Evola on Carlo Michelstaedter, Part 1

Next: Carlo Michelstaedter Part 2 ⇒

The is the first of two parts, in which Julius Evola details his debt to Carlo Michelstaedter. “Persuasion”, for Michelstaedter, is being and “rhetoric” is non-being, or becoming. Hence, he is attempting to describe the man who is persuaded, i.e., the man who has being, who “is”.

Opposed to him, is the man who is always lacking something. He looks to other people, conditions, or things, to fulfill himself. He imagines the future will somehow satisfy him, so he never lives in the present. You have known such types: they are always agitated, forever seeking novelty or excitement. They hide their sense of lack with rhetoric, creating entire worlds out of talk [gerede] which they then inhabit. There is always an injustice, something to change, a new program to adopt, the politics of resentment, a glorious future that kills every current moment. This masks them from facing being in its totality. They don’t even think with their heads, but with their tongues, as Carl Jung says.

Interestingly enough, the persuaded man gives himself a mission of cosmic proportions, viz., to redeem the world.

There is a man in whom the demand of the real individual toward absolute value, toward persuasion, has been confirmed in the modern epoch, like a lightning flash and in a reality intense with life; this man, who in the clearest way, by shattering all compromises by which the I, inadequate in itself, masks its abios bios [“not living life”, Ariphon the Sicyonian], has been able to take life to its goal, compelling it to that which man has terror of, more than any other thing in the world: to place oneself in the presence of oneself, to recognize oneself, to measure oneself at last with that scale which, alone, is the scale of value, of being—that man is Carlo Michelstaedter.

Previously, we alluded to some positions that however are forcefully asserted in Michelstaedter, and almost a tragedy, so as to see that his work to a great extent transcends the framework of an abstract discursive exposition. The fundamental point on which such a work is centered is the need for “persuasion”, i.e., of the I’s absolute sufficiency in itself, understood as the real principle of the individual. Now the concept of persuasion is essentially characterized by Michelstaedter as the opposite of relationships: that is, the I is not in itself, but in “another”, it puts aside the principle of its own being, where its life is conditioned by things and relations, and there is not persuasion, but rather lack, the death of value. Value is only what exists for itself, it does not ask from anyone the principle of its own life and its own power—autarchy. So not only the whole of life consisting of needs, feelings, social conventions, intellectual embellishments, etc., but even the corporeal organism itself and the system of nature (that is, understood as generated, in its infinitely recurrent spatial-temporal development, from the interminable gravitation with which lack pursues being that, however, insofar as it seeks it outside itself, will never succeed in possessing it), is brought back into the sphere of non-value.

The I that is persuaded that it is as continuous as it keeps itself outside the fullness of actual possession and pushes its persuasion onto a later moment, by which it is made dependent; the I flees from itself in every moment, it does not have itself but seeks itself and desires itself, and yet it will never be able to have that in any future, since the future is the very symbol of its privation, the shadow that follows the man who flees from the body of his reality that is maintained at every unchanged point. This is the meaning of everyday life for Michelstaedter except, in one thing, non-value, that which must not be. As opposed to such a situation, this is the voice of persuasion: to endure, to resist lack with all one’s life at every point, not to give up on life—which is lacking in itself, by looking outside or in the future—not to demand, but to hold being in one’s own fist: not to become, but to endure.

While lack, “always anxious about the future, hastens time, and replaces one empty present with the next, the stability of the individual occupies infinite time in the present and stops time. Its firmness is a vertiginous path for all others who are in the current. Its every moment is a century in the life of others—as long as he sets himself on fire and succeeds in enduring into the utmost present”.

To identify such a point, it is rather important to understand the nature of the connection that is contained in the premises: since the world is understood to be produced from the direction of lack, whose concrete incarnation it almost is, (and in that, the idealistic demand remains satisfied, in fact, it is reinforced in significance, because the genesis of the real, as in Buddhism, is connected to a moment of value, to a direction of will) it is an illusion to think that the point of persuasion can be realized through an abstract inner and subjective endurance in a value that, as in the Stoic, would have as opposed to being (nature) such that it is, while not having value. Those who ask for persuasion must instead rise to a world responsibility, the work of persuasion is essentially cosmic. I must not flee my lack—or the world—but take it on myself, adapt myself to its load and redeem it. Michelstaedter in fact says: “You cannot be called persuaded as long as something still is, which is not persuasion” and points to persuasion as the “extreme consciousness of someone who is one with things, has in himself all things: en sunexes [tr. continuous]”. The concrete point of persuasion would therefore have the sense of a cosmic consummation.

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