Eumeswil is a novel written by Ernst Jünger in 1977 which managed to predict several of the hyperobjects central to cyborgism and the Dreamtime, treated primarily through a historiographical lens. The story is about a historian and anarch, Manuel Venator, who by night explores historical resimulations on a Loom-like device called the luminar, although this cyborgistic subplot(superplot?) is only implicit for most of the novel.
quotes from Eumeswil
To make the vague more precise, to define the indefinite more and more sharply: that is the task of every development, every temporal exertion. ...
The sculptor at first confronts the raw block, the pure material, which encompasses any and all possibilities.
Bruno is right when he classifies this as magic, which is developing into a scienza nuova, a subcategory of science. Technology has a subsoil. Now, it is starting to feel queasy about itself. It is approaching the immediate realization of thoughts, as is achieved in dreams. Only a tiny step appears to be missing; this step could emerge from the dream itself as if from a mirror. Eumeswil lends itself to this possibility.
A door should no longer be touched; it should spring open on its own. Every desired place should be reached in the twinkling of an eye. Any world is drawn from the ether or, as at the luminar, from the catacombs.
Thus I am present as if Eumeswil were a dream, a game, or even an experiment. This does not rule out personal sympathy, which, after all, we do feel when we are moved by a play at the theater.
Given my brand of observation, I would rather associate with Vigo and Bruno than with my genitor and my dear brother. Were I to behave like them, I would be rooted in an agitation that does not appeal to me in any way, whether I view it from above, from below, from the right, or from the left.
The Condor would then be “the tyrant” for me, not just factually but also morally. Tyrants must be hated, so I would hate him. Or else: he embodies the will to power, as extolled by Boutefeu; a great navigator, he steers us through the waves and storms of the struggle for life, I then model myself after him, I follow him without giving it a second thought, I idolize him. Be that as it may: these are feelings that I ward off.
When I, as a historian, view us en familie, it strikes me that I dwell one story higher than my father and my brother: in rooms where one lives more unabashedly. I could come down at any time. That would be the historian's descent into politics - a change that might have good and even noble reasons, yet would in any case entail a loss of freedom.
I have often summoned [Tiberius] to the luminar late at night. Some of his days are registered there virtually minute by minute. Now and then such details are important, because historiography is forced to rely on abbreviations. But I also want to know when, for how long, and in whose company such a man was bored - I want to participate in his boredom. In this respect, the historian is akin to a good actor, who identifies with his role.
Naturally there are different conceptions. They are unavoidable; even a brilliant composer will not find a conductor who interprets him historically. Of course, sharp deviations often distort less than imponderable ones. If the background of the notes, their own existence and instinctual life, are grasped through congenial improvisation, then the time of destiny triumphs over the time of history.
I can enjoy “Intuitive Improvisations” at the luminar; for generations, important minds must have hoarded and shaped the material of world history in the catacombs.
Such things are possible during long periods of security, especially when they are played as a game. A passion for the archival and a eunuch-like chinoiserie add to the fun – as does fear of annihilation and also of universal wars. The archives of the Vatican would fill only a niche there.
I often wonder what this archivistic instinct is aiming at. It seems to transcend any historical intention.
First, literature. What we call a “source” is actually fixed, an era's sediment in its written signs. But just one hammer blow, and the water spurts from the rock.
A letter of the alphabet also contains an immediate secret, like the corals in the petrified reef. The molecules have remained as they were shaped by life and they can be reanimated.
A supratemporal core can be discovered in matter and liberated from it. These are resurrections. Here, the view leads beyond knowledge – indeed, beyond art – to the high noon of the present. The hand that wrote the text becomes one's own. At the same time, quality becomes less important; the drama of history is woven entirely from the yarn of the Norns. The distinctions are created by the interplay of the folds, not by the cloth. People used to say, “Before God all are equal.”
An inserted question may be: “Re: rue Saint-Honoré. Who aside from Robespierre lived in the house of the cabinetmaker Duplay? What became of him and of Eléonore? Extract from the 1789 speech in which Robespierre demanded that the National Assembly abolish slavery in the colonies and capital punishment in the kingdom itself. How high were the towers of the Bastille?”
And so forth. The apparatus spits out the answers in the required format. The height of the Bastille was seventy-three feet and three inches. Almost no light fell into its courtyard. The promenade on the towers was better; it was considered a privilege.
As for Duplay, there is no need to leaf through the property records and address cadastres – he is instantly found among ten thousand namesakes in the central population register. If he has even the slightest importance, then references lead to further indexes – say, the Archives of Correspondence or the bibliographies. A petrified memory, tremendous – and on the other hand, the sphinx that responds.
So much for the transmission of texts and their combination. The Tower of Babel was dismantled brick by brick, quantified, and rebuilt. A question-and-answer game leads to the upper stories, the chambers, the details of its appointments. This suffices for the historian who practices history as a science.
However, the luminar offers more. Not only was an encyclopedia of inconceivable dimensions created in the catacombs, it was also activated. History is not only described, it is also played. Thus, it is summoned back into time; it appears in images and persons. Both scholars and artists must have been at work, even clairvoyants who peered into crystal balls. At midnight, when I call up one of the great scenes, I am directly participating in what is virtually a conjuration.
Certainly there are objections. My dear dad generally refuses to employ this part of the luminar; it offends his sense of historical precision. But then how precise is historiography – say, Plutarch's? The great speeches of kings and generals before a battle? Was he present? He must have put the words into his heroes' mouths. And why not? Besides, I often hear better things from the luminar. And the sources of the era that introduced speaking machines are terribly meager.
Both the texts and the spectacles in the luminar are beneficial to my study of anarchy, which is my secret focus. I summon the leading and marginal figures of theoretical and applied anarchism from The Banquet of the Seven Sages to the dinamiteros and bomb-throwers of Paris and Saint Petersburg.
Let me make a general comment on the luminar. Whenever people appear in the spectacle, remarks and replies are put into their mouths, often brilliantly. However, the catacombs must have an elite that tries to reach further. The people are supposed to answer on their own! This would not be altogether impossible, even technologically; it would constitute a supreme level of automatism.
History is dead; this facilitates a historical retrospective and keeps it free of bias – at least for those who have suffered pain and put it behind them.
On the other hand, the things that gave substance to history and put it in motion cannot have died. They must have shifted from the phenomenal world to the reserves – to the night side. We dwell on fossil soil that can unexpectedly spew fire. Everything is probably inflammable, all the way to the core.