Pfuel was one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men, self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion- science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth- science- which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.


Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1950)

Chapter Six : Race-Thinking Before Racism

i: A “Race” of Aristocrats Against a “Nation” of Citizens

A steadily rising interest in the most different, strange, and even savage peoples was characteristic of France during the eighteenth century. This was the time when Chinese paintings were admired and imitated, when one of the most famous works of the century was named Lettres Persanes, and when travellers’ reports were the favourite reading of society. The honesty and simplicity of savage and uncivilized peoples were opposed to the sophistication and frivolity of culture. Long before the nineteenth century with its tremendously enlarged opportunities for travel brought the non-European world into the home of every average citizen, eighteenth-century French society had tried to grasp spiritually the content of cultures and countries that lay far beyond European boundaries. A great enthusiasm for “new specimens of mankind” (Herder) filled the hearts of the heroes of the French Revolution who together with the French nation liberated every people of every colour under the French flag. This enthusiasm for strange and foreign countries culminated in the message of fraternity, because it was inspired by the desire to prove in every new and surprising “specimen of mankind” the old saying of La Bruyere: “La raison est de tous les climats.”

Yet it is this nation-creating century and humanity-loving country to which we must trace the germs of what later proved to become the nation destroying and humanity-annihilating power of racism. It is a remarkable fact that the first author who assumed the coexistence of different peoples with different origins in France, was at the same time the first to elaborate definite class-thinking. The Comte de Boulainvillicrs, a French nobleman who wrote at the beginning of the eighteenth century and whose works were published after his death, interpreted the history of France as the history of two different nations of which the one, of Germanic origin, had conquered the older inhabitants, the “Gaules,” had imposed its laws upon them, had taken their lands, and had settled down as the ruling class, the “peerage” whose supreme rights rested upon the “right of conquest” and the “necessity of obedience always due to the strongest.” Engaged chiefly in finding arguments against the rising political power of the Tiers Etat and their spokesmen, the “nouveau corps” formed by “gens de lettres et de lois,” Boulainvillicrs had to fight the monarchy too because the French king wanted no longer to represent the peerage as primus inter pares but the nation as a whole; in him, for a while, the new rising class found its most powerful protector. In order to regain uncontested primacy for the nobility, Boulainvillicrs proposed that his fellow-noblemen deny a common origin with the French people, break up the unity of the nation, and claim an original and therefore eternal distinction. Much bolder than most of the later defenders of nobility, Boulainvillicrs denied any predestined connection with the soil; he conceded that the “Gaules” had been in France longer, that the “Francs” were strangers and barbarians. He based his doctrine solely on the eternal right of conquest and found no difficulty in asserting that “Friesland . . . has been the true cradle of the French nation.” Centuries before the actual development of imperialistic racism, following only the inherent logic of his concept, he considered the original inhabitants of France natives in the modern sense, or in his own terms “subjects” — not of the king — but of all those whose advantage was descent from the conquering people, who by right of birth were to be called “Frenchmen.”

Boulainvilliers was deeply influenced by the seventeenth-century might-right doctrines and he certainly was one of the most consistent contemporary disciples of Spinoza, whose Ethics he translated and whose Traite theologico-politique he analysed. In his reception and application of Spinoza’s political ideas, might was changed into conquest and conquest acted as a kind of unique judgment on the natural qualities and human privileges of men and nations. In this we may detect the first traces of later naturalistic transformations the might-right doctrine was to go through. This view is really corroborated by the fact that Boulainvilliers was one of the outstanding freethinkers of his time, and that his attacks on the Christian Church were hardly motivated by anticlericalism alone.

Boulainvilliers’ theory, however, still deals with peoples and not with races; it bases the right of the superior people on a historical deed, conquest, and not on a physical fact — although the historical deed already has a certain influence on the natural qualities of the conquered people. It invents two different peoples within France in order to counteract the new national idea, represented as it was to a certain extent by the absolute monarchy in alliance with the Tiers Etat. Boulainvilliers is anti-national at a time when the idea of nationhood was felt to be new and revolutionary, but had not yet shown, as it did in the French Revolution, how closely it was connected with a democratic form of government. Boulainvilliers prepared his country for civil war without knowing what civil war meant. He is representative of many of the nobles who did not regard themselves as representative of the nation, but as a separate ruling caste which might have much more in common with a foreign people of the “same society and condition” than with its compatriots. It has been, indeed, these anti-national trends that exercised their influence in the milieu of the emigres and finally were absorbed by new and outspoken racial doctrines late in the nineteenth century.

Not until the actual outbreak of the Revolution forced great numbers of the French nobility to seek refuge in Germany and England did Boulainvilliers’ ideas show their usefulness as a political weapon. In the meantime, his influence upon the French aristocracy was kept alive, as can be seen in the works of another Comte, the Comte Dubuat-Nangay, who wanted to tie French nobility even closer to its continental brothers. On the eve of the Revolution, this spokesman of French feudalism felt so insecure that he hoped for “the creation of a kind of Internationale of aristocracy of barbarian origin,” and since the German nobility was the only one whose help could eventually be expected, here too the true origin of the French nation was supposed to be identical with that of the Germans and the French lower classes, though no longer slaves, were not free by birth but by “affranchisscment,” by grace of those who were free by birth, of the nobility. A few years later the French exiles actually tried to form an internationale of aristocrats in order to stave off the revolt of those they considered to be a foreign enslaved people. And although the more practical side of these attempts suffered the spectacular disaster of Valmy, emigres like Charles Francois Dominique de Villiers, who about 1800 opposed the “Gallo-Romains” to the Germanics, or like William Alter who a decade later dreamed of a federation of all Germanic peoples, did not admit defeat. It probably never occurred to them that they were actually traitors, so firmly were they convinced that the French Revolution was a “war between foreign peoples” — as Francois Guizot much later put it.

While Boulainvilliers, with the calm fairness of a less disturbed time, based the rights of nobility solely on the rights of conquest without directly depreciating the very nature of the other conquered nation, the Comte de Montlosier, one of the rather dubious personages among the French exiles, openly expressed his contempt for this “new people risen from slaves . . . (a mixture) of all races and all times.” Times obviously had changed and noblemen who no longer belonged to an unconquered race also had to change. They gave up the old idea, so dear to Boulainvilliers and even to Montesquieu, that conquest alone, fortune des armes, determined the destinies of men. The Valmy of noble ideologies came when the Abbe Sieyes in his famous pamphlet told the Tiers Etat to “send back into the forests of Franconia all those families who preserve the absurd pretension of being descended from the conquering race and of having succeeded to their rights.”

It is rather curious that from these early times when French noblemen in their class struggle against the bourgeoisie discovered that they belonged to another nation, had another genealogical origin, and were more closely tied to an international caste than to the soil of France, all French racial theories have supported the Germanism or at least the superiority of the Nordic peoples as against their own countrymen. For if the men of the French Revolution identified themselves mentally with Rome, it was not because they opposed to the “Germanism” of their nobility a “Latinism” of the Tiers Etat, but because they felt they were the spiritual heirs of Roman Republicans. This historical claim, in contrast to the tribal identification of the nobility, might have been among the causes that prevented “Latinism” from emerging as a racial doctrine of its own. In any event, paradoxical as it sounds, the fact is that Frenchmen were to insist earlier than Germans or Englishmen on this idee fixe of Germanic superiority. Nor did the birth of German racial consciousness after the Prussian defeat of 1806, directed as it was against the French, change the course of racial ideologies in France. In the forties of the last century, Augustin Thierry still adhered to the identification of classes and races and distinguished between a “Germanic nobility” and a “Celtic bourgeoisie,” and again a nobleman, the Comte de Remusat, proclaimed the Germanic origin of the European aristocracy. Finally, the Comte de Gobineau developed an opinion already generally accepted among the French nobility into a full-fledged historical doctrine, claiming to have detected the secret law of the fall of civilizations and to have exalted history to the dignity of a natural science. With him race-thinking completed its first stage, and began its second stage whose influences were to be felt until the twenties of our century.

V-2One of the most noticeable things about the various disasters of the sixties and afterwards is how catastrophic they were for English speaking countries and for England in particular. English Catholics were in the unusually happy position of living in a Catholic country stolen from them by the greed and lust of a foul tyrant who imposed the unwanted ‘new religion’ on his people by force. England was a country where the established form of Protestantism was universally seen for what it was, an absurd compromise engendered by the love of self to the point of contempt for God. It was a nation where the form of government constructed by mediaeval Catholics survived and needed nothing but the conversion of the sovereign and the people for the re-establishment of the Kingship of Christ. No need for revolution or reinventing the theological wheel, just teach, sanctify and govern. Conversions, as the recent statistics published on the LMS chairman’s blog have shown, continued to rise even until the year after the summoning of the Council. This remarkable fact reflects the fact that it was less the specific statements of the Council as the perception of a surrender to modernity that destroyed the self-confidence and the allure of Catholicism in England.

The agonies of continental Catholics about their fallen monarchies and dreadful philosophies and of Americans about the compatibility of their constitution with the teaching of the Church apparently demanded the obscuring of central truths of the faith, truths which were central the evangelical success  of Catholicism in the Commonwealth. The kind of civil order represented by the coronation was unacceptable to Americans, the kind of triumphalism that carried all before it in Britain was repugnant to French and German intellectuals keen to have their grubby compromises with alien philosophies ratified by the Church.

Prior to the First Vatican Council Cardinal Manning remarked upon the consequences for the Church of the perception that she might conform her teachings to the spirit of the age.

“A belief had also spread itself that the Council  would explain away the doctrines of Trent, or give them some new or laxer meaning, or throw open some questions supposed to be closed, or come to a compromise or transaction with other religious systems ; or at least that it would accommodate the dogmatic stiffness of its traditions to modern thought and modern theology. It is strange that any one should have forgotten that every General Council, from Nicaea to Trent, which has touched on the faith, has made new definitions, and that every new definition is a new dogma, and closes what was before open, and ties up more strictly the doctrines of faith. This belief, however, excited an expectation, mixed with hopes, that Rome by becoming comprehensive might become approachable, or by becoming inconsistent might become powerless over the reason and the will of men.”

Manning’s nightmare came true ninety years later. In a recent article from Rorate Caeli Cardinal Heenan’s reaction to the first performance of the Novus Ordo was recalled.

“At home, it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children.”

One of the distressing things about attending the usus antiquior in non-English speaking countries is the way in which the liturgy is so often obscured by the singing of vernacular hymns over the words of the priest and the popularity of the dialogue mass and the practice of delivering the readings in the vernacular. These practices generate an air of embarrassment around the liturgy implicitly conceding that the ‘reforms’ of the sixties were necessary and the only reason for the use of the earlier form is irrational nostalgia. Perhaps it is because England was a nation created out of pagan barbarism by the greatest of all Popes that the anglosphere has a special capacity and enthusiasm for Romanitas.

A friend pointed out to me last week that Cardinal Heenan was not the only one to remark upon the extraordinary power that the Roman Liturgy retained in England over the affections of men as well as women. Before the First World War R.H. Benson had already perceived it.

“I am continually astonished by the extraordinary predominance of the male sex over the female in attendance at Mass and in the practice of private prayer in our churches. At a recent casual occasion, upon my remarking to the parish-priest of a suburban church that I have always been struck by this phenomenon, he told me that on the previous evening he had happened to count the congregation from the west gallery and that the proportion of men to women had been about as two to one.”

Somehow the abandonment of the conquest of the temporal order by the curia still allows for feminine religiosity but it strips the layman of his proper vocation. There is something militant about the Roman liturgy which is particularly accentuated in the stripped down form of the Missa Lecta. The Church in the English speaking world thrived on the narrative of the long war to reverse the theft of our country by Henry VIII, on the truth that Western Civilisation is ours. The Church created it the protestants and their atheistical offspring are destroying it. Capitulation before modernity and the transformation of the Mass into a protestant communion service dealt the killer blow to the strongest and most faithful Catholic lay culture in the world.



A BOOK was sent me the other day by a gentleman who pins his faith to what he calls the Nordic race; and who, indeed, appears to offer that race as a substitute for all religions. Crusaders believed that Jerusalem was not only the Holy City, but the centre of the whole world. Moslems bow their heads towards Mecca and Roman Catholics are notorious for being in secret communication with Rome. I presume that the Holy Place of the Nordic religion must be the North Pole. What form of religious architecture is exhibited in its icebergs, how far its vestments are modified by the white covering of Arctic animals, how the morning and evening service may be adapted to a day and a night each lasting for six months, whether their only vestment is the alb or their only service the angelus of noon, upon all these mysteries I will not speculate. But I can affirm with some confidence that the North Pole is very little troubled by heretical movements or the spread of modern doubt. Anyhow, it would seem that we know next to nothing about this social principle, except that anything is good if it is near enough to the North. And this undoubtedly explains the spiritual leadership of the Eskimo throughout history; and the part played by Spitzbergen as the spiritual arena of modern times. The only thing that puzzles me is that the Englishmen who now call themselves Nordic used to call themselves Teutonic; and very often even Germanic. I cannot think why they altered this so abruptly in the autumn of 1914. Some day, I suppose, when we have diplomatic difficulties with Norway, they will equally abruptly drop the word Nordic. They will hastily substitute some other–I would suggest Borealic. They might be called the Bores, for short.

But I only mention this book because of a passage in it which is rather typical of the tone of a good many other people when they are talking about Catholic history. The writer would substitute one race for all religions; in which he certainly differs from us, who are ready to offer one religion to all races. And even here, perhaps, the comparison is not altogether to his advantage. For anybody who likes can belong to the religion; whereas it is not very clear what is to be done with the people who do not happen to belong to the race. But even among religions he is ready to admit degrees of depravity; he will distinguish between these disgusting institutions; of course, according to their degree of latitude. It is rather unfortunate for him that many Eskimos are Catholics and that most French Protestants live in the south of France; but he proceeds on his general principle clearly enough. He points out, in his pleasant way, why it is exactly that Roman Catholicism is such a degrading superstition. And he adds (which is what interests me at the moment) that this was illustrated in the Dark Ages, which were a nightmare of misery and ignorance. He then admits handsomely that Protestantism is not quite so debased and devilish as Catholicism; and that men of the Protestant nations do exhibit rudimentary traces of the human form. But this, he says, “is not due to their Protestantism, but to their Nordic common sense.” They are more educated, more liberal, more familiar with reason and beauty, because they are what used to be called Teutonic; descended from Vikings and Gothic chiefs rather than from the Tribunes of Florence or the Troubadours of Provence. And in this curious idea I caught a glimpse of something much wider and more interesting; which is another note of the modern ignorance of the Catholic tradition. In speaking of things that people do not know, I have mostly spoken of things that are really within the ring or circle of our own knowledge; things inside the Catholic culture which they miss because they are outside it. But there are some cases in which they themselves are ignorant even of the things outside it. They themselves are ignorant, not only of the centre of civilisation which they slander, but even of the ends of the earth to which they appeal; they not only cannot find Rome on their map, but they do not even know where to look for the North Pole.

Take, for instance, that remark about the Dark Ages and the Nordic common sense. It is tenable and tolerable enough to say that the Dark Ages were a nightmare. But it is nonsense to say that the Nordic element was anything remotely resembling sense. If the Dark Ages were a nightmare, it was very largely because the Nordic nonsense made them an exceedingly Nordic nightmare. It was the period of the barbarian invasions; when piracy was on the high seas and civilisation was in the monasteries. You may not like monasteries, or the sort of civilisation that is preserved by monasteries; but it is quite certain that it was the only sort of civilisation there was. But this is simply one of the things that the Nordic gentleman does not know. He imagines that the Danish pirate was talking about Tariff Reform and Imperial Preference, with scientific statistics from Australia and Alaska, when he was rudely interrupted by a monk named Bede, who had never heard of anything but monkish fables. He supposes that a Viking or a Visigoth was firmly founded on the principles of the Primrose League and the English Speaking Union, and that everything else would have been founded on them if fanatical priests had not rushed in and proclaimed the savage cult called Christianity. He thinks that Penda of Mercia, the last heathen king, was just about to give the whole world the benefits of the British Constitution, not to mention the steam engine and the works of Rudyard Kipling, when his work was blindly ruined by unlettered ruffians with such names as Augustine and Dunstan and Anselm. And that is the little error which invalidates our Nordic friend’s importance as a serious historian; that is why we cannot throw ourselves with utter confidence and surrender into the stream of his historical enthusiasm. The difficulty consists in the annoying detail that nothing like what he is thinking about ever happened in the world at all; that the religion of race that he proposes is exactly what he himself calls the Dark Ages. It is what some scientific persons call a purely subjective idea; or in other words, a nightmare. It is very doubtful if there ever was any Nordic race. It is quite certain that there never was any Nordic common sense. The very words “common sense” are a translation from the Latin.

Now that one typical or even trivial case has a larger application. One very common form of Protestant or rationalist ignorance may be called the ignorance of what raw humanity is really like. Such men get into a small social circle, very modern and very narrow, whether it is called the Nordic race or the Rationalist Association. They have a number of ideas, some of them truisms, some of them very untrue, about liberty, about humanity, about the spread of knowledge. The point is that those ideas, whether true or untrue, are the very reverse of universal. They are not the sort of ideas that any large mass of mankind, in any age or country, may be assumed to have. They may in some cases be related to deeper realities; but most men would not even recognise them in the form in which these men present them. There is probably, for instance, a fundamental assumption of human brotherhood that is common to all humanity. But what we call humanitarianism is not common to humanity. There is a certain recognition of reality and unreality which may be called common sense. But the scientific sense of the special value of truth is not generally regarded as common sense. It is silly to pretend that priests specially persecuted a naturalist, when the truth is that all the little boys would have persecuted him in any village in the world, merely because he was a lunatic with a butterfly-net. Public opinion, taken as a whole is much more contemptuous of specialists and seekers after truth than the Church ever was. But these critics never can take public opinion as a whole. There are a great many examples of this truth; one is the case I have given, the absurd notion that a horde of heathen raiders out of the northern seas and forests, in the most ignorant epoch of history, were not likely to be at least as ignorant as anybody else. They were, of course, much more ignorant than anybody with the slightest social connection with the Catholic Church. Other examples may be found in the story of other religions. Great tracts of the globe, covered in theory by the other religions, are often covered in practice merely by certain human habits of fatalism or pessimism or some other human mood. Islam very largely stands for the fatalism. Buddhism very largely stands for the pessimism. Neither of them knows anything of either the Christian or the humanitarian sort of hope. But an even more convincing experience is to go out into the street, or into a tube or a tram, and talk to the actual cabmen, cooks and charwomen cut off from the Creed by the modern chaos. You will find that heathens are not happy, however Nordic. You will soon find that you do not need to go to Arabia for fatalism; or to the Thibetan desert for despair.

It is rather scary that Angelo Scola is receiving such a push to be the next Pope. You would think the Church had suffered enough from modernists prepared to use the Gospel as picture language for German philosophy. Although ‘picturesque’ would be rather too complementary a description of Scola’s theological prose. Scola speaks almost exclusively in a special language called hegelian-gobbledigook. He came to Oxford once to deliver one of his incomprehensible Balthasarian ramblings. There were a large number of Dominican habits in the room at the beginning. When time came for the questions there were only two left. I was subsequently told by one of them that the other had begged him to stay else if they all left it would look like a deliberate walk out. The first person to put a question was a woman who said “Archbishop Scola, I would just like to say what a wonderful address you have just given. The way I see it is that there are two gods, the god of being and the god of becoming. The whole of salvation history is the story of the search of the god of being for the god of becoming, his discovery and seduction of her and the final consummation of their union….” Scola thought for a while and then said, “Yes, I agree”. The remaining Dominican left.

In 1945 when he was liberated by the Americans, Konrad Adenauer told them that there are two Germanies: the Germany of Austria and Roman Civilisation and the Germany of Prussia, Militarism and the will-to-power. He would devote his life to ensuring the victory of the former over the latter. He also warned that if Berlin ever again became the Capital of Germany Prussia would be spiritually reborn.

Adenauer was a wily politician but in this respect he allowed his skills to defeat his objectives. The obvious way to eradicate Berlin as the capital of Germany would be to fix the capital of the Federal Republic in a more appropriate location belonging to the authentic pre-Prussian history of Germany such as Frankfurt. There was even a parliament building constructed there. But Adenauer in the end went for Bonn, a place without historic resonance and so obviously temporary. Frankfurt was an SPD town and Bonn was in Adenauer’s heartland. With the 48-49 Airlift and the fall of the Wall in 1989 Berlin acquired sufficient heroic status to shake off the stigma of Prussianism and retrieve its position as Capital of Germany.

Prussia was the first Protestant state. It was born out of the opportunistic secularisation of the lands of the Teutonic Order (not a nice organisation in the first place) by its Grand Master. Albert of Hohenzollern was invested with the Duchy of Prussia by Sigismund I the Old of Poland on 10th February 1525. Through the carelessness and impiety of the White Eagle the Black would rise to dominate Germany, devour its patron with the complicity of Russia and Austria, and in 1871 usurp the Imperial crown. As Dom Gueranger lamented,

“Christendom is no more. Upon its ruins, like a woful mimicry of the Holy Empire, Protestantism has raised its false evangelical empire, formed of nought but encroachments, and tracing its recognized origin to the apostasy of that felon knight Albert of Brandenburg.”

Finally, in 1914, under the psychotic Wilhelm II, Prussia would lead Russia and Austria (last representatives of the temporal power of Rome and Constantinople) to annihilation in the bloodbath of the Great War.

But this was not the end. After 1918 Prussia remained in the bloated condition of 1869 within the new German republic. The Black, Red and Gold flag of Austria and the Liberal Nationalists was adopted but when the Nazis came to power the Black, White and Red of 1871 was restored. In early 1933 faced with deadlock between the new Nazi led government and the Reichstag, President Hindenburg dissolved the legislature and called new elections. In the meantime the Reichstag building in Berlin was set on fire either by a Dutch Communist or by the Nazi’s themselves (opinion remains divided). Hitler needed to win the confidence of the old Prussian military establishment if he was to win for himself dictatorial powers. Hindenburg had already suspended normal protections from arbitrary arrest in response to the fire. Hitler chose to hold the inaugural session of the new chamber in the Garrison Church in Potsdam the burial place of Frederick William I and Frederick II (the embodiment of amoral Prussian statecraft). He wore mourning clothes and behaved with extravagant deference to Hindenburg.

Two days later he managed to push the Enabling Act through the Reichstag giving him dictatorial powers for four years. On the day before the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934 it was decreed by the cabinet that the office of President would lapse and Hitler would become head of state and government as Leader and Chancellor of the German Reich. The army swore a personal oath of loyalty to him in this capacity. This final fateful act was un-elicited and not expected by Hitler.

The Garrison Church in Potsdam was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945 and the ruins later demolished. On 14th April 2005, the anniversary of its destruction, a new foundation stone was laid. New bells have already been cast for the church and temporarily mounted. They have interesting names such as: East Prussia, Königsberg, Silesia, Breslau, Pomerania and Stettin. Its reopening is scheduled for 31st October 2017 the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation.

Sicut canis qui revertitur ad vomitum suum, sic imprudens qui iterat stultitiam suam.