Chapter 12: Return to Vienna
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15 autobiographical reflections In the same year, 1934, I spent some weeks in London exploring the resources of the Warburg Institute, which had already moved there from Hamburg. This was my first contact with alchemy, astrology , and the complicated gnostic symbolism of the Renaissance. The materials collected on that occasion were incorporated in a chapter on “Astrological Politics” for my History of Political Ideas, which, as I said, has not been published.5 This first acquaintance was the basis for my further interest in astrology and alchemy that developed much later and helped me to gain some understanding of certain continuities in Western intellectual history from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance into the present. Chapter 12: Return to Vienna After my return from the three years under the Rockefeller Fellowship , I began to concentrate on writing publications that would lead to my habilitation and ultimately to a professorship. The first thing I finished was the book that was published under the title Über die Form des amerikanischen Geistes, which came out in 1928. Then I looked for further occupation. I began to develop a system of Staatslehre and actually wrote sections dealing with the theory of law and the theory of power.6 Then there should have been a third part on political ideas, but when I came to that third part I discovered that I knew nothing whatsoever about political ideas and had to give up the project of a Staatslehre. I began to concentrate on acquiring knowledge of specific ideas for the purpose of analyzing the problem of the so-­ called ideas with the concrete materials in hand. The results of this work were my studies on the race question. The National Socialist movement obviously was in political ascendancy ; and though one could not yet foresee that it would come to power, the debate about races, the Jewish problem, etc., went on all the time. The material suggested itself for treatment, resulting in my two volumes on the race question. Into these volumes I also incorporated my recently acquired and now elaborated knowledge of biological theory. On that occasion I found out that a political theory, especially when it was to be applicable to the analysis of ideologies, had to be based on Classic and Christian philosophy. As the first chapter of my volume on Rasse and Staat shows, I adopted at the time the philosophical anthropology of Max Scheler, as 1 16 part one | intellectual biography expressed in his recent publication Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos. It proved sufficient for the purpose of analyzing the race problem; its defects were of no importance to the issue at hand, though I discovered them later when I started on my original work on Classic philosophy. While working on the race problem, I became convinced that I had to be able to read the Classic authors, that is, Plato and Aristotle , if I wanted to become a competent political scientist. I started to learn Greek with the help of a man about my age, Hermann Bodek, a minor member of the Stefan George-­ Kreis and an excellent classics philologist. Bodek introduced me to the secrets of Greek grammar and to the reading of complicated philosophical texts. I remember that in the course of the six months in which I took lessons from him I made my first translations of the poems of Parmenides. The acquisition of that knowledge was of course fundamental for my later work, not only so far as my knowledge of Greek philosophy was concerned, but for understanding fundamentally that one cannot deal with materials unless one can read them. That sounds trivial, but as I later found out it is a truth not only neglected but hotly contested by a good number of persons who are employed by our colleges and who, with the greatest of ease, talk about Plato and Aristotle, or Thomas and Augustine, or Dante and Cervantes, or Rabelais or Goethe, without being able to read a line of the authors on whom they pontificate. The years in Austria, beginning with 1933, were emotionally packed by the political events of the time. I had become a Privatdozent in 1929, and I received the title of associate professor in 1936, but neither of these dignities was connected with any material support. During these years I was an assistant for constitutional and administrative law at the Law Faculty, first to Kelsen and later to Merkl. That gave a very modest income. I remember...