Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Power Divorced from Spirit and Reason - Totalitarianism Then, Soft Totalitarianism Now

Dear Betty,

Voegelin again on why certain people were impressed by Hitler, while others saw through him ...


The one who reacts only to power succumbs to the aura of the existence-power that radiates from Hitler. The one who in addition is a personality of a certain spiritual rank does not succumb.

That is the difference.

One of the strangest things in the Catholic Church are the "collar dollies", the women who are titillated by "Father".  This spreads out and becomes a "thing" certain people have for the Catholic sub-culture.  They become fan boys and fan girls.  All of the trappings - the externals, the dressings, the artificial elements of the Church - excite them. 

In a way, it's the "aura of existence-power" that thrills them.  It's the "cachet."  It's the hero worship of the Catholic Rock Stars; it's clericalism at its worst. 

Voegelin is a great antidote to this BS.  As in the following (my emphasis) ...


With Schramm [who wrote a kind of cloying analysis of Hitler] you find above all the information that for Christ “as Savior there was of course, no room in Hitler’s world of ideas.”
Christ has a place in no world of ideas, for he is no idea, but a reality.
But, again, Schramm, who is probably a fully fledged Christian, doesn’t know that and asked a Pomeranian lady of property. [i.e., a petit bourgeois - a "collar dolly"]

Voegelin says that this kind of thing "serves them [the churches] right for having turned Christianity into a worldview, instead of being content with faith."

What's the difference between a worldview and Faith?  

A worldview is a mere outlook, or a prelude to an ideology. 

Faith is a far less comfortable "way" of living, amdist doubt and fear, living out a loyalty to what one has seen and loves, but which is not always evident before one's eyes.  A worldview is more comfortable, and apparently more powerful from a worldly perspective, than Faith.

A worldview is a kind of game.  And a worldview becomes an ideology when it becomes a Secondary Reality (what I would call an Unreality), eclipsing the first.  According to Voegelin, ideologues get this from Kant ... 


[It's] the method of value-selection that has been propagated by the German neo-Kantian school of historiography: “We are not interested in reality. We have values, and we have relevant experiences that we relate to these values.” There is absolutely no question of learning from reality. We have the values already.

And this is as much a feature of certain Catholics as it is of feminists on the left or always-Trumpers on the right.

Voegelin also points out our confused notion of the word "Will" - especially since Victorian times.  He says that what people mean by "will" or "will power" is more accurately libido or libido dominandi, not "voluntas," which is the "rationally ordered will," the will in accord with the truth of reality that reason discovers.  In fact, even as far back as Shakespeare, the word "will" in English tended to mean imposed domination or the concupiscent desire to control (libido dominandi).  However, our "will," when rightly ordered, accords with the deepest structure of reality, and hence includes humility.  The Victorian / Romantic apotheosis of human will (the prideful libido and not the humble voluntas) is a prelude to Hitler and the Germans.

There are also gems like this from Voegelin ...


“Moral and intellectual cretinism” is the technical vocabulary for stupidity of the pneumopathological type in Schelling’s sense. It is the correct and indispensable vocabulary for appropriately characterizing Hitler’s spiritual structure.

... but, Betty, even though this would offend your own "petit bourgeois" sensibilities, how else can one describe, say, Cardinal Dolan, except with the phrase "moral and intellectual cretinism"?  This is why Voegelin's book fascinates me.  It's not about Hitler and the Germans - it's about us.  It's about the Church.  It's about today. 

(By the way, I'm glad that I'm writing to you, Beatrice, and not blogging or posting essays.  Can you imagine the outrage I'd get for being honest about Cardinal Dolan?  At the worst, you and Malcolm will just roll your eyes at me, not threaten me, as some of my blog readers used to.)

And what is the end of this moral and intellectual cretinism, this insistence upon living in an Unreality, this assertion of libido dominandi over will?  It is seen in the end of Adolph Hitler.


The end of the career of the libido without reason or spirit was reached. What he could not dominate he destroyed, and at the very end, he destroyed himself.

And why could the churches in Germany not bring themselves to stand against the moral degradation of Hitler and their fellow Germans, this degradation that was leading everyone to the destruction of others, to the destruction of self and to the abyss?


[Germans] at the time [were] essentially a church people (Kirchenvolk). There was only a small percentage belonging to no Christian confession and 1 percent who were Jewish. So church people and German people are more or less identical. Now this identity will be obscured by the persistence of the clichés of institutions when we speak of church and state, because we thus obscure the human and political fact that the church represents the spiritual order of man toward God.

That is to say, the German people in politics and the German people in the church are the same; as human beings it belongs to their constitution to be transcendentally oriented. The churches are nothing other than the representation of the spiritual transcendence of man. They are not anything else.
However, if we speak in clichés of church and state, it then looks as if two different societies are opposed to one another here, and we forget that the personnel of these societies is indeed identical, that they are thus the same societies, only with different representations, temporal and spiritual.

If, therefore, a society—not now the state or the church—is in spiritual and intellectual disorder, then this is not only the case in the sphere of temporal politics and order, but holds just as much in the sphere of spiritual order to be maintained by the church.

So there arises Jaspers’ proposition, which he then wrote in his Die geistige that the formation of élites for the salvation of the order of a people is impossible in a corrupt society. So, the church is not an élite within a people that is generally corrupt, but it participates in the corruption ... the church and state are identical in their social personnel.
... Therefore it is characteristic that the ecclesiastical resistance, Evangelical and Catholic, only begins when the institutional interests of the church are endangered by National Socialism. A church isn’t in the least interested as long as only a few concentration camps are set up in which people are ill-treated or where Jews are beaten. So elementary humanity of a temporal kind had disappeared from the German churches. 

But I would say that not only is "elementary humanity of a temporal kind" missing from our American parishes, but so is elementary humanity of an eternal kind, our theomorphism.  We are ignoring the Imago Dei in man because we are ignoring the transcendent in general.  We are ignoring both Spirit and Reason and we are enamored, as the petit bourgeous collar dollies and church ladies are, of mere power and the charismatic display of power.  Voegelin says that the ancient Roman codifier of law, Justinian, differentiated three elements in the regulation of society: Power, Reason and Spirit.  A leader should embody the right relation to all three ...


First—this would be the power factor in Justinian—he [the leader] must existentially be the ruler; that is, the society depends for its existence on there being a representative who is able to act for it in both internal and external matters.
Second, the qualities of this representative then further depend on the degree to which he represents the transcendent order of the divine, whether that of reason or of spirit.
And now it is possible that power and transcendental representation, existential representation and reason and spirit, fall apart, that a society finds itself in a condition in which it can indeed produce an existential representative of the highest effectiveness, who at the same time represents neither reason nor spirit. That is the problem of Hitler.

Hm.  An existential representative (ruler, leader, king, archbishop, pope, president) who represents neither Reason nor Spirit - but only exercises raw Power.  Is such a thing possible????? What would happen if such an irrational man, a man who was a spiritual idiot, exercised power only?  Would he not simply shake things up?  And if he did that - this moral and intellectual cretin - what should our response be?


A world that allows itself to be shaken by an irrational man is contemptible.

I know I'm stuck on these themes, Beatrice, but bear with me.  I am working my way through it.

Yours,

Kevin

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