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The Sad, Sour Spook:
Max Stirner & His Proper Ties, Part II

4,011 words

Part 2 of 2. Part 1 here.

Max Stirner
The Unique and Its Property
Translated with a new introduction by Wolfi Landstreicher
Underworld Amusements, 2017

With all these aforementioned connections to Jünger, Evola, and sort-of to Nietzsche,[1] it’s not surprising that knowing references to scary Stirner must have shown up on alt-Right blogs and books,[2] as well as kindle reprints of The Ego in series like “The Neoreactionary Library,” leading the Progs to become rather hyper-sensitive to protecting “their” Stirner. Their methods, however, show how little “their” Stirner resembles the real Stirner.

Recall their basic gripe, per Preston:

Landstreicher has been accused of some great moral failure for allowing an alleged OFFICIAL BAD PERSON to publish this translation.

So what we have here is good old fashioned Guilt by Association, Tinkers to Evers to Chance: so the publisher, Kevin Slaughter, has also designed covers for books published by Counter-Currents, and since the later is a “neo-Nazi” outlet, then the former must be a neo-Nazi, and therefore Landstreicher is guilty of, well, associating,

It’s a logical fallacy, of course, and amusing to see the supposed “Left” making use of a trope associated (rightly or wrongly) with the anti-Communists of the 50s. And it’s even funnier to notice that they even share this with those hated “liberals” and “mainstream centrists” and other non-tattooed, non-masked political folks, even John McCain or Hilary Clinton; as Charles Hugh Smith says:

Somebody meeting with a Russian does not constitute proof of anything. rather, this is the classic witch-hunt accusation of the McCarthyite “Red Scare” of the 1950s—guilt by association: you were seen conversing with a Communist, thus you must also be a Communist—or at a minimum, you are tainted by association and thus under a cloud of suspicion that can never be cleared because no accusation of guilt in a court of law is ever made.

The crowning moment of funny, the cream of the jest, is that all of this is exactly what Stirner spends some 300 or so pages condemning: the Communist, the Russian, the Nazi – neo or otherwise – hell, even The Anarchist is just a spook, a self-deluding concept, a bat fluttering around in the none-too vast confines of Dr. Bones’ skull.

This kind of contagion paranoia is rather like what I diagnosed in my landmark essay/manifesto, “The Homo and the Negro.”[3] The titular figures, which I called cultural archetypes, are really rather like Stirner’s spooks.[4] The Homo is the figure of Ultimate Sinfulness and Evil, and so to avoid, at all costs, the risk of any “contamination” one flees to the equally spooky Negro, representing “manliness” in all its violent stupidity.[5]

The more Evil the spook, the more need to set your distance, and monitor it constantly. Hence the demand for PC, speech codes, YouTube/ADL guidance, etc., in order to avoid such spooks as “white privilege,” “stereotype threat,” and even “invisible knapsacks.” It’s a characteristically Judaic mindset, called “building a fence around the Torah”; to ensure no mistakes are made, no accidental transgressions of YHVH-1’s commands occur, each already fairly detailed proscription is extrapolated and expanded, “just in case.”

For example, most holidays are spread over two days, since, it being hard to tell when the proper moment of sunrise is throughout the diaspora, you celebrate both days, just in case.[6] And speaking of holidays, Purim celebrates the defeat and execution of not just the spook Haman, but also his ten sons and 75,000 of his followers. Just in case.

And since it’s also hard to tell if the Homo or the Nazi is the most Evil, it’s best to cover oneself by combining them; hence, the evangelicals have gifted us with The Pink Swastika: Nazi = Homo = Pagan = White, it’s all just one big ball of Evil.[7]

And as for Stirner himself, who is he, what is he, which side is he on? Stirner isn’t on any – one; he isn’t any – one; he’s just himself, the Unique One.

Why then does he write? Of course – for himself!

I write because I wish to make for ideas, which are my ideas, a place in the world. If I could foresee that these ideas must take from you peace of mind and repose, if in these ideas that I sow I should see the germs of bloody wars and even the cause of the ruins of many generations, I would nevertheless continue to spread them. It is neither for the love of you nor even for the love of truth that I express what I think. No—I sing! I sing because I am a singer. If I use you in this way, it is because I have need of your ears![8]

Stirner’s analysis of the “rationalists,” “humanists,” and “socialists” of his time is clearly applicable to our own; his analysis broadens the usual alt-Right one – that liberals have lost their religion, but simply transferred their fanaticism and dogmatism to the pursuit of “social justice”—by making both religion and humanism, the spooks God and Man, merely two species of the same genus. Just as the religious man throws away the whole world for the good of his soul, so the Merkels promote fixed ideas such as multiculturalism and open borders in the teeth of overwhelming evidence of their destructive results. “Man, you have bats in your belfry!”

Perhaps the best way to understand what Stirner is up to is to “step over,” as Jonathan Bowden would say, the whole Hitler issue and even the outdated world of Marxism and locate Stirner in the far avant-garde fringes of the ultra-post-modern; now there’s “contemporary relevance” for you!

In “Alt-Modernism: Challenging the idea of postmodernism as a left-wing movement,”[9] Anton Stigermark argues that post-modernism arises out of a distrust of so-called “master narratives,” resulting in a recognition that the mind can only confront not a given “world” but instead a constructed one fashioned from signs and signifiers; the question then becomes one of power: who determines the signifiers? Historically, this has been the realm of the Left. Stigermark then pivots to the alt-Right, and finds a similar analysis of the intellectual world, as one consisting in, and controlled by, memes.

Consider then, Stirner:

Stirner argues that action at the level of the large group or society can only be justified by appeal to some abstraction. Values with a concrete reality are only found in the circle of the individual and his friends; beyond are god, fetish and ideal. (Carroll, p12)

For abstraction, god, fetish and ideal (Stirner) read: signs and signifiers (postmodernism Left); or, memes (alt-Right).

The alt-Righter recognizes that politics is controlled by culture, and culture consists in memes; there is, in fact, no truth, no master narrative – or if there is one, we don’t and can’t reach it, so it drops out as irrelevant. There is only the war of memes, one against the other, battling for control of the culture, control of the individual’s mind.

 “Whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore television is reality and reality is less than television. Your reality is already half television.

“The television screen has become the retina of the mind’s eye…the battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena, the Videodrome.”[10]

And even earlier:

This world is the Will to Power — and nothing else! And even ye yourselves are this will to power — and nothing besides![11]

Indeed, we might even ask if “Max Stirner” is himself a meme: “How did Caspar Schmidt’s adolescent dreams of an alter ego, Max Stirner, turn into a reality?” (Carroll, p20).

As for the book itself, well…. Stirner may have been parodying Hegel and his lesser epigones, but to do so entailed making a book that, whatever its occasional jokes and overall satire, is mostly written and structured in the gummy style of the German Idealists. [12]

Oddly enough, another roadblock is Stirner’s use of the Bible. Writing at a time when the Bible was serious business[13] and everyone could be counted on to recognize a biblical allusion, no matter how obscure, Stirner’s text is full of such biblical language; today, most readers – other than evangelical Christians, who are not likely to be interested – lack such a background,[14] and even find it off-putting. [15]

The future fate of Stirner’s writing career was indeed foretold by his dismal performance on the exams for his teaching certificate: his examiners found “his expression was feeble and tedious,” and “emphasized two major failings: lack of precise knowledge of anything but the Bible, and the possession of an extremely rigorous logical mind which tended to stifle his thought.”[16] The Bible and Hegel: a deadly combination.

This might suggest that Carroll’s edition, which excerpts the text, occasionally re-arranging it or adding material from other Stirner publications, might be preferable. But even if it weren’t out of print, Carroll’s manifest animus makes his selection worthy of suspicion.[17]

Edmund White once distinguished modernist novels, where the author intends every word to be absorbed and savored, from earlier works, what Henry James called “loose, baggy monsters,” where the author assumed his leisurely readers would do a fair amount of skipping and skimming, and if approached in the modernist manner would lead to madness.[18] Whatever Stirner’s intentions, the reader is advised to take the skipping approach.

And there is much here to appreciate![19]

But to do so needs a good translation, and that’s what we have here. It starts with the title, which Landstreicher resolutely restores to its uniqueness: The Unique and Its Property. [20] And like most of the later editors of Byington, he’s corrected the obvious mistakes, such as rendering “You have bats in your belfry” as “You’ve got a wheel in your head.”

Like most German philosophers from Hegel to Heidegger and beyond, Stirner seems to prefer a kind of home-made etymologizing to the logical analysis preferred by his Anglo-American or even French colleagues. The translator’s job, then, is to preserve this word-play as much as possible without making the author sound, frankly, a bit autistic. This is even harder when rendering the text into a language like English, which, though broadly Germanic, prefers to draw on Latin and French to provide elegant variations for related concepts, while regarding such word-play as “the lowest form of humor.”[21]

Take, almost at random, this:

Since competition surrenders [Preisgibt] it all to them, it leaves it all to their appraisal [Priese] or their estimation, and it demands a price [Preis] for it.

And a few lines later:

Know then, you have as much money [Geld] as you have – power; because you just count for [Giltst] as much value [Geltung] as you get hold of for yourself. (pp277-78)

You can see how Landstreicher handles himself, or rather, the text. Sometimes he gets a little creative to help the point across:

In this sentence, Stirner makes a word-play on the syllable “gleich” running through several words. To imitate this, I chose to use the words with the syllable “par.” In this way I could extend the wordplay as far as he had in the German. (p221, Note 225)[22]

Let’s compare a longer passage with the hitherto standard Byington; say, this from p227:

Actually all states, constitutions, churches, etc., have gone under through the escape of individuals; because the individual is the irreconcilable enemy of every universality, every tie, i.e., every fetter. Yet people imagine to this day that the human being needs “sacred ties,” he, the mortal enemy of every “tie.” World history shows that no tie has yet been left unbroken, that the human being defends himself tirelessly against ties of every sort; and yet blinded people think up new ties again and again, and believe that they have achieved the right one, for example, when they put on the tie of a so-called free constitution, a beautiful, constitutional tie: true enough, school ties, the ties of trust between “- -,” seem to have gotten practically rather worn out, but people have gone no further than from apron strings to belts and buckles.

And here’s Byington:

 In general, all States, constitutions, churches, have sunk by the secession of individuals; for the individual is the irreconcilable enemy of every generality, every tie, i.e. every fetter. Yet people fancy to this day that man needs “sacred ties”: he, the deadly enemy of every “tie.” The history of the world shows that no tie has yet remained unrent, shows that man tirelessly defends himself against ties of every sort; and yet, blinded, people think up new ties again and again, and think, e.g., that they have arrived at the right one if one puts upon them the tie of a so-called free constitution, a beautiful, constitutional tie; decoration ribbons, the ties of confidence between “— — —,” do seem gradually to have become somewhat infirm, but people have made no further progress than from apron-strings to garters and collars.

“Escape” seems a better choice than “secession,” which to American ears conjures up images of the Confederacy, of doubtful relevance to individuals (there’s a lot of talk of Stirner rejecting political revolution, à la Marx, for some kind of “individual insurrection,” à la Jünger’s Anarch). Landstreicher notes that the word Austritt also means emerge, perhaps implying that states “go under when individuals escape these institutions by emerging as their own selves.” He also notes that Ordensbander “literally refers to ribboned medals [hence Byington’s “decoration ribbons”] but he is making a play on the word Band or tie … so I decided to make a reference to the “school ties” of the British upper class, [worn] as a sign of a supposed obligation they owe each other.”

This is good stuff, although on the other hand I rather like Byington’s “garters and collars,” even if the archaism is probably irrelevant to Stirner. After all, I won’t pretend my German is anywhere near sufficient to adjudicate such matters myself. I only suggest that as a contemporary English reader, Landstreicher’s rendering, a fresh translation rather than yet another “revision,” is eminently readable and even enjoyable, and with the required notes on matters historical and linguistic striking an admirable balance between the sketchy and the pedantic.

So it’s definitely worth buying – and reading! – even without the added benefit: for every book sold, an Antifa cries.

Notes

[1] Although no one has found the slightest evidence of a connection, the “bounds of coincidence are strained,” Carroll notes, by the similarities of style and substance, listing “Antichrist, immoralism, priest-morality, irrationalism, and superman/egoist… the “death of God,” the ennervating curse of democracy, and the state as the new idol.” Could this be an example of Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance”? Carroll adds that “his book first appeared within days of Nietzsche’s birth.” Carroll, pp24-25.

[2] See, for example, “Max Stirner, the Consummate Individualist” by Rene Walter Pletat, in Aristokratia IV (Manticore Press, 2017).

[3] Reprinted, of course, in my collection The Homo and the Negro: Masculinist Meditations on Politics and Popular Culture; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012), soon to appear in a new, embiggened edition. The “masculinist” movement was first homosexual liberation movement, in pre-War Germany, and was led by many inspired by Stirner; even its journal was called Der Eigene. See Homosexuality and Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany: The Youth Movement, the Gay Movement and Male Bonding Before Hitler’s Rise: Original Transcripts from ‘Der Eigene’ by Harry Oosterhuis (Editor), Hubert Kennedy (Translator); London: Routledge, 1992.

[4] Only one Amazon reviewer seems to have “got” it: “This is not a book about homos or negroes.” Indeed, Stirner has lots of fun with “historical reflections on our Mongolism” and “two Caucasian world ages,” one of Negritude and the other of Mongoloidity; Wolfi is probably right that Stirner is not serious here but mocking Hegelian accounts of world history, but his remarks might apply to my own reflections as well: “I’m not giving the historical reflections on our Mongolism, which I will occasionally insert at this point, with the claim of thoroughness or even merely of reliability, but solely because it seems to me that they could contribute to making the rest clear” (p83).

[5] As Chris Rock said, “Niggers proud to be ignorant.””

[6] Such propinquity is key to the Judaic notion that all Whites are essentially Nazis: “it’s in the blood.” Thus, for today’s “liberal” Israeli, visiting Switzerland for an academic conference, “Best not to think about what the little goose girl would have been doing had she lived 75 years ago.” To which Steve Sailer responds: “Helping her brothers defend Switzerland from the threat of Nazi invasion? Okay, granted the Swiss were anti-Nazi in WWII, but the point is that they were distantly related by blood to Nazis, so that means that they are racially evil: corruption of blood.” As he observed elsewhere, “One of the more striking evolutions of recent decades has been the stealth revival of the ancient concept of hereditary guilt. It’s seldom called that—terms such as “white privilege” and “structural racism” are more popular—but if you’ve been paying attention you’ll note an increasing reversion to this old assumption that the sins of the fathers demand that punishment be visited upon their distant descendants.” And who taught such ethics to the goyim? An interesting comment on such paranoia at Sailer’s later piece: “It must be terrible living in your heads, so…afraid of the world. If it isn’t blacks, it’s Muslims, or worse African Muslims, somebody is always coming for you. Guys, guys, all that paranoia, it’s just in your heads man, lay back, take a puff and try to enjoy it.” Yes, indeed, you have bats in your belfry!

[7] See Wikipedia, here.

[8] “Nietzsche also believed that in music, in particular in the dance, the inner harmonies of the soul gained consummate expression.” Carroll, p33. One could also connect this with the magical philosopher Neville Goddard, a professional dancer who starred in Broadway shows – see Israel Regardie’s chapter on Neville in his 1946 The Romance of Metaphysics, a study of New Thought (the chapter on Neville is reprinted in The Power of Imagination: A Neville Goddard Treasury, edited by Mitch Horowitz [New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2015]) as well as my essay “Magick for Housewives: The Not-so New (and Really Rather Traditional) Thought of Neville Goddard” in Aristokratia IV (Manticore Press, 2017) and my afterword to Neville’s Feeling is the Secret (Amazon Kindle, 2016) – and the actor Clifton Webb, also a Broadway dancer, who I connect with the dancing Krishna in “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty, Part 2,” here.

[9] Master’s Thesis, Department of Government Uppsala University; online here.

[10] Prof. Brian O’Blivion (aka Marshall McLuhan) in Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1983). For an extended presentation, from the alt-Right perspective, of reality as a war of worldviews, with no foundation, see Jason Reza Jorjani, Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos, 2016). Indeed, Jorjani’s work devotes itself to analyzing the spectral (as he calls it) nature of our worldviews, with the aim of giving us conscious control over these spectral presences Stirner would call – spooks. The link to Stirner perhaps comes through Jorjani’s use of Derrida’s Specters of Marx which Wikipedia says “dealt with Stirner and his relationship with Marx while also analysing Stirner’s concept of “specters” or “spooks”.

[11] Nietzsche, The Will to Power (1901).

[12] Thus the early, key section devoted to introducing the diagnosis of “bats in the belfry” is formally designated Section 1.2.2.2.2. Stirner himself later said, anonymously: “Stirner himself has described his book as, in part, a clumsy expression of what he wanted to say. It is the arduous work of the best years of his life, and yet he calls it, in part, ‘clumsy’. That is how hard he struggled with a language that was ruined by philosophers, abused by state- , religious- and other believers, and enabled a boundless confusion of ideas.”Max Stirner,The Philosophical Reactionaries: The Modern Sophists by Kuno Fischer”, reprinted in Newman, Saul (ed.), Max Stirner (Critical Explorations in Contemporary Political Thought), Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, p. 104. On the other hand, Lawrence Stepelevich, notes: “[his] lesser writings reflect Stirner’s stylistic élan, an ease of expression seldom encountered in philosophic literature. The earliest remark upon his style, made by Marx’s one-time friend, Arnold Ruge, was that Stirner was responsible for ‘the first readable book in philosophy that Germany has produced.’ This early praise of Stirner’s skill has found its most recent echo in the words of R.W.K. Paterson: ‘Der Einzige is compulsively readable…. His style, direct, vivid, and economical, has a terseness and candour which cuts like a new knife through the turgid and obscure verbosities which characterized so much of the writing of his neo-Hegelian predecessors.” Quoted by Jason McQuinn, here.

[13] Indeed, Stirner’s elder colleague among the Left Hegelians of Berlin, the so-called “Free Ones,” was Bruno Bauer, who was fired from his academic post for questioning the historical existence of the biggest spook of all: Jesus, thus founding the Jesus Myth school. See my review “Tales of the Christos Mythos,” here. This sort of thing still happens: in 1999, the Confederation of Protestant Churches of Lower Saxony demanded that the government remove Gerd Ludemann from his chair at the University of Gottingen merely for arguing that only about 5% of Jesus’s words could be attributed to him; he was removed from theological studies and his chair renamed “History and Literature of Early Christianity.” See his interview in Minas Papageorgiu, Jesus Mythicism (Thessaloniki, Greece: iWrite.gr Publications, 2015).

[14] Clive James, discussing the problems of translating Dante, includes “the increasingly pressing matter of making even references to the Gospels clear to readers who might not be familiar with them.” See the Introduction to his translation of The Divine Comedy (New York: Liveright, 2012).

[15] Another connection between Stirner and Neville, who presented his teachings as “secret” interpretations of the Bible; for his reasons, see Regardie, op. cit. Stirner, we’ve seen, wants to see that the things we hold greater than ourselves — God, Humanity, Progress — are simply our own ideas, that we have allowed to take control of our consciousness. Neville argues that as Jesus says, “I and the Father are one, yet he is greater than me;” we are our conceptions of ourselves, but as “the conceiver,” we are, did we but know it, greater than they. Compare Stirner in his biblical mode: “The thought of right [for example] is originally my thought; or, it has its origin in me. But when it has sprung from me, then it has ‘become flesh,’ it is a fixed idea.” (Carroll p137). For both, freedom is possible, but only if we realized that we are the owners of, have power over, our “property,” as Stirner would say.

[16] Carroll, p18.

[17] As for the additional material, the most important, Recensenten Stirners, Stirner’s anonymous response to the three reviews he received, has now been translated for us by Landstreicher himself: Stirner’s Critics, with an Introduction by Jason McQuinn; LBC Books / CAL Press, 2013.

[18] See his Introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World’s Classics Hardcovers, 1999).

[19] As Robert M. Price exclaims after advising the reader to abandon the shibboleths of biblical revelation and revel in the text itself; see The Human Bible New Testament; Translated and introduced by Robert M. Price (Cranford, N.J.: American Atheist Press, 2015); see my review here.

[20] Jason McQuinn, op. cit., notes that thanks to Benjamin Tucker insisting that Byington use “Ego,” generations of academics have “refuted” Stirner by attacking one or another version of “egoism.” David Leopold, in his Cambridge University Press edition (1995) — another revised version of Byington, with a new introduction — changed the title (His to Its) “not out of ahistorical considerations of ‘political correctness’ but because Stirner clearly identifies the egoistic subject as prior to gender” (p. xl).

[21] By contrast, as Clive James points out (loc. cit.) “for an Italian poet it’s not rhyming that’s hard;” adding that “Dante is the greatest exemplar in literary history of the principle advanced by Vernon Watkins, and much approved of by Philip Larkin, that good poetry doesn’t just rhyme at the end of the lines, it rhymes all along the line,” and that “Even in the most solemn passage there might occur a touch of delight in sound that comes close to being wordplay.”

[22] If that sounds like at least one note per page, that’s right. By the end, page 377 has note 456!

 

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3 Comments

  1. Kling
    Posted August 13, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Stirner is ignored in philosophy because he dissects and crushes the leftwing hegelians and shames the humanism of Marx and his crew as ridiculous and pious naivety. That is why Marx went crazy over this. In using their own boasting style and method of critique on themselves, he mocks them with ease. Thus he is ignored by academia today. They fear his words, him mocking their substitute for god: humanity.
    With his original findings he should have a prominent place in philosophy, instead they all ignore him like the cowards they are.
    Even Nietzsche tried to put silence around himself being influenced by Stirner, argues this researcher convincingly:
    http://www.lsr-projekt.de/poly/ennietzsche.html

    • James O'Meara
      Posted August 18, 2017 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the link to this excellent article on Stirner/Nietzsche; I shall incorporate it in any future discussion of this matter

  2. Right_On
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    From my reading of Stirner the two main takeaways were:
    1) Yes, you’ve overthrown the monarchy. Bully for you. Yes, you’ve overcome The Church. Well done. But what you’ve failed to realize is that now the State has a monopoly on power and so the big issue in the future will be how to resist the ever-widening scope of state powers.
    2) Egalitarian movements have railed against rule by an elite and are now attacking disparities of wealth. The logical terminus for a full-on believer in equality must be to oppose any differences of opinion. If two men have opposing views they are clearly not equal.

    Combining those two points, Max Stirner predicted (in 1844 !) that a future Marxist state would have one state-sanctioned ideology and anyone who opposed it would be executed.
    When Marx read Stirner’s work he went ape-shit. But ask yourself: Who called it right – Marx or Stirner?

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