Chapter 4: The Owner

I – do I come to myself and my own through liberalism?

Who does the liberal regard as his equals? Human beings! If you are only a human being – and that you certainly are – the liberal calls you his brother. He asks very little about your private opinions and your private follies, if he can just see the “human being” in you.

But since he takes little notice of what you are privatim1, indeed, lays no value on it in strict observance of his principle, he only sees in you what you are generatim2. In other words, he sees in you not you, but the species, not Hans or Kunz, but the human being, not the actual or unique one, but your essence or concept, not the embodied individual but the spirit.

As Hans you would not be his equal, because he is Kunz and therefore not Hans; as a human being you are the same thing that he is. And since as Hans you do not exist for him, insofar as he is a liberal and not unconsciously an egoist, he has really made “brotherly love” very easy for himself: he doesn't love the Hans in you, of whom he neither knows nor wants to know anything, but rather the human being.

To see nothing more in you and me than “human beings,” that is carrying the Christian point of view, according to which on is for the other nothing but a concept (e.g., one appointed to salvation, etc.), to extremes.

Christianity properly so called gathers us under a less general concept: there we are “the children of God and “led by the Spirit of God.”3 Still, not everyone can boast of being God's children, but “the same Spirit that bears witness to our spirit, the we are the children of God also reveals who are the children of the devil.”4 Consequently, to be a child of God, a person must not be a child of the devil; Being a child of God excluded certain people. On the contrary, to be children of humanity, i.e., human beings, we need nothing but to belong to the human species, to be merely specimens of the species. What I am as this I doesn't concern you as a good liberal at all, but is solely my private affair; it is enough that we are children of one and the same mother, namely the human species: as a “child of humanity” I am your equal.

What am I to you now? Perhaps this embodied I, as I walk and stand? Anything but that. This embodied I, with its thoughts, decisions, and passions, is in your eyes a “private affair” which doesn't concern you, is an “affair for itself.” As an “affair for you” there is only my concept, my species concept, only the human being, who, though he is called Hans, could just as easily be Peter or Michael. You see in me not me, the embodied person, but rather an unreal being, a spook, i.e., a human being.

In the course of the Christian centuries, we declared the most varied people to be our equals, but each time according to the measure of that spirit which we expected of them, e.g, each one in whom the spirit of the need of redemption could be assumed, then later, each one who has the spirit of righteousness, Finally, each one who shows the human spirit and a human face. So the principle of “equality” varied.

Since equality is now understood as equality of the human spirit, an equality that includes all human beings has certainly been discovered; for who could deny that we human beings have a human, i.e., nothing other than a human, spirit!

But are we therefore now any farther along than at the beginning of Christianity? At that time we were supposed to have a divine spirit, and now a human one; but if the divine one didn't exhaust us, how is the human on supposed to fully express what we are? Feuerbach, for example, thinks that if he humanizes the divine, he has found the truth. No, if God has tormented us, the “human being” is capable of pressing on us more agonizingly. To put it briefly: that we are human beings, that is the slightest thing about us, and only has meaning insofar as it is one of our qualities, our property. Indeed, among other things, I am a human being, as I am, for example, a living being, therefore an animal or beast, or a European, a Berliner, etc.; but anyone who would choose to have regard for me solely as a human being or a Berliner would pay me a regard to which would matter little to me. An why? Because he only has regard for one of my qualities and not for me.

It's also like this with the spirit. A Christian spirit, an upright spirit and the like could likely be my acquired quality, i.e., my property, but I am not this spirit; it is mine, I am not its.

Hence, we have in liberalism only the continuation of the old Christian disdain for the I, the embodied Hans. Instead of taking me as I am, one looks merely at me property, my qualities, and enters into an honest alliance with me only for the sake of my – possessions; one marries, as it were, what I have, not what I am. The Christian clings to my spirit, the liberal to my humanity.

But if the spirit, which is not treated as the property of the embodied I, but rather as the true I itself, is a ghost, so also the human being, which is not recognized as my property, but rather as the true I, is nothing but a spook, a thought, a concept.

This is why the liberal also revolves around the same circle as the Christian. Since the spirit of humanity, the human being dwells in you, you are a human being, just as when the spirit of of Christ dwells in you, you are a Christian; but since it dwells in you only as a second I, even though as your true or “better” I, it remains other-worldly to you, and you must strive to become completely human. A striving as useless as that of the Christian to completely become a blessed spirit!

Now, after liberalism has proclaimed the human being, one can declare that with this it has only carried out the final consequence of Christianity, and that in truth Christianity originally set itself no other task than to realize the “human being,” the “true human being.” Hence then, the deception that Christianity sets an infinite value on the I, for example in the doctrine of immortality, in pastoral care, etc., comes to light. No, it gives this value only to the human being. Only the human being is immortal, and only because I am a human being, am I also so. In fact, Christianity had to teach that no one should perish, just as liberalism also made all human beings equal; but that eternity, like this equality, dealt with only the humanity in me, not with me. Only as the carrier and shelterer of humanity do I not die, like, as everyone knows, “the king never dies.” Ludwig dies, but the king remains; I die, but my spirit, the human being, remains. To identify me now completely with the human being, someone has invented and laid out, that I must become a “real species being.”5

The human religion is only the final metamorphosis of the Christian religion. Because liberalism is a religion since it separates my essence from me and sets it above me, since it exalts “humanity” to the same extent that some other religion would its God or idol, since it makes what is mine other-worldly, since it generally makes out of what is mine, out of my qualities and my property, something alien, namely an “essence”; in short, since it places me beneath the human and thereby creates a calling for me. But liberalism also declares a religion in form when it demands for this highest essence, humanity, a religious zeal, “a faith that will finally also prove its fiery zeal, a zeal that will be invincible.”6 Since liberalism is a human religion, those who profess it act with tolerance toward those who profess another (Catholic, Jewish, etc.), as Frederick the Great did toward anyone who performed his duties as a subject, whatever fashion of being blessed he might prefer. This religion is now to be elevated to commonly used one, and be separated from the others as mere “private follows,” towards which, by the way, one acts very liberally because they are so insignificant.

One could call it the state-religion, the religion of “free states,” not in the sense used up to now that it is preferred or privileged by the state, but as the religion which the “free state” is not only entitled, but is compelled, to demand of each of its people, regardless of whether privately he is Jew, Christian, or whatever. For it does the same service to the state as filial piety does to the family. If the family is to be recognized and maintained in its continued existence, by each of its members, the ties of blood must be sacred to him, and his feeling for it must be that of piety, of respect for the ties of blood, so that for him every blood relation becomes a sacred being. So also for every member of the state-community, this community must be sacred, and the concept that is highest for the state must also be highest for him.

But what concept is highest for the state? Surely, to be a truly human society, a society into which everyone who is really a human being, i.e., not an inhuman monster, can gain admittance as a member. No matter how far state tolerance goes, it stops at the inhuman monster and what is inhuman. And yet, this “inhuman monster” is a human being, and the “inhuman” itself is something human, indeed, possible only to a human being, not to any beast; it is simply something “humanly possible.” But even though every inhuman monster is a human being, still the state excludes him, i.e., locks him up, or transforms him from a state-comrade to a prison-comrade (a lunatic asylum- or hospital-comrade for communism).

It is not all that hard to say in plain words what and inhuman monster is: it is a human being who doesn't correspond to the concept human being, as the inhuman is something human that doesn't fit the concept of the human. Logic calls this a “nonsensical judgment.” Would one be able to make this judgment that one can be a human being without being a human being, if one did not admit to the hypothesis that the concept of the human being can be separated from the existence, that the essence could be separated from the appearance? They say, indeed, he appears to be a human being, but he is not a human being.

Human beings have pronounced this “nonsensical judgment” through a long line of centuries! Indeed, what is still more, in this long time there were only – inhuman monsters. Which individuals would have corresponded to its concept? Christianity knows only one human being, and this one – Christ – is straight away again an inhuman monster in the reverse sense, namely, a superhuman human being, a “God.” Only the – inhuman monster is an actual human being.

Human beings who are not human beings, what else would they be but ghosts? Every actual human being, because he doesn't correspond to the concept “human being,” or because he is not “human species,” is a spook. But would I still remain an inhuman monster if I reduced humanity, which only towered over me and remained other-worldly to me as my ideal, my task, my essence or concept, to my own quality, inherent in me, so that the human being is nothing other than my humanity, my human condition, and everything that I do is therefore human, simply because I do it, but not because it corresponds to the concept “human being”? I am actually the human being and the inhuman monster in one; because I am a human being and at the same time more than a human being; I am the I of this my mere quality.

It had to come to this at last, that we were no longer only expected to be Christians, but to become human beings; since, though we could never really even become Christians, but always remained “poor sinners” (for the Christian was also just an unattainable ideal), still the absurdity of this did not come to our awareness and the deception was easier than now, when the demand is made on us, who are human beings and act humanly, and indeed cannot do otherwise than to be such and act so, that we should be human beings, “actual human beings.”

Indeed, our present-day states, since all sorts of things from their churchly mother still stick to them, imposes on its members various obligations (e.g., churchly religiosity) which really don't at all concern these states; but still, on the whole, they do not deny their significance, because they want to be seen as human societies, of which the human being as human being can be a member, even if he is less privileged than other members; most allow follows of every religious sect, and accept people without distinction of race or nation: Jews, Turks, Moors, etc. can become French citizens. The state in its acceptance only observes whether one is a human being. The church, as a society of believers, could not accept everyone into her fold; the state, as a society of human beings, can. But when the state has fully carried out its principle, assuming that all its members are nothing but human beings (up to now, even the North Americans assume their own have religion, at least the religion of uprightness, of honesty), then it has dug its own grave. While it will imagine that in its members it possesses nothing but human beings, in the meantime these have become nothing but egoists, each of whom uses it for his egoistic powers and ends. “Human society” is shipwrecked on the egoists; because they no longer relate to each other as human beings, but appear egoistically as an I against a you and yours altogether different from me and opposing me.

If the state must count on our humanity, then it's the same when one says: it must count on your morality. To see the humanity in each other and to act as human beings toward each other, this is called moral behavior. It is in every way the “spiritual love” of Christianity. If, thus, I see the humanity in you, as I see the humanity in me, and see nothing but the humanity, then I take care of you the way I take care of myself, because we both signify nothing but the mathematical proposition: A = C and B = C, therefore A = B. I nothing but a human being and you nothing but a human being, thus I and you the same. Morality is not compatible with egoism, because it doesn't accept me, but only the humanity in me. But if the state is a society of human beings, not a union of I's, each of whom only looks out for himself, then it cannot exist without morality and must attach importance to morality.

Therefore, the two of us, the state and I, are enemies. For me, the egoist, the welfare of this “human society” is not in my heart. I sacrifice nothing to it, I only use it; but to be able to use it completely, I transform it instead into my property and my creation; in other words, I destroy it and in its place form the union of egoists.

So the state betrays its hostility against me by demanding that I should be a human being, which assumes that I am not one and can count for it as an “inhuman monster”; it imposes being human on me as a duty. Further it requires that I do nothing which would stop it from persisting. Its continued existence is supposed to be sacred for me. Then I should not be an egoist, but an “honest, upright,” i.e., moral human being. Enough: I am supposed to be powerless and respectful before it and its continued existence.

This state, indeed not an existing one, but one still in need of being created, is the ideal of progressive liberalism. It should be a true “human society,” in which every “human being” finds a place. Liberalism intends to realize “humanity,” i.e., create a world for it; and this would be the human world or the universal (communist) human society. Someone has said: “The church could only take the spirit into account, the state should take the human being into account.”7 But isn't “the human being” “spirit”? The core of the state is precisely “the human being,” this unreality, and is itself only a “human society.” The world which the believer (believing spirit) creates is called the church; the world which the human being (human or humane spirit) creates is called the state. But that is not my world. I never accomplish anything human in the abstract, but always my own things; i.e., my human action is different from every other human action and only through this difference an actual action belonging to me. The human in it is an abstraction and, as such, a spirit, i.e., an abstracted essence.

Bruno Bauer declares, for example on page 84 of Die Judenfrage, that the truth of criticism is the final truth, and in fact the truth that Christianity itself was seeking – namely “the human being.” He says: “the history of the Christian world is the history of the highest struggle for truth, for in it – and only in it! – is the concern for the discover of the final or the first truth – humanity and freedom.”

Well then, we'll acquiesce to this gain and take humanity as the new-found result of Christianity and of the religious or ideal strivings of humanity in general. Who is now the human being? I am! The human being, the end and the outcome of Christianity, is, as I, the beginning and the usable material of the new history, a history of enjoyment after the history of sacrifices, a history not of human beings or humanity, but of – my own. The human being is considered as the universal. Now then, I and the egoistic are actually universal, because everyone is and egoist and goes for himself about everything. The Jewish is not purely egoistic, because the Jew still devotes himself to Jehovah; the Christian is not so, because the Christian lives by the grace of God and submits himself to him. As a Jew and as a Christian alike, a human being only satisfies certain of his wants, only a certain need, not himself; a half egoism, because it is the egoism of a half-human-being, of half himself, half Jew, half-self-owner, half slave. This is also why Jew and Christian always half-exclude each other; in other words, they recognize each other as human beings, they exclude each other as slaves, because they are servants of two different masters. If they could be complete egoists, they would totally exclude each other and so hold more firmly together. Their shame is not that they exclude each other, but that they only do it half-way. Bruno Bauer, on the other hand, says that Jews and Christians can only consider and mutually treat each other as “human beings,” if they give up the particular essence which separates them and binds them to eternal segregation, recognize the universal essence of “humanity” and regard this as their “true essence.”

In his account, the fault of Jews and Christians alike lies in their wanting to be and have something “distinctive,” instead of just being human beings and striving for what is human, namely, “universal human rights.” He thinks their basic error consists in their belief that they are “privileged,” possess “prerogatives,” generally in the belief in prerogative. He opposed this with universal human rights. Human rights!

The human being is the human being in general, and to this extent, everybody is human. Now, according to the communists, everybody is supposed to have eternal human rights, and enjoy themselves in the perfect “democracy,” or as one ought to more properly call it – anthropocracy. But only I have everything that I – get for myself; as human being I have nothing. One wants to let everything good flow to every human being, merely because he has the title “human being.” But I place the emphasis on me, not on my being human.

The human being is something only as my quality (property) like masculinity or femininity. The ancients found the ideal in one's being male in the full sense; their virtue is virtus and aretē, i.e., manliness. What is one supposed to think of a woman who only wanted to be a complete “woman”? That is not given to all of them, and some would set themselves an unattainable goal in this. She is, however, female in any case, by nature; femininity is her quality, and she doesn't need “true femininity.” I am human, just like the earth is a star. As ridiculous as it would be to set the earth the task of being a “correct star,” it is just as ridiculous to burden me with the calling to be a “correct human being.”

When Fichte says, “the I is all,” this seems to harmonize perfectly with my statements. But it's not that the I is all, but the I destroys all, and only the self-dissolving I, the never-being I, the – finite I is actually I. Fichte speaks of the “absolute” I, but I speak of me, the transient I.

How readily the opinion suggests itself that human being and I say the same thing, and yet one sees, for example, in Feuerbach, that the expression “human being” is supposed to describe the absolute I, the species, not the transient, individual I. Egoism and humanity (humaneness) ought to mean the same thing, but according to Feuerbach the individual can “raise himself only above the limits of his individuality, but not above the laws, the positive essential conditions of his species.”8 By itself, the species is nothing, and if the individual raises himself above the limits of his individuality, this is rather just he himself as an individual; he is only so long as he raises himself, he is only so long as he doesn't remain what he is; otherwise he would be finished, dead. The human being is only an ideal, the species only something thought. To be a human being doesn't mean fulfilling the ideal of the human being, but rather showing oneself, the individual. It is not how I realize the generally human that needs to be my task, but how I satisfy myself. I am my species, am without norm, without law, without model, etc. Perhaps I can make very little out of myself; this little however is all and is better than what I allow the power of others to make out of me, through the training of custom, religion, law, the state, etc. Better – if we're to talk of better at all – an ill-bred brat, than an overly-mature child, better a reluctant human being than one who is willing to do anything. The bratty and reluctant one is still on his way to forming his own will for himself; the prematurely knowing and willing one is defined by the “species,” the general requirements, etc.; this is law to him. He is defined by it: then, what else is the species to him than his “definition,” his “calling.” Whether I look upon “humanity,” the species, as the ideal to emulate, or upon God and Christ with the same desire, what essential difference would there be? At most, the former is more wishy-washy than the latter. As the individual is the whole of nature, so too is he the whole of the species.

Everything that I do, think, etc., in short, my expression or manifestation, is indeed qualified by what I am. The Jew, for example, can only want thus or so, can only present himself thus; the Christian can only present and manifest himself in a Christian way, etc. If it were possible that you could be a Jew or a Christian, you would certainly bring only what was Jewish or Christian to light; but it is not possible; through the most intense change, you still remain an egoist, a sinner against that concept, i.e., you are not equal to Jew.9 Now because the egoistic always keeps shining through, some have asked for a more complete concept that actually fully expresses what you are, and that, because it is your true nature, contains all the laws of your activity. The most perfect thing of the kind has been reached in “humanity.” As a Jew you are too little and the Jewish is not your task; to be a Greek, a German, is not enough. But be a – human being, then you have everything; look upon the human as your calling.

Now I know what I am supposed to do, and the new catechism can be written. Again the subject is subservient to the predicate, the individual to something universal; rule is again protected by an idea, and the foundation of a new religion laid. This is a step forward in the religious, and especially Christian, realm, not a step beyond it.

The step beyond leads into the unspeakable.10 For me, miserable language has no word, and “the Word,” the Logos, is for me a “mere word.”

One seeks for my essence. If it isn't the Jew, the German, etc., then, at any rate, the human being. “The human being is my essence.”

I am abhorrent or repugnant to myself; I am horrified and disgusted with myself, I am an abomination to myself, or, I am never enough for myself and never do enough for myself. From such feelings springs self-dissolution or self-criticism. Religiousness begins with self-denial and ends with completed criticism.

I am possessed and want to get rid of the “evil spirit.” How do I get started? I confidently commit the sin that to the Christian seems the worst, the sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit has no forgiveness forever, but is guilty before the eternal judgment!”11 I want no forgiveness and have no fear of the judgment.

The human being is the last evil spirit or spook, the most deceptive and the most intimate, the craftiest liar with the honest face, the father of lies.

Since the egoist turns against the impositions and concepts of the present, he relentlessly carries out the most unbridled – desecration. Nothing is sacred to him.

It would be foolish to maintain that there is no power above mine. Only the attitude that I take toward it will be quite different than that of the religious age: I will be the enemy of every higher power, whereas religion teaches us to make it out friend and to humble ourselves before it.

The desecrator tenses his strength against any fear of God, because fear of God would determine him in everything that he kept as sacred. Whether in the God-man the God or the man exercises sanctifying power, whether anything is thus held sacred for God's or for the human being's (humanity's) sake, this doesn't change the fear of God, because the human being is revered as the “supreme being”12 as much as from the specifically religious standpoint God as “supreme being” requires our fear and reverence,13 and both make an impression on us.

The fear of God, as such, suffered a shock long ago, and a more or less conscious “atheism,” externally recognizable in a widespread “unchurchliness,” has involuntarily become the tone. But want was taken from God has been added to the human being, and the power of humanity increased to the same degree as that of piety lost weight, the “human being” is the God of today, and fear of humanity has taken the place of the old fear of God.

But since the human being only signifies another supreme being, in fact, nothing has occurred but a metamorphosis in the supreme being, and the fear of humanity is merely a modified form of the fear of God.

Our atheists are pious people.

If in the so-called feudal time we held everything as a fief from God, we find in the liberal period the same feudal relationship occurring with humanity. God was the lord, now the human being is the lord; God was the mediator, now the human being is; God was the spirit, now the human being is. In this three-fold way, the feudal relation has undergone a transformation. For now, first of all, we hold as a fief from all-powerful humanity out power, which, because it comes from a higher being, is not called power or force, but rather “right”: “human rights”; we further hold our position in the world as a fief from it, because it, the mediator, mediates our intercourse, which therefore may not be other than “human”; finally, we hold ourselves as a fief from it, that is, our own value, or all that we are worth, for we are worth exactly nothing when it does not dwell in us, and when or where we are not “human.” – The power is humanity's, the world is humanity's, I am humanity's.

But am I not at liberty to declare myself the entitler, the mediator and my own self? Then it goes like this:

My power is my property.

My power gives me property.

My power am I myself, and through it I am my property.

1“In private life,” in Latin in the original – translator's note.

2“As a species, class, category,” in Latin in the original – translator's note.

3Romans 8:14.

4Romans 8:16 and John 3:10.

5For example, Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question” Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher, ed. Arnold Ruge (Paris, 1844), p. 197.

6Bruno Bauer, Die Judenfrage [The Jewish Question] (Brunswick, 1843) p. 61.

7Moses Hess (anonymously), Die europäische Triarchie [The European Triarchy] (Leipzig, 1841, p. 76)

8Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, 2nd enlarged edition (Leipzig, 1843), p. 401.

9In the German, Stirner actually writes this phrase using the mathematical sign “Du bist nicht = Jude.” – translator's note.

10Unsagbare” could also be translated as “nameless” or “inexpressible,” each of which carries its own significant connotations for Stirner's project.

11Mark 3:29

12höchstes Wesen” can also be translated as “highest essence,” a phrase of significance from the Hegelian standpoint. In this context, Stirner surely intends both meanings, since he is relentless in his mockery of both religion and Hegelian categories and terms. – translator's note.

13A bit of wordplay is lost in translation here. In German, fear is Furcht and reverence is Ehrfurcht. – translator's note.