The Volk Religion of the Left
For example, as we were discussing in the previous post, the logic of sacrifice made perfect sense to primitive peoples, otherwise it wouldn't have been universally practiced. It took thousands of years for human beings to arrive at the conception of a rational and caring God -- or even God, since it was a long, back-and-forth struggle to evolve from polytheism to monotheism. Compared to how long man has been here, monotheism has only prevailed for a tiny percentage of the time.
Stark begins with an analysis of the religious beliefs of primitive peoples, but it turns out that there's not all that much we can know about them with certainty. For example, many theories on the subject were derived from the study of "modern stone age" cultures such as Bedrock that persisted into the 19th century or later, and there is no way of knowing for sure if the Flintstones are really similar to peoples of ten or twenty thousand years ago.
Interestingly, it has long been argued that religion began with nature worship, but Stark writes that "primitive peoples show remarkably little interest in what we may regard as the most impressive phenomena of nature -- sun, moon, sky, mountains, sea, and so forth -- whose monotonous regularities they take very much for granted." In other words, ironically, it is contemporary human beings who are much more impressed with the beauty and majesty of nature. This is not difficult to understand, as primitive man must have been very much aware of the fact that nature was full of dangers.
Furthermore, as I have argued in the past, I don't think primitive peoples were individuated enough to notice such a sharp distinction between self and world. It is only because we are so aware of our separation that we take aesthetic notice of the environment -- which is why it is no coincidence that the romantic movement arose shortly after the emergence of the modern self.
In every development, something is gained but something is lost. I can see this quite vividly in my son, who is still between baby and boy. When he goes thorough a growth spurt, this is usually accompanied by anxiety that makes him want to engage in "regression play," for example, being a baby animal.
Likewise, when the autonomous self emerged with modernity, something was lost. Actually, several things: a fixed role, erosion of traditional family structures, weakening of religious constraints, etc. Think of the vast difference between having your identity given to you, vs. having an open-ended self that one must struggle to actualize and understand. In a very real sense, being liberated from tradition meant being a mystery to oneself.
The scientific and industrial revolutions created a kind of historical rupture or existential birthquake which continues to be felt today. In his book Modern Fascism, Veith discusses the deep alienation that resulted from the dramatic change from an agrarian, religious, hierarchical, and essentially timeless (or cyclical) existence to one that was suddenly ordered around the machine, the clock, democracy, and (small r) reason.
If we say that man appeared approximately 200,000 years ago, his life was essentially unchanged from then until the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 years ago. Afterwards, not a lot changed for the average Joe until the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the 18th century. So in the overall scheme of things, our current lifestyle is truly just a blip -- several hundred years out of a total of 200,000. No wonder, therefore, that humans have such a strongly romantic and nostalgic streak, being that we're all living in an alien psychic environment profoundly different from the one we we evolved in.
Veith writes that "fascism is essentially a response to the alienation that has been a part of the spiritual landscape of the West since the Enlightenment.... Science, technology, and the economic realities and environmental damage of the industrial revolution isolate the individual from nature. There has thus been a genuine yearning for community and for an organic unity with the natural world."
Living a life of cold logic is intrinsically alienating. There is nothing Rational about living a life of pure (again, small r) reason. But nor is there anything rational about abandoning reason altogether and living a purely instinctual life, which is what occurred with Nazi Germany, but also to a lesser extent in the 1960s, not just in America, but all over the developed world.
Again, this is anything but progressivism; it is pure romanticism, which is always backward looking -- and not just backward looking, but backward to an idealized past that never existed to begin with. It is pure projection of present existential pain, and escapism into a mythic past. No one is more conservative than a progressive. It's just that what they want to conserve is childhood and all of its privileges, i.e., irresponsibility, dependency, entitlement, rebellion against the grown-ups, polymorphous perversity, weak boundaries, etc.
For someone who lives without any religious telos, the denial of impulses seems stifling and arbitrary. As Veith writes, "If objective knowledge is alienating, subjective experience is liberating and healing. Authentic experience comes from unleashing the emotions, cultivating the subjective and irrational dimension of life."
So never ask why the left is so emotional and irrational, because that is the whole point. It is a way of life. You will look in vain for the "rational end" they are seeking, because the emotional irrationalism is its own end.
America was the first nation explicitly created around abstract and universal principles instead of more primitive modes of blood, soil, mythology, etc. Here again, the modern doctrine of multiculturalism is in reality a quite primitive reversion back to earlier ways of life. Multiculturalism is specifically a rejection of American principles, what with its obsession with blood and race instead of ideas. This is why those who criticize Obama are accused of being "racist." It is not as if we have our ideas and they have theirs. Rather, we have our ideas and they have their emotions, which they project into us -- as if we are the ones who are obsessed with race!
For Americans -- and for Christians -- "essence" is in the individual. That is, we are created in the image of God, so that our deepest personal essence partakes of divinity.
But for the multicultural volkists of the left, essence is in the group: "Volk is a much more comprehensive term than 'people,'" signifying "the union of a group of people with a transcendental 'essence.' This 'essence' might be called 'nature,' or 'cosmos' or 'mythos,' but in each instance it was fused to man's innermost nature and represented the source of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality and his unity with other members of the Volk. The essential element here is the linking of the human soul with its natural surroundings, with the 'essence' of nature."
Now, why do you think that virtually all leftists are environmental hysterics and global warmongers? Here again, you need only scratch the surface of their irrational rhetoric to appreciate a reservoir of primitive, volkisch-like sentiments of "unity" with mother earth, of "healing" the planet, of turning back the tides, of sacrificial penance to the gods of carbon offsets, etc.
For (non-left) Americans, the individual stands above the state, and derives his inalienable rights from the Creator. But for the left wing volkist, the group is the supreme identity that is fused with the state. No surprise then that we worship such different divinities.