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The Myth of the Twentieth Century (German: Der Mythus des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts) is a book by Alfred Rosenberg, one of the principal ideologues of the Nazi party and editor of the Nazi paper Völkischer Beobachter. The titular "myth" (in the special Sorelian sense) is "the myth of blood, which under the sign of the swastika unchains the racial world-revolution. It is the awakening of the race soul, which after long sleep victoriously ends the race chaos."
The book has been described as "one of the two great unread bestsellers of the Third Reich" (the other being Mein Kampf). In private Adolf Hitler said: "I must insist that Rosenberg's "The Myth of the Twentieth Century" is not to be regarded as an expression of the official doctrine of the party.". Hitler objected to Rosenberg's paganism.
Rosenberg was inspired, on the "esoteric" plane, more distantly by the anti-Judaistic formulations of ancient Gnostic dualism, especially the aggressive anti-Judaic thrust of the Marcionite and Manichaean creeds, in medieval times resurgent in the metaphysical, cosmological schemata of Catharism, the radical dualism of the Cathar religion portraying the Jewish deity as a malignant, delusive, enslaving and materialistic lesser deity purely emblematic of the fallen condition and evil, inferior to the absolute aseity of the hyper-cosmic, hyperuranion good Good of Cathar belief. On the more "historic" plane, Rosenberg's heady, unwieldy racial philosophy attempted to synthesize, in extreme awkwardness, the medieval German Catholic philosopher Meister Eckhart, the heirs of Eckhartian mysticism, the cultural and racist theories of Arthur de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the anti-modernist, "revolutionary-conservative" ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner's Holy Grail romanticism inspired by the neo-Buddhist thesis of Arthur Schopenhauer, Haeckelian mystical vitalism, and Nordicist Aryanism in general as reference-point. Rosenberg believed that God created humankind as separate, differentiated races in a cascading hierarchy of nobility of virtue, not as separative individuals or as entities with "blank slate" natures. Rosenberg harshly rejected the idea of a "globular" mankind of homogeneity of nature as counter-factual, and asserted each biological race possesses a discrete, unique soul, claiming the Caucasoid Aryan race, with Germanic Nordics supposedly composing its vanguard elite, as qualitatively superior, in a vaguely "ontological" way, in comparison to all other ethnic and racial groupings: the Germanic Nordic Aryan as Platonic "ideal-form" of the meaning of humankind. The Myth of the Twentieth Century was conceived as a sequel to Chamberlain's The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century.
Rosenberg's racial interpretation of history concentrates on the negative influence of the Jewish race in contrast to the Aryan race. He equates the latter with the Nordic peoples of northern Europe and also includes the Berbers from North Africa and the upper classes of Ancient Egypt. According to Rosenberg, modern culture has been corrupted by Semitic influences (cf. anti-Semitism), which have produced degenerate modern art, along with moral and social degeneration. In contrast, Aryan culture is defined by innate moral sensibility and an energetic will to power. Rosenberg believed that the higher races must rule over the lower and not interbreed with them, because cross-breeding destroys the divine combination of physical heredity and spirit. He uses an organic metaphor of the race and the State and argues that the Nazis must purify the race soul by eliminating non-Aryan elements in much the same ruthless and uncompromising way in which a surgeon would cut a cancer from a diseased body.
In Rosenberg's view of world history, migrating Aryans founded various ancient civilizations which later declined and fell due to inter-marriage with lesser races. This included the Indo-Aryan civilization, ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome. He saw the ancient Germanic invasions of the Roman empire as "saving" its civilization, which had been corrupted both by race mixing and by "Judaized-cosmopolitan" Christianity. Furthermore, he noted that the persecutions of Protestants in France and other areas represented the wiping out of the last remnants of the Aryan element in those areas, a process completed by the French revolution. In contemporary Europe, he saw the northern areas that embraced Protestantism as closest to the Aryan racial and spiritual ideal.
Following H. S. Chamberlain and other völkisch theorists, he believed that Jesus was an Aryan (specifically an Amorite or Hurrian Hittite) and that original Christianity was an "Aryan" (Iranian) religion, but had been corrupted by the followers of Paul of Tarsus. The "Mythus" is very anti-Catholic, seeing the Church's cosmopolitanism and "Judaized" version of Christianity as one of the factors in Germany's spiritual bondage. Rosenberg particularly emphasizes the anti-Judaic teachings of the heresies Marcionism and "Aryo-Persian" Manicheanism as more representative of the true, "anti-Judaic" Jesus Christ and more suited to the Nordic world-view. Rosenberg saw Martin Luther and the Reformation as an important step forward toward reasserting the "Aryan spirit", but ultimately ambiguous in not having gone far enough in its founding of just another dogmatic church.
When he discussed the future of religion in the future Reich, he suggested that a multiplicity of forms be tolerated, including "positive Christianity", neo-paganism, and a form of "purified" Aryan Hinduism. He saw all these religious systems as allegorical after the manner of Schopenhauer's teaching of religion as "folk-metaphysics", and was skeptical that the Nordic gods, of which the keys of interpretation had been largely lost in involutive time, could gain a foothold in modern times, and not even conceding the desirability of the possibility.
Another myth, to which he gave "allegorical" and esoteric credence, was the hermetical idea of Atlantis, which he felt might preserve a memory of an ancient Aryan homeland:
And so today the long derived hypothesis becomes a probability, namely that from a northern centre of creation which, without postulating an actual submerged Atlantic continent, we may call Atlantis, swarms of warriors once fanned out in obedience to the ever renewed and incarnate Nordic longing for distance to conquer and space to shape.
Thanks to Nazi support, the book had sold more than one million copies by 1944. However, Adolf Hitler is said never to have read the book, and declared that it wasn't to be considered the official ideology of the Nazi Party:
|“||I must insist that Rosenberg's "The Myth of the Twentieth Century" is not to be regarded as an expression of the official doctrine of the party. The moment the book appeared, I deliberately refrained from recognizing it as any such thing. In the first place, its title gives a completely false impression... a National Socialist should affirm that to the myth of the nineteenth century he opposes the faith and science of our times... I have myself merely glanced cursorily at it.||”|
According to Konrad Heiden, Rosenberg had given the manuscript to Hitler to vet before its publication. After a year Hitler still had nothing to say. Hitler gave the still-unread work back to him saying, "I feel sure that it's all right." In his diary Joseph Goebbels called the book "I believe, very good" when he first read it.. Albert Speer however remembered that Goebbels mocked Alfred Rosenberg. Goebbels also called the book a "philosophical belch" .
Its overt statement of anti-Christian sentiment made it difficult to give Rosenberg any position of prominence when the Nazis ascended to power. Even in their stronghold Hamburg only 0.49% of the inhabitants identified as belonging to the anti-Christian neopagan faith movement (in 1937) whereas the German Christians and their Positive Christianity had a strong standing. Many of the attacks on the book after its 1930 publication came from its explicit anti-Christian message. Rosenberg wrote two supplements to the work, replying to Catholic and Protestant critics. The first, On the Dark Men of Our Times: A Reply to Critics of the Myth of the Twentieth Century, in which he acccused Catholics of attempting to destroy the national character by promoting separatism within Catholic parts of the country. His second reply. Protestant Pilgrims to Rome: The Treason Against Luther and the Myth of the Twentieth Century, argued that modern Lutheranism was becoming too close to Catholicism.
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