Our century…

Will be a century of iron and storms. It will not resemble those harmonious futures predicted up to the 1970s. It will not be the global village prophesied by Marshall MacLuhan in 1966, or Bill Gates’ planetary network, or Francis Fukuyama’s end of history: a liberal global civilization directed by a universal state.

The Third Age of European Civilization commences, in a tragic acceleration of the historical process, with the Treaty of Versailles and end of the civil war of 1914-18: the catastrophic twentieth century. Four generations were enough to undo the labor of more than forty. Europe fell victim to its own tragic Prometheanism, its own opening to the world and universalism, oblivious of all ethnic solidarity.

The Fourth Age of European civilization begins today. It will be the Age of rebirth or perdition. The twenty-first century will be for this civilization, the fateful century, the century of life or death.

Let us cultivate the pessimistic optimism of Nietzsche. “There is no more order to conserve; it is necessary to create a new one.” Will the beginning of the twenty-first century be difficult? Are all the indicators in the red? So much the better. They predicted the end of history after the collapse of the USSR? We wish to speed its return: thunderous, bellicose, and archaic. Islam resumes its wars of conquest. China and India wish to become superpowers. And so forth. The twenty-first century will be placed under the double sign of Mars, the god of war, and of Hephaestus, the god who forges swords, the master of technology and the chthonic fires. This century will be that of the metamorphic rebirth of Europe, like the Phoenix, or of its disappearance as a historical civilization and its transformation into a cosmopolitan and sterile Luna Park.

The beginning of the twenty-first century will be the despairing midnight of the world of which Hölderlin spoke. But it is always darkest before the dawn. Let us prepare our children for war. Let us educate our youth, be it only a minority, as a new aristocracy.

Today we need more than morality. We need hypermorality, the Nietzschean ethics of difficult times. When one defends one’s people, i.e., one’s own children, one defends the essential. Then one follows the rule of Agamemnon and Leonidas but also of Charles Martel: what prevails is the law of the sword, whose bronze or steel reflects the glare of the sun.

david-oath-cropped

(Excerpted from “Mars & Hephaestus:
The Return of History” by Guillaume Faye.)

Dance over the abyss

der_kampf_mit_dem_daemon

If you look into an abyss, the
abyss, likewise, looks into you.



This self-addressed pæan of intoxicated happiness is, I know, regarded by modern physicians as a morbid euphoria, as the last pleasure in a decaying brain, as the stigma of that megalomania which is characteristic of the early stage of paralytic dementia. But Nietzsche talks clearly and incisively amid the ardours of intoxication. No other mortal, perhaps, has ever in full awareness and without a trace of giddiness leaned so far and seen so clearly over the edge of the precipice of lunacy.

No doubt the light that sparkles here is a perilous one. It has the phantasmal and morbid luminosity of a midnight sun glowing red above icebergs; it is a northern light of the soul whose unique splendour makes us shudder. It does not warm us, it terrifies us. It does not dazzle, but it slays. He is not carried away as was Hölderlin by an obscure rhythm of feeling, is not overwhelmed by the onrush of melancholy. He is scorched by his own ardours, is sunstruck by his own rays, is affected by a white-hot and intolerable cheerfulness. Nietzsche’s collapse was a sort of carbonization in his own flames.

He commanded the German emperor to go to Rome in order to be shot; he summoned the European powers to take united military action against Germany, to encircle his fatherland in a ring of iron. Never did apocalyptic wrath shout more savagely into vacancy, never did so glorious presumption scourge a mind beyond earthly bounds. His words issued like hammer-blows striving to demolish the edifice of established civilisation. The Christian era was to cease with the publication of his Antichrist, and a new numbering of the years was to begin.

“No one has written, felt, suffered in such a manner before; the sufferings of a god, a Dionysius.” These words, penned when his mental disorder had already begun, are painfully true. The little room of the fourth floor, and the hermitage of Sils-Maria, not only sheltered the man Friedrich Nietzsche whose nerves were breaking under the strain, but also served as the places from which were issued a marvellous message to the dying century. The Creative Spirit had taken refuge beneath the attic roof heated by the southern sun, and was bestowing its entire wealth upon a timid, neglected, and lonely being, bestowing far more than any isolated person could sustain.

Within those narrow walls, wrestling with infinities, the poor mortal senses were stumbling and groping amid the lightening-flashes of revelation. Like Hölderlin, he felt that a god was revealing himself, a fiery god whose radiance the eyes could not bear and whose proximity was scorching. Again and again the cowering wrench raised his head and attempted to look upon the countenance of this deity, his thoughts running riot the while.

Was not he who felt and wrote and suffered such unthinkable things, was not he himself God? Had not a god reanimated the world after he, Nietzsche, had slain the old god? Who was he? Who was Nietzsche? Was Nietzsche the Crucified; the dead god or the living one; the god of his youth, Dionysius; or both Dionysus and the Crucified—the crucified Dionysius?

More and more confused grew his thoughts; the current roared too loud beneath the superfluity of light. Was it still light? Had it not become music? The narrow room on the fourth floor in the Via Carlo Alberto began to intone; the shining spheres made music; all heaven was aglow. What wonderful music! Tears tricked down his face, warm tears. What sublime tenderness, what auspicious happiness! And now, what lucidity! In the street, everyone smiled at him in friendly fashion; they stood up to greet him; they made obeisance to him, the slayer of gods; they were all so delighted to see him. Why? Why?

He knew. Antichrist had appeared upon earth, and men acclaimed him with hosannas. The world hummed with jubilation, was full of music. Then suddenly the tumult was stilled. Something, someone fell down. It is he, himself, in the street, in front of the house where he lodged. He was picked up. He found himself back in his room.

Had he been asleep for a long time? It seemed very dark. There was the piano. Music! Music! Then, unexpectedly, people appeared in the room. Surely one of them must be Overbeck. But Overbeck is in Basel; and where is he, Nietzsche? He no longer remembers. Why does the company look at him so strangely, so anxiously? He is in a train, rattling along the rails, and the wheels are singing; yes, they are singing the “Gondolier’s Chanty,” and he joins in, signs in an interminable darkness.

He is in a strange room, and always it is dark. No more sunshine, no light at all, either within or without. People talk in the room. A woman among them, surely it is his sister? He had thought she was travelling. She reads aloud to him, now from one book, now from another. Books? “Was not I once a writer of books?” Comes a gentle answer, but he cannot understand. One in whose soul such a hurricane has raged grows deaf to ordinary speech. One who has gazed so intently into the eyes of the daimon is henceforth blinded.

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.