"Thinking has to be kindled, as a fire is by a draught, and kept going by some kind of interest in its object, which may be an objective interest or merely a subjective one. The latter is possible only with things that affect us personally, the former only to those heads who think by nature, to whom thinking is as natural as breathing, and these are very rare. That is why most scholars do so little of it."
There are two main reasons for an investigation into reading today. The first being a general intellectual decline. Man has lost the ability to think, and therefore act, for himself – any response to nihilism is therefore weakened. Secondly, there is a corresponding excess of material which demands that one search for a single book of truth, as if lost or imprisoned within the Library of Babel. This is a daunting task, particularly for anyone just beginning to read philosophical literature.
Although it has become a cliché, it is worth repeating that one can read too much. Oftentimes it is better to read a single poem or short essay and reflect on it, rather than devour as much as one can.
As Heidegger said, what is most thought-provoking today is that we are still not thinking. Beginning to think, and knowing what thinking is, may then be a first step. Following this, our reading will be focused on learning to think along with pursuing what is most thought-provoking, or compelling. What is subjective to us will be easiest, as it speaks directly to being. More difficult will be thinking itself, how to think, and what to think about. This becomes even more difficult for those whose thinking has become subjective – an all too common problem.
Do we think about our will? Do we test ourselves in our thinking?
One may also find that the highly subjective works are overly complex, exaggerated where they need not be. And even though they claim a radical break from the past they still rely heavily on classical literature. Often, they say less than they promise – they are formalistic rather than impressionistic images.
Good writing, for the author, is what leads to a surprising revelation, even in retrospect. A truth is grasped from the hidden and given form, as with the image on the dark side of a tapestry. For the reader it is much the same, even if one wants subjective or merely entertaining art its quality will be greater with some element of revelation. The great work not only makes things present for the reader, it guides him, and even forces him into the violent realities of a new world. This is what lies behind science fiction: what is no longer possible really becomes technical and formal.
Goethe said that he read in fragments for some time, sparsely, until he found a book that he would devour in a night. This is to be decisive in reading, to continue on with the character of celebration, or sitting down in a theatre to hear an epic poem. One should choose books in the same manner that one chooses tickets for a play.
Reading in the sense of a celebration or festival acts as a juncture between two worlds, it is a metamorphosis in man’s being. To become lost in this transitional world is to approach an early death, the fate of a forgotten man, the interim world. The danger is imprisonment between realities – to wander the lost worlds as a shade. Reading and writing as a means of judgement, of arming oneself for action and the tests of spirit is, then, a usurpation of the critical and political world.
"When I am dead, compassionate hands will throw me over the railing; my tomb will be the unfathomable air, my body will sink for ages, and will decay and dissolve in the wind engendered by my fall, which shall be infinite."
To know what to read requires a foundation for study in our era, both introductory works and m more difficult, or counter-intuitive, works. I have included below a reading list, the intent being an anti-ideological, anti-modernist, aesthetic, and mythic understanding of the world – ultimately with the goal of increasing the level of discussion and our own literary ideas.
Some may be surprised to see the inclusion of anarchist writings, but these serve a purpose beyond a mere contrast to the current dissident efforts. At this point it should be clear that only total struggle against the modern order is possible. Such effort should have been taken up long ago, and now there is no longer constitutional power remaining for us. This increases the stakes of the struggle and also potential dangers.
For Carl Schmitt, absolutism and anarchism are the two poles of the modern spatial conflict. And today, absolutism could only serve to extend the interim character of modernity, to deepen its neutralizing measures. It is not an option, yet most of the right-wing remains loyal to it without understanding its contributions to democratic order.
One may also see in the dissident right - where its anti-intellectualism is not outright fanatical - a cautious and passive intellectualism, the danger in this being a limited struggle at the very moment struggle threatens to become total, even apocalyptic. This partial character tends to underestimate the theological nature of the times, and how deeply man has been affected by what he may oppose on the surface. As a result, one tends to read modern ideas back into history, neutralizing the very traditions thought to be the source of salvation. This is a liberal concept of time. For all its faults, anarchism maintains a total character, and is loyal to struggle, destruction, movement towards a final conflict – if nothing else, it maintains the spirit of revolution, which is desperately needed today.
Or at least, it once offered this sense of theological duty against modern forces. Of course, I do not recommend the anarchists uncritically, their weaknesses are at least as prominent as their strengths. They should be read alongside Ernst Jünger's judgements of them and the figure of the Anarch. In the anarchists we see formalistic desire and freedom, a counter-force to their main strength. Where they were greatest was in proximity to Christianity or nihilism. Nevertheless, in our time there is a great shift from anarchism to annihilation, and from the ideological to the theological. The anarchists and nihilist types offer lessons of defeat, of failure – another form distinct from the absolutists, who have since disappeared. The absolutists may be understood simply as the authoritarian indecision before anarchism, hence why we must consider them only after the anarchists.
Before us there appears the great void which ends nihilism with absolute destruction, and if nothing else we will not be able to repeat the mistakes of the old ideologies. These readings may serve as a meagre contribution to the armament for a new century, and millennium.
Foundation Reading List
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