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Alfred Baeumler on Hölderlin and the Greeks:
Reflections on the Heidegger-Baeumler Relationship
(Part I of II)

Frank H. W. Edler
(Metropolitan Community College)

[Click here to review part II of this essay.]

 So much has been written concerning Martin Heidegger's political venture into National Socialism that I hesitate to add more. Yet after a review of the material on Heidegger's political involvement, I find very little written on his relationship with Alfred Baeumler, noting the exception of Hans Sluga, Gail Soffer, and David Farrell Krell.1 As far as I can determine, there are no essays devoted solely to Heidegger and Baeumler. I find this odd because it is perhaps Heidegger's most ideological relationship with another philosopher. If one were interested in discovering Heidegger's own version of National Socialism, it would make good scholarly sense to investigate his philosophical and political relationship with Baeumler.

My intention here, however, is not simply to compare and contrast Baeumler’s and Heidegger’s interpretations of National Socialism; rather, it is to compare and contrast their respective views of Hölderlin and the Greeks in order to determine how those views become related to the context of National Socialism. The problematic of Hölderlin and the Greeks must be presented first along with a critique of modern nihilism because the problematic of Hölderlin and the Greeks is established for both philosophers prior to their involvement with National Socialism.

Indeed, their relationship does not begin in the context of politics -- at least not the politics of National Socialism. It begins in 1928 when Heidegger was leaving Marburg to take up Husserl’s chair in Freiburg. At that time neither Heidegger nor Baeumler were involved in party politics. Sluga claims that although Baeumler did not join the party until April 30, 1933: “he had been increasingly veering toward it since 1929 and was a member of Alfred Rosenberg’s Crusade for German Culture (Kampfbund für deutsche Kulture) since its foundation that year.” (Sluga, 127) In this instance, Sluga is misreading his source which is Baeumler’s essay, “My Political Development” (“Meine politische Entwicklung”) contained in Thomas Mann und Alfred Baeumler: Eine Documentation. (M/B, 193-201) Apparently, Baeumler was courted by Alfred Rosenberg to join the party as early as 1928. However, Baeumler said he disliked the tone of Rosenberg’s letter and never responded to it. Elsa Bruckmann, the wife of publisher Hugo Bruckmann, did indeed invite Baeumler to join Rosenberg’s Crusade for German Culture, but he rejected the invitation. In March of 1931, she even managed to arrange an hour-long meeting between Hitler and Baeumler, but he still didn’t join the party. (M/B, 194) Baeumler did finally join the party on April 30,1933 (M/B, 194); Heidegger joined the next day on May 1.

In 1928, Heidegger took the first step in the relationship by writing to Baeumler whose reaction is recorded in a letter (May 17, 1928) to Walter Eberhardt: “Heidegger has written to me out of the blue requesting my vita -- he wants to ‘include’ me by proposing me as his successor [at Marburg].” (M/B, 242, n.9) Heidegger’s correspondence with Jaspers confirms that Baeumler was among the candidates for Heideggerís position at Marburg and that the candidacy failed.2 According to the editors of Thomas Mann und Alfred Baeumler, Heidegger wrote to Baeumler and nominated him as a candidate because he admired Baeumler’s lengthy 300-page introduction to the 1926 anthology of J. J. Bachofen’s works edited by Manfred Schröter. Heidegger may well have read this work entitled Der Mythos von Orient und Occident while he was writing his review of Ernst Cassirer’s book Das mythische Denken (Mythic Thought) which appeared in 1925 as the second volume of Philosophie der symbolischen Formen (Philosophy of Symbolic Forms). This review is the first publication in which Heidegger attempts to engage the problem of mythic existence in the context of fundamental ontology.3

If the second part of Being and Time was supposed to include a dismantling of the Western philosophical tradition in order to uncover a more orginary understanding of being, then the dismantling or deconstruction (Abbau) would have to deal with the problems of explicating mythic dasein and scientific dasein as two fundamental possibilities of being-in-the-world, retrieving a more originary understanding of the relationship between mythos and logos, and reconstructing the conditions for the possibility of the transformation of the historical existence of a people.

To give the reader a sense of the proximity between Heidegger and Baeumler in the late 20’s and early 30’s, two quotations are presented below. The first is from Heidegger’s course, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, given in the summer of 1928, Heidegger’s last semester at Marburg. The second is from Baeumler’s letter to Jonas Lesser (July 15, 1954) in which he reflects on his philosophical development during this period:

World-entry is based on the temporalization of temporality. The primal fact, in the metaphysical sense, is that there is anything like temporality at all. The entrance into world by beings is primal history [Urgeschichte] pure and simple. From this primal history a region of problems must be developed which we are today beginning to approach with greater clarity, the region of the mythic. The metaphysics of myth must come to be understood out of this primal history, i.e., the time with which primal history itself begins.4

Baeumler states in his letter to Lesser that in 1930 he began to turn away from systematic philosophy toward the philosophy of history:

Systematic thinking itself drove me toward concretion, led me to the problem of existence, and thereby to the problem of historical being. I never completed plumbing the depths of this development which as it happened was not mastered even by Nicholai Hartmann and Heidegger. A new positioning
[Stellung] of spirit [Geist] to the reality of time (in the philosophical sense) was to be won. But my worldview became merely “historical.” (M/B, 229)

Even a superficial reading cannot fail to recognize the problematic that Heidegger and Baeumler shared, namely, the redefining of spirit or dasein within the context of historical being and time. According to the editors of Thomas Mann und Alfred Baeumler, Heidegger went to Dresden in 1932 on Baeumler’s invitation (Baeumler taught at the Technical University in Dresden) to deliver a paper and spent time with Baeumler on hikes through the Böhmerwald. (M/B, 242,n.9)

Before Max Scheler’s untimely death on May 19, 1928, Heidegger and Scheler had agreed that the time was ripe for radical philosophy, that is, that philosophy had to be renewed from the ground up. (MFL, 132) Heidegger, I believe, perceived some of the same radicality in Baeumler’s introduction to Bachofen. In my view, what specifically caught Heidegger’s attention was (1) his radical reinterpretation of the origin of Greek tragedy based on a chthonic Dionysus associated with the cult of dead heroes, (2) his attempt to uncover a new sense of history based on the exegesis of mythic symbols, and (3) his claim that Hölderlin and Nietzsche represent attempts in the German tradition to liberate Greek antiquity from the domination of Roman and Christian interpretations.

In relation to Hölderlin and Nietzsche, it is important to note that as the renaissance in their respective receptions exploded in the twenties, they became bellwethers for many intellectuals, especially radical conservatives. How one stood on Hölderlin and Nietzsche became emblematic not only for how one stood in literature or in philosophy but also for how one stood on art, politics, and the meaning of the Great War. This renaissance actually began before 1914 with the Youth Movement; with members of the Stefan George circle or those associated with it, notably Friedrich Gundolf, Norbert von Hellingrath, and Wilhelm Michel; with German expressionism in art and poetry; and with Wilhelm Dilthey’s influential work Das Erlebnis und die Dichtung (Experience and Poetry) published in 1907.5 More than anyone else, it was Hellingrath who brought to light Hölderlin’s poetic preoccupation with translating Pindar directly into the German language and who coined the phrase das geheime Deutschland (the secret Germany) which referred to a Germany not yet in existence but one which Hölderlin had poetized in his poetry. I have claimed elsewhere that Hölderlin was of much greater significance to Heidegger’s interpretation of the German “revolution” than has been acknowledged by critics. I think Heidegger took this interpretation of Hölderlin with him into the so-called revolution and that his first course on Hölderlin in 1934-35 was not a retreat or escape from the bloody nose he got playing hardball politics. Rather, it was an attempt to show the basis of and the justification for his own interpretation of the National Socialist revolution.

How this renaissance of Hölderlin and Nietzsche played itself out in the field of classical philology is of particular interest here not only because of the players involved but also because of the increasing radicalization which took place within the discipline itself in the late twenties and early thirties. Going back for a moment to the latter part of the 19th Century, it was Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff who won the war of words with Nietzsche over the publication of The Birth of Tragedy. Wilamowitz secured classical philology as a rational, scientific discipline in Germany and dominated that field from the 1880’s to well after the First World War. Nietzsche, however, could not be kept in the proverbial closet forever. It was not so much Nietzsche, perhaps, as what Nietzsche was trying to show of the archaic Greeks, namely, the darker, orgiastic, en-theosed, and at times horrifying side of Greek religion and art which surfaced again in the twenties. Wilamowitz’s own students such as Werner Jaeger, Karl Reinhardt, Paul Friedlaender, and Wolfgang Schadewaldt were no longer willing to disown this aspect of the Greeks.6 In an article published in 1965 entitled “Kukturmorphologie und Philosophie” (“Morphology of Culture and Philosophy”), Baeumler makes an interesting observation which bears on the radicalization of classical philology during that period: “The new direction which the philologists Reinhardt, Jaeger, Snell, and Harder later forged [after Spengler] showed us the origins of philosophical thinking among the Greeks in a new light.”7

Baeumler’s Interpretation of Hölderlin and the Greeks

Although Baeumler's understanding of Hölderlin has to be gathered from various references made to the poet in diverse sources, including essays, books, and political speeches, an outline can be established even if the details of the outline are not always clear. In approaching Baeumler's version of the poet, the question is not so much "What does Hölderlinís poetry itself mean?" but rather "What is the significance of Hölderlin in German history?" In his introduction to Bachofen, Baeumler mentions Hölderlin on the first page as the only one of his time who was able to see Greek antiquity independently of Winckelmann: "He [Hölderlin] perceived gods where others saw works of art." (118) In other words, Hölderlin was able to see beyond the aesthetics of beauty and art which determined Winckelmann's view of the Greeks and augur the religious-mythic dimension. The significance of Hölderlin's place in German history--between Winckelmann and Goethe on the one hand and Nietzsche on the other -- is determined by what may be called Baeumler's symbolist reading of Western history, a history which Baeumler was trying to rewrite. Much of the research and outline of this philosophy of history is already present in the above mentioned work which has been reissued, with an Afterward, under the title The Mythic Age (Das mythische Weltalter, 1965).8

The metaphysical and epistemological foundations of Baeumler's philosophy of history rest for the most part on Bachofen and Nietzsche, although Baeumler's interpretation brings these two figures together in a singularly devastating way. As he says in the Afterward to The Mythic Age, it was Bachofen who opened the door to the mythic dimension of the chthonic Greeks. (MW, 316-317) However, for Baeumler it was not just this startling new dimension which unfolded through Bachofen; it was also the discovery of a new way, a new methodos, to that dimension: this mythic dimension is manifest only through an exegesis of symbols. (MW, 317-337) This exegesis is crucial for understanding what Baeumler saw as the mystery of the living sense of myth because the mythic was beyond the grasp of all previous categorical conceptions used to understand world history. (MW, 318) Since the usual measures of historical time do not apply, the exegesis of symbols becomes the "royal road" to the mythic dimension of human nature as the hidden source of Western history. (MW, 318-320) Indeed, the contextuality of history itself rests on myth:

If on the other hand, one demands 'context,' meaning from history, then it is clear that a mythic element is posited along with the fundamentals of historiography. The context of history can only be a symbolic one. This applies even to the shortest context, the historical 'unity' of a generation. It can be seen in greater clarity when one examines the largest unity: universal history is the symbolic expression of mankind; myth [is the symbolic expression] of the development of man's essential nature. (MW, 297)

To illustrate Baeumler's reading of history more concretely, I shall use his own example of how he interprets World War I, not only because the example effectively summarizes the major elements of his philosophy of history, but also because it provides the specific context whereby he interprets Hölderlin.

In his essay "The Meaning of the Great War, I and II" ("Der Sinn des grossen Krieges, I, II") which combines two addresses - - the first given in 1929 and the other in 1930, Baeumler sets the stage for his interpretation by reminding his audience that the dead soldiers

are now powerless and only through us the living, can their thoughts and deeds reach the light of day. It is entrusted to us. What is placed on our shoulders thereby is more than simply a moral responsibility. If we forget the goal for which they gave their lives then we not only act irresponsibly--we commit a sacrilege. The responsibility we have to our own dead is not a moral but a religious one. Not the pangs of conscience but fear and trembling, not reproach but misfortune befalls us if we do not comply with the social command of Pietas, in German, fidelity. But we also share in something other than a consciousness of having done our duty when we dedicate ourselves to piety. If we really feel the bond that ties us with the dead, if we really know ourselves to be the executors of their will, if we really are the doers of their deeds--then some of that dignity which surrounds them will also shine on us.9

Baeumler goes on to say that he can even hear the dead soldiers from the grave demanding that the living not so much honour them but rather show them that for which they died. (Männerbund, 1-2)

The long quotation above concerning the relationship between the dead soldiers and the living students has been cited because it shows us the direction from which Baeumler is approaching the historical-political arena. Baeumler is transferring the conclusions he reached in 1926 in his introduction to Bachofen about the ancient Greek worship of heroes and the birth of tragedy to the dead German heroes of World War I. Although he does not say so explicitly, Baeumler is invoking something similar to the heroic dithyramb which, according to Baeumler, was the origin of the Greek tragedy. (MW, 65-74) The genre of the drama did not arise from bacchic ekstasis or Dionysian enthusiasm in its usual sense (MW, 63-64), but rather from the cult of the heroes with its heroic dithyramb. (MW, 67) It is the chthonic Dionysus, the one who is associated with the souls of dead heroes, who is "the father of tragedy." (MW, 67) As Baeumler says "not the mystical suffering of Dionysus but the real suffering and deeds of heroes are the object of ancient tragedy." (MW, 74)

But what exactly is this heroic dithyramb? First, Baeumler says that the word 'hero' must be understood in its religious or social meaning: the context of the word must include the fear and terror "that the religious man senses in the face of a daemonic being who is capable of affecting things even from the grave...." (MW, 67) Second, Baeumler makes an emphatic distinction between the dead heroes of the Homeric epic and the chthonic heroes who appear again in Greek tragedy. Since Homer's Olympian gods and goddesses for Baeumler have no relationship to death, or the chthonic underworld for that matter, the conception of the soul of the dead hero is reduced to a "fluttering shadow...." (MW, 49) In fact, "the realm of shades is a specifically Homeric invention..." designed to remove the underworld to a safe distance beyond Oceanos. (MW, 24)

Baeumler's claim is that tragedy emerges from the rituals associated with the invocations of the chthonic heroes and has nothing to do with the Homeric conception of them (except, of course, where Baeumler finds certain anomalies in Homer which do fit the chthonic sense in episodes such as Achilles at Patroclus' funeral pyre (MW, 49-50) and Odysseus' summoning the dead by ritual of the blood trough). (MW, 47) Not only is the epic separated by an abyss from the tragic, but even epic and tragic modes of poetizing are different: poetizing in the tragic mode means "to invoke the dead [Tote beschwören]."(MW, 70) In the tragic drama, a chthonic hero becomes embodied for the first time on stage. The primordial phenomenon of tragic art is this "act of transformation of a soul from the realm of the dead into an acting and speaking being." (MW, 71) These resurrected heroes are no longer the pale, insubstantial and marginal shades of Homer. What tragic art accomplishes is an extension of the chthonic ritual which invoked dead heroes: "the truth of the dramatic form is the making present of something past" which in mythological terminology is nothing but "the conjuring of the dead." (MW, 73)

The song of the chorus was originally nothing but the song (dithyramb) sung by the band of faithful worshippers gathered around the grave of the hero during which an animal was sacrificed and its blood poured into the earth in his honour. (MW, 74) But something spell-binding happens, according to Baeumler, in and through the song. The song is directed to the dead hero hidden in the earth, "a daemonic ancestral spirit [Ahnengeist] who still has the strength to injure and to exploit..." (MW, 74) He is supposed to hear the song and take the offering. The spell of the dithyramb, the calling of the hero from the grave, is such as to make the daemonic being (Geist) come alive in the invocation -- a prospect which terrifies the chorus of singers to the point where the leader of the group is made into the hero, a visible stand-in for him. This making visual of what was first only darkly felt and full of horror is the catharsis or throwing off of that fear and trembling. (MW, 74)

The tragic drama takes this one step further by providing an image for the hero in the form of an actor. In other words, the hidden, unapproachable, unspeakable depths of the chthonic realm -- for Baeumler the real meaning of Geist (MW, 75) -- becomes manifest, present, and articulated in the image of the actor who lives as the dead hero. (MW, 75) Thus, the creation of the tragic drama was an act of the Greek chthonic spirit or Geist; however, the language used to express the tragic drama was the language of Homer (MW, 81), which had an exclusively intellectual relationship to its characters (MW, 73) and excluded the chthonic underworld of drives and instincts as much as possible. Homeric poems result in a "de-potentiation" of the depths [Depotenzierung der Tiefe]...." (MW, 21) Thus, although the use of Homeric language to express the chthonic hero on stage was the great synthesis of Greek tragedy, it brought about its downfall in the sense that Homeric language -- which abstracted from death and presented the gods in "the unchanging light of being" (MW, 41) -- ultimately triumphed over the daemonic existence of the chthonic hero. (MW, 82)

For Baeumler, the creation of the tragic drama also had great historical consequences for the Greeks. He even calls it a turning point (Wendepunkt) in the history of the West, comparable even to the Battle of Salamis. (MW, 79) Tragic drama originated at a time when the Dionysian religion was sweeping Greece: daemons loosed from the underworld and barbaric religious practices threatened the land. From the very god who seemed to spell disaster for the Greeks in terms of his bacchic frenzy, there arose the tragic drama based on the chthonic side of the god which called forth the dead Greek heroes from their graves as a bulwark to protect them from that very frenzy. (MW, 79) Thus, the conjuring of dead heroes transformed into tragic drama saved the Greek fatherland.

Three years after the publication of Baeumler's introduction to Bachofen, he was telling students the same thing, but this time about the Germans and World War I instead of the chthonic Greeks. Again, history is a context of struggles and battles (Männerbund, 5); the meaning of the great turning points in history cannot be determined by empirical, moral, psychological, or even philosophical means alone; the vision of great historians is based on pathos which has its origin in the heroic soul (Männerbund, 4); the source from which all history flows and on which all historical understanding rests is "heroic enthusiasm" [heroischen Enthusiasmus] (Männerbund, 5) -- the same heroic enthusiasm which was shared by the Greek cult of heroes from which tragedy supposedly originated.

Instead of the Greek heroes, the German heroes of Langemarck are called from the grave: "From the context of the dead, led by them, we must seek to divine the true, the objective meaning of the war." (Männerbund, 4) Just as the Battle of Salamis was a turning point for the Greeks, so, too, "the Great War signifies a turning point in the history of the West." (Männerbund, 24) Just as the onslaught of the Dionysian religion from Asia tore open the underworld of the Greeks and punctured the pure light of being of the Homeric epic (MW, 15, 41, 50), so too, the onslaught of the world against Germany in World War I opened the underworld of the instincts and marked the collapse of the over-rational, urbane, materialistic bourgeois world. (Männerbund, 24)

The reality for which the German soldiers died was the belief in a turning point in world history (Männerbund, 2): "They died for a reality and only when we feel bound to and by the same reality through them may we speak of them and their death. The reality for which they died is called Germany. It was not the empirical Germany as it was that they confirmed by their death but that more real and genuine Germany which has been laid down [angelegt; my emphasis] in the depths of our history." (Männerbund, 19)

Here we can see Baeumler's version of Hellingrath's secret Germany beginning to unfold. Like Hellingrath, Baeumler perceives a hidden, secret Germany beneath the bourgeois surface which emerges with the beginning of the Great War: "the breaking-out [Ausbrechen] [of the war] already signifies simultaneously the breaking-in, the dawning [Anbruch] of a new era, a strengthening of standards, a heightening of the consciousness of destiny...."(Männerbund, 23) Since the Great War in effect had broken the domination of that way of life, characterized by urbanised, hedonistic materialism which the Romans had introduced into the German tribes (Männerbund, 23), the other heroic way of life (the secret Germany) had begun to reassert itself in the vision of those soldiers such as Hellingrath who died on the battlefield.

However, the Hölderlin that Baeumler appropriates via Hellingrath's death is significantly different from Hellingrath's own interpretation of the poet. The reason the verb "laid down" (angelegt) is emphasized in the above quotation is that it already points to and is linguistically connected with Baeumler's interpretation of the secret Germany. What has been laid down and secured (angelegt) in the depths of German history is a particular constitution or disposition of the German people itself. When Baeumler, near the end of the essay, says that "the Great War leads us back to the sources of our history (Männerbund, 28), what he means is that the secret Germany, which was manifest, for example, during the time of Otto the Great, is resurfacing. According to Baeumler, the original disposition of the German people is the following: "this heroism is the natural disposition [Naturanlage] of the people [Volk]." (Männerbund, 13) Furthermore, what this natural disposition turns out to be is nothing other than race: "it is only natural: the original disposition, the race [Rasse], must prevail.” (Männerbund, 12) Thus, what the German soldiers, including Hellingrath, supposedly envisioned as a new, heroic, martial Germany is the expression of the racial Anlage, that is, the hereditary factors laid down into the biology of the race.

This is the context into which Baeumler introduces Hölderlin, a context in which the poet is given the trappings of a youthful Germanic fighter whose ancestors stretch back to the racial paradigm of Siegfried, the German counterpart of Achilles. (Männerbund, 16-17) Baeumler places great emphasis on their youthfulness because the youth are the most animate part of a people [Volk] and, since instinct is the essence of animation, "then youth is defined by instinct." (Männerbund, 29) As Baeumler says,

No people can understand what binds us to the youth who died at Langemarck and so many other places. No other people can understand the hope we place today on our youth. No other people can understand Hölderlin's hymn to the fettered river which begins with the following words:
"Why do you sleep and dream in yourself wrapped up,
And by the cold bank linger, too patient youth,
And do not heed your origin, you
Son of great Ocean, the friend of Titans!" (Männerbund, 16-17)

In Baeumler's context, the slumbering youth in Hölderlin's poem is transformed into an image embodying the latent Germanic instinct of heroic enthusiasm. It is "latent" because the youth is still "too patient" and has not yet broken loose. The cold bank by which the youth is lingering is, no doubt, the enlightened, liberal, over-intellectualized, bourgeois world of degenerated instincts. The origins the youth should heed become, in Baeumler's reading, chthonic instincts and drives -- racial origins -- the ones which have been laid into the biology of the German people.

How Hölderlin fits into Baeumler's philosophy of history becomes apparent in the introduction he wrote for the 1930 edition of Nietzsche's works. Here he claimed that "a profoundly significant relationship..." existed between Nietzsche and Hölderlin: both are marked by the sense of alienation they felt in relation to the modern world.10 Both are outsiders. But this "alienation from the modern world which makes Hölderlin's hymns so lonesome..." is precisely what gets articulated in Nietzsche's philosophy. (Studien, 249) Baeumler even claimed that the "Will to Power is a commentary on Hölderlin's poems." (Studien, 249-253) What Nietzsche and Hölderlin instigated from the direction of the Greeks was a disintegration, a breakdown of the Western synthesis. (Studien, 253) The Christian-Roman strand of the tradition was stripped away from that of the Greek-Germanic one. According to Baeumler, the young Nietzsche was not concerned with "a revival of 'antiquity' but a rebirth of the Hellenic world out of the instincts of the Germanic essence." (Studien, 250) Unfortunately, Hölderlin is made to bear the same interpretation without any discussion whatsoever of his works.

Thus for Baeumler, Nietzsche's and Hölderlin's turn back to the Greeks meant "a turning back [Rückgang] toward real possibilities in our own nature." (Studien, 250) In the same introduction, Baeumler expressed the hope that "one day from out of this primordial affinity [between the Greeks and the Germans] a Hellenically-related life form will arise from the German essence. That is why the German spirit [Geist, that is, racial instincts] turns back searching again and again to the Greeks: it hopes to experience from them the word that will deliver it from its spell." (Studien, 250) In 1933, Baeumler saw his hope beginning to realize itself. A new era was dawning: "the Fuehrer-principle and the symbols of National Socialism have coined the concept of idea anew." (Männerbund, 126)

It would be a mistake, however, to think that Baeumler perceived the symbols of National Socialism as somehow arising out of the supposed linguistic affinity between the Greeks and the Germans. As much as Baeumler relied on Hellingrath as a heroic reference, he did not agree with Hellingrath that language was the basis of the special affinity between them: "there is an even more intimate, inward bond [between the Greeks and the Germans] than the connection made through the study of language," which is "the common reverence for manly, youthful enthusiasm." (Männerbund, 147) As I have pointed out above, this heroic enthusiasm, for Baeumler, is nothing but the expression of the racial Anlage, what has been laid down in the instinctual depths of the race.

In his inaugural address at the University of Berlin on May 10, 1933, Baeumler stated that "the new unity of the people [Volk]" (Männerbund, 129) demanded a new system of education to raise a new corresponding type of student. The new unity was closer to the Greeks than the older idealistic-humanistic philosophies because those philosophies focused one-sidedly on the goal of educating individuals. (Männerbund, 136-137) Following the early Nietzsche, Baeumler reiterated that the Greeks were not interested in individuals but in types rooted in the community of the polis. (Männerbund, 137) The new type that would replace the learned individual in the universities was the political soldier or the soldiered type. (Männerbund, 124) The universities would literally become military camps concerned with the new science that would emerge from the new unity of the people. (Männerbund, 145) Nevertheless, the Greek polis, according to Baeumler, would not be used as a paradigm for the Volk or for education: "the polis cannot be a model for us, but it does serve as an example to illustrate that freedom only thrives there where unity consists in symbols."(Männerbund, 137)

The problem that Baeumler faced was a variation of the nature-spirit dichotomy. He wanted to give ontological and epistemological priority to what he called symbols which somehow were a middle term between instinct and form. In his inaugural address, Baeumler approached the problem through the opposition of symbol and word:

The word is used in discussion; it indicates itself and the object. The symbol is of a different sort. The symbol is silent; its understanding follows immediately. No interpretation will help where the primitive, primary comprehension of it is lacking. The understanding [Verstand] is unable to grasp it; only the heart finds the way to it. For that reason, however, the symbol is not something unspiritual [ungeistig]. (Männerbund,132)

Thus, two "languages" are presented: the silent "language" of symbols, which is somehow connected to the inner, unconscious depths of instinct and race on the one hand, and the conscious, articulated discourse of words and concepts on the other. For Baeumler, time, being, and knowledge belong to the former and not the latter. As he said in "Bachofen and Nietzsche" (1929):

Man's inner reality cannot be unlocked and elucidated from what he says and thinks; what a man knows is not the same as his deepest inner reality. Only in what people themselves cannot express, in what is done and protected without word, without reflection in worship and custom, does the depth of reality disclose itself. The only one who can interpret [deuten] the living sense of life is the one who understands the language of [silent] symbols into which it [life]
flows. (Studien, 230)

The new unity of the Volk was constituted, for Baeumler, through the symbols of National Socialism. Individuals cannot be bound into a synthetic unity by words and concepts alone; Baeumler claimed that they were living in an age in which the word had become disempowered (Männerbund, 133, 136), disconnected from its living (racial) origin which only symbols can provide: "the real We [community or Gemeinschaft] which oscillates in a common rhythm is what finds itself again through symbols." (Männerbund,134)

What Baeumler has done is to disengage the truth function of the logos of language from discourse and shifted it to "the wordless power of symbols." (Männerbund, 135) Thus, the symbol is a pre-logical logos rooted in what has already been laid down in the biology of the race and is an expression of it. However, Baeumler then sealed off this metaphysical concept of race and its symbols from discourse altogether. This is an example of how the anti-rationalism of the "new thinking" was appropriated and exploited by Nazi philosophers. Baeumler's anti-rationalism clearly renounced reason and the rigorous procedures of thought. His so-called exegesis of symbols amounts to capricious sophistry.

One brief example suffices to show how ludicrous the results of Baeumler's exegesis were. Supposedly, the new unity of the Volk constituted through Nazi symbols would result in a new idea of science (one of the main themes of the student revolution). Indeed, science itself is attributed to the warlike spirit of discovery and conquest characteristic of Germanic peoples. (Männerbund, 100) The achievements of Descartes, Galileo, and Kepler are the result of their Nordic spirit rooted in the Germanic race. (Männerbund, 144) The "new" idea of science would emerge from the same basis: "this idea [the new idea of science] belongs to us; it is born from the innermost substance of our race [Rasse]." (Männerbund, 145)

Unfortunately, the ludicrous became reality in 1933. Looking back to Baeumler's introduction to Bachofen, it becomes astonishingly clear how he intended the living symbol of Hitler to function for the Germans the way the heroic dithyramb/tragic drama functioned for the Greeks. Just as the actor in the tragic drama is the embodiment of the dead hero (Geist in the chthonic sense) (MW, 67, 75), so, too, Hitler is the living embodiment of the dead heroes of World War I. Just as the Greeks experienced a catharsis of fear and trembling through the heroic dithyramb/tragic drama (MW, 74), so, too, do the German people through the living spirit of Hitler. Just as the tragic drama is an affirmation of the heroic enthusiasm shared in the worship of heroes, so, too, is the living symbol of Hitler an affirmation of the warlike enthusiasm shared by German heroes such as Siegfried and Frederick the Great. Just as the tragic chorus is a unified community through whom the hero lives (the chorus summons the dead hero) (MW, 76), so, too, the German people as a unified Volk make possible the living symbol of Hitler. Just as the tragic drama reasserted the importance of the chthonic underworld, so, too, does the living symbol of Hitler reassert the importance of race. Just as the tragic dramatist stands in a blood-relationship to his characters (MW, 73), so, too does the living symbol of Hitler stand in a blood-relationship to his people.

However, Baeumler did not intend to make the same mistake his Greek predecessors supposedly made by using Homeric language to express the chthonic hero. This brings us back to the problem of instinct versus form or symbol versus word. In his inaugural address, Baeumler stated that the task of finding new words for the silent symbols of Nazism was one of the great challenges which still had to be faced by the "revolution." (Männerbund, 132) The language of the intellect, the language of idealistic-humanistic philosophies, could not be used because that language, like Homeric language, had disconnected spirit from the instinctual depths. The language of the true German spirit would have to be reborn from an exegesis of Nazi symbols. (Männerbund, 133) The danger was that the symbols could be tainted by the old word: "That is what makes the current situation so difficult: that we have to clear away the word at every instant, that we are always in danger of misunderstanding ourselves because we do not yet possess the word that belongs to us." (Männerbund, 132) Thus, one of the primary areas in the on-going struggle of the "revolution" was the struggle over its very language.

This concern manifested itself in relation to Baeumler's sweeping proposals to change the entire educational system of Germany. He agreed with Clausewitz that "’the grammar of war underlies the logic of the state.’"(Männerbund, 157) However, there was no certainty that the logic of the National Socialist state (the outcome of the exegesis of Nazi symbols) would necessarily unfold from the grammar of war (the grammar that was somehow imbedded in those symbols). To ensure that the grammar of war and its concomitant language would indeed unfold from those symbols, Baeumler proposed what amounted to the introduction of the grammar of war into every aspect of the educational system: "the martial educational system must reach every German irrespective of who he is, irrespective of where he works. Everyone is a political soldier who goes through this educational system." (Männerbund, 164)

Baeumler modified and expanded Clausewitz's statement by claiming that the grammar of military training for war presupposed the logic of martial education. (Männerbund, 164) Everyone is to be trained as a political soldier (like the S.A.) on a logic based on heroic enthusiasm, the Fuehrer-Principle and the will to power. The army itself was simply the final stage of this training. Thus, the logic of the National Socialist state would be secured literally by ramming the language through the whole educational system in order to guarantee linguistic competence in the symbols at every stage of development.

In conclusion, Baeumler saw the National Socialist revolution as a turning point in history in which an entirely different world view would replace the one which had begun to crumble in the Great War and later appeared to collapse at the end of the Weimar period. This unheroic world view begun by Socrates, whereby "understanding dethrones instinct and drive [and] consciousness destroys the certainty of unconscious life" (Studien, 157), was at an end. The task of philosophy was to explicate the new world view replacing it.

For Baeumler, philosophy itself "must always be anthropomorphic" and always "projects a picture of the world...." (Männerbund, 90) In fact, the old world view was not being displaced by an emptiness of images but by the new National Socialist world view: "man is not capable of living in an imageless, pictureless world; man is what he is because he has a world view." (Männerbund, 90) The grammar of this world view, however, is ultimately determined by the instincts and drives which have been laid into the racial depths of the people.

As Part II of this essay will show, Heidegger also saw the "revolution" as a struggle taking place in the field of language. Although at first glance there appear to be many similarities between Heidegger's and Baeumler's views on Hölderlin, the Greeks, and National Socialism, a close study reveals how fundamentally different Heidegger's understanding was from Baeumler's. What I wish to argue is that Heidegger saw
the apparent similarities as a way to engage and to win Baeumler over to his view.


1. Hans Sluga provides the best overview of Baeumler to date in Heidegger’s Crisis. Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1993) –hereafter cited as Sluga with page reference. I disagree with Sluga’s claim that Heidegger, Baeumler, and Krieck formed an alliance in 1933-34. Sluga (p. 144), following Hugo Ott, claims that they “considered each other friends in 1933.” I would agree that this was probably true of Heidegger and Baeumler, but Heidegger and Krieck were not friends, nor were Krieck and Baeumler. Rüdiger Safranski’s biography Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, trans. Ewald Osers (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1998) presents a more accurate version in light of the rivalry between Krieck and Baeumler. To the best of my knowledge, I cannot recall any occasion where all three participated together politically. Ott, in his biography Martin Heidegger: A Political Life, trans. Allan Blunden (New York and London: HarperCollins, 1993), relies too much on “presumably”: “At any rate, the rector of Freiburg [Heidegger] played a central role in the reshaping of Baden’s university constitution, presumably [underlining mine] in close collaboration with Krieck….” (p. 198) I am not aware of any evidence to support this claim of a “close collaboration with Krieck.”

For other useful discussions of Baeumler, see David Farrell Krell’s Analysis section at the end of his translation of Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, vol. 4, Nihilism (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983), pp. 269-272, and also Gail Soffer’s excellent article “Heidegger, Humanism, and the Destruction of History,” The Review of Metaphysics, vol. 49 (March 1996): 547-76. The best sources to date on Baeumler and politics is Thomas Mann und Alfred Baeumler: Eine Documentation, eds. Marianne Baeumler, Herbert Brunträger, and Hermann Kruzke (Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 1989); hereafter cited as MB with page reference.

2. Martin Heidegger-Karl Jaspers, Briefwechsel. 1920-1963, eds. Walter Biemel and Hans Saner (Frankfurt a. M. and München/Zürich: Klostermann/Piper, 1990), 95, 101, 112, 121.

3. Martin Heidegger, “Besprechung: Ernst Cassirer, Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, 2. Teil: Das mythische Denken, Berlin, 1925” in Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik, 5th expanded edition (Frankfurt a.M: Klostermann, 1991): 255-270. The review was originally published in Deutsche Literaturzeitung, v.5, no. 21 (1928): 1000-1012.

4. Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, trans. Michael Heim (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), p. 209; hereafter cited as MFL with page reference.

5. For more on this background and on Heidegger’s attempt to employ a linguistic strategy to appropriate the language of the revolution, see my article “Philosophy, Language, and Politics: Heidegger’s Attempt to Steal the Language of the Revolution in 1933-34” in Social Research, vol. 57, no. 1 (Spring 1990) pp.197-238.

6. William M. Calder III has done an enormous amount of scholarly work on Wilamowitz-Moellendorff; see his excellent article on Paul Friedländer’s “break” with Wilamowitz entitled “Credo of a New Generation” in Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Selected Correspondence 1869-1931, ed. William M Calder III (Naples: Jovene, 1983), 130-137. See also my article on Heidegger and Jaeger entitled “Heidegger and Werner Jaeger on the Eve of 1933: A Possible Rapprochement?” in Research in Phenomenology, XXVII, 1997; 122-149.

7. Alfred Baeumler, “Kulturmorphologie und Philosophie” in Spengler-Studien. Festgabe für Manfred Schröter zum 85. Geburtstag (München: C.H. Beck, 1965), 115-116.

8. Alfred Baeumler, Das mythische Weltalter. Bachofens Romantische Deutung des Altertums (München: C.H. Beck, 1965). Hereafter cited as MW with page reference.

9. Alfred Baeumler, Männerbund und Wissenschaft (Berlin: Junker und Dunnhaupt, 1934), p. 1; hereafter cited as Männerbund with page reference.

10. Alfred Baeumler, Studien zur deutschen Geistesgeschichte (Berlin: Junker und Dunnhaupt, 1937), 249; hereafter cited as Studien with page reference.

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