Thursday 21 May 2015

Was Hitler a Mohammed who failed? Discuss.


Comme l’Islam est resté figé dans sa contemplation d’une société qui fut réelle il y a sept siècles, et pour trancher les problèmes de laquelle il conçut alors des solutions efficaces, nous n’arrivons plus à penser hors des cadres d’une époque révolue depuis un siècle et demi, qui fut celle où nous sûmes nous accorder à l’histoire ; et encore trop brièvement, car Napoléon, ce Mahomet de l’Occident, a échoué là où a réussi l’autre. 
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques

When I read Levi Strauss saying Napoleon was a Mohammed who failed I wondered if Hitler was too. 

I suppose yes, more so than Napoleon.

I mean no particular disrespect to Mohammed by making the comparison with Hitler. Both were conquerors, both were moralists and both were religious figures, according at least to Jung. But Hitler was a complete failure. His legacy, seventy years after his defeat, was a continent dominated by ideas very consciously antithetical to his.

Carl Jung in 1938 said:
Hitler’s ‘religion’ is the nearest to Mohammedanism, realistic, earthy, promising the maximum rewards in this life, but with a Moslem-like Valhallah into which worthy Germans may enter and continue to enjoy themselves. Like Mohammedanism, it teaches the virtue of the sword. Hitler’s first idea is to make his people powerful because the spirit of the Aryan German deserves to be supported by might, by muscle and by steel.

Jung was asked by the Bishop of Southwark in a discussion published in 1939

…had he any views on what was likely to be the next step in religious development?

and replied:

We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on the way; he is like Muhammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future.

During an interview with H. R. Knickerbocker, published in January 1939, Jung said:

There is no question but that Hitler belongs in the category of the truly mystic medicine man. As somebody commented about him at the last Nuremberg party congress, since the time of Mohammed nothing like it has been seen in this world. His body does not suggest strength. The outstanding characteristic of his physiognomy is its dreamy look. I was especially struck by that when I saw pictures taken of him in the Czechoslovakian crisis; there was in his eyes the look of a seer. This markedly mystic characteristic of Hitler’s is what makes him do things which seem to us illogical, inexplicable, and unreasonable. … So you see, Hitler is a medicine man, a spiritual vessel, a demi-deity or, even better, a myth.
Was Jung right that Nazism was a quasi-religious idea and Hitler a (false) prophet?

Lothrop Stoddard was an American advocate of eugenics (though not a fascist) who visited Germany in 1940. In his Into the Darkness: Nazi Germany Today published that year he said: 
I am convinced that the [Nazi] ‘Old Guard,’ at any rate, are for the most part, fanatical zealots. If the Nazi thesis were a dialectic screen hiding mere lust for power and pelf, it would never have converted so large a portion of the traditionally honest, idealistic German people. If the Nazi leaders were just a band of cynical adventurers, with tongue in cheek and wholly ‘on the make,’ it would be far easier to deal with them.
Both Hitler and Napoleon can be compared to Muhammed.  Interestingly, Hitler and Napoleon both expressed their admiration for Muhammed. (Why don't the English any more use the traditional spelling Mahomet? The French do.)

Napoleon’s biographer Emmanuel-Augustin-Dieudonné-Joseph, Count of Las Cases, says that Napoleon, exiled in St. Helena, was unhappy with Voltaire’s play “Mahomet.” 
Mahomet was the subject of deep criticism.“Voltaire”, said the Emperor, “in the character and conduct of his hero, has departed both from nature and history. He has degraded Mahomet, by making him descend to the lowest intrigues. He has represented a great man who changed the face of the world, acting like a scoundrel, worthy of the gallows. He has no less absurdly travestied the character of Omar, which he has drawn like that of a cut-throat in a melo-drama. Voltaire committed a fundamental error in attributing to intrigue that which was solely the result of opinion." Omar refers to Omar bin al-Khattab, caliph after Prophet Muhammad.
Moving from the profane to the sacred, Napoleon's admiration for Mohammed was exceeded by his admiration for Jesus, of whom he said,
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.
Hitler admired Islam. In the bunker he said, according to Martin Bormann, 
Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers — already, you see, the world had fallen into the hands of the Jews, so gutless a thing is Christianity! — then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies heroism and which opens up the Seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world. Christianity alone prevented them from doing so.
There is no doubt about the enthusiasm of other Nazis for Islam, including Himmler, who was a good friend of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The Grand Mufti is said to have visited Auschwitz at Himmler's suggestion.

The point Claude Lévi-Strauss made was that France is obsessed by the ideas of the early 19th century as Islam is with those of the distant past. But I don't think Napoleon did fail. As Anthony Burgess said, pace Levi Strauss, he won when England joined the European Economic Community (or Common Market as we called it or EU as it is known today).

I suppose the USA venerates the Whiggism of the 18th century. Are the Enlightenment ideas of Locke a quasi-religion? These words from the American Declaration of Independence sound very like dogmas.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In fact, though church and state are separated in the USA the ideas of the Constitution are the established religion of America. There are heretics (Communists and fascists) but they are apt to be persecuted, just as were the only true American conservatives, the loyalists who were killed or driven out in the American revolution.

I think it is useful to see ideologies in religious terms, though some more than others. I think it is clear now that Marxism-Leninism was (or rather is) a religion, for example. Marxism is certainly also frozen in time, a product of the Europe of 1848, a by-blow of German romanticism.  

Was Lenin also a Mohammed who failed? Lenin's ideas are still influential, at least as mediated via Gramsci. He has not wholly failed, unfortunately.


  1. They are possibly both the result of a crowd phenomena. I don't know enough about Mohamed, but Hitler seems to have been able to revive the crowd symbol of the Germans after Versailles which was the army. According to Elias Canetti (Crowds and Power), the army crowd symbol for the Germans of late 19th century, has something to do with the upright forests of Germany; very orderly. Canetti theorizes that the dissolution of the German army (a closed crowd) after the treaty of Versailles, gave Hitler the voice that made him the visionary that transformed the whole Germany into an open crowd. Quite interesting perspective. Canetti does not analyze the current Islamic crowd phenomena in his book,(written in 1960), but may be an interesting perspective for research. Andreia

    1. We know almost nothing about Mahomet or however you spell the name but I am satisfied that he existed and was one of the most important men in history. After Jesus, St. Paul and St Constantine. I wonder if the Buddha existed. I wrote about the evidence for Mahomet's life here:

  2. Mussolini was sharp.

    << The difference between Hitler and me is that while Hitler is a 2nd-rate leader of a 1st-rate country, I am a 1st-rate leader of a 2nd-rate country.>>

    Mark G

    1. Norman Stone said of the fall of France in 1940: "A Bismarck or a Churchill could control success of this order, a Hitler not". This is a rather Cambridge judgment: Hitler was not quite first-rate. But Mussolini was clearly second-rate. Think of the invasion of Greece.

  3. Anybody can be(come) Muslim, but not anybody can be Aryan. Cristina

  4. "His legacy, seventy years after his defeat, was a continent dominated by ideas consciously antithetical to his."

    Lebensraum in the East? Expansion of a German controlled EU into Ukraine and beyond.

    Any thoughts about Wilhelm II as a failed Mahommed/Mahomet/Mehmet (PBUH by the way)? You must surely like Greenmantle :).

    1. David, my old shipmate, I love Greenmantle. It is part of my heart's blood. I wrote about it here, with my customary brilliance.

      I think conscious reaction to Hitlerism has given us anti -colonialism anti-racism, the EU, political correctness, mass immigration. Even feminism is a reaction against the Nazis. virility and patriotism are deeply unfashionable because of AH. Everything is a reaction against Nazism, but evil of course morphs and people are fighting literally the last war not the next.

  5. Anybody who attempts to create a new mega / meta narrative that tells people who they are and what they should do is a prophet. Whether the story involves swords or not is a detail.

    So Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Lenin, Mahomet, L. Ron Hubbard, and Joseph Smith are big prophets because they all set up churches.

    Hitler, despite his real life impact, is a small prophet in that he was just a high priest of a sect that was part of the church of Nationalism. Interesting to think who was the high priest of Nationalism? Hegel?

  6. The Nazis were very clear about a self-conscious Weltanshauung (worldview) constructed to capture people's hearts, and Hitler was very clearly a prophet of a faith, presenting himself as such to the Volk. As you say, Marxism is increasingly recognised as a faith, ideology, worldview or religion, and the barriers that once divided these categories are subject to such effective critiques, that all now appear almost as synonyms. I say 'almost': there is still a confusion in the public mind in the West, as Islam is recognised as a different sort of 'religion' from others because it is intrinsically a political and territorial faith, but then this makes it (as Ellie says) hard not to call Islam an 'ideology'. Perhaps every candidate named so far should be understood as being 'ideology, religion or worldview'; not excluding US nationalism, which as you say has its venerated prophets and public icons beyond criticism. Since I joined HE and engaged in these live dialogues with US folks, this has become more apparent.

    Paul, I agree with your intuition - it 'does not seem to me to be very comparable' - but I am willing to allow the possibility that this is only because I inhabit such a similar milieu, and have less leverage on this one. I can only perceive US liberalism as an 'ideology' when it becomes sufficiently different from my own UK form of liberalism - so Democrats seem less obviously ideological (to me as a European) than the conservatives I have encountered on this forum. But as many liberal theorists have begun to admit, it is possible to admit that public liberalism is just another ideology, and should be analysed as such. In her book 'The Politics of Secularism in International Relations' (2008), Elizabeth Hackman Hurd from Princeton argues that liberal secularism is a contingent and parochial, recent Western framework, and no more privileged as an ideological structure than Islam, Marxism, or even African Traditional Religion. We can acknowledge such structural comparisons, without abandoning our own personal preferences and convictions. We can say, 'I have an ideology, and a conviction of its truth.'
    And I love Levi-Strauss' original comment, about 'des cadres d’une époque révolue', as a very honest analysis of his own culture. France - and not just France - is following a cluster of ideologies from the decades following 1789, when schools of prophets such as Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte, or next door in Germany, Hegel (already mentioned as standing behind Hitler - though I would disagree) and Feuerbach, were quite deliberately germinating new religions for a post-Christian world. If you read a range of texts such as Hegel's early writings, Comte's manifestos, and - as has already been argued - similar texts from a century later, such as Lenin or Mao, and (nobody has yet said) Freud and Jung, it is these writers who are presenting themselves as prophets, telling us they are starting new religions, self-consciously designed to replace Christianity. Their followers tend to play these facts down, but it is not hard to find in the original sources if you look: this may be because followers are true believers, so the radicality of their new faith is less apparent to them; or it may be because secularism depends on not admitting that it is a faith. In the UK, atheistic secularism is now generally understood as one.

  7. Certainly liberalism is an ideology. Anglo-Saxon liberalism permeates everything in the USA - is the centre of the USA. There are no real American conservatives. They were driven out or killed in the revolution.

    Certainly what Americans now call 'liberalism' , along with anti-discrimination and anti-racism, is a secular religion. It doesn't seem to have a founder but it is a conscious reaction to Hitler and the murder of the Jews. It could be his illegitimate child?

    The great Maurice Cowling said:

    "Secularization so far from involving liberation from religion, has involved merely liberation from Christianity and the establishment in its place of a modern religion whose advocates so much assume its truth that they do not understand that it is a religion to which they are committed."

    Another great man, Peter Clarke, who taught me argued that conservatism is also an ideology. I don't know what ideology means but I'd have thought conservatism was an attitude of mind as old as Homer and Shakespeare.


  8. The Nazis did incorporate some Christian thought into their panoply of Occult based, Pseudo-Scientific, warped world views, especially as many of the Teutonic myths they revered were based in Christianity (i.e.; The Holy Grail for instance) and they certainly felt strongly enough about Christian Relics to acquire the alleged Spear of Destiny, as well, they had a keen interest in finding The Ark of The Covenant. However, they sought these things for what they believed to be the mystical power that said objects were reputed to contain, as opposed to proving the veracity of any of the modern religions.

    In their minds, modern religions were just the remnants of the truth about their Mystical Superhuman Aryan Ancestors, but they thought of Occult knowledge, tribal and other exotic yet extinct religious beliefs (like Ancient Egypt) in the same way. Everything about the past, known & unknown, suspected or assumed were seen through this lens of a belief in the the Aryans, and everything they did was either based upon, or designed to prove, their religious beliefs as a universal truth. This is why they looked all over the globe for 'scientific evidence' of their preconceived notions, which they had as much faith in as Catholics do in The Resurrection.

    Of course this is fitting evidence into an existing theory as opposed to piecing together a theory from the evidence...two very different things, but something ideologues perpetrate on a regular basis. Most of my rant was directed at those who were ignorantly stating that there was nothing religious about National Socialism, when in fact it was built around these pseudo-Scientific, Occult based beliefs, with a patchwork of modern religious thought integrated into it, whenever & wherever it was convenient for them to do so.
    Walker Hibben

  9. 1300 baraq baw-rawk' from 1299; lightning; by analogy, a gleam; concretely, a flashing sword:--bright, glitter(-ing sword), lightning.
    1116 bamah bam-maw' from an unused root (meaning to be high); an elevation:--height, high place, wave.
    Jesus said "I beheld Satan cast down like lightning from the heavens (heights, heavens of God is a different word, it ended up like this because of translation in Greek)
    So Jesus said Bawrak and bawmaw close huh? Well there co-joiner would be "U" or "O" So he said the man's name. (spelling does not match because it is spelled phonetically)...Here is one more Halel הֵילֵל hêylêl, hay-lale'; from H1984 (in the sense of brightness); the morning-star:—lucifer.

  10. Another IV could need to be started elsewhere.

  11. Touche. Solid arguments. Keep up the good spirit.