“Universal Fascism” Against the City of God
I awoke this morning to a very depressing piece in Maclean’s Magazine by Katie Engelhart on “The rise of the far right in Europe“. It did stimulate me, however, to further reflection on the problem of fascism and of the mass psychology of fascism, sometimes known also as nationalism or “nativism”. Engelhart’s piece is excellent otherwise, revealing surprising linkages between neo-fascist groups and nationalist formations one would otherwise not suspect of fascist inclinations, or the ironies of a “fascist international” and “universal fascism“.
So, here I want to pursue once again my interpretation of fascism as a resurgence of paganism and nihilism, fully consequent upon Nietzsche’s pronouncement of “the death of God” in the late 19th century, and why it matters.
“Universal fascism”, of that kind apparently dreamed of by neo-conservative ideologue Michael Ledeen (ironically once holder of the “Freedom Chair” at the equally ironically named “American Enterprise Institute”) is neo-paganism. In an earlier post on The Cycle and the Cross, I briefly touched upon the meaning of fascism as a neo-paganism through an interpretation of its symbols and its creed. It remains to be added that the ideal of a “Universal Fascism” is the enemy formation of the “catholic” City of God, and as such belongs to the spirit of “Anti-Christ”, whether fascists themselves understand this or not.
It is really not possible to understand Western fascism and the mass psychology of fascism as a resurgent neo-paganism without reference to the historical stream of Christian culture within which it, too, is embedded. However decadent or eclipsed the Christian creed and faith may be in today’s secularised, post-Christian world it is still true that enough of the higher forms and tenets of the Christian faith remain as influential residues in our public institutions — concepts of universality and of the universality of human rights, for example, (even if only as a matter of the obligatory lip-service). It is in this sense that the word “catholic” (small c) applies still, as this word signifies “universal” — from the Greek kata and holos, signifying “thoroughly whole” or “the Whole”. So, in that sense “catholic” implies holism and the holistic, and of the broadly ecumenical or integral.
The “City of God” is this broadly catholic and ecumenical spirit of universality. It is the universal city because it does not know ghettoes or gated and armed communities, nor distinctions of human rank based upon race, creed, or colour. It is the spiritual city as much as William Blake’s “New Jerusalem” or “Golgonooza“. The City of God is pointedly something distinct from the secular city — the City of Man, but which is the model for the City of Man and as something ideally made transparent and present through the City of Man.
Everything that was good about the Western tradition — everything that was painstakingly accomplished, but which now comes under threat of nihilism with the death of God — was accomplished because certain inspired men and women worked to the end that the spiritual City of God should shine through the City of Man. They worked in faith, generation after generation, century after century, under the impress of an otherwise impossible imperative issued by Christianity’s founder: “Be thou therefore perfect, even as thy Father in Heaven…” that the times might be fulfilled — “perfect” here meaning whole, complete, fulfilled, “catholic” in the earliest and most pristine sense of this word (and nothing like what it has come to mean today).
In the truly “catholic” understanding, all men and women everywhere (and all living beings) are here and now the spiritual citizens of the City of God, albeit also so many prodigal sons and daughters lost in a “faraway land” and forgetful of their birthright. This “forgetfulness” is spiritual separation, not spatial distantiation, the latter being the result, as William Blake put it, of Man having “closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern”, and which I have called “human narcissism” repeatedly throughout the pages of The Chrysalis.
This “narcissism” was previously called “idolatry” in a more theologically-inclined age. Nonetheless, it persists in secular terms, too, only now known by other names and terms — anthropocentrism, ethnocentrism, ideocentrism, logocentrism, or egocentrism. These are just so many forms of spiritual separation or self-alienation, the loss of self in self-image — the various “caverns” that inhibit our realisation of being all citizens of “the City of God”.
Fascism is this paganism, this idolatry and this narcissism — the worship of the merely secular and local gods of blood and soil, race and nation, state and ideology — the shriveled mummified dieties of time and space. And as such, “universal fascism” is only the City of Man standing in direct opposition to the City of God, and at the maximum antipode of spiritual separation, isolation, and turpitude. Is it not remarkable, then, to observe how many “Christians” actually fell, and continue to fall, for this palaver? But as was once said by the man who hung on the crucifix, “they know not what they do”.
The City of God is neither the secular city nor the “state of nature”. The City of God corresponds to Gebser’s “ever-present origin”. All that is secular is time-bound, mortal, and limited, and a sentence of death is passed upon all of it. The very word “secular” means, in effect, “time”, and for that reason fascism is morbid. Universal fascism is not the Eternal City. It would be the absolute nadir of human existence — the point of maximum spiritual separation and alienation from the City of God.
And that is why this creed is full of images, rituals, and ceremonies of death, violence, and nihilism. For the Nihil is the dark abyss and Void of spiritual segregation.