|© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
In the halls of orthodox academia, his reputation precedes him.
His name is Friedrich Nietzsche.
|Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.
Enraptured by his vitriolic hatred for Christianity and enshrinement of moral anarchism, academia has consistently defended Friedrich Nietzsche as one of history’s “misunderstood” philosophers.
Cribbing from the standard litany of apologetics, many argue that Adolf Hitler somehow “misrepresented” or “distorted” Nietzsche’s ideas.
Is this genuinely the case ?
Of course, during their migration from abstraction to tangible enactment, ideas can become contaminated by any number of factors.
To be sure, internal contention among adherents, the personal idiosyncrasies of individual analysts, and the manifestly unpredictable nature of reality itself makes an idea’s journey towards tangible enactment very problematic.
Yet, was Nietzscheism’s journey toward tangible enactment so bastardized by Hitler that it was virtually unrecognizable ?
Again, only an examination of the delicate segues between abstraction and tangible enactment can answer this question.
|Hitler und Frau Förster-Nietzsche – Wiemar
In ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, William Shirer recounts Hitler’s frequent visits to the Nietzsche Archive in Weimar, and his meetings with Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846 – November 8, 1935), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894. Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.
|Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar
Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. Friedrich Nietzsche’s mental collapse occurred in 1889 (he died in 1900), and upon Elisabeth’s return in 1893 she found him an invalid whose published writings were beginning to be read and discussed throughout Europe.
|Nietzsche und seine Schwester
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche took a leading role in promoting her brother, especially through the publication of a collection of Nietzsche’s writings under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power). In 1930, Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, became a member of the NSDAP. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nietzsche Archive received financial support and publicity from the government, in return for which Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche bestowed her brother’s considerable prestige on the régime.
Admittedly, Hitler was enthralled by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer – to the extent that he carried a copy of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation) in his backpack throughout his sojurn in the trenches in the Great War – and undoubtedly Schopenhauer was a precursor to Nietzsche.
Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’. His faith in “transcendental ideality” led him to accept atheism.
‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ is the central work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The first edition was published in December 1818, and the second expanded edition in 1844. In 1948, an abridged version was edited by Thomas Mann.
Schopenhauer used the word “will” as a human’s most familiar designation for the concept that can also be signified by other words such as “desire,” “striving,” “wanting,” “effort,” and “urging.” Schopenhauer’s philosophy holds that all nature, including man, is the expression of an insatiable will to life. It is through the will that mankind finds all their suffering. Desire for more is what causes this suffering.
For Nietzsche, the reading of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ aroused his interest in philosophy. Although he despised especially Schopenhauer’s ideas on compassion, Nietzsche would admit that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers that he respected, lauding him in his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ (Schopenhauer as Educator 1874), one of his ‘Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen’ (Untimely Meditations).
Commenting on Hitler’s veneration for Nietzsche, Shirer writes:
There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung.
Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman – and in the most telling aphorisms ?
William Lawrence Shirer (February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian, who wrote ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, a history of the Third Reich that has been read by many, and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years.
|‘Magnificent Blonde Brute’
Indeed, the commonalities are numerous.
Perhaps the most interesting of these was Nietzsche’s adoration for “the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory“.
While Nietzsche also referred to the “masters” (i.e., noble men, rulers, etc.) as “blond beasts,” this “blond brute” was something different.
He was Nietzsche’s superman, the ‘Übermensch’.
Of course, many apologists for Nietzsche argue that the criterion for defining the ‘Übermensch
‘ was neither racial nor hereditary, however, Nietzsche frequently espoused eugenic concepts
, suggesting that he did invest significant value in race
For instance, consider the following social mandate set forth by Nietzsche:
“Society as the trustee of life is responsible to life for every botched life that comes into existence; and as it has to atone for such lives, it ought consequently to make it impossible for them ever to see the light of day: it should in many cases actually prevent the act of procreation, and may, without any regard for rank, descent, or intellect, hold in readiness the most rigorous forms of compulsion and restriction, and, under certain circumstances, have recourse to castration … ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ is a piece of ingenuous puerility compared with ‘Thou shalt not beget!!!’ … The unhealthy must at all costs be eliminated, lest the whole fall to pieces.”
Automatically, the astute reader will recognize the traditional themes of eugenics
: Malthusian demands for the prohibition of procreation among certain populations.
|Thomas Robert Malthus
Thomas Robert Malthus (13 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was a British cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. Malthus became widely known for his theories about change in population. His ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man“.
Nietzsche asserts that eugenical regimentation should be implemented with no regard for “rank, descent, or intellect“, and he insists that there is an “unhealthy” population that “must at all costs be eliminated“.
Undoubtedly Nietzsche fear that such “dysgenics” would interbreed with those of healthier stock. Remember, Nietzsche’s remarks are made in conjunction with procreation, inferring that he believes in a definite connection between hereditary and the “unhealthy.”
Moreover, Nietzsche’s bestowal of primacy upon the social “whole” shows his collectivist, or völkisch concerns.
Hitler shared such ideas, as is evidenced by his virtual deification of the collective in ‘Mein Kampf
“The sacrifice of personal existence is necessary to secure the preservation of the species“.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
While Fascism and National Socialism are only superficially similar, Fascism is a derivation of the Italian word fascio, which is translated as “bundle” or “group.”
National Socialism (a racialist variant of fascism) is derivative, in some respects, of such ideas.
Nietzschean concept of the “human herd” therefore is a societal paradigm that subordinates the individual to the collective.
Nietzschean philosophy comprises an ideational continuum binding Hitler, Socialism and nationalism together.
It is, however, paradoxical that Nietzsche harshly criticized socialism.
Yet, his ideas harmonized well with Socialism, whether disseminated on the popular level, or in a more complex and rarefied level in völkisch ideology.
Interestingly, Mussolini, who was responsible for Fascism in Italy, read Nietzsche extensively.
In 1938, Hitler bequeathed a copy of Nietzsche’s ‘Collected Works’ to Mussolini on the Brenner Pass. Although socialism clearly was not the apple of Nietzsche’s eye, its inherent collectivism synchronized very well with the doctrine of the “human herd.”
In addition to the continuity of political and social thought that pervaded völkisch socialism, Nietzsche also provided a religious component.
The infamous declaration, “God is dead,” is but a segue for the introduction of a ‘new god’.
This god has had numerous manifestations, as is evidenced by the following delineation by W. Warren Wagar:
‘Nineteenth-and early twentieth-century thought teems with time-bound emergent deities. Scores of thinkers preached some sort of faith in what is potential in time, in place of the traditional Christian and mystical faith in a power outside of time.
Hegel’s ‘Weltgeist’, Comte’s ‘Humanite’, Spencer’s ‘organismic humanity’ inevitably improving itself by the laws of evolution, Nietzsche’s doctrine of ‘superhumanity’, the conception of a finite God given currency by J.S. Mill, Hastings Rashdall, and William James, the ‘vitalism’ of Bergson and Shaw, the ’emergent evolutionism’ of Samuel Alexander and Lloyd Morgan, the theories of ‘divine immanence’ in the liberal movement in Protestant theology, – all are exhibits in evidence of the influence chiefly of evolutionary thinking, both before and after Darwin, in Western intellectual history.
The faith of progress itself – especially the idea of progress as built into the evolutionary scheme of things- is in every way the psychological equivalent of religion.’
|Walter Warren Wagar
Walter Warren Wagar (June 5, 1932 Baltimore, Maryland – November 16, 2004 Vestal, New York), better known as W. Warren Wagar, was an American historian and futures studies scholar.
Nietzsche’s Ubermensch was but one more link in this ideational chain.
The thematic continuity is a religious faith in humanity’s evolutionary ascent towards apotheosis.
This is by no means new.
This doctrine of transformationism dates back nearly 6,000 years, finding its crucible in Mesopotamia.
Masonic scholar W L Wilmshurst verifies this contention: “This – the evolution of man into superman – was always the purpose of the ancient Mysteries
|Walter Leslie Wilmshurst
Walter Leslie Wilmshurst (22 June 1867 – 10 July 1939) was an English author and Freemason. He published four books on English Freemasonry and submitted articles to The Occult Review magazine.
They embodied his religious faith in humanity’s emergent deity.
Likewise, Hitler adhered to the religion of ‘apotheosized man’.
In Hitler Speaks, Hermann Rauschning quotes Hitler as having declared:
In his coming kingdom of deified humanity, the Führer envisioned a system where the “god-man” justifiably ruled the “mass of lower humanity”.
This was in many ways derivative of Nietzsche’s racialist vision for the future.
In ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power), Nietzsche declares:
“A daring and ruling race is building itself up… The aim should be to prepare a transvaluation of values for this new man, – most highly gifted in intellect and will. This man – and the elite around him will become the ‘lords of the earth‘”.
The racialist context is obvious and incontrovertible.
Of course, Nietzsche’s prophecy would become central to Hitler’s ultimate objectives.
Such ideas from one of Germany’s most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler’s mind. At any rate he adopted them for his own. “Lords of the Earth” is a familiar expression in ‘Mein Kampf’.
Nietzsche’s apologists argue that the philosopher’s anti-nationalism was irreconcilable with National Socialism
‘s fervent nationalist rhetoric.
Indeed, Nietzsche “even toyed with the idea of European union and world government
Yet, so did Hitler !
In fact, Hitler confessed that his ostensible nationalism was but the means to just such an end:
“I had to encourage ‘national’ feelings for reasons of expediency; but I was already aware that the ‘nation’ idea could only have a temporary value. The day will come when even here in Germany when what is known as ‘nationalism’ will practically have ceased to exist. What will take its place in the world will be a universal society of masters and overlords.”
So Adolf Hitler was, in actuality, an internationalist and a globalist.
Hitler was only taking Nietzsche’s philosophy to its logical conclusion: a world oligarchy governed by a supranational Aryan elite.
Nietzsche was an elitist and his aristocracy was the ‘Übermensch‘, which represented the pinnacle of evolution.
At this evolutionary plateau, the ‘Übermensch’ would “overcome” his own humanity.
For both Nietzsche and Hitler, this post-human condition represented godhood.
Inherent in this belief are Nietzsche’s Gnostic
The triumph of the ‘Übermensch‘ over humanity reiterates the Gnostic theme of man as a higher being fettered by a corporeal prison (i.e., the body).
Nietzsche’s own version of Gnosis
(revelatory experience) is the “transvaluation of values,
” and the enthronement of self
as the final moral authority.
In a Gnostic context, Nietzsche’s concept of self-deification is analogous to the transformation of man’s sensate being.
In a Nietzschean context, Gnosticism‘s
” immanentized eschaton
” becomes the governance of the “lords of the earth.
Not surprisingly, Hitler shared Nietzsche’s Gnostic views
Adorned by the occult symbol of the swastika, the Abby was little more than a Gnostic Mystery
The average German who was not initiated into esoteric culture was incapable of recognizing the semiotic Gnosticism that pervaded the Abby.
The Third Reich, therefore, represented an attempt to “immanentize the eschaton“, and tangibly enact Nietzsche’s own Gnostic realm of the Übermensch.
Shirer, like many scholars, claims that Nietzsche was never an anti-Semite.
Yet, Nietzsche considered Christianity as inextricably linked with Judaism, and derisively called the Jews a “nation of priests“.
Nietzsche’s hatred for the so-called “priestly caste” is well-known, – a historical fact evidenced by his own writings.
|Nietzsche und Hitler
This is highly suspicious, to say the least.
If Nietzsche were not an anti-Semite, he certainly did very little to prevent his work from being interpreted as such.
Replete with bitter rebukes and accusations leveled directly at the Jewish people, it would be extremely easy for an anti-Semite to find all the justification needed for his beliefs.
It is time for Nietzsche enthusiasts to acknowledge the parallels between their idol and the development of völkisch ideology.
For some, Nietzsche shall remain a “misunderstood” and “distorted” philosopher.
For those who recognize the ideational continuity between Nietzsche and Hitler, Nietzsche can be seen a significant and welcome precursor of the völkisch philosophy of the Third Reich.
click below for a full biography, more images and resumes of Nietzsche’s major works
|© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013