Tradition and True Authority
Ownness is not an ideal or a thought, hence not a false authority or divinity; ownness is only the immanent expression of myself, and can never be something to which I enslave myself. Ownness is not some other thing thought to be my origin, but rather is the only thing of which I am the origin. Ownness is my concrete power. That Stirner identifies our true value with our own power also reveals a deeper aspect of how we know and manifest Being, even if Stirner does not realize it. The Being which is in ourselves is the only one we can actually experience; in all others, Being is divided from us through the forms of Becoming; no friend, lover or master can truly fulfil that oneness which we may seek in them, for each of them is an other. This is the result of us being not only Being, but also a particular Becoming; the only way we can reach our Being is by living as that manifestation which is ourselves. There is no salvation in anyone else; nobody can reach Being for us, fight our struggle, or give us our value: we only truly know and act Being as a single manifestation of Being, as an individual. And at the core of this manifestation lies power.
It is only by power that we can arrange our particularity, our individual body, so that we are the master of it, and not the opposite, and it is only by power that we can interact in the world around us, manifest our Being against and with other parts of Becoming. It is through power that Being breathes and lives in our particularity, and what is not in our power is not a manifestation of the Being that was given us. Anything else, any master, any idea or any cause outside of us, outside of my power, is not who I really am, is not a part of my manifestation, and if I believe that I am given worth by serving it, I have forgotten my own Being, and will perish together with my cause on that inevitable day it dies and is dissolved into matter. The only authority is that of Being over Becoming, and if I yield to a part of Becoming, if I see it as my origin, I have yielded my power to a false authority, and with my power, myself.
Ownness is what I actually am, the worth I am actually able to create, and if we equate our transcendent ‘I’ with Being, ownness is everything. Stirner’s Egoism is the result of focusing on the ‘uniqueness’ of the ‘I’. As noted, there is nothing else in the world that is exactly me, nothing that I am completely one with, and if I believe that this division in Becoming is my true being, if I only know my material ‘I’, the result is indeed Egoism. But if the Being at the core of my manifestation is my true being, then the ‘I’ is also ‘unique’, but in its aspect of being indivisible, indeterminable and indistinguishable – that is, by being the transcendent Being which is at the core of every manifestation – and the result is Tradition. If our Being is the lord of our Becoming, if our will to power emanates from eternity, ownness is our absolute and only true affirmation of Tradition. Tradition is no longer confounded for a certain faith, a certain dogma or a certain ideology, but is only our own power, as a manifestation of Being.
But we never live and act alone, for dual to my transcendent centre is the material origin of my individual; a family, a history, a land, a people, but also the age in which I live. I am birthed from and into a context: I have a nationality, in a wider sense of the word, which is inseparable from me, and which, together with my spiritual qualities, is at the foundation of me as a manifestation of Being. But this nationality is a finite part of Becoming, and cannot be the lord of Being; if I recognize my spiritual self, I must make the nationality my own, the property of Being. But how can I simultaneously be my own and act amongst others, simultaneously possess and fulfil my material nationality, those times when my nationality demands service? If I don’t see nationality as my only origin, must I not either abandon it or myself?
I can recognize that the body is only the material part of me, and not my true Being; I can then choose to strive towards being the master of my body, and fulfil it as a manifestation of Being. Must then I abandon my body, let it fall, just because I don’t think this part of matter is my sole origin, just because I don’t see my flesh as a ‘calling’? On the contrary, it is first when one becomes the true master of the body, when it is completely within one’s power, that one can truly fulfil it as a manifestation of Being. There are certainly some ‘spiritual’ men who neglect the body, or who reject or seek to outright hurt the body because it is ‘sinful’, but this is due to their making both the body and themselves slaves to a thought outside of the body, and not due to their being masters of the body. If I truly would see the body as mine, as my property, I would out of power and pride keep it clean from all poisons, and I would make it as strong, healthy and beautiful as I can, because anything else would be disobedience on the part of the body, and shame for me as a master. It is only by standing above the body that I can make it into what it truly is, to fulfil it as Becoming, by being a manifestation of Being. But if I would train my body for a cause, be it out of materialistic enjoyment or to make it strong for the sake of the nation or something else, then I am not its master, but rather both I and the body serve another master, a part of Becoming. I must rather aim to turn my will into something self-sufficient, which does not fear the meaninglessness of the body in itself, in order for the body to be true Tradition.
In the same manner, I must make Being act through my nationality, and make it as strong, healthy and beautiful as I can, for it is a part of me as a manifestation. But unlike my body, I am not in command of the whole nation; rather it is the leader who must issue commands over me and everyone else in order for my nationality to be fully realized. I must answer to an authority. The nationalist sets the Nation in and of itself as this authority, and he holds that both I and the leader have the same ‘cause’ in serving the Nation, and that in serving the command of the Nation, I don’t follow a mere command, but rather something ‘greater’. But this only turns the nation, a part of Becoming, into a pseudo-divinity and a fixed thought, just as the liberal posited ‘Man’ as our common cause. The nationalist puts Being into the servitude of the Nation, and thus he makes it into the sole origin of man; he alienates man from his Being when he proclaims that the worth of man is given from outside himself, by serving the Nation and realizing its dogmas. Any deviation from these commands is a sin, and the Nation thus stands as a materialistic successor to the Christian God. The nationalist does not provide a true authority, but only a fixation and an alienation. Nationality is no longer my own, but neither is it the property of the leader; rather, we both have become slaves to Nation as an idol, in our search for a ‘cause’. The true solution is the spiritual authority which arises when the leader is the divine King, for the divine King stands above the nation, has done what I could not and made it his own; and when he commands, he commands as the master of his nationality.
For Stirner, who identifies the ‘I’ with the material Ego, there can be no authority, and thus he thinks that all types of social interaction must be a ‘union of Egoists’, that is, the organic cooperation of masters, who join together for as long as they have a common interest. The point of this union is not to guarantee the ‘liberty’ of its members; it does not exist so that ‘everyone can do as he wants’, but it is rather a creation of ownness; it is my society, even if it will, and must, restrict my individual liberties. It is a society in which its members do not earn each other’s respect by serving the same idea or belonging to the same category, but foremost by their degree of power. This type of society, a society consisting of masters, who by their own power are not slaves to each other or to something else, is not an impossibility, but it is something reserved to a certain type, to a certain spiritual race of men who are so close to Being that they are self-sufficient unto themselves. Ownness is a privilege of the overman, and the union, the own society of masters, can and has only existed among overmen: it is the band of heroes who sail across the sea, united in their Faustian yearning for adventure and war, and it is the order of priests, who come together in their search of knowledge and purity.
But most of us, if not practically every one of us in our age, do not possess this spiritual race; we do not know Being, and we are not capable of aligning our ownness with Tradition. We are, by our low birth, doomed to be lost, and that is why we need, why we will always look for, a true authority. What makes Stirner’s ‘union of Egoists’ ridiculous is that he harbours the hope that everyone could be a master, that what is by its nature a small order of elite could be society in its whole. But most people are slaves, and moreover, they do not know how to discern a true authority from a false one; their clinging to fixed ideas, to ‘spooks’, will only intensify if the men of noble and strong spirit, like Stirner himself, lose themselves to egoism, instead of giving them a true authority. The noble man must be powerful, must make his closeness to Being a living thing in the world of Becoming, otherwise the ignoble will find their own power, and conquer him, making him – ignoble, a mere ghost of an ideal. And if conquered, if he has lost his ownness, man has lost his spiritual race, and does not know Tradition at all, for he cannot act it; and with his power dies the world’s last connection with Being.
At the top of the Traditional societies stands the divine King, he who is both knowledge and action, both spirit and matter. He has been called a son of the gods, or a god himself; this is not a mere myth, but an actual expression of his spiritual race. His origin is not in the world of Becoming; not from his mother, his lands or his people does he truly stem, for he is heaven. He is Being made man, his word is the word of eternity, and his authority is spiritual. By serving him, one serves Being, the core of one’s true self, and one can never be a slave. Quite the opposite: by realizing the imperative of the holy King, man realizes his own Being in the little part of Becoming that is in his own power. By fulfilling the role given to him, or taken by his own will, in the hierarchy, by recognizing in the King’s will his own, he can finally struggle to attain what he could not manage alone: to truly be who he is. He can finally live as a master in his own little world, and at the same time partake in mastery of the whole world. The divine King absorbs the man into the King’s own, he makes him into a part of Tradition. The Traditional society revolves around his sublime power like the planets around the sun, and he is the foundation of the true state, of true authority, and by his conquering spirit, people after people are married into his Empire.
The true state is the pure, self-sufficient will to power of the divine King; it is the lordship of Being over Becoming; and as a noble man has made his body his own, so has the true state made the people and the land into its own. This ownness of the state is a true Traditional society. Being is not an idea or an abstraction, nor really an ‘origin’, but rather the concrete and immanent core of everything existing, and this is what makes the true state differ from a mere totalitarian state. Totalitarianism arises when the state is possessed instead by a part of Becoming, by a fixed idea, and strives to make everything into the image of this idea, whether it be a faith, an ideology, the people or ‘humanity’. The totalitarian state, just as a possessed man, has alienated itself from its Being, and as a slave of its idea, must act as a petty dogmatist and meddle in and condemn all spheres of society. The totalitarian state destroys every genuine expression of Being; everyone must be the creation of the idea, and there can be nothing created, no overhuman playfulness or carelessness in art, no new and brave thoughts in books, no sincere faith in the heart nor joy in a struggle which is completely one’s own. There can only be the dead idea, which kills whatever tries to live. However powerful or long-lived the totalitarian state is, it will sooner or later perish, and so will its ‘cause’, its idea; and into oblivion will follow everyone who was in its dominion. But a true state is eternity in itself, and when society follows its spiritual authority, one can truly say that ‘nothing exists outside of the state’, for it is the state which gives every part of society the Being it could not find by itself, the state that reveals to each part its true existence.
So in conclusion, in order for society to have a true authority, in order for there to be true Tradition, both man and state must recognize Being as his true self, and strive to make everything his own. But if this is the path we want to follow, we can no longer allow ourselves to yearn for salvation, to look for a ‘calling’ or a ‘cause’ in the world for our actions to fulfil. But if we are to be the self-sufficient act of Being, an act without a goal in the world of Becoming, an act which is only power, then what do we have left? The answer is indeed nothingness, for Being, in its purity, is no single being, no single thing, and it is only when we have left every attachment to the world of Becoming behind that we can become what we truly are, a manifestation of Being in our particular qualities. Being is its own, the world is its property, and where Being gives life, it also consumes and destroys, as only Being is eternal. We must not fear the absolute mortality and ‘meaninglessness’ of the world and our material self, for that is what makes it Becoming, and that is what we must choose in order for Being to truly live as its own.
On the final page of The Ego and his Own, Stirner concludes:
In the unique one, the owner himself returns to his creative nothing, of which he is born. … If I concern myself for myself, the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, and I may say: ‘All things are nothing to me.’
If he only had recognized ‘the unique one’ as the eternal breath of Being, there would be in these final words something truly heroic.