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Thread: Max Stirner: The Ego and its Own

  1. #1

    Max Stirner: The Ego and its Own

    The Unique One

    Pre-Christian and Christian times pursue opposite goals; the former wants to idealize the real, the latter to realize the ideal; the former seeks the "holy spirit," the latter the "glorified body." Hence the former closes with insensitiveness to the real, with "contempt for the world"; the latter will end with the casting off of the ideal, with "contempt for the spirit."

    The opposition of the real and the ideal is an irreconcilable one, and the one can never become the other: if the ideal became the real, it would no longer be the ideal; and, if the real became the ideal, the ideal alone would be, but not at all the real. The opposition of the two is not to be vanquished otherwise than if some one annihilates both.

    Only in this "some one," the third party, does the opposition find its end; otherwise idea and reality will ever fail to coincide. The idea cannot be so realized as to remain idea, but is realized only when it dies as idea; and it is the same with the real.

    But now we have before us in the ancients adherents of the idea, in the moderns adherents of reality. Neither can get clear of the opposition, and both pine only, the one party for the spirit, and, when this craving of the ancient world seemed to be satisfied and this spirit to have come, the others immediately for the secularisation of this spirit again, which must forever remain a "pious wish."

    The pious wish of the ancients was sanctity, the pious wish of the moderns is corporeity. But, as antiquity had to go down if its longing was to be satisfied (for it consisted only in the longing), so too corporeity can never be attained within the ring of Christianness.

    As the trait of sanctification or purification goes through the old world (the washings, etc.), so that of incorporation goes through the Christian world: God plunges down into this world, becomes flesh, and wants to redeem it, that is, fill it with himself; but, since he is "the idea" or "the spirit," people (Hegel, for example) in the end introduce the idea into everything, into the world, and prove "that the idea is, that reason is, in everything."

    "Man" corresponds in the culture of today to what the heathen Stoics set up as "the wise man"; the latter, like the former, a - fleshless being. The unreal "wise man," this bodiless "holy one" of the Stoics, became a real person, a bodily "Holy One," in God made flesh; the unreal "man," the bodiless ego, will become real in the corporeal ego, in me.

    There winds its way through Christianity the question about the "existence of God," which, taken up ever and ever again, gives testimony that the craving for existence, corporeity, personality, reality, was incessantly busying the heart because it never found a satisfying solution. At last the question about the existence of God fell, but only to rise up again in the proposition that the "divine" had existence (Feuerbach).

    But this too has no existence, and neither will the last refuge, that the "purely human" is realizable, afford shelter much longer. No idea has existence, for none is capable of corporeity. The scholastic contention of realism and nominalism has the same content; in short, this spins itself out through all Christian history, and cannot end in it.

    The world of Christians is working at realizing ideas in the individual relations of life, the institutions and laws of the Church and the State; but they make resistance, and always keep back something unembodied (unrealizable).

    Nevertheless this embodiment is restlessly rushed after, no matter in what degree corporeity constantly fails to result.
    For realities matter little to the realizer, but it matters everything that they be realizations of the idea.

    Hence he is ever examining anew whether the realized does in truth have the idea, its kernel, dwelling in it; and in testing the real he at the same time tests the idea, whether it is realizable as he thinks it, or is only thought by him incorrectly, and for that reason unfeasibly.

    The Christian is no longer to care for family, State, etc., as existences; Christians are not to sacrifice themselves for these "divine things" like the ancients, but these are only to be utilized to make the spirit alive in them.

    The real family has become indifferent, and there is to arise out of it an ideal one which would then be the "truly real," a sacred family, blessed by God, or, according to the liberal way of thinking, a "rational" family. With the ancients, family, State, fatherland, is divine as a thing extant; with the moderns it is still awaiting divinity, as extant it is only sinful, earthly, and has still to be "redeemed," that is, to become truly real.

    This has the following meaning: The family, etc., is not the extant and real, but the divine, the idea, is extant and real; whether this family will make itself real by taking up the truly real, the idea, is still unsetted.

    It is not the individual's task to serve the family as the divine, but, reversely, to serve the divine and to bring to it the still undivine family, to subject everything in the idea's name, to set up the idea's banner everywhere, to bring the idea to real efficacy.

    But, since the concern of Christianity, as of antiquity, is for the divine, they always come out at this again on their opposite ways. At the end of heathenism the divine becomes the extramundane, at the end of Christianity the intramundane.

    Antiquity does not succeed in putting it entirely outside the world, and, when Christianity accomplishes this task, the divine instantly longs to get back into the world and wants to "redeem" the world.

    But within Christianity it does not and cannot come to this, that the divine as intramundane should really become the mundane itself: there is enough left that does and must maintain itself unpenetrated as the "bad," irrational, accidental, "egoistic," the "mundane" in the bad sense.

    Christianity begins with God's becoming man, and carries on its work of conversion and redemption through all time in order to prepare for God a reception in all men and in everything human, and to penetrate everything with the spirit: it sticks to preparing a place for the "spirit."

    When the accent was at last laid on Man or mankind, it was again the idea that they "pronounced eternal.""Man does not die!" They thought they had now found the reality of the idea: Man is the I of history, of the world's history; it is he, this ideal, that really develops, realizes, himself.

    He is the really real and corporeal one, for history is his body, in which individuals are only members. Christ is the I of the world's history, even of the pre-Christian; in modern apprehension it is man, the figure of Christ has developed into the figure of man: man as such, man absolutely, is the "central point" of history.

    In "man" the imaginary beginning returns again; for "man" is as imaginary as Christ is. "Man," as the I of the world's history, closes the cycle of Christian apprehensions.

    Christianity's magic circle would be broken if the strained relation between existence and calling, that is, between me as I am and me as I should be, ceased; it persists only as the longing of the idea for its bodiliness, and vanishes with the relaxing separation of the two: only when the idea remains - idea, as man or mankind is indeed a bodiless idea, is Christianity still extant.

    The corporeal idea, the corporeal or "completed" spirit, floats before the Christian as "the end of the days" or as the "goal of history"; it is not present time to him.

    The individual can only have a part in the founding of the Kingdom of God, or, according to the modern notion of the same thing, in the development and history of humanity; and only so far as he has a part in it does a Christian, or according to the modern expression human, value pertain to him; for the rest he is dust and a worm-bag.

    That the individual is of himself a world's history, and possesses his property in the rest of the world's history, goes beyond what is Christian. To the Christian the world's history is the higher thing, because it is the history of Christ or "man"; to the egoist only his history has value, because he wants to develop only himself not the mankind-idea, not God's plan, not the purposes of Providence, not liberty, and the like.

    He does not look upon himself as a tool of the idea or a vessel of God, he recognizes no calling, he does not fancy that he exists for the further development of mankind and that he must contribute his mite to it, but he lives himself out, careless of how well or ill humanity may fare thereby.

    If it were not open to confusion with the idea that a state of nature is to be praised, one might recall Lenau's Three Gypsies.
    1 What, am I in the world to realize ideas? To do my part by my citizenship, say, toward the realization of the idea "State," or by marriage, as husband and father, to bring the idea of the family into an existence?

    What does such a calling concern me! I live after a calling as little as the flower grows and gives fragrance after a calling.

    The ideal "Man" is realized when the Christian apprehension turns about and becomes the proposition, "I, this unique one, amman." The conceptual question, "what is man?" - has then changed into the personal question, "who is man?" With "what" the concept was sought for, in order to realize it; with "who" it is no longer any question at all, but the answer is personally on hand at once in the asker: the question answers itself.

    They say of God, "Names name thee not." That holds good of me: no concept expresses me, nothing that is designated as my essence exhausts me; they are only names. Likewise they say of God that he is perfect and has no calling to strive after perfection. That too holds good of me alone.

    I am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before the sun of this consciousness. If I concern myself for myself,2 the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say:

    All things are nothing to me.

    Max Stirner, The Ego and its Own

  2. #2

    All Things Are Nothing To Me

    All Things Are Nothing To Me*


    What is not supposed to be my concern! ** First and foremost, the Good Cause, *** then God's cause, the cause of mankind, of truth, of freedom, of humanity, of justice; further, the cause of my people, my prince, my fatherland; finally, even the cause of Mind, and a thousand other causes. Only my cause is never to be my concern. "Shame on the egoist who thinks only of himself!"
    Let us look and see, then, how they manage their concerns -- they for whose cause we are to labor, devote ourselves, and grow enthusiastic.
    You have much profound information to give about God, and have for thousands of years "searched the depths of the Godhead," and looked into its heart, so that you can doubtless tell us how God himself attends to "God's cause," which we are called to serve. And you do not conceal the Lord's doings, either. Now, what is his cause? Has he, as is demanded of us, made an alien cause, the cause of truth or love, his own? You are shocked by this misunderstanding, and you instruct us that God's cause is indeed the cause of truth and love, but that this cause cannot be called alien to him, because God is himself truth and love; you are shocked by the assumption that God could be like us poor worms in furthering an alien cause as his own. "Should God take up the cause of truth if he were not himself truth?" He cares only for his cause, but, because he is all in all, therefore all is his cause! But we, we are not all in all, and our cause is altogether little and contemptible; therefore we must "serve a higher cause." -- Now it is clear, God cares only for what is his, busies himself only with himself, thinks only of himself, and has only himself before his eyes; woe to all that is not well-pleasing to him. He serves no higher person, and satisfies only himself. His cause is -- a purely egoistic cause.
    How is it with mankind, whose cause we are to make our own? Is its cause that of another, and does mankind serve a higher cause? No, mankind looks only at itself, mankind will promote the interests of mankind only, mankind is its own cause. That it may develop, it causes nations and individuals to wear themselves out in its service, and, when they have accomplished what mankind needs, it throws them on the dung-heap of history in gratitude. Is not mankind's cause -- a purely egoistic cause?
    I have no need to take up each thing that wants to throw its cause on us and show that it is occupied only with itself, not with us, only with its good, not with ours. Look at the rest for yourselves. Do truth, freedom, humanity, justice, desire anything else than that you grow enthusiastic and serve them?
    They all have an admirable time of it when they receive zealous homage. Just observe the nation that is defended by devoted patriots. The patriots fall in bloody battle or in the fight with hunger and want; what does the nation care for that? By the manure of their corpses the nation comes to "its bloom"! The individuals have died "for the great cause of the nation," and the nation sends some words of thanks after them and -- has the profit of it. I call that a paying kind of egoism.
    But only look at that Sultan who cares so lovingly for his people. Is he not pure unselfishness itself, and does he not hourly sacrifice himself for his people? Oh, yes, for "his people." Just try it; show yourself not as his, but as your own; for breaking away from his egoism you will take a trip to jail. The Sultan has set his cause on nothing but himself; he is to himself all in all, he is to himself the only one, and tolerates nobody who would dare not to be one of "his people."
    And will you not learn by these brilliant examples that the egoist gets on best? I for my part take a lesson from them, and propose, instead of further unselfishly serving those great egoists, rather to be the egoist myself.
    God and mankind have concerned themselves for nothing, for nothing but themselves. Let me then likewise concern myself for myself, who am equally with God the nothing of all others, who am my all, who am the only one.*

    If God, if mankind, as you affirm, have substance enough in themselves to be all in all to themselves, then I feel that I shall still less lack that, and that I shall have no complaint to make of my "emptiness." I am not nothing in the sense of emptiness, but I am the creative nothing, the nothing out of which I myself as creator create everything.
    Away, then, with every concern that is not altogether my concern! You think at least the "good cause" must be my concern? What's good, what's bad? Why, I myself am my concern, and I am neither good nor bad. Neither has meaning for me.
    The divine is God's concern; the human, man's. My concern is neither the divine nor the human, not the true, good, just, free, etc., but solely what is mine, and it is not a general one, but is -- unique,* as I am unique.
    Nothing is more to me than myself!

    *"Ich hab' Mein' Sach' auf Nichts gestellt, first line of Goethe's poem, "Vanitas! Vanitatum Vanitas!" Literal translation: "I have set my affair on nothing."]
    ** [Sache]


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    The development of the ego

    Something inspired by two interesting threads: "All things are nothing to me" by goswinus and "Joy and the Ideal of the Glorious Failure" by Blutwölfin.

    It is said that man's best bet on survival is to adapt, and that I wholeheartedly agree with. But what is adaptation from an spiritual aspect? Isn't it submission under the laws of nature, denying of the absolute worth of self? It absolutely is, to the horror of the "modern individualist," who seeks to assert his own ego and belief of his intrinsic uniqueness, like so many others.

    Self-image, the ego, most likely developed when nature couldn't rule with such an absolute power over the tribes of ancient times and these tribes then found themselves distanced a bit from nature, not being so entirely dependant on it anymore although still quite dependant. Of course, ego wasn't totally nonexistant during those more "shamanistic" times but it wasn't as strongly underlined and placed high on a pedestal as it is nowadays. To hunter-gatherer tribes of old, adaptation was the way to go and the only thing egoistic in that was that of tribe serving the best interest of the tribe itself.

    The introduction of agriculture struck a wedge between man and nature, although a miniscule one compared to the jackhammers of today. Man "found" himself through being capable of more than mere survival and realized that there is something that cuts through the wind when standing against it: him. He desired change, he was passionate to carve his mark on the stone of eternity. And so, the people of that time were idealistic and fatalistic to a degree; victory or defeat, I will nevertheless push forwards! That was, and is, the only way to achieve change. One must be like a vector, pushing towards a certain direction, steadfast and never loosening grip on one's axe to achieve. Anything else would have been adaptation, incompatible with such a culture focused towards triumphing, although the difference was not this stark initially, it developed and grew.

    However, as all things cycle and morph all the time and nothing stays static, these striving cultures created civilizations and these civilizations, well, built upon themselves, towering far above the ground. So, we are being distanced from our surroundings, further and further every passing day. But surely not everyone is a vector in today's world? No, not everyone, as there are many who simply choose to adapt to the status quo, which is likely an unconscious remnant from ancient times. At the other end of the spectrum there are the tower-builders, who lay stones upon stones to rise higher, although the spot where they laid the stone foundation has not moved anywhere over the course of centuries and how could it have? You cannot pull a thread from a fabric without breaking it up, can you?

    Vectors make change, static dots adapt to their position. The forces in power push us upward, perhaps toward a looming black hole and the fortified focus on individualism keeps us blind from what happens in our surroundings: is the building on which we build on already weak and fragile, destined to crumble from piling even one block on it? We do not know nor care, we only want to toss a dozen blocks on it. Would it be reasonable for us to strive to adapt, to be a countering force as even the chances of mere survival look frighteningly dim?

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    Re: All Things Are Nothing To Me

    Stirner is excellent, though I find myself incapable of living life according to his outlook of moral anarchism.
    All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream at night, in the dusky recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams, with open eyes, to make it possible.

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