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Wagner Bicentennial Symposium  
Wagner, Nietzsche, & the New Suprahumanist Myth, Part 3

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Part 3 of 3

IV.

Suprahumanism, as a historical tendency born from the European soul in the mid-19th century, became a sort of magnetic field in expansion with two poles: the artistic work of Richard Wagner, and the poetico-philosophical work of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Their activities exercised tremendous influence in fin-de-siècle Europe and in the first half of the 20th century — both negatively, provoking rejection and reaction, and positively, inspiring philosophical and artistic development, animating spiritual and religious action, and, finally, finding political expression.

The work of Wagner and of Nietzsche demonstrates an eminently agitating character; their importance resides in the new historical and psychological principle they introduce into the European spirit. The word “principle” is understood as perception of the self and of man in general. Perception, which has its own discourse, is expressed with its own logos — from legein, to link: what structures and gives coherence to a particular discourse. As it pursues a goal, a principle is also will — individual and communitarian. Furthermore, since it is perception, feeling, emotion, a principle is a system of values. Hence, “principle” is perception, thinking, logos, will: the point of departure for any discourse and action.

brekerstudio2As poiesis, their artistic endeavors may be considered a campaign of poetic seduction and provocation that should give rise to a new type of man: a superior man, always tending towards the superman, capable of guaranteeing to humankind eternal historical becoming, eternal creation and self re-creation.

The level of penetration reached by the suprahumanist principle, just 50 years after its original dissemination, is difficult to imagine today. It became particularly intense after the epoch-making trauma of the First World War, and gained depth after the no less momentous Crash of 1929. The suprahumanist discourse left its imprint on the remotest corners of the Earth, and it influenced — including through the strong reactions it provoked — all aspects of the culture of that time. This mechanism of repulsion, fascination, influence, emulation, and polarization manifested itself more acutely in the ’30s, and in the particular climate characterizing that decade.

Suprahumanist values may be detected in the most unexpected places: for example, in Ayn Rand’s Objectivism[1] and within communist discourse — where such concepts as “community of destiny,” “creation of a new man,” “will to power,” “Faustian spirit” begin to appear, ambiguously, within texts propounding of Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy.[2]

Most suprahumanist currents converged at that time into an ill-defined, magmatic movement. It later came to be known as “Conservative Revolution”; and its most famous representatives came from Germany. Examples of the latter are: the “first” Thomas Mann (Meditations of an Unpolitical Man), Ernst Jünger (The Worker, Total Mobilization), his brother Friedrich Georg, Oswald Spengler, Martin Heidegger, Alfred Baeumler, Stefan George, Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, Hans Grimm, Hans Blüher, Moeller van den Bruck, Gottfried Benn, Ernst Wiechert, Edgar J. Jung, Rainer Maria Rilke, Max Scheler, Ludwig Klages, Eugen Diederichs, Hugo von Hofmannstahl, the jurist Carl Schmitt, the biologist Jacob von Uexküll, the anthropologist H. F. K. Günther, the economist Werner Sombart, and the archaeologist Gustav Kossinna.

However, the phenomenon was not just German. Others include — under the general description of “Conservative Revolution” — several individuals and groups active between the Belle Époque and the Second World War and influenced to a varying extent by Wagner and Nietzsche. These include, among others: D. H. Lawrence, G. B. Shaw, W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Lothrop Stoddard, Knut Hamsum, Drieu La Rochelle, Céline, Ortega y Gasset, Unamuno, Pío Baroja, D’Annunzio, Marinetti, Julius Evola, Georges Sorel, Barrès, Vacher de Lapouge, H. S. Chamberlain, and the Bayreuth Circle. Added to these may be the Jugendstil and the Wiener Sezession artistic movements, the late pre-Raphaelites, some members of the Fabian Society and personalities such as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, and William Morris.[3]

Brekerstudio3When Suprahumanism speaks in the received social language it claims to be, simultaneously, conservative (or reactionary) and revolutionary (or progressive) — for these terms, within the three-dimensionality of historical time, no longer indicate the opposing directions of time’s arrow. The reclamation of a mythical past coincides with a project chosen for the future.

Furthermore, this explains why suprahumanist thinkers and politicians — when they are not fully aware of the historical consciousness animating them — are in tormented relationship to so-called “tradition.” They continue to imagine the tradition to which they refer both exists and has significance independently of any choice they may make. An advocated “return to tradition” is actually a choice “against the tradition” affirmed in the social institutions and customs of the mass society in which they live and “for a tradition” already lost or dead — or repressed and condemned to live underground.

The suprahumanist discourse is indeed mythical. Myth, within the suprahumanist worldview, is discourse conceiving itself as originative will. It creates its own language by feeding parasitically on another. A myth emerges when a historically new “principle” appears within a social and cultural milieu that is already informed and conformed — primarily in its language — by an opposed principle. In order to speak the new principle must necessarily borrow — because, as yet, it has no language of its own — from the preexisting language: language dominated by another principle, another logos. Similarly, while employing this received language, the new principle must reject the “reason,” or more precisely, the “conceptual dialectics,” of the opposed logos.

The “opposed contraries” instituted by the previous dialectics[4] are no longer felt as such, but rather as unity and identity — at other times as mere difference, though not as opposition.

All this is evident in Wagner,[5] and even more in Nietzsche –with his proposal to go “beyond the good and evil” of Christian dialectics. Later it characterizes the mental attitude of those German thinkers and political movements included under the label of “Conservative Revolution,” introducing themselves as “national-bolsheviks,” “national-communists,” “national-socialists,” “conservative-revolutionaries,” “social-aristocrats,” etc.

The “mythical discourse” is, in its linguistic materiality, one from which is absent the new logos, as principle identified with the new myth. The materiality of the language conforms to another principle and logos — hence, the “ambiguity” characteristic of myth, remarked by a number of thinkers- without having nevertheless individuated its cause — and the “irrationality” that would seem to define myth.

Brekerstudio4However, if the “discourse” necessarily appears ambiguous and irrational, the myth — related to itself, to its own principle — is in no way so. Its own logos is present not in the materiality of language, but within those who speak and understand it. A myth presupposes the existence of men who, beyond language and discourse, have the means of understanding it. As Meister Eckhart observed: “This address is only for those who have already found its message in their own lives, or at least long for it in their hearts.”

If the myth appears to those who participate in it, as consciousness and will of origins, to those who remain “outside” it seems an impossible return to “primitiveness.”

The entire suprahumanist field — in its artistic, philosophical and political manifestations — is imbued with this notion: of “overcoming the contraries” or “negating the dialectics” of egalitarianism; of recognition of “the people” — understood in an anti-democratic way as an organic community, as the sole and exclusive source of sovereignty; and, simultaneously, of the affirmation of aristocratic values or the cult of the leader. In other cases, heroic individualism and anti-conformism are admired, together with a cult of the community and its traditions. Authority and liberty are no longer considered as opposite poles of the same alternative, but rather as values that may be pursued simultaneously and with the same intensity. Nowadays, the same phenomenon may be observed — for example, in the title of Guillaume Faye’s Archeofuturism,[6] where “futurism,” as modernity and technology, is combined with the promise of a new beginning — one which is imagined with “archaic” traits.

Suprahumanism, as an emerging historical tendency, must also be understood as immediate instinctivity. Its “discourse” incessantly reaffirms, in its mythemes (structural elements of the myth), the unity of contraries. These mythemes, or “guiding images,” refer always to symbols and to their ritualization. Hence, the myth is, objectively, representation of itself — and, subjectively, sentimental activity: feeling of sacredness not as something that would transcend man, but as man transcending himself, going beyond life, through historical existence.

Since in its most coherent forms it radically opposed the dominating culture that permeated and moulded contemporary social and political forms, Suprahumanism and its political expressions maintained a discourse that could not but seem “irrational” to those animated by the opposed egalitarian principle.

As mentioned above, suprahumanist elements may be found in a range of political expressions of that time. However, the new historical tendency found its most consistent political translation within the “Conservative Revolution.” An integral part of that heterogeneous assembly of personalities, parties, associations, and splinter groups was Fascism,[7] which may be seen as a first attempt — both premature and immature — to implement in some European societies a project of national independence and self-determination, based on a tragic vision of life and history, and on the ethics of self-overcoming and triumph of the will.[8]

BrekerStudio5However, between Suprahumanism and Fascism — more than in the intellectual connection that Marxists were wont to establish between theory and praxis — there is, rather, a spiritual reference: sometimes an unconscious adhesion to the suprahumanist principle which is immediately followed by political action provoked by that adhesion.[9]

Hence, a different degree of awareness may be observed in the various fascist movements, or in their respective political attitudes. For example, while all the political forms of egalitarianism are identified and combated, not so its cultural forms — or much less so. There is also, between the egalitarian and the fascist fields, much intermediary oscillation, with various spurious “forms.”[10]

Fascism was a precise and concluded historical phenomenon. Paradoxically, however, despite being crushed 70 years ago, it continues to occupy the centre of public discourse, still apparently feared by the system. As Saul Friedländer states, “fascism is the ultimate standard of evil, against which all degrees of evil may be measured.”[11] This Orwellian omnipresence of “fascism” exerts an obscure fascination; and it represents the ultimate transgression, explaining the immense cultural production and exploitation arising from historical fascistic movements and regimes, and their protagonists. It does not circumscribe the Holocaust narrative, but manifests itself at all levels: specialized historical studies, general divulgation, cinema, television, literature, political criticism, etc. The energy dedicated to the topic far surpasses levels of interest elicited by, for example, the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, the Vietnam War, the October Revolution — or Imperial Rome.

The inter-war period (1918–39) was characterized by economic turmoil, ideological fanaticism, exacerbated nationalism — and contrasted geopolitical ambitions. During that incandescent interval, the suprahumanist principle forced the egalitarian to acknowledge its own nature; forced it to become wholly conscious of the common parenthood of its diverse political and spiritual forces, and to recognize that they all conformed to the same principle — opposed to the former: namely, the egalitarian or Jewish-Christian. Once these conflicting vectors ruptured into war, fascism — having until then constituted but one political component of the suprahumanist worldview — became, in retrospect the most relevant. For Christians, liberals, democrats, socialists, and communists, “fascism” became the absolute adversary and mortal enemy, against which all had, and have still, the moral obligation of solidarity: i.e. “anti-fascism.”

The cataclysmic event which was the Second World War became not only the conscious “anti-fascist” foundation of the new world order, but also what led to the blackout and repression of many elements of suprahumanist discourse: what condemned it “to the catacombs.” If before the conflict, the “suprahumanist” label was useful to confirm a definitive moral condemnation of Fascism, in the aftermath of the war it was, conversely, the accusation of “fascism” that helped excommunicate any suprahumanist discourse.[12]

Demonstrations of “anti-fascism” responded originally to a strict “moral” requirement for those belonging to the egalitarian field. However, they seem now — 70 years on from the defeat of its adversaries — and because of the opportunism that typically characterizes such occasions, increasingly grotesque: “anti-fascism” has increasingly taken the form of the dominant system’s negative legitimacy.

Hence, the more the egalitarian principle affirms itself in all the details of Europe’s cultural and political life, the more also does “anti-fascism” affirm itself. In this way, “fascism” acquires a “negative existence” as strong as the positive existence of its triumphant adversary — perhaps not unlike the “anti-matter” of micro-physicists. This is an interesting phenomenon, for in this way Suprahumanism comes continuously to be reborn as potentiality. Provided they know how to deflect the Jungian “shadow” that egalitarianism tries to project onto its adversaries — in order the better to make them politically inactive — those who want to be suprahumanists must take such considerations very seriously.

Suprahumanism is a “ghost” that haunts its enemies. They recognize that unless it is completely extirpated, the new myth will continue to obsess them: it remains the fundamental and only possible alternative to the incapacity of our societies to face the problems modernity has unchained.

Suprahumanism resurfaced “from the catacombs” successfully in Paris at the end of the 1960s thanks to Giorgio Locchi (1923–1992). At that time correspondent of the Italian newspaper Il Tempo, Locchi was, between 1968 and 1979, one of the “spiritual masters” of GRECE (Groupement de Recherche et d’Études pour la Civilisation Européenne).[13] Thanks to the members of the branches GRECE opened all over Europe, Locchi’s message gained — often without acknowledgement — a powerful echo.[14] Giorgio Locchi drifted away from GRECE when the think-tank — against his advice — passively accepted the label of Nouvelle Droite (“New-Right”) that the hostile media began to use polemically in the summer of 1979. He tended to prefer Nouvelle Culture (“New Culture”), arguing that Suprahumanism should be neither Right nor Left-wing, that it should represent neither the egalitarian Right nor the Left but, rather, should stand for both wings, both temperaments (conservative and progressive) of the new historical tendency. May this work offer a belated tribute to him.

Source: “Wagner, Nietzsche and the Suprahumanist Myth” is chapter 12 of a forthcoming book: Suprahumanism: European Man and the Regeneration of History. The is both a personal synthesis of the ideas of Giorgio Locchi — the “guru” of the first GRECE (1968–1979) — and an inquiry into current trends applying his analytical method. It will be introduced by Norman Lowell of Imperium Europa. More information can be obtained at the site: www.suprahumanism.com and its author contacted via e-mail: kurwenal@suprahumanism.com

Notes

[1] See Rand, Ayn: We the Living (London: Macmillan, 1936); The Fountainhead (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1943) and Atlas Shrugged (New York: Random House, 1957).

[2] See Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Nietzsche and Soviet Culture: Ally and Adversary (Cambrdige: Cambridge University Press, 1994) and New Myth, New World: From Nietzsche to Stalinism (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002); also, Rosamund Bartlett, Wagner and Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). These political and militant (“fascistic”) traits are already present in the Rousseauian and Jacobin premises of the French Revolution, but absent in the American counterpart. That may be the reason why the American liberal “Left” has followed unambiguously a continuous line of development, starting with religious Christianity and continuing along a series of different political denominations (liberalism, “radical democracy,” etc.) to conclude nowadays becoming a firm supporter of “the end of history” and planetary homogenization (Globalisation).

[3] See, apart from A. Mohler, Zeev: Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Steven E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany: 1880–1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); William J. McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974); and Anne Dzamba Sessa, Richard Wagner and the English (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1977).

[4] Egalitarian dialectics are based on the following opposing pairs: Christianity/atheism, communism/capitalism, nationalism/internationalism, right/left, individualism/collectivism, reaction/progress, etc.

[5] The themes in Wagner’s musical dramas are resolutely beyond good and evil: the internal tragedy (external conflicts are but its reflections), the superhuman desire, the popular genius, night’s truth and the power of destiny, the beginning and end of a time summoned to return eternally, etc.

[6] Guillaume Faye, Archeofuturism (London: Arktos, 2010).

[7] Capitalized ‘Fascism’ is used here to refer to the historical phenomenon.

[8] See, on this topic, Stanley G. Payne, Fascism: Comparison and Definition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983); Roger Griffin, Nature of Fascism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991); Ernst Nolte, Three Faces of Fascism: Action Francaise, Italian Fascism, National Socialism (Austin Tx.: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1966); George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (New York: Grossett, 1964); and A. James Gregor, Interpretations of Fascism (New Brunswick, N.J., Transaction Publishers, 1974).

[9] See Giorgio, L’Essenza del Fascismo (La Spezia: Edizioni del Tridente, 1981).

[10] See Jean Pierre, Languages Totalitaires (Paris: Hermann, 1972).

[11] Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews (New York: Harper Perennial, 1998).

[12] See Guillaume Faye, Réflexions archéofuturistes inspirées par la pensée de Giorgio Locchi (http://guillaumefayearchive.wordpress.com/)

[13] See Michael O’Meara, New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe (Bloomington In., 1stBooks, 2004) and Tomislav Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (Newport Beach, Ca.: The Noontide Press, 2008).

[14] G. Locchi influenced markedly, among others, Alain de Benoist, Guillaume Faye, Robert Steuckers, Pierre Vial, Pierre Krebs, and Stefano Vaj.

 

 

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