Stirner’s “Der Einzige und sein Eigentum” was a revolutionary deed. It is the rebellion of the individual against those “sacred principles” in the name of which he was ever oppressed and subjected. Stirner exposes, so to say, the metaphysics of tyrannical forces. Luter nailed his ninety-five accusations against Popery to the door of the Schlosskirche at Wittenberg; Stirner’s declaration of independence of the individual throws down the challenge to ALL things “sacred” — in morals, family and State. He tears off the mask of our “inviolable institutions” and discovers behind them nothing but — spooks. GOD, SPIRIT, IDEAS, TRUTH, HUMANITY, PATRIOTISM — all these are to Stirner mere masks, behind which — as from the holy mountain — issue commands, the Kantian categoric imperatives, all signed to suppress the individuality, to train and drill it and thus to rob it of all initiative, independence and Eigenheit All these things claim to be good in themselves, to be cultivated for their own sake and all exact respect and subjection, all demand admiration, worship and the humiliation of the individual.

Against all this is directed the rebellion of the I with its Eigenheit and Einzigkeit. It withholds respect and obedience. It shakes from its feet the dust of “eternal truths” and proclaims the emancipation of the individual from the mastery of ideals and ideas; henceforth the free, self-owning Ego must master them. He is no more awed by the “good”; neither does he condemn the “bad.” He is sans religion, sans morals, sans State. The conception of Justice, Right, General Good are no more binding upon him; at the most, he uses them for his own ends

To Stirner, the Ego is the centre of the world; wherever it looks, it finds the world its own — to the extent of its power. If this Ego could appropriate the entire world, it would thereby establish its right to it. It would be the universal monopolist. Stirner does not say that he wants his liberty to be limited by the equal liberty of others; on the contrary, he believes that his freedom and Eigenheit are bounded only by his power to attain. If Napoleon uses humanity as a football, why don’t they rebel?

The liberty demanded by his democratic and liberal contemporaries was to Stirner as mere alms thrown to a beggar.

J. L. Walker entirely misunderstands the very spirit of Stirner when he states in his Introduction: “In Stirner we have the philosophical foundation for political liberty.” Stirner has nothing but contempt for political liberty. He regards it in the light of a doubtful favor that the powerful grant to the powerless. He, as Eigener would scorn to accept political liberty if he could have it for the asking. He scoffs at those who ask for human right and beg liberty and independence, instead of taking what belongs to them by virtue of their power.

It is this very criticism of political liberty that constitutes one of the most ingenuous parts of Stirner’s book. This is best proven by the following quotation:[5]

“‘Political liberty,’ what are we to understand by that? Perhaps the individual’s independence of the State and its laws? No; on the contrary, the individual’s subjection in the State and to the State laws. But why ‘liberty’? Because one is no longer separated from the State by intermediaries, but stands in direct and immediate relation to it; because one is a — citizen, not the subject of another, not even of the king as a person, but only in his quality as ‘supreme head of the State.’ . . .

“Political liberty means that the polis, the State, is free; freedom of religion that religion is free, as freedom of conscience signifies that conscience is free; not, therefore, that I am free from the State, from religion, from conscience, or that I am rid of them. It does not mean my liberty, but the liberty of a power that rules and subjugates me; it means that one of my despots, like State, religion, conscience, is free. State, religion, conscience, these despots, make me a slave.”

Stirner is anti-democratic as well as anti-moral He did not believe that the individual would be freed from his moral fetters by “humanizing the deity,” as advocated by Ludwig Feuerbach; that were but to substitute moral despotism for religious. The divine had grown senile and enervated; something more virile was required to further keep man in subjection.

By embodying the “God idea” in man, the moral commands are transformed into his very mental essence, thus enslaving him to his own mind instead of to something external; thus would the former merely external slavery be supplanted by an inner thraldom through his ethical fear of being immoral. We could rebel against a mere external God; the moral, however, becoming synonymous with the human, is thus made ineradicable. Man’s dependence and servitude reach in this humanizing of the divine their highest triumph — freed from the thraldom of an external force he is now the more intensely the slave of his own “inner moral necessity.”

Every good Christian carries God in his heart; every good moralist and Puritan, his moral gendarme.

The freethinkers have abolished the personal God and then absorbed the ethical microbe, thus inoculating themselves with moral scrofula. They proudly proclaimed their ability to be moral without divine help, never suspecting that it is this very morality that forges the chains of man’s subjugation. The rulers would cheerfully ignore the belief in God if convinced that moral commands would suffice to perpetuate man in his bondage. While the “hell of a sick conscience” is in yourself — in your bones and blood — your slavery is guaranteed.

In this connection Stirner says:

“Where could one look without meeting victims of self-renunciation? There sits a girl opposite me, who perhaps has been making bloody sacrifices to her soul for ten years already. Over the buxom form droops a deathly-tired head, and pale cheeks betray the slow bleeding away of her youth. Poor child, how often the passions may have beaten at your heart, and the rich powers of youth have demanded their right! When your head rolled in the soft pillow, how awakening nature quivered through your limbs, the blood swelled your veins, and fiery fancies poured the gleam of voluptuousness into your eyes! Then appeared the ghost of the soul and its external bliss. You were terrified, your hands folded themselves, your tormented eye turned its look upward, you — prayed. The storms of nature were hushed, a calm glided over the ocean of your appetites. Slowly the weary eyelids sank over the life extinguished under them, the tension crept out unperceived from the rounded limbs, the boisterous waves dried up in the heart, the folded hands themselves rested a powerless weight on the unresisting bosom, one last faint “Oh dear!” moaned itself away, and — the soul was at rest. You fell asleep, to awake in the morning to a new combat and a new — prayer. Now the habit of renunciation cools the heat of your desire, and the roses of your youth are growing pale in the chlorosis of your heavenliness. The soul is saved, the body may perish! O Lais, O Ninon! how well you did to scorn this pale virtue! One free grisette against a thousand virgins grown gray in virtue!”

Thus the chains fall one by one from the sovereign I. It rises ever higher above all “sacred commands” which have woven his strait-jacket.

That is the great liberating deed of Stirner.

Abstractly considered, the Ego is now einzig; but how about his Eigentum?[6] We have now reached the point in Stirner’s philosophy where mere abstractions do not suffice.

The resolving of society into einzige individuals leads, economically considered, to negation. Stirner’s life is itself the best proof of the powerlessness of the individual forced to carry on a solitary battle in opposition to existing conditions.

Stirner demolishes all spooks; yet, forced by material need to contract debts which he cannot pay, the power of the “spooks” proves greater than that of his Eigenheit: his creditors send him to prison. Stirner himself declares free competition to be a mere gamble, which can only emphasize the artificial superiority of toadies and time-servers over the less proficient. But he is also opposed to Communism which, in his opinion, would make ragamuffins of us all, by depriving the individual of his property.

This objection, however, does not apply to a very large number of individuals, who do not possess property anyhow; they become ragamuffins because they are continually compelled to battle for property and existence, thus sacrificing their Eigenheit and Einzigkeit.

Why were the lives of most of our poets, thinkers, artists and inventors a martyrdom? Because their individualities were so eigen and einzig that they could not successfully compete in the low struggle for property and existence. In that struggle they had to market their individuality to secure means of livelihood. What is the cause of our corruption of character and our hypocritical suppression of convictions? It is because the individual does not own himself, and is not permitted to be his true self. He has become a mere market commodity, an instrument for the accumulation of property — for others.

What business has an individual, a Stirnerian, an Eigener in a newspaper office, for instance, where intellectual power and ability are prostituted for the enrichment of the publisher and shareholders. Individuality is stretched on the Procrustes of bed of business; in the attempt to secure his livelihood — very often in the most uncongenial manner — he sacrifices his Eigenheit, thus suffering the loss of the very thing he prizes most highly and enjoys the best.

If our individuality were to be made the price of breathing, what ado there would be about the violence done to personality! And yet our very right to food, drink and shelter is only too often conditioned upon our loss of individuality. These things are granted to the propertyless millions (and how scantily!) only in exchange for their individuality — they become the mere instruments of industry.

Stirner loftily ignores the fact that property is the enemy of individuality, — that the degree of success in the competitive struggle is proportionate to the measure in which we disown and turn traitors to our individuality. We may possibly except only those who are rich by inheritance; such persons can, to a certain degree, live in their own way. But that by no means expresses the power, the Eigenheit of the heir’s individuality. The privilege of inheriting may, indeed, belong to the veriest numskull full of prejudice and spooks, as well as to the Eigener. This leads to petty bourgeois and parvenu Individualism which narrows rather than broadens the horizon of the Eigener.

Modern Communists are more individualistic than Stirner. To them, not merely religion, morality, family and State are spooks, but property also is no more than a spook, in whose name the individual is enslaved — and how enslaved! The individuality is nowadays held in far stronger bondage by property, than by the combined power of State, religion and morality.

Modern Communists do not say that the individual should do this or that in the name of Society. They say: “The liberty and Eigenheit of the individual demand that economic conditions — production and distribution of the means of existence — should be organized thus and thus for his sake.” Hence follows that organization in the obedience or despotism. The prime condition is that the individual should not be forced to humiliate and lower himself for the sake of property and subsistence. Communism thus creates a basis for the liberty and Eigenheit of the individual. I am a Communist because I am an Individualist.

Fully as heartily the Communists concur with Stirner when he puts the word take in place of demand — that leads to the dissolution of property, to expropriation.

Individualism and Communism go hand in hand.