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On Verner von Heidenstam – Svensson

Verner von Heidenstam: An Overview

By Lennart Svensson

 

Author’s Note: Verner von Heidenstam is well known in Sweden. And some of his books are available in English too. When he won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1916 some titles were translated. — Hereby an overview of Heidenstam’s life and works.

 

1.

There are many ways of treating the Swedish author and Nobel Prize winner Verner von Heidenstam (1859-1940). One of them is to look at the nationalist strain in his writings. It’s not so far-fetched, not even in a 21st century setting. The newly published biography by Per I. Gedin (Verner von Heidenstam – ett liv, Bonniers 2006) also notes this and makes a fair evaluation of it, particularly of what nationalism meant in the mid 19th century, before it became en vogue. It’s true that Heidenstam didn’t make his debut in 1888 as a model nationalist, this feature becoming more prominent in him around 1900. However, the positive, affirmative trait in which nationalism thrives was definitely part of Heidenstam’s condition when he put his unforgettable mark on Swedish literature at the dawn of the 1890’s.

The mid 19th century Nordic variety of nationalism, Gedin says, was a populist movement, driven by liberals, and only eventually the movement came to include both workers and the elite, the latter in the form of high society, aristocracy and the royal family. This was indeed the case: in the early 1800’s no royal family, including the Swedish, was what we would call nationalists. For example, the elite sentiment that prevailed in Sweden around 1830 was the Russian-friendly; Tsar Nicholas I was seen as the guarantor of order. Nationalism for the then elite was equal to lawless rebellion, as had been seen in France and Poland.

The same was the case in Germany. The year 1848, for example, saw efforts of German unification: the small, separate kingdoms should merge and form a unified Vaterland, the liberal insurgents meant. But all these aspirations were crushed by the forces of reaction. Only in 1871, when Prussia had become Germany’s leading power, was German nationalism also embraced by the elite in question, by the current right-wing.

We saw the same here in Sweden: not until the 1870’s was nationalism adopted by the pillars of society. Still, nationalism wasn’t even by then a Leitkultur in Sweden. It took some time to be more firmly anchored, to be adopted even by the artistic elite, and Heidenstam was instrumental in this. Gedin for his part describes Heidenstam’s debut, Pilgrimage and Journeyman Years from 1888, as something of a boost to the Swedish soul. At the time the Swedish cultural scene was steeped in nihilism and ”grey weather prose”, 1880’s literature being occupied with naturalistic depictions of urban misery. Typical book titles at this time were Greycold and Poverty (= GråkalltFattigdom). This was thought to attract the audience. Realism prevailed and the poetry was harmless versifications. Now all this, with Heidenstams’s example, was replaced by imagination, colour and dance. Heidenstam paved the way for writers like Selma Lagerlöf, Fröding, Karlfeldt and Ellen Key, and for a renewal in painting, indeed, for nationalism in general. As for literature proper Heidenstam gave the Swedish language a new poetic feeling with influences from Byron, Heine and Turgenev. By this a more freeform verse was established in Swedish.

Heidenstam quickly became No. 1, becoming the colour-bearer for the new literature, Gedin says. With his debut in 1888 Heidenstam had won a clear-cut victory: he triumphed over a worn out, dilapidated literary scene. Heidenstam himself said in a letter to Ellen Key, in 1897: ”The constant painting of grey on grey I killed in this country in two years.”

Bold words, but true…! Heidenstam at the time of his debut was something of a force of nature, yet playful and human.

 

2.

In the subject of Heidenstam I’ve also read Kring Verner von Heidenstam (= About Verner vonHeidenstam) by Gudmund Fröberg (editor; Carlsson bokförlag, 1993). The book counteracts the devaluation the Swedish left made of Heidenstam in the period 1910-1990. Essays by Staffan Björk, Olle Holmberg, Magnus von Platen and Pär Lagerkvist sketches a broad, sympathetic portrait of the author. As for the person Heidenstam we find quoted on page 270 the words of John Landquist:

He had blue, kindly inquiring eyes but they also had a mysterious depth. He had a dark voice with a soft sound (…) He was genteel but without mannerisms. He sported a quiet kindness. He listened to what you said. His own speech was effortlessly improvised but then, out of the blue, there came a fitting poetic image, this being the natural movement of his though. You felt at ease with him.

Heidenstam, then, had his sympathetic traits. At the same time he could, in official contexts, be rather pompous. He liked playing the role of poet laurate. This backfired on him in the Strindberg feud in 1910, when Strindberg attacked Heidenstam for a few things. And the assaults found their target, even though Heidenstam kept a brave face and declined to answer the slights. You can say: Heidenstam in this process became a victim of the role he created for himself.

 

3.

Gedin depicts this Strindberg feud in his bio. Plus everything else like Heidenstam’s upbringing, his women and his career, in all its variations. Gedin as intimated does a good job and his book can be recommended for those who like cradle-to-grave, life-and-letters-biographies. If you can handle the book’s physical weight, that is…! This 672 pages book can hardly be read lying down, as I prefer. It should be read at a table.

Inspired by Gedin’s book, and of Fröbergs anthology, I now feel like going through Heidenstam’s important works. I begin with novels and prose and end with poems, in the form of New Poems from 1915. Then I round it off by talking about a few additional things.

 

Hans Alienus (1892)

This is a novel with some essential passages in verse. The overall setting is bold and compelling, mixing realism with fantasy. The hero, Hans Alienus, lives in Rome as an official to the pope. Then Alienus ventures out on a journey through the East and then under the earth, all the time experiencing a few things. It’s like a Swedish version of Dante’s Inferno and Goethe’s Faust; Heidenstam broke some new ground with this book, ”Going boldly where no man has gone before” as we had it in Star Trek. For example Swedish literary scholars have always loved this book; there’s much to deliberate on here. I myself am a little skeptical of the conceptual content. It’s lacking something. Heidenstam was a great poet but not so profound when it came to ontology and spiritual essence. He was like, go and meet the devil, talk to angels, then go home; there’s only a semblance of depth in this book, to be sure. Its style and atmosphere is great but it doesn’t really convince you on a formal level. Then again, even Dante wasn’t always so profound.

A figure that Alienus encounters in his cosmic journey is a haggard lady, Her Archaic Holiness (= Den Gamla Heliga; Den Gamla Människan). This is, as Gedin suggests, a Jungian ”shadow”, this horrifying witch who is sorrow and misery whereas Alienus’ dandy lifestyle is all about beauty and joy.

This could lead somewhere. But Heidenstam is incapable, as Jung advocates, to integrate this shadow with his own essence. The shadows haunt him all the way, until the final scene in Sweden. But Alienus have no defense against this voice from the deep. The novel culminates in sentimental lines of reconciliation with the father. Heidenstam as I said was never profound as thinker; he never reached the esoteric levels that Viktor Rydberg, Per Atterbom or Stagnelius reached. But Heidenstam at least had a feeling of what life had to offer, he understood that it is a mystery. And he could show it in his novels and poems. ”Mystery, fairytale, light of day, your depth no one can fathom” as he wrote in the late poem If I Were A Child.

 

A King and His Campaigners (1897, in English 1902)

This is a living classic, a still readable exposé of characters during the Great Northern War 1700-1718. Many of the texts are like short stories with protagonists only appearing once, but we also have Charles XII appearing in fateful circumstances throughout the book.

This is not a naturalistic novel. Many of the texts has a touch of theater. It’s not always stories we get, sometimes we’re only given static scenes. And the lines sound a little unnatural; all speak in the same fashion, from coachmen to generals. That said, the book has power and color, motion and verve. The book’s merit is the width; you become fascinated even by minor characters such as Mazeppa’s ambassador, Lina Andersdotter, Måns Fransyske and others. And that is the sign of a masterpiece, how even the supporting roles are well cast.

 

The Tree of the Folkungs (1905, in English 1925)

This is a romance set in the 11th century, sporting scenes from both the archaic farmer’s life, the life of early medieval Swedish kings and of Swedes serving in the imperial guard in Constantinople. I here refer to the first part, Folke Filbyter; the second part, about the 13th century, is a tinge bit more ordinary, more Walter Scottish.

There is archaic feeling here; we meet the last remnants of Asatru and we meet nature religion and shamanism. Heidenstam had a keen eye for life in the woods, for the yearning of the Swede to venture out in the forest and feel the presence of brownies, fairies and nixes. As a poet Heidenstam filled this novel with many a poetic prose passage. But it’s still eminently readable as a novel, the first part that is, beginning as it does with Folke returning from a Viking raid, approaching Swedish land on the east coast and, having landed, marching off into the Ostrogotian woods in order to stake out a farm for himself. This was Heidenstam’s image of the founding father of the Folkung dynasty, who ruled Sweden 1250-1319.

 

The Swedes and Their Chieftains (1908, in English 1925)

Here we are given many alluring stories out of Swedish history and myth, such as Ura Kaippa, The Shield MaidenThe Watchdog of the Greekking and others from the early middle ages. They are unsought tales about norsemen- and women, clear-cut images of a vital era, the era of Asatru, archaic climes and heroism. But also from the high and late Middle ages we get good narratives, like Karl Knutsson and the Piper. This is almost Shakespearean: the rise and fall of a king, mirrored in the role of a beggar-cum-piper who watches it all from his corner of the world.

In all this is an absolutely incomparable book about Swedish history, on the border between fact and fiction. Intended as a school book it can be read by everyone. Gedin in his bio denigrates it but he’s wrong.

 

Nya dikter (= New Poems, 1915)

Heidenstam as intimated began his career as a poet. In his debut in 1888 (Pilgrimage and Journeyman Years), he painted with variegated colors, he told tales, he discussed, he drew pictures, all in the form of poems, short and long. So that one is still worth reading. But his NewPoems from 1915 in my opinion is the epitome of his writings; here we get the eternal existensial questions treated in a tighter, more succinct fashion.

The prospect of death is treated with open eyes, as in Begun Journey. It depicts a dead man, a departed soul that looks back on the ground he has left: ”I already wander on the bridge, leading / from the Earth to the unknown / and what used to be near becomes distant”… He’s free, he throws away his shoes and his staff, and when he sees himself buried down on the distant earth, then he can barely recognize the name they mumble around the coffin. – This is visionary powers: to see oneself as dead, the soul wandering off into the unknown.

When New Poems was published Heidenstam was 55. He would live for another 25 years. Yet he speaks of himself as ”an old man, sitting by the fire brooding”. It’s in If I Were A Child, about what you would do if you were a child again; the poet sits and remembers, noting that most of his friends are dead. It ends:

Mystery, fairytale, light of day,

your depth no one can fathom.

Yet the same child am I still

and bliss is here to stay.

This demonstrates a heartwarming, everyday piety which is always viable. This poem sports my overall aesthetic ideal: simple but not simplistic. A similar everyday esoterism we meet in We Human Beings. It says that we’ll all die one day, it is what ”we human beings” have in common. Some kind of kitchen-sink wisdom, really; I’m lacking a more spiritual outlook. Still, I like the opening lines of this poem, having etched themselves into my being,

We, who meet for a few brief moments,

children of the same soil and the same wonder,

on the storm-ridden ness of life!

Another poignant poem is The Burial of Gustaf Fröding. It’s written in memory of the Swedish poet colleague who lived from 1860 to 1911. The poem portrays how Fröding, while he lived, was sitting at his Bible while his hair turned white. From this the poem becomes universal in scope, ”wondrously large is a human fate,” but man is like a reed in the wind: ”Die, die, this he constantly hears / when creating, asking, searching for truth.” Then the key changes in the following lines: ”All is vain, / all things earthly die, die, / but he himself becomes the work that he fashions.”

Speaking about dying Heidenstam for his own grave created this epitaph, being congenial and saying everything about la condition humaine: ”Here lies the dust of an old man. Gratefully, he praised the incomprehensible fact, that it was granted him to live a life on earth as a man.” Truly majestic, simple but not simplistic.

4.

Heidenstam practically stopped writing after New Poems. Authors who thus ”retire” are said to be uncommon. But Heidenstam admitted to acquaintances that his creative powers simply had run out. With all due respect you could say that he became senile. He built himself an estate at Lake Vättern, Övralid, not far from Motala. It looks like a cross between a 17th century Swedish mansion and Goethe’s house in Weimar. The immediate model was the estate Odinshöj in Denmark, where he lived for a while with his partner Kate Bang. Övralid is very stylish, bordering on the sterile. No park or garden would surround it; the lawn would imperceptibly blend into wilderness and the view of the water would be free and unhindered. Only a so-called ornamental tree would provide shade.

The critic Klara Johanson said that Heidenstam’s role in life was the same as the reindeers at Skansen: to offer an easily recognizable profile against the sky. And certainly Heidenstam was a little vain, indeed he liked to pose. He liked, as indicated, to play the role of poet laurate. However, he was also well-liked. Maybe Selma Lagerlöf (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils,1907) was more beloved by the people but Heidenstam could also tell tales and spin yarns. His historical reader for the elementary school, The Swedes and Their Chieftains, as I’ve said, has many witty stories. Astrid Lindgren, for example, testified how she was arrested by the introductory short story about Ura Kaipa and the Stone Age. Heidenstam could paint evocative scenes, as in the story of Ura Kaipa, in the poem ”Tiveden” and the excursions in the archaic forests of The Tree of the Folkungs.

Lagerlöf and Heidenstam died the same year, in 1940. This was commemorated by an anthology called Mårbacka and Övralid, the writers’ respective mansions symbolizing them in the title. Here is given a suggestive anecdote from Heidenstam’s actual writing of A King and His Campaigners. To say that he met the ghost of Charles XII when he composed the chapter on the death of the king may sound unbelievable, but this is what this memory book says. In case it’s worth telling it was like this: in 1897 Heidenstam lived as a guest of the mansion Nor in Uppland, south of Uppsala. He was in the final stages of the Charles XII book. One particular night he stayed up late, working with quill in the lamplight. Just as he had portrayed how Charles XII had fallen by Fredrikshald he heard a sound – the rattle of a bunch of keys. Then he heard the clink of spurs. Then steps coming up the stairs.

The steps approached the den. Finally he stood there, Charles XII, and eyed the author. The king sat down on a chair with his sword resting on his knee. And then he said, ”Remember, I prayed to God the last night I was alive!”

Heidenstam noted all this. Becoming dazed he bowed his head, with his hand to his eyes. When he looked up the figure was gone. No sounds were heard of steps withdrawing. There was a sepulchral silence. Heidenstam remained seated at the table, confused. In the morning he was taken care of by servants. He was bedridden for several days. Then he got up and decided to change his script of the Charles XII book he was writing, A King and His Campaigners. A little research brought him to a certain ”Charles’s prayer before the battle at Narva”. This he edited slightly and inserted in the portrayal of the king’s last days. A few more additions were made in the book so that the religious element in Charles’s life better would come into its own.

Coda

I’m a nationalist of sorts. I savour books about the traditional ways of Sweden, my native country. Then the books may also be artistically high standing as well. And this is readily achieved with Heidenstam’s writings. We live today in a time when the ”elite” of my land often is hostile against all things traditionally Swedish, when it bashes the customary image of Sweden. In this fight, you can’t always, as a defense, offer up ”high-class, immortal works of art” – but with Heidenstam on board you get this. So if you see a book by Heidenstam, buy it. I have an inkling that his books in English are rare and hard to find but they definitely exist. He got the Nobel Prize in 1916 and after that there were some translations made, some of them mentioned above.

 

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Svensson, Lennart. “Verner von Heidenstam — An Overview.” Tankesmedjan Motpol, 9 January 2015. <http://www.motpol.nu/princip/2015/01/09/verner-von-heidenstam-an-overview/ >.

 

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Interview with Alexander Dugin – Tremblay

Against Universalism: An Interview with Alexander Dugin by Rémi Tremblay

 

Editor’s Introductory Note: The following interview conducted with Alexander Dugin is useful because it helps to clarify some of the positions of the Neo-Eurasianists towards the current political structures and towards Western nations. However, as with the majority of Dugin’s interviews, it is rather limited in scope and provides very incomplete or inadequate explanations of certain important topics, which can lead to misunderstandings. For example, the commentaries on “Manifest Destinies” as well as the roots of empires can be misleading for many readers. Furthermore, it is particularly important to note that Dugin’s explanation of the Eurasian political structure in this interview can seem to imply an authoritarian, undemocratic, and rigidly elitist form of government. However, it is important to recall that in many of his works, Dugin has advocated a form of democracy for Eurasian regions based off of the concept of “organic democracy” (also advocated by Alain de Benoist), and has referred to the envisioned Eurasian empire as a “democratic empire.” For that reason, it is more likely that Dugin prefers a mixed political system which combines true democracy with meritocratic aristocratism. In order to fully comprehend Alexander Dugin’s vision, it is necessary to read his other key texts. – Daniel Macek (Editor of the “New European Conservative”)

Interviewer’s Note: My recent articles have been critical of Eurasianism, and have raised a few questions. Alexander Dugin, the author of the two books referred to in my articles, has kindly offered to answer them.

Rémi Tremblay: In the West, Eurasianism seems to seek to ally itself with nationalists. However, in Russia nationalist groups like the ones that support Russia in the West were crushed and repressed. What can Western nationalists learn from that repression?

Alexander Dugin: Eurasianism works with different groups who are against liberalism, North American hegemony and Modernity as a whole. These groups can be right or left. It is most important to be against liberalism and Atlanticism. But Eurasianism is not nationalistic—it is a Fourth Political Theory, ideologically similar to the European New Right of Alain de Benoist.

In the West there are two kinds of nationalists: (1) that characterized as anti-liberal, continental, anti-USA, and traditionalist; and (2) that characterized as pro-liberal, anticommunist, Atlanticist, pro-American and racist (xenophobe). The Eurasianists are willing to work closely with the former, but have little or nothing in common with the latter.

The same situation exists within Russia. There are Eurasian, imperial, traditionalist patriots who mostly support Putin and are loyal to the state, and the pro-liberal, racist, neo-Nazi extremists manipulated by the USA (like the Right Sector in Ukraine). If the latter are repressed, we enjoy it as much as when repression touches the pro-American liberal. They are a fifth column.

But at the same time Eurasianism is not the Third Path, it is the Fourth one. That means we are beyond right and left, as we refuse the materialism of communists (accepting and supporting their anti-capitalist struggle), while at the same time refusing “Nation,” in the spirit of Julius Evola, as a bourgeois concept based on Imperial-style traditionalism. Nations are now destroyed by the same forces that constructed them on the eve of Modernity. They have served their end [undermining] traditional Stände (elites), ethnic culture, and Medieval forms of society, and now are of no further use to the same Masonic, global, anti-traditional elite that created them. So, everybody from left or right is free to transcend their views and pass from the Second Political Theory or from the Third one to the Fourth.

Tremblay: You call for a multipolar world. However, one gets the impression that a bipolar or even a unipolar world would emerge with Eurasianism. Wouldn’t it be logical for Europeans to support an independent Europe, independent from Moscow and Washington?

Dugin: If we say we want to construct a multipolar world and not a unipolar or bipolar one, we are going to do exactly what we declare. The theory of a multipolar world formulated in my books and in the different documents of Eurasian movements shows clearly that we support exactly a Europe totally independent from Washington and from Moscow. We need to have some fully independent Great Spaces (Grossraum)—North American, South American, European, Islamic, African, Russian-Eurasian, Indian, Chinese and Oceanic—that could be allies or foes, depending on the concrete situation. We are totally against unipolarity and North American hegemony, as well as a bipolar system.

Tremblay: The multicultural super-state that you propose as the model for future states has precedents like Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Can this model survive without an authoritarian leader? And likewise can multicultural Russia survive in the post-Putin era?

Dugin: The strategically centralized poly-cultural hyper-state is called Empire. Empire should be strong first of all in its ideology, and that ideology cannot be loose or liberal. It should be strong and based on the new aristocracy or ideocracy (as Eurasianists used to say). So, not only an Emperor but also an imperial ideology of a strong idealistic type is needed to grant cohesion to the whole system. I presume that Orthodox Christianity, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Islam are of such types. But they need the spiritual revival. The tri-functional Indo-European model studied by G. Dumezil should be the main platform for the societies of Indo-European origin. The society should be created not from below but from above. The meaning of the State is its spiritual mission. The aristocracy should consist of “Platonic Guards,” philosopher-warriors, that grant unity to the different ethnic groups representing the supra-ethnic elites, as was always the case in historic Empires.

But instead of one liberal, decadent North American financial Empire, there should be different Empires with different imperial visions. The Russian vision is obvious—it has its roots in our organic Orthodox tradition and Russian Eurasian Empire. I presume that the future of Europe lies in the restoration of the Charlemagne heritage and of the eschatological anticipation of the return of King Arthur. Possibly some would hope for the new Roman Empire professed by Virgil, who thought that Apollo would return and this time for eternity.

Tremblay: You claim that non-interventionist politicians like Ron Paul should be supported in the United States. However, you support interventionist politicians in Russia. If non-interventionists take control in the USA and interventionist politicians control the Kremlin, wouldn’t it become a unipolar world directed by Moscow?

Dugin: We have no possibility of exercising unipolarity, nor do we want to. Now there is unipolarity. It should be stopped. Non-interventionists are the only salvation of the USA, which is currently a tool in the hands of an anti-American elite that uses the American people in order to create global government. Without concentrating on inner political problems there will be no USA. The present masters will sacrifice the American people to their globalist agenda.

Russia is on the defense. Globalists attack us on our ground. Where is Ukraine? Is it close to the American borders? No, it is far, far away. But Washington supports Ukrainian liberals and neo-Nazis, pushing them to attack Russia. If some longsighted American politicians see that this is not correct and that it does not serve American interests, they are quite right and are real patriots.

Tremblay: You oppose American Manifest Destiny, but how does Orthodox Messianism differ?

Dugin: We oppose any kind of universalism. USA has its own mission. It is American—North American. Not universal. Manifest Destiny exists, not in the singular but in the plural. We need to use the expression in the plural, Manifest Destinies: American, European (that is quite different), Russian, Islamic, Chinese, and so on. No American dream—liberal and Calvinist—in its secular and materialist version must try to be the only Destiny for all humanity. The American people will pay a terrible price for this titanic presumption. Every great people has its own destiny. The American people are great, but not so great as to be able to deny the greatness of others. The globalist elite that has usurped the power in the USA must repent and surrender this ill-gained dominance.

Tremblay: In Putin Vs Putin, you talk about Putin being moderately Eurasianist based on his first two terms. In light of his third mandate, do you still have this opinion of a half-Western, half-Eurasianist politician?

Dugin: Yes, absolutely. He is half-Eurasianist. He is obliged to be more and more Eurasiniast but that is against his will. He is a liberal-capitalist, but a realist at the same time. Kissinger is much closer to him than we are, but still we support Putin because he will follow the Eurasianist course instead of his own. This is the hard geopolitical logic that binds him, so he will act exactly as we predict, including by the different logic of simply following circumstances and opportunities. He is a realist of pure type. We are not.

Tremblay: In the Great Spaces you propose, Quebec would be part of a bloc otherwise entirely Anglo-Saxon. Wouldn’t that mean the end of our culture and existence as an ethnos in the long term?

Dugin: The Empire conceived in the Eurasianist multipolar vision is never unidimensional, unlike modern nations. They should respect pluralism—ethnic and cultural. There are no fully homogeneous spaces. In Russia we have Muslims, Caucasians, Tartars, Siberians, Finno-Ugrians and so on. North America was built by Anglo-Saxons, Irish, French and Spanish with certain participation from other European nations, notably German, so I suggest the return to the ethnic organization: French Quebec should be French and so on. However, this should not be achieved in the process of creating a new national state, but cultural rights should be granted in the geopolitical context by the Imperial Constitution.

 

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Dugin, Alexander. An Interview with Alexander Dugin: Against Universalism.” Interview by Rémi Tremblay. Alternative Right, 21 May 2015. <http://alternative-right.blogspot.com/2015/05/an-interview-with-alexander-dugin.html >.

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Critical Analysis of Evola’s Thought – Benoist

“Julius Evola, Radical Reactionary and Committed Metaphysician” by Alain de Benoist (PDF – 366 KB):

Julius Evola, Radical Reactionary and Committed Metaphysician

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De Benoist, Alain. “Julius Evola, Radical Reactionary and Committed Metaphysician: A Critical Analysis of the Political Thought of Julius Evola.” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 17-62. Document retrieved from: <http://files.alaindebenoist.com/alaindebenoist/pdf/julius_evola_radical_reactionary.pdf >.

 

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Interview on Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner – Grannenfeld

Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner’s Work and Thought

An Interview with Martin J. Grannenfeld by Lucian Tudor

 

Introductory Note: Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner (1939-2011) was an Austrian Catholic Traditionalist philosopher who was influential among conservatives and traditionalists in the Germanophone world. He is particularly well-known for his extensive corpus of works dealing with conservative, traditionalist, and religious theories and portraits of numerous thinkers involved in these philosophies. However, his works and thought are, unfortunately, not well-known in the Anglophone world. In order to help introduce Kaltenbrunner to the English-speaking world and to encourage further studies and translations, we have chosen to interview Martin Johannes Grannenfeld – a German Catholic Conservative and editor of the website Geistbraus – who is among those who have studied Kaltenbrunner’s works in depth and has been inspired by them.

Lucian Tudor: How did you first become acquainted with Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner and his work?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: It happened by mere chance. Around 2003, I read about the mythological figure of Prester John, a mighty oriental Christian priest-king during the Middle Ages, who was prepared to help the crusaders with a great army. I was somewhat fascinated by this figure, thus I looked for literature about him – and in the Bavarian State Library in Munich I found a book named Johannes ist sein Name. Priesterkönig, Gralshüter, Traumgestalt by an author I didn’t know then – Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner. From the very first sentence I was thrilled. Unlike many other scholars, Kaltenbrunner didn’t demystify the legend. Quite on the contrary, he revealed its metahistorical core, and outlined a fascinating, rich, and deeply symbolic cosmos of ways to see our world and the beyond. I understood immediately that I had found an author whose writings were different from everything I had read before, and who would certainly keep me occupied for quite a while.

Lucian Tudor: Kaltenbrunner has written extensive studies on Dionysius the Areopagite, Prester John, and Anne Catherine Emmerich. Can you tell us about these figures and what you found most significant about them in Kaltenbrunner’s books on them?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Kaltenbrunner wrote two large books about Dionysius and Prester John. His work about Anne Catherine Emmerich is much shorter and less complex. He intended to write another extensive study about Melchizedek, the mysterious priest-king from the Old Testament, but there exist only drafts of this work.

His book about Prester John was written in 1989 and published in 1993. Its first sentence, “Prester John has never lived and is nonetheless one of the most influential figures of the Middle Ages,” can be regarded as a motto: the mystical, invisible world can be more real than the visible everyday life. Subsequently Kaltenbrunner drafted a complex picture of this metahistorical “John” – comprising not only Prester John himself, but also his spiritual ancestors John the Evangelist, his disciple John the Presbyter, and the esoteric school of “Johannides” – which is not primarily meant as a historical fact, but rather as a “Johannide,” i.e. a mythologic-symbolic way of thinking. In the second half of his book, Kaltenbrunner linked Prester John with the other great myth of the High Middle Ages: the Holy Grail – and interpreted some of the Grail epics against the background of the Johannide philosophy.

The other book, Dionysius vom Areopag. Das Unergründliche, die Engel und das Eine, was published in 1996. It is even more voluminous, comprising more than 1000 pages. Like the book about John, it focuses on one figure – Dionysius the Areopagite – and draws a specific theology out of this encounter. Like John, the figure “Dionysius” is composed from several single persons by the same name: a) Dionysius the Areopagite from the Bible, b) the author of the famous writings, c) the bishop of Paris from the 3rd century, d) the Greek God Dionysos, to whom the name Dionysius is dedicated. Starting with multifarious reflections on the Greek and Christian spiritual background of these figures, Kaltenbrunner finally sketches – inspired by Dionysius’ negative theology – a great picture of a hierarchical world, which comprises everything from the ugliest scarab up to the nine spheres of angels, and above all, the inexpressible and incomprehensible God – the “One,” as Dionysius calls Him.

Lucian Tudor: From your reading, what are the most important principles of Kaltenbrunner’s religious philosophy?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: 1. The Invisible is real. 2. History is full of symbolic meaning. 3. Legends, myths and tradition are important keys to the Eternal. 4. The esoteric core of all religions converges.

Lucian Tudor: How does Kaltenbrunner believe we should understand the Sacred and the mystical experience?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Kaltenbrunner is strongly influenced by negative theology and Platonism. God only discloses Himself through the hierarchy – the great Jacob’s Ladder where the angels descend and ascend, and our knowledge of the Eternal with them. We can ascend the Ladder, but we can never reach God: the inner core of His essence is beyond our thinking and our language. Kaltenbrunner insists that Buddha, Lao-Tse, Shankara, and Meister Eckhart would have been able to communicate, because they were very far in their hierarchical way of understanding the divine mysteries.

Lucian Tudor: Kaltenbrunner appears to have been very knowledgeable about a variety of religious beliefs and sects; what led him, in particular, to Catholic religiosity?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Kaltenbrunner, born 1939 in Vienna, was raised as a Catholic. However, after he grew up, his belief took a back seat, and his interest in politics, history and culture became more important. Catholic thinkers like Franz von Baader remained important for him, but it was only in the mid-nineties – after the publication of his Johannes and before his Dionysius – that he rediscovered his faith. Father Georg Alois Oblinger, a Catholic priest who accompanied Kaltenbrunner during his last years, told that one day, while strolling in his garden, Kaltenbrunner suddenly understood that God really existed. He had always had sympathy for the Catholic Church (at least in its traditional form, since he didn’t like the modern liturgy and the Popes Paul VI and John Paul II) – but he had looked to it simply in a cultural way, not in the way of a believer. His Dionysius is a striking testimony of his newly discovered faith: For example (inspired by the Old Testament story of Balaam’s donkey), he asks in all naivety if some sudden, irritated movement of our domestic animals might be caused by sudden encounters with angels, invisible for humans…?

Lucian Tudor: We often encounter nowadays people who ask for “scientific proof” that God and the supernatural exist. How does Kaltenbrunner address this kind of mentality?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Mostly he ignores it. His Dionysius, the only major book he wrote after he became a believer himself, is obviously addressed towards an empathic, traditionalist reader. Kaltenbrunner’s concern was not primarily apologetics, but the conveyance of his spiritual insights to like-minded persons.

Lucian Tudor: Kaltenbrunner discussed in his works a vast variety of philosophers with differing viewpoints, some of them not even Christian. How did he reconcile his Catholic beliefs with his interest in the works of “Pagan” intellectuals such as Ludwig Klages and Julius Evola?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Kaltenbrunner had an exceptional knowledge of Occidental thinkers, writers, and artists – some famous, some less known, some virtually forgotten. He wrote several hundred essay-portraits about them, most of which have been collected in his six “Europe” volumes, consisting of two series: Europa. Seine geistigen Quellen in Portraits aus zwei Jahrtausenden (three volumes, 1981-85) and Vom Geist Europas (three volumes, 1987-92). Kaltenbrunner had always pled for an “inspired Christianity” (“geistdurchwehtes Christentum”) without any ideological blinders. This explains why even after his rediscovery of faith he continued to be interested in all the different thinkers he had known and portrayed before. However, Julius Evola and the “Traditionalist” school founded by Rene Guenon held an exceptional position in Kaltenbrunner’s philosophy. Their concept of Integral Tradition, the Sacred, kingship, and priesthood was very close to Kaltenbrunner’s own views. Leopold Ziegler, the Catholic exponent of the Traditionalist school, was especially influential to Kaltenbrunner. His book about Prester John can in fact be read as a transformation of Guenon’s and Evola’s philosophy into the spiritual cosmos of Christianity.

Lucian Tudor: What are essential principles of Kaltenbrunner’s theory of Conservatism?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Kaltenbrunner pointed out that conservatism cannot be a synonym for intellectual idleness. Referring to a poem by Goethe on breathing in and breathing out, he described conservatism as a sophisticated balance between things that stay and things that change. He thought that the real conservative has to be un-conservative in some matters, open to new solutions in order to prevent destruction of human culture and society as a whole. For example, nowadays, with war and poverty being absent from Europe, the contemporary conservative has to develop new ways of struggle, battle, heroism, and asceticism.

Lucian Tudor: How does Kaltenbrunner understand Tradition, specifically, and how does he believe that traditional values can be revived in the modern world?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: The concept of “Tradition” became important for Kaltenbrunner in the 80’s. As mentioned before, he got more and more influenced by Integral Traditionalism as taught by Guenon and his followers. Parallel to the shift from “conservatism” to “traditionalism,” Kaltenbrunner’s concern in changing today’s world declined. He focused more and more on the single, remote individual, who preserves Tradition during the “spiritual winter” – a human network scattered through space and time, but unified in spirit. During the last fifteen years of his life, he took the most radical consequence of this world-view, becoming a hermit, living on his own in the countryside, without a telephone, without even a door bell, just with his books and his large garden.

Lucian Tudor: Traditionalists are often associated with a “cyclical” view of history in which the world goes through lengthy stages, beginning with a Golden Age and ending in a Dark Age. This is opposed to the “linear” and “progressive” views of history, although there are arguably other perspectives. Considering his Traditionalist influences, could you tell us if Kaltenbrunner held the cyclical view of history or did he offer another view?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Kaltenbrunner certainly never held the cyclical view in a strictly “pagan” or “Indian” sense that after a huge fire everything starts again. Nevertheless, Kaltenbrunner was a cultural pessimist – his favourite centuries lay a long time in the past: the Greek antiquity, the High Middle Ages, the Baroque Period or the days of Goethe. Unlike Guénon and Evola, however, he was not very interested in speculation about a prehistoric “Golden Age.” As a literary person, an era without written documents did not concern him too much – with the only exception of the first chapters of Genesis, especially about the Nephilim and Melchizedek, with whom he dealt in his Dionysius.

Lucian Tudor: What are the fundaments of Kaltenbrunner’s theory of culture?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Kaltenbrunner never sketched an explicit theory of culture. Culture meant for him rather a never-ending dialogue with thinkers and poets from all times. He did not approach thinkers from a modern, patronizing, “enlightened” position, but as equals, at eye level, no matter how ancient and strange they may be. In the beginning of his Dionysius he even wrote a personal letter to his hero. Kaltenbrunner is certainly more attracted by non-mainstream authors, individuals, and often forgotten thinkers, but he also adored well-known and famous writers like Goethe, Novalis, and Angelus Silesius.

Lucian Tudor: What did Kaltenbrunner say about social ethics, the individual’s role, and holism?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: A common topos in Kaltenbrunner’s philosophy is, as abovementioned, the remote individual preserving knowledge for the society. Kaltenbrunner often mentioned that the world as a whole is threatened by nuclear, ecological, and spiritual destruction, and that the effort of an elite is required to prevent or at least attenuate the upcoming catastrophe. Hence his sympathy for ascetics, hermits, mystics, monks, thinkers and writers in general. Particularly, the ecological concern is quite special for Kaltenbrunner and distinguishes him from many fellow conservatives, who abandoned environmental issues after the political left took possession of this complex in the late 80s. In his last years, living in harmony with nature became more and more important for Kaltenbrunner – he grew ecological food in his own garden and did not even possess a car. But all this was not condensed into a theory (he did not longer write texts during his last 15 years), but mere practical exercise.

Lucian Tudor: What did Kaltenbrunner conclude about the problem of secret societies and conspiracy theories?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: Frankly speaking, Kaltenbrunner did not see secret societies as a “problem” at all, but as an important means for the conservation of ideas rejected by the mainstream. He wrote a short text on the matter in 1986, entitled “Geheimgesellschaften als exemplarische Eliten” (“Secret Societies as Exemplary Elites”), which was included into the second edition of his book Elite. Erziehung für den Ernstfall. In this sketch, he did not only describe Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, the Illuminati, etc., but also secret societies which managed to grow large and usurp a whole state – like the Bolsheviks in Russia, or formerly the Jesuits in Paraguay. However, he pointed out that this can be a possible escape from the typical loyalty conflict between the secret society and the state which every member has to face; his true sympathies lie without any doubt with the small, hidden groups without any political power. Kaltenbrunner’s text about secret societies could be regarded as a link between his earlier “conservative” and his later “traditional” views: getting less and less interested in changing the world in respect to the political, and more and more concerned about its spiritual renewal.

Lucian Tudor: Can you please summarize Kaltenbrunner’s position on political forms (monarchy, republic, democracy, etc.)? What political form did he see as ideal and did he believe that political corruption could be minimized in a certain system?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: In his heart of hearts, Kaltenbrunner was an aristocrat. Although he was sceptical about a restoration of the traditional nobility, he felt the necessity of a skilled elite in government, culture, and warfare. He did not directly reject democracy, but warned of the mediocrity which often accompanies it. In his early works, no specific sympathy for republic or monarchy is visible – aristocratic republics like Venice are approved by him as well. In the 80s, however, culminating in his Johannes, he is more and more absorbed by the idea of a universal Christian monarchy, with a supra-national emperor exercising spiritual-metapolitical leadership over the occidental Christianity – like it used to be in the best times of the Middle Ages, e.g. under the rule of Frederick Barbarossa or Emperor Charles IV.

Lucian Tudor: We are aware that very little of Kaltenbrunner’s work is available in English and he is not well-known in the Anglophone world. In your opinion, what is the best starting point from Kaltenbrunner’s works? Also, what would you suggest is the best book to translate first out of works?

Martin J. Grannenfeld: I would suggest the same book which happened to be my first one: Johannes ist sein Name – Kaltenbrunner’s great essay about Prester John. This is in my opinion his best written and most inspiring book, comprising everything that makes Kaltenbrunner so unique. It is shorter, more concise and also more optimistic than his later opus magnum Dionysius vom Areopag, and yet more intriguing and unconventional than his earlier political and cultural writings. I really hope that one day an English translation of this work (and of other works by Kaltenbrunner) will be available! This will be a big step to make this great thinker of our time better known.

Lucian Tudor: Thank you very much for the interview.

 

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Grannenfeld, Martin Johannes. “Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner’s Work and Thought: An Interview with Martin J. Grannenfeld.” Interview by Lucian Tudor. Traditional Britain Group, 19 March 2015. <http://traditionalbritain.org/blog/gerd-klaus-kaltenbrunners-work-and-thought-an-interview-with-martin-j-grannenfeld/ >.

 

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Secret Aristocracies – Venner

Secret Aristocracies

By Dominique Venner

Translated by Greg Johnson

 

Jean-Paul Sartre once said of Ernst Jünger: “I hate him, not as a German, but as an aristocrat . . .”

Sartre had some grave defects. In his political impulses, he was mistaken with a rare obstinacy. Fairly cowardly during the Occupation, he turned into an Ayatollah of denunciations once the danger had passed, castigating his colleagues who did not commit themselves with all necessary blindness to Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot. Along with an infallible instinct for error, he had a keen sense for any elevation of spirit, which horrified him, and, conversely, for any baseness, which attracted him.

He was not wrong about Jünger: “I hate him, not as a German, but as an aristocrat . . .” Jünger was not an aristocrat by birth. His family belonged to the cultivated middle-class of Northern Germany. If he was an “aristocrat”—in other words, if he continually showed nobility and poise, moral and physical—it was not because he was born with a “von,” for that alone does not shelter one from baseness in one’s heart or deeds. If he was an “aristocrat,” it was not a matter of rank, but of nature.

Heroic warrior in his youth, sensational writer of the “conservative revolution,” who then became a contemplative sage of sorts, Jünger had an exceptional life, traversing all the dangers of a dark century and remaining free of any stain. If he is a model, it is because of his constant “poise.” But his physical poise did nothing more than manifest a spiritual poise. To have poise is to hold oneself apart. Apart from base passions and the baseness of passion. What was superior in him always repelled the sordid, infamous, or mediocre. His transformation at the time of On the Marble Cliffs might be surprising, but there is nothing vile about it. Later, the warrior-botanist reinvented himself, writing in his Treatise on the Rebel that the age required recourse other than the schools of yoga. These are the sweet temptations that he now kept at bay.

I have just written that Jünger was not an aristocrat by birth. I was wrong. He was. Not by family origin, but by a mysterious inner alchemy. In the manner of the little girl and the concierge in Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog (L’élégance du hérisson, Gallimard, 2006). Or in the manner of Martin Eden in Jack London’s novel of the same name. Born in the depths of poverty, Martin Eden had a noble nature. Mere chance puts any young person in a refined and cultivated milieu. He fell in love with a young woman who belonged to that world. The discovery of literature awoke in him the vocation of writer and a fantastic will to overcome himself, to completely leave his past behind, which he accomplished through tremendous ordeals. Having become a famous writer, he discovered simultaneously the vanity of success and the mediocrity of the young bourgeois woman whom he thought he loved. Thus he committed suicide. But that does not affect my point. There are Martin Edens who survive their disillusionment, and there always will be. They are noble, energetic, and “aristocratic” souls. But for such souls to “break out of the pack,” as one says of good hunting dogs, and rise to the top, role models are absolutely necessary. Living exemplars of inner heroism and authentic nobility down through the ages constitute a kind of secret knighthood, a hidden Order. Hector of Troy was their forerunner. Ernst Jünger was an incarnation in our time. Sartre was not wrong about that.

 

From Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire, no. 45

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Venner, Dominique. “Secret Aristocracies.” The Occidental Quarterly Online, 5 November 2009. <http://www.toqonline.com/blog/secret-aristocracies/ >.

 

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Evola’s Political Endeavors – Hansen

Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors by H.T. Hansen (PDF – 574 KB):

Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors

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Hansen, H.T. “Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors.” Introduction to Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, pp. 1-104. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002.

Note: On Evola’s theories, see also: “Against Nihilism: Julius Evola’s ‘Traditionalist’ Critique of Modernity” by Thomas F. Bertonneau, “Julius Evola on Race” by Tomislav Sunic, “Tradition?” by Alain de Benoist, “A True Empire: Form and Presuppositions of a United Europe” by Julius Evola, “The Defining Element of the Conservative Revolution” by Julius Evola, and various other articles by or about Evola.

 

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Kameradschaftsbund: History of Czech-German relationship – Novotný

“Kameradschaftsbund: Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship” by Lukáš Novotný (PDF – 2.3 MB & 2.4 MB):

Kameradschaftsbund – Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship (Part 1)

Kameradschaftsbund – Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship (Part 2)

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NOVOTNÝ, Lukáš: “Kameradschaftsbund. Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship (Part one).” In: Prague Papers on the History of International Relations, Prague – Vienna, Institute of World History, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Charles University Prague [Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy v Praze] – Institute of World European History, Faculty of Historical and Cultural Sciences, University of Vienna, 2008, s. 291–309. ISBN 978-80-7308-254-3. <http://usd.ff.cuni.cz/?q=system/files/novotny%20kamerad.pdf >.

NOVOTNÝ, Lukáš: “Kameradschaftsbund. A Contribution to the History of the Czech-German Relationship (Part two).” In: Prague Papers on the History of International Relations, Prague – Vienna, Institute of World History, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Charles University Prague [Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy v Praze] – Institute of World European History, Faculty of Historical and Cultural Sciences, University of Vienna, 2009, s. 387–405. ISSN 1803-7356. ISBN 978-80-7308-296-3. <http://usd.ff.cuni.cz/?q=system/files/novotny%20kamarad.pdf >.

Note: See also “Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist” by Lucian Tudor: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/othmar-spann-tudor/ >.

 

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Othmar Spann – Tudor

Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist

By Lucian Tudor

 

Translations: Português

Othmar Spann was an Austrian philosopher who was a key influence on German conservative and traditionalist thought in the period after World War I, and he is thus considered a representative of the intellectual movement known as the “Conservative Revolution.” Spann was a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Vienna, where he taught not only scientific social and economic theories, but also influenced many students with the presentation of his worldview in his lectures. As a result of this he formed a large group of followers known as the Spannkreis (“Spann Circle”). This circle of intellectuals attempted to influence politicians who would be sympathetic to “Spannian” philosophy in order to actualize its goals.[1]

Othmar Spann himself was influenced by a variety of philosophers across history, including Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, J. G. Fichte, Franz von Baader, and most notably the German Romantic thought of Adam Müller. Spann called his own worldview “Universalism,” a term which should not be confused with “universalism” in the vernacular sense; for the former is nationalistic and values particularity while the latter refers to cosmopolitan or non-particularist (even anti-particularist) ideas. Spann’s term is derived from the root word “universality,” which is in this case synonymous with related terms such as collectivity, totality, or whole.[2] Spann’s Universalism was expounded in a number of books, most notably in Der wahre Staat (“The True State”), and essentially taught the value of nationality, of the social whole over the individual, of religious (specifically Catholic) values over materialistic values, and advocated the model of a non-democratic, hierarchical, and corporatist state as the only truly valid political constitution.

Social Theory

Othmar Spann declared: “It is the fundamental truth of all social science . . . that not individuals are the truly real, but the whole, and that the individuals have reality and existence only so far as they are members of the whole.”[3] This concept, which is at the core of Spann’s sociology, is not a denial of the existence of the individual person, but a complete denial of individualism; individualism being that ideology which denies the existence and importance of supra-individual realities. Classical liberal theory, which was individualist, held an “atomistic” view of individuals and regarded only individuals as truly real; individuals which it believed were essentially disconnected and independent from each other. It also held that society only exists as an instrumental association as a result of a “social contract.” On the other hand, sociological studies have disproven this theory, showing that the whole (society) is never merely the sum of its parts (individuals) and that individuals naturally have psychological bonds with each other. This was Othmar Spann’s position, but he had his own unique way of formulating it.[4]

While the theory of individualism appears, superficially, to be correct to many people, an investigation into the matter shows that it is entirely fallacious. Individuals never act entirely independently because their behavior is always at least in part determined by the society in which they live, and by their organic, non-instrumental (and thus also non-contractual) bonds with other people in their society. Spann wrote, “according to this view, the individual is no longer self-determined and self-created, and is no longer based exclusively and entirely on its own egoicity.”[5] Spann conceived of the social order, of the whole, as an organic society (a community) in which all individuals belonging to it have a pre-existing spiritual unity. The individual person emerges as such from the social whole to which he was born and from which he is never really separated, and “thus the individual is that which is derivative.”[6]

Therefore, society is not merely a mechanical aggregate of fundamentally disparate individuals, but a whole, a community, which precedes its parts, the individuals. “Universalists contend that the mental or spiritual associative tie between individuals exists as an independent entity . . .”[7] However, Spann clarified that this does not mean that the individual has “no mental self-sufficiency,” but rather that he actualizes his personal being only as a member of the whole: “he is only able to form himself, is only able to build up his personality, when in close touch with others like unto himself; he can only sustain himself as a being endowed with mentality or spirituality, when he enjoys intimate and multiform communion with other beings similarly endowed.”[8] Therefore,

All spiritual reality present in the individual is only there and only comes into being as something that has been awakened . . . the spirituality that comes into being in an individual (whether directly or mediated) is always in some sense a reverberation of that which another spirit has called out to the individual. This means that human spirituality exists only in community, never in spiritual isolation. . . . We can say that individual spirituality only exists in community or better, in ‘spiritual community’ [Gezweiung]. All spiritual essence and reality exists as ‘spiritual community’ and only in ‘communal spirituality’ [Gezweitheit]. [9]

It is also important to clarify that Spann’s concept of society did not conceive of society as having no other spiritual bodies within it that were separate from each other. On the contrary, he recognized the importance of the various sub-groups, referred to by him as “partial wholes,” as constituent parts and elements which are different yet related, and which are harmonized by the whole under which they exist. Therefore, the whole or the totality can be understood as the unity of individuals and “partial wholes.” To reference a symbolic image, “Totality [the Whole] is analogous to white light before it is refracted by a prism into many colors,” in which the white light is the supra-temporal totality, while the prism is cosmic time which “refracts the totality into the differentiated and individuated temporal reality.”[10]

Nationality and Racial Style

Volk (“people” or “nation”), which signifies “nationality” in the cultural and ethnic sense, is an entirely different entity and subject matter from society or the whole, but for Spann the two had an important connection. Spann was a nationalist and, defining Volk in terms of belonging to a “spiritual community” with a shared culture, believed that a social whole is under normal conditions only made up of a single ethnic type. Only when people shared the same cultural background could the deep bonds which were present in earlier societies truly exist. He thus upheld the “concept of the concrete cultural community, the idea of the nation – as contrasted with the idea of unrestricted, cosmopolitan, intercourse between individuals.”[11]

Spann advocated the separation of ethnic groups under different states and was also a supporter of pan-Germanism because he believed that the German people should unite under a single Reich. Because he also believed that the German nation was intellectually superior to all other nations (a notion which can be considered as the unfortunate result of a personal bias), Spann also believed that Germans had a duty to lead Europe out of the crisis of liberal modernity and to a healthier order similar to that which had existed in the Middle Ages.[12]

Concerning the issue of race, Spann attempted to formulate a view of race which was in accordance with the Christian conception of the human being, which took into account not only his biology but also his psychological and spiritual being. This is why Spann rejected the common conception of race as a biological entity, for he did not believe that racial types were derived from biological inheritance, just as he did not believe an individual person’s character was set into place by heredity. Rather what race truly was for Spann was a cultural and spiritual character or type, so a person’s “racial purity” is determined not by biological purity but by how much his character and style of behavior conforms to a specific spiritual quality. In his comparison of the race theories of Spann and Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss (an influential race psychologist), Eric Voegelin had concluded:

In Spann’s race theory and in the studies of Clauss we find race as the idea of a total being: for these two scholars racial purity or blood purity is not a property of the genetic material in the biological sense, but rather the stylistic purity of the human form in all its parts, the possession of a mental stamp recognizably the same in its physical and psychological expression. [13]

However, it should be noted that while Ludwig Clauss (like Spann) did not believe that spiritual character was merely a product of genetics, he did in fact emphasize that physical race had importance because the bodily racial form must be essentially in accord with the psychical racial form with which it is associated, and with which it is always linked. As Clauss wrote,

The style of the psyche expresses itself in its arena, the animate body. But in order for this to be possible, this arena itself must be governed by a style, which in turn must stand in a structured relationship to the style of the psyche: all the features of the somatic structure are, as it were, pathways for the expression of the psyche. The racially constituted (that is, stylistically determined) psyche thus acquires a racially constituted animate body in order to express the racially constituted style of its experience in a consummate and pure manner. The psyche’s expressive style is inhibited if the style of its body does not conform perfectly with it.[14]

Likewise Julius Evola, whose thought was influenced by both Spann and Clauss, and who expanded Clauss’s race psychology to include religious matters, also affirmed that the body had a certain level of importance.[15]

On the other hand, the negative aspect of Othmar Spann’s theory of race is that it ends up dismissing the role of physical racial type entirely, and indeed many of Spann’s major works do not even mention the issue of race. A consequence of this was also the fact that Spann tolerated and even approved of critiques made by his students of National Socialist theories of race which emphasized the role of biology; an issue which would later compromise his relationship with that movement even though he was one of its supporters.[16]

The True State

Othmar Spann’s Universalism was in essence a Catholic form of “Radical Traditionalism”; he believed that there existed eternal principles upon which every social, economic, and political order should be constructed. Whereas the principles of the French Revolution – of liberalism, democracy, and socialism – were contingent upon historical circumstances, bound by world history, there are certain principles upon which most ancient and medieval states were founded which are eternally valid, derived from the Divine order. While specific past state forms which were based on these principles cannot be revived exactly as they were because they held many characteristics which are outdated and historical, the principles upon which they were built and therefore the general model which they provide are timeless and must reinstituted in the modern world, for the systems derived from the French Revolution are invalid and harmful.[17] This timeless model was the Wahre Staat or “True State” – a corporative, monarchical, and elitist state – which was central to Universalist philosophy.

1. Economics

In terms of economics, Spann, like Adam Müller, rejected both capitalism and socialism, advocating a corporatist system relatable to that of the guild system and the landed estates of the Middle Ages; a system in which fields of work and production would be organized into corporations and would be subordinated in service to the state and to the nation, and economic activity would therefore be directed by administrators rather than left solely to itself. The value of each good or commodity produced in this system was determined not by the amount of labor put into it (the labor theory of value of Marx and Smith), but by its “organic use” or “social utility,” which means its usefulness to the social whole and to the state.[18]

Spann’s major reason for rejecting capitalism was because it was individualistic, and thus had a tendency to create disharmony and weaken the spiritual bonds between individuals in the social whole. Although Spann did not believe in eliminating competition from economic life, he pointed out that the extreme competition glorified by capitalists created a market system in which there occurred a “battle of all against all” and in which undertakings were not done in service to the whole and the state but in service to self-centered interests. Universalist economics aimed to create harmony in society and economics, and therefore valued “the vitalising energy of the personal interdependence of all the members of the community . . .”[19]

Furthermore, Spann recognized that capitalism also did result in an unfair treatment by capitalists of those underneath them. Thus while he believed Marx’s theories to be theoretically flawed, Spann also mentioned that “Marx nevertheless did good service by drawing attention to the inequality of the treatment meted out to worker and to entrepreneur respectively in the individualist order of society.”[20] Spann, however, rejected socialist systems in general because while socialism seemed superficially Universalistic, it was in fact a mixture of Universalist and individualist elements. It did not recognize the primacy of the State over individuals and also held that all individuals in society should hold the same position, eliminating all class distinctions, and should receive the same amount of goods. “True universalism looks for an organic multiplicity, for inequality,” and thus recognizes differences even if it works to establish harmony between the parts.[21]

2. Politics

Spann asserted that all democratic political systems were an inversion of the truly valuable political order, which was of even greater importance than the economic system. A major problem of democracy was that it allowed, firstly, the manipulation of the government by wealthy capitalists and financiers whose moral character was usually questionable and whose goals were almost never in accord with the good of the community; and secondly, democracy allowed the triumph of self-interested demagogues who could manipulate the masses. However, even the theoretical base of democracy was flawed, according to Spann, because human beings were essentially unequal, for individuals are always in reality differentiated in their qualities and thus are suited for different positions in the social order. Democracy thus, by allowing a mass of people to decide governmental matters, meant excluding the right of superior individuals to determine the destiny of the State, for “setting the majority in the saddle means that the lower rule over the higher.”[22]

Finally, Spann noted that “demands for democracy and liberty are, once more, wholly individualistic.”[23] In the Universalist True State, the individual would subordinate his will to the whole and would be guided by a sense of selfless duty in service to the State, as opposed to asserting his individual will against all other wills. Furthermore, the individual did not possess rights because of his “rational” character and simply because of being human, as many Enlightenment thinkers asserted, but these rights were derived from the ethics of the particular social whole to which he belonged and from the laws of the State.[24] Universalism also acknowledged the inherent inequalities in human beings and supported a hierarchical organization of the political order, where there would be only “equality among equals” and the “subordination of the intellectually inferior under their intellectual betters.”[25]

In the True State, individuals who demonstrated their leadership skills, their superior nature, and the right ethical character would rise among the levels of the hierarchy. The state would be led by a powerful elite whose members would be selected from the upper levels of the hierarchy based on their merit; it was essentially a meritocratic aristocracy. Those in inferior positions would be taught to accept their role in society and respect their superiors, although all parts of the system are “nevertheless indispensable for its survival and development.”[26] Therefore, “the source of the governing power is not the sovereignty of the people, but the sovereignty of the content.”[27]

Othmar Spann, in accordance with his Catholic religious background, believed in the existence of a supra-sensual, metaphysical, and spiritual reality which existed separately from and above the material reality, and of which the material realm was its imperfect reflection. He asserted that the True State must be animated by Christian spirituality, and that its leaders must be guided by their devotion to Divine laws; the True State was thus essentially theocratic. However, the leadership of the state would receive its legitimacy not only from its religious character, but also by possessing “valid spiritual content,” which “precedes power as it is represented in law and the state.”[28] Thus Spann concluded that “history teaches us that it is the validity of spiritual values that constitutes the spiritual bond. They cannot be replaced by fire and sword, nor by any other form of force. All governance that endures, and all the order that society has thus achieved, is the result of inner domination.”[29]

The state which Spann aimed to restore was also federalistic in nature, uniting all “partial wholes” – corporate bodies and local regions which would have a certain level of local self-governance – with respect to the higher Authority. As Julius Evola wrote, in a description that is in accord with Spann’s views, “the true state exists as an organic whole comprised of distinct elements, and, embracing partial unities [wholes], each possesses a hierarchically ordered life of its own.”[30] All throughout world history the hierarchical, corporative True State appears and reappears; in the ancient states of Sparta, Rome, Persia, Medieval Europe, and so on. The structures of the states of these times “had given the members of these societies a profound feeling of security. These great civilizations had been characterized by their harmony and stability.”[31]

Liberal modernity had created a crisis in which the harmony of older societies was damaged by capitalism and in which social bonds were weakened (even if not eliminated) by individualism. However, Spann asserted that all forms of liberalism and individualism are a sickness which could never succeed in fully eliminating the original, primal reality. He predicted that in the era after World War I, the German people would reassert its rights and would create revolution restoring the True State, would recreate that “community tying man to the eternal and absolute forces present in the universe,”[32] and whose revolution would subsequently resonate all across Europe, resurrecting in modern political life the immortal principles of Universalism.

Spann’s Influence and Reception

Othmar Spann and his circle held influence largely in Germany and Austria, and it was in the latter country that their influence was the greatest. Spann’s philosophy became the basis of the ideology of the Austrian Heimwehr (“Home Guard”) which was led by Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg. Leaders of the so-called “Austro-fascist state,” including Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg, were also partially influenced by Spann’s thought and by members of the “Spann circle.”[33] However, despite the fact that this state was the only one which truly attempted to actualize his ideas, Spann did not support “Austro-fascism” because he was a pan-Germanist and wanted the German people unified under a single state, which is why he joined Hitler’s National Socialist movement, which he believed would pave the way to the True State.

Despite repeated attempts to influence National Socialist ideology and the leaders of the NSDAP, Spann and his circle were rejected by most National Socialists. Alfred Rosenberg, Robert Ley, and various other authors associated with the SS made a number of attacks on Spann’s school. Rosenberg was annoyed both by Spann’s denial of the importance of blood and by his Catholic theocratic position; he wrote that “the Universalist school of Othmar Spann has successfully refuted idiotic materialist individualism . . . [but] Spann asserted against traditional Greek wisdom, and claimed that god is the measure of all things and that true religion is found only in the Catholic Church.”[34]

Aside from insisting on the reality of biological laws, other National Socialists also criticized Spann’s political proposals. They asserted that his hierarchical state would create a destructive divide between the people and their elite because it insisted on their absolute separateness; it would destroy the unity they had established between the leadership and the common folk. Although National Socialism itself had elements of elitism it was also populist, and thus they further argued that every German had the potential to take on a leadership role, and that therefore, if improved within in the Volksgemeinschaft (“Folk-Community”), the German people were thus not necessarily divisible in the strict view of superior elites and inferior masses.[35]

As was to be expected, Spann’s liberal critics complained that his anti-individualist position was supposedly too extreme, and the social democrats and Marxists argued that his corporatist state would take away the rights of the workers and grant rulership to the bourgeois leaders. Both accused Spann of being an unrealistic reactionary who wanted to revive the Middle Ages.[36] However, here we should note here that Edgar Julius Jung, who was himself basically a type of Universalist and was heavily inspired by Spann’s work, had mentioned that:

We are reproached for proceeding alongside or behind active political forces, for being romantics who fail to see reality and who indulge in dreams of an ideology of the Reich that turns toward the past. But form and formlessness represent eternal social principles, like the struggle between the microcosm and the macrocosm endures in the eternal swing of the pendulum. The phenomenal forms that mature in time are always new, but the great principles of order (mechanical or organic) always remain the same. Therefore if we look to the Middle Ages for guidance, finding there the great form, we are not only not mistaking the present time but apprehending it more concretely as an age that is itself incapable of seeing behind the scenes. [37]

Edgar Jung, who was one of Hitler’s most prominent radical Conservative opponents, expounded a philosophy which was remarkably similar to Spann’s, although there are some differences we would like to point out. Jung believed that neither Fascism nor National Socialism were precursors to the reestablishment of the True State but rather “simply another manifestation of the liberal, individualistic, and secular tradition that had emerged from the French Revolution.”[38] Fascism and National Socialism were not guided by a reference to a Divine power and were still infected with individualism, which he believed showed itself in the fact that their leaders were guided by their own ambitions and not a duty to God or a power higher than themselves.

Edgar Jung also rejected nationalism in the strict sense, although he simultaneously upheld the value of Volk and the love of fatherland, and advocated the reorganization of the European continent on a federalist basis with Germany being the leading nation of the federation. Also in contrast to Spann’s views, Jung believed that genetic inheritance did play a role in the character of human beings, although he believed this role was secondary to cultural and spiritual factors and criticized common scientific racialism for its “biological materialism.”

Jung asserted that what he saw as superior racial elements in a population should be strengthened and the inferior elements decreased: “Measures for the raising of racially valuable components of the German people and for the prevention of inferior currents must however be found today rather than tomorrow.”[39] Jung also believed that the elites of the Reich, while they should be open to accepting members of lower levels of the hierarchy who showed leadership qualities, should marry only within the elite class, for in this way a new nobility possessing leadership qualities strengthened both genetically and spiritually would be developed.[40]

Whereas Jung constantly combatted National Socialism to his life’s end, up until the Anschluss Othmar Spann had remained an enthusiastic supporter of National Socialism, always believing he could eventually influence the Third Reich leadership to adopt his philosophy. This illusion was maintained in his mind until the takeover of Austria by Germany in 1938, soon after which Spann was arrested and imprisoned because he was deemed an ideological threat, and although he was released after a few months, he was forcibly confined to his rural home.[41] After World War II he could never regain any political influence, but he left his mark in the philosophical realm. Spann had a partial influence on Eric Voegelin and also on many Neue Rechte (“New Right”) intellectuals such as Armin Mohler and Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner.[42] He has also had an influence on Radical Traditionalist thought, most notably on Julius Evola, who wrote that Spann “followed a similar line to my own,”[43] although there are obviously certain marked differences between the two thinkers. Spann’s philosophy thus, despite its flaws and limitations, has not been entirely lacking in usefulness and interest.

Notes

1. More detailed information on Othmar Spann’s life than provided in this essay can be found in John J. Haag, Othmar Spann and the Politics of “Totality”: Corporatism in Theory and Practice (Ph.D. Thesis, Rice University, 1969).

2. See Othmar Spann, Types of Economic Theory (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1930), p. 61. We should note to the reader that this book is the only major work by Spann to have been published in English and has also been published under an alternative title as History of Economics.

3. Othmar Spann as quoted in Ernest Mort, “Christian Corporatism,” Modern Age, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer 1959), p. 249. Available online here: http://www.mmisi.org/ma/03_03/mort.pdf.

4. For a more in-depth and scientific overview of Spann’s studies of society, see Barth Landheer, “Othmar Spann’s Social Theories.” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 39, No. 2 (April, 1931), pp. 239–48. We should also note to our readers that Othmar Spann’s anti-individualist social theories are more similar to those of other “far Right” sociologists such as Hans Freyer and Werner Sombart. However, it should be remembered that sociologists from nearly all political positions are opposed to individualism to some extent, whether they are of the “moderate Center” or of the “far Left.” Furthermore, anti-individualism is a typical position among many mainstream sociologists today, who recognize that individualistic attitudes – which are, of course, still an issue in societies today just as they were an issue a hundred years ago – have a harmful effect on society as a whole.

5. Othmar Spann, Der wahre Staat (Leipzig: Verlag von Quelle und Meyer, 1921), p. 29. Quoted in Eric Voegelin, Theory of Governance and Other Miscellaneous Papers, 1921–1938 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003), p. 68.

6. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 29. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 69.

7. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 60–61.

8. Ibid., p. 61.

9. Spann, Der wahre Staat, pp. 29 & 34. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, pp. 70–71.

10. J. Glenn Friesen, “Dooyeweerd, Spann, and the Philosophy of Totality,” Philosophia Reformata, 70 (2005), p. 6. Available online here: http://members.shaw.ca/hermandooyeweerd/Totality.pdf.

11. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, p. 199.

12. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality,” p. 48.

13. Eric Voegelin, Race and State (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), pp. 117–18.

14. Ludwig F. Clauss, Rasse und Seele (Munich: J. F. Lehmann, 1926), pp. 20–21. Quoted in Richard T. Gray, About Face: German Physiognomic Thought from Lavater to Auschwitz (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004), p. 307.

15. For an overview of Evola’s theory of race, see Michael Bell, “Julius Evola’s Concept of Race: A Racism of Three Degrees.” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter 2009–2010), pp. 101–12. Available online here: http://toqonline.com/archives/v9n2/TOQv9n2Bell.pdf. For a closer comparison between the Evola’s theories and Clauss’s, see Julius Evola’s The Elements of Racial Education (Thompkins & Cariou, 2005).

16. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, p. 136.

17. A more in-depth explanation of “Radical Traditionalism” can be found in Chapter 1: Revolution – Counterrevolution – Tradition” in Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, trans. Guido Stucco, ed. Michael Moynihan (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002).

18. See Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 162–64.

19. Ibid., p. 162.

20. Ibid., p. 226.

21. Ibid., p. 230.

22. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 111. Quoted in Janek Wasserman, Black Vienna, Red Vienna: The Struggle for Intellectual and Political Hegemony in Interwar Vienna, 1918–1938 (Ph.D. Dissertion, Washington University, 2010), p. 80.

23. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 212.

24. For a commentary on individual natural rights theory, see Ibid., pp.53 ff.

25. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 185. Quoted in Wassermann, Black Vienna, Red Vienna, p. 82.

26. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality,” p. 32.

27. Othmar Spann, Kurzgefasstes System der Gesellschaftslehre (Berlin: Quelle und Meyer, 1914), p. 429. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 301.

28. Spann, Gesellschaftslehre, p. 241. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 297.

29. Spann, Gesellschaftslehre, p. 495. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 299.

30. Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Integral Tradition Publishing, 2009), p. 190.

31. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, p. 39.

32. Ibid., pp. 40–41.

33. See Günter Bischof, Anton Pelinka, Alexander Lassner, The Dollfuss/Schuschnigg Era in Austria: A Reassessment (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2003), pp. 16, 32, & 125 ff.

34. Alfred Rosenberg, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (Sussex, England: Historical Review Press, 2004), pp. 458–59.

35. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, pp. 127–29.

36. See Ibid., pp. 66 ff.

37. Edgar Julius Jung, “Germany and the Conservative Revolution,” in: The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), p. 354.

38. Larry Eugene Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung: The Conservative Revolution in Theory and Practice,” Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association, Vol. 21, No. 02 (1988), p. 163.

39. Edgar Julius Jung, “People, Race, Reich,” in: Europa: German Conservative Foreign Policy 1870–1940, edited by Alexander Jacob (Lanham, MD, USA: University Press of America, 2002), p. 101.

40. For a more in-depth overview of Jung’s life and thought, see Walter Struve, Elites Against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890–1933 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1973), pp. 317 ff. See also Edgar Julius Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, 2 vols. (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press, 1995).

41. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, pp. 154–55.

42. See our previous citations of Voegelin’s Theory of Governance and Race and State; Armin Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932 (Stuttgart: Friedrich Vorwerk Verlag, 1950); “Othmar Spann” in Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner, Vom Geist Europas, Vol. 1 (Asendorf: Muth-Verlag, 1987).

43. Evola, Path of Cinnabar, p. 155.

 

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Tudor, Lucian. “Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 19 March 2013. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/03/othmar-spann-a-catholic-radical-traditionalist/>.

Note: This essay was also republished in updated form in Lucian Tudor’s From the German Conservative Revolution to the New Right: A Collection of Essays on Identitarian Philosophy (Santiago, Chile: Círculo de Investigaciones PanCriollistas, 2015).

 

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German Conservative Revolution – Tudor

The German Conservative Revolution & its Legacy

By Lucian Tudor

 

Translations: Suomi, Română

During the years between World War I and the establishment of the Third Reich, the political, economic, and social crises which Germany suddenly experienced as a result of its defeat in the First World War gave rise to a movement known as the “Conservative Revolution,” which is also commonly referred to as the “Conservative Revolutionary Movement,” with its members sometimes called “Revolutionary Conservatives” or even “Neoconservatives.”

The phrase “Conservative Revolution” itself was popularized as a result of a speech in 1927 by the famous poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who was a Catholic cultural conservative and monarchist.[1] Here Hofmannsthal declared, “The process of which I am speaking is nothing less than a conservative revolution on such a scale as the history of Europe has never known. Its object is form, a new German reality, in which the whole nation will share.”[2]

Although these phrases give the impression that the Conservative Revolution was composed of people who shared the same worldview, this was in fact not the case because the thinkers and leaders of the Conservative Revolution often had disagreements. Furthermore, despite the fact that the philosophical ideas produced by this “new conservatism” influenced German National Socialism and also had links to Fascism, it is incorrect to assume that the people belonging to it are either Fascist or “proto-Nazi.” Although some Revolutionary Conservatives praised Italian Fascism and some also eventually joined the National Socialist Movement (although many did not), overall their worldviews were distinct from both of these political groups.

It is difficult to adequately summarize the views held by the Revolutionary Conservatives due to the fact that many of them held views that stood in contradistinction to certain views held by others in the same movement. What they generally had in common was an awareness of the importance of Volk (this term may be translated as “folk,” “nation,” “ethnicity,” or “people”) and culture, the idea of Volksgemeinschaft (“folk-community”), and a rejection of Marxism, liberalism, and democracy (particularly parliamentary democracy). Ideas that also were common among them was a rejection of the linear concept of history in favor of the cyclical concept, a conservative and non-Marxist form of socialism, and the establishment of an authoritarian elite. [3]

In brief, the movement was made of Germans who had conservative tendencies of some sort but who were disappointed with the state into which Germany had been put by its loss of World War I and sought to advance ideas that were both conservative and revolutionary in nature.

In order to obtain an adequate idea as to the nature of the Conservative Revolution and its outlook, it is best to examine the major intellectuals and their thought. The following sections will provide a brief overview of the most important Revolutionary Conservative intellectuals and their key philosophical contributions.

The Visionaries of a New Reich

The most noteworthy Germans who had an optimistic vision of the establishment of a “Third Reich” were Stefan George, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Edgar Julius Jung. Stefan George, unlike the other two, was not a typical intellectual but a poet. George expressed his Revolutionary Conservative vision of the “new Reich” largely in poetry, and this poetry did in fact reach and affect many young German nationalists and even intellectuals; and for this he is historically notable.[4] But on the intellectual level, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck (who popularized the term “Third Reich”) and Edgar Julius Jung had a deeper philosophical impact.

1. Arthur Moeller van den Bruck

Moeller van den Bruck was a cultural historian who became politically active at the end of the First World War. He was a founding member of the conservative “June Club,” of which he became the ideological leader.[5] In Der preussische Stil (“The Prussian Style”) he described what he believed to be the Prussian character, whose key characteristic was the “will to the state,” and in Das Recht der jungen Volker (“The Right of Young Peoples”) he presented the idea of “young peoples” (including Germany, Russia, and America) and “old peoples” (including England and France), advocating an alliance between the “younger” nations with more vitality to defeat the hegemony of Britain and France.[6]

In 1922, he contributed, along with Heinrich von Gleichen and Max Hildebert Boehm, to the book Die neue Front (“The New Front”), a manifesto of the Jungkonservativen (“Young-conservatives”).[7] A year later, Moeller van den Bruck produced his most famous work which contained a comprehensive exposition of his worldview, Das Dritte Reich, translated into English as Germany’s Third Empire.[8]

In Germany’s Third Empire, Moeller made a division between four political stances: Revolutionary, Liberal, Reactionary, and Conservative. Revolutionaries, which especially included Communists, were unrealistic in the sense that they believed they could totally brush aside all past values and traditions. Liberalism was criticized for its radical individualism, which essentially amounts to egotism and disintegrates nations and traditions. Reactionaries, on the other hand, were criticized for having the unrealistic position of desiring a complete revival of past forms, believing that everything in past society was positive. The Conservative, Moeller argued, was superior to the former three because “Conservatism seeks to preserve a nation’s values, both by conserving traditional values, as far as these still possess the power of growth, and by assimilating all new values which increase a nation’s vitality.”[9] Moeller’s “Conservative” was essentially a Revolutionary Conservative.

Moeller rejected Marxism because of its rationalism and materialism, which he argued were flawed ideologies that failed to understand the better side of human societies and life. “Socialism begins where Marxism ends,” he declared.[10] Moeller advocated a corporatist German socialism which recognized the importance of nationality and refused class warfare.

In terms of politics, Moeller rejected republicanism and asserted that true democracy was about the people taking a share in determining its destiny. He rejected monarchy as outdated and anticipated a new form of government in which a strong leader who was connected to the people would emerge. “We need leaders who feel themselves at one with the nation, who identify the nation’s fate with their own.” [11] This leader would establish a “Third Empire, a new and final Empire,” which would solve Germany’s political problems (especially its population problem).

2. Edgar Julius Jung

Another great vision of a Third Reich came from Edgar Julius Jung, a politically active intellectual who wrote the large book Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen, translated into English as The Rule of the Inferiour,[12] which has sometimes been called the “bible of neo-conservatism.”[13] This book presented a devastating critique of liberalism and combined ideas from Spann, Schmitt, Pareto, and other thinkers.

Liberal democracy was rejected by Jung as the rule of masses which were manipulated by demagogues and also the rule of money because it had inherent tendencies towards plutocracy. The French Revolutionary ideas of “liberty, equality, fraternity” were all rejected as corrosive influences harmful to society and sources of individualism, which Jung viewed as a key cause of decay. Jung also rejected Marxism as a corrupt product of the French Revolution. [14] The Conservative Revolution for Jung was, in his words, the

Restoration of all those elementary laws and values without which man loses his ties with nature and God and without which he is incapable of building up a true order. In the place of equality there will be inherent standards, in the place of social consciousness a just integration into the hierarchical society, in the place of mechanical election an organic elite, in the place of bureaucratic leveling the inner responsibility of genuine self-government, in the place of mass prosperity the rights of a proud people. [15]

In the place of liberal and Marxist forms, Jung envisioned the establishment of a New Reich which would use corporatist economics (related to the medieval guild system), would be organized on a federalist basis, would be animated by Christian spirituality and the power of the Church, and would be led by an authoritarian monarchy and an elite composed of selected qualified members. In Jung’s words, “The state as the highest order of organic community must be an aristocracy; in the last and highest sense: the rule of the best. Even democracy was founded with this claim.”[16]

He also critiqued the materialistic concept of race as “biological materialism” and asserted instead the primacy of the cultural-spiritual entity (it was on this basis, rather than on biology, that the Jewish Problem was to be dealt with). Furthermore, he rejected nationalism in the normal sense of the term, supporting the concept of a federalist, supra-national, pan-European Empire, while still recognizing the reality and importance of Volk and the separateness of ethnic groups. In fact, Jung believed that the new Reich should be formed on “an indestructible volkisch foundation from which the volkisch struggle can take form.”[17]

Edgar Jung, however, was not content with merely writing about his ideas; he had great political ambitions and actively worked with parties and conservatives who agreed with him in the 1920s up until 1934.[18] The necessity of battle was already part of Jung’s philosophy: “If the German people see that, among them, combatants still live, then they become aware also of combat as the highest form of existence. The German destiny calls for men who master it. For, world-history makes the man.” [19]

During his political activity, he came to dislike the National Socialist movement due to a personal dislike for Hitler as well as his view that National Socialism was a product of modernity and was ideologically linked with Marxism and liberalism. Jung was highly active in his opposition to the NSDAP and was eventually responsible for writing Papen’s Marburg address which criticized Hitler’s government in 1934, which resulted in Jung’s death on the Night of the Long Knives.[20]

Theorists of Decline: Spengler and Klages

1. Oswald Spengler

The most famous theorist of decline is Oswald Spengler, the “doctor-prophet” who predicted the fall of the Western High Culture in his magnum opus, The Decline of the West. According to Spengler, every High Culture has its own “soul” (this refers to the essential character of a Culture) and goes through predictable cycles of birth, growth, fulfillment, decline, and demise which resemble that of the life of a plant.[21] To quote Spengler:

A Culture is born in the moment when a great soul awakens out of the proto-spirituality of ever-childish humanity, and detaches itself, a form from the formless, a bounded and mortal thing from the boundless and enduring. It blooms on the soil of an exactly-definable landscape, to which plant-wise it remains bound. It dies when the soul has actualized the full sum of its possibilities in the shape of peoples, languages, dogmas, arts, states, sciences, and reverts into the proto-soul. [22]

There is an important distinction in this theory between Kultur (“Culture”) and Zivilisation (“Civilization”). Culture refers to the beginning phase of a High Culture which is marked by rural life, religiosity, vitality, will-to-power, and ascendant instincts, while Civilization refers to the later phase which is marked by urbanization, irreligion, purely rational intellect, mechanized life, and decadence. Spengler particularly focused on three High Cultures which he made comparisons between: the Magian, the Classical, and the present Western High Culture. He held the view that the West, which was in its later Civilization phase, would soon enter a final imperialistic and “Caesarist” stage – a stage which, according to Spengler, marks the final flash before the end of a High Culture.[23]

Perhaps Spengler’s most important contribution to the Conservative Revolution, however, is his theory of “Prussian Socialism” which he expressed in Prussianism and Socialism, and which formed the basis of his view that conservatives and socialists should unite. In this short book he argued that the Prussian character, which was the German character par excellence, was essentially socialist. For Spengler, true socialism was primarily a matter of ethics rather than economics.[24]

This ethical, Prussian socialism meant the development and practice of work ethic, discipline, obedience, a sense of duty to the greater good and the state, self-sacrifice, and the possibility of attaining any rank by talent. Prussian socialism was differentiated from Marxism and liberalism. Marxism was not true socialism because it was materialistic and based on class conflict, which stood in contrast with the Prussian ethics of the state. Also in contrast to Prussian socialism was liberalism and capitalism, which negated the idea of duty, practiced a “piracy principle,” and created the rule of money.[25]

2. Ludwig Klages

Ludwig Klages was a less influential, although still noteworthy, theorist of decline who focused not on High Cultures, but on the decline of Life (which stands in contrast to mere Existence). Klages’s theory, named “Biocentrism,” posited a dichotomy between Seele (“Soul”) and Geist (“Spirit”); two forces in human life that were in a psychological battle with each other. Soul may be understood as pure Life, vital impulse, and feeling, while Spirit may be understood as abstract intellect, mechanical and conceptual thought, reason, and Will.[26]

According to Biocentric theory, in primordial pre-historic times, man’s Soul and body were united and thus humans lived ecstatically in accordance to the principle of Life. Over time, human Life was interfered with by Spirit, which caused humans to use conceptual (as opposed to symbolic) thought and rational intellect, thus beginning the severing of body and Soul. In this theory, the more human history progresses, the more Life is limited and ruined by the Spirit in a long but ultimately unstoppable process which ends in completely mechanized, over-civilized, and soul-less people. “Already, the machine has liberated itself from man’s control,” wrote Klages, “it is no longer man’s servant: in reality, man himself is now being enslaved by the machine.”[27]

This final stage is marked by such things as a complete disconnection from Nature, the destruction of the natural environment, massive race-mixing, and a lack of true Life, which is predicted to finally end in the death of mankind due to damage to the natural world. Klages declared, “. . . the ultimate destruction of all seems to be a foregone conclusion.”[28]

Spann and the Unified State

Othmar Spann was, from 1919 to 1938, a professor at the University of Vienna in Austria who was influential but who, despite his enthusiastic support for National Socialism, was removed by the Third Reich government due to a few ideological disagreements.[29] He was the exponent of a theory known as “Universalism” (which is entirely different from universalism in the normal sense of the term). His Universalist view of economics, politics, society, and science was expounded in numerous books, the most important of which was his most memorable work, Der wahre Staat (“The True State”).[30]

Spann’s Universalism was a corporatist theory which rejected individualism. To understand Spann’s rejection of individualism it is necessary to understand what “individualism” is because different and even contradictory definitions are given to that term; individualism here refers to the concept that the individual is absolute and no supra-individual reality exists (and therefore, society is nothing more than a collection of atoms). The reader must be aware that Spann did not make a complete denial of the individual, but rather a complete denial of individualist ideology.[31]

According to Universalist theory, the individual exists only within a particular community or society; the whole (the totality of society) precedes the parts (individuals) because the parts do not truly exist independent from the whole.[32] Spann wrote, “It is the fundamental truth of all social science . . . that it is not the individuals that are the truly real, but the whole, and that the individuals have reality and existence only so far as they are members of the whole.”[33]

Furthermore, society and the State were not entirely separable, because from the State comes the rights of the individual, family, and other groups. Liberalism, capitalism, democracy, and Marxian socialism were all rejected by Spann as individualist or materialist and corrupt products of French Revolutionary ideas. Whereas in past societies the individual was integrated into community, modern life with its liberalism had atomized society. According to Spann, “Mankind can reconcile itself to poverty because it will be and remain poor forever. But to the loss of estate, existential insecurity, uprootedness, and nothingness, the masses of affected people can never reconcile themselves.”[34] As a solution to modern decay, Spann envisioned the formation of a religious Christian, corporatist, hierarchical, and authoritarian state similar to the First Reich (the Holy Roman Empire).[35]

A lesser-known Revolutionary Conservative academic, Hans Freyer, also held similar views to Spann and challenged the ideas and results of the “Enlightenment,” particularly secularism, the idea of universal reason, the concept of a universal humanity, urbanization, and democratization. Against modern society corrupted by these things, Freyer posed the idea of a “totally integrated society” which would be completed by a powerful, non-democratic state. Culture, Volk, race, and religion would form the basis of society and state in order to restore a sense of community and common values. Freyer also joined the National Socialists believing that the movement would realize his aims but later became disappointed with it because of what he saw as its repressive nature during the Third Reich.[36]

Zehrer and Elitist Theory

Hans Zehrer was a notable contributor to and editor of the “neoconservative” magazine Die Tat, and thus eventually also a founding member of a group of intellectuals known as the Tat-Kreis (“Tat-Circle”). Zehrer held the view that “all movements began as intellectual movements of intelligent, well-qualified minorities which, because of the discrepancy between that which is and that which should be, seized the initiative.”[37] His theory was somewhat related to Vilfredo Pareto’s concept of a “circulation of elites” in that he believed that intellectuals, in most cases gifted and intelligent men emerging from any social class, were crucial in determining the succeeding social order and its ideas.

In Germany at that time, the middle class, which made up a large segment of society and of which Zehrer was a member, was facing a number of economic problems. It was Zehrer’s dream that a new political order could be established by young intellectuals of the middle class which he attempted to reach. This new order would result in the abolishment of the insecure Weimar republic and the establishment of an authoritarian elite made up largely of such intellectuals. This elite would not be subject to control by the masses and would choose its own members based on the criterion of personal quality and ability without regard to social class or wealth.[38]

Zehrer’s vision was not fulfilled due to a series of failures to establish a new state by a “revolution from above” as well because of the rise of the NSDAP, which he attempted to influence in the early 1930s despite his disdain for party rule and, after being unsuccessful, retreated from political activity. However, although most Revolutionary Conservative thinkers did not envision an elite composed almost solely of intellectuals, it is notable that they shared with Zehrer the view that an authoritarian elite should have its membership open to qualified individuals of all classes and ranks.[39]

Sombart and Conservative Socialism

Socialists with nationalist and conservative leanings such as Paul Lensch, Johann Plenge, Werner Sombart, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Oswald Spengler to the rise of a new, national, conservative socialism. Of course, it should be remembered that non-Marxist socialism already had a long history in Germany, including such people as the Kathedersozialisten (“socialists of the chair”), Adolf Stöcker, and Ferdinand Tönnies.[40] Werner Sombart himself began as a Marxist, but later became disillusioned with Marxist theory, which he realized was destructive of the human spirit and organic community much in the same way capitalism was.

Sombart is for the most part remembered for his work on the nature of capitalism, especially his works linking the materialistic character of the Jews with capitalism. The obsession with profit, ruthless business practices, indifference to quality, and “the merely rationalizing and abstracting characteristics of the trader” which were key products of capitalism, destroy any “community of labor” and disintegrate bonds between people which were more common in medieval society.[41] Sombart wrote, “Before capitalism could develop, the natural man had to be changed out of all recognition, and a rationalistically minded mechanism introduced in his stead. There had to be a transvaluation of all economic values.”[42]

Sombart’s major objections to Marxism consisted of the fact that Marxism aimed to suppress all religious feelings as well as national feelings and the values of rooted, indigenous culture; Marxism aimed not at a higher mankind but mere base “happiness.” In contrast to Marxism and capitalism, Sombart advocated a German Socialism in which economic policies would be “directed in a corporative manner,” exploitation would be ended, and hierarchy and the welfare of the whole state would be upheld.[43]

Radicalism and Nationalism: Jünger and Niekisch

1. Ernst Jünger

Ernst Jünger is well-known for his work on what he saw as the positive effects of warfare and battle, with himself having experienced these in World War I. Jünger rejected the bourgeois civilization of comfort and security, which he saw as weak and dying, in favor of the hardening and “magnificent” experience of action and adventure in war, which would transform a man of the bourgeois world into a “warrior.” The warrior type battled “against the eternal Utopia of peace, the pursuit of happiness, and perfection.”[44] Jünger believed that the crisis and restlessness of Germans after the World War was essentially a good thing.

In his book Der Arbeiter, the “warrior” was followed by the “worker,” a new type which would become dominant after the end of the bourgeois order. Jünger had realized that modern technology was changing the world; the individual man was losing his individuality and freedom in a mechanized world. Thus he anticipated a society in which people would accept anonymity in the masses and obedient service to the state; the population would undergo “total mobilization.”[45] To quote Jünger:

Total Mobilization is far less consummated than it consummates itself; in war and peace, it expresses the secret and inexorable claim to which our life in the age of masses and machines subjects us. It thus turns out that each individual life becomes, ever more unambiguously, the life of a worker; and that, following the wars of knights, kings, and citizens, we now have wars of workers. The first great twentieth-century conflict has offered us a presentiment of both their rational structure and their mercilessness.[46]

Ernst Jünger’s acceptance of technology in the “worker” stage stands somewhat in contrast to the position taken by his brother, Friedrich Georg Jünger, who wrote critiques of modern technological civilization (although Ernst would later in life agree with this view).[47] Ernst Jünger later changed in his attitudes during World War II, and afterwards nearly inverted his entire worldview, praising peace and individualism; a change which had not come without criticism from the Right.[48]

2. Ernst Niekisch

Another notable radical nationalist in the Conservative Revolution was Ernst Niekisch, who began as a Communist but eventually turned to a seemingly paradoxical mixture of German nationalism and Russian communism: National Bolshevism. In accordance with this new doctrine, Niekisch advocated an alliance between Soviet Russia and Germany in order to overcome the Versailles Treaty as well as to counter the power of the capitalist and anti-nationalist Western nations. However, this deviant faction, in competition with both Communists and anti-Communist nationalists, remained an unsuccessful minority.[49]

Political Theory: Schmitt and Haushofer

1. Carl Schmitt

Carl Schmitt was a notable Catholic philosopher of politics and jurist who was a major influence on political thought and who also supported the Third Reich government after its formation. His most famous book was The Concept of the Political, although he is also the author of numerous other works, including Political Theology and The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy.

The “political,” for Schmitt, was a concept distinct from politics in the normal sense of the term, and was based on the distinction between “friend” and “enemy.” The political exists wherever there exists an enemy, a group which is different and holds different interests, and with whom there is a possibility of conflict. This criterion includes both groups outside of the state as well as within the state, and therefore both inter-state war as well as civil war is taken into account. A population can be unified and mobilized through the political act, in which an enemy is identified and battled.[50]

Schmitt also defended the practice of dictatorship, which he distinguished from “tyranny.” Dictatorship is a form of government which is established when a “state of exception” or emergency exists in which it is necessary to bypass slow parliamentary processes in order to defend the law. According to Schmitt, dictatorial power is present in any case in which a state or leader exercises power independently of the approval of majorities, regardless of whether or not this state is “democratic.” Sovereignty is the power to decide the state of exception, and thus, “sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”[51]

Schmitt further criticized parliamentary or liberal democracy by arguing that the original basis of parliamentarism — which held that the separation of powers and open and rational dialogue between parties would result in a well-functioning state — was in fact negated by the reality of party politics, in which party leaders, coalitions, and interest groups make decisions on policies without a discussion. Another notable argument made by Schmitt was that true democracy is not liberal democracy, in which a plurality of groups are treated equally under a single state, but a unified, homogenous state in which leaders’ decisions express the will of the unified people. In Schmitt’s words, “Every actual democracy rests on the principle that not only are equals equal but unequals will not be treated equally. Democracy requires, therefore, first homogeneity and second – if the need arises elimination or eradication of heterogeneity.”[52]

2. Karl Haushofer

Karl Haushofer was another philosopher of politics who is well-known for his theoretical work on “geopolitics” which aimed to advance Germany’s understanding of international politics and geography. Haushofer asserted that nations not only had the right to defend their land, but also to expand and colonize new lands, especially when experiencing over-population. Germany was one nation in such a position, and was thus entitled to Lebensraum (“living-space”) for its excess population. In order to overcome the domination of the Anglo-American power structure, Haushofer advocated a new system of alliances which particularly involved a German-Russian alliance (thus Haushofer can be viewed as a “Eurasianist”). Haushofer joined the National Socialists but his ideas were eventually rejected by Third Reich geopoliticians because of their hostility to Russia.[53]

The Influences of the Conservative Revolution

The thinkers of the Conservative Revolution had not only an immediate influence in Germany during the early 20th Century, but also a deep and lasting impact on right-wing (and in some cases even left-wing) thought up to the present day. Aside from the obvious influence on National Socialism, and if we assume that Otto Strasser cannot be included as part of the Conservative Revolution, then Strasserism was still clearly influenced by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Oswald Spengler.[54]

Francis Parker Yockey, the author of Imperium, also revealed influence from Spengler, Schmitt, Sombart, and Haushofer.[55] Julius Evola, the famous Italian traditionalist, is yet another writer who was affected by Revolutionary Conservative intellectuals, as is clear in such major works as Men Among the Ruins[56] and The Path of Cinnabar.[57]

More recently, the European New Right shows a great amount of inspiration from Revolutionary Conservatives. Armin Mohler, who may himself be considered a part of Germany’s Conservative Revolution as well as the New Right, is well-known for his seminal work Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932.[58] In addition, Tomislav Sunic also draws many intellectual concepts from Revolutionary Conservatives in his highly important book, Against Democracy and Equality, including Schmitt, Spengler, and to a lesser extent Spann and Sombart. [59]

Yet another intellectual in league with the New Right, Alexander Jacob, is the translator of Jung’s The Rule of the Inferiour and is also responsible for multiple works on various Revolutionary Conservatives.[60] When one considers these facts, it becomes apparent that much can be learned by studying the history and ideas of the German Conservative Revolution. It is a source of philosophical richness which can advance the Conservative position and which leaves its mark on the thought of the Right even today.

 

Notes

[1] On Hofmannsthal’s political views, see Paul Gottfried, “Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Interwar European Right.” Modern Age, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Fall 2007), pp. 508–19.

[2] Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Das Schrifttum als geistiger Raum der Nation (Munich, 1927). Quoted in Klemens von Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism; Its History And Dilemma In The Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 9.

[3] Armin Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932 (Stuttgart: Friedrich Vorwerk Verlag, 1950).

[4] Robert Edward Norton, Secret Germany: Stefan George and his Circle (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).

[5] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 102–111.

[6] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 156–159.

[7] Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland, p. 329.

[8] Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Germany’s Third Empire (New York: Howard Fertig, 1971).

[9] Ibid. p. 76.

[10] Ibid. p. 245.

[11] Ibid. p. 227.

[12] Edgar Julius Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, trans. Alexander Jacob (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press, 1995).

[13] Larry Eugene Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung: The Conservative Revolution in Theory and Practice,” Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association, vol. 21, Issue 02 (June 1988), p. 142.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Edgar J. Jung, Deutsche uber Deutschland (Munich, 1932), p. 380. Quoted in Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 121–22.

[16] Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, p. 138.

[17] Jung, “Sinndeutung der konservativen Revolution in Deutschland.” Quoted inJones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” p. 167. For an overview of Jung’s philosophy, see: Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” pp. 144–47, 149; Walter Struve, Elites Against Democracy; Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890-1933 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1973), pp. 317–52; Alexander Jacob’s introduction to Europa: German Conservative Foreign Policy 1870–1940 (Lanham, MD, USA: University Press of America, 2002), pp. 10–16.

[18] Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” pp. 145–48.

[19] Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, p. 368.

[20] Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” pp. 147–73.

[21] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West Vol. 1: Form and Actuality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926).

[22] Ibid. p. 106.

[23] Ibid. For a good overview of Spengler’s theory, see Tomislav Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (Third Edition. London: Arktos, 2010), pp. 91–98.

[24] Oswald Spengler, Selected Essays (Chicago: Gateway/Henry Regnery, 1967).

[25] Ibid.

[26] See: Joe Pryce, “On The Biocentric Metaphysics of Ludwig Klages,” Revilo-Oliver.com, 2001, http://www.revilo-oliver.com/Writers/Klages/Ludwig_Klages.html, and Lydia Baer, “The Literary Criticism of Ludwig Klages and the Klages School: An Introduction to Biocentric Thought.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan., 1941), pp. 91–138.

[27] Ludwig Klages, Cosmogonic Reflections, trans. Joe Pryce, 14 May 2001, http://www.revilo-oliver.com/Writers/Klages/515.html, 453.

[28] Ibid., http://www.revilo-oliver.com/Writers/Klages/100.html, 2.

[29] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 204–5.

[30] Othmar Spann, Der Wahre Staat (Leipzig: Verlag von Quelle und Meyer, 1921).

[31] Barth Landheer, “Othmar Spann’s Social Theories.” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Apr., 1931), pp. 239–48.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Spann, quoted in Ernest Mort, “Christian Corporatism.” Modern Age, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer 1959), p. 249. http://www.mmisi.org/ma/03_03/mort.pdf.

[34] Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 120. Quoted in Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality, pp. 163–64.

[35] Janek Wasserman, Black Vienna, Red Vienna: The Struggle for Intellectual and Political Hegemony in Interwar Vienna, 19181938 (Saint Louis, Missouri: Washington University, 2010), pp. 73–85.

[36] Jerry Z. Muller, The Other God that Failed: Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). The single book by Hans Freyer to be translated into English is Theory of Objective Mind, trans. Steven Grosby (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1998).

[37] Hans Zehrer, “Die Revolution der Intelligenz,” Tat, XXI (Oct. I929), 488. Quoted in Walter Struve, “Hans Zehrer as a Neoconservative Elite Theorist,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Jul., 1965), p. 1035.

[38] Struve, “Hans Zehrer as a Neoconservative Elite Theorist.”

[39] Ibid.

[40] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 57–58. On Tönnies, see Christopher Adair-Toteff, “Ferdinand Tonnies: Utopian Visionary,” Sociological Theory, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 58-65.

[41] Alexander Jacob, “German Socialism as an Alternative to Marxism,” The Scorpion, Issue 21. http://thescorp.multics.org/21spengler.html.

[42] Werner Sombart, Economic Life in the Modern Age (New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Publishers, 2001), p. 129.

[43] Jacob, “German Socialism as an Alternative to Marxism.”

[44] Ernst Jünger, ed., Krieg und Krieger (Berlin, 1930), 59. Quoted in Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, p. 183. See also Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel, trans. Basil Greighton (London: Chatto & Windus, 1929) and Copse 125 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1930).

[45] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 185–88.

[46] Ernst Jünger, “Total Mobilization,” trans. Joel Golb, in The Heidegger Controversy (Boston: MIT Press, 1992), p. 129. http://anarchistwithoutcontent.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/junger-total-mobilization-booklet.pdf.

[47] Alain de Benoist, “Soldier Worker, Rebel, Anarch: An Introduction to Ernst Jünger,” trans. Greg Johnson, The Occidental Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 3 (Fall 2008), p. 52.

[48] Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Integral Tradition Publishing, 2009), pp. 216–21.

[49] Klemens von Klemperer, “Towards a Fourth Reich? The History of National Bolshevism in Germany,” The Review of Politics, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr., 1951), pp. 191–210.

[50] Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, expanded edition, trans. G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

[51] Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 1.

[52] Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, trans. E. Kennedy, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), p. 9.

[53] Andrew Gyorgy, “The Geopolitics of War: Total War and Geostrategy.” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Nov., 1943), pp. 347–62. See also Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland, p. 474.

[54] Otto Strasser, Hitler and I (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1940), pp. 38–39.

[55] Francis Parker Yockey, Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics (Sausalito, Cal.: Noontide Press, 1962).

[56] Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2002).

[57] Evola, The Path of Cinnabar, pp. 150–55.

[58] See note #3.

[59] See Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality, pp. 75–98, 159–64.

[60] See Jacob, Europa; “German Socialism as an Alternative to Marxism”; Introduction to Political Ideals by Houston Stewart Chamberlain (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2005).

 

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Tudor, Lucian. “The Conservative Revolution of Germany & its Legacy.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 14 August 2012. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/08/the-german-conservative-revolution-and-its-legacy/ >.

 

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Toward a New Aristocracy – Venner

Toward a New Aristocracy

By Dominique Venner

Czech translation of this translation: here

Translated by Greg Johnson

Their names continue to identify the boulevards of a unique though disfigured capital: Berthier, Murat, Jourdan, Masséna, Soult, Brune, Bessières, and others. By his decree of May 19th, 1804, Napoleon created the first fourteen marshals of the empire, to which he would add ten more. Yes, their names still remain on the perimeter of a Paris that hardly appreciates their glory.

Bonaparte had not been idle. The decision to restore the rank of Marshal came twenty-four hours after the senatus consult that gave him the title of Emperor of the French.

The noble titles of the Old Regime had been abolished in 1790. From his accession to the throne, Napoleon wanted to institute an imperial nobility, which he did in several steps, until the decree of March 1st, 1808 establishing a hierarchy of hereditary titles. As a social distinction, nobility was thus granted by the State to reward its supporters. Of course, a title never guarantees nobility of character or soul.

Napoleon obviously tried to get back to the monarchical tradition, but also to a much older tradition. In a few dazzling years, imitating ancient Rome, France had passed from a Republic to an Empire. However, it differed from its model in lacking the foundation of an aristocratic senate of patricians.[1] Did the Emperor wish to correct this deficiency? Destiny did not ratify his decision.

He was not the successor of the Roman Emperors, but he was the first of the modern Caesars. His power was built on the debris of the monarchy, but even more so on that of the old nobility which, for at least two centuries, has slowly lost its purpose, being dispossessed of its social and political functions by the voraciousness of the administrative monarchy. This monarchy did not support a free and vigorous nobility. It wanted dependant and submissive civil servants. It died because of it, unlike England and other great European monarchies that were always based on active nobilities until the day before 1914.

Then, in the vacuum created by the catastrophe of the Great War, the Caesars multiplied. But, in spite of various attempts, no new nobility could be constituted. One does not found a nobility with civil servants, even in uniform. Spengler had defined the old Prussian nobility by two moral qualities that seem scarcely compatible: “freedom and service.” It is hard to say more in fewer words.

I touched on this subject in another article, “Secret Aristocracies.” Several readers asked: “Why ‘secret’?”

It was an image. And what images suggest often has more scope than any argument. Perhaps it would have been more exact to speak of an “implicit” aristocracy, but it would have had less force. Initially I wanted to avoid any confusion with the daydreams of false chivalry used by mystifiers and their dupes. I wanted to also set aside the dreams of those who are enthralled by political romanticisms. Finally, I wanted to suggest that today there exists an invisible, self-titled elite, beyond all distinctions of class. They are men and women who, through the pursuit of personal excellence, quietly uphold higher duties. One meets them in many contexts. No bond associates them and no apparent sign distinguishes them in the eyes of ordinary people.

The Japanese say that it is precisely by invisible signs that one first recognizes a “Master,” i.e., one who has reached a certain perfection in his existence or in an “art” that is not necessarily martial. To found a “secret” aristocracy was one of the goals of the brilliant creator of scouting.[2] He had the experience of the very old British aristocracy, decrepit though it may have been, and also the experience of an army still penetrated by a spirit of nobility going back to the Iliad. His goal remains viable, with the proviso of purging it soundly of all “good-boyism.”

“Boulevard des Maréchals” (“Boulevard of the Marshals”), Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire, no. 46, http://www.dominiquevenner.fr/#/edito-nrh-46-marechaux/3448596

Notes

[1] On the permanence of the Roman aristocracy and its role under the Empire, one can refer to the study of professor Yann Bohec, published in the Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire, no. 43, p. 46.

[2] Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, 1857–1941—Ed.

——————–

Venner, Dominique. “Toward a New Aristocracy.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 3 August 2010. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/08/toward-a-new-aristocracy/ >.

 

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