Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Arthur Koestler

Arthur Koestler
September 5, 1905- March 1, 1983
From The Yogi and the Commissar

In the critical years of the Weimar Republic, when a Communist or Fascist Revolution seemed equally possible and the only impossibility the continuation of the worn-out regime, a certain Ernst Juenger coined the phrase of the “ anti-capitalistic nostalgia of the masses”. This vague but violent longing was indeed shared by groups of people of otherwise very different tendencies. Perhaps the common denominator we are looking for can best be described as an ‘anti-materialistic nostalgia’. It is idiosyncratic against the rationalism, the shallow optimism, the ruthless logic, the arrogant self-assurance, the Promethean attitude of the nineteenth century; it is attracted by mysticism, romanticism, the irrational ethical values, by medieval twilight. In short it is moving towards the very things from whch the last-but-one great spectral displacement towards the infra red has moved away. Apparently these movements have a pendular rhythm. The swinging of this pendulum from rationalistic to romantic periods and back is not contradictory to the conception of a basic dialectic movement of History. They are like the tidal waves on a river which yet flows into the sea. One of the fatal lacunae in the Marxist interpretation of history is that it was only concerned with the course of the river, not with the waves. The mass psychological aspect of Nazism is not describable in Marxist terms, in terms of the river’s course; we need the tidal waves to account for it. On the other hand our pendulum alone is no guide to history. We must know about the river before we talk of the waves. Perhaps it is not too hazardous to assume that these pendular changes in the mass-psychological spectrum are a process analogous to the rhythmical change of waking and sleep in the individual. The irrational or romantic periods of mass psychology are periods of sleep and dream. The dreams are not necessarily peaceful; more often they are nightmares; but without these periodic plunges into the subconscious the vital saps would not be provided for the next wide awake Promethean or Commissar period. Perhaps every Gothic period is followed by a Renaissance period and they are but the succession of yoga-nights and commissar-days in the curriculum of the race. And perhaps this, our present civilization, is not dying, only sleepy.

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