Hitler, National-Socialism, and Politics – A Personal Reappraisal

Introduction – A Moral Perspective

In 2010, at the beginning of my (now disowned) long hubriatic essay The Uncertitude of Knowing, I wrote:

“There are interesting, important and rather complex philosophical and ethical issues here, that require detailed, serious, and above all, rational, consideration. To explain, in a satisfactory manner, these issues and offer satisfactory answers would perhaps require a philosophical treatise of length equal to a book, and I have to admit that I currently possess no desire to write such a book, partly because I am aware that I may not have all or even many of the answers required, and that such answers as I do have, or some of them, might be erroneous and that therefore may need to be amended. Therefore, all I can do here is try in a rather unsatisfactory way to summarize such answers, such views, of mine.”

In The Uncertitude, the title itself reflecting my concern and approach, I continued to emphasize that my replies were tentative and I – as a result of πάθει μάθος, of acknowledging my ὕβρις of decades – open to correction and to further learning.

Since then, I have, during 2010 and 2011, continued to study, research, and reflect upon these ‘complex philosophical and ethical issues’ and have had cause, as I anticipated, to amend my conclusions, some of which new conclusions I have briefly mentioned in my essay, published this month, Some Philosophical and Moral Problems of National-Socialism, and which new conclusions led me to completely rewrite The Uncertitude of Knowing.

This further study and research, perhaps wyrdfully, included getting to know people who shared their personal and familial experiences of National-Socialist Germany with me, with these experiences being of those who were the subject of the Nürnberger Gesetze and who thus traumatically endured the consequences of those laws and the prejudice and hatred they codified. These direct experiences of the personal and moral effects of National-Socialism were those of individuals that I, through a personal knowing of them, considered to be honourable and which personal experiences thus served to place into perspective, into a moral – a numinous – perspective, the accounts given to me, decades earlier, of some German National-Socialists I had met who fought for and gave their loyalty to Adolf Hitler and which accounts had been formative of what became my decades-long dedication to the cause of National-Socialism, a dedication broken only by my personal experiences of Islam and by the πάθει μάθος that was the genesis of my philosophy of The Numinous Way. [1]

Suffice therefore to say that my new encounter and interaction with particular people, my reflexion on those experiences, and my further study and research, has led me to a new personal learning, and to a better understanding of both the ethics of The Numinous Way and of the personal, the moral, implications of those ethics.

However, it is to be expected that some people will not like – nor others understand – where this new learning and my thinking have led me and may be leading me. But as TS Eliot beautifully expressed it in his poem Little Gidding:

And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment.

Ethical Consequences

Empathy – as outlined in various essays including Introduction to The Philosophy of The Numen and The Natural Balance of Honour – is the basis for the ethics of The Numinous Way, with compassion and a personal honour being how we can, personally as individuals, be ethical in accord with the knowing, the understanding, the insight, that empathy reveals. This empathic revealing is of our affective and effecting connexion to other life, including human beings.

The immediacy of empathy in the living moment means a living-in, a dwelling-in, the moment, inclining us toward to wu-wei and,

“to being compassionate and honourable human beings, concerned only with our own affairs, that of our family, and that of our immediate locality where we dwell, work, and have-our-being.” Some Philosophical and Moral Problems of National-Socialism

There therefore cannot be, as mentioned in A Brief Numinous View of Religion, Politics, and The State, any desire for involvement with politics, since

“the goals, objectives and aims of politics are, by their very nature, based on human-manufactured divisions and categories deriving from a causal separation of beings: that is, which involve denoting individuals on the basis of some principle of inclusion/exclusion, and which principle of inclusion/exclusion (of separation of human beings) is immoral because un-numinous.”

What, according to this ‘numinous way’, is thus important, moral, numinous, are individuals who – feeling, knowing, suffering and its causes – live and who act with personal compassion and personal honour, with the boundary, the horizon, of such acts being, by the nature of empathy, of the nexion they are, and only and ever of the personal, immediate, local kind. In practical terms, there are and cannot be any supra-personal causes, agendas, aims, goals, for such things take us toward abstractions and beyond the bounds of empathy and of how The Numen is or becomes presenced in and through the personal experiencing of, an interaction with, other living beings: human, of Nature, of the Cosmos; and a personal experiencing which is direct, unfettered, undistorted, by any abstraction, by any prejudice, by any division – conscious or unconscious – into ‘us’ and ‘the separate others’.

A consequence of this seems to be that we can only – without causing more suffering or contributing to suffering – alleviate suffering, try to ameliorate what is wrong, by means of personal, direct, compassionate, honourable, acts when we personally encounter suffering, dishonour. No cause, no movement, whether deemed political, social, or religious – nothing supra-personal involving us surrendering our individual judgement of empathy, our individual authority, and our personal honour – can alleviate suffering or ameliorate what is wrong, dishonourable, for such supra-personal things are among the causes of suffering or contribute to or will contribute to suffering, given our past and current human nature.

Hence the suggestion is that the only moral change, the only revolution, that is possible – numinous, good – is that of ourselves; within and personal; and this is a reformation of ourselves and then our living of a moral, of an empathic, compassionate, honourable, life.

This precludes the possibility of such a moral individual supporting some cause, some group, some movement, some person, in the belief that such a cause, group, movement, or ‘leader’, can ‘make a difference’ or can or might in some way move us toward some future where there is less suffering.

In brief, the conclusion is that it is personal virtues such as εὐταξία – and their cultivation by individuals – which are important, required, moral, not some group, some organization, some ‘leader’, or some political aims and goals.

Adolf Hitler and National-Socialism

For a long time, from 1968 until around 2002, I mistakenly and lamentably regarded Adolf Hitler as a good man, an honourable man, and National-Socialism – especially my ‘revised version’ of National-Socialism manifest in Reichsfolk – as either an intimation of the numinous or as an expression of what is noble and honourable.

Now, in respect of Hitler, I ask two questions: (1) ‘what is good’ and my answer, manifest in The Numinous Way, is that what is good is what is compassionate; what alleviates suffering; what does not cause or contribute to suffering; what manifests love, empathy; and (2) ‘what is honourable’ and my answer is what is dignified, what manifests self-control, fairness; a balanced judgement.

How then does Hitler fare according to these criteria? Do his actions – manifest for example in the Nürnberger Gesetze and their consequences, in his use of krieg in pursuit of some supra-personal aim, and in the use of the abstractions of race and nation – reveal a man of compassion, of balanced judgement, of fairness? Someone who feels and understands the error that is ὕβρις and is therefore circumspect, in touch with and respectful of the numinous? Who knows the limits of appropriate human behaviour? No.

For example, there is nothing honourable in the Nürnberger Gesetze and their consequences; in the personal suffering, the deaths, they caused, in the prejudice and the hatred they engendered and codified. Nothing good in the use of krieg in pursuit of some supra-personal aim; in the suffering and the deaths caused. Nothing good or honourable in the demand for obedience and in the manipulation of people’s emotions by rhetoric and propaganda; nothing good or honourable in the punishment of those who were inclined, as is morally right and justified, not to surrender their individual judgement and who thus refused to be obedient in such supra-personal matters, especially in relation to certain ‘political’ abstractions, such as ‘race’, nation, and the führerprinzip.

As someone once wrote:

“Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”

In respect of National-Socialism – new or old – I now ask similar questions to the ones asked in respect of Hitler. That is, can The Numen, the good, what is honourable, empathic, compassionate – what is moral – be manifest in, be presenced by, such a weltanschauung as National-Socialism? No.

No, for two simple reasons. (1) Because such a weltanschauung has its very being in immoral abstractions, be they termed ‘race’, nation, volk, ethnicity, folk, or whatever; is defined by the principle of inclusion/exclusion, by the separation and prejudgement of human beings by abstract criteria. (2) Because such a weltanschauung by its very nature is supra-personal, organized, authoritative, dogmatic, and numinosity only lives, dwells, is manifest – in the personal sense – by individuals leading or inclining toward leading an empathic, compassionate, honourable, life where there is no need of any authority, any judgement, any criteria, other than their own, deriving from their empathy and their unique πάθει μάθος.

There is thus, based on applying the moral criteria of The Numinous Way, a complete rejection by me of National-Socialism – of whatever kind – and an understanding of Hitler as a flawed individual who caused great suffering and whose actions and policies where dishonourable and immoral.

Conclusion

The Numinous Way is, and can only ever be, an individual way; a non-political, non-religious, choice of individuals desirous of developing and using empathy and hopeful of leading honourable lives that do not cause or contribute to the suffering of living beings. Lives where one of the greatest virtues – a manifestation of our humanity – is considered to be a loyal and personal love between two human beings, regardless of the perceived or assumed ethnicity, nationality, social status, or ‘sexual orientation’, of the individuals concerned. As Sappho wrote, over two and half thousand years ago:

μνάσασθαί τινά φαιμι [καὶ ἕτερον] ἀμμέων…

στᾶθι [κἄντα] φίλος
καὶ τὰν ἐπ’ ὄσσοισ’ ὀμπέτασον χάριν [2]

As for me, my journey of learning, of self-discovery, of making mistakes, of trying to acknowledge and correct my errors, of interior change via πάθει μάθος, does not yet seem to be ended.

David Myatt
January 30th 2012
(Revised March 2012)

[1] As I mentioned in Response To Some Questions Recently Asked:

“One person [naturally enquired] why it had taken me nearly forty years to listen to those who had first hand experience of the brutality of National-Socialist Germany and to listen to those who had endured the inhumanity of the concentration camps and who thus knew the terrible reality of the holocaust.

The answer was simple, and not only exposed the appalling reality of my reprehensible extremist past but also possibly exposed something about extremism as well. For the answer was that I fanatically believed that my illusory version of history and of National-Socialism was correct so that I hardened myself and therefore was intolerant of any and all criticism of NS Germany, Hitler, and National-Socialism. Thus I regarded the holocaust as ‘a hoax’, a product of Allied post-war propaganda, and with the intolerance, prejudice, and hatred of a fanatic refused to listen to people and branded as ‘liars’ those who spoke or wrote of their experiences if those experiences in any way reflected badly on NS Germany, Hitler, and National-Socialism.

Therefore, and in common perhaps with other fanatics, other extremists, I ignored, dismissed, all evidence that contradicted or seemed to contradict my cherished beliefs while seizing on and trumpeting any evidence, however slight, that seemed to confirm those beliefs.

With the expiration, in 2009, of the extremist I was, there was an openness toward this evidence, an empathy with the people subsequently met who had suffered because of the policies and the people of NS Germany and an empathy with those who had first-hand or familial experience of the horrors of the camps.

Thus there is no longer any denial by me of the truth of those horrors, of the evil that was NS Germany. As someone once wrote: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”

Thus there is now lament made for the reprehensible deeds, beliefs, prejudice, and extremism, of my past and for my decades-long hubris.

[2] Sappho, Fragments 147/138 [Lobel and Page].

My translation is:

Believe me, in the future someone
Will remember us …

Because you love me
Stand with me face to face
And unveil the softness in your eyes …


Image credit: Greek vase c. 350 BCE depicting Orestes and the Furies


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