The Western Classical notion of identity comes to us from Herodotus’ Histories, written in the 5th century B.C. It’s from Herodotus that we have the story of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, told in the broader context of the entire Hellenic world’s successful resistance of the Persian invasion. In order to do that, the Spartans (Dorians) and Athenians (Ionians) had to overcome their differences and join together to defend what was common to both of them as Greeks.
In Book VIII, there is a scene in which the Athenians explain to a messenger from Sparta why the Spartans should side with the Athenians and not the Persians. (It should be remembered that both the ancient Greeks and ancient Persians were Indo-European peoples.)
“First and foremost of these is that the images and buildings of the gods have been burned and demolished, so that we are bound by necessity to exact the greatest revenge on the man who performed these deeds, rather than to make agreements with him. And second, it would not be fitting for the Athenians to prove traitors to the Greek people, with whom we are united in sharing the same kinship and language, with whom we have established shrines and conduct sacrifices to the gods together, and with whom we also share the same way of life.” (VIII:144.2)
In this passage are no less than four criteria for being a Greek, or Hellene: common religion, common blood, common language, and common customs. (One could argue that customs are almost entirely derivative of religion and blood, but we will stick to the four-part formulation in the text.) That was 2500 years ago, but in my opinion this is still the best and most comprehensive working definition of national identity. This is because one can extract it from this particular situation in ancient history and apply it to virtually anywhere in the world at any time. The four elements of identity are either present or absent, to varying degrees, and a people are correspondingly either strong or weak.
The story of the Greek resistance to Persian tyranny is the story of the self-realization and self-actualization of a people. When the four elements of identity are in place, they work together synergistically to form a kind of collective body, capable of functioning as an organic whole. The Persian army was numerically much stronger than the Greek, but most of their soldiers were conscripts from conquered territories who were forced into service. They were Persians in name only.
It’s interesting to note that the Athenians tell the Spartan messenger that the most important reason for opposing the Persians is their desecration of Greek religious shrines. (It should be remembered that the Spartans were known as both the fiercest warriors of the ancient world and also the most pious, dividing their time more or less equally between military training and religious ritual. How Evolian.) The Classical notion of identity is thus supportive of the Traditionalist view of the primacy of religious faith – that “culture comes from the cult,” as Russell Kirk put it – but it also checks it by including the other criteria. Common faith alone will not suffice, even if it is ultimately the most important unifying factor of a culture.
It should also be noted that the Classical definition of identity comes to us from a time prior to the reign of Homo economicus. (Though even then, Herodotus has the Persian king Cyrus mocking the Athenians for having “a place designated in the middle of their city [the agora, marketplace] in which they gather to cheat each other.”) It is a formula for the cohesion of a people and the health of a culture. It is not necessarily a formula for dominance in the world, particularly economic dominance.
Finally, the Classical definition of identity represents an ideal, a standard. As with other standards, there are bound to be deviations and variations. Elsewhere in The Histories, Herodotus tells us that the Athenians were originally Pelasgians – pre-Indo-European inhabitants of Greece – who “learned a new language when they became Hellenes.” (I:57.3 – I:58) The dominant influence on Classical Greek culture and identity was probably Dorian, the Indo-Europeans who conquered Greece from the north. But these Pelasgians were apparently able to assimilate and “become Hellenes,” although history shows us that Athens was always culturally and spiritually different from Sparta. Still, at the time of the Greco-Persian war, the Athenians and Spartans must have had enough in common for the Athenians to cite the four elements of their common identity to the Spartan messenger.
But the further one moves from the quadripartite Classical definition of identity, the more the strength and cohesion of a people is diluted. This is so because the elements which give rise to feelings of otherness gain in power, and consequently the elements of commonality diminish. Classical identity works because it’s based on nature, both human psychological nature and larger biological nature.
Applying this model to the history of Western civilization, we can see that the peak of Western identity in terms of cohesion and strength was probably the Middle Ages. Despite the diversity of European customs and languages, Latin was the lingua franca that united the educated peoples of every European country, and Christianity was the faith of the whole continent. One could go to any church in Western Europe and partake in the same Latin mass. The racial identity of Europeans was, I think, a given – an obvious fact of nature that need not even be dwelt upon. This entire scenario stands in stark contrast to contemporary Europe and North America, where racial, linguistic, religious and cultural diversity are pushed to further and further extremes, with predictable consequences.
The coming together of the greater Hellenic world to resist the Persian invasion offers an inspiration and a model for contemporary Western people who value their identity and heritage. However, it should also be remembered that ultimately, the differences between Athens and Sparta proved greater than their commonalities, and the two city-states destroyed each other in the Peloponnesian War, a mere fifty years or so after their shared victory over the Persians.
Perhaps the unspoken fifth element of identity is a common enemy.
Note: This review was written in 2013 when the film was released, but was never published.
What does Man of Steel succeed in doing that Superman Returns could not do? Answer: Make Superman Returns look good.
I can’t think of any aspect of this film that is not superseded by one of the other five Superman films, except for the costume and the special effects. But to my mind, special effects stopped being an attraction-in-and-of-themselves after Terminator 2. I confess I haven’t seen Superman III or IV since they were new, but I don’t remember Nuclear Man’s acting being worse than this film’s General Zod, and Richard Pryor is a far more entertaining token black character than Lawrence Fishburne’s Perry White – but I’m sure whoever chose to make “Mr. White” a black man patted himself on the back for being oh-so-clever.
I guess it’s fitting that Man of Steel sucks as bad as it does, since Superman is THE quintessential American superhero (“truth, justice and the American way”) and America has been the equivalent of post-accident Christopher Reeve for some time now. But whereas Superman Returns was a tribute to Reeve’s iconic portrayal (and suffered for being such) Man of Steel is an attempt to break almost completely with this precedent. Whereas Reeve evinced a kind of old fashioned handsomeness – Don Draper minus the libido – Man of Steel opts for more of a Hugh Jackman-as-Wolverine look for the character. The opening scenes of a wandering, bearded Clark Kent working odd manly-man jobs such as bartender and deckhand on a fishing boat, feature a bare- and hairy-chested pre-Superman stomping around exuding angst like some sort of grunge-themed Chippendale dancer.
But the man of steel’s new beard (how does he shave?) is not just a nod to hipster fashion; it’s also meant to evoke that other only begotten son with a beard who has superpowers. The parallels of Superman to Jesus have been obvious almost since the character’s inception, which is one reason why they should not have been made so obvious in the film. We are treated to numerous scenes of Superman with arms outstretched and head down and to the side, almost as if he were hanging on a … you get the picture..
It’s all here: Superman is the savior of the earth. Superman is here to do the will of his father, with whom he is in communication. Superman must fight against other super-beings who have rebelled against his father. Those super-beings have a leader, and the fight won’t be over until he has been vanquished once and for all.
Of course there is a new twist. Unlike in the Richard Donner films, in which Superman’s parents die in the destruction of Krypton, here General Zod kills Superman’s father Jor-El. This doesn’t actually enrich the story, but I mention it because it brings up a key difference between Jesus and Superman. Whereas Jesus’ Father is eternally living, Superman’s daddy is dead. Thus if we juxtapose the two mythologies, we have the son here on earth doing the will of the father, but the father is dead. In other words, God is dead. Who was it that said that?
Oh yeah, that Nazi philosopher. What would Hollywood do without the Nazis? Their other staple villains – terrorists, Arabs (is that a redundancy?) gangs and zombies – just don’t have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes us, or rather them, never tire of rehashing the same old stereotypical characters and characteristics. I suspect that they just refer to Adorno’s F-scale test and make sure that their villains have all the defining marks of the “fascist personality”: Military background, check; emphasis on discipline and order, check; “ends justify the means” mentality, check; disregard for conventional morality, check; explicit or implicit racial views coupled with a fanatical devotion to his own people, check. In the case of General Zod, we can also add a Roman, Caesaresque haircut and a lack of emotions.
But then I don’t think the lack of emotions is an intentionally portrayed characteristic of Zod’s, since all of the characters in the film are one-dimensional caricatures, made all the more unbearable by the considerable liberties that the film takes with the established Superman narrative.
The lack of conventional morality, however, is an intentional portrayal. For those who don’t pick up on this theme by noticing that Superman saves people whereas Zod & Co. kill them indiscriminately, we are treated to an elucidation of this fact in a mid-battle speech by Zod’s female lieutenant, who presumably is a nod to the Ursa character from Superman II. She chides Superman for having a morality, while she and the other Kryptonians do not, which, she says, gives them an advantage and makes them superior according to “evolution.” Yep, the bad guys are pro-evolution, whereas Superman goes to church and talks to a priest. I’m looking forward to the sequel in which Superman goes back in time to prevent Satan from putting all those dinosaur bones in the ground to deceive people. [Update: Though I haven’t yet seen Batman vs. Superman, I was disappointed to hear that it has no such scene.]
The tragedy of this film is that Superman is a great character with whom more competent and imaginative filmmakers could have done so much more. Even the teen soap opera Smallville did a vastly superior job in exploring some of the character’s emotional complexities and psychological hardships, which is why Christopher Reeve gave his approval to the show before he died. Man of Steel, in contrast, merely throws out a few cheesy and platitudinous lines about how “being different is a blessing” and other such drivel that sounds like dialogue from an anti-bullying after-school special.
Perhaps much of the film’s failure lies in its fatal mistake of transplanting Superman, a child of the early to mid-twentieth century, to the present day. The America of that time is long gone, and the Superman of that time simply has no place in the world of today. But whereas Batman seems more timely than ever in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant trilogy, Superman seems un-updatable because he is a fundamentally different kind of superhero.
Man of Steel should stand as proof that Nolan, rather than being adept at bringing comic characters to the big screen, was great at making Batman movies. He co-wrote the script for this film, which is something he should not be proud of, and the look and feel of the film are very reminiscent of the Batman films, with a kind of shadowy grayness coloring, or rather rendering colorless, almost all of the scenes. In addition to being derivative, this grayness simply doesn’t work because Superman, unlike Batman, does not inhabit grayness; that is, shades of ambiguity. Superman is a character of black-and-white, of moral absolutes. Like Jesus, he is all-good.
In the world of superheroes, Superman pretty much kicks everyone else’s ass. There really isn’t any other superhero who comes close to his strength and abilities. Batman is just a guy. Spider-Man has the proportionate strength of a spider, which is awesome, but nowhere near as strong as Superman. One can imagine the Hulk giving him a good fight, but since Superman is indestructible (except for kryptonite, which the moronically impassioned Hulk ain’t gonna be smart enough to get his big green hands on) there isn’t really anything Hulk can do against him.
Superman’s near omnipotence is one of the many aforementioned parallels between him and Jesus. Another is that both are Jews. Superman is the creation of two Jewish comic book writers from the 1930s, and as other authors have explored, the character is a big Jewish fantasy. That’s why Kryptonian names – Kal El, Jor El, Zod – all sound Hebrew. (In yet another obnoxious deviation, here Kal El is called “Kal” for short. I was waiting for them to announce that his new secret identity is Calvin Kent.) The whole spiel about mild mannered and seemingly weak Clark Kent having a secret identity and being, actually, the superior of everyone around him is, at the larger level, the fantasy of every nerd on earth, but more specifically, a fantasy of Jews in the 20th century, who often hid their Jewish identities for fear of persecution or discrimination.
Man of Steel emphasizes this need for secrecy by making Jonathan Kent the voice of skepticism about humanity, saying that people are not ready for Superman and will not accept him, so he must hide who he is. (There is also an unmistakable suggestion of an analogy to gay kids, as with the X-Men films, with the father warning against “coming out” and the mother telling him that he has “something beautiful to share with the world” – or something trite like that. I don’t remember exactly because I was vomiting into my popcorn bucket. I’m sure Otto Weininger, the early 20th century psychologist who characterized Jewishness as essentially feminine, would concur with this confluence of gays and Jews.)
Returning to the parallels with Jesus, this raises an interesting question: If Superman, the Kryptonian who saves all the non-Kryptonians, is a Jewish fantasy, is Jesus, the Jew who saves all the goyim, equally such?
As it stands, neither Jesus nor Superman is that simple. In The Jesus Mysteries, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy demonstrate, as have many other writers, that most if not all of the characteristics of Jesus and his life story are to be found in various pre-Christian pagan traditions. Seen from this perspective, Christianity ceases to be the opening up of Jewish chosenness to all of humanity, and instead becomes the inclusion of Jews into the already existing Indo-European tradition. Or, more nefariously, it is the hijacking of Indo-European tradition with the introduction of a foreign agent which is at first strengthening, but ultimately proves poisonous. (See Revilo Oliver’s Christianity and the Survival of the West for an erudite and enlightening discussion of this topic.)
While Superman is a Jewish creation, many elements of his story are not Jewish but Aryan. In the early 20th century, before the creation of Superman the comic book hero, the word “superman” was already in use, as the English translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch. It’s ironic that a character who takes his name from Nietzsche would quickly become the enemy of many of Nietzsche’s ideas, and especially of those who claimed inspiration from those ideas. Nonetheless, either in spite of or in tandem with this association-antagonism with Nietzsche, Superman has picked up a considerable number of Aryan attributes over the years. Just like Jesus.
The peak of Superman’s SuperAryanity is probably Richard Donner’s films. First, there is the unmistakably Wagneresque theme song by the incomparable John Williams. Then there is Superman’s arctic homeland, where he goes to chill out and rejuvenate himself, which brings to mind the theory of the arctic homeland in the Vedas and the myth of Apollo returning to Hyperborea every 19 years. Superman as Hyperborean divya – maybe Donner was reading Miguel Serrano at the time.
The source of Superman’s strength is the sun, which makes him an Aryan sun worshipper. In Platonism, the sun is the symbol and analogue in the visible realm of the Supreme Good, or God, in the invisible realm. Man of Steel does reference Superman’s link to Plato in a scene of the young Clark Kent reading one of his books. I’m sure the filmmakers have in mind the concept of the Guardians, those superior beings who shepherd and protect the rest of humanity. However, they don’t seem to understand what Plato was talking about, since the character of General Zod is actually closer to a Platonic Guardian than Superman is.
When Zod and Superman are fighting, Zod says, “I’ve trained as a soldier my entire life. Where did you train, on a farm?” Earlier, Zod says that he was bred specifically to be a warrior, since at the time of his birth, Krypton had a policy of engineering all births and pre-establishing roles for all Kryptonians. (Nazis!) In The Republic, this is basically the social order that Plato advocates, albeit without all the advanced alien technology. The Guardians would be selected at an early age and put through a rigorous program of training, from which only the best would emerge.
This dichotomy between the “free” Superman and the disciplined and trained Zod recalls the classical conflict between Athens and Sparta. In Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian war, he has Pericles the Athenian statesman waxing lyrical about how awesome the Athenians are at being soldiers, even though they spend most of their time pursuing pleasure – sorry, “being free” – and not training all day long like those mean, uptight Spartans. In other words, they have the best of both worlds. They are free to do as they please, and this freedom naturally gives rise to both superior ability and moral goodness.
It sounds nice, and readers should recognize that this same idea has been hugely influential on subsequent concepts of liberal democracy and free society, for which classical Athens has long been an ideal model. The problem, though, is that it’s a pipe dream, as the Spartans quickly showed the Athenians by kicking their asses all over Greece. The idea that a man without training or discipline can be the superior of a man who devotes himself to discipline and training is a liberal fantasy. It’s like saying that I can lollygag and lounge all day, then go up against a professionally trained MMA fighter and emerge victorious because of the mysterious moral power of muh freedom. This is the same fantasy that informs the American myth of its World War 2 victory – we beat the Nazis because we’re free and they weren’t, and God loves freedom and ‘Merica. (In actuality, of course, America was the 4th quarter quarterback that claimed victory for the whole game.)
But Zod differs from Plato’s Guardians in one crucial way: he lacks morality, and Superman does not. Plato specified that the Guardians were to be inculcated with the dominating idea that their purpose was to serve the greater good of their society. This is analogous to the bodhisattva vow in Buddhism, in which tradition it is said that if one does not practice the higher teachings (the tantras) with the motivation to benefit all sentient beings, one will become not a Buddha but a demon. For Plato’s Guardians, the ultimate purpose of all their training is to attain enlightenment (quite literally in the metaphor of the cave) and to attain direct knowledge of the Ideas of Justice and Goodness, because these Ideas exist independently of man, and only an enlightened being who is linked with them – a being through whom these Ideas flow and incarnate on earth – can truly serve the greater good of society and the world.
So if Zod is a kind of demon who has fallen off the path, Superman should be a representative of the true path of the Guardian. But in Man of Steel, he isn’t, because the narrative is too infected with the liberal fantasy that Guardians can emerge naturally from a chaotic, decadent – sorry, “free” – society, rather than from a traditionally ordered society that is structured to create and cultivate such beings.
Although there are beings so great and powerful that they do indeed emerge from the most improbable of circumstances, as though they chose such circumstances consciously just to test and refine their will through struggle, the reality is that traditional structures produce better men than the chaos which is called an “open society” (Karl Popper’s counter-proposition to Plato’s Republic.) Without these traditional structures, long gone in the Western world if not the world as a whole, we are left with nothing to do except hope for the coming of such an improbable being. Waiting for Superman, as the title of another film has it.
Even apart from the value of such claims as ‘there is a categorical imperative in us,’ one can still always ask: what does such a claim tell us about the man who makes it? – Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil, Section 187)
I have been reflecting of late on the concept of truth, both as a philosophical concept and as a value. Growing up, I always took the notion of truth completely for granted. “Tell the truth,” I was taught from an early age. Don’t lie – not to your parents, your elders, and above all not to God. Truth and falsehood was a primary duality, like light and darkness, good and evil.
As I got older, I started to question some of the things I had been taught as a child. First, God. Was there really an all-powerful puppet-master in the sky, watching everything I did, said, and thought, and also controlling everything that happens in the world? I went through my adolescent rebellion against religion, which in the Western world is often caused in part by the incongruities between the Bible – especially the Old Testament – and the innate Indo-European sensibility.
In the course of being an angry young atheist, I lost God and found Nietzsche. At first I was just attracted to the sheer power of his writing, his philosophizing with a hammer. But later, I started to actually develop some understanding of his ideas. In his transvaluation of values, Nietzsche rejected not merely the god of the Bible – something most intelligent teenagers learn to do – but most of the metaphysical underpinnings of the entire Western worldview as I knew it, including the very concept of truth itself.
In spite of my admiration for Nietzsche, I never quite bought his rejection of truth and his embrace of Hassan i Sabbah’s “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” It wasn’t that I had thought it through and developed a coherent philosophical counter-position; it was just an instinct. The argument against truth itself always seemed to me an absurdity, because to even assert that “There is no truth” is to say, implicitly, “The truth is that there is no truth.”
The Classical Value of Truth
Herodotus tells us that the ancient Persians taught their children but three things: to ride a horse, to shoot the bow-and-arrow, and to tell the truth. Among the Greeks, aletheia was a prominent or even dominant concept and goal in philosophy, especially for Plato. This carried over directly into the New Testament – which I regard as primarily an Indo-European document, in spite of the abundant Judaic themes and references, both because it is written in Greek and because the figure of Jesus Christ, in his essential characteristics and certainly in the esoteric traditions of European Christianity, has deeper roots in Indo-European solar mythology than in Jewish tradition.
In the Jewish Ten Commandments, Yahweh tells the Hebrews that they should not bear false witness in court. But Christianity re-interpreted this as a prohibition against all lying. This is because in Christianity, which for better and for worse was the religion of Europe for over a thousand years, truth is actually equated with God.
Christians often point out that Jesus is unique among religious figures and prophets because, while many men throughout history have claimed to know the truth, Jesus alone said, “I am the truth, the way, and the life.” Thus the worship of truth becomes a legitimate form of worship of God, just as with beauty and goodness. As Hans F.K. Gunther notes in his Religious Attitudes of the Indo-Europeans, the Good-and-Beautiful – kaloskagathos in Greek – is an ancient Indo-European concept that pre-dates Christianity, but which was incorporated into Christian theology and to which was added the value of truth, thus becoming a trinity and a kind of analogue to the trinitarian God.
Our high valuation of truth is also related to a high valuation of loyalty. In the motto of the German SS – Mein Ehre heisst Treue, “My honor is loyalty” – the German treue is cognate with the English true, and we can see the relation in the dual meaning of true as both “not false” and “loyal,” as in “true to his people.” This loyalty also finds expression as fidelity in marriage, which is uniquely valued by Indo-Europeans, in contrast to the polygamous practices of many other cultures. For us, all of these values – truth, loyalty, faithfulness – are related, and come from the same source, like Platonic Ideals that all emanate from the Good.
Gunther, in the same book, also notes that honor and honesty may share a common root, if not etymologically, then at least morally, for it is difficult to imagine an honorable man being fundamentally dishonest. The virtue of honesty is a corollary of the value of truth, and the history of Indo-European moral and ethical philosophy demonstrates a tradition of high regard for this virtue.
The most extreme example of this is probably the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who famously argued that if a murderer knocked at your door looking for someone whom you knew to be hiding nearby, you should not lie to the murderer. While Kant’s moral philosophy strikes most people, even fellow Indo-Europeans, as absurd, it clearly shows the degree to which we have taken seriously the moral imperative of truthfulness. It also illustrates how some of our values can be both a strength and a weakness, depending on the situation we find ourselves in.
Years ago, a female acquaintance of mine became enamored with a book called Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton, a therapist who describes himself as “white trash with a PhD.” Though I haven’t read the book, it seems to advocate a kind of Kantian extremism in truth-telling – to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, always at all times, no matter what. Or at least, that is how this woman interpreted it. She managed to convince some of her friends to read the book and attempt to practice “radical honesty” with her in their relations, and they were doing so when I knew them. It was a well-intentioned enterprise that was supposed to strengthen their bonds of affection and trust, though I thought they wasted an awful lot of time expressing feelings and opinions that were fleeting, unimportant, and which need not be dwelt upon, or even expressed at all.
Of course, this woman and her two friends were White, and also a bit on the hippy side. What they were attempting to do is, on the one hand, rather laughable – the sort of thing that a non-white comedian might use as material for jokes about “those wacky White people.” But on the other hand, it’s entirely consistent with our tradition of valuing truth and honesty. It’s part of the reason why, as Greg Johnson noted, “Western civilizations, White civilizations, tend to be high trust societies, whereas non-Western civilizations tend to be low trust societies.”
While trust and truth apparently do not derive from the same etymological root, they most certainly share a common moral root, like honor and honesty. We trust our neighbors and kinsmen because we expect them to be honest and honorable with us, and us with them. This level of trust and honesty is difficult to maintain even in a small homogeneous group, as my hippy friends learned through experience. In a larger, heterogeneous group, it is considerably more difficult – some would say virtually impossible.
The West and the Rest
In reflecting on the concept of truth and its role as a value of Indo-European civilizations, I have come to believe that it is not, in fact, a universal value. While it is not unique to IE peoples as a concept, what is unique is the high value that we place on it. One of the mistakes that people often make is to assume that all human beings think the same way they do.
In his book about China, The Hundred-Year Marathon, Michael Pillsbury writes:
At first, it seemed impossible to me that any thinking person in China would believe that American presidents from John Tyler to Barack Obama had all somehow learned the statecraft axioms of the Warring States period and decided to apply these little-known concepts to control China. But then I realized that many in China think of these axioms as universal truths. They know America is the most powerful nation in the world, and they assume America will act as selfishly, cynically, and ruthlessly as did every hegemon in the era of the Warring States.
In contrast to these Chinese leaders who believe that Americans are as sly and sneaky as themselves, there are the American and European liberals, who believe that inside each Chinese, Arab, and African is a good little White man who is just waiting for the right dose of democracy, feminism and capitalism to bring out his full potential so he can become just like us, only darker. Indeed, some Leftist critics of Western imperialism and colonialism have addressed this ignorant and false assumption.
The tendency to assume equivalence of perspective and intention amongst peoples is perhaps universal, or at least is not limited to White peoples. But whereas the Chinese assumption of American duplicity may lead them to reject sincere gestures for want of trust (though more often than not, it’s probably just the smart position for the Chinese to take, given who runs American foreign policy), the Western assumption of universal goodwill leads to gullible and foolish policies like mass immigration, and all its concomitant problems like rising crime and social upheaval.
The Death of Truth and the Decline of the West
The high regard for truth in the Indo-European tradition is directly related to Europe’s subsequent development of science. What we call science – from the Latin word for “knowledge” – is in fact largely the accumulated knowledge of Europeans about the natural world. It is universal in its application, but not in its origin.
But this same love of truth, which motivated the Pre-Socratics in their primary investigations of phenomena, and Socrates in his endless questioning, and which reached its apotheosis in Christian doctrine, eventually became its own undoing. As scientific knowledge developed, truth ultimately came to be seen as being in conflict with religion. The Christian worship of truth as God and God as truth, incarnated as Jesus Christ, gave way to the terrible realization that truth did not, in fact, accord with Christian teachings on the nature of the world.
For Nietzsche, this progression was a laughable irony – “Christianity ate itself, ha ha ha!” But he was being glib. Western man has not even begun to recover from this catastrophe. After the collapse of European Christianity in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was only a short time before even the notion of truth itself was then questioned and dismissed, firstly and most famously by Nietzsche himself. For a people with such a unique love of truth, there may well be no recovering from such a fundamental loss.
Much discourse on the Right concerns being honest about uncomfortable truths, such as racial and gender differences, or the friend-enemy distinction at the root of politics. I believe that, at its best, this is a further expression of the Indo-European spirit’s love of truth. But because the contemporary West lacks a comprehensive philosophical and spiritual framework, these little truths lack any connection to notions of higher, permanent, transcendent Truth. Unless and until the West can establish, or reestablish, that connection, it’s difficult to imagine that we will find the strength of belief that is necessary in order to survive. One begins to realize why Heidegger’s final conclusion was, “Only a god can save us.”