“πάθει μάθος.” -Derived from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. Refers to learning gained through adversary.
-To the memory of the German martyrs-
Orthodoxy, ὀρθός, “correct, upright, decent,” + δόξᾰ, “opinion.” The opinion which an upright person holds. One may be forgiven for chafing under the presupposed weight of an “orthodox” opinion; after all, in some quarters, it is held to be an act of the highest arrogance to dub one opinion more correct than another. I am not of that persuasion. It is the boldest wager, and a sometimes prospect-less gamble to preach Orthodoxy. “The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice,” as G.K. Chesterton once put the matter. What was at stake in 1944, at the waning of Nazi German hegemony in Europe, was the soul of a civilization. This is still at stake today.
The Reverend Fulton Sheen observed once, in an exegesis from the Gospel of Luke concerning the Gerasene demoniac, that the diabolic, or the Satanic, exhibits three primary characteristics, by which the anathema of its existence may be perceived: a love of nakedness, ecstatic, giddy outbursts of violence and a penchant for divisiveness. With that in mind, how much more terrifying does it become to watch the sundry -isms of the past century (the Januskomplex of fascism and communism in particular; les extrêmes do, after all, se touchent) bray like bloodhounds hot on the scent!
Sheen is all too right in naming these as the calling cards of the diabolical. The Norse recognized the same characteristics in their diabolic figure Loki, thrashing wildly and bound naked in the cave of dripping serpent’s poison. Nakedness is, in the Biblical narrative, perhaps mankind’s second sin, as Adam and Eve are cowed into clothing themselves after tasting the fruit of the forbidden tree; so unbound, the ur-sins of the world flood out harpy-winged and tiger-eyed in their offspring, until the destruction of the Earth survived by Noah.
Understanding the objective evil of the Third Reich thus becomes an easier task. Any simpler explanation of the Nazi death-machine falls flat; one could, as was done at the post Nürnberg court, recoil in horror from the excesses of its violence, plundering and (fundamentally) asociality, but that is to impose the safely-detached outcry of the liberal democracy onto a festering, gangrenous tumor at Europe’s clogged heart. Crying “Oh the humanity!” will do nothing to thwart an executioner who already holds his victim to be less than human. Nazism struck at untapped veins and unplumbed depths of sin, which seem to have throttled something irreplaceable out of Europe. Adorno famously remarked that to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. Similarly, the greatest challenge today facing any would-be scholar of theodicy is to explain what kind of God would allow the gas-chambers. There is, however, a precedent for the Nazi sin: Nazi sin is merely a host of sins under one Stahlhelmed-guise, and the act of raising one’s right arm in the Roman salute is as potent a mark of primordial sin as the mark of Cain. It is to the individual, who is willing to take up the responsibility of Tyr’s Wager, so dubbed in my last article, that the responsibility of combatting this devolves, or, as for Ernst Jünger, “den noch ungebrochenen Einzelnen.”
Let us approach the matter methodically. The opinion of G.K. Chesterton on fin-de-siècle fad philosophies bears repeating:
“The determinist (who, to do him justice, does not pretend to be a human being) makes nonsense of the human sense of actual choice. The pragmatist, who professes to be specially human, makes nonsense of the human sense of actual fact.”
Both concepts find a happy refuge in the confused, turgid whirl of Nazi thought.
Nazi pragmatism: race charts, blood-appraisals (honed to precision in the Nürnberger Gesetze of 1935; 3+ Jewish grandparents, and one is Jewish, one or two = Mischling, “Mix-ling,”); eerie, nigh-fetishized processes of skull measurement amongst the Tibetans, Romani, etc. to classify humanity as one would show-dog breeds. This is exalting in the nakedness of pseudo-science, applied with a taxman’s avarice.
Thus, there appears its natural bedfellow, or, less flatteringly yet its wretched afterbirth, in Nazi determinism. Let us turn to the view of Julius Evola (an author of otherwise questionable opinions) in a surprisingly perceptive essay, “Razza e cultura,” published in 1934:
“Il razzismo, come reazione contro un astratto universalismo, contro l’ideale illuministico-razionalista di «principî immortali validi per tutti»… diviene un’aberrazione, là dove si pensa che una difesa e una cultura di tipo quasi zootechnico della razza nel suo aspetto semplicemente biologico e empirico equivalga eo ipso a qualcosa di creativo e di decisivo.”
“Racism, as a reaction against an abstract universalism, against the Enlightenment-rationalist ideal of ‘immortal principles valid for all,”… becomes an aberration, where it is believed that a defense and a culture of a quasi-zootechnical race in its simply biological and empirical aspect is equivalent eo ipso to something creative, something decisive.”
This phenomenon bore many different names in Germany; in Evola’s text it is called arianesimo, or the totemizing of Aryanity. Secret societies of Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany called the same idea Ariosophy. In the Nazi Reich, the notion cloaked itself in mythologized abstraction, e.g., the mass-homecoming of Heim ins Reich, the inborn, elemental Drang Nach Osten accompanying the annexation of Slavic homelands, the exaltation of the Aryan spirit in the pleasure-program Kraft durch Freude, etc. Race as the Nazi ideologue conceived it was an utterly materialistic phenomenon, to a crass extreme.
Evidence of this earth-bound perversion need be sought no further than what the European Fascisti decided to put on their big, ugly banners: in Italy, the Roman lictor’s fasces, and in Germany, the hooked-cross swastika. Pius XII in his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, “With Burning Concern,”perceives the appearance of a neo-pagan outlook of the world, one worshipping abstract implacable Fate and the capricious whims of the State. This would be a “national” religion, as the Nazi state attempted to promulgate in the pseudo-messianic person of Hitler himself or in the veneration of blood. Pius sees in calls to abandon the church the nefarious passage of “Wortführer… die durch ihre amtliche Stellung den Eindruck zu erwecken suchen, als ob dieser Kirchenaustritt und die damit verbundene Treulosigkeit gegen Christus den König eine besonders überzeugende und verdienstvolle Form des Treubekenntnisses zu dem gegenwärtigen Staate darstelle,” or “Speaking leaders… who through their administrative position seek to arouse the impression, that it were as if this exiting the church and the faithlessness to Christ the King entailed therein represented a particularly convincing and meritorious affirmation of one’s loyalty to the present state.”
The Church of St. Peter, in the face of the onslaught of the most destructive war in history, stood on the brink of witnessing Nazism force itself on all of Europe. It would be continental Gleichschaltung, the tumbling of borders, and, as Rosenberg and Himmler themselves crudely admit, the extinguishment of Abrahamic religion. And what for? Some kitsch, a masturbatory, self-defeating celebration of “the blood” as the determinant of one’s worth. European Christendom, the backbone of the dome of Heaven under which all peoples gather, was to be scuttled for an uninspired, vapid paganism.
Tyr, albeit pagan, played a role as a defender of justice in the Norse pantheon; it is in this role which he materializes here, to all those whose suffering falls upon indifferent, iron-ears. To walk with Tyr is to stare one’s death in the eye, or to put one’s hand in the fire to prove a point to the tyrant. It may even be turning the other cheek. To be spat upon by the scum of the Earth is an honor. To be denounced in the Nazi court as “ein schäbiger Lump,” a miserable whelp, as one of the conspirators of July 1944 was by Hitler’s raving judge Roland Freisler, is a privilege. To be an outlaw in a lawless society is worth more than any wreath of triumph.
And yet the man of the past century, when he turns his hot, darkly-working attention to revolt, has become totally useless for anything resembling “revolt.” It does not do to simply rise up, with a dagger clenched between one’s lips and shrieking the political catchphrase of the day. “Peace! Bread! Land!” While an expression associated with the Bolshevik-menace in 1917, the demands it poses upon the listener are so vapid that they can be grafted onto any other murderous totalitarian mode of thought. The 20th century’s newfangled talk of reform has dragged heaps of corpses and shattered societies in its wake. France and England killed their kings and emasculated their churches, Germany/Hitler gave the Hohenzollerns a very publicly cold shoulder, and the Russians thought it a gay little diversion to kill their Tsar and his family. It is no coincidence that the Hitlerite attitude toward the Church, too, is thus an attitude of revolution. Little mousy Gauleiters and their chief Austrian mustachioed-cartoon cannot abide the thought of man’s eyes being drawn to anything other than their greedy little doctrine, so based on aggrandizement, least of all to the cross. They are Legion. Stop them before they corrupt the soul of the world, chewing at it like the Niddhog at Yggdrasil’s base.
And yet, “Quo minus petebat gloriam, eo illum magis sequebatur;” so said Cato, as quoted by St. Augustine in De Civitate Dei.
Claus von Stauffenberg, of Operation Valkyrie fame, died by firing squad on July 21, 1944. It was a Friday, and, in the Roman Catholic tradition, St. Daniel’s feast day. This was the same Daniel who survived a night in the subterranean lions’ den, hurled thence by the Chaldean sycophants poisoning their temporal prince’s ear. Daniel chose, Stauffenberg chose to stand up, to remain unbowed in the face of a putrefied, stillborn creed, either of astrology/man-worship for Daniel or the “political religion,” the most mind-bogglingly idiotic outgrowth of state-centered political life. There is no political religion, there is only religion. Stauffenberg’s choice, to defy, to countermand, is the same choice alluded to, once again, by Pius XII in his encyclical. It is a fitting note to close on:
“Der Glaube an Christus, an die Kirche, an den Primat stehen also miteinander in einem geheiligten Zusammenhang. Echte und legale Autorität ist überall ein Band der Einheit, eine Quelle der Kraft, eine Gewähr gegen Zerfall und Splitterung, eine Bürgschaft der Zukunft; im höchsten und hehrsten Sinne da, wo, wie einzig bei der Kirche, solcher Autorität die Gnadenführung des Heiligen Geistes, Sein unüberwindlicher Beistand verheißen ist. Wenn Leute, die nicht einmal im Glauben an Christus einig sind, euch das Wunsch- und Lockbild einer deutschen Nationalkirche vorhalten, so wisset: sie ist nichts als eine Verneinung der einen Kirche Christi, ein offenkundiger Abfall von dem an die ganze Welt gerichteten Missionsbefehl, dem nur eine Weltkirche genügen und nachleben kann.”
“The belief in Christ, in the Church, in the Primate thus stand together in a sanctified context. True and legal authority is everywhere a cord of unity, a source of strength, a guarantee against decay and splintering, a pledge to the future; there where, in the highest and most noble sense, as it is alone in the Church, of such authority the mercy-leading of the Holy Spirit, His unconquerable aid is augured. When people who are not at some point as one in the belief in Christ hold up to you as the idealized or alluring image of a German National Church, may you know: it is nothing other than an abnegation of the one Church of Christ, a flagrant deterioration of the great commission made to the whole world, which only a World Church can do enough for and perpetuate.”
There is a right practice. There are right ways of doing things. The worship of any idol is not included therein.