Anarch vs anarchist (I)


An immediate concern of a blog with anarch in its title is to establish the fundamental differences in political, social, and metaphysical terms between the anarch in Jünger’s sense and the anarchist as commonly understood. This difference is also an important aspect of a definition of the anarch.

Although the fully conceived figure is first and most comprehensively presented in the 1977 novel Eumeswil, anarch-like figures and spiritual precursors to the anarch appear in other works, most notably in Der Waldgang (“The Forest Flight”, untranslated into English). In Heliopolis from 1949, there is already reference to a “sovereign individual”, a partial definition of an anarch.

Ernst Jünger develops the anarch figure mostly through the reflections and conclusions of the protagonist of Eumeswil, Manuel (Ernst Jünger in disguise), as he pursues his historical studies and ruminates on the role and survival strategies of the individual throughout history. According to Manuel’s conclusions, the anarch is the figure most suited to the survival of the individual in an ahistorical postmodern world of totalitarian states.

Manuel is a historian in the small state of Eumeswil, an imaginary country in an undefined post-apocalyptic world. (The setting is not essential to understanding the anarch). Manuel pursues his historical interests in his own time: privately with his teachers, by attending or holding an occasional seminar at the university, and above all, working at night on the Luminar, an internet-like tool by which an enormous archive of historical information can be accessed at the speed of thought. (The Luminar is incidentally an uncanny vision of the present Internet, probably the first to appear in world literature. This will be developed in future posts.)

Manuel is also employee of the ruling tyrant, the Condor, whom he serves as a bartender in the Condor’s night bar. Here Manuel has an ear onto the inner workings of the state and the men and powers associated with it. Conveniently for readers, Manuel’s reflections on the anarch are presented in the form of short aphorisms, even mini-essays within the text. This lends itself to a study of the anarch via a compilation and analysis of the individual aphorisms. This is how we will structure our study of the anarch – via a systematic analysis of each appearance of the anarch in the text of Eumeswil, not necessarily in order of appearance. To provide context for the reader, some short background for the citation will usually precede it.

I am using the English translation by Joachim Neugroschel, published by Marsilio Publishers (New York, 1980) in their Eridanos Library, ISBN 0-941419-97-5. Citations will be referenced according to the page numbers of this edition.

We begin with this quote, in which the protagonist, Manuel Venator, describes the interview process for his employment in the tyrant of Eumeswil’s personal entourage.

“They found no mischief in me. I remained normal, however deeply they probed. And also straight as an arrow. To be sure, normality seldom coincides with straightness. Normalcy is the human constitution; straightness is logical reasoning. With its help, I could answer satisfactorily. In contrast, the human element is at once so general and so intricately encoded that they fail to perceive it, like the air that they breathe. Thus they were unable to penetrate my fundamental structure, which is anarchic.

That sounds complicated, but it is simple, for everyone is anarchic; this is precisely what is normal about us. Of course, the anarch is hemmed in from the first day by father and mother, by state and society. Those are prunings, tappings of the primordial strength, and nobody escapes them. One has to resign oneself. But the anarchic remains, at the very bottom, as a mystery, usually unknown even to its bearer. It can erupt from him as lava, can destroy him, liberate him. Distinctions must be made here: love is anarchic, marriage is not. The warrior is anarchic, the soldier is not. Manslaughter is anarchic, murder is not. Christ is anarchic, Saint Paul is not. Since, of course, the anarchic is normal, it is also present in Saint Paul, and sometimes it erupts mightily from him. Those are not antitheses but degrees. The history of the world is moved by anarchy. In sum: the free human being is anarchic, the anarchist is not.” Eumeswil, Page 41

Immediately, in this first anarch quote of the book, Jünger establishes the “normality” and “straightness” of the anarch. Evidently he is no anarchist. Rather, anarchy is intrinsically encoded into the normal human constitution, it is something we all have in common, the nature of a normal human being. Consequently, we need not hide it from others or nor feel we are special.

But because it is so normal and common and because Manuel is aware of this, the interrogators are unable to distinguish anything out of the ordinary in Manuel. He consciously realizes his inner invulnerability based on this normality and remains inviolate, secure, himself. By further reasoning in a “straight” manner, he also knows how to answer their questions.

One might imagine that someone so aware of his inner invulnerability, of his anarchic inner nature, might feel free to manifest himself just as he pleases in the world, as a rebel, an anarchist, an eccentric. But Manuel maintains his “straightness”, with the help of reason, in order to make the right impression and get what he wants, the job. He is secure in his inner world and needs not make any extravagant shows of freedom, or individuality”. His true individuality, his personal anarchic nature, is a secret inner possession, of which he is acutely aware.

As Jünger explains, each person has this anarchic substructure, which at birth was whole and unencumbered. From day one, society and the world begin to overlay the individual anarchic material of the individual with their own programs, motives, restrictions. The individual forgets, becomes removed from his genuine uniqueness, the rock of his being. He is part of fallen humanity. But the original anarchic nature is still there, albeit usually unrecognized. A subconscious awareness of his original individual power and identity remains, untouched by the outer corruption, by the encirclement of the unessential.

Later, a return to, a rediscovery of this uncorrupted, incorruptible personal core may be actively effected. This can be gradual, as a growing illumination of the inner darkness by the light of self-knowledge and the discovery there of the hidden treasure. Or it may happen abruptly, as an eruption that comes after long efforts of self-discovery weaken the containing walls and the pressure of the inner anarchic magma bursts through. This can destroy the individual, if it is uncontrolled, accidental. Or it can liberate him from society’s bounds, free the individual to see himself, and be himself again.

The anarchic is independent of society, it relates to the essential nature of the person. Hence Jünger’s following comparisons. Love as a relation between individuals regardless of social roles is anarchic; the social institution of marriage is not. Of course a marriage does not preclude the existence of anarchic love – secure in the reality of their love, an anarchic couple makes a concession to society for their own convenience.

Manslaughter represents the opposite relationship, the result of an essential conflict between individuals, regrettable but unavoidable. But the same act is murder when it is within and as a result of unessential social relationships; it is no longer a function of a conflict between individuals but between socialized units. Similarly, the soldier kills in the context of and for society’s aims, the warrior because that is his nature in this life.

Finally, Jünger compares St. Paul and Jesus and shows that Jesus’ power and action is beyond society, is essential, whereas St. Paul’s force is already a derivation, a more superficial force operating in the social sphere. But as he points out, the essential and the incidental, the anarchic and the socialized, represent the extremes of a continuum. In St. Paul’s case, the anarchic is within him, even if it does not always manifest.

Finally Jünger makes a fundamental point about the anarchic: that it is a correlate of freedom. The free human being, the natural essential human being is anarchic. But the anarchist is not anarchic, by which he implies that the anarchist is not free, a crucial difference to remember.


  • You’re absolutely right, the phonophore in Heliopolis is already a vision of the internet/GPS/wireless communications networks.

    Didn’t know about Otlet though. I looked at the link and it seems that Otlet’s was more a technically derived vision. Juenger’s came primarily from a vision of the “technological spiritualization” of the earth (described in “An der Zeitmauer”, “At the wall of time”, not translated), which he subsequently saw confirmed by actual technological developments.

By SiFr



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