Hegel and Pythagorean Penis Mysticism

Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station (Chp. 11):

The abstractions of German philosophy, which may seem to us unmeaning or clumsy if we encounter them in English or French, convey in German, through their capitalized solidity, almost the impression of primitive gods. They are substantial, and yet they are a kind of pure beings; they are abstract, and yet they nourish. They have the power to hallow, to console, to intoxicate, to render warlike, as perhaps only the songs and the old epics of other peoples do. It is as if the old tribal deities of the North had first been converted to Christianity, while still maintaining their self-assertive pagan nature; and as if then, as the Christian theology became displaced by French eighteenth-century rationalism, they had put on the mask of pure reason. But for becoming less anthropomorphic, they were not the less mythopoeic creations. The Germans, who have done so little in the field of social observation, who have produced so few great social novels or dramas, have retained and developed to an amazing degree the genius for creating myths. The Ewig-Weibliche of Goethe, the kategorische Imperativ of Kant, the Weltgeist with its Idee of Hegel—these have dominated the minds of the Germans and haunted European thought in general like great hovering legendary divinities.

Karl Marx, in the passage I have quoted above, described the Idea of Hegel as a “demiurge”: this demiurge continued to walk by his side even after he imagined he had dismissed it. He still believed in the triad of Hegel: the These, and Antithese and the Synthese; and this triad was simply the old Trinity, taken over from the Christian theology, as the Christians had taken it over from Plato. It was the mythical and magical triangle which from the time of Pythagoras and before had stood as a symbol for certainty and power and which probably derived its significance from its correspondence to the male sexual organs. “Philosophy,” Marx once wrote, “stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as onanism to sexual love”; but into his study of the actual world he insisted on bringing the Dialectic. Certainly the one-in-three, three-in- one of the Thesis, the Antithesis and the Synthesis has had upon Marxists a compelling effect which it would be impossible to justify through reason. (It is almost a wonder that Richard Wagner never composed a music-drama on the Dialectic: indeed, there does seem to be something of the kind implied in the Nibelungen cycle by the relations between Wotan, Brunhilde and Siegfried.)

“Behold, the symbolic dong.”

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