…Iranian angelology… gives the guardian angel its most limpid and astonishing formulation. According to this doctrine, an angel called a daena, who has the form of a very beautiful young girl, presides over the birth of each man. The daena is the celestial archetype in whose likeness each individual has been created, as well as the silent witness who accompanies and observes us at every moment. And yet the angel’s face changes over time. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, it is imperceptibly transformed with our every gesture, word, and thought. Thus, at the moment of death, the soul is met by its angel, which has been transfigured by the soul’s conduct into either a more beautiful creature or a horrendous demon. It then whispers: “I am your daena, the one who has been formed by your thoughts, your words, and your, deeds.” In a vertiginous reversal, our life molds and outlines the archetype in whose image we are created.
To some extent we all come to terms with Genius, with what resides in us but does not belong to us. Each person’s character is engendered by the way he attempts to turn away from Genius, to flee from him. Genius, to the extent that he has been avoided and left unexpressed, inscribes a grimace on Ego’s face. An author’s style — like the grace displayed by any creature — depends less on his genius than on the part of him that is deprived of genius, his character. That is why when we love someone we actually love neither his genius nor his character (and even less his ego) but his special manner of evading both of these poles, his rapid back-and-forth between genius and character.
The life that maintains the tension between the personal and the impersonal, between Ego and Genius, is called poetic. But the feeling that occurs when Genius exceeds us on every side is called panic — panic at something that comes over us and is infinitely greater than what we believe ourselves able to bear. For this reason, most people flee in terror before the part of themselves that is impersonal, or else they seek hypocritically to reduce it to their own minuscule stature. What is rejected as impersonal, then, can reappear in the form of symptoms and tics that are even more impersonal, or grimaces that are even more excessive.
It has been said that spirituality is above all an awareness that the individuated being is not completely individuated but still contains a certain non-individuated share of reality, which must be not only preserved but also respected and, in a way, even honored, as one honors one’s debts. But Genius is not merely spirituality and is not just concerned with the things that we customarily regard as higher and more noble. Everything in us that is impersonal is genial. The force that pushes the blood through our veins or that plunges us into sleep, the unknown power in our body that gently regulates and distributes its warmth or that relaxes or contracts the fibers of our muscles — that too is genial. It is Genius that we obscurely sense in the intimacy of our physiological life, in which what is most one’s own is also strange and impersonal, and in which what is nearest somehow remains distant and escapes mastery. If we did not abandon ourselves to Genius, if we were only ego and consciousness, we would not even be able to urinate. Living with Genius means, in this sense, living in the intimacy of a strange being, remaining constantly in relation to a zone of non-consciousness. But this zone of non-consciousness is not repression; it does not shift or displace an experience from consciousness to the unconscious, where this experience would be sedimented as a troubling past, waiting to resurface in symptoms and neuroses. This intimacy with a zone of non-consciousness is an everyday mystical practice, in which the ego, in a sort of special, joyous esotericism, looks on with a smile at its own undoing and, whether it’s a matter of digesting food or illuminating the mind, testifies incredulously to its own incessant dissolution and disappearance. Genius is our life insofar as it does not belong to us.
Our concept of what is popular refers to a people who not only play a full part in historical development but actively usurp it, force its pace, determine its direction. We have a people in mind who make history, change the world and themselves. We have in mind a fighting people and therefore an aggressive concept of what is popular.
Realistic means: discovering the causal complexes of society / unmasking the prevailing view of things as the view of those who are in power / writing from the standpoint of the class which offers the broadest solutions for the pressing difficulties in which human society is caught up / emphasizing the element of development / making possible the concrete, and making possible abstraction from it.
The individualistic society has its limitations and its particular features; they can be read off the so-called basic problem of moral philosophy, that of free will. That is why for a moral philosophy which is necessarily a theory of private ethics, the highest point it can rise to is that of the antinomy of causality and freedom which figures in Kant’s philosophy in an unresolved and therefore exemplary fashion. But what appears in Kant as the intertwining of man and nature is also the intertwining of man and society. For in that second nature, in our universal state of dependency, there is no freedom. And for that reason there is no ethics either in the administered world. It follows that the premise of ethics is the critique of the administered world.
The situation in music is that as long as there had existed something like prescribed, established, given forms that corresponded to the prescribed, established, given forms of bourgeois life, it was possible for musicians to improvise. The less this was the case, the more these pre-established forms were eroded, the more the freedom of the artistic subject, and especially the freedom to improvise, were restricted. This restriction was particularly evident in music, an art close to my heart, and efforts to revive it of the kind we have witnessed in our own age have remained without force. Thus music that is seriously contemporary and that no longer tolerates the pre-established forms which were the precondition of absolute freedom finds that it is no longer confronted by defined objectivities. In consequence its freedom to improvise, its freedom to behave as it wishes, has shrivelled to the point of no return. It is my belief that something similar has taken place in the realm of morality. After all, to concern oneself with moral philosophy and reflect on these matters means also that we must give an account of the historical status that questions about moral action and a moral life possess today. Compared with the status they enjoyed in the age of the great philosophers, their importance has been infinitely reduced in magnitude today.
Nietzsche’s hostility to compassion is a purely abstract negation of Schopenhauer’s ethics of compassion, and it was put to the test by the Third Reich and in general by the totalitarian states in a way that would have horrified Nietzsche more than anyone. On the other hand, we must admit that Nietzsche’s criticism of compassion has an element of truth. This is because the concept of compassion tacitly maintains and gives its sanction to the negative condition of powerlessness in which the object of our pity finds himself. The idea of compassion contains nothing about changing the circumstances that give rise to the need for it, but instead, as in Schopenhauer, these circumstances are absorbed into the moral doctrine and interpreted as its main foundation. In short, they are hypostatized and treated as if they were immutable. We may conclude from this that the pity you express for someone always contains an element of injustice towards that person; he experiences not just our pity but also the impotence and the specious character of the compassionate act.
Lukács’s thought takes for granted a closed and integrated reality that does indeed exclude the subjectivity of idealism, but not the seamless ‘totality’ which has always thriven best in idealist systems, including those of classical German philosophy. Whether such a totality in fact constitutes reality, is open to question. If it does, then Expressionist experiments with disruptive and interpolative techniques are but an empty jeu d’esprit, as are the more recent experiments with montage and other devices of discontinuity. But what if Lukács’s reality — a coherent, infinitely mediated totality — is not so objective after all? What if his conception of reality has failed to liberate itself completely from Classical systems? What if authentic reality is also discontinuity?