The Myth of Christian Nazis

Chapter V, Faith and Thought, from Aurel Kolnai's seminal work on German National Socialism, "The War Against the West", published in 1938. "The War Against the West" is perhaps the best deconstruction of the German National Socialist ideology. Kolnai's destruction of the myth of Christian Nazis is particularly well documented and, as such, is presented here.

1. The Relativity of Value - The Absoluteness of Power

"Religion and race belong together. German man can only assimilate religious faith and religious thought with a German mind and in a German way. We must not think we can come to God except through our Volk....Wherever our blood rises in protest we act immorally, even though others may try to prove it to be moral." - HANS SCHEMM
"The German Faith movement poses the question: How far does Christianity agree, how far does it disagree with our Kind?" PROF. H. SCHWARZ.

Religion is as dangerous as it is valuable. Nothing can make up for the absence of a Faith; yet even the flattest and coarsest systems of unbelief are vastly preferable to an evil religion. It is certainly a disconcerting and ominous symptom if a man refuses to believe either in God or in the Soul (fashioned by God in His own image), considering himself to be a bundle of animal instincts justified in seeking gratification as best they can.

However, it is incomparably more Satanic and more deleterious to the moral order of the world if a man happens to believe both in God and the Soul, and also believes the Soul to be the attribute of a Tribe or a State, or himself to be God.

Equally, a French masonic radical, though past all explicit belief in God, may have retained much more Christian spiritual substance than a German Romantic bursting with heathen religious fervor, though preserving certain elements of Christian phraseology - nay, of Christian faith. For just as the Mosaic religion is tainted by a narrow and self-seeking spiritual nationalism, as well as by a trivial self-righteousness attached to the correct fulfillment of the Law, Christianity, far surpassing Judaism in breadth, depth, and height, contains latent possibilities of an even more final and catastrophic relapse into Heathenism: the religious practice of the Gentiles.

The inexhaustible Christian treasure of humility can be distorted into a cowering before mere power; the Christian love of God can be soiled by an erotic interpretation; the Christian idea of an inward communion with God can be disfigured into Pantheism; the Christian encouragement of popular devotion can give way to an ingression of provincial and national Paganism into the prevailing religious practices.

In fact, Christianity with its sublime secondary values - moral, metaphysical, aesthetic, and I daresay also political - would soon have been submerged in the barbaric whirlpool of a Gentile world had it not been for that passionate and oft-derided striving for dogmatic clarity and the maintenance of a right balance between apparently contradictory aspects of the Faith or of piety in its particular manifestations.

Again, Protestantism, through re-discovering and exalting some specifically Christian aspects of religion (both Judaic as opposed to Pagan worldliness and sensuality, and supra-Judaic), introduced a variety of new dangers: eccentricity, confusion, disintegration, and eventual paganization The present day [1930s] oppression of the Lutheran Church in Nazi Germany, though it might goad a resurrected Luther into turning Papist or communist, depends to a large extent on the original Lutheran ideology of religious amoralism, personal bondage beyond the mere "voice of conscience", anti-clericalism, and omnipotence belonging of right to the secular authorities over the whole field of human society.

The skeleton of a heathen religion, at least in the sense that concerns us here: in the sense of amoral Pagan mysticism, of political activity burning with the fire of supra-human forces, can be described by the brief formula: Relativity of Value -- Absoluteness of Power. There is a hint of this attitude in the Christian heresy known as "Theonomism": the teaching that God does not will the Good because it is good but that whatever God wills is good because God wills it. It requires a tremendous step, yet a step in the same direction, to argue that Caesar is not Caesar by the Grace of God, but that God is God through Caesar's needing His grace. However, Caesar may still stand for a universal, rational, moral, if earthly order of things.

 



2. The New Paganism

"We know that a genuine outlook on life cannot confine its expression to theoretical principles or confessions of the soul, but that it must assume a form of cult." - A. ROSENBERG ("Ordensstaat")
"National Religion means our oneness in relation to a certain terrestrial mode of living. National Church means the State, sustained by metaphysical faith." H. BACKER.
"Christianity has offered promises of happiness to the materially and spiritually poor, the cripples of body and soul, the slave and weaklings; it has heaped menaces upon the rich, the strong, the free, the healthy. It has preached the equality of men, at all their stages of evolution, before God, and thus invested the dull masses with a control over the ingenious, strong, and proud individuals." BARON E. WOLZOGEN

Sin can only be conquered by the Devil himself... We Say with Nietzsche: "Turn evil! ... Evil life must be lived in an evil way. Christians will never subdue the Jew and his empire". Christianity is guilty of having estranged the Master Man from himself and denounced as sin the noble height of his morality. We have no use for the Christian God; we are in need of a mighty, severe and stormy God. "Only Wotan, foaming with rage, can fight Javeh!!!" Nor does the Moloch ritual really merit contempt, for a genuine Deity wants man to be sacrificed to it. "Back to harshness!" The experienced reader may have realized by now that he is again digesting Haiser.

Unfortunately, this hardy Teuton does not pause at the disheartening fact that his cherished Moloch was a dirty commercial Semite; still less is clear why harsh Jahveh should be fought by an even harsher divine figure, seeing that the harshness is not really bad at all. We suspect that the reason why Jahveh is objected to is rather that he is not harsh enough; and that the fault with the Christian God is not so much his alleged military insufficiency in dealing with Jahveh but rather his partial identity with the latter in the sense of insufficient "harshness".

Yet Haiser, though always amusing, is seldom merely ridiculous. There is a great illustrative power, a touch of masterly intuition, in the Moloch simile: " for a genuine Deity wants man to be sacrificed to it" ... Indeed, the new Paganism marks - as contrasted to Christianity - less of religion in one sense, but at the same time intensification of religious feeling in another sense.

The material object of religion, the divine thing, is certainly coarsened and made earthly, it is divested of its proper sublimity; yet the formal motive of irrational devotion to a "Power" raising an indisputable claim on man is as doubtlessly strengthened. The Pagan tide may hasten the process of religious decay in a world of anemic routine Christianity; yet in a sense it may fill the life of that society with an even great religious potency, however false and barbarous.



3. Christianity Heathenized

"Religion comes before the state, but the State comes before the Church." G. LEIBBRANDT (of the Spann School)

"Unlike Catholics and Calvinists, the Lutheran Christian will always side with the state when there is a question of impose discipline on the recalcitrant subject." H. MARR

Many Nazis, from tradition or tactical purposes or merely through intellectual confusion still cling to Christianity in some form or other. Instead of the frank anti-Christian Gentilism of their more advanced comrades, they profess Pagan amoralism and worship of Power and Self under a more or less transparent Christian cover. Such abuse is rendered possible by those implications of the Christian faith which can superficially be expounded as a Pagan ecstasy or morose worldliness.

The attempt to heathenize Christianity can start from three points in its fabric:

(1) The Christian religion achieved a revulsion from Judaism (as a national community with a religious privilege) to world-wide humanity, which means, to the "Gentiles" in general. To this point the blasphemous idea can be attached that Christianity aims at a confirmation and rehabilitation of diverse "national", "ethnic", and "local" forms of devotion and morals as opposed to the "intolerant Monism" of the one Jewish form. The Christianity of the "Gentiles" contends that all peoples except the Jews are "chosen", which is only conceivable if each race poses as the chosen one to its own members.

As we see it, the Jewish community was the amazing self-contradictory example of an anti-tribal Tribe, the inhumanly narrow nucleus of a future humanitarian universalism; whereas Christianity came actually to create mankind as a unity in the love of God, governed by His justice and reason. Yet the survivors and new prophets of Gentilism are determined to give a different, indeed an opposite meaning to the abandonment of Jahvism: the mystical inner discord and tension of the anti-tribal Tribe must simply disappear in favour of a wholesale restoration of undisturbed idolatrous tribalism throughout the world.

Christ, as some Gnostics immediately suggested, has come, not to reconcile and adjust all peoples to the One God of Creation and Moral Law, but to rescue them from the pressure of His demands and pretensions. This line is taken especially by writers of Lutheran origin, but sometimes also by such as call themselves Catholic. Incidentally, the deviation to which Calvinists are more prone consists in their claiming for their own nation the privilege of a "chosen race", not in the Pagan but in the Jewish monotheistic, moral sense, and in looking down upon others as "Gentiles" and "the lesser breeds without the Law" - to quote Kipling's "Recessional".

(2) Parallel to the abandonment of God's own consecrated and moral Tribe, the kingless people governed by divine Lay, Christianity also introduced a partially altered code of morals: less rigid and juridical, less narrow and imperious, more conscious of the multiplicity and interdependence of values, loosened from the historical and ritual traditions of a local community, and above all, less easily applicable in terms of "correct accomplishment" and "transgression".

In some branches of Christian thought, especially in Lutheranism, this perfection of morality has become more or less distorted into its negation. No law of moral conduct, no objective canon of "goodness" receives credit; there remains only "mere faith in the Saviour", or the sovereign decision of individual conscience, or - and this is the important point - the sovereign moral competence of secular authorities as a substitute and an expedient for the practical needs of man, who earthly existence is invariably and irrevocably tarnished with sin and must be wielded accordingly. This backroad to Paganism is naturally reserved for Protestants, whose conceptions of the Church oscillate between the notion of an unorganized, inarticulate, purely spiritual community of souls, and the notion of a social body destined to secure the exercise of authority to Princes and Squires.



4. The God That Is Ourselves

"I believe in our own divinity when millions of Germans are leagued around one Leader, I know God to be in the force (Kraft) of our blood alone." (Profession of faith of the group "Volkische Aktion", February, 1937.
"Gottestum im Volkstum" (Divinity manifested in racial-national essence) PROFESSOR H. SCHWARZ

According to E. Jung, something is wrong with the Catholic Church today. The reader, still under the spell of the foregoing disclosures might surmise that what is wrong is the undue pliancy of the Church in respect to heathen Pride and unlawful Tyranny. Yet nothing of the kind is meant. The unpleasant feature objected to by Jung is that, whereas during the Middle Ages the Church was considered as "German", in her present atmosphere Germandom simply counts as one Volkstum among others. This, of course, is intolerable. Deity must be "national", and must be of our people.

This tribal expropriation of God can also be expressed in terms of pantheistic subjectivism, an anti- or pseudo-Christian pagan creed of Pride. The delusive fancy "I am God" is insane and obnoxious enough where it really refers to the individual Ego; but if this sense is strictly maintained, some kind of democratic moderation or indeed obliteration of the idea seems to be imperative, since there is no reason why the alleged identity with God should not be granted to other individuals, too

If, however, the confession "I am God" is supplemented by " and others are not" or "because I am better than others", the transformation of "I" into "We", the famous "We", will follow logically. For, apart from madness in the clinical sense (which may safely be ruled out as a constructive factor of social ideologies), the classification of mankind into a superior "I" and an inferior "They" is only practicable if there is first established a superior and an inferior Breed, a divine "We" and a contemptible "Non-We", a duality of our Master Race and their Slave Race.

We can observe clearly in Rosenberg this structure of ideas, especially in his interpretation of the German mystics leaning towards Pantheism. Ekkehard professes the absolute liberty of the soul, irrespective of its works or actions; the "inner heaven"; the incarnation of God as His "being born in the Soul"; it is rather the soul's "union" with God. It would be meaningless, were not the soul from the outset consubstantial with God. "God could not exist without me" (Angelus Silesius).

In its highest stage of purification, the godlike soul needs grace no longer. Moreover, "purification" does not mean conforming to a standard or code, an imitation of divine sanctity; it consists in becoming purely oneself "Free thyself from everything that forms a foreign admixture with thy essence" (Ekkehard).

This doctrine might be applied to all souls indiscriminately; yet we do not think that Rosenberg is guilty of extreme arbitrariness in taking an opposite view. He considers Ekkehardian philosophy as a doctrine of the "noble soul" rather than of the soul pure and simple. He further considers it typically Teutonic, seeing that Ekkehard and his followers were Germans of purest stock; and in fine he concludes that the "noble soul:, far from being soul as such, is identical with the "genuine" Aryan, Teutonic, German soul. In a word: those who are fit to understand that God is myself form a set of privileged Selves, and thus by their very existence attest that God is Ourselves. They are, in actual fact, Germans; we are Germans; thus "Ourselves" really means Us.

I do not for a moment suggest the endorsement of this claim; but the idea, as such, is not after all so utterly absurd. Although it might seem at first sight that pantheism or "anthropotheism: is likely to entail humanitarian and democratic consequences, the contrary of which follows from the idea of a personal God as Creator, Ruler and Lawgiver, a more penetrating study will reveal a different order of things. The idea of all men being committed to God's law is more easily realizable than the idea of all men being God. Theism is attuned more to a union of men in equality than is Pantheism.

Even the idea of some men holding over their fellow-men a special office or authority, derived directly from God, is less fundamentally opposed to the principle of universal equality and mutual responsibility than is the conception of some men forming specially condensed units of divine substance. These reflections are intended to help the reader to understand why "the God that is Ourselves" is so much more truly and finally hostile to freedom and universal justice in comparison with either the God of the "chosen People" (for all the tribal pride and harsh self-righteousness that clings to His name) or the God of organized Church authority (for all the oppressive tendencies and overstated claims to power inherent in the latter). It is God the Lord who, in the last analysis, is able to cast down tyrants even though he seems to confirm their power in many ways; it is God the servant, the instrument, the mere badge of human powers who ultimately serves to divinize oppressors and help them to keep the "inferior breed" in utter abjectness.

Bergmann is even more explicit in constructing his "godhead" as a lieutenant of the national genius, a hireling off national power. We have no use either for a God of reward and requital, or for the "existential" God of neo-Lutheran academic speculation. Ours must be "the Force-God of Godly Force" (der Kraft gott der Gotteskraft). We had better revert to the attitude of "our ancestors who knew nothing of the 'glacier wall' between God and Man". An international God is a pale God of literature and philosophy. (Such was the God in whose name the crusades were waged!) We need "the God who won the battles of Frederick the Great, the God of Bismarck who founded the Empire". I greatly prefer the God of Joffre and Foch who rendered good service at the Marne if only because the people under Joffre and Foch did not engage Him as their God "of Force".

 

 



5. The Call For Mythology

"History works in the form of Myth, not of Truth" F. WOLTERS

Obviously belief is not identical with knowledge; and, since both aim at the possession of truth, we must stake into account a natural and ineluctable dissension between faith and reason. Nevertheless, the two compete with each other in the pursuit of a value they both recognize; they are united in the respect for truth as such, even though reason may question the sincere truthfulness of faith, and faith may doubt the capacity of reason to discover basic truth.

If a sound mutual delimitation and control is established, reason may very well prove a critical apparatus for the purifying off a faith tending to grow rankly and extend arbitrarily, while faith may turn out to be no less useful as a safety-valve for the aberrations and eccentricities off reason which, after all, are but a part of human psychology.

Faith may goad us to believe a falsehood, because it would be consoling or in tune with a cherished tradition, or likely to exercise a sound admonitory effect, if it were true. Reason may deceive us into believing a falsehood, because it would suit certain intellectual habits, or confirm the opinion of a scientific authority, or gratify some emotional need linked up with novel impulses of thought, if it were true. Yet, in any case both tell man to believe a think alleging it to be true, even if in reality it be only a tale.

On the other hand, art or the craft of entertainment offer us stories for an enjoyment, or for higher purposes, stories that are beautiful, edifying and ennobling; but for all that they must not cease to be treated as fables. They may reveal profound elements of truth, and impart wisdom; but all the same they are not themselves truth, nor is it wise to believe them. Now we know of a state of mind commonly called "naive", which is both pre-Christian and pre-scientific, undogmatic and irrational, outside the range of civilized thinking, which is not primarily and emphatically concerned with objective truth at all. It accepts in place of truth the fable which appeals to it, not through error or deception in the strict sense of the words, but because it is satisfied with the "appeal" as such, falls short of differentiating between fable and truth in general, and has no need for rational verification or dogmatic fixity.

The penumbra of the mind denotes a belief which is rather a biological approach to or espousal of certain ideas and imaginative creations than a creed or conviction proper. It may be spoken of as the "mythological" attitude. It may also be associated with religiosity that does not aspire to orthodoxy, religiosity rather than religion; or with conceiving that forbears to mature into knowing, thought errant rather than erroneous.

But the phenomenon that concerns us here is the conscious and deliberate attempt to revert to this stage of human thought and the appalling treachery to the spirit of Christian Western civilization enclosed in this vicious renunciation of Truth. A tendency of this kind can be traced throughout the history of German Lutheranism, from Luther's defiance of "fatuous" reason and morals to the sentimental orgies of Pietism and Schleiermacher's debasement of religion into a vague "feeling of dependence", forming a striking contrast, not only to Catholic dogmatics or rebellious French rationalism, but also to Hume's skeptical admission off pragmatic "beliefs" and the commonsense rehabilitation of the latter by Reid.

With modern Fascism and particularly National Socialism the "call for mythology", dating from Nietzsche and Sorel, in some way also from the Pragmatists, becomes a dominant feature. This self-conscious subjectivism, this deliberate sacrifice of the intellect, this methodical training to barbarian naivete has an almost touching air of heroic perversity about it.

What is its meaning? Apart from the general "weariness of civilization" and the historical antagonism to the nations and forces that represent it, roused to fever-pitch by the War and its sequel, the Call for Mythology is also in line with the political conception of the Totalitarian Tribe and the anthropological and religious conception of the Master Man, the Superior Race, the Sacred We. Objective truth, enduring and detached (be it of the religious or the scientific order), portends deadly injury to the triple identity of Tribal Egotism: the identification of the racial Self, the master Set, and Deity.

Whosoever believes in tenets and principles, can no longer be completely imprisoned in the flux of his "vital nature", the "rhythm of his blood", nor belong in unbounded devotion to the actual rulers who are his masters, leaders, objects of love, or "condensed expressions".

The "myth", on the contrary, should play the part of a mere mirror to one's nature or kind (Artung), nor does it affect an objective validity which if the case arises, could be separated from, and confronted by, the speeches or the doings of the Fuhrer group: as Catholic Truth would inexorably rise against a Pope who were to deny the Trinity, or encourage polygamy, or persevere in conferring clerical dignities according to the amount of Nordic racial qualities in the applicants.

In brief, the call for mythology indicates the will to break the spiritual backbone of man, to supersede personality, with its consciousness of eternal relations, by a flabby vital stock of ethnic unity, to pull down the last strongholds of the mind in which human freedom and dignity could entrench themselves against the totalitarian encroachment of an insane and godless tyranny.

Once again, I have occasion to refer gratefully to Mowrer, whose masterly description of the "revolt against reason itself" that rendered the German mind prey to German National Socialism I shall in now way seek to emulate.

Post-War spiritual Germany, "rich in instinct, poor in common sense", "radiates intelligence, yet its several minds are open to cosmic forces"; it is chaotic, illogical and romantic ... ill-defined in its being, hospitable to novelty, paradoxical"; it has interest in such subjects as "characterology", or to class men into fixed types ... geopolitics, astrology ..." Man's beliefs are not directed to Truth, his actions are not meant to conform with Right; the trend is to "deduce" or "understand" both from his peculiar essence, type or fate.

The first step of relativism is to demonstrate that all beliefs are but myths appropriate to the needs of life in a given situation; the second step in mysticism is to endorse the myth that suits vital needs and temperament best, as the highest form of belief.

Thought becomes an attribute of Kind: the ideal of "racial knowledge" emerges. Rational discussion and understanding have lost their sense; rational coherence of views has ceased to be a recognized standard, as "racial knowledge" cannot be submitted to such neutral tests. Mowrer's formulations are very much to the point. He is no deluded victim of reason who expects science to make a paradise on earth; with just modesty he admits the "limits of reason" and the drawbacks of "mechanistic nationality", lucidly adding that this kind of exaggeration and error is "still a long way from hysteria and the ancestor-worship (authority of 'blood') that swept over the Germans".

The less he indulges in the "myth" of reason (as it were), the more securely he grasps the meaning of a fundamental trust in reason for the general conduct of human life: order, liberty, personality, a staid and civilized manner of living. He quotes these words of Whitehead, as grand as they are free of grandiloquence: "Faith in reason ... is the faith that at the basis of things we shall not find mere arbitrary mystery". Now mythologism is precisely the perplexing decision of man to entrust himself to arbitrary mystery and, in closest union therewith, to arbitrary mastery.

The program of "religious renewal", as contemplated by Count Reventlow, will have for its first article: "Down with the respect paid to the hegemony of reason!" "Intuition", "the forces of the soul", "the life of the soul", have to be developed. (To what end, and by what mode of discrimination if they clash! No answer is vouchsafed; for with any such fixity reason would intervene.) "Mere reason is an instrument and an offspring of egoism, the very evil that must be combated by the forces of the soul." A rather incompetent way of propagating Klagesian heathenism. How refreshing to vary it with the artistic eloquence of Hielscher, which this time attains a thrifty precision: "Myth (Sage) is a reverential self-commitment to the Power by which one is seized".

What Cardinal Newman called the "the Grammar of Assent" is here transfigured into the erotic response of a susceptible maiden to the conquering male. This is exactly the difference between "mythology" and Faith in our sense: that the former cares neither for what kind of power it is that addresses man's soul, nor for what it has to say, but lays the chief emphasis on the condition of being "stiffed", on the act of "seizure".

We are to create a Church without dogmatics, clergy, sacramental magic, but not without mythical figures (Gestalten). Above all, dogma i.e. the stress put on "believing things", must be discarded. "Our Nordic Ancestors did not 'believe' in anything because they were pious." Here Bergmann has found a trenchant way of stating the issue. Not only can religious devotion in the Neo-Pagan vitalist and totalitarian sense dispense with a definite creed, but it is even flatly contradictory; for the very act of definition and statement of (alleged) truth, in spite of their being "imposed" on men by authority, marks a decisive step towards rationality, objectivity, and spiritual liberty.

But the confrontation of Creed and Mythology can be traced back to Houston Stewart Chamberlain. He puts forward the opinion that, whereas the sublime tissue of Christian dogmas and the creative imagination that inspired them was of Aryan origin, the dogmatic attitude as such, the rigidness of formalism, the mania of orthodoxy, constituted a Semitic heirloom.

I do not question the facts, but should like to observe that Catholicism in the patriotic epoch developed a zest for theological subtleties and high-strung notion of the "duty to believe" which had been essentially unknown in Judaism, at least in its pre-Christian history. The Semitic influence, so Chamberlain puts it, accounts for the non-mythological and non-"poetical" side of Christianity. In the Aryan heaven, no doubt, the sign of corruption embodied in the habit of distinguishing between True and False will be wiped out.

Rosenberg, of course, merits the title "Loudest Prophet of the Myth". The reader will recall his implacable animosity against tenets of any kind, against didactic morals, against established propositions and universally accessible truths. Racial knowledge, Type morality, truth of the living Shape are alone creditable. Myth and Type are coordinated terms. The dream of Myth breathes life into the glorious reality of fate-forging Type. In these days of chaos and corruption (meaning pre-Hitlerian Europe) the toilers of German renascence are entrusted with the mission of "experiencing a new Myth and creating a new Type".

The barbarous conception of "experience" as a task reflects the entire absurdity of the "call for mythology". It is as though we could hear the summons: "Jump with enthusiasm", or "Search for a method of acquiring a youthful freshness of vision". To this corresponds the breeding of a Type, comparable to the resolution: "I must carefully unfold my individual peculiarities". The mark of insanity is clearly stamped on the face of the new Barbarians.

Our future church, Rosenberg writes, must be inspired by "Johannine genius" in contraposition to Judeo-Syrian dogmatism. We can only awe allegiance to a Jesus of active heroism, purified of the humility precepts, which are the sly artifacts of Semitic sophistry. Our "image of Jesus" must be revised; the crucified Jewish pacifist must yield his place to an "educating spirit of fire", a "hero". Appropriate reforms are suggested in church music and rites. Sanctification of the frond soldier (!) .... Back to the "glorious mysticism of Ekkehard" ... "Realize that this man (Ekkehard) and the heroic field-greys under the steel helmet are one and the same."

Practically, churches and religious movements must not be judged by their dogmas but by their attitude to the Nationalist State. Our heart's desire, however, goes further. "The desire (Sehnsucht) to provide the Nordic racial soul with the adequate form of a German Church on the basis of Volk myth - in this we see one of the greatest tasks of our century." Again, nostalgia as a programme! The Volkskirche is intended to be a nucleus of crystallization protected by the State; in due course her life will drain away the influence of the "Roman Haruspex" as well as of the "Old Testament Superintendents" of the fossil called Protestantism.

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