German Philosopher, Journalist and Writer, Forerunner of Nihilism, Existentialism, Post-Modernism and Anarchism
Max Stirner, born Johann Kaspar Schmidt
German Philosopher, Journalist and Writer, Forerunner of Nihilism, Existentialism, Post-Modernism and Anarchism
Thousands of years of civilization have obscured to you what you are, have made you believe you are not egoists but are called to be idealists ("good men"). Shake that off! Do not seek for freedom, which does precisely deprive you of yourselves, in "self-denial"; but seek for yourselves, become egoists, become each of you an almighty ego. Or, more clearly: Just recognize yourselves again, just recognize what you really are, and let go your hypocritical endeavours, your foolish mania to be something else than you are. Hypocritical I call them because you have yet remained egoists all these thousands of years, but sleeping, self-deceiving, crazy egoists, you Heautontimorumenoses, you self-tormentors. Never yet has a religion been able to dispense with "promises," whether they referred us to the other world or to this ("long life," etc.); for man is mercenary and does nothing "gratis." But how about that "doing the good for the good's sake" without prospect of reward? As if here too the pay was not contained in the satisfaction that it is to afford. Even religion, therefore, is founded on our egoism and - exploits it; calculated for our desires, it stifles many others for the sake of one. This then gives the phenomenon of cheated egoism, where I satisfy, not myself, but one of my desires, such as the impulse toward blessedness. Religion promises me the - "supreme good"; to gain this I no longer regard any other of my desires, and do not slake them. - All your doings are unconfessed, secret, covert, and concealed egoism. But because they are egoism that you are unwilling to confess to yourselves, that you keep secret from yourselves, hence not manifest and public egoism, consequently unconscious egoism - therefore they are not egoism, but thraldom, service, self-renunciation; you are egoists, and you are not, since you renounce egoism. Where you seem most to be such, you have drawn upon the word "egoist" - loathing and contempt.
You have much profound information to give about God, and have for thousands of years "searched the depths of the Godhead," and looked into its heart, so that you can doubtless tell us how God himself attends to "God's cause," which we are called to serve. And you do not conceal the Lord's doings, either. Now, what is his cause? Has he, as is demanded of us, made an alien cause, the cause of truth or love, his own? You are shocked by this misunderstanding, and you instruct us that God's cause is indeed the cause of truth and love, but that this cause cannot be called alien to him, because God is himself truth and love; you are shocked by the assumption that God could be like us poor worms in furthering an alien cause as his own. "Should God take up the cause of truth if he were not himself truth?" He cares only for his cause, but, because he is all in all, therefore all is his cause! But we, we are not all in all, and our cause is altogether little and contemptible; therefore we must "serve a higher cause." - Now it is clear, God cares only for what is his, busies himself only with himself, thinks only of himself, and has only himself before his eyes; woe to all that is not well pleasing to him. He serves no higher person, and satisfies only himself. His cause is - a purely egoistic cause.
Through a considerable time we are spared a fight that is so exhausting later - the fight against reason. The fairest part of childhood passes without the necessity of coming to blows with reason. We care nothing at all about it, do not meddle with it, admit no reason. We are not to be persuaded to anything by conviction, and are deaf to good arguments and principles; on the other hand, coaxing, punishment, and the like are hard for us to resist.
The people is dead! Good-day, Self!
Thus self-renunciation [Selbstverleugnung] is common to the holy with the unholy, to the pure and the impure. The impure man renounces all "better feelings," all shame, even natural timidity, and follows only the appetite that rules him. The pure man renounces his natural relation to the world ("renounces the world") and follows only the "desire" which rules him. Driven by the thirst for money, the avaricious man renounces all admonitions of conscience, all feeling of honor, all gentleness and all compassion; he puts all considerations out of sight; the appetite drags him along. The holy man behaves similarly. He makes himself the "laughing-stock of the world," is hard-hearted and "strictly just"; for the desire drags him along. As the unholy man renounces himself before Mammon, so the holy man renounces himself before God and the divine laws. We are now living in a time when the shamelessness of the holy is every day more and more felt and uncovered, whereby it is at the same time compelled to unveil itself, and lay itself bare, more and more every day. Have not the shamelessness and stupidity of the reasons with which men antagonize the "progress of the age" long surpassed all measure and all expectation? But it must be so. The self-renouncers must, as holy men, take the same course that they do so as unholy men; as the latter little by little sink to the fullest measure of self-renouncing vulgarity and lowness, so the former must ascend to the most dishonorable exaltation. The mammon of the earth and the God of heaven both demand exactly the same degree of - self-renunciation. The low man, like the exalted one, reaches out for a "good" - the former for the material good, the latter for the ideal, the so-called "supreme good"; and at last both complete each other again too, as the "materially-minded" man sacrifices everything to an ideal phantasm, his vanity, and the "spiritually-minded" man to a material gratification, the life of enjoyment.
The people?s good fortune is my misfortune!
To the spirit which, after long toil, has got rid of the world, the worldless spirit, nothing is left after the loss of the world and the worldly but - the spirit and the spiritual. Yet, as it has only moved away from the world and made of itself a being free from the world, without being able really to annihilate the world, this remains to it a stumbling-block that cannot be cleared away, a discredited existence; and, as, on the other hand, it knows and recognizes nothing but the spirit and the spiritual, it must perpetually carry about with it the longing to spiritualize the world, to redeem it from the "black list." Therefore, like a youth, it goes about with plans for the redemption or improvement of the world. The ancients, we saw, served the natural, the worldly, the natural order of the world, but they incessantly asked themselves of this service; and, when they had tired themselves to death in ever-renewed attempts at revolt, then, among their last sighs, was born to them the God, the "conqueror of the world." All their doing had been nothing but wisdom of the world, an effort to get back of the world and above it. And what is the wisdom of the many following centuries? What did the moderns try to get back of? No longer to get back of the world, for the ancients had accomplished that; but back of the God whom the ancients bequeathed to them, back of the God who "is spirit," back of everything that is the spirit's, the spiritual. But the activity of the spirit, which "searches even the depths of the Godhead," is theology. If the ancients have nothing to show but wisdom of the world, the moderns never did nor do make their way further than to theology. We shall see later that even the newest revolts against God are nothing but the extremest efforts of "theology," that is, theological insurrections.
The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.
Under the exact pretense that it was not human, what was mine was taken from me! What was human was left to me undiminished.
The true man does not lie in the future, an object of longing, but lies, existent and real, in the present. Whatever and whoever I may be, joyous and suffering, a child or a greybeard, in confidence or doubt, in sleep or in waking, I am it, I am the true man.
We "run after our thoughts" now, and follow their commands just as before we followed parental, human ones. Our course of action is determined by our thoughts (ideas, conceptions, faith) as it is in childhood by the commands of our parents. For all that, we were already thinking when we were children, only our thoughts were not fleshless, abstract, absolute, that is, NOTHING BUT THOUGHTS, a heaven in themselves, a pure world of thought, logical thoughts. On the contrary, they had been only thoughts that we had about a thing; we thought of the thing so or so. Thus we may have thought "God made the world that we see there," but we did not think of ("search") the "depths of the Godhead itself"; we may have thought "that is the truth about the matter," but we do not think of Truth itself, nor unite into one sentence "God is truth." The "depths of the Godhead, who is truth," we did not touch. Over such purely logical (theological) questions, "What is truth?" Pilate does not stop, though he does not therefore hesitate to ascertain in an individual case "what truth there is in the thing," whether the thing is true.
The truth wears longer than all the gods; for it is only in the truth's service, and for love of it, that people have overthrown the gods and at last God himself. "The truth" outlasts the downfall of the world of gods, for it is the immortal soul of this transitory world of gods; it is Deity itself.
We exercise the beginnings of our strength on natural powers. We defer to parents as a natural power; later we say: Father and mother are to be forsaken, all natural power to be counted as riven. They are vanquished. For the rational, the "intellectual [geistigen] man," there is no family as a natural power; a renunciation of parents, brothers, etc., makes its appearance. If these are "born again" as intellectual, rational powers, they are no longer at all what they were before.
The web of hypocrisy of today hangs on the frontiers of two domains, between which our time swings back and forth, attaching its fine threads of deception and self-deception. No longer vigorous enough to serve morality without doubt or weakening, not yet reckless enough to live wholly to egoism, it trembles now toward the one and now toward the other in the spider-web of hypocrisy, and, crippled by the curse of halfness, catches only miserable, stupid flies.
What a difference between freedom and own-ness! One can get rid of a great many things, one yet does not get rid of all; one becomes free from much, not from everything. Inwardly one may be free in spite of the condition of slavery, although, too, it is again only from all sorts of things, not from everything; but from the whip, the domineering temper, of the master, one does not as slave become free. "Freedom lives only in the realm of dreams!'' Own-ness, on the contrary, is my whole being and existence, it is I myself. I am free from what I am rid of, owner of what I have in my power or what I control. My own I am at all times and under all circumstances, if I know how to have myself and do not throw myself away on others. To be free is something that I cannot truly will, because I cannot make it, cannot create it: I can only wish it and - aspire toward it, for it remains an ideal, a spook. The fetters of reality cut the sharpest welts in my flesh every moment. But my own I remain. Given up as serf to a master, I think only of myself and my advantage; his blows strike me indeed, I am not free from them; but I endure them only for my benefit, perhaps in order to deceive him and make him secure by the semblance of patience, or, again, not to draw worse upon myself by contumacy. But, as I keep my eye on myself and my selfishness, I take by the forelock the first good opportunity to trample the slaveholder into the dust. That I then become free from him and his whip is only the consequence of my antecedent egoism. Here one perhaps says I was "free" even in the condition of slavery - namely, "intrinsically" or "inwardly." But "intrinsically free" is not "really free," and "inwardly" is not "outwardly." I was own, on the other hand, my own, altogether, inwardly and outwardly. Under the dominion of a cruel master my body is not "free" from torments and lashes; but it is my bones that moan under the torture, my fibres that quiver under the blows, and Imoan because my body moans. That Isigh and shiver proves that I have not yet lost myself, that I am still my own. My leg is not "free" from the master's stick, but it is my leg and is inseparable. Let him tear it off me and look and see if he still has my leg! He retains in his hand nothing but the - corpse of my leg, which is as little my leg as a dead dog is still a dog: a dog has a pulsating heart, a so-called dead dog has none and is therefore no longer a dog.
The will is not fundamentally right, as the practical ones would like very much to assure us; one may not pass over the desire for knowledge in order to stand immediately in the will, but knowledge perfects itself to will when it desensualizes itself and creates itself as a spirit "which builds its own body."
What a man as such cannot defend of bodily goods, we may take from him: this is the meaning of competition, of freedom of occupation. What he cannot defend of spiritual goods falls a prey to us likewise: so far goes the liberty of discussion, of science, of criticism.
The young are of age when they twitter like the old; they are driven through school to learn the old song, and, when they have this by heart, they are declared of age.
What advantage does citizenship bring us? Burdens! And how high is our labor appraised? As low as possible! But labor is our sole value all the same: that we are laborers is the best thing about us, this is our significance in the world, and therefore it must be our consideration too and must come to receive consideration. What can you meet us with? Surely nothing but - labor too. Only for labor or services do we owe you a recompense, not for your bare existence; not for what you are for yourselves either, but only for what you are for us. By what have you claims on us? Perhaps by your high birth? No, only by what you do for us that is desirable or useful. Be it thus then: we are willing to be worth to you only so much as we do for you; but you are to be held likewise by us. Services determine value, those services that are worth something to us, and consequently labors for each other, labors for the common good. Let each one be in the other's eyes a laborer. He who accomplishes something useful is inferior to none, or - all laborers (laborers, of course, in the sense of laborers "for the common good," that is, communistic laborers) are equal. But, as the laborer is worth his wages, let the wages too be equal.
The youth found himself as spirit and lost himself again in the general spirit, the complete, holy spirit, Man, mankind - in short, all ideals; the man finds himself as embodied spirit. Boys had only unintellectual interests (those interests devoid of thoughts and ideas), youths only intellectual ones; the man has bodily, personal, egoistic interests. If the child has not an object that it can occupy itself with, it feels ennui; for it does not yet know how to occupy itself with itself. The youth, on the contrary, throws the object aside, because for him thoughts arose out of the object; he occupies himself with his thoughts, his dreams, occupies himself intellectually, or "his mind is occupied." The young man includes everything not intellectual under the contemptuous name of "externalities." If he nevertheless sticks to the most trivial externalities (such as the customs of students' clubs and other formalities), it is because, and when, he discovers mind in them, when they are symbols to him.
What is not supposed to be my concern [Sache] ! First and foremost, the good cause [Sache], then God's cause, the cause of mankind, of truth, of freedom, of humanity, of justice; further, the cause of my people, my prince, my fatherland; finally, even the cause of Mind, and a thousand other causes. Only my cause is never to be my concern. ''Shame on the egoist who thinks only of himself!" Let us look and see, then, how they manage their concerns - they for whose cause we are to labor, devote ourselves, and grow enthusiastic.
There are intellectual vagabonds, to whom the hereditary dwelling-place of their fathers seems too cramped and oppressive for them to be willing to satisfy themselves with the limited space any more: instead of keeping within the limits of a temperate style of thinking, and taking as inviolable truth what furnishes comfort and tranquility to thousands, they overlap all bounds of the traditional and run wild with their imprudent criticism and untamed mania for doubt, these extravagating vagabonds.
When one is anxious only to live, he easily, in this solicitude, forgets the enjoyment of life. If his only concern is for life, and he thinks "if I only have my dear life," he does not apply his full strength to using, i. e., enjoying, life.
There is a difference whether my liberty or my ownness is limited by a society. If the former only is the case, it is a coalition, an agreement, a union; but, if ruin is threatened to ownness, it is a power of itself, a power above me, a thing unattainable by me, which I can indeed admire, adore, reverence, respect, but cannot subdue and consume, and that for the reason that I am resigned. It exists by my resignation, my self-renunciation, my spiritlessness [Mutlosigkeit], called - humility [Demut]. My humility makes its courage [Mut], my submissiveness gives it its dominion.
Where the world comes in my way - and it comes in my way everywhere - I consume it to quiet the hunger of my egoism. For me you are nothing but - my food, even as I too am fed upon and turned to use by you. We have only one relation to each other, that of usableness, of utility, of use. We owe each other nothing, for what I seem to owe you I owe at most to myself. If I show you a cheery air in order to cheer you likewise, then your cheeriness is of consequence to me, and my air serves my wish; to a thousand others, whom I do not aim to cheer, I do not show it.