by ERNST JüNGER
IT IS remarkable that we should have this powerful urge to write, to compose something that will be consumed by water or fire if it has not long before rotted away in the shadow of oblivion. why this tension of the spirit, this weighing of syllables as if we were swearing an oath; why this anxiety as though we stood before the bar of a great and powerful court? whatever transcendence there may be is hidden in the painstaking effort and struggle at the periphery of the word, not in the fully articulate work. It is as though the writer’s pen were connected to a pantograph which traces the true lines in an invisible realm.
DANGER exerts a powerful fascination: it resembles the vertigo in which the wild temptation to plunge is heightened by the terror of the abyss. If hen the heart has for long lived in peace and safety, if begins to grow restless and seeks danger as though in search of unfamiliar lands. There is a daemonic spirit in us that does not begin to stir its wings until life is threatened.
To PERCEIVE in a stereoscopic fashion means to derive by means of a single sense organ from one color simultaneously two sense qualities. One sense performs the function of another as well as its own. The effect of stereoscopic vision is to apply a double grasp. Authentic language, the language of the poet, is distinguished by words and images that have been grasped in this fashion, words which though long familiar to us seem to unfold like blossoms and radiate fresh brilliance and iridescent music. Every act of stereoscopic, perception produces in us a sense of vertigo, it makes us fathom the depth of an impression which at first offered itself only as surface. Between surprise and delight we feel, as in a delicious plunge, a shock that is at the same time confirmation: we recognize that the play of senses moves gently like a mysterious veil, like a magic curtain.
WE ARE endowed with language — that is, we share in that tremendous element which, like ether, fills the world: mind, logos, pneuma. This alone explains the miracle that we ran in words name and express matters that far transcend our understanding. dJst as color grows out of the colorless, so language feeds on the inexpressible.
THE road to God is in our time immensely long, as though man had lost his way in the limitless spaces that his ingenuity had discovered. This is why even the smallest step nearer represents an achievement. But even it cannot succeed without God‘s favor. God must be conceived afresh. In this situation man can do little more than something negative: he can cleanse the chalice which is himself. He will be rewarded by a new sense of splendor, an increase in serenity. But even the highest discipline of Hus sort operates in an atheistic spare, empty of God and more terrible than Godlessness.
Selected and translated by Victor Lange