Master Builders

A Typology of the Spirit

by Stefan Zweig

der_kampf_mit_dem_daemon

Translated from the German
by Eden and Cedar Paul
Viking Press, 1930

PART TWO

The Struggle with the Daimon

Hölderlin
Kleist
Nietzsche



Excerpted from the introduction:

Hölderlin, Kleist, and Nietzsche are obviously alike even in respect of the outward circumstances of their lives; they stand under the same horoscopical aspect. One and all they were hunted by an overwhelming, a so-to-say superhuman power, were hunted out of the warmth and cosiness of ordinary experience into a cyclone of devastating passion, to perish prematurely amid storms of mental disorder, and one of them by suicide.

A power greater than theirs was working within them, so that they felt themselves rushing aimlessly through the void. In their rare moments of full awareness of self, they knew that their actions were not the outcome of their own volition but that they were thralls, were possessed (in both senses of the word) by a higher power, the daimonic.

I term “daimonic” the unrest that is in us all, driving each of us out of himself into the elemental. It seems as if nature had implanted into every mind an inalienable part of the primordial chaos, and as if this part were interminably striving—with tense passion—to rejoin the superhuman, suprasensual medium whence it derives. The daimon is the incorporation of that tormenting leaven which impels our being (otherwise quiet and almost inert) towards danger, immoderation, ecstasy, renunciation, and even self-destruction. But in those of common clay, this factor of our composition which is both precious and perilous proves comparatively ineffective, is speedily absorbed and consumed. In such persons only at rare moments, during the crises of puberty or when, through love or the generative impulse, the inward cosmos is heated to the boiling point, does the longing to escape from the familiar groove, to renounce the trite and the common-place, exert its mysterious way. For the daimon cannot make its way back to the infinite which is his home except by ruthlessly destroying the finite and the earthly which restrains him, by destroying the body wherein, for a season, he is housed.

Thus it comes to pass that everyone whose nature excels the commonplace, everyone whose impulses are creative, wrestles perforce with his daimon. This is a combat of titans, a struggle between lovers, the most splendid contest in which we mortals can engage. Many succumb to the daimon’s fierce onslaught as the woman succumbs to the passion of the impetuous male; they are overpowered by his preponderant strength; they feel themselves joyfully permeated by the fertilizing element. Many subjugate him; their cold, resolute, purposive will constrains his ardours to accept their guidance even while he animates their energies.

Hölderlin, Kleist and Nietzsche were the Promethean race which is in revolt against customary forms and tends thereby to destroy itself. There is no art worthy of the name without daimonism, no great art that does not voice the music of the spheres.

The first thing that is obvious in Hölderlin, Kleist, and Nietzsche is their detachment from the world. The daimon plucks away from realities those whom he holds in his grip. Not one of the three had wife or children, any more than had their congeners Beethoven and Michelangelo; they had neither fixed home nor permanent possessions, neither settled occupation nor secure footing in the world. They were nomads, vagrants, eccentrics; they were despised and rejected; they lived in the shadows. Not one of them ever had a bed to call his own; they sat in hired chairs, wrote at hired desks, and wandered from one lodging-house to another. Nowhere did they take root; not even Eros could establish binding ties for those whom the jealous daimon had espoused. Their friendships were transitory, their appointments fugitive, their work unremunerative; they stood ever in vacant spaces and created in the void. Thus their existence was like that of shooting stars, which flash on indeterminable paths, whereas Goethe circled in a fixed orbit.

For Kleist, Hölderlin and Nietzsche, living was not to be learned, nor worth learning. Fire became their element; flame, their mode of activity; and their lives were perpetually scorched in the furnaces which alone made their work possible. As time went on, they grew even more lonely, more estranged from the world of men. To the daemonic temperament reality seems inadequate: Hölderlin, Kleist, and Nietzsche, each in his own way, were rebels against the existing order.

The formula of Goethe’s life was the circle, a closed curve; that of an existence perfectly rounded and self-contained; the daimonics’ curve is the parabola: a steep, impetuous ascent, an uprush into limitless space, a brusque change of direction, followed by no less a steep, a no less impetuous decline. The climax, both in respect of imaginative creation and in respect to the artist’s personal life, is reached immediately after the fall. Goethe’s death, on the other hand, is an inconspicuous point in the circle; but the life of the daimonic terminates in an explosion or a conflagration. In the latter case death compensates for the material poverty of life.

Invariably, even in the most perplexing and most dangerous manifestations, the creative genius has a value supreme over other values, a meaning profounder than that of all other meanings.

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27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. in nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti. heil hitler.

  2. Reminds me of a quote: “Depression and the awakening of one’s genius are inseparable … ” Most great thinkers are misanthropic (despite not being a great thinker, so am I).

    I am a white supremacist because I believe that the white race is the only race capable of the two things in life that matter; art (music and everything included) and tragic philosophy.

    Without art and tragic philosophy life would be a intolerable … it would resemble something like the modern world …

    • exactly, it would be waiting in line at mcdonalds for 80 years. waiting and more waiting. the white man has always stood leaps and bounds away from the rest, we have since the beginning of time known how small we are. we always were pessimistic, even during the gilded age. read of the great explorers, men like stanley, who ran away from the empty boulevards and table talk to the death filled jungles. our enemies are always shocked by our “pride” and “arrogance” the red man said these things unaware that we already KNEW the greatest sorrow of dionysis, when he was ripped to shreds (the “principle of individuation”); the whiteman knew already that life was separation from the infinite.

      even if a “great collapse” never occurs and the white race dies out pitifully, the mindset fostered by the mustacheoed german will have already made my life more full than any woman or position could have.

      • your last paragraph is indeed beautiful.

      • “even if a “great collapse” never occurs and the white race dies out pitifully, the mindset fostered by the mustacheoed german will have already made my life more full than any woman or position could have.”

        I’m on the same page as you. I’m comfortable in my own skin, as a poor Third Worlder who has seen the truth. Infinitely better than being a filthy rich leftist celebrity who takes the world and history for things they are not.

        Once you’ve see the truth, everything else is of very little importance indeed in comparison with it.

  3. There’s been no true art, no true literature, no true music, no true High Culture, ever since the White Race rejected Catholicism en-masse and took up Existentialism en-masse [ around the second half of the 19th century].

    Existentialism has been a complete disaster for the White Race — including and especially Heidegger’s Dasein.

    In addition to leading to no true High Culture — the mainstream culture of today is based on the same Existentialism/Sufism the Nazis adored and worshipped, by the way [ minus the racial metaphysics of Nazi philosophy, the rest is the same Existentialism/Sufism ] — Existentialism has given us no true High Culture ; In the meantime, Existentialism has given our race two massive internecine wars. Two wars which has led to the sad state of the White Race today.

    The silent genocide of the White Race today is a continuum of the very active genocide the White Race committed against Herself — two genocidal wars, the bloodiest two wars in history — both wars based on the ontology of Existentialism/Sufism.

    Search Terms :

    ” Nazis + The New Age”

    The “gay” liberation movement, by the way, started in late 19th century Germany — just as Germans turned Existentialist en-masse.

    • Oh, that must be what destroyed Mexico. Kierkegaard the Time-Terrorist.

    • yes yes im sure the ecomienda was real nice for you folks in mexico, but the Aryan spainiards tilled their own fields

    • “There’s been no true art, no true literature, no true music, no true High Culture, ever since the White Race rejected Catholicism en-masse and took up Existentialism en-masse [ around the second half of the 19th century].”

      This is not factual. The golden age of Russian fiction (which by the way is acutely anti-Catholic) took place exactly in the second half of the 19th century. Moreover, James Joyce and Marcel Proust, arguably the two best prose fiction writers in their respective languages, wrote in the first half of the 20th-century and, by the way, they were both non religious (Proust was an atheist) and although Joyce apparently reconciled himself with Catholicism at the end of his life, some of the most anti Christian pages I’ve read to this day are in his “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” — which I, incidentaly, have mentioned before on this blog.

      Dostoievsky, Tolstoy, Proust and James Joyce represent the zenith of prose fiction in the West and all of them wrote from the second half of the 19th century on and all of them antagonized Catholicism during their productive literary lives. Your judgement, therefore, is inaccurate.

      I’m all for productive, insightful generalizations, but they must be based in verifiable facts, otherwise it is pointless.

  4. No. Nietzsche and the God-Terrorist is more like it, and all those Whites who decided to follow Nietzsche and all the other Existentialists – all the Existentialist pied-pipers — who led the White Race to massive internecine war & genocide — and Self-Inflicted genocide, too boot.

    All the Whites who rejected 2,000 years of culture and heritage, and rejected their Spiritual Patrimony — a very rich Spiritual Patrimony — a Spiritual Patrimony that united Europe and the White Race in the first place, and gave the White Race Her High Culture and Western Civilization in the first place : They rejected all that for Existentialism/Sufism [ same thing ].

    Catholic Mexico was severely attacked in the 1920’s by the Existentialists/Sufists, by the way — For your information, Stubbs.

    Look it up. Study what happened in Mexico in the 1920’s. “Cristero War”

    • I have listened touching stories about that war; people of my family who suffered during the Cristero War. But this is not a Christian blog. Quite the contrary:

      https://chechar.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/the-christian-problem-encompasses-the-jewish-problem/

      • Would it be accurate to say that your stance on spirituality is similar to Jonathan Bowden, who said, [paraphrasing] “I’m not a religious person, spirituality experienced at an emotional level through art and creation are enough for me.” ?

      • Something like that. In fact, there’s a category on “genuine spirituality” in this blog.

    • Existentialism is a symptom, not a cause of anything.

    • I just did, and it sounds like it was a fight between a bunch of brown Christian peasants and some Richard Dawkins type elites, who were probably whiter. It’s not what turned a new nation founded by Spaniards into a mestizo third world country.

      You see, our race is being biologically destroyed, and the lack of whatever “High Culture” is didn’t cause it. Nor did the rule of Catholicism – which was supreme over the Spanish colonies – prevent it.

      But relevancy aside, who exactly are the bearers of your “High Culture” that only Catholics can create? Not Mozart the Freemason. Not Goethe the explicitly anti-Catholic pantheist. Probably not Shakespeare, whose religious beliefs are still a mystery, but was at least nominally aligned with the Anglicans and didn’t condemn suicide. Not Wagner the proto-Nazi and student of Schopenhauer who believed in reincarnation.

      I think the culture of “Existentialists” like Wagner and Goethe is just fine.

      • I just did, and it sounds like it was a fight between a bunch of brown Christian peasants and some Richard Dawkins type elites, who were probably whiter.

        For the sake of precision, the Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles who launched the war against Catholics was of Lebanese ascendancy, a gangster nicknamed “The Turk” by the Mexicans. All Catholics were targeted, whether brown or whitish.

      • Lebanese? Wouldn’t have guessed that. We only recently got an African ourselves.

  5. I can not respond to your points at length, Stubbs, because this is not a Christian website. To respond to you would perturb Chechar — and others. I don’t opine to perturb or annoy anyone.

    I made the points I wanted to make anyhow. Take it from there.

    • Don’t be so sensitive: just see my reply above. Besides, my most Catholic grandpa was once in danger of being shot by the government forces.

    • Meh, I doubt you’ll annoy anyone too badly, I’m probably friendlier towards Christianity than Chechar is.

      I am sort of baffled by the railing against Existentialism though. Usually Existentialism comes into conflict with Positivism, not Christianity, and has really been a marginal force. Kierkegaard was way after the French Revolution, which was the death-blow to Catholic hegemony. They couldn’t have wrecked Catholic Europe even if they wanted to.

  6. Thank you Chechar. I’m not sensitive. I’m just a bit tired. I like to debate. I learn a lot from debate. However, I don’t have the energy for a full-blown debate presently. I shall be back when I’m in top form.

    In the meantime, I made the main points I wanted to make. Substantial and compelling points, that can’t be denied. I also want to hear what others have to say before I opine further. I want to read as many viewpoints as possible before I make my rebuttal.

    I also don’t have the patience to reply to Stubbs at this time. He didn’t spend very much time studying the Cristeros War — he spent about 2 minutes, maybe less studying the Cristeros War — and he then opines on the matter as if he’s an expert on the topic, and knows everything there is to know about the subject. I prefer to debate someone knowledgeable in the subject matter being debated– it’s more challenging that way. I take debate seriously.

    • Uh. You will be surprised to learn that presently I am so fed up of debate that I just closed the previous thread on Traditionalism. But recently at Occidental Dissent I was in much better humor, to the point of engaging these guys in three long threads (the subject, the perennial JQ by the way).

      Fascinating…

      • I shall go to Hunter’s Occidental Dissent and read the debate you were involved in. You got me curious now.

        I don’t know why Hunter calls it “Occidental” as he only focuses on the American South and the Southern Oligarchy’s desire for a “Golden Circle” Slave/Opium Empire. That hardly represents the wishes of the whole White Race. Why doesn’t he just call his website “Southern Dissent” ?

      • Good point. What I find in most American nationalist sites is that they focus on this continent, whereas I believe that the mess started in Europe.

    • I didn’t bother researching the Cristeros War because it has nothing to do at all with preserving the White race, and I can’t find any particular connection to Existentialism. Kierkegaard was a Christian, Heidegger and Sartre weren’t writing yet, and I see little common ground between Nietzsche and Freemasonry.

  7. Stefan Zweig was a Jew, FYI. He was also the librettist to Strauss’s “Die Frau Ohne Schatten”.

    IFA

    http://www.iranianforaryans.com

    • The only Jew that Hitler himself allowed to influence the Reich’s culture by means of approving Zweig’s text for Strauss’ opera.


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