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Ernst Jünger: our prophet of anarchy The dissident thinker predicted our disordered times

“Ancient chivalry is dead" (Rasemann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)


December 27, 2021   10 mins

With its modern themes of detachment and alienation, the recent revival of Ernst Jünger’s early work by the internet dissident Right is an understandable urge. When I was a younger man, Jünger’s Storm of Steel, his hallucinatory account of his experiences as a stormtrooper commander in the trenches, was, like Malaparte’s Kaputt and Graves’s Goodbye to All That, a major formative experience in my desire to experience war and, callow though it now sounds, prove myself in it. 

Perhaps it’s natural, then, that in later life, the sombre reflections of the middle-aged Jünger as expressed in his recently translated wartime diaries, a husband and father disenchanted with the modern world around him, now seem so compelling.

The diaries open in 1941, with the 46-year-old Jünger serving in an administrative capacity on the general staff of the German army occupying Paris. Initially féted by the Nazi party for the proto-fascist tone of his early works, Jünger publicly rejected the regime’s advances and came under suspicion as a result, his house searched by the Gestapo and the threat of persecution always hanging over him. A central figure in Germany’s interwar Conservative Revolution, Jünger, who stated he “hated democracy like the plague”, had come to despise the Nazi regime at least as much. Ultimately, he was far too Right-wing to accept Nazism.

Jünger’s intellectual circle had aimed to transcend liberal democracy through fusing Soviet bolshevism with Prussian militarism, yet the illiberal regime that actually came to power was wholly repugnant to him. “The Munich version — the shallowest of them all — has now succeeded,” he wrote, “and it has done so in the shoddiest possible way,” filling him with dread that Hitler would drive Germany and Europe towards disaster and discredit radical alternatives to liberalism for generations to come.

Jünger’s two closest friends, the National Bolshevik Ernst Nieckish and the philosopher of law Carl Schmitt, each met different fates under the new Nazi order: Nieckish jailed as a dissident until his liberation by the Red Army in 1945, and Schmitt as the regime’s foremost legal theorist. Jünger remained friends with both. For Jünger, the internal exile, dissidence would come in the veiled form of his dreamlike novella On the Marble Cliffs, published on the cusp of war in 1939, in which he predicted the disaster and bloodshed the Nazis would bring in their train. Carefully monitored and shunted off to a desk job in France, Jünger spent his war as a flâneur along the quais of Paris, buying antiquarian books, conducting numerous love affairs, and recording his impressions of the city he loved.

A fêted intellectual, and a lifelong francophile, he befriended the city’s cultural elite, socialising with Cocteau and Picasso as well as the collaborationist French leadership and literary figures such as the anti-semitic novelist Céline, a monster who “spoke of his consternation, his astonishment, at the fact that we soldiers were not shooting, hanging, and exterminating the Jews — astonishment that anyone who had a bayonet was not making unrestrained use of it”. For Jünger, Céline represented the very worst type of radical intellectual: “People with such natures could be recognised earlier, in eras when faith could still be tested. Nowadays they hide under the cloak of ideas.” 

While listening to Céline’s ravings about Jews with polite horror, Jünger was embroiled in an affair with Sophie Ravoux, a German-Jewish doctor, and helping to conceal other Jews in hiding, as well as warning the French resistance about imminent deportations. He records the first reports of mass executions in the east, shared among the army leadership, initially with disbelief and then with horror, disgust and shame. Generals back from the east recount meetings with figures like “a horrifying young man, formerly an art teacher, who boasted about commanding a death squad in Lithuania… where they butchered untold numbers of people”, or share third-hand rumours about “men who have single-handedly slain enough people to populate a midsize city. Such reports extinguish the colours of the day. You want to close your eyes to them, but it is important to view them like a physician examining a wound.” 

Yet Jünger’s detachment comes, at times, close to inhumanity. “The unfortunate pharmacist on the corner: his wife has been deported,” he notes, immediately before examining antique engravings in an antiquarian bookshop: “Looking at pictures does me good when I’m upset.” He records, with genuine disappointment, the cold looks of hatred he is given by French shopgirls or diners in exclusive restaurants, yet feels their distaste is inappropriately applied to such a deep thinker such as himself, an  inward dissident after all. 

For Jünger, the real spiritual war is elsewhere: “I find myself entangled in very different conflicts from those of the hostile nations. The solution to those conflicts is secondary,” he writes with cool detachment, pondering his place in the catastrophe around him. “Ideologically, this Second World War is completely distinct from the first… And again the fronts have been drawn up completely differently from the way they look on the map.” 

What was the war about, then, for Jünger? During World War I, he declares, “We confronted the question of whether man was more powerful than machines”, but “we are now concerned with the problem of whether humans or automatons will dominate the earth”. 

By 1944 Jünger floated on the fringes of two army plots against Hitler, without ever committing himself. He had — correctly as it turns out — no faith in the capacity of the generals around him to bring their task to successful fruition. Flirting with the French and German resistance movements just as he served the regime he despised, Jünger lived his concept of the “anarch”, the internal exile who conforms outwardly to the spirit of the times while fostering his own inward, secret rebellion. As Cocteau later quipped, “Some people had dirty hands, some had clean hands, but Jünger had no hands.”

A symbolist writer like the decadent Huysmans, Jünger experiences Allied air raids with the same distant, aesthete’s view, standing on a rooftop to observe the bombs fall. A lifetime experimenter with hallucinogens, he experiences the war as a vast trip: “When the second raid came at sunset, I was holding a glass of burgundy with strawberries floating in it. The city, with its red towers and domes, was a place of stupendous beauty, like a calyx that they fly over to accomplish their deadly act of pollination. The whole thing was theatre — pure power affirmed and magnified.” An entomologist and biologist by training, Jünger writes of his almost unnatural detachment that he needs to observe the war’s characters “as if these were creatures like fish in a coral reef or insects on a meadow”. 

But, then, insect and animal metaphors abound throughout the diaries. On almost every page, he records encounters with snakes, real or dreamed, seen in shops or museums or carved on statues. “The primal force of these creatures lies in the fact that they embody life and death, as well as good and evil,” he observes: “the serpent, a tellurian animal, is a powerful medicine.” Indeed, the snake appears as his daimon throughout the book, no doubt a reflection of his own cold-blooded, chthonic  nature. He literally basks in the sunlight reflected from Paris’ limestone walls, observing that its warmth “awakens a primeval little lizard’s soul in me”. 

Throughout the diaries, Jünger’s inner world appears richer and more meaningful than the war around him. Almost every entry begins with a summary of his latest dream, whether recorded as such or described in laconic terms as if it were a real event. He catalogues these dreams obsessively: “In the night, I dreamt of the trenches of World War I”; “Toward morning, dreams of earthquakes — I saw houses swallowed up”; “At night dreams of ancient cave systems on Crete, where soldiers were swarming like ants”; “Dreamed of being burdened with the corpse of a murdered man without being able to find a place to conceal it.” 

What is behind this obsession? Through dreams we communicate with the dead, he notes offhandedly, as well as our innermost self. Indeed, Jünger comes uncannily close to Jung throughout the book: he records strange omens and premonitions, claims that certain generals of his acquaintance are imbued with the power of prophecy, records strange synchronicities and deploys obscure alchemical metaphors. As the diaries go on and Germany’s fortunes worsen, the magical element begins to predominate. 

He discusses the esoteric writers Guénon and Eliade with Schmitt, debating the magic of the mandrake root and the symbolism of the moon, of the sea and of woman (to him a largely interchangeable category of person). Like Robert Graves, his English analogue, Jünger’s exultation with the First World War fruited into occult mysticism. He dreams of re-enchanting a world lost to technology and secular liberalism: “The ancient gods still stand before us with their magical presence, perhaps even in competition,” he observes, and he means this literally. 

Reading the Bible, he records his growing interest in Christianity over the course of the war. “What can one advise a man, especially a simple man, to do in order to extricate himself from the conformity that is constantly being produced by technology?” he asks himself: “Only prayer… In situations that can cause the cleverest of us to fail and the bravest of us to look for avenues of escape, we occasionally see someone who quietly recognises the right thing to do and does good. You can be sure that is a man who prays.”

For Jünger, prayer is powerful magic, an efficacious antidote to modernity: “It possesses a conductive power.” Without prayer, “our freedom of will and powers of resistance diminish; the appeal of demonic powers becomes more compelling, and its imperatives more terrible.” 

Jünger’s reference to demonic power is here entirely literal. As the years pass, he begins to view Hitler — who he codenames “Kniébolo”— not as a malicious charlatan who has perverted his conservative revolution but as a genuinely demonic figure, possessing a “a certain diabolical greatness” that is “elemental, infernal” and who “feeds” on the forces unleashed by modernity in a way the “liberal intelligentsia” are incapable of understanding. “In their innermost inclinations,” Jünger observes, “minds like Kniébolo’s are bent on the most comprehensive homicide possible. They seem to belong to a world of corpses that they want to populate — they find the stench of the slain pleasant.” 

At the height of the war, while the Holocaust was a marginal concern of the Allies, Jünger would return again and again to “these atrocities perpetrated against the Jews, which enrage the cosmos against us”. The Nazi leadership are “demonic powers” channeling occult forces: “these people are probing the planet, and the fact that they choose the Jews as their primary victims cannot be a coincidence,” he writes, “Their highest-ranking executioners have a kind of uncanny clairvoyance that is not the product of intelligence but of demonic inspiration. At every crossroads, they will find the direction that leads to greater destruction.” Of Hitler, Junger writes that “I sometimes have the impression that the world spirit has chosen him in a subtle way. There are secrets here that other tribes will never comprehend.”

It is essential to remember that Jünger was an opponent of National Socialism from the far-Right: “Our Fatherland is like a poor man whose just cause has been usurped by a crooked lawyer.” For him, the Nazis were the worst embodiment of modernity, which turned humans into automata, mere machines without souls. His fear was that the Nazi interlude would discredit the search for a Right-wing escape route from modernity: “It is also Kniébolo’s role to discredit good ideas by carrying them aloft on his shield.” He writes that “when you have been party to such individual fates and begun to comprehend the statistics that apply to the wicked crimes carried out in the charnel houses, an enormity is exposed that makes you throw up your hands in despair”. An ultranationalist, Jünger writes that “I am aggrieved to feel such things beginning to influence my relationship, if not to my Fatherland, then to the German people”. 

As with the fatherland, so with war, whose seductive power captured the younger Jünger. On a trip to the Eastern Front, the 47-year-old Jünger is forced to duck for cover from Russian machine-gun fire: “I have long since passed the age,” he observes, relatably, “when I find such things amusing.” Awarded Germany’s highest military decoration by Ludendorrf at the age of 22, he reflects that the ancient general warned him “‘it is dangerous for one so young to be decorated with the highest honour.’ Back then I considered it pedantic, but today I know that it was right.” The older Jünger has lost his taste for battle’s glittering accoutrements: “I am overcome by a loathing for the uniforms, the epaulettes, the medals, the weapons, all the glamour I have loved so much. Ancient chivalry is dead; wars are waged by technicians.” 

Eventually, Jünger’s eldest son, little Ernstel, is arrested by the Nazi regime for making defeatist comments about the war to his fellow sailors. He is later assigned to the Italian front on a dangerous anti-partisan mission. There, he was killed by a bullet to the head beneath Carrara’s marble cliffs; his father would never be certain  he was not secretly executed by the SS. “Such a good lad,” the heartbroken Jünger would write in his diary, “Ever since childhood, he strove to emulate his father. Now he has done so on his first try, and truly surpassed him.” Whatever attraction war ever held for Jünger is now gone for good. Ordered back to Germany after the failure of the Stauffenberg plot, his superiors hanging from meathooks, he lived under constant threat of arrest and execution like the survivors of his elite Paris circle: “Some have been hanged, poisoned, imprisoned; others have been dispersed and surrounded by thugs.” 

In his Saxon farmhouse, he reads and tends his garden as the war drives ever closer. The bombs he observed with cool detachment in Paris are less aesthetically appealing when they land on his own Hannover: “The places where I had lived as a child, as a schoolboy, as a young officer — all had been levelled.” Hurrying to the basement shelter with his young children under his arms as shrapnel whips around them, Jünger the warrior, who found liberation in its chaos, has been replaced by Jünger the husband and father, a helpless victim of war’s ever-spreading destruction.

In his farmhouse, he devotes himself to writing his Appeal to the Youth of Europe, an early call for the political unification of his beloved home continent as a potential fortress from the twin horrors of modernity and liberalism. His greatest fear is that with Germany defeated, Europe will succumb to liberalism, and its most soulless and destructive manifestation, Americanism. “America is conquering the places of ancient culture — I mean that aspect of America that has been more evident in modern Berliners with each advancing year.” He writes in horror “of American values, which will be further promoted by the obliteration of our old cities”, anticipating the postwar future, our present, with dread. 

Viewing the ruins of Dusseldorf, he fears that “this too is one of the stepping-stones to Americanism; in place of our old haunts, we shall have cities that are the brainchildren of engineers”. It was Jünger’s fate to command the detachment that surrendered to the first American tanks approaching his beloved Saxon village: “I sense the incursion of a mighty superpower into a completely crushed region… much of everything that used to motivate our deepest being perishes in this transition.”

For Jünger, America’s victory was Europe’s defeat, and that of any means of transcending liberal modernity. Like post-liberals today, he roots the horrors of the 20th century in modernity, observing that “the destruction of the Old World begins to manifest itself with the French Revolution… It is thus out of pure self-preservation that we might contemplate other systems of organisation than those established in 1789.” He dreams of transcendent modernities beyond the nation-state, “political systems in which progressive and conservative forces must be congruent”, where “conservative powers will no longer function as restraints, but rather as a driving force.”

This dream would not see reality in his lifetime. A dissident against the Nazis, Jünger refused to submit himself to denazification under British occupation, and found himself blacklisted as a result. Just as he did with Hitler’s regime, Jünger lived and died a dissident against the liberal regime that replaced it, outwardly conforming but never submitting. He despised democracy just as he despised the gullible and easily-swayed demos who had brought Hitler to power. And he despised the liberals who had given themselves over “completely to the destruction of the old guard and the undermining of order”, setting in train the nightmares of the 20th century, just as he despised the “young conservatives who first support the demos because they sense its new elemental power, and then fall into the traces and are dragged to their deaths”. 

Yet over the decades, as the old warrior devoted himself to writing a series of dreamlike and prophetic novels, collecting insects and experimenting with LSD, his reputation soared. At the age of 101, in his penultimate year of life, Ernst Jünger converted to Catholicism, and died lauded as a prophet of European unification, fêted by dignitaries like Kohl and Mitterand. The anarch died as he lived, both at odds with and celebrated by the disastrous century his life embodied, a dissident thinker of great esoteric power now thrust back to relevance by our own disordered times. 


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

arisroussinos

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Francis MacGabhann
FM
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

“It is essential to remember that Junger was an opponent of National Socialism from the far right”. I would say it’s vital. The single most sustained, implacable and outright lying attack on truth in the last seventy years by journalists and academics — who are always men and women of the left — is that fascism and Nazism came out of the political right.

Emre Emre
ES
Emre Emre
2 years ago

I would argue there’s some nuance there. It’s clear Nazism is a radically progressive movement. And as such, they had solid support from the highly educated layers of society such as academics and doctors. This part is very often brushed out of history, perhaps to support the “arc of history” arguments for progress elsewhere.
Yet it’s also clear for me, they got support from conservative voters. In particular, rural Lutherans were amongst their most eager and reliable supporters alongside a Lutheran church which offered very little if any resistance. The conservative parties of Weimar, being unable to control their ascent, had to yield power to them and in doing so, legitimised them (as alluded in the article).
Interestingly, it looks like Junger belonged to both of the above groups anyhow.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Francis MacGabhann
FM
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

There’s no question that the Nazis had support from the conservatively minded, but that doesn’t stop Nazism being an inherent and congenitally collectivist project. It’s of the left.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

There is Right-collectivism, just as there is Left-collectivism.

Stephanie Surface
SS
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Hitler was part of the left-wing Munich Putsch in 1919 and was a member of so-called “Soldaten Rat” in a new Bolshevik Republic, which consisted of Soldiers and Farmers. He even went to the funeral march for the Communist Leader Eisner, who was btw. Jewish. So collectivism was part of his DNA.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

The only Munich Putsch known either to me or to Google is that of 1923.

There was a very short-lived Munich Soviet Republic c Nov18-Feb19 but as Hitler was already fanatically anti-Communist it was certainly no doing of his !

Either you or your source material are very confused or very dishonest.

Collectivism united fascism /Nazism with Communism – but the Nazis were fanatical racists, militarists and nationalists; whereas the Reds weren’t.

The two groups hated and murdered each other despite their joint collectivism.

Stephanie Surface
SS
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Sorry my source material is neither confused nor dishonest. I am originally from Munich, went to school in Germany and had my history lessons there. You will also find many articles in the German press about the quite important Munich Putsch of 1918/19 overthrowing the Bavarian Monarchy. There was recently an article published in Die Welt, which also pointed out, that Hitler was at that point close to the Socialists/Communists’ cause ( there are still pictures of him taking part in the Funeral March for Kurt Eisner). Hitler was part of the Bolshevik “Soldaten Rat” in Munich. Many of the original participants at this short lived “Räter Republik“ later joined Hitler’s National SOCIALISTS. As you pointed out Hitler became a fierce opponent of the Communists as he hated their internationalist belief.

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephanie Surface
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

Their core base was farmers in Bavaria, very much a volkisch powerbase. It’s true that later they attracted support from a wider range of social strata but that was principally because these people felt (quite understandably) that the Weimar republic was heading towards a communist revolution and needed a sharp shock to stop it going in that direction which an increasingly geriatric Hindenburg seemed unable to provide. Although that said in the last election before Hitler was made chancellor their vote share had been declining as the aftershocks of the economic crisis began to dampen.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Emre Emre
ES
Emre Emre
2 years ago

I think this understates the ideological underpinnings and the progressive nature of them. I very rarely come across the term Social Darwinism these days. It’s an almost forgotten term which was actually the dominant scientific view in many countries at the time and the backbone of their ideology. Incidentally, there are other genoices and atrocities in the 20th century which had Social Darwinist roots as well.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

Quite. As a thumbnail sketch, Kniebolo’s movement appeared economically left but culturally right. It therefore did obtain a measure of support from disillusioned members of Germany’s elite. They turned from “National Liberal” to “National Socialist”, because where Liberalism had been the doctrine of La Belle Epoque, Socialism – thanks to war, revolution and market failure – appeared to be its natural successor.
Of course, they were duped. Kniebolo’s apparent conservatism was a sham. To start with it was neither clerical nor social. Old style nationalism, for example, took ethnicity as an important ingredient in the identitarian mix; Kniebolo disregarded all the other ingredients entirely. In foreign policy, meanwhile, he was a compulsive gambler where the elite diplomats would have been happy to pocket the gains of 36 and 38 without further aggravation.
Does this in any ordinary sense, indicate a regime from the “right”? Personally, I think not. It is surely a radical variant on the totalitarian message inherent in socialism.

Last edited 2 years ago by Simon Denis
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

More correctly, a right-wing variant of the totalitarian message.

The Nazis were a bunch of militarist thugs from provincial Germany, who were crafty enough to borrow clever stratagems from the Bolsheviks, notably street fighters, rabble-rousing oratory and the Terror State.

But Hitler was a Faustian figure, gradually losing even his sincere youthful nationalism to the satanic (thus nihilistic) hate and brutality conquering him. Murder of the Jews – God’s covenanted people – was clearly a term of the Pact he had made with his demonic controllers.

Bob Taylor
BT
Bob Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

This may be an odd question, but I’m asking it of you because you recognize what, in our secular environment, most would not, that Hitler was in some sense demonized: do you know of a good book, that is, one which is free of sensationalism, the topic of which is Hitler’s trafficking in the demonic? Junger was certainly right about Hitler, but would you suggest something of his? Something of another author’s?

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Aris hardly convinces that Junger possessed much understanding of the modern world or really any profundity. In his seemingly inchoate hatred of liberalism, but also of an actual existing authoritarian state, he shows like so many rambling reactionary theorists, that he had no positive programme he could support.

Of course the Nazis weren’t ultimately interested in philosophical or legal underpinnings of their state, they recognised full well that brute force was at its heart. Hitler was a sui generis fanatic, but like most authoritarian leaders he could be opportunistic and very unprincipled when it suited – by the Nazis’ own lights – for example The Night of the Long Knives.

You can’t bring back medieval Europe, or cancel the French Revolution, so all sensible conservatives have recognised the need to come to terms and manage new social forces, ideas of liberalism and socialism, democracy and indeed technology.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Quite and the fact that Junger had no plausible alternative suggests that he had no alternative to offer.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Yes, in reality all reactionary movements from the Nazis to the Islamic State all took great advantage of the technology that the supposedly evil modern world produced and ended up being defined by it in many ways. I can think of a couple of states that tried to prevent technology – the Papal States in the 19th century where Gregory XIV banned railways and gas lighting or Oman in the 50s where modern technology was banned. Or indeed Manchu China. The first ended up swollowed up by Italy, the second had its sultan removed in a coup by his own son (with British help), the third was carved up and humiliated by a Japanese empire that whilst conservative was tinged with realism.
And a supposedly modernist project like Marxist-Leninism ended up becoming a fossil stuck in 19th century thinking because its moronic economic system was unable to keep up with the capitalist world’s technological progress and thus fell apart in a matter of decades.
A question I pose for those who believe that medieval fuedal society is so much better would be this – why did such a huge number of people from semi-feudal societies in the 18th and 19th century move to British colonies or the US if these societies were supposedly a peasant’s paradise of communal bliss? Why did many of these societies end up infected with communism and social revolution in the 20th century whereas Britain and its daughters remained largely immune to the contagion? Is it not possible that all of this communitarian social thinking is a cover for rent seeking and guarding income sources from others, as Peel rightly noted when he pushed the Conservatives against the corn laws.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

I agree with this analysis. In the same way, the fashion of faux communitarianism in modern corporatism is also a cover for varieties of rentierism – and possibly indicates the rise of a new kind of feudalism.

Matt Hindman
MH
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

This was an interesting article, but Ernst Jünger comes off as way too screwed up in the head in an astounding variety of ways for me to take him seriously.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Beautifully written, not just the wording, but the way the complexity of sentiments are layered on each other, making this very deep, yet utterly horrific person’s life, become so real and vivid and to see it.

“begun to comprehend the statistics that apply to the wicked crimes carried out in the charnel houses, an enormity is exposed that makes you throw up your hands in despair”.”

I wonder what Arris himself has seen and thought in his times, at his work, and imagine the above feeling must strike him, as It sometimes does me.

The article certainly is a look into Hell, seen through the urbane and intellectual warrior, and zealot’s eyes, and throughout he comes off as very much tainted by what he is involved in – as one who does not quite see their own wholeness of culpability in all of it, because they were against the specific acts and reasons politically morally, and were going along because it was carrying them along. I find the writing like he is describing some Hallucinogenic Trip nightmare, describing the beauty bits, and the other worldly, and the horror of a reality so twisted it seems it could not have been real, brings out the horror even more.

Such dispassionate, deep and dark, writing from Junger. It quite was unpleasant to read, the ‘banality of evil’ permeating – but what struck me is how he did find real, True, Evil running through the people and time – that they were actually demonic, and I really felt he was imprinted with the evil himself. The end:

“At the age of 101, in his penultimate year of life, Ernst Jünger converted to Catholicism,”

Was a great relief. As I read it I hoped he would convert at the end – to not have would meant we can see such evil at such amazing levels and clarity, yet – just as he went along with the Na* i War Machine, to not break free, but be claimed by it. That he finally converts makes some hope.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Or was it a major panic and an incredibly naive (or onset of dementia) attempt to escape ‘condemnation’ – as an indulgence.

Bob Taylor
Bob Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

If God is kind to you, chris, you will be given that “major panic,” and you will realize that you are not naive.

Adrian Maxwell
AM
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Converting to any religious belief on one’s deathbed is simply the good sense to avoid making new enemies, as someone once said. I wished I’d said that, I guess I will, I will.

Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

He sounds like a Germanic Evelyn Waugh, but with much less literary talent. Same talent for foreseeing the future, because he didn’t buy into the present. Same magnetic attraction to a non-existent past cultural, social, religious and racial order, as a reaction to despising modernity.

Alex Stonor
AS
Alex Stonor
2 years ago

He sounds like a piece of philosophical driftwood; unable to have an impact, unable to do anything. No wonder he chose to get high all the time. To lack agency during such extremely difficult times is torturous, like living through lockdowns, watching reason implode.

M V
M V
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Looked under the line to post the same thing. Sounds like a weak willed and spiritually lost man, unable or unwilling to do anything about an evil he had clearly identified. Leading him to seek escape in esoteric pursuits and dream worlds, the kind of intellectual onanism that’s a common endpoint for this type of scoundrel. That all of this was from ‘the right’ is what’s interesting, I suppose.

Don Butler
DB
Don Butler
2 years ago
Reply to  M V

I believe you have rightly described “cowardice”. That is the word that kept coming to mind as I read about this rather meaningless life.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

That was a very interesting read and find. I find Mr Roussinos reliably brings an impressive depth to the topics he writes about.

Like post-liberals today, he roots the horrors of the 20th century in modernity, observing that “the destruction of the Old World begins to manifest itself with the French Revolution… It is thus out of pure self-preservation that we might contemplate other systems of organisation than those established in 1789.”

Reading this, I wanted to highlight the irony of the Americans instead being the earlier ones to recognise their past demons coming from modernity, and moving on to a path of abandoning Junger’s hated liberalism replacing it with Wokeism which is much more receptive to all kinds of esoteric ideas, witches, and alternative realities than modernist liberalism would ever be.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

The between the War years in Germany (Austria, Czech) were utterly unique in history – Politically, intellectually, philosophically, art, music, psychology, scientifically, the economic madness – the hyperinflation, it was like how all was going at a mad, and very destructive, exponential rate. Marxism, Capitalism, the melding of them, Fa* cism, Anarchy, the Religions at a forefront – but all subsumed by intellectual Secular-Humanism and Militant Atheism with Existentialism and Nihilism. There was a creativity so strong it is entirely evocative of demonic; Faustian, like Robert Johnson, and it still is very much with it us now.

We got not just Hi* ler, but the Frankfurt School, Post-Modernists, who are as bad, and now they are bringing the West to World War again, morally utterly corrupted, Evil, and they are beginning to win the war. Unless good people take action and not be Junger like, it is lost.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The difference from the 1930’s, is that THEN the West still retained the vigour and the ideal of self-sacrifice from the Christianity it had rejected. Its nations and armies were still powerful – thus powerful weapons in the hands of a Lenin or Hitler.

But NOW those nations are all shadows of their former selves, indeed collapsing. Immorality reigns, but it’s the pitiful, impotent immorality of an Oscar Wilde (a deathbed convert to the Church).

Even the Reds are now decadents !

Only God can take action and soon will.

What can we do ? Pray – and be ready to help (and hopefully convert some of) our enemies when the Big Smash comes.

Bob Taylor
BT
Bob Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Don’t forget the wholesome addition of Brutalist architecture in your list of ‘twixt wars madness.

Peter LR
PL
Peter LR
2 years ago

This quote: “the worst embodiment of modernity, which turned humans into automata, mere machines without souls” I thought a good description of what is broadly defined as ‘woke’ – automated thinking and chanting of meaningless dogmas.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

Aris seems to have this revisionist theory of British history that many of those in the Anglo-Catholic worldview seem to have which seems to place all the “evils” of liberalism in America, despite the fact that in a great many ways it was Britain that was the harbinger of most. Today’s American empire stands on the world built by the eminently liberal British Empire. Any look at the history of High Toryism suggests that, quite underlike altar and throne reaction in Europe, it was largely made up of self-satisfied squireocracy who were just as prone to take advantage of liberal reforms for their own enrichment and whose interest in the poor was mainly sentimental rhethotic whose actual contributions were rather pitiful compared to the use systems of alms giving that existed in Catholic countries. Remember the High Tory Lord Salisbury would openly declaim Britain as the ‘preminent protestant power’, and representing a kind of liberity Catholic countries didn’t have, at the height of the British Empire. Cecil Rhodes dreamed of united the US back into a great Anglosphere empire of liberalism.
Because of this Aris doesn’t say it, Junger (and his forebears like Nietzsche or Napoleon) considered Britain as much as the US as the embodiment of the liberalism they despised, if anything the US being an a consequence of what they saw as the fundamental problems with Anglo-Saxon and protestant culture. These were after all the kind of people who saw the Boers or the Germans as fighting for ‘kultur’ against British money interests.
It feels to me that this crypto-Catholic worldview, like some kind of reverse black legend on Britain instead of Spain, that is taking hold on certain parts of the paternalistic anti-Thatcher right that wants to wipe out the glory of the last 500 years of British history. England’s heroic rejection of Papal authority and superstition, our bucaneering privateers and adventurers, Manchester liberalism, the industrial revolution, the economic revolution of the British Empire, Britain great contributions in science (Newton, Darwin, Maxwell etc.) and invention (antibiotics, civil engineering) were all of course nothing but base trash. The way we brought civilization, culture, science, law and commerce to huge parts of the globe such Africa, North America, India or Ireland, despite how ungratefully it was received. And by contrast the real glory of Britain was some imagined Morris Dancing merrie England of simpering peasants and knights in armour that springs from the fevered brain of Walter Scott or William Morris, quitely ignoring the decline, poverty and misery that actually obtained in much of the supposedly cultural superior Catholic world in reality.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Emre Emre
ES
Emre Emre
2 years ago

I’m afraid you are fighting a losing battle not against the Catholic right but the Woke who funnily enough make similar points today.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

I know. The problem is Britain needs a reaffirmation of its Protestant backbone of the strong, self-reliant individual that made it the largest and richest empire the world has ever seen. Unfortunately it is in danger of being overrun by alien enervating forces, whether that be French Marxist thinking, Islam or Catholicism.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Emre Emre
ES
Emre Emre
2 years ago

Here’s my problem with this. While I may disagree with much of its prescriptions, Woke critique of the British tradition (which in my view includes the American continuation as you yourself point out) is valid. While Britain and US fared much better facing the horrors of 20th century, sins of earlier colonisation (eg slavery and the fates of the natives of the occupied lands) can’t be wished away or justified. If a Marxist narrative of history is to be avoided a strong enough alternative one needs to be formed which I don’t see happening.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

How do you account then for the fact that British ex-colonies are, on average, far more prosperous and well-governed than their French, Spanish, Italian, Portugese or even Dutch equivalents?
That’s not to deny that bad things happened. They did. But as Niall Ferguson’s Empire shows there was also something unique about the British Empire and its impact in the lands it ruled.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

Saving India, which is not particularly prosperous, most if not all all large British ex-colonies (including US) are battling with questions on racism and (de-)colonisation. Think of all the various Woke talking points: 1/10 wealth gap between black and white families in US, the recently found graveyards in forced boarding schools for the children of the natives in Canada, or the sorry state of the native populations in US, Canada or Australia.
We could have a rather mundane discussion about whether structural racism is real, or Marxist agitations (and hallucinations) on some of the above are worth engaging with but that’d be beside the point.
Following on your suggestion for a comparison, we can see these problems listed above don’t exist in Brazil, Mexico, or other similar ex-colonies. This is presumably because there’s no separate white culture or population to speak of. Why is this?
Going back to the question you pose me, it’d seem there’s no simple answer, but the comparison you suggest is indeed a good one to explore the topic. I see the pertinence of the Marxist critique of the British Imperial heritage (and society today) when doing the comparison you suggest. Is achieving a nearly colour blind society a few decades before the turn of the 21st century a job well done, something to be proud of? Is that all the reflection and atonement that needs doing about this?

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
chris sullivan
CS
chris sullivan
2 years ago

Absolutely – which is why English derived Rule of Law and even the English language have triumphed – although there may have been some benefits to NZ if the French had gotten in first !

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

As a Catholic who respects what was good in the Protestant tradition, notably in Britain, I feel a nostalgic sadness at the death of that tradition in the 1960’s – in the pivot year of 1965 to be precise, but the last curtain only falling a generation later when Mrs T (in some ways an embodiment of that tradition) resigned on 22 November 1990.

But as its name shows, Protestantism, despite its virtues, is only a Protest Movement, with the limitations that imposes. There is, for example, no united Protestant Church with an agreed Catechism; and under Protestant doctrine, there never can be, except at a mystical level.

Protestantism was held together and prospered because of its hostility to Rome – and even more, because of Rome’s hostility to it !

But when, c.1960, kindly old Angelo Roncalli removed much of Rome’s hostility, Protestantism was done for – especially as few Protestants now believe a Pope to be “the Romish Anti-Christ” or his Church to be the “w***e of Babylon.”

Hence the Protestant nation par excellence, the USA, is now fragmenting, along with its Protestantism.

Medieval nostalgia is mere dreaming and will get us nowhere. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has some useful ideas. Though, it itself is in the throes of a painful rebirth, now that its imperial Roman tradition (which too died in the 1960’s) is falling down.

Bob Taylor
BT
Bob Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

I’m bemused that you suppose Pope John XXIII’s fanglessness doomed conservative Protestantism in the United States. It was clearly the triumph of demythologized Protestantism forty years earlier which with many, but not enough, exceptions heralded our doom.

chris sullivan
CS
chris sullivan
2 years ago

Excellent !

john zac
john zac
2 years ago

I also fancy myself as a bit of an anarchist. You live in the liminal space between attunement and dissociation. As you attune to the people, sync up to the present, you discover that you hate yourself for doing it. Everyone living with at least some hate, over run by stress, mired in a life of reward prediction error. Abandoning the beat of their internal drum to follow those that don’t have enough, but want more. The most paranoid of that lot end up inventing systems to run us on dopamine schedules, that drive most mad. Thank you Ari for introducing me to him, I like what he said “the monarch in the monarchy,” that’s who the anarch is…follow the beat of your own drummer…

Last edited 2 years ago by john zac
chris sullivan
CS
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  john zac

yeah containing that madness should become a serious piece of study in mental health literature. I am lucky enough to be older and have choice regarding escaping that mindwrecker but I fear for many younger people stuck in it with no chance of escape. Junger appears to have been able to do it but he was obviously way more tough and talented than most. At the mo, my 29yo son is pretty clear that I will out live him because of the above plus the evil way we exploit 80 billion birds and animals per year -another holocaust in his estimation…………….and there are many many younger people in that headspace . the older generation has let them down thru ignorance, greed and moral cowardice – including Junger

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

This man, Junger, seems to represent, via your description here, both extremes of human inclination, the urge to heroic resistance and the degenerate opportunist who concedes his life to the evil of his times.
This contradiction within the soul/mind of a formerly noble man did possibly demonstrate, or actualize his ultimate deliverance from evil–as the Lord’s prayer player entreats.
It is no surprise that the testimony of such a brilliant man was, for a very long season, bound up beneath the demonic power of a thoroughly demonic human being, adolph hitler, whose body/mind was probably the most depraved, most evil human being to ever walk the face of this earth.
What is also, however, no surprise is that the Grace of God did ultimately prevail past Junger’s fervid mind to save his penitent soul.
Based on your description here, Aris, this appears to be a redemption story. For that reason, perhaps I shall read it, although the prospect of slogging through all that apparently depraved concession in Junger’s wartime choices scares the hell out of me.
Regarding your statement here . . .  “as he despised the “young conservatives who first support the demos because they sense its new elemental power, and then fall into the traces and are dragged to their deaths”. . . this scenario hauntingly describes the “young conservatives” whose devotion to our former American anarchist president was drummed up because they “sense its new elemental power.”
Lastly, allow me to mention that my interest in this topic stems from my own research into the European situation as it was manifested in 1937. The outcome of that project was my 2011 novel, Smoke, which tells the tale of a young American businessman traveling through London, France and ultimately to a memorial graveyard in Belgium from which his WWI sharpshooter father never returned.
P.S. That 20th-century was a terriblly lethal ordeal; let us not do another century of such widespread destruction.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

Utterly fascinating…

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago

I read “On the Marble Cliffs” a long time ago. A weird book: the preface announced that Junger was in the end a nihilist with “a zero at the bone”. This piece confirms that. The zero is what can be learned from Junger – he has nothing to tell us, at least beyond what can be learned from the Roman Catholic church. I think of Evelyn Waugh.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

Nonetheless, both men are complex and fascinating characters.

Gayle Rosenthal
GR
Gayle Rosenthal
2 years ago

Junger was an interesting voice in documenting the horror, and fitfully imagining a better world which he would never see. The conjoining of the far right with liberalism was a futuristic dream he was sure never to see. It makes utopian sense in theory but how to accomplish it. No wonder he was not a man of action.

rick stubbs
rick stubbs
2 years ago

War correspondents are not soldiers Aris. They prove themselves by getting the story and not by the profession of arms. And Junger is a mildly interesting crank.

Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago

An interesting piece but little mention of Communism and or Russia.

hugh bennett
HB
hugh bennett
2 years ago

“At the age of 101, in his penultimate year of life…”
that is what I felt like after the 10th paragraph of yet another Aris triumph of  byzantine over-complexity over clarity and conciseness.
For those cerebrally challenged, like me, and not up to another Aris mental marathon in a dust storm without a compass, try a nice little read –
https://www.nytimes.com/1998/02/18/arts/ernst-junger-contradictory-german-author-who-wrote-about-war-is-dead-at-102.html

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

This essay reads like it was computer-generated: “transcendent modernities”, “liberation in its chaos”, “channeling occult forces”, “re-enchanting a world lost to technology and secular liberalism”, “the magical element”, “a reflection of his own cold-blooded, chthonic nature”, blah, blah, blah …
Is there a crisp proposition anywhere in this meandering nonsense?