Evola on Carlo Michelstaedter, Part 2

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The is the second of two parts, in which Julius Evola details his intellectual debt to Carlo Michelstaedter. From Saggi sull’Idealismo Magico.

In order to illuminate Michelstaedter’s central problem, it may be useful to connect the concept of insufficiency or lack to the Aristotelian concept of the imperfect act. The imperfect or impure act is that of powers that do not achieve actuality from themselves, but require the involvement of the other. An example is the act of sensible perception; in it the power of perceiving is not sufficient in itself, it does not produce perception from itself, but needs correlation to the object. Now the fundamental point, which is linked to Michelstaedter’s position, is this: the imperfect act resolves the privation of the I only apparently, since it in reality reconfirms it.

For example, the I is thirsty: as long as it drinks, it will continue to be thirsty, since by drinking he will prove the point of anyone who is not sufficient to his own life, but who needs the “other” in order to live, who is not but becomes: water and the rest are only the symbols of his deficiency (it is necessary to pay attention to this: one does not desire because there is a privation of being, but there is a privation of being because one desires and, in the second place: there is only a desire, e.g. thirst, because there are certain things, e.g. water, but the things desired, just like the privation of the being that drives toward it, are created at birth by the desire for a relative, which therefore is the prius that creates the correlation as its two terms, viz., privation and the related object, thirst and water), and since one feeds on it and demands life from it, the I feeds itself only from its own privation and remains in it, fleeing from that pure or perfect act, from that eternal water, of which Christ speaks (John 4:14-15), so that every thirst, just as every other privation, will be forever defeated. This craving, this obscure drive that brings the I toward the outer world—toward the other—is that which generates the system of finite and contingent reality. Persuasion, which burns at the point of absolute endurance, therefore, such a drive of the pure being-in-itself also has the sense of a consummation of the world.

Now it must be understood in the sense of such a consummation. Here various consequences arise that Michelstaedter did not completely treat. First of all, to say that I must not flee my lack means, among other things, to say that I must recognize myself as the creative function of the world: the justification of idealism follows from it (i.e., the system that says the world is posited by the I) according to a moral imperative. But the world, according to the premise, is recognized as the denial of value. From the general imperative of redeeming the world, of accepting the person of lack, then proceeds, always as the moral postulate, that is, not as theoretical construct, but rather as the object of a morally imperative affirmation—of a practice. A second point is that the same denial of value must be recognized in a certain way as a value. This point is important. If in fact I mean the desire that has generated the world as a brute given, as an irrational absolute, it is evident that persuasion, conceived as its denial, depends on it, therefore it is not in itself unconditionally sufficient but rather owes its life to another, that lets affirm itself in denying itself. In such a case, i.e., in the case that the same craving must not be taken back to an order included in the affirmation of value but remains absolutely a given, persuasion would therefore not be at all persuasion—the initial mystery would inexorably damn its perfection into an illusion.

Therefore, as a moral postulate it is necessary to admit that the same antithesis participates in a certain way in value. But in what way? Such a question brings to life the concept of persuasion into a dynamic principle. It is clear in fact that if persuasion sharpens itself to a pure, unrelated sufficiency—i.e., to a state—rather than to sufficiency as denial of an insufficiency—i.e. to an act, to a relation—the antithesis certainly has a value and is explained: in a first moment, the I must posit privation, a non-value, even if under the condition that it is posited solely because it must be denied, since this act of negation, and this alone, makes the value of persuasion come to light.

Besides, what does it mean to deny the antithesis—which here is the same as saying nature? If you recall that for Michelstaedter nature is a non-value as a symbol, the incarnation of the flight of the I from actual possession of itself, since it is correlative to an imperfect or impure act. It is not therefore a question of annulling this or that determination, since by doing that, one would only hit the effect, not the transcendental root of the non-value; not even annulling in general every action, since the antithesis is not action qua action in general, but rather action insofar as it flees from itself, insofar as “becoming”, and it is not that every action is necessarily such. Rather, what is necessary to resolve is the passive, heteronomous, extraverted mode of action. Now the negation of such a mode is constituted by sufficient action, or actions on the basis of power, which was previously explained. To live every act on the basis of perfect possession is therefore to transfigure the whole of universal determination to the point of expressing only the same body of infinite potestas, of the absolute Individual made of power, such is therefore the meaning of cosmic consummation. As the concreteness of “rhetoric” is the development of the world of dependency and necessity, so the concreteness of persuasion is the development of the world of autarchy as the cosmic dominator, and the point of the austere denial is only the neutral point (laya, “dissolution, extinction”) between the two phases.

The development of Michelstaedter’s views in magical idealism thus results pursuant to logical continuity. On the other hand, Michelstaedter remained in a certain way closed to indeterminate negation and this, in great part, in order not to be fixed sufficiently on that, which, finite and infinite, is not an object or a particular action, but rather a particular way of living whatever object or action. The true Master does not, in general, need to deny (in the sense of annulling) and, with the pretense of rendering it absolute, to exalt life into an immobile undifferentiated unity or sudden inspiration: the creative act, the act of power —that is not an act of desire or violence, but an act of a gift—rather than destroying perfect possession, it witnesses to it and reconfirms it. It is that Michelstaedter, captivated in the immediacy of the terrible intensity in which he experienced the exigency of absolute value, unable to give this a concrete form and therefore to deploy it in the doctrine of power: we can perhaps attribute the tragic end of his mortal existence to that.

3 thoughts on “Evola on Carlo Michelstaedter, Part 2

  1. So much of modern life seems to revolve around a confused and inchoate grasp of “the cloud and the tree are One, to the eye of the child”. They are, but not as dissolved in a mush to be possessed and gobbled as part of the mass, but as the energies of the same All Creative God, which (I learn, thanks to Exile and Cologero) even have different qualities (creating, sustaining, glorifying). One, but never the same. Never the same, truly Infinite, always One. Logos.

  2. “Rather, what is necessary to resolve is the passive, heteronomous, extraverted mode of action.”
    This sounds a lot like “making every task play” or making “all yokes easy”.
    “The true Master does not, in general, need to deny (in the sense of annulling) and, with the pretense of rendering it absolute, to exalt life into an immobile undifferentiated unity or sudden inspiration: the creative act, the act of power —that is not an act of desire or violence, but an act of a gift—rather than destroying perfect possession, it witnesses to it and reconfirms it. ”
    The first sentence here, “to exalt life” perfectly describes the Romantic movement in poetry (not to deny them their insights), at least historically, as well as my own early tendency in life. This is perhaps the finest sentence I’ve read so far in Evola.

  3. Pingback: Evola on Carlo Michelstaedter, Part 1 | Gornahoor

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