I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

The forest passage

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I happened to read Jünger’s The Forest Passage on the heels of Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major. The similarities and differences are striking. Jünger has a helpful assessment of the modern world, and a longing for Faerie, but Tolkien has more to teach us about Faerie and how it relates to the natural world. Both men seem to consider it a lonely task. It may be so at times, but it ought not to be so normally.

Jünger is not nearly supernatural enough, although he realizes that sometimes we really must live contra mundum:

All this [power] only seems to have been given to remote places and times. In reality, it is concealed in every individual, entrusted to him in code, so that he might understand himself, in his deepest, supra–individual power. This is the goal of every teaching that is worthy of the name. Let matter condense into veritable walls that seem to block all prospects: yet the abundance is closest at hand, for it lives within man as a gift, as a time–transcending patrimony. It is up to him how he will grasp the staff: to merely support him on his life path, or to serve him as a scepter. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 47)

He does recognize the church is the normal keeper of sacred truth, that it fails at times in this, and that we may not satisfy our spiritual longing in whatsoever way we please:

One might say that a certain definite quantity of religious faith always exists, which in previous times was legitimately satisfied by the churches. Now, freed up, it attaches itself to all and everything. This is the gullibility of modern man, which coexists with a lack of faith. He believes what he reads in the newspaper but not what is written in the stars. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 60)

He mistrusts institutionalized medicine and public health:

Avoiding doctors, trusting the truth of the body, and keeping an ear open to its voice: this is the best formula for the healthy. This is equally valid for the forest rebel, who must be prepared for situations in which any sickness—aside from the deadly ones—would be a luxury. Whatever opinion one may hold of the world of health plans, insurance, pharmaceutical firms, and specialists, the person who can dispense with all of this is the stronger for it.

A dubious development to be wary of in the highest degree is the constantly increasing influence that the state is beginning to have on health services, usually under philanthropic pretexts. Moreover, given the widespread release of doctors from their doctor–patient confidentiality obligations, a general mistrust is also advisable for consultations; it is impossible to know which statistics one will be included in—also beyond the health sector. All these healthcare enterprises, with poorly paid doctors on salaries, whose treatments are supervised by bureaucracies, should be regarded with suspicion; overnight they can undergo alarming transformations, and not just in the event of war. It is not inconceivable that the flawlessly maintained files will then furnish the documents needed to intern, castrate, or liquidate. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 68–69)

In fact, even if public health functions according to the best intentions, it can backfire on us:

Naturally, the catastrophes result in tremendous callings. When a ship goes down, its dispensary sinks with it. Then other things become more important, such as the ability to survive a few hours in icy water. A regularly vaccinated and sanitized crew, habituated to medication and of high average age, has a lower chance of survival here than a crew that knows nothing of all this. A minimal mortality rate in quiet times is no measure of true health; overnight it can switch into its opposite. It is even possible that it may generate previously unknown contagions. The tissue of the people weakens, becomes more susceptible to attack. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 70)

Neither is democracy a cure–all:

It is disquieting how concepts and things often change their aspects from one day to the next and produce quite other results than those expected. It is a sign of anarchy.

Let us take, for example, the rights and freedoms of individuals in relation to authority. Though they are defined in the constitution, we will clearly have to reckon with continual and unfortunately also long–term violations of these rights, be it by the state, by a party that has taken control of the state, a foreign invader, or some combination of these. Moreover, the masses, at least in this country, are barely still able to perceive constitutional violations as such. Once this awareness is lost, it cannot be artificially recuperated.

Violations of rights can also present a semblance of legality, for example when the ruling party achieves a majority sufficient to allow constitutional changes. The majority can simultaneously be in the right and do wrong—simpler minds may not grasp this contradiction. Even during voting it is often difficult to discern where the rights end and the force begins.

The abuses can gradually intensify, eventually emerging as open crimes against certain groups. Anyone who has observed such acts being cheered on by the masses knows that little can be undertaken to oppose them with conventional means. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 70–71)

Jünger cautions us not to over–much love our lives (c.f., Rev. 12:11) or our possessions:

Anyone who has lived through the burning of a capital or the invasion of an eastern army will never lose a lively mistrust of all that one can possess in life. This is an advantage, for it makes him someone who, if necessary, can leave his house, his farm, his library, without too much regret. He will even discover that this is associated with an act of liberation. Only the person who turns to look back suffers the fate of Lot’s wife. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 89)

And has insight into the machinations of envy:

As there will always be natures who overestimate possessions, so there will never be a lack of people who se a cure–all in dispossession. Yet a redistribution of wealth does not increase wealth—rather it increases its consumption, as becomes apparent in any managed forest. The lion’s share clearly falls to the bureaucracy, particularly during those divisions where only the encumbrances are left over—of the shared fish only the bones remain. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 89)

Written by Scott Moonen

December 28, 2020 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Quotations

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