Ludwig Klages: Cosmogonic Reflections, part 1
by Joseph D. Pryce
THESE APHORISMS, essays, and recollections in prose are numbered seriatim. The idea was to construct a sort of völkisch vade-mecum out of Klages’s works that might resemble the Heraclitean “Fragments” in its contours as well as in its “darkness.” I may be mistaken, but I believe that aphorisms — especially pregnant and profound aphorisms — might be the best introduction to a world of dazzling, and, yes, difficult, philosophy. Thus this first release of my translations. More are in progress.
Klages’s most controversial texts (the monographs on Stefan George and Alfred Schuler being the most important in this regard) have been excluded from the Collected Works, a fate that has also befallen the posthumous editions of Céline, Philip Larkin, and Gottlob Frege; the relevant portion of the “Einleitung” [over 100 pages!] to the Schuler-book, in fact, has been called the most incisive criticism of “those who must not be criticized” ever penned.
“All Eros is Eros of distance (Eros der Ferne).”
Without Klages, nulla salus est for The West. I’m sure of this.
— Joseph D. Pryce, New York City, 14th May 2001.
by Ludwig Klages
1. Universal Morality. A man who cannot climb a tree will boast of never having fallen out of one. (RR p. 466)
2. Downfall. Today, those are outstanding spirits indeed in whom one can expect to find any independence of judgment. The great masses, who have never been, in the history of mankind, more subject to hypnotic suggestion than they are right now, have become the puppets of the “public opinion” that is engineered by the newspapers in the service, it need hardly be emphasized, of the reigning powers of finance. What is printed in the morning editions of the big city newspapers is the opinion of nine out of ten readers by nightfall. The United States of America, whose more rapid “progress” enables us to predict the future on a daily basis, has pulled far ahead of the pack when it comes to standardizing thought, work, entertainment, etc.
Thus, the United States in 1917 went to war against Germany in sincere indignation because the newspapers had told them that Prussian “militarism” was rioting in devilish atrocities as it attempted to conquer the world. Of course, these transparent lies were published in the daily rags because the ruling lords of Mammon knew that American intervention in Europe would fatten their coffers. Thus, whereas the Americans thought that they were fighting for such high-minded slogans as “liberty” and “justice,” they were actually fighting to stuff the money bags of the big bankers. These “free citizens” are, in fact, mere marionettes; their freedom is imaginary, and a brief glance at American work-methods and leisure-time entertainments is enough to prove conclusively that l’homme machine is not merely imminent: it is already the American reality.
Racial theorists seem cognizant of the fact that this will be the downfall of the white race, and that of the black and yellow races shortly thereafter. (Of the so-called “primitive” races, we say nothing other than that the few surviving tribal cultures are already at death’s door!) All of these facts are scarcely relevant, since the ultimate destruction of all seems to be a foregone conclusion. It is not this destruction that makes us sorrowful here, for no prophet can foretell whether a completely robotized mankind will survive for centuries, or even for millennia: what concerns us is the mechanization process itself. It is the tragic destiny of knowledge—of authentic knowledge and not of the imaginary sort, which provides the intellectual implements required by engineers and technicians—that it performs the funeral march that accompanies the disappearance, if not the burial, of a living essence. The only thing that we know is that we are no more. “Somnium narrare vigilantis est” (Seneca). (SW 4 pp. 408-9)
3. On the Psychology of the Drives. We are dealing here with a subject about which, bluntly speaking, nothing but a load of nonsense has hitherto been expounded. We have, in fact, said very little when we note that a psychology of the drives simply does not exist, because what has already been said on this topic, and said far too many times, demonstrates such a fundamental falsification of the facts that no further proof of the sheer ignorance of our ruling authorities is required. At least that is our impression when we turn our attention away from the pointless experimental research of today to the rich achievements of Romantic philosophy, and to the still considerable, but undoubtedly lesser, philosophical achievement of Nietzsche, whose deeply probing views on the drives were linked from the outset to his presentation of the “will to power” as it effects vital processes. Let us now attempt a comprehensive illumination of the drives, by means of a refutation of one well-known and suggestive point of view that has become a sort of classic example.
Those psychologists who have blinded themselves to the very concept of life and who still insist on investigating the drives, regardless of whether they proceed intentionally like [Theodor] Lipps, the anatomist of consciousness, or whether, on the contrary, their purpose is to interpret volitional impulses as strictly analogous to drive impulses, like the philosopher Schopenhauer, will always interpret them by analogy with the will. If these psychologists lack any insight into the essential difference which obtains between drive impulses and volitional impulses, then, since it is a rare thing for man to experience drive impulses without experiencing concomitant volitional impulses, they will, without fail, transport spirit into the non-conscious drives and will misconstrue the drives in the worst conceivable fashion at the very moment when they are attempting to interpret acts of will in terms of pure drive impulses. Because the will pursues purposes, the life impulse, in its turn, is also conceived as purposive, and, in the end, the whole of nature is interpreted as if it were a systematic constellation of purposes. Thus, because volitional impulses are realized in achievements, and because we have grown accustomed to deducing the former from the latter, instead of the drives themselves, certain consequences arising from their activation, are studied, which are then imputed to the drives as intentions that are directed towards the achievement of an effect. Thus, since only an “ego” is capable of willing, i.e., an “ego” which asserts itself in every act of willing, the interest of the bearer of the will in its own self-preservation is transformed into a self-preservation drive possessed by all animate creatures.
Perhaps a few examples will help to clarify this problem. Our domesticated animals eat and drink just as we do. Although they don’t know, we do know, that nobody could survive at all, were he to give up eating and drinking completely. And so we are conscious of nutritive purposes and are enabled to make decisions such as the decision to improve our diet or the decision to desist from unnecessary gourmandizing; and the conclusion that has been drawn from this realization is that eating and drinking are primordial and universal functions of a nutritive drive, and that in this nutritive drive, it is the self-preservation drive that is forcefully announcing its presence.
Now if someone were to say: but animals do not have the slightest idea that in order to live they have to take in calories; for even were we to assume that they are, in fact, capable of acquiring this knowledge, this would not dispose of the obvious fact that they perform these so-called purposive actions before they acquire it (e.g., the chick, which having just emerged from its egg, immediately pecks at the corn); nor, indeed, are these purposive actions restricted to the consumption of food, for they comprise a thousand and one other functions as well (e.g., the exodus of the migratory birds in the autumn). At this point, the faithful disciple of the self-preservationist creed, of sacro egoismo, will in all candor parade those phrases which, after they have been stripped of subterfuge and obfuscation, announce that all these phenomena are due to non-purposive purposes, thought-less thoughts, and unconscious consciousness! Just who is thinking here and who is not? The “self-preserving” creature does not think, but its inborn “nature” certainly has its preservation in mind. Within every unthinking creature, we are informed, there exists a planning, calculating “nature,” one that is doubtlessly well equipped with the requisite financial techniques, which conducts its operations on a long-term basis, and about which we shall be shortly hearing some truly amazing things! (SW 1 pp. 566-68)
4. On the Manifold Varieties of Love. In the case of just one major prompting of a drive impulse, the sentiment of love, we must demonstrate that it is not restricted to the exclusive love of one person for another.
In the first place, every person loves everything that he is capable of loving in a constantly changing manner during each of the first four seven-year stages of his life, whereupon, after a long period of growing equability, and with the gradual diminishing of sexual drive activity, a significant alteration again takes place, which is finally succeeded, during the more or less non-sexual phase, by a further transformation of the love impulse. Moreover, everyone experiences love in a different way during each period of his life, for he loves with a love that is appropriate to each father, mother, brother, sister, comrade, friend, superior, subordinate, fellow-worker, public figure, ruler, fellow countrymen, son, daughter, wife, lover, etc.; and with even greater differences, he will love things that are already tinged with love (e.g., memories); and utterly different will be his love for animals, plants, districts (like mountains, heath, sea, etc.), home, youth and so on, not to mention completely intangible love-objects such as career, science, art, religion, motherland, etc. But even within the specifically sex-colored drives, one and the same person in one and the same period of life is faced with a wealth of possible modes of loving which are seemingly inexhaustible. For apart from the fact that, due to the abundance of drive formations, this person is capable of alternately experiencing widely divergent processes as sources of sensual pleasure (the usual combinations: touching and feeling, facial perceptions of the most varied types, acts such as acts of suffering or of torment which the person inflicts or to which he submits), the love which this person bears for one person will differ in kind from the love he bears for another just as surely as the images of the two persons, which inspire that love, differ from each other. (SW 1 pp. 578 ff.)
5. Goethe and the Romantics. A living totality stands behind both: in Goethe it is Apollo, the god of individuation and, therefore, the god of materialization; in the Romantics, on the other hand, it is the dream-image of the Wild Hunter, the transcendent, drunken, reeling shade of Wotan…(RR p. 323)
6. The Rape of Mother Earth. In 1913, I composed (on request) for the celebratory volume of the Freideutsche Jugend that was ussued to commemorate the Centenary Festival on the Meissner Heights, the address entitled Mensch und Erde (“Man and Earth”). In that essay I provided a terrible analysis of the rape of nature by humanity in the present day, and I sought to prove that man, as the bearer of spirit, has torn himself apart just as he is tearing apart the planet to which he owes his birth. (SW 2 p. 1537)
7. Cosmic Polarities. The cosmos lives, and everything that lives is polarized; the two poles of life are soul (psyche) and body (soma). Wherever there is a living body, there also do we find a soul; wherever there is a soul, there also do we find a living body. The soul is the meaning of the living body, and the image of the body is the phenomenal manifestation of the soul. Whatever appears has a meaning; and every meaning reveals itself in the appearance. The meaning is experienced internally; the appearance is experienced externally. (SW 3 p. 390)
8. Monism of the Spirit. Spirit’s essentially monotheistic tendency can be witnessed in the pronouncements of the numerous scholars who seem to be compelled to subordinate everything that exists to one regnant principle. Spirit aims at universal rule: it unites the world under the ego or under the logos. When spirit attained to hegemony, it introduced two novelties: the belief in historical progress on the one side, and religious fanaticism on the other. The spirit utilizes force to eliminate all possible rivals. Over the warring and agitated primordial forces, spirit erected the tyranny of the formula: for some it announces itself as the “ethical autonomy of the individual”; the Catholic Church, on the other hand, still relies on the idea of holiness. (RR p. 306)
9. The Path of Spirit. Were we to comprehend everything that impinges on our senses, the world would thenceforth be devoid of riddles. That, however, is the quintessential project of spirit: the world of the senses is to be minted into the coin of concepts. (RR p. 466)
10. The Invader. The history of mankind shows that there occurs within man—and only within him—a war to the knife between the power of all-embracing love and a power from outside the spatio-temporal universe; this power severs the poles of life and destroys their unity by “de-souling” the body and disembodying the soul: this power is spirit (logos, pneuma, nous). (SW 3 p. 390)
11. The Adversaries. Life and spirit are two completely primordial and essentially opposed powers, which can be reduced neither to each other, nor to any third term. (SW 2 p.1527)
12. Body and Soul. One thesis has guided all of our enquiries for the past three decades or so: that body and soul are inseparably connected poles of the unity of life into which the spirit inserts itself from the outside like a wedge, in an effort to set them apart from each other; that is, to de-soul the body and disembody the soul, and so, finally, to smother any life that this unity can attain. (SW 1 p. 7)
13. On Ecstasy. It is not man’s spirit but his soul that is liberated in ecstasy; and his soul is liberated not from his body but from his spirit. (SW 3 p. 390)
14. On Maternal Love. The selfless maternal love of one woman resembles that of another woman to the point of confusion. Since every instinct has something of the “animal” soul in it, maternal love possesses a depth of soul; however, in no way does it have a depth of spirit. Maternal love belongs equally to the animal mother and to the human mother. (SW 3 p. 367)
15. The Rhythm of Life. Whereas every non-human organism pulsates in accord with the rhythms of cosmic life, the law of spirit has ordained man’s exile from that life. What appears to man, as bearer of ego-consciousness, in the light of the superiority of calculating thought above all else, appears to the metaphysician, if he has pondered the matter deeply enough, in the light of an enslavement of life to the yoke of concepts! (SW 3 p. 391)
16. Knowledge and Poetry. A deep abyss separates knowledge and poetry. That which we have conceived, can nevermore be lived. This fact accounts for the “unwisdom” of poets. (RR p. 302)
17. Blondeness. The blonde man: man of the abyss, man of the night. (RR p. 315)
18. Stages of Human Development. Animal man lives on his instincts, unconsciously; magical man lives in a world of mythic images; spiritual man lives to spout moralistic platitudes. (RR p. 314)
19. On the Sexual Drive. It is a fundamental and willful falsification to call the sexual drive a drive to reproduction. Reproduction is only a potential outcome of sexual intercourse, but it is certainly not included in the actual experience of sexual excitement. The animal knows nothing of it; only man knows. (SW 3 p. 371)
20. On the Unreality of the Future. Space and time, co-existing in a polar relationship, have this in common: each is extended between the poles of the near and the far. Just as nearness is only one regardless of where I stand; and just as, on the other hand, distance [i.e., the “far”] is only one, regardless of whether I look to the east, west, north, or south; in the identical sense there can exist only one distance in time relative to one and the same nearness in time. Were there two—i.e., in addition to the distance of the past, a distance into the future—then the nature of the distance to a future point of relationship must necessarily contradict the nature of the distance to a past point. However, since the opposite is the case, the alleged duality of temporal distance constitutes an illusion!
We now explain why we do, in fact, regard the future as a mere illusion. When I contemplate the past, I recollect a reality that once existed; when, on the other hand, I think of the future, I am necessarily thinking of something that is unreal, something that exists solely in this act of thinking. Were all thinking beings to vanish, the past—as it really existed—would remain an unalterable reality; whereas the name “future” would be utterly devoid of meaning in a world wherein there were no beings alive to “think” it. (SW 3 p. 433)
21. Blood and Nerves. The blood is the site of orgiastic life. What separates the ecstatic nature from the rational is not a refinement of the brain, but a condition of the blood: purple blood, blue blood, divine blood. Life resides in blood and pulse. (RR p. 246)
22. Seeking and Finding. He who seeks shall find, but only after he has surrendered his being to the guidance of the gods. (RR p. 253)
23. Logic and Mysticism. Logic is organized darkness. Mysticism is rhythmic light. (RR p. 253)
24. Man and Homeland. The man of instinct is devoted to his homeland. In this feeling for the homeland is rooted all art, nobility, and race. Only the man without a homeland can break with his past. The noble man attaches himself completely to the historical fortunes of his tribe. He will never repudiate his youth; he will never abandon his home. (RR p. 246)
25. Mankind and Race. We must draw a sharp distinction between the man who sees the world as divided between the “human” and the “non-human,” and the man who is most profoundly struck by the obvious racial groupings of mankind (Nietzsche’s “masters”). The bridge that connects us to the Cosmos does not originate in “man,” but in race. (RR p. 245)
26. On Literary “Critics” and the Bildungsphilister. We are informed that the latest concoction by some schoolteacher or literary hack is the finest work of the last decade, or even since the death of Nietzsche. A new novel is hailed as the most astounding book ever written on the subject of love. We are told that a recent play has inaugurated a whole new epoch in the art of the theater. We find nothing extraordinary in the claim that some current offering puts Homer, Aeschylus, Pindar, Dante, and Shakespeare quite in the shade; that it initiates a completely original school of creative writing; and that the masterpiece under discussion makes all of the efforts of earlier geniuses seem faded and colorless by comparison. Of course, most of our book-reviewers have been well trained in American advertising techniques, and, as a result, their critical reviews have all the subtlety and depth of the blurbs in a publisher’s catalogue.
And how readily our educated philistines have rejoiced at this grim state of affairs! (SW 2 p. 1543)
27. Sin and the Pagan World. The idea of “sin” was quite alien to the pagan world. The ancient pagans knew the gods’ hatred as well as their revenge, but they never heard of punishment for “sin.” The ancient philosophers did understand something of the “good,” but when they employed this expression, they were certainly not endorsing the concept of the “sinless.” Quite the contrary: they were actually speaking of the pursuit of every type of excellence. (RR p. 317)
28. Heraclitus. Heraclitus regards the flame as the symbol of actuality; thus, we realize that his soul was ecstatic. Nevertheless, he is also the representative of a rupture, and this realization enables us to perceive his affinity with ourselves. He was not truly a magician, nor was he a prophet or poet, but, rather: a dithyrambic thinker. There exists an insurmountable law that tells us that whatever evokes the greatest activity in our inner life is accompanied by the greatest affectivity: Heraclitus embodies the philosophical style that maintains a rhythmical mobility; therefore, he is more alert to the centrifugal movement of the flame, and to its hostility to the watery element, than he is to its pulsating incandescence. In a one-sided manner, he misinterprets the sea itself, its breaking waves, and the consummate rush of the maenads…The true fulfillment of the Heraclitean synthesis would be: a flame-stricken sea. (RR p. 314)
29. Cosmic Aggregations. The cosmic powers do not arrive as drizzling rain. They are rather a torrent, but one can choke that torrent with alien hordes. The torrent will be split up, like molten metal, into a thousand whirling pearls. The cosmic substance remains intact within scattered seeds of noble blood. (RR p. 254)
30. The Death of Paganism. Every collapse of cosmic creativity is brought about solely by two agencies: infection from without, and weakness from within. (RR p. 256)
31. Effects of Christianity. It was Christianity’s great achievement to exhaust the soul by defaming sexual passion. But in prohibiting the urge—the “rune within the flesh” (Alfred Schuler)—it thwarted the very possibility of its renewal. And erotic satisfaction is the pre-condition for all cosmic radiance. (RR p. 243)
32. Life and Being. All human existence is connected somehow with life: this is so even when life is degenerating (as in a polluted race) and when it is parasitic (as in the Jew behind his mask). (RR p. 289)
33. The True Master of Secret Societies. In the forefront of our secret societies, we have the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the “Odd Fellows,” and B’nai B’rith. The educated classes are provided with such recent varieties as…the Einstein cult and Freudianism. For half-educated fools we have H. P. Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Rudolf Steiner, and Krishnamurti. For the poor in spirit, there’s the Christian Science of Mrs. Eddy, the Oxford Movement, and biblical fundamentalism. All of these groups, along with innumerable lesser organizations, are humanitarianism’s masks. Jewry is the center from which they are ruled. (LK GL p. 1345)
34. On Christian Philosophy. The values endorsed by Christian philosophical systems are either ethical or logical, i.e., functional values devoid of living substance. With that one statement, however, we have judged Christian philosophy. (RR p. 300)
35. Christ and Dionysos. Dionysus is the releasing god: Eleusis, Lysios. In him the spheres expropriate themselves through commingling. In Dionysus, death becomes eternal rebirth and the meaning of life. Here every tension releases itself and all opposites coalesce. Dionysus is the symbol of the whirlpool; he is chaos as it glowingly gives birth to the world.
In the ego-god, however, we find only an oppressive “truth,” an emphasis on purpose (Socrates), and a “beauty of soul” that negates the beauty of the body (mortification of the flesh). Just as one rightly calls Dionysus the releaser, so should Jesus Christ be called the one who represses, because repression is the limiting power that enabled him to conquer so many nations, just as he will, perhaps, eventually conquer all. What Alfred Schuler called his “eagerness for love,” can only repress; it can never release. The paradox here is that Jesus insists that he alone is the “redeemer,” i.e., the one who releases! (RR p. 267)
36. The Christian Sickness. From the universal love of the wandering Germanic tribes, Christianity fashioned the insanity known as redemption. (RR p. 250)
37. Christianity and Wakefulness. Even in the garden of olives Christ begged his disciples to remain awake by his side. The saints indicate by their sleeplessness that nothing can harm them. Christianity is the war against sleep and dream, two states for which a reviving elemental life will always be yearning. Against the activity of astral wakefulness, elemental life places consummation and the pagan feeling for fate. True pagans regard sleeplessness as the most monstrous conceivable evil. We might also add that the wakefulness of the Christian manifests a slavish impulse: the lurking wariness and prudence of submissive souls. (RR p. 253)
38. From A Letter Re: “Anti-Semitism.” I’ve never endorsed the claim that the Nazi Bonzes belonged to a superior race. However, I must also add that I have consistently refused to accept the claim of a certain other race to be the “chosen people.” The arrogance is identical in both cases, but with this significant distinction: after waging war against mankind for more than three thousand years, Jewry has finally achieved total victory over all of the nations of the earth.
Therefore, I will have nothing to do with the contemporary kowtowing on the part of almost the entire civilized world before the haters of all mankind (Tacitus spoke of Christians, but he certainly meant the Jews, as will be obvious to every alert reader of his works). I despise all this kowtowing to the Jews as an utterly mendacious tactical ploy. (LK GL p. 1350)
39. The Prophecy of a Jewish Friend. I might easily fill ten pages…with anecdotes concerning the life of Richard Perls. He was born a Jew, but he eventually abandoned Judaism, a religion that he had come to hate. One year before his death, which occurred, to the best of my recollection, in 1897, he said to me: “Herr Klages, the ancient world was destroyed by Judaism, just as the modern world is about to be!” When I voiced my skepticism as to the accuracy of his prophecy…he merely responded: “Just wait—you will live to see my prophecy fulfilled!” (LK GL p. 196)
40. Paganism and Christianity. Life is instantaneous, death is duration: this truth must stand above the threshold of our paganism. With this truth we inaugurate the depreciation of spirit… (RR p. 260)
41. Christian and Pagan. A pagan can become a Christian in his old age: the living substance disintegrates, and the rotting residue is barely functional. On the other hand, never will a Christian become a pagan. (RR p. 264) Christianity and Self-Preservation. Christianity aims always at the preservation of the individual ego, in whose service it preaches “compassion.” Christian compassion is hostile to life, because the laws of life are not the laws of the ego: therefore, Nietzsche was correct in spurning it. The paganism that he wished to proclaim, on the other hand, was a splendid surrender of the ego and, hence, a phenomenon of life.
Christian compassion, however, took on a more sympathetic form within the Nordic world, where compassion was felt towards even the animals and plants.
In addition, there is still another type: cosmic compassion (the erotic), which is a positive stirring of life and affection that we should never discourage. (RR p. 301)
42. Christianity and Time. Christianity first changed time into the historical “once and once only.” (RR p. 303)
43. The Great Deceiver. To the Jew, everything human is a sham. One might even say that the Jewish face is nothing but a mask. The Jew is not a liar: he is the lie itself. From this vantage point, we can say that the Jew is not a man…He lives the pseudo-life of a ghoul whose fortunes are linked to Jahweh-Moloch. He employs deception as the weapon with which he will exterminate mankind. The Jew is the very incarnation of the unearthly power of destruction. (RR p. 330)
44. How Jahweh Expresses Himself. Jahweh’s medium of expression is the gesture. His characteristic gestures, insofar as they actually possess any metaphysical significance, can be interpreted as an ever-deeper subjugation of one principle at the hands of an ever-loftier one: consecration, blessing, etc., on the one side, and repentance, contrition, and adoration on the other. Semitic religiosity is restricted to the adoring worshipper and the adored deity. When this religiosity attaches itself solely to the personal, the emblem of worship becomes the individual person. Only the Semitic religions bow to the “One God.” In adoration, the believer achieves the non-rational form of ego-consciousness. Pagan rationality glides right past the god to the ego; in the Semitic “service of God,” however, the transcendental “One” brings destruction to the world of “appearances.” Apollo is, so to speak, an ethically developed Dionysus; he works on the soil of blood-thinning. Jahweh is the all-devouring nothingness; he works on the soil of blood-poisoning. (RR p. 321)
45. The Cult of the Christ. It is impossible to conceive of a more fatal blindness than that of the cult instigated by this Jewish sectarian and his apostles and camp followers. Torn from the bonds of nature and the past, man must now direct his gaze at the wasteland known as the “future”; into that desert he stares, paralyzed by dread of the vengeful Jew-God. And before this insane masquerade of the “kingdom come,” the “last judgment,” and “eternal punishment” can complete its conquest of the world, the true heroes and the real gods must first be made to grovel before the cross! (RR p. 285)
46. Eros. Eros is elemental or cosmic in so far as the individual who is seized by Eros experiences, as it were, a pulsating, inundating stream of electricity. (RR p. 387)
47. Eros (as Opposed to “Sexuality”). In the ancient world, Eros was always closely associated with ethos. The Christian era inaugurated the reign of “sexuality” and its necessary complement: asceticism. Tension and hostility begin to infect intimate relationships, until eventually we arrive at the “war between the sexes.”…The Jew consummates the total victory of “sexuality,” although, of course, he knows nothing of genuine sensuality, as he is a mere lecher. True Eros is eventually demoted to the status of a mere sexual “stimulant.” (RR p. 349)
48. Nobility and Race. Nobility belongs exclusively to the man of race. There is no such thing as moral nobility, only a moral egoism. The downfall of a master caste is the very essence of tragedy. A sense of honor is inborn in every aristocrat, and the duel is the knightly principle incarnate. Only he who is without race can endure disgrace. The master scorns the very idea of a negotiated settlement. The master perishes from wounded pride. (RR p. 245)
49. Rome and Germania. One may be a fixed star or a planet; even as a fixed star one may be a planet, for there are both planetary suns as well as stationary ones. The Roman was the center, the German the periphery, but the German sphere was so distant that, to the Roman, it seemed to be a mere tangent point, an entity struggling on the margins of his world. The Roman sun is not the German’s center, for Rome is itself a peripheral creation in the eyes of the German during the time of his colossal wanderings. But then he was given the cross: now the need for redemption becomes his guiding star, and he is soon at work forging Judah’s ring of power. (RR p. 252)
50. The Dioscuri. The Dioscuri of Mankind: the hero and the poet. The first one lives the primordial image; the other perceives and reveals it. They are sons born of the same mother: there is no other metaphysical brotherhood. (RR p. 288)
51. The Homosexual Character. Peripheral qualities: lack of conviction, self-flattery. Closer to the center: his personality is more selfish than that of any woman. In general, the homosexual has no sense for facts. Even closer to the center: the most peculiar form of megalomania. He even believes that he understands love, while he sneers at love between man and woman as merely a mask behind which lurks the breeding impulse. He sees himself as the center of the world, a world that he believes would collapse were his own surroundings to collapse. His house, his garden, and his crowd are for him the whole universe. He cannot turn his gaze from his favorite playroom, which explains why his horizon is limited to himself and his more talented associates. Psychologically, his incapacity for abstract thought is consistent with his persistent identification with the feminine character. Alone, he manifests a propensity to confuse his own little world with the real one. Another way of expressing our view: in general, he doesn’t believe in the external world at all, but in a world which is part of himself, and, so to speak, his private property. In the presence of his fellow men, the homosexual presents himself as a sort of patron; he wants to be everyone’s father, ruler, and general authority-figure; he even values this relationship as a form of erotic satisfaction. Favorite hobbies: boys and Platonism. The salient secondary qualities are: sensitivity, ability to scent a change in the weather, a taste for politics, a knowledge of the ways of men, and an inability to commune directly with nature; he prefers aestheticism, culture, art, poetry, and philosophy. Although he has a predilection for trees, animals, and parks, etc., he has no feeling whatsoever for elemental nature. A tentative explanation: his entire being radiates exhaustion and disarray. He always stands on the outside, not in the sense of Judaism, but more in the manner of the paranoiac, who, although he possesses some small share of vitality, has no involvement with the universal stream of life. That is why, in fact, the homosexual’s inability to love leaves him receptive only to what is loveable in life. Thus, he experiences every deeper association with another person as just one more variety of self-love, as if he were merely encountering a side of his own personality; he requires these fresh, counterfeit connections with persons and things so that he might enhance his own self-love (the “smugness” of every homosexual). While Jewish exclusiveness leads to life-envy and the drive to disintegration, the homosexual is led by a drive to contraction. Just as the homosexual carries within him his own little world, his overall horizon presents a closed “circle.” He substitutes his finite world for the infinity of the real world. These compulsions once ruled the Rome of the Caesars as they still rule the Rome of the Popes. (RR p. 366)
52. Worship of the State. We hope that we need not emphasize that our denunciation of “state-thought” is not in the least an attack “Capitalism” from the standpoint of some variety of “Socialism”! “Capitalism,” Liberalism,” Marxism,” “Communism,” etc., are stages on one and the same path to the mechanization of all human associations, a path that leads—as only the blind would fail to see—to a collectivist destination. (AG p. 178)
53. Substantial Thought. The forbidding of thought on the part of ascetics speaks volumes in favor of thought. The substance of thought possesses the power to embody itself. The experience of thought can even rattle the gates to the empire of the sun, and set the world of images vibrating. (RR p. 306)
54. The Sacred. Suppose a thinker has convinced himself that the far-famed sanctity of the “three-fold”—the triad of Poseidon, the tripod of the Pythian Oracle, the three divisions of the world of the gods, the Christian Trinity, the Three Norns, and so many other items—is the genuine experience of a three-fold system of reality. He will (assuming that the Orphic Eros itself is a matter of living experience to him) likewise seek behind the three-fold phenomena embodied in theogonic myth an experienced actuality. The cosmic rush, as the loftiest of all chaotic intoxicants, must thus be understood in its three unique forms. Many years have passed since the author of these lines first drew attention to the three basic modes of the rush, viz., the heroic, the erotic, and the magical…In the magical mode, the rush manifests its nature in a dual connection to the nightly firmament and to the realm of the dead. Its historical high point was reached in the “Magism” of the Medes and in the Egyptian funerary cult. Perhaps its purest conceptual precipitate is to be found in Chaldean astrology. The heroic-tragic rush…was embodied in that epoch of late “Pelasgian” humanity upon which historians have bestowed the title of “the heroic age.” Among the four heroic peoples with whom we are familiar, the rush was embodied in the magnificent creations of the epic poets. The most striking characteristic of the epic lies in the fact that here the death of the ego is achieved through the death of the warrior’s body in battle. Its most superb manifestation took place in the Germanic world…the doomed warriors experience death in battle as the kiss of the Valkyrie; the hero knew that he would soon awaken from the torment and darkness of destruction—in Valhalla’s realm of the dead! (SW 3 p. 398)
55. Woman and Poet. The woman and the poet are close relations. He is the voice of her yearnings. In the wake of the poets dances the procession of the Bacchantes. Poets are the interpreters of Dionysus. (RR p. 262)
56. Affect and Life. Life incorporates the affect; the ego disembodies it. (RR p. 356)
57. The Western Light. “What a commotion is caused by light!” This is the western light, the showering bolts of light, the storm of radiance. (RR p. 303)
58. Idealism. Idealism is the poverty of the wealthy and the wealth of the impoverished. (RR p. 304)
59. Primal Imagery of the World. Every region of the world can instantaneously become the complete possession of the soul; the region’s essential complexion remains the same. In that instant, one gains a glimpse of eternity. (RR p. 244)
60. On Possessing Wealth. Many first possess wealth, and are then possessed by it. Many lose their wealth, and, in turn, become the richer for their loss. (RR p.253)
61. On Memory. It requires no experiment to prove that a content having meaning is more easily memorized, and is retained for a greater length of time, than, for example, a series of meaningless syllables; and that verse, especially rhymed verse, is more easily retained than prose. Further, we are all aware that repetition facilitated learning. If at one time I have studied physics, and, as I think, have forgotten everything about the subject in the course of time, then if I once more take up the laws of physics, I shall nevertheless learn them much more quickly than when I first studied this subject. Numerous experiments have shown that a distribution of repetitions over several days is more favorable to the process of memorizing than their immediate accumulation. Further, it also appears to be the case that a coherent whole is more effortlessly mastered if it is learned in one piece that if it is divided into parts to be learned in separate pieces: finally, relatively quick learning is preferable to relatively slow learning. In these respects, at least, all persons are more or less alike, although there are a very few notable instances in absolute speed of learning and the length of retention, under equal conditions, of memorizing. It should also be emphasized that typically quick learners are by no means also quick to forget. Thus, it is certain that some men have a stronger innate memory than others. (SW 4 p. 261)
62. Counterfeit Narcotics. The god of the modern age is “Mammon,” and its symbol is money (paper, thus unreal; “capital,” thus heartless). Mammon’s temple is the Stock Exchange. Slavery and depravity are its servants: both are narcotics, both are counterfeit, both are perverted. (RR p. 354)
63. The Cosmos and the Earth. Though our yearning presses towards the most distant reaches of the Cosmos, we are nurtured only upon the earth. (RR p. 258)
64. Eros and Chaos. Eros without chaos: humanitarianism. Chaos without Eros: demonic devastation. Eros within chaos: Dionysus. (RR p. 265)
65. Pleasure in the Rain. In the fall of rain we find the marriage of the telluric and sidereal elements. (RR p. 265)
66. Element. The element is the ultimate manifestation of animated being. Perpetually, life drifts towards sleep—the road leading downward; endlessly, it transmits signals of war—the road leading upward. Gaia opens eyelids heavy with slumber to gaze upon the heroes and wizards in the distance. (RR p. 261)
67. No Exit. There can be no liberation through denial, but only through fulfillment. In despair, life is shattered, but this does not lead to a marriage with the Cosmos: the new state would be just as miserable as the old. (RR p. 273)
68. Rome and Germania. The Roman surrounded himself with walls, the German with falling rain and wind-blown trees: to them he sings, about them he thinks, and in their midst he dreams his innermost dream. (RR p. 277)
69. Function of Time. In the life that rings us round, time and eternity are identical. Individual life ages, but the substance of life has the power to rejuvenate itself from within. (RR p. 277)
70. The eternal “Jungfrau”. The summit of the “Jungfrau” is the symbol of the eternally fresh dew, the eternal morning, the never-ending and never-aging beginning, the perpetual today, the undiminished, radiant heights of the timeless first moment. (RR p. 281)
71. Meaning and Purpose. Everything purposeful is meaningless, and everything meaningful is purposeless. (RR p. 280)
72. A Note. The image that falls upon the senses: that, and nothing besides, is the meaning of the world. (RR p. 280)
73. The Deed. Only one connection to the future is authentic enough to vindicate the unreality of a “future”: the deed that this future summoned into being. Anything else is the wishful thinking of pious fools. (RR p. 280)
74. History. History knows no tragedy, but only success and failure. The tragic view of historical events was a misunderstanding hatched by poets. (RR p. 280)
75. “Asiatism”. Spiritualism is of Asiatic derivation, but there it has two origins: out of the revolt of the slave, and the debauchery of the king. The gruesome mania of domination and the base servility of slavery are both symptoms of the excess that is characteristic of the Asiatic nature. (RR p. 302)
76. The Orient. The ardor of dream. The objective world trembles dubiously in the exaggerated blaze of the noontide desert. The soul respires as if in a brooding pregnancy. Finally, there strides out of the seething, vibrating blue, a mirage: the Fata Morgana. (RR p. 243)
77. Aphorism on China. China is the land of the deepest wisdom, and all of its wisdom teaches: learn to endure life, have patience! The wisdom of China is unmystical; it divides its attention equally between the soul and the real world. (RR p. 293)
78. The Opposed Will. Feelings of loathing are far more characteristic of man than are his preferences. Consciousness begets restraint. (RR p. 301)
79. Polarities. 1. Essential—Cosmic; 2. Telluric—Sidereal; 3. Fixed—Wandering; 4. Cell—Element; 5. Chaos—Wotan. (RR p. 318)
80. The Sun Child. Children of the sun have no history, for no child ever has a history. From the outset, however, the ego does have a history, in the individual as in mankind as a whole: it ages. (RR p. 318)
81. The “Finger of God”. In the “finger of God” as well as in the stigmata, I see the perversion of the “dactylology” [= “sign language”] of the ancient world. (RR p. 322)
82. The Road to Degeneration. Love is aborted by contemplation, passion by the deed. Contemplation degenerates into science, the deed into theatrics. (RR p.342)
83. “Monism”. Every form of so-called “Monism” confuses unity and connection. It runs aground on such crucial concepts as extension, space, and time. (RR p. 362)
84. Destiny and Memory. That which inspires the deepest desire in us, arises through the medium of our darker childhood memories. (RR p. 474)
85. Flux and Movement. The flux is the image of the happening; the movement is its visible form. (RR p. 360)
86. Life and Flux. Life is flux, permanence is death. Life as endurance culminates in the faith in the actuality of things, in the madness of duration. The Cosmos incarnates the actuality of an unceasing process. Only in the interplay of fixed and wandering powers lies the guarantee of life. (RR p. 249)
87. The Cloven Substance. The soul is divided by border regions. Love becomes yearning. Rejected by the Cosmos, blundering mankind goes astray. (RR p. 251)
88. Pagan Love. Only love delivers us from the labyrinth of the world. Only love releases the individual to cosmic life. Cosmic man experiences nothing human other than his love, and his love incarnates his melancholy-joyous revelry. (RR p. 255)
89. Evolution of the Image. The primordial whirlpool deposits images in the blood. These images will themselves into visibility. The awakened man forges the images out of rock and ore. Dream-dark knowledge shackles them with decree and edict. Cosmic Eros lives within a molten ring of imagery. (RR p. 254)
90. Willfulness. Willfulness knows no end. It is the spawn of want and need. It is an empty belly that gobbles up the Cosmos. “You must will,” says every moralist from Socrates to Kant… (RR p. 258)
91. Soul and Individual. In the soul, the individual is not truly an individual, but a cosmic wave. The soul is able to bypass its bodily-spiritual uniqueness, to go beyond, to become a whirlpool of universal life. Within the blood of those who are rich in soul-substance, atoms of fire circulate: the pores, the mouth, and the sexual organs are the portals of life. (RR p. 263)
92. Roman and Barbarian. Only the barbarians (Germans, Moslems, and Tatars), and not the men of classical antiquity, understood the rush of battle. When the Greek or Roman warrior met the barbarian on the field of battle, astuteness conquered the rush. (RR p. 317)
93. Concept, Name, Thing. The origin of thought is not to be found in the duality: concept and thing, but in the trinity: concept, name, and thing. The name embraces the totality, but concept and thing are its poles. This enables us to clarify the magical effect that the word can have upon a consciousness that is receptive to the symbol. (RR p. 361)
94. Discovery and Observation. We do not make discoveries through observation; we only confirm them. (RR p. 362)
95. Rhythm and Measure. The entire phenomenal universe is organized upon a rhythmic basis. Science has correctly discovered—although it has had some difficulty in comprehending its discovery—that sound, heat, and electricity all have a rhythmical nature. (SW 7 p. 329)
96. Song and Rhythm. Every song has its rhythm and its measure. Perhaps, it was only by means of the erroneous identification of rhythm and measure, that it became possible strictly to separate them. Although rhythm and measure may seem to be as intimately intertwined as a pair of dancers, they are, by nature and by origin, not mere opposites, but opposites striving against each other; in all of nature only man has thought to make one substance of rhythm and nature, and in this attempt he has had to use force. (SW 7 p. 330)
97. Animals and Rhythm. The flapping of a bird’s wings in flight is rhythmical, as is the wild horse’s stamping, and the gliding of the fish through the water. However, animals cannot run, fly, or swim according to measure; nor can man himself breathe according to measure. (SW 7 p. 336)
98. Life and Self-Preservation. The laws of life are not the laws of self-preservation. This is the dreadful side of life, and it serves as the basis of all tragedy. (RR p. 246)
99. Beauty and Ego. Neither the ego nor its deeds are beautiful. Man is beautiful only to the extent that he participates in the eternal soul of the Cosmos. Beauty is always demonic, and the proper objects of our adoration are the gods. (RR p. 246)
100. Work and Wonder. Deed, work, and system belong to the realm of spirit. What cannot be wonder will become work. Unconsciously, the maternal ground of the soul generates the shining purple blood; the imagistic force, however, is masculine, sunny, spiritual. (RR p. 256)
to be continued
Translated by Joseph D. Pryce from the original sources. For reference, notes refer to the more easily obtainable texts:
AC=Klages, L. Zur Ausdruckslehre und Charakterkunde. Heidelberg. 1926.
AG=Klages, L. Ausdrucksbewegung und Gestaltungskraft. Munich. 1968.
LK GL=Schroeder, H. E. Ludwig Klages Die Geschichte Seines Lebens. Bonn. 1966-1992.
PEN=Klages, L. Die psychologischen Errungenschaften Nietzsches. Leipzig. 1926
RR=Klages, L. Rhythmen und Runen. Leipzig. 1944.
SW=Klages, L. Sämtliche Werke. Bonn. 1965-92.
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