Stefan George was a German poet and artist active before and after the Great War, until his death in 1933. First bound to symbolism, he turned away from pure aestheticism and founded the ‘George circle’ for cultivating his own aesthetic, philosophic and life-reforming considerations. His most prominent follower was Claus Count of Stauffenberg, the last German hero, who nearly succeeded in killing Adolf Hitler and overthrowing his regime. For non-Germans, George’s thinking may appear obscure, romantic, of typically Teutonic deepness, and gothic, and surely it is strange to Anglo-Saxon pragmatism. Therefore, I will try to introduce the essentials in a few words – the logic behind it may then be easily grasped.
From 1907, George turned against the principle of l’art pour l’art and saw himself and art as judge or accuser of a world more and more seen as shallow. His poems became activist through tending into metaphysics, apocalyptic, expressionistic and esoteric, obviously sensing the great upheaval for civilization coming with the Great War. To become effective, his circle was reformed into a federation of followers of the ‘higher master’.
After the defeat of the German Empire, the pressing Versailles Treaty, hyper inflation, civil war, near Bolshevism, a pauperisation of large parts of the population and growing materialistic and nihilist tendencies, he embodied, according to Klaus Mann “a human and artistic dignity in which order and passion, elegance and majesty had been united within a rotten and crass civilisation.”
He turned around Plato who said that the artist orders only change with the order of the state. Obviously, he tried to organize his circle as a think tank, not secret but discreet in its endeavours aiming at men inspired by his art then go and change political orders. But it was not party politics, which was considered as pity but an elitist approach of serving the state, of course, guiding and steering it.
He had followers, especially in the youth, from various and often very divergent ideological backgrounds. The “dreaming the Reich” was a very strong political emotion due to the specialities of German history. In his work The New Reich he pronounced a hierarchic reform of society based on a new spiritual moral aristocracy. In his concept of a ‘secret Germany’, he constructed the idea of a German cultural nation beside the present state and politics, being the carrier of the German spirit. Being that it is the other pole of the visible, from day to day political world but shaping it by influencing the spiritual and ideological fundaments of state and society.
In short, we recognize a pragmatic, from day to day working element in the body politic and the idealistically inspired elements which give that organisation a higher form and purpose, differing between the ordinary state and the state of the idea, of the fundamental philosophical concept which had to nourish the ordinary state to give it substance, shape and ideas. So a superior philosophical or spiritual frame order is given to the secular order. That should remind us of Von Hayek’s concept of spontaneous order within a framework of general order. The essential point is that the whole concept is not pale esoteric, but aimed at forming and influencing the most promising men to become active formers of politics and culture.
The list of outstanding men influenced and activated by George is long; philosophers, academics, historians, officers, artists like Ludwig Klages, Hugo von Hoffmansthal, Ernst Kantorowicz, Berthold, Alexander and Claus Count of Stauffenberg, Friedrich Gundolf are just some of them, and it seemed that a circle of men came into existence that could have renovated Germany in cooperation with the pragmatists from the ordinary state.
George could have been of tremendous influence were it not for national socialism, which had been much more successful in annihilating genuine right thinking than Marxist thinking. After 1945 the Marxists, having disguised themselves in the United States as representatives of ‘Critical Theory’ – one of the most impertinent and blatant lies of the 20th century, but due to that, incredibly successful – came back from emigration but the realm of independent conservative and rightist thinking was utterly destroyed by the national socialists, especially after the failed putsch of 20th July 1944.
Further, this was also possible due to the fact that all left wingers most vocally and most intensely describe national socialism as a ‘right wing’ or ‘extreme right’ movement and ideology. How a totalitarian, collectivistic, materialistic, deterministic, historicist (in the meaning of Karl Popper) and militant ideology which referred to itself as ‘socialist’ and taking anti-free market positions can be called ‘right’ instead of evidently being ‘ultra-left’, is beyond serious consideration, beggars belief, and can only be explained by the fact that the more blatant, crass and cheeky the political lie is, the more it is accepted. Since 1789, the leftists get away with nearly any lie, and the slope to the left (Ernst Juenger) makes that possible.