In 1951 Ernst Jünger wrote The Forest Passage, indisputably a masterpiece, as most of his works are. I have previously reviewed his memoir Storm of Steel, and after reading that, I read War as an Inner Experience, which provides valuable insights into the deeper meaning of the events we see unfold in Storm of Steel. Now, after finishing The Forest Passage, I want to comment on how it is especially useful for those of us who were chosen to live in the present era. While the age of totalitarianism has seemingly passed, I would argue that today we still live under totalitarian regimes, though their outward appearances and modes of operation have no doubt changed dramatically. The modern democratic state is, as Schmitt would argue, a total state.
All of us now are familiar with the actual power and oppressive nature of the modern democratic total state. Each and every one of us experienced it especially during the pandemic. I need not recount how the government, at every level, took actions hitherto unheard of in the modern West. States across the globe implemented mandatory lockdowns. Churches were closed by the State (or closed “voluntarily”). If you were tested positive for COVID-19, then you were quarantined, and it became a crime (on paper) for you to leave your house. Masking became mandatory in nearly every setting. Public gatherings were prohibited, unless, of course, they were part of the Civil Religion’s outpouring of love during the Summer Riots of 2020. “Social distancing” was enforced by the public and private sphere, with the relics of this ridiculous measure still extant on the floors of some stores and restaurants. Later, vaccines became mandatory, whether by government force or threat of exclusion from nearly every public space, including workplaces and schools. Children were masked, then rounded up and injected, despite their cries. They seemed to understand the true nature of things in their little resistance. Companies terminated workers who refused to get vaccinated. You were told you needed to get a vaccination card and have it on your person at all times. After all, you never knew when the authorities, public or private, could ask for papers! Perhaps the most frightening example of State power during this period took place outside America. There were the internment camps of Australia, a supposedly democratic and free country, where men and women were, by threat of physical force, interred in “voluntary” camps surrounded by barbed wire fences, and routinely monitored by the police and health authorities. Then, remember how in Canada the State took severe action against the protesting truckers, totally crushing them with the full force of the police apparatus. How quickly we have forgotten all this! I do not even need to mention the measures taken in China, though China is, in the eyes of even modern Westerners, an authoritarian State, so it is not as shocking as what our own liberal democracies did.
To give an older but still relevant example of how the modern State, despite its liberal-democratic dressings, can enact invasive and totalitarian measures, I remind you of the post-9/11 measures and the PATRIOT Act. That was when the Surveillance State really emerged in a way it had never yet been realized, even in the Soviet Bloc. We were told that our freedoms needed to be curbed in order to combat terrorism, and most people accepted this. Hardly anyone raises any objections today to the hundreds of thousands of security cameras which watch our every move, or the collection of our private data on a massive scale. Those who do are usually seen as crazy libertarians.
Finally, consider the blasphemy laws being implemented in many Western nations now. No, not blasphemy against the LORD God, but blasphemy against “protected classes.” Praying silently outside an abortion clinic in the UK? The police will arrest you. “Hate speech” on social media against one of the protected classes? You will be arrested. Leaving skid marks on a pride flag painted on the street? You will be hunted down and made to pay. There is no greater crime today than opposing this group. This is proven by the fact that after the Nashville shooting, the greatest concern of the news media, government, and celebrities is protecting transgenders, so much so that the transgender shooter has been portrayed as a victim.
An important point to make amidst all of this is the role of non-governmental organizations in enforcing the official ideology and Civil Religion. Theodore Kaczynski puts it well in paragraph 73 of his manifesto. “Control is often exercised through indirect coercion or through psychological pressure or manipulation, and by organizations other than the government, or by the system as a whole. Most large organizations use some form of propaganda to manipulate public attitudes or behavior. Propaganda is not limited to ‘commercials’ and advertisements, and sometimes it is not even consciously intended as propaganda by the people who make it. For instance, the content of entertainment programming is a powerful form of propaganda.” Most fall for this and are not capable of withstanding the influence of the propaganda apparatus. “The masses will follow the propaganda, which shifts them into a purely technical relationship with law and morality” (pg. 81).
In The Forest Rebel, Jünger speaks to that tiny minority of people who are capable of resisting the psychological warfare of the State and those allied with it. Though we do not live in a totalitarian military dictatorship in the same way that Jünger envisions, we do live in a massive surveillance state with far-reaching powers that is willing to use its power to prosecute and punish those who threaten the status quo and sow mistrust in the system. Just look at what has happened to President Trump, Douglass Mackey, Steve Bannon, and many others. Consider how the FBI has been weaponized against pro-lifers and now Catholics.
Fortunately for us, there is arguably still some political choice left. Republicans are in no way the ideal choice, but the fact of the matter is that one party ardently wishes to kill kids in the womb, brainwash them in the public schools, form them into willing participants in the new Civil Religion, and the other party, by-and-large, does not (yet). One party wants to flood the country with immigrants from the Global South and give reparations to certain protected classes with sums reaching trillions of dollars total. The other, at the very least, has a sizeable faction which opposes these measures.
However, we should not get too excited here and place our hopes in any contemporary political party. The Republicans have not been particularly successful at stopping or even slowing the Democrats, and the present situation only seems to be getting worse. Some people believe the transgender issue will be the breaking point and the beginning of a reversal, but I would like to remind you how quickly the masses adopted gay “marriage” after Obergefell v. Hodges and the propaganda campaign which followed the ruling (but had been underway far before it). Those who comprise the small elite, the forest rebels, should not put their trust in petty politics at the present juncture, nor should they expect the masses to wake from their stupor.
All of what I have just described is simply to provide the context and setting for discussing The Forest Passage and how it relates to our own times. Having done this, we now move into the substance of the book.
Jünger begins The Forest Passage by describing the process of sham votes in totalitarian states. Of note here is how the State and the propaganda apparatus encourages certain ways of voting. All of us implicitly understand this. Every election cycle we are subtlety—or not so subtlety—encouraged to make a certain choice. Usually, left-wing campaigns and ballot initiatives get millions of dollars in funding and lots of airtime. We are told by all the biggest influencers, all the businesses and CEOs, all the late-night hosts, the mainstream media machine, and non-profits, that we must vote a certain way, otherwise we are ignorant, bigoted, racist, misogynistic, or even un-democratic! Some, though, will inevitably see through this charade. Jünger writes, “Let us assume that our voter, thanks to his powers of discrimination, has withstood the long, unambiguous propaganda campaign that has been astutely ramped up right until election day. This was no easy task. Now, on top of that, the statement required of him is clothed in highly respectable formulations: he is called on to participate in a vote for freedom or perhaps a peace referendum. But who does not love peace and freedom? Only a monster” (pg. 8).
Who does not love “women’s rights?” Who does not love “bodily autonomy?” Who does not love “tolerance?” Who does not love “democracy?” Only a monster.
Jünger devotes a number of pages to discussing the idea of the State needing something like 98% approval, because 100% would appear too obviously fake, but much of this discussion simply is not as relevant to our current circumstances, so I will forego explaining this any further, and move on. All we need to know is that even 1% of the population threatening the State is unacceptable, and those who genuinely exit the process will be the biggest enemy of the State.
Jünger goes on to point out how, “To investigate, observe, and control these points of precipitation, large numbers of police are required” (pg. 18). The United States is a police state, as are the U.K. and Australia and most other Western nations. We know that the police will, without hesitation, enforce the Civil Religion and protect all its events, while stamping out any counter-protests. If you are a Right-winger and you find yourself in a self-defense situation, you may as well prepare yourself for arrest and prosecution by the State. The police will not help you. The justice system is not your friend. Kyle Rittenhouse, and now Daniel Perry, are great examples of this. The leftist mob will always receive preferential treatment. Rapists, murderers, thieves, and drug addicts will be let off easy, especially if they are a member of a protected class (after all, arresting them perpetrates “systemic racism”). The same will not apply to straight white men who commit the crime of protecting themselves or protesting the Civil Religion. Our police are still not quite as bad as that of, say, the communist bloc, especially depending on where you live. There are still some good places around the U.S. where the police stand against the anarchy. But if you live in a place with leftists in control of the justice system? Pray you don’t ever enter catch the eye of the State. “No more desperate fate exists than getting mixed up in a process where the law has been turned into a weapon” (pg. 21).
Jünger also makes the outstanding point that, “A peculiar characteristic of our times is the combination of significant scenes with insignificant actors” (pg. 19). We have all witnessed this truth. Many of the people pushing leftist ideology and enforcing the Civil Religion are actually very unremarkable and mediocre people. They are middle management, bureaucrats, midwits, and most of all, boring people. But they are the most dangerous of all. They are resentful strivers, and they have fully bought into the propaganda. They believe it with great fervor and will react violently against anyone who questions it. They will take great care to subvert every institution they weasel their way into and will enact the most radical propaganda campaigns possible.
Perhaps worst of all is that “Resistance only seems to invigorate the ruling powers, providing them a welcome opportunity to take offensive action” (pg. 22). Right-wing groups which organize and protest against the State, Civil Religion, and those organizations aligned to it give the State even more power, it seems. It gives the State the opportunity to declare you and your family domestic terrorists or a threat to democracy. They will use this to justify actions against you and anyone else who in any way shares your views. “White supremacy” is the boogeyman of the State today and much of its resources are devoted to combatting it, despite the fact that actual white supremacists are a tiny and insignificant group with little to no power and influence. But we know that “white supremacist”, or even more broadly “racist”, is more often than not a catch-all phrase to describe anyone who opposes the Civil Religion and the left. The accusation of the sin of racism is so poignant than no matter how false and absurd it is, it will cause most to crumble and conform.
One last point which Jünger makes briefly about society but which I believe is of great importance is that of domestication. We live in an age of unprecedented comfort and safety. Most people today enjoy this; therefore, they will not often do anything which is uncomfortable or unsafe. “Resistance demands great sacrifice, which explains why the majority prefer to accept the coercion” (pg. 42). Easier to just give into the propaganda, accept the “progress”, and move on. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the State will even allow people to partake in any dangerous or unsafe activity, as most safety measures are enshrined in the legal code. We can safely say, then, that man is more and more domesticated in modern society. This is a point which Kaczynski makes too. We do not have to go through the power process anymore. There is progressively less physical struggle demanded of modern man in the West. Our lives become more and more comfortable, more and more automated, but this is dangerous. However, most are unwilling to give up these comforts, and are willing to accept most encroachments on their freedoms so long as their comfort is increased or at least not threatened. I think quoting a paragraph which Jünger devotes to this is necessary.
“In general, man will tend to rely on the system or yield to it even when he should already be drawing on his own resources. This shows a lack of fantasy. He should know at what points he must not be induced to give up his sovereign power of decision. As long as things are in order, there will be water in the pipes and electricity in the lines. When life and property are threatened, an alarm call will summon the fire department and police. But the great danger is that man relies too heavily on this assistance and becomes helpless when it fails to materialize. Every comfort must be paid for. The condition of the domesticated animal drags behind it that of the slaughterhouse animal” (pg. 24).
Additionally, Jünger writes that due to fear, “man restricts his own power of decision in favor of technological expediencies. This brings all manner of conveniences—but an increasing loss of freedom must necessarily also result” (pg. 27).
Despite this comfort and rapid technological progress, modern man is increasingly fearful. He is fearful of crime, of war, of violence, of climate change, and of world catastrophe. “It becomes apparent that practically all [people] are in the grip of the kind of panic that has been unknown here since the Middle Ages” (pg. 29). This fear is exemplified in modern man’s relationship to the 24-hour news cycle. There is no moment that we go without dire news of some new crime or international tragedy. “The need to hear the news several times a day is already a sign of fear; the imagination grows and paralyzes itself in a rising vortex. The myriad antennae rising above our megacities resemble hairs standing on end—they provoke demonic contacts” (pg. 29).
In the face of all this fear, propaganda, coercion, and automation, “the individual must decide whether to give up the game or persevere from his own innermost forces. In the latter case he opts for a forest passage” (pg. 24). Those who opt for the forest passage are the forest rebels.
“The forest rebel is that individual who, isolated and uprooted from his homeland by the great process, sees himself finally delivered up for destruction. This could be the fate of many, indeed of all—another factor must therefore be added to the definition: this is the forest rebel’s determination to resist, and his intention to fight the battle, however hopeless. The forest rebel thus possesses a primal relationship to freedom, which, in the perspective of our times, is expressed in his intention to oppose the automatism and not to draw its ethical conclusion, which is fatalism” (pg. 25).
Jünger continues, “A gamble of this kind can only hope to succeed if the three great powers of art, philosophy, and theology come to its aid and break fresh ground in the dead-end situation…For the moment, we will only say that in art the theme of the beleaguered individual is indeed gaining ground” (pg. 25). What a prescient observation that continues to be true today! Just think of some popular movies which have this theme, such as Fight Club, Drive, Taxi Driver, Joker, Conan the Barbarian, Die Hard, Convoy, Rambo, and more. You get the idea. Movies about a man who is pushed to his breaking point, or who must take drastic measures to save himself and those around him. I think the example par excellence of the “beleaguered individual” is Patrick McGoohan’s the Prisoner. In it, Number 6, the protagonist, is the arch-individualist against the forces of collectivism and control, and each episode is essentially about the forces of the system attempting to break him. However, he stands firm against them, declaring, “I am not a number, I am a free man!” Again, “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own!” This quote fits perfectly with theme of the forest rebel, freedom, and individuality which we find in The Forest Passage. Jünger writes a few pages later, “To have a destiny, or to be classified as a number—this decision is forced upon all of us today, and each of us must face it alone” (pg. 31).
It is very important to understand what Jünger actually means when he writes of the individual. He says, “In speaking of the individual here, we mean the human being, but without the overtones that have accrued to the word over the past two centuries. We mean the free human being, as God created him. This person is not an exception, he represents no elite. Far more, he is concealed in each of us, and differences only arise from the varying degrees that individuals are able to effectuate the freedom that has been bestowed on them. In this he needs help—the help of thinkers, knowers, friends, lovers” (pg. 32).
To be forest rebels, we must be free individuals, free men, though this does not mean we must be isolated, as Jünger clearly points out that the individual needs help from others around him. But ultimately the individual is the answer to the increasingly collectivist mass society which wishes to equalize all. “The chains of technology can be broken—and it is the individual that has this power” (pg. 33).
Though the individual is concealed in each person, not all are capable of seeing it. Not all are capable of resistance and of fighting for freedom. Very few are forest rebels. “Only a small fraction of the great masses will be able to defy the mighty fictions of the times and the intimidation that emanates from them. . .the initiative will always pass into the hands of a select minority who prefer danger to servitude” (pg. 35). This select minority are, of course, the forest rebels. “Two characteristics are thus essential for the forest rebel: he allows no superior power to dictate the law to him, neither through propaganda nor force; and he means to defend himself, not only by exploiting the instruments and ideas of the times, but also by maintaining access to those time-transcending powers that can never be reduced to pure movement. Then he can risk the passage” (pg. 35).
A very vital aspect of the forest rebel which must be grasped is the spiritual nature of the forest rebel. Jünger says that, “it is important for anyone intending to undertake a risky venture that he first gain a precise idea of himself…the man involved in the movements and historical phenomena must refer back to his latent supra-temporal essence, which incarnates into history and is transformed within it. A venture of this kind will appeal to strong spirits like the forest rebel. In this process, the mirror image contemplates the primal image, from which is emanates and in which it is inviolable…This is a solitary meeting, and therein lies its fascination; no notary, priest, or dignitary will be in attendance. In this solitude man is sovereign, assuming that he has recognized his true station. He is the Son of the Father, lord of the earth, the issue of a miraculous creation…As in the most ancient times, man reclaims the priestly and knightly powers for himself. He leaves behind the abstractions, the functions, and work divisions, and places himself in relation to the whole, to the absolute—and a profound happiness lies in this” (pg. 67). This was a particularly moving passage for me, and bears resemblance to my conception of Catholic Vitalism.
Jünger points out that the forest rebel “cannot afford to wait for the churches, or for spiritual guides and books that might surface” (pg. 66). He must be willing to undertake this spiritual experience alone. Though he remarks that, “greater force can be preserved in churches and sects than in what are today called worldviews” (pg. 59), he also says that the forest rebel must be willing to “reckon with times and regions where the church simply no longer exists. The state will then see itself called upon to fill the gap that has resulted, or been revealed, with its own means—an enterprise in which it can only fail” (pg. 55). He also points out that the church, as an institution comprised of men, is constantly under threat of “rigidification and the consequent drying up of its beneficent forces. This explains the gloomy, mechanical, and nonsensical aspects of many church services, the recurring Sunday torment, and of course sectarianism. The institutional element is at the same time the vulnerable aspect; weakened by doubt, the edifice crumbles overnight—if it has not simply been transformed into a museum” (pg. 55). How true this is now! Think of all the once great and holy cathedrals and churches in Europe which have been turned into museums, and which may or may not even have mass or service held in them anymore. I also say, with great sadness, that it is probably the case that most church services today do more to drain a man of his faith than to strengthen him. If the forest rebel can find one which does not have this effect, he ought to take advantage of it, but ultimately the forest rebel must not rely totally on the institutional church. Indeed, today the church often collaborates with the State and the persecutors and even peddles the Civil Religion using Christian language to do so. “When all institutions have become equivocal or even disreputable, and when open prayers are heard even in churches not for the persecuted but for the persecutors, at this point moral responsibility passes into the hands of the individuals. The forest rebel is the concrete individual, and he acts in the concrete world. He has no need of theories or of laws concocted by some party jurist to know what is right. He descends to the very springs of morality, where the waters are not yet divided and directed into institutional channels. Matters become simple here—assuming something uncorrupted still lives in him” (pg. 82). I find myself intimately relating to this right now. There are so many uncertainties at the present moment regarding especially my religious convictions. I know what is true, but there is so much beyond that that I do not know. I find many of the existing labels INSUFFICIENT to describe my beliefs and my feelings on these matters, and therefore I must carve out my own identity.
With the understanding of who and what the forest rebel is, we must now move towards understanding the methods of the forest rebel. We move to praxis.
For one, the forest rebel must break free of the State sanctioned methods of participation. The State presents us with supposed “choices” which ultimately just further their aims. “Why then is [the forest rebel] supposed to vote in a situation in which choice no longer exists?” Jünger asks (pg. 3). Jünger recommends simply abstaining in these situations, and perhaps writing “NO” in public places for all to see, or even more abstractly, writing something like “R”, which stands for, among other things, “Resist.” Now, I understand exactly where Jünger is coming from, but I would argue that the individual must also be prudent and recognize when a vote may be necessary and have some legitimate impact. For instance, it would not be wise for the forest rebels to abstain from a heated local election which would have far-reaching implications. I still think in most western countries there is a semblance of a legitimate choice, as lacking as one or the other may be when compared with the ideal. As for whether such an abstract gesture of writing “No” could have any impact, I direct you to internet memes, which are a modern version of such an action. Posting a transgressive political meme has perhaps an even greater impact than what Jünger suggests. Consider how much impact this meme had on the discourse regarding the legitimacy of the 2020 election:
Another habit which the forest rebel must adopt is simply to exercise his imagination in creative endeavors. Jünger especially highlights the poet as being a great threat to the Regime. “Any power struggle is preceded by a verification of images and an iconoclasm. This is why we need poets—they initiate the overthrow, even that of titans. Imagination, and with it song, belong to the forest passage” (pg. 33). Imagination and creativity allow the individual to express himself in terms beyond those provided by the system. Moreover, the pursuit of beauty itself can be a liberating act, an act of freedom which strikes at the heart of the ugly, demonic forces at play. The spine of the first print magazine that IM-1776 published reads: “Beauty is the battlefield where God and the devil war for the soul of man”, and I think this is a very fitting quote for the forest rebel to keep in mind. Much of the demonic forces that are at work today are ultimately ugliness and disorder acting out of resentment for the beautiful and well-adjusted.
Perhaps the most fundamental step a forest rebel must take is to overcome the fear of death, since this opens the door to an infinite number of possibilities. Jünger says, “At all times, in all places, and in every heart, human fear is the same: it is the fear of destruction, the fear of death” (pg. 50). Overcoming the fear of death is an essential step for the forest rebel in asserting his individuality. The fear of death is one of the chief motivators of the masses in their conformity. Better to conform than to die. The forest rebel rejects this. He exclaims, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Ultimately, “To overcome the fear of death is at once to overcome every other terror, for they all have meaning only in relation to this fundamental problem. The forest passage is, therefore, above all a passage through death. The path leads to the brink of death itself—indeed, if necessary, it passes through it. When the line is successfully crossed, the forest as a place of life is revealed in all its preternatural fullness. The superabundance of the world lies before us” (pg. 51). It is apparent, then, that the forest rebel is someone capable of becoming a martyr, which bears with it a religious significance. The Christian martyrs, Jünger says, “were stronger than the stoics, stronger than the caesars, stronger than the hundred thousand spectators surrounding them in the arena—there also followed the innumerable others who died with their faith intact. To this day this is a far more compelling force than it at first seems. Even when the cathedrals crumble, a patrimony of knowledge remains that undermines the palaces of the oppressors like catacombs. Already on these grounds we may be sure that the pure use of force, exercised in the old manner, cannot prevail in the long term. With this blood, substance was infused into history, and it is with good reason that we still number our years from this epochal turning point. The full fertility of theogony reigns here, the mythical generative power. The sacrifice is replayed on countless altars” (pg. 51). There may come a time when the cathedrals crumble and Christians are once again made to face death at the hands of persecutors. The forest rebel is the type of person who is capable of martyrdom, of plunging into death and thereby making an offering of himself, an offering which is able to eclipse the very physical force which led to his death in the first place. “There exists no great word and no noble thought for which blood has not flowed” (pg. 52).
The fundamental reason that the forest rebel must overcome this fear is because “no one is easier to terrorize than the person who believes that everything is over when his fleeting phenomenon is extinguished” (pg. 93). Instead, the forest rebel must affirm “that every man is immortal and that there is eternal life in him, an unexplored and yet inhabited land, which, though he himself may deny its existence, no timely power can ever take from him” (pg. 93). This is something which runs contrary to certain parts of the Right today. While I understand that we are not able to come to a consensus on religion, it seems to me that there is no future for a Right that lacks belief in the supernatural, in the eternal, and in the Divine. Affirming the immortality of man and life everlasting is a big deal and it damages the materialistic, nihilistic philosophy of society today.
Some other recommendations of Jünger include the cultivation of physical vitality. He suggests, “Avoiding doctors, trusting the truth of the body, and keeping an ear open to its voice: this is the best formula for the healthy…Whatever opinion one may hold of the world of health plans, insurance, pharmaceutical firms, and specialists, the person who can dispense with all of this is the stronger for it” (pg. 68). I wonder what Jünger would think of our contemporary “health experts” who managed the COVID crisis? He makes another shocking statement regarding vaccines, which has never been more relevant than now. He says, “A regularly vaccinated and sanitized crew, habituated to medication and of high average age, has a lower chance of survival than a crew that knows nothing of all this. A minimal mortality rate in quiet times is no measure of true health; overnight it can switch into its opposite. It is even possible that it may generate previously unknown contagions. The tissue of the people weakens, becomes more susceptible to attack” (pg. 70). How close this hits to home, seeing the abysmal failure of the COVID-19 vaccines. The forest rebel, then, is someone who trusts in his own body, who does not follow the whims of the health and nutrition industries, and who avoids “living off of processed foods, communication connections, and utility hookups; and all the synchronizations, repetitions, and transmissions” (pg. 38). Being capable of detaching oneself from these systems and having an existence beyond them is crucial.
A suggestion that will arouse many today is that Jünger also envisions the forest rebel as waging a literal war against the Regime. “The forest is everywhere—in the wastelands as much as in the cities, where a forest rebel may hide or live behind the mask of a profession…He conducts his little war along the railway tracks and supply routes, he threatens bridges, communication lines, and depots” (pg. 75). The forest rebel actually blows up critical infrastructure! Whether this is a prudent decision for contemporary forest rebels is another question.
A final hallmark of the forest rebel, but one which cannot be ignored, is that he is not merely concerned with saving his own skin. He is a true humanitarian. He loves his fellow humans and recognizes that they, too, whether they realize it or not, have individuality and immortality dwelling within them, despite most rejecting this whether they intend to or not. Jünger says, “Countless people alive today have passed the midpoint of the nihilistic process, the rock-bottom of the maelstrom…man finds himself in the bowels of a great machine devised for his destruction” (pg. 83).
Jünger goes on, “Only a miracle can save us from such whirlpools. This miracle has happened, even countless times, when a man stepped out of the lifeless numbers to extend a helping hand to others…Whatever the situation, whoever the other, the individual can become this fellow human being—and thereby reveal his native nobility. The origins of aristocracy lay in giving protection, protection from the threat of monsters and demons. This is the hallmark of nobility, and it still shines today in the guard who secretly slips a piece of bread to a prisoner. This cannot be lost, and on this the world subsists. These are the sacrifices on which it rests” (pg. 83).
Unlike the false humanitarians today, who “gush with humanitarian theory, yet [are] equally inclined to awful violence beyond all legal limits or international law whenever a neighbor or fellow human being does not fit into his system” (pg. 63), the forest rebel has a genuine love of others, which results in his ability to exact justice against those who do evil, and equally his willingness to extend a compassionate hand to those in need. By protecting others and by acting out of a true kindness of heart, the forest rebel shows his inner nobility. I find this to be in stark contrast to the idea of nobility which some contemporary “dissidents” champion, that of a cruel attitude, an attitude of being above and beyond everyone else and crushing those beneath, a contempt for others and the rejection of pity and compassion. The truth is, we can actually affirm Jünger’s position without affirming progressive values like “equality” and “social justice.” Consider, for example, that Jünger rebukes socialist policies, stating, “a redistribution of wealth does not increase wealth—rather, it increases its consumption, as becomes apparent in any managed forest. The lion’s share falls to the bureaucracy, particularly during those divisions where only the encumbrances are left over—of the shared fish only the bones remain” (pg. 89). Furthermore, of equality, he argues, “epochs that strive for the equality of all men will bear quite other fruits than those hoped for. They merely remove the fences and bars, the secondary divisions, and in this manner free up space (pg. 91). Clearly, then, we need not embrace the false notions which modern “humanitarians” champion. Instead, we can recognize that, “People are brothers, but they are not equal. The masses will always conceal individuals who by nature, that is, in their being, are rich, noble, kind, happy, or powerful” (pg. 91). The forest rebel is the aristocrat of the soul as Evola would say, the true noble, the Priest-Knight, and he fights against the demonic powers of this age, offering himself as a martyr and a sacrifice to save the world and the masses, whether they appreciate this or not. “We cannot limit ourselves to knowing what is good and true on the top floors while fellow human beings are being flayed alive in the cellar” (pg. 33). The forest rebel wishes to help others find their own individuality, even if he acts in vain.
All this should make clear that the idea of the forest rebel is a hopeful one. It strikes at the heart of the nihilistic, fatalist attitude of the world today. “The chains of technology can be broken—and it is the individual that has this power” (pg. 33). It is not an easy task. The forest rebel will often stand alone against immense powers. “The great solitude of the individual is a hallmark of our times. He is surrounded, encircled by fear, which pushes walls in against him on all sides” (pg. 54). But the forest rebel may take solace in the fact that “primal centers of power are hidden in the mutating landscapes, founts of superabundance and cosmic power within the ephemeral phenomena, may be found always and everywhere. This knowledge comprises not only the symbolic sacramental foundation of the churches…but it also constitutes the nucleus of philosophical systems, however divergent these conceptual worlds may be…Anyone who has once touched being has crossed the threshold where words, ideas, schools, and confessions still matter. Yet, in the process, he has also learned to revere that which is the life force in all of them” (pg. 46). The forest rebel can count himself among the “people who were not overcome by the hate, the terror, the mechanics of platitudes. These people withstood the propaganda and its plainly demonic insinuations” (pg. 45). The freedom which the forest rebel embraces is the same freedom that “constitutes the theme of history in general, and it marks off its boundaries: on the one side against the demonic realms, on the other against the merely zoological event. This is prefigured in myth and religions, and it always returns; so, too, the giants and the titans always manifest with the same apparent superiority. The free man brings them down; and he need not always be a prince or a Hercules. A stone from a shepherd’s sling, a flag raised by a virgin, and a crossbow have already proven sufficient” (pg. 41). The forest rebel is not a new being, he is a recurrence of a type which has existed from the beginning of the world.
There are a few additional things I wish to add. One is a point that Jünger seems to allude to but does not flesh out in great detail, and that is of the companions of the forest rebel. Though the forest rebel may sometimes seem to stand alone, the truth is that there are more forest rebels out there, even if they are unknown to him. It is absolutely essential, then, that the forest rebel learn to identify other rebels, and surround himself with such company, whether it be a neighbor, a coworker, or even a lover. I believe the forest rebels must gather together in small bands of autonomous rebel cells. While it is of supreme importance for the rebel to maintain his sovereignty and individuality, I think comradery and cooperation is still vital, and makes the rebels stronger as a unified force. The forest rebel must find consolation and support in his friends, his comrades, his brothers. They must form small warrior bands, perhaps no greater than half a dozen. Small autonomous cells like these, characterized by noble fraternity, will be able to operate with supreme effectiveness against the demonic forces. In terms of what this looks like in real life, it could look like book clubs, it could look like a prayer and spiritual support group, it could look like a group of men lifting weights together at the gym. It could look like a group of men gathering for combat training and survival skill training. It could look like a group of men planning and executing [redacted for legal reasons]. Ideally it should look like a few of these together. The forest rebel is not alone. He is outnumbered, absolutely, but not alone. He has his loved ones, his fellow rebels wherever they may be; he has his brothers.
Another point I would like to add is that our forest rebel today faces a much softer and more ambiguous enemy than Jünger would have imagined in his day. The enemy now is not nearly as easily identifiable as the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Today, the enemy operates on a public and private level. The enemy has infiltrated nearly every institution at every level. The State often does not need to exert any actual force against the dissenters itself. Instead, a mob, acting on its behalf, will form and attack anyone who dares question the Narrative and the Civil Religion. Companies will not hesitate to rid themselves of anyone who seems to smell of rebellion or nonconformity to today’s supreme values. The forest rebel, as Jünger suggests, must learn to blend in and wage his war under their noses. He must be an anon. He must master their tactics and become an expert in their methods and even their logic, and then use it against them. The forest rebel today, though, must above all, take not to lose his mind. The State, Hollywood, social media, the news, companies, and even churches are conducting a psychological operation of greater potency than has ever been seen before.
To not go mad, to not fall into the dopamine lull, to not require pills to function, and to hold strong to one’s beliefs is a great victory in the face of the nihilistic campaign, and it is a true expression of freedom and individuality. The forest rebel knows that he has a “wealth that no one can steal from him” and safeguards this wealth against the nihilistic assaults of the world. He also knows that above all, he is a free being. He is an individual. He is his own. He has a sovereignty which no one can take from him, and he aims to assert this in the present moment, to which he has been fated to exist in. “‘Here and now’ is the forest rebel’s motto—he is the spirit of free and independent action” (pg. 65). We must be forest rebels. We must be free, and fearless. We must resist the machine and its propaganda. We must take initiative. “The initiative will always pass into the hands of a select minority who prefer danger to servitude. And their action will always be preceded by reflection” (pg. 35). Let us each reflect on how we may truly be ourselves—free men with noble hearts and immortal souls, unafraid of death and the persecution of the machine—in this time of immense pressure to conform to a truly demonic spirit.
By becoming forest rebels, we avoid the fate of most of the world. That fate was one which Nietzsche foretold in Thus Spake Zarathustra: The pitiful alternative to the forest rebel is nothing less than THE LAST MAN:
“What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?”—so asketh the last man and blinketh.
The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man who maketh everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man liveth longest.
“We have discovered happiness”—say the last men, and blink thereby.
They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loveth one’s neighbour and rubbeth against him; for one needeth warmth.
Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbleth over stones or men!
A little poison now and then: that maketh pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death.
One still worketh, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.
One no longer becometh poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wanteth to rule? Who still wanteth to obey? Both are too burdensome.
No shepherd, and one herd! Every one wanteth the same; every one is equal: he who hath other sentiments goeth voluntarily into the madhouse.
“Formerly all the world was insane,”—say the subtlest of them, and blink thereby.
They are clever and know all that hath happened: so there is no end to their raillery. People still fall out, but are soon reconciled—otherwise it spoileth their stomachs.
They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.
“We have discovered happiness,”—say the last men, and blink thereby.—
(All quotes of The Forest Passage are from the Telos Press edition)