Aeternum Bellum

Over the ages, over the course of history, over the course of life on this planet, there has been only one constant. War. It began at the minutest level, on a cellular level. The first single celled organism, finding nothing else to wage war against, turned upon itself and tore itself into two. Today, we call it reproduction. It was merely, in fact, the cell obeying the eternal law. If you live, you war.

As life evolved, so did the forms of war. Life came into contact with life. Both were subject to the same laws, both must war. And so it was inevitable, in fact, it is surprising that it took as long as it did, for life to begin its war against its counterparts. There developed a different kind of organism. One that needed another’s life to be sacrificed in order to keep on living. This branching off had seismic repercussions. We may trace our Warring instincts’ lineage directly through the ravages of time all the way to this crucial point. From this organism developed the herbivore, then the carnivore, and at last, the all-consuming omnivore. Everything that lived was eventually locked into an eternal chain of predator-prey, predator-prey. This dynamic shaped not only the direction of the organism’s evolution, but along with it shaped the very landscape of this planet. The world as we know it would not exist if this unquenchable drive for war was not omnipresent in all of existence.

But here, Life pulled out a wonderful weapon. It turned this very instinct to its advantage. It had bided its time, waiting for exactly the right moment to stage its ambush, and when the moment arrived, what a marvel it was to behold! A coup that Napoleon or Hannibal or even Genghis Khan would have been proud to claim as his own. Life used War for progress. It turned the instinct for war into a disinfectant. It used War to weed out the weak, to cleanse the species of its freaks. It had discovered “natural selection.” Where War strove for destruction, it found it was only strengthening Life. The strong, now freed from the burden of the weak, bounded ever faster and higher, dodging death nimble footed wherever they went. The species accelerated their evolution, and Life flourished. A masterstroke executed to perfection.

The Warring instinct found itself at war. It had met a worthy foe at last. It was at war with Life. A war that, as yet, shows neither indication nor inclination of ending. Aeternum Bellum.

Up until now, the whole of war was based upon two base instincts, sustenance and reproduction. Even up until man was yet a caveman, in the Palaeolithic era, it was still these same two drives that did the donkey work for the Warring instinct. But here, a novelty made its appearance. Life sensed its own position of dominance and sought to finish off the Warring instinct. And thus, Life produced Reason.

At its inception, it still served merely as a tool to ease the acquisition of sustenance and to achieve reproduction. It was not an open threat to the warring instinct. Life observed gleefully as Reason slowly but surely worked its magic over our species. We began using tools, building shelters, forming clans, developing social systems, languages, identities. We started transcending bestial behavior. Within no time at all, or so it seemed, we had risen so far above the rest of evolution that we had managed to banish the insecurity that was the root cause and loyal agent of both manifestations of the Warring instinct. Man had almost completely removed the risk involved in his obtaining food. He had escaped the fatal dual dynamic of predator-prey. And man had also developed his social system to a point where a feud over a female did not always result in a physical confrontation. Indeed all forms of physical confrontations came to be branded as evil. And War being the most sublime forms of confrontations, it was by default viewed as the most sublime form of evil. Life had thus dealt a double blow. It had kicked War while it was down, and dealt it what some may call overkill.

One may at this point be wondering just why War sat quietly gazing on while Life leaped from strength to strength, developing and perfecting its techniques over millions of years. One may even assume that Life had broken the Warring spirit. Life had triumphed after all. If you thought that, you certainly were not alone. Life itself shared your view, and flourished and multiplied with all the pomp of a new King spraying the contents of his treasury to his peasants.

Nay, you do dishonor to the immortality(and also, immorality) of War if you so blindly narrow its scope. War was not dead. War cannot be, as long as Life exists.

What Life had in exuberance and gusto, it lacked in experience. What Life failed to realize is it was at war with War. It was playing at a game that it was not suited for. It may have won some battles and put up a respectable show, but it was up against a veteran, an expert. One whose entire existence centered around this interplay of predator and prey.

War managed to execute an inversion of such exactitude that the phenomena would pretty much define the concept of poetic justice for the rest of eternity.

It watched, reservedly, as Reason blunted its two most potent weapons, hunger and lust. It suffered the ignominy of being branded as impotent by Life, and it still held its silence. If Life had not by now been bloated with arrogance, it would have found the silence of its opponent disconcerting. What weapon did War possess that allowed it to stand almost nonchalant in the face of Life’s burgeoning display?

It had foresight.

Mankind, spurred on by the ideal of Life and Reason, forgot one key fact. War was a big reason it had reached this point in the first place. Life itself could not flourish without War. When Reason elevated itself to the point where it exiled War from its domain, it unwittingly removed its antibody. Life had lost its disinfectant.

At first, Life exploded with all the jubilance of an animal freed from a cage. Everywhere, progress, no longer hampered by destruction, accelerated to an almost almighty pace. Technology overtook everything and transported man into a world which he himself could not have imagined a mere century ago. New cultures, new ideologies, new beliefs, new philosophies sprang up all over the place. Mankind had conquered the Earth.

But Man was not ready for these heights. He was an untimely occupant of the throne and his stomach was not strong enough. When Man was under the influence of the Warring instinct, he was by necessity hardened, strong, weather beaten, almost invincible. Since the banishment or, to use a religious term, the exodus of the Warring instinct, Man had lost his skill for self preservation. He had gone soft. The body, rid of its antibodies, was now vulnerable to any form of disease.

Disease and stagnation indeed struck Man, and with an almighty blow at that. The origin of Reason was at core a reaction against the Warring instinct. As such, its essence consisted of an ideology that was antithetical to War. The only philosophy that could possibly emanate from that core was the idea of everybody having a “right to life”.

This, then was the masterful inversion that War pulled off. Life had used the Warring instinct to make War work to Life’s benefit, using it to clean away the weak or the flawed while Life itself went from strength to strength. Now War, by removing itself completely, and indeed encouraging Life on its path, set in motion a sequence of events that we are still living out now.

What War foresaw was this:

Life, even at its best, produces a mass of herd consciences, or undermen, and only a smattering of leaders, or Overmen. By preventing War from culling the worst of the undermen, indeed, by preservingand enhancing the breed of the undermen under the guise of charity, Life had tipped the scale completely over to the undermen’s side. They now ran free, larger in number and louder in voice than all of the Overmen.  Formerly, it was the Overmen, guided by the light of Reason, who had successfully kept War at bay. The intricate balance that exists between freedom and prudence was maintained with much difficulty and force of will. However, with the onslaught of undermen in ever rising tides, the Overmen had eventually to give way. This epoch was called Democracy.

How War cackled in glee when he heard this term!

Democracy was the victory of decay, of diminishment, of the process of becoming mediocre and of the loss of values. And it was celebrated as the pinnacle of civilization! Ah, the irony!

Before long the suicidal path that Life had set itself on, hand in hand with Reason, began to show its true colors. The undermen claimed equality with the Overmen. And since the undermen were greater in number, this essentially put the Overmen out of commission in every Democracy.

The herd.

One does not give them the name lightly. Their behavior indeed indicated a form of atavism. The herd mentality aped the bestial behavior that Reason had labored so long to transcend. They had reverted to type. They had become animals again.

This, War foresaw, and this was what it was waiting for. When all of mankind was degenerate enough, when the morality and ideology of mankind had become so disease ridden that it could no longer muster up a spirited resistance, War revealed itself in a new avatar, and stepped back into the arena.

Hunger and lust had failed War. It now took up new minions. Where its predecessors had succeeded due to the element of necessity (both food and reproduction are essential pillars of existence), the new minions of War achieved unprecedented amounts of success with possibly the simplest method of all: Overwhelming the opposition with numbers.

War, the wily General, identified the Overmen as the greatest threat to its cause, and directed the will of the undermen to oppose them. Wherever, on Earth, an Overman arose, he was countered by multitudes, literally droves of undermen bent on nothing else but to quell his glory. Overmen were being singled out and destroyed, picked apart by the ruthless, thoughtless mob. Life teetered on the brink of the abyss. War watched on impassively, the hint of a smirk on its face.

But then one of those queer incidents took place that, though insignificant in themselves, and by no means unique, end up influencing the entire course of history.

In a country where the herd instinct had found its true home, the whole populace of which identified themselves with the “virtues” of discipline and obedience, there existed an Overman. In physique and in health, he was far from superior; however his intellect towered not only above the herd, but even the other Overmen, whether in history or posterity. This Overman, grimacing in disgust at being forced to witness the degeneration of mankind from a civilized species, back into an anarchic beast, encountered a force that had remained hidden from the battlefield of War and Life. The force had only been discovered at all because of the invention of Reason. A force that neither War nor Life had reckoned with, and consequently, neither knew the potential of. The Overman met Idea.

Influenced, almost compelled by this new force, the Overman gave shape to the idea. The Idea that was invisible to all but him till now, was suddenly accessible to the whole world.

The profundity, the elevated nature, and sheer brilliance of the Idea shook War out of its stupor. Dismayed at the force of will of this new opponent, it bent all its energies into destroying the source. It turned upon that greatest of Overmen. The herds gnashed their teeth and stamped their hooves and champed at the bit. They railed and protested and picketed and rioted. They ostracized, stigmatized, terrorized, falsified, calumnized. Not even the Overman could withstand such a relentless torrent. His intellect, stubborn in the face of this unstoppable force, finally broke, and the Overman spent his last years in an asylum. Nietzsche had been overcome.

But what’s this? The Idea still remains? The mob, spurred on by the accumulated confidence of their successes, unites as one to wipe Idea off the face of the Earth, but try as they might, they cannot lay a hand on it. They have nothing to swing their swords at, nothing to set their torches to. Nothing tangible. The Idea was a concept in the mental sphere. The herd by definition had no inclination towards mental exercises. It was a foreign and inaccessible land, and they stood there, helpless.

War bellowed with rage, it turned man upon man, herd upon herd, culture upon culture, community upon community. Everywhere mankind turned, he was engaged in a battle of some form. Destruction and chaos reigns. Out of the blue, Nature, the spectator aeternum, finally weighed in. With one fell swoop, all of Creation was brought down to its knees. The Earth, tilted on its axis, almost as a head bowed in reverent shame. A lesson learnt. Life slunk away back to the depths of the oceans and the recluse of hidden caves. War stood supreme, serene, surveying the landscape, or what was left of it.

Amongst the rubble, a single boy stirred. He gazed, dumbfounded, at the spectacle he beheld. His whole world, the only world he knew of, had ceased to exist. All that remained were haunting remnants and morbid memories. Weeping with grief, he scoured the landscape that spelled only oblivion.

Why had he survived? What was his purpose? Was there even any such thing as purpose? Was not everything that mankind had ever worked for taken away by their own stupidity? Was mankind’s biggest mistake the fact that they assumed life had a meaning?

He collapsed onto the dusty marble floor, the remnant of some grandiose structure no doubt. Leaning his back against a crumbling wall, he quaked in fear and remorse. Fear of losing his sense of existence and identity, and remorse for the lunacy of his species. Of such vastness was the emotion he felt.

And there, right before him, it lay. Covered in soot, hardly recognizable and obscured even further by his streaming tears, lay the book. Slowly, almost mechanically, he picked it up and swept the dust off its cover.

The title read, “Freidrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil”

He opened the book and began to read. And thus in the boy of fifteen, the Idea was brought alive again.


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