In 1930, that is in the chaotic time that followed the collapse after the First World War, the writer Fritz Eberling wrote an essay containing the sentence “Wir gehen durch die Gegenwart wie durch eine Wüste” (We go through the present as through a desert). The renowned German scholar, philosopher, historian and political scientist Dr Michael Rieger derived the title of his book from this sentence.
Both the Weimar and the Austrian republics spiritually resembled a dreary desert which was perceived as “largely as soulless, culture-less and heartless”. This is largely what we feel today.
The “socialist levelling of all differences and the negation of our own human culture” was, as Anabel Schunke aptly points out, turned into a raison d’être of the state. “Liberal thinking” in the form of relativism has strongly contributed to the emergence of “the inner and outer desert”, which goes hand in hand with destructive losses of tradition, community orientation and sense of responsibility. The “harassed modern people” (Franz Xaver Kroetz) have lost the standards and counter-images that could put a stop to these destructive forces.
When browsing through his bookshelf, Michael Rieger wants to remind us of those important benchmarks and counter-images. There he for instance finds “the crown guards” (die Kronenwächter) (Achim von Arnim), who “preserved the eternally sacred patterns of true familiarity and ideals”. They have always been there, at all the times when spiritual devastation threatened. This already celebrated its Saturnalia in the French Revolution, and it does so today under the brand of political correctness.
Quite rightly, in his introduction Rieger already refers to Kleist, Droste-Hülshoff, to Peter Rosegger and, quite extensively, to Adalbert Stifter, who with his “gentle law” wants to reestablish custom and justice. What this “gentle law” means, that was expressed prophetically and concisely in four lines by no other than the also explicitly appreciated Reinhold Schneider, shortly before the assumption of power by the National Socialists:
“For perpetrators never will force heaven:
What they unite will turn to rubble.
What they renew, will overnight deteriorate,
And what they institute, bring misery and trouble.”
The poem in which these four lines appear bears the title: “Now only prayers may still succeed ….” Schneider included it in a meditation volume published under samizdat conditions in the middle of the Second World War, and many a soldier carried this volume with him in his knapsack, finding consolation in his inescapable fate, his expectation of death.
Rieger gives the title: “Catholicism versus Modernism” right to the first chapter of his little anthology of conservative thought. He thus suggests the theme that runs through the entire volume. This first chapter pays tribute to the Brazilian Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, who is largely unknown to us. With his books “Revolution and Counterrevolution” and “Noblesse”, which have been translated into most of the world’s languages, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira has sparked a movement for “family, tradition and private property” (TfP), which is even institutionally anchored in many countries. His thesis, that order in culture, civilisation and state “depends on the observance of the teachings of the church” is now accepted by virtually all the more important conservative thinkers. After all, it is not by chance that Ernst Jünger, Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing and Russell Kirk converted from Protestantism to the Roman Catholic Church, not to mention their predecessors such as Adam Müller, Friedrich Schlegel, Carl Ludwig von Haller and many others.
And last but not least, it is significant that writers of the rank of Peter Handke, Martin Walser, Thomas Bernhard or Botho Strauss are increasingly quenching their “thirst for truth” from the “spouting well” that religion provides.
In his wanderings through tradition, Rieger repeatedly refers to Othmar Spann. Also Armin Mohler, probably the best connoisseur of the conservative revolution, comes to the conclusion that Othmar Spann “has supplied the conservative revolution with the best-grounded system”. In the seventies of the last century, Spann’s comprehensive oeuvre was summarised and reprinted in a 21-volume complete edition. To Michael Rieger’s delight, Spanns’ teachings are being continued today by his pupils and their children, and are emphatically championed in science and politics.
With his sketches and portraits, Rieger has not presented a scientific book, but one that prepares the reader for a “healing bath” that is pleasant and beneficial and contributes to mental hygiene. •
Rieger, Michael. “Wir gehen durch die Gegenwart wie durch eine Wüste“ – Auf den Spuren der Tradition in Philosophie und Literatur – Skizzen und Porträts. (“We walk through the present as through a desert” – On the traces of tradition in philosophy and literature – sketches and portraits.) 240 pages, paperback. Rückersdorf near Nuremberg, Lepanto-Press 2018
(Translation Current Concerns)
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