“Suprahumanism” and German Romanticism

Counter Currents has a series on Wagner, and in this part talks about “suprahumanism”, the idea of creating a new and superior type of human being. They root this artistically in Wagner, and philosophically in Nietzche, but regard it as spreading to all kinds of 20th century thought, in philosophies from Marxism-Leninism to the Objectivism of Ayn Rand.

This is an idea I have had since skimming through Faust, Part II by Goethe. (I couldn’t read it- it’s pretty bad.) The concept of Faust, Part II is that for the man who strives, nothing is forbidden and everything is forgiven. I don’t think Goethe meant this as a justification for mass oppression and murder, but this is what it eventually came to.

Was Nazism “suprahumanist”? Yes, but not in the same was communism was. Nazism believed the superman resided within the German people, whom Nazism regarded as a naturally heroic people oppressed by outside forces. This is close to Nietzche, who regarded the superman as not ordinary, but a rare individual who could and should be separate from the masses. Basic Romanticism wasn’t really suprahumanist, but simply looked to the common man and what it perceived as his virtues- emotion and spirit- as opposed to the elitist intellectual virtues of the Enlightenment, rationality and science.

Were other nationalist movements- Italian Fascism and Spanish Falangism, in particular, suprahumanist? I would say that while they had certain Romantic elements, no. These movements looked for practical solutions to modern problems without the extremes of either capitalist or communist ideology.

Where the writers of Counter Currents fall short, I think, is that they do not realize that the modern ruling liberal ideology, progressivism, is just as suprahumanist as the ideologies of the early 20th century. It is built on the proposal to create a new human being through education and moral reform. While not based in German Romanticism, it has essentially the same goals as Nazism and communism and offers the same dispensation to he who sets out to transform the world.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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4 Responses to “Suprahumanism” and German Romanticism

  1. joetexx says:

    Of course progressiveism is superhumanist;
    All Western thought ultimately is. Whether you seek to implement the goal through eugenics or a superabundant post scarcity economy (as in Heinlein’s Beyond this Horizon) or life extension (Shaw’s Back to Methuselah).

    Or violent socialist revolution; viz Trotsky’s famous coda to Literature and Revolution:

    “More than that. Man at last will begin to harmonize himself in earnest. He will make it his business to achieve beauty by giving the movement of his own limbs the utmost precision, purposefulness and economy in his work, his walk and his play. He will try to master first the semiconscious and then the subconscious processes in his own organism, such as breathing, the circulation of the blood, digestion, reproduction, and, within necessary limits, he will try to subordinate them to the control of reason and will. Even purely physiologic life will become subject to collective experiments. The human species, the coagulated Homo sapiens, will once more enter into a state of radical transformation, and, in his own hands, will become an object of the most complicated methods of artificial selection and psycho-physical training. This is entirely in accord with evolution. Man first drove the dark elements out of industry and ideology, by displacing barbarian routine by scientific technique, and religion by science. Afterwards he drove the unconscious out of politics, by overthrowing monarchy and class with democracy and rationalist parliamentarianism and then with the clear and open Soviet dictatorship. The blind elements have settled most heavily in economic relations, but man is driving them out from there also, by means of the Socialist organization of economic life. This makes it possible to reconstruct fundamentally the traditional family life. Finally, the nature of man himself is hidden in the deepest and darkest corner of the unconscious, of the elemental, of the sub-soil. Is it not self-evident that the greatest efforts of investigative thought and of creative initiative will be in that direction? The human race will not have ceased to crawl on all fours before God, kings and capital, in order later to submit humbly before the dark laws of heredity and a blind sexual selection! Emancipated man will want to attain a greater equilibrium in the work of his organs and a more proportional developing and wearing out of his tissues, in order to reduce the fear of death to a rational reaction of the organism towards danger. There can be no doubt that man’s extreme anatomical and physiological disharmony, that is, the extreme disproportion in the growth and wearing out of organs and tissues, give the life instinct the form of a pinched, morbid and hysterical fear of death, which darkens reason and which feeds the stupid and humiliating fantasies about life after death.

    Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.

    It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of one and the same process. All the arts – literature, drama, painting, music and architecture will lend this process beautiful form. More correctly, the shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.”

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1924/lit_revo/ch08.htm

    Von Mises had a lot of fun ridiculing this passage.

  2. Heil Hizzle Mein Nizzle says:

    I would say that Nazism was based on a supra-humanist lie. The Nazis co-opted all kinds of beautiful expressions of genius, but none of it was really of them. Goethe, Wagner, and other German geniuses didn’t much care for Jews in their times, but the Nazis were, as others have pointed out, a phenomenon of soft in the middle, squat Beta males who gained ascendancy through incredibly hard work and campaigning for a period of about twenty years.

    The Germans enjoyed romanticism in their art, like Casper Friedrich, or in philosophy, like Nietzsche, but for the most part they wanted to lead pretty prosaic lives of farming, practicing various crafts like woodwork or cobbling, and getting pretty drunk. They went to Church on Sunday, but aside from Catholic Bavaria it was a duty and a form of Geselschaft/Gemeinschaft bonding.

    Some primary-source obsessed historian went through thousands of library catalogs for various military outfits in Germany during the Great War, and he discovered that most soldiers checked out romance and adventure novels, and that very few men, enlisted or otherwise, bothered with the kind of thing that influenced Onkel Adolf.

    You will understand a lot more about Germany if you read more Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, and less Goethe and Nietzsche.

    • joetexx says:

      “You will understand a lot more about Germany if you read more Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, and less Goethe and Nietzsche.”

      To say nothing of Karl May:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_May

      Actually though the Fuehrer himself was a big May fan.

      Karl May fans still held conventions in Germany as recently as the 1980’s;
      maybe they still do. I met a couple at a bar in San Antonio back then; they were disappointed that Texas was so urban.

      • Heil Hizzle Mein Nizzle says:

        The Fuhrer enjoyed the Grimm’s “Kinder und Hausmarchen” as well. Someone even argued that he used the tale of “Hansel und Gretyl” stuffing the witch into the oven as a source of inspiration.

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