Black Sun Rising
Shortly after the National Socialist party consolidated their power, a writer named Peter Bender convinced some Nazi brass to attempt an experiment that, if successful, would send a rocket from Magdenburg to New Zealand. The intercontinental ballistic missile was still decades away from completion, but Bender believed he had figured out how to attack the other side of the Earth—by firing directly into the sky.
He had come under the influence of an American occult group that believed in a particularly bizarre variation on the Hollow Earth theory. While the concept of habitable layers beneath the Earth’s crust had been popular for centuries amongst occultists, Bender’s Hohlwelt-theorie argued that the Earth was a vault within an endless field of matter. The sun was somewhere in the middle of this vault, and the stars in the sky were the lights of cities from the other side.
“An infinite universe is a Jewish abstraction,” wrote Bender. “A finite, rounded universe is a thoroughly Aryan conception.” The anti-Semitic aspect of the theory attracted the attention of Herman Göring but was quickly dismissed in favor of Hanns Hörbiger’s slightly less fanciful World Ice Theory. The idea nonetheless remained compelling to some, and the German Navy attempted to locate British fleets using astronomical instruments.
Hollow Earth and World Ice theories were only two particularly laughable examples of a Nazi cultural regression that included radical alterations in the fields of mathematics, psychology, and physics. It is arguable that the rejection of Einstein’s theory of relativity in place of Deutsche Physiks prevented the Nazis from developing nuclear technology and many other weapons. Some historians similarly argue that the eugenic fervor of the Master Race ideology, which paved the way to the Final Solution, diverted resources to an extent that helped cost Hitler the war.
Better known than their cosmology was the mystical underpinnings of the Nazis’ firm belief in racial superiority. SS leaders Rudolph Hess, Wilhelm Landig, and Karl Maria Miligut developed a cult based on the Nordic pantheon, esoteric rituals, and psuedo-anthropology. Landig, already a major influence on the occultist Thule Society that influenced National Socialist theology in its earliest days, developed the Black Sun as the cult’s symbol. The circular symbol was composed of three interlocking swastikas radiating out from a center point like the sun’s rays. Our yellow sun, he believed, was like a “shadow” of the spiritual Black Sun whose dark solar power could provide enough voltage for rebirth of the Aryan Nation.
The inversion of spirit and material, lightness and darkness, and the particular and universal were dramatic here as in the Hohlwelt, and in the end, just as much a failure. The fascist experiment delegitimized itself, but its anti-modern pretenses remains appealing to today’s radicals. Astrology and astronomy became separate categories in the modern era, as did faith and reason, religion and law, science and pseudoscience. Nationalists, Radical Traditionalists, and the futurist “neoreactionaries” deploy the myth that inverting these divisions, instead of abolishing them altogether, help us conceive of an idealized bygone time. The internationalist, anticapitalist, and egalitarian aspects of the last half-decade of struggle have only furthered modernity’s march away from these simpler times, they argue, and should be disregarded as agents of degradation.
Elements of capitalist totality, such as money, finance, industry, or globalization are singled out and demonized. Some group is inevitability equated with the degenerative nature of these “abstractions” and becomes undesirable. Moishe Postone argues in his essay National-Socialism and Anti-Semitism that Jews were targeted by the Nazis because their stereotypical character of the unassimilated merchant or banker was a perfect stand-in for the commodity-form. Today, European Muslims fulfill a similar role as symbols of “multiculturalism”’s blight on traditional European values. The expansion of legal rights and visibility for homosexuals, as well as the widespread appeal of feminism, become symbols of attacks on the myth of traditional family.
Liberal democracy, the guarantor of such tolerance, becomes the target of right-wing terrorists and militias. In Ukraine, the Black Sun has risen again. The symbol appears on the uniforms of the Asov Battalion, a military detachment of Right Sector commanded by neo-Nazi Andriy Biletski. In speeches, Biletski echoes Hitler, urging to overthrow liberalism to turn Ukraine into a nation of “Supermen.” Similar paramilitary groups such as Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik continue to train, recruit, and attack immigrants and leftists throughout Europe.
Whether it’s fascist militias or experimental rockets, what goes up must come down, and such open neo-Nazism has seemingly little hope of broader success. As long as movements place themselves fully within the historical fascist legacy, their trajectory ends where memories of the Nazi takeover begins. After their paramilitary murder of antifascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, ministers from Golden Dawn were arrested and the party was outlawed. Fear of a fascist coup in Ukraine ended with the assassination of Right Sector leader Sasho Muzychko only days after the fall of Yanukovych, while the Azov Battallion has mostly served as cannon fodder buffering the Ukrainian army in the most dangerous battlefields of the Donetsk. Any significant neo-Nazi party in Europe has so far been kept on a short leash by the institutional Right, like an attack dog that must be someday put down.
More concerning is the chameleon New Rightest who takes up autonomist elements of the New Left to revive the potential for conservative revolution. Alain de Benoist is the intellectual figurehead of this position, and although he is no Nazi, his arguments for pre-modern mysticism helps elucidate the appeal of the ridiculous pseudosciences at the dawn of the Nazi regime. “We want to substitute faith for law,” he writes, “mythos for logos … will for pure reason, the image for the concept, and home for exile.”
His Nouvelle Droite vision of Europe distributes power as locally as possible, but the abolition of ancient caste systems that have evolved into capitalist social relations is not as important as maintaining the traditionalist structure of these communities; the master-slave dialectic does not fit into de Benoist’s system of inversions.
In a 2013 interview with the racialist think tank American Renaissance, de Benoist says, “Europe, race, culture, and identity all have roles … I am very interested in the future and destiny of my own nation, race, and culture, but I am also interested in the future of every other group.” The egalitarian pretenses of the European Union, he goes on to argue, is part of a modern process of erasing the essential differences of race and culture. Using similar rhetoric, the Front National in France, Swedish Democrats, the United Kingdom Independence Party, and the Danish People’s Party have surged in the polls on a platform of euroscepticism—the populist rejection of the EU. The openness of the EU’s borders is allowing the free movement of millions of refugees and immigrants into an economically floundering European Union from its wartorn periphery, they argue, and the inability to economically absorb or culturally assimilate outsiders becomes a technocratic rationale for detention and deportation.
The eurosceptic Left, drawing on the councils and square protests of 2011 and the Blockupy movement, critiques the EU as an economic and nationalist fortress. In the words of the Commune of Europe: “We reject the institutional borders of the European Union: The EU border regime is a violent and deadly means of controlling and disciplining living labor, mobilizing and reinstating sickly racist imaginaries that form an integral part of the historical and cultural construct of Europe.”
The two sides diverge on the issue of sovereignty, territory, and borders. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the most strident in this sentiment as he attempts to push a series of reforms to turn Hungary into a “National Democracy” with the ability to expel foreign interests and segregate ethnic groups without intervention. This is old Right thinking for Benoist, who sees racial communities, not the Nation, as the site of political power. The EU is an appendage of enlightenment ideology that ultimately dooms racial autonomy.
In modernity, “mankind is Unitary,” he argues. “All peoples must go through the same stages, and reach the same level of development.” Based on the faith of Occidentalist mythos, some must be therefore shut out from Europe’s peace and prosperity in order to preserve “difference.” The radical dissolution of identity that was begun in the international solidarity between different square movements in 2011 does not fit into a worldview where race and “traditional” cultures must be the basis for politics. In an argument reminiscent of Bender’s ontological anti-Semitism, de Benoist says this modern ideology “comes from Christianity and Judaism, which posit that there is an absolute beginning and an absolute end to history.”
Without the myth of a historically white homeland, the American Right has been typically less eccentric. The anonymously written essay, “The Undying Appeal of White Nationalism,” discusses the few American counterparts to the maneuvers of Europe’s Radical Traditionalists and includes a section on the American phenomenon of radical-conservative futurists. These “bizarre fascisms,” as the essay refers to them, have emerged online, in an odd collusion of far-right bloggers, men’s rights advocates, former Occupy Wall Street figureheads Micah White and Justine Tunney, and Silicon Valley millionaires.
The essay traces the influence to the “neoreactionary movement” and the “Dark Enlightenment” of Nick Land, which advocates a proliferation of monarchical city-states, a techno-feudalism of the genetically and intellectually superior. In his manifesto, Land sees Dark Enlightenment as a solution to the “exit” strategy of libertarians, white separatists, and National-Anarchists who seek to establish their own Galt’s Gulch or “Little Europe” in lieu of a democratically viable fascist order. Rather than overthrow the existing order or build parliamentary parties, the neo-reactionaries advocate seceding from the (immanently collapsing) democratic capitalist regime, with an eye toward building new techno-aristocratic city-states on the model of Singapore or Dubai.
This (for now) purely online movement seeks to establish what Baffler columnist Corey Pein calls a “Silicon Reich.” In a petition to WhiteHouse.org, Tunney called for Google chairman Eric Schmidt to be made CEO of America and for the “administrative authority” of the United States to be turned over to the tech industry. Instead of the pseudoscientific eugenics of the Nazis, central neo-reactionary figure Curtis Yarvin calls for pseudoscientific IQ-like tests to determine members of the ruling class. Not shying away from the racist implications of the argument, he calls South African apartheid a useful parallel. But while a white ruling class is hardly a novel solution, Land claims it is as scientifically reasonable as “the heliocentric model.”
Unlike the revolution of the Earth around the sun, the New Right revolutions are not seeking to return to a prior location. For neo-reactionaries, modernity is a dark age characterized by the rule of the weak over the strong: Technological rationality allows for an “objective” method of return to the “proper” structures of power that precede modernity’s enfeebling democracy (e.g: monarchy, aristocracy) without any material turn away from capitalist science and industry. Though seemingly opposed to the avowed myth-making and heroic irrationalism of Nazi philosophy, we see in both the neo-reactionaries’ techno-fetishism and Hollow Earth anti-Semitic cosmology a claim toward the “one true science” that has been perverted or silenced by the masses. Aryan or technological, “scientific truth” proves equally helpful in revealing the motions of heavenly bodies as appointing their deserving masters.
These ideas are not exclusive to certain corners of the Internet but have a broad enough appeal to be the central logic behind a Hollywood blockbuster. On a quest to save humanity from an Earth consumed with “blight,” Interstellar’s Carhartt-wearing übermensch Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) flies through a mysterious wormhole to a solar system with a black hole at its center. In suicidal sacrifice, he flies into the heart of that black sun, allowing his instruments to gather data essential to the development of quantum physics. He wakes up in a hospital bed and hears the crack of a baseball bat. Looking out the window, he sees children playing baseball in an American suburb recreated in a space station. He reunites with his daughter, now over a hundred years old, who tells him his sacrifice has saved humanity.
Interstellar’s paligentic Lazarus Project seems to argue that science will save humanity from itself, but the project only succeeds through a revelation of ultimate truth, achieved through faith, suicidal heroism, and the primacy of filial love. The home-exile dialectic is overcome, but domination remains. The issues of class, race, and patriarchy are clearly outside of Christopher Nolan’s abilities to portray. The reactionary project similarly burrows into the nationalist dirt: The U.S. flag flies proudly beside the flag of the scientific future above a new suburb, same as the old suburb but with no actual urban core: a perfect white outpost built in the cold darkness of space.
Through cult ritual, black suns, or wormholes these fascists expect to find shortcuts around the chaos of humans acting freely together. But even in the autonomous council such ideologies recur, seeking always to restore some “natural” hierarchy. Today it’s clear that the future order of society is in the grassroots, but the soil and sunlight are still up for grabs