Mosley's doctrine of higher forms
Mosley’s new transnational super-state was to be forged by a new type of man, and he called his proposed method for its creation the ‘doctrine of higher forms’, an idea that he felt was to be his lasting and most recognised contribution to philosophical thought.87 It is perhaps ironic then that while his ‘Europe a Nation’ idea has become synonymous with his postwar ideology, most commentators simply ignore or pay just passing reference to his idea of‘higher forms’. However, one cannot hope to understand Mosley’s postwar thought, namely his proposed solution to Spengler’s pessimistic prophesies of inevitable decline, without exploring it in depth. As he saw it, ‘It is not merely a question of changing material environment, important as this work is: even more important is a question of changing man himself’.88
One can grasp important insights into Mosley’s ideas regarding the formation of higher forms by exploring his understanding of the work of the German composer Richard Wagner and his divergence from the interpretation of Nietzsche and George Bernard Shaw. It all hinges on his reading and interpretation of Der Ring des Nibelungen [The Ring of the Nibelung], a cycle of four marathon operas that stretch to around 15 hours in length and tell the epic story of a ring that grants its owner power to rule the world. It was within Götterdämmerung [the twilight of the gods], the fourth and final opera of this protracted and wandering story involving all manner of gods, dwarfs, creatures and humans, where the key revelation lay for Mosley. For Shaw the fourth instalment to the story was something of a redundant addition, whereas for Mosley it was ‘not an irrelevance but the supreme relevance; it poses the final question’.89 In short Shaw and Nietzsche believed Siegfried, the third opera in the cycle, was the logical and desirable conclusion to the story. They perceived Siegfried, the eponymous revolutionary hero of the saga, as the realisation of the higher form. Siegfried defeated Wotan and the old order; the revolution had happened and was successful and the new world created, thus Siegfried embodied Nietzsche’s superman9" and Shaw’s desire to ‘breed a race of men in whom the life-giving impulse predominated’.91 Yet in the fourth instalment, Götterdämmerung, the hero falls and order and beauty are lost. Shaw understood this as the betrayal of the hero, the abnegation of the higher form and a reversion to the former state, thus rendering the quadrilogy cyclical.
However, Mosley felt that both Nietzsche and Shaw had misinterpreted the ending of the story and wrongly identified Siegfried as the higher form incarnate. For Mosley, Siegfried was ‘inadequate to this destiny and must fail’, meaning that in Götterdämmerung Wagner was stating that ‘the end-achieving hero had still to come’.92 Mosley believed that Wagner had seen beyond the vision of both Shaw and Nietzsche to the possibility of a still higher form, thus his decision to add a fourth instalment that sends Siegfried on more and ultimately doomed adventures was not done for mere dramatic or musical reasons but was rather an articulation of the necessity of continual struggle. This chimed with the idea of continual struggle articulated in Goethe’s Faust, a tragic play in two parts, with which Mosley was captivated. He first read Faust after learning German while interned, and, according to his wife Diana, ‘It is impossible to exaggerate the excitement generated in him by Goethe’s ideas’.93 For Mosley himself, ‘the reading of Faust is eternal discovery’,94 and he believed that:
For an individual to win harmony with himself, and the world, and yet to retain the striving will towards ever greater purposes and higher forms - to unite harmony and dynamism - is not only to become a near perfect man.
but also to be the near perfect instrument of Destiny in high achievement.
This was the great vision of Goethe in the prophetic rapture of his Faust.9’
Not only was this continual striving supposedly desirable, but it was required, for as Mosley saw it, man ‘must lose all or win all; he has no alternative: and his redeeming achievement is to transcend himself in a higher form. To stand still, or even to remain himself, is to fail’.96 This sentiment, as expressed in Goethe’s Faust and Siegfried’s adventures in Götterdämmerung was essential if the higher form was ever to be realised and necessary to avoid the destruction of man.
Mosley’s long-held belief that decline could be overcome by the creation of this higher form was reinforced by his reading of the work of the British historian and philosopher of history Arnold Toynbee, best known for his 12-volume, expansive and influential A Study of History. Toynbee, like Spengler a believer in the cyclical nature of history, argued that ‘a society does not ever die “from natural causes”, but always dies from suicide or murder - and nearly always from the former’.97 His ‘challenge and response’ theory provided Mosley with examples of civilisations being revived by dynamic responses and thus for Mosley ‘reinforced the view that the doom of our civilisation . . . could be met and overcome by the will of a determined movement to national resistance’.98 For Mosley, Toynbee’s ‘challenge and response’ theory echoed a core theme in Goethe’s Faust. Just as Toynbee argued that civilisations arose in response to some form of challenge, Mosley saw in the work of Goethe an explanation of how challenge and evil could be the spur towards the creation of a higher form and the creation of a new civilisation able to save Europe. The Prologue in Heaven in Faust includes a conversation between ‘The Lord’ and ‘Mephisto’, the demon or devil, who asks for permission to appear to Faust and to ‘lead him down my path to his perdition’.99 The Lord agrees, stating that
For man’s activity can slacken all too fast,
He falls too soon into slothful ease;
The Devil’s a companion who will tease
And spur him on, and work creatively at last.1110
For Mosley the interaction of good and evil, notably the requirement of evil for progress, was a profound revelation. After reading this Mosley asked,
Can primitive man move beyond the elementary without the stimulus of pain and disaster? ... Is the progress both of individual men and of civilization achieved in some degree by the challenge of evil which evokes the response of good? Is not, therefore, what men call evil merely an instrument of good?101
It is one thing to note how war in the 20th century brought huge technological advancements that transformed society, but it is quite another to propose an ideology that actively incorporates evil as the driver of progress.102 This notion, the ‘Faustian riddle’ as it is called, the idea that suffering and evil is not inflicted by God for capricious reasons but rather for creative purposes, was for Mosley ‘the main thesis’ of Goethe’s work.103
Mosley’s determination to find a positive reason for the existence of evil and suffering places him in contrast to a philosopher and philosophical tradition that he admired. Nietzsche and before him Greek philosophers saw a clear contradiction between heroism and humanitarianism with the Greek idea of heroism being based on a denial of rights to the inferior and a near fetishisation of characters like Achilles or Ajax and Heracles from the Sophoclean tragedies whose nobility negated their crimes.104 Nietzsche felt the alternative option was humanitarianism, which for him involved a denial of self, which would prove fatal to genius. While Mosley admired Nietzsche, the Greek tradition and the concept of heroism, he was unable and unwilling to accept their brutalism or the supposed contradiction between heroism and humanitarianism as it was based on a concept of an amoral world and an erratic god, both an anathema to a Christian. In a letter to his son, written while interned during the war, Mosley sought to reconcile the two in a Hegelian manner, stating ‘In Christianity you have the thesis - in Nietzsche the antithesis. There remains the synthesis’.105 It was within the Faustian riddle, with its ability’ to marry the heroic with the moral, that Mosley' found his synthesis, a key' to his doctrine of higher forms.
The creation of the ‘thought-deed man’ or higher form was not some abstract hope but rather a blueprint for the leaders and implementers of his postwar philosophy' of ‘Europe a Nation’. The determinism and inevitability' of civilisational decline predicted by Spengler could only be avoided by' his plan for a united Europe, which in turn required the creation of a higher form of man, the result of an accelerated evolution. But what exactly constituted this mystical higher form, and why is it important for understanding Mosley’s postwar plan? Mosley believed Wagner was showing how the rejection of continual Faustian struggle and the failure to reject materialism, represented by Marxism and liberalism,106 would result in the inevitable destruction of man. Mosley felt that Wagner’s Siegfried was capable of heroism but not divine love, while supreme achievement was only' to be reached by' those who could renounce ‘the lesser loves of humanity’, ‘joy' for the sake of destiny’ and ‘even the delights of human love for the sake of the life force, in dedication to the winning of ever higher forms’,107 something Siegfried failed to do. The mythical higher form bey'ond Siegfried, man’s apotheosis, was to be the result of a Hegelian dialectic, a synthesis of the antitheses, namely' life and love. For Mosley' the higher forms could be described as:
Men who will be ready' to renounce the lesser in order to achieve the greater, who will yield joy to serve destiny because some are called to strive greatly' that higher forms may come. Greater love hath no man than this: that he renounces the fullness of present life to serve the future life which shall thereby be brought to earth. . . . But to make that love perfect he must first possess life and love in its full rhythm; he does not deny life but, through his final renunciation, fulfills life’s creative purpose. . . . Otherwise the synthesis of life and love would not be there. He would not be the final hero, the symbol of that generation of the higher men which is ready to give all that all may be won."’8
Despite being couched in a serious philosophical casing, it is worth drilling down to find out exactly what Mosley’s doctrine of higher forms would actually mean in reality. While portrayed as a noble pursuit, lurking within his theory was a deep racism and traditional fascistic social Darwinism and a call for eugenics. Unsurprisingly, the higher forms were to evolve only within the white race, as ‘some races . . . can do certain things and others cannot’.109 As such his whole ‘Europe a Nation’ concept was to be built on a biological basis, ‘in harmony with all nature and history; . . . You may blend like with like, but you cannot mix oil and water’.110 The result was to be an Apartheid system. However, even within the white community there was to be a strict hierarchy, as the idea that ‘god made men equal. . . is plainly at variance with the facts’.111 To overcome the inadequacies of the existing stock and to realise his dream of higher forms, Mosley essentially called for the introduction of a eugenics programme: ‘Heredity can be made to play a far greater part in the attaining of new heights of human achievement than has yet been fully realised. But it must be tempered by selection, which discards the unfit and attracts new resources’.112 The failure of some academics properly to explore Mosley’s postwar thought has led to the true nature of his ideas, rooted in traditional fascistic rhetoric about the creation of a new man, based on racial superiority and eugenics, often being missed.