chapter  6
Eschatological interpretations: Vondung, Talmon
Pages 12

In the early 1970s, Klaus Vondung presented his analysis of the types of

celebrations and the quasi-liturgical forms of National Socialism.1 These were said to evince a clearly apocalyptic character. According to Vondung,

the religious character of these rites also warrants our speaking of a poli-

tical religion in the case of National Socialism. Both an ordering and a

manipulation of the human being are said to be achieved through the

magical influence of the celebrations and rites.2 The political religious cult

rises to become the ‘socially dominant figure’ and gains ‘the possibility . . . of exercising power’.3 This power serves to maintain the existing ruling

system – in this case, National Socialism. Vondung sees the National Socialist cult to bear an original similarity to the rites of the French Revo-

lution, which created a religious form of its own with Jacobinism; seeking to

justify revolutionary rule, Jacobinism may well have anticipated the twen-

tieth-century political religions already. A line of connection to Talmon’s

treatment of political Messianism can be found here; Talmon too sees the

salvation-promising character of political systems already present in the

French Revolution and its ‘ideology’. Although the revolutionaries acted on

the basis of Rousseauan political theory, they failed to recognise the danger of slipping into intolerance:

Robespierre was an enemy of the Catholic Church, yet he did not

regard himself as an atheist. The programme of his ‘citizens’ religion’

arose from Rousseau and Mably and corresponded to the conviction that the people cannot live from reason alone, but need a faith. A religion

that does not contradict reason and the natural order is the foundation of

morality and, to that extent, guarantees the just and harmonious order of

the society. No state could exist without religion, which must articulate

itself in external forms, institutions and festal rituals. This concept

provided the most succinct formulation of a political religion.4