The Worker: The Modern Operative Figure Foreseen by Ernst Jünger

operative traditions

Exert from Operative Traditions Vol. I by Miguel Angel Fernandez

Operative Traditions Vol. IDer Arbeiter: Herrschaft und Gestalt was translated into English as “The Worker: Figure and Dominion.” This misleading translation was very likely one of the main reasons why the book was not properly grasped in terms of its core transformative message, and why it was often misinterpreted from political standpoints. In order to not further confuse the readers, in Operative Traditions it has been chosen to make use of a new expression: “The Operator” (instead of “The Worker”) intending to approach in a new renovated way a figure which is naturally predisposed towards operative dominion.

Julius Evola, aware of the powerful ideas embedded in Jünger’s book, published an introductory book on “The Operator” for Italian readers called “L’Operaio nel pensiero de Ernst Jünger” (The Worker in the thought of Ernst Jünger) which is a summarized approach to the essay of the German author, and which was elaborated—especially in the last chapter “Conclusions”—from the perspective on  Tradition that Evola relied on during his entire life. Evola also agreed that by referring to the term “Arbeiter/Worker” Jünger was not referring to anything that could resemble a proletarian ideal or the idea of the worker as reduced to fulfilling an exclusive economic/production aim. These were the impressions of Evola on the work of Jünger:

“The merit of Jünger in this first phase of his thought, is to have recognized the fatal mistake of all those who think that everything can be reordered, that this new threatening world, always in progress, can be tamed or interrupted on the basis of vision of life and the values of the previous era; that is, of the bourgeois civilization.”

The most substantial aspect of Ernst Jünger’s work corresponds to presenting to Western culture the issue of technique, as an operative factor that has become extremely formative in terms of the actual conditions of power and dominion. Presenting this idea for the first time corresponded in the case of Ernst Jünger, to an extremely revolutionary accomplishment, since one of the traits of Western culture since the Enlightenment was to grant power, relevance, and dominion to scientific thought and to the discursive and rationalistic mind (eventually becoming philosophically defended the tendency by Transcendental Idealism). Yet it was precisely Jünger’s heroic experiences in warfare and extremely dangerous situations that allowed him to perceive “the power of the Zeitgeist, which degrades the ideal into an illusion” and visualize the dynamic mobilization based on the power provided by technical and operative factors.

Amidst this new configuration of physis, all former ideals, religious frameworks and secular ideals were becoming mere subsidiary factors, “shadows,” and in most cases justifications a posteriori of all phenomena taking place within a novel reality that was no longer accessible to the bourgeoisie speculative and idealistic approaches to the cosmos, but rather to a figure characterized by an intimate aim for dominion: the Operator, the “Lord and dominator of the world, an imperious type who is in possession of a full power only dimly glimpsed so far”—as Ernst Jünger writes, having described the core philosophy of Julius Evola as a framework that assists the individual to relate to the empirical conditions of the world, that Jünger considered as “the only possible heir of Prussianism,” the Operator.

This corresponds well to the Individual who has formerly burnt away all sense of artificial and abstract individualism, and who develops an activity—technique— which awakens an “I” potentially capable of homeostatic dominion over the effective conditions of reality. Such an Individual would have to necessarily arrive at the third stage defined by Evola, which is the development phase of Magical Idealism, or what in his phenomenology he refers to as the Stage of Dominion (“era della dominazione”). This stage is not determined by economic power, but rather the modes of power and dominion over the economic conditions. Therefore, whenever referring to the Operator it is crucial to draw a distinction line between the Operator and the idea of the worker.

The Operator is a figure that is more primordial than the worker, and “beyond dialectics,” as Jünger remarks; the Operator sets the territorial dominion on which the worker can afterwards develop a production/economic activity. The former distinction is crucial, since most of the misconceptions on Jünger’s essay arose from the assimilation of the Operator figure to that of any individual developing an activity related to production/economic purposes. This distinction carries Jünger’s approach to the Operative Traditions of the West and East, where territorial dominion and the establishment of strong homeostatic links between men and the environment constituted the legitimizing factor for developing economic activity. The Operative Freemasons cherished this idea during medieval times, and as we’ve seen in the account of Eugen Herrigel with Master Awa Kenzo, the entire archery practice is also intended to be uncoupled and released from any economic need. As we’ve already seen, in the case of an Operative Tradition such as the “Great Doctrine,” Eugen Herrigel finally managed to properly assimilate and be one with it.

What is intended to be produced is not a specific form of matter, but rather a specific form of energy which directs the developments of matter and its particular character of mobilization; hence the archer is intended to constitute an operative “bridge” capable of serving as a “channel” or “funnel” between both realms. By accomplishing this task successfully, the economic domain—strictly linked to the conditions of material production—serves a purpose that, for instance, in the case of Zen Buddhism was often assigned a ritual and regal function, which was related to the State. The same idea emerged during Medieval Europe with the Operative arts being integrated in Gothic architecture, which all  dispersed across Europe before the emergence of the State-nations, and constituted clear imperial developments at a continental level.The latter entails another key characteristic of the Operator: its intimate relation to the State. However, once again another key differential nuance has to be pointed out. Jünger did not refer to the State-nations as the territory the Operator aims to dominate or politically link with.

Ernst Jünger’s idea of the State is the imperialer Räume where hierarchy—like in the case of the Prussian Empire— was determined by a sense of duty, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and devotion towards military activities. These character traits constituted valuable elements to Eugen Herrigel when he was under the guidance of Master Awa Kenzo, a man who incarnated imperial values. In fact, the “distillation” of Herrigel’s personal virtue and essence would have been impossible if not for having embraced those crucial traits during the years of training. Yet these imperial character traits can easily cool when the individual is placed in a society where economic individualism (liberalism) or the cult of economic production as a socio-political factor (Marxism) constitute ideologies that no longer aim to “distill” the needs and desires, but instead tend to increase and hypertrophy all needs and desires. In this context—which has proliferated in the West since World War I—the Operator would have to search for territories where technique can be developed as the main configuring factor of reality. Yet in order to attain this release from the intoxicating effects of ideologies such as liberalism and Marxism, the Operator would have to first be free inside—in terms of conscience—and this entails freedom from any bourgeoisie world-view.


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