The Forest Rebel – excerpt from POLEMOS II: Pagan Perspectives

Excerpt from POLEMOS II: PAGAN PERSPECTIVES, by Askr Svarte, released in August 2021 by PRAV Publishing:

The concept of the “forest rebel”, the one who “retreats” or “passes into the Forest” (in German Waldgang), was set forth by Ernst Jünger in his book of the same title published after the war as a conceptualization of the new humanist and liberal-democratic reality. The triumph of the Worker was obvious, as democracy had turned into dictatorship, and former forms of freedom lost meaning and relevance, with even protesting now used as an instrument for maintaining order. Comfort and hope for the existing order of things made man a hostage, turning him into a “domestic animal for cattle slaughter.” In this situation, Ernst Jünger raised the question of the possibility of true rebellion against this order and a new form of true Freedom within the society of the staged spectacle. Jünger wrote:

“But, in our terms, 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.” [1] 

Jünger compared the modern technocratic world to a ship, the Titanic, which embodies man’s dependence on technology. As long as a person is pleasantly enjoying travel on deck, he does not realize how much he is a hostage of the ship. As soon as something goes wrong, as soon as the ship begins to sink, man realizes his complete lack of freedom and incapacity to influence the situation. All people today are the passengers of such a ship, but, Jünger asks, is it still possible to maintain freedom of decision and a connection with the timeless? For Jünger, the ship is the embodiment of the transitory, one of the forms prevailing in our days. Being is everlasting, eternal. Restoring the connection with being through philosophy, theology, and myth means gaining freedom even while remaining on the ship. Timeless being is the Forest.

Jünger warns against anarchistic revolt against machines with an analogy: if some of the passengers jumped ship in life rafts into the open sea, they would certainly be destroyed by hunger, cannibalism, and the surrounding sharks. It is, therefore, safer to stay on the ship, i.e., in society, even if it risks taking off at any minute. On this point, Jünger recalls the myth of Dionysus when, taken captive by Tyrrhenian pirates, he entangled their ship in vines and ivy. He who goes into the Forest brings the Forest to the ship, and in this lies the fundamental power of the Eternal against the temporal. Even the loner who has gone into the Forest is capable of resisting and defeating the “ship.”

The forest rebel is not a solider, but he might be a partisan. His life is freer but harsher. Although, Jünger remarks, the possibility of passing into the Forest is open to all, there are always few forest rebels. The majority are dependent upon comfort, society, and numerous other factors. Passing into the Forest is possible at any moment and at any point in the world. Most important for the forest passage is overcoming the fear of passing into the Forest which, like everything else, comes down to the main and only fear – fear of death. Overcoming this fear means passing into the Forest. Jünger writes: “Forest rebels are recruited from the ranks of those resolved to fight for freedom, even when the outlook is hopeless. In the ideal case, their personal freedom coincides with the liberation of their land.” Despite the loneliness and fatalism of the “passed”, the forest rebel, Jünger recognizes the opportunity of passing into the Forest to be open to whole peoples, which would make them invincible.

The main motto of the forest rebel is “here and now”: passing into the Forest here and now, freedom here and now, death here and now, action here and now. The Forest is in principle everywhere: in cities, in abandoned places, in deserts, on the ship entwined in the vine. The forest rebel dwells at the center of Hell, fearing neither death nor shipwreck.

The concept of the forest rebel is consonant with the ideas which Evola expounded in his Ride the Tiger. Evola cites the ancient myth that if a person meets a tiger in the jungle, he must saddle it and hold on tight so that the tiger cannot throw him off. Only when the tiger weakens and can no longer carry the person can it be killed. For Evola, the tiger was Modernity and the person in question is the lone Traditionalist standing among the ruins. Fighting Modernity (and Postmodernity) is about saddling the tiger, i.e., dwelling in profane society while at once using its means and breakthroughs in one’s favor so as to, at the key moment of relaxation, inflict a fatal blow to the “tiger.” Evola rightly pointed out that this could turn out to be a long-term perspective. Evola distinguishes the differentiated person who can withstand life in a world without the Sacred and, most importantly, comprehend the absence of the Gods. The differentiated man is he who connects with the transcendent directly from his essence, bypassing the instances of the external world, i.e., estates, the church, parties, and the State. We might add that “riding the tiger” is an even more difficult task in Postmodernity. If in the myth cited by Evola man encounters a real tiger, a real beast in the jungle, then in Postmodernity the Pagan Traditionalist might find this tiger drawn as an illustration, as a set of pixels, or as not a tiger at all. In other words, grasping onto Postmodernity like a tiger means catching the thinnest hypnotic veil which Postmodernity casts upon things and simulacra, making them into something they are not. Do not let thyself be fooled – this is the pledge of survival in the fight against the “tiger.”

The “forest rebel” and the “tiger rider”, like “inward migration” and primitivism, are special topics and strategies for Traditionalists…They appeared as conceptualizations of the events of the first half of the 20th century when great hopes were pinned on the collective identities of “race”, “nation”, “aristocracy”, “proletariat”, etc. All of the latter proved incapable of conquering or overcoming the liberalism and bourgeois capitalism which they stood up against. After the Second World War, Traditionalists and conservatives were left with no space and sight of real political force and prospects for changing the State, hence the emergence of strategies and models for a “longer” standing against the Modern World. Literal exodus from society is one form of the “forest passage”, but of much greater importance is the existential and value-based attitude towards the whole surrounding world. One can be in the very center of the technological and semiotic flows of Postmodernity while absolutely not belonging to it, instead being ready to blow up everything, to pass into the Forest here and now…

[1] Ernst Jünger, The Forest Passage (trans. Thomas Friese; Candor: Telos, 2013)


Order Polemos II: Pagan Perspectives from PRAV Publishing