Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Negative Mysticism of the Left

I first came across the idea of liberal fascism as a political religion almost twenty years ago, although I naturally didn't put 2 + 2 together at the time, since I still was one. It was hidden in a book called Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West. I probably haven't looked at the book since then, and just spent ten minutes rummaging through the stacks deep within the bowels of the slackatoreum to find it. At this point, I don't even know if my recollection is accurate, or whether I'm just making this all up. Let's find out, shall we?

Here we go, chapter 8, The Twisted Cross. It begins with the following statement by Hitler:

Man is becoming God -- that is the simple fact. Man is God in the making.... Those who see in National Socialism nothing more than a political movement know scarcely anything of it. It is even more than a religion: it is the will to create mankind anew.

Now, the first thing that occurs to me is Athanasius' quip -- echoed by many Christian fathers -- that "God became man so that man might become God." However, the two obviously mean it in very different ways. Interesting that they are using the same words to say opposite things. For the Christian way is based upon profound humility, in keeping with the kenotic God who emptied and debased himself in order to glorify himself and man, whereas "nazi divinization" would be based upon promethean man absurdly elevating himself beyond his station.

One is naturally also reminded of Sri Aurobindo, especially since this is his 137th birthday. He too believed that man was a "God in the making," but what a difference! Let's meditate on some lines from his epically epic, free-verse visionary poem, Savitri:

A Nature that denied the eternal Truth...
Hoped to abolish God and reign alone...
Engendering a brute principle of life
Evil and pain begot a monstrous soul....
A shadow substance into emptiness came,
Dim forms were born in the unthinking Void
And eddies met and made an adverse Space
In whose black folds Being imagined Hell....
Accustomed to the unnatural dark, they saw
Unreality made real and conscious Night.
A violent, fierce and formidable world,
An ancient womb of huge calamitous dreams,
Coiled like a larva in the obscurity....
It was the gate of a false Infinite,
An eternity of disastrous absolutes
An immense negation of spiritual things

Etc. It goes on in that vein for a dozen or so pages. To call it "poem" is a bit misleading, at least in the contemporary sense of the word. However, in ancient times, poets were thought to be "seers" who made direct contact with the spiritual world. In Aurobindo's case, he is simply piling vision upon vision in describing what he sees. You might say that he is attempting to disclose the deep structure of the cosmic spiritual forces that oppose the Divine.

Anyway, back to Berman. He says that beneath National Socialism was "an ecstatic phenomenon, the return of the repressed pagan (mystical/heretical) tendencies that had been buried by official Christendom for centuries." Thus, it was "a secular version of the [spiritual] ascent phenomenon." In short, it is (↑) in the absence of O.

Berman correctly points out that nazism was not an intellectual phenomenon guided primarily by ideas, since "ideas, in and of themselves, are not capable of unleashing energy. To do that, something else must be present." As we know, conservatism is about ideas, whereas liberalism is about feelings. Like fascism, it is "not a coherent system, but a leap from despair to utopia." Obama is just the most recent incarnation. He has merely plucked a mask from the ancient gallery, as Jim Morrison would say.

Missing from mere intellectual ideas is the factor of "psychological salvation." By definition, a genuine conservative would never seek salvation in politics (I'm excluding illiberal paleoconservatives such as Pat Buchanan, who are a different story), whereas a secular leftist never stops trying.

Berman describes fascism as a "gnostic phenomenon" or "redemption psychology." People are not intellectually convicted by fascist ideas. Rather, it is "because of their immediate existential situation -- a situation of cosmic meaningless and futility, followed by the emergence of a form of secular, or political, salvation."

We know that magic formed a major part of the Nazi program, in the form of "lighting effects, public rituals, symbolic imagery, and Hitler's own spellbinding oratory." These actually threw people into "a light (sometimes not-so-light) trance" powerful enough to set their corpulent thighs atingle. Hitler didn't yet know about MSNBC hosts, but nevertheless "recognized, instinctively, a religious need on the part of the masses and he responded with a gnostic political program" involving ecstasy, ascent, salvation and redemption.

Berman describes people who underwent "Damascus-like" experiences in their conversion to fascism. It is safe to say that few were convinced by its shifting and contradictory ideas. It was much more visceral than that. He cites research based upon hundreds of autobiographical accounts, documenting that in about 60% of cases, there was "a lost self that was finally saved by stumbling upon National Socialism or hearing a Hitler speech." These people spoke "in terms of a dramatic moment, or a moment of illumination, that moved them from aimlessness to self-organization and self-discovery."

Now, for a radical secularist, demons and hostile forces no longer exist. Therefore, a substitute must be found in order to make the religion "complete." Enter the Jews and the magic of "ritual slaughtering" in order to redeem the earth and secure ultimate salvation. No properly Christian person could believe such nonsense, and Jung was the first to recognize that "Christianity was alien to German religious thought, and that the true god of the Germans was the Teutonic deity of Wotan."

Interestingly, Aurobindo also recognized this in a poem called Children of Wotan, in which he writes of "the hammer of a new creation,"

A seed of blood on the soil, a flower of blood in the skies
We march to make of earth a hell and call it heaven....
We march, lit by Truth's death-pyre, to the world's satanic age.

To be continued....

You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against others... It is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a Truth that has yet to realize itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind....

It is the forces behind the battle that have to be seen and not this or that superficial circumstance... It is a struggle for the liberty of mankind to develop, for conditions in which men have freedom and room to think and act according to the light in them, and to grow in the Truth, grow in the Spirit.

There cannot be the slightest doubt that if one side wins, there will be an end of all such freedom and hope of light and truth, and the [spiritual] work that has to be done will be subjected to conditions which would make it humanly impossible; there will be a reign of falsehood and darkness, a cruel oppression and degradation for most of the human race such as people in this country do not dream of and cannot yet realize.
--Sri Aurobindo


Anonymous said...

You would think that an article purportedly about "the Left" would, you know, contain some actual substance about "the left".

(cue the inevitable "oh you're just too stupid to understand!!1!" from these truly humble Christians, with a side of "NO THE LEFT ARE JUST LIKE NAZIS AND HITLER" thrown in for good measure ;)

Cousin Dupree said...

Hint: National Socialism.

Cousin Dupree said...

Other hint: to be continued.

Alan said...

other other hint: ridiculing a fact ("NO THE LEFT ARE JUST LIKE NAZIS AND HITLER") doesn't make it less so.

ps. There is a great video at netflix about the art and architecture of the Third Reich and how deeply Hitler was involved in the design of all aspects of it ("The Architecture of Doom"). There was a unifying vision behind it all.

goddinpotty said...

You have to wonder what is the point of trying to link Nazism to the left. After all, there are a great many atrocities and crimes that are more plausibly attributed to the left, such as those of Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. You can argue about how much these crimes tar the left as a whole, or the left of today, or even that Stalin and suchlike were not a leftist at all (after all, Lenin wrote a book vigorously denouncing the left-wing of his own movement). But if your goal was to attack the left, that would be a MUCH more plausible place to start.

So I hypothesize that all this Hitler crap is not so much about the left, but is an attempt by rightists to evade the moral duty of acknowledging their own complicity in the horrors of the 20th century. They are constructing a childish, black-and-white model of history where all evil can be linked to the left and they can regard themselves to be as pure as the driven snow. But they aren't fooling anybody but themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hitler: known for invading other countries, and systematically executing millions of Jews

Obama: known for wanting a different health care system, and expecting rich people to be responsible for a higher percentage of taxes

I am totally getting it now.

Gagdad Bob said...

This book I'm reading on the history of American conservatism is outstanding. It's actually written from a strictly neutral, scholarly standpoint. One thing the author clarifies is the different forms of conservatism, some of which completely contradict one another, e.g., Southern agrarianism vs. Raccoon classical liberalism. This -- along with his malevolent spirit -- is probably one of the greatest sources of our troll's confusion. Unless he actually is as intellectually dishonest as he pretends to be.

Anonymous said...

Why is anyone who disagrees with you a troll?

And how can you in good conscience bring up how there are many different types of conservatism, and then claim the current American left is just like Nazis from 70 years ago just because that party had "socialist" in its name? I think there's actually someone else here whose intellectual honesty is called into question.

laketrout said...

> Why is anyone who disagrees
> with you a troll?

Anon, godinpotty is not just anyone. He has many frequent troller miles around here.

Anonymous said...

He seems like a reasonable fellow to me, so I'd certainly be interested to see what you consider his most egregious "trolling".

Jay leno said...

I wonder who these "racoon classical liberals" are, other than the author and followers of the author.
Could you name , say, 10 political leaders or thinkers who embody or expound this form of conservatism?
Richard Weaver, whom you quote extensively, would be a southern agrarian, for example-"completely contradicting RCL"

Gagdad Bob said...

We can name dozens off the top of our head. They're not hard to find.

This is not to say that Raccoon-style conservatism is not a new synthesis for the present age. It's just that we steal from only the best.

Winston said...

I picked up the children's history book and looked at the portrait of Big O which formed its frontispiece. The hypnotic eyes gazed into my own. It was as though some huge force were pressing down upon me - something that penetrated inside my skull, battering against my brain, frightening me out of my beliefs, persuading me, almost, to deny the evidence of my senses. In the end the One would announce that two and two made five, and I would have to belive it. It was inevitable that he should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of his position demanded it.

Winston said...

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

Petey said...

No question. Truth and Liberty are two sides of the same 'Coon. Deny one and you eliminate the other.

jay said...

Since you can, could you name, say, one dozen?

Gagdad Bob said...

Why do you ask? Have we displeased you?

jay l. said...

Not at all, I simply don't know who they are.

Gagdad Bob said...

I would express it this way. Conservatism is essentially an exterior political coalition or an interior/psychic dynamic synthesis of three components, 1) traditionalism, 2) free market libertarianism, and 3) anti-collectivism, anti-statism, anti-fascism, anti-totalitarianism, anti-PC, etc.

There are many conservatives who emphasize one or two of these, but the Raccoon embraces all three, i.e., God/virtue, liberty/truth, and individualism/personal responsibility.

When you are ready to believe in these things, the teachers appear.

Leno said...

I would think Weaver and Russell Kirk embrace all three, though they are anti-consumerism, given their emphasis on higher ideals--Platonic in Weaver's case, and Catholic in Kirk's. Their "traditionalism" led Weaver, for example to insist on his farm in North Carolina to be plowed without machinery, and in Kirk's case, he loathed the automobile.
I cannot imagine RCL adhering to these notions, but
I'm content with them as my teachers of the American ideal.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, both men obviously have valuable things to teach us, but I am very much interested in trying not to shun the blessings of the modern world. I believe that many Traditionalists -- Schuon included, whom I revere -- projected their own alienation into modernity, when the fact of the matter is that (small c) "conservatives" have always been uncomfortable with the common run of man, and the way things are always going to hell in a hand basket.

Read a traditionalist from 1830, and he sounds identical to one today. Basically, I want to integrate human progress without being naive enough to believe that man is really evolving toward some higher state that transcends the human condition. This is why I would never deny the findings of science. I just place them in a higher context.

Hard to explain. Can't type, let alone think, with a four year old on my knee....

hoarhey said...

Boy, this post sure raised the demons.
I was just thinking of this today in that are Americans gullible enough to continue to buy the staged and manipulated crap from this administration.
Listening to and watching the Obama town halls is like watching his "yes we can", rockstar campaign videos.

Anonymous said...

Remember that period you went through, as a kid, when you thought your parents were the biggest dorks in the world?

When Gagdad Bob's kid gets a little older, he's sure going to have that feeling, and it isn't going to be too far off the mark.

hoarhey said...

Gardenparty 1:54,

Perhaps you can copy and paste your "deep" musings on commies and conservatives tomorrow as you did today from yesterday, in case anybody missed it. After all, we are a little slow to catch on around here and that post might just turn the tide if excreted just one more time.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Great post, Bob!

And right on cue comes the trolls to project the same old poopyganda they always doo.
I mean, c'mon trolls, at least get a new shtick instead of being so predictable.

Skully said...

Aninny said-

"...(cue the inevitable "oh you're just too stupid to understand!!1!"..."

Actually, that would be an improvement. You still got a ways to go just to get to "too stupid,"
butt keep hopin' for that change.

Skully said...

Anonymous said...
"Remember that period you went through, as a kid, when you thought your parents were the biggest dorks in the world?"

And just look at you! You have taken that dorkiness to a ho new level. You must be proud!

Van said...

Something tells me that by the time I get to todays post (er... this post's tomorrow), I'm going to find that I could have saved myself the trouble of my last comment on yesterdays(... no, that would be this posts preceding post... these time travel paradox's are so confusing) post.

Van said...

"Berman correctly points out that nazism was not an intellectual phenomenon guided primarily by ideas..."

Definitly, nazism, fascism, is hyper pragmatism... a series of positions, divorced from principles, whose primary goal is action - but not just for actions sake, but action for their leaders sake - whom they are not intellectually bound to (and can't be), but emotionally so. Actions are the motive force to remold the people in the vision of the Leader's vision for them... one might say being reborn from below.

"... since "ideas, in and of themselves, are not capable of unleashing energy.""

Hmmm... in one way I disagree with that, in that Ideas, when true, can enable a person to unleash untold energy in the service of that truth. But in another sense, if I take it right, in affixing the peoples attention on the physical, the perceptual (to the exclusion of the conceptual), on adrenaline responses and exhilarations in the service of emotional drives... that directly releases energy, allows them to tap into that 'thrill factor' just by contemplating 'der Fuhrer' and taking action for him.


" To do that, something else must be present." As we know, conservatism is about ideas, whereas liberalism is about feelings."

Yes (Conservatism in the Classical Liberalism sense), whereas leftism is all about feelings of how they wish... demand the world to be... not by correcting errors or developing ideas, but by attempting to impose how they assert reality should be from the start.