Thinkers Behind the Culture of Death (Part 2)

Donald DeMarco on the “Masters of Suspicion”

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KITCHENER, Ontario, NOV. 12, 2004 ( John Paul II has referred to Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche as the “masters of suspicion” because they espoused that the heart is at odds with itself and therefore cannot be trusted.

Donald DeMarco agrees wholeheartedly with the Pope’s insight. DeMarco has co-authored a book investigating the dysfunctional lives and theories of the “Architects of the Culture of Death” (Ignatius) with Benjamin Wiker.

DeMarco, an adjunct philosophy professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University, relayed to ZENIT how these three thinkers and others have led to the disintegration of the human person.

Part 1 of this three-part interview appeared Thursday.

Q: Which of the 23 profiled “architects of the culture of death” have done the most damage to society, in your opinion?

DeMarco: In terms of death toll and damage to human lives all over the world, Karl Marx stands head and shoulders above all the rest.

Arthur Schopenhauer is important because he is the first to regard the will — malevolent and irrational — as a fundamental factor in reality. He had an immense influence on Friedrich Nietzsche, who put the will in the ego, and Sigmund Freud, who placed it in the “id.” Ayn Rand is also influenced by this notion of the will as primary.

Sartre had an immense influence in absolutizing freedom, which lead ultimately to a purely “pro-choice” philosophy.

Q: How did Karl Marx exploit the religious impulses of his followers and how did he distort Christian doctrine for his own anti-Christian ends?

DeMarco: When Marx dismissed religion by his celebrated phrases as “the opium of the people,” the “halo of woe” and “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world,” he was not criticizing the authentic practice of religion but its shell. Marx reacted, to employ Jacques Maritain’s distinction, to “the christian world,” and not to “Christianity.”

That is to say, he mistook the caricature for the archetype, the mockery for the model. It would have been generous for Marx to say, “It is most unfortunate that people sometimes misuse religion by using it as a drug that dulls their moral and intellectual sensibilities.”

Therein, he would have reflected an understanding of the difference between fraudulent and authentic practices of religion. But he dismissed all religion because he judged the orthodox by its heterodox counterfeit. As a result, he did everything he could to prevent authentic religion from flowering.

Marx claimed that, “It is easy to be a saint if you have no wish to be human.” He would see religion in nothing other than a negative light. Religion meant little to his own parents. His father, in order to be successful as a practicing attorney, traded his Judaism for Lutheranism. Like father, like son. His family lived as liberal Protestants without any profound religious beliefs.

No human, needless to say, would be eligible for sanctity without being thoroughly human. Marx used his own faulty ideology as a measuring stick by which to gauge religion. Christianity, itself, has a better indictment against the attempt to become holy without first becoming human. It stigmatizes such a practice as “Pharisaism.”

Marx was in a hurry to change the world and had little concern for some of the more essential points of critical thinking: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

Q: You note that John Paul II describes Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the “masters of suspicion.” What does he mean by that and why did he pinpoint those particular men?

DeMarco: In the course of his “theology of the body,” Pope John Paul II refers to the “masters of suspicion,” an expression he borrows from Paul Ricoeur that applies to Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche.

For the Holy Father, the philosophies of this triumvirate typify what St. John the Evangelist describes in his First Letter, verses 15 through 16, as the “lust of the flesh,” “lust of the eyes” and the “pride of life.”

Freud wanted to free the sexual instinct from the restraints of the “superego”; Marx encouraged members of the proletariat to revolt so that they could satisfy their desires for material possessions; and Nietzsche proclaimed an ego too powerful to be held down by moral constraints.

The lust, avarice and pride that these three atheistic revolutionaries espoused have not brought about personal fulfillment. On the contrary, they have led to a disintegration of personality. The fruits of lust, avarice and pride are, respectively, bitter loneliness, spiritual dissatisfaction and abject misery.

John Paul explains that “masters of suspicion” is a most telling phrase because it indicates that a heart that naturally expresses itself in the form of lust, avarice or pride cannot be trusted. The heart of man, as described by Freud, Marx and Nietzsche, implodes upon itself and in so doing becomes an object of deep suspicion. The heart is at odds with itself and therefore cannot be trusted.

The vital element that is omitted in the thought of these three godless thinkers is a relationship with the Father. As St. John writes, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; which is not from the Father, but from the world.”

The image comes to mind that the poet William Butler Yeats provides in “The Second Coming”: “The falcon cannot hear the falconer … anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Man in the modern world, following the “masters of suspicion,” has become so estranged from God that he can no longer hear the Father’s integrating message. Without the Father, chaos reigns.

Freud, Marx and Nietzsche, whose influence on the modern world is immense, were particularly vehement in their rejection to the Fatherhood aspect of God. They all believed and taught that the condition for human liberty is the death of God the Father.

For Freud, perhaps the most basic tenet of his psychoanalysis is that neurosis results when the severity of the superego is too great. He therefore sought to rid people of the Law — and ultimately the Law Giver — that formed the superego. Freud saw himself as a new Moses, or an anti-Moses, whose destiny is to abolish the Fatherhood of God that was responsible for the oppression of the human psyche.

Marx was an avowed enemy of anything divine. “I hate all the gods,” he proclaimed. His Promethean temperament set him against what he believed to be a fictitious god that first mesmerized and then oppressed the masses. He viewed subservience to a Father figure as a deathblow to one’s own selfhood.

No sacrifice for him could be too great in deposing god in the interest of liberating man. “I would much rather be bound to a rock,” he proudly asserted, “than be the docile valet of Zeus the Father.”

Nietzsche wrote his first essay on ethics when he was but 13. In it, he imagined that he solved the problem of evil. “My solution to the problem was to give the honor to God, as is only just, and make him the father of evil,” he wrote.

“Why atheism nowadays?” Nietzsche asked. “The father in God is thoroughly refuted.” He also advised, “Love yourself through grace; then you are no longer in need of your God, and you can act the whole drama of Fall and Redemption to its end in yourself.”

[Sunday: Legacy of the architects]

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