Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy observed that moderns are as inclined to divine service and attachment to gods as the benighted premoderns they mock. He doesn’t mean it as a metaphor:

“what is meant here by the inclusive title divine service embraces all sociologists. All sociologists cultivate a form of divine service. . . . Sigmund Freud had an Aphrodite on his writing desk; and already the third or fourth generation swear by the words of the Master. But wherever followers swear by the words of their master, wherever a master is called to witness, gods are invoked. Marx invoked the god of the proletariat.. For gods are all the powers that outlast death; and those who abandon themselves to the politics of the great powers today, evidently worship ‘power as such’  - indeed, they appeal to it as their supreme instance. But what we appeal to, are our gods, and through them we overcome our own nonentity. The gods make us.”

That is not to say that the makers of modernity are devoted to traditional gods. Rather, in attacking the gods they assault the achievements of earlier civilizations: “The four names [Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche and Karl Marx represent the denial of the achievements of families (Freud), classes (Marx), history (Nietzsche) and of man altogether (Darwin). Darwin transferred the basic rules of becoming to a pre-human epoch—accordingly human history became an appendix to natural history. Freud uprooted the chastity rules of families and thereby destroyed the tribal phase. Nietzsche put paid to the achievement of Israel by preaching an eternal return akin to that of the stars of the pharaonic priests. Finally Marx destroyed property rights and the property of empires, because in destroying classes he also affected, without even trying, our autochthonicity.”

(From Im Kreuz der Wirklichkeit.)

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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