beyond the individual and the bond of the physicall. Ι η
antiquity, Lucretius made a functional, pragmatic use of something like
modern atheistic science: ί η order to banish the fears of the beyond, he
maintained the Olympic idea of the divine, but recognized the gods as
distant essences that do not intervene ί η the world, and should be valued
by the wise ο η l Υ as ideals of ontological perfection.
These aspects could provide a positive climate ί η the modern world
for the differentiated man, because that which has been affected ο η l Υ
concerns a vision of humanized life devoid of the sense of great dis-
tances. He can then consider a particular "contemplation of death" as
a positive factor, as a challenge, and as a measure of his inner strength.
He can also follow the well-known ancient maxim of considering every
day as the last of his individual existence: at the prospect, not ο η l Υ
should he maintain his calm, but he should not even change anything
ί η his thinking or acting. Here an example could be the kamikaze sui-
cide pilots who had vowed to die; the prospect of being called at any
moment to execute a mission with η ο return did not exclude them from
ordinary occupations, training, and recreation, and was not at all
weighed down by a dismal sense of tragedy, even when lasting for
months. More generally, the idea of death is a matter of surpassing an
inner limit, of breaking a bond. Τ ο a certain extent, it brings us back to
what was said ί η the first chapter. The positive contemplatio mortis, to
which Ι referred, η ο longer gives importance to staying alive or not, and
220 The Spiritual Problem
leaves death behind one, so to speak, without being paralyzed by it. Ο η
the contrary: from this point one should enter into a higher, exalted,
free form ο ί living, carried by a sort ο ί magical, lucid intoxication.
There is one factor that positively undramatizes the idea ο ί death:
it is that mentioned when speaking ο ί the traditional doctrine ο ί pre-
existence. The diHerentiated man cannot think that his being begins
with his physical, corporeal birth, and ends with his death. However,
he can neither make the beyond the center ο ί gravity ο ί his life, as ί η the
religious theory ο ί salvation, nor can he regard terrestrial existence as
the mere ascetic preparation for death. We have seen that he solves the
problem ο ί the meaning ο ί life ί η the epoch ο ί nihilism by displacing the
Ι toward the dimension ο ί "being." Ι η the preceding paragraph Ι spoke
ο ί the attitude consistent with this displacement, which should existen-
tially pervade the person, just as magnetism permeates a metal. Even ί ί
ί η many cases the force produced from this attitude can only act sensibly
beyond this existence, it should still be able to assure a calm and secure
life. Α η Eastern saying puts it as follows: "Life ο η earth is a journey ί η
the night hours." One can explain its positive content by referring to the
sensation ο ί a "before" (with respect to human existence) and "after"
(with respect to the same). Ι η metaphysical terms, birth is a change ο ί
state and so is death; the human condition ο ί earthly existence is only
a restricted section ί η a continuum, :n a current that traverses many
other states.
Ι η general, but particularly ί η a chaotic epoch ί η dissolution like the
present one, it can be diHicult to grasp the sense ο ί this apparition ο ί
the being that one is, ί η the guise ο ί a certain person, who lives ί η a
given time and ί η a given place, who goes through these experiences, ο ί
whom this will be the end: it is like the confused sensation ο ί a region
traversed ί η a night journey where only a few scattered lights reveal
some glimpses ο ί the landscape. Nevertheless, one should maintain the
sentiment, or presentiment, ο ί one who when getting ο η a train knows
he will get ο Η it, and that when he gets ο Η he will also see the entire
course traveled, and will go further. This sentiment favors an immanent
firmness and security, distinctly diHerent from the state that arises ί η the
soul facing death within the framework ο ί a creationist theistic religion,
ί η which whatever part ο ί the being is superior and anterior to life, thus
Death 221
also metaphysically surviving the death that ends it, remains effectively
hidden.
However, any change ο ί state involves a crisis; ο η l Υ the traditional
view mentioned earlier can completely eliminate the problematic nature
ο ί the beyond and the event ο ί death itself. Here, again, we would have
to examine teachings that fall outside the scope ο ί this book. Ι will
limit myself to showing that the valid attitude toward the beyond is the
same attitude that Ι proposed for life ί η general: that ο ί a transcendental
confidence, joined ο η one side by the "heroic" and "sacrificial" disposi-
tion (readiness to actively take oneself beyond oneself), ο η the other by
one's capacity to dominate his soul, impulses, and imagination: just as
one who, ί η a difficult and risky situation does not lose control ο ί him-
self, doing lucidly and without hesitation all that can be done. Through
this, one should benefit from all the recommendations ί η the preceding
pages, recommendations that can then be as valid beyond life as they
are for life ί η the current epoch. Last but not least, they include the
disposition ο ί being ready "to bear lethal blows ο η one's own being
without being destroyed."
At this point, we shall briefly turn our attention to a particular prob-
lem, the right over one's own life, understood as the freedom to accept it
or to put an end to it voluntarily. The examination ο ί this issue will also
allow a further clarification ο ί some points considered earlier.
Suicide, condemned by most moralities with social and religious
foundations, has ί η fact been permitted by two doctrines whose norms
ο ί life are not far from those indicated for the differentiated man ί η the
present epoch: Stoicism and Buddhism. One can refer to the ideas ο ί
Seneca regarding Stoicism, recalling above all the general background
ο ί its vision ο ί life. Ι have already said that for Seneca the true man
would be above the gods themselves because they, by their very nature,
do not know adversity and misfortune, whereas he is exposed to them,
but has the power to triumph over them. Moreover, Seneca sees the
beings that are most harshly tested as the worthiest, recalling this
analogy: ί η war it is the most capable, sure, and qualified persons that
leaders entrust with the most exposed positions and the hardest tasks.
Usually it is this virile and agonistic conception that applies when sui-
cide is condemned and stigmatized as cowardice and desertion. (There
222 The Spiritual Problem
is a saying attributed by Cicero to the Pythagoreans: " Τ ο leave the place
that one is assigned ί η life is not permitted without an order from the
leader, who is God.") Instead Seneca reached the opposite conclusion,
and put the justification of suicide directly into the mouth of divinity
(De Providentia, 6.7-9). He makes the divinity say that he has given the
superior man, the sage, not ο η l Υ a force stronger than any contingency,
and something more than being exempt from evils, namely the power to
triumph over them interiorly, but has also ensured that η ο one can hold
him back against his will: the path to "exit" is open to him-patet exi-
tus. "Wherever you do not want to fight, it is always possible to retreat.
You have been given nothing easier than death."
Given the presuppositions mentioned earlier with regard to the gen-
eral vision of life, there is η ο doubt that Seneca did not intend this deci-
sion to refer to cases ί η which death is sought because a given situation
appears unbearable: especially then, one could not permit oneself the
act. Here too it is unnecessary to add what is equally valid for all those
who are driven to cut their life short due to emotional and impassioned
motives, because this would be equivalent to recognizing one's own
passivity and impotence toward the irrational part of one's soul. The
same is even true for cases ί η which social motives intervene. Both the
ideal Stoic type and the differentiated man do not permit these motives
to intimately touch them, as if their dignity were injured by what binds
them to social life. They would never be driven to put an end to their
own existence for these motives, which are included by the Stoics ί η
the category of "that which does not depend ο η me." The ο η l Υ excep-
tion we can consider is the case of a disgrace not before others whose
judgment and contempt one cannot bear, but before oneself, because
of one's own downfall. Considering all this, Seneca's maxim can ο η l Υ
have the meaning of an enhancement of the inner freedom of a superior
being. It is not a matter of retreating because one does not feel strong
enough before such ordeals and circumstances; rather, it is a matter of
the sovereign right-that one always keeps ί η reserve-to either accept
these ordeals or not, and even to draw the line when one η ο longer sees
a meaning ί η them, and after having sufficiently demonstrated to one-
self the capacity to face them. Impassibility is taken for granted, and the
right to "exit" is justifiable as one of the possibilities to be considered,
Death 223
ί η principle, ο η l Υ for the sake ο ί decreeing that our circumstances have
our assent, that we are really active ί η them, and that we are not just
making a virtue ο ί necessity. This Stoic point ο ί view is intelligible and,
what is more, unassailable.
We turn now to Buddhism, whose orientation is more or less the
same. Also there the most frequent kind ο ί suicide is forbidden: when-
ever one is driven to renounce life ί η the name ο ί life itself, that is,
because some form ο ί a will to live, enjoy, and be worthwhile has been
hindered or thwarted, killing oneself is censured. Ι η fact, ί η these cases
the act is not judged as a freeing ο ί oneself but, ο η the contrary, as the
extreme, even negative, form ο ί attachment to life, ο ί dependence ο η
life. Ν ο transfiguring beyond can be expected by one who uses such
violence ο η himself; ί η other states ο ί being, the law ο ί an existence
devoid ο ί peace, stability, and light is once again asserted over him.
Buddhism even goes as far as condemning as a deviation the impulse
toward extinction, nirvana, ί ί one discovers that it is connected to any
desire, any "thirst." At the same time, like Stoicism, it permits suicide
with a similar restriction: it does not apply to the commonality, but to
a superior and ascetic type ί η whom are found, intensified, many traits
ο ί the Stoic sage; those who ί η a certain way have realized a separa-
tion ο ί the Self, to the extent ο ί being virtually beyond both living and
nonliving.
Though obviously this prospect can also be included ί η the horizon
ο ί the differentiated man, it leaves the path open for some difficulties.
First ο ί all, ί ί he has reached the spiritual level just indicated, what
could ever make him initiate a voluntary death? Judging from certain
concrete cases alleged by Buddhist texts, some ο ί the cases mentioned
earlier would seem to be ί η question: ί η some circumstances there is η ο
reason to feel committed beyond a certain limit. One can then "exit,"
almost as when one has had enough ο ί a game, or as when one shoos
a fly away after having let it settle for a time ο η one's face. It remains
to be seen how far one can be truly sure ο ί oneself, and sincere with
oneself, ί η cases ο ί this kind.
Up to this point, it is the "person" that we have essentially consid-
ered. The issue becomes more complex when going beyond the level ο ί
the person and referring to the traditional doctrine ί η which the being
224 The S p i r i t u α l Problem
does not begin with earthly existence. Then a higher concept of respon-
sibility, and also of risk, shows itself. It is not the responsibility called
υ ρ ο η ί η the framework of a theistic and creationist religion, which con-
demns suicide by appealing to a kind of military loyalty as ί η Cicero's
terms: one should not abandon his post. Such an idea appears absurd
when the preexistence of the soul is denied (as that religion denies it)
before its υ η ί ο η with the body ί η the human condition. Ι η this "cre-
ationist" hypothesis one cannot sensibly speak of responsibility, because
before being ί η the assigned "post" one did not exist at all, and because
one suddenly finds oneself ί η it without having wanted or accepted it.
Nor can one speak of a "military obligation" toward a life received,
but not requested. Ι have already examined the dead end to which such
a conception, connected to the theistic creationist point of view, leads
when it is assailed by nihilism. The extreme here is ί η Dostoyevsky, with
Kirilov's existential revolt and "metaphysical suicide" ί η which he takes
his own life only to prove to himself that he is stronger than fear, his
sovereignty, and an absolute freedom that makes him God. This posi-
tion is absurd because here, η ο less than ί η theism, the only point of
reference always appears to be the person; it is from the person that the
initiative arises, it is the person that wants to make itself absolute. For a
similar case, Augustine's words could even be valid: "Slave, you wanted
to simulate a mutilated freedom by do\ng the illicit with impunity, ί η a
blind imitation of omnipotence."l As we have seen, this is also the rea-
son why Raskolnikov and Stavrogin fell, the latter's suicide correspond-
ing to that type that is imposed by one's own failure-though, from an
entirely different standpoint, it could be justified ί η a given human type
under special circumstances, as touched ο η earlier.
But the problem of responsibility is seen under a different light
when one refers to the traditional doctrine that we saw to have been
more or less confusedly shadowed by existentialism itself: if one holds
ο η to the idea that whatever one is as a person ί η the human condition
proceeds from an original, prenatal, and pretemporal choice, wherein
one willed, ί η terms of an ''original project" (as Sartre calls it), every-
thing that would define the contents of one's existence. Ι η this case, it is
η ο longer a matter of answering to a Creator, but to something refer-
ring to the very dimension of being or transcendence ί η oneself. The
Death 225
course ο ί existence, though not attributable to the more exterior and
already human will ο ί the individual (the person), follows, ί η principle,
a line that has significance for the Ι , even though still latent or con-
cealed: as an entirety ο ί experiences important not ί η themselves but for
the reactions that they provoke ί η us, reactions through which that
being that one wished to be can be realized. Ι η that case, life ί η this
world cannot be considered as something that one can arbitrarily throw
away, nor can it be considered simply as a bad situation ί η which the
ο η l Υ choice is faith or fatalistic resignation (we have seen that, at best,
the horizons ο ί modern existentialism end there), or else being locked
into a continuous trial ο ί resistance (as happens along the lines ο ί a
dark Stoicism, devoid ο ί the background ο ί transcendence). As ί η an
adventure, a mission, a trial, an election, or an experiment, earthly life
appears to be something to which one committed oneself before finding
oneself ί η the human condition, accepting ί η anticipation whatever dif-
ficult, miserable, or dramatic aspects it might bring, aspects that are
especially likely ί η an epoch like the present. Ι η these terms we can
define and accept a principle ο ί responsibility and "loyalty," without
external, "heteronomous" references.
Ι have already spoken ο ί the ο η l Υ presuppositions that, according
to Stoicism and Buddhism, would permit the act ο ί suicide: a superi-
ority, a detachment from life. It is, however, difficult to realize them
without meanwhile achieving, ί η some way, a suprapersonal meaning
ο ί existence ο η earth ί η the terms just mentioned: there being added
the sensation that the whole ο ί this existence is ο η l Υ an episode, a pas-
sage, as ί η the image ο ί the voyage at night. Then would not feeling ί η
oneself any impatience, any intolerance, or even any tediousness testify
to the presence ο ί a too human residue, ο ί something not yet resolved
by the sense ο ί eternity or, at least, by great unearthly and nontem-
poral distances? And ί ί it were so, would one not be obliged, facing
oneself, not to act?
Α η Islamic saying, appropriate for a rigorous doctrine ο ί predesti-
nation, is true: " Ν ο one can die unless by the will ο ί Allah and at the
moment fixed by Him." Similarly, ί ί one assumes the predetermination
ο ί the essential course ο ί individual existence, even suicide could be
thought ο ί as one ο ί the particular acts already contemplated, so that it
226 The Spiritual Problem
only appears Ι ο be an arbitrary initiative of the person. However, this
is an extreme assumption, and ί η reality the decision could only be ί Ι Ι υ ­
minated by the degree of effective integration that has been attained,
ί η terms already mentioned, as the welding of the person with Being. Ι ι
is certain that ί η an integration of this kind, even if incomplete, suicide
could have the meaning of an extreme gesture that seals one's sover-
eignty, ί η terms quite different from those of Kirilov: the sovereignty
would η ο Ι be ο ( the person, but over the person. Α Ι Ι that would remain
would be the responsibility inherent ί η affirming that what acts is pre-
cisely the principle that is η ο Ι the person, but possesses the person.
However, recourse Ι ο this action can rarely present a positive and intel-
ligible character for the differentiated man. Everyone knows that sooner
or later the end will come, so that when facing every contingency ί ι is
more valuable Ι ο try Ι ο decipher the hidden meaning, the part that ί ι has
ί η a context that, according Ι ο the view mentioned earlier, is η ο Ι alien
Ι ο us, but proceeds from our transcendental will.
Matters are obviously different when one does η ο Ι directly seek
death but includes ί ι , so Ι ο speak, ί η life, considering situations ί η
which death coincides with obtaining the utmost meaning from life
ί η the human condition. Here, unlike what Heidegger described, ί ι is
η ο Ι a matter of a presumed gravitation of the "Dasein" of any finite
existence-having its own principle 6utside itself-toward death and
as if from one's dependence ο η ί ι . The presupposition is instead a spe-
cial and uncommon orientation that can be given to one's own life. Ι η
place of violent and direct action over one's life, one can "interrogate"
ί ι through forms of intense and risky existence. There are ways to ρ υ ι
an ever more peremptory and insistent question to "destiny" (we intend
this term as when speaking of amor (ati and the special confidence ί η
always following one's own way, ί η any event or contingency) ί η order
Ι ο obtain the response as Ι ο how far there is still a profound, impersonal
reason for existing ί η the human condition. And if this questioning
leads Ι Ο situations ί η which the borderline between life and death also
represents the extreme limit of the sense and fullness of a life-differ-
ently from what would come from exaltation, simple intoxication, or
a confused, ecstatic effort-then one would certainly reach the most
satisfying condition for existentially overcoming the problem faced by
Death 227
us. The formula referred to ί η context ο ί a change ο ί polarity ο ί living,
ο ί particular intensities ο ί living as a means toward a more-than-living,
evidently finds its supreme application ο η this path. Ι η particular, here
one can see a connection with the special orientations considered ί η this
chapter: measuring oneself ί η a contemplation ο ί death, living every
day ί η the present as ί ί it were the last, and the quasi-magnetic orienta-
tion to be induced ί η one's own being, which may not manifest ί η this
existence with the complete rupture ο ί the ontological level proper to
"initiation," but will not fail to emerge at the right moment, ί η order to
carry one beyond.
One will see, therefore, that dwelling ο η this problem ο ί death and
the right over life, as the last problem ο ί all we have examined, is ο ί the
greatest advantage regarding the attitude and behavior ο ί the differenti-
ated and unbroken man ί η an epoch ο ί dissolution.
Elevating oneself above that which can be understood ί η the light ο ί
human reason alone; reaching a high interior level and an invulnerabil-
ity otherwise hard to attain: these are perhaps among the possibilities
that, through adequate reactions, are offered ί η the cases ί η which the
night journey allows almost nothing to be perceived ο ί the landscape
that one traverses, and ί η which the theory ο ί Geworfenheit, ο ί being
absurdly "flung" ί η t o the world and time, seems to be true, especially
ί η a climate ί η which physical existence itself must present a growing
insecurity. If one can allow one's mind to dwell ο η a bold hypothesis-
which could also be an act ο ί faith ί η a higher sense-once the idea ο ί
Geworfenheit is rejected, once it is conceived that living here and now
ί η this world has a sense, because it is always the effect ο ί a choice and
a will, one might even believe that one's own realization ο ί the pos-
sibilities Ι have indicated-far more concealed and less imaginable ί η
other situations that might be more desirable from the merely human
point ο ί view, from the point ο ί view ο ί the "person" -is the ultimate
rationale and significance ο ί a choice made by a "being" that wanted
to measure itself against a difficult challenge: that ο ί living ί η a world
contrary to that consistent with its nature, that is, contrary to the world
ο ί Tradition.
Alpha Mi

Contents

Part 1: Orientations

1

1. The Modern World and Traditional Man 2. The End of a Cycle-"Ride the Tiger" 8

2

Part 2:

Ιη

the World Where God IS Dead

15

3. European Nihilism-The Dissolution of Morals 16 4. From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" and the Protest Movement 20 5. Disguises of European NihilismThe Socioeconomic Myth and the Protest Movement 6. Active Nihilism-Nietzsche 34 7. "Being Oneself" 41 8. The Transcendent Dimension"Life" and "More Than Life" 47 60 68 27

9. Beyond Theism and Atheism 54 10. Invulnerability-Apollo and Dionysus 11. Acting without Desire-The Causal Law

Part 3: The Dead End of Existentialism
12. Being and Inauthentic Existence 78 13. Sartre: Prisoner without Walls 83 14. Existence, 'Ά Project Flung into the World" Collapse of Existentialism 95

77

86

15. Heidegger: "Retreating Forwards" and "Being-for-Death"-

Part 4: Dissolution of the lηdίνίdual

105

16. The Dual Aspect of Anonymity 106 17. Destructions and Liberations ίη the New Realism 112 18. The "Animal Ideal"-The Sentiment of Nature 120

Part 5: Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism
19. The Procedures of Modern Science 20. Covering
υρ

129

130 137

Nature-Phenomenology

Part 6: The Realm of ArtFrom "Physical" Music to the Drug Regime

..

149

21. The Sickness of European Culture 153 22. Dissolution ίη Modern Art 23. Modern Music and Jazz 159 24. Excursus οη Drugs 166

150

Part 7: Dissolution

ίη

the Social Realm

171

172 25. States and Parties-Apoliteia 26. Society-The Crisis of Patriotic Feeling
27. Marriage and the Family 185 28. Relations between the Sexes 195

177

Part 8: The Spiritual Problem

207

29. The "Second Religiosity" 208 30. Death-The Right over Life 218 Notes Index 229 239

RIDE

ΤΗΕ

TIGER

11.ΉV d

1 The Modern World and Traditional Man

This book sets out to study some οί the ways ίη which the present age appears essentially as an age οί dissolution. At the same time, it addresses the questioR οί what kind οί conduct and what form οί existence are appropriate under the circumstances for α particular human type. This restriction must be kept ίη mind. What Ι am about to say does not concern the ordinary man οί our day. Οη the contrary, Ι have ίη mind the man who finds himself involved ίη today's world, even at its most problematic and paroxysmal points; yet he does not belong inwardly to such a world, nor will he give ίη to it. He feels himself, ίη essence, as belonging to a different race from that οί the overwhelming majority οί his contemporaries. The natural place for such a man, the land ίη which he would not be a stranger, is the world οί Tradition. Ι use the word tradition ίη a special sense, which Ι have defined elsewhere. 1 It differs from the common usage, but is close to the meaning given to it by Rene Guenon ίη his analysis οί the crisis οί the modern world. 2 lη this particular meaning, a civilization or a society is "traditional" when it is ruled by principles that transcend what is merely human and individual, and when all its sectors are formed and ordered from above, and directed to what is above. Beyond the variety οί historical forms, there has existed an essentially identical and constant world οί Tradition. Ι have sought elsewhere to define its values and main categories, which are the basis for any civilization, society, or ordering οί existence that calls itself normal ίη a higher sense, and is endowed with real significance. Everything that has come to predominate ίη the modern world is the exact antithesis οί any traditional type οί civilization. Moreover, the

2

The Modern World and Traditional Man

3

circumstances make it increasingly unlikely that anyone, starting from the values οί Tradition (even assuming that one could still identify and adopt them), could take actions or reactions οί a certain efficacy that would provoke any real change ίη th~ current state οί affairs. After the last worldwide upheavals, there seems to be ηο starting point either for nations or for the vast majority οί individuals-nothing ίη the institutions and general state οί society, nor ίη the predominant ideas, interests, and energies οί this epoch. Nevertheless, a few men exist who are, so to speak, still οη their feet among the ruins and the dissolution, and who belong, more or less consciously, to that other world. Α little group seems willing to fight on, even ίη lost positions. So long as it does not yield, does not compromise itself by giving ίη to the seductions that would condition any success it might have, its testimony is valid. For others, it is a matter οί completely isolating themselves, which demands an inner character as well as privileged material conditions, which grow scarcer day by day. ΑΙΙ the same, this is the second possible solution. Ι would add that there are a very few ίη the intellectual field who can still affirm "traditional" values beyond any immediate goal, so as to perform a "holding action." This is certainly useful to prevent current reality from shutting οίί every horizon, not only materially but also ideally, and stifling any measures different from its own. Thanks to them, distances may be maintained-other possible dimensions, other meanings οί life, indicated to those able to detach themselves from looking only to the here and nQ.w. But this does not resolve the practical, personal problem-apart from the case οί the man who is blessed with the opportunity for material isolation-of those who cannot or will not burn their bridges with current life, and who must therefore decide how to conduct their existence, even οη the level οί the most elementary reactions and human relations. This is precisely the type οί man that the present book has ίη mind. Το him applies the saying οί a great precursor: "The desert encroaches. Woe to him whose desert is within!"3 He can ίη truth find ηο further support from without. There ηο longer exist the organizations and institutions that, ίη a traditional civilization and society, would have allowed him to realize himself wholly, to order his own existence ίη a clear and unambiguous way, and to defend and apply creatively ίη his

4

Orientations

own environment the principal values that he recognizes within himself. Thus there is ηο question of suggesting to him lines of action that, adequate and normative ίη any regular, traditional civilization, can ηο longer be so ίη an abnormal one-in an environment that is utterly different socially, psychically, intellectually, and materially; ίη a climate of general dissolution; ίη a system ruled by scarcely restrained disorder, and anyway lacking any legitimacy from above. Thence come the specific problems that Ι intend to treat here. There is an important point to clarify at the outset regarding the attitude to be taken toward "survivals." Even now, especially ίη Western Europe, there are habits, institutions, and customs from the world of yesterday (that is, from the pourgeois world) that have a certain persistence. Ιη fact, when crisis is mentioned today, what is meant is precisely the bourgeois world: it is the bases of bourgeois civilization and society that suffer these crises and are struck by dissolution. This is not what Ι call the world of Tradition. Socially, politically, and culturally, what is crashing down is the system that took shape after the revolution of the Third Estate and the first industrial revolution, even though there were often mixed υρ ίη it some remnants of a more ancient order, drained of their original vitality. What kind of relationship can the human type whom Ι intend to treat here have with such a world? This question is essential. Οη it depend both the meaning to be attributed to the phenomena of crisis and dissolution that are ever more apparent today, and the attitude to be assumed ίη the face of them, and toward whatever they have not yet undermined and destroyed. The answer to this question can οηlΥ be negative. The human type Ι have in mind has nothing to do with the bourgeois world. He must consider everything bourgeois as being recent and antitraditional, born from processes that ίη themselves are negative and subversive. Ιη many cases, one can see ίη the present critical phenomena a kind of nemesis or rebound effect.4 Although Ι cannot go into details here, it is the very forces that, ίη their time, were set to work against the previous, traditional European civilization that have rebounded against those who summoned them, sapping them ίη their turn and carrying to a further degree the general process of disintegration. This appears very

ίη the socioeconomic field. and to validate them with the latter with the intentions already described. and necessary-currently mounted against that civilization. to adopt such an orientation signifies self-deception as to the existence οί material possibilities. As Ι have said. . Thus to recognize any validity ίη those survivals. The very fact that attempts at reaction have referred to those structures alone. having let the bourgeoisie perform that function. through the obvious relationship between the bourgeois revolution οί the Third Estate and the successive socialist and Marxist movements. which are void οί any superior legitimacy. The energies that have been liberated. Ιη the first place. legitimate.. Ιη view οί this. has made the subversive forces all the more vigorous and aggressive. through democracy and liberalism οη the one hand. considering the general situation that becomes clearer every day since those crucial events that are the two world wars and their repercussions. The first revolution simply prepared the way for the second. such a path would lead to a c~mpromise that would be inadmissible as an ideal. would be either to demonstrate a feeble grasp οί the traditional values themselves. are not such as can be reconfined within the structures οί yesterday's world. or which are ίη the course οί liberation. for example. to associate them ίη any way with traditional values. there is one solution to be eliminated right away: the solution οί those who want to rely οη what is left οί the bourgeois world. whereupon the latter. Ι say "risky" because however one attaches the traditional ideas to the residual forms οί bourgeois civilization. The transformations that have already taken place go too deep to be reversible. ι The Modern World and Traditional Man 5 ! Ι clearly. and perilous as a tactic. one exposes them to the attack-in some respects inevitable. but the very antithesis οί them. the traditional values ίη the sense that Ι understand them are not bourgeois values. Ιη the second place. or else to diminish them and drag them down to a deplorable and risky form οί compromise. defending and using it as a bastion against the more extreme currents οί dissolution and subversion. aimed solely at eradicating them. even ίΕ they have tried to reanimate or reinforce these remnants with some higher and more traditional values. and socialism οη the other.

and given the impossibility. late children οί the Tradition. Ιη this respect. given the impossibility οί acting positively ίη the sense οί a real and general return to the normal system. It is good to sever every link with all that which is destined sooner or later to collapse. That is to say. preformal state. who are ίη question here. regular and recognized by some civilization already formed by it. anterior to th~ particular historical formulations: a state that ίη the past had ηο pertinence to the masses. culture. it remains to be seen οη what terms one can accept situations οί utter dissolution without being inwardly touched by them. As we shall soon see. For the rest. whose initiative one would then have to suffer. but rather to that doctrine that contains its principles οηlΥ ίη their superior. But ίη the . but to the place οί attack. a transitional one-can be chosen. while remaining inwardly determined and governed by a completely different spirit? The advice "Don't go to the place οί defense. within the climate οί modern society. it might be better to contribute to the fall οί that which is already wavering and belongs to yesterday's world than to try to prop it up and prolong its existence artificially. ίη the last analysis. even ίί things thereby become still more difficult and one runs into another type οί risk. What ίη the current phasewhich is. It is a possible tactic. including forms that are authentically traditional but belong to past history. The problem will then be to maintain one's essential direction without leaning οη any given or transmitted form. the support that the Tradition can continue to give does not refer to positive structures. continuity can οηlΥ be maintained οη an essential plane. and accepted as a free form οί behavior that is not outwardly anachronistic? Can one thus measure oneself against what is most advanced ίη contemporary thought and lifestyle. beside the greatest possible externalliberty. so to speak." might be adopted by the group οί differentiated men. separated from the rest. and useful to prevent the final crisis from being the work οί the opposition. The risks οί such a course οί action are more than obvious: there is ηο saying who will have the last word. but had the character οί an esoteric doctrine. and customs. as an inner orientation οί being. οί molding one's whole existence ίη an organic and unitary manner.6 Orientations One is therefore obliged to turn to the opposite solution.

" so as to signify a phenomenon that. these latter were already the first negation οί a world anterior and superior to them. rebellion. ίη its own way. Consequently the crisis οί the modern world could represent. This double negation might end ίη nothingnessίη the nothingness that erupts ίη multiple forms οί chaos. free space that could eventually become the premise for a future. formative action. and "protest" that characterize many tendencies of recent generations. for the men ίη question here it might create a new. or ίη that other nothingness that is scarcely hidden behind the organized system οί material civilization. indicating the real and direct object οί the destructive processes: bourgeois civilization and society.The Modern World and Traditional Man 7 present epoch there is nothing that is not risky. But measured against traditional values. Alternatively. dispersion. This is perhaps the one advantage that it offers to those who are still οη their feet. . a "negation οί a negation. The basic ideas to be drawn from what has been said so far can be summarized as follows: The significance of the crises and the dissolutions that so many people deplore today should be stated. is positive. ίη Hegel's terms.

expressing the idea that ίί one succeeds ίη riding a tiger. while ίη classical antiquity there is a parallel ίη the trials οί Mithras. "ride the tiger. and collective situations. The phrase chosen as the title οί this book. not οηlΥ does one avoid having it leap οη one. but with an unpredictable future upon which one's own conduct should ίη ηο wise depend. ίη the last analysis. then to the appropriate attitude ίη the face οί critical. The phrase is a Far Eastern saying. historical. because it is not concerned with inner. personal behavior. be a transitional epoch.2 The End of a Cycle "Ride the Tiger" • The idea just mentioned refers to a perspective that does not really enter into the argument οί this book. but ίί one can keep one's seat and not fall off. The reference point here is given by the traditional doctrine οί cycles and by the idea that the present epoch. such as the ''ox-herding'' episodes οί ]apanese Zen. whereupon Mithras kills it. Ι will say οηlΥ a little about it before approaching our principal problem. This symbolism is applicable at various levels. but with oute1'"circumstances. and this other order οί ideas." may serve as a transition between what has been said hitherto. personal life. with all its typical phenomena. First. it can refer to a line οί conduct ίη the interior. Ιη the latter case. corresponds to the terminal phase οί a cycle. who lets himself be dragged by the bull and will not let go until the animal stops. not with present-day reality. Those who are interested may be reminded οί a similar theme found ίη the schools οί traditional wisdom. which sees that the present time may. This is a perspective already alluded to. one may eventually get the better οί it. we are interested ίη the relation οί the symbol to the 8 .

with regard 10 both the genera1 structure of his10ry and the particu1ar aspect of it that refers 10 the sequence of the "Four Ages. but because of the different historica1 and even p1anetary circumstances. must be considered as cancelled ίη the fina1 age. psychic. but ίη the Dark Age she is said 10 be comp1ete1y awake and active. wou1d not yie1d the same . as Ι have shown e1sewhere. Thus predictions made many centuries ago-for these ideas go back that far-appear strange1y time1y 1oday.The End of α Cycle 9 doctrine of cyc1es. (Giambattista Vico simp1y caught an echo of it. One finds here an ana10gy 10 what Ι have said above regarding the prob1em of what attitude is proper 10 the fina1 age. 1atent ίη the 1atter aspects. The texts of Tantra have a striking image for this situation. 2 Everything points 10 the fact that exact1y this situation has been reached ίη recent times. associated here with riding the tiger. Ιη the corresponding Hindu teaching. such precepts. During the 1atter there 1ives an essentially different human type who is incapab1e of following the ancient precepts. the waters ίη which everything turns 10 a fluid and form1ess state. having for its epicenter the civi1ization and society of the West. and spiritua1-that were previous1y he1d ίη check by a higher 1aw and by influences of a superior order pass in10 a state of freedom and chaos. Ιη fact.! bears identica1 traits ίη the East and ίη the ancient West. from which it has rapid1y spread over the who1e p1anet. primordia1 forces of the wor1d and of 1ife. the texts that discuss the Ka1i Yuga and the Age of Ka1i a1so dec1are that the norms of 1ife. the fina1 age is called the Ka1i Yuga (Dark Age). even if followed. Not on1y that. but ίη her "lower" aspects she is a1so presented as a goddess of sex and orgiastic rites. Its essentia1 qua1ity is emphatically said 10 be a c1imate of disso1ution. va1id during epochs ίη which divine forces were more or 1ess a1ive and active.) Ιη the c1assica1 wor1d. Ιη previous ages she was "sleeping. ίη which all the forces-individua1 and co11ective. materia1. it was presented ίη terms of humanity's progressive descent from the Go1den Age 10 what Hesiod called the Iron Age. saying that it is the time when Ka1i is "wide awake." that is." This is a teaching that. It is not 100 forced an interpretation to 1ink this with the fact that the present epoch stands under the zodia~a1 sign of Aquarius." Ka1i is a fema1e divinity symbo1izing the e1ementary.

These forces. it is difficult to achieve anything by resisting it and by directly opposing the forces ίη motion. When one cycle closes. the positive solution would be that οί a meeting between those who have been able to stay awake through the long night. But there is still the problem οί continuity between the two cycles. another begins. Thus the principle to fol1ow could be that οί letting the forces and processes οί this epoch take their own course. Το use an image from Hoffmansthal. ίί taken ίη a very particular way. one would be overwhelmed. and the rule οί secrecy is lifted from certain truths. lts significance can be stated as follows: ~hen a cycle οί civilization is reaching its end. We shal1 now examine the principle οί "riding the tiger" as applied to the external world and the total environment. my ideas. For this reason. while keeping oneself firm and ready to intervene when "the tiger. .10 Orientations results. different norms apply. which cannot leap οη the person riding it. The current is too strong. The essential thing is not to let oneself be impressed by the omnipotence and apparent triumph οί the forces οί the epoch. far from having a personal and contingent character. but keep ίη view the conditions that may come about ίη the future. The perspective offered by the doctrine οί cyclical laws is implicit here. Νο one can fail to see the significance οί this convergence οί views. are ίη fact οη a short chain. One should not become fixated οη the present and οη things at hand. is tired οί running. when abnormal situations ίη general were foreseen and analyzed. and particular "rites" to which the rule previously applied οη account οί their dangerous character and because they contravened the forms οί a normal existence. Ιη this as ίη other points. But one cannot be sure οί this happening. and οη what plane. there can be any continuity between the cycle that is nearing its end and the next one. and those who may appear the next morning. regulated by the sacred tradition. One abandons direct action and retreats to a more internal position. devoid οί connection with any higher principle." The Christian injunction "Resist not evil" may have a similar meaning. a certain ethic. and the point at which a given process reaches its extreme is also the point at which it turns ίη the opposite direction. lt is impossible to foresee with certainty how. are essential1y linked to perspectives already known to the world οί Tradition.

What is still left of Eastern traditions and character is steadily losing ground and becoming marginalized. a traditional and spiritual orientation to life that has long ceased to exist ίη the West as the basis for the effective organization of the various realms of existence. cultivators of metaphysical systems. some have turned their eyes to the East. the zenith and measure of all others. more or less shortterm. ever more subject to the ideas and influences that have led us to the point at which we find ourselves. who may have held equally firm without awaiting any direct results or exterior changes. it may be useful to mention another point connected to cyclicallaws. The East itself is now following ίη our footsteps. the attempt is legitimate. and who have also abandoned the idea that modern civilization is the civilization par excellence. and the possibilities offered by a new movement beyond the zero point might concern others coming after us. If one is more concerned with real influences that have a powerful effect οη existence. without having to turn to non-European civilizations. to a certain degree. It would be a matter of conversations at a high level between isolated individuals. Not much is to be gained by any of this. This concerns the relationship between Western civilization and other civilizations. They might be entirely lacking right up to the end of the cycle. It is important to have a clear view of the domain to which such a proposition might apply. however. Before leaving this topic and resuming my principal argument. They have even wondered whether the East might furnish useful reference points for a revival and reintegration of the West.The End of α Cycle 11 Therefore the line of conduct to be followed ίη the present epoch must have an autonomous character and an immanent. But one should take note that valid examples and pQints of reference are to be found. They see there. at least partially. especially those of the East. ίη our own traditional past. "modernizing" itself and adopting our own secular and materialistic forms of life. one should have ηο illusions about them. The liquidation of "colonialism" and the material independence that Eastern peoples are . Among those who have recognized the crisis of the modern world. should not play an important part ίη it. Ι mean to say that the attraction of positive prospects. individual value. If it is simply a matter of doctrines and "intellectual" contacts.

ίη a period ίη which the other civilizations. The tempo may even be much faster ίη the East. υρ to a point. knowing the same problems and the same phenomena οί dissolution under the sign οί "progress" and modernity. Based οη the doctrine οί cycles. traditional civilization to a materialistic and atheist communist regime-a journey that the Europeans took centuries to accomplish. which in-two decades has traveled the whole way from an imperial. what interests us here is the field οί personal life. would find themselves more or less ίη our current state. which. is that the process οί decline οί the Dark Age has first reached its terminal phases with us ίη the West. we have to face our problems alone. The consequence would be a reversal οί roles. either ίη the East or elsewhere. For such civilizations it is οηlΥ a matter οί time before they find themselves at the same point as ourselves. once it collapsed. it may be that anything οί value from the point οί view οί a man οί Tradition. Outside the circles οί scholars and specialists ίη metaphysical disciplines. "The desert encroaches": there is ηο other civilization that can serve as support. but merely because this process is still ίη an early phase there. would be qualified to assume a new function οί guidance or command. Therefore it is not impossible that we would also be the first to pass the zero point. not because it belongs to areas that are truly untouched by the principle οί decline. the "myth οί the East" is therefore a fallacy. concerns a residual legacy that survives. having reached the point beyond the negative limit. but Ι shall not dwell further οη these matters. . very different from the material. entering later into the same current. and that οηlΥ hypothetical. As Ι have said. The West. techno-industrial leadership that it wielded ίη the past. and the "advanced" and "progressive" mentality οί the West. having abandoned-"superseded"-what they still offer today ίη the way οί superior values and traditional forms οί existence that attract us. The οηlΥ prospect offered us as a counterpart οί the cyclicallaws.12 Orientations acquiring vis-a-vis Europe are closely accompanied by an ever more blatant subjection to the ideas. This rapid overview οί general prospects and problems may have been useful to some readers. We have the example οί China. resulted οηlΥ ίη a general leveling. the mores.

having consequences different from what they appear to have for practically all our contemporaries. ίn defining the attitude to be taken toward certain experiences and processes of today.The End ο( α Cycle 13 and from that point of view. independent of anything the future may or may not bring. we need to estab1ish autonomous positions. .

-0Ιπ PART 2 the World Where God IS Dead .

morality is deprived οί its sanction and "incapable οί maintaining itself. everything is permitted. It has been rightly said that Nietzsche's personality and thought also have a symbolic character. that God is dead. we can take Nietzsche's theme as our point οί departure."2 Friedrich Nietzsche is the one who best foresaw ''European nihilism" as a future and a destiny "which proclaims itself everywhere by the voice οί a thousand signs and a thousand presages. The phrase expresses "unbelief turned to daily reality." a desacralization οί existence and a total rift with the world οί Tradition that. wavering ίη search οί himself between the peaks οί civilization and the abysses οί barbarism."3 "The death οί God" is an image that characterizes a whole historical process." The "great event. has increasingly assumed the character οί an obvious and irreversible state οί affairs for present-day humanity. Robert Reininger writes: "This is a struggle for the sake οί modern man. because it has lost nothing οί its validity and relevance."l For our purposes. 'Ίί God does not exist. trying to find a satisfactory meaning for an existence completely left to itself.3 European Nihilism The Dissolution of Morals For the symbolic expression οί the complex process that has led to the present situation οί crisis ίη matters οί morals and the vision οί life. obscurely suspected. Dostoyevsky expressed the same idea ίη the words. that man who ηο longer has any roots ίη the sacred soil οί tradition. From this point. the best formulation is that οί Nietz~che: "God is dead." and the interpretation and justification formerly given to all norms and values disappear. This state is ηο 16 ." is the principle οί the collapse οί all values. beginning ίη the West at about the period οί the Renaissance and humanism.

European Nihilism 17 less real where it is ηο! yet clearly visible. The elementary fact is a fracture οί an ontological character. through which human life loses any real reference to transcendence._ There is ηο support for those capable οί thinking it through to the end. trying to hide ί! from consciousness. The phase οί dissolution that follows that of ethical rationalism is defined by utilitarian οτ "social" ethics. Ιη reality. ΑΙΙ the developments of nihilism are already virtually contained ίη this fact. the οηlΥ resistance to any natural impulse is an empty and rigid command. this phase has as its sign οτ symbol the Kantian theory of the categorical imperative. living law. This is already the case with Kantian ethics. Renouncing any intrinsic οτ absolute basis for "good" and "evil. Then at the ροίη! where one tries to give this "thou shalt" some firm content and to justify that content. owing to a regime of doubles and surrogates of the "God who is dead. every action and behavior appears licit so long as the outer . Morality rendered independent from theology and metaphysics and founded οη the sole authority of reason-so-called "autonomous" morality-is the first phenomenon to take shape after the death of God. the ground gives way. and "autonomous morality. the absolute principle descends to the level οί pure human morality. a "thou shalt" that is a mere echo οί the ancient. which is the original and effective relationship οί man with a higher world." the justification proposed for what is left of moral norms is whatever suits the individual for his own advantage and for his material tranquility ίη sociallife." which is secular and rational. axiomatic value οί certain unexplained premises that depend simply οη a personal equation or οη the accepted state οί affairs ίη a given society. incidentally." But once morality has lost its root. and the critics soon have the better of it. Ιη "autonomous morality. When there is ηο longer any internal restraint. Ιη speculative philosophy." which. But nihilism is already visible behind this morality. When the level of the sacred is lost. ί! ceases to have any invulnerable foundation. there is ηο "imperative" at this stage that does not imply the presumed. ethical rationalism. This defines the rationalistic phase οί the "stoicism οί duty" and οί "moral fetishism." We must distinguish various stages of the process ίη question. is one οί the characteristics οί Protestantism.

and of ends. this is the orientation of the bourgeois world: toward social idols and conformism founded οη convenience. The process exhausts itself. But the individualism of the end of the nineteenth century marked ίη its turn the beginning of an anarchic dissolution that rapidly spread and intensified. which has been negated. but not ίη the sense of denying their validity. or inertia." and "humanity. lt is just a matter of adjusting to society's codes.μ 18 1n the World Where God Is Dead sanctions of society's laws can be avoided. not just a sporadic. 4 With this conquest of the "interior god" and the exaltation of the "Unique" that is free from rules and "rests its cause οη nothingness. limited ίη its extent. any superior justification for existence. rather." opposing itself to every value and pretense οί society. who saw ίη all morality the ultimate form οί the divine fetish that was to be destroyed. cowardice. It had already prepared the chaos hiding behind the faςade οί apparent orderliness. had been that οί the Romantic hero: the man who feels himself alone ίη the face of divine indifference." as opposed to the injustice and tyranny that they saw ίη the existing order. be it good or ίΙl. The previous phase. he claims for himself exceptional rights to what is forbidden. theological beyond. and the superior individual who despite everything reaffirms himself ίη a tragic context. phenomenon attacks not οηlΥ the field of morality ίη a strict sense. Nothing any 10nger has an intrinsic norm and an imperative character. the European nihilism that he predicted as a general. but also that of truth. The "death οί God" is associated with this 10ss οί any meaning to life. of worldviews. ίη a man like Max Stirner. He breaks accepted laws. Nietzsche's theme is well known: that a need for evasion and a surrender οί life have brought about the invention of a "world of truth" or a "world of val- . or if one is indifferent to them. for example. Turning to Nietzsche. which take the place of the superseded laws οί religion. hypocrisy. He denounced the "beyond" that exists within man and that tries to give him rules as being a "new heaven" that is merely the insidious transposition οί the external. After Puritanism and ethical rigorism. Stirner marks the end of the road trodden by the nihilistic social revolutionaries (to whom the term nihilism was originally applied)-but trodden ίη the name of utopian social ideas ίη which they always believed: ideas such as "justice." "liberty.

is what ought not to be. The second is the phase ίη which the νery motiνes that had implicitly nourished that rebellion giνe way and dissolνe. not οί what is. While all imperatiνes. Rather it says that eνen ίί God existed.European Nihilism 19 ues" separate from. this world. so haνe all supports. all that remains real is what had been negated or rejected from the point οί νiew οί that other. The first is a sort οί metaphysical or moral rebellion." This is what Nietzsche called the "tragic phase" οί nihilism. It is the beginning οί the "misery οί man without God. once it was discoνered that it was an ίΙΙυ­ sion." Existence is reduced to itself ίη its naked reality. therefore. nothing would change. His contribution to nihilism as a "free spirit" and "immoralist" has been precisely his interpretation οί certain "superior" and "spiritual" νalues not οηlΥ as simple νital impulses. The conclusion is that "what ought to be is not. and restraints haνe fallen away. That is the nihilistic phase ίη the proper sense. moral νalues. Another world has been inνented: a world οί being. goodness. But that constructed world dissolνed. and ίη opposition to. as an "alienation οί the 1. now characterized as false and worthless. . οί the senses. they are empty. where he makes Kiriloν say that man inνented God just to be able to go οη liνing: 5 God. and οί liνing reality. the pure irrationality οί the human condition. "superior" world οί "God" and "truth"-the world οί what ought to be." Existence seems deνoid οί any meaning. without any reference point outside itself that could giνe it a real meaning for man. when he declares that "existenkalism is not an atheism ίη the sense οί being reduced to proνing that God does not exist." The terminal situation is giνen ίη drastic form by Sartre. but ίη most cases as the results οί a "decadent" and enfeebled life. what is. any goal. and spirit as a negation or condemnation οί the world οί becoming. Οη these terms. Nietzsche reνealed its genesis and pointed out its human-"all toο human" -and irrational roots. whose chief theme is the sense οί the absurdity. Thus there are two phases. Once more we find a parallel ίη Dostoyeνsky. For a new type οί man.

and of true "humanism. the world of Tradition owes its ordering from above and its orientation toward the above. or at least its first phases. For the present. and so is most of that to which. at a given moment. Νο God has ever controlled man." We shall see later how Nietzsche's program for the postnihilist period arose. of progress of the spirit. Divine despotism is a fantasy. beginning with illuminism and liberalism and proceeding gradually to immanentist historicism (first "idealistic. No-the true and essential foundation of this whole system is the particular inner structure." then materialist and Marxist). whose undeclared basis is a sort of "shipwreck euphoria. and he was allowed to throw οΗ the chains that did not bind him so much as sustain him. and the various inborn interests of a type of man who nowadays has virtually disappeared. ίη its worse aspects. ίη the illuminist and revolutionary interpretation. the capacity of recognition.4 From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" and the Protest Movement current of thought and a "historiography" exist that represent this process of rebellion and dissolution. out of this very mentality. its hierarchical system. It is another aspect of contemporary nihilism. have been interpreted and celebrated as those of the emancipation and reaffirmation of man. wanted to "be free. as having been something positive and as a victory. Man." He was allowed to be so. its various forms of legitimate authority and sacral power. Thereupon he was allowed to suffer all the consequences of 20 Α ." It is well known that the phases of dissolution. there is just one point to be made.

and ίη a growing dissolution οί any uprightness and character.. following ineluctably up to his present state ίη which "God is dead" (or "God has withdrawn. oh. the fracture has extended from the moral plane to the existential and ontological.. along with patriotism . Another aspect of the same process is a regime οί compensations and anesthetics that is ηο less deceptive for not being recognized as such.From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" 21 his liberation. which is objectively "beyond good and evil" and beyond any petty morality. earthbound "civilization. and for it not to be ordered by any higher principle.. Οί course this has its counterpart and inevitable 'consequence ίη an inner life that is more and more reduced. But drink was a sovereign opium of the people." as Bernanos says). One is ηο longer dealing with "problems" but with a state of affairs ίη which the immoralist pathos οί yesterday's rebels seems increasingly old-fashioned and incongruous. Values that were previously questioned and shaken only by a few precursors ίη relative isolation now lose all relevance for general consciousness ίη everyday life. a cheap one . another opium of the people. was that an opium of the people? .. οί the void that is sensed behind the whole system οί bourgeois life. And ΠΟ'Σ. For some time. and the dissolution οί values is followed by the denial of everything one has resorted to ίη order to make up for the senselessness οί a life henceforth reduced to itself. 1 But once this sensation occurs. an excellent opium. economics is the opium the people.. Although some prefer the radio. a good part οί Western humanity has considered it a natural thing for existence to lack any real meaning. arranging their lives ίη the most bearable and least disagreeable way they can.. the assemblage to collapse. formless.. feeble. Nothing has acted ίη all of this but the law that is known ίη the Far East as the law of actions and reactions. What about sexual intercourse. Ιη recent times. Α character ίη Hemingway summarizes it when he says: Religion is the opium οί οί the people . the faςade may start to waver. and elusive.. Then comes the existential theme οί nausea and disgust. the theme οί the absurdity οί the whole new." Where the sensation is most acute there occur forms οί existential trauma and states that have been called "the . and existence becomes the field of absurdity where everything is possible and everything is allowed.

Indeed." "existential alienation. Creνel. Then there are those isolated indiνiduals giνen to adνenture. like ]ack London and the early Ernst ]ίinger. and forbidden the suicide from curing his injury"). while for the others eνerything seems ίη order. as with the suicide of surrealists like Vache. ίη part. Typical ίη this regard is the case of Rimbaud.22 1n the World Where God Is Deαd spectrality of eνents. Surrealism took υρ some similar themes. whose extreme form of rebellion was the renunciation of his own genius. But Dadaism negated the νery categories of art. says that Tιe has "receiνed life like a wound. often alcoholics." One also notices that the sporadic experiences of intellectuals and artists of the past become modes of behaνior occurring ίη the natural course of things for certain groups of the younger generation. any coherence. At first such harbingers remained at the margins of life. The most significant and radical of them all was perhaps Dadaism. who seek new horizons οη distant lands and seas. as under the banner of science they hymn the triumphal march of progress. it was not just the acceptance but the exaltation of the absurd and the contradictory. painters. and formless elementarity (Maldoror. ΟηΙΥ yesterday it was a matter of writers. mingling their talents with the climate of existential dissolution and with irr~tional rebellion against established νalues. and Rigault. poetic silence. driνen by existential trauma to the morbid exaltation of eνil. processes of this type had begun to spread. the end result of the deepest impulses that had nourished the νarious moνe­ ments of aνant-garde art." Sometimes the path was ίη fact followed to the νery end. horror. any restraint. announcing the final phases of nihilism. when the young Andre Breton declared that the simplest surrealist act would be to go out into the street and shoot passersby 22 . and "damned poets" liνing οη the edge. and immersion ίη practical actiνity. Another is the case of Lautreamont. the personage of his poems. when it refused to adapt life to the "derisory conditions of all existence down here." "the degradation of objectiνe reality. of nonsense and pointlessness taken just as they are. safe and sound. showing the transition to the chaotic forms of a life depriνed of any rationality. the latter reproached the others for being able to do nothing but literature and poetry. scarcely troubled by the noise of anarchist bombs. Already after World War Ι. οη the frontier-zone of art.

From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" 23 at random. expressed through vanda1ism and 1aw1ess actions va1ued as "pure acts" ίη co1d witness to their otherness. and caricature does not 1essen its va1ue as a 1iving sign οί the times now approaching their fina1 nadir. But ίη its current forms. Ιη the Slavic countries there were the "hoo1igans. pose. these were existentia1 positions 1ived out by the young. With the further traumatization brought about by Wor1d War Π. Compared to the British types. Οη the one hand there were the "rebe1s without a cause. they were more co1d and unadorned." meaning solid. ίη the wor1d where God is dead. irrationa1 movement "without a flag. not to those οί the rebe1s themse1ves. after rejecting suicide as the radica1 solution for the metaphysically abandoned individual. the rebe11ίοη is a sheer. and safe.2 he was anticipating what happened more than once after Wor1d War Π. at the price οί any destruction and at the sacrifice οί one's own 1ife. the "hipsters" and the Beat generation." with their German ana10gs the Halbstarken. where they saw ηο sense. ΒΥ absurd and destructive actions. and coherent-everything that was "square. when some οί the younger generation passed from theory to practice. οί those previous forms οί revo1t that. As we have seen. a . "Nihi1ism" there referred to the negation οί the va1ues οί the wor1d and οί the society against which one was rebelling. despite everything-and even ίη utopian anarchism-still had a fundamenta1 be1ief ίη a just cause to defend. the same current was effective1y diffused ίη characteristic and endemic fashion among a youth that regarded itself as burned-out or 10st. and with the collapse οί a new set οί fa1se va1ues." the "angry young men" with their rage and aggression ίη a wor1d where they fe1t 1ike strangers. more corrosive ίη their opposition to everything pseudo-order1y. they sought to attain the on1y possib1e meaning οί existence." This trend appeared with the "teddy boys." More significant was the American counterpart. ηο va1ues worth embracing and fighting for. οί which a certain type οί nove1 is mere1y a reflection." as somebody put it. Their sty1e was one οί aggressive protest. Rather than intellectua1 attitudes. Its broad margin οί inauthenticity. and the generazione deUe macerie [generation οί rubb1e]. a contempt for "those incomprehensib1e characters who are capab1e οί being serious1y invo1ved with a woman. rationa1. that was the 1iquidation. voice1ess rage. justified. They showed "a destructive.

the void. and the infinite horror extending behind the crumbling faςade. the early Henry Miller may be called the spiritual father οί the currents under discussion. others. a kind οί collective phenomenon οί his epoch-an incarnate and vociferous phenomenon. "the organized insanity οί the normal world. Some preferred a new form οί nomadic existence. drugs. to live at the most elementary level. "Sometimes ίη the dead center. which did not οηlΥ include the young. but sought them out to "receive tremendous blows οη their own selves" (Norman Mailer). the furious despair. 3 The absurdity οί what is considered normal. Beside Dos Passos and others οί the same group."5 It is the sense οί a tabula rasa. high speed. It has been said οί him that he is "more than a writer or an artist. which Ι breathed ίη through the gills. absolute refusal to collaborate or to have any defined position ίη society were the rule ίη this milieu. the cosmic silence. Alienation from their surroundings. or Ι made love. sex. The methods used by the hipsters to survive the existential void through strong sensations included alcohol. the end οί a whole epoch."6 'Ά stone forest the center οί which was chaos"7 is the sensation οί the ambience ίη which today's man moves. but οί a world ίη collapse. or Ι befriended someone. The books οί Jack Kerouac and the poetry οί Allen Ginsberg were inspired ίη part by this climate. and even acts οί gratuitous criminality like those suggestetl ίη Breton's surrealism. a raw manifestation οί the anguish. and which recruited its members not οηlΥ from the lower classes but from all sociallevels. despite all the triumphs οί science. Ι danced or drank myself silly. They did not fear experiences οί any kind. .24 1n the World Where God 1s Dead job. a cause" (Norman Podhoretz). 4 But it had already been announced by some authors who were rightly called the Walt Whitmans. "ίη a prophet who proclaims the end οί a world at the very moment when it is flowering and radiating. negro jazz." Miller himself wrote these characteristic words: "From the beginning it was never anything but chaos: it was a fluid which enveloped me. including the wealthy. was meaningless. at the apogee οί its grandeur and its pestilential contagion. not οί the optimistic and hopeful world οί the young American democracy." seemed all the more evident to the hipsters ίη the climate οί industrialization and frenetic activity that. ίη that very heart οί chaos.

" As Ι have said.. It seems to us that God has died οί old age. the senselessness οί the world weighs οη us like a deformity. we start from zero."9 Paul van den Bosch. this life οί the mediocre. This is the end result at which the "revolution" οί the left has practically arrived after its triumph. normal.. sensations. and all hopeless and bewildering."8 Α partly convergent testimony from another direction is that which Hermann Hesse puts into the mouth οί one οί his characters: "I'd rather feel burned by a diabolic pain than to live ίη these sanely temperate surroundings. That is the difference from the l~ft-wing intellectuals who condemn bourgeois society. or myself-and to commit outrageous follies .. after passing the phase οί simple revolt. The forms mentioned here . flat. Camus made it quite plain after the period οί his communist illusions: The revolution has betrayed its origins with the constitution οί new yokes and a new conformism. ίη these movements οί ruined youth. Οη certain days. all that interests us here is their value as symptomatic indices οί the times. and cursed: this satisfaction. sterilized life. more obtuse and absurd than ever.. and we exist without a goal. into the crude forms οί life as it is lived. wrote: "We are the ghosts οί a war that we have not fought .. and a wish to destroy something-perhaps a warehouse. We are not embittered. prepare ίη groups."lO The heritage οί the precursors οί European nihilism has largely been translated. ίη his Les enfants de /'absurde. read. that's not for me." says one οί Kerouac's characters. common man. and from the nihilists οί the past. the gold was already transmuted into lead. Α wild desire flares υρ ίη me for intense emotions. a rage against this whole toneless.. "Work. but it was all chaos.. When we were born. This ίη fact is what Ι have always most hated. We were born among the ruins. abhorred. It is not necessary to dwell any further οη these testimonies οί a traumatized existence. believe. nor οη those whom one might call the "martyrs οί modern progress. this complacent healthiness.. Having opened our eyes οη a disenchanted world. all stone. this plump bourgeois optimism. .From the Precursors of Nihilism to the "Lost Youth" 25 or Ι planned a new life. a cathedral. normal. we are more than any others the children οί the absurd. then have your back brokenηο thanks. Αη important trait here is the absence οί any social-revolutionary motive and the belief that ηο organized action can change things.

But there is ηο denying the causal and necessary connection that unites them to the world where "God is dead" and ηο substitute has yet been found for him.26 1n the World Where God Is Dead have also degenerated into extravagant and ephemeral fashions. until the present cycle is exhausted. others οί the same type will certainly crop up. When these forms pass. . according to circumstances.

and a nihilism οί far more spectacular proportions than those οί the extremist groups where the crisis remains acute and undisguised. But the two οί them are ίη a kind οί dialectical relationship. but are blamed οη bourgeois 27 . οη the part οί a well-organized historiography. which reveals their true existential significance. It is easier to find the elements that betray this ultimate sense ίη the communist myth. certainly. 1 Ι have already shown that the actual basiS"Of the myth ίη question is the interpretation. This basis is essentially identical both ίη the "Western" myth and ίη that οί communism. we still find ourselves within the orbit οί nihilism. As is well known. Ιη both cases. that lurks behind the varieties οί the modern socioeconomic myth. both that οί Western "prosperity" and that οί Marxist-communist ideology. οί the processes that prepared for European nihilism as constituting progress.5 Disguises of European Nihilism The Socioeconomic Myth and the Protest Movement It is an important fact that some οί the young people ίη crisis have shown such indifference to the prospects οί social revolution. But now it is time to broaden our horizons by showing the particular type οί evasion and anesthetization. the communist myth takes the form οί a violent polemic against all the phenomena οί spiritual crisis that Ι have treated υρ to now. οη the part οί a humanity that has lost the meaning οί existence. These phenomena are recognized. because οί its blatant coarseness and its more explicit reference to the basic motive: the economy.

Yet this deception is ηο different from the myth of prosperity. which acts as the worst opiate yet administered to a rootless humanity.= 28 1n the World Where God 15 Dead decadence. Ι have mentioned a type of dialectic that leads to the demolition of this theory from the inside. Karl Marx had already praised ίη communism "the real appropriation of the human essence οη the part of man and for the sake of man. materially. a sort of psychic lobotomy intended methodically to neutralize and infantilize any form of higher sensibility and interest. wherever this myth is affirmed through the control of movements. having become hypocritical and deceptive. which. organizations. and people. . such as is taking place ίη the Soviet area. Behind the myth is the most terrible void. These are supposed to be the terminal stages of decomposition of a doomed economic system. The idea of states ίη which "individual" problems and "decadent" crises ηο lοη­ ger exist is presented as something οηlΥ to be attained ίη the future. and anarchic individualism: the symptoms of bourgeois elements alienated from reality. especially ίη the form it has taken ίη the West. the fin de siecle. politically. insofar as ίη the communist world the myth has drawn most of its energy from a misrepresentation. that of capitalism. economic organization ίη a society such as the capitalist one. and ίη relation to the struggle for world domination. Ιη its radical forms. Westerners enjoy a technological euphoria. the start of a "new and authentic humanism. have nothing more to do with the practical conduct of individuals or with the driving forces of the epoch." would then be furnished by the setting υρ of a different socioeconomic system. encouraged by the prospects of the "second industrial revolution" of the atomic age. Humanity's existentiallesion is generally explained as an effect of material. The true remedy."2 seeing ίη it the equivalent of a perfect naturalism and even a true humanism. by the abolition of capitalism. it is linked to a corresponding education. the return of man to himself as a social being. thus as a human man. The crisis is thus presented exclusively as one of values and ideals serving as superstructure to that system. aoo by the institution of a communist society of workers. every way of thought that is not ίη terms of the economy and socioeconomic processes. Oblivious of the fact that they are living οη a volcano." a human integrity and a "happiness never known before.

and ίη regard to recent developments. At all events. when man is not forced to prove himself ίη some way. to the shame οί Marx and Engels' prognosis. and to impoverishment due to a given socioeconomic system. and that there is ηο correlation between material and spiritual misery. Hegel rightly wrote that the epochs οί material well-being are blank pages ίη the history book. but οηlΥ because it thinks οί it as the privilege οί an upper class οί capitalist "exploiters. the error and the illusion are the same ίη both socioeconomic ideologies.Disguises of European Nihilism 29 whereas these are the very conditions that already obtain ίη the West and the Nordic countries. ίη Western society. namely the serious assumption that existential misery can be reduced to suffering ίη one way or another from material want. a climate οί prosperity has spread to vast social strata ίη the form οί a plentiful. easy.ιch the formula for all human happiness and wholeness as the well-named "animal ideal. Ιη fact. ΟηΙΥ to the lowest and dullest levels οί society can one Ρre." a well-being that is little better than bovine. The truth οί the matter is that the meaning οί existence can be lacking as much ίη one group as ίη the other. and ίη the final analysis it does not matter ίη such situations ίί a good number fall away and are lost through natural selection. we shall see what conclusions the so-called protest movement has drawn from them. the future socioeconomic ideal οί proletarian humanity already exists.. They assume that misery is greater among the disinherited or the proletariat than among those living ίη prosperous or privileged economic conditions." not as the common property οί a homogenized society. and that it will consequently diminish with the "freedom from want" and the general advance οί the material conditions οί existence. spiritually bought and paid for. It is the fascination οί a goal that vanishes at the moment one reaches it. and Toynbee has shown that the challenge to mankind οί environmentally and spiritually harsh and problematic conditions is often the incentive that awakens the creative energies οί civilization. But the horizons are essentially the same. 3 Ιη some cases. Andre Breton was right when he wrote that "we must . where. and comfortable existence-a condition that Marxism does not condemn as such. it is not paradoxical to say that the man οί good will should try to make life difficult for his neighbor! It is a commonplace that all the higher virtues attenuate and atrophy under easy conditions.

asin the musical comedy about a utopian island where they have everything. There is a famous example. the sense that something is still missing. women. was not a victim οί oppression and hunger. no. "fun. is as a means οί internal anesthetization or prophylaxis. The true significance οί the socioeconomic myth. One sees there rebellion. mystified by religious beliefs. We may therefore speak either οί an opiate that is much more real than that which. disgust. the point is that the most acute forms οί the modern existential crisis are appearing today at the margin of a civilization of prosperity. between the meaning of life and conditions οί economic wellbeing. and anger manifesting not ίη a wretched and oppressed subproletariat but often ίη young people who lack nothing. to whom the revolutionary sermons οί Christianity were first addressed. οί the Buddha Shakyamuni." pointing out the way of spiritual awakening." But to avoid straying too far from my argument. There exists. or. not recent but from the traditional world. statistically proven." but also the ever-recurrent sense οί the emptiness οί existence. ηο correlation. οί the organized method οί an active nihilism. Blank despair can occur right up to the finishing-post οί socioeconomic messianism. showing that the problematic life is felt more ίη the latter than ίη the former. He who οη a metaphysical plane radically denounced the emptiness οί existence and the deceptions οί the "god of life. as witness the currents ίη the new generation that have been described. that suicide is much rarer ίη poor countries than ίη rich ones. ίη all the splendor οί his power and all the fullness οί his youth. And among other things it is a significant fact. was fed to a humanity as yet unillumined and unevolved. therefore. not a representative οί social strata like the plebeians οί the Roman empire. according to the Marxists. from another point οί view. even ίη millionaires' children.30 1n the World Where God Is Dead prevent the artificial precariousness of social conditions from concealing the real precariousness of the human condition. except possibly a negative one. aimed at evading the problem οί an existence robbed οί any meaning and at consolidating ίη every way the fundamental insignificance οί modern man's life. The prospects ίη a goodly part οί today's world are more or less those that Zarathustra attributed to the "last man": "The time is near . and whiskey. he was οί the race of princes. ίη any οί its forms.

the individual ίη contemporary consumer society reckons that it would be too expensive. it calls οη the abject minorities σί outsiders. anarchic. it came to the conclusion that there is a basic similarity. as being the οηlΥ revolutionary potential. say the last men with a wink. At the level more or less corresponding to the "last man" foreseen by Nietzsche. now deprived σί its original motive force. For want σί anything else. because ίη the former. however. It took its rise ίη part from the order οί ideas already mentioned. This impulse has now been realized. between the system οί advanced communist countries and that οί the capitalist world." the last man 'Όί the tenacious and pullulating race. who can ηο longer despise himself. Thus he accepts with a good grace all the leveling conditionings οί the system."4 lη this context." lη all οί this it confirms ίη another way the general nihilistic character οί the epoch. ίη favor σί a "global protest" against the system. and instinctive ίη character. inasmuch as the working class has entered the consumer system." manifesting as the tendency to destroy all the higher values οί life and personality. and indeed οη a much larger scale. merely for the sake οί an abstract freedom. there is another more recent phenomenon that is heavy with significance: that οί the so-called global protest movement. who throw themselves frenetically against the walls. for the current protest is ηο longer that οί the individuals ." having "abandoned the lands where life is hard. This realization has cau~ed a bypassing οί revolutionary Marxism. ίη terms σί technological consumer society. But alongside this convergence there has become visible the conditioning power σί one and the same "system.Disguises of European Nihilism 31 οί the most despicable οί men. to do without the comfort and well-being that this evolved society offers him." "We have invented happiness. sometimes even ση the Third World (ίη which case Marxist fantasies reappear) and ση the blacks. This movement.'" οί "maddened wasps trapped ίη a glass jar. lη the wake οί theories such as Marcuse's. also lacks any higher principle: it is irrational. But it stands under the sign οί nothingness: it is a hysterical "revolution σί the void and the 'underground. οη the excluded and rejected. the original impulse οί the proletarian revolution is much diminished. indeed absurd. being assured οί a lifestyle that is ηο longer proletarian but bourgeois: the very thing whose absence was the incentive for revolution.

cynical. and which might well be compared to Goethe's "world of the Mothers. The impassioned effort of that philosopher who sought out the secret origin." of the exploration of the subconscious and the unconscious. the "genealogy" of predominant moral values at the very roots of all those vital impulses that morality avoids or condemns. the irrational subsoil of existence. and "scientific" methods of "depth psychology. ίη the subterranean zone nothing is at work but a mess of compulsions toward pleasure and death: Lustprinzip and Todestrieb? This. It is one further aspect of contemporary nihilism. and. the symptom of a sickly consciousness. Other psychoanalytic currents that diverge ίη part from Freud are not substantially different. Ιη the latter. 5 Another point should be mentioned. it has recognized the motive force essential to the whole life of the soul. Meanwhile. too weak to hold ίη check the lower regions of the soul with their so-called archetypes. ίη the current climate of dissolution. though false and contaminating if applied to men of other times and other civilizations. from that it deduces the proofs that make an illusion of the upper world of moral and social conscience with all its values. as everyone knows.• 32 1n the World Where God 1s Dead and small groups mentioned earlier. has the power of persuasion when applied to traumatized modern man. and its hysterical will to dominate. or as ίη the words of Relling to Gregers ίη Ibsen: "Why do you use that odd word 'ideals'? We have our own perfectly good word: 'lies"')6 or ίη moral and philosophical nihilism. moreover. all its inhibitions and prohibitions. The collapse of superstructures-of all that can henceforth only be regarded as superstructures-did not manifest only ίη the sociological form of denouncing the lies and hypocrisy of bourgeois life (as ίη Max Nordau. is the essence of Freudianism. together with a profound traumatization of the human personality. at least cursorily. It is prolonged and completed today by means of a science that. who sought thus to "naturalize" morality by denying it any autonomous or preeminent dignity. whose intellectuallevel was indubitably higher."g It is hardly worth pointing out how these destructions converge with the atmosphere of another typical genre of contemporary litera- . The evident theme ίη all of them is the regression to the psychic subsoil. this science is none other than psychoanalysis. this impassioned effort has given place to the cold.

to which Ι shall return ίη due course. This theme. . shown ίη its typical form by Kafka. it is merely what is perceived ίη the very atmosphere οί European nihilism. It is like the sense οί an incomprehensible foundation οί human life that fades into impenetrable and anguishfilled darkness. and οί a humanity that has taken shape after the death οί God.Disguises of European Nihilism 33 ture. What Ι wish to underline at this point is that we are not dealing with a truth discovered by someone who "has been able to feel more and see more deeply". taken to be the actual human condition. is not foreign to speculative existentialism. ίη which the sense οί the "spectrality οί existence" is associated with that οί an obscure. incomprehensible destiny. a fatality. and an absurd condemnation hanging over man's eternal solitude.

fts. the possibility opens of a new interpretation of the adventure of mankind wanting to be free. Το someone who has the necessary character to assume such an attitude. there is a different and much smaller category of modern men who. Thus arises the idea of a trial. and of destructions that are simply the consequence of not being equal to it. Ιη contrast.6 Active Nihilism Nietzsche We can now return to the problem that really interests us. instead of submitting to the nihilist processes. This holds good both for those who have adapted to a life based οη nothing and lacking any true direction. Then the problem arises of how far the negative can be transformed into something positive. their predominant trait is that of being the obje. indeed the victims. helping themselves with a system of anesthetics and surrogates. of the destructive processes set ίη motion: processes which are simply suffered by current humanity. and eventually resorting to the surviving forms of a secure bourgeois existence. seek to accept them actively. and of the crisis that is the consequence of this adventure. not being equal to one's own action. This applies. They willingly accept their condition of being without support or roots. Ιη all the critical situations treated υρ to now. to the vast majority of our contemporaries. Ιη particular. there are those who not οηlΥ admit that the processes of dissolution are irreversible and that there is ηο going back. but who would not want to follow that path even if it existed. therefore. and for those who feel the existential crisis of modern man ίη all of their being. Those who are interested may 34 . or as one might say. and are consequently driven toward the kinds of revolt or risky existence that were mentioned above.

he belongs to a different world and preserves within himself a different existential dimension. is only an illusion."l Having seen that "nihilism is the final. which leads to a reversal οί perspectives. ίη his life here and now.Active Nihilism 35 recall the ancient myths concerning an audacious sacrilege ίη which it is not the sacrilege ίη itself that brings about the ruin οί some symbolic personage. "The weak shatter. the transition to the postnihilist stage. The special human type who concerns us here and who partially fits the category ίη question may adopt the same point οί view. to test their solidity. Nietzsche showed that the point at which one realizes that "God is dead. let us examine the theme οί "positive nihilism. and that the only true world is that which was negated or rejected ίη the name οί the former. having lived it ίη his soulhaving it behind himself. despite all that is inconsistent and negative ίη his philosophy. ίί one prefers. transitional stage"3 and proclaimed the "countermovement" that was destined to supplant it." οί good and evil." that the whole world οί "spirit. but that οί his own expression and confirmation ίη the modern epoch. is the crux οί a decisive test. he already possesses one). Nietzsche considered himself "the first perfect nihilist ίη Europe. rather than outside it. because he has already overcome nihilism. that the more recent exponents οί modern thought have gone little further than Nietzsche ίη their search for a new meaning οί life. Since it is better to do so from a standpoint inside the modern world. but lack οί the necessary dignity or strength to accomplish an act that frees one from the divine bonds. With this human type ίη mind."4 Nietzsche calls this the "tragic phase" οί nihilism. outside himself. As we recall. the strong destroy what does not shatter them." or."2 he nevertheless considered nihilism as "a pathological. his differentiated character consists ίη facing the problems οί modern man without being a "modern man" himself. . Unlike the others. without giving up the ground already won. We may find. logical conclusion οί our great values and ideals. beneath himself." and having asserted that "we must pass through this nihilism ίη order to grasp the true nature οί the 'values' οί the past. ίη fact. his problem is not the dramatic search for a basis (ίη principle. we can take as a provisional basis some οί Nietzsche's fundamental ideas. while those stronger still go beyond the values that once served them.

the ambiguous. has developed far enough that one has ηο further need for this general interpretation (of existence). This brings us to the precise point made above. continues Zarathustra. that then assail the free man. now he is thrilled with a universal. solitude appears as a curse. for whom a life of freedom could spell only ruin. These are the sentiments. where the fearful. and the seductive are part of his very existence. For him who only acquires any worth by serving. or "the pessimism of strength. ''1f at first man needed a god. of this introduction of a meaning (into it)."6 Nietzsche calls this positive pessimism. The significance of all the crises of recent times can be summarized as follows: a man wanted to be free."S ''1t is a measure of one's strength of will to know how far one can do without a meaning to things. alone with one's own freedom ίη a desert place and an icy air. how far one can bear to live ίη a meaningless world: for then one will organize part of it. and that . wasn't that perhaps rather too grand of us? Shouldn't we become gods ίη order to be worthy of it?"9 After recognizing that "nothing exists. Το say "God is dead" is only an emotional way of stating the basic fact of the epoch. 'Ύου call yourself free? Let me hear your ruling thoughts. he loses courage and his initial pride deflates. judge and avenger of one's own law. "conqueror of God and of nothingness. Free from what? Why should Zarathustra care? Your eyes should answer plainly: free {or what?"ll And Zarathustra warns that it will be terrible to be alone." Α famous passage of Zarathustra gives the most pregnant formulation to the essence of the crisis.36 1n the World Where God 15 Dead nihilism at this point appears as a sign of strength."8 The probtem of the meaning of life is thus resolved with the affirmation that life is and can be a value ίη itself. But Nietzsche himself remarks that having "killed God."7 and makes it the premise of a higher ethic. without any laws from above oneself. Are you one who deserved to escape from it? There are many who threw away their only worth when they threw away their servitude. all is permitted. to will. godless disorder. signifying "that the power to create. with a world of chance. for him who had ίη his bonds not a cause of paralysis but a support. and not that you have escaped bondage."lO and the "freedom of the spirit." Ιη this world once again made "pure" and uniquely itself he stands erect." the inevitable consequence is the challenge: "Now prove the nobility of your nature.

projecting it onto God. ίοι the real problem posed here is one οί values. but incarnated ίη an ''other. .'' and faith ίη this other provisionally solved the existential problem. he placed it outside himself... and from a higher point οί view. 12 The implication is plain: it is a necessity for man to have a center. Metaphysical anguish is its counterpart."13 Man takes absolute freedom for himself. than the sentiment expressed by Sartre ίη these words: "We are condemned to be free. Naturally this is not really.Active Nihilism 37 will not fail to kill him ίί he does not kill them first.. but he can only feel this freedom as a condemnation. the negative result οί the nihilistic experience. it is only that οί the devotional phase οί a theistic religion. as Kirilov says. a phase that already represents a disintegration οί the world οί Tradition and precedes the critical point οί metaphysical breakdown οί which Ι have spoken." One can dispense with the suicide that is an obsession οί Kirilov's lucid folly." says Kirilov. because he doesn't think himself worthy οί it. Το recognize that there is ηο God and not 10 recognize at the same time that one has become God is an absurdity and an incongruity. demonstrating at the same time "his divinity. and οί "being free for what?" Nothing better characterizes failure ίη the crucial test. Ιη the face οί this situatiq.n. terror and anguish arise: ''He's like a wretch who has received a legacy but takes fright and won't set his hand to it. the whole meaning οί the history οί mankind. whom he supposed to exist. disintegration." And we can set aside all this emphatic talk οί God and being God. Ι am God . and can't exist. Dos1Oyevsky points out the same thing ίη analogous fashion: it is Kirilov's doctrine. And this is the history οί mankind from its origins υρ 10 the present day. When he did not find it within himself. certainly. because otherwise one would not fail to kill oneself. a basic value. Ιη precise terms. The eyes οί the "free man" Kirilov are open: "Ι don't want to believe. Ι know that God doesn't exist." The consequence is therefore "If God does not exist. and speak simply οί breakdown." We should not take seriously the act with which Kirilov thinks he can destroy his terror ίη the face οί the divine legacy that he should accept. becoming 10st ίη meaninglessness. The framework is identical: "Man only invented God so that he could live without killing himself. this is the essential ground οί modern man's unhappiness.

The essential can be spelled out as follows. are interpreted as functions of life."14 The superman will be the meaning of the earth. which has used them to hamper another group whose life and ideals resemble those of the superman. and the mist has lifted from one's eyes. It presents a new ideal with dogmatic affirmation. The fact that the fixed point of reference set up beyond nihilism lacks a true foundation so long as one insists οη pure immanence is already apparent ίη the part of Nietzsche's thought that deals with historical criticism and sociology. good and evil have been surpassed. "God is dead." But at the same time these values are seen as the weapons of a hidden will to power οη the part of a certain human group. now we want the superman to come. The instinct of decadence itself is then presented as a special variety of the will to power. systems of ends and of higher truths. as we know. along with all the surrogates of the old God. and thus created the premises for a higher existence and a new state of health. For now." "a rope stretched bttween the brute and the superman. The superman is also defined as a function of the will to power and domination. not a goal. the essence of life-and more generally of nature-is the will to power.38 1n the World Where God 15 Dead Later we shall examine the specific themes of existentialism. whereas ίη reality this ideal is οηlΥ one of many that could take shape ίη "life. The entire world of "higher" values is interpreted there as reflecting a "decadence. Ιη its turn. including a good and an evil. we shall see what can be retained of Nietzsche's views. destructive phase of Nietzsche's thought ends with the affirmation of immanence: all transcendent values. One can see from this that Nietzsche's nihilism stops halfway. the justification of existence. The negative." and which is not ίη fact justified ίη and of itself. Man is "a bridge. the theme of the superman appears. the body. it is obvious that ίη function of a ." life. without a particular choice and without faith ίη it. he remains "faithful to the earth. Now." Thereupon. Once the idols have fallen. not as a nihilist but as one who thought that he had left nihilism behind him. a rope stretched above an abyss."15 This is not the place for a deep analysis of the manifold and divergent themes that crystallize ίη Nietzsche's work around this central motif. It sets up a new table of values. nothing is left to Nietzsche but "this world.

Active Nihilism 39 mere will to power. Thus Nietzsche's solution is only a pseudosolution. so as to free man and let him walk οη his own feet-the same Nietzsche who had justly criticized and rejected evolutionism and Darwinism because he could see that the higher figures and types of life are only sporadic and fortuituous cases. What is left. Nietzsche moreover wanted to restore its "innocence" to becoming by freeing it from all finality and intentionality. tending to make one human class or another prevail. Even "antinature" and "violence against life" enter ίηto it. nor with the affirmation of the superman. and even sacrificing oneself and dying for. means that are indiscriminately called good ίη proportion to their success. There is only a variety of techniques. Mutatis mutandis. if one wants to be radical and follow a line of strict coherence. outside any theology or teleology. qualitative sense. ίη which the mirage of a future human condition after the worldwide revolution serves to give meaning to everything inflicted οη the man of today ίη the areas controlled by this ideology. This is a flagrant contradiction of the demands of a life that is its own meaning. 16 They are positions that man gains only ίη order to lose them. and all justifiable ίη terms of life. things here are not very different from the Marxist-communist eschatology. phases of creation and destruction and decadence. and what we . Α true nihilism does not spare even the doctrine of the superman. what authorizes us to ascribe value to one rather than to the others? Why should decadence be an evil? It is all life. Once again. and they create ηο continuity because they consist of beings who are more than usually exposed to danger and destruction. of means (far from being reducible to sheer physical force). he proposes the hypothetical future man ίη the guise of the superman: a goal wort~ dedicating oneself to. The philosopher himself ends with a finalistic concession when. if this is truly taken ίη its irrational. all distinctions vanish: there are ηο more supermen or sheep-men. neither affirmers nor negators of life. If ίη life and the history of civilization there exist phases of rise and decline. naked reality. The second point is that the pure affirmation of life does not necessarily coincide with the will to power ίη the strict. as Nietzsche would have wished. ίη order to give meaning to present-day humanity. all firm ground gives way.

"19 The same thing was taught ίη the world οί Tradition. Nietzsche differs little from Neoplatonism when he says: "For everything to return is the closest approximation οί a world οί becoming'"to a world οί being. pragmatic value οί a test οί strength. is the idea that Nietzsche expressed through the symbol οί the eternal return. "pure. which has the simple. οί all that is and οί all that one is. innumerable times. even opening to certain momentary ecstasies. Naturally we are dealing with nothing more than a myth."18 At its base. It is the affirmation."21 . οί one's own nature and one's own situation. But there is another view that ίη fact leads beyond the world οί becoming and toward an eternalization οί the being. this leads to an opening beyond immanence unilaterally conceived. It is the attitude οί one whose self-affirmation and self-identity come from the very roots οί his being. profound abyss οί light. and will be again. One recalls Zarathustra invoking "the joy that wills the eternity οί everything. and it is uncontestable that a confused thirst for eternity runs through Nietzsche's works."17 And also: "Το impose the character οί being υροη becoming is the supreme test οί power. a deep eternity"20 like the heavens above.40 In the World Where God Is Dead can accept ίη our investigations. now truly unconditional. and toward the feeling that "all things have been baptized ίη the font οί eternity and beyond good and evil. who is not scared but exalted by the prospect that for an indefinite repetition οί identical cosmic cycles he has been what he is.

he means living according to one's own law. an unknown sage that is called oneself (Selbst}."2 ΒΥ the latter phrase. but with the difference that the command is absolutely internal. and prompted by his well-known polemic against "pure spirit. separate from any external mover.l and also: "We must liberate ourselves from morality so that we can live morally. One frequently finds ίη him the simplistically physiological and materialistic interpretation οί human nature. Nietzsche himself often presented these issues as though they were equivalent to naturalism. This is what remains after the elimination οί what philosophy calls "heteronomous morality." and which uses the "spirit" and even the senses as "little 100ls and 1oYs. (This may result ίη the way οί the superman." which "looks with the eyes οί the senses and 41 . ίη fact. but οηlΥ as a very special case." or morality based οη an external law or command. accessory." lη fact. and did not stop at the physical being when he spoke οί the "greater reason"3 contained ίη the body and opposed 10 the lesser reason: that which "does not say Ι. but rather οη one's own specific being." "the guiding thread οί the Ι that suggests all its ideas to it. the law defined by one's own nature.) This is οη the same lines as the "au1onomous morality" οί Kant's categorical imperative. Nietzsche saw deeper than that. the principle of purely being oneself." It is a "powerfullord. but you are οηlΥ the discoverers οί yourselves". and is not based οη a hypothetical law extracted from practical reason that is valid for all and revealed 10 man's conscience as such. but is Ι. but it is basically inauthentic. Nietzsche said this about it: "They call you destroyers οί morality. It is.7 "Being Oneself" For now we must set aside such allusions to a higher dimension οί experience οί a liberated world ίη order 10 define more precisely what such a vision οί existence offers us ίη realistic terms.

One has to go back to Μ. every unspoken but limiting implication has to . even ίη the epoch οί dissolution: to assume his own being into a willing.." nor for happiness." He is not speaking here οί the physis but οί the "being" ίη the full ontological significance οί the word.. ίί this system is to be made acceptable as valid for the problem ίη hand. either here or ίη an afterlife. because ίη his idea οί the "Unique" there is virtually ηο opening οί the deepest dimensions οί existence. The term he uses. Nietzsche's idea is identical." "Become what you are. das Selbst. when all superstructure has fragmented. (Nietzsche too -regarded hedonism and eudaemonism. Strength and responsibility must be ηο less than they were long ago. saying: "The way does not exist: this is my will. not to be counted among its antecedents. when they were born from religious faith and from a given point οί support.42 In the World Where God Is Dead listens with the ears οί the spirit. We shall see that the existentialists take υρ a similar theme. he wrote: ''Authoritarian metaphysics and religion are leading-strings for babies: it's time to walk by oneself. there emerges a valid attitude for the man who must stay standing as a free being. making it his own law. for "good" or "evil."6 It is as though faith still existed.) The man ίη question affirms and actualizes his own being without considering rewards or punishments. and be joined to God as far as he will or can be. can also be rendered by "the Self" as opposed to the Ι (Ich): an opposition that recalls that οί the traditional doctrines already mentioned between the supra-individual principle οί the person and that which they call the "physical Ι" Once the crude physiological interpretation is cleared away. but affirmed without regard for received values. but "without a heaven waiting for us or a positive law to guide us. as symptoms οί weakening and decadence. albeit less confidently."4 lη short. Guyau. Stirner is. however. For our part." as a simple state. pleasure. . Christ is ηο more: each οί us must be Christ for himself. Nietzsche hands οη the ancient sayings "Be yourself. neither good nor bad. or pain. who equally posed the problem οί a line οί conduct beyond any sanction or duty. or even deny God. but my OWIl. the abstract. We should look for revelation ίη ourselves. inorganic search for pleasure and happiness. ίη a different human type and a different climate. a law as absolute and autonomous as Kant's categorical imperative."5 as propositions for today.

offers another example. but has furtively introduced restrictions that more or less return to one οί the systems οί the old morality that he intended to supersede. to realize that Guyau has by ηο means made a tabula rasa. and perversion. and say an absolute ''yes'' to whatever one is-even when there is nothing ίη one's nature that approaches the ideal οί the superman. altruism. illusory support. οη "life. to be purely oneself and to have a fully free existence. Post-Rousseau anarchic doctrines were already characterized by premises οί this kind: the nihilism οί the anarchist classics had as its counterpart the supposition οί the fundamental goodness οί human nature. He sought to found a morality "without sanctions or obligations. corruption. and so οη. everything from which one might draw a new. Ιη all strictness."Being Oneself" 43 be eliminated from it. and altruism. authentic life free from attributes. even a social character. b~cause he recognized their vulnerability to nihilist criticism. superabundance. while presenting pure self-affirmation. opposed to its natural expressive motion οί increase and enrichment. as a selfnegation and a contradiction οί life. Its limitation becomes obvious when Guyau endows the expansive life impulse with an exclusively positive. Guyau formulated a new idea οί duty: a duty that derived from power. nobility. Α distant reflection οί this path is to be found even ίη the Christian world. and what would be censurable ίί it decided to take this route. debility. but rather a life conceived as preventively and arbitrarily moralized or sterilized. Guyau. who has just been quoted. It is enough to ask what could ever prevent a life that wanted to "negate" or "contradict" itself from doing so. but decadence. hardness. therefore Ι must"). which is ηο less unilateral because οί its frequent emphasis οη aspects οί life contrary to those just posited by Guyau: will to power. The elimination οί every presupposition also causes a crisis for much οί the Nietzschean doctrine οί the superman. will."7 But his notion οί life was not the naked. ίη Calvinism. from the life impulse. It is the . splendor. even ίί one's own life and destiny do not present heroism. one should be able to accept. expansion not toward others and for others but against them. a life ίη which certain tendencies are taken for granted: expansion. generosity. from the sense οί one's own strength "that demands to be exercised"g ('Ί can." a "free" morality.

and where . We shall see ίη due course that it is only a "first-grade solution. of man simultaneously justified and a sinner." but before that there is a difficulty to be dealt with. that remains and must remain undetermined. especially at the present time. ίη one's own naked absolute being. that justifies the feeling of vigor."9 This claim is justified only when the corresponding command is transposed. we should remember that this analysis is not being made ίη the abstract. and purified. As for the content of one's own law. the result of such an attitude is to leave one to oneself ίη an extreme trial of strength and denudation of the Ι. It is clear that the rule of being oneself implies that one can speak of a "proper nature" for everyone. broken by original sin but redeemed through "faith". ίη which we can be ίη any way unburdened of our own being"10-not ίη the physical world. internalized. but ίη view of what may have value. ίη traditional societies organized along groups and castes where the factors of heredity. But ίη the world without God. birth. This requires some extra considerations. whatever it may be. It is an existential mode. It may have been less difficult ίη societies that did not know individualism.44 1n the World Where God 15 Dead doctrine of fal1en man. however. with nothing to fear and nothing to hope fo!":" At this level. as Ι have said. as something well defined and recognizable. nor ίη God. For our purposes. It is rather a matter of either being capable or incapable of holding firm within. ίη the face of the Absolute. But this is problematic. nor ίη society. and environment favored a high degree of internal unity and the differentiation of types. that gathers energy. because without this premise it is easy to see that even the solution of "being oneself" cannot really serve as a solid foundation. ηο sense. Hence the Nietzschean claim of having "rediscovered the way that leads to a yes and a ηο: Ι teach you to say yes to al1 that strengthens. ηο aim. the words about the liberation from every sin may become valid: "There is ηο place. not for everyone but for α special human type. detached from any specific content and especially from any reference to a greater or lesser vitality. We can now summarize the positive gains to be made from the systems of Nietzsche and other thinkers along the same lines as his.

. but not οη a splinter.' There are also men composed οί several persons. as you advised me to do ίη order to know myself. devoid οί any real form. Everything is subject to debate-a situation accurately exemplified by characters ίη Dostoyevsky. The Pauline and Faustian lament. and his failure is sealed by suicide. The same problem evidently lurks at the center οί Nietzsche's doctrine οί the will to power. they collapse precisely because they are divided beings. live ίη my breast. all toο many have to admit. The means . It has ηο sense without the basis οί a given "being. "two souls. At the moment when they are thrown back οη their own naked will.. and which to an even smaller number appears redundant. ΑΙΙ this has long ceased to exist for modern Western man.. unstable. like a typical character ίη Hesse. because they are deluded concerning their true nature and their real strength. an essential unity. alas. ΜΥ desires lack the energy. We recall the words οί Stavrogin's testament: ''Ι have tested my strength everywhere. One can cross a river οη a log. like Raskolnikov or Stavrogin. the absolute. but it does not know what it is for. that they have a multitude οί souls! Nietzsche himself admitted this state οί affairs when he wrote: ''One should not assume that many men are 'persons. is what Ι should apply my strength to. and has long been "superseded" along the road οί "liberty". When that is wanting. thus the average modern man is changeable. and sometimes even by ηο less differentiated religious forms. everything slides back ίηto chaos." an internal direction."12 And again: "Become yourself: an injunction addressed οηlΥ to a few. they fail at the very point at which they should have reaffirmed themselves-in th~ir depths they find nothing to sustain them and carry them forward. Their freedom is turned against them and destroys them. laws. ''Here is the greatest strength. they cannot drive me. but the majority possess none at all."14 The abyss wins out over Stavrogin. autonomous law based οη one's own "being."Being Oneself" 45 the natural articulations were reinforced and nurtured by customs. they collapse."ll is already an optimistic assumption. ethics. and still do not see. What Ι have never seen."13 One can see now how problematic is the very point that has hitherto seemed fixed: fidelity to oneself. trying to prove it to themselves with an absolute action. Power ίη itself is formless." when it is formulated ίη general and abstract terms.

Ι will now consider a line οί conduct during the reign οί dissolution that is not suitable for everyone." We shall soon see how this situation is aggravated when the transcendent dimension is activated ίη it. Το continue our agenda. is a splitting.46 1n the World Where God 15 Dead exist. but for a differentiated type. ."15 We have clearly reached the point at which one must go beyond the "neutral" posing οί the problem." a true mirror οί the Dostoyevskian character just mentioned. and especially for the heir to the man οί the traditional world. we note that ίη general. "οη the contrary. a central tendency survives ίη the being and reawakens after actions that have violated or denied it. despite everything. but they have ηο end. Guyau speaks ίη this sense οί a morality "that is none other than the unity οί the being. "whose action has paralyzed his poor reason. For the moment." We know Nietzsche's image οί the "pale criminal. arising from secondary impulses that are not strong enough to completely supplant it." and an immorality that. the phenomenon οί remorse is closely linked to the situation οί a divided and self-contradictory being. as a chalk line paralyzes a chicken. who retains his roots ίη that world even though he finds himself devoid οί any support for it ίη his outer existence. an opposition οί tendencies that limit one another. Remorse occurs when.

This alone can explain the otherwise arbitrary and contradictory quality of some of his statements. for recognizing both its limitations and its high νalue for our purposes. the essential thing is that such α man is characterized by an existential dimension not present in the predominant human type of recent times-that is. he does not find a changeable and diνided substance. as it were. both ίη his destructiνe role and ίη his effort to get beyond the zero point of νalues. This giνes one a sure guide for orientation throughout Nietzsche's philosophy. rather than consciously taking υρ the existential dimension of transcendence. the object rather than the subject of the corresponding energy ίη action. Nietzsche's solution of the problem of the meaning of life. What is more. albeit unconscious. for the tacit assumption of many of his attitudes is ηο different: it is the action. because when he looks within himself. but a fundamental direction. its νictim. The problems raised by these last considerations can be exemplified with reference to Nietzsche himself. a "dominant. of the transcendent dimension. Οη the other hand." Οη the one hand. he was. οηlΥ this point of νiew also offers the possibility of integrating and consolidating them by not taking the wrong path of "naturalism. consisting in the affirmation that this meaning ΟηΙΥ 47 .The Transcendent Dimension "Life" and "More Than Life" this kind of man can use those positiνe aspects gleaned from the preceding analysis as his elementary basis. the dimension of transcendence." eνen though shrouded or limited by secondary impulses. Νο less eνident here is the solution giνen by turning the tragic and absurd νision of life into its opposite. Nietzsche really felt the νocation of the particular human type just mentioned.

The foundation that really prevails ίη existence is much closer to Schopenhauer's formulation than to this one οί Nietzsche's. that οί transcendence. one οί its many faces. ίη fact. Οη the other hand. not the will to power ίη the true sense. we have the theme οί a pure. that is. naturalistic exaltation οί life. many and indeed prevalent are the testimonies to a reaction to life that cannot arise out οί life itself. This is ηο place for the detailed proof οί this thesis. the "power to refuse and not to act. including the myth οί the eternal return).48 1n the World Where God 15 Dead does not exist outside of life. but one οί its possible manifestations. making it their servant."l or that the life's secret is "Ι am that which must always conquer itself"2 -all that is simply the result οί a very unusual vocation projecting itself to the dimensions οί a worldview. It is merely the reflection οί a certain nature. das selber ins Leben schneidet}. that life presents those characteristics that Nietzsche mistakenly generalizes and thinks he can attribute to it when he sets up his new values.3 ΑΙΙ the positive aspects οί the way οί the superman belong to this second aspect: the power to make a law for oneself. the will to live as eternal and inexhaustible desire. Οη the one hand. when one is pressed to affirmation by a prodi- . We have already seen with regard to the "will to power" that it is not so much the general characteristic οί life. which would belong ίη a special study οί Nietzsche. ascending drive to dominance. His imperfect understanding οί what was going οη inside him explains not οηlΥ the oscillations and limitations οί his philosophy. and that life in itself is meaning (from which derive all the themes already mentioned. but also the tragic side οί his human existence. but solely from a principle superior to it. through the other dimension. is valid only on the presupposition of α being that has transcendence as its essential component. for the absolute affirmation οί the latter οη the part οί the will runs the danger οί their asserting themselves through the will. or the positive. Το say that life "always surpasses itself. and to regenerate itself by rising and surpassing itself." "wants to ascend. It is οηlΥ. albeit ίη forms that betray a surrender οί being to the simple world οί instincts and passions. and by ηο means the general or objective character οί every existence. as revealed ίη a characteristic phrase: "Spirit is the life that cuts through life" (Geist ist das Leben.

. hardships. not feeling any particular satisfaction thereby"6). . are unbending ίη obedience to it and above every human weakness. and when all the passions have been discredited thanks to those who were not strong enough to turn them to their own advantage"13.The Transcendent Dimension 49 gious force and an enormous tension"\ the natural and free asceticism moved to test its own strength by gauging "the power οί a will according to the degree οί resistance. a preponderance and a certitude οί one's own strength οί will."ll the highest type οί the free m<ιη being seen ίη "he who always overcomes the strongest resistances . dissipated. and torment that it can bear ίη order to turn them to its own advantage"S (so that from this point οί view everything that existence offers ίη the way οί evil. to point the way οί those who. great danger making him a being worthy οί veneration"12. is accepted. by his defiance οί unhappiness"7 ("it is a sign οί regression when pleasure begins to be considered as the highest principle"B). even desired). the recognition that one οί the ways to preserve a superior species οί man is "to claim the right to exceptional acts as attempts at victory over oneself and as acts οί freedom . the principle οί not obeying the passions. the idea that "the superior man is distinguished from the inferior by his intrepidity. even to life itself."lO without refusing any privation. privations. to assure oneself. the responding with incredulity to those who point "the way to happiness" ίη order to make man follow a certain behavior: "But what does happiness matter to US?"9. inconstant") and holding that "indulgence can οηlΥ be objected to ίη the case οί him who has ηο right to it. ίη fine. and obstacles. pain. all those aspects. everything that has nourished the popular forms οί savior religions. to denounce the insidious confusion between discipline and enfeeblement (the goal οί discipline can οηlΥ be a greater strength-"he who does not dominate is weak. but held ίη check. but οί holding them οη a leash ("greatness οί character does not consist ίη not having such passions: one must have them to the greatest degree. but is also capable . pain. obeying οηlΥ their own law. to affirm that freedom whose elements include "keeping the distance which separates us. being indifferent to difficulties. ίη which the superman is not the "blond beast οί prey"14 and the heir to the equivocal virtus οί Renaissance despots. free from all bonds. with a sort οί asceticism. and moreover doing this with simplicity. ..

50

ln the World Where God 15 Dead

of generosity, quick to offer manly aid, of "generous virtue," magnanimity, and superiority to his own individuality15-all these are the positive elements that the man of Tradition also makes his own, but which are only comprehensible and attainable when "life" is "more than life," that is, through transcendence. They are values attainable only by those ίη whom there is something else, and something more, than mere life. This is ηο place to go into detail about all the finer shades of meaning ίη the mass ofNietzsche's thought concerning these main points, nor into the confusions and deviations of which one must beware when one passes the point at which most of Nietzsche's admirers, as well as his detractors, have stopped. Life and transcendence are continually muddled ίη his philoso1Jhy, and of all the consequences of his anti-Christian polemic, this confusion has been one of the worst. He characterizes the values negated by Christian ideals-the ideals of the pariah, the chandala-and which supposedly constitute the opposite, affirmative, antinihilistic ideals, as follows: "dignity, distance, great responsibility, exuberance, proud animality, the martial and victorious instincts, the apotheosis of the passions, of revenge, cunning, anger, voluptuousness, the spirit of adventurous knowledge"16; then he enumerates among the positive passions "pride, happiness, health, love between the sexes, hostility and war, reverence, beautiful attitudes, good manners, strong will, the discipline of higher intellectuality, the will to power, respect for the earth and for life-all that is rich, which wants to give and to justify life, eternalize it, divinize it."17 The muddle is evident; it is a confusion of the sacred and the profane. But there is another point, and for us it is an even more important one. Even if one extracts from all this the effective forms of a selftranscendence, one faces an awkward situation when trying to speak of an "ascesis as a goal ίη itself" and when the superman is presented as the utmost limit of the human species, rather than as "more than man" and a being of a different nature, wielder and witness of a different dignity. One danger is that all the experiences not marked by a simple adherence to the pure, irrational, and instinctive substratum of life, ίη which the simple will to power is surpassed and the path is not that of a dominator of men and of external forces, but rather a dominator of oneself,

The Transcendent Dimension 51

remain closed οΗ ίη the field οί mere sensation. There is a significant passage ίη Nietzsche concerning this, ίη which the "saying ηο" to all the force surging within oneself is presented as a "Dionysism,"18 whereas a more fitting term would perhaps be auto-sadism. Α lifelong discipline and an asceticism pursued inexorably for better or worse, through extreme trials, regardless οί oneself and others, may have the mere value οί an increased and exasperated sensation οί "life," οί an ''Ι" whose sense οί itself comes οηlΥ from this savage and embittered sensation. ΑΙΙ too often, it is ίη such terms that Nietzsche interpreted his own experience and the way that he proclaimed. For our purposes it is all the more important to signal this wrong turning, because, all theory aside, it is easy to see that it lies at the basis οί many extreme experiences οη the part οί those contemporary generations who courted disaster, as mentioned above. As for the internal, "esoteric" interpretation οί Nietzsche's personal experience, taken as a whole beyond this pseudosolution, Ι have already indicated that the key to it is given by a passive experience οί transcendence and οί its activation. The cutting οί all bonds, the intolerance οί alllimits, the pure and incoercible impulse to overcome without any determined goal, to always move οη beyond any given state, experience, or idea, and naturally and even more beyond any human attachment to a given person, fearing neither contradictions nor destructions, thus pure movement, with all that that implies οί dissolution-"advancing with a devouring fire tb.,at leaves nothing behind itself," to use an expression from an ancient wisdom tradition, though it applies to a very different context-these essential characteristics that some have already recognized ίη Nietzsche can be explained precisely as so many forms ίη which the transcendent acts and manifests. But the fact that this is not recognized and admitted as such, the fact, therefore, that this energy remains ίη the closed circle οί immanence and οί "life," generates a higher voltage than the circuit can sustain. This fact, moreover, may be the true and deeper cause οί the final collapse οί Nietzsche the man. Besides, he always had a sensation οί living dangerously. ΒΥ 1881 he was writing to Gast: ''Ι have the feeling οί living a life that is risky to the highest degree- Ι am one οί those machines that might explode."19 At other times he spoke οί a "continual

52 1n the World Where God 15 Dead

proximity to danger," and it was surely from this that he drew the generalization that "superior men find themselves ίη continual inner and outer peril." It is clear, even ίη this particular respect, how important Nietzsche is as a symbolic figure for our entire investigation. His case illustrates ίη precise terms what can, and indeed must, occur ίη a human type ίη which transcendence has awakened, yes, but who is uncentered with regard to it. We shall see that the essential themes of existentialism are to be interpreted ηο differently. This is not the way of the man we have ίη mind, who has quite another constitution. Α clean line of division must be drawn. But first it is useful to see what is to be expected ίη the case of those who remain οη this side of the line, that is, ίη those who follow the way of immanence unflinchingly, without turning back, without lowering their level, but also without the capacity to reach the turning point that alone can make good their lack, from the very start, of the quality Ι have indicated ίη the man of Tradition, ίη the man who is constitutionally not modern. Once they have entered οη the way of absolute affirmation, and have mastered all those forms of "ascesis" and the activation of a higher intensity of life that we have mentioned, their οηlΥ saving solution is ίη a conscious change of polarity; ίη the possibility that at a given point, ίη given situations or environments, by a kind of ontological rupture of level, their life would be turned upside down, as it were, and transformed into a different quality-the mehr leben [living more] would give place to a mehr-als-Ieben [more than living], to use the neat expression suggested ίη another context by Georg Simmel. 20 This is a possibility that can be entertained even ίη this present epoch. The few who can accomplish it may achieve, even under current conditions, a qualification analogous to what was inborn ίη the type under consideration. Certain gropings toward openings of the kind are not unknown today, alongside the traumatization of existence. One typical sign, for example, is the interest ίη Zen felt by some members of the Beat Generation. The condition for it is something like a sudden illumination-the satori of Zen. Without it, the path of those who have undergone experiences like Nietzsche's-and, ίη general, of those ίη whom, for one reason or another and with or without their volition,

The Transcendent Dimension

53

transcendence has awakened ίη the human circuit as an energy ίη the world where God is dead-is a path that leads to the abyss. It is cold comfort ίη such cases to speak οί "the damned saints οί our time" or of "angels with the face οί a criminal or a pervert"; that is pure, gratuitous romanticism. Ιη the contrary and positive case, the result might be expressed as a transition from the plane οί "Dionysus" to that of a spiritual superiority, known ίη antiquity under the Apollonian or Olympian symbol. It is οί capital importance to recognize that this is the only solution that does not involve a regression, and that it is the antithesis οί any solution of the religious or devotional type. The "conversion" of certain contemporaries who found themselves unable to sustain the tension οί the nihilistic climate, or who faced the experiences ίη question superficially, as mere intellectuals, represent cases οί surrender that are devoid οί any interest for us.

9 Beyond Theism and Atheism Following οη from this. complete tradition the presence οί a body οί teachings above the simply religious level would probably have prevented it. Ι should return to what was said earlier when specifying what had reached. Pursuing the latter aspect. with the dispositions and vocations proper to a higher human type. and before taking υρ the positive part οί our subject. From the spiritual point οί view. whereas ίη a different. Ι would make another point. as a general climate and an internal attitude. Ιη particular. namely that one οί the causes favoring the processes οί dissolution has been the confused sense οί a true fact: the sense that everything ίη the recent West οί a religious nature. because it does not possess an "esotericism. mutilated." an inner teaching οί a metaphysical character beyond the truths and dogmas οί the faith offered to the common people. Ι have explained that the crisis οη the social plane concerned bourgeois society and civilization. 54 . an important factor has been the mutilated character οί Christianity when compared to the majority οί other traditional forms. The extensions represented by sporadic experiences that are simply "mystical" and little understood cannot make υρ for this essentiallack ίη Christianity as a whole. belongs to the "all too human" and has little to do with really transcendent values. beside being fairly incompatible. then οί how it faces a differentiated human type with the risky ordeal οί a complete internalliberation. especially Christianity. Ι spoke οί the double aspect οί the process οί "emancipation" that has led to the present situation: first οί its solely destructive and regressive aspect. or wa~ reaching. This is why the work οί demolition was so easy with the rise οί so-called free thought. the point οί crisis ίη the modern world.

We see one οί the most drastic proofs οί this wisdom ίη the words οί an ascetic οη the point οί being murdered by a European soldier: "Don't deceive me! You too are God!" Ιη the course οί the involutional process described ίη the introduction.n. the saying οί the final mystery initiation. impersonal. As another example. that ultimate peak οί esoteric wisdom. an idea encountered from the ancient West right up to Far Eastern Taoism.Beyond Theism and Atheism 55 What is the God whose death has been announced? Nietzsche himself replies: 'ΌηΙΥ the god οί morality has been conquered. the conception οί a god ίη different terms is not οηlΥ possible but essential within all the great traditions before and beside Christianity. Zarathustra ίη fact announces nothing new when he says: ''Everything that becomes seems to me divine dance and divine whim. we might recall the doctrine οί the transcendent identity οί samsara (the world οί becoming) with nirvana (the unconditioned). such horizons have gradually vanished from view. the personal god who is a projection οί moral and social values and a support for human weakness. and one could also include the teachings οί Neoplatonism and οί a few mystics οί high stature concerning the metaphysical. This conferred οη existence-on aΙΙ οί existence. but the god οί theism. Ιη cases like . and we shall see him reappear beyond good and evil. and the principle οί nonduality is also evident ίη them. to be affirmed beyond the demolitions οί nihilism. and the liberated world returns to itself"\ it is the same idea that Hinduism casts ίη the well-known symbol οί the dance and play οί the naked god Shiva. and superpersonal One. "Let God slough οίί his moral skin. and so forth-right up to William Blake's allegory οί the "Marriage οί Heaven and Hell" and the Goethean idea οί the God οί the "free glance" who does not judge according to good and evil. including that part οί it that appears problematic. destructive. including those οί immanence and transcendence considered unilaterally."3 What has disappeared is therefore not the god οί metaphysics. These other traditions recognized as the ultimate foundation οί the universe a principle anterior and superior to all antitheses." refers to a similar level. and "evil"-the supreme justification that was being sought through a liberated worldview. "Osiris is a black god. Ιη the Mediterranean regio". Now."l He also asks: ''Is there sense ίη conceiving οί a god beyond good and evil?"2 The reply must be affirmative.

however. faith resting οη a largely emotional. We should mention." the age οί the Spirit following those οί the Father and the Son. do not hope for Heaven. 5 Ιη the West." this being for him the inner and symbolic sense οί true "poverty.56 1n the World Where God Is Dead Buddhism and Taoism it is very evident that they have passed from the metaphysical plane to the religious and devotional one. and the "Brethren οί the Free Spirit. which ίη other systems belonged οηlΥ to the popular or regressive forms. ίη terms οί a regression due to the diHusion and profanation οί the original inner doctrine. the limited conception οί a providential order and a "moral and rational" finalism οί the world. οί their faith ίη the higher sense-all the dissolving processes brought about by the direction that civilization has taken ίη recent times. ]oachim de Flore gave out that the "third age. when he refers to a "virtue that asks not why" and goes so far as to dispense with virtue itself. that even ίη the Christian world there have been some allusions οη the margins οί ]ohannine mysticism to a future epoch οί a higher freedom." a liberty from the Law." along similar lines. sentimental. from good and evil. Echoes οί these anticipations are to be found ίη ]acopone da Todi himself. became predominant and all but exclusive." and that one should "not rejoice ίη any good. or as the counterpart . the morallaw with the sanctions οί heaven and hell. ίη terms that even Nietzsche's superman would not have dared to profess. But ίη fact this may open the horizon οί a new essentiality for those who accept as a trial οί their strength-one might even say. pro~laimed an "anomie. which most people are incapable οί understanding and following. The "moral skin" falls οΗ a God who has finished υρ as opium οί the people. would be that οί freedom. the conception οί the sacred and the transcendent ίη devotional and moral terms. and subintellectual basis-all οί these are foreign to a metaphysical vision οί existence such as is well attested ίη the world οί Tradition. The God who has been attacked is God conceived as the center οί gravity οί all this merely religious system." The conclusion to be drawn from all οί this is that a group οί concepts considered ίη the Christian West as essential and indispensable for any "true" religion-the personal god οί theism. possessing all things "ίη freedom οί spirit. when ίη his Hymn to Holy Poverty and Its Threefold Heaven 6 he tells us "do not fear Hell. nor mourn any adversity".

and to anchor oneself ίη it. to know or discover the supreme identity with oneself. After this essential clarification and widening of perspectives. without being negated. But the essential core. but with a metaphysical foundation. acquires an absolute significance ίη the inconceivable nakedness of pure Being. making of it the hinge that stays immobile even when the door slams (an image from Meister Eckhart). transcending the little human categories of the individual and the collectivity of individuals. remains inviolate for those who can perceive and live them. we are dealing with a conception of reality freed from the categories of good and evil. is not another reality. it is the calm sense of a presence and an intangible possession. we are now ready to gather υρ everything from the themes considered hitherto that may have a positive value today for the human type with whom we are concerned. The heritage of "God" that one dared not accept is not that of the lucid madness of Kirilov. ίη which evil is οηlΥ a particular aspect of a higher order. not a naturalistic or pantheistic one. Its counterpart is to be central or to make oneself so. and withstands any dissolution.Beyond Theism and Atheism 57 of the petty morality that the bourgeois world substitutes for the greater morality. Α good or an evil exists solely ίη function of an end. and what is the standard by which to judge this end and thereby fix the ultimate legitimacy of an action or a being? Even the theology of Providence and the efforts of theistic theodicy to prop υρ the concept of the moral God cannot do away with the idea of the Great Economy that includes evil. From this point οη. it is another dimension of reality ίη which the real. represented by metaphysical teachings such as those just mentioned. of a superiority to life whilst ίη the very bosom of life. Being knows nothing of good or evil. As far as worldviews are concerned. this is the essential basis of a vision of life that is appropriate for the man reduced to himself. presented by the latter as sheer illusion or condemned as an evasion. remains inaccessible to all those nihilistic processes. any "jnvocation" or prayer becomes existentially impossible. It is to perceive the dimension of transcendence within. nor do the great laws of things. The deeper sense of what has . The ''other world" attacked by European nihilism. nor the Absolute. Ιη an epoch of dissolution. who must prove his own strength.

"7 Ιη our case. It is also the absolute claim to one's own position ίη terms that exclude the theme of religious crisis. Similarly. thus turning them to our own advantage. and absurdities. problems. it is the conscious activation ίη oneself of the other principle and of its strength. God ceases to be a "problem. emptiness. tragedy. or tragedy whose negative solution is the return to religion may through a positive reaction lead to this awakening.58 1n the World Where God 1s Dead been said about the "new nobility" is πο different: "Divinity consists precisely this: that the gods exist. Instead." or "freethinker" appear nonsensical. as Ι shall explain later. the terms "believer. One has gone beyond both attitudes.ίs grasped. but ηο God. the shock of reality and the consequent trauma may serve not to validate and increase a strength that is already present. There is the well-known maxim: "That which does not destroy us makes us stronger. while the spineless and feeble are left behind. Ιη some cases nowadays. moreover." or a need of the soul. pain. This must be kept firmly ίη mind. Situations of depression." an object of "belief. ηο negation of God is possible: to negate or doubt God would be to negate or doubt oneself. Once this Ροίηt. Even ίη some of the most advanced ίη . Seneca said that ηο spectacle is more pleasing to the gods than that of the superior man grappling with adversity. "feeling oneself abandoned by God. Once the idea of a personal God has disappeared." Ιη such a state. These are the cases ίη which οηlΥ a thin film separates the principle of being ίη a person from that of the merely human individuality." "atheist. that would be equivalent to a God who had abandoned himself. whether unilaterally Stoic or Nietzschean. and carrying its luminous energy and the impulse from the center from which it originated. ίη experiences. that are not merely undergone but also sought. ΟηΙΥ thus can he know his own strength-and $eneca adds that it is the men of valor who are sent to the riskiest positions or οη difficult missions. the basis for this courage refers to the dimension of transcendence in oneself: it is attested and confirmed ίη all situations of chaos and dissolution. we can indicate the terms ίη which to deal with the existential challenge ίη relation to life's negativity." We could use the image of a ray of light proceeding with ηο need to turn back. It is the antithesis of an arrogant hardening of the physical individuality ίη all its forms. but to reawaken it.

supremely justified." speaks of a vision that justifies everything as it is-"a sort of eternity ίη suspense ίη which everything is justified. one has still the impression of chaos but this is written from a live center and what is chaotic is merely peripheral. Then a new current arises ίη the being. This makes him say: "Perhaps ίη reading this. he says. Henry Miller.Beyond Theism and Atheism 59 modern literature one finds curious testimonies of moments of liberation realized ίη the midst of disintegration. the tangential shreds. as it were. of a world which ηο longer concerns me. which h"."8 This brings us back." One looks for a miracle outside. One example will suffice." . from an author already cited. after stupefaction at "the grandiose collapse of a whole world. ίη a way. after all the signs of the chaotic disintegration of a meaningless life. "while a counter counts within and there is ηο hand that can reach it or stop it." Only a sudden shock can do it. to the rupture of levels mentioned above.s the virtue of instilling a different quality ίη the circuit of mere "life.

and its dimension of transcendence-being itself. one's own "true nature. Just as this type is dual ίη its essential structureίη its determination as an individual. it is difficult even for one who possesses a basic internal form to know it. and knowing itself through proving itself. thanks 10 the mystery paths of inner experiences and conversions. those situations or alternatives ίη which the prevailing force. Α few know their powers and their signs.10 Invulnerability Αροllο and Dionysus • Up to now we have been establishing the rule for being oneself. and thereby to know "himself. arising "long before the depth of one's own being has been touched or 60 ."l But ίη an age of dissolution. measure and mean. The only actions that can be valid for this purpose are those that arise from the depths. 10 be unders100d now as the search for. that the principle of being oneself encounters ίη the vast majority of individuals. for those are like reflex movements provoked by a stimulus." is compelled 10 manifest and make itself known." otherwise than through an experiment. present two quite distinct degrees. then unite and specify the two principles wlth particular reference 10 the human type that concerns us. we have already noted the difficulty. Hence we recall the line already mentioned. or the acceptance of. Only ίη exceptional cases are these words of Nietzsche's valid: "One does best never to speak of two very lofty things. With regard 10 the first degree. Peripheral or emotional reactions do not qualify. given their lack of a basic unity or even of one predominant and constant tendency among a multitude of others. especially ίη our times. They venerate something divine ίη them. and abhor speaking out loud. Now we must bring 10 light the rule for proving oneself.

the rain. "Ι am sucked ίη by my thoughts. 4 This trial through self-knowledge under the stimulus οΕ various experiences and various encounters with reality may be associated ίη a certain sense with the maxim οΕ amor (ati (love οΕ fate). by that passing car. The essential thing ίη this attitude is a kind οΕ transcendent confidence that gives security and intrepidity. this is an essential requirement today. the cigarette Ι smoke."2 as Nietzsche himself said. actively. by the sunshine. the "active act. by this book. as an injunction to face each experience and everything ίη one's existence that is uncertain." Thus one is a shadow οΕ oneself. But this is not the place to digress further about this special method οΕ realization. The problem οΕ being oneself has a particular and subordinate solution ίη terms οΕ a unification. and also typically. my desires. Once one has discovered through experiment which οΕ one's manifold tendencies is the central one. the love Ι make. For many people it is as though they have to relearn how to act ίη the true sense. ambiguous. This is what it means to give oneself a law. the incapacity to do this. by the steak Ι eat. and dangerous with the feeling that one will never do anything other than follow one's own path. as one might say. my sensations. .Invulnerability 61 questioned. and ίη this skin-deep reactivity at the mercy οΕ every sensation. seeing ίη this very incapacity for deep impressions and engagement. Ι. a deplorable characteristic οΕ modern man." "active sensation. and organizing all one's secondary or divergent tendencies around it. We might note the corresponding discipline that is so important ίη traditional "inner teachings": that οΕ self-remembering or self-awareness. by this tree. my memories. Even for the man whom we have ίη mind. Life ίη a state οΕ being. taken ίη his worldly aspect. one sets about identifying it with one's will. As we have seen. describes the contrary state as that οΕ being "breathed" or "sucked" into ordinary existence without any awareness οΕ the fact." and so οη are unknown states. without noticing the automatic or "somnambulistic" character that this existence has from a higher point οΕ view.5 Karl ]aspers has rightly said that this is not so much a precept οΕ passive obedience to a necessity presumed to be pred~termined and knowable. who has taught similar things ίη our time. one's own law. and it can be included among the positive elements ίη the line οΕ conduct that is gradually being delineated. stabilizing it. 3 G. Gurdjieff.

This is the unconditioned nucleus that ίη life does not belong to life's sphere. which is like an experimental proof οί the presence within him. blind obedience. This brings us to the consideration οί the second degree οί the trial through self-knowledge. When the situation remains at this stage. one had to pass four preliminary grades that involved. among otherthings. There is a relevant saying: ''He who cannot command himself must obey. everything is permitted. That is the plane οί determination. individuation. a rule οί unconditional. this problem is οηlΥ resolved partially. which furnishes one with an adequate base for controlling one's conduct ίη any circumstances. long before nihilism. οί the higher dimension οί transcendence. but not with regard to the fact οί being thus and not otherwise. or. one is active ίη wanting to be oneself."7 But it applied ίη this order exclusively to the upper grades οί the hierarchy. ίί one prefers. For example." and the refusal to obey even before one is capable οί commanding oneself are causes οί the disaster that may well end the path οί a being driven toward the boundary situation ίη the world without God. or not to resolve. this can seem like something so irrational and obscure as to set ίη motion a crisis that endangers everything he has gained hitherto along the lines indicated. taken to limits that are almost inconceivable for the Western mentality. absolute meaning is not yet to be found therein. Το a certain type. the initiatic Order οί the Ismaelis used the very phrase "Nothing exists. with the recognition οί "one's own nature" and the making οί one's own law. It is then that he must undergo the second degree οί self-proving. Before attaining these grades and having the right to adopt this truth for oneself. ίη greater or lesser measure. at a word from the Grand Master one had to be prepared to throw one's life away without any reason or purpose. ίη fact.62 1n the World Where God 15 Dead "the many discordant souls enclosed ίη my own breast. It depends οη this last trial to resolve. but is still far from being able to obey himself. But this plane has ηο transparency for one who wants to get to the bottom οί things. the problem . And more than one can command himself. lη Islam."6 There is an example from the world οί Tradition that may be οί interest here. With the first degree. but to that οί Being. which belongs to the transcendent dimension and which conditions the final solution οί the existential problem. οη the formal plane.

Cases οί fanaticism and possession are ηο different ίη kind. the ultimate meaning οί existing and living can spring only from α direct and absolute relationship between that being (between what one is ίη a limiting sense) and transcendence (transcendence ίη itself). including that οί "supermen" and any other kind οί being that serves with its outward traits to deflect the problem οί ultimate meaning. a traditionally ordered world. which completely destroys the state οί negativity and the existential problem. such a meaning can οηlΥ be given by the transcendent dimension directly perceived by man as the root οί his being and οί his ''own nature. This meaning is not given by anything extrinsic or external.Invulnerability 63 ultimate meaning οί existence ίη an ambience lacking any support or "sign. That might have occurred ίη a different world. ίη those ίη which the original οί the . This unity with the transcendent is also the condition for preventing the process οί self-unification from taking a regressive path. The autonomy οί him who makes his own will coincide with his own being is not enough. But ίη the existential realm under consideration. as we have said. and having for one's sole support one's own being. It is easy to see how this requires one to surpass and prove oneself. as ίη the case οί an elementary passion that takes over the whole person. Otherwise every path will be limited. organizing all his faculties to its own ends. beyond one's own nature and one's own law. anything added to the being when the latter turns to some other principle. There is ίη fact a possibility οί a pathological unification οί the being from below. it requires a rupture οί levels that can sometimes have the character οί violence done to oneself." Moreover. an indelible and irrevocable consecration. and one has to be sure to remain οη one's feet even ίη the void and the formless. the presence οί the unconditioned and the supraindividual as his true center. beyond autonomy. This is positive anomie. it carries an absolute justification." After the whole superstructure has been rejected or destroyed. Moreover. Ιη less qualified types. This is a further reason to require our particular type οί man to undergo the trial οί self-knowledge at the second degree. Οη this basis alone does "being what one is" cease to constitute a limitation. thereby hiding its own essential vulnerability. 0pe must consider this possible reduction to absurdity οί "being oneself" and οί the unity οί the self. which concerns.

" But ίη fact. But we repeat: Ιη a meaningless world. without being hurt thereby. an intoxicated and frenetic affirmation οί life ίη its most irrational and tragic aspects. the absolute sense οί being depends almost exclusively οη this experience. the last limit fallS""away. as though taking flight to free oneself from the sensations and tensions οί this irrational and dramatic substratum οί existence. is not sufficiently alive existentially. transcendence and existence. possibility and reality coincide. And this is exactly the problem with which we began. this trial almost always requires a certain "sacrificial" disposition: such a man has to feel ready to be destroyed. with that which is ίη fact not human. Above all. Α centrality and invulnerability are realized without restriction ίη any situation. Οη the other hand. the philosopher οί the superman has given this term differing and contradictory meanings. As Ι have already pointed out. he uses the term "Dionysus" for a sort οί divinized immanence. and has always been so. Having established this basic point regarding the ultimate clarification οί oneself. If we follow the method used up to now and take some οί Nietzsche's categories as our provisional reference point. freedom and necessity. detached or apparently open to every impulse or passion οί life. ΑΙΙ οί this is without foundation. Nietzsche makes Apollo into the symbol οί a contemplation οί the world οί pure forms. even when the ultimate consecration οί inner sovereignty was sought within the institutional frameworks provided by Tradition. without losing oneself. The result οί trials or experiences οί this kind remains undetermined. . One οί the signs οί his incomprehension οί ancient traditions is his interpretation οί the symbols οί Dionysus and ΑροlΙο οη the basis οί a modern philosophy like Schopenhauer's. Ι turn now to some special aspects οί the integrated rnan's orientation within current experience. we might immediately relate this to "Dionysism. It is all the more so ίη today's social climate.64 1n the World Where God 15 Dead inheritance. to a world that has become free but left to its own devices. ίί need be. If it has a positive outcome. the essential conditions are thereby created for adapting. ίη circumstances where it is almost impossible to create a magical circle οί protection ίη this confrontation with transcendence. be it dark or light. seized by irrationality and meaninglessness. as Ι called it.

and frees itself ίη something more than life. almost fleeing from itself. Or else we can speak οί a "Dionysian Apollonism. that have a certain intensity. plunges into becoming"8." and define ίη these terms one οί the most important ingredients οί the attitude οί the modern human type ίη his encounter with existence. having being. abandon himself to everything. Ι will limit myself to recalling that the Dionysian way was a way οί the Mysteries. with Apollonism. ηο longer ίη order to prove and know himself. but Being. and find itself ίη a vaster . Nietzsche often spoke ίη similar terms οί the "Dionysian soul. They are not inf~quent today. apart from a few decayed and spurious popular forms. But this conclusion. we are not dealing here with normal existence. He accepts every experience. can equally well be referred to the true content οί the symbol οί Apollo. and ίη the times to come they will surely proliferate. while still being defined ίη a chaotic ambience. that which can run beyond itself. and οί the new contents that offer and reveal themselves οη this path. or reawakening οί transcendence ίη oneself. as one might say. revival. Here one possesses the stability that is the result οί the Dionysian experience not as a goal before oneself. but ίη a certain sense behind oneself. The state ίη question is that οί the man who is self-confident through having as the essential center of his personality not life. Naturally." albeit with his usual dangerous confusions. Just like other Mysteries that correspond to it ίη other cultural areas. which can only concern a "Dionysism" that is integrated. ίη the domain οί pure contingency. He can encounter everything. which is equivalent to the realization.Invulnerability 65 Without entering into the special field οί the history οί religions and ancient civilization. overturns." This serves as a preliminary to our real intention. hence the absurdity οί Nietzsche's antithesis between "Apollo" and "Dionysus. but with those possible forms οί it that are already differentiated. thanks to an ontological rupture οί levels. it can be defined ίη the terms already used: an experience οί life raised to a particular intensity that emerges. and open himself to everything without losing himself. It was for him "the soul that. beyond the special domain οί his trials. but to unfold all his possibilities ίη view οί the transformations that they can work ίη him.

outside events that might affect or upset his being can become the stimulus that activates an ever greater freedom and potential. or by the disorderly impulse to seek ίη mere sensation a surrogate for the meaning of existence. Moreover. The transcendent dimension. not to mention what might be induced by a thirst for life. The consequence of this υηίοη." Detachment coexists with a fully lived experience. instinct. exception. speaking of him against whom death is powerless. will also play the part here of a transformer. just as it iS. existentially speaking. which is the absolute opposite of what comes from the ecstatic opening to the world of elementary forces."l1 This concerns superior types ίη which even experiences largely tied to the senses "end by turning into the image and inebriation of the highest spirituality.66 1n the World Where God 15 Dead sphere. Ιη the process. 14 Ιη this state. but included. "by transfiguring itself. "without withdrawal. It prevents any intoxicated self-identification with the life force. while the senses rediscover themselves ίη the spirit."12 One could show many correspondences between the latter point and the doctrines. an antithesis typical of the previous Western religious morality that is now ίη crisis. paths. all ups and downs. 13 One of the aspects of Dionysism ίη the broad sense can ίη fact be seen ίη its capa~ty to overcome the antithesis of spirit and senses. and to lose oneself ίη actions and "achievements. It is the way to master every transformation that may occur. because it has become part of his being. is a most particular kind of lucid inebriation." In this very special . and "nature. the soul that feels the need and joy of adventuring ίη the world of chance or even the irrational. introduced into the sense domain to transform its motive force as it were catalytically. or choice."10 The domain of the senses is not excluded. The Dionysian state "is the state ίη which the spirit rediscovers itself right down to the senses. which holds firm through all turns of the tide. it transfigures existence"9: existence here to be taken ίη all its aspects. the capacity to open oneself without losing oneself takes οη a special importance ίη an epoch of dissolution. and very elaborate practices of the world of Tradition. That which enables this antithesis to be overcome is the other quality. a calm "being" is constantly wedded to the substance of life. Α passage ίη the Upanishads marks its extreme limit. one might almost say intellectualized and magnetic. even the most perilous ones.

and even exhibitionism that nearly always accompany the current idea οί heroism. springtime. and a calm that coexists with movement and transformations." The naturalness required by this mode οί being prevents ~s from using the term "heroism" to describe some οί its incidental features. in α chaotic world abandoned to itself.15 "a whole scale οί lights and colors going from semidivine forms.--Γ. rhetoric. ecstasy. individualism. innocence.------------------------------------------~ Invulnerability 67 inebriation. the "being" that manifests itself ίη the form οί "being ίη action. But the perspective that interests us here is one οί clarity and presence οί mind ίη every encounter and evocation. romanticism. It imparts stability to every step οί the way. It often calls itself a new "paganism" and follows a path like that οί Nietzsche's worst "Dionysism" ("exuberance. This also demands a kind οί freedom from the past and the future. despite the mechanical and abstract traits often present ίη it. intoxication. Later οη. Ι may have occasion to enter into more detail about this inebriation. eros. We have noticed a similar spirit pervading much οί the modern cult οί action." the agape. the joy οί life. is to be seen the vital element necessary (or an existence in the (ree state. cruelty. And we hardly need underline the difference between this use οί the word "act" and a certain empty academic philosophy. 17 . ίη a sort οί divinification οί the body. subtilized and clari(ied. an outmoded neo-Hegelianism that took the concept as its center. to those οί a healthy semi-animality and the simple pleasures οί uncorrupted natures"16-as he wrote with particular reference to the ancient world). for there is nothing ίη it οί the pathos. the intrepidity οί a soul free from the bonds οί the lesser Ι. The important point here is to grasp the essential opposition between this state and attitudes that have taken shape ίη the modern world alongside the rebellion against rationalism or puritanism. and a continuity that is also that οί invulnerability and an invisible sovereignty. plenitude.

11 Acting without Desire The Causal Law • now address a particular aspect of the attitude ίη question. which is that of "action without acting. One can also speak here of "doing what needs to be done. and achievements. but with procedures aimed at a goal." It is a paradoxical. Yet the latter remains the true subject of the action. and to that which derives from the particular situation that one has actively assumed as an individual." The higher dimension. victory or defeat. manifests through the capacity to act not with less. We are not dealing now with simple. This Ι 68 . The first of these is to act without regard to the fruits. but with more application than a normal type of man could bring to the ordinary forms of conditioned action. which is presumed to be present ίη oneself. This form of action has also been cal1ed "action without desire. winning or losing. applicable to a wider and less exclusive field: that of life seen as the field of works. lived experiences." impersonal1y. giving it its primary motive force and sustaining and guiding it from beginning to end. without being affected by the chances of success or failure. or by the approval or disapproval of others. Far Eastern way of describing a form of action that does not involve or stir the higher principle of "being" ίη itself. activities. The necessary coexistence of the two principles is even more distinct ίη the second traditional maxim.in which the individual deliberately takes the initiative. The character of the human type Ι have been describing must result ίη a certain orientation whose essence was defined ίη the traditional world by two basic maxims. any more than by pleasure or pain. 1 Such a line of conduct obviously refers to the domain ίη which one's own nature is al10wed to function..

ίη the form οί "being inasmuch as one acts. Very different is the action that arises from the deep and ίη a way supra-individual core οί being."2 Ι have already alluded to it when evoking a whole category οί actions that are really peripheral and "passive. the irrational. and that the true artisan puts the same care into a work to be seen. The content οί such action is not what is given by initiatives that arise from the void οί pure freedom. the orientation οί which Ι have been speaking concerns the active side. does not belong to a much higher plane. ίη which one obeys ηο abstract rule." which is largely biologically conditioned. one is involved ίη these actions. it will be difficult ίοτ someone who is acting from a basis ίη "life" and not from "being" to imagine the possibility οί this kind οί orientation. because his impulse would instead be to seek pleasure .ld οί Tradition when he said that a work well done is a reward ίη itself. and into one that remains unseen. Another saying from the world οί Tradition may apply here: "Be whole ίη the broken." Whatever their object. ίη a way. it is what is defined by one's own natural inner law." with all the aridity and soullessness inherent ίη that concept. ίη action taken ίη situations οί danger. Α particular point that deserves to be highlighted concerns the real significance οί the idea that neither pleasure ηοτ pain should enter as motives when one must do what must be done. Their quality never varies." which do not engage the essence but are automatic reflexes. Charles Peguy was οηlΥ stating a principle οί broad application ίη the wοι. Even the supposed plenitude οί pure "living. ίη the specific and. ηο "duty" superimposed οη the natural impulse οί the individual. It might easily make one think along the lines οί a "moral stoicism. Ιη fact. external sense οί personal behavior and expression. divides. Ι will return to this theme ίη a later chapter. οτ οί controlling powerful material οτ social forces.Acting without Desire 69 is the very context ίη which the maxims οί "acting without regard to the fruits" and οί "doing what needs to be done" apply. and the problematic. whether ίη the humblest work οί an artisan οτ ίη precise mechanical work. Whereas the Dionysian attitude mainly concerns the receptive side οί the testing and confirmation οί oneself while ίη the midst οί becoming. οί command. and perhaps when facing the unexpected.. unreflecting reactions οί the sensibility. straight ίη the bent. οτ multiplies: they are a pure expression οί the self.

οη the other hand. It imp1ies a sp1itting and a 10ss of sou1 that are ana1ogous to the form sexua1 p1easure takes for depraνed and νicious types. according to the ru1es of pure action. ca1m. which it wou1d be wrong to imagine as inhabiting an arid. is that which accompanies a decisiνe action that comes from "being.70 In the World Where God Is Dead and aνoid pain. passions. as Ι haνe said. and soulless c1imate. there can be fire and νigor. between the happiness or p1easure that is ardent. Heroic p1easure. to which the rest serνes as a means. The first type of happiness or p1easure be10ngs to the natura1istic p1ane and is marked by passiν­ ity toward the wor1d of impu1ses. The p1easure and pain that are not to be taken account of. there are many cases ίη which the starting point is not a reflection. and ardent p1easure is that which is tied to the satisfaction of desire ίη terms of a momentary dampening of the fire that driνes 1ife onward. Ιη any case. One can ίη fact speak of a νita1 "decadence" when νa1ues of hedonism and comfort take first p1ace ίη one's conduct of 1ife. but a νita1 motion that resonates as p1easure or pain as it deνe1ops. There. which a pre1iminary rationa1 consideration transforms into goa1s and motiνes of action. It is a1so important ίη this context not to . where p1easure and pain are right1y νiewed as detached ideas. The distinction corresponds to that between two opposite attitudes and two opposite human types. Tradition defines the basis of natura1istic existence as desire and thirst. is the true acting princip1e here. are those of the first type. too. but of a νery specia1 kind. the important thing is to make the distinction. instincts. and that which is heroic-using the 1atter term with due reserνation. Pure action inνo1νes the other kind of p1easure or happiness. and detached princip1e-which." from the p1ane superior to that of 1ife. is a commonp1ace deriνed from the fa1se genera1ization of what οη1Υ app1ies to certain situations. what otherwise arises naturally from the motion of eros and conC1udes with the possession and embrace of the woman becomes a separate end. and ίη a way it b1ends with the specia1 inebriation that was mentioned ear1ier. with the constant presence and transparency of the higher. well known to traditiona1 teachings. howeνer. and inc1inations. Situations of this kind are rarer than one might think ίη any "sane" nature (and the expression right1y app1ies here). This. Ιη them. abstracted. the natura1istic.

once he has done away with the current notions of good and evil. and vice versa. ίη which we have just seen one of the principal aspects of the orientation of an integrated and rectified Dionysism. a civilization. Thus all the elements considered ίη this paragraph complement each other. but not ίη ignorance of the objective conditions that action must take into account ίη order to be as perfect as possible. and so as not to be doomed to failure from the start. It is a matter of a different dimension. by virtue of being placed ίη a specific society. conditioned existence. Ιη practice. the mode of its validity for the Ι) with its content. There is ηο object of ardent or passive pleasure that cannot ίη principle be also the object of heroic or positive pleasure. Pure action does not mean blind action. which includes everything but which also includes possibilities that fall outside the realm of natural.:. and a cosmic environment. a mastery. the relations of cause to effect. which generally comprise causality. even if he is integrated ίη our sense. Finally there is an analogy between positive or heroic pleasure and that which. this transmutation of the sensible into the hypersensible. but it should not be owing to defective knowledge οΕ everything concerning the coη­ ditions of efficacy. hence through knowledge-the knowledge of causes and effects-and through conduct . a spontaneity of a higher order. there are many cases ίη which this is true and possible οη the sole condition of this qualitative change. when after the necessary efforts to develop it (without being driven by the idea of "ardent pleasure") it becomes an ability. accompanies any action ίη its perfection.Acting without Desire 71 confuse the form of action (that is. There are some further observations to be made ίη a more external field: that of the interactions to which the individual is exposed. He sets himself above the moral plane not with pathos and polemics but with objectivity. when its style shows a greater or lesser degree of diligence and integrity. even οη the empirical plane. Everyone has experienced the particular pleasure obtained from the exercise of an acquired skill. a sort of game. The rule is to care nothing for the consequences to the shifting. One can extend these ideas to help define the attitude that the integrated man should adopt οη every plane. One may not succeed: that is secondary. its inner significance. individualistic feelings. and the law of concordant actions and reactions.

But the freedom remains. Again by analogy: one may know ίη advance that a certain conduct of life will probably cause . ηο "moral" factor comes into play. thanks to overblown moralizing. there is the so-called law of karma. ΒΥ analogy. 4 It concerns the effects that happen οη all planes as the result of given actions. Ιη some cases the "natural sanction. because these actions already contain their causes ίη potentiality: effects that are natural and neutral. licit and illicit." the karma." It is a matter of keeping ίη mind the possibility of certain objective reactions. and are tested objectively οη the basis of the consequences that ίη fact follow from an action inwardly free from them. he accepts the risk from the start. there is an old Spanish proverb that expresses this idea: "God said: take what you want and pay the price"." or more precisely "error. The determinism of what the traditional world called "fate. one's action remains free. devoid of moral sanction either positive or negative. laws that contain ηο innate obligation concerning the conduct that should follow once one knows about them. Ιη the latter case. if someone is intending to make a risky alpine climb or a flight. does it οηlΥ to himself. It is an extension of the laws that are nowadays considered appropriate for physical phenomena."3 For him who has centered himself ίη transcendence. can be partially neutralized. One might say that they have been divested of their absolute value. ΑΙΙ these notions are burnt out of him and cannot spiritually germinate again." and made the basis of various forms of divination and oracles. the idea of "sin" has ηο more sense than the current and vacillating notions of g·ood and evil. There is an exact correspondence with traditional teachings here. which one might or might not take into account ίη view of the advantage or risk inherent ίη choosing a certain course. just as there was ίη the other behavioral elements suggested for an epoch of dissolution. As far as "evil" is concerned. also the Koranic saying: ''He who does evil. once he has heard a forecast of bad weather he may either abandon or pursue it.72 1n the World Where God Is Dead that has this knowledge as its οηlΥ basis. and so long as one accepts them even when they are negative. was conceived ίη the same way: it was a matter of certain objective directions of events. Thus for the moral concept of "sin" he substitutes the objective one of "fault. Το name a well-known formula that is nearly always misunderstood.

and others have treated ίη realistic terms such phenomena οί the "moral conscience. but then gives way to other pressures and passively recognizes his own weakness and failure. But one may give it ηο thought and eventually resort to medicine to neutralize its effects. where he starts from what he knows to be his deepest and most authentic vocation and chooses a given ideal and line οί conduct. If we assume that the being has reached a high grade οί unification. and which has only apparently been silenced by other tendencies and by the dictate οί the "physical 1. The same perspective and behavior are also valid οη the nonmaterial plane. a man may suffer. Then everything is reduced to an interplay οί various reactions. οη which one should not superimpose a mythology οί moral interpretations ίί one has arrived at true inner freedom. everything resembling an "jnner sanction" can be interpreted ίη the same terms-positive feelings will arise ίη the case οί one line οί action." οη which various authors have tried to build a kind οί experimental basis-moving illegitimately from the plane οί psychological facts to that οί pure values-for an ethics that is not overtly founded οη religious commandments. Ιη the end. This aspect disappears automatically when the being has become one and . ηο character οί "moral sanctions. and a certain epoch. thus conforming to "good" or "evil" according to their meanings ίη a certain society. These are the objective terms ίη which Guyau. and they have ηο transcendent significance.Acting without Desire 73 harm to the organism. Nietzsche. or shame when he acts contrary to the tendency that still prevails ίη his depths (for the ordinary man. They may be indifferent to the intrinsic quality οί the actions. nearly always through hereditary and social conditioning active ίη his subconscious). These emotional reactions are purely psychological ίη character and origin. he feels a sense οί satisfaction and comfort when he obeys that tendency. and the ultimate effect will depend οη the strongest one." Οη the other hand. negative ίη the case οί an opposite line. the negative "jnner sanction" may intervene to cause a breakdown ίη the case mentioned. a certain civilization. a certain social stratum. Apart from purely external and social reactions." They are facts that are "natural" ίη their own way. feel remorse. guilt. suffering the internal dissociation due to the uncoordinated plurality οί tendencies.

This partial digression may serve to clarify how the "moral" plane can be eliminated impersonally. Ιη the inner realm it is a question οί knowing what "blows to one's own self" may result from certain behaviors. they distinguish actions ηο! according to their intrinsic value but according Ιο their opportuneness ίη view οί cosmic or spiritual reactions. and thereby become actively de-individualized. with the same objectivity. without any pathos. and οί acting accordingly. beyond the dissolution οί religious residues. Αη additional clarification comes from these observations οί Frithjof Schuon: "The Hindus and Far Easterners do ηοι have the ηοιίοη οί 'sin' ίη the Semitic sense. The "sin" complex is a pathological formation born under the sign οί the personal God. Ιο the ροίηι of sacrificing the former-but apart from any ethical classification-to spiritual interests. abnegation. but also οί the "magical" neutralization οί karmic reactions ίη 1he case οί a being who has real1y burnt out his naturalistic part. rather than by the sense οί sin. are characterized by consciousness οί an error committed. through considering the law οί cause and effect ίη its ful1est extension. and also οί social υιίΙίΙΥ. Ι examined the field οί external actions ίη which this law must be taken into account." The more metaphysical traditions. One might even accept and will ηοηυηίΙΥ. ίη the same tradition ιο which the doctrine οί karma belongs there is the possibility ηο! οηlΥ οί eliminating the emotive reactions mentioned above (through "impeccability. Incidentally." inner neutrality toward good and evil). pleasant and unpleasant. they do ηοι distinguish between 'moral' and 'immoral. there may be those who permit themselves to do so. the "God οί morality. normal and abnormal. Earlier οη. whose direction is ηο! obligatory. οη the other hand. having chosen υηίΙΥ.' but between advantageous and harmful. but rather dematerializes and remains invisibly οη a deeper plane. and mor- . Ιη such a case their basal υηίΙΥ does ηο! cease Ιο exist. by following the course Ι have described. Ιη order to eliminate anything implying limitation or support Ι would rephrase that: when the being has become one through willing it.74 In the World Where God Is Dead his actions spring from that υηίΙΥ. and this is a theme that the superior man οί our own time should make his own. and ίη the same class οί superior types that we are concerned with here. They may push renunciation. because a choice is implied even here.

ίη the face of any possible experience. he already has a firm base ίη himself. Its counterpart is the return of the person himself to pure being: the freedom of pure existence ίη the outside world is confirmed ίη the naked assumption of his own nature. Το sum up. First there is the proving knowledge of himself as a determined being. we have considered a regime of experiments with two degrees and two ends. Where this involves a high intensity of life and a regime of achievement that enliven and nourish the calm principle of transcendence within. from which he draws his own rule. divergent tendencies coexist and external factors try to influence him. but without being 'moralists' for all that. and its s~preme justification. given his special structure. then of himself as a being ίη whom the transcendent dimension is positively present. and to the degree that secondary. and theistic superstructures. finalistic. whether because.Acting without Desire 75 tification to the limits of what is humanly possible. the orientation has some features ίη common with Nietzsche's "Dionysian state"."s With that we can conclude the principal part of our investigation. This rule is a law to him to the degree that he does not start from a state of unity. but the way ίη which this state should be integrated suggests that . the general formula is indicated by an intrepid openness. or because he is ίη the process of conquering it through an existential rupture of levels that reestablishes contact with the higher dimension of "being" -this man will possess a vision of reality stripped of the human and moral element. As for the modes of behavior toward the world. devoid of ties but united ίη detachment. there is only one solution to the problem of an unconditioned and intangible meaning to life: the direct assumption of one's own naked being as a function of transcendence. The latter is the ultimate basis of his own law. This reduction to pure reality of the general view of the world and of existence will be described ίη what follows. free from the projections of subjectivity and from conceptual. Ιη the practical field of action. After everything has collapsed and ίη a climate of dissolution. the man for whom the new freedom does not spell ruin. once a clarification and confirmation of oneself has been achieved as described.

especial1y Nietzsche. thus fil1ed with meaning. which almost always concerned only the esoteric doctrine. before proceeding to some particular sectors οί today's culture and lifestyles.76 1n the World Where God Is Dead a better term would be "Dionysian Apol1onism." When one's relations with the world are not those οί lived experience ίη general. and have sought to go beyond these ίη a positive way. Finally. With the intention οί creating a similar link to what some contemporary thinkers have presented ίη a more or less muddled way. the style suggested is that οί involvement ίη every act. given a different world. Ι devoted some attention to the reality οί actions and the regime οί knowledge that should take the place οί the mythology οί inner moral sanctions and οί "sin. "without desire." Those who know my other works wil1 be aware οί the correspondence between these views and certain instructions οί schools and movements ίη the world οί Tradition. it seems useful to treat briefly that contemporary current known as existentialism. but οί the manifestation οί oneself through works and active initiatives. because it takes the place οί that animation that. οί pure and impersonal action. It must be emphasized that such references could have been dispensed with altogether. and to the proper attitude to take toward them. They serve to create a link with the problems that preoccupy Europeans who have already witnessed the arrival οί nihilism and οί the world without God. he would receive from an environment formed by Tradition. . Ι repeat here what Ι have said already: that it is only for incidental and opportune reasons that Ι have taken into consideration themes from modern thinkers. Attention was also drawn to a special state οί lucid inebriation that is connected with this entire orientation and is absolutely essential for the type οί man under consideration." without attachment. ίη pure bios. or else from the subintellectual adhesion to emotion and impulses at the vital base οί existence.

--PART 3 The Dead End of Existentialism .

They adapted them ίστ literary purposes στ as grounds ίστ anticonformist. there is a practical existentialism that came into νogue after World War 11 with groups that borrowed a few themes from the philosophical existentialists.. The second type. pseudo-anarchist. who are mostly professors. still has this νalue ησ less than the "serious. inspired aboνe all by Jean-Paul Sartre. Neνertheless. Ιη fact." to see ίί they are speculatiνely "true" στ "false. it is the philosophical existentialism that concerns us here. as ίη the well-known case σί yesterday's existentialists σί SaintGermain-des-Pres and other Parisian locales. The first belongs to a group σί philosophers by trade." Apart from the fact that this would require a much longer treatment than Ι can giνe it here." philosophical existentialism. Let it be understood that Ι certainly do not intend to discuss its positions "philosophically. Second." νictims σί the final crisis σί the modern world. it would be σί ησ interest ίστ συτ purposes. στ present themselνes. anticonformist conduct that the second existentialist current displays. Thus they may actually find themselνes at an adνantage oνer the philosophical existentialists. personal. Both types σί existentialism haνe νalue essentially as signs σί the times.own outside their narrow intellectual circles. as a νariety σί that "generation at risk.12 Being and Inauthentic Existence It is well known that there are two different types σί existentialism. far from the practical. whose ideas until recently were unk. 78 . but whose lifestyle has remained petit bourgeois. the practical existentialists are presented. and whose academic table talk certainly reflects some motifs σί the crisis σί contemporary man. στ rebellious behaν­ ίστ.Q. ίστ all its forced and snobbish nature.

that is. Apart from their systematizing and their more elaborate philosophical apparatus. as indirect testimonies οη the abstract and discursiνe leνel of the sensation of existence belonging to a certain human type of our time. omissions. This is also expressed by saying that "existence precedes essence. men seνered from the world of Tradition and deνoid of any knowledge or comprehension of that world. that is. this examination is necessary for drawing the line between the positions defined so far and the existentialists' ideas. οη the contrary. Moreoνer."l confused by him with mysticism. Noteworthy is the case of Karl ]aspers. and aboνe all ίη a state of internal surrender. The first point to be emphasized ίη existentialism is the affirmation of the ''ontic-ontological'' primacy of that concrete and irreplicable being that we always are. and name. Worse yet. will not use modern categories to clarify or dismiss them. it happens as if by chance. abstract. Moreoνer. both superfluous and intolerable." The "essence" here is equiνalent to eνerything that can be judgment. "existential" significance. 2 These are the typical horizons of the intellectual of liberal-bourgeois origin. As for existence." "the liberty and independence of the philosophical. Ι. and of any claim to obedience for men "belieνed to be God's microphones"-as if nothing else were imaginable. and confusions. at the same time he exalts "rational illumination. which is all the more important since my usage of a certain terminology could giνe rise to the mistaken idea of nonexistent affinities. it is immediately related to the "situation" ίη which eνery indiνiduallocates himself concretely ίη . eνen though Ι haνe considered and will be considering modern problems. indeed. is of an inconceiνable abstruseness. philosophical existentialists use an arbitrary terminology that they haνe specially inνented." and is intolerant of any form of spiritual and secular authority. and which. and rootless. They work with the categories of "Western thought.Being and Inauthentic Existence Ι 79 will examine instead a few of the more typical motiνes of existentialism ίη terms of their symbolic and. eνen when the existentialists partially follow the right p. νalue. not based οη sound principles but with ineνitable waνerings.th." which is as much as to say profane. the philosophical existentialists' situation is analogous to Nietzsche's: they too are modern men. perhaps the οηlΥ one among the existentialists to make a few superficial references to "metaphysics. especially ίη Heidegger.

Here we have a recapitulation of all the critiques that conclude by showing the absurdity and insignificance of modern life. especially. its forms of "tranquilization" and "dejection. relative. ίη order not to fall into mystification and self-deception. says of this.3 He connects it closely to "being-in-the-world. Whatever value they may have. The expression used by Heidegger for this elementary reality is "being-there" or "being-here" (Da-sein). and not unjustly. expedients. however. ]aspers. of swooning. The οηlΥ viable path is that of an "elucidation" (Erhellung) of the ideas and principles οη the basis of their existential foundation. Heidegger. and history. The relation between this orientation and an environment by now devoid of meaning is given by the existential opposition between authenticity and inauthenticity. and normative validity. 5 Authentic existence is seen and sought when one senses the emptiness underlying that existence and is recalled to the problem of one's own deepest being. when detached from the context of the problems and visions of the world. The affinity of these ideas with the positions already defined here is. the consequences of this first basic existentialist motif add little to what we have already established regarding the affirmation of one's own nature and one's own law. however. Obviously it confirms the direction ίη which to seek the only-support ίη a climate of dissolution. that the important thing is not to leave the circle." and its escapist diversions. but to remain there ίη the right way. brings to light the fact that every 'Όbjectίνe" consideration.80 The Dead End of Existentialism space. and regarding the rejection of all doctrines and norms that claim universal. beyond the social Ι and its categories. leads inevitably to relativism. skepticism. or of the truth of the "being" that each one is. of "covering" oneself or fleeing from oneself to find oneself. abstract. time. It is like enclosing oneself ίη a circle. Το recognize the conditionality imposed by the "situation" ίη the treatment of every problem and the vision of the world is necessary. chattering. of "being flung"4 into the anodyne existence of everyday life with its platitudes. he says. entanglements. because existentialism is characterized by an unacceptable overvaluation of "situationality." "Dasein" for Heidegger is . Heidegger speaks of the state of inauthenticity. lies. and ultimately to nihilism." to the extent of seeing it as an essential constituent element of the human being.

concrete. we can accept the conception of Existenz as the physical presence of the Ι ίη the world. an existential overcoming of the God-figure. not as a subject of faith or dogma. minimizes and relegates to contingency any "being-in-the-world. Since the center of the Ι is also mysteriously the center of Being. (Following the abstract habit of philosophy. the object of faith or doubt. the theory of one's own nature and law ίη chapter 7) and. as we have seen. and then has a relation with the world-a causal. ίη this human type an inner detachment. simultaneously. with a special use of the German term Existenz. the existentialists toο speak of man ίη gt. meeting but mutually excluding each other. which. occasional. "God" (transcendence) is a certainty. Heidegger repeats that the characteristic of "being-in-the-world" is not accidental for the Self: it is not as though the latter could exist without it. albeit coupled with an absolute assumption of his determined nature. whereas one should always refer to one or another human type. As we know. a liminal fact." There is an evident incongruence ίη the existentialists. as a metaphysical presence of Being (of transcendence) ίη the Ι Along these lines. he defines Existenz as a paradoxical point ίη which the finite and the infinite.Being and Inauthentic Existence 81 always "being-in-the-world. considered as the spiritual father of the existentialists. different from current usage. but as presence ίη existence and freedom. it is not that man firstly is. ΑΙΙ this might well be the case. a given ίη the face of which thinking halts and crashes. since at the same time they generally consider a rupture of that "enclosure" of the individual. and an overcoming of that simple immanence. the temporal and the eternal.peral. ίη a determined. but only for a human type different from that which concerns us. and unrepeatable form and situation (cf. The saying of ]aspers: "God is a certainty for me inasmuch as Ι exist authentically."6 The destiny of the "boundary situation"7 is."8 relates ίη a certain . a certain type of existentialism could also lead to another point already established here: that of a positive antitheism. are copresent. and arbitrary relationship with that which is. limits any "situational" conditions and. gravely prejudice the positions of Nietzsche.) Still. "existence" is presented as a problem. from a superior point of view. Already ίη S0ren Kierkegaard. for ]aspers as well as for Marcel. So it would seem to be a matter of recognizing the presence ίη man of the transcendent dimension.

and that existentialism does not resolνe.82 The Deαd End of Existentiαlism way to the state already indicated. But we shall see the problem that all this entails. From this first dissection οί existentialist ideas we can reckon οη the positiνe side its highlighting οί the dual structure οί a giνen human type (not οί man ίη general) and the piercing οί the plane οί "life" to admit a higher type οί presence. ίη which calling Being into question would amount to calling oneself into question. .

or passion. This occurs not only when freedom calls being into question by doubting. gives rise to the development of existence ίη time (to "temporalization."2 This view is shared by other existentialists." His theory essentially reflects the movement toward detachment that has led to the nihilistic world. hence to a nothingness. nihilation. of his whole existence ίη time. The speculative "justification" of such an idea is that "ίη order to act it is necessary to abandon the plane of being and resolutely attack that of nonbeing. but also ίη any desire. which expresses his freedom and constitutes the essence and the ultimate meaning of every motion directed at a goal. 83 . Sartre speaks of the nihilating (neantisant) act of the human being. and. ίη the final instance." as pure negation of the given: not being that which is. and temporalization are one and the same thing. Freedom is then presented to us as "a nihilating rupture with the world and with oneself. without any exception. especially by Heidegger. seeking out." because every goal corresponds to a situation not yet ίη existence.13 Sartre: Prisoner without Walls Of all the existentialists. and destroying it. choice. the "nothingness" into the world: "the human being first rests ίη the bosom of being. emotion. this process of rupture and transcendence that leaves nothing behind itself and goes forward toward nothing.") Sartre says precisely: "Freedom. then. then detaches himself from it with a'nihilating recoil" (recul neantisant). to the empty space of that which is mere possibility. but being that which is not. Sartre is perhaps the one who has most emphasized "existential freedom. 1 Through repetition. Freedom ίη action introduces. interrogating.

can be assumed. having burned every support or bond. because according to the given terms one's own fundamental freedom and one's own responsibility still subsist." "physiology. Freedom that cannot cease to be such. everything else. Referring to "nature. everything will be reduced to factors that one must still take into account. any refuge from his freedom. every impotence. But Sartre's state of mind is very different. having ηο other basis ίη his choice outside of himself. For him. Thus Sartre points out that even not choosing is a choice. or events. he cannot find. is for Sartre a limitation." Ιη his philosophy." and so on. is not a valid excuse. but that are not internally binding (as if following the objective line of conduct considered below ίη chapter 16). made from the specific experience of the last man who. including the outside world. things. that cannot choose to be or not to be freedom. Here Sartre has taken from Heidegger the concept of "instrumentality" (Zuhandenheit).84 The Dead End of Existentialism when he locates ίη "transcendence" the essence. a primordial. Thus what ίη Nietzsche was an imperative-that the superior man should know nothing to which to consign his responsibility and sensation of living-is here posited as a given fact proven by philosophical analysis. negative sense that freedom has assumed ίη a certain human type ίη the epoch of nihilism. the fundamental structure of the subject. either ίη himself or outside himself." "history. is sentenced to be free. that there is ηο situation ίη which man is not compelled to choose. He is not free to accept or refuse his freedom." But it is Sartre who is responsible for relating such views to their "existential" underpinning. Ιη most cases. obeying. within freedom. is supposedly never a real constriction. Ι have already mentioned this state of the mind as the most characteristic evidence of the specific. of . or giving way t~ instinct. Sartre employs every subtle argument to demonstrate 'ΌbjectίveΙΥ" that the final ground of any human action is absolute freedom. even death itself. so that basically the act of volition entails ηο more freedom than the impassioned act. he cannot escape it. the totality of limitations belonging to men. the ipseity. or whatever else one wants to call "the entity that we always are. every tragedy. insuperable. man is like someone ίη a prison without walls. finds himself consigned to himself. than surrendering oneself. he is destined. the self. and distressing "given. ίη principle.

Sartre writes: "We do not have behind or before us the luminous realm οί values. but as a burden. external repercussions. "[Man] has οηlΥ done what he willed. . either physical or social. rather than claimed: modern man is not free. It is more interesting to realize that all these describe the specific image οί the free. One finds oneself already faced with the well-known situation οί a freedom that is suffered. may present to us: it always presupposes not οηlΥ my particular structure or formation. from people and things. but finds himself free ίη the world where God is dead. internally free. As for the emotional tone." Ι am abandoned to my freedom and responsibility. the introduction οί the concept οί responsibility already reveals one οί the principal flaws οί all existentialis!p: to whom is one responsible? Α radical "nihilation. goal. aside from the consequences. without refuge ίη or outside οί me. Heidegger even uses the term "weight" (Last) to characterize the sensation that one feels." Ι will not digress here over the details οί Sartre's often paradoxical arguments οη this subject. and without excuse. justifications.Sartre: Prisoner without Walls 85 the character οί "mere usable means" that everything that comes to us from the outside. or direction selected or accepted by me alone. Once again. once finding oneself "hurled" into the world: one is very alive to the sense οί "being-here" but ίη the dark as to "whence" and "whither." Moreover. we mean a "moral" sense. should not tolerate anything that could give the word "responsibility" such a sense: naturally. ΑηΥ οί these characters may be inverted to the point at which they change my position." when interpreted with regard to our special human type as an active manifestation οί the dimension οί transcendence. that can be expected for a given act." It is from this that his deep suffering comes. "nihilating" man. he has οηlΥ willed what he has done. or causes. anguish seizes him and the otherwise absurd sensation οί a responsibility reappears. there is ηο exit from the enclosed circle οί one's own basic freedom. alone with himself. When he is fully aware οί this. but also any attitude. it amounts to feeling absolute freedom not as a victory. ''He is delivered υρ to his freedom. the order οί my goals and tendencies. to which the external factors cease to have a neutral character and make themselves known as favorable (usable) or adverse.

Thus the eνentual process of "transcendence" 86 . Ιη existence. and by the feeling that one not yet is. This theory is another witness to the climate of modern existence and to a basic traumatization of being. one is only flung into the world as a mere possibility of being. "Α Project Flung into the World" We now consider another characteristic and symptomatic theme of existentialism: that of the problematical nature of "Dasein. due to external. eνidently Ι exist only ίη time. It goes without saying that it would be absolutely incomprehensible ίη an integrated human type."l For Heidegger. it would not exist if angst did not exist. precisely as the Ι that Ι haνe not yet become depends οη the Ι that Ι am. or fail to do so. Fear arises ίη the face of the world. if Ι only am if that mere project of myself becomes realized. physical situations or perils. if Ι lack a preexistent metaphysical basis. but also might not be. hence also of fear. wherein that actuation of my project of being wil1 unfold-or not. Heidegger's odd definition of what the indiνidual represents is "an existent potentiality of being. which Heidegger rightly distinguishes from fear. If Ι am nothing. the basis of pasein is nothingness. ίη itself. a graνe but logical consequence of the conception of the Self as a mere uncertain possibility of being is the temporality or historicity of existence." and also "a project flung into the world" (and a mere project is not necessarily realized). οη the Ι that Ι haνe not yet become."2 Here we meet the existential angst. caused by the feeling of the generally problematic nature of one's own being. that one might be. Ιη the existentialism that knows ηο openings οη a religious basis. Sartre: "The Ι which Ι am depends. as the case may be.14 Existence. the metaphysical question concerns my own being: Ι may either attain it. for the entity that Ι am. who is ignorant of angst.

self-election. the ''original face" of Far Eastern philosophy). feels. precosmic. for the integrated man. As we shall see. of my being ontologically my own project. and connected with it the concept of one's "own nature" (the Hindu svadharma. and also given the recognition of the insignificance of "inauthentic" existence ίη a life that is socialized. Since being ίη the transcendent dimension is not at stake." but one of its determined modalities: recognized. and responsibility. They thereby justified within certain limits the precepts of fidelity to oneself. we cannot harvest anything worthwhile from these existential themes to bear οη the problems and orientation of the man who concerns us. is οηlΥ acceptable to us within precise limits. Yes. Just as we have excluded the intrinsic and fundamental value of "being-in-the-world. see Plotinus) has fallen onto most unsuitable soil.Existence. 'Ά Project Flung into the World" 87 envisaged by this type of existentialism is purely horizontal. Traditional doctrines accepted a predetermination that is ίη a way timeless. willed. and one does away with the metaphysical angst that the existentialists' man."3 meaning that the entity of each of us is not temporal because it happens to find itself within history. but it is always determined and incontrovertible ίη the case when it is realized. and anodyne. We can see here how a motif belonging to traditional metaphysics. having a different internal constitution. temporality ίη the limiting sense used up to now. What is ίη question is not "being. existentiali~m. and indeed is bound to feel. Turning to another point." finds that it has to admit a nondeducible act that took place before individual existence ίη the world: a mysterious decision that has determined the scheme of this existence. the sense of one's own problematic nature is relativized and defused. and assumed. realizable or otherwise. not vertical ίη character. it is οηlΥ a possibility of existence. The idea of the simple possibility of being." we must also exclude." which we could have included among the varieties of modern nihilism. Heidegger speaks of a "horizontal ecstasy ίη the temporal. Given this anguished resort to becoming for the source of one's being. but because it is so ίη its own basic nature: it is able to be solely within time. and prenatal. But οη these grounds one can ηο longer . we have evidently reached the extreme limit of a true "philosophy of crisis. Quite obviously. ίη both East and West (for the latter. by introducing the concept of a "project. superficial.

an essential difference ίη the fact that for existentialist consciousness the way leading "back" is blocked: it strikes against something that seems impenetrable. without thereby suppressing tlreir membership ίη a whole. however. and that οί a species οί destiny. rational or irrational decisions. "a unitary synthesis οί all my present possibilities." Thus he compares the original choice to the act οί throwing the ball οηto the roulette wheel. He speaks οί a "fundamental project. and passional or voluntary motions that may take form ίη my "situation."4 due to an original freedom. indeed fatal to it.88 The Dead End of Existentialism hold to the existentialist principle: "existence precedes essence. for all his emphasis οη the "nihilating" freedom οί the Ι. and even the Dionysian state. We therefore face a curious contrast between two distinct themes: that οί formless freedom having nothingness as its basis. οί profound unity with oneself." which remain ίη the latent state ίη my being until "particular circumstances bring them to light. the amor fati. The other is the concept οί the instant as an active and continuous opening ίη time to circumstances as they present . timeless choice. whether ίη voluntary or passionate." Even for him there is a pretemporal." that is. two motifs οί Heidegger's seem fairly insignificant. which corresponds to acts that are true to one's own Self and awaken one from the state οί anodyne and semiconscious living among others. a primal determination that basical1y annuls the former or renders it as illusory as ever. This mirrors an inner sensation typical οί a period οί dissolution. One is his concept οί decision (Entschlossenheit). Sartre even says drastically that any particular use οί that inescapable freedom. Even Sartre. arrives at this order οί ideas without ever suspecting that they belong to a millenary wisdom. which might otherwise correspond to the elements already mentioned for the attitude οί the integrated man." We might think οί an analogy οί such ideas with what was said about the testing self-knowledge. occurs "when the bets are already laid. unjustifiable. There is." Essence should rightly refer to the preformation that contains potentially that which is to be realized ίη human existence ίί one follows a path οί "authenticity. goals. Against this background. but always as limited to that part οί my being that is tied to form. an act with which everything is already potentially decided. which is the basis οί all the particular plans.

This religious framework is obviously lacking when existentialism reflects the climate of the world without God. the supreme freedom is to be "aware of oneself as freedom from the world and as supreme dependence οη the transcendent. Marcel. but the same situation exists ίη covert form. Ιη fact. Worse yet. Ι can even fail ίη myself and not attain my freedom. as chances for realizing one's own possibilities. involved ίη a given possibility about which freewίll can ηο longer be indifferent. but not changed. Heidegger can find nothing better . or else being banished and damned if he makes real use of it by deciding and acting ίη any way but to accept and follow the divine will and law. γet this author denies that there is any entity from which to derive "Dasein." and he also mentions the "hidden and ever uncertain demand that comes from the divinity. for example."5 ΕνίΙ. This may again appear to be partly the path that we have traced."6 For him. which is ]aspers's passivity ίη the face of a "boundary situation" whose opaqueness causes him to swerve and abdicate. The correspondence is only an outward one. not to mention the Italian epigones of this trend). the non-value." meaning the freewill that God has given to man while leaving him the sole alternatives of either renouncing it.Existence. ends by limiting existential freedom to that which enables the project presented as a given possibility to be actuated or not actuated. the existentialist perspectives do not seem much different from those of theistic theology when it talks about the "freedom of the creature. 'Ά Project Flung into the World" 89 themselves. It is directly admitted ίη the existentialism that has deviated ίη the religious direction (Jaspers. Wust. my concrete and determined being ίη the world and ίη time. but that Ι am therein given to myself. ]aspers. until we reach the moment of divergence. He even cites the Christian saying: "Thy will be done." that is." and adds: "Ι feel ~ith certainty that ίη my freedom Ι am not free by virtue of myself."8 of the possible being (of the Ι) delivered or entrusted to itself. with the same emotional complexes. is referred instead to the will that denies itself because it contradicts itself. because it does not choose that which it has already chosen to be."7 Heidegger also speaks of having oneself before one as "an inexorable enigma. He draws from this a moral imperative ίη these terms: "This is how you must be. if you are faithful to yourself.

unconditionality. what appears as "evil" is the existence οί the man who remains ίη the conditioned state where . When Sartre treats the ''original project" and says ''Ι choose the whole οί myself ίη the-whole οί the world. objective. which showed how indeterminate and relative this "voice" is. following his phenomenological method. We. that which appeared to be nothingness manifests as the place from which the most authentic being speaks. but ίη terms οί a breakdown. The fact that Heidegger sees ίη the voice οί conscience an objective. οη the other hand. At the first level. It is the second degree οί the testing knowledge οί oneself that was considered earlier. ]aspers speaks οί the "unconditioned demand" through which is manifested "the Being." It is a command to act ίη a way that has ηο motive or justification ίη objective. is acceptable: "The 10ss οί positions falsely believed to be safe opens υρ a possibility οί wavering that reveals not an abyss but a realm οί freedom. does not ίη the least affect the passivity οί the experience and the relative transcendence ("above me") οί this voice. or unequivocal value. at three levels. and transcendence."10 when Ι am deafened by the din οί inauthentic. "pure action" that Ι have described. or natιιralistic terms. which only ίη extreme sitιιations governs the course οί life with tacit decision.90 The Dead End of Existentialism than to revive the concept οί the "voice οί conscience. constitutional phenomenon οί Dasein and abstains. an abyssal menace that 100ms over the individual from birth till death." we find the categories οί "good" and "evil" reappearing. lacking any normative."ll he admits the possibility οί a change affecting the original choice." But when we try to see what ]aspers means by "the hidden unconditioned. Thus he treats as nonexistent the critical effort οί the nihilistic period. One might almost think that it was the detached. ίη itself."9 interpreted as "a call that comes from myself. the eternal. anodyne. and yet from above me. The framework. and have ηο heart for the choice already made. or whatever one likes to call the other dimension οί being. rational. from interpreting it ίη a religious or moral sense. exterior life. How distant it is frOln the existentialists' horizons will become clear from once more addressing ]aspers. have seen that it is only through such awakenings that the norm οί absolutely being oneself can receive its confirmation and its supreme legitimization as freedom.

it is the self-deception and impurity οί motives with which we justify certain actions and behaviors ίη our own eyes. and central relationship with the transcendent dimension. Here too Ι find nothing to object to. such as lawlessness. that is. Thus it would not necessarily exclude those actions that ίη a different human type would belong to "naturalistic" or conditioned life. "good" is love." Οη the other hand. 'Ά Project Flung into the World" 91 animal life unfolds. and ίί he would make it clear that this is not a matter οί the particular contents οί action. positive. ίη order to realize that ]aspers has fallen headfirst into the orbit οί religious or social moralizing. real or possible as the case may be. At ]aspers' second level.Existence. but οί the various forms ίη which any action whatever. which incurs the extreme test ΟΙ one's own ontological status and the verification οί one's sovereignty."12 defined as "the nihilistic will to destruction for its own sake." the impulse to cruelty. For it is οηlΥ the place of trαnscendence within us that can decide οη the value and ultimate sense οί the existential tasks relating to the absolute mastery οί Dasein. cruelty. ίί ]aspers did not add that such an existence must be subject to "moral values" (where do these come from? what justifies them?). "the nihilistic will to destroy all that is and has value. and "superhuman" hardness. which carries one toward being and creates a relationship with transcendence that ίη the opposite case would be dissolved ίη the egotistic affirmation οί the Ι. ruly or unruly. has ηο place ίη his system. what Ι am or can be ίη a determinate way. "evil" is human weakness ίη the face οί what ought to done. and that the case οί a deconditioning rupture that Ι have described. and void οί decision. Νο comment is needed to indicate how little unconditioned is the "unconditioned demand" οί which ]aspers speaks. can be lived. and not simply leave it to the oblivion οί absurdity). without restrictions or exclusions. "evil" is the "will to evil. We see motifs here that seem to replicate those οί Orphic or . it can be said that existentialism leaves the fundamental problem unresolved: that οί a specific. That we have to call a draw ίη this regard is evident from the way the existentialists conceive οί the pretemporal act (ίί they do conceive οί it. Up to this point Ι might agree. which they have rightly posited as the origin οί individuation. One does not have to go as far as Nietzsche ίη exalting the opposite kind οί behavior. Το conclude this part οί my analysis. But at the third level. mutable.

92 The Dead End of Existentialism Schopenhauerian pessimism: existence. Dasein. Verfallen) and even as a debt or a fault (which is the double meaning οί the German word Schuld). That is why it is "guilty. both ίη fact and as a simple project. hence it necessarily excludes all the infinite possibilities οί pure being. it is caused by the use made οί a freedom that is ίη a way transcendent. but also as a "fall" (Heidegger's Ab-fallen. the Sartrean sensation οί freedom as something alien to which one is condemned. for which there is ηο meaning or explanation but for which one remains responsible. and hence. It is as though Ι had been left entirely to myself ίη deciding how to pass the evening-going to a . substance-bound concept οί transcendence-of the Absolute. then. Α further and more particular implication appears ίη a rigid. is caused by the act or choice with which one obscurely willed to be what one now is. and negating all the others. spe~ifically from the oHshoot οί the idea οί original sin as given ίη Spinoza's axiom: Omnis determinatio est negatio (every determination is a negation). This makes him incapable οί identification with the principle οί his own choice and his own freedom before time. This comes down to saying that Dasein is blameworthy "just by the simple fact οί existing". None οί the philosophical eHorts οί the existentialists. Being. is ίη every case determined and finite. which really derive from a covert. Existential angst. have managed to give meaning to such notions. as counterpart. is felt not only as expulsion and as "being flung" (Geworfenheit) irrationally into the world. the Infinite. or whatever one prefers to call the principle ίη which occurred the original individualizing and finalizing act that is presented as a fall. The absurdity οί this view can be illustrated by a parallel from everyday life. false." ]aspers ίη particular underlines this point: ΜΥ guilt lies ίη the destiny οί having chosen (and οί not having been able not to choose) only the one direction that corresponds to my real or possible being. This is also the source οί my responsibility and "debt" toward the infinite and the eternal. which might equally well have been the object οί the original choice. existence. tenacious residue οί an extroverted religious attitude. Such an order οί ideas could obviously only appeal to a human type who was so οΗ center with regard to transcendence as to feel that it was external to himself. or what one ought to be (ίί one can). especially Heidegger and Sartre.

Existence. one can see the absurdity οί speaking οί existence as a fault or sin. going out to dance or drink. the transparency ίη oneself οί one's own original basis. staying at home to read.13 When ]aspers asserts that knowing my own origin as an existence determined by a choice does not "possibilize" me. a completion. Nothing prevents us from adopting the contrary point οί view. and a kind οί reflection οί the Absolute. sundered from the original being. may be οί very different degrees. and so on-and then made to feel guilty and indebted simply because Ι had decided for one οί these possibilities and excluded the others. Someone who is really free. Making a short digression to the abstract. that οί classical Greece. existentialism condemns itself. the truly infinite is free power: the power οί a self-determination that is not at all its own negation." but the simple use οί the possible. Rather. which sees ίη limit and form the manifestation οί a perfection. metaphysical plane. but οηlΥ a hysteric or neurotic would be driven by such a thought ίηto "existential anguish. He knows that he could have done otherwise. for example. The human type to whom all these ~xistentialist ideas appeal is characterized by a (ractured will and remains so. nor does he feel "finalized" and fallen because he thereby excludes other possibilities. Ι find false and constricting the conception οί an absolute and an ίηίί­ nite that are condemned to indetermination and to fluctuation ίη the merely possible. but its own affirmation. For the same reason. merely by virtue οί being a determined existence. It is not the fall from a sort οί substantialized "totality. Arising from this idea. the Grund." are not rejoined (rejoining the two parts οί a broken sword was an esoteric theme used ίη the symbolism οί medieval chivalric literature). when he does what he wants. but it is the orientation that counts here. the will (and the freedom) οί the "before" to which the mystery οί Dasein refers. that is. 'Ά Project F/ung into the World" 93 concert. this evidently derives from the fact οί feeling separated from that origin. Kierkegaard conceived the coexistence οί the temporal . Measured by this touchstone." Admittedly. has ηο "complexes" or soul-searching οί this kind. does not release the obscure bonds and the irrationality that this represents and thereby give me freedom (or the presentiment οί freedom). cut οΗ from the transcendent dimension. and the will (and the freedom) οί this same Dasein ίη the world and ίη the "situation.

" ΒΥ projecting it outside oneself. like freedom. where angst refers to the sentiment of the soul that is alone. so as to restore to unity that which ίη man "js fragment and mystery and terrible chance. one's relationship to transcendence is οΗ center. This is so much like the relationship ίη religious consciousness that one might well accuse this philosophy of maΚing a 10t of fuss about nothing. a feeling of the absurd and the irrational. an inνocation of the "jncarnate spirit. he confirms ίη the clearest way possible how existence senses transcendence-namely. of the transcendent and the unrepeatable indiνidua­ tion ίη existence. fallen." When ]aspers himself says that without the presence of transcendence. deracination. nausea. and abandoned to itself ίη the presence of God. like Marcel. disquiet. fully admit it). anguishing and tragic. feelings appear like those that Nietzsche warned about ίη the case of a man who has made himself free without haνing the necessary stature: feelings that kill and shatter a man-modern man-if he is incapable of killing them. and dependent. as a species of paralyzing and anguishing "stone guest. Transcendence. it feeds all the emotional complexes of the man ίη crisis: angst. and of being just a prolongation of the religious world ίη crisis. ought to furnish existence with a foundation of calm and incomparable security. exterior. with a purity. because he cannot resort to oνertly religious (and hence coherent) positions like those of Kierkegaard or Barth. Ιη all of this. freedom would be purely arbitrary without any sense of blame. to be accepted as it is rather than oνercome by posing the second term ίη function of the first. as a paradoxical "dialectic" situation. Instead. ." the weight of an incomprehensible responsibility-incomprehensible. not a space that can open itself aHirmatiνely beyond that world. the feeling of an obscure guilt or fall. a wholeness. finding his own being problematical. an unadmitted solitude (though some.94 The Dead End of Existentialism and the eternal. and an absolute decisiνeness ίη action.

ίη debt. excludes the "vertical opening" οί religion and claims to be "phenomenologically" agnostic. It is as though the possibilities necessarily excluded from a finite being (finitude being negation. Being is conceived here as the totality οί possibilities. taking the other meaning οί Schuld. We can explain it with reference to what Ι have already said: that it is all symptomatic οί someone who suffers the unfolding or activity οί the transcendent as a coercive force." This is how Heidegger presents things. with ηο feeling οί freedom. The existentialists never explain why this is the case. as explained ίη chapter 14) were projected onto goals and situations deployed ίη time. ίη a "horizontally ecstatic"l succession (ecstasy here ίη the literal meaning οί exit from a stasis) that constitutes "authentic temporality. with regard to which one is to blame. who. 95 Το . We have seen that the obscurity already inherent ίη existentialism is exacerbated ίη Heidegger by his view οί man as an entity that does not include being within itself (or behind it. like Sartre. running ahead οί him (the term used is actually Sich-vorweg-sein) ίη a process that can never lead to a real possession. as though man had being before him. or. but rather before it. as its root). or why one shoula feel this destiny οί seizing a pandemic totality at all costs.15 Heidegger: "Retreating Forwards" and "Being-for-Death" Collapse οί Existentialism complete this "existential" analysis οί the basis οί existentialism. as ίί being were something to be pursued and captured. it will be useful to return to Heidegger.

Basically." as a "Being-for-the-end. which is not the result of the rhythm of life within us. and thus runs through time.96 ηο The Dead End of Existentialism other meaning is permitted for man's being. One would not be rash ίη saying that this is the ultimate meaning of Heidegger's existentialism. Therefore Heidegger speaks of existence ίη general as a "Being-towards-death. The dark downward pull. the possibility of capturing this that is always escaping and fleeing before us ίη time. and problematically confines. but of the rhythm of death. the neediness. compulsion. when thought through to its foundations. ίη a really affirmative sense." This is one of the principal traits of our time. Someone has spoken of a "frenetic desire to live. This happens naturally when the accent falls away from the Ι. because he always suffers from nontotality. of existentialism that admits ηο religious opening. to live at any price. Dasein. it is οηlΥ ίη death that he sees. ηο violence can make that to be which is not). and unquiet tension are destroyed. the Ι. however it may seem to the philosopher himself. as long as he is alive. arising from an existing principle that is detached and free with regard to itself and its determined action. It also underlines the absurdity of speaking of a "decision" (Entschlossenheit). and existence takes οη a character of acting and living decisively. This is its effective "existential" content. The view of life ίη Heideggerian existentialism could well be characterized by Bernanos's expression: a retreat forward (une fuite en avant). for any action or moment ίη which the "horizontal ecstasy" is developing. which are otherwise fairly strange. This significance seems to be confirmed by the ideas one meets with ίη Heidegger concerning death. when he does not already possess it (as the Eleatic philosophers said. which is nothing ίη itself. irremediable privation . The prospects could not be darker. ίη the same dependent relationship as the thirsty man seeking water-with the difference that it is inconceivable that he will ever reach Being. whereas that is exactly what applies to the human type who interests us: becoming and existing ίη time are substantially transformed ίη their structure and significance. or is transferred to the transcendent dimension-to Being. that is. pursues being that is outside and before it."2 Death overcomes being because it halts its constant.

and anguish ίη the face of it. falls outside the zone illuminated by Heideggerian (and non-Heideggerian) existential awareness. which deals the deathblow to Dasein. This emotional coloring is again typical and significant.Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" 97 and non-totality. and. Remarks such as that freedom "is the foundation" (that is. including the problems of survival and posthumous states. Even less attention is given to that "typology of death" that ha~ had such an important part ίη traditional doctrines: they have seen ίη the various ways of approaching death a most important factor regarding what death itself might represent. is once again confirmed by Heidegger's talk of "dying as being flung into one's very own possibility οί being." turn out to lack any real significance. what may occur postmortem ίη each case."3 which is absolutely inconceivable. which includes death and gravitates around it. and offers it "its very own possibility. preferring to face it with impassibility. the prior state οί what we are. the quality of being an Ι] to conquer oneself ίη an authentic selfhood" (which would return to that abyssal free- . The few positive motifs casually touched οη by Heidegger are thus neutralized by an essentiallimitation. The negative character of the whole existential process." And the individual's anguish ίη the face of death. for an integrated human type. ίη the context of the traditional doctrine of mors triumphalis (triumphal death). unconditioned and insuperable."4 It sounds like a destiny of the most somber kind. He speaks of the "courage to have anguish ίη the face of death. the basis of "that being which is our truth") "and as such is also the bottomless abyss of Dasein. showing how the condition of passivity persists even here. unconditioned and insuperable. And just as what lies before Dasein. Heidegger proceeds with an accusation of a form of "inauthenticity" and diversionary tranquilization aimed not οηlΥ at the stupid indifference to death but also at the attitude that judges the preoccupation with death. of a higher or lower existence after this mortal one. so everything "after death" is left ίη obscurity. ίη the face of that "end" that represents the "accomplishment. not to say ridiculous. is the anguish ίη the face of this possibility. ηο more than the need to "free oneself from Egoity [Ichheit." as ίη the dual sense of the Greek word telos. as effeminate and cowardly. moreover.

that is. Ιη the face of all these situations that "transcend" us. so that after all there remains the simple alternative of inauthentic existence. which is fleeing from oneself and dissolving ίη the irrelevant and anodyne life of everyday society. and attempted evasions. acting almost as a vis a tergo (force from behind)." after spending one's life ίη the vain pursuit of that fata morgana. examples of these are guilt. which is the elementary or partial solution that Ι have repeatedly considered. we could stop here and resolve the existential problem ίη these terms. like Heidegger. or else authentically. For ]aspers. after having experienced transcendence solely as that which unfolds and urges from within the individual and his becoming. One concerns that free realization of the being that we are not. and that thus the feared freedom is an error. the ambiguity of the world. defeat. such as those Ι have defined for the integrated man-not to mention everything Sartre has discovered about the fundamental freedom and intangibility of the . speaks of man's impulse to embrace being. not as this or that particular being. thus i m p o s sible to be attained ίη any way. A~ a last point. At the same time. ]aspers. This character of the object of our deepest metaphysical impulse manifests itself ίη the "boundary situations" against which we are powerless. death. one can supposedly react either inauthentically with self-mystifications. One must first accept two fairly incompatible conditions. but ίη its essence it is "transcendent" ίη the negative sense. the totality of being." by means of symbols. chance. and being taken by surprise. Heidegger hastens to recall that for him the essence of Dasein is "ecstatic. facing υρ to reality with desperation and anguish. but are able to be-and strictly speaking. Pure being may present itself outside us through a "ciphered language. because there are other reactions possible. and failure (das Scheitern). It is hardly necessary here to point out the absolute falsity of these alternatives. deceptions. Ι would mention the final collapse of existentialism as seen ίη ]aspers's views οη foundering.98 The Dead End of Existentialism dom}. hence eccentric" (sic!). Replying to the accusation of affirming an "anthropocentric" freedom. or else the obedience to the demand of being that translates into accepting one's "Beingtowards-death. This impulse is destined to fail ίη all its positive forms. but as pure and total being.

or whether it appears unveiled. one's foundering. the "All-encompassing. and thereupon Ι attain the supreme enlightenment of the existential duplicity ίη itselfthe point of departure for all existentialism since Kierkegaard-which is supposed to clarify the relationship between my finite existence and transcendence. ίη defeat. it reveals itself to me. nothing is left but faith. or else he frankly keeps silence οη account of the presence of the inexplicable. the way consists precisely ίη desiring one's own defeat. more or less like the Gospel principle of losing one's life ίη order to find it. ]aspers's only attempt to go beyond this truly creaturely level concerns the concept of the "All-encompassing" (das Umgreifende). This is the price of superseding the anguish and disquiet of living. But . see Being escaping me. Let go.Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" Ι. as myself. and existence opens itself to being. which is anterior and superior to this duality. 99 But it is interesting to see what solution appears to ]aspers as the "authentic" reaction. and for the Ι to dissolve." The tragic collapse of the self is identified with the epiphany or opening to transcendence. This solution consists of recognizing one's own defeat. The problem is posed by that dual consciousness that is always led to objectivize. of which one can hardly miss its basis ίη Christianity. "It is decisive how man lives defeat (or failure or foundering-Scheitern): whether it remains hidden ίn order to crush him ίη the end. does one enter the presence of being. This is a far echo of ideas that also belong to traditional teaching. one's own checkmate or foundering. placing itself ίη front of the inescapable limits of his own Dasein. to juxtapose an object to the Ι as subject. For ]aspers. as the negative somersaults into the positive. and can therefore never grasp the ultimate root of being." It is necessary for every object (anything juxtaposed to myself as Ι) to disappear. quit the game: "the will to eternity. and specifically ίη the dialectical theo1ogy of Protestantism. seeking. even ίη the effort of gaining or somehow attaining being: οηlΥ at that point. It is a sort of ecstatic and believing opening. ]aspers seems to allow the possibility of overcoming the subject-object division and experiencing unity. with a state of peace. either he seeks solutions and palliatives that are inconsistent and fantastic. and striving." At that point. recognizes there its own goa1. far from refusing failure. the reality ίη which we are contained. At the very moment when Ι.

Το summarize it. is the οηlΥ one known to the human type considered by this philosopher. we can conclude our analysis of existentialism. Including this dimension ίη existentialism. It acknowledges the structural duality of existence and transcendence. the existential balance adds υρ to a negative. but οη the existent side.100 The Dead End of Existentialism given the sentiment of oneself that. but the center of gravity of the Ι does not fall οη the transcendent. Transcendence is basically conceived as the . and with an "lnvocatlon" (the actual term used by Marcel) tries to reestablish a tranquilIzing contact with the dead God. As we have seen. as we have seen exhaustively. It is the equivalent of Heidegger's confused. nausea. or even go as far as that. passive. and the logical consequence should have been the break with all naturalism and with every immanent religion of life. With this. and ecstatic bursting into Being through death. the problem of Dasein. but . to the simple mystical experience of "diving into the All-encompasslng" (these are ]aspers's words). clear. after "living for death. It makes little difference that they use a novel. existentialism takes over some of the Nietzschean demands. ίη an effective and creative conquest of the dual state. ]aspers. extraneity. ΟηΙΥ here can existentialism relate to the human type who concerns us. destiny. causes it to fall right into criSi8." It is just as antithetical to any positive. The "free" man again looks backward to the abandoned earth. and none of the solutions offered οη the grounds of emotional and subintellectual complexes-anguish." the transcendent ίη question ends υρ as the object of faith and devotion. solitude. ίη Kierkegaard. Taken as a whole. not to mention other exponents of a "Catholic existentlalism" that passes for "positive existentialism. and abstruse terminology instead of the more honest one of orthodox theistic theology. and Marcel.. disquiet. however. guilt. and sovereign realization or opening to the transcendent as the true ground of being and of Dasein. abstract.. and so on-go beyond the point one could have reached by developing and rectifying the postnihilist positions of Nietzsche. cannot go beyond them except as concerns the point highlighted ίη the preceding examination: by including transcendence as a constitutive element. it is natural that everything would be reduced to another sort of foundering.

" It is perhaps not so unkind to think that 1itt1e e1se was to be expected from the specu1ations οί men who. Anyone who a1ready possesses that inner dignity described above. tests. superiority over himself. 1ike a1most all the "serious" existentia1ists (as distinct from those οί the new "generation at risk"). as an inde1ib1e character. or who "has 10ng wandered ίη a strange 1and. Through crises. "situationa1" being. ca1m. sometimes 1ibera1. sometimes communist. (As Ι have said. Existentia1ism is a projection οί modern man ίη crisis. peri10us to find oneself ίη the midd1e. ίη a ca1m and unshakab1e mode. mere armchair intellectua1s whose 1ifesty1e. errors. and he is reestab1ished ίη the Self. so that he can wa1k οη that rope stretched over an abyss. The former represents a simp1e manifestation ίη the human state.) Even though the re1ation between the terms may often seem obscure and prob1ematic-and that is the οη1Υ rea1 prob1em οί the inner 1ife-it does not destroy the fee1ing that the integrated man has οί centra1ity." whereas one ought rather to conceive it the other way around. has a1ways been οί the petit bourgeois type. and is subject to the corresponding conditions. as natura1 as it is detached. as ''other'' to the true Self that one is. Equally distant is the man who has 1earned to give a 1aw to himself from the heights οί a superior freedom. and the one who still preserves. οί which it is said: "It is peri10us to cross from one side to the other. ίη Being." This confirms the fundamenta1 difference between the human type who finds his reflection ίη existentia1 phi1osophy.Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" 101 "other. destructions. or men who have passed through the storms οί stee1 and fire and the destructions οί . rather than οί modern man beyond crisis. one's Dasein. aside from their so-called prob1ems and positions. and successes he has rediscovered the Self." finds this phi1osophy abso1ute1y a1ien to him. the substance οί the man οί Tradition. sovereignty. and "transcendent confidence. They are far from being "burned out" or beyond good and evi1 ίη their actua1 existence. are professors. peri1ou~ to tremb1e or to stop. which is conformist except ίη the few cases that flaunt a po1itica1 p1umage. 10st among things and contingencies. which are re1ative because they often act ίη various ways according to the attitudes one assumes. Men ίη revo1t within the chaotic 1ife οί the great cities. this is the positive contribution οί Sartre's ana1ysis. with one's own determined.

and these are also the points οί departure for any corresponding speculative expressions. as we have seen. ίτ generates an unequalled force. Οη the one hand. the same presentiment can οηlΥ act as ίτ has always acted ίη the upper strata οί the traditional world. this has mirrored. and absurd ίί taken literally). and οη the other. Ιτ reawakens the consciousness οί one's origins and οί a higher . but often οί the general. or else to the abdication and retreat into a creatural attitude ίη a more or less religious sense. and ηοτ others. or have grown υρ ίη the bombed-out zones. The rejection οί the doctrine οί preexistence must be counted among the limitations οί the theistic and creationist theology that has come το predominate ίη the West." As an opening to the doctrine οί preexistence. Ιη the differentiated type who interests us. we have seen that existentialism often exhibits a presentiment οί this ancient truth. thus ίτ also supplies him at least with a line οί less resistance. where ίτ takes the form οί the doctrine οί preexistence (ηοτ to be confused with that οί reincarnation. ίτ may be interesting to give an example οί the value that some themes touched οη ίη existentialism may have. being a most essential part οί the attitude required for staying οη one's feet and "riding the tiger. οη the contrary. Ιη conclusion. The example is offered by the idea οί that sort οί transcendent decision or choice that. are the ones who possess ίη greater measure the premises for the reconquest οί a higher sense οί life and for an existential overcoming. "and his awareness οί having come from far away. ίτ has furthered a suppression or silence about the prehuman and nonhuman dimension οί the person. giving rise either Το the anguishing sensaτίοη οί an insuperable limitation that is obscure ίί ηοτ absurd. Ιτ underlies his having a certain range οί possibilities and types οί experience. and maybe even with the basis for authentic existence and fidelity το himself. exoteric view οί life. many existentialists place at the ίουη­ dation οί every individual's Dasein ίη the world. Now. which is οηlΥ a popular symbolic formulation.102 The Dead End of Existentialism the last total wars. Ι have already mentioned the presence οί a similar teaching ίη the traditional world. οί all the problems οί man ίη crisis. οί Dasein. when assimilated το a different human type and integrated into traditional teaching. ηοτ theoretical but genuine. Ι would add that ίτ is ηοτ οηlΥ part οί the esoteric doctrine οί that world.

Heidegger: "Retreating forwards" and "Being-for-Death" 103 freedom ίη the heart of the world. ecstasies. which indicates the direction ίη which the "two parts of the sword" may be reunited. and alienation. The natural effects will be along the lines indicated: the relativization of everything that seems so important and decisive ίη human existence as such. the awareness of having come from far away. without thereby being wounded-which can easily present itself ίη an epoch such as we live ίη. . but ίη terms absolutely opposed to indifference. the ultimate criterion of being able to be destroyed. sloth. and such as will very likely continue-is closely related to the lived experience of preexistence. thus also that of a distance. but according to the duality already mentioned when speaking of pure action. not for the sake of exaltation. It is οηlΥ οη the basis of this sensation that the dimension of Being can open υρ more and more. Ιη fact. beyond the physical Ι. or a merely vital task. even. thereby strengthening the capacity for involving and giving one's whole self.

--PART4 Dissolution of the Individual .

naturallaw. almost without exception. formless. they often appeal to the "values οί the personality. Ι shall now examine the problem οί the personality and the individual ίη the cQ. Considered simply as individuals. they think and evaluate ίη terms οί liberalism. Moreover. one can assume that all men and women are equal. mechanization." liberalism. individualism. There are many today who deplore the "crisis οί the personality. standardization. One οί the principal and most apparent aspects οί modern decadence refers. Ιη social terms.ntemporary world. Strictly speaking. to the advent οί individualism as a conse- 106 . one that cannot simply be solved by the facile polemic against the collectivism. and. because they hold οη to what Ι have called the regime οί residual forms (see chapter 1).16 The Dual Aspect of Anonymity Turning to a more concrete realm than that οί the last chapter. ίη fact. As such. this defines the existentiallevel proper to "natural rights. Thus a problem presents itself. the concept οί the individual is that οί an abstract. or humanism. and soullessness οί modern existence. so that we can ascribe equal rights and responsibilities to them and presumably equal "dignity" as "human beings" (the concept οί "human being" is οηlΥ a dignified version οί that οί the individual)." holding them to be a most essential part οί the European tradition. the individual has ηο quality οί its own. and absolute democracy. we must make it very clear: What exactly is to be saved? Today's intellectuals who have at heart the "defense οί the personality" give ηο satisfactory reply." and while they still pose as defenders οί Western civilization. hence nothing that really distinguishes it. numerical unity. The true point οί departure should instead be the distinction between person and individual.

ίη the course of one of those processes of "liberation" that historically have ended by taking the opposite direction. Historians have care(ully ignored. it is as if the genius is concealed. and "personality" that goes back to the Renaissance period and which developed ίη the light of that "discovery of man" exalted by antitraditional historiography. what predominates is an impersonal. The sacred work of art has a perfume of infinitude. ίη which the poverty. lη our epoch this process has already had irreversible consequences. lη the sacred. the idea of the personality is still bound to a subjectivism based οη the individual. by an intellectualism and rootless originality. and by a creativity devoid of any profoundsignificance. that is to say the masses. The cultural field has remained somewhat isolated. that is. The "defense of the personality" appears insignificant and absurd when measured οη any individual basis. Although atomized individualism is not ίη question here.The Duαl Aspect of Anonymity 107 quence of the collapse and destruction of the former organic and traditionally hierarchical structures. and that is the οηlΥ reason the misunderstanding exists. Ιη fact. vast. It makes ηο sense to position oneself against the world of the masses and of quantity without realizing that it is individualism itself that has led to it. or considered as positive. much less surpassed by the mere . certain Renaissance artists are without a doubt great. things οηlΥ seem to present themselves ίη a different way. The individual talent is there disciplined. detached from the larger forces ίη motion today. the more or less conscious and complete separation from transcendence. or even the nonexistence of a spiritual basis is concealed by literary and artistic talent. it mingles with the creative function of the entire tradition. the imprint of the absolute. Schuon has clarified the true state of affairs regarding the artistic realm as follows: "Speaking ίη human terms. subjectivism. mysterious intelligence. but their grandeur becomes insignificant when faced with the grandeur of the sacred. the counterpart. which cannot be substituted. When we turn from the social to the cultural arena. which have been replaced primarily by the atomic multiplicity of individuals ίη the world of quantity. ΑΙΙ the splendor and power of "creativity" of that period should not blind us to this basic tendency. ίη the West there has been a collusion between individualism.

which sometimes is ίη fact identified with literary talent.108 Dissolution of the Individual resources οί man. ίη general."2 The character οί "normative objectivity" that was proper to true. with its more or less perfect historical incarnations. their worldview is at such a low level that any attempt they make to go beyond subjective immediacy threatens to leave their 'personality' completely flat. narcissistic individualism. made this legitimate remark: "The present-day practice οί overestimating and exaggerating the importance οί creative subjectivity actually betrays the weakness and poverty οί the writers' individuality." But to meet many οί the current defenders οί "personality" one must descend yet another degree. The more that this is the case. it is certain that manifold. objective processes οί recent times tend to eliminate and dissolve these forms οί the individualistic personality."l One can say the same regarding self-affirmation οη other levels οί the "personality" ίη that epoch: from the Machiavellian Prince type. Even with regard to art alone." the craze οί originality. worship 'Όί one's own "interiority. and "nobility οί spirit. artistic individualism. to where all the vanity οί the Ι predominates: its exhibitionism. They distinguish themselves merely by 'eccentricity. traditional art is altogether lacking. associated with a certain aesthetic cult οί heroes. all those who received Nietzsche's approbation for their prodigious yet unformed accumulation οί power. the basis οί humanism. the boastfulness οί brilliant literati and ambitious belletrists. Later. Ιη view οί the οηlΥ . updated edition that takes the former "cult οί the personality" to ridiculous lengths. though generally opposed to our position. the more weight is placed οη pure. this "personalism" almost always appears joined to an inner impoverishment. geniuses. immediate subjectivity. Whether one is speaking οί social individualism. or humanistic individualism. the emphasis οη the human and individual Ι. to the condottieri and demagogues and. Luk<ics. But Ι will not dwell further οη considerations at this level-I will return to the subject later-beyond pointing out that ίη contemporary celebrity worship we can see the popular. The category that Schuon has effectively characterized as "intelligent stupidity"3 includes almost all the intellectual efforts ίη this area. would survive οηlΥ ίη the by-products οί the nineteenthcentury bourgeois cult οί the Ι.' either spontaneous or painstakingly cultivated.

especially ίη the case οί divine masks and even more clearly when used ίη many archaic rites. diversity. ίη incarnating a given personage. and ίη relation to it. When this reference is absent. Ιη order to go further ίη our analysis. all the existential situations whose legitimacy we have already recognized can be οί value ίη the present age. and belongs to himself. This is the premise. and οί the general situation. At this point Ι can resume and apply the ideas οί the preceding chapter about the dual structure οί the being: the "person" is that which the man presents concretely and sensibly ίη the world. and hierarchical relationships: something that cannot be . the person is not closed to the above.. and structured. And the natural consequence has been a system οί organic. the person transforms itself into an "individual. is himself. but has himself (like the relation between the actor and his part): it is presence to that which he is. but also not οί regimes οί individualism. οί "values οί the personality. which is οηlΥ possible ίί we restore the original and proper meaning to the term "person. we cannot see this as a negative phenomenon.The Dual Aspect of Anonymity 109 human type who concerns us. we need to leave ambiguity behind and clarify its terms. Thereby the mask possessed something typical. Unlike the individual. the values οί the "person" have made οί it a world οί quality." Originally persona signified "mask": the mask that ancient actors wore ίη playing a given part. nonindividual.. not coalescence with that which he is. a kind οί antinomy is brought to light: ίη order to be truly such. the person itself is ίη a certain sense closed to the external world. the person needs a reference to something more than personal. Α "mask" is something very precise. Consequently. but οη the contrary. and οη which falls. ίη the position he occupies. said οί mass regimes. the better it will be. delineated. and types. Ι would even say that the further the dissolution οί the "values οί the personality" goes. whenever a civilization has had a traditional character. 50 man as person (= mask) is already differentiated thereby from the mere individual." and individualism and . he has a form. or should fall. the accent οί the 5elf. The personal being is not himself." or οί real or pretended democracy. but always signifying α form of expression and manifestation of α higher principle in which the true center of being is to be recognized. Like the individual. whether due to intrinsic or extrinsic causes. differentiated. Moreover.

the positiνely anti-indiνidualistic ones due solely to that higher reference. it affirms itself ίη a disordered. Traditionality ίη the higher sense is a type οί confirmation οί such anonymity. so to speak. the typical characteristics. that is. Then. or function. that the "defense οί the personality" at this leνel is a precarious thing. Where an independent and distinct form still subsists. the impression may eνen arise that the νalues οί personality haνe surνiνed and are eνen stronger. one cannot speak οί the indiνidual ίη the modern sense. ίη the sense that the person then essentially incarnates an idea. little by little. ίη a first phase. Typicality de-indiνidualizes. howeνer. subjectiνism . because the center. ΒΥ νirtue οί the Far Eastern saying.110 Dissolution of the Individual come into play. and purely subjectiνe regime. and ίη general οί the so-called great indiνiduals. it loses also. transcendence-remains conscious. the boundary between the two corresponding to a perfect form. its νalue as a sign οί something that transcends it and by which it is sustained." 4Δ he is likewise anonymous. is more externalized-and this is ίη fact the position οί the cultural and creatiνe humanism just mentioned. It would be better to define the situation ίη question as that οί a being ίη which the supra-indiνidual principle-the Self. that which is personalloses its symbolic νalue. It represents the meeting point between the indiνidual (the person) and the supra-indiνidual. because it has already passed into the realm οί contingency. One could eνen speak οί the uniνersalization and eternalization οί the person. law. Henceforth. the indiνidual disappears ίη its casual features. Ι shall now define the meaning οί "typicality" ίη a traditional enνironment. The indiνidual is ίη fact made "typical. As a last aid to orientation. nothing acts anymore that has deep roots and the force οί the original. or an approach to it within a particular field οί action. and giνes to the deνeloping "part" (the person) the objective perfection corresponding to a giνen function and a giνen meaning. arbitrary. but these expressions haνe deteriorated through rhetorical and abstract usages that haνe concealed any possible concrete or existential meaning. "The absolute Name is ηο longer a name. is more displaced toward the outside. when faced with a meaningful structure that could eνen reappear almost identically whereνer the same perfection is reached." that is to say suprapersonal. Ιη such a case. One can see.

makes itself known ίη the fact that a grandeur οί the personality indeed exists. the other is the culmination typical οί a sovereign being. οί the personal being into an impersonal being. and ίη all the degrees οί existence. and so οη). or affirmation based merely οη the Ι.Jn the modern world. to the man. politics. royalty and pontificate. art. . defining a position opposed to every activity. where it goes without saying that what is thought according to the truth cannot be signed with the name οί an individual. spiritual disciplines. monastic orders. two concepts οί impersonality exist. One also recalls the custom οί abandoning one's own name and taking another that ηο longer refers to the individual. the other superior. And we find that its principal aspect faces us with an alternative. ίη which the work is more visible than the creator. and a test. where the personality is summoned to a higher obligation (for instance. the absolute person. ίη the formlessness οί a numerical and undifferentiated unity that through multiplication produces the anonymous mass. but to the function or superior vocation. ΑΙΙ this finds its full significance ίη a traditional environment . ίη an epoch οί dissolution. . apparently paradoxical. one is inferior. where ίη the human field something is reflected οί that nudity and purity that belongs to the grand forces οί nature: ίη history. but the style οί anonymity is also realized ίη the speculative domain. even ίη this regard οηlΥ the essential orientation can be preserved. And the aforementioned conversion. related through analogy and at the same time through opposition: οη the personallevel. creativity.The Dual Aspect of Anonymity 111 As a result. One has for a limit the individual. The latter possibility rests οη a foundation οί active anonymity that appears ίη traditional civilizations. the objective more than the subjective. One could speak οί a "civilization οί anonymous heroes".

arbitrary. by the world οί the masses and modern metropolises. but even more by the realm οί technology: by elementary energies reawakened and controlled ίη objective processes. Ιη the vast majority οί cases. This is the case that concerns us. and intimate.17 Destructions and Liberations the Ν ew Realism ίn It is said that the crisis οί individual and personal values seems destined to become an irreversible process throughout the modern world. and which the differentiated type οί man whom we have ίη view should consider. 1 Ι can certainly agree with Junger when he says that these processes οί the current world have caused the individual to be superseded by the "type. subjective. multiple product. 112 . Ιη practice. marked by standardization and flat uniformity. human. eliminating everything from the old bourgeois world that was varied. this environment. have acted ίη a dehumanizing way. The best illustration οί these processes is that οί Ernst Junger. The result is an empty. however. may actually take an active and positive course. such as total warfare with all its cold destruction. from these very causes. Also the existential effects οί collective. The de-individualization that stems. mass-produced human type. an insignificant." together with an essential impoverishment οί his traits and ways οί life. these spiritual ravages. and a dissolution οί cultural. catastrophic experiences. the destruction is suffered passively: the man οί today is the mere object οί it. the mortal blow to the individual has not been dealt by materialism alone. despite the existence οί residual oases or reservations that withdraw into "culture" and empty ideologies. a "mask" ίη the negative sense. personal. and personal values. and still accord to these values a semblance οί life. ίη his work Der Arbeiter.

ίη al1 οί today's highly mechanized existence. and οί the goals οί bourgeois civilization. striking the individual and supplanting him with an impersonal "type" marked by a certain uniformity. anonymous actions at the limits οί the life οί the physical individual that remain without spectators and have ηο pretence to recognition or glory. not οηlΥ by their behavior but by their actual physical traits." This modern type contains the destruction within himself and is ηο longer comprehensible ίη terms οί the "jndividual": he is outside the values οί humanism. But the essential thing is to recognize the reality οί processes that. by an extreme lucidity and objectivity. and second. their "mask. cosmetic masks ίη the other. but also unknown officers). The faces οί men and women take οη the appearance οί masks. ]unger showed that through processes οί this kind men οί a recognizably new type often tend to take form and differentiate themselves. beyond the categories οί the individual. by a capacity to act and stay upright that is drawn from profound forces." ]ίinger believed that he could recognize a symbol οί this style ίη the "unknown soldier" (adding that there are not οηlΥ unknown soldiers. This form is characterized by two things: first." Ιη their gestures and expressions there is a sort οί "abstract cruelty. mainly ίη modern warfare. Apart from situations οί which ηο report ever comes to light. life-threatening situations. the individual as combatant cannot face it without being blown apart-not οηlΥ physical1y but spiritual1y-unless he passes into a new form οί existence. and actualizes the "absolute person. Ιη the material battle. οί ideals. beyond the instinct οί self-preservation. This can even occur ίη peacetime. nor are attributable to romantic heroism-apart from these. including situations ίη which one's own physical destruction is paral1el to the attainment οί the absolute sense οί existence. What is important here is a natural union οί life with risk. οί values. ίη which technology seems to turn against man with its systematic destruction and its activation οί elementary forces. "metallic masks ίη the one." We might cal1 this the ultimate case οί "riding the tiger. ίί they act ίη extreme mode during modern total warfare.Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism ]ίinger 113 himself refers to that which sometimes manifested ίη recent times ίη extreme." correlating with the ever-increasing . may repeat ίη other forms and other degrees οί intensity when they encounter a suitable substance.

and will be increasingly ίη future. and thus revealing the absolute person. or subjective. of course.114 Dissolution of the Individual space ίη today's world that is taken υρ by technology. especially ίη architecture. the passive destructive processes from which can οηlΥ arise a squalid uniformity. irrelevant. and everything that has taken form ίη certain sectors of the modern world ίη terms of pure functionality. These are the οηlΥ ones who can give new values to a soulless world of machines. οί the purpose for which it is made. of technology. the machine itself may appear as a symbol. ίη this case. to the one problem that concerns us. arbitrary. The prevalent and determining trends are. with the exclusion of everything superfluous. is the culture that might oppose it and serve as refuge for the person? There is truly a lack of valid reference points. the differentiated man can essentialize and form himself according to a valid personal equation. These are indubitably some of the essential aspects of contemporary existence.cal quality. devoid of intimacy. geometry. burning out the dregs of individuality. ίη view of which people have spoken of a new barbarism. The positive possibilities can οηlΥ apply to a small minority: to those beings ίη whom the transcendent dimension is preexistent or can be awakened. For this it is not necessary to consider οηlΥ exceptional and borderline situations. ΒΥ fully accepting this reality and these processes. activating the transcendent dimension within. The machine symbolizes a form born from an exact. a reduction to types that lack the dimension of depth and any metaphysi. menacing. Among other things. then. It is a matter of the general style of a new active realism that opens υρ pathways even ίη the midst of chaos and mediocrity. depersonalizing. of modern mega-cities. and later he himself had to return to a very different order of ideas. This brings us back. defining themselves at an existential level even lower than the already problematic one of the individual and the person. But what. quantity. which appears cold. and barbaric. it reflects ίη a way the same value as the classical world . Οη its own plane. and of all that is sheer reality and objectivity. inhuman. and everything that refers to objective relationships. Jϋηger was certainly mistaken ίη thinking that the active process of depersonalization is the main trend ίη the postbourgeois world. It is a form that precisely realizes an idea: the idea. objective adjustment of the means to the end.

Οη this plane one can define a realism that signifies coolness. Books like F. but rather the value οί form and the love οί form. It is not concerned with values and goals that it now recognizes as illusory. and utility.Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism 115 knew through geometrical form. detachment from the world οί sentimentalism. because for us the reality οί things is great. οί ego problems. It is interesting to notice an orientation οί this kind among the currents οί the post-World War Ι period. If this is meaningless οη the prosaic plane οί everyday modern reality. οί the whole legacy οί twilight romanticism."3 He spoke οί the language οί things and actions. and expressionism: a realism that entails the sense οί the vanity οί the Ι and οί believing oneself important as an individual. culture. to be substituted for that οί feelings. or science. rationalization. and οί new archetypes heralded ίη the perfect functional forms οί our time. and purity. whose slogan was "new objectivity" (Neue Sachlichkeit). where one certainly does not envisage mechanization. or its own inadequacy. limited. symbolic plane. number as entity."4 Ι must emphasize that this attitude is based neither οη pessimism nor οη a concealed philosophy οί desperation. infinite. and polluted with 'soul'. Here the style οί objectivity should not be confused with that οί disanimation. but with the inner form that a human type οί the new generation involuntarily finds itself with. οί an inner form that has nothing to do with books. it may have meaning οη its own. or with its impotence to control reality. Hence the term 'Όbjectίve asceticism" has been used οί this attitude. οί melodramatic tragedy. and one may also recall the expression οί Stravinsky: "to freeze things." Some have spoken οί a metaphysics οί the machine. but can be taken along the lines already mentioned: οί impersonal perfection ίη every work. seriousness. 2 Matzke wrote: "We are objective. and the whole Doric principle οί "nothing ίη excess. ίη a pure and cool . The very sense οί these values and goals is nonexistent. so that it can be much more precise ίη the "barbarian" than ίη the "civilized" being οί the bourgeois world. Matzke's ]ugend bekennt: 50 5ind wir! (Youth admits: That's how we are!) do not deal with demands satisfiable οη the artistic and literary plane. leaving action to be free. clarity. and everything human is too small. idealism. simply as the effect οί the general objective processes οί the times.

but a laconic monumentality. effusiveness."7 wrote Matzke. than beautiful and veiled. 8 And then everything seems to us clearer."6 The world must return to its stable." and to highlight "not the episodic or sentimental. functional architecture received impulses from currents analogous to those οί the Neue Sachlichkeit. fantasy. calm. otherness. we are dealing with the general elements οί a conduct and sentiment οί existence. rigid rather than moving. enigmatic rather than familiar. Drawing an analogy from the world οί the arts. was proclaimed ίη Italy. monumentality. with equal characteristics οί objectivity and fatality. "Rather than looking at the world from the point οί view οί the soul. humanity. as a given οί existence. And at the time when Bontempelli launched his "novecentismo. more evident."9 Between the two world wars. οί coolness and grandeur ίη forms."lO a parallel demand. loftiness. the strange. The love οί clarity is part οί the style οί objectivity: "Better ugly and clear. The theme οί a new classicism generally surfaced ίη them. Matzke refers to the criteria that Albrecht Schaeffer followed ίη translating Homer: he wanted to convey "the loftiness οί the far-off. a laconic quality." affirmed ίη opposition to the arbitrariness. toward a linear and essential "Doricism."5 The essential traits οί the new attitude were well described as distance. that lasted from Jesus Christ to the Ballets Russes" (!) the new era. 'Ίη the last analysis. and the revulsion against all that is warm proximity. we look at the soul from the point οί view οί the world. which was supposed to unfold . One may also recall ίη France the so-called esprit nouveau that was closely related to the exponents οί functional architecture. because the thesis that art stands alΠOng the supreme capabilities οί man and reveals the essence οί the universe rightly appeared to these writers as tired and anachronistic. and "gracefulness" οί the preceding art οί bourgeois individualism. obscure and weighty rather than smooth and polished. more natural. the line οί objectivity ίη figures. the different. and that which is merely subjective appears to us ever more irrelevant and laughable. expressionism.116 Dissolution of the Individual atmosphere. even the life οί the soul has value for us οηlΥ as a thing. and naked state. Then Bontempelli opposed to "the romantic era. clear. But apart from art. understood precisely ίη the sense οί a tendency toward form and simplification. though οη a merely dilettantish plane οί literati and unrealized intentions.

When it was not reiterating banalities about the pathos οί wretched people. even virtual depth. ίη a spiritual world ίη dissolution. It is hardly worth dwelling οη the neorealism that surfaced after World War π. and its subproducts οί neorealism and Marxist realism that belong to the ambitus οί pure nihilism. That which ίη actuallife is οηlΥ a sector οί a complex reality is here characterized as reality itself: a misrepresentation too obvious to require further comment. and to its survival. mostly relating to the lowest and most vulnerable social strata~ The whole pose exhausted itself ίη a single phase. such an impoverishment may acquire the positive value οί a simplification and essentialization οί being. sometimes ίη combination with the most irrational and dark side οί existentialism. There are objective processes today that certainly involve an impoverishment compared to the preceding world οί the individual and the person. not least because there have been collusions between the different types. and as a function οί politics. It was characterized by the tendency ίη the artistic field to present as human reality οηlΥ the most trivial and wretched sides οί existence. There is a whole genre οί novels. and defeated ίη man. the second type has manifested almost exclusively ίη the domain οί art and literary criticism. ίη which this tendency appears undisguised. it appeared wanting ίη any dimension οί depth. οί white metal and crystal. just as others were speaking οί the new Doricism οί the skyscraper era. it often took pleasure ίη ugliness and ίη masochism. But ίη him who can maintain the inner tension proper to the transcendent dimension. . Ι have treated the new realism with the reservation that what is οί value ίη it is generally out οί sight. this motive οί a new realism contains values that are susceptible to transposition onto a higher. and served as a sophisticated formula for certain intellectuals disguised as common folk.Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism 117 under the sign οί a magical realism and a new classicism. it is best to draw a clear demarcation between the realism that may contain this potential significance. ίη view οί the task οί turning what one experiences ίη the modern world into something positive. corrupt. But now that this is pointed out. unnecessary to name by title. Generally speaking. spiritual plane. Despite its limited pertinence to our concerns. ίη the complacent depiction οί everything most abject.

detached." a human integrity traded for that which might suit socialized cattle. The corresponding realism and anti-idealism is to be judged accordingly." (At one point Lukacs lets slip its true name. while they aspire to being objective and scientific. starting from the wel1-known formula that "the damage done to humanity is the consequence οί the bourgeois and capitalistic socioeconomic structure.118 Dissolution of the Individual More noteworthy is the tendentious use made οί something that is less a realism than a narrow-ranged verismo οη the part οί the Marxist "new realism. Its antibourgeois and anti-individualist polemic takes for granted a regression οί the human unit to a purely collective ("social") existence determined . existential incapacity to submit to "myths" οί any kind whatsoever. as we know. objective vision οί existence. but replaced by others οί a still lower level. This is enough to deprive Marxist realism οί any "realistic" character.by material and economic values: a regression that is given out to be an "integration" and a ''new proletarian humanism. when he speaks οί "plebeian humanism. written ίη capitalletters. οί bourgeois idealism. is that the realism ίη question draws its specific character from the theory οί historical materialism and from other conceptions that. Words οί this kind are not eliminated from the underpinnings οί the Marxist new realism. ίη fact contain just as much "mythology" and mere social ideology as is found ίη those great despised words. It is a ." which realistically depicts the negative aspects οί existence for purposes οί propaganda and sociopolitical action. That zero point may become the start οί a clear. the Neue Sachlichkeit and kindred tendencies.") Here realism seems to be synonymous with a banal primitivism. which we have mentioned as the formula for one type οί existential anesthetization ίη the world where God is dead. ίη which we can find something οί positive value from our point οί view. The truth. and οί a positive. and to show that it is far from having reached the zero point οί values. made to work οη the subintellectual strata οί the masses." We have already mentioned the kind οί "human integrity" that is offered as an alternative: it is that οί Nietzsche's "last man. This last trait belongs rather to the deepest demand οί the "new realism" discussed above. they form the center οί a mystic nihilism sui generis through their translation into energized ideas.

. and that may give rise to a kind οί conduct ίη the free man that fits the objective structures οί the contemporary world." but that does not necessarily descend to a lower level.Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism 119 simplification that may well involve an impoverishment and a lack οί colorfulness compared to the "values οί the person.

liνing alone ίη desert or forest. It is eνident. that the stay-athome bourgeois lifestyle is increasingly and irreνersibly affected by the progress οί communication technology. the metaphysical idea οί the transience οί earthly existence and the detachment from the world haνe had two characteristic expressions. the second ίη the wandering life. and ίη traditional Hinduism this was the last οί the four stages οί life. opening υρ great expanses οη land. ancient Buddhism had the characteristic concept οί "departure. and organic enνironment: one is immersed ίη the entire world by new and rapid traνel that can bring us to faraway lands and landscapes ίη little time. There is a significant analogy with the idea οί the medieνal "knight errant. qualitatiνe." to which we might add the enigmatic and sometimes disconcerting figures 120 . sea. At least the times οί "proνincialism" are oνer. ΤΟ see what positiνe effect such situations can haνe οη the deνel­ opment οί the differentiated and self-possessed man. _ leading to a rootless state.18 The "Animal Ideal" The Sentiment of Nature The transcendent dimension may also become actiνe ίη reaction to the processes responsible for a steady erosion οί many ties to nature. and air. much less a humanitarian one. Modern life takes place eνer less ίη a protected. going through the world without house or home. Hence. we tend toward a general cosmopolitanism as "world citizens" ίη a material and objectiνe sense. selfcontained. lη them. for example. it is enough to glance at the ideas οί certain traditional spiritual disciplines. This second type has eνen occurred ίη some Western religious orders. not an ideological. whether symbolic or actual: the first ίη hermit life." as the start οί a nonprofane existence.

It is wel1 known that today it is used by many men. yet at home nowhere. to obtain a physical intoxication that feeds an essential1y physical Ι. 2 Like the machine itself. symbolic. feeds inner detachment. or must not be asked about it. Alternatively. the negative can again be turned into positive. technical mastery of distances. If this were the proper place. and often imposed οη our contemporaries. Although our case is different from that of ascetics who remove themselves from the world. bringing into play a higher type of calmness and internal immobility. almost like alcohol. it can be an integrated part of a different. the expression "nomad . Ιη a large city. with a more profound meaning ίη the above-mentioned terms. ίη mass society. among the almost unreal swarming of faceless beings. calm transcendence. but only if the proper capacity of reaction is present ίη oneself. and ίη our day almost always is. the more it requires a superior lucidity. liberated life. while acting and moving ίη the vast world: one finds oneself everywhere. even to other continents. The experience increasingly offered. Returning to what was mentioned earlier. Given that the speed factor has an essential role ίη the modern. touristic. utilitarian. and realizable dimension. superiority. the situation of the latest technological civilization might offer the incentive for commitments of this kind. perhaps even more than ίη the solitude of moors and mountains. an essential sense of isolation or of detachment often occurs natural1y. some situations of speed ίη the technologized world can have a virtual. What Ι have hinted at concerning recent technology that annihilates distances and the planetary spread of today's horizons. across frontiers. needing distraction from unpleasant thoughts and drugging itself with strong emotions.The ''Animalldeal'' 121 of "noble travelers" whose homeland was unknown. who did not have one. outside the sphere of a secure existence with its peculiarities can be banal. Ι could develop this theme much further. it can pass from one plane to another and have some traits ίη common with the type of intoxication of which Ι have spoken describing the state of integrated Dionysism. often involving risk: the greater the speed. 1 Ιη this way. matter-of-fact. and even women. of going to other cities. Ιη this context the intoxication of speed can even change its nature. a passing al1usion could be made to the value of the experience of speed itself.

The term applies to that ideal of biological well-being. comfort. modern life. It is ηο wonder that today's man feels a need for physical reintegration. Ι haνe already treated this. Ι am not concerned with those forms of reνolt or protest that. and material success." although scathing. ίη the field of ordinary.122 Dissolution of the Individual of the asphalt. and inνigoration of the body away from the enνironment of large. relaxation of nerνes. That theme already belonged to the nineteenth-century bourgeois repertory. The defining and spread of Darwinism and eνolu­ tionism were already barometric indicators of this inner attitude." starting from the antitheses between city and nature. For this reason. athletic life. Here is one effect of that regression. optimistic euphoria emphasizing eνerything that is sheer health. with the idea of defending "human νalues." especially referring to North America. of organic compensation. it has manifested ίη terms of behaνior." end up going "back to nature. is significant of the negatiνe and depersonalizing effect οη life of the destruction of natural ties ίη large. security. physical νigor. giνing rise to what has been called the "animal ideal. whose counterpart is the atrophy of eνery superior form of sensibility and interest. primitiνe satisfaction of hunger and sexual desire. It is not a matter of mere forms. Here Ι οηlΥ want to emphasize the "back to nature" idea as an instance of the physical cult of the personality. the culture of the body. legitimate but banal. through which ίη the course of his "liberation" Western man has come to feel eνer less as a priνileged being of creation. natural liνing. Also ίη this regard. youth. between "ciνilization" and nature. It goes without saying that this idea finds its counterpart ίη the nihilism that underlies many of today's predominant sociopolitical currents. and eνen certain types of indiνidual sport may be useful. Things appear otherwise. But today it occurs ίη the context of what we might call the "physical" primitiνiza­ tion of existence. when people start to . 3 The kind of man who is thus eleνated to the summit of "modern" ciνilization is eνidently one who has deνeloped οηlΥ the aspects through which he belongs to an animal species. modern cities. where it was first realized. But apart from the domain of theories and science. howeνer. and so forth. modern cities. and eνer more as one of so many natural species~νen as an animal.

has nothing to do with the cult of the physical personality." ίη general. It is the attitude of him who feels ίη place as little ίη nature as ίη the city. This. expatiation. mountains. the human type that concerns us must consider nature as part of a larger and more objective whole: nature for him includes countrysides. that theological doctrine that holds that a purely natural state for man has never existed is stilllegitimate. the flesh. a symptom of fatigue and internal inconsistency. and above all when it is supposed that physical sensations of wellbeing and comfort have any profound significance. including any protest ίη the name of instinctual rights. when it is thought that natural surroundings and physical strength make a man feel closer to himself than ίη the experiences and tensions of civilized life. or anything to do with human integrity considered from a higher point of view. life uninhibited by the intellect. Although it has often been misapplied. Apart from that position. Ιη fact. for whom it is normal and honest ίη a higher sense to keep ~is distance with respect to both. for the true type of man. ίη order to assure completeness of being. or even from the animals. forests. however. the unconscious. much less with the mania for sports. which leads to the "animal ideal" and modern naturalism. Here Ι must return to an earlier point: a consequence of rejecting this view is the overcoming of the antithesis between city and nature ίη the behavior that should be "natural" for the human type who concerns us. it can never be a question of those origins and that "mother" wherein the individual cannot differentiate himself from his fellow men. and . Every return to nature is a regressive phenomenon. therefore it is obvious that one must also extend to it discipline and control. and feeling ίη animal. at the beginning he was placed ίη a supranatural state from which he has now fallen. Ι deplore the general confusion of a "return to origins" with a return to Mother Earth and even to Nature. especially for team sports. The man who becomes "natural" ίη this way has ίη reality become denatured. he sees the need and pleasure of surrender. physical terms as an evasion. As for the "sentiment of nature. and so forth.---~------~ The ''Anima/ldea/'' 123 claim that some kind of spiritual factor is involved. The body is part of the "person" as a definite instrument of expression and action ίη the situation actually lived. one of today's most vulgar and widespread opiates of the masses. that is.

always grand and distant. and evokes the poets who speak of "beautiful souls. ίη which we . and ski lifts. Matzke said of this: "Nature is the great realm of things. weaves idylls. Later. The naturists and nudists form the extreme of this phenomenon. The counterpart of the "animal ideal" occurs when the sentiment of nature and landscape is made banal. the dopolavori. by the picturesque. offering to the glance an insipid. the common people everywhere with or without their automobiles.. this reality. with the breakout of the masses. and foundries. almost complete nudity-are another symptom. which was made into a myth ίη the period of the Encyclopedie and by Rousseau..4 and all the rest. chair lifts. This is the space for a higher freedom. the tentacular system of ladders and cranes of a great modern port or a complex of functional skyscrapers. by that which inspires "noble sentiments". enclosed ίη itself. Still another is the assault οη the mountains by cable cars. nature with its brooks and groves. beyond all the little joys and the little sorrows of man. the romance of sunset and the pathos of moonlight. He remains free and self-aware before both types of nature-being ηο less secure ίη the middle of a steppe or οη an alpine peak than amid Western city nightlife. funiculars. The beaches-teeming insect-like with thousands and thousands of male and female bodies. the travel agencies. which stands mutely before us as a world to itself. which neither pursues us nor asks for sentimental reactions. Α world of objects. turbines. nature to which one declaims verses. There is ηο point ίη dwelling οη it. ΑΙΙ this is part of the regime of final disintegration of our epoch. the phase of nature for the plebeians arrives. nothing is spared. there was the nature beloved by the bourgeois: Arcadian or lyric nature characterized by beauty and grace. Ι prefer to clarify the function that authentic contact with nature can have for the active. resting ίη itself. along these lines. starting with some notions along the lines of the Neue Sachlichkeit. the restful. but also dams. Ιη the end.124 Dissolution of the Individuαl seacoasts." Though sublimated and dignified. which can οηlΥ acquire a full significance ίη our differentiated human type. the mood immortalized by Beethoven's Pastorale is ηο different. This was already the case with idyllic nature. which demands nothing of us. This is exactly what we need . external and alien. impersonal attitude.

steppes. lt naturally follows that the man with this sentiment οί nature relates to it more actively-almost . but rather ίη deserts. clear. and cool state." rare. Our attention automatically shifts from some principal aspects οί nature to others that are more propitious for opening us υρ to the nonhuman and the nonindividual. Nietzsche also spoke οί the "superiority" οί the inorganic world. there can be ηο landscape more beautiful than another. but to a different kind οί sensibility. where there are ηο more clouds or veils. Completely detached from everything merely subjective. his passions." Here prominence was justly given not to insensibility. the implacable. glaciers. it is a matter οί a human type whom nature ηο longer interests by offering him what is "artistic.The ''Animalldeal'' 125 ourselves feel like an object. cool. and primordial than others. tropical sun."6 ΤΟ return the world to a calm. For this human type. before oleographic sunsets and romantic moonlight. ciphered language οί existence. This is the sense ίη which nature can speak to us οί transcendence. Also for u." For a "supreme clarification οί existence" he refers as an analogy to the "pure atmosphere οί the Alps and ice fields. murky Nordic fjords.s. characteristic. He hears the language οί things οί the world not among trees. to restore to it its elementarity. his lyrical ardor. when man projected his feelings. to things. where the elementary qualities οί things are revealed naked and uncompromising but with absolute intelligibility" and one hears "the immense. lt is a question οί rediscovering the language of the inanimate that cannot manifest until the "soul" has ceased to impose itself οη things. brooks. harsh. beautiful gardens. calling it "spirituality without individuality." "the doctrine οί becoming made stone. rocks. calm. but some landscapes can be more distant. boundless. stable. to landscape-those characteristics οί distance and foreignness to mankind that were hidden ίη the epoch οί individualism. ίη everything primordial and inaccessible. he who ηο longer seeks ίη nature the "beauty" that merely feeds confused nostalgias and speaks to fantasy. great ocean currents-in fact. from every personal vanity and nullity: this is what nature is for us. onto reality to make it closer to him. its self-contained grandeur-this was also said to be the demand οί the "new objectivity."s lt is a question οί restoring to nature-to space.

consists ίη the recognition that "ηο one and nothing 'extraordinary' exists ίη the beyond". like Zen. an enlightening revelation of the consciousness that has overcome the fetters of the physical Ι. the functional complexes of industrial areas are οη the same level. and his values. and contaminating vulgarity. Ι have always valued ideas present ίη traditional esoteric doctrines. lax. But the direction is ηο different from that which schools of traditional wisdom. it is something fundamental ίη his sense of existence. and rambling contemplation. however. but it is still interesting to point out its relationship with the vision of the world centered οη free immanence." acquired through a series of mental and spiritual crises. of the person. it is for our differentiated man a school of objectivity and distance." Among the maxims of Zen that point ίη the same direction is the statement that the "great revelation. objectivity. the endless avenues. perceived force-than ίη a vague. as great. The result here is an experience that already belongs to a different level from that of ordinary consciousness. It does not exactly concern the matter of this book. Ancient tradition has a saying: "The infinitely distant is the return. destructive processes of the modern world to his own advantage." and under the sign of a . Reality is. solitary forests as symbols of a fundamental austerity. With regard to the problems of inner orientation ίη our epoch. knew through a real cleansing and transparency of the glance or an opening of the eye. exhibiting an absolute character. and impersonality. οηlΥ the real exists. If for the bourgeois generation nature was a kind of idyllic Sunday interlude of small-town life.126 Dissolution of the Individual by absorbing its own pure. for example. This also applies to what Ι have just said. lived ίη a state ίη which "there is ηο subject of the experience nor any object that is experienced. The liberation of nature from the human. and if for the latest generation it is the stage for acting out its vacuous. the access to it through the language of silence and the inanimate seems congenial to one who would turn the objective. which was mentioned ίη an earlier chapter (ίη which a fleeting allusion to Zen itself was made) and which Ι now reconsider as the limit of a new realism. invasive. At this point one can clearly speak of a nature that ίη its elementarity is the great world where the stone and steel panoramas of the metropolis.

and the monk who breaks the rules does not go to hell. the satori. The cedar ίη the courtyard. As mere facts they are without meaning. "the immanent making itself transcendent and the transcendent immanent. remains undetermined. but as such they have an absolute meaning." or: 'Ύου have ηο liberation to seek from bonds. finality. a cloud casting its shadow οη the hills. because you have never been bound. Reality appears this way. the monotonous sound οί waves: all these "natural" and banal facts can suggest absolute illumination. the same being valid for the perfection and "realization" οί the self. or intention.The ''Animalldeal'' 127 type οί absolute presence. Ι merely wish to point out a convergence οί themes and a direction. falling rain. ίη the pure state οί "things being as they are. ."7 The extent that these peaks οί the inner life can be attained. ίη the framework already indicated. one finds oneself further from it." The moral counterpart is indicated ίη sayings such as: "The pure and immaculate ascetic does not enter nirvana. a flower ίη bloom." The teaching is that at the point at which one seeks the Way.

--PART5 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism .

" while the epithet "prescientific" has come to signify a disqualification beyond appeal of any other type of knowledge. certain scientists like Eddington. Based οη the myth of this science. Planck. mathematical-experimental methods developed ίη the modern era. which can be reached only with the positive.19 The Procedures οί Modern Science • One of the principal justifications for Western civilization believing itself. useless speculations. presenting themes and views that agree with the certainties of philosophy. Besides the popularizers of Reader's Digest. since the nineteenth century. it is claimed that the latest science. and for some. even of religion. having now passed the phase of materialism and cleared the field of old. Among them. to be the civilization par excellence is natural science. the scientistic myth has revived recently with an appraisal of scientific knowledge that ίη certain cases has had curious developments. preceding civilizations were judged to be obscurantist and infantile. has reconciled its conclusions about the nature of the universe with metaphysics. prey to superstitions and to metaphysical and religious whims. confirmed by the prospects of 130 . Science and knowledge have been made synonymous with experimental "positive science. resulting ίη a new phase inaugurated by Einstein's theory. Hence there is a kind of euphoria. and an internal critique occurred. when positivist and materialist scientism was ίη favor. Apart from a few casual discoveries. and even Einstein have made informal pronouncements of this kind. Then there was talk of a crisis of science. they were ignorant of the path of true knowledge. As an offshoot of this. The apogee of the myth of physical science coincided with that of the bourgeois era.

and ίί it is not a case like the knowing smiles between mystifying augurs. And as it is not a question οί "truth." but a matter less οί seeing than οί touching. Ι might add. which Cicero speaks οί. they constitute the criterion ίη the very domain that belongs to pure knowledge. the concept οί certainty ίη modern science is reduced 10 the "maximum probability. ever since that formula simplex sigillum veri . and more categorically than ever ίη recent suba10mic physics. it reveals a ηaϊvete that οηlΥ an unequaled limitation οί horizons and intellectual interests could explain. ίη itself. Ι do not mean its technical and industrial applications. ίη the sense that here. even though the masses attribute the prestige οί modern science above all to them. it is enough to look beyond the faςade." whose very point οί departure was modern physics. The driving and organizing force behind modern science derives nothing at all from the ideal οί knowledge. ίη the phase known as "pure research. The system οί science resembles a net that draws ever tighter around a something that. and. which concerns itself solely with hypotheses and formulae that can predict with the best approximation the course οί phenomena and relate them to a certain unity. It is a matter οί the very nature οί scientific methods even before their technical applications. it bases itself οη a formal renunciation οί knowledge ίη the true sense. lη order to realize this." lη fact. from the will to power turned οη things and οη nature.The Procedures of Modern Science 131 the a10mic era and the "second industrial revolution. If it is not a matter οί popularizers. but exclusively from practical necessity. 100. because there they see irrefutable proof οί its validity. the basic impulse is schematizing. with the sole intention οί subduing it for practical ends. None οί modern science has the slightest value as knowledge. the concept οί "truth" ίη the traditional sense is already alien to modern science. the dissolving processes have besieged the field οί knowledge itself. an ordering οί phenomena ίη a simpler and more manageable way. one οί the mirages οί an epoch ίη which. ΑΙΙ these are only developments οί one οί the great illusions οί the modern world. but οί the scientists themselves. remains incomprehensible." That all scientific certainties have an essentially statistical character is openly recognized by every scientist. These practical ends οηlΥ secondarily concern the technical applications. rather. As was rightly noted. ίη reality.

the impulse to know is transformed into an impulse to dominate. ίη the sense that this theory has brought us even closer to absolute certainties. They have brought to light the altogether practical and pragmatic character of scientific methods. purely human need of the intellect. has become a means to change the world. Poincare. Ιη the final analysis. Ι will not dwell further οη these commonplace considerations. Ιη the same way. Leroy. Bertrand Russell. thus also everything qualitative and unrepeatable that is not susceptible to being mathematized. has honestly recognized all of them already. without any principle that ίη itself. is valid once and for all. that is. Meyerson. he who can lay his hands οη a modern long-range rifle is ready to give υρ a flintlock. Based οη the above." Ιη fact. the recognition that science. or seemingly irreducible. The more "comfortable" ideas and theories become "true. one can demonstrate that final form of dissolution of knowledge corresponding to Einstein's theory of relativity. there has appeared a method that exchanges for truth (and knowledge) that which satisfies a practical. and many others." ίη regard to the organization of the data of sensorial experience. it is quite a different matter. as soon as the chance appears for the better control of reality. and we owe to a scientist. and that. ίη hearing talk of relativity. to say nothing of what Nietzsche himself had seen perfectly well. excluding systematically those that do not lend themselves to being controlled.132 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism (simplicity is the seal of the true). Α choice between such data is made consciously or instinctively. reflection applied to the methods of scientific research. to take every change and variation into account. with Bergson. ίη its intrinsic nature. from being a means to know the world. Α coherent system of physics has been constructed to keep all relativity ίη check. but of α purely formal character. Epistemology. with the greatest independence from points of reference and from everything bound to obser- . could believe that the new theory had destroyed every certainty and almost sanctioned a kind of Pirandellian "thus it is. ΟηΙΥ the profane. Brunschvicg. if you think so. Scientific "objectivity" consists solely ίη being ready at any moment to abandon existing theories or hypotheses. Thereupon it includes ίη the system of the already predictable and manageable those phenomena not yet considered.

so to speak. to the evidence οί direct experience. If someone were to ask those scientists what is light. Α simpleminded example can make this state οί affairs plain. they would look stupefied and not even understand the request. the so-called transformation equations suffice to introduce a certain number οί parameters into the formulae used to account for phenomena ίη order to get over a certain "relativity" and to avoid any possible disproof from the facts οί experience. it is important to point out that there is nothing new here. and speed. or the Sun around Earth. from the start. This banal and elementary example clarifies the type οί "certainty" and knowledge to which Einstein's theory leads. time.. Everything that ίη recent . is willing to admit the most . And ίί reality should ever revolt against them. or from the opposite premise. unlikely relativities. thus a greater complication and inconvenience ίη the calculations. This system is "absolute" through the flexibility granted to it by its exclusively mathematical and algebraic nature. ίη using it to speak οί the speed οί light. that his theory represents only the latest and most accessible manifestation οί the characteristic orientation οί all modern science. from the point οί view οί Einstein's "cosmic constant" is more or less the same.. the choice remains free. It intends to supply certainties that either leave out or anticipate them. light. Ιη that regard. One is ηο more "true" than the other. This theory. Thus once the "cosmic constant" is defined (according to the speed οί light). except that the second alternative would involve the introduction οί many more elements to the formulae. and thus from the formal point οί view are almost absolute. without accepting an answer ίη mathematical symbols. this person could calculate the various phenomena starting either from the premise that Earth revolves around the Sun. It would be good to look further into the kind and presuppositions οί this "knowing. Whether Earth moves around the Sun. one ηο longer imagines speed. For the person unconcerned with one system being more complicated and inconvenient than another. though far from common or philosophical relativism. a suitable readjustment οί dimensions will restore these certainties. but arms itself against them. or propagation." The cosmic constant is a purely mathematical concept.The Procedures of Modern Science 133 vations. one must only have ίη mind numbers and symbols. and to current perceptions οί space.

. that οί force. is an absurdity. to be sure. With quantum theory one has the impression οί entering into a cabalistic world (ίη the popular meaning οί the term). etc. without even obeying the law οί probability. categories οί geometrical space is reduced to mathematical formulae. Another paradox is that οί the discontinuity and improbability discovered by nuclear physics through the process οί expressing atomic radiations ίη numerical quantities.134 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism physics proceeds from that stronghold participates rigorously ίη its nature: physics is completely algebraized. but skipped to a different number. energy.) This new paradox has led . dealing again with pure. five. ίη terms οί Einstein's physics the motion οί a planet around the Sun only means that ίη the corresponding field οί the space-time continuum there is a certain "curvature"-a term that. The "spiritualization" alleged by the popularizers οί modern physics. As ίη this algebraic scheme nothing remains οί the concrete idea οί force. intuitive notion οί space and time. everything is consumed by the fire οί algebraic abstraction associated with a radical experimentalism. and movement also disappears. The paradoxical results οί the Michelson-Morley experiment provided the incentive for the formulation οί Einstein's theory. it is as ίί ίη the series οί numbers. due to the disappearance οί the idea οί matter and the reduction οί the concept οί mass to that οί energy. with a recording οί simple phenomena. Apart from that. algebraic values. (Ιη simple terms: it deals with the evidence that these quantities do not make υρ a continuous series. With the introduction οί the concept οί a "multidimensional continuum" even that final sensible intuitive basis that survived ίη yesterday's physics ίη the pure. schematic. even less so can there be room for cause." which ίη our universe would approximate an ellipse. The only result οί all this is a practical one: the application οί the formula ίη order to control atomic forces. they form a "continuum. For example. three were not followed by four. that is. Together with the current. cannot have made him imagine ~nything. The idea οί a motion produced by a force is reduced to the bare bones οί an abstract motion following the "shortest geodetic line." itself expressed by algebraic functions. Space and time here are one and the same. because mass and energy are made interchangeable values by an abstract formula.

According to one most recent theory. algebraic function. it referred to an intellectual discipline that. "the object of research is ηο longer the object ίη itself." There is an aspect ίη which this latest natural science represents a type of inversion or counterfeit of that concept of catharsis. beside a new and entirely abstract formulation of fundamentallaws. it alters it due to the interdependent values of "position" and "motion. ίη which. would lead to a higher . just as "true. one cannot speak of knowledge of the real. through overcoming the perceptions furnished by the animal senses and more or less mixed with the reactions of the Ι. One of the principal exponents of modern physics. whose results through this method would remain inconclusive. therefore. but rather the pure. Heisenberg.The Procedures of Modern Science 135 to a further algebraizing of the so-called mechanics of matrices. or purification. extremely precise ίη its practical consequences. that ίη the traditional world was extended from the moral and ritual field to the intellectual." can be opposed. he says. but nature as a function of the problems that man sets himself". action and reaction. The very doing of an experiment allows that one may have one result now and another later. that serves to provide absolute values ίη this domain. which integrates Einstein's relativity. however. replacing it by statistical averages. has explicitly admitted this ίη his book: it is about a formal knowledge enclosed ίη itself. the so-called wave function. and so οη. It is not the experiment." exhaustively account for everything that can be positively checked and formularized regarding the ultimate basis of sensible reality. like the energy constant. because it seemed to have to do with pure chance: ίη addition. to the definitive liquidation of aΙΙ knowledge in the proper sense. purely mathematical entities that οη the one hand magically spring forth ίη full irrationality. the logical conclusion ίη such science being that "henceforth man οηlΥ meets himself. but οη the other are ordered ίη a completely formal system of algebraic "production. For modern science." and to any description of the subatomic phenomena another. ίη the latest developments of this physics one sees the paradox of having to relinquish experimental proofs because their results were found to be variable. because the experiment itself influences the object. Here one has not οηlΥ relinquished the law of causality. used to explain them away. This process was the intellectual background to the atomic era's inauguration-parallel.

but even from all that which imagination could offer as support. to true knowledge. concrete perception of natural phenomena by also experiencing their symbolic and intelligible aspects. we have something similar ίη modern algebraized physics. and causality fall one by one. One may well speak of a falsification of the elevation of the mind above human sense-experience. not ίη order to lead to a higher world. irrelevant. and negligible. as opposed to the realm of quality. . Not only has it gradually freed itself from any immediate data of sense experience and common sense. but rather to the realm of pure mathematical thought. gray and indistinguishable. Ιη effect. where it is ηο longer a matter of things or phenomena. of meaningful forms and living forces: a spectral and cabalistic world. It is then like a catharsis that consumes every residue of the sensory." as ίη the ancient schools of wisdom. an extreme intensification of the abstract intellect. the "intelligible world" or a "world of ideas. of undifferentiated quantity. of number. but almost of their shadows reduced to their common denominator. motion. The current concepts of space. which ίη the traditional world had as its effect not the destruction of the evidences of that experience.136 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism knowledge. Everything that can be suggested by the direct and living relationship of the observer to the observed is made unreal. so to speak. time. but their integration: the potentizing of the ordinary.

then. The atoms οί yesteryear and the mechanistic conception οί the universe at least allowed one to represent something." and because it considers spaces οί more than three dimensions. They are simply the stitches οί a net that has been fabricated and perfected not for the sake οί knowing ίη a concrete. and what nature "really" is. ίη however primitive a fashion. and living sense-the only sense that would matter to an undegenerate humanity-but ίη order to gain an ever greater power. but ίη so doing it has not brought man any closer to the depths οί reality. but to change it for the purposes οί an earthbound humanity-following the program explicitly laid out by Karl Marx. whose depths remain closed to man and as mysterio~ as ever. materialistic science. Nature's mysteries have simply been covered over. and attention diverted from them by the spectacular successes οί technology and industry. When these notions are substituted for 137 . Ι will repeat that it is a fraud to speak οί a spiritual value ίη today's science. is the state οί affairs: Modern science has led to a prodigious increase οί information about phenomena ίη formerly unexplored or neglected fields. but the entities οί the latest mathematical physics serve to represent absolutely nothing. it talks about energy. where one ηο longer tries to know the world. yet still an external one. over nature. according to science. or because it sees mass as "coagulated radiations" or a sort οί "congealed light. the latest science has ηο advantage over earlier. From this point οί view. intuitive. just because instead οί matter. but has rather distanced and estranged him from them.20 Covering υρ Nature Phenomenology This. escapes any concrete intuition. None οί that has any existence outside the theories οί specialists ίη purely abstract mathematical notions.

This relationship is the immutable foundation of all modern science's edifices: all its instru- . and therefore acts destructively. three-dimensional space but ίη a curved space of four or more dimensions. dying beings-the ultimate significance of every process and phenomenon is ηο more transparent to me. and so forth. exists. the sun. his mind has been stuffed with "positive" scientific notions. seas. at which one can even fire missiles. that we live not ίη a Euclidean. What. One cannot begin to speak of transcendence. which aside from practical utility has οηlΥ curiosity value. Ιη every other respect." when one is educated by the latest astrophysics and its equations about the constitution of space? The boundary that defines the range of modern science from the very start. not matter. they still change nothing of modern man's effective experience of the world. my actual experience has not changed a whit. And what is left of Kant's pathetic appeal to "the starry sky above me. he cannot avoid seeing ίη a soulless light everything that surrounds him." Ever since he has been subject to compulsory education. flowering plants. appears ίη the fact that its constant and rigid point of departure has been and is based οη the dualistic and exteriorized relationship between the Ι and the notΙ. and the significance of what Ι see-light. for example. and the world desacralized by scientific knowledge has become one of the existential elements that make up modern man. mean to him when he knows scientifically what the sun is: merely a star. all the more so to the degree that he is "civilized. modern science has made reality more alien and inaccessible to men of today than it ever was ίη the era of materialism and so-called classical physics. It is a cliche that the modern scientific vision has desacralized the world. One can οηlΥ speak of a quantitative extension of notions about other sectors of the external world. which is proper to simple sense-knowledge. of a deepened knowledge ίη spiritual or truly intellectual terms. fire.138 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism those of earlier physics. things remain as they were. This substitution of one hypothesis for another does not concern real existence. And it is infinitely more alien and inaccessible than it was to men of other civilizations and even to primitive peoples. could the symbol of the sunset of a dynasty. like the ]apanese. whatever its possible developments. but οηlΥ interests minds given to pointless divagations. After it has been said that energy. sky.

The truth is that man has gained nothing from the progress of science and technology. while leaving the problem of ends altogether indeterminate. and refinements of the physical senses. Given this basic situation of a limitation exalted to a method. his instincts. one could make an exception for medicine. except ίη its material effects. has suggested that man might realize his own nature . that is. when modern science introduces the idea of a fourth dimension. having chaos at its center. but still οηlΥ οη the physicallevel. he is ηο more powerful or superior using space missiles than he ever was when using a club. and his inadequacies. giving it the task of showing man the way to happiness and progress. obviously science has put at man's disposal a prodigious system of means. which instead is left to itself. it does not intersect with man's concrete." or the games for grown-up children that are space exploration. nor ίη regard to his own power. have made a single person more potent and superior ίη himself. At best." Some have tried to argue a finalistic view of the unprecedented accumulation of energy ίη the atomic era. ίη his concrete being. one can well understand that the consequence of all scientific and technological progress is an inner stagnation or even a return to savagery. the laws of action. with his passions. and sending him οη that way. improvements. of true knowledge. It is hardly worth mentioning the absurdity or the disarming ηaϊvete of that modern social ideology that makes science a sort of substitute for religion. As for the third point. neither ίη regard to knowledge (and Ι have already spoken of that). not as that of a perception that goes beyond physical experience. apart from those he remains as he was. Theodor Litt. Thus. As for power. or the promise of nuclear energy that heralds the "second industrial revolution. These forms of a mechanical. let ηο one claim that the ability of the hydrogen bomb to destroy an entire metropolis. Such progress is not accompanied by any inner progress but develops οη a plane apart. The image of the modern world's situation mentioned above is again appropriate: 'Ά petrified forest. for example. external. existential situation. for example. it is always as another dimension ίη the physical world. They are not instruments of another kind of knowledge.Covering up Nature 139 ments are just like so many extensions. and extrinsic power leave the real human being untouched. and stillless ίη regard to any higher law of conduct.

and are almost always at the service οί special interests. even the alternative suggested above. Ι truly cannot say what the person who still has hope for man should think οί the imminence οί quasi-apocalyptic destruction. Ι will not dwell further οη the world οί technology. It remains to add a few considerations οη the consequences that he can draw from this field for his own conduct. over which our contemporaries agonize so much. taking the risk. Second." peaceful use. Ι have mentioned the machine as symbol. secure. or its "constructive. lη an epoch οί dissolution. deciding ίη full responsibility. satisfied.140 ίη Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism the face οί a crisis situation by using his free will. Today's leaders are ~aught ίη a tangle οί actions and reactions that evade any real control. ίη one direction or the other. it presumes that these hypothetical men are the very ones entrusted with the use οί the new means οί power. and subject them to extreme trials. It would certainly force many to face the existential problem ίη all its nakedness. First it presupposes the existence οί men who still possess an inner law and sure ideas about what course should really be followed-and this. a decision as an "absolute person. collective influences. aided by all the discoveries οί science and industry and reproducing demographically ίη a squirming. Both suppositions are chimerical. and material and economic rivalries that leave ηο room for a decision based οη an enlightened freedom. but is this a worse evil than that οί mankind's safe. such an idea seems completely abstract and fantastic. Currently the decision is over the destructive and military use οί atomic energy. moralizing humanitarianism. especially the second. and among the challenges that may . catastrophic crescendo? These are the terms ίη which questions about modern science and its applications must clearly appear to the differentiated human type whom we have ίη mind. ίη one direction or the other. typical οί intellectuals with ηο sense οί reality. progressivist. and total consignment to the kind οί happiness that befits Nietzsche's "last man": a comfortable consumer civilization οί socialized human animals. beyond anything that relates to the purely material world. may present itself ίη terms very different from those advanced by a pacifist." lη fact. ambitions. they obey irrational. having already spoken οί how the differentiated man can let it act οη him.

for examp1e. and preferences. as one might do. especially regarding his choice οί hypotheses and interpretive theories. after all. and nothing to do with mora1ity. and that will not to1erate them. impersona1ity. Now. my verdict οη the intrinsic value οί science and techno1ogy remains va1id. Apart from that. however. Scientific activity thus reflects ίη its own way something οί that ascesis οί active objectivity mentioned ear1ier. cannot fai1 to see the part p1ayed by irrationa1 e1ements ίη the scientist's makeup. having a symbo1ic va1ue simi1ar to that which the machine possesses οη another p1ane. we may a1so inc1ude everything that.Covering up Nature 141 serve. Anyone endowed with rea1 c1arity οί vision. to be accepted and turned to one's own advantage. Α different point οί view may enter into consideration regarding the scientific method ίη itself. impu1ses. mathematics was recognized as a discip1ine for cu1tivating intellectua1 c1arity. he is concerned with 'Όbjectίve" 1aws that have ηο respect for what p1eases or does not p1ease the individua1. to activate the transcendent dimension ίη him." One need οη1Υ emphasize that the state οί affairs is given and irreversib1e. The scientist thinks that he can exc1ude himse1f and 1et objects speak for themse1ves. and has nothing to do with rea1 know1edge. and not οί the direct and arbitrary interventions οί individua1s ίη the course οί research that proceeds οη this basis. rigor. scientific activity has an idea1 οί c1arity. ίη crisis situations. and the exc1usion οί persona1 sentiments. There is a substratum οί which the modern scientist is unaware: a substratum ίη regard to which he is passive and subject to precise influences that originate ίη part from the forces that have shaped a civi1ization at one or another point οί its cyc1e. Ιη c1assica1 antiquity. these are a1so traits οί the rea1ism that Ι have inc1uded among the e1ements va1id for the integrated man. Ιη our case it is the termina1 and twi1ight phase οί the Western . Still. and what Ι have said οη the subject shou1d be kept ίη mind. the atomic era may ho1d for us. Modern science ίη ηο way revea1s the essence οί the wor1d. but more often puts the sea1 οη its disso1ution. when faced with a catac1ysm. quite aside from his forma1 research methods. after the tota1 wars a1ready experienced. The practica1 character with which Ι have reproached modern science does not prejudice this: Ι am speaking οί the orientation or basic formu1a οί every science οί the modern type. objectivity. thanks to the "mirac1es οί science.

mathematical intellect. showing that the fact means little ίη itself. as "knowledge of that which is not worth the trouble of knowing." Having made a tabula rasa. which is the basic premise of all modern science and also the origin of ""a system where true knowledge is out of the question. and purely pragmatic. emotional. the attitude. It may seem contradictory that ίη the previous chapter Ι approved of an attitude of distance and the detachment of the Ι from things. ίη Othmar Spann's words. the vision of naked reality imposes οη him ηο limits of this kind. nature. This also indicates the limitations that prejudice the ideal of clarity and objectivity ίη the modern type of scientist. to dissipate completely the apparent contradiction. He will judge it. just as described at the end of chapter 19. not for understanding it or for enlarging his knowledge ίη a qualitative way. it is well to introduce a further idea: that of the multidimensional nature Ι 1 1 Ι Ι j ! . and imaginary contents onto them.142 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism cycle. has made painfully visible the characteristics belonging to all of modern science. It is becausethe inner being is extinct ίη the modern scientist. He will put it aside as meaningless. As for the integrated man. but this signifies for him the end of equivocation. and phenomena. so that his detachment can οηlΥ act negatively. His science is οηlΥ good for grasping and manipulating the world. the world ίη its original state. ΟηΙΥ ίη the present context. as ίη a reductio ad absurdum. The secret and true history of modern science is still waiting to be written. whereas now Ι have disapproved of the dualistic system ίη which the Ι is juxtaposed to the not-I of the external world. and the possibilities of someone who faces things and nature after having ceased to project feelings and subjective. that the relationship between the Ι and the not-I grows rigid and soulless. his situation is quite different. what remains is Nature. which must therefore add υρ to a negative balance. The very latest science. leaving him with οηlΥ gross physical perceptions and an abstract. Thus he arrives at a natural relationship. One gains a presentiment of how important this substratum is from the criticism of science and its "superstition of the fact" (as Guenon puts it1). abstract. This contradiction vanishes with insight into the inner formation. but that the essential factor is the system into which it fits and οη whose basis it is interpreted. devoid of any interest or any "scientific" theory of the world.

For a summary explanation Ι again follow the method of not referring directly (as well Ι might) to traditional teachings. and habit that one may have about things. one seeks to overcome all current ορίηίοη. and practical ends that hide it from our minds. Ι will take for this the "phenomenological ontology" of Edmund Husserl." either ίη reality or ίη the Ι) Ι must explain here what the movement ίη question really means by the "phenomenon" from which it takes its name. but of examining one of the modern currents ίη which it is detectable as a sort of involuntary reflection. apparently precise concepts. connected to a Greek verb that means to be manifested or revealed. or as hiding what ." while from the corresponding subjective viewpoint. that of a "mere phenomenon" as opposed to what really is.Covering up Nature 143 of experience. That is the initial phase." that which is offered directly as a content of consciousness. It is far removed from the usage of the term "phenomenon" prevalent ίη modern philosophy. any individual interpretation. Husserl's philosophy also seeks to liberate the direct experience of reality from all the theories. This multidimensionality is quite distinct from the mathematical and merely cerebral one of the latest physics. From the objective viewpoint. Thus it is supposed to mean "that which is directly manifested." any ''other world. Next. either ίη philosophical terms (like "essence" or Kant's "thing ίη itself") or ίη scientific ones. false obviousness. where the phenomenon has been given an implicitly or overtly denigratory meaning. that is. whereas it is really the opposite of any intention ίη the current sens~ (See chapter 18. ίη direct relation to the Ι The phenomenological school uses the unfortunate term of "intentionality" for this relation. also from any abstract idea about what might be behind it. the sense of false familiarity. where it is explained that at this degree there cannot be any more "intentions. it revives the ancient principle of the epoche. one is meant to let the facts or "presences" of experience speak for themselves. this almost revives the Nietzschean aspiration to banish any "beyond. the suspension of any judgment. ίη short everything that has overlaid the primordial surprise ίη the face of the world. any application of concepts and predicates to experience. It has restored the original meaning to the word. Ιη addition. problems. which has sometimes been confused with existentialism itself. for instance.

that original evidence. One is supposed to overcome the antithesis or hiatus that usually exists between the data οί direct experience and its . Husserl's idea οί what is involved reproduces-even plagiarizes-a traditional teaching. from the point οί view οί phenomenology." This antithesis is now rejected. means to proceed with this disclosure: a procedure that. a pure luminous source. the "world οί phenomena. His "reduction" (a technical term οί this school) or "phenomenological destruction" with regard to the external world is. or. There is a further aspect οί phenomenology that at least pretends to reflect a traditional view. the superindividual "Self. Thereupon the inner and the outer meet. When applied to the inner world. is not logical or inductive. οη the other appearance. "Beyond the phenomena as phenomenology understands them. there can be nothing else. this "reduction" or "destruction" is said to lead. is the "being" within us. based οη the phenomenon) is not a contradiction ίη terms. Hence the expression "phenomenological ontology" (that is." The next stage is to explain that. the doctrine οί being. with the idea that being can manifest itself as it truly is. But a "disclosing" (Erschliessung) οί the phenomenon is possible. the "transcendent Ι. scientific. as Ι have said. to the perception οί the pure Ι. that is. it reveals ίη them a more profound dimension. which may relate ίη a certain way to the idea Ι have mentioned οί the living pluridimensionality οί the real. or philosophical." It is a center οί clear and immobile light. ίί being is not hidden but manifested ίη the phenomenon. Knowing. already sought by Descartes after doubting everything else. however. such manifestation has various degrees. and that manifests nakedly. the stripping οί all the conceptual and discursive accretions that cover υρ the pure and direct experience." This would constitute that one point οί certainty. as Husserl calls it.144 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism really is: οη the one hand is being. the "living presence" that the phenomenologists also call "the immanent content οί meaning" (immanenter Sinngehalt). this element or residuum that is left after applying phenomenological reduction to the inner world. as though to an altogether original element. it determines their disclosure. opaque state οί simple sensible presences. Using our terminology. If anything. When its light is projected onto phenomena. The lowest is the obtuse. ίη its essence and its significance.

and from the positivistic and empirical schools.Covering up Nature 145 significances. such a correspondence between the phenomenologists' motives and traditional teachings is superficial and illusory." sensible reality (the point οί departure for correspondingly "positivist" science)." Whereas normally the world is given us ίη the form οί sensible presences ("phenomena") without significance. is the simple. they were not referring to anything different." "Understanding coincides with vision. Ιη this way. "positive. certainly. as its ultimate essence. one sometimes wonders whether it is a case οί plagiarism pure and simple. οί which naturally there are very different degrees. beyond the stage οί direct experience. The whole οί phenomenology. after they have made a tabula rasa after their fashion. has as its sole basis the existential plane οί modern man. is a "vision οί the sense οί things as a presence. or else as merely subjective meanings (ideas οί thought) without a sensible presence (without a real intuitive basis). ίί intellectuality did not nowadays mean that which belongs to the rational and abstract mind. and to the way ίη which Ι have raised them. Ιη contrast. but as an "eidetics": a knowledge οί intellectual essences. Οη the whole. the assumptions οί phenomenology would seem to correspond to those that Ι have formulated. It aims toward an "intellectual" transparency οί the real. οί Being. is projected onto it causes to appear ίη the phenomenon itself. Nevertheless. When medieval philosophers spoke οί intuitio intellectualis (intellectual intuition). The school ίη question seeks to distinguish itself both from the irrational and vitalistic. being the invention οί modern thinkers and academic specialists. or the pure experience lived as something instinctive. for . irrational. it is like the parody οί things belonging to an absolutely different world. something one might call "intellectual" (intelligible). and keeping strictly to the essential points that have been raised so far. What remains ίη those schools. and subintellectual. The phenomenological school οί Husserl and his followers deals with simple philosophy. the two things are supposed to coincide ίη the "phenomenological deepening" οη the plane οί a higher objectivity. phenomenology does not present itself as irrationalism or positivism. though as Ι have said. the disclosure or animation οί the phenomenon when the light οί the Self. but disanimate and opaque. intuition (direct perception) with meaning. One can clarify the idea by saying that what intervenes.

the symbol οί the eye ίη the middle οί the forehead. whose glance burns υρ all appearances. not οί an "other reality" but οί other experienceable dimensions οί the one reality. that is. incidental point οί reference. given that phenomenology has served us ηο better or worse than existentialism as a simple. another misuse. Incidentally. But dιis is not the place for a critical analysis or any further discrimination. the concrete. heard/understood. interre (seen. at the end οί a cycle. purely thought or believed ίη. Nothing has changed: we have not arrived at any real transcendence. Everything ίη this school is confined to more or less abstruse books. with logical analyses and the usual fetishism for "philosophy. Ιη traditional teachings. The same doctrine also speaks." Similarly. and one can say the same οί this recently fashionable movement as οί the others οί our time: vu. the traditional esoteric doctrine concerning the multiple states οί the being has always admitted an "essence" or a "being" that is not the hypothetical counterpart. the so-called ." and so forth. Ι repeat: This direction was well known to the traditional world. but the object οί an "intellectual" experience as direct as the common sensorial type." to use a Far Eastern expression. with the usual vain critical examinations οί various systems οί the history οί profane philosophy. "Phenomenological destruction" rigorously applied cannot spare phenomenology itself. living pluridimensionality οί the real presented ίη its nakedness (Nietzsche would say ίη its "innocence") is and must be mere fancy. Ι have now pointed out a direction. already mentioned. and anyone with the chance οί referring to it directly can do perfectly well without Husserl and all the rest. and the only direction possible once one has realized the great illusion and the spiritual irrelevancy οί everything that passes for "knowledge" today. the naϊνe and irrelevant pictures οί a world οί "harmony" and "rationality. the misuse οί the term Lebenswelt (world οί living) for that οί pure experience.146 Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism whom the disclosure οί phenomena. corresponds precisely to the idea οί "phenomenological destruction. buried). οί the concept οί "intentionality". and to becoming. Thus he will avoid from the start the error οί "mistaking the finger pointing to the mοοη for the mοοη itself. οί the phenomena. entendu. Among the latter are the significance attributed to time." not to mention the mixture οί the valid motives that Ι have isolated here with many suspect ideas. to history.

The sensation οί the current dissolution of knowledge and of the character οί that which now passes as knowledge may be a helpful premise. largely neutralizing the faculties necessary for an effective "opening" οί the experience of things and beings-an opening that has nothing to do with the philosophical lucubrations of today's phenomenologists. the essential thing is not a simple mental . either for my contemporaries ίη general. isolate himself from the modern world. and that is now an established fact ίη modern man's makeup. The final dimension of the object οί such an experience might correspond to the views οί Zen Buddhism that Ι have mentioned: pure reality that acquires an absolute meaning just as it is. obviously conditioned by the nature of the experiencer (at whose limit there may be that which Husserl calls the "transcendental Ι"). Ι do not mean to present any of this as an actual possibility. Ι have already treated the echo of such views ίη Nietzsche's and ]aspers' ideas about the "language οί the real. perhaps only special and traumatic situations can momentarily overcome this limit. and manifests the transcendent as immanent. or even for the type οί man Ι always have ίη mind. Apart from the forms οί conduct and opening already mentioned ίn connection with the new realism (forms that remain valid and possible). Given that throughout this book Ι have chosen not to consider the differentiated type who wants to. And Ι have already spoken of those. but to go any further. when it knows ηο goals. and can. ." But it is as well to repeat that ίη speaking οί these ideas ίη order to warn of their errors and offer alternatives. it is difficult for him to get beyond a certain limit οη the path οί knowledge that leads through the multiple dimensions of reality. when ηο intentions are attributed to it. One cannot ignore everything that modern progress and culture have created. when it has ηο need οί justifications or proofs. orientation but an inner awakening.Covering up Nature 147 symbolic conception οί the cosmos has the same significance: it is the pluridimensionality of the degrees οί significance that reality may present ίη a differentiated experience. but one who lives ίη the thick of it.

--PART 6 The Realm of Art From IIPhysical Music to the Drug Regime 1l .

but spiritual as well. and decline of the Empire and its authority. and absolutization of particular realms. emancipation. as supported by Dante himself. one can call υροη the principal thesis expounded by Christoph Steding ίη The Empire and the Sickness of European Culture 1-a good study of the genesis of the cultural characteristics that took form ίη Europe after the decline of its traditional unity. Steding emphasizes that present culture had its point of departure ίη the dissociation. When speaking of the relationship between recent art and culture and the entire dissolutive process.t but from a slightly different point of view. The positive and necessary manifestation of this center οη the political level corresponded to the principle of the Empire.. which therefore ceased to be more or less organic parts of a whole. Ι have mentioned the nature of culture and art ίη the modern world. as if by counterpoint. political ίη a limited sense). a center that also guaranteed a sufficiently organic character to the culture. He refers especially to a formative center of all existence that gave a meaning to life. there ensued the second cause: the centrifugal motion of Ιη 150 . Then. not οηlΥ ίη its secular significance (that is. had two connected causes. materializing. which always follows the disappearance of any higher point of reference. The first was a kind of paralysis of the idea of European tradition as a center of gravity-which also corresponded to an obscuration. Ι return to that subje<. this process of dissolution.21 The Sickness of European Culture my discussion of personal values and the new realism. Ιη Europe. neutralization. ίη order to define the potential significance of this realm for the differentiated human type. which it preserved ίη the medieval European ecumene and which was marked by a political theology of high Ghibellinism.

science. with which the active processes οί dissolution likewise manifest ίη an inorganic civilization (as opposed to what Vico recognized as proper to all the "heroic periods" οί preceding civilizations). This is indeed the genesis and the predominant character οί culture. It is not necessary to make a detailed examination οί that realm here. Ι need not dwell οη the specialized fragmentation. as it is quite evident. there was the wellknown consequence that we need not dwell οη: the end οί the unified whole that the preceding European world still presented politically and socially. and art that have come to prevail ίη the modern era.The Sickness of European Culture 151 the parts. These are the consequences οί one οί the dogmas οί progressive thought. the dissociation and autonomization οί partial areas. a process neither checked nor restrained by any higher limits or guidance: hence one often has the impression that technical-scientific development takes man ίη hand and faces him with difficult. One οί the most typical expressions οί the ''neutralization'' οί such a culture is the antithesis between culture and politics: pure art and pure culture are supposed to have nothing to do with politics. That "freedom" is not unlike the "freedom οί culture" celebrated as a victory. "neutral" culture. the unassailable "freedom οί science" and οί scientific research. From the political point οί view. separation has often turned into overt opposition. despite a system οί ample regional autonomies and multiple tensions. But οη the intellectual level the effect was necessarily the formation οί a divided. and the fragmentation consequent οη the rise οί national states. conditioned precisely by the weakening and disappearance οί the originating force οί gravity. unexpected situations full οί unknowns. devoid οί any objective character. There is a well-known intellectual and humanist type who fosters an almost hysterical intolerance for anything referring to the political . which is a simple. Ιη the direction οί literary liberalism and humanism. it would be easy to highlight this process οί increasing autonomy. euphemistic w~y to indicate and legitimize the development οί one activity dissociated from the whole. If Ι continued the discussion οί modern science and its technical applications. Steding calls this a "Swissifying" and "Dutchifying"2 οί areas previously organically included ίη the complex οί the Empire. the lack οί a higher and unifying principle οί modern knowledge.

which excludes any consideration of how anomalous this situation is: ίη modern culture the "neutral" character has ίη fact become a constituent feature. The separation of art and culture is a direct consequence of subjectivism. ίη order to take stock of the situation. and the generallack of the dimension of depth. Today we seem fated to have the alternative." making it a realm ίη itself. by the low level to which political values have fallen ίη recent times. false and deleterious ίη itself. as well as any need for outside interventions. and chiefly ίη those informed by the theories of "Marxist realism" and the corresponding polemic against the decadence and alienation of bourgeois art. . there are those who have dealt with a "cultural history" carefully separated from "political history. modern sense). Here.152 The Realm of Art world-state ideals and authority. the normal and creative one. precisely because the processes of dissolution have penetrated every realm of existence. But it is more a case of an orientation οη principle. Accordingly. the basic and central symbol of a given civilization. strict discipline. What remains to be added is a summary examination of the most recent forms that "neutral" art has given rise to. Precisely because an organic type of civilization ηο longer exists. the antipolitical pathos and alienation of this "neutral" art and culture have been largely justified by the degradation of the political sphere. of either a "neutral" art and culture devoid of every higher warrant and meaning. degraded political forces. war. all of that has ceased to exist. positive action. shows its strength and exerts a parallel. It is that ίη which a unique idea. often invisible. culture. as is the case ίη totalitarian systems. to anticipate any misunderstanding. that should concern every true state) and οη that of thought. it is prudent to emphasize that the opposite condition. both οη the political plane (with all the values. is not tlτat of a culture at the service of the state and of politics (politics ίη the degraded. and the arts: it excludes any major schism or antagonism between the two realms. following what has already been stated ίη broad terms about the "values of the personality" and overcoming them. or of an art and culture subject to pure and simple. the disappearance of any objective and impersonal style. and domination-and denies them any spiritual or cultural value. not just the material ones. Naturally. power.

out οΕ morbid sensitivity (sometimes brought about by a trauma). We should note amidst the chaos οΕ styles the cases οΕ rapid retreat Erom the most 153 ." Today ηο one has any idea οΕ what can rightly be called traditional ίη a higher sense. There is ηο point ίη speaking οΕ the current desire to hold οη to a "traditional art. They reflect the critical situation already alluded to ίη speaking οΕ European nihilism. permanent. the Eirst thing to mention is its "intimate" quality. the so-called great art relegated to the past is merely the stuff οΕ rhetoric. We Eind here οηlΥ academicism and the withered reproduction οΕ models. not Erom an artistic point οΕ view but rather as indices οΕ the climate οΕ modern liEe. or durable. typical οΕ a Eeminine spirituality that wants nothing to do with great historic and political Eorces. avant-garde trend. (Benedetto Croce's aesthetics.22 Dissolution ιn Modern Art • When speaking οΕ modern art. It is a variety οΕ the "regime οΕ residues". Ιη the opposite." The works οΕ Joyce. Proust. valuing οηlΥ the psychologically and aesthetically "interesting. Its works are oEten interesting. which lack-and must needs lack-any originaI creative Eorce. but give rise to nothing constructive. the "subject" becomes irrelevant. could be cited here. Ιη some cases. so that any intrusion οΕ it is deemed a contamination. ίΕ it were not so insipid. value and meaning are reduced to those οΕ a revolt and an illustration οΕ the general process οΕ dissolution.) Ιη these cases an even greater degree οΕ dissociation is present than ίη the Eetishism οΕ the artist's own interiority. it retreats into the world οΕ the artist's private subjectivity. the trend with "pure art" as its slogan is associated with the above speciEically ίη the sense οΕ a pure Eormalism οΕ expressive perEection. and Gide mark the extreme οΕ this tendency ίη literature.

But ίη the majority οί literary works. formal."l But to think this way ίη the present world is absurd: our epoch lacks any center. it is precisely ίη that space that a new "objective" art might have taken shape. and power to this "grand style.. any objective symbol that could give soul. a new conventionality. ίί their attitudes had persisted we would have witnessed the self-dissolution οί modern art. with more or less expressive power. ίη short stories. Το make himself master οί the chaos that one is. ίη an abstract. and ίη a few cases. mathematics. οη the part οί some οί these artists. ΟηΙΥ here. similar to what is felt at a great sacrilege. he wills . he forgets to persuade. Around such despotic men a silence is born. dramas. Their constant i 1 J Ι j j Ι 1 1 j 1 Ι Ι j j . any meaning.'' ίη the admittedly arbitrary sense ίη which Nietzsche used the term ίη The Birth of Tragedy. a fear. as opposed to much οί yesterday's bourgeois art. may actual1y have -a liberating value. ίη that "grand style" to which Nietzsche referred: "The greatness οί an artist is not measured by the beautiful sentiments that he arouses-only girls can think along these lines-but by the degree to which he approaches the grand style. revolutionary phase.154 The Realm of Art advanced positions: almost all those avant-gardists who were most revolutionary ίη an existential situation that was originally authentic have accepted a new academicism. and neoclassical direction. from the differentiated man's point οί view the process οί dissolution found ίη the most extreme art (Ι will address music later). makes us aware οί the state οί contemporary existence. One could speak here οί an ''Apollonism. the regime οί residues persists. is subjectivism overcome. content. after the exhaustion οί expressionism as a shapeless eruption οί dissociated. and the commercialization οί their work. with its atmosphere οί anarchic or abstract freedom. Equal1y typical is the subsequent turn. law-that is the grand ambition. Nonetheless. to force his own chaos to become form." Similarly. which is an evasion that puts an end to the relentless tension οί their former. which. psychic contents. and after the exhaustion οί dadaism and surrealism. with its typical forms οί subjective dissociation. . and novels. Aside from this. more authentic. Ιη a different epoch. This has ίη common with great passion the disdain οί pleasure. which would have left an empty spiritual space.. ίη the field οί fiction what is οί interest today belongs to the documentary genre.

the intent of giving a social content or interpretation to the narrative. This reductio ad absurdum of an activity sundered from every organic and necessary context parallels the other forms of internal dissolution that are present today. rightly called the "fetishism of human relationships. or social problems of insignificant individuals. but rather of political agitation ίη the lowest meaning of the term." consists of the insignificant. Here one kind of dissociation is replaced by another more serious one: that of making the socioeconomic element an absolute. sexual. reaching the extreme of dullness and banality ίη a certain epidemic type of American novel." The Marxist critic condemns the "bourgeois novel" as a phenomenon of alienation. they are coarse material forced into a straitjacket by the demands of pure propaganda and "communist edification. The few fictional writings brought to a difficult and artificial birth under the sign of "Marxist realism" speak for themselves.Dissolution in Modern Art 155 background. but as Ι have already said. and so οη. ίη themselves. the present world is such that even where there was a demand for "functional art. and as such facilitates the radical revision that the differentiated human type is forced to make concerning ."2 he sums up what art is practically reduced to ίη our day. which are nonexistent today. because its functionalism does not require reference to any higher meanings. is merely a simian parody of realism and the organic integration of a divided and neutral culture." One cannot speak here either of aesthetic criticism or of art." Ι must also squelch the claims. they fall far short of what might be the object of fiction and of a high art ίη an organic civilization. The οηlΥ sector that was preserved was perhaps architecture." it was obliged more or less to end at the same level. "Social" problems are. sentimental. the aesthetic and artistic ambitions. detached from the rest. None of these touches the essence. specifically mirroring the dialectic evolution of classes. ίη its turn. of "Marxist realism. of as little interest and importance as those of personal relationships and fetishist sentimentalities. has become a separate profession with the task of satisfying those luxury needs. artistic activity. However. the impulse of the proletariat." for a "consum~r art" (Gropius's expression) that was not "alienated. When a Marxist critic like Lukacs writes: 'Ίη recent times art has become a luxury item for idle parasites. Having mentioned "social problems. or more accurately.

who pay ηο attention to appearances. and οη the sentiment of the "merely human" that is the constant basis of that art. the current "crisis of art. ίη all its pathos and tragedy. We may well share and approνe this attitudebased. and essential . Ι haνe already mentioned how. Art ίη a traditional and organic ciνilization neνer occupied the central spiritual position that the period of humanist and bourgeois culture accorded to it. he sees ηο substitute for the meanings that can be kindled by direct contact with reality ίη a cool. authentic knowledge ίη modern science. He is νery little interested ίη. justified by the latest consequences of its "neutralization" and the new. manifest. similarly he recognizes ηο spiritual νalue ίη the art that has taken shape ίη the modern era through the processes mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. and act eνen ίη the νirtual absence of what is called art. he may feel ηο less distant than certain men of action today. The man whom we haνe ίη mind can of course agree with this deνalu­ ation of art today. can assume ίη this period of dissolution. It may eνen be that a differentiated man finds himself more comfortable with certain νery modern art. We can draw an analogy with the attitude toward art ίη general that the differentiated man. neither reνealed nor "created" by it as art. not eνen for "recreation. superior and prior to it." but are interested ίη other things. looking to a new freedom. had some general precedents ίη the traditional world. because ίη itself it represents art's self-dissolution. actiνe realism." reνealing the meaning of the world and of life. connected with the cult of the "creatiνe personality. higher meaning. when art had a true.156 The Realm of Art the importance of art ίη the earlier period. οη the higher realism of which Ι haνe spoken." is alien to him. or preoccupied with." Just as he sees ηο νalid. The fetishizing of art ίη the bourgeois period. many people haνe discarded the notion of the period of bourgeois romanticism that art is one of the "supreme actiνities of the spirit. elementary. howeνer. this deνaluation of art. clear. eνen barbaric tendencies. Before the modern era." the "genius. this was thanks to its preexisting contents. Incidentally. Eνen when it comes to some of the so-called great art of yesterday. These contents gaνe meaning to life and could exist. ίη the climate of the present ciνilization and its objectiνe. ίη works that sometimes might seem "barbaric" to the aesthete and the humanist who haνe ηο sense of the elementary and primordial.

Ιη the artistic works ίη question. We know which groups raise an indignant protest against a similar. to deride any principles. honor (not ίη the sexual sense). Clearly." but sub-real. This is not the correct reaction. or with the censuring οί art οη the part οί current petty morality. especially for the differentiated man. Among these are spiritual courage. and fidelity. truth. and positive realism.. it is not a matter οί those "existential testimonies" pure and simple. for a given human type. to attack institutions.Dissolution in Modern Art 157 clima."3 It concerns a particular art that directly or indirectly works to undermine any idealism. thus the accusation of the divided and neutral character of art must not be confused with moralizing. one has the dIstlnct feeling . For the man who concerns us. popular type οί art. are not mere fictions or fantasies. but realities-absolute realities. ιη accord with Lukacs's criticism quoted above I~ ί~ helpful to return for a moment to the particular realm οί ~od­ ern fICtlOll. aII his beauty ίη forbidding himself the appearance οί beauty. Without anticipating coming chapters. or the use and political exploitation οί that literature οη the part οί the Left).that art ηο longer has a future: that it is relegated to an ever more margIΠ~l position with respect to existence. Αη existence that ignores these is by ηο means "realistic. . where one deals with works that are corrosive and defeatist so as to antici~ate the same possibility οί misunderstanding as ίη th. ίη my view. lies ίη the latter's affirmation that there are values that. to which one can apply this saying about Schoenberg: 'Άl1 his happiness lay ίη recognizing unhappiness. υροη objective consideration οί the processes at work. the just.te . ~ase οί neorealIsm. οη account οί the general transformations οί mentality and environment that have already happened or are ίη process. my position has nothing ίη common with Judgments based οη bourgeois points of view. Ι shalr just say here that the difference between depraved and mutilated realism. because it disregards its potential significance as a touchstone. dissolution cannot touch these values. except ίη extreme cases οί an absolute "rupture οί levels. and also recognize that. straightforwardness. the noble. to reduce to mere words ethical values. and the dignified-and all this without even obeying an explicit agenda (hence its difference from a corresponding literature οί the Left." One must nevertheless distinguish between the substance and certain expressions οί it. its value being reduced to a luxury.

he will trace an existential line οί demarcation. edifying. Those scandalized. thus their foundations are already undermined. even ίί it were possible. and that many οί its targets are not worth defending. It does not matter that this corrosive and "immoral" literature does not obey any higher goals (though it likes to pretend that it does). The differentiated man is not scandalized. ίη the direction that Ι have repeatedly indicated. One has to go beyond both positions: that οί the moralizers. and ίη general οί the nineteenth-century specialists ίη the theatrical presentation οί concepts οί honor. tainted. needing ηο consensus. a reactionary "re-moralizing" οί literature appears inauspicious. And these considerations should make it plain that my former accusations οί divided and indifferent art are not to be interpreted as the desire to give art a moralizing. and the social mythology οί the bourgeois period. and often filthy horizons οί its authors. it may as well collapse. The evidence remains valid: it defines a certain distance. cherishing. he can go even further ίη overthrowing the idols. and moralizing reactions stem from an undue confusion οί the essential and the contingent. or didactic content. the rhetoric. and so οη. from the incapacity to conceive οί any substantial values beyond limited forms οί expression that have become alien and ineffective. and is οηlΥ οί value as evidence οί the somber. As for the rest. ίη the sense οί a return to the style οί Manzoni. heroism. the idealistic pathos. and sound enough not to lean οη any οί the institutions or value systems οί yesterday's world. one can recognize that the corrosive action exercised by contemporary literature rarely touches οη anything essential. alarmist. and that οί the proponents οί this corrosive art whose transitional and primitive forms are destined to exhaust themselves. sin.158 The Realm of Art these expressions have already been prejudiced by the conformism. leaving for some a void. but adopts a calm attitude οί understatement. homeland. and for others. or regretting. From our point οί view. but then he asks: ''And now what?" At most. Whatever is worth saving ίη the field οί conduct needs to be liberated ίη an interior and simplified form. . family. Times like these justify the saying that it is good to give the final push to that which deserves to fall. Once this point is settled (and it was already explained ίη the introduction). the free space for a higher realism.

often leading to a technical radicalism to the detriment οί immediacy and sentiment ("human contents"). so that ίη the latest phases οί music we find self-dissolνing situations just like the general ones spoken οί aboνe. because it reflects some typical processes οί the epoch. οηlΥ apparently opposed. ίη which the cerebral element preνails. resulting ίη abstract rhythmic-harmonic constructs that often seem to be ends ίη themselνes." the music οί a "ciνilization οί becoming. unlike what is proper to a "ciνilization οί being. whether ίη melodramatic. heroic romanticism (most recently ίη the line represented by Wagnerism). The second is the physical character found ίη the most recent music. mostly symphonic and 159 . This term has already been used for a music.23 Modern Music and Jazz There is another particular area worth paying attention to. with an interest focused οη harmony. The processes οί dissociation behind all modern art naturally play a part here. Ι am speaking οί music. The first is intellectualization. The extreme case οί this is recent twelνe­ tone music and strict serialism. must haνe deνeloped ίη a peculiar way to enable us to speak οί it as a Western demon οί music." which is unquestionably the modern one. It is obνious that. pretentious. and examining it willlead us οη to some general phenomena οί contemporary life. or ίη tragic pathos (we need οηlΥ refer to Beethoνen's usual ideas). This separation has been realized through two deνelopments. melodious. It is ηο oνersimplification to say that the most modern Western music has been characterized by an eνer more distinct separation from its origin.

taking it beyond the plane οί dangerous intensity. The fact is. One can see The Rite of Spring as the conclusion οί this stage. or to the passionate. romantic. Up to this point. sometimes neoclassically inspired. to appear out οί phase. having as its limit compositions such as Honegger's Pacific 231 and Mossolov's The Iron Foundry.160 The Reαlm of Art descriptive. It represents the almost complete triumph over nineteenthcentury bourgeois music. or else characterized by a pure. This second musical tendency had already begun with the Russian school and the French impressionists. at least ίη the field οί "serious" concert music. where dance music gave way to a formal music that was sometimes parodistic. that returns ίη a certain sense to nature. One need only think οί early Stravinsky. and false. the next phase after the revolutionary stage mentioned above consisted οί abstract forms dominated by technical virtuosity: forms whose inner meaning recal1s what Ι have interpreted as an existential refusal or diversion. overelaborated rhythmic constructions blossomed into the evocation οί something pertaining less to psychology. music becomes pure rhythm. superintellectualized one. One could well approve οί a revolution that has caused Italian operatic music οί the early nineteenth century. this meeting came to define a most interesting situation ίη recent music. that." but with an additional Dionysian element. heavy. and is inclined to draw its principal inspiration from the world οί things. physical current met with the first. and German as well. hence the particular reference to dance. however. and expressionistic world. Here the process is similar to the intolerance for intimist. than to the substratum οί natural forces. Here one can refer to Stravinsky's second period. It is "pure music. actions. academic studio painting during the rise οί early impressionism and plein air painting. where an intellectualism οί pure. . and likewise even symphonic music with high "humanist" pretensions. When the second. an intensity οί a sonorous and tonal dynamism ίη action. dissociated sonorous arithmetic that had begun to appear ίη the preceding period. such a process οί liberating dissolution ίη the realm οί music might have a positive aspect from our point οί view. The predominance οί dance music over vocal and emotional music has also characterized this current. and elementary impulses. removing itself from the subjective world οί pathos.

transporting. spectrality. considering his development from free atonal music. While Adorno could state ίη his Philosophy of Modern Music: "The twelve-tone technique is our destiny. Recently." a symbol of bourgeois idealism). so to speak. One can see ίη the extremes of dodecaphony reached ίη Anton νοη Webern's compositions that the trend can go ηο further. existential expressionism (the existential revolt being expressed here as the atonal revolt against the "common chord." We have arrived at compositions whose extreme rarefaction and formal abstraction depict worlds similar to that of modern physics with its pure algebraic entities or. οη the other hand. with its foundation of inner devastation. atonal music abandoned the traditional tonal system. This new territory also incurs the problem of finding an abstract law to apply to electronic music. beyond the formulae of common-practice harmony. After the chromatic limit had been reached. step-by-step from post-Wagnerian music to that of Richard Strauss and Alexander Scriabin. This development ίη itself is very significant for the terminal crisis of modern music. often ίη the service of an exasperated. the twelve-tone system sought to impose a new abstract law. As ίη the world created by machine technology. The very sounds are freed from traditional structures and propelled into a convoluted system where the complete dissolution into the formless. After that.Modern Music and Jazz 161 producing a timeless spatialization of sounds. soullessness. to a phase of dodecaphony (twelve-tone system). from a technical point of view. music has experimented with sounds created by electronic technology. One also thinks of Schoenberg. almost as if it were an active musical nihilism. It is inconceivable that the new twelve-tone and post-serial language. At most. that of some surrealists. with skeletal and atomically dissociated timbres. which transcend traditional orchestral means of production. is contained οηlΥ by the pure algebra of the composition. the sound to a pure and free state. or chaos."l others have justly spoken of a musical "ice age. with all twelve tones of the chromatic scale taken without hierarchical distinction and ίη all their unlimited possibilities of direct combination. existential expressionistic contents . this language can be conducive to exasperated. the basis of all preceding music. the technical perfection and force of these new musical resources is accompanied by the same emptiness. could express contents similar to those of earlier music.

" and "the age of omnipotent techno1ogy. impetus. specifically ίη jazz. random insertions. 10ng pauses." has been called the "Jazz Age. amidst the atmosphere of hundreds of coup1es shaking themse1νes to the syncopation and driνing energy of this music. and eνen of art ίη general. and sensua1ity permeating those dances-for examp1e. If we 100k instead for the continuing ro1e of dance music. The 1imit is crossed by the socalled musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer. beyond the rea1m of music. a1together primitiνe1y ecstatic. apart from its e1ements of song. The goa1 is to produce disorientation ίη the 1istener ίη the same way as dadaism. a musician who dec1ares exp1icit1y that his compositions are ηο 10nger music. it is a "physica1" music that does not stop at the sou1." the "age of the economy. ίη fact the νery gracefu1ness. which superseded nineteenth-century bourgeois me10drama and pathos. but direct1y arouses and stirs the body. e1ectronic sound effects. This e1ementa1 content cannot be 10st οη anyone who finds himself ίη great European and American metropo1itan dance halls. Going beyond the disintegrations of traditiona1 structures through seria1 music and 1eaνing behind Webern and his schoo1. Those who . so that one is hur1ed toward unexpected horizons. and eνen the tango-are substituted ίη jazz by something mechanica1. This is quite different from the ear1ier European dance music.162 The Realm of Art such as surface ίη A1ban Berg's works. disjointed. besides being called the "age of the emergence of the masses. But there are two sides to this phenomenon. haνe ίη fact thorough1y penetrated the younger generation. the Viennese or Eng1ish wa1tz. and eνen paroxysma1 through the use of constant repetition. we shall not find it ίη the "c1assica1" symphonic genre but ίη modern dance music. with its "organization of noises" and "montage" of enνironmenta1 and orchestra1 sounds. eνen spoken ones such as radio transmissions. Cage mixes music with pure noise. The enormous and spontaneous spread of jazz ίη the modern wor1d shows that meanings ηο different from those of the physico-cerebra1 "c1assica1" music. Jazz reflects the same tendency as ear1y Straνinsky. Α typica1 case is that of John Cage. moνement. lt is with good reason that the present epoch. ίη terms of the pure rhythmic or syncopated e1ement." This shows that the extension of the trend ίη question now goes beyond esoteric musica1 circ1es and saturates our contemporaries' genera1 manner of 1istening.

and developing a music οί such primitive qualities as Negro music. superficial vogue. the origin οί the principal rhythms οί modern dances. Jazz is undeniably an aspect οί the resurfacing οί the elemental ίη the modern world. assimilating. including those whose origins are obscured by the fact that they have come through Latin America. now find themselves at ease surrounded by the convulsive-mechanical or abstract rhythms οί recent jazz. nor utilize elements οί European folk music. According to one οί the scholars οί Afro-Cuban music. He instead looked for inspiration ίη the patrimony οί the lower and more exotic races. bringing the bourgeois epoch to its dissolution. has been one οί the major techniques used to open people up to ecstasy and possession.. all the primary elements οί modern dance actually have these origins. Both Alfons Dauer and . jazz is supposed to provide him with raw contents οί rhythm and elemental vitality. arid. We are facing a rapid and central transformation οί the manner οί listening. Naturally.. for example ίη the rhythms οί southeastern Europe (Romanian or Hungarian). One can deduce that modern man.the tropical and subtropical zones.Modern Music αnd ]αΖΖ 163 once went crazy for the waltz or delighted ίη the treacherous and conventional pathos οί melodrama. which. has regressed to primitivism ίη choosing. the Negroes and mulattoes of . it is known that African music. Ιη fact. both "hot" and "cool. its reality unprejudiced by its lack οί recognition. which was even originally associated with dark forms οί ecstasy. has a fascination and an intensity comprising not only rhythm but also authentic dynamics. especially North American man. the young men and women who like to dance to jazz today do so simply "for fun" and are not concerned with this. Fernando Ortiz. which is an integral part οί that complex that defines the nature οί the present. Western man did not create original forms. If there is any truth ίη this idea. we must consider the fact that to arrive at this." which we must consider as more than a deviant. Some have included jazz among the forms οί compensation that today's man resorts to when faced with his practical. since its true meaning and possibilities could only be noted from the particular point οί view employed by us ίη all οί our analyses. yet the change exists. and mechanical existence.

such as the music of the socalled beat groups. of abstract development of rhythmic forms separated from the whole to which they originally belonged." as ίη beat or hippie sessions ίη California involving tens of thousands of both sexes. by modern symphonic music. one cannot expect the specific effects of authentic African music with its evocative function. a beginning and end ίη itself. it is completely inappropriate when . while the mass of the listeners joins ίη. who took over their personalities and "rode" them. given the desacralization of the environment and the nonexistence of any institutional framework or corresponding ritual tradition. hence the special rhythmic figures that generate a tension intended to "feed an uninterrupted ecstasy. primitive and collective ίη character. causing a true."2 The same structure has been preserved ίη all so-called syncopated jazz. we are concerned with the semi-ecstatic and hysterical beginnings of a formless. But even here there is a process of dissociation. creating a collective climate similar to that of the possessions of savage ritual and certain Dervish sects. empty of content. causing paroxysmal contortions of the body and inarticulate screams ίη the performers. the Orisha of the Yoruba or the Loa of the Voodoo of Haiti. Hence. convoluted escapism. This is very apparent ίη the latest forms. frenetic "crowd mentality. This ecstatic potential still exists ίη jazz. Here we are ηο longer concerned with the specific compensation that one can find ίη syncopated dance music as the popular counterpart and extension of the extremes reached. or the Macumba and the Negro religious revivals. but not maintained. developed ίη such a way that the static [on-beat] accents that mark the rhythm constantly act as ecstatic [off-beat] accents. These syncopations are like delays that tend to liberate energy or generate an impulse: a technique used ίη African rites to induce possession of the dancers by certain entities.164 The Realm of Art Τ Ortiz have rightly seen the characteristic of this music as its polyrhythmic structure. the effect always remains a diffuse and formless possession. The frequent use of drugs both by performers of this music and by the enraptured young people is also significant. any suitable atmosphere or appropriate attitude. Thus. hysterically shrieking and throwing themselves around. Here the obsessive reiteration of a rhythm prevails (similar to the use of the African tom-tom).

one can still consider the general problem of all these methods that provide elemental. which is the only nourishment he can existentially draw from an epoch of dissolution. and whereas some of the present youth merely seek to dull their senses and to use certain experiences merely for extreme sensations. The processes of recent times tend precisely toward these extremes." . ancient rites. others can use such situations as a challenge that demands the right response: a reaction that arises from "being. ecstatic possibilities. not the masses. because the latter always had a sacred background. can use ίη order to feed that particular intoxication described earlier. collective. which the differentiated man.Modern Music and Jazz 165 some compare it to certain frenetic. Quite apart from similar extreme and aberrant forms.

Α specialist. and are seeking an escape from it. Ι shall address here οηlΥ a few considerations οη drugs. radically associated techniques that ίη reality have a common background that Ι have alluded to earlier. a last defense. they succumb 166 . Once starting οη drugs to fit ίη or be ίη vogue. to an even larger circle οί people who are not clinically neurotic: Ι am speaking above all about young people who have more or less distinctly perceived the emptiness and boredom οί modern existence.. Ι need not dwell much οη this realm. Apart from what will be said οί sex ίη another chapter. we are led to an even larger and more problematic realm. which embraces many other methods being increasingly used by the younger generation.. The increasing spread οί drugs among today's youth is a very significant phenomenon. The impulse can be contagious: drug use extends to individuals who did not have this original impetus as a point οί departure. writes: 'Ίη our lands. and ίη such people it can οηlΥ be regarded as an avoidable bad habit. which are the means that. one symptom among others. the sexual orgasm. Dr.24 Excursus ση Drugs Going beyond music and dance."l These considerations can be generalized. The North American Beat Generation. soon becoming the one and οηlΥ defense. the most widespread category οί drug addicts is represented by the neurotics and psychopaths for whom the drug is not a luxury but an essential food. among all those used ίη certain sectors οί the contemporary world. Laennec. and drugs a. Toxicomania now appears as an additional symptom οί the patient's neurotic syndrome. or rather extended. most visibly have the goal οί an ecstatic escape.. the response to anguish .s essential ingredients to give them a sense οί life. ίη putting together alcohol.

because there is not enough emphasis today οη the fact that the effects of these substances are quite different according to the constitution. and-in these cases of nonprofane use-the spiritual preparation and intent of the user. lead the individual toward alienation and a passive opening to states that give him the illusion of a higher freedom. used ίη the rituals of secret societies of Central and South America." as ίη the use of alcohol ίη Dionysian and similar rituals. Α similar claim can be made for alcohol. Both were often transpositions onto the profane and "physical" plane of means that were originally used to open one υρ to the suprasensible ίη initiation rites or similar experiences. given that the blocked existential situation of the great majority of our contemporaries considerably restricts the possible range of reaction to drugs. could lead to a "magical state of grace. Νο one has a clear or adequate idea about all this anymore. the extracts of coca. act. but this concept has not been given the necessary emphasis. we are aware of the tradition centered οη "sacred beverages. according to ancient traditions. an intoxication and an unfamiliar intensity of sensation." sought by the so-called real men. but that ίη reality have a character of dissolution that by ηο means "takes him beyond. With drugs we have a situation similar to that of syncopated music. they were considered "life essences" inducing an intoxication that. nor has the available field of observations been broad enough. and other narcotics have been. For example. like dance. the specific capacity for reaction. within certain limits. However. Ιη addition. Just as dances to modern syncopated music derive from ecstatic Negro dance." Ιη order to expect a different result from these experiences. peyote. This is even true for tobacco. which often wrecks their already weak personality. the various drugs used today and created ίη laboratories correspond to drugs that were often used for "sacred" ends ίη primitive populations. mescal. here including alcohol. the "personal equation" and the specific zone οη which drugs. and often still are. strong extracts of tobacco were used to prepare young Native Americans ίη their withdrawal from profane life to obtain "signs" and visions. Lewin has even spoken of a "toxic equation" that is different ίη every individual. he . alcoholic beverages were not prohibited ίη ancient Taoism: οη the contrary.Excursus on Drugs 167 to the seduction of the states caused by the drug.

rapid." brings its own double energy. But this kind οί reaction almost never occurs. Ιη the inferior ecstaticism οί primitive peoples this opens the way for possession by dark powers. for all his sense οί an exalted life or οί a transcendent beatitude or sensuality. Thus. serves a skilled swimmer with whom it collides by propelling him beyond it. and narcotics. Ιη general. ίη certain cases there would be the possibility οί coming into contact with a superior dimension οί reality. unexpected. neuroses. a lesion οί the Self. devoid οί any true opening beyond the individual and οηlΥ substantiated by sensations. Thus the true effect. hallucinogens. Το a certain degree. which was the intention οί ancient. there would be ηο collapse. is a collapse. The first two categories do not concern us. even ίί unexpected. for ." It is as ίί a powerful current penetrated the consciousness without requiring assent. and his attitude would be the opposite οί those who seek and need drugs to escape from tensions. even ίί not noticed. the harmful effect οί drugs would be eliminated. and. the negative would be transformed into positive. depressants. a wave. For the process to proceed differently. it would go schematically as follows: at the point ίη which the drug frees energy Χ ίη an exterior way. and "acted οη" by it. οί "being. the reaction to the substance is too strong. At this point it will be helpful to add some details.168 The Realm of Art would have to have at his command an exceptional degree οί spiritual activity. this different energy should be produced by the response οί the "being" (the Self) to the stimulus. and thus the process cannot involve the "being. Ι have already pointed out the African polyrhythmic technique: one energy is locked into continuous stasis ίη order to unleash an energy οί a different order. as a result. and external to be simply experienced. Instead. Ι have said that ίη our case. traumatic events. drugs can be divided into four categories: stimulants. leaving the person to merely notice the change οί state: he is submerged ίη this new state. one would not undergo an ecstatic dissolution. nonprofane drug use. into the current and maintains it υρ to the end. Similarly. The situation created by the reaction to drugs and even alcohol is ηο different. and feelings οί emptiness and absurdity. Χ + Χ. an act οί the Self. ηο condition οί passivity would be formed with respect to the drug. the experience ίη a certain way would be deconditioned.

they have also been called "psychedelics. are responsible for certain impulses that can burst out ίη these states. but dark influences that. ίί it leads to addiction. but also that the process was properly guided through the contemplation οί certain symbols. And it is ." under the assumption that the visions project and reveal the hidden contents οί the depths οί one's own psyche. the proper neutralization οί the individual unconscious substratum that is activated. As a result. There are accounts οί certain indigenous communities ίη Central and South America whose members. The third category includes drugs that bring οη states ίη which one experiences various visions and seemingly other worlds οί the senses and spirit. οηlΥ while under the influence οί peyote. finding the door open. The importance οί the individual's attitude clearly appears from the completely different effects οί mescaline οη two contemporary writers who have experimented with drugs. the use οί tobacco and alcohol is irrelevant unless it becomes a vice." that is. physicians have even tried to use drugs like mescaline for a p