Ludwig Klages: Cosmogonic Reflections, part 2
by Ludwig Klages
translated by Joseph D. Pryce
101. Festivals. Every festival will be a play between distances. (RR. p. 269)
102. Viewpoints. 1. The logocentric ascetic. His view emerges from one point and directs itself to one point. He discovers neither the colors within him nor the things without. He sees only radiating points.
2. The cellular-microcosmic man. He sees within him the colors of plants and animals, or he sees columns, screens, and hanging lamps. He celebrates his festival in the purple vaults of his soul.
3. Macrocosmic-heroic man. He is utterly outside himself, in rain, burning sun, forest, ocean, and open country. He knows no self-consciousness. He experiences the signals of heroic battles, whilst his gaze dreams with the sapling in the fireplace. His dream-laden view is analogous to physical blindness. Indeed, Homer is blind.
4. Teleological man. His view emerges from out of the ego, and is directed straight back at the ego. He never contemplates; he merely observes. (RR p. 305)
103. The Dreamer. Eros holds absolute sway only within a magical actuality. The world-image passes through the magical stage to the second condition of consciousness, one that is no longer disturbed by experiences of “near” and “far.” Already, the dream-laden Eros is becoming a weaker Eros. In moralistic civilizations, cosmic man tears himself away from an actuality that has become commonplace. Because he has “received a shock” in contact with this tiresome reality, he becomes a “dreamer.” We are closer to things than were the Romantics, which may account for the fact that our sorrow has a more acrid savor. (RR p. 311)
104. The Meaning of “Ratio”. In ratio, life is a synonym for calculation. God is the greatest number…Time realizes its potential on the line of progress. Jahweh, the “devouring flame,” cancels out the moment. God is a mere word, a predicate without a subject. (RR p. 275)
105. Two Primordial Spirits. There is a gloom that shines on the outside, and there is an inner light that sheds an outer darkness. One brightens and redeems, but is itself blind; the other sees and understands, but sheds no light. One comprehends a world without understanding himself; the other comprehends himself, without understanding the world. (RR p. 285)
106. Two Discoverers. The thoughtful: he cannot leave his place, although he has the walking stick that reaches into every distance. The farseeing: he has no walking stick, and yet he wanders. (RR p. 285)
107. Man and Death. In all of creation only man lives in opposition to death. Although the doctrines of every mystagogue aim at stripping death of its power, they all go utterly astray: instead of encompassing the downfall of the ego, they encourage the belief in the prolongation of the ego’s existence into infinity. (RR p. 287)
108. Wisdom of Life. What befalls every man is that which belongs to him, and we can only lose that which we no longer possess. (RR p. 287)
109. On the Primordial Word. In the primordial word, showing and working co-exist. The wave of the Cosmos reaches its highest crest when it displays the soul in the garb of the word. (RR p. 287)
110. On Beauty. Beauty is but the cloak of happiness. Where joy tarries, there also is beauty; however, beauty itself may become ugly in our moments of repugnance. (RR p. 468)
111. Man and Woman. Woman lives more in being, man more in consciousness. To woman belongs the present, to man the future or the past.
Masculine logic corresponds to woman’s feeling for measure.
Man strives, but woman lives.
Man is centrifugal force, but woman is weightier.
Woman is short-sighted regarding the “far,” man regarding the “near.”
Man always sees aims and, thus, the abstractions at hand; woman first teaches him the joy in the real world. (RR p. 468)
112. Invulnerable. At the summit of his vitality, man is invulnerable. In the moments of our greatest certainty of being, we are stronger than external destiny. No one and nothing can slay us. (RR p. 473)
113. Knowledge and Proof. The most essential knowledge is not susceptible to proof. (RR p. 474)
114. Shadow. You shoot up like the shadow of a body that flees before the light. (RR p. 463)
115. Soul of the World. Whenever we destroy something, we destroy along with it part of the soul of the world. (RR p. 462)
116. Grief. Grief drags his dread through the Cosmos. (RR p. 436)
117. On the Poet. One misleads oneself regarding the poet if one sees the essence of his art in depth of feeling and passion. Whoever finds inside himself a spark of the poetic spirit can only become a true poet if that which has moved his soul since the days of his youth is the word, the word as expression of the connection between his soul and the images of the world. (RR p. 472)
118. Roots in the Past. The roots of my nature reach into diluvian pre-history. There exists within me a sympathy with the most distant past, with the longest vanished stages of development, with the primitive basalt, with the oceans, clouds and storms. (RR p. 472)
119. Feelings and Speech. When our feelings were most intense, our speech was still constrained and bound. Now, as we think of more audacious words, the waves of feeling have already receded. (RR p. 472)
120. Tears for the Dead. We believe that we weep for the dead; in truth, we only pity ourselves for being eternally separated from the deceased. (RR p. 462)
121. Formula for the Ethos of Character. The egoist: I will. The altruist: I shall. The sentimentalist: you will. The ascetic: he wills (I must). Animal man: it wills (I must). Elemental man: it happens (I must). (RR p. 481)
122. Life and Philosophy. To pour life into concepts at a venture: that is the mission of philosophy. (RR p. 478)
123. Sentimentality. Sentimentality is the yearning for images on the part of those who are unfit to behold them. (RR p. 475)
124. The Recluse and the Active Man. Were we to resign all [social] intercourse with mankind, we may become mystics, pedants, or hair-splitting metaphysicians, but we could never become masters of characterology; and the danger of self-deception to such a recluse may become enormous. The famous tat tvam asi does perhaps strike some prophetic chord or other; but only weary souls’ love of solitude could help to spread a saying whose delusive profundity conceals the fact that the world is immeasurably greater, richer, and more manifold that that part of it which fits into a single impoverished formula. Qualities that are to enter into our consciousness must receive their daily exercise; and the most important are only exercised among our fellow men. A man may have a greater capacity for jealousy than most, and yet he might never have the slightest awareness of this fact until day when he falls violently in love. Many inhabitants of the big city overestimate their physical courage, because city life rarely gives occasion for serious tests of courage. Goethe never tired of insisting that only the “active” man can accurately estimate his strengths and weaknesses. (SW 4 p. 212)
125. Macrobiotics. The loftiest morality of macrobiotics: be courageous, serene, and cautious. The only problem is: either one already possesses these three qualities, or one can never possess them. (RR p. 456)
126. Understanding and Will. Understanding is the emergence of spirit out of itself; the will represents its return into itself. In its conceptual, rational, explanatory mode, spirit loses itself in the world, is “just” to the images, and, thus, is centrifugal. In its volitional mode, on the other hand, spirit takes the world into itself as if it were plunder and, thus, spirit is centripetal. One can refute proofs, but not purposes. (RR p. 362)
127. Thinking and Breathing. In the proper sense, thinking is volitional; thinking, however, is an interior speaking. Therefore, excessive thought leads to shallow respiration and shortness of breath. This is especially true of emotional thinking: it takes one’s breath away. (RR p. 353)
128. Plagiarism. There may indeed be more profound scholars among my contemporaries, as well as more learned and more successful ones; but in one area I have certainly achieved the world-record: I am the most plundered author on the contemporary scene. (SW 2 p. 1535)
129. Dead Things. That which has been pierced by the searchlight of the intellect is instantaneously transformed into a mere thing, a quantifiable object for our thought that is henceforth only mechanically related to other objects. The paradoxical expression of a modern sage, “we perceive only that which is dead,” is a lapidary formulation of a deep truth. (SW 3 p. 652)
130. On Normative Ethics. From Socrates through Kant and into the present, the command is reiterated, in the hundreds of refractions and metamorphoses that constitute every normative system of ethics, that man’s task is to “control himself,” to subjugate his desires to the rule of reason, to moderate his feelings, if not to extirpate them entirely. (SW 4 p. 552)
131. The Egoist. His formula is not the “will-to-power,” but the noli turbare [“do not disturb me”] of Archimedes. The sympathetic feelings in the egoist are inverted, and they assume the morally colored drives: to accumulate “honors,” to hate, and to envy. He possesses a thoroughly “cold” nature, inclines to solitude, and chooses only such occupations as will permit him to remain alone within himself. He is inartistic, his soul is devoid of the feminine element, he will never attract disciples, and he always chooses himself as his favorite field of contemplation. (SW 4 p. 5)
132. Knowledge and Actuality. The knowledge of life is not life, just as the knowledge of death is not death itself. (RR p. 280)
133. On Language and Vision. Among older students of language, L. Geiger, in his book on the “Origins and Development of Human Language and Reason” (1868), which, unfortunately, remained a sort of “torso,” held the view (which is correct in fact, though badly worked out by him and, until today, unappreciated) that the development of language, as well as the development of all human thought, takes place under the overwhelming influence of the sense of sight. Now, if it be granted that, for reasons connected with the theory of consciousness, we held this assertion to be correct, we will certainly not reject the confirmation of this position that the testimony of language provides in the following cases, which are merely a few among many. The German “Wissen” (to know) leads us back to the Indo-European root wid, which in almost all of the Indo-European languages means interchangeably “to find,” “to cognize,” or “to see”: Sanskrit vid = “to find”; Latin videre = “to see”; and Gothic witan = “to observe.” Thus, in German the chief words for the most crucial functions and results of the intellect are taken from the sphere of sight: view, insight, intuition, and also aim. On the other hand, the development of the Latin cernere passes from “to sever” through the abstraction “to distinguish” to “perceive with the eyes” and to “see a thing clearly.” Such examples, which can easily be multiplied, shed light on the inner connection that connects the power of judgment and that of sight: that is, of course, according to the “spirit of language.” (SW 4 pp. 234-5)
134. Formula and Meaning. Characterological terminology must do justice to the present meaning of words and not to that of some past era; nevertheless, it will do its part to prevent the mechanization of terms of speech that once were important, and to maintain intact the best part of its original content in a more rigid framework. “While the formulæ remain, the meanings may at any time revive,” says John Stuart Mill in his magnificent chapter in the “System of Logic” on the pre-requisites of a philosophical language. “To common minds only that portion of the meaning is in each generation suggested of which that generation possesses the counterpart in its own habitual experience. But the words and propositions are ready to suggest to any mind duly prepared the remainder of the meaning.” This pronouncement outlines a research project, the execution of which would constitute the achievement of a comprehensive characterology. (SW 4 p. 236)
135. On the Delusion of “Progress”. The greatest sage living ten thousand years ago, and who passed through all of the earth’s prehistoric tribes, could not have calculated that after so many centuries or millennia the historical process would be initiated in one or another of them. In fact, no sage of classical antiquity predicted the Christian process, which had, in fact, already commenced with Socrates. If we were acquainted with western man only, then, however profoundly we examined the conflict of spirit and soul within him, we could never derive the Indian species of the same conflict, still less its manifestations in the cultures of the far east; for, without experience, we could not be acquainted with the vitality of the far east. Those who imagine that the study of the customs and especially the history of mankind enables them to predict a series of concrete manifestations, should foretell for our benefit what would be the appearance of buildings, costumes, and languages three thousand years into the future; or let them predict the direction of change of these and other crystallizations of human nature just thirty years ahead. If they cannot do these things, or if they consistently miss the mark, let them confess to themselves at least that, misled by erroneous and shoddy notions spawned by a delusive belief in “progress,” they have undertaken an impossible task. For we know of no “progress” other than that which results in complete dissolution and final destruction, in so far as things continue on the straight course down which “civilized” humanity has been racing since 1789 at an ever-accelerating pace. Likewise, we know nothing of the capacity of life to generate new formations, nor do we understand life’s “emergency reserves.” We know of no clearer manner of formulating this view than by borrowing the phraseology of science, and stating that it is necessary to become acquainted biologically with the notion that at certain stages of a living series new forces emerge whose development cannot be forecast from previous forms. (SW 4 pp. 238-9)
136. On Resistance to Expression. Every animal, and man in particular, has an interest in not revealing certain mental processes. A man in love seeks to conceal that love in public, a shy man his shyness, an ambitious man his ambition, an envious man his envy, a jealous man his jealousy, etc. Many will do more than hide their true inclination, and they will seek to simulate the opposite, as we all do a thousand times semi-automatically when we treat a person, towards whom our sentiments are anything but friendly, with conventional acts of courtesy. Originally, all self-control served as self-protection. Now if we consider that man has been forced during innumerable centuries to practice self-control in order to preserve his life and well being intact, we would be forced to consider it to be a miracle if no organic resistance to expression had arisen within him.
We can discover countless prototypes of this resistance in the animal world. When many animals feign death if they imagine themselves to be in danger, this is no action, but a reaction that occurs necessarily, and which is rooted in the instinct for self-preservation; and it takes place at the expense of the fear that without a doubt possesses the animal and which might otherwise result in flight. But the technique of deception and the drill in maintaining a countenance received an intensification far beyond all such cases in the animal kingdom from the fact that man’s communal mode of living by prehistoric times had come under the dominion of cultic customs whose sphere of influence, diminishing progressively in historic epochs, was replaced by no milder set of ethical commands. An infraction of customs, and, at a later time, an infraction of ethical rules and a sense of right, resulted at the least in temporary or permanent exile from the community, and hence, among primitive peoples, in almost certain destruction; among civilized peoples, such an infraction would result in an ostracism that in extreme cases seems to have been hardly less fearful; to say nothing of the sanguinary side of criminal justice, which transcends any notion that an individual may have formed of hell itself. If it could be determined with dynamometrical precision whether men fear more the loss of life or the loss of reputation, we might discover quite a few slaves of their honor, who would be ready, if necessary, to risk their lives in order to preserve it. Many soldiers have found the courage required to face a storm of bullets only through the dread of being tainted by an imputation of cowardice.
We arrive at the root of the matter when we consider that the need for self-esteem, which is omnipotent in man, was necessarily fused with the demands of the community. Thus, from prehistoric times, man cultivated his peculiar sense of honor, which fundamentally distinguishes him from the rest of the animal kingdom. (SW 4 pp. 315-6)
137. Nature of Consciousness I. Death only attains to being as the correlative of life. Where there is no contemplation, there can be no distinguishing between the living and the dead. (RR p. 299)
138. Nature of Consciousness II. Destiny is never housed within the individual; high above the tragedy of the past stands the poet and his deeper necessity. Every philosophy that holds the individual’s suffering as the weightiest matter, that recognizes the overriding importance of purposes and aims, is merely physics; such a philosophy is not admitted to the forecourt of true understanding. Thought and transient existence are inferior things, shadows of actualities. But whence the shadow and whence the slag of the primeval fire? What is the meaning and origin of our conceptual consciousness? (RR p. 247)
139. Nature of Consciousness III. The real presences in the soul are not feelings, but images. Feelings are attendant phenomena of the coming to consciousness of psychical processes that become more weighty as matter attains to independent existence. Consciousness recognizes no qualitative distinction between the simplest act of observation and the strongest affect. On the contrary, the sober soul can manifest itself in the simplest display. So it was for the “childhood”-phase of spirit; with the maturation of spirit, it is no longer the case. We err when we ascribe the feeling of the “rush” to the Mycenaean epoch. Homer knew it not, and even in our fairy tales we find ourselves witnessing the violation of the soul. Those who must break through the defensive bastions of consciousness in order to renew the powers of life, will experience the authentic immersion in the force of the rush. (RR p. 247)
140. Nature of Consciousness IV. A platitude holds that ignorance increases as one accumulates possessions. Nevertheless, all thought occurs as restraint. For this reason, negative decisions—as in matters of taste—are more significant than the positive ones. Whatever our mouths shout most loudly will unfailingly be found to occupy the smallest area of our inner world. The “idea” represents stress, and not the [Heraclitean] flux. The man who summons the troops to battle is seldom a warrior, for orators tend to avoid combat. Within the true expert, there flows an unconscious stream of life; within the intellectual, on the other hand, one finds only pipe-dreams and ideas. (RR p.301)
141. Body and Soul. To “de-body” and to “de-soul” are one and the same thing. The body is the soul, or at the very least its womanly half. (RR p. 343)
142. Volition. From the standpoint of biology, every volition presupposes the existence of a binding force within the stream of the soul. (RR p. 478)
143. World and Experience. That which we call the world, or, with more advanced reflection, the outer world, could never be experienced, still less could it be known, as that which it is without its alien character; and if Goethe is right when he declares
The eye could never see the sun,
If it had not a sun-like nature,
then it is no less true that seeing and shining are as certainly and as fundamentally separate as it is that they must, in spite of this, be cognate. Accordingly, when we said that originally man rediscovers himself in the external world, this means precisely that he finds, by means of self-mirroring, the significance of the content of an intuited image, i.e., one that is alien to himself, and therefore immediately different from him, e.g., in the quantitative aspect. We immediately take the next step, however much it may seem to turn us from our goal. The saying that tradition has handed down to us from earliest times, that “astonishment is the beginning of all philosophy,” announces with epigrammatic brevity the indispensable truth that it is precisely the unexpected (that which is dissimilar to the content of an explanation) which is pre-eminently fitted to stimulate reflection and, perhaps, to prepare it for discoveries; and the whole history of thought is there to demonstrate this truth. In a special sense, a fresh understanding of an alien character is invariably due to the fact that some animal or man did on some occasion behave in an essentially different manner from that which would have corresponded to our instinctive assumptions. (SW 4 pp. 209-10)
144. On Schopenhauer. “The World is my Representation!” But how do I go about employing a representation to create that which our philosopher, with such a parade of reasons, has utterly failed to demonstrate: the world?! (RR p. 360)
145. The Polarity of Life. Life comprises the polarity of centripetal and centrifugal forces: this constitutes the true meaning of the terms wandering and fixed. Sometimes it entails conflict, as in the strife between the Amazonian element and the established-maternal one. Sometimes it is restricted to the ring forged by the sacred triad; at other times the pursuing elements embrace the incandescent horizon of the world. (RR p. 271)
146. Mechanism and Metaphysics. Mechanistic materialization can never be metaphysical. Whoever takes a balloon-flight into the atmosphere, does not merge himself with the elements, as does the soul of the wanderer who communes with the clouds whilst his conscious body yet abides upon the soil of the earth. Herein lies the launching-point for the comprehension of a myriad mysteries: the far. (RR p. 305)
147. Types of Knowledge. There is a knowledge that kills and a knowledge that awakens. The first can be seen in the verbal jugglery of our intellectuals; the second blossoms in the dithyrambic creativity of the poet and the visionary. As has been said of the latter type, he lives his life to the full as long as he inhabits the earth. He renews himself as if by a perpetual series of rebirths. The other sort is merely the mummified ash-heap of a once-living fire, the fossilized relic of a perished substance. His knowledge does produce mechanized results, but as he manipulates his carcasses, he speaks as if this dead matter were yet among the living. One sees with horror how he deludes himself into believing that he finds life only within his clockwork mechanisms. (RR p. 309)
148. Historical Model. Threefold model: the primordial-sleepwalking state in which decision and volition…have not yet been sundered; perhaps the best word for this stage would be plant-like; the second stage is the magical, during the course of which the priestly caste emerges. The third stage is the mechanized, which is dominated by deed, work, and science. (RR p.311)
149. Sanctity. Sanctity is always a symptom of physical pathology. The Christian saint: he has the look of a stage hypnotist, and his head is encircled by a faded ring! (RR p. 300)
150. Concept and Life. In every profound human countenance we see the traces of fear, horror, and sorrow. Modern man can reach no further with his concepts than he can with his experience. Everywhere life is without depth and dread, and all modern art is hollow. No man of depth can comprehend himself conceptually. Life is mystical. Life can never be frozen into rigid concepts. (RR p. 301)
151. Weeping Life. Symbol of the highest rapture: the tear that bursts forth uncontrollably; the tear that “overflows” the eye. (RR p. 302)
152. The Western World. Light and sound are the contrary poles of life. Sound binds the soul to the body, forming an essence that is proof against the opposition of the masses. Light is bodiless soul, eternal rest, and timeless being: Nirvana.—Light is Asia, sound is the West. Mediating between the two poles: color and ardor; they also mediate between Greece and Rome (RR p. 302)
153. Primordial Images and Mechanization. The primordial images live; this also means: they are powerful enough to ensure that no chance conceptual scheme will ever imprison them; it means also that they can incinerate with the eyes of the sun, all those who would even attempt such a thing. On the other hand, nihilistic reason confuses the signs that accompany the inclusion of the primordial images with the content of this process; reason then beholds—instead of the image—a shape without substance. (RR p. 307)
154. Rome and Germania. In the substantial sense there is no “will to power.” What has been falsely called by that name is actually the will to expansion. Rome’s expansion was its will to power, and, to a certain extent, Rome’s expansion manifested its egoism and self-interest. Rome’s nature could not be approached, and it could never be conveyed beyond her borders because she demanded that everything had to be transported into Rome. The Roman will subjugated and wrecked all of her neighbors. The Germanic tribes arrived upon the scene too late, and that simple fact has decided the very destiny of the West. The Germans, the only people who had never known the meaning of the word “no,” entered an already finished world. (RR p. 313)
155. The Language of the Oracles. The future reveals itself only in images and symbols…But images and symbols communicate manifold meanings, and therefore they are often misunderstood. The history of the ancient world is replete with instances of falsely interpreted oracles.—The nature of the oracle is profoundly akin to that of poetry. (RR p. 317)
156. Sapphic Wisdom. Sappho prohibited all dirges and lamentations. This is how I interpret that fact: she prohibited the self-denial of the individual. The individual possesses the same abstract reality [Realitaet] as can be found in the conceptual generality. Only in the instant can there occur an unbounded actuality [Wirklichkeit]. (RR p. 317)
157. The Time of the Dead. The time of the year when ghostly visitations occur is just before the onset of spring. The Greeks believed that the dead then strove to step once more into the light. (RR p. 318)
158. The Nature of Space. The feeling for distance of the Romantics was the soul’s awakening. Space is the visibility of the unified stream and its living resonance; the soul is itself the very tone of space. The Romantics’ gazing into spatial distance constitutes a form of clairvoyance. In magical displays also, the far remains receptive to every near. (RR p. 320)
159. Priests and Schoolmasters. In Christianity, the priest conquered western mankind; in Socratism, this role was performed for us by the schoolmaster. That the Germans even now cannot relinquish Platonism is a consequence of the schoolmaster’s spirit, in which Platonism has been planted so deeply. The priest gathers about him all the downcast natures. He attempts to elevate his flock by poisoning life itself. The schoolmaster gathers about him those who are vitally impoverished, upon whom he bestows an ersatz “rationality.” In this way he empties life of its substance. (RR p. 346)
160. On the Wisdom of Life. Commandments are always delivered first as prohibitions; eventually they receive an affirmative formulation. (RR p. 350)
161. On Connections I. The door to the room, towards which I gaze attentively, is referred to me, although I am not really connected with it; if, on the other hand, my wrist and the door knob were to be joined by a length of tape, I would then be connected with the door, regardless of whether I contemplated the door in question, or conjured up another within my imagination. The doorknob and the chair could be linked as well, although this connection would entail no relation. In order for me to conceive of the moon, I must first experience its light, and this is the case whether or not I am consciously aware of the fact. However, the moon is not influenced by the astronomer who scrutinizes her image. This applies to every object of perception in relation to the process of perception. (SW 2 p. 1143)
162. On Connections II. Whenever we find examples of connections that bind physical entities together, we always discover the mutuality of those connections. If I tug at the tape [that joins my wrist to the door knob], there occurs simultaneously the act of pulling at the tape and the effect that my action exerts upon the object with which the tape connects me. There is a marked difference between the aspect of an island as the sail boat approaches it, and its aspect as the sailor sets his foot on the island’s shore. But in this case, only the bearer of perception can draw this distinction; the island cannot, of course, perceive the alteration of perspective, and the only evidence that any connection ever existed might be the sailor’s footprints in the sands. (SW 2 p. 1143)
163. On Connections and Relations. 1. Connection is not relation.
2. Connections are inconceivable without reciprocal influences; relation does not entail influence.
3. Every connection is real; every relation is mental.
4. Connections are experienced directly, but cannot be comprehended; relations are comprehended, but cannot be directly experienced.
5. Connections are grounded in the actualities of the spatio-temporal continuum; relations are governed by spirit, which is outside the spatio-temporal continuum.
6. Connections can occur without a cumulative series of relational steps; relations are never found without pre-requisite connections.
7. In order for a relation to occur, connections must be dissolved. (SW 2 p. 1144)
164. The General and the Particular. The expressions “the tree existing absolutely” and “this particular tree in this particular place” are utterly unconnected, although there is a relationship between the general term and the particular. Thus, there is a relationship between the term and the object, but neither term nor object can be inferred from each other. The most penetrating critical sense runs aground when it attempts to derive the relationship of the terms from that of the objects; or, to reverse the direction of apprehension, to derive the relationship of the objects from that of the terms. The unavailing vehemence with which Plato attempted the latter procedure—and the attempts of his successors have fared no better than those of their master—has created difficulties for western philosophy throughout its history, for by utilizing thought’s access to connections, Plato converted thinking into appropriating.
There are individual natures as well as elementary souls, which permit meaning to arise through the medium of their phenomenal appearance, without whose secret working power the very idea of connection would be restricted to the precincts of the “other world” of space. General terms can be applied to particular cases, since the meaning of the name, from which the concept is segregated, is, as it were, the promissory note of an essence, for which the boundary in question does not exist.
To the extent that the non-conceptual meaning concerns phenomenal characters, the area in which such entities operate already exists within them. It is only with the separation of the nature of the tree from the appearance of the tree, that the phenomenal tree can be distinguished from the noumenal; henceforth, conceptual relations usurp the place of real connections. The ground of their connection no longer lies within, nor can it be recovered once the entity has been stripped down to the status of a concept. That lost ground is: actuality. (SW 2 p. 1145)
165. Relation and Pattern. The error that arises when we confuse real connections with merely conceptual relationships in representational forms, on which all remaining forms and cases equally depend, is the gradual, ceaseless disempowerment of the name that is promoted by the “logocentric” school of thought, during its 3,500 year quest to consummate the destruction of thought. Logocentric thought always pronounces its verdict in favor of the alleged reality of the concept or of the fact. In order to be able to preserve its faith in the reality of things, “naturalism” bases itself upon an unconscious (or conscious!) acceptance of the unification of name and concept through the agency of the thing.
In order to maintain its faith in the reality of concepts, “idealism” unconsciously (or consciously!) insists on the unification of name and thing through the agency of the concept …
The following facts are easily comprehended: as mere noumena, concept and thing are related to each other, although they are not connected. The concept never relinquishes its nature, but the thing can so relinquish its nature, but only to the extent that it is visibly represented, since appearances that attain to the act of representation have the images at their disposal…There is a more spiritual act of apprehension, through which the fact and its concept arise together, i.e., in the act of will by which the name-meaning is severed from the name’s conceptual sign. We may have an intuitive grasp of meaning, and we are free to choose any number of examples of such a grasp from the history of the sciences. Could we completely detach ourselves from the intuition of meaning (any attempt would certainly fail), then the name would have no more authentic connection than does a property label, a trade mark, a publisher’s insignia, an “ex libris,” or a badge of rank. This is, perhaps, an exaggeration, but it contains a measure of truth.
Assuming that the foregoing is true, we can easily show that both the “materialist” and “idealist” are willing to employ the idea of relations, in spite of the fact that they are unable rationally to account for their procedure. The scheme employed by the “idealist” at least deals with genuine contents of perception; but he cannot tell us just how it is that a perception arises. He is likewise unable to inform us as to just what links the perception and the name…(SW 2 pp. 1149-50)
166. Thought and Symbol. In symbolical thinking, the substantial entity and its type are identical. Along with the particular bird that has been chosen as a sacrificial victim, every bird belonging to its species is sacrificed, and the body of god that is eaten in the form of the communion wafer is one and the same, regardless of the fact that each believer partakes of a discrete wafer. (SW 2 pp. 1145-6)
167. Similarity and Perception. The world of perception is originally like a mirror that reflects man’s image a thousand-fold, and therefore we must be on our guard all the more not to enter the blind alley of the so-called “projection” theory. In point of fact, that which we project into a phenomenon serves only to deceive, and only that which we correctly extract out of it serves the true interests of cognition. A lover returning from a happy encounter finds that all of the people whom he meets are more happy and more attractive than would ordinarily be the case: he has projected into them his own happiness and perfection, and has deceived himself just to this extent as to their real psychological disposition. Rightly considered, the phenomenon of “mirroring” shows us something utterly different. Essential cognition, or, more briefly, understanding, is possible only by virtue of some similarity between the perceiving self and the object of perception; as dissimilarity grows, understanding yields its place to a failure to understand, which at first is only felt, but later comes to be known (except in so far as by virtue of mere projection the gap is filled by misunderstanding). Hence, we cannot be immediately certain whether the “savage” adores stones, trees, and animals; nor can we be sure that, instead of having projected something non-existent, he does not rather manifest a deeper understanding than our own. For it may be that his vitality is more vegetative in proportion as he has less personality than we; in that case, his judgments, or rather his attitudes, would have arisen on the basis of greater similarity or closer kinship, and this would have expressed something about the nature of stones, trees, and animals—albeit in mythical language—to which we later men have no access, because we have alienated ourselves from the mythopoeic realm. (SW 4 p. 208)
168. Meaning and Image. It seems that no one desires to comprehend the powers that are really at work in our world; nevertheless, one can name them, and, assisting in this naming (or, as would have been the case in earlier times, in the creating of symbols, a subject that must remain beyond our purview in this place) are those persons who have suffered the violent attentions of those powers to such a degree as to enable the victims to “summon to their memory” the events in question. What is revealed here, as the very idiom betrays, is the name-meaning (or the language-content). However, the mode of expression must be altered when we employ language to communicate the images that embody our most profound experiences. (SW 2 p. 1146)
169. The Magic of the Images. Magic has always been essentially a magic of images, and of all the forms of image-magic, the most popular is the one that has long been known throughout the world as the charm, from whose influence, even today, hardly anyone is completely free. (SW 2 p. 1146)
170. The Names of Power I. For the ancient world, it was considered quite normal for even the most powerful of the gods to possess, in addition to their customary names, yet another name that had to be kept secret, for if anyone were to pronounce the secret name aloud, its very sound would annihilate the god. Ra, one of the highest gods in the Egyptian pantheon, announced to the world that he had summoned himself into existence merely by the act of pronouncing his secret name! Ra was eventually toppled from power when Isis tricked him into surrendering his secret name to the goddess. (SW 2 p. 1147)
171. The Names of Power II. The Islamic prophets who were in possession of the “great name” of their deity were powerful indeed. The name of Rome’s guardian divinity was maintained in strictest secrecy so that no enemy, by hearing the name pronounced, would be able press the god in question into the service of aliens who would thereby be enabled to seize control of Rome itself. (SW 2 p. 1147)
172. On Naming in Tribal Cultures. The phenomenon [of the “names of power] is encountered even today in a thousand shapes among the world’s primitive and semi-primitive tribal cultures. Parents need not look far afield when selecting a name for their newly born baby, for the name is actually chosen, after investigation, by a member of the hereditary priesthood. In many cases, the name may not be pronounced, because this action might endanger the welfare of the child, who is therefore given a second name; even at the burial-site the names of totems are found far more frequently than the names of individuals (Tylor). In addition, should the name of the deceased be spoken aloud, the dead person would return as a spectral vampire. In that event, the name of the deceased, along with all similar-sounding names, would become taboo. Researchers have examined in great detail the significance of these facts as they affect the development, and the rapidity of transformation, of tribal languages. (SW 2 p. 1147)
173. Word Magic. Certain parties have pretended to locate the source of the phenomenon that we call “inspiration” in unseen forces, because the identical demand when pronounced by one mouth achieves results, and when pronounced by another mouth issues in failure. However, this phenomenon is certainly caused by accessory circumstances, such as the style of expression, the appearance and bearing of the speaker, and the “atmosphere” that colors the environment. In addition, there might be (not must be!) “fluids” exercising an influence in such cases. The Romantics considered such fluids to be manifestations of “life-magnetism.” (SW 2
174. Word and Song. When we witness the effect of the printed word, whether in diplomatic communication, in parliamentary negotiation, or in the oratory of the demagogue, we realize that there is very little direct influence at work in these instances. In primordial ages, the true power of the word resided in the performances of singers…Even during historical times, a condemned felon could often sing his way out of the prison cell and, on occasion, he might even receive high honors in recognition of his vocal talents! (SW 2 p. 1148)
175. Love in the West. Only those of Germanic blood can understand the true depths of love. The Oriental is too sensuous, the man of antiquity too self-controlled. The Greeks understood the inwardness of love better than did the Romans; nevertheless, the Greeks imprisoned Eros within forms. Love, not as passion, but as the harmony pervading the entire being of two persons; love, as the deep joy in another; and love, as warmth of heart and complete and devoted intimacy: that kind of love is distinctively Germanic. In Germanic man also there appeared for the first time true tenderness, the marvelous third element issuing from the commingling of spirit and desire. Here is devotion without dissolution of the self, mildness without weakness, pity without cruelty.
The Germanic nature, that consummate blend of every earthly element, was then ensnared and seduced by the Nazarenes’ misuse of the word love… (RR p.249)
176. Western Summer, Western Winter. In summertime, the heavenly sky extends itself above our earth like a canopy. Palely gleaming stars are suspended from the shining dome, and the sickle moon dips low beneath the horizon. No longer do the colors that radiate distance blossom in the western twilight. Warm and bright are the streaming rains that soon shroud the heavens. Now everything belongs to Gaia. It is the time when she feasts upon heat, electricity, and light. The ardent sun is sinking into her maternal waters…The Heraclitean fire sets out on his voyage from the universe to the earth.
In wintertime, the depths of nocturnal space are stirred. Through the violet-black wilderness of darkness roll the images of the stars. The cold, twinkling whiteness of the moon seems somehow drab; and, lost in the universe between the shifting constellations, Gaia plummets into the eternal night. The slanting sun sinks through a distance that seems as if it had been drained of its blood. At the North Pole, the aurora borealis blazes brightly. So we see that the earth is but a reeling ball thrown into the Uranian abyss. And as earth’s fiery core thrusts outwards, the Heraclitean essence streams downwards. (RR p. 251)
177. Pagan Voices. Dark voices that speak out of the wind-tossed trees to the soul of the youth, voices sounding like noisy children sharing a cart that jolts across the nocturnal heath. O dark voices: no one fears you now. (RR p. 255)
178. Man and Earth. From the outset I choose the people that will be important to me based on my ability to view them as if they were fragments of the earth, as if they will be to me as soil, forest, cloud, rock, noble blood, smoldering summer, or spring breeze. Other sorts must remain outside the telluric round-dance, for they are anthropocentric, and, therefore, they themselves constitute the sickness that infects the earth. The Moloch’s belly in which these spiritually diseased characters house themselves is—the big city. (RR p. 256)
179. Eros of the Distance. The essence of all true love is: the Eros of the distance ([Alfred] Schuler). Love is the most profound strangeness, the utterly vexing riddle, the flaming vision approaching from unknown horizons, the eternal mystery. Love perishes when one removes the veil that conceals its secret. Yearning, which dreams of possession, is the essence of love. Nothing earthly can compare with our first thrilling encounter with the beloved…(RR p. 258)
180. From a Diary Entry. How do these people manage to thrust themselves between me and the universe?! (RR p. 265)
181. From Eros to Plato. With the advent of Eros at the second creation of the world, there also appeared a fresh danger for life. Erotic life is psychical, and psychical life is richer in woe and closer to death than is the life that yet remains within an incoherent chaos…The breakdown [of erotic life] took place in Greece. The same stream leads directly from Thracian Dionysus to Orphic Lesbos; but between Lesbos and Plato a great abyss has opened up. That which was formerly viewed as the release of demonic powers from the chains forged by things, has, in Plato, become the liberation of the transcendental ego from the bonds of the body. (RR p.268)
182. Life in the Individual; Life in the Stranger. The may be a peculiar strength in one who experiences only himself. His inner radiance may at times even cast the light outside him into deep shadow. Nevertheless, we often find that this is accompanied by limitation, weakness, and an excessive ardor that may eventually separate uch an individual from the totality and render him incapable of movement. How the universe is experienced by the individual means: how he participates in its eternal flux. This is the reason why we find authentic symbols of life in such kindred phenomena as high spirits, warmth, heat, love, respect, and devotion…Such phenomena arouse a pulsating current between ego and world. In willing and yearning, on the other hand, there is merely tension. (RR p. 316)
183. The Duality of Feelings. Every feeling bears its polar opposite within itself. The man who strives to amass power obviously wishes to enjoy the feeling of domination; but in order fully to understand the feeling of domination, he must at the same time understand the feeling of subjugation to another’s power. In every feeling, there is a striving from something here to something there. The first point and the last point determine the direction of the striving. (RR p. 331)
184. The Poison. From the outset, Christianity poured the poison of transcendence into the waters of the pagan underworld. (RR p. 290)
185. The Seven Basic Dispositions of Individual Life. First, the still undivided substance; second, the substance bifurcates into the life of matter and the life of spirit; third, the substance with a ruling direction towards spirit; fourth, the substance with a ruling direction towards matter; fifth, an insubstantiality joining matter and spirit; sixth, insubstantial matter; and, seventh, insubstantial spirit. (RR p. 481)
186. On the Doctrine of Life. The metaphysics of life rests upon three pillars: life is eternal distance (symbolized by the wheel); life is the panta rhei (symbolized by the flood; and life is image (symbolized by the mirror). (RR p. 295)
187. On Melchior Palágyi. We would be hard-pressed to improve upon Palágyi’s monumental proposition: “The one source from which springs every possible human error is to be found in our seeing the spiritual in what is actually living, and in seeing living substance in what is merely spiritual.” Scornful of both “rationalism” and “sensualism,” from the outset he centered his research upon the separation and distinction of spirit from life. He, and nobody else, re-discovered the natural-scientific theory of life (also called “neo-vitalism”), which he first elaborated as a counter-position to every possible theory of spirit. He banished the drab twilight of so-called “epistemology” with the penetrating clarity of his research into the underlying grounds that render consciousness possible. (SW 3 p. 741)
188. The Legacy of Paganism. The pagan urn is shattered; war has raged around the shards, and the fragments have been scattered to the winds. Now the vampire of mankind, the Jew, appears on the scene. He knows not the meaning of this urn, and he certainly cannot restore it to its original condition. But he is aware, of course, that it represents a priceless treasure. So he makes off with the melancholy and lovely fragments, which he then arrays in a gaudy, vulgar setting. It will end up adorning some Jewess. (RR p. 281)
189. Types of Anger. The anger of the Asian is black, that of the German is blue; the first appears uncanny, the second profound. Asiatic anger occurs sporadically, either in silence or accompanied by the most inhuman screams; he stabs, he impales, he crucifies, he gluts himself with cruelty and torture, before he kills. The angry German is like a tempest of crushing blows, he is convulsed by a roaring frenzy, and he will run out of steam only when everything within reach has been smashed to pieces—recall Thor and his hammer! (RR p. 286)
190. Thought and Spirit. Spirit is silent. Whenever a concept appears it is cloaked in the spoken word—there are no unspoken or non-symbolic concepts. The concept is akin to spirit in that both are alien to the world of images. Only when spirit is cast out of the body can radiance emerge into the visible realm; only in the mediated element will spirit become thought and, finally, concept. (RR p. 286)
191. Essence. The essence is the garb of the cosmic fire; the process comprises its inner assimilation and elimination through the individual nature; and its road leads from the universe into the ego. The inner accumulation of the essence occurs through the sensuous satisfaction of intense passion. The cell performs the essential work of assimilation, and its symbols are the hearth, the site of the nurturing fire; the house, the family vault, the crypt, the catacombs: in brief, everything maternal. The cell is cosmic in so far as it divides its substance, and allows its life to stream outwards. (RR p. 250)
192. Symbols. False doctrines are the culprits that first instilled the poison of mistrust and unbelief into the gentle, weary souls of the Hellenes, and ever since that time the gallows and the torture-rack have stood as the threatening symbols before the gates of life. (RR p. 243)
193. Cosmic Flame. There is a profound difference between the yellow flame and the livid blue one, as there is between the naphtha-flame and the lightning, or between the will-o’-the-wisp and St. Elmo’s fire. This is the opposition between essence and void, between the body pulsing with blood and the astral body, between earthly and celestial fire, between phlogiston and aether, between the hot flame and the cold. Out of the union of aether and gravity arose the essence-as-body. Christianity was the process of separating aether from gravity, light from heat, celestial body from telluric body. Christianity turned the ancient gods into sorcerers and spooks. (RR p. 244)
194. The Rush of Intoxication. Only during highly cultured epochs can Eros be experienced as the rush. Certainly, the constant intoxication that characterize “primitive” cultures differs profoundly from the second degree of intoxication, which is felt to be an overwhelming, turbulent, and shattering invasion of consciousness. (RR p. 245)
195. The German Tragedy. Germany did not take her soul from the integral Cosmos, but she did take her disposition from a half-strangled one: the fractured lines of its mediæval style, the fruitless struggle of her thinkers with the object, and the gigantism of her modern cities. On the other hand, one can discover the darkly groping, pulsating side of her cosmic soul in Germany’s villages, in her isolated farmsteads, and—most of all—upon her moorlands. (RR p. 254)
196. Epic Artistry. The genuine artist does not traffic in fictions. The daemonic powers that he sings, speaks, or forms, are there. In plastic embodiment the wave is image and event.—The cosmic epic poet reunites that which has been sundered: the epic world-poem to the “ardor of the eye.” He steps out of the modern age and spins the golden threads of the eternal flux. A god and a lightning-bolt will not suffice—the entire history of the gods must unfold before his gaze. (RR p. 254)
197. The Poet and the Man of Action. We are not men of action; we are not obligated to lay siege to forbidden realms. We live in accord with the necessities of nature, we struggle in accord with the necessities of the day. Our blood may beat against the stars, but it spills itself fruitlessly in the dust of the gutter.
The man of action pays no heed to chatter about obstacles in his path; he sees only ever-new objectives that he must conquer. He is aroused by opposition, since he anticipates the intoxication of conquering his foes.
The dreamer and the man of action will always be opposites. (RR p. 254)
198. On the Artist. Work is act and act is spirit. Art is an activity and, hence, derives from spirit. The artist may become an eccentric individualist with a gigantic ego, but he remains bound to the heart of the earth. We employ two criteria in estimating his artistic power: the quantum of artistic fire that he has summoned from the earth, and the extent to which he has distanced himself from mediocrity. (RR p. 257)
199. Through Life. After endless searching, one trembles to discover: the painted exterior of things, their meaning and nature. Through a transparent veil one sees a second world that becomes a metaphysical reality. Causes and effects constitute a puppet-show for the blindness of our thought. Behind it all, however, there is the living universe, stirred by the beating wings of the gods: I experience it in the storms of youth, I lose it during the age of temptation, I comprehend it in the autumn of my thought. (RR p. 255)
200. The Nature of the Poet. Although the poet remains an individual, he remains still an aspect of the cosmic flux: he is animal, star, sea, plant; he is the eye of the elements; he is matriarchal and earthly to the core. The praxis by which he expresses his inner vision is magic (RR p. 261)
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.