Continued from Part I
Enlightenment inspired, first communism and after it Nazism, sought to release man from the grip of Christianity that had kept the human spirit captive in the endeavour to save man from himself, to bind and tame human nature's creative, ferocious, chaotic, predatory side, to save his very soul. The Nietzschean ideal wanted it released, to lift man up and usurp the position of the Christian God that had kept it within bounds, denying man his own greatness, or so he thought.
The essence of this ideal is captured by Henri de Lubac in his great work "The Drama of Atheist Humanism", quoting the reflections of Rainer Maria Rilke, recorded after enthusiastically reading the work of the new prophet, Friedrich Nietzsche:
""He whom men worship as the Messiah turns the whole world into an infirmary. He calls the weak, the unfortunate, the disabled his children and his loved ones. What about the strong? How are we ourselves to climb if we lend our strength to the unfortunate and the oppressed, to idle rogues with no wits and no energy? Let them fall, let them die, alone and wretched. Be hard, be terrible, be pitiless! You must thrust yourselves forward, forward! A few men, but great ones, will build a world with their strong, muscular, masterful arms on the corpses of the weak, the sick and the infirm!"
Others have repeated the cry: "The gods are dead, long live the Overman (Ubermensch)!", celebrate the new Nietzschean ideal in terms that none can afford to ignore as a clue to some of the dominant facts of contemporary history: Nietzsche predicts an early return to the ideal, but to an entirely different and new ideal. To understand this ideal there will be a category of free minds, fortified by war, solitude and danger. They will know the wind, the glaciers, the Alpine snows; they will be able to plumb the deepest gulfs without wavering. Endowed with a kind of sublime perversity, they will deliver us from loving our neighbours and from the desire of nothingness, that the earth may recover its purpose and men their hopes".
And so, instead of the ever transcending greatness in humility, as man measures himself against the demanding directions issued by God through Revelation, man became the measure of himself, of which we oversee the result today.
Over the years a few books have been written that sought to posit something quite different, but that in passing provide us with some wonderful insights into the origins and workings of the two totalitarian pseudo-religions: communism and Nazism. One of the works, we have already introduced elsewhere: Tom Reiss' The Orientalist, gives us pages of minute details of the times and the people involved, and who - in some cases - lived through both versions of the man induced hell.
Another work - perhaps remarkably so - is The Messianic Legacy, the second 1982 tome of the Holy Blood and Holy Grail trilogy, written by former BBC journalists, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. They set out to make the case of the original story that was later plagiarised, vulgarised, simplified and commercialised by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. Of course much later, the whole hoax of the Priory of Sion and the goings-on in Rennes-Le-Château were exposed as an elaborate fabrication by Pierre Plantard c.s. But that was after a whole industry of gullible esoterics had set up shop.
But that aside, the BBC authors must be recommended for making an excellent job of their homework. This fortunately leaves us, in the second tome of the trilogy, with an erudite description how religion and myth subconsciously influence heart and mind, and how the other New Prophets of the Enlightenment, Bakunin and Adolf Hitler for communism and Nazism respectively, willfully used religious trappings and paraphernalia to get the masses on their side. The authors term these constructs surrogate secular religions.
Bakunin for over twenty years, belonged to the rank and file of Free Masonry and - as we have seen - Joseph Stalin (alias the pockmarked one: see foto) for some obscure reason best known to himself, finished his education in a Tiblisi seminary. Not only did he rub shoulders with The Orientalist protagonist's revolutionary mother, he was also a regular house guest of the well known esoterist G.I. Gurdjieff. From both these sources he got to know humanity's religious impulse up close, and learned how to harness and manipulate it.
The Messianic Legacy describes the pseudo-religious oath sworn on the occasion of Lenin's death and how the body was preserved, displayed and adored in later years, reminiscent of Christian saints.
The value attached to the membership of the Communist Party - particularly during the thirties of the last century, was specifically religious in nature.
Membership of the Pioneers from the age of nine had all the hallmarks of a rite of passage and was on par with the Catholic's first communion. The red handkerchief - symbolizing the blood of the revolutionary martyrs - was perceived as a relic, crucifix or charm. Nobody was allowed to touch it.
The book posits however, that ultimately the Marxist-Leninist ideology was never very much more than just that. It flopped because a religion must appeal to the heart as well as the soul at the same time, give succor in times of distress and provide answers to life's cosmic questions. Communism as a pseudo-religion always remained materialist, abstract and ultimately emotionally sterile.
To be continued, Part III: A much better job was made of it on the right side of the totalitarian divide. It is customary to describe all varieties, Germanic Nazism and its Italian and Spanish counterparts, as ...
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Continued from Part I