first part of the unique (using the underworld amusements edition)
this text is also fully available at theanarchistlibrary.org, for future reference.
first part of the unique (using the underworld amusements edition)
this text is also fully available at theanarchistlibrary.org, for future reference.
The Book of the Law
1. Had! The manifestation of Nuit.
2. The unveiling of the company of heaven.
3. Every man and every woman is a star.
4. Every number is infinite; there is no difference.
5. Help me, o warrior lord of Thebes, in my unveiling before the Children of men!
6. Be thou Hadit, my secret centre, my heart & my tongue!
7. Behold! it is revealed by Aiwass the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat.
8. The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.
9. Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!
10. Let my servants be few & secret: they shall rule the many & the known.
11. These are fools that men adore; both their Gods & their men are fools.
12. Come forth, o children, under the stars, & take your fill of love!
13. I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy.
14. Above, the gemmed azure is
The naked splendour of Nuit;
She bends in ecstasy to kiss
The secret ardours of Hadit.
The winged globe, the starry blue,
Are mine, O Ankh-af-na-khonsu!
15. Now ye shall know that the chosen priest & apostle of infinite space is the prince-priest the Beast; and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given. They shall gather my children into their fold: they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.
16. For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. But to him is the winged secret flame, and to her the stooping starlight.
17. But ye are not so chosen.
18. Burn upon their brows, o splendrous serpent!
19. O azure-lidded woman, bend upon them!
20. The key of the rituals is in the secret word which I have given unto him.
21. With the God & the Adorer I am nothing: they do not see me. They are as upon the earth; I am Heaven, and there is no other God than me, and my lord Hadit.
22. Now, therefore, I am known to ye by my name Nuit, and to him by a secret name which I will give him when at last he knoweth me. Since I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof, do ye also thus. Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.
23. But whoso availeth in this, let him be the chief of all!
24. I am Nuit, and my word is six and fifty.
25. Divide, add, multiply, and understand.
26. Then saith the prophet and slave of the beauteous one: Who am I, and what shall be the sign? So she answered him, bendingdown, a lambent flame of blue, all-touching, all penetrant, her lovely hands upon the black earth, & her lithe body arched for love, and her soft feet not hurting the little flowers: Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body.
27. Then the priest answered & said unto the Queen of Space, kissing her lovely brows, and the dew of her light bathing his whole body in a sweet-smelling perfume of sweat: O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!
28. None, breathed the light, faint & faery, of the stars, and two.
29. For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.
30. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.
31. For these fools of men and their woes care not thou at all! They feel little; what is, is balanced by weak joys; but ye are my chosen ones.
32. Obey my prophet! follow out the ordeals of my knowledge! seek me only! Then the joys of my love will redeem ye from all pain. This is so: I swear it by the vault of my body; by my sacred heart and tongue; by all I can give, by all I desire of ye all.
33. Then the priest fell into a deep trance or swoon, & said unto the Queen of Heaven; Write unto us the ordeals; write unto us the rituals; write unto us the law!
34. But she said: the ordeals I write not: the rituals shall be half known and half concealed: the Law is for all.
35. This that thou writest is the threefold book of Law.
36. My scribe Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the priest of the princes, shall not in one letter change this book; but lest there be folly, he shall comment thereupon by the wisdom of Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
37. Also the mantras and spells; the obeah and the wanga; the work of the wand and the work of the sword; these he shall learn and teach.
38. He must teach; but he may make severe the ordeals.
39. The word of the Law is THELEMA.
40. Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
41. The word of Sin is Restriction. O man! refuse not thy wife, if she will! O lover, if thou wilt, depart! There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse. Accursed! Accursed be it to the aeons! Hell.
42. Let it be that state of manyhood bound and loathing. So with thy all; thou hast no right but to do thy will.
43. Do that, and no other shall say nay.
44. For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.
45. The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!
46. Nothing is a secret key of this law. Sixty-one the Jews call it; I call it eight, eighty, four hundred & eighteen.
47. But they have the half: unite by thine art so that all disappear.
48. My prophet is a fool with his one, one, one; are not they the Ox, and none by the Book?
49. Abrogate are all rituals, all ordeals, all words and signs. Ra-Hoor-Khuit hath taken his seat in the East at the Equinox of the Gods; and let Asar be with Isa, who also are one. But they are not of me. Let Asar be the adorant, Isa the sufferer; Hoor in his secret name and splendour is the Lord initiating.
50. There is a word to say about the Hierophantic task. Behold! there are three ordeals in one, and it may be given in three ways. The gross must pass through fire; let the fine be tried in intellect, and the lofty chosen ones in the highest. Thus ye have star & star, system & system; let not one know well the other!
51. There are four gates to one palace; the floor of that palace is of silver and gold; lapis lazuli & jasper are there; and all rare scents; jasmine & rose, and the emblems of death. Let him enter in turn or at once the four gates; let him stand on the floor of the palace. Will he not sink? Amn. Ho! warrior, if thy servant sink? But there are means and means. Be goodly therefore: dress ye all in fine apparel; eat rich foods and drink sweet wines and wines that foam! Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will! But always unto me.
52. If this be not aright; if ye confound the space-marks, saying: They are one; or saying, They are many; if the ritual be not ever unto me: then expect the direful judgments of Ra Hoor Khuit!
53. This shall regenerate the world, the little world my sister, my heart & my tongue, unto whom I send this kiss. Also, o scribe and prophet, though thou be of the princes, it shall not assuage thee nor absolve thee. But ecstasy be thine and joy of earth: ever To me! To me!
54. Change not as much as the style of a letter; for behold! thou, o prophet, shalt not behold all these mysteries hidden therein.
55. The child of thy bowels, he shall behold them.
56. Expect him not from the East, nor from the West; for from no expected house cometh that child. Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little; solve the first half of the equation, leave the second unattacked. But thou hast all in the clear light, and some, though not all, in the dark.
57. Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.
All these old letters of my Book are aright; but [Tzaddi] is not the Star. This also is secret: my prophet shall reveal it to the wise.
58. I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.
59. My incense is of resinous woods & gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.
60. My number is 11, as all their numbers who are of us. The Five Pointed Star, with a Circle in the Middle, & the circle is Red. My colour is black to the blind, but the blue & gold are seen of the seeing. Also I have asecret glory for them that love me.
61. But to love me is better than all things: if under the night stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein, thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom. For one kiss wilt thou then be willing to give all; but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour. Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices; ye shall wear rich jewels; ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in spendour & pride; but always in the love of me, and so shall ye come to my joy. I charge you earnestly to come before me in a single robe, and covered with a rich headdress. I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you. Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!
62. At all my meetings with you shall the priestess say — and her eyes shall burn with desire as she stands bare and rejoicing in my secret temple — To me! To me! calling forth the flame of the hearts of all in her love-chant.
63. Sing the rapturous love-song unto me! Burn to me perfumes! Wear to me jewels! Drink to me, for I love you! I love you!
64. I am the blue-lidded daughter of Sunset; I am the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky.
65. To me! To me!
66. The Manifestation of Nuit is at an end.
1. Nu! the hiding of Hadit.
2. Come! all ye, and learn the secret that hath not yet been revealed. I, Hadit, am the complement of Nu, my bride. I am not extended, and Khabs is the name of my House.
3. In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found.
4. Yet she shall be known & I never.
5. Behold! the rituals of the old time are black. Let the evil ones be cast away; let the good ones be purged by the prophet! Then shall this Knowledge go aright.
6. I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is theknowledge of me the knowledge of death.
7. I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle. “Come unto me” is a foolish word: for it is I that go.
8. Who worshipped Heru-pa-kraath have worshipped me; ill, for I am the worshipper.
9. Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.
10. O prophet! thou hast ill will to learn this writing.
11. I see thee hate the hand & the pen; but I am stronger.
12. Because of me in Thee which thou knewest not.
13. for why? Because thou wast the knower, and me.
14. Now let there be a veiling of this shrine: now let the light devour men and eat them up with blindness!
15. For I am perfect, being Not; and my number is nine by the fools; but with the just I am eight, and one in eight: Which is vital, for I am none indeed. The Empress and the King are not of me; for there is a further secret.
16. I am The Empress & the Hierophant. Thus eleven, as my bride is eleven.
17. Hear me, ye people of sighing!
The sorrows of pain and regret
Are left to the dead and the dying,
The folk that not know me as yet.
18. These are dead, these fellows; they feel not. We are not for the poor and sad: the lords of the earth are our kinsfolk.
19. Is a God to live in a dog? No! but the highest are of us. They shall rejoice, our chosen: who sorroweth is not of us.
20. Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.
21. We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world. Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength & Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star & the Snake.
22. I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all. It is a lie, this folly against self. The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.
23. I am alone: there is no God where I am.
24. Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this. Beware lest any force another, King against King! Love one another with burning hearts; on the low men trample in the fierce lust of your pride, in the day of your wrath.
25. Ye are against the people, O my chosen!
26. I am the secret Serpent coiled about to spring: in my coiling there is joy. If I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one. If I droop down mine head, and shoot forth venom, then is rapture of the earth, and I and the earth are one.
27. There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.
28. Now a curse upon Because and his kin!
29. May Because be accursed for ever!
30. If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.
31. If Power asks why, then is Power weakness.
32. Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown; & all their words are skew-wise.
33. Enough of Because! Be he damned for a dog!
34. But ye, o my people, rise up & awake!
35. Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty!
36. There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times.
37. A feast for the first night of the Prophet and his Bride!
38. A feast for the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law.
39. A feast for Tahuti and the child of the Prophet–secret, O Prophet!
40. A feast for the Supreme Ritual, and a feast for the Equinox of the Gods.
41. A feast for fire and a feast for water; a feast for life and a greater feast for death!
42. A feast every day in your hearts in the joy of my rapture!
43. A feast every night unto Nu, and the pleasure of uttermost delight!
44. Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu.
45. There is death for the dogs.
46. Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart?
47. Where I am these are not.
48. Pity not the fallen! I never knew them. I am not for them. I console not: I hate the consoled & the consoler.
49. I am unique & conqueror. I am not of the slaves that perish. Be they damned & dead! Amen. (This is of the 4: there is a fifth who is invisible, & therein am I as a babe in an egg. )
50. Blue am I and gold in the light of my bride: but the red gleam is in my eyes; & my spangles are purple & green.
51. Purple beyond purple: it is the light higher than eyesight.
52. There is a veil: that veil is black. It is the veil of the modest woman; it is the veil of sorrow, & the pall of death: this is none of me. Tear down that lying spectre of the centuries: veil not your vices in virtuous words: these vices are my service; ye do well, & I will reward you here and hereafter.
53. Fear not, o prophet, when these words are said, thou shalt not be sorry. Thou art emphatically my chosen; and blessed are the eyes that thou shalt look upon with gladness. But I will hide thee in a mask of sorrow: they that see thee shall fear thou art fallen: but I lift thee up.
54. Nor shall they who cry aloud their folly that thou meanest nought avail; thou shall reveal it: thou availest: they are the slaves of because: They are not of me. The stops as thou wilt; the letters? change them not in style or value!
55. Thou shalt obtain the order & value of the English Alphabet; thou shalt find new symbols to attribute them unto.
56. Begone! ye mockers; even though ye laugh in my honour ye shall laugh not long: then when ye are sad know that I have forsaken you.
57. He that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is filthy shall be filthy still.
58. Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other. Therefore the kings of the earth shall be Kings for ever: the slaves shall serve. There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was. Yet there are masked ones my servants: it may be that yonder beggar is a King. A King may choose his garment as he will: there is no certain test: but a beggar cannot hide his poverty.
59. Beware therefore! Love all, lest perchance is a King concealed! Say you so? Fool! If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him.
60. Therefore strike hard & low, and to hell with them, master!
61. There is a light before thine eyes, o prophet, a light undesired, most desirable.
62. I am uplifted in thine heart; and the kisses of the stars rain hard upon thy body.
63. Thou art exhaust in the voluptuous fullness of the inspiration; the expiration is sweeter than death, more rapid and laughterful than a caress of Hell’s own worm.
64. Oh! thou art overcome: we are upon thee; our delight is all over thee: hail! hail: prophet of Nu! prophet of Had! prophet of Ra-Hoor-Khu! Now rejoice! now come in our splendour & rapture! Come in our passionate peace, & write sweet words for the Kings.
65. I am the Master: thou art the Holy Chosen One.
66. Write, & find ecstasy in writing! Work, & be our bed in working! Thrill with the joy of life & death! Ah! thy death shall be lovely: whososeeth it shall be glad. Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our age long love. Come! lift up thine heart & rejoice! We are one; we are none.
67. Hold! Hold! Bear up in thy rapture; fall not in swoon of the excellent kisses!
68. Harder! Hold up thyself! Lift thine head! breathe not so deep — die!
69. Ah! Ah! What do I feel? Is the word exhausted?
70. There is help & hope in other spells. Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! If thou drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous, let there be subtlety therein!
71. But exceed! exceed!
72. Strive ever to more! and if thou art truly mine — and doubt it not, an if thou art ever joyous! — death is the crown of all.
73. Ah! Ah! Death! Death! thou shalt long for death. Death is forbidden, o man, unto thee.
74. The length of thy longing shall be the strength of its glory. He that lives long & desires death much is ever the King among the Kings.
75. Aye! listen to the numbers & the words:
76. 4 6 3 8 A B K 2 4 A L G M O R 3 Y X 24 89 R P S T O V A L. What meaneth this, o prophet? Thou knowest not; nor shalt thou know ever. There cometh one to follow thee: he shall expound it. But remember, o chose none, to be me; to follow the love of Nu in the star-lit heaven; to look forth upon men, to tell them this glad word.
77. O be thou proud and mighty among men!
78. Lift up thyself! for there is none like unto thee among men or among Gods! Lift up thyself, o my prophet, thy stature shall surpass the stars. They shall worship thy name, foursquare, mystic, wonderful, the number of the man; and the name of thy house 418.
79. The end of the hiding of Hadit; and blessing & worship to the prophet of the lovely Star!
1. Abrahadabra; the reward of Ra Hoor Khut.
2. There is division hither homeward; there is a word not known. Spelling is defunct; all is not aught. Beware! Hold! Raise the spell of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!
3. Now let it be first understood that I am a god of War and of Vengeance. I shall deal hardly with them.
4. Choose ye an island!
5. Fortify it!
6. Dung it about with enginery of war!
7. I will give you a war-engine.
8. With it ye shall smite the peoples; and none shall stand before you.
9. Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! this is the Law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house.
10. Get the stele of revealing itself; set it in thy secret temple — and that temple is already aright disposed — & it shall be your Kiblah for ever. It shall not fade, but miraculous colour shall come back to it day after day. Close it in locked glass for a proof to the world.
11. This shall be your only proof. I forbid argument. Conquer! That is enough. I will make easy to you the abstruction from the ill-ordered house in the Victorious City. Thou shalt thyself convey it with worship, o prophet, though thou likest it not. Thou shalt have danger & trouble. Ra-Hoor-Khu is with thee. Worship me with fire & blood; worship me with swords & with spears. Let the woman be girt with a sword before me: let blood flow to my name. Trample down the Heathen; be upon them, o warrior, I will give you of their flesh to eat!
12. Sacrifice cattle, little and big: after a child.
13. But not now.
14. Ye shall see that hour, o blessed Beast, and thou the Scarlet Concubine of his desire!
15. Ye shall be sad thereof.
16. Deem not too eagerly to catch the promises; fear not to undergo the curses. Ye, even ye, know not this meaning all.
17. Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth. Nu is your refuge as Hadit your light; and I am the strength, force, vigour, of your arms.
18. Mercy let be off; damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them!
19. That stele they shall call the Abomination of Desolation; count well its name, & it shall be to you as 718.
20. Why? Because of the fall of Because, that he is not there again.
21. Set up my image in the East: thou shalt buy thee an image which I will show thee, especial, not unlike the one thou knowest. And it shall be suddenly easy for thee to do this.
22. The other images group around me to support me: let all be worshipped, for they shall cluster to exalt me. I am the visible object of worship; the others are secret; for the Beast & his Bride are they: and for the winners of the Ordeal x. What is this? Thou shalt know.
23. For perfume mix meal & honey & thick leavings of red wine: then oil of Abramelin and olive oil, and afterward soften & smooth down with rich fresh blood.
24. The best blood is of the moon, monthly: then the fresh blood of a child, or dropping from the host of heaven: then of enemies; then of the priest or of the worshippers: last of some beast, no matter what.
25. This burn: of this make cakes & eat unto me. This hath also another use; let it be laid before me, and kept thick with perfumes of your orison: it shall become full of beetles as it were and creeping things sacred unto me.
26. These slay, naming your enemies; & they shall fall before you.
27. Also these shall breed lust & power of lust in you at the eating thereof.
28. Also ye shall be strong in war.
29. Moreover, be they long kept, it is better; for they swell with my force. All before me.
30. My altar is of open brass work: burn thereon in silver or gold!
31. There cometh a rich man from the West who shall pour his gold upon thee.
32. From gold forge steel!
33. Be ready to fly or to smite!
34. But your holy place shall be untouched throughout the centuries: though with fire and sword it be burnt down & shattered, yet an invisible house there standeth, and shall stand until the fall of the Great Equinox; when Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place. Another prophet shall arise, and bring fresh fever from the skies; another woman shall awakethe lust & worship of the Snake; another soul of God and beast shall mingle in the globed priest; another sacrifice shall stain the tomb; another king shall reign; and blessing no longer be poured To the Hawk-headed mystical Lord!
35. The half of the word of Heru-ra-ha, called Hoor-pa-kraat and Ra-Hoor-Khut.
36. Then said the prophet unto the God:
37. I adore thee in the song —
I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veiled sky,
The self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!
Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee: —
I, I adore thee!
Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it fill me!
38. So that thy light is in me; & its red flame is as a sword in my hand to push thy order. There is a secret door that I shall make to establish thy way in all the quarters, (these are the adorations, as thou hast written), as it is said:
The light is mine; its rays consume
Me: I have made a secret door
Into the House of Ra and Tum,
Of Khephra and of Ahathoor.
I am thy Theban, O Mentu,
The prophet Ankh-af-na-khonsu!
By Bes-na-Maut my breast I beat;
By wise Ta-Nech I weave my spell.
Show thy star-splendour, O Nuit!
Bid me within thine House to dwell,
O winged snake of light, Hadit!
Abide with me, Ra-Hoor-Khuit!
39. All this and a book to say how thou didst come hither and a reproduction of this ink and paper for ever — for in it is the word secret & not only in the English — and thy comment upon this the Book of the Law shall be printed beautifully in red ink and black upon beautiful paper made by hand; and to each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or to drink at them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or no; it is no odds. Do this quickly!
40. But the work of the comment? That is easy; and Hadit burning in thy heart shall make swift and secure thy pen.
41. Establish at thy Kaaba a clerk-house: all must be done well and with business way.
42. The ordeals thou shalt oversee thyself, save only the blind ones. Refuse none, but thou shalt know & destroy the traitors. I am Ra-Hoor-Khuit; and I am powerful to protect my servant. Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much! Them that seek to entrap thee, to overthrow thee, them attack without pity or quarter; & destroy them utterly. Swift as a trodden serpent turn and strike! Be thou yet deadlier than he! Drag down their souls to awful torment: laugh at their fear: spit upon them!
43. Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered.
44. But let her raise herself in pride! Let her follow me in my way! Let her work the work of wickedness! Let her kill her heart! Let her be loud and adulterous! Let her be covered with jewels, and rich garments, and let her be shameless before all men!
45. Then will I lift her to pinnacles of power: then will I breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of the earth. I will fill her with joy: with my force shall she see & strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit.
46. I am the warrior Lord of the Forties: the Eighties cower before me, & are abased. I will bring you to victory & joy: I will be at your arms in battle & ye shall delight to slay. Success is your proof; courage is your armour; go on, go on, in my strength; & ye shall turn not back for any!
47. This book shall be translated into all tongues: but always with the original in the writing of the Beast; for in the chance shape of the letters and their position to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall divine. Let him not seek to try: but one cometh after him, whence I say not, who shall discover the Key of it all. Then this line drawn is a key: then this circle squared in its failure is a key also. And Abrahadabra. It shall be his child & that strangely. Let him not seek after this; for thereby alone can he fall from it.
48. Now this mystery of the letters is done, and I want to go on to the holier place.
49. I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.
50. Curse them! Curse them! Curse them!
51. With my Hawk’s head I peck at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross.
52. I flap my wings in the face of Mohammed & blind him.
53. With my claws I tear out the flesh of the Indian and the Buddhist, Mongol and Din.
54. Bahlasti! Ompehda! I spit on your crapulous creeds.
55. Let Mary inviolate be torn upon wheels: for her sake let all chaste women be utterly despised among you!
56. Also for beauty’s sake and love’s!
57. Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!
58. But the keen and the proud, the royal and the lofty; ye are brothers!
59. As brothers fight ye!
60. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.
61. There is an end of the word of the God enthroned in Ra’s seat, lightening the girders of the soul.
62. To Me do ye reverence! to me come ye through tribulation of ordeal, which is bliss.
63. The fool readeth this Book of the Law, and its comment; & he understandeth it not.
64. Let him come through the first ordeal, & it will be to him as silver.
65. Through the second, gold.
66. Through the third, stones of precious water.
67. Through the fourth, ultimate sparks of the intimate fire.
68. Yet to all it shall seem beautiful. Its enemies who say not so, are mere liars.
69. There is success.
70. I am the Hawk-Headed Lord of Silence & of Strength; my nemyss shrouds the night-blue sky.
71. Hail! ye twin warriors about the pillars of the world! for your time is nigh at hand.
72. I am the Lord of the Double Wand of Power; the wand of the Force of Coph Nia–but my left hand is empty, for I have crushed an Universe; & nought remains.
73. Paste the sheets from right to left and from top to bottom: then behold!
74. There is a splendour in my name hidden and glorious, as the sun of midnight is ever the son.
75. The ending of the words is the Word Abrahadabra.
The Book of the Law is Written
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.
Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.
Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence.
All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.
Love is the law, love under will.
The priest of the princes,
we will be discussing feyerabend’s article (not from either of his books, but from a lecture), “how to defend society from science”.
speech of the nameless, from black seed 6 (there are probably still copies at the long haul, if not, then leave a comment here).
Gens: A Feminist Manifesto for the Study of Capitalism
by Laura Bear, Karen Ho, Anna Tsing and Sylvia Yanagisako
This post is part of the series Generating Capitalism
1. What is Gens?
Our title signals a major redefinition of the multilayered historical meanings of the term gens. Gens began as the Roman concept of a family unit descended from a common male ancestor and was scaled up to social distinctions like aristocratic lineage. It was transformed by Lewis Henry Morgan to found the anthropological study of kinship and reveal the “original” matriarchal origins of community (Trautmann 1992; Feeley-Harnik 2002). Friedrich Engels then drew on Morgan to argue that the patriarchal form of gens led to the end of matriarchal systems. Gens is also, of course, the etymological root of gender, genus, genre, generations, and generate. We find this term broadly helpful because it carries a long history of the appropriation of human and non-human life-forces by social forms. Its varied usage inspires reflection on the depictions of these life-forces that in turn contribute to forms of social inequality. Moreover, it specifically refers to a history of contradictions between male authority and female kinship ties that signals the mix of capture and generativity that characterizes all social power. Finally, by adopting this term, we play with the irony that a patriarchal unit provides the root for the word gender even as we found our approach to capitalism on a more liberating (but hidden) ancestry of feminist analyses of gender, kinship, and race, as well as other forms of epistemological insights garnered from the margins.
Gens is a capacious, flexible term that references our interest in the generative powers of capitalism and the inequalities these powers create. In this sense, we are particularly focused on the generative aspect of the term that is centrally concerned with the means and mechanisms—the very processes of generation—through which systems and socialities are made.
Gens: A collective with feminist ancestry for the study of capitalist inequality.
2. Why a Feminist Manifesto?
It is through a deep engagement with feminist approaches that we recognize the need to challenge the boundedness of the domain of “the economic.” Our alternative approach focuses on the full range of productive powers and practices through which people constitute diverse livelihoods (and from which capitalist inequalities are captured and generated) as they seek to realize the potentialities of resources, money, labor, and investment. We see this conversation as revitalizing feminist substantivist approaches to “the socio-economic” (e.g., Kondo 1990; Mills 1999; Ong 1987; Rosaldo 1980; Strathern 1988; Weiner 1992; Wilson 1999; Wolf 1992). While historically, feminist substantivists recognized that the narrow domaining and disembedding of “market” and “non-market” relations were illusions and used these insights to critique dominant analyses, they did not articulate a more comprehensive approach to capitalism. Redeploying and expanding these tools of analysis not only help us displace other models in which the world of the household, kinship, and “non-capitalist” institutions are radically different in their forms of sociality from the world of the market, but also allow us to develop a “generating capitalism” approach to the inequalities of capitalist social relations.
Feminism challenges the discursive representations of “the economic” as a domain.
3. The Economy is not a Logic, nor is Capitalism Its Vehicle
Despite the many and varied attempts to bring politics, society, and history inside analyses of capitalism, we find that an imagined “economic logic” returns again and again as the driving force in this scholarship. The economic is repeatedly and relentlessly imagined as a singular logic that is derived from a pre-made domain and expresses itself in historical and cultural realities. That “the economy” is an accepted and relatively bounded focus of study demonstrates the taken-for-grantedness of such already made worlds, characterized by practices and standardizing logics that are assumed to cohere in them. Anthropologists and other critical scholars (Ho 2005; Kasmir 1999; Ong and Collier 2004; Tsing 2000) have long written against such models, demonstrating that totalizing frames—though explicitly articulated as critiquing and challenging capitalism—end up reproducing capitalist dreams and what Gibson-Graham (1996) call “capitalocentrism.” Alternatively, we understand capitalism to be formed through the relational performance of productive powers that exceed formal economic models, practices, boundaries, and market devices. Instead of taking capitalism a priori, as an already determining structure, logic, and trajectory, we ask how its social relations are generated out of divergent life projects. We are not invested in a singular origin point from which an overarching logic of capitalism is scaled up (or extended down), nor do we assume that everyone holds or operates in accordance with the same core economic principles. Instead, we are concerned with the unstable, contingent networks of capitalism that surround us. These are more fragile and more intimate than accounts of inevitable core contradictions or determining economic logics would have us presume. They are generated from heterogeneity and difference, and from our varied pursuits of being and becoming particular kinds of people, families, or communities (see also Narotsky and Besnier 2014).
Our approach aims to join with other important interventions that anthropology has made as a discipline to such debates. Pioneering work has revealed both the power of economistic practices and the diversity of the social relations of capitalism (Dunn 2008; Elyachar 2005; Miller 2002; Mitchell 1998, 2002). While we draw from this rich analytical tradition to highlight diverse pursuits of value and the constitutive power of boundary-making, our approach does not begin with markets and explicit economic practices. It focuses instead on the diverse and wide-ranging practices of life and production that cross-cut social domains.
It is crucial at this stage to underscore our recognition of the influence and power of capital. We also acknowledge the importance of systemic and structural analyses. Yet, we emphasize that structure itself is not pre-formed, but heterogeneously made through processes of aligning multiple projects, converting them toward diverse ends that include (but are not limited to) the accumulation and distribution of capital. Acknowledging the power and structural formations of capital does not in any way necessitate that we grant either capital or capitalism a singular, coherent, and totalizing logic.
The gens approach, then, is a concerted strategy to reveal the constructedness—the messiness and hard work involved in making, translating, suturing, converting, and linking diverse capitalist projects—that enable capitalism to appear totalizing and coherent. Representations of capitalism that do not underscore these labors run the risk of conflating the interests and the actions of capital, thus inadvertently and teleologically reproducing the invisible hand. Furthermore, our questions about instability and generativity return us to the contingent production of inequality and structural violence. To notice heterogeneity is not to deny the depth or breadth of these injuries, but to explain and thereby, ultimately, to challenge them.
Capitalism is at its core a diverse, intimate network of human and non-human relations.
4. Class is Generated within Historically Shifting Dynamics of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Kinship
A central finding of feminist anthropology has been this positive fact: Class does not exist outside of its generation in gender, race, sexuality, and kinship (Bear 2007; Fernandez-Kelly 1984; Ho 2009; Ong 1987; Rofel 1999; Rubin 1975; Yanagisako 2002, 2013; Zavella 1984). If we want to understand structural relations within capitalism, we need to begin with how they are made through broader processes of human and non-human relations. Positing “class” as an ideal-type outside such relations obfuscates the analysis, once again confusing capitalism with some imagined, overlaying economic logic. Feminist scholars have traced how Marxist approaches—however otherwise productive—used gendered, sexualized, and racialized figures in the making of even its earliest critical analyses (Scott 1999; Ferguson 2004; Tsing 2009). Moreover, the feminist critique of nature has showed how the fertile generativity of the world has been repeatedly used to represent and construct distinctions of class, race, kinship, and nation (Yanagisako and Delaney 1995; Franklin and McKinnon 2002; Stoler 2002). We draw on this work in many ways, in particular we use it to explore how, not just forms of unequal personhood, but even the raw materials and machines of capitalism are configured in historical encounters (Tsing forthcoming).
The question of accumulation is central to our discussion. We are interested in how inequality emerges from heterogeneous processes through which people, labor, sentiments, plants, animals, and life-ways are converted into resources for various projects of production. We recognize that these conversions—although tremendously powerful—are not always complete, consistent, or coherent. Some of these conversions are enacted through formalizations such as money, contracts, audit, yield curves, and financial models. Other conversions occur through intimate social relations such as marriage, parenthood, friendship, gifts, and inheritance. Yet the life-worlds, as well as the processes and outcomes of these conversions, can remain divergent. The recent study by Thomas Piketty (2014) on wealth inequality documents the crucial role that inheritance from parents to children has played historically in the divergence of wealth. His findings provide overwhelming evidence of the centrality of kinship to capital accumulation and class relations. His history of inequality in the “leading” capitalist societies provides overwhelming evidence that class inequality cannot be understood or solved without attention to other structures of power, including those at work in the most intimate relations.
Historical encounters make structures rather than the other way around.
5. Conversion Devices do not Produce Reality
In recent years, a good deal of scholarship on capitalism has focused on market devices and economic modeling. While important, this work often takes for granted what counts as, or what is, included in the economic. It thereby narrows analyses of the generative processes of production, distribution, and consumption, and removes from consideration the ways in which these processes variably entail broader human and non-human relations. Rather than focusing on how economic models generate the real or how the real exceeds them (two undoubtedly productive, if limited, critical moves), we approach these formalizations as conversion processes between diverse life projects. This mediation is important because it shapes accumulation and class relations without determining them. We argue that diverse life practices, relations, experiences, and contexts—shaped by kinship, charisma, sentiment, status, race, gender, class, nation, etc.—articulate with these dominant processes in unexpected ways.
We also argue that formal models emerge from diverse lifeworlds and are not simply manifestations of singular core logics. Instead, they are generated by particular social and historical experiences, and, through laborious translation and conversion work, they often become “global.” In so doing, they mediate objects that come to appear abstracted and cut off from their origins. The key power of these models in contemporary capitalism comes from their ability to erase particularity and sever objects, people, and resources from their contexts (Tsing forthcoming; Bear 2013).
Because conversion devices have this capacity to decontextualize, they make diverse social and economic projects seem coherent despite (and through) the heterogeneous, disaggregated practices from which they are constituted. A central aim of our collective is to examine how these mediations make capitalism appear to be a consistent force. Our focus is not just on formal procedures of documentation, mathematical modeling, and contracts, but on the sentiments and performances of personhood, collectivity, and sociality that always accompany formal (and informal) processes. We also look beyond market exchanges and monetary forms to explore these conversions to take into account the full range of mediations: for example, between state debt and social debt, humanitarian projects and entrepreneurship, and non-human forms and commodities or resources.
Conversion devices mediate, but do not determine sociality or human/non-human relations.
6. Financialization is a Powerful yet Heterogeneous and Contingent Process of Capture and Conversion
Finance’s undue influence in the twenty-first century is often taken to index the penultimate expression and triumph of neoliberal logics, but the specificities of finance’s rise are important here, and underexamined. On the one hand, finance—as a constellation of priorities, practices, and ideologies that engage with, are based on, and seek to convert already existing (and highly varied) assets into more liquid forms of capital—is age-old. Financialization, it is important to distinguish, refers to the scaling up and growing influence of finance, and specifically the increased linking, translation, and interactions between a financial mode of apprehending the world and other social domains (Ho forthcoming).
While our generating capitalism approach tackles head-on the massive socio-economic shifts that have made institutions, natural resources, governmental entities, education, retirements, etc., increasingly dependent on financial products, measurements, and values, we also insist that the processes of finanicalization are uneven, specific, and contingent. Moreover, this scaling up (i.e., the far-reaching influence of finance institutionally, regionally, and globally, as well as its remaking of individual subjectivities and selves) is dependent upon those multiple and non-linear cultural, material, political, and legal transformations that also need to occur in order to enable the messy conversions of non-financial assets.
How does investigating the devolution and outsourcing of risk to these heterogeneous lifeworlds help us to understand processes of financialization differently? Does a re-assessment of the assumption of risk in finance and its historical configuration enable us to rethink purported capitalist logics and the dominant narrative of financialization? Undoubtedly, yes and yes. For example, if the widespread imposition of subprime credit depended, in part, upon the historical encounter with racist redlining as well as subprime credit’s productive recalling and active differentiating from this trauma (while reproducing its effects) in order to lubricate the conversion of household incomes and relations (especially among African Americans) into finance, then we can begin to see how financialization is integrally a story of households, race, and the manufacture of risk. Indeed, various financial products and forms of advice can both rely on and enable conversions within households that mediate the market and the family (Han 2012; James 2014).
Financialization is the explicit application of particular financial market values to new domains, fracturing illusions that capitalism is separate from multiple, intersecting sites of production, such as the household, corporations, or education.
7. Immaterial and Affective Labor are Old and New
A critical yet more encompassing vision of the generative powers that are drawn upon and converted in the capitalist production of value also leads us to challenge recent claims that capitalism has undergone a historical shift from an industrial era in which “industrial labor” was dominant to a “post-industrial” era in which “immaterial labor” has become hegemonic. These narratives of capitalist transformation are rooted in the well-documented decline of the secondary sector (industrial production) and the concomitant increase in the tertiary sector (service industries) that have occurred since the 1970s in dominant capitalist countries. Because no material or durable goods are produced in service industries ranging from health care and education to finance and transportation, work in this sector has been classified by some scholars as immaterial labor. In an “informational economy,” social relations, communication systems, information and affective networks have supposedly made such immaterial labor increasingly crucial and, therefore, more highly valued (Hardt and Negri 2000).
To be sure, discussions of immaterial and affective labor acknowledge earlier feminist critiques indicating the narrowness of Marxist conceptions of labor, and reiterate the argument that the unpaid domestic work of women is as socially productive as industrial labor. At the same time, however, by constructing a binary in which immaterial labor is imbued with affect while industrial labor is devoid of it, this approach erroneously attributes inherently different creative energies and communicative powers to these forms of labor.
Missing in discussions of affective labor in particular is a critical recognition that the distinction between the “instrumental action of economic production” and the “communicative action of human relation” (Hardt and Negri 2000, 293) is itself an ideological construct that obscures the communicative dimension of all human action, including capitalist production and distribution. Treating this ideological distinction as an objective difference misses the most central and enduring core argument of feminist scholars—namely, that it is through the making of such categorical distinctions among human actions and actors that inequality is generated (Yanagisako 2012).
The category of immaterial (affective) labor creates a false binary that attributes inherently different creative energies and communicative powers to forms of labor ordered in a hierarchy of value.
8. The Time-Spaces of Capitalism are Heterogeneous
The first wave of theories of “neoliberal” capitalism wrote of global workplaces as the epitome of the compressed and accelerated space-time that accompanied new forms of production and technology (Castells 1996; Harvey 1989). Other authors suggested that all social experience was now suspended in a shallow present characterized by an evacuation of the near and far future (Guyer 2007). But ethnographic analyses of outsourced, globally linked and financed workplaces reveal a different reality. Although compressed and accelerated space-time appears to be a force external to society in new technologies and managerial strategies, its implementation in workplaces brought it into relationship with complex social practices of time-space (Upadhya 2009; Zaloom 2006). There is no singular or uniform social timespace in contemporary capitalism. Instead there are complex timescapes in which we attempt (through the labor in and of time) to coordinate human and non-human activities (Thrift and May 2001; Bear 2014).
Yet in spite of opening up a diversity of timescapes to analysis in these ways, there is still a lacuna in our understanding of how such timescapes intersect in practice. In particular, we have yet to trace how the polychronies of finance capital, technological instruments, predictive devices, representations of time, social disciplines, non-human resources, and social reproduction are mediated within workplaces and communities. This gap is problematic because without an analysis of the contradictions and negotiations of these polychronies we cannot explore two key elements of contemporary economic life: the increasing uncertainty of the process of capital accumulation; and the centrality of the rhythms of credit and deficit to productivity (Bear 2014; Graeber 2012; Roitman 2003). In addition, attention to these issues should ultimately undermine any idea that speed or time economy—the grossest simplification of efficiency’s logics—is at the heart of capitalism. Instead, we will be able to explore the heterogeneous forms of pacing, duration, waiting, pause, obsolescence, and delay that also characterize its generative rhythms.
The time-space contradictions of capitalism are multiple and mediated through the human labor in/of time.
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mental health, and anarchist attitudes towards, definitions of, etc is the latest in an impromptu series of readings on practical, daily life topics.
this is a reader from belli research institute, probably not anarchist, but apparently anarchist friendly?
we can decide. i believe we agreed we could read the whole thing in a week.
three essays from the capitalism issue of ajoda, including dance with the devil, proudhon’s ghost, and not saying sorry, and one from slingshot called i, capitalist.
some questions to consider while reading:
1. how does this apply to your life? does it, or will it, affect what you do and think? how? or why not?
2. how is the context similar to yours and how is it different? (what do you know about the context?)
3. what do you agree with and what do you disagree with? why?
4. who is someone you know who says things like this? what kinds of conversations have you had with that person (or people)? where have they been great, and where bogged down?
5. does the reading seems inconsistent in places? where and how?
6. what are the some consequences of the thinking or reasoning in the reading (if one extrapolates)?
7. who does the reading include, and who does it leave out?
8. if you had to fit this reading into an anarchist tendency, which would it be in? or if it spans different tendencies, which, and how?
9. are there jargon terms? what are they?
the broken teapot (three articles and an intro).
1. how does this apply to your life? does it, or will it, affect what you do and think? how? or why not?
2. how is the context similar to yours and how is it different? (what do you know about the context?)
3. what do you agree with and what do you disagree with? why?
4. who is someone you know who says things like this? what kinds of conversations have you had with that person (or people)? where have they been great, and where bogged down?
5. does the reading seems inconsistent in places? where and how?
6. what are the some consequences of the thinking or reasoning in the reading (if one extrapolates)?
7. who does the reading include, and who does it leave out?
8. if you had to fit this reading into an anarchist tendency, which would it be in? or if it spans different tendencies, which, and how?
The True Believer by eric hoffer
Drawing First Blood
I have no ancestors! For me the creation of the world dates from the day of my birth; for me the end of the world will be accomplished on the day when I shall restore to the elementary mass the apparatus and the afflatus which constitute my individuality. I am the first man, I shall be the last. My history is the complete result of humanity; I know no other, I care to know no other. When I suffer, what good do I get from another’s enjoyment? When I enjoy, in what do those who suffer detract from my pleasures? Of what consequence to me is that which happened before me? How am I concerned in what will happen after me? It is not for me to serve as a sacrifice to respect for extinct generations, or as an example to posterity. I confine myself within the circle of my existence, and the only problem that I have to solve is that of my welfare. I have but one doctrine, that doctrine has but one formula, that formula has but one word: ENJOY! Sincere is he who confesses it; an imposter is he who denies it.
This is bare individualism, native egoism; I do not deny it, I confess it, I verify it, I boast of it. Show me, that I may question him, the man who would reproach and blame me. Does my egoism do you any harm? If you say no, you have no reason to object to it, for i am free in all that does not injure you. If you say yes, you are a thief, for, my egoism being only the simple appropriation of myself by myself, an appeal to my identity, an affirmation of my individuality, a protest against all supremacy, if you admit that you are damaged by my act in taking possession of myself, by my retention of my own person — that is, the least disputable of my properties — you will declare thereby that I belong to you, or, at least, that you have designs on me; you are an owner of men, either established as such or intending to be, a monopolist, a coveter of another’s person, a thief. There is no middle ground; either right lies with egoism, or it lies with theft; either I belong to myself, or I become the possession of someone else. It cannot be said that I should sacrifice myself for the good of all, since, all having to similarly sacrifice themselves, no one would gain more by this stupid game than he had lost, and consequently each would remain destitute — that is, without profit, which clearly would make such sacrifice absurd. If, then, the abnegation of all cannot be profitable to all, it must of necessity be profitable to a few; these few, then, are the possessors of all, and are probably the very ones who will complain of my egoism.
Every man is an egoist; whoever ceases to be one becomes a thing. He who pretends it is not necessary to be one is a sly thief.
Oh, yes, I know, the word has an ugly sound; so far you have applied it to those who are not satisfied with what belongs to them, to those who take to themselves what belongs to others; but such people are in accord with human impulse; you are not. In complaining of their rapacity, do you know what you do? You establish your own imbecility. Hitherto you have believed there were tyrants. Well, you are mistaken: there are only slaves.
Where nobody obeys nobody commands.
—Anselme Bellegarigue, 1850
The history of civilization is the search for Utopia, the pursuit of a static, idealized social form where all individuality and variation is melted into the crucible of one unifying belief system. It has been a millennia-long military campaign to contain all within a single structure, where constant sameness is the ideal, to absorb and convert the outsiders who venture within the charmed circle, and to flatten and standardize life by entangling all of us in the spiderweb of an abstract social contract. The civilizing process itself — that is, domestication — is part and parcel of the utopian project, as it attempts to perfect and re-engineer the vital forces of the self-exalting individual, to turn humans — who are a self-centered mixture of hate and gentleness, violence and peace, greed and generosity — into masked animals who feel shame for all that is biological and natural, to render them internally fragmented, divided, and broken (and hence, more amenable to control). To accomplish this, society invents ideas and images to cover those instincts it considers in need of taming; it formulates various ideologies to convince its subjects that selfishness is wrong and should be suppressed, and that the healthy egoistic impulses of a free man or woman must be denied expression in the interests of group-stability. From the ideal republic of Plato to the ideal republic of Lenin, civilization has produced unquantifiable, competing visions of Utopia that each vie for mastery, and that each bear identifiable similarities: They are routinely masked under philanthropic guises, and they all advocate the absorption of the individual into the social body — often (and almost satirically) in the name of “collective freedom”.
The sole utopian current that explicitly asserts the sovereignty of the individual is anarchism, certainly the most paradoxical of the “isms” because it insists on absolute individual and collective freedom. From these shared propositions have emerged the unavoidable dilemmas: how to synthesize complete individual freedom with social identification and a strong sense of social responsibility? Is self-determination compatible with any kind of social contract? And more pointedly, do most people even want the unconditional freedom that anarchism, in its more glorious and inspired moments, postulates? These are the questions that have always checkmated anarchists who engage in large-scale social planning. They start out talking about anarchy and end up advocating some particularly weak version of direct democracy.
But how could it be otherwise? Every attempt to free humanity en masse is bound to fail because collective self-determination is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as the common good, for there is no good that is common to all. Society, collective, and public are only convenient terms to designate individuals in the aggregate; they are not entities — they have no bodies, minds, interests, or real existence: A collective has no self, and is but a collection of selves who have waived their individual powers and will to self-determination, for what is claimed to be the interests of the majority. The price paid for collective unity is always the subordination of the member units, which is the antithesis of anarchy (as we understand it). The ideal Free Society of autonomous but federated collectives that Social Anarchists envision (The AK Press version of anarchy) differs very little from the state capitalist reality of autonomous but interlocking corporations: in both cases individual sovereignty is fettered and repressed so that collective mediocrity may flourish. Beyond the fact that this federation-model constitutes one of the most boring and narrow images of what liberation might mean that it’s possible for the human mind to conceive, the very desire for individual difference — or uniqueness — is destined to be held competitive and dangerous to the egalitarian (or inevitably, hierarchical) solidarity of these federations and communes, and the anarchist Mass utopia, if it were ever implemented (which it won’t be), would inescapably become a reign of stagnancy, servility, and conformity. It’s difficult to regard collectivist anarchists as anarchists at all, since they simply want to turn over what amounts to State power to their communes and federations and to promote party lines and group think in the interest of a fraudulent solidarity —And woe betide anyone who dissents from the collective plan or decision!
That this concern is not mere boogey-man scaremongering is borne out by a critical examination of what many consider the pivotal moment in anarchist history, the Spanish Civil War (and specifically the practices of the falsely titled anarcho-syndicalist CNT, which has been outrageously glorified in innumerable studies, and which actually had a brief opportunity to try to implement their utopia). Regarding syndicalist federalism, in “What is the CNT?,” Jose Peirats ominously records that “Federation always implies freedom and self-government of the federated bodies, but this does not mean their independence.” And this is spelt out even more clearly in the Rule Book of the CNT, in which its constitution is described. Here we are told that in the CNT “We recognize the sovereignty of the individual, but we accept and agree to carry out the collective mandate taken by majority decision”. This clause is reinforced by others, which state that “anarcho-syndicalism and anarchism recognize the validity of majority decisions” and that “the militant… is obliged to comply with majority decisions even when they are against his own feelings”! This constitution was operative when the CNT was a minority organization in opposition. What its application would have meant when the CNT had taken “over the tasks of production and distribution after the revolution” is not hard to guess — at best, a theoretically democratic federalism; at worst, an economic totalitarianism. In either case it would not be anarchy.
It only remains to add that the Spanish syndicalist de Santillan saw one of the roles of the syndicalist federal economic council as the distribution of Labor from one region to another, which gives us a picture of the syndicalist new order that is rather different from an anarchist vision of a liberated world. Needless to say, we’re not told by these social saviors what would happen to Labor that refused to be distributed according to the orders of de Santillan’s “directed and planned socialized economy,” but it becomes pretty apparent that the syndicalists just wanted to replace the State with an industrial organization every bit as opposed to self sovereignty — and this observation applies equally to the utopian schemes of the so-called libertarian socialists and anarcho-communists, with their mechanized, efficient picture of social perfection (essentially just another form of the Leftist workers paradise).
If history and the record of every collectivist experiment large and small prove anything it is the staggering — in fact insurmountable — difficulties and complexities of such a proposed mass organization. What happens to those individuals who don’t wish to be planned, who don’t like the Jobs assigned to them by their fellow workers, and who wish to exist outside the purview of the absolute power of these workers councils? Or how about those who don’t wish to be citizens but to be free of citizen-hood, to escape from statehood (regardless of what it’s called), those who desire to secede from this fancied, singular entity called society? What happens when an absolutely total unanimity doesn’t reign in the federated pyramid of workers councils, when separations don’t magically disappear, and some individuals find the plans and democratic decisions of others not to their liking? The common ownership ideal of these left-anarchists would make Society or Humanity the new proprietor, the new lord-god. And if Society is the owner, then everyone is owned by Society and must suffer its dictation.
Anarchy is freedom, and this most assuredly includes the freedom not to be a socialist or to live like one, and the freedom not to limit one’s identity to any social role — especially that of worker. It’s the freedom not to participate in communal activities or to share communal goals, or to pray before the idol of Solidarity. It’s freedom not only from the rule of the State but also from that of the tribe, village, commune, or production syndicate. It’s the freedom to choose one’s own path to one’s own goals, to map out one’s own campaign against Authority, and, if desired, to go it alone.
Of course, anarcho-syndicalism is no longer a credible or even very active force, and only continues to linger around anarchist circles as a type of phantom belief, analogous to the syndrome of phantom limbs — a limb such as an arm or leg that someone no longer possesses, yet which still seems to be there, attached to the body, and continuing to cause pain or distraction. But the social forecasts of the anarcho-communists and anarcho-socialists (who, regrettably, are still with us) are actually not substantially different, in that they all envision something akin to this workers council model — an entirely leftist political structure, about which anarchists ought to be embarrassed. This extended intercourse with decayed leftist thinking is partly why anarchist theory has gone flabby, and helps clarify why so much important anarchist history has remained undocumented.
But anarchism, though a political or anti-political philosophy, is not a doctrine, and the anarchist theoretical spectrum, because it does (in the final analysis) stress freedom, has never become an ideology that is pure. Many anarchists have been doctrinaire, even dogmatic, but no single doctrine or school has ever encompassed more than a part of anarchist thought. Consequently, anarchism has also generated radically individualist currents that place the majesty of the free individual first, foremost, and above all things — including society. Of course, it has to be admitted that these aren’t the voices that generally appear in anarchist history books (which are in the main overshadowed by anarcho-communist perspectives), and when they are given space it’s typically in the form of footnotes. Yet these remain some of the more wild, undomesticated, and disreputable voices in anarchist thought, the voices that embody the most radical qualities of the anarchist revolt — the “heart of the blast”, so to speak — and in them we catch gleams of the elemental and barbaric will to sovereignty that characterizes an unconquered individual. These are anarchists who don’t confuse self rule with social reform, the dethroning of authority with planning committee meetings, or insurgency with daydreaming. Their revolt springs from self-interest — a conscious egoism — but they’re honest enough to admit it, without shame and without justifications.
From an individualist perspective, to speak of an anarchist politics is an absurdity. Politics is the science of how to organize a society, a collectivity (or town — Polis) and anarchism, taken to its furthest conclusions, is anti-collectivist. Anarchism is an individual way of engaging with the world, a rebellion against what is, a declaration of what should not be, not a prescription for what should be. The hypothesis of an organized collectivist tomorrow presages a ferocious struggle between the New Order and the individuals who are desirous of preserving their autonomy. Even in the most optimistic scenario — ie, an effort to forge a new culture based on anti-authoritarian principles — any post-revolutionary social grouping will inevitably tend to impose one ideological credo on its members and reignite the age-old struggle between the individual and society. Thus, individualist anarchists have no programme for anyone else — and quite often have no programme even for themselves!
Most individualist anarchists also accept that what is known as the State or government is not going to be abolished in some glorious collective revolution and that expecting this to happen is in the same class as expecting the oceans to turn into lemonade. They regard clinging to this eschatological fantasy as a wasteful fixation that renders anarchists not exceptionally different from the Christian who lives for heaven or the Muslim who lives for paradise: a mixing of religion (with its messianic tendencies) with social doctrine to make of anti-political aspirations and social revolt a prophetic affair — with promises of full-measured social salvation at hand, and a millennium around the left corner. Not only is the ideal of abolishing the State a theoretical whimsy under present circumstances, it’s also impossible to pursue any ideal with single-minded determination without eventually becoming enslaved to that ideal (and enslavement to ideals is slavery as much as Is bondage to a physical master) — at which point the ideal becomes more of an enflamed hallucination than a critical engagement with the world as it is. If anything, in the dawn of the twenty first century, it seems reasonable to predict that Statism will continue to escalate on a dizzying scale and dimension, as environmental and population pressures intensify dependency on the infrastructure of mass society. It’s one thing to see the State exactly for what it is, to at least avoid the disastrous error of mistaking it for a benefactor or mistaking its witless and oppressive orders for divine commands, to demystify and de-sanctify the State in one’s own life and creatively out manuever its attempts at control — but it’s another matter entirely to attempt to confront the very real power of the State with vain, meaningless chest-thumping or to underestimate the support the State has among the presumably discontented masses. Ideological anarchists don’t like to hear this, but the State continues to exist, not solely by violent conquest or deception, but because there is a demand for its services from the sheep habituated to governance.
Individualist anarchists/conscious egoists preach no holy war against the State because they’re reflective enough to admit that they know of no way to get rid of the State — and that the problems of the State and organized society may, in fact, be intrinsically insoluble. If all political rule rests ultimately on the consent of the subject masses — and is cemented upon society by the laziness, cowardice, and stupidity of those same masses — -then when the cataclysmic crises looming on the planetary horizon (such as environmental and economic meltdown) begin to occur, the masses will probably call for a new Caesar or Hitler (as they always do) to rescue them from the system-failure that traditional political forms are no longer capable of addressing. Fear, bolstered by the insidious throes of habit, is the mainspring of the Herd’s every thought and action and even in the most opportune historical moments they have failed to establish anything approximating self-determination. This is just one of many flaws in the entire set of assumptions regarding authoritarian culture: Master-slave dynamics are a complex relationship between the governors and the governed, a mutually-reinforcing feedback loop between the legislators and the servile multitudes, inextricably bound together in an ancient and familiar holding pattern.
Taking this all into account, conscious egoists have no firm position on insurrection and retain tactical flexibility in the face of the realities of power, weighing the long and short run benefits of various forms of rebellion against the risks and costs, individually. If they lack the strength in the moment to overthrow those forces that claim authority and/or demand compliance, they will evade them the best way they know how, put up with that part of it which is unavoidable, assert their sovereignty as often as they can, pursue liberation in realms other than the political, continually engage in cultural de-conditioning, and when all else fails take refuge in what James Joyce described as “silence, exile, and cunning”. Their egoistic victories come not in the form of revolutionary martyrdom, but in the successful creation of free lives, and at times, free culture.
All society-oriented versions of anarchism carry within them the ideological virus of utopianism, in that they posit individual liberation as conditional on the liberation of The Masses or The People. But to make my freedom conditional on the freedom of others is to turn me into their servant and to deny my self-ownership in favor of a masochistic, unattainable, altruistic ideal. By changing anarchism into a theoretical conception of an ideal free society — instead of an individualistic rejection of authority — the society-oriented anarchists then become obliged to convince others that Anarchy would work and begin drawing up diagrams for everything from anarchist trash collection to worker-owned sewage treatment plants. Moreover, in their zeal to prove that a stateless society — one without a government as we ordinarily recognize it — is practical, these socially preoccupied anarchists turn into incorrigible moralists obsessed with the desire to fix some objective standard for human behavior that will endure for all time. And, as with all other moralists, social anarchists delude themselves by thinking that what they wish to impose on others is “the will of the people” or “historically inevitable” or anything other than their own personal egoistic desires. This is not a criticism of selfishness at all, but of self-deception — and of self-defeating idealism, not self-serving realism. Moralists — whether religious, political or humanist — are unconscious egoists and they seek converts to their ideal conceptions, ie they seek willing slaves and fellow believers. Individualist anarchists, by contrast, are conscious egoists and seek allies and partners for mutually enjoyable adventures in subversion. They see it as indisputable that no government or ruling class could oppress anybody without the broad support of public opinion, and to imagine that most people are longing for the abolition of the hallowed institutions of authoritarian society is to live in a dream world. (Even the most disgruntled members of the populace are usually far from being anarchists.) History has shown that the sheep who accept the authority of their shepherds have always been the largest class, and so for individualist anarchists anarchy becomes not a future place, but a present state of mind, an individual denial of authority, not a future social practice. Their anarchism is not a matter of faith and rejects the sacrificial politics of social anarchism, which is predicated on pointless optimism, reward-less duty and the Indefinite postponement of freedom: their anarchism is grounded in the clarity that sovereignty is only for those who want it and that one must comprehend and confront their own slavish conditioning before freedom timorously ventures within their reach. Individualist anarchists are more than willing to make use of a social revolution to further their own adventure, but always without any illusions regarding the Herd’s atrocious track record and deep-seated fear of real freedom.
At this point is should be made clear that there’s never been an anarchist individualist movement that has brought under one hat such unique personalities as Josiah Warren, Thoreau, Zo D’Axa, John Henry Mackay, James L. Walker and the countless other idiosyncratic thinkers who all developed wildly varied visions of anarchy. As its very name implies, individualist anarchism is a philosophy of a “plurality of possibilities” and if it’s inconsistent at times, that very inconsistency allows endless space for growth, diversity, and mutation. Still, no intelligent discussion of individualist anarchism and/or conscious egoism can occur without first grappling with Max Stirner and his inflammatory, ground breaking work, The Ego and His Own, which is responsible for not only presenting the fundamentals, but also the implications of individualism. Highly controversial when first presented to the world in 1844, his book became the object of much shock and ridicule, most notably from Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, who revealed more about their own insecurities than anything else in their 300 pages of “repudiation” — a hysterical diatribe comprising more pages than Stirner’s own work. The thick and thorough expressions of Stirner’s writing starts early in the history of the machinations of society, and progresses with palpable passion into the most sublime workings of society over the individual, and by the end frees the individual from this morass. Like a grand dissociator of ideas, or a surgeon of illusions, Stirner makes a sacrilegious broth out of all the materials of human thought (particularly morality) and brews from them Nothing. Your dreams? Stirner skins them alive. Your God(s)? Stirner splits this phantasm into an infinite number of particles and hands you back a hatful of waste. Your cobweb-spinning idealisms? Stirner tears asunder the masks of self-deception and exposes all idealism as worship of the non-existent. To Stirner, belief of any kind is a species of hypnosis and he sloughs off dogma, codes, and ideology like snake-skin. The furious energy of Stirner’s anti-metaphysical assault is both savage and interrogative in its impact: Unsentimental, heretical, and liberatory beyond what his contemporaries could dream of or stomach, Stirner was seemingly forgotten before re-introduction to the Americas by the anarchist Benjamin Tucker in 1907. (Tucker received considerable help in this endeavor from anarchist poet John Henry Mackay, the egoist James L. Walker, and the translator Steven T. Byington.) Nothing more and nothing less is postulated within The Ego and His Own than the absolute sovereignty of the individual in the face of all attempts at his/her weakening and suppression: by the “spooks” and the loose screws in the human brain along with all external powers that want to subjugate the unique individual under the guise of law. To the first, negative section of his critique, the criticism of Man, Stirner counters the more positive second section, his “I”. Here he first clears up the falsely understood concept of freedom, which cannot be given, but must be taken and then describes the “unique one”: his power with regard to the State and society, this power that laughs at law as a phantasm; his intercourse with the world, which consists in his using it; and his self-enjoyment, which leads to uniqueness, to which the I as I develops. To Utopians, one of the most threatening qualities of Stirner’s negation is that he has no interest in supplying a substitute structure for that which he seeks to terminate. (It’s difficult for the idealist mind to grasp the concept of negation for negation’s sake, or to appreciate Stirner’s radical negation as at once a splendid affirmation — of free life!) More alarmingly, Stirner divulges the selfish and hollow foundation of all humanitarian movements — the predatory, greedy, power-craving, egoistic motives that hide behind the ideological mask of social service.
Between the publishing of The Ego and His Own and Stirner’s re-discovery by John Henry Mackay and Benjamin R. Tucker, fatefully enough, the Russian Nihilist movement began and Nietzsche’s blasphemous proclamations made their earth-shaking appearance in Europe, initiating a new dawn for individualism and setting the stage for Stirner’s return. There is even debate as to Stirner’s possible influence on Nietzsche. Although no conclusion has come of this exploration, it speaks to the power and potency of Stirner’s Luciferean intellect that some consider him a precursor to one of the most pitiless iconoclasts of all time. While socialist and syndicalist movements such as the IWW and the Bolsheviks gained traction in the early twentieth century, the momentum and power of individualist anarchist thought found a home most notably within the Italian, French, and Spanish anarchist milieus. They, along with Stirner, are the progenitors of our legacy today and established the first fruitful era of Egoist practice. They are still heretical, since most proclaimed anarchists could not conceive of putting their individual life expression above that of their chosen social causes. The concept of amorality scares average people like a thought virus, and most of those exposed to the more radical strains of Individualist thought react as if the devil himself had tabled a proposition for their own freedom. Yet those in the top echelons of society (finance capitalists, for instance) wield power driven fully by their amoral individual desires, and count on the masses constraining themselves with myriad social regulations and ethics — what Nietzsche referred to as “slave moralities”. These ruthlessly skilled exploiters are certainly conscious egoists and in a sense, more daring than most anarchists, since they effectively put themselves above government, not just verbally like a mass of whining, morally indignant slaves. As the State and the ruling class directly diminish the enjoyment of my existence, my own egoistic desire is to see them put effectively out of my way. But it isn’t my attributes and limited power that are a danger to the State or Society, it’s the multiplication of my attributes should they permeate those of like mind. The revolutionary value of Egoism is that it removes all taboos or selfishness and the acquisition of personal power, and smashes the mental chains of slave morality. The rules and laws of society were made to fetter conquered vassals and fools — but the conscious egoist knows that they are under no obligation to obey anything or anyone. Think of the implications of unbound individual expression and power countering the established authorities! If the masses were to manifest their conscious egoism, and become ungovernable individuals who seize and keep all that their power permits them to take, these established authorities could not handle or control people anymore: a union of bold, determined beings, animated by clear-sighted self interest, who won’t succumb to any master, corporeal or so-called divine, is a force that any governing agency would have a hard time vanquishing. With illusory social obligations laid bare and broken behind us, the question would no longer be whether to embrace Egoism, but what personal fears must we jettison to begin the individualist journey post-haste? To slash the veils of illusion that countless generations of social conditioning have instilled in us, to strike down the spooks (within and without) that promise freedom but deliver yet more quandaries, is the exact antidote needed to the violently enforced Sisyphusian nightmare of culture and civilization that keeps us as in thrall to the delusion of social identification (not to mention the myth of social progress).
Social anarchists have typically decried this type of egoist social analysis as “bourgeois individualism,” confident that their use of the dreaded word “bourgeois” is sufficient to convince the faithful to think no further. Anarchist individualists are not likely to lose any sleep over being labeled so, but the use of the term in such a way is indicative of social anarchist argumentation, which is almost always by way of morality and intimidation rather than independent analysis. Kropotkin, commenting on individualist anarchism in America in his oft-quoted contribution to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, wrote:
Those who profess it ….they are chiefly “intellectuals”… soon realize that the individualism they so highly praise is not attainable by individual efforts, and either abandon the ranks of the Anarchists, and are driven into the liberal individualism of the classical economists, or they retire into a sort of Epicurean a-moralism, or super-man-theory, similar to that of Stirner or Nietzsche…
Encyclopedia Brittanica, 11th edition, Volume i, pp 914-916
In this encyclopedia entry Kropotkin, as usual, defines anarchism as a secular variant of the Christian Heaven and indulges in his classic populist mystifications about the masses. Despite an attempt to be objective in his presentation, he singles out Stirner and even the tepid Benjamin Tucker as villains whose ideas encourage “amoralism” and “super-man-theory”. Somewhat incongruously, he then instances the works of Nietzsche as being among those “full of ideas which show how closely anarchism is interwoven with the work that is going on in modern thought”. But just how close is “closely” to this egalitarian true believer and chronic optimist? It’s not at all surprising that Kropotkin, the humanist, moralist, and communist par excellence, makes Stirner his arch-villain. After all, The Ego and His Own is not only the most outspoken exposition of amoralism in the history of philosophy, but also one of the most powerful vindications of individualism ever written — in some ways, the ultimate encouragement to self liberation and one without a suggested social replacement for what is to be overthrown — and none of these things would be to the stunted tastes of Kropotkin and his pious, collectivist followers.
Yet many of Kropotkin’s contemporaries from the “Heroic Age of Anarchism”, like Emma Goldman, never forgot the primacy of the individual and understood the supreme relevance of both Stirner and Nietzsche to anarchist thought, as evidenced by the following passage:
The most disheartening tendency common among readers is to tear out one sentence from a work, as a criterion of the writer’s ideas or personality. Friedrich Nietzsche, for instance, is decried as a hater of the weak because he believed in the Ubermensch. It does not occur to the shallow interpreters of that giant mind that this vision of the Ubermensch also called for a state of society which will not give birth to a race of weaklings and slaves.
It is the same narrow attitude which sees in Max Stirner naught but the apostle of the theory “each for himself, the devil take the hind one.” That Stirner’s individualism contains the greatest social possibilities is utterly ignored. Yet, it is nevertheless true that if society is ever to become free, it will be so through liberated individuals, whose free efforts make society.
(from her preface to Anarchism and Other Essays)
Since Emma Goldman wrote these words, it’s been amply demonstrated that both the feeble namby-pambyism of the “save the world” anarchist and the collectivist revolutionary models of social change have failed to deliver the goods. This shows an observant, non-ideological person that this orientation does not work. In the search for the ultimate sacrifice, selflessness for the Common Good has denied the basic truth of human self-interest, and is both hopelessly naive about human nature and hermetically sealed against all realistic feedback regarding the psychology of masses. The Kropotkinist dream of full agreement and peaceful fraternity among people denies the irrefutable fact of differentiation, and is founded on the seductive but malignant politico-ethical principles of socialism (itself an offspring of Christianity). As long as anarchists remain preoccupied with saving The Masses (even in spite of themselves), then anarchists will curtail their own evolution and self-empowerment and be herded into an intellectual fog. (This morbid, pathological over-identification with large collectives probably helps explain Kropotkin’s later appalling support for World War I.)
If all are bound to one another by some imaginary social contract and if the majority elect to jump into the lake (of fire), then I am doomed unless I can emancipate myself from the crazed lemming herd before it’s too late to save my own astoundingly precious life. Using swimming as an analogy: the overburdened individual sinks, like the group that, tied to one another, drags each other down, dooming all! The self-owning individual is of the open spaces — intrepid, recalcitrant, nimble, spontaneous, and agile — and able to raise his or her self above the weight and sheer gravity of the Masses and their self-defeating belief systems, precisely because s/he is unencumbered with delusional social theorems.
If anarchists (who claim no gods, no masters) were to look at any social movement and the assumed collectivist orientation with open eyes, we would easily find the inherent duplicity of motives that are veiled and hidden under the most grandiloquent and idealistic principles — and the bombs of egoistic purpose that are carefully hidden in all the fine silks of utopian promises. While many may agree intellectually with this assessment, understanding is not entirely an intellectual process and clearing the spooks of collectivist social responsibility requires a hard edge of criticism — it requires that we give total attention to the structure of our conditioning, to the inherited psychological patterns that encourage us to identify with something outside ourselves — whether it be the State, an ideology, or Society. As Stirner constantly does, we must get behind the nature of these philosophical institutions and assumptions; we must clear the phantom beliefs of what the social being is, and start at the most neglected and maligned truth: l am the only master.
Individualist anarchism in the United States was most notably expounded in the pages of Benjamin R. Tucker’s journal Liberty, which was published from 1881 to 1908. Tucker and his associates — all capable writers and thinkers — attempted to forge individualist anarchism into a coherent system through an ill-conceived fusion of Proudhon’s economic theories and Max Stirner’s uncompromising egoism. In the end, Tucker’s efforts to reconcile the utopianism of Proudhon and the individualist amoralism of Stirner resulted in neither fish nor fowl, but mostly in confusion (for example, Tucker’s support for private police and private courts to combat and punish theft) and in unconvincing visions of a future harmonious society held together by the principles of what Tucker called “equal liberty.” Still, Tucker did two very important things to help the development of individualist thought: 1) As already stated, he published the first English translation of Stirner’s incendiary masterpiece The Ego and His Own and 2) he allowed the pages of his widely-read journal Liberty to serve as an uncensored forum for the discussion of egoist perspectives on power, politics, and self-determination. Although we have no desire to dwell excessively on Tucker’s overly idealistic theories in this anthology, it would be disingenuous to ignore either him or the vibrant milieu that formed around his ideas — a milieu that produced some formidable egoist thinkers like James L. Walker, John Beverley Robinson, and John Badcock, Jr.
The primary focus of this anthology, however, is to explore the development of anarchist individualism in Europe and the multifarious constructions and applications of Stirner’s ideas by anarchists in Italy, Spain, France, and England. This collection is by no means comprehensive, owing primarily to the fact that so many core texts have yet to be translated into English. (For example, Enzo Martucci’s The Banner of the Antichrist; Miguel Gimenez Igualada’s extensive treatise on Stirner from 1956; the writings of Biofilo Pandasta — Columbian Stirnerite, adventurerand vagabond; the Russian anarchist Lev Chernyi’s 1907 book Associational Anarchism, in which he advocated the “free association of independent individuals.”)
Other important individuals unrepresented in this collection for similar reasons; Ixigrec, the French anarchist science-fiction writer, comrade of E. Armand, and radical interpreter of the Marquis de Sade; Rirette Maitrejean, who wrote extensively on anarcha-feminist and free love subjects for the French individualist anarchist magazine L’Anarchie, and who went on trial in the 1920s for alleged participation in the illegalist activities of the Bonnot Gang; Domenico Pastorello, the Italian polyglot and popularizer of Esperanto, who advocated an ascetic lifestyle of self-sufficiency as a solution to economic slavery; The Brazilian individualist anarchist Maria Lacerda de Moura who wrote for the Spanish individualist anarchist magazine Al Margen alongside Miguel Gimenez Igualada; Octave Mirbeau, “the Ravachol of modem literature”, author of The Torture Garden and the timeless abstentionist pamphlet Voters Strike!; Federico Urales, an important Spanish individualist anarchist who edited the journal La Revista Blanca and was highly critical of the anarcho-syndicalism in his time (he viewed it as plagued by excessive bureaucracy that tended towards reformism), and Adolf Brand, German individualist anarchist writer, comrade of John Henry Mackay, editor of the periodical Der Eigene (1896-1931) and pioneering campaigner for the acceptance of male bisexuality and homosexuality. The list just goes on and on.
The individualist anarchist press has also had a fertile life (with points of abandonment followed by periods of resurgence) and a rich, innovative publishing history — one abounding with variety, local flavor and an emancipatory non conformism towards ready-made anarchist dogma and programs. Some of the more noteworthy examples are Enrico Arrigoni’s journal Erisia, which unleashed nine issues between 1928-1928 that anarchist historian Paul Avrich describes as “remarkable”. Then there are the French individualist papers, which are almost too numerous to catalogue, but loosely start with Autonomie Individuelle (1887 to 1888) giving birth to a genealogy that continues to proliferate in our day. The Spanish individualist milieu of the 1920s and 1930s is just as impressive, producing confident, multihued journals like L’Individualista, La Idea Libre, La revista blanca, Etica, Iniciales, Al margen, Estudios, El Unico, and Nosotros. Who knows what illuminating gems lie buried in the yellowing pages of these lively texts, waiting to be unearthed, translated, and discussed again! Catalan historian Xavier Diez, who recently completed a wide-ranging survey of the Spanish individualist anarchist press before and during the Civil War period, summarized the basic positions of this tendency as follows:
under its iconoclastic, anti-intellectual, antitheist run, which goes against all sacralized ideas or values it entailed, a philosophy of life took shape which could be considered a reaction against the sacred gods of capitalist society. Against the idea of the nation, it opposed its internationalism. Against the exaltation of authority embodied in the military institution, it opposed its antimilitarism. Against the concept of industrial civilization, it opposed its naturist vision.
Unfortunately, access to this valuable heritage of individualist ideas was not (yet) available to us as we were assembling this anthology, though we did have the lucky break of coming into a windfall of dynamic English-language Individualist and Egoist papers, publications containing a wide range of heretical views operating outside and against orthodox anarchism. The publications that we consumed most ardently were The Storm! A Journal For Free Spirits, Minus One: An Individualist Review Egoist, and Ego, supplemented by a smattering of translated texts that fortuitously materialized when needed most. All of these journals were driven by an utter disrespect for the alleged unity or sanctity of the anarchist movement. They all articulate an independence from, and refusal of, the altruistic idealisms and socialist ethics (which are really Christian ethics) that have infested anarchist thought. They all introduce new approaches and philosophic concerns and help to move anti-authoritarian consciousness in a dangerous direction again. S.E. Parker, whose writing features prominently in this compilation, was a British individualist anarchist who, from 1963 to 1993, edited three of the journals just cited — Minus One, Egoist, and Ego — all urgent, vehemently individualist periodicals that assail the complacency of anarchist group think and disrupt the placid reliance on morality as a means of justifying anarchy. Parker eventually drove a wedge between egoism proper and anarchism — at least in his own life — repudiating anarchism as a self-renunciating, humanist church. In one of his last published articles, Parker found himself agreeing with Dora Marsden (an important early twentieth-century British egoist, whose writings Parker helped rescue from obscurity), who argued that moralistic anarchism is merely continuing the work of religion under a new guise. Parker describes his “loss of faith” in the article “Archists, Anarchists and Egoists” (which is Appendix A in this volume). He arrived at these conclusions after forty-plus years of wrestling with the implications of anarchism and egoism. Regardless of whether one agrees with Parker’s verdict or not, it shouldn’t be too frightening to look at, and if it is then you probably shouldn’t be reading this book; As a philosophical weapon, anarchist thought has become dull, has lost its once-lethal edge and become encrusted with leftist cliches. One of the purposes In compiling these outsider voices is to help relieve anti-authoritarians of the burden of carrying the impossible load of universal emancipation (this leftist ideal of herd-life that undermines our individual strength) and to help re awaken the slumbering dragon of insurrectionary egoism. These are the voices of uncompromising individualists, to whom no topic is taboo or off-limits, voices that have stayed obscure until now, but for which the myriad complexities of our current era provide an excellent context for a re-appearance.
What ultimately emerges from these writings is a vision of anarchy that is non-utopian, non-idealist, and decidedly non-leftist, a vision of anarchy that could accurately be described as anti-social, or at least, socially pessimistic. Those readers who would turn to the writers in this collection for the exact details of a reconstructed society will search in vain, for their concern is the rebirth of the individual as a separate entity — unsmothered by the claims of any nation, State or society. Any sketches of an anarchistic future they offer are apparent only by inference. Their ideas will resonate most strongly with those defiant, unconquered individuals who are only interested in reconstructing themselves — the free spirits who are resolved to live outside the structures of control as far as they possibly can, relying on their own psychic resources and experiencing liberation on a personal level even as the whole world slides in horror down a bottomless pit. Stripped of all fantastic figures of speech and fruitless will-o-the-wisp schemes for social betterment, the assertion of individual sovereignty by word and deed is the only method and only message of these iconoclastic minds who choose to label their personal rejection of all authority as individualist.