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D.H. Lawrence, Fascism and the Logic of Contamination.

In his autobiography, Bertrand Russell famously alleged that Lawrence's "mystical philosophy of 'blood'" led "straight to Auschwitz" (13-14). Russell reports that he briefly contemplated committing suicide after Lawrence suggested that Russell's pacifism during World War I was the result of overcompensation for his repressed "blood-lust" (14). There seems to be an element of revenge, then, and possibly projection, in his portrait of Lawrence as a fascist. In the wake of Russell's comments, academics have been dutifully unearthing evidence of latent, cryptic or proto-fascist ideas in Lawrence's work. Several scholars have chased up Russell's suspicion that Lawrence somehow "imbibed prematurely the ideas afterwards developed by Hitler and Mussolini" (15) from Frieda and her circle of German intellectuals, and much energy has been expended on drawing dubious parallels between volkisch ideologues, such as Oswald Spengler, Alfred Rosenberg and Houston Chamberlain, and the work of Lawrence. It's not my intention to rescue Lawrence from his leadership politics, which were admittedly elitist and authoritarian, but I do want to problematize some of the thinking that has led to his work being characterized as fascist, for this often involves a logic of contamination, whereby if Hitler read Nietzsche and Lawrence read Nietzsche, Lawrence becomes tarred with the fascist brush. This logic of contamination, I argue, is not only present in the work of the scholars who have highlighted volkisch elements in his thinking, it is also present in the Frankfurt School, which conceived of fascism as a disease, whose ideological symptoms spread and reproduced like a virus, infecting the body politic. I reveal that the Frankfurt School was in fact "infected" by one of the volkisch thinkers who allegedly influenced Lawrence, and which led, by the logic of contamination, to his work being represented as fascist.

The influence of volkisch ideology on Lawrence has been highlighted by many scholars (examined below). Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke describes the volkisch movement as combining the concepts of "nationalism, anti-liberalism, cultural pessimism, and racism" into a "coherent ideological system" (2). It arose in the nineteenth century out of a powerful nostalgia for the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which had once included what are now Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic, and had been dissolved in 1806 after Napoleon's victory in the Battle of Austerlitz. A mythological German character was located in the culture and folk-songs of the medieval past. The German word Volk literally means "people" but came to denote the "metaphysical qualities" that "were supposed to define the unique cultural essence of the German people" (Goodrick-Clarke 3). Even after Bismarck achieved German unification in l871, the Second Reich proved to be a disappointment. "The idealistic anticipation of unity had nurtured utopian and messianic expectations, which could not be fulfilled by the prosaic realities of public administration" (Goodrick-Clarke 3). The volkisch ideology was also a reaction against modernism, since the proliferation of towns and industry had undermined the importance and prestige of traditional rural communities. Irrationalism was embraced as an antidote to the science and instrumental rationality that had resulted in industrialism. The categories of the "natural" and the "organic" were invoked to oppose the automatism and artificiality of industrial capitalism, as well as to justify hierarchy and "natural divisions" between the strong and the weak, the intelligent and the stupid (Bourdieu 17). The bewildering changes in the economy, and the concomitant decay of rural values and institutions, were blamed on Jews. Hence the volkisch thinkers cleaved to racist beliefs, such as the alleged biological inferiority of Jews, and social Darwinism, proclaiming that the Aryan race was the fittest to survive and linking the putative physical characteristics of Aryans (blond hair, blue eyes, and so on) with moral qualities, such as courage and honesty (Goodrick-Clarke 4-5).

Emile Delavenay argues that the volkisch ideologue Houston Stewart Chamberlain exercised a pernicious influence over Lawrence. Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899) was a seminal volkisch text that argued, inter alia, that Western civilization was the 'work of one definite race of men, the Teutonic' (lxvii). The history of humankind was for Chamberlain a Manichean struggle between the evil Jews and the virtuous Aryans. He predicted that the Aryan race would undergo a spiritual transformation following the final overthrow of the Jews (Mosse, 95-7). Delavenay claims that there are some "striking similarities" between Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century and Lawrence's Study of Thomas Hardy (1914). "Frieda and her sisters," he writes of the former, "were bound to have known it" (298). The inconvenient fact that "neither Lawrence nor Frieda should ever have named Chamberlain is highly understandable," given the British Chamberlain's pro-German stance during World War I (Delavenay 299). This assumes that Lawrence was a mealy-mouthed diplomat who carefully censored his opinions, whereas he was openly hostile to the war, both in private letters and in public, and thus would not have omitted any mention of Chamberlain from his work on the grounds of patriotism. Delavenay quotes some provocative passages from Chamberlain, in which the latter congratulates the Teutons on their ability "to make room for themselves, slaughtering whole tribes and races, or slowly killing them by systematic demoralization"; Delavenay then maintains that "Lawrence's analysis of race and religion in the 'Hardy', his attempt to outline national psychologies in Twilight in Italy, do not differ greatly from this idea of Teutonic supremacy" (301), but he fails to provide any specific examples to support this assertion. If, indeed, Lawrence was a chest-thumping Teutonic supremacist, it seems strange that the blond-haired, blue-eyed Gerald Crich in Women in Love (1920) should die at the end of novel, largely as a result of his inorganic mechanism; if Lawrence was so influenced by volkisch thinkers, surely the industrial magnate in the novel would have been Jewish, while Birkin, who achieves a more Lawrentian balance between mind and body and establishes an organic connection between himself and Ursula, would have taken the role of the Teutonic Ubermensch.

The next so-called similarity Delavenay advances between Lawrence and Chamberlain is even more tenuous: in Study of Thomas Hardy, Lawrence is "seeking to reconcile in a new, revivified, re-sourced art, the Law and Love: Chamberlain says the Law and Grace, and he also associates those with the masculine and feminine principles" (301). Lawrence was possibly thinking of Romans 13.8-10, in which the distinction between law and love is shown to be illusory:
   Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that
   loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

   For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not
   kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
   Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment,
   it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou
   shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

   Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the
   fulfilling of the law.

Delavenay seems to imply that Lawrence appropriated this "antinomy" from Chamberlain, but whereas the law and love can be reconciled, the law and grace are for Chamberlain irreconcilable: "Law or grace," he writes: "the two could no more exist simultaneously than man could at once serve God and Mammon. 'I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.' (Paul to the Galatians 2.21)" (40). Chamberlain's argument is that Jews wilfully ignore the Fall and have no conception of original sin: "whoever does not break the law is righteous" (34); thus Jews cleave to the dead letter of the law, whereas Christians embrace the Fall and original sin and require the redemption or grace of Christ (Chamberlain 31-41). For Chamberlain, then, "the law" signifies Judaism and "grace" signifies Christianity; you cannot be an adherent of both Judaism and Christianity; therefore this opposition is quite different from Lawrence's law and love, which is susceptible of reconciliation: "Artistic form," writes Lawrence, "is a revelation of the two principles of Love and the Law in a state of conflict and yet reconciled" (STH 90). Given the demonstrable distinction between the law and love and the law and grace, it is frankly incredible to imagine that Lawrence was influenced by Chamberlain in this respect. Moreover, as Delavenay himself admits, for Chamberlain the "Jewish spirit was the masculine principle, the generative element, the will" (qtd. in Delavenay 311), whereas Lawrence associates Jews with the feminine principle and Christians with the male. The Jew "kept his body always like the body of a bride ready to serve the bridegroom"; he "had become the servant of his God, the female, passive" whose "conscious element was a resistance to the male or active principle" (STH 62).

Peter Fjagesund also emphasizes the influence of volkisch thinking on Lawrence. He argues that it was Chamberlain's disciple Otto Weininger who held that Jews embodied the female principle and Aryans the male, and suggests that Weininger was the source of Lawrence's gendered reading of race in Study of Thomas Hardy (115). For Weininger, there are no gender absolutes; each cell of the body has masculine and feminine aspects, in different proportions, which allegedly accounts for the fact that some women have masculine attributes, such as flat chests and narrow pelvises, though remaining feminine in all other respects, while some men have feminine attributes (such as wide hips and sparse beards) while being otherwise unmistakably masculine (Weininger 10). Men must guard against succumbing to the woman within, since according to Weininger women are emotional, unconscious, illogical, amoral, whereas men are rational, conscious, logical and moral. He boldly asserts that in woman "there is infinitely much wanting which is never quite missing even in the most mediocre and plebeian of men" and this leads him to claim "that the woman of the highest standard is immeasurably beneath the man of lowest standard" (184). Likewise, there are no racial absolutes; one is not born Jewish or Aryan; no, Jewishness is a state of mind, a "psychological constitution which is a possibility for all of mankind," and must be guarded against, since Jews, like women, are inherently inferior to Christians (Weininger 185). Hence it was possible for the Jewish Weininger to convert to Christianity and write an egregiously anti-Semitic chapter on "Judaism" in his book Sex and Character (1903). Weininger maintains that "Judaism is saturated with femininity"; indeed, it "would not be difficult to make a case for the view that the Jew is more saturated with femininity than the Aryan, to such an extent that the most manly Jew is more feminine than the least manly Aryan" (187).

In order to support his position, Fjagesund cites Delavenay's contention that Lawrence had read Weininger (115). The problem is that Delavenay has no proof of this. He states that David Garnett and his "Oxford generation" had all read Weininger but Lawrence, although a friend of Garnett's, was not part of the latter's Oxford generation. Delavenay then notes that in reviewing the Russian philosopher V.V. Rozanov's Fallen Leaves Lawrence comments on Rozanov's "strange and self-revealing statements concerning Weininger," demonstrating "familiarity with Weininger's views" (308). Lawrence may well have been familiar with Weininger's views by 1930 when he wrote the review, but as Mark KinkeadWeekes points out "there is no evidence at all" that Lawrence had read Sex and Character by 1914 (TE 795). Moreover, he argues that if Lawrence had
   read Weininger he would have hated him (as Delavenay
   apparently never notices), since the conclusion Weininger
   draws from his argument is that homosexuals are the
   superior beings and women are so inferior that those who
   unfortunately are attracted to them ought as far as possible
   to avoid contamination by intercourse. (TE 795)

   It should also be noted that just because Lawrence associated
   Judaism with femininity and Christianity with masculinity
   this does not mean that he wholeheartedly endorsed the
   latter like the Christian zealot Weininger, since Lawrence
   lamented the way in which Christianity had exalted the spirit
   at the expense of the body.

For Jad Smith, "Fjagesund argues convincingly for the influence of [...] German intellectuals such as Hans Bluher and Ernst Bertram upon Lawrence" (9). In fact, there is no mention of either of these volkisch thinkers in Lawrence's work, and Smith, much like Delavenay and Fjagesund, has recourse to the argument that Lawrence osmotically absorbed their ideas in the intellectual ether when he visited Germany with Frieda in 1912. All Fjagesund has to say about Ernst Bertram is that he contributed to the "leadership mythos" and "made the philosopher [Bertram lionized Nietzsche] into an Uberdeutscher whose holy works were to 'lead the nation to the greatness it deserved'" (97). There is no convincing argument here that Lawrence was influenced by Bertram. What is indisputable, though, is that they were both influenced by Nietzsche, who was a source of inspiration for many of the volkisch ideologues (Mosse 206), and thus there is a genealogical resemblance between the ideas of the latter and those of Lawrence. As for Hans Bluher, he argued that men in "close relationship to one another" sublimate their homosexual feelings and this gives rise to "true creativity which centres on the Mannerbund, the society of men" (Mosse 176). Perhaps Smith is thinking of the relationship between Birkin and Gerald, Ramon and Cipriano, but where Bluher argued that sublimated homosexual feelings engendered esprit de corps in the Wandervogel movement and invested its leaders with charisma (Mosse 176), for Lawrence's male characters "fullness of being" is only possible when one establishes a trinity of blood relationships: between man and man, man and woman, man and cosmos, and the blood polarity between men is incommensurable with the Mannerbund. (1) Hence the influence of Bluher seems unlikely.

As noted above, the various parallels between Lawrence's philosophy and the volkisch thinkers largely derives from the fact that they were both indebted to Nietzsche. John Worthen posits Nietzsche as the source of Lawrence's philosophy of the blood, and quotes the following extracts from Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883-91): "Behind thy thoughts and feelings, my brother, there is a mighty lord, an unknown sage--it is called self; it dwelleth in thy body, it is thy body"; and: "There is more sagacity in thy body than in thy best wisdom. Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit" (EY 211). However, there is a crucial difference between Lawrence's conception of the blood and that of the volkisch thinkers: for Lawrence, the blood was a metaphor that signified the instinct and the body as opposed to the intellect and mind, whereas for Houston Chamberlain and Alfred Rosenberg the blood was a metonym for race, whose literal purity had to be defended in order to preserve the Aryan race from degeneration (Green 80).

In her chapter on Lawrence and fascism, Anne Fernihough flags up the influence of what she terms "volkisch organicism" on Lawrence's work (10). Fernihough emphasizes the stultifying polyvalency of the word "organic" in critical theory and largely confines herself to two connotations of the term. The first derives from the romantic use of the term in aesthetic theory, which holds that the work of art is an organic totality, in which the parts are intimately interrelated to the whole, and which was taken up by the New Critics, most famously F.R. Leavis, who praised the "organic wholeness and vitality" of Lawrence's work (28). The second sense of the organic is one that Fernihough associates with volkisch thinkers, such as Oswald Spengler, who conceived of cultures "springing with primitive strength from the soil of a mother-region to which it remains firmly bound throughout its whole life-cycle" (qtd. in Fernihough 24). But this form of organicism did not originate with the volkisch ideologues, it derives from earlier romantic critics, particularly S.T. Coleridge, who in turn borrowed many of his ideas concerning the organic from German idealists, such as Friedrich Schelling and A.W. Schlegel. Just as the artwork was conceived as organically unfolding from a seed of inspiration in the imagination of the artist, so a "national literature" unfolded over time (Abrams 218). "In a full-fledged organology," writes M.H. Abrams,
   which exploits the detailed possibilities of living and growing
   things, any human product or institution is envisioned
   as germinating, without anyone's deliberate plan or intent,
   and as fulfilling its destiny through an inner urgency, feeding
   on the materials of its time and place in order to proliferate
   into its ultimate and living form. (218-19)

But for Fernihough this form of aesthetic organicism is politically suspect because it was propounded by Spengler and the volkisch ideologues; it was also present in the work of Martin Heidegger and the articles Paul de Man wrote for the collaborationist newspaper Le Soir in the early 1940s (Fernihough 5-6; Johnson 17). Fernihough adduces the following quote from Lawrence's essay on Edgar Allan Poe as an example of this second form of organicism, which "attempts to root cultures in their native soil, binding together culture and national destiny":

For men who are born at the end of a great era or epoch nothing remains but the seething reduction back to the elements; just as for a tree in autumn nothing remains but the strangling off of the leaves and the strange decomposition and arrest of the sap. (qtd. in Fernihough 20-1)

There's no disputing Lawrence's use of organic imagery but in the essay Poe is presented as symbolic of the decline not of a specifically American culture rooted in the American soil, but of Western culture as a whole, which is dying off in preparation for a new cycle of growth. In Poe and his characters, the "mystic, spontaneous self is replaced by the self-determined ego" (TSM 118). Much the same can be said of the Englishman Gerald Crich in Women in Love; like Poe's character Ligeia, his learning "shows the unspeakable craving of those whose souls are arrested, to gain mastery over the world through knowledge" (TSM 121). And like Ligeia, he dies because his mechanical brand of love craves a reduction into oneness with Gudrun, rather than a polarized "communion between self and self' (TSM 119). But Gerald's death has nothing to do with the decline of a specifically English culture, rooted in the English soil and bound up with an English destiny. In fact, for Spengler as for Lawrence, the culture he regarded as in decline was Western or "Faustian" and covered both Europe and America (Spengler 1). In The Decline of the West (1918), Spengler identified eight organic cultures which had come to fruition over a period of a thousand years, and which, having realized their full potential, had ossified into "civilization" and withered over a period of another thousand years. The present Faustian culture had begun in the tenth century CE and had reached its apogee in the nineteenth century (32, 106). But for Lawrence, Western culture was in its death throes now and had begun with the birth of Christ, (2) and this conception of living through the twilight of the Christian era can be traced to Nietzsche rather than Spengler (EY 211).

Nonetheless, Fernihough attempts to make a case for the influence of Spengler on Women in Love, despite acknowledging that The Decline of the West was published in Germany in 1918, after Lawrence's last substantial revision of Women in Love at the end of 1917. Fernihough speculates that Lawrence would have heard of Spengler's theories through the economist Werner Sombart, whose ideas influenced Spengler, and who was a friend of Elsa Jaffe, Frieda Lawrence's sister: "Even if [Lawrence] never read Sombart's work at first hand, it seems more than likely that Frieda and her family would have discussed it with him" on his maiden visit to Germany in 1912 (22). Fernihough construes Spengler's distinction between culture and civilization in the opposition between Hermione's bohemian set and Gerald's industrialism, emphasizing that the former are described by Lawrence as "Kulturtrage" ("bearers of culture") (27). However, Fernihough undermines this supposed parallel with volkisch thinking by admitting that Lawrence "negates both Crich's materialism and Hermione's idealism, seeing them, in fact, as two sides of the same coin" (27). She also concedes that Lawrence probably first encountered the notion of the flourishing and decadence of cultures from Nietzsche, whose work also influenced Spengler, and that this "largely accounts for the remarkable similarities between The Decline of the West and Women in Love" (26).

Notwithstanding this admission, Fernihough insists that Lawrence "cannot be exempted from a full-blooded, volkisch organicism," and represents Lawrence's anti-Semitic portrait of Loerke as the logical outcome of the latter. She summarizes some of Sombart's anti-Semitic Jewish stereotypes, such as rootlessness and "Nomadism," and claims that this inspired Lawrence's conception of Loerke as "detached from everything," someone who "admitted no allegiance" and "gave no adherence anywhere" (28). In fact, Loerke is being compared favourably with Gerald here. The next three sentences make this clear: "He was single and, by abstraction from the rest, absolute in himself. Whereas in Gerald's soul there still lingered some attachment to the rest, to the whole. And this was his limitation" (WL 452). Moreover, rather than advocating a spiritual renascence through putting down roots in the English soil, Lawrence was at this time promoting the very "Nomadism" that Sombart associated with Jews. Apropos marriage, Birkin opines: "One should avoid this home instinct. It's not an instinct, it's a habit of cowardliness. One should never have a home," and he and Ursula embody this spirit of freedom by quitting England in order to travel indefinitely (WL 352). In the essay "Democracy," composed in 1919, Lawrence asserts that the possession of property is "a kind of illness of the spirit, and a hopeless encumbrance upon the spontaneous self," and urges his fellow man to rid himself of the "extraneous load of possession, and walk naked and light" (RDP 82).

For Sombart, Jews are characterized by a tendency towards idealism and abstraction. (3) "It is no accident," Fernihough writes, "that Loerke, the Dresden sculptor who puts forward a theory of an absolute aesthetic autonomy, a transcendental art-life dichotomy, is Jewish" (27). It should be noted, though, that the gentile Gudrun shares Loerke's aesthetic position: "Art and Life were to them [Gudrun and Loerke] the Reality and the Unreality" respectively; Gudrun declares that "life doesn't really matter--it is one's art which is central" (WL 448). Nonetheless, Birkin clearly associates idealism with Jews; he says of Loerke: "He hates the ideal utterly, yet it still dominates him. I expect he is a Jew--or part Jewish" (428). Kinkead-Weekes points out that Loerke's frieze was inspired by Mark Gertler's picture The Merry-Go-Round (1916), which depicts "sailors and their women being pleasured by a machine, a carousel," and captured for Lawrence the mindless, mechanized nature of modern life (TE 343). After seeing the painting, Fernihough notes, Lawrence wrote to his friend Gertler:
   You are all absorbed in the violent and lurid processes of
   decomposition: the same thing that makes leaves go
   scarlet and copper-green at this time of year. [...] It would
   take a Jew to paint this picture. It would need your national
   history to get you here, without disintegrating you first. You
   are of an older race than I, and in these ultimate processes you
   are beyond me, older than I am. But I think I am sufficiently
   the same, to be able to understand. (28)

David Bradshaw quotes the same passage to support his contention that Lawrence's portrait of Loerke "need not necessarily be read as anti-Semitism on his part" (xxxvi), whereas for Fernihough it affords more damning evidence of Lawrence's organicism, which gives "Bertrand Russell's

charge [...] obvious relevance" (28-9). But Fernihough is too astute not to realize that "Lawrence includes himself, and indeed the whole of Western civilization, in this process of decay" (29). Furthermore, she admits that while Lawrence links "Loerke with idealism, he seems to see Loerke as part of a trend within Western civilization as a whole, a trend which Gerald, as much as Loerke, symptomatizes" (29).

To put things in perspective, it's worth contrasting Lawrence's portrait of Loerke with some of the organicist arguments advanced by Paul de Man. In one of de Man's articles for Het Vlaamsche Land (written in August 1942), he associates Jews with "expressionism," an "art with a strongly cerebral disposition, founded upon some abstract principle and very remote from all naturalness," and unfavourably compares it to the "proper traditions of German art," which are marked by a "deep spiritual sincerity" (qtd. in Johnson 16). In his most infamous essay ("Jews in Contemporary Literature," published in Le Soir in March 1941), de Man worries about the possible influence of Jews on Western culture and proposes "that a solution to the Jewish problem [.] would aim towards the creation of a Jewish colony far from Europe" (17). Of this type of organicism, written during World War II, one can say that it is ideologically consistent with Nazism, whereas Lawrence does not propose that Jews are responsible for the cultural decadence of the West and must be eliminated in order to restore the "natural" order. And it is Gerald, rather than Loerke, who is presented as the polar opposite of the corporeal African culture, exemplified by the "fetish" in Halliday's flat, which had fallen into desuetude by the pursuit of "mindless progressive knowledge through the senses, knowledge arrested and ending in the senses, mystic knowledge in disintegration and dissolution"; Gerald who represents the "white races, having the arctic north behind them, the vast abstraction of ice and snow," and whose mechanical idealism fulfils the "mystery of ice-destructive knowledge, snow-abstract annihilation," mirroring the "burning death-abstraction of the Sahara" and the "West Africans"; and whose death symbolizes the death of a Western culture steeped in Judeo-Christian idealism (WL 253-4).

Smith, building on the work of Fernihough, asserts that in The Plumed Serpent (1926) "volkisch organicism [...] constitutes the ideological core of the Quetzalcoatl movement," in which the "theme of blood and soil holds a central position" (12, 18). But the blood, for Ramon as for Lawrence, is not bound up with eugenics and racial purity. The only character in the novel who manifests a eugenic sensibility is Julio Toussaint, who decries the admixture of European and American-Indian blood (PS 64). In contrast, Cipriano, despite his "pure Indian" blood, has no qualms about marrying the Celtic Kate, who is invited to become a deity in the Aztec pantheon (64). For Ramon, the world is divided not between Mexicans and the lesser peoples of the world, but between the many (the rabble, irrespective of their race) and the few (the "natural aristocrats"). To adopt Weininger's rhetoric, for Hitler the basest German was far superior to the noblest Mexican by dint of his Aryan blood, whereas for Ramon, Mexican blood is no guarantee of nobility, the natural aristocrat is distinguished by the quality of his soul. That Ramon is a natural aristocrat can be seen in the fact that he enjoys a spiritual connection between the cosmos and himself. Partly as a result of the spiritualizing influence of Christianity, and partly because of the mechanistic influence of industrial capitalism, the Mexicans have lost this connection. Smith notes that for volkisch ideologues "the soil constitutes a source of 'primitive energy,'" and that the Volk derived their spiritual pre-eminence from their organic connection with it (10). He perceives a volkisch attitude to the soil in the Quetzalcoatl movement but Ramon does not fetishize the Mexican soil, nor conceive of Mexico as a fatherland; he attempts to restore a living connection between the people and the cosmos (rather than the specifically Mexican soil). He does not, as Smith contends, create a "myth of national purity" (12), he revives the Aztec mythology that had been largely supplanted by Christianity in order to restore this cosmic connection.

Admittedly, at one point in the novel, Ramon seems to share Toussaint's eugenic concerns:
   The races of the earth are like trees, in the end they neither
   mix nor mingle. They stand out of each other's way,
   like trees. Or else they crowd on one another, and their
   roots grapple, and it is the fight to the death.--Only from
   the flowers there is commingling. And the flowers of every
   race are the natural aristocrats of that race. (PS 248)

If you interpret this passage in terms of miscegenation, it makes no sense, since as Toussaint points out in Mexico the races have been mixed so thoroughly that any attempt to restore racial homogeneity is doomed to failure; on the other hand, there is no fight to the death between those of pure American-Indian blood and those of European blood and the enemies of the Quetzalcoatl movement, such as the Knights of Cortes and the Catholic Church, are not targeted on racial grounds. What Ramon seems to be driving at in the passage as a whole is culture rather than race. (4) The Mexicans cannot find God through Christianity or Norse mythology, they must embrace their Aztec pantheon. Only natural aristocrats, such as Kate, can be truly "cosmopolitan" and come to God through another culture and it is perhaps Kate's Celtic background that leads to her resistance to the Quetzalcoatl movement (PS 248). Ramon's prescription that each race and nation embrace their own set of religious myths is more plausibly inspired by Theosophy than volkisch ideology. He envisages a world ruled not by Cipriano and himself but by a congress of "the other great aristocrats of the world, the First Man of Wotan and the First Woman of Freya, First Lord of Hermes, and the Lady of Astarte, the BestBorn of Brahma, and the Son of the Greatest Dragon" (249). Ramon's opinions on the subject of natural aristocrats reflect those of Lawrence: "There will form a new aristocracy," he writes,
   irrespective of nationality, of men who have reached the sun.
   Men of the sun, whether Chinese or Hottentot or Nordic, or
   Hindu or Esquimo, if they touch the sun in the heavens, are
   lords of the earth. And together they will form the aristocracy
   of the world. (RDP 376)

Lawrence's position, and that of Ramon, is undeniably elitist, but this kind of international spiritual aristocracy goes against the grain of fascism, which is above all else nationalist. On the other hand, as Fernihough points out, Lawrence's phrase "natural aristocrats" performs a characteristically volkisch conflation of two different connotations of the word "natural" (32): Lawrence's aristocrats are natural in that they are not artificial, urban, industrial, but their pre-eminence relies on "natural laws," which are undemocratic and produce the genius and the dunce, the "born leader" and the "herd" (Spengler qtd. in Bourdieu 17).

Carl Krockel asserts that in Quetzalcoatl "blood signifies a racial identity, instead of the vitality of the individual's body," and quotes the following declaration from Cipriano: "We're the best blood in America, the blood of the Montezuma. We've gone against our own blood, serving the gringos' gods, and kneeling down on our own knees" (277). But while it's true that Cipriano uses the word blood in the quotation above to signify race, Lawrence also uses the word blood in Quetzalcoatl to signify the body and instincts. For example, the narrator notes that Teresa endeavoured to keep Ramon "blood-faithful": "Not mind-faithful or nerve-faithful. Not merely faithful in sympathy or companionship. But blood-faithful. She was fighting to keep the man faithful to her from his blood" (Q 259). Here, then, blood denotes the body as opposed to mind and nerves; Teresa is not keeping Ramon faithful by means of his racial identity. Furthermore, the Mexican peons believe that the "blood is one blood' and claim that in "blood, in sex"--i.e., in the body--"we are all equal," and mock Kate Burns for her superficial mental knowledge: "As soon as she used her mere learning, they jeered at her" (275). In contrast, it is Kate who conceives of blood as a metonym not of race but of class: "Kate was of good family. She had been brought up to believe that her blood was special, finer than the blood of the common working people" (275). Krockel compares Cipriano's quotation from Quetzalcoatl above with one from Mein Kampf: "The same blood belongs to the same Reich," and adds that "[fundamental to the Reich were the 'universally valid drives to racial purity in nature'" (277). After making some dubious parallels between Cipriano and Hitler (as a general, Cipriano regards his men instrumentally, rather than as individuals, and bends them to his will, which could be said about any general, fascist, communist or otherwise), Krockel blithely refers to "Cipriano and Ramon's religion of the racial blood" (280). But if this were true, why would Cipriano and Ramon want the Celtic Kate to serve as avatar of the Aztec goddess Malinchi? Krockel argues that Kate insists "her blood cannot be mixed with that of Mexicans," and concludes from this that in Quetzalcoatl blood "is a fixed, material entity, not a dynamic symbol of life" (280).

However, Kate's relationship with Cipriano is presented in terms of blood polarity between the sexes, and it is both literal and symbolic. At first, she fears Cipriano because she perceives that, much like Gerald with Gudrun, he desires a reduction into oneness that will obliterate her individuality. She thinks of his blood as "a sort of dark river softly lapping, and full of sulphur and electricity, corrosive [...] which seemed almost likely to envelop her"; he "wanted their two bloodstreams to meet and mingle" (Q 205). She does not want to serve, as Gudrun does in Women in Love, as a receptacle into which Gerald "poured all his pent-up darkness and corrosive death" (WL 344). Or, as Lawrence puts it when discussing Poe's characters, Kate senses between Cipriano and herself "an electric attraction" that must lead to destruction "rather than a communion between self and self' (TSM 119). Thus Kate's impulse is to "preserve her own integrity and purity" (Q 205).

Later in the novel, Cipriano performs a ceremony of sorts in which, pouring Kate's wine into his glass, their blood symbolically mingles: "the Lord Almighty," he tells Kate, "poured down the flood of your blood into mine, and created the vortex of the Red Sea, in the middle of which He stands making a way for your soul and mine, his little Israel" (291). Lawrence uses the metaphor of the Red Sea to describe blood polarity in Fantasia of the Unconscious (1922):
   Like the waters of the Red Sea, the blood is divided in a
   dual polarity between the sexes. [.] Suddenly there is
   a deep circuit established between me and the woman.
   Suddenly the sea of blood which is me heaves and rushes
   towards the sea of blood which is her. There is a moment
   of pure frictional crisis and contact of blood. And then all
   the blood in me ebbs back into its ways, transmuted, changed.
   And this is the profound basis of my renewal, my deep blood
   renewal. (FU 185)

When Kate drinks the symbolic blood from Cipriano's glass she feels a tangible result in her body. "She rose with a sudden jerk, as if something in her thighs had twitched her to her feet," and as she flees the room she feels her "thighs hard and insentient like iron" (Q 292). This is reminiscent of the "current of passional electric energy" Birkin experiences with Ursula, which manifests itself in a "straight downflow of the thighs" (WL 313-4). This subtle life force is a Lawrentian homologue of kundalini energy, but whereas in the Hindu Tantra and Hatha Yoga traditions kundalini ascends from the coccyx (muladhara chakra) to the crown of the head (sahasrara chakra), Lawrence's "passional electric energy" that is communicated to Ursula from Birkin's thighs travels in the opposite direction, "carrying away her mind and flooding down her spine and down her knees, past her feet" and results not in apotheosis (as in the Tantra and Hatha Yoga traditions), but a kind of spiritual rebirth that leaves Ursula an "essential new being," her "complete self' (WL 314). In Quetzalcoatl, Lawrence invokes the awakening of kundalini (symbolized as a serpent or snake) through references to Cipriano's "blood in the glass, with the serpent of fire"; Cipriano is likened to "a serpent gradually insinuating its folds round her"; and when Kate drinks Cipriano's "blood" it "seemed to coil round her throat and her heart" (291-2). But where Ursula is transfigured by blood polarity with Birkin, Kate is galvanized by resistance to Cipriano: "She felt something had turned to iron inside her, and it would never soften again. [...] Her emotions were fastened with iron to a hard rock at the middle of her. [...] She was set into a hard rock, like the rock before Moses smote it and released the flow" (293). This allusion to Exodus 17.6 ("thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink") can also be found in Women in Love, only there the accent falls on the flowing water after Moses has smitten the rock and it is used to convey Ursula's transfiguration: "behold, from the smitten rock of the man's body, from the strange marvellous flanks and thighs [...] came the floods of ineffable darkness and ineffable riches" (314). If only Kate would allow Cipriano to smite her "rock" with his "sword," she might enjoy the transfiguring blood polarity Ursula experiences in Women in Love, but Kate's mind offers a powerful resistance to it, causing her emotions to dam. She judges the "initiation" to be a failure and vows to return home because she cannot fully integrate into the Quetzalcoatl culture (she is too Celtic and self-conscious to be the living Malinchi), because she cannot "give herself [to Cipriano] from her soul" (again, it is her soul or mind that is the obstacle) not because, as Krockel contends, she cannot countenance miscegenation (Q 293-4).

In The Plumed Serpent, Krockel finds disturbing parallels between Lawrence and the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. The Mexican Indians are portrayed there as descendants of the "mysterious, hot-blooded, soft-footed humanity" that lived on the "great plains" of Atlantis before the Flood (PS 414). Krockel assumes that Lawrence's conception of Atlantis derives from Leo Frobenius (rather than H.P. Blavatsky, say, or Thomas Belt), who maintained that he had found traces of an ancient civilization in West Africa, which engendered the myth of a lost Atlantis. "Ramon is attempting to revive Atlantis in Mexico," writes Krockel, "which we can compare to the Atlantis of another reader of Frobenius, Alfred Rosenberg" (284). But all these comparisons achieve is to underline the stark differences between them. "Rosenberg speculates that Frobenius' Atlantis was a 'Nordic, prehistoric culture-centre,' not the original diaspora as it is for Lawrence" (Krockel 284). Where Rosenberg celebrated the destruction of Etruria by the Romans, Lawrence wrote lyrically about Etruscan culture and conceived of it as an "Atlantis" of instinctual being in contradistinction to the "rationalistic Romans" (284). Where Rosenberg feted the German Volk and the German soldiers of World War I who fought, in Rosenberg's words, "for the honour and freedom of the Volk," Lawrence "is profoundly ambivalent about the ancient Germans, and by implication, about the Germans in the Twenties who hark back to their ancestors" (285). Krockel notes that Kate desires to mix her "innermost blood," which represents the mythic race of the Tuatha De Danann, with that of Ramon and Cipriano "in defiance of the 'scientific, fair-and-square Europe' to which Goethe, Frederick II, and Rosenberg belong" (286).

In other words, Lawrence and Rosenberg have almost nothing in common. But the fact that both Lawrence and Rosenberg had read Frobenius is seized on as ideologically suspect. This is the "logic of contamination," which, as Barbara Johnson points out, "is the very logic of Nazism" (13). It is also the logic of Adorno, Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School, who theorized the pathology of fascism and obsessively identified its symptoms. "In this literature," writes Elaine Fisher,
   Fascism was not understood merely to be a repressive form of
   government or even a noxious worldview but a virulent
   psychological disease, infecting the rational thought process of
   an individual and spreading uncontrollably, leading eventually
   to mass hysteria. (271)

Following the lead of the Frankfurt School, scholars have been on the qui vivre for these symptoms in the work of twentieth-century writers and intellectuals and have erected cordons sanitaires around various texts, lest the unwary reader be infected with fascism. These symptoms are by now so numerous that it is useless to argue, as I did above, that Lawrence's ideas concerning cultural decrepitude derived from Nietzsche, rather than the volkisch ideologues, since Hitler and the Nazis appropriated and transmogrified some of Nietzsche's ideas (the will to power, the Ubermensch), thereby tarring Nietzsche with the fascist brush. I had intended to argue that some of the ideas Fernihough identifies in Women in Love as being derived from Spengler and the volkisch milieu, such as the cyclical nature of history, the notion of a culture growing and decaying in association with a specific continent or land mass, the degeneration and destruction that occurs at the end of an era or cycle, can be found in Blavatsky, but then it struck me that an interest in esotericism, and in particular the Theosophy of Blavatsky, was another symptom of fascism. In fact, as several scholars have shown, the influence of Theosophy on Nazism has been wildly exaggerated (Goodrick-Clarke; Strube; Staudenmaier).

Even the work of key figures from the Frankfurt School can be shown to betray these fascist symptoms. Ludwig Klages was a volkisch thinker associated with the Munich Cosmic Circle. Jason Storm-Josephson describes Klages as a "critic of modernity, instrumental rationality, and Enlightenment"; he contested the "binary opposition between civilized and primitive;" he argued that "the myth of 'progress' is rooted in 'the domination of nature'; that science and technology are nothing less than an abuse of the natural world, an attempt to render it lifeless in order to extract energy that can be exploited to further human goals" (213-14). He criticized our modern "faith in technology" while arguing that "nature has lost its mystery, becoming 'disenchanted' and 'reified.'" As a result of "our alienation from the natural world" a "meaningless cult of reason" has sprung up that "despite its criticisms of fantasy and myth, has replaced the old myths with new cults." Klages "characterize[d] this process in terms of the privileging of the logos and instrumental or calculable reason," for which he "would coin the term ' logocentrism'" (214). If Klages' thought seems uncannily to anticipate much critical theory and the work of the Frankfurt School in particular it's because Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin, Lukacs et al. read and cited Klages in their writing (Storm-Josephson 215). On the one hand, then, Klages' ideas helped to shape the Frankfurt School's analysis of fascism; on the other, according to the logic of contamination, Klages' anti-Semitism and his participation in the volkisch milieu tars the Frankfurt School with fascist associations.

Interestingly, Klages was one of the volkisch thinkers whose work probably did exercise an influence on Lawrence. Martin Green notes the similarities in their work, such as a hatred of machinery, democracy and rationalism, and a nostalgia for the "primitive past" (350-1). To this one could add an animistic reverence for nature and a belief that even inanimate things, such as rocks and mountains, are possessed of souls (Storm-Josephson 216, 218). In 1922, Else Jaffe gave Lawrence a copy of Klages' book Vom Kosmogonischen Eros (On the Cosmogonic Eros), but despite the similarities in their thinking Green argues that in all likelihood Lawrence regarded Klages as a fellow traveller who had been "proceeding along the same lines as him" (343, 361). It is not my intention, then, to argue that there was no intellectual traffic between Lawrence and the volkisch ideologues, but I do want to suggest that the similarities between the two arise because they were both influenced by common sources, such as Nietzsche, Frobenius and German Romanticism, and that it is only by applying the logic of contamination that these sources appear fascist or proto-fascist. In fairness to Krockel, he is not trying to prove that Lawrence was a Nazi and shows how German Jews such as Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig also used racialized language in writing about the Jewish people and cleaved to a "racially determined" notion of the blood (281). Likewise, both Fernihough and Smith, despite their emphasis on Lawrence's "volkisch organicism," attempt to dispel, or at least palliate, the fascist taint from Lawrence's work: the former argues that Lawrence's "organicist aesthetic is not always dangerously mystifying or idealizing, but can lead to a retrieval of the material world" (9); while the latter argues that Lawrence's ambivalent portrayal of primitivism in The Plumed Serpent partly undermines the novel's volkisch ideology that celebrates the "primitive past" (14). Fernihough is absolutely right to exhort us not to forget that some of the ideas Lawrence shared with volkisch thinkers (such as the organic rise and fall of cultures) were subsequently arrogated by the Nazis, but perhaps going forward the best way of acknowledging this isn't to search out more tenuous parallels between Lawrence and the motley thinkers of the volkisch milieu.


(1.) See for instance "A Propos of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover,'" in LCL 331.

(2.) See for instance his letter to Cynthia Asquith in November 1915 when he laments: "I am so sad [.] for this great wave of civilisation, 2000 years, which is now collapsing" (2L 431).

(3.) However, this link between Jews and idealism is not peculiar to volkisch thinkers but can be found in Nietzsche, who argued in On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) that Jews were responsible for the transvaluation of the master morality that celebrated the healthy body and replaced it with an ascetic morality that denied the body and celebrated the mind.

(4.) This is an admittedly organicist conception of culture, but, as noted above, this kind of organicism predated the volkisch ideology that emerged in the nineteenth century and does not ineluctably lead to Auschwitz.

Works cited

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Bourdieu, Pierre. The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger. Trans. Peter Collier. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991.

Bradshaw, David. "Introduction." Women in Love. Ed. David Bradshaw. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

Chamberlain, Houston Stewart. Foundations of the Nineteenth Century. Vol. 2. Trans. John Lees. London: John Lane, 1912.

Delavenay, Emile. D.H. Lawrence: The Man and His Work; The Formative Years: 1885-1919. Trans. Katharine M. Delavenay. London: Heinemann, 1972.

Fernihough, Anne. D.H. Lawrence: Aesthetics and Ideology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Fisher, Elaine. "Fascist Scholars, Fascist Scholarship: The Quest for Ur-Fascism and the Study of Religion." Hermeneutics, Politics, and the History of Religions: The Contested Legacies of Joachim Wach and Mircea Eliade. Ed. Christian K. Wedemeyer and Wendy Doniger (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010). 261-84.

Fjagesund, Peter. The Apocalyptic World of D.H. Lawrence. Oxford: Norwegian UP, 1991.

Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. The Occult Roots of Nazism: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany 1890-1935. Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1985.

Green, Martin. The von Richthofen Sisters: The Triumphant and the Tragic Modes of Love. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974.

Johnson, Barbara. "The Surprise of Otherness: A Note on the Wartime Writings of Paul de Man." Literary Theory Today. Ed. Peter Collier and Helga Geyer-Ryan. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990. 13-22.

Kinkead-Weekes, Mark. D.H. Lawrence: Triumph to Exile 1912-1922. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1996.

Krockel, Carl. D.H. Lawrence and Germany: The Politics of Influence. New York: Rodopi, 2007.

Lawrence, D.H. "A Propos of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover.'" Lady Chatterley's Lover and A Propos of "Lady Chatterley's Lover. " Ed. Michael Squires. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.

--. The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Vol. 2: 1913-1916. Ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.

--. The Plumed Serpent. Ed. L.D. Clark. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987.

--. Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious. Ed. Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.

--. Quetzalcoatl. Ed. N.H. Reeve. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011.

--. Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine. Ed. Michael Herbert. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988.

--. Study of Thomas Hardy. Ed. Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985.

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--. Women in Love. Ed. David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987.

Leavis, F.R. D.H. Lawrence: Novelist. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964.

Mosse, George. The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1964.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Douglas Smith. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

Russell, Bertrand. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1914-1944. Boston: Little, Brown, 1968.

Smith, Jad. "Volkisch Organicism and the Use of Primitivism in Lawrence"s The Plumed Serpent." DHLR 30.3 (2002): 7-24.

Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of the West: Form and Actuality. Trans. Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927.

Strube, Julian. "Nazism and the Occult." The Occult World. Ed. Christopher Partridge. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015. 336-47.

Staudenmaier, Peter. "Nazi Germany and the Occult: From Myth to History." Aeon, June 2017,

Storm-Josephson, Jason A. The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Weininger, Otto. Sex and Character. London: William Heinemann, 1906.

Worthen, John. D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.

Jake Poller is the author of Aldous Huxley and Alternative Spirituality (Brill, 2019) and the editor of Altered Consciousness in the Twentieth Century (Routledge, 2019). His chapters and articles have appeared in The Occult Imagination in Britain (Routledge, 2018), Aries, Literature and Theology and D. H. Lawrence Review.
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Title Annotation:volkisch
Author:Poller, Jake
Publication:D.H. Lawrence Review
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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