Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Intellectual Dry Rot and Spiritual Wet Rot

Again, the theme of Hitler and the Germans is the idea that something had gone dreadfully wrong with German culture -- both intellectually and spiritually -- to allow a cretin like Hitler to rise to power. In the absence of this more widespread problem, Hitler's faults would have remained personal rather than public and eventually world historical.

World-historical. Think about it. How on earth do the problems of a single man become everyone's problem? This is not the same as asking how a single person can become a problem, which any assoul can do. As they say, any idiot can make history, but it takes real genius to write it. Rather, we need to get beneath Hitler's "problem," to the deeper problem of a people blinded to the fact that, hey, this guy has a problem.

And when we say "German culture," there were, of course, exceptions -- people who saw through Hitler from the moment they laid eyes on him. Everyone would like to believe they were one of those clear-sighted volks, and in 1945 there were many more of them than there were in 1933, for the same reason that every Frenchman was a retrospective member of the tiny French resistance, or so many Americans now claim to have been "fooled" by Obama.

People don't want to believe they were party to a lethal failure of judgment, but even in 1946 "a majority of Germans held the opinion that National Socialism was a good idea but badly implemented," and it was equally widely believed into the 1950s "that without the war, Hitler would have been one of the greatest statesmen in German history."

Among other things, Voegelin wanted to debunk the self-serving idea that Germans were simply seduced by a charismatic demagogue, because not everyone responded to Hitler's so-called charisma, and many people were repelled by him. Voegelin, for example, escaped Germany in 1938.

To cite some examples closer to home, we are routinely told by the MSM that a Bill Clinton is "charismatic," or that Jimmy Carter is a conspicuously "good and decent man," or that Barack Obama is unusually bright. All of these are not just lies, but gross distortions for anyone with spiritual and intellectual discernment. Each of them makes a normal person slightly ill, in different ways.

I say this because no normal person appreciates being crudely manipulated in the manner of a Clinton, or scolded in the manner of a hateful, petty, and sanctimonious Carter, or talked down to by a half-educated affirmative action hire with a few fixed ideas he picked up in college.

Voegelin traces the rot in Germany to a distinct spiritual decline which he attempts to describe both empirically and theoretically. To back up a bit, recall what I was saying a couple posts back about psychopathology (mental illness). In order to define mental pathology, we must begin with an implicit or explicit notion of psychic health. What exactly is a healthy psyche? What was it designed to do?

I know my answer: to know truth, to love beauty, to will the good, and to create in such a way that the eternal pierces the temporal.

Right away you see the problem for any consistent materialist, since for them the psyche can have no purpose. Rather, it is just a meaningless side effect of the struggle to pass one's genes along to the next generation. From a purely biological standpoint, anything that gets the job done is "healthy," which is to say, adaptive: deception, rape, misogyny, polygamy. In fact, this is precisely why rape has survived, because it is indeed one effective way for losers to propagate their genetic material.

Hitler was just such a consistent materialist, but unlike most materialists, he actually drew out the ultimate implications of materialism, so give him credit for that. He was no hypocrite or waffler, that's for sure. He did not pretend to be elevated above his nature, because nature is all there is. Again: the utter rejection of transcendence.

Voegelin quotes one writer who observed that "no one before Hitler had actually made the consequences deduced from Darwin the basis of state policy, and no one before Hitler so consistently and ruthlessly carried those biological premises to their ultimate conclusions and put them into practice."

For as Darwin wrote, nature is "immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts," the difference being that Darwin was too constrained by Christian civilization to take this idea seriously and start killing his biological inferiors.

To say that Hitler was influenced by Darwin is, of course, to give the former way too much credit, since, like our troll, he was an anti-intellectual who never read a serious book in his life.

And besides, Darwin himself borrowed the phrase "survival of the fittest" from Herbert Spencer, the father of "social Darwinism." Thus, ironically, survival of the fittest is actually "biological Spencerism," which shows us how ideology -- i.e., second reality -- contaminates first reality, and is then taken as a simple "fact" of nature. But the most rigid and unambiguous facts are often, as is this one, just projections.

His ignorance of Darwin notwithstanding, Hitler was nevertheless a true metaphysical Darwinian and evolutionist, proclaiming that "the entire universe" is "ruled by just this one idea, that an eternal selection takes place in which the stronger in the end maintains the right to live, and the weaker falls. One will say that nature is therefore cruel and merciless, but the other will grasp that nature is thus only obeying an iron law of logic." Selfish genes, and all that.

And note how natural selection is now indeed being applied to the cosmos, in order to get around the problem of the big bang, which implies a creative intelligence. If we are just the beneficiary of natural selection applied to multiple universes, the problem is solved. (Not really, of course, but it is kicked a little further down the ontological road.)

When the intellectual barbarian collapses the world to a single level, the distinction between Is and Ought is obliterated, for the Ought is quintessentially and irreducibly transcendent. And once you've accomplished that, then anything goes, for nothing is impermissible.

This raises an interesting point about the nature of spiritual rot. It occurs to me that there are two main types, what we might call "dry rot," and its seeming opposite, "wet rot." But the two actually go together, and in many ways define one another.

For example, the rationalist or scientistic atheist, who suffers from spiritual and intellectual dry rot, is always doing battle with people who are characterized by a kind of religious wet rot. In yesterday's thread, for example, you will see someone suffering from dry rot using this blog as a vehicle to lash out at some neighbors who have religious wet rot. We, of course, do not advocate either form of rot.

Modern liberalism is a loose affiliation of people who have either wet or dry rot, both intellectually and spiritually, or noetically and pneumatically. Deepak Chopra, for example, is a quintessential case of wet rot, but the entire liberal media also falls into that category. Most of liberal academia suffers from wet rot -- we are speaking of the humanities, of course. Conversely, a scientistic academic such as Richard Dawkins might as well be the poster child for dry rot.

Man is situated in a hierarchically organized universe of meaning. That being the case, of course science is one vehicle for disclosing universal meaning on a particular level. But to suggest that science is in any way capable of disclosing the meaning of higher levels is the essence of postmodern barbarism: it is dry rot.

Conversely, a creationist yahoo who insists that the world is 6,000 years old is a case of wet rot. But both wet and dry rot come down to severe anti-intellectualism, since neither understands the book they pretend to criticize or embrace.

Now, just as there is psychopathology -- obviously -- there is, and must be, what we shall call "logopathology," i.e., the failure of intellect in the original sense of the term (nous), and "pneumopathology," which is the failure of spirit. For Voegelin, the essence of cultural pathology -- of the kind of pathology that made a Hitler possible -- is in these two areas.

In short -- and this is the key -- there is Reason (i.e., logos) and Spirit (pneuma), and our task is to maintain an open system in both realms. Conversely, to be intellectually or spiritually closed -- or closed off from logos and pneuma -- is a bad, bad, thing, as we will further discuss tomorrow.


William said...

Nowhere does Hitler in Mein Kampf mention Darwin, natural-selection or the word "evolution" - in the context of natural selection. In Mein Kampf, Hitler describes how he changed his mind about the Jews from the influence of the anti-Semitic aspect of the Christian Social Party. In fact, Hitler describes the Bible as a "Monumental History of Mankind," and outlines his views of the Aryan and the Jew in the context of Biblical reasoning, namely "bloodlines", never in the context of Darwinian natural selection. He was largely ignorant of the science.

The lynch pin of Bob's thesis here is that the Nazis banned writings about Darwinist philosophy. The Lists of Banned Books, 1932-1939 included the banning of:

"Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism ...."

Spencer's concept of Social Darwinism has little to do with natural selection, but it did reinforce his already present religious views.

Hitler repeatedly used his religious views as a rallying cry against the Jews. More than once comparing his actions to Jesus clearing the temple of the money changers.

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. "

"I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.."

I could give you dozens more quotes on Hitler and his citations lauding Christians righteousness as his motivation.

Van said...

"...In the absence of this more widespread problem, Hitler's faults would have remained personal rather than public and eventually world historical."

That is a significant point, how is it that what previously would have, should have, been considered to be private failings, at best, became resonating points for popularity and power.

And what was it that constituted that 'previously' - the standards, principles, sense of order, etc - which would have kept those private failings, private and hidden, rather than publicly celebrated and emulated.

For those who are all intent on making 'progress', there might be something worth considering there.

julie said...

Everyone would like to believe they were one of those clear-sighted volks, and in 1945 there were many more of them than there were in 1933, for the same reason that every Frenchman was a retrospective member of the tiny French resistance, or so many Americans now claim to have been "fooled" by Obama.

Apropos, over at the Sultan's place he's discussing Oprahism and the Church of Obama. While the article itself does a good job of showing what happens to the culture when the rot becomes mainstream, it's really in the comments that we see examples of the sort of mindset that made Obama's problems everbody's problems:

Comment #4: "You can mock all you want both people are terribly impressive and greatly needed by many.
Miss Oprah is a saint. Obama is messiah. You think that's a joke?
These people lay down their very lives for the American public and for some of us, this is very very real.
You need to have your head examined Knish because what Obama and Oprah do for America is priceless."

You just can't make this stuff up. I'd love to think that the comment was parody, but I know too many people who really do think that way to take it for anything but the truth.

Van said...

willian said "I could give you dozens more quotes on Hitler and his citations lauding Christians righteousness as his motivation."

Yes you could. Favorable snippets are easy to cull from liars who professing what they need to in order to win popular favor. Being intelligent enough to look beyond that, to integrate words and actions across time, that is where you are woefully unable to venture.

I'm busy. Please google the last six years or so of discussions on Hitler & Religion here. I've embarrased your betters too many times to bother with the likes of you. Again. And to no avail - the willfully blind will not to see.

Try mtraven around March of '09... or even yourself around the beginning of Dec of last year.

Van said...

" I know my answer: to know truth, to love beauty, to will the good, and to create in such a way that the eternal pierces the temporal."

Beautifully put.

William said...

I think my favorite Hitler quote that rings so familiar with today's American Christian conservatives and their paranoid culture wars:

"Today Christians ... stand at the head of this country ... I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit ... We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press - in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past few years."

[The Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1

Van said...

willian, I know how you can entertain us, suppose you explain to us why you consider

Hiter to be a bad guy? I'm not so interested in what specific things he did, which you

could doubtlessly copy and paste for us ad nauseum, but why it was bad that he did


Give it a shot.

I love gymnastics.

mushroom said...

...a good idea but badly implemented...

That's what they all say.

William said...

Evolution is a scientific principle. Science does not determine right or wrong. That's one of religion's roles. The predominant Christian churches in Germany, the German Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church, did nothing to try and block Hitler. Jews today have rebuked the present Pope for his comments that Pius worked against the Nazis.

Nazism was not science-based. It was religious and cultural dogma. Again, the Nazis banned Darwin's books and summarily rejected the idea that the superior Aryan race could have evolved from lower orders.

mushroom said...

The wet/dry rot is a useful distinction. For those who actually care to think, it reminds us that teleology does not completely trump methodology, and that the means can really screw up the ends if one is not careful.

On the ought/is collapse, pragmatism looks pretty potent until you expose for what it is.

Gagdad Bob said...

William is once again proudly exhibiting his noetic and pneumatic rot, as he has clearly never read a scholarly work on Hitler. This is what I meant about being shameless, for a normal person would first of all want to be corrected, and second, be a little embarrassed about cutting and pasting such easily disprovable nonsense about Hitler's views on Christianity. It is sometimes hard to know if he is pathologically dishonest or just a tool, but I suspect the latter, because I reiterate that he appears never to have read a serious book in his life, and to actually believe the undigested snippets of trivia he borrows from the dishonest in order to pass along here.

mushroom said...


Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.

Van said...

willian said "Evolution is a scientific principle. Science does not determine right or wrong. That's one of religion's roles."

Oh I knew this would be fun. That alone is gold... I'm sure the regulars are having fun with it already.

But now, please, I know dealing with reasons and reasoning is difficult for you, but I don't care about your spastic fact-tics, only with Why you think that what Hitler did, made him a bad guy.

"Nazism was not science-based."

Is there a problem with that? Or let me put it this way... is there something Wrong with that? If so, why?

Come on, entertain us with a tripple this time.

Gagdad Bob said...

Also, note the comical absence of curiosity, as in, "gee, I wonder what this guy Hitler was really up to with those statements?" Another example of the answer being the disease that kills curiosity. More on which tomorrow.

Gagdad Bob said...

Did you know that Stalin and Mao really loved the workers? They even said so, many times.

William said...

"Faith is harder to shake than knowledge, love succumbs less to change than respect, hate is more enduring than aversion, and the impetus to the mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times consisted less in a scientific knowledge dominating the masses than in a fanaticism which inspired them and sometimes in a hysteria which drove them forward. ... The greatness of every mighty organization embodying an idea in this world lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance with which, fanatically convinced of its own right, it intolerantly imposes its will against all others.""

Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf" Vol. 1 Chapter 12

Yes, an eternal selection takes place in which the stronger in the end maintains the right to live, and the weaker falls - strength by "religious fanaticism and intolerance ... intolerantly imposes its will against all others"

Gagdad Bob said...

No one here has claimed that fanatical statism isn't a warped religion. To the contrary.

mushroom said...

Red hair, legs, uh ... oh, and bagpipes.

Stick with it until 1:00

William said...

Hitler didn't say "fanatical statism"... he said and repeatedly reiterated, "religious fanaticism and intolerance."

Those were his words and beliefs.

Gagdad Bob said...


Gagdad Bob said...

And tomorrow we will getting more deeply into this question of the oxymoron of a completely immanent religion, as it obviously has great contemporary relevance.

William said...

Yes, Hitler = wet rot

Gagdad Bob said...

Uh doy.

Van said...

Uh-oh, back to copy & paste already willian? Did we peg your capacity to think for yourself already?

Take it slow-ly... here we go again, you said "Nazism was not science-based." and I asked you, Is there a problem with that? Or let me put it this way... is there something Wrong with that? If so, W-h-yyy?

Or if that's too much for you, keep it simple, you can probably just do it phonetically:


William said...


Regarding the personal attacks... take a hint from your regular commentor "Cond0010" ... who as you may remember in his last comment said,

"I'm gonna make you feel pain, William. ... I am tireless, troll. Slowly and surely, I am gonna show you what psychic pain is all about. I am coming"

When I revealed his identity ... and the fact he was trolling my blogs from his workplace server, he disappeared like a cockroach does when exposed to the bright light.

See if he shows up here again.

Van said...

willian, I've no interest whatsoever in the personal attacks.

I'm interested in your attempting to answer the question you are showing no ability to answer.

Focus. Deep breath. Try again.

julie said...

Mushroom - :D

Van said...

willian, I'd like to know what your reasoning is for thinking of Hitler as being a bad guy?

Do you have any?

We all know what he did - there's no need to paste anything more - in your opinion, why was what he did, bad?

Van said...

(I'm dying to know about the red haired bag piper... won't be able to see until I get home)

julie said...

(*snort* Aaaaand once again, William proves that he is not capable of distinguishing between the subset and the total group. In his universe, if one behaves badly or foolishly, all must be culpable.)

John Lien said...

I believe Hitler hated American sprinters. (Just trying to help you out William).

mushroom said...

William can't respond to Van because even a blind man can tell by echolocation that he's at the edge of an abyss. He may not even know why he has stopped, but he knows it's a good idea.

In yet another sign of the end of the age, Dick Clark heads for the Bandstand in the Sky.

ted said...

Bob, How do we reconcile the concerns that Voegelin had with "immanentize the eschaton" with Tielhard de Chardin's Omega Point? It seems Tielhard was saying we were evolving to bring heaven on earth, and man would be the conduit for the holy spirit to accomplish this. I am getting tripped up on these competing ideas - although I am sure logos and pneuma would have something to do with the differences. Thank you.

julie said...

RIS, Dick.

William said...

John Lein, You're awesome. Thanks.

mushroom said...

Jesse did show him up. Hitler wasn't too crazy about Joe Louis, either. Max Schmeling, on the other hand, helped Louis out financially after the Bomber fell on hard times. Schmeling was not a member of the Nazi party, but his victory over Louis in the '36 fight was certainly celebrated by them.

I believe it is also true that Schmeling also helped some Jewish children escape from Germany.

Gagdad Bob said...


I'll cover that as we go along, but to the extent that Teilhard's omega point is something that can be immanentized, I would reject it. I see the omega point as the permanent transcendent attractor into which we are hurtling. In fact, it's also the alpha point, and together they form O.

Van said...

John, good quip.

willian, it is truly pathetic that you'd go with John's quip as your answer.

While I realize that you can do no better, I'm a little surprised that you realized it too.

And you're not going to even try to equivocate yourself out of having confessed that "Science does not determine right or wrong. That's one of religion's roles."?

Not even a backtrack?

Or a back flip?


Seriously dissappointing. Oh well, back to software.

John Lien said...

Thanks William. I do wonder why you come here to get beat on though. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe it is your love of Truth that keeps you coming back to try to make us change our outdated, planet and humanity destroying viewpoints. (However, you've misunderestimated us). Hmmm, love of truth, he might be on to something.

ted said...

Thanks Bob, I am looking forward to unpacking that!

Van said...

John said " of Truth that keeps..."

Yeahhh nooo... I'm thinking no... probably closer to the moth & the flame, or flies to the buz zapper... but no matter.

Here's a few scenes of past fun & frolic with trols and adolph, featuring:



gulping potty

Ah... kodak moments(zzzappp...!).

mushroom said...

Looking forward to the eschaton.

Paul, in Ephesians 4 explains the purpose of the various ministries and callings within the Body:

...for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ ... we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ....

It is the Omega point for sure but it sounds transcendent to me.

I just love that phrase, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

That's everything poured in, filled up, and tamped down solid.

Magister said...

May I take a crack at this?

The Omega Point is total unity of outer and inner, matter and spirit, above and below, i.e. perfect communion with the divine. As such, it is a beautiful and receding horizon, an object of hope and action.

To characterize one's motion toward the Omega Point as "immanentizing the eschaton" is presumptuous. What we are bringing into ourselves is indeed Christ, but this entrance is not by our effort solely, and it is partial, and often broken. Humility, poverty, chastity are more characteristic of the kingdom of God than any world-historical title or action we arrogate to ourselves.

The shaper of the overall direction of humanity's spiritual evolution is God.

Cond0010 said...

"When I revealed his identity ... he disappeared like a cockroach does when exposed to the bright light. ... "

Mercy. That's like saying you caused the rain to fall due to your rain dance.

I hate to break it to you, but... your not the reason I've been away. Not this time.

William said...

Shall I email your threat to "cause me pain" to the facilities chief at the U of MN, along with the IP log to show you threatened me from a University computer?

Cond0010 said...

"Shall I email your threat to "cause me pain" to the facilities chief at the U of MN, along with the IP log to show you threatened me from a University computer?"

Be sure to be accurate in your word choice, William, as 'Threat of Pain' and 'Pain of Truth' are two entirely differnet distinctions.

Libel is prohibited on Blogspot.

Cond0010 said...

The pain of hurt 'feelings' is an okay thing to have, William.

Infact, its an opportunity for growth.

Play nice and stop trolling, here, William.