Hero and Heretic vs. the System — from Literature to Politics
by The Editor
Dr. Tomislav Sunic expertly discusses Indo-European conceptions of the hero in this new essay.
The nouns ‘hero’ and ‘heretic’ are used as frequent figures of speech in daily communication. Every day, almost every minute of our time, either consciously or subconsciously, we refer to the notion of hero and heretic, albeit by using often different words and expressions. The highly generic nouns ‘hero’ and ‘heretic’ lack a precise common denominator. What may be considered a heretical behavior today may be viewed as heroic behavior tomorrow. The meaning of the noun ‘hero’ is further complicated by its semantic shifts and its awkward equivalents in other languages and cultures. Thus the German word for hero is ‘Held’, although this word conveys a wider meaning in Germanic languages than the English word ‘hero’ or the French ‘héros’, deriving from the ancient Greek, and largely associated with political and military prowess only.
One must also refer to some well-known authors who dealt with the study of heroes, such as Joseph Campbell and his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a book still serving as a primer in religious science courses at universities in the USA, but also a book which influenced many Hollywood moguls. Although Campbell never addressed the notion of the hero from a racial perspective, the fact that he sat on the editorial board of the Mankind Quarterly and that he had once upon a distant time allegedly cracked a small joke in front of his colleagues about the Jews earned him the title of “anti-Semite,” , a label not usually associated with heroism.
Also worth mentioning is the book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History by the 19th-century Scottish author Thomas Carlyle in which he sorts out heroes according to their religious, poetic and military endowments. Carlyle’s rejection of liberal democracy and his good knowledge of German culture predictably earned him a century later, in the aftermath of World War II, the label of “an early fascist thinker.” Moreover, one must emphasize that historically, the notion of the hero has been differently internalized by thinkers and masses in continental Europe and differently in Great Britain or in the USA. According to the German sociologist Werner Sombart, who was often quoted in anti-liberal and later on in nationalist academic circles in Germany prior to World War II, the Germans are the “people of heroes”, as opposed to the English being the “people of merchants,” displaying “shopkeepers’ mentality”: “What is of interest here for us is not the swindling of crooked merchants who have always been popular in England, but the swindling of the merchant as such. What we really want to know is how to grasp the birth of entire England from this from this mercantile mindset.” (p.38).
The word “Held” was very much in usage in Germany prior and during World War II. Sombart summarizes the notion of the classical Held — hero, as embodied in the German man, vs. his counterpart, the modern anti-hero, as represented by the capitalist Englishman: “Merchants and hero: they both make the two great opposites; two poles of all human directions on Earth. The merchant, as we saw it, approaches his day to day life with a question: what kind of a life can you offer to me? The hero enters life with a question: what can I offer to life?” (p. 64).
The sense of sacrifice, the readiness to place the interests of his community above his own private and family interests, the sense of complete autonomy in carrying out his heroic deeds, have historically been the three main hallmarks of the hero. The hero may have his sidekicks, although his heroic deeds always need to rest solely within his own private and solitary domain. In the German medieval Niebelungensagas we encounter the hero Siegfried and his challenger the hero Hagen, both acting alone with no outside help, yet both willing at a short notice to lay down their life for the benefit of their community.
The same heroic and individualistic pattern of death-wish for the benefit of common good can be observed in Homer’s death challenger, the Greek hero Achilles who besieges the town of Troy and in the equally well death-driven hero Hector who defends his home town Troy.
Hector: “For me it would be a great deal better to meet Achilles man to man, kill him, and go home, or get killed before the city, dying in glory.” (Iliad, Book XXII, lines 108-110).
The future founder of Rome, Vergil’s mythical Aeneas during his interminable trials in the underworld, acted in a similar communal and death-braving fashion. So did his other mythical counterpart, the seafaring Homer’s Odysseus, always enwrapped in solitary musings, always having his life hovering on the brink of death.
“His eyes were perpetually wet with tears now / His life draining away in homesickness.” (Odysseus, Book V, lines 156–158)
Thousands of similar heroic characters have become household names all over the West. Those mythical heroes stood as symbols for the survival of their tribal, racial or political community, yet strangely enough, all of them always attempted to stay above the fray, always shunning gregarious, communal and folkish behavior of their noisy kinsmen. Such a freewheeling and autonomous behavior may also help explain today the proverbial failure of modern White nationalist heroes who remain hopeful in search of a functional political or cultural movement. On the one hand all of them passionately speak about the importance of their community; yet on the other, their hyper-individualistic stance can hardly bridge the gap amidst scores of other dissenting would-be White heroes within their community.
This peculiar individualistic trait among Whites is largely inherited from the primeval ego-archetypes, as observed in the figures of the mythical Titan Prometheus and later in the young truth-seeker Faust, respectively. If one briefly observes the character of the hero Prometheus, whom Zeus had punished for heresy by chaining him to the rock for the next 30,000 years, one can spot a creature constantly complaining, perpetually carping at other mainstream gods, loudly cursing Zeus, and refusing to make any compromise even with his fellow Titans who had come to his rescue.
Prometheus: “I know that Zeus is harsh and keeps justice in his own hands; but nevertheless one day his judgment will soften, when he has been crushed in the way that I know.” ( Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, lines 189–192).
The Titan hero Prometheus knows that the gods’ days, like the days of the mortals, are also numbered and that some eon again the immortal Titans will again rule the universe. Such a titanic-heroic and promethean-inflated ego is also visible in the would-be heroic young scholar Faust, who is constantly searching for diverse identities, always craving for the transformation of his self into a myriad of other selves:
Alas! Two souls within my breast abide / And each from the other strives to separate. (J. W. Goethe, Faust, lines 1112–1113).
Conversely, we have all been witness, especially over the last two hundred years, to the well-organized and highly communal political activity of the leftists and their offshoot, the modern antifa movements in Europe and America. Their sense of discipline is awesome; their commitment to their communal goals has helped them achieve astounding political and cultural breakthrough over the last decades. Witness for instance the well-organized Bolshevik revolution in early 20th-century Russia spearheaded by a handful of well-disciplined activists who had flocked to Russia from all parts of Europe and the USA—and who subsequently changed the face of the earth. One must also emphasize the astonishing organizational skills of the modern “antifas” on US campuses and their skill in lining up at a short notice a violent crowd in any European city center.
One can tentatively substitute the word ‘heretic’ with the word ‘rebel’ or ‘dissident’. To be sure, the word ‘rebel’ is not a synonym of the word ‘dissident’. There are many dissidents and many self-proclaimed rebels in the contemporary West, such as the bare-chested “Femen” women parading on the streets of Europe, or the Antifas, or the Anonymous, or even some prominent intellectuals critical of the regime, such as Noam Chomsky. These groups of people and individuals can be labeled as self-serving dissidents within, but not without the System. None of them wants to challenge the supporting egalitarian dogma upholding the System. A dissident usually aims at modifying the System by relying on the support of other System-affiliated countries; he never tries to remove the root causes of the System. A rebel, by contrast, rejects all modifications of the System. Writers and thinkers, such as the American Ezra Pound and the Russian Alexander Solzhenitsyn, can be tentatively described with the triple label: heroes-rebels-heretics. They both fought the System, whether in its liberal or its communistic form. Solzhenitsyn, after having denounced Soviet communism — an act which earned him briefly a calculated praise from the US ruling class — did not hesitate to denounce in turn the so-called freedom-loving USA. He returned from America to his post-communist Russia. Similarly, Pound, after having been sequestered for several years in an American lunatic asylum for his earlier rebel Fascist stance, when returning in 1958 to Italy declared upon his arrival that he had left America because “all America is an insane asylum.
One must make an additional distinction, this time between the mythical heroes in Western literary heritage and the real heroes or heroes hopeful in Western political life. Thousands of mythical heroes, including Achilles or Hector, fighting alongside the walls of Troy, or better yet, the demigod heroes such as Hercules or Theseus, combating the monsters in the underworld, have had a distinct advantage so far of being exempt from modern re-educational process consisting of political criminalization and demonization. The System continues to use their names as positive role models, although, to be sure, the System thought police, with its increasing guilt-tripping process designed to alter the minds of White peoples, may some day remove these mythical heroes from the role model reading list as well. The conclusion one can therefore offer is that any would-be heroic act, any heretical or rebellious deed, regardless of its factual, fictional or factitious nature, is always subject to different reinterpretations in a different political epoch.
The same conclusion applies to literary heroes and their hero-crafting authors such as William Shakespeare, Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and hundreds more, each of them having received, or still receiving, a different accolade by a different ruling class at a different historical and political time. Thus Friedrich Schiller’s poem Ode to Joy (1785) is being widely and wildly used today as a trademark of the European Union. Schiller’s stanzas are being chanted today by multicultural transgenderists, pederasts and plutocrats as a call for a mandatory multiracial embrace and as a handy alibi for the free flow of non-European migrant labor.
Endure courageously, millions! /Endure for the better world/ Above the starry canopy/ A great God will reward you/.
By contrast, in National Socialist Germany the same Schiller was praised to the skies, albeit through differently worded official eulogies and different academic interpretations. In his drama The The Robbers (1781), Schiller depicts an armed gang’s leader Karl Moor who is always eager to first dispense the stolen goods to the local poor, yet who by his sheer association with other violent gang members could easily pass off today as a modern terrorist — or, short of that, fall short of some folkish road warrior Mad Max. Schiller’s other medieval hero, widely praised in academic circles all over Europe and whose name is used as an official state symbol of Switzerland, is the crossbow-toting hero from the same drama, Wilhelm Tell (1804) who could also be described as a perfect role model for modern terrorists. With his sneaky, ugly and cowardly weapon, Tell assassinates (from ambush!) the Austrian-appointed governor who rules over his native borough in Switzerland. Between 1933 and 1941 Schiller’s plays were performed all over liberal-weary, communist-scared Europe and particularly in Germany.
The next conclusion one can offer is that any White author, any poet, any writer, any White activist, regardless of his political beliefs or disbeliefs, always runs the risk of having his works or his exploits extrapolated and reinterpreted based on prevalent political whims of the System or the conventional lies of the scribes bankrolled by the System.
Quite different is the story when real historical and political figures, once hailed as finite destiny- ordained heroes, unexpectedly end up in the garbage can of the memory hole. A set of lucky circumstances made Thomas Jefferson and George Washington into American heroes, although, to be sure, if the English colonial troops had been somewhat more agile, Jefferson’s and Washington’s bodies would have been dangling on the gallows in the summer of 1780 in front of London Tower Hill and their names would grace henceforth the European school books as marginal colonial road bandits. Of course, in the contemporary U.S., Jefferson and Washington are now mainly known to schoolchildren as slave owners.
Conversely, the famed politician Adolf Hitler was venerated as the ultimate European hero (Held) by many Europeans during his adult life time. Today, however, Hitler’s name or even the two syllables “hit-ler” have become a synonym and a signifier for a peculiar extraterrestrial species representing an absolute metaphysical evil, surpassing all imaginable cosmic evils. It is therefore a waste of time to talk about Hitler as a hero or ab anti-hero because the two syllables of his name enter into the realm of modern demonology — and not into the realm of dispassionate historiography. In modern liberal demonology, however, different rules and different value systems in regard to hero worship prevail.
Hero’s ‘Weird Sisters’
The hero is not a blank slate. He is often a self-centered and narcissistic figure who loves victimizing himself with endless neurotic self-justifying soliloquies, as seen in Shakespeare’s plays. The hero often imagines himself to be a man of destiny, although, when needed, he calls himself a man of free will. Hero faces a dilemma between these two notions. The factor of destiny carries always more weight for him when his free will is impeded or yields disastrous political results for his community. Usually, a would-be hero prefers to babble about his free will and indulge in an exercise of wishful thinking in the present or the future tense, yet he quickly reverts to the past tense when describing his bad luck and calls it destiny. His tragic destiny is then wished away by his invocations of witches, weird sisters, moirés, fates, or Germanic broom-riding Hexen. One must also note that virtually all Western mythical heroes are husky, good looking White males, with virtually no women ever assuming a role of a hero. However, during extreme emergency, or in the final death hour of the hero, it is no longer gods or good spirits who decide — but always a death spell of a female witch.
“Third Witch: All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter! (Macbeth; Act I Scene III)
There is more to that. Hero’s self-abnegation and his full-fledged idealism and commitment to superhuman goals often morph into fanaticism. Many mythical real or once-upon-a-time heroes, including the conventionally demonized and the proverbial Hitler, are depicted today in the System as certified fanatics and certainly not as heroes. In retrospect and from the modern liberal and rational point of view, the 10-year siege of mythical Troy, or thousands of real wars that have raged in European history amidst and between tribes and peoples that are virtually identical racially can be described as an exercise in White man’s savagery. From the point of view of liberals, any war-exalting hero is an irrational psychopath — other than when liberal theoreticians conduct wars in order to “make the world safe for democracy.” If we follow this liberal logic that wartime heroic dying does not make much sense, one must conclude that living does not make much sense either.
The line of demarcation between heroism, fanaticism and idealism is very thin, as observed on countless occasions in the intellectual and military history of the West. A hero’s sacrifice for a political or religious goal often clashes with an equally heroic goal he is poised to challenge. In Pierre Corneille’s drama Polyeucte, Pauline, a pagan lady from a distant part of the Roman Empire in Armenia, is trying to dissuade her convert husband Polyeucte from sacrificing to an obscure Semitic deity known as Jesus Christ. The young nobleman Polyeucte, however, in his ecstatic fervor decides to lay down his life for his new heroic inspiration and renounce his community, his wife Pauline, and his entire family.
Pauline: Oh, leave illusions! Love me!
Polyeucte: Thee I love/ Far more than self, but less than God above! (Polyeucte: Acte IV, Scene III)
Moreover, Polyeucte does not hesitate to desecrate the statues of ancient heroic gods in a Roman temple — a very serious political offense in the pagan Roman Empire. Polyeucte, like other early Christian heroes or would-be saints/martyrs, could not, however, anticipate that his self-serving heroic deeds on behalf of his newly discovered superhero Jesus Christ, would, over the next thousand years become a pattern for incessant inter-Christian, inter-White wars, Inquisitions and barbarism. At the moment when Corneille was in the process of finishing his play Polyeucte, a gigantic inter-Christian, inter-White carnage, known as the Thirty Years War, was taking place in the heart of Europe, resulting in millions of the German dead. Well, what counted for the poet Corneille was cozying up to his pious protector, the Christian King Louis XIII, and thus secure his literary fame on the winning side of the theological and political barricades in Europe.
The morale one can deduce from Polyeucte’s iconoclastic behavior, irrespective of his love for his hidden Semitic mentors Yahweh and Jesus, may be a lesson for all contemporary self -proclaimed “White heroic leaders” tapping incognito on their computer boards, waiting for a miracle to happen without incurring any personal risk. Their alibis must be always ready. If a White hero hopeful goes viral with the display of his heroic insignia, his mama can raise hell, his lady can ask for divorce, or worse he may get fired, or even much worse his mugshot can be posted at a local police precinct. The seventeenth-century author Pierre Corneille was on the safe ground with his narrated hero Polyeucte, being himself already on secure Catholic turf in France. This was not the case with his cherished Christian hero model, the early third-century Polyeucte who had dared to rock the boat of political correctness and paid a heavy price for it in the pagan Roman Empire.
A bit later, in the eighteenth century, with conventional Christian heroes going slowly out of literary and political vogue, Polyeucte would no longer be considered a model for heroes. He would have likely ended up as a fanatical hero, as his counterpart from the Middle East, the Muslim prophet Mohamed did. Mohamed was described as such by the very anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic author Voltaire in his play, Mahomet:
Mahomet: On every side inglorious; — let us raise/ Arabia on the ruins of mankind:/ The blind and tottering universe demands/ Another worship, and another God. (Mahomet; Act II, Scene V.)
With cultural mores changing, the notion of hero changes too. Today, in multiracial France, staging Voltaire’s Mahomet is already causing official concerns and increasing demands for its ban. Modern racial diversity oblige — even if it requires the System to clamp-down on free speech.
Hero’s Genie Unbottled
With all heroes’ gods and home-grown spirits being well stored and secured, nobody can guarantee a hero that his invisible ghostly protectors may not take a sudden revenge on him. Even if a hero is absolutely devoid of hubris and truly thinks of himself as a man of character, his unbottled spirits may act out in an unpredictable fashion. And then the hell breaks loose — which can last for eons. Even his best insights into the secrets of the stars, which the Habsburg warlord Albrecht von Wallenstein excelled at during the Thirty Years War in Europe, could not prevent him from getting assassinated by the very same people who days earlier had pledged to protect him from all political vagaries.
In fact, good spirits, if invoked by a hero too often, can speed up mayhem and chaos, as witnessed recently in European history. Different was the self-perception of nationalist heroes in Europe in 1933 from that in 1943. Conjuring up one’s good White nationalist spirits, as many White nationalists often do, can easily lapse into the deadly opposite, with the White ghosts no longer wishing to return to the bottle or getting stored away in the back of Pandora’s Box. In Goethe’s poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the much invoked magic spell of the enchanted broom, designed initially to help the young hero apprentice in his domestic chores, after a period of fun time turns the whole world upside down:
Flow, flow onward / Stretches many / Spare not any / Water rushing / Ever streaming fully downward / Toward the pool in current gushing.
Can I never, Broom, appease you? / I will seize you / Hold and whack you,/ And your ancient wood / I’ll sever / With a whetted axe I’ll crack you. (transl. by E. Zeydel, 1955)
The hero is frequently invoked during times of extreme emergency. In real life his profile is elevated in times of war. He will forever be the subject of mutually exclusive beliefs, and the final assessment of his deeds will hinge on the spirit of different times. Some past historical hero may appear to future generations either as an idiotic individual or as a man of exceptional intelligence. Once upon a time, thousands of great European intellectuals were swayed by the hero model as put forward by the earlier Marxist mystique and its subsequent political institutionalization in Bolshevik Russia. By the late twentieth century, after the collapse of communism, few would take those heroes seriously today and even less people would bother reading Marx’s books now.
Similar is the case with thousands of American and European intellectuals who thought that heroic life could be best achieved by embracing National Socialism or Fascism. Many outstanding authors projected their own autobiographic examples on a future world-improving hero. Many of those White writer heroes could masterfully handle both the pen and the gun. The authors George Orwell and Ernst Hemingway are still viewed by many liberal and leftist commentators as outstanding heroes who combined the soldier’s prowess with literary talent in their fight against what were alleged to be the fascist dark ages. Conversely, the ideal of the heroic man was equally a trademark of thousands of talented nationalist writers and warriors, such as Léon Degrelle or Ernst Jünger, with each in his own peculiar way, depicting the coming end times of the European White man.
A renowned communist, the French novelist Henri Barbusse, the author of the novel Inferno, is an outstanding visionary source for a better understanding of the spiritual drama faced by a young couple on the treadmill of a merciless capitalist system. Barbusse, with his former soldier’s skill and his literary background placed therefore high hopes in the communist super hero Stalin:
This is an iron man. His name depicts him: Stalin — steel. He is as unflinching and as adaptable as steel. His power is his formidable good sense, the extent of his knowledge, his amazing internal skill of sorting things out, sharpness of passion, his relentless consistency, his swiftness, his self-assuredness, and intensity of his decision, as well as his constant obsession to choose the right people. (p. 311)
Amidst thousands of perceptive European and American thinkers who had embraced the figure of the nationalist hero, one must single out Kurt Eggers, a poet, an acclaimed essayist in National Socialist Germany, a political activist, but also a Waffen SS soldier who had chosen to die on the Eastern front. Eggers sees military combat as “the father of all things” — i.e., the ultimate purpose of life, as opposed to the nothingness of bourgeois life that deprives White man of all sense of purpose.
Placid life creates its own standards of unreality: what brings pleasure is viewed as good; what causes unease is considered evil. (Man) is keen to wish away reality and through his wishful thinking he bans from his life: struggle, the sense of the tragic, bleakness and pain. (p. 37)
How then to figure out in our forthcoming titanic future the right role model of the hero? The self-perception of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or the characters in the killing spree of his Titus Andronicus, or the behavior of the real historical Stalin or any historical or mythical hero, is often at variance with contemporary public perception of their former deeds. Prime examples are the many modern nationalist sycophants or “Hollywood Nazis” — or for that matter, a number of cultivated White nationalist scholars and heretics in the USA and EU who are inclined to mimic their historical heroes not along the patterns of how those heroes actually were, but rather on the surreal patterns of how they wish to see those heroes behave today. Hypothetically speaking, and provided that the White nationalist hopeful hero was given power on a golden platter by the System, nobody can reassure us that all Whites will be happy thereafter. White mythical heroes or White real historical heroes have always been far keener about killing their own kind, starting with their own family members, than killing off non-European invaders. Civil wars among Whites, starting with the siege of Troy all the way to World War II, have been far bloodier than any single war fought by Whites against non-White intruders. Whites are rightfully concerned today about the big and scary racial replacement taking place in Europe and the USA. Yet they need to offer a more persuasive answer as to how to achieve their unity in front of the common threat.