The roots of the power idea
The origin of religious conceptions
Animism and fetishism
The feeling of dependence
Effect of terrestrial power on the shape of religious consciousness
Religion and slavery
The religious foundations of all rulership
The laws of Manu
The Persian divine kingdom
Alexander and Caesaropapism
Caesarism in Rome
Power and the priesthood
Church and State
Mussolini and the Vatican
Fascism and Religion
In all epochs of that history which is known to us, two forces are apparent that are in constant warfare. Their antagonism, open or veiled, results from the intrinsic difference between the forces themselves and between the activities in which they find expression. This is clear to anyone who approaches the study of human social structures without ready-formulated hypotheses or fixed schemes of interpretation, especially to anyone who sees that human objectives and purposes are not subject to mechanical laws, as are cosmic events in general. We are speaking here of the political and economic elements in history, which could also be called the governmental and social elements. Strictly speaking, the concepts of the political and the economic are in this case conceived somewhat too narrowly; for in the last analysis, all politics has its roots in the religious concepts of men, while everything economic is of a cultural nature, and is consequently in the most intimate relationship with the valuecreating forces of social life; so that we are plainly compelled to speak of an inner opposition between religion and culture.
Political and economic, governmental and social, or, in a larger sense, religious and cultural manifestations, have many points of contact: they all spring from human nature, and consequently there are between them inner relations. We are here simply concerned to get a clearer view of the connection which exists between these manifestations. Every political form in history has its definite economic foundations which are especially marked in the later phases of social advancement. On the other hand, it is undeniable that the forms of politics are subject to the changes in the conditions of economic and general cultural life, and with them assume new aspects. But the inner character of all politics always remains the same, just as the inner character of each and every religion never changes, despite the alteration of its outward form.
Religion and culture have their roots in man's instinct of self-preservation, which endows them with life and form; but, once come to life, each follows its own course, since there are no organic ties between them, so that, like antagonistic stars, they pursue opposite directions. One who overlooks this antagonism or, for whatever reason, fails to give it the consideration it deserves, will never be able to see clearly the inner concatenation of social events.
As to where the realm of religion proper begins, opinions are divided to this day; but it is fairly agreed that the foundation of man's religious concepts is not to be found in speculative philosophy. We have come to recognise that Hegel's notion, that all religion merely demonstrates the elevation of the spirit to the Absolute, and therefore tries to find the union of the human with the divine, can only be regarded as an empty figure of speech which in no way explains the origin of religion. The "Philosopher of the Absolute," who endows every nation with a special historical mission, is equally arbitrary when he asserts that every people in history is the bearer of a typical form of religion: the Chinese of the religion of moderation, the Chaldeans of the religion of pain, the Greeks of the religion of beauty, and so on, until at last the line of religious systems ends in Christianity, "the revealed religion," whose communicants recognise in the person of Christ the union of the human with the divine.
Science has made men more critical. We realise now that all research into the origin and gradual shaping of religion must use the same methods which today serve sociology and psychology in trying to comprehend the phenomena of social and mental life in their beginnings.
The once widely held view of the English philologist, Max Muller, who thought he recognised in religion man's innate urge to explain the Infinite, and who maintained that the impress of the forces of nature released the first religious feelings in man, and that consequently one could not go wrong in regarding nature worship as the first form of religion, hardly finds adherents today. Most of the present leaders of ethnological religious research are of the opinion that animism, the belief in the ghosts and souls of the departed, is to be regarded as the first stage of religious consciousness in man.
The whole mode of life of nomadic primitive man, his relative ignorance, the mental influence of his dream pictures, his lack of understanding when confronted with death, the compulsory fasts he often had to endure all this made him a natural born clairvoyant, with whom the belief in ghosts lay, so to speak, in his blood. What he felt when confronted with the ghosts with which his imagination peopled the world, was primarily fear. This fear troubled him all the more as he was here confronted, not with an ordinary enemy, but with unseen forces which could not be met by simple means. From this arose quite spontaneously the desire to secure the good will of those powers, to escape their wiles and earn their favour by whatever means. It is the naked urge for self-preservation of primitive man which here finds expression.
From animism sprang fetishism, the idea that the ghost dwelt in some object or at a certain place, a belief which even today continues to live in the superstitious notions of civilised men, who are firmly convinced that ghosts walk and talk and that there are places which are haunted. The religious ritual of Lamaism and that of the Catholic Church are also in their essence fetishism. As to whether animism and the first crude concepts of fetishism can already be regarded as religion, opinions differ; but that here is to be sought the starting point of all religious concepts can hardly be doubted.
Religion proper begins with the alliance between "ghost" and man which finds expression in ritual. For primitive man, the "ghost" or the "soul" is no abstract idea, but a completely corporeal concept. It is, therefore, quite natural that he should try to impress the spirits by concrete proofs of his veneration and submission. Thus arose in his brain the idea of sacrifice and, as repeated experience proved to him that the life of the slain animal or enemy departed with the streaming blood, he early learned to recognise that blood is indeed "a most peculiar juice." This recognition also gave the idea of sacrifice a specific character. The bloodoffering was certainly the first form of the rite of sacrifice and was, moreover, necessitated by the primitive huntsman's life. The idea of the blood offering, which was doubtless among the oldest products of religious consciousness, persists in the great religious systems of the present. The symbolic transmutation of bread and wine in the Christian Eucharist into the "flesh and blood" of Christ is an example of this.
Sacrifice became the central point of all religious usages and festivities, which manifested themselves also in incantation, dance and song, and gradually congealed into specific rituals. It is very likely that the offering of sacrifice was at first a purely personal affair and that each could make the offering suited to his need, but this condition probably did not last long before it was replaced by a professional priesthood of the type of the medicine men, Shamans, Gangas, and so on. The development of fetishism into totemism, by which name, after an Indian word, we call the belief in a tribal deity, usually embodied in the form of an animal from which the tribe derived its origin, has especially favoured the evolution of a special magicianpriesthood. With that, religion took on a social character which it did not have before.
When we regard religion in the light of its own gradual evolution, we recognise that two phenomena constitute its essence: Religion is primarily the feeling of man's dependence on higher, unknown powers. To see ways and means to make these powers favourably inclined toward him end to protect himself from their harmful influences, man is impelled by the instinct of self-preservation. Thus arises ritual, which gives to religion its external character.
That the idea of sacrifice can be traced back to the custom, prevailing in the primitive human institutions and organisations of primeval times, of giving the tribal leaders and chiefs voluntary or compulsory presents, is an assumption which has some possibility. The assertion that primitive man without this institution would never have arrived at the idea of sacrifice seems to us too bold.
Religious concepts could only originate when the question of the why and how of things arose in the brain of man. But this presupposes considerable mental development. It is, therefore, to be assumed that a long period had to pass before this question could engage him. The concept which primeval man forms of the world around him, is primarily of a sensuous nature; just as a child recognises the objects of his environment primarily sensuously and uses them long before any question concerning their origin arises in him. Furthermore, with many savage people it remains today the custom to let the ghosts of the departed ones participate at meals, just as nearly all of the festivities of primitive tribes are connected with sacrificial rites. Therefore, it is quite possible that the idea of sacrifice could have arisen without any preceding related social custom.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that in every religious system which made its appearance in the course of millenniums there was mirrored the dependency of man upon a higher power which his own imagination had called into being and whose slave he had become. All gods had their time, but religion itself, in the core of its being, has always remained the same despite all changes in its outward form. Always it is the illusion to which the real essence of man is offered as a sacrifice; the creator becomes the slave of his own creature without ever becoming conscious of the tragedy of this. Only because there has never been any change in the inmost essence of all and every religion could the well known German religious teacher, Koenig, begin his book for instruction in the Catholic religion with these words: "Religion in general is the recognition and veneration of God and specifically of the relationship of man to God as his supreme ruler."
Thus was religion even in its poor primitive beginning most intimately intergrown with the idea of might, of supernatural superiority, of power over the faithful, in one word, of rulership. Modern philology has, accordingly, in numerous instances been able to prove that even the names of the various divinities were in their origins expressions of the concepts in which the idea of power was embodied. Not without reason do all advocates of the principle of authority trace its origin back to God. For does not the Godhead appear to them the epitome of all power and strength? In the very earliest myths the heroes, conquerors, lawgivers, tribal ancestors appear as gods or demigods; for their greatness and superiority could only have divine origin. Thus we arrive at the foundations of every system of rulership and recognise that all politics is in the last instance religion, and as such tries to hold the spirit of man in the chains of dependence.
Whether religious feeling is already in its earliest beginnings only an abstract reflection of terrestrial institutions of power, as Nordau and others maintained, is a question which is open to discussion. Those who regard the original condition of mankind as one of "war of all against all," as Hobbes and his numerous followers have done, will be readily inclined to see in the malevolent and violent character of the original deities a faithful counterpart of the despotic chieftains and warlike leaders who kept both their own tribesmen and strangers in fear and terror. It is not so long since we saw the present "savages" in a quite similar light, as cunning and cruel fellows ever set on murder and rapine, until the manifold results of modern ethnology in all parts of the world gave us proof of how fundamentally false this concept is.
That primitive man did as a rule picture his spirits and gods as violent and terrible need not necessarily be traced to earthly models. Everything unknown (incomprehensible to the simple mind) affects the spirit as uncanny and fearsome. It is only a step from the uncanny to the gruesome, to the horrible, the frightful. This must have been all the more true in those longvanished ages when man's imaginative power was uninfluenced by the millenniums of accumulated experience which could fit him for logical counterargument. But even if we are not compelled to trace every religious concept to some exercise of earthly power, it is a fact that in later epochs of human evolution the outer forms of religion were frequently determined by the power needs of individuals or small minorities in society.
Every instance of rulership of particular human groups over others was preceded by the wish to appropriate the product of labour, the tools, or the weapons of those others or to drive them from some territory which seemed more favourable for the winning of a livelihood. It is very probable that for a long time the victors contented themselves with this simple form of robbery and, when they met resistance, simply massacred their opponents. But gradually it was discovered that it was more profitable to exact tribute from the vanquished or to subject them to a new order of things by ruling over them; thereby laying the foundation for slavery. This was all the easier as mutual solidarity extended only to members of the same tribe and found its limits there. All systems of rulership were originally foreign rulerships, where the victors formed a special privileged class and subjected the vanquished to their will. As a rule it was nomadic hunter tribes which imposed their rule upon settled and agricultural people. The calling of the hunter, which constantly makes great demands on man's activity and endurance, makes him by nature more warlike and predatory. But the farmer who is tied to his acre, and whose life as a rule runs more peacefully and less dangerously, is in most cases no friend of violent dispute. He is, therefore, seldom equal to the onset of warlike tribes and submits comparatively easily if the foreign rule is not too oppressive.
Once the victor has tasted the sweets of power and learned to value the economic advantages which it gives, he is easily intoxicated by his practice of power. Every success spurs him on to new adventures, for it is in the nature of all power that its possessors constantly strive to widen the sphere of their influence and to impose their yoke on weaker peoples. Thus gradually a separate class evolved whose occupation was war and rulership over others. But no power can in the long run rely on brute force alone. Brutal force may be the immediate means for the subjugation of men, but alone it is incapable of maintaining the rule of the individual or of a special caste over whole groups of humanity. For that more is needed; the belief of man in the inevitability of such power, the belief in its divinely willed mission. Such a belief is rooted deeply in man's religious feelings and gains power with tradition, for above the traditional hovers the radiance of religious concepts and mystical obligation.
This is the reason why the victors frequently imposed their gods upon the vanquished, for they recognised very clearly that a unification of religious rites would further their own power. It usually mattered little to them if the gods of the vanquished continued to be on show so long as this was not dangerous to their leadership, and so long as the old gods were assigned a role subordinate to that of the new ones. But this could only happen when their priests favoured the rulership of the victors or themselves participated in the drive for political power, as often happened. Thus it is easy to prove the political influence on the later religious forms of the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, and many others. And just as easily can the famous monotheism of the Jews be traced to the struggle for the political unification of the arising monarchy.
All systems of rulership and dynasties of antiquity derived their origin from some godhead, and their possessors soon learned to recognise that the belief of their subjects in the divine origin of the ruler was the one unshakeable foundation of every kind of power. Fear of God was always the mental preliminary of voluntary subjection. This alone is necessary; it forms the eternal foundation of every tyranny under whatever mask it may appear. Voluntary subjection cannot be forced; only belief in the divinity of the ruler can create it. It has, therefore, been up to now the foremost aim of all politics to awaken this belief in the people and to make it a mental fixture. Religion is the prevailing principle in history; it binds the spirit of man and forces his thought into definite forms so that habitually he favours the continuation of the traditional and confronts every innovation with misgivings. It is the inner fear of falling into a bottomless abyss which chains man to the old forms of things as they are. That determined champion of the principle of absolute power, Louis de Bonald, understood the connection between religion and politics very well when he wrote the words: "God is the sovereign power over all things; the godman is the power over all mankind; the head of the state is the power over the subjects; the head of the family is the power in his own house. But as all power is made in the image of God and originates with God, therefore all power is absolute."
All power has its roots in God, all rulership is in its inmost essence divine. Moses received directly from the hand of God the tables of the law, which begin with the words: "I am the Lord, thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me," and which sealed the covenant of the Lord with his people. The famous stone on which the laws of Hammurabi are recorded, which have carried the name of the Babylonian king through the millenniums, shows us Hammurabi before the face of the sun god Chamasch. The introduction which precedes the statement of the law begins thus:
When Anu, the exalted, the king of the Anunnaki, and Bel, the lord of heaven and earth, who carries the destiny of the world in his hand, partitioned the masses of mankind to Marduk, the firstborn of Ea, the divine lord of the law, they made him great among the Igigi. In Babylon they proclaimed his exalted name, which is praised in all lands which they have destined to him for his kingdom, and which is eternal as are heaven and earth. Afterwards Anu and Bel made glad the body of mankind when they called upon me, the glorious ruler and godfearing Hammurabi, that I may establish justice upon earth, destroy the wicked and the ruthless, ward off the strong and succour the weak, reign like the sun god over the destiny of blackhaired men and illumine the land.
In Egypt, where the religious cult under the influence of a powerful priestly caste had shown its power in all social institutions, the deification of the ruler had assumed quite uncanny forms. The Pharaoh, or priest-king, was not alone the representative of God on earth, he was himself a god and received godlike honours. Already in the age of the first six dynasties the kings were regarded as sons of the sun god, Ra. Chufu (Cheops), in whose reign the great pyramids were built, called himself "the incarnate Horus." In a vaulted cave at Ibrim, King Amenhotep III was pictured as a god in a circle of other gods. This same ruler also built a temple at Soleb where religious veneration was offered to his own person. When his successor, Amenhotep IV, later on prohibited in Egypt the veneration of any other god, and raised the cult of the radiant sun god, Aton, who became alive in the person of the king, to the dignity of a state religion, it was doubtless political motives which moved him to it. The unity of faith was to be made to render postchaise service to the unity of earthly power in the hands of the Pharaohs.
In the old Hindu lawbook of Manu it is written:
God has made the Icing that he may protect creation. For this purpose he took parts from Indra, from the winds, from Jama, from the sun, from fire, from the heavens, from the moon and from the lord of creation. Therefore, since the king has been created from parts of these lords of the gods, his glory outshines the splendor of all created beings, and like the sun he blinds the eye and the heart, and no one can look into his face. He is fire and air, sun and moon. He is the god of right, the genius of riches, the ruler of the floods and the commander of the firmament.
In no other country outside of Egypt and Tibet has an organised priestcraft attained to such power as in India. This has left its impress on the whole social evolution of the enormous land, and by the cunning caste division of the whole population, pressed all events into iron forms, which have proved the more enduring because they are anchored in the traditions of faith. Quite early the Brahmans entered into a compact with the warrior caste to share with it the rulership of the people of India, wherein the priestcaste was always careful to see that the real power remained in their hands, that the king remained a tool of their desires. Priests and warriors were both of divine origin, the Brahmans sprang from the head of Brahma, the warriors from Brahma's breast. Both had the same objective and the law commanded: "The two castes must act in unison, for neither can do without the other." In this manner arose the system of CaesaroPapism, in which the union of religious and political lust for power found its fullest expression.
In ancient Persia, also, the ruler was the living incarnation of divinity. When he entered a town he was received by the Magi in white garments and with the chanting of religious songs. The road along which he was carried was strewn with myrtle branches and roses and on the side stood silver altars on which incense was burned. His power was unlimited, his will the highest law, his command irrevocable, as stated in the Zendavesta) the sacred book of the old Persians. Only on rare occasions did he show himself to the people, and when he appeared all had to grovel in the dust and hide their faces.
In Persia, also, there were castes and an organised priestly class, which, while it did not have the omnipotent power of that of India, was, nevertheless, the first caste in the land, whose representatives, as the closest council of the king, always had the opportunity to make their influence felt and definitely to affect the destiny of the realm. Concerning the parts played by the priests in the social order, we are informed by a passage in the Zendavesta which reads:
Though your good works were more numerous than the leaves of the trees, the drops of rain, the stars in heaven, or the sands of the sea, they would not profit you, if they were not pleasing to the Destur (priest). To gain the favour of this guide on the way of salvation you must faithfully give to him the tithe of all you possess, of your goods, of your land, and of your money. If you have satisfied the Destur, your soul will have escaped the tortures of hell, and you will find peace in this world and happiness in the one beyond; for the Desturs are teachers of religion, they know all things, and they grant absolution to all mankind.
Fuhi, whom the Chinese designate as the first ruler of the Celestial Kingdom, and who, according to their chronicles, is said to have lived about twentyeight centuries before our era, is venerated in Chinese mythology as a supernatural being and usually appears in their pictures as a man with a fish tail, looking like a Triton. Tradition acclaims him as the real awakener of the Chinese people, who, before his coming, lived in the wilderness in separate groups like packs of animals, and were only through him shown the way to a social order which had its foundation in the family and the veneration of ancestors. All dynasties which since that time have succeeded one another in the Middle Kingdom have traced their origin from the gods. The Emperor called himself the "Son of Heaven"; and since China never had an organised priestly class, the practice of the cult, in so far as it concerned the state religion, rested in the hands of the highest imperial official, who, however, influenced only the upper strata of the Chinese social order.
In Japan, the Mikado, the "High Gate," is regarded as a descendant of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who in that country is worshiped as the highest divinity. She makes known her will through the person of the ruler, and in his name she governs the people. The Mikado is the living incarnation of the godhead, wherefore his palace is called "Miya," that is, shrine of the soul. Even in the time of the Shogunate, when the leaders of the military caste for hundreds of years exercised the real rulership of the land, and the Mikado played only the part of a decorative figure, the sanctity of his person remained inviolate in the eyes of the people.
Likewise, the foundation of the mighty Inca Empire, whose obscure history has presented so many problems to modern research, is ascribed by tradition to the work of the gods. The saga recounts how Manco Capac with his wife, Ocllo Huaco, appeared one day to the natives of the high plateau of Cuzco, presented himself to them as Intipchuri, the son of the sun, and induced them to acknowledge him as their king. He taught them agriculture and brought them much useful knowledge, which enabled them to become the creators of a great culture.
In Tibet there arose under the mighty influence of a powerlustful priestcaste, that strange churchstate whose inner organization has such a curious kinship with Roman Papism. Like it, it has oral confession, the rosary, smoking censers, the veneration of relics, and the tonsure of the priest. At the head of the state stands the Dalai-Lama and the Bogdo-Lama, or Pentschenrhinpotsche. The former is regarded as the incarnation of Gautama, the sacred founder of the Buddhist religion; the latter as the living personification of Tsongkapa, the great reformer of Lamaism to him, even as to the Dalai Lama, divine honours are offered, extending even to his most intimate physical products.
Genghis Khan, the mighty Mongol ruler, whose great wars and conquests once held half the world in terror, quite openly used religion as the chief instrument of his power policy; although he himself apparently belonged in the class of "enlightened despots." His own tribe regarded him as a descendant of the sun, but as in his enormous realm, which extended from the banks of the Dnieper to the Chinese Sea, there lived men of the most varied religious convictions, his clever instinct recognised that his rule over the subjected nations even as over the core people of his realm, could only be confirmed through priestly power. His Sunpapacy no longer sufficed. Nestorian Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, Confucianists and Jews inhabited his lands by the million. He had to be the high priest of every religious cult. With his North-Asiastic Shamanists he cultivated magic and inquired of the oracle which manifested itself in the cracks of the shoulder blades of sheep when thrown into fire. Sundays he went to Mass, celebrated communion with wine, held discussions with Christian priests. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue and showed himselfas Chahan, as Cohen. On Fridays he held a sort of Selamik and was just as good a Caliph as, later on, the Turk in Constantinople. But preferably he was a Buddhist; held religious discourses with Lamas, and even summoned the Grand Lama of Ssatya to him; for since he intended to change the centre of his realm to Buddhistic territory in Northern Asia, he conceived the grandiose plan of setting up Buddhism as the state religion. 1
And did not Alexander of Macedonia, whom history calls "The Great," act with the same calculation, apparently animated by the same motives, as, long after, Genghis Khan? After he had conquered a world and cemented it together with streams of blood, he must have felt that such a work could not be made permanent by brute force alone. He therefore tried to anchor his rule in the religious beliefs of the conquered people. So he, "the Hellene," sacrificed to the Egyptian gods in the temple at Memphis and led his army through the burning deserts of Libya to consult the oracle of ZeusAmmon in the oasis of Siva. The compliant priests greeted him as the son of the "Great God" and offered him divine honours. Thus Alexander became a god and appeared before the Persians in his second campaign against Darius as a descendant of the mighty Zeus-Ammon. Only thus can we explain the complete subjugation of the enormous empire by the Macedonians, a thing which even the Persian kings had not been able to accomplish to the same degree.
Alexander had used this means only to further his political plans, but gradually he became so intoxicated with the thought of his godlikeness that he demanded divine honours not only from the subjected nations but even from his own countrymen, to whom such a cult must have remained strange, since they knew him only as Philip's son. The slightest opposition could goad him to madness and frequently led him into abominable crimes. His insatiable desire for ever greater extension of power, strengthened by his military successes, set aside all limits to his selfesteem and blinded him to all reality. He introduced at his court the ceremony of the Persian kings which symbolised the complete subjection of all mankind to the potent will of the despot. Indeed, in him, the "Hellene," the megalomania of barbaric tyranny achieved its most genuine expression.
Alexander was the first to transplant Caesarism and the idea of the divinity of the king to Europe, for up to now it had only prospered on Asiatic soil, where the state had developed with the least hindrance and where the relationship between religion and politics had come to earliest maturity. We must not conclude from this, however, that we are here concerned with a special proclivity of a race. The prevalence which Caesarism has since attained in Europe is patent proof that we are here dealing with a special type of the instinct of religious veneration, which, under similar circumstances, may appear among men of all races and nations. It is not to be denied, however, that its outward forms are bound up with the conditions of its social environment.
It was from the Orient, too, that the Romans took over Caesarism and developed it in a manner that can hardly be observed earlier in any other country. When Julius Caesar raised himself to the dictatorship of Rome, he tried to root his power in the religious concepts of the people. He traced the origin of his family from the gods and claimed Venus as an ancestress. His every effort was directed toward making himself the unlimited ruler of the realm and into an actual god, whom no interrelationship connected with ordinary mortals. His statue was set among those Of the seven kings of Rome, and his adherents quickly spread the rumour that the Oracle had designated him to be the sole ruler of the realm, in order to conquer the Parthians who thus far had defied the Roman power. His image was placed among those of the immortal gods of the Pompa Circensis. A statue of him was erected in the Temple of Quirinus, and on its pedestal the inscription read: "To the unconquerable god." A college was established in his honour at Luperci and special priests were appointed to serve his divinity.
Caesar's murder put a sudden end to his ambitious plans, but his successors completed his work, so that presently there shone about the emperor the aura of the godhead. They erected altars to him and rendered to him religious veneration. Caligula, who had the ambition to raise himself to the highest protective divinity of the Roman state, Capitoline Jupiter, maintained the divinity of the Caesars with these words: "Just as men, who herd sheep and oxen, are not themselves sheep and oxen, but of a nature superior to these, so are those who have been set as rulers above men, not men like the others, but gods."
The Romans, who did not find it objectionable that the leaders of their army had divine honours offered to them in the Orient and Greece, at first protested against the claim that the same should be demanded of Roman citizens, but they got used to it as quickly as did the Greeks in the time of their social decline, and subsided quietly into cowardly self-debasement. Not alone did numbers of poets and artists sound the praise of "the divine Caesar" continuously throughout the land; the people and the Senate, too, outdid themselves in cringing humility and despicable servility. Virgil in his Aeneid glorified Caesar Augustus in slavish fashion, and legions of others followed his example. The Roman astrologer, Firmicus Maternus, who lived in the reign of Constantine, declared in his work De erroribus profanarum religiosum: "Caesar alone is not dependent on the stars. He is the lord of the whole world, which he guides by the fiat of the highest gods. He, himself, belongs to the circle of the gods, whom the primal godhead has designated for the carrying on and completion of all that occurs."
The divine honours which were offered to the Byzantine emperors are even today embraced in the meaning of the word "Byzantine." In Byzantium the religious honours paid to the emperor culminated in the KowTow, an old Oriental custom which required the ordinary mortal to prostrate himself and to touch the earth with his forehead.
The Roman Empire fell in ruins. The megalomania of its rulers, which in the course of the centuries had led to the extinction of all human dignity in millions of their subjects, the horrible exploitation of all subject peoples, and the increasing corruption in the whole empire, had rotted men morally, killed their social consciousness and robbed them of all power of resistance. Thus in the long run they could not withstand the attack of the socalled "barbarians" who assailed the powerful realm from all sides. But the "Spirit of Rome," as Schlegel called it, lived on, just as the spirit of CaesaroPapism lived on after the decline of the great Eastern Empire and gradually infected the untamed young forces of the Germanic tribes whose military leaders had taken over the fateful legacy of the Caesars; and Rome lived on in the Church, which developed Caesarism in the shape of Papism to the highest perfection of power, and with persistent energy pursued the aim of converting the whole of mankind into one gigantic herd and forcing it under the sceptre of the high priest of Rome.
Animated also by the spirit of Rome were all those later efforts for political unification embodied in the German Kaiser concept: in the mighty empires of the Hapsburgs, Charles V and Philip II; in the Bourbons, the Stuarts, and the dynasties of the Czars. While the person of the ruler is no longer worshiped directly as a god, he is king "by the grace of God" and receives the silent veneration of his subjects, to whom he appears as a being of a superior order. The god concept changes in the course of time, just as the state concept has seen many changes. But the innermost character of all religion remains evermore untouched, just as the kernel of all politics has never undergone a change. It is the principle of power which the possessors of earthly and celestial authority made effective against men, and it is always the religious feeling of dependence which forces the masses to obedience. The head of the state is no longer worshiped as a god in public temples, but he says with Louis XIV, "I am the state!" But the state is the earthly providence which watches over man and directs his steps that he may not depart from the way of the law. The wielder of the force of the state is, therefore, only the high priest of a power which finds its expression in politics just as reverence for God finds it in religion.
Although the priest is the mediator between man and this higher power on which the subject feels himself dependent and which, therefore, becomes fate to him, Volney's contention that religion is the invention of the priest shoots wide of the mark; for there were religious concepts long before there was a priestly caste. It can also be safely assumed that the priest himself was originally convinced of the correctness of his understanding. But gradually there dawned on him the idea of what unlimited power the blind belief and gloomy fear of his fellowmen had put into his hands, and what benefit could accrue to him from this. Thus awoke in the priest the consciousness of power, and with this the lust for power, which grew constantly greater as the priesthood became more and more definitely a separate caste in society. Out of the lust for power there developed the "will to power," and with that there evolved in the priesthood a peculiar need. Impelled by this, they tried to direct the religious feelings of believers into definite courses and so to shape the impulses of their faith as to make them serve the priestly quest for power.
All power was at the outset priestly power and in its inmost essence has remained so till this day. Ancient history knows many instances where the role of the priest fused with that of the ruler and lawgiver in one person. Even the derivation of countless lordly titles from names in which the priestly function of their former bearers is clearly revealed, points with certainty to the common origin of religious and temporal power. Alexander Ular hit the nail on the head when he said in his brilliant essay, "Politics," that the Papacy never engaged in temporal politics, but that every temporal ruler has always tried to play papal politics. This is also the reason why every system of government, without distinction of form, has a certain basic theocratic character.
Every church is constantly striving to extend the limits of its power, and to plant the feeling of dependence deeper in the hearts of men. But every temporal power is animated by the same desire, so in both cases the efforts take the same direction. Just as in religion God is everything and man nothing, so in politics the state is everything, the subject nothing. The two maxims of celestial and earthly authority, "I am the Lord thy God!" and "Be ye subject unto authority!" spring from the same source and are united as are the Siamese twins.
The more man learned to venerate in God the epitome of all perfection, the deeper he sankhe, the real creator of Godinto a miserable earthworm, into a living incarnation of all earthly nullity and weakness. The theologian and scribe never tired of assuring him that he was "a sinner conceived in sin," who could only be saved from eternal damnation by a revelation of God's commandments and strict obedience to them. And when the former subject and present citizen endowed the state with all the qualities of perfection, he degraded himself to an impotent and childish puppet on whom the legal pundits and statetheologians never ceased to impress the shameful conviction that in the core of his being he was afflicted with the evil impulses of the born transgressor, who could only be guided on the path of officially defined virtue by the law of the state. The doctrine of original sin is fundamental not only in all the great religious systems, but in every theory of the state. The complete degradation of man, the fateful belief in the worthlessness and sinfulness of his own nature, has ever been the firmest foundation of all spiritual and temporal authority. The divine "Thou shalt!" and the governmental "Thou must!" complement each other perfectly: commandment and law are merely different expressions of the same idea.
This is the reason why no temporal power up to now has been able to dispense with religion, which is in itself the fundamental assumption of power. Where the rulers of the state opposed for political reasons a certain form of religious system, it was always easy to introduce some other systems of belief more favourable to their purposes. Even the so-called "enlightened rulers," who themselves were infidels, were no exception to this rule. When Frederick II of Prussia declared that in his kingdom "everyone could be saved according to his own fashion," he assumed, of course, that such salvation would in no wise conflict with his own powers. The much lauded toleration of the great Frederick would have looked quite different if his subjects, or even a part of them, had conceived the idea that their salvation might be won by lowering the royal dignity, or by disregarding his laws, as the Dukhobors tried to do in Russia.
Napoleon I, who as a young artillery officer had called theology a "cesspool of every superstition and confusion" and had maintained that "the people should be given a handbook of geometry instead of a catechism" radically changed his point of view after he had made himself Emperor of the French. Not only that; according to his own confession, he for a long time flirted with the idea of achieving world rulership with the aid of the pope; he even raised the question whether a state could maintain itself without religion. And he himself gave the answer: "Society cannot exist without inequality of property and the inequality not without religion. A man who is dying of hunger, next to one who has too much, could not possibly reconcile himself to it if it were not for a power which says to him: 'It is the will of God that here on Earth there must be rich and poor, but yonder, in eternity, it will be different.'
The shameless frankness of this utterance comes all the more convincingly from a man who himself believed in nothing, but who was clever enough to recognise that no power can in the long run maintain itself if it is not capable of taking root in the religious consciousness of mankind.
The close connection between religion and politics is, however, not confined to the fetishist period of the state, when public power still found its highest expression in the person of the absolute monarch. It would be a bitter illusion to assume that in the modern law of the constitutional state this relationship had been fundamentally altered. Just as in later religious systems the god idea became more abstract and impersonal, so has the concept of the state lost most of its concrete character as personified in the single ruler. But even in those countries where the separation of church and state had been publicly accomplished, the interrelation between the temporal power and religion as such has in no way been changed. However, the present possessors of power have frequently tried to concentrate the religious impulses of their citizens exclusively on the state, in order that they might not have to share their power with the church.
It is a fact that the great pioneers of the modern constitutional state have emphasised the necessity of religion for the prosperity of the governmental power just as energetically as did formerly the advocates of princely absolutism. Thus, Rousseau, who in his work, The Social Contract, inflicted such incurable wounds on absolute monarchy, declared quite frankly:
In order that an evolving people should learn to value the sacred fundamentals of statecraft, and obey the elementary principles of state law, it is necessary that the effect should become cause. The social spirit which would be the result of the constitution would have to play the leading part in the creation of the constitution, and men, even before the establishment of the laws, would have to be that which they would become through these laws. But since the lawgiver can neither compel nor convince, he must needs take refuge in a higher authority which, without external pressure, is able to persuade men and enthuse them without having to convince them. This is the reason why the founding fathers of the nation have at all times felt compelled to take refuge in heaven and to honour the gods for reasons of politics. Thus would men, who are subject to both the laws of the state and those of nature, voluntarily be obedient to the power which has formed both man and the state, and understandingly carry the burden which the fortune of the state imposes on them. It is this higher understanding, transcending the mental vision of ordinary men, whose dictum the legislator puts into the mouth of the godhead, thus carrying along by respect for a higher power those who are not submissive to human wisdom. 2
Robespierre followed the advice of the master to the letter and sent the Hebertists and the socalled "Enrages" to the scaffold because their antireligious propaganda, which was really antichurch, lowered the regard for the state and undermined its moral foundation. The poor Hebertists! They were just as firm believers as the "Incorruptible" and his Jacobin church congregation, but their venerationurge moved along different lines, and they would acknowledge no higher power than the state, which to them was the holiest of holies. They were good patriots, and when they spoke of the "Nation," they were enflamed by the same religious ardour as the pious Catholic when he speaks of his God. But they were not the legislators of the country, and consequently they lacked that famous "higher understanding" which, according to Rousseau, transcends the mental grasp of ordinary men and whose decision the legislator is careful to have confirmed from the mouth of the godhead.
Robespierre, of course, possessed this "higher understanding." He felt himself to be the lawgiver of "the Republic, one and indivisible"; consequently he called atheism "an aristocratic affair," and its adherents, hirelings of William Pitt. Just so today, in order to excite the horror of the faithful, do the partisans of Bolshevism denounce as "counter-revolutionary" every idea which does not suit them. In times of excitement such a designation is deadly dangerous and tantamount to "Strike him dead; he has blasphemed against God!" This the Hebertists, too, had to learn, as so many before and after them. They were believers, but not orthodox believers; consequently the guillotine had to convince them as formerly the stake did the heretics.
In his great speech before the convention in defence of the belief in a higher being Robespierre hardly developed an original thought. He referred to Rousseau's Social Contract, on which he commented in his usual longwinded manner. He felt the necessity of a state religion for Republican France, and the cult of the Supreme Being was to serve him by putting the wisdom of his policy in the mouth of the new godhead, and endowing it with the halo of the divine will.
The Convention resolved to publish that speech all over France, to translate it into all languages, thus giving the abominable doctrine of atheism a deadly blow, and to announce to the world the true confession of faith of the French people. The Jacobin Club in Paris made haste to announce its veneration of the Supreme Being in a special memorial declaration. Its content, like that of Robespierre's speech, was rooted completely in Rousseau's ideas. It referred with special gusto to a passage in the Fourth Book of the Social Contract which said:
There exists consequently a purely civic confession of faith and the settling of its Articles is exclusively a matter for the head of the state. It is here a question not so much of religious doctrine as of universal views without whose guidance one can be neither a good citizen nor a faithful subject. Without being able to compel anyone to believe in them, the state can banish anyone who does not believe, not as a godless one, but as one who has violated the Social Contract and is incapable of loving the law and justice with his whole heart, incapable in case of necessity of sacrificing his life to his duty. If anyone, after the public acceptance of these civic articles of faith, announces himself as an infidel, he deserves the death penalty, for he has committed the greatest of all crimes. He has knowingly perjured himself in the face of the law.
The young French Republic was a hardly established power, still without tradition, which had, besides, arisen from the overthrow of an old system of rulership whose deeply rooted institutions were still alive in large sections of the people. It was, therefore, incumbent on her more than on any other state to establish her young power in the religious consciousness of the people. It is true that the wielders of the young power had endowed the state with divine qualities and had raised the cult of the "Nation" to a new religion which had filled France with wild enthusiasm. But that had happened in the intoxication of the great Revolution, whose fierce tempests were to have shattered the old world. This ecstasy could not last forever, and the time was to be anticipated when increasing sobriety would make a place for critical consideration. For this new religion lacked somethingtradition, one of the most important elements in the structure of religious consciousness. It was, therefore, only an act for reasons of state, when Robespierre drove the "Goddess of Reason" from the temple and replaced her by the cult of the "Supreme Being," thus procuring for "the Republic, one and indivisible," the necessary saintly halo.
Recent history, too, shows typical examples of this sort. We need only think of Mussolini's compact with the Catholic Church. Robespierre had never denied the existence of God, neither had Rousseau. Mussolini, however, was a pronounced atheist and a grim opponent of all religious belief; and fascism, true to the anticlerical traditions of the Italian bourgeoisie, appeared at first as a decided opponent of the church. But as a clever statetheologian, Mussolini soon recognised that his power could only have permanence if he succeeded in rooting it in the feeling of dependence of his subjects, and in giving it an outward religious character. With this motive he shaped the extreme nationalism into a new religion, which in its egotistical exclusiveness, and in its violent separation from all other human groups, recognised no higher ideal than the fascist state and its prophet, II Duce.
Like Robespierre, Mussolini felt that his doctrine lacked tradition, and that his young power was not impressive. This made him cautious. The national tradition in Italy was not favourable to the church. It had not yet been forgotten that the Papacy had once been one of the most dangerous opponents of national unification, which had only been successful after an open conflict with the Vatican. But the men of the Risorgimento, the creators of Italy's national unity, were no antireligious zealots. Their politics were anticlerical because the attitude of the Vatican had forced them to it. They were no atheists. Even that grim hater of the clergy, Garibaldi, who in the introduction to his memoirs has written the words: "The priest is the personification of the lie; but the liar is a robber, and the robber a murderer, and I could prove other damnable attributes of the priesthood"even Garibaldi was not only, as shown by his nationalist endeavours, a deeply religious man, but his whole concept of life was rooted in a belief in God. And so the seventh of his Twelve Articles which in I867 were submitted to the Congress of the "League for Peace and Freedom" in Geneva, runs as follows: "The Congress adopts the religion of God, and each of its members obligates itself to aid in spreading it over all the earth."
And Mazzini, the leader of Young Italy, and next to Garibaldi the foremost figure in the struggle for national unity, was in the depths of his soul permeated with the deepest religious belief. His whole philosophy was a curious mixture of religious ethics and national-political aspirations which, in spite of their democratic exterior, were of a thoroughly autocratic nature. His slogan, "God and the People," was strikingly characteristic of his aim, for the nation was to him a religious concept which he strove to confine within the frame of a political church.
Mussolini, however, and with him the numerous leaders of Italian fascism, did not find themselves in this enviable position. They had been grim antagonists, not only of the church, but of religion as such. Such a record constitutes a heavy loadespecially in a country whose capital has been for hundreds of years the centre of a mighty church, with thousands of agencies at its disposal which, on orders from above, were always ready to keep actively alive in the people the memory of the notorious past of the head of the fascist state. It was therefore advisable to come to an understanding with this power. That was not easy, because between the Vatican and the Italian state stood the twentieth of September, 1870, when the troops of Victor Emmanuel marched into Rome and put an end to the temporal power of the Papal States. But Mussolini was ready for any sacrifice. To purchase peace with the Vatican, he recreated, though in diminutive form, the Papal States. He recompensed the Pope financially for the injustice which had once been done to one of his predecessors, he recognised Catholicism as the state religion, and delivered to the priesthood a considerable part of the public educational institutions.
It was surely no religious or moral reason which moved Mussolini to this step, but sober considerations of political power. He needed moral support for his imperialistic plans and could but be especially concerned to remove the suspicion with which the other countries regarded him. Consequently, he sought contact with the power which had up to now weathered all the storms of time and whose mighty worldencircling organization could under certain circumstances prove very dangerous to him. Whether he had the best of the bargain is a question which does not concern us here. But the fact that it had to be exactly the "almighty Duce", who opened again the gates of the Vatican and put an end to the "imprisonment of the Popes," is one of the grotesques of history and will keep the name of Mussolini alive longer than anything else which is associated with it. Even fascism had finally to recognise that on castor oil, assassination and pogroms however necessary such things may seem for the fascist state in its inner politicsno permanent power can be founded. Consequently, Mussolini forgot for the time being the "fascist miracle," from which the Italian people was said to have been reborn, in order that "Rome might for the third time become the heart of the world." He sought contact with the power which has its secret strength in the millennial tradition, and which, as a result, was so hard to undermine.
In Germany, where the leaders of victorious fascism had neither the adaptability nor the clever insight of Mussolini and, in stupid ignorance of the real facts, believed that the whole life of a people could be changed at the whim of their anaemic theories, they had to pay dearly for their mistake. However, Hitler and his intellectual advisers did recognise that the socalled "totalitarian state" must have root in the traditions of the masses in order to attain permanence; but what they called tradition was partly the product of their sickly imagination, and partly concepts which had been dead in the minds of the people for many centuries. Even gods grow old and must die and be replaced by others more suitable to the religious needs of the times. The oneeyed Wotan and the lovely Freia with the golden apples of life are but shadow patterns of longpast ages which no "myth of the twentieth century" can awaken to new life. Consequently, the illusion of a new "German Christianity on a Germanic basis" was infinitely absurd and shamefully stupid.
It was by no means the violent and reactionary character of Hitler's policy that caused hundreds of Catholic and Protestant clergy to oppose the Gleichschaltung of the church. It was the certain recognition that this brainless enterprise was irrevocably doomed to suffer a setback, and they were clever enough not to assume responsibility for an adjustment which must prove disastrous to the church. It did not profit the rulers of the Third Reich to drag the obstreperous priests into concentration camps and in the bloody June days shoot down in gangster fashion some of the most prominent representatives of German Catholicism. They could not allay the storm and finally had to yield. Hitler, who had been able to beat down the whole German labour movement, numbering millions, without any opposition worth mentioning, had here bitten upon a nut he could not crack. It was the first defeat which his internal policy suffered, and its consequences cannot yet be estimated, for dictatorships are harder hit by such setbacks than any other form of government.
The leaders of the Russian Revolution found themselves confronted with a church so completely identified, in fact unified, with czarism that compromise with it was impossible; they were compelled to replace it with something else. This they did by making the collectivist state the one omniscient and omnipotent godand Lenin his prophet. He died at a quite convenient time and was promptly canonised. His picture is replacing the icon, and millions make pilgrimages to his mausoleum instead of to the shrine of some saint.
Although purely iconoclastic, such work is valuable, for it clears the ground of superstitious rubbish, making it ready for the fine structure which will be demanded when the latent spirituality of man who, as has been truly said, is in his inmost nature incurably religious, asserts itself.
The entire religious policy of the present Soviet Government is in fact only a repetition of the great Hebertist movement of the French Revolution. The activities of the League of Russian Atheists, favoured by the government, are directed solely against the old forms of the church faith but by no means against faith itself. In reality the Russian governmental atheism is a religious movement, with this difference that the authoritarian and religious principles of revealed religion have been transferred to the political field. The famous antireligious education of the Russian youth, which has aroused the united protest of all church organisations, is in reality a strictly religious education which makes the state the centre of all religious activities. It sacrifices the natural religion of men to the abstract dogma of definite political fundamentals established by the state. To disturb these fundamentals is as much taboo in modern Russia as were the efforts of heresy against the authority of the old church. Political heresy finds no warmer welcome from the representative of the Russian State dictatorship than did religious heresy from the papal church. Like every other religion, the political religion of the Bolshevist state has the effect of confirming man's dependence on a higher power, and perpetuating his mental slavery.