Riding the Tiger: No Fixation on Present

but Conduct of Autonomous Character and Immanent, Individual Value

(from "Ride the Tiger")





We shall now examine the principle of "riding the tiger" as applied to the external world and the total environment. Its significance can be stated as follows: When a cycle of civilization is reaching its end, it is difficult to achieve anything by resisting it and by directly opposing the forces in motion. The current is too strong; one would be overwhelmed. The essential thing is not to let oneself be impressed by the omnipotence and apparent triumph of the forces of the epoch. These forces, devoid of connection with any higher principle, are in fact on a short chain. One should not become fixated on the present and on things at hand, but keep in view the conditions that may come about in the future. Thus the principle to follow could be that of letting the forces and processes of this epoch take their own course, while keeping oneself firm and ready to intervene when "the tiger, which cannot leap on the person riding it, is tired of running." The Christian injunction "Resist not evil" may have a similar meaning, if taken in a very particular way. One abandons direct action and retreats to a more internal position.

The perspective offered by the doctrine of cyclical laws is implicit here. When one cycle closes, another begins, and the point at which a given process reaches its extreme is also the point at which it turns in the opposite direction. But there is still the problem of continuity between the two cycles. To use an image from Hoffmansthal, the positive solution would be that of a meeting between those who have been able to stay awake through the long night, and those who may appear the next morning. But one cannot be sure of this happening. It is impossible to foresee with certainty how, and on what plane, there can be any continuity between the cycle that is nearing its end and the next one. Therefore the line of conduct to be followed in the present epoch must have an autonomous character and an immanent, individual value. I mean to say that the attraction of positive prospects, more or less short-term, should not play an important part in it. They might be entirely lacking right up to the end of the cycle, and the possibilities offered by a new movement beyond the zero point might concern others coming after us, who may have held equally firm without awaiting any direct results or exterior changes.




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