Ernst Jünger - Prognoses for the 21st Century
The following is a late writing by Ernst Jünger, his prognoses for the century of return to the gods and overcoming the war of invisible forces. His insights are especially poignant given the theological turn, a clownish second-religiousness, and what may be the apex of nihilism descending towards a final clash.
Translated by Bruno Zimmer and Michael Halfpenny
One who speaks of gods (now or again) no longer makes himself as irrefutable as during the first half of our century, or the elites since Voltaire.
Of course, these two hundred years constitute a tiny period, and perhaps only an interruption compared to times in which gods and demons were worshipped. Certainly, even before Lucian, there were always spirits who amused themselves about the gods, or at least about those of others. Although one kept to himself. Still for Augustine, the gods are present, however he grants them a mere demonic, or titanic, character. His question as to whether they can create or maintain a world empire strikes at the heart of our present situation. When Nietzsche weighs Apollo and Dionysus against each other, this is more than mythological symbolism – what is meant is mythical substance.
"God", even if the name is not called or the language more or less convincingly coils around it, still enjoys a certain respect. That the account does not add up with our here and now is instinctively felt and recognised at every spiritual level. Prayer manifests itself accordingly.
Nietzsche's "God is Dead" can only mean that the epochal state of knowledge does not suffice. Besides that, the author contradicts himself with the "Eternal Return".
The divine lives. When names are mentioned, most people think of pre-Christian or local deities. Their temples are in ruins, and of the many once worshipped there, not even the titles are known any longer. So even gods are mortal – but this says nothing against their essence and reality.
Gods too are part of our imagination. We can move closer to them, as in sacrifice and prayer, but not behind the curtain on which they appear – there they remain in the "thing in itself". For this classification ("Religion within the limits of pure reason") Kant was reproached as "denigrator of Christendom and perilous religious innovator" (Prussian cabinet order of 1794).
Cults are grounded in the hope of divine encounters; to raise them to certainty remains their task. A cult is all the more moving the more persuasively it celebrates this knowledge in festivals and works of art. In a city approaching the Eternal, art would have to become sacred and the sacred would have to become art. This is unattainable in time – therefore, in iconoclasm there may well be conciliation, but no result. There are no temples in the Eternal City because art has achieved the timeless beauty for which it strives tirelessly, and yet in vain. We must content ourselves with what is offered to us, like a little old woman who venerates a piece of bone as a relic.