by Friedrich Hansen (April 2022)
Whenever a philosopher looks at God as Spinoza did, he will look at the creation of the universe in terms of the first cause or as a neutral “it.” And there is one thing an “it” cannot do and that is speak. That is the primary difference between the God of Abraham and the God of Aristotle; between the God of Judaism and the God of Deists, or Pantheists —Jonathan Sacks
Woke Crusade on De-platforming Christian traditionalism
What Sacks hints at is this: Judaism owes its honesty and sincerity to guilt culture, while Hellenist discourse is mired in lies, prevarication and shame culture, outspoken only in the safe spaces of musical tragedy. But even that is being cancelled right now in the purge visited upon the Musica seria section of Western culture by wokery. All of Russian culture is being ostracised in the West as if it were contaminated with lethal contagion. President Putin in the event is being portrayed as the ultimate “toxic male” or the anti-Messiah that wokery seems to have been waiting for. What began at academia with cancel culture is now being taken up in Western foreign politics pushed by self-declared woke US president Joe Biden. The likes of Western banks, media and big business are marching in lockstep like a Manichean cult. This is just confirming what many saw coming for quite a while: that postmodern elites are increasingly governed by binary emotions these days.
Not since Hitler and Goebbels have we seen so much vitriol and visceral hatred pouring out from the media world. In the cross hairs of LGBT activist is not only President Putin but also billionaire oligarchs, the eastern equivalent of magnates like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Peter Thiel (Paypal). In Russia all Western business outlets are being cancelled. On the other hand, Facebook after cancelling Donald Trump now eased its curbs on hate speech for the sole purpose of shaming Russia. What we are seeing is a case study in wild Spinozist fury, more about which later on, in which wokery is taking away from Russian citizens the protections of human and property rights (e.g., Roman Abramovich). Never mind that until fairly recently Ukraine has been regarded by most pundits as a failed state by contrast wokery is embracing a country from which twenty million citizens or one third of the population had fled since 1989. Today the ultra-nationalist Asov regiment prevents Ukrainians from leaving embattled cities like Mariupol. At the same time Western scattergun sanctions “achieve rather little but damage long-held British norms such as security of property and the rule of law, while imposing longer-term costs on our economy.”
At the heart of the controversy on woke-ness is whether we just submit to conformism and herd instincts or whether we dare to stand apart and think for ourselves. Or better still: whether we act as moral beings in guilt culture or remain trapped in our animal instincts of visual shame culture. Writing in 2013 the late Rabbi Sacks concluded in a treatise that England had been returned to shame culture. A similar argument has been made before by Hans Jonas with regard to Hellenist Gnosticism making a return in 1930s Europe. Greek shame culture had dominated the pagan world before the rise of Christian guilt cultures. It was back in the renaissance and again since the decadent Fin de siecle.
Deeply irritated by this state of affairs Sacks committed himself to making the case for a return to guilt culture. He deemed this necessary in order to bridge the political divide in the West of today. Quite a few writers like myself share his view that the divide turned antagonistic only with the emergence of sexual identity politics, now globally marketed as the Orange revolution. As a result, shame culture is meanwhile dominating mainstream thinking and manifests itself not least in the preference of one’s public image over the inner voice of conscience. The moral foundations of the human person are being eroded by organic groupism, first observed by George Elliot and later identified by Virginia Wolfe with the decadent era of fin de siecle Europe. The crucial thing here is the organic subjectification of morals which began with feminism.
The first casualty of this biological reductionism was the pluralist concepts of truth. As a result, we got a plethora of spiritual monisms mired in self-righteousness. This unfortunate succession of events culminated in the twin totalitarian disasters of the 20th century. Totalitarian monisms corrupted the faculty of learning from mistakes which is the religious basis of self-improvement and forgiveness.
As a result, Renaissance humanism has given way to aggressive wokery. It has more recently become the driver of cultural imperialism imposed by the Occident on the Orient. In many nations, however, the sexist attacks of the Orange revolution are met with resistance. This was the case in the Maidan clashes in Kyiv, in Warsaw, Moldavia, Tbilisi and elsewhere in the first two decades of the 21st century.
In the post-Soviet countries, by contrast, Christian-Orthodoxy has got a boost since 1989 with Eastern Europa and Russia embracing what was left of monotheist guilt culture. After generations of communist lies and collectivist propaganda, individual conscience regained ground once again. This I know from personal experience of clashes over Gay Pride in Tbilisi, Georgia, Moscow, and Verona upon my attendance at the “World Congress for Families” over the last decade.
Post-Soviet President Vladimir Putin has earned for himself a global reputation as a pro-family Christian and impeccable philosemite — contrasting the Ukrainian fascists of OUN. The Nazi-affiliated Bandera militia is still being celebrated in Kyiv today, a militia which killed tens of thousands of Jews in the 1940s. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, much hyped in the Western media, turns out to be less smart and liberal than they want us to believe. Almost by the day his image crumbles and the Ukrainian President increasingly resembles his masters by trading a democratic constitution for a one-party-rule.
Belatedly, this gives Russia’s argument of “denazification” a lot more plausibility. All the more so as fairly recently, exactly in March 2021, Nazi nostalgia in Kiev became rampant with the first commemoration of the 77th Jubilee of the creation of the Ukrainian SS Legion “Galicia” in 1943. It became infamous for its Nazi affiliation and brutal atrocities toward Jews and people that did not agree with them. Russian grievances are also concerned with the brutal Asov Battalion paramilitary troops infamous for atrocities against Russian minorities in Eastern Ukraine. From the battle fronts in Mariupol, the home turf of Asov fighters, reports reach us that these ultra-nationalists, unlike the Russian army, don’t allow civilians to flee the city and use them as human shields against the Russians. With Russian invaders’ casualties more than ten times that of Ukrainian civilians as of March 22nd (12000 vs 900) where would you look for the brutes.
Woke attack on Moral Freedom
Basically, what the Nazis did was radically build back venerable Christian institutions or what they deemed as sclerotic civilizational curbs on authentic naturalism. They knew perfectly well how to tap the wild energies of fashionable fin de siecle decadence, reframed as the robust instincts of pure Germanic blood. Thanks to the racist ontology of Martin Heidegger, authentic or existential being meant that the gloves of civilization came off. Authenticity just provided the cover for the Nazi’s reckless “coming out”: violent self-expression taking the place previously occupied by self-control. What was once based on race became denazified as gendered subjectivism. Already before the turn of the 20th century German resentment was waxing against the Puritan civilisation of self-control, denounced by them as rootless and impure. The Nazis perverted the Jewish notion of purity laws by lowering them from the auditive to the visual paradigm, a millennial paradigm shift also known as the organic turn of the decadent era.
I hope this is not what Joe Biden has in mind with his initiative of “Building Back Better”, his embrace of organic gender rather than religious laws involves an assault on what is left of the Judaeo-Christian heritage. Why else would liberals like him convince themselves that teaching small children all about sexual depravity will make the West a beacon for the world? For according to most pundits, it is not the persistence but the demise of monotheism which is driving the millennial decline of the West. Rarely has a political leader been singled out as “toxic male” like Putin and the patriarchs of Christian Orthodoxy, as some cautious voices on the current crisis have pointed out.
After all we ought not to forget that it was Russia that saved Europe from the Nazis with human losses dwarfing those of the US suffered in the East Asian theatre against Japanese racism. As a result, today, in the main synagogue of Hamburg, Germany, where I pray on Shabbat regularly as a gentile, the majority of my fellow congregants speak Russian. This is true for most of the Orthodox Jewish communities in Germany because the collapse of the Soviet Union liberated Eastern Jewry. At the same time antisemitism has returned to Europe with an intensity last seen in the 1930s and Jews are driven from West to East, not only to Israel but specifically from France to Hungary. This coincides with the return of fin de siecle primitivism over the last decades with aggressive gay pride on the march in Eastern Europe and beyond. No doubt Joe Biden’s presidency is evidence that sexual identity politics have moved from the fringes of Western society to its commanding heights, reminding us of the “long march through the institutions” of Maoist persuasion. In the universalist reading of the present condition, the rise of China is mirrored by Western decline. For with no emergent innovation to speak of other than renewable energy and digitalization, we are left with woke revisionism of Western history.
Obsessed with censorship and cancel “culture”, however, woke diversity is anything but a unifying cause and it also coincides with the spread of paedophile porn on the Web, mandatory sexual diversity training and sex change surgery for underage children. This shows us what a world of sexual identity politics looks like. Almost none of the countries of the former Soviet bloc is prepared to be part of this decadence. It is telling that they are joined by China, India, and all Muslim nations, all of which refuse to side with the West in Ukraine. Even latinised Southern and Eastern European countries are struggling to fend off wokery because they are having a Deja Vu: gender and race are made out of the same “organic” plain cloths: their biological determinism is replacing moral choice and free will.
Historically, European racism catered to the losers of the industrial revolution consoling them with lies about a generic a priori supremacy of people with a pale skin. The same is happening today with the green revolution destroying the livelihood of blue-collar workers by offering them sexual identity as status surrogates. Like the Nazis the green / gender elites keep seizing for themselves unmerited privileges through quotas and state transfer payments furnishing them with political clout and respectability. Fitting into this picture are figures like Hillary Clinton and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau by showering hard-working people with hate epithets such as deplorable, homophobe, transphobe, and misogynist.
Racial Identity Politics
It seems to be little acknowledged today that the Nazi racists were also existentialists with more than their fair share of homosexuals. They were the trail blazers for naturalist elitism by developing the kind of unmerited privileges on the basis of political pontification, intolerance, and censorship. Hitler dwelled on virtue signalling by posing not only as national champion for vegetarians, non-smokers, and closet gays but also as a lover of dogs. In a sense, this romanticism has always been a layer of Western society. It goes back to classical Greek pride-shame-and-revenge culture itself rooted in the animal worship of Egypt. In the 20th century animal worship has become a persistent feature of shame-cultural claims to superiority over the alien “other”. The same is true for wokism which goes hand in hand with substituting human offspring with animal pets. Hence identity politics, animated by the polytheism of the visual Hellenist project, has created a culture of political antagonism.
By contrast, auditive Judaism, attending to an invisible deity, exalted the inclusion of the stranger. Yet it was during the unforgiving materialist culture of the 19th century with its dangerous combination of visibility and equality that Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (1818-1882) appeared on the scene. He would replace Greek supremacism with a scientific theory on racial hierarchies. His was an attempt to neutralize the modern inferiority complex as one of the drivers of the French Revolution. About the same time in Germany the “science” of antisemitism emerged as part of petit bourgeois resentment against the Jews. This is supported by evidence furnished by the late Harvard scholar Stephen Jay Gould, who established in the 1970s that there is no scientific basis for racial (organic) identity. The same is true for gender. All we have is two natural sexes.
Among the unintended consequences of secularisation is the rejection of Judaeo-Christian empathy, tolerance, and altruistic charity for the underprivileged of which the racists took advantage. For at the root of Nazi mass psychology lies an inferiority complex, created by the eclipse of the human deed, including charitable ones. Soon enough it would be replaced by imposture, prejudice, and the cognitive conceit of racial identity politics. Being political tools of resentment, gender and race are both giving people— in advance—credit for nothing. By this they undermine the logic of any competitive order based on achievement. In addition, they are eroding the very idea of justice. Claims on social justice in the name of gender are false since it is the majority of heterosexuals who keep paying the bills anyway.
Yet here precisely lies the mobilizing power of racial as well as gender ideologies based as they are on a cognitive bias and the rejection of the charitable deed. Unfortunately, gender and race ideologies have wrought a complete inversion of Adam Smith’s formula about the beneficent division of labour which enables free market exchanges. It was once supposed to inspire the conversion of private vices into public goods. The gender revolution promoting free sexual exchange does exactly the opposite: the public good of the traditional family, the churches, and charitable works are reduced into private vices with same sex relations.
It is rarely acknowledged that radical naturalism crossed the political spectrum during the 20th century moving from the reactionary, anti-science German “interwar right” to the “post-war left.” The same is true for antisemitism which both ideologies kept alive making it palatable for political liberalism by obscuring the underlying continuity.
Sexual Animation as Pantheism
It was Baruch de Spinoza (1632-77), born Jewish and a contemporary of Rembrandt van Rijn, who delivered the sparkles for identity politics. This foremost philosopher of modernity radically lowered the Jewish God from auditive transcendence to the visible world of immanence. In his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus he claimed that the Torah was authored not by God but by human beings. This soon became known as Deism and implies that God created the universe only once and withdrew himself afterwards. The effect of this, in a nutshell, was turning the vertical of authority into a flat horizontal order of things. In the process the “One on high”, the monotheist deity, was crushed into a thousand smithereens and diluted into the many flat idols of horizontal pantheism. The German romantic Novalis called Spinoza a “god-intoxicated man”.
This allure is now being passed on to President Putin. And it is from this source that sexual identity politics is drawing blood and instigating wars. As a result, the divine blessings of love and spiritual freedom of the traditionally “centripetal” family gave way to the profanities of individual freedom and its “centrifugal” thrust of pantheism. For his breakaway pantheist “identity” Spinoza would be excommunicated from the Sephardic congregation of Amsterdam. Thus, he became the prophet of wokism and of the false liberty of centrifugal individualism.
Surely, he was introducing the game of the tangible liberties in the netherworld as the flagship of European modernity, which is most notorious for its display of the objectified female body. No doubt Spinoza’s inauguration of centrifugal identity and self-interest was commensurate with the budding market economy. Yet he also prefigured the self-consuming game of the detached individual as a diversion from the religious family. In the same vein the terms of gender and race emerged in the 19th century indicating a partial surrender of human free will to the pressure of biological determinism and undermining the whole issue of personal autonomy and democratic emancipation.
It is little known that Hitler’s foremost intellectual and influencer, Alfred Rosenberg, got hold of the intellectual legacy of Baruch de Spinoza after the Nazis overran the Netherlands in May 1940. Rosenberg was able to seize the complete estate of Spinoza in Rijnsberg near Amsterdam which allowed him to absorb the pantheist philosophy in order to prop up Hitler’s racial rhetoric. These insights form a chapter in the still unfinished account regarding the much-overlooked modernity of the Nazis. It is still contested today for various reasons, one prominent reason being the continuity of the organic turn, pantheism, and sexual identity politics. Now the terms “gender” and “race” both have a centrifugal tendency in the manner of ridding the speaker of guilt by projecting shame on others. Both are collectivist terms for the use in shame culture serving the sole purpose of eclipsing individual conscience and responsibility which once was the heart of the Judaeo-Christian person. Its unique faculty for comforting the stranger depended on its ontological dualism.
High Cultures Split Sin from Sinner
The woke message of same sex-attraction is purely emotional and is attained by numbing the natural human conscience. This exposes them to Manichean or phobic reasoning that encourages intolerance of the “other”. For it was the transition from Greek polytheism to Jewish monotheism that freed up mental space for the toleration of the stranger. This was accomplished by removing the metaphysical clutter of visual identities which always tend to infuriate. Ever since its birth, monotheism was ennobling the internalization of the other starting with the other sex. This internalisation of the other shaped the variety of inner ethical perspectives of the religious, actionable self as opposed to the outer cognitive or “identarian” self. With the Freudian innovation of libido as euphemism for human raw instincts the outer self, turned against the inner self for good, by that begetting the polytheist gods of sexual diversity and identities.
This unprecedented antireligious assault gave a boost to egoism and self-absorption, almost ruining sympathy or empathy toward others. Adam Smith’s sympathy would be substituted with postmodern “authenticity”, another word for vicious self-reference. For it is exactly this anthropological provocation which gave us derogatory epithets like homo- or transphobia, framed as organic pathologies thrown at the majority society of heterosexuals.
The critical point here is that phobias are deemed not correctable which is the same thing as negative identity. The whole point of alleged discrimination is that identity politics tend to erase the benefit of the doubt for everyone else as a matter of principle. This makes them dependent on the affirmation by “the other”, i.e., heterosexuals. It is for this reason that hate, ill will, and bad faith are pouring out of the identity crowd, the same people who keep making extra demands on others, demands for sacrifices which they themselves reject out of hand. In the end this will obliterate the Christian culture of doubt and forgiveness that carried the West through two millennia. Quite the contrary is true for identarian gays who appropriated the trope of racial discrimination, allowing them to throw their self-inflicted grievances on the rest of us. This is now playing out in foreign politics, hence the vitriol against the “toxic male” Putin.
To sum it all up: the pantheist ideology of Spinoza has captured the European imagination well through the modern centuries. His centrifugal formula Omnia animata puts an enchanted gloss on the everyday tristesse of modern existence. This explains the seemingly never dying popularity of the animal identities, derived from the astrological Zodiac. Hence it was Spinoza who singlehandedly enchanted and diversified the boring sameness of serial output in the industrial world. But Spinoza’s infatuation with visual imitation is subject to a genuine handicap: the inability to get the whole picture from what we see only in front of us.
Because of this vision has a fast exchange with imagination in order to generate compensatory inventions that make up for lacking wholeness. Hence the fondness of shame culture with fantasies, typically cherishing what is either hidden under the surface (of the sea) or far away in the skies, the stars in the firmament. Both signatures are rendering fate unapproachable and removed leaving no room for reflection and self-improvement. The same is true for sexual identity types, who almost like addicts cling to monism and conspiracy theories. As proper Spinozans they excel in the minutiae of pandemonium while lacking the sense for perspective, proportion and measure. Identity politics seem to create simplistic personalities attracted to group think and therefore negligent of inner morality. For obvious reasons they are bothering only with expressions of sexual cravings which, properly speaking, are sins detrimental to human flourishing in the long-term. In this vein the Bible betrays a concern with human resilience relevant for arguably any civilization.
Biblical revelation explains in no uncertain terms the modern loss of judgement and sense of proportion. With the eclipse of memory and prudence typical of sexual self-realisation the room for self-critique, repentance, or personal development is shrinking. Here we encounter the heart of the matter: the care for identity itself is inimical to personal change based on culpability, readiness for self-reflection—finally enabling repentance and self-improvement. Group think and rigid sexual identity have effectively taken the place of flexibility and conscientiousness. Instead, we see desperate attempts to medicalize change in terms of mechanistic surgery.
This shows the static reasoning underlying identity politics which sees sin and sinner as inseparable—an innovation brought about by Oscar Wilde in his life performance and also in his novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The unintended consequence of sexual identity politics is that it generates societal stasis. Being an invariable feature of shame cultures, it ostensibly commits people to an organic fate deprived of the richness of spiritual growth. This breeds hostility to change and lifelong learning: “In Guilt cultures, people’s actions can be bifurcated from their essence because they are capable of change and repentance. The Jewish prayer, ‘My God, the soul that You gave me is pure,’ remains true even in the face of sin or failure. This idea allows one to separate sin from sinner because one can always return to the good of their soulful essence.” (Rabbi J. Sacks)
Vladimir Putin may have made a huge mistake by invading Ukraine but he is not a pariah. For the same logic applies to the many ill-considered US military adventures not least the incursions into Iraq. At stake is the global projection of Western values or rather the absence of them in sexual identity politics, which perpetuates the denouement of the monotheist separation between sin and sinner. Only guilt cultures utilize this separation for learning from mistakes and moral self-improvement. In the words of Jonathan Sacks, they “not only allow for repentance toward God, but they also give way to the concept of forgiveness between people when change is sincere.”
This might well turn out to be the conflict of the 21st century: two opposing civilizational principles, shame and guilt, fighting it out between each other. While eastern Orthodoxy and the Middle East are maintaining monotheist guilt culture, the West is fast winding down toward shame culture as a consequence of the Orange revolution. It is for this reason that Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on good terms with Vladimir Putin, authored the Abraham Accords as a last resort of guilt culture. After the Holocaust it was Israel that resurrected what was at the heart of the Western accomplishments. The Jewish state upheld more than anything else the ethical primacy of the inner fight against evil as it is encoded in biblical guilt culture. Quite the opposite is conferred by the Hellenist model of fighting evil as the “other” which is predicated on projecting evil as alien barbarity and is stuck in shame culture.
I leave it to my inclined reader to figure out which side in the Ukraine war is committed to the one or the other. It is worth mentioning that in the monotheist tradition and as far as Rabbi Sacks’ theorizing is concerned, the future belongs to guilt culture. This begs the question: what if it were Putin who ended up defending guilt culture?
NZZ from Sunday 13.3.22 had a guest commentary by Michail Schischkin calling for a Nuremberg trial against Russia on behalf of gay victims in Russia: https://www.nzz.ch/meinung/hoffen-auf-die-stunde-null-ein-russland-ohne-putin-ld.1673592?reduced=true;
Len Shakleton in his London based IEA-blog
Hans Jonas’ essay “Gnosticism and Modern Nihilism” of 1952.
Ukrainian Neonazis: https://asiatimes.com/2022/03/zelensky-isnt-a-nazi-but-some-of-his-soldiers-are/; https://www.israpundit.org/sovereign-democracy-ukraine-zelenskyy-suspends-11-opposition-parties-becoming-head-of-a-one-party-state/;
Max Scheler “Das Ressentiment im Aufbau der Moralen” first published 1912.
Robert Putnam and David Campbell: “American Grace – How Religion Divides and Unites us”, Simon & Schuster, New York 2010.
Charles Murray “Human Accomplishment” Harper & Collins, New York: 2003;
Peter Hitchens on Ukraine: https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk; ditto Caroline Glick: https://www.israelnationalnews.com/news/321377; ditto Spengler: https://asiatimes.com/2022/02/russias-strategy-to-destroy-ukraine-army-going-to-plan/;
 Rabbi Sacks in his lecture on revelation:///faith-lectures-revelation-torah-heaven.webarchive
John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” of 1667 converts the Greek hero, in mortal struggle of shame culture, into the biblical hero of self-restraint fighting one’s own instincts: https://traditiononline.org/the-best-paradise-lost/;
Dr. Friedrich Hansen is a physician and writer. He has researched Islamic Enlightenment in Jerusalem and has networked on behalf of the Maimonides Prize. Previous journalistic and academic historical work in Germany, Britain and Australia. He is currently working in Germany and Australia.
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