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A “Catholic Layman of German Nationality and Citizenship”?: Carl Schmitt and the Religiosity of Life

Abstract and Keywords

Carl Schmitt positioned his constitutional theory in the context of a “political theology” and referred to himself repeatedly as a Catholic. Schmitt scholarship has long pursued this self-depiction without establishing a convincing “Catholic” doctrine, political position, or life praxis. This chapter provides an overview and critical interrogation of Schmitt’s self-description. By emphasizing his political and theological distance from his early background and from the political Catholicism of the interwar period, the chapter analyzes his systematic connection of theism, personalism, and decisionism, and considers Schmitt as a “religious” author and person. Schmitt’s apocalyptically dramatized perception and stylization of life as a permanent “state of exception” can be seen as a religious practice of testing contingency and sovereignty and self-assigning to “salvation.” Schmitt must thus be understood not as a part of majority Catholicism, but beyond it, among the religious movements in the history of modern secular faith.

Keywords: Catholicism, theology, religious practice, theism, personalism, decisionism, state of exception


This chapter provides a biographical perspective on the multiple meanings of religion, both personal and professional, in Carl Schmitt’s long life (cf. Mehring 2009; 2012; 2013a). Schmitt was not a supporter of a “pure” theory of law. He systematically emphasized the metajuridical influence of the contents and forms of legal thought. He likewise did not practice law from an external observer’s perspective, but from the internal perspective of a participant in the system and game of justice. He programmatically called his position “political theology.”

Occasionally he also called himself a “theologian of jurisprudence” (Schmitt 1991, 23). The dogmatic content of his “theology,” however, is highly controversial. Moreover, it is not easy to thoroughly separate “dogmatics” from religious practice and confession. One can see it as a doubly reflexive relationship: a basal religious practice leads to subjective religious confessions, which professional administrators of religion reflect and regulate in complex dogmatics. Belief and denomination are often two very different things, while at the same time, religious convictions reflect religious influences and practices. In a religious biography, the collective religious practice is most often found at the beginnings of religious identity. People grow into confessional practices and influences before they are able to confront them independently and individually. It is therefore hardly possible to draw strict divisions among religious practices, confessions, and dogmatic statements. For this reason, Schmitt regarded religious converts, who had switched from one practice to another dogma, with suspicion and skepticism. It is no easy task to cast off (p. 74) religious socialization and enter into another confession, to convert, for example, from Catholicism or Judaism to Protestantism. As a result, Schmitt always regarded himself as Catholic in terms of his background, even in his later rejections of and distance from the religion. The consistency, scope, and meaning of his “Catholicism” were nevertheless controversial, even among his contemporaries.

This chapter problematizes Schmitt’s “Catholicism.” It situates the question in Schmitt scholarship, sketches out the complex overall religious situation and the religious mélange in Germany post-1789 and post-Kant, describes Schmitt’s tense confessional biography and his distance from the deployment of Catholicism in the interwar period, analyzes his programmatic and systematic self-reflexive statements on his “political theology,” and ultimately proposes an alternative “religious” interpretation of his eccentric “life in a state of exception.” I differentiate religio-philosophically between a life that is “Catholically” founded and one that is “religiously” experienced and interpreted and regard Schmitt as a religious person who withdrew secularly and heretically from the dogmatically deployed, church-organized majority Catholicism.

It is well-known that Schmitt repeatedly referred to himself as a Catholic. Yet he tended to employ a touch of irony when making this assertion. In his journal of ideas, the Glossarium, which Schmitt began in late summer 1947, soon after his return from investigative custody in Nuremberg, and in which he reflected intensively on the “state of intellectual history” after 1945, he called himself a “Catholic layman of German nationality and citizenship” (1991, 283). Each word of this statement calls for a sociologically “concrete” explanation. The emphasis on “German” origins and the differentiation between nationality (Volksangehörigkeit) and citizenship (Staatsangehörigkeit) is of no small importance. But the true significance here resides in the word “layman.” With his self-depiction as a member of the laity, Schmitt alluded to his precarious relationship with the Catholic Church, but at the same time used a formulation particularly in line with his own theological claim. Again and again he referred to himself, often retrospectively, as a “political theologian.” Schmitt scholarship has meticulously gathered his various self-descriptions and examined them repeatedly. “Political theology” is a global topic of research. But not every theologian has to be a devout Christian. Following the historical biblical criticism of the nineteenth century, a confession-neutral, non-Christian theology and study of religion is possible (Overbeck 1903). Religions can also be described objectively as social practices.

Even if Schmitt thus somehow voiced “theological” claims, we nevertheless cannot read this simply as a Catholic credo. Even Hugo Ball (1924) did not do so. As Manfred Dahlheimer (1998) in particular has shown, Schmitt was hardly considered a Catholic jurist prior to 1933. During his time in Berlin he received an increased readership as a jurist and political author. After 1945 the controversy regarding his National Socialism had to be dealt with. Hasso Hofmann’s (1964) influential portrayal was a problem-based history in legal philosophy. Only more recently has scholarship made the cross-check against the confessional content of Legality and Legitimacy (see Meier 1994; 1998; Mehring 1989). Is an alternative “humanistic” reconstruction possible? Was the focal point of the work, following Schmitt’s self-depiction, perhaps in Political Theology? (p. 75) Was Schmitt maybe even a devout Catholic? Numerous studies have investigated these questions.1 In so doing, they have not always kept in mind the diversity of possible perspectives: Should one reconstruct religiosity, confession, metaphysics, theology, and practice? Should these be reconstructed for particular texts and time periods? Should one advocate for a strong unity and consistency or differentiate between stages of development, for instance between a Catholic and a National Socialist phase? Should one limit oneself to published texts? What about correspondence? Should one go through the archives? Or consider biographical elements? Need one take into consideration the context of contemporary discussions and the general relationship of the Catholic Church toward National Socialism? The research dynamic since Schmitt’s death in 1985 has been enormously vibrant. Many questions have been put forth and resolved. Many strong claims have also been discounted in the process by newer publications and archival work. Today, a “Catholic” interpretation is risky, to say the least. And if it were to imply a church-oriented perspective and acknowledgment of papal primacy, it would simply be wrong. Let us examine these questions biographically (cf. Mehring 2009; 2010a).

German Idealism

Around 1800 the German Idealists were already overcome by the feeling that “God is dead.” Hegel’s answer to this sentiment was the “speculative Good Friday” (Hegel 1970a, 432; cf. Mehring 2003) of his philosophy. He hoped to rescue “God” from the Protestant theologians for his own philosophy. In the epoch of restoration after 1815, a confessional reorganization did occur. The churches reacted to the separation of church and state with an increased demarcation and mobilization of their sphere. The ultramontane movement deployed itself against modernity, and German Romanticism migrated to “Rome.” However, Christian idealism was supplanted paradigmatically around 1848 by “material” and “biological” ideologies. Cultural pessimism and sociobiology pushed forward, saturating and ultimately drowning the old dogmatic theology and the remnants of Christian cohesion. The foundation of the German Reich in 1871 put the Catholics further on the defensive against the Protestant-Prussian power elite and majority culture. Polemical clusters developed around the dogma of papal infallibility, ultramontanism, and culture-struggle (Kulturkampf) Catholicism. Within the Kulturkampf, Catholicism certainly asserted itself as a developed worldview, social practice, and worldly sphere. Yet on the whole, the Wilhelmine system around 1900 was not a “Christian state.” The ecumenical formula itself is neutralizing. Religiosity, according to a prevalent diagnosis, was in the midst of an upheaval (Nipperdey 1988). Alongside the transformed Christian and Jewish spheres arose a “vagrant” religiosity, in which Christian content survived, but in a secularized form at best. At this time the arts took over ideological functions of religious community development. In response to Wagner’s Parsifal, Nietzsche declared, “Is this still German?/Consider! Stay! You are (p. 76) perplexed?/That which you hear is Rome—Rome’s faith without the text” (Nietzsche 1982, 673). The old Christianity barely continued to fascinate intellectuals. Instead, there arose a new Weltfrömmigkeit, or worldly piety (Eduard Spranger), and a life-reforming search for the “new man” (Küenzlen 1997).

Time after time, Schmitt discerningly and eccentrically emphasized the stages of the “intellectual-historical” development and condition of Germany post-1789 and post-Kant. A pivotal point for his historical conception was the Vormärz and the failure of the bourgeois revolution of 1848. The first synopsis of his overall view appears in his 1929 speech “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations,” in which he sketches out a sequence of failed attempts at neutralization and depoliticization: “from the theological to the metaphysical and moral, to the economical” (Schmitt 1963, 88), and refers to “intellectual neutrality” and the “immanence of technology.” Later Schmitt would speak again and again of a position “between theology and technology.” He illustrates his view in a shockingly radical way in many entries in his Glossarium, repeatedly expressing the hope that the products of the “decomposition” of German Idealism—here Schmitt means above all the antithetical constellations and political ideologies of the Vormärz—will unleash new “the urgic powers” (1991, 83). “Truly, this philosophy’s products of decomposition will be stronger than all of the restorations of the old churches. They will unleash theurgic powers before which our miserable victors and keepers of the law [Rechtbehaltern] will shudder” (83). “The line from 1848 to 1948 is the development and intensification of nothingness and nihilism” (203). In many of his notes, Schmitt writes Hitler into his view of the products of decomposition. In doing so, he formulates a peculiar “ruse of reason”: the “intellectual-historical key concept of the ingenious enforcer” (151). Schmitt proceeds from a paradoxical dialectic of education and lack thereof, and of civilization and barbarism, insofar as an “educated” people or a civilized society chose Hitler of all people as its “Führer.” In this vein, he notes on May 17, 1948:

The idea takes possession of an individual and thus always appears as a foreign guest. The foreign guest was Adolf. He was strange to the point of caricature. Foreign precisely because of the aseptically empty purity of his ideas of leaders, charisma, genius, and race. He was a presuppositionless enforcer. The masses of the educated were uneducated. They had not yet experienced the crisis of 1848. Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner were considered comical louts. Adolf, however, who was intellectually weaker than Max, was considered by the educated, such as [Johannes] Popitz, to be a genius. And this is how he made his appearance. Existentialism is the appropriate word, that is, it is the death knell for this genialism of the German eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (151).

These kinds of notations demand a thorough and critical commentary. Schmitt’s intellectual-historical view of the “decomposition” and paradoxical “enforcement” of German Idealism could be reconstructed in detail, and the result would be an extremely strange book called “From Hegel to Hitler.”

German New Humanism would likewise be cast in a harsh light. Schmitt’s initial formulation of the idea of a “foreign guest” is a quotation from Goethe. In his Maxims (p. 77) and Reflections, Goethe wrote, “every idea appears as a foreign guest, and as it begins to be realized, it can hardly be distinguished from imagination and fantasy” (1909, 177). The same applies to Schmitt’s fantastic depictions of Germany’s intellectual-historical catastrophe. Most important here is that Schmitt writes of the intellectual history of the “German catastrophe” (Friedrich Meinecke) not primarily from the perspective of the established churches, but rather from that of German Idealism, New Humanism, and the intellectual avantgarde of the Vormärz. He proceeds on the basis of a progressive secularization of Christianity and sees no further chance for the “restoration of the old Church” after 1945. To his mind, Catholicism in the twentieth century was long played out. It was for this reason as well that Schmitt no longer considered himself a dogmatic, politically dutiful Catholic, even though he never denied his Catholic influences and accepted them in the context of secular history as markers of his background and identity.

Catholicism at Home

Carl Schmitt was born in 1888. His parents were Catholics. His father’s first marriage, however, had been to a Protestant. She died, along with her second child, in childbirth. Schmitt had a half-brother from his father’s first marriage, whom he rarely mentions in his writings. He grew up in Plettenberg, Westphalia, in a Catholic diaspora. His social surroundings were primarily Protestant. He then attended a nearby Catholic boarding school, thereby entering an environment with a Catholic majority. He mentions reading authors who were critical of religion during this time. Despite his mother’s wishes, he had already decided against studying theology during his school years. Schmitt did not learn Hebrew, nor do we know of any support from or influence by the church. The biographical sources from the years of his university studies and clerkship do not reveal any particularly Catholic inclinations. His artistic interests outweighed the religious. In his relations with women, Catholicism and its sexual morality was not an issue. He first became involved with two Jewish sisters named Bernstein and then fervently began a premarital affair with a cabaret dancer. Only after two years did he legalize this relationship, under extraordinary wartime circumstances. Cari (von) Dorotić, a phony aristocrat, was Protestant, as Schmitt was aware. He therefore chose, just as his father had done in his first marriage, a confessionally “mixed marriage.”

Very little about his behavior during this time seemed particularly Catholic. Nevertheless, he saw himself during World War I as a Catholic intellectual. He formulated a state-church dualism (Schmitt 1914) and defended religious individualism against the Church (1917). In contrast to some of his students, Schmitt never developed a clear juridical division of tasks or designation of the relationship between state and church. He comes closest to this kind of institutional dualism in his habilitation treatise, The Value of the State and the Meaning of the Individual, in which he makes a strict distinction between “Times of Means and Times of Immediacy” (1914, 108). Schmitt (p. 78) characterizes the apocalyptic “Times of Immediacy” by a direct relationship of the individual to God, which no longer requires the goods of salvation to be relayed by the institution of a church. Here, too, Schmitt relativizes the religious meaning of the church. Schmitt read a broad spectrum of theologians and church historians; he read works by Kierkegaard, Ernst Troeltsch, and Adolf von Harnack and was in contact with religious authors such as Theodor Haecker and Franz Blei.

In 1921 he met the fervently Catholic, Australian-Irish student Kathleen Murray. At the same time he separated from his wife, whom he had recognized as an impostor with a false identity, and attempted to have his first marriage annulled. Although his marriage was legally annulled in 1924 due to the use of a false identity, he was not yet divorced. His two attempts to have the marriage nullified by the Church failed. Following his civil marriage to the orthodox Serbo-Croatian Dushka Todorović, he was excommunicated in February 1926. It is possible that he even married Dushka in the Orthodox Church. This had at least been his plan and would have been unproblematic according to Orthodox law. Through this marriage he had fallen out with the Catholic milieu.

Political Catholicism

For a short time he gave lectures for the Zentrum, the German Center Party and predecessor to today’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which was already interdenominational but appealed above all to Catholic voters and was perceived as Germany’s Catholic Center Party (cf. older portrayals by Morsey 1966; Huber 1981, 194–196; Lönne 1986).2 The Center Party was democratically and republican-minded. As a state party and coalition partner, it sought to maintain the Weimar Republic. In the mid-1920s Schmitt sought out political connections in the Zentrum, but he rejected the parliamentary course of the Catholic Center Party as well as the offer of a seat in the Reichstag. He kept a distance from the political Catholicism of the Weimar Republic and viewed the Church primarily as a form of political power (Schmitt 1923). At this time he positioned himself fairly heretically in Catholic journalism. He tested his own surroundings against their relationship to Romanticism. His work Political Romanticism differentiated Romanticism strictly from the Catholic Counter-Reformation (1919). Schmitt dismissed the Catholicizing Romantic movement, along with liberalism and modernity, as an opportunistic arrangement. He rejected every contemporary variation on Catholic Romanticism. He was vehemently opposed—as seen in his correspondence with Waldemar Gurian—to the youth movements in Left Catholicism and the “organic” nationalist ideals of the circles surrounding Othmar Spann, and also to Max Scheler, Romano Guardini, and the Quickborn movement (Binkowski 1981). Furthermore, he condemned Catholic natural law and neo-Thomism and distanced himself from pre-1789 “traditionalism” and old conservatism. The “Catholic” author with whom he found the greatest identification became the solitary Donoso Cortés. According (p. 79) to contemporary attitudes, his standpoint was probably closest to the French “renouveau catholique” and the “Action Françoise” (cf. Kühlmann 2008). Not coincidentally, Schmitt fell out with Gurian over the “Action Françoise.” Gurian coupled his affirmation of counterrevolutionary ultramontanism with a sharp reckoning with the “Action Françoise” (1929). He decided in favor of the Catholic Church. Schmitt, however, had been rescinding his state-church dualism since 1925 at the latest and became an advocate of the “total state,” even against the church. Although he had been friends with Catholic theologians such as Wilhelm Neuss in his Bonn years, his friendships with Protestant theologians were no less close. Even then he had broken inwardly with the church, the Center Party, and the Catholic milieu, and from Bonn had longed for Berlin. His second wife, Dushka, was critically ill with tuberculosis. As a result, Schmitt dissolved the difficult nexus of love and marriage and decoupled his sexual life from his married life. He took a permanent mistress and frequented the red-light districts of street prostitution in Berlin for several years beginning in 1928. Schmitt dissociated eros and caritas and did not ethicize sexuality through personal ties.

His positions on jurisprudence and the political did not correspond to church doctrine either. Schmitt profoundly rejected Catholic natural law and its juridical representatives (cf. Hollerbach 2004). He did not participate in the Catholic turn to neo-Thomism. Catholic Church dogmatics had long blocked any scholastic or religio-philosophical discussion. With the slow acceptance of modernity since the late nineteenth century, a new Catholic movement emerged, which developed primarily into neo-Thomism and revived an interest in St. Thomas Aquinas in its reception of new idealistic philosophy. Through his friendly connection with Karl Eschweiler, Schmitt met Jacques Maritain, a main proponent of neo-Thomism. His translator, Pierre Linn, belonged to the Maritain circle. Here, too, however, Schmitt’s interest was delimiting. Nor did he enter the circles of political Catholicism in Berlin. He had no close contact to Center Party chancellor Heinrich Brüning. From 1930 to 1933 Schmitt famously became an important apologist and legal advisor to the presidential system of the Weimar Republic in its final days (Ernst Rudolf Huber). Theoretically, Schmitt supported all three final chancellors of the Weimar Republic: Brüning, Papen, and Schleicher. Yet he actually rejected Brüning. Still up for debate in today’s scholarship is only whether Schmitt’s primary support went to Papen or Schleicher. Following the publication of his journals written from 1930 to 1934, it has become clearer that Schmitt developed a personal relationship only with Papen and that his juridical support for the presidential system was also meant in terms of legal technique and advocacy (see Mehring 2013b; 2013c).

Politically, Schmitt affirmed the “commissarial dictatorship” of the presidential system far more than Weimar parliamentarianism. However, this is not enough to conclude that he gave special support to Weimar in the fight against National Socialism. That which he affirmed as a jurist, he saw more radically and skeptically as a political thinker. Nonetheless, he was not a clear adherent of National Socialism before the Enabling Act of March 24, 1933. His pre-1933 support of the presidential system was in any case not an expression of adherence to the Center Party. Schmitt was even publicly affronted by party leader Ludwig Kaas in January 1933.

(p. 80) His contact with chancellor Papen was likewise not a sign that he supported the Center. When Franz von Papen became Reich chancellor, Papen had already pulled out of the Center Party. After 1933 Schmitt’s break with Catholicism was blatant in his National Socialistic involvement. He had given up his old approach toward a constitutional dualism between state and church. Unlike his students in Bonn—Ernst Rudolf Huber, Ernst Forsthoff, and Werner Weber—Schmitt did not execute or contribute to state-church law. Even his Catholic adepts Karl Eschweiler and Hans Barion argued for political primacy of the state over the institution of the church. Schmitt was also close at the time with Heinrich Oberheid, a bishop appointed by the Deutsche Christen (German Christians), a Protestant movement aligned with National Socialism. He desired the political disempowerment of churches through the National Socialist state. But National Socialism and Catholicism are incompatible. National Socialistic antisemitism, racism, and warmongering are deeply unchristian, and Schmitt’s salient antisemitism cannot be explained as traditional Christian anti-Judaism. And his National Socialist activities and omissions were scarcely reconcilable with Catholicism. Friends and students, such as Wilhelm Neuss and Erik Peterson, Waldemar Gurian, Werner Becker, and Ernst Friesenhahn, were deeply aware of this and broke with Schmitt (cf. Mehring 2009, 313–315). After 1945, Schmitt’s attempt at rapprochement with the Church—which was, if nothing else, tactically important—soon foundered. Of particular importance here were contacts with the Walberberg Dominican monastery. Although Schmitt published some texts in the Dominican journal Die neue Ordnung (The New Order) about Father Eberhard Welty and was a frequent guest in the monastery, there were soon contentions, and Schmitt broke off contact. After 1950 he withdrew his faint attempts to re-Catholicize his work. His last self-interpretation, Political Theology II, also lacks any clear profession of Catholicism.

Schmitt was not a true son of the Church. He did not represent political Catholicism, even as a state teacher did not share the Catholic view of natural law, and had no clear Catholic identity. At most he was a very liberal Catholic. At the time there were certainly quite a few (cf. Bröckling 1993; Schwab 2009). In his Glossarium he called himself, with a touch of irony, a “Catholic layman of German nationality and citizenship.” Nevertheless, self-definition as Catholic is not at the discretion of the individual believer.

Programmatic Self-Descriptions: Political Theology I and II

Let us transition from a confessional biography to Schmitt’s programmatic self-descriptions. To this end, two books on political theology, from 1922 and 1970 respectively, are of foremost importance. The first three chapters of the manifesto from 1922 first appeared in the commemorative publication for Max Weber. Schmitt was in personal contact with Weber in Munich from 1919 to 1920. When one considers that Weber (p. 81) had long since withdrawn from academic teaching and was able only in the final years of his life to exert his influence as a teacher with his interpretative method (verstehende Soziologie), Schmitt can be considered one of his few close pupils. Beyond Weber’s political writings and sociology of authority (Herrschaftssoziologie), Schmitt was doubtless inspired by his sociology of religion. Yet he ignored the “sociological” perspective and did not inquire into the agents and supporting social classes of a religious movement. Schmitt began at the point where Weber rationally and theoretically addressed the objective question of the theodicy problem and the inner-logical rationalization of religious dynamic.3 Weber emphasized the tension between destiny (Schicksal) and merit (Verdienst) (Weber 1920b), saw the justification of happiness and suffering as the central topic of the history of religion, and spoke of an “ineradicable need for theodicy” (1920a, 246). In his essays on religious sociology, as concisely formulated in his introduction, Weber sees a rational search for justice as the motive for the development of religion. He thereby relativizes Nietzsche’s thesis of “Ressentiment” and emphasizes a “theodicy of happiness” alongside the religious representation and valuation of suffering (242). Not only suffering, but also happiness wants to claim “legitimacy” (“[Auch] das Glück will ‘legitim’ sein,” 242). According to Weber, the “ineradicable need for theodicy” stems not from some opiate feeling of Ressentiment, but from the rational awareness of an “incongruence between fate and achievement” (246–247). According to Weber, religious justification closes the void between destiny and merit, insofar as it justifies destiny as merit. Schmitt strongly sensed this very type of religious justification of his own life. In agreement with Weber, he emphasized the religious influence on the horizon of meaning and resources of action. He rejected an autonomous, philosophically justifiable morality, as in Kant, for example. Schmitt carried these questions about the religious sources of action beyond Weber—with and against Hans Kelsen—into legal and political theory.

His central argument in 1922 was a nexus of authoritative decision, personality, and theism (Schmitt 1922). Schmitt developed the hypothesis that an authoritative, juridical decision is only possible within the framework of a theistic and personal worldview. He believed this relationship was threatened by the modern process of secularization, which he saw as destroying theism and personalism, and with them, the necessary prerequisites for jurisprudence. Accordingly, in 1922 Schmitt advocated a Christian personalism with a legal-theoretical purpose. That is to say, he does not religiously presuppose the Christian belief in the individual “soul,” but instead, through analytical and transcendental reflection, postulates personality as the condition of possibility for individual and authoritative decisions. Schmitt then short-circuits this necessary precondition of personality with theism. Within the framework of his reflections, he takes on a critical relational definition of theism and personalism and thereby implicitly denies the possibility of a postmetaphysical and secular personalism. Schmitt’s short cut from personalism over to theism is of course questionable. Even so, Kant himself advocated a similar logically necessary nexus of God, freedom, and immortality in his critical philosophy and doctrine of postulates. Schmitt’s legal postulate of a nexus among theism, personalism, and decisionism seems more loosely applied. He does not make any strong philosophical or transcendental claims, but instead proceeds analytically and (p. 82) hermeneutically, reconstructing prevalent convictions rather than logically necessary ideas. In so doing, he actually only inverted Kelsen’s critique of natural law: Kelsen saw “relativism” as an ideological prerequisite for democratization and fought against the alliance among Christianity, monarchism, and the authoritarian state (cf. Schnädelbach 2009). Schmitt considered Kelsen’s observations on the relation between form of government and ideology essentially applicable. He, too, saw the ideological validity requisite for political forms, but affirmed state authority against modern democratization for the sake of personalism and theism. He saw his position as defensive and therefore aligned himself with Donoso Cortés and the counterrevolution. He reiterated, notably in his 1938 book on Thomas Hobbes, his claim that theism is a condition for the possibility of personalism. Time after time, Schmitt emphasized Hobbes’s personal “piety” and Christianity, but thereby positioned the “image” and “myth” of the leviathan in place of strong dogmatic deliberations.

If the manifesto of 1922 can be read as an essentially political-theoretical civil theology, as an appellative mobilization of religious resources of political authority, then Schmitt’s last work, Political Theology II, insists upon its own theological competence. This book was often discounted as a clumsy late work. In it, Schmitt very belatedly responds to the criticism of his former Bonn friend, Erik Peterson.4 Peterson, similar to Schmitt’s other Bonn companions (Waldemar Gurian, Wilhelm Neuss), accused Schmitt of having betrayed the differentiation between state and church and having idolized the National Socialist state into a church. In Political Theology II, Schmitt rebuffs this “legend” as a typical product of Protestant crisis theology and points out that Peterson for his part argues politico-theologically. Schmitt opposes Peterson’s discrimination of “Eusebius as prototype of political theology” and insists that the pious layman cannot be denied his salvation-historical interpretation of political events. Eusebius celebrated the Roman Empire as a “victory of the one true belief in God over polytheism,” without confusing God and the emperor. Retrospectively, Schmitt has a similar view of his own role in National Socialism.

Schmitt conceives of the afterword to Political Theology II, directed at Hans Blumenberg (2008), as his closing words and a conclusion to the work. He reflects on the relationship of state and society in the mirror of Trinitarian speculations about the relationship of “Creator God and Redeemer God” (Schöpfergott und Erlösergott; Schmitt 1970, 120). According to Schmitt’s portrayal, in the process of the modern era the political primacy of decision is transferred from the church and the state to society. Hobbes could still find the “clear state alternative.” Hegel then faced the problem that the Protestant critique incited revolution. It came to a Left Hegelian reinterpretation of his Christology into a “pseudo-religion of absolute humanity,” which—according to Schmitt’s dramatizing point of view—opened “the way to an inhuman terror.” The completion of the Reformation as emancipation of the individual defines, according to Schmitt, the political-theological dynamic of the modern era. He calls the “metaphysical formula” for this empowerment “political Christology.” Unlike Hegel he instead emphasizes the “non-identity of Father and Son” (Schmitt 1970, 71) and the “transcendence” of God. Schmitt’s historicizing and anthropological interpretation at that time followed (p. 83) Young Hegelian religious criticism. His mention of the “transcendence” of God remains theologically very indeterminate and is only clear in its political objective against the modern demand for autonomy and the humanistic self-deification of man.

Even Political Theology II is therefore hardly suited for a dogmatic reconstruction of Schmitt’s “theology.” It is certainly not a clear avowal of Roman Catholicism. Even internally a confessional identification is problematic. Schmitt does not provide his readers with clear terminology, which would allow the identification of a consistent theological position. The ethereal matter of religion, however, is hardly graspable even outside of Schmitt’s terminology. Often all sorts of things are chalked up as “theology.” Religious practice, churchliness, religiosity, confession, metaphysics, theology, and dogmatics need to be distinguished reasonably precisely. People can carry out religious practices without any inner investment or belief and might go to church only out of traditional custom or to be sociable. Ritualistic religions decouple religious practice from belief. This is not the case with Christianity. In distinction to Judaism, it further requires the “spirit” (Geist) or sentiment of the religious acts. This is Schmitt’s jurisprudential argument against mere legality and the “letter” of the “legitimacy” or “spirit” of the law. Churches ritualize religious belonging in different forms (baptism, communion, confession, etc.). One’s denomination can therefore be distinguished as an outward faith separate from belief. No one has to earnestly believe that which he or she purports to believe. The Catholic faith is rhetorically fixed by formulae such as the Apostles’ Creed. The Church does not expect from its members any particular sense of meaning or even the capacity for a theological explication of the articles of faith. For Schmitt, however, this kind of outward faith did not suffice as an attestation of Christianity. In his 1938 Hobbes book he rejected the modern dissociation of belief and confession (Schmitt 1938, 84–86).

Theology is the science of God. As such it makes dogmatic demands. It is not only a “doctrine of faith” (Glaubenslehre) of sincere and church-compliant religious belief, but also a dogmatic formulation of the religious “truth.” Christianity has its truth through Christ. As “core of the apostolic proclamation” (1982, 164, cf. 126), Schmitt pointed repeatedly with Hobbes to the statement “that Jesus is the Christ.” Christendom received the revelation of this truth through the Bible. Christian theology is a systematic and dogmatic doctrine of the biblical truth or dictates. This theology formulates its doctrine in the hermeneutic analysis of the text of the “Holy Scripture.” Theology is therefore not a kind of historical culture studies. Such an empirical study of religion describes the history of religion undogmatically as a cultural phenomenon.

Metaphysics is a philosophical doctrine or science of the final reasons and purposes of being. It formulates that which must be true, even if theology is not senseless, but instead has an object. Kant elevated “freedom” to a transcendental condition of possibility and made it the subject matter of philosophical metaphysics. He allowed for the religious or mythical justification of this “freedom” through a transcendental “God” “within the limits of reason alone” and within the limits of critical hermeneutics. Even Jürgen Habermas grants the Christian religion today practically important “resources for endowment with meaning” (2001). Philosophical metaphysics and the (p. 84) philosophy of religion (as a subsection of metaphysics) must not be mistaken for theology. Metaphysics does safeguard the transcendental significance of theological hermeneutics, but it can also be pursued entirely independently of the religions and theologies that have been handed down. Philosophy of religion thereby mediates more strongly between philosophical metaphysics and the historically bound religious language and theology.

Schmitt was naturally well-acquainted with such distinctions as have been only roughly outlined here. But he did not address them. Above all, he did not clearly differentiate between theology and philosophy as fields of scholarship, but instead advocated a very broad conception of “theology” that included philosophical discourse. Without differentiating further, he usually saw philosophical methods and claims of validity as a part of the histories of religion and theology. This is an inheritance from the nineteenth century. The Young Hegelians as well as Nietzsche often simply read the philosophical classics as theology. Nietzsche writes in Ecce Homo: “In the history of the quest for knowledge the Germans are inscribed with nothing but ambiguous names; they have always brought forth only ‘unconscious’ counterfeiters (Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and Schleiermacher deserve this epithet as well as Kant and Leibniz: they are all mere veil makers)” (2000, 777).5 Schmitt did not share Nietzsche’s anti-idealistic trajectory, but hardly differentiated between metaphysics and theology, so that a reconstruction of his “theology” is inherently risky.

Theology is often nothing more than a systematized parable. The language of theology requires a philosophical and a juridical-institutional translation. Even though Schmitt changed his stance toward the Church significantly, at the latest from 1925 on, and avoided a theological justification of the “concrete” Church, his avowal of Jesus as Christ and of the salvation-historical view of the present in the “great parallels” to early Christianity was nevertheless unmistakable. He expressed himself particularly clearly in a 1950 commentary on Karl Löwith’s book Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschehen (World History and Salvation History): “The Christian must uplift the parallels to identity because for him the core events of the Christian Aion—the coming, death on the cross and resurrection of the Son of Man remain alive and unchangedly present” (Schmitt 2007, 163–164).6 Schmitt argued dogmatically: “Christendom is at its essential core not a moral code or doctrine, nor a penitential sermon, nor a religion in the sense of comparative religious studies, but a historical occurrence of singularity that is infinite and unable to be possessed or occupied. It is the incarnation in the Virgin. The Christian Creed speaks of historical events” (165).7 Nowhere else does Schmitt express himself in such a decidedly Christian manner. He also names “three possibilities,” or criteria, of a “Christian conception of history”: “the great parallel, the Katechon and the Christian Epimetheus” (166). His search for a Christian “Aufhalter”—one who delays or restrains the “end of history”—is connected with the salvation-historical parallels to the early Christian condition. One finds mention of the katechon and “Christian Epimetheus” only in his later works. Whether Schmitt himself was a “delayer” or “catalyst” of the apocalypse is contested. Ever since his early works, however, he consistently adopted the perspective of a religious apocalypticist who saw the “state of things” from the perspective (p. 85) of the state of exception and who distinguished between “times of mediacy” and “times of immediacy” (2004, 107). He saw the law and the state as means with which the state of exception could be overcome and and a normal state of affairs be re-established. But Schmitt did not think normalcy likely. As a religious individual he imagined himself existing in a permanently apocalyptic situation—and he dramatized his life accordingly.

Life as a State of Exception

Schmitt formulated his religious individuality using several key elements of Christianity. But he was not a pious Catholic. Even the credibility of his minimal or essential Christianity can hardly be discussed conclusively. He certainly did not make strong claims about questions of theological dogma. The debates about his “Catholicism” should therefore be limited to a certain extent. In any case, it would be a mistake to expect to find evidence for an authentic Catholicism in Schmitt’s life. Other theological speculations are also abundantly speculative, such as the widespread perception that Schmitt was a “Gnostic.”8 With this, too, an ambiguous label is affixed to an author who eludes such determinations. It would be more reasonable to proceed religio-philosophically from a core definition that seems particularly applicable to Schmitt. “Contingency” would be just such a core. When “religiosity” emancipated itself from Christian dogmatism around 1800 (Krech 2002), the general theories of religion and religious psychology discovered contingency. Friedrich Schleiermacher (cf. 1910) spoke of a feeling of “absolute dependence” (schlechthinniger Abhängigkeit) (1821–1822), Rudolf Otto of a “creature-feeling” (Kreaturgefühl) and the experience of the “numinous” (das Numinose) (1936), and Karl Barth of the “wholly other” (ganz Anderer).9 Wilhelm von Humboldt of course also spoke of religious feelings: “Religious education is less teaching than it is a stimulation of feeling,” he wrote in his school plan for Königsberg (Humboldt 1959, 108). The religious is thereby the feeling or experience of the limit, finitude, fragility, or contingency of human existence. Religions thematize this boundary between man and “God.” Religiosity can thus essentially be defined, as per Hermann Lübbe, as contingency awareness and “contingency coping practice” (Lübbe 1986). During work on West-Eastern Divan in 1816, Goethe, in line with Spinoza, spoke of “absolute submissiveness” to “God’s will” (Goethe 1981, 424). By this he meant an active acquiescence or acceptance of one’s living conditions.

From the perspective of religio-philosophical systematics and also from the perspective of a general study and sociology of religion that is descriptively comparative and typological, the contingency coping practice is a core criterion for the identification of a religious position. The “contingency” of an individual is admittedly the subject of numerous disciplines. Heidegger elevated the “concern” for one’s own “finiteness” and “thrownness” (Geworfenheit) to a specification of human existence. Doctors, as well, “cope” with human contingency in a practical way. Here the significance lies in a self-understanding that is religiously reflective and in the practice of cultish “coping” with (p. 86) the problem. The believer trusts in God; he trusts that the ritual forms of devotion will yield a positive coping effect. At the same time, the practical forms of “coping” with the contingency problem are multifaceted and diverse. They need not necessarily be communal. With the modern tendency toward religious privatization and individualization, the traditional and communal rituals are replaced by reflective, intimate forms of religious communication with “God.” Hegel called his philosophy religious service: “Dealings with philosophy must be seen as the Sunday of life” (1970b, 412); “Philosophy is in fact religious service, is religion” (1970c, 28). The individualistic traditions of modern mysticism are revived today far from communal dogmatism and practices. Religio-sociologically, this can be described as a trend from churchly organization toward sect movements. Max Weber had already detected such a trend toward mystical “virtuosity.” The religious individual interprets human contingency as the divine “destiny” or “truth” of his life. He believes himself to be in a religious relationship through his forms of worship. In the process, his “humility” before God often appears to his contemporaries to be an elite and esoteric conceit or arrogance. Max Weber distinguished two main opposites “in the field of world rejection”: “active asceticism: divinely ordained actions as God’s instrument on the one hand, and on the other hand, the contemplative healing possession of mysticism, which intends a ‘having’ rather than an acting, and in which the individual is not an instrument, but rather a ‘vessel’ of the divine, so that every action consequently appears to be a threat to the completely irrational and otherworldly state of salvation” (Weber 1920b, 538–539). The double register of normalcy and the state of exception allowed Schmitt a double virtuosity, as it were: the jurist acts as an “Aufhalter” and tool of God, and the individual sees himself in apocalyptical “times of immediacy” as a mystical vessel. It required the highest religious aptitude and virtuosity to be able to see the borders and differentiate “times of mediacy” and “immediacy.” Here Schmitt feared evil “fraud.” The modern mystic likes to think of himself as privileged in his religious access. He believes that as a “vessel” of God, he has exclusive knowledge and privileged religious access.

Schmitt was precisely such an individualist and esoteric. In his whole pathos and in his practice of enacting his life as a state of exception, he was permeated by a feeling of contingency and unpredictability. He staged his life as an ongoing state of exception, insofar as he constantly found his way into situations from which he needed “saving” by his contemporaries or by a religiously interpreted coincidence. Schmitt’s concept of the state of exception has indisputable great diagnostic importance. The rhetoric of the state of exception is also a problematic crisis scenario from the point of view of legal policy and serves all too often to support the call for a dictator and strong state (Frankenberg 2010). Schmitt officially confronted the theme of the state of siege and exception in Munich in 1915. He was once again distraught over his personal circumstances. He was suffering through military service, doubted and despaired over his wife, was afraid of the front, and felt torn between national “authority” and Schwabing “anarchy.” On September 6, 1915, he noted in his diary: “At eight o’clock I was ready to commit suicide, to sink into the world of night and silence, in quiet superiority; then I thought only of carving out a career in the world. A few hours later I was indifferent to everything (p. 87) and wanted to become a soldier—it’s enough to drive you mad, this disjointedness; what should I do? In an hour I will shoot myself out of rage over my nothingness” (2005, 125). One day later, he noted: “Afternoon: do a report on the siege law. Justify that the state of siege be maintained for a few years after the war. Me of all people! What providence has destined for me yet” (125).

He is confronted with the topic of the state of siege as an assignment. Schmitt is supposed to say that the state of war requires an exceptional expansion of executive authority, even into the postwar period. This will become a central topic of his work. His entire constitutional theory makes the case that the liberal system of separation of powers can no longer be maintained and that the executive needs the right to take exceptional measures. But in 1915, in the middle of the war, Schmitt first approaches this assignment with astonishment. “Me of all people! What providence has destined for me yet!” The comment is ironic, since Schmitt knows that it was his supervisor who made the assignment. But he already seems to sense that the topic of dictatorship and the transformation of the liberal constitutional state into the executive state belongs to the future. And one can already hear a hint of the existential stabilization that has been ordered of the desperate Bohemian. Schmitt has finally found his life topic. With it, he can find his way and triumph as a “soldier” over the citizens and Bohemians. In this way, his mention of “providence” is not meant merely ironically. It also contains his existential salvation: an inkling of future developments that will give him a goal that he can hold onto.

Political Theology then casts a political-theological light on sovereignty as a “limit-concept” of political science. “The state of exception for jurisprudence has an analogous meaning to the miracle for theology,” Schmitt writes at the beginning of his eponymous chapter (1922, 49). The state of exception is an opposite and limit-concept conceived from the expectation of normalcy. There is no strict suspension of all regularities and rules. At a minimum, the laws of nature apply in the godless world. Historically speaking, the political field of activity first emerges as a secular space with the ancient Greeks, through the demystification of the worldview and a separation of God, man, and the world (cf. Meier 1980). In the history of metaphysics, the formula is literally reversed: that which seems incredibly secular, the state of exception, is upon closer inspection actually a metaphysical fiction. Godless nature knows neither the suspension of all rules nor any radical state of exception. Only humans perceive threat situations as catastrophic states of exception. In the dramatization of crises lies a dangerous exaggeration. But life experience also tells us that beyond the horizon life goes on. A secular worldview ultimately views the anthropocentrism of the state of exception soberly and cynically. Nietzsche had formulated the metaphysical scenario of radical finitude succinctly and ironically: “In some remote corner of the universe that is poured out in countless flickering solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the most arrogant and the most untruthful moment in ‘world history,’—yet indeed only a moment” (1989, 246). Today we constantly expect the end of humanity. But for decades, satellites have been flying in orbit, carrying specific information about human existence to any possible “rational beings” (Kant) even when they have lost radio contact. Humanity today again expects rational beings beyond the human.

(p. 88) Schmitt’s sovereignty formula dramatizes the possibility of an amorphous field of action beyond all rules. In this way it is itself a “secularized theological concept.” The limit-concept of the state of exception feigns an amorphous randomness that does not actually exist in the social hierarchy. The sovereign wins back the initiative and the “book” of trade like a screenplay or description of stage directions and thereby commands semantic sovereignty and competency for a more detailed configuration of the situation. To speak in terms of antiquity, he performs as a Nomothete or legislator and gains a legislative power and function. That does not necessarily mean full dictatorial power or monarchy. Instead, the gesture of dictatorial sovereignty signals weakness. The true sovereign has no need for rhetorical demonstrations of power or self-aggrandizement. Schmitt’s sovereignty formula, with its rhetorical conciseness and openness, lends itself to applicative variations. It also allows for an ethical interpretation and reformulation: a sovereign (a sovereign individual) is someone who withstands diverse challenges in everyday life, primarily and most often with ease. Schmitt escaped from routines into this challenge and in a sense thereby submitted his daily life to a permanent sovereignty test. His stylization of life as a challenge was also a test for his contemporaries. For example, in his sometimes rather careless and chaotic handling of money he occasionally created a test of friendship: a friend is someone who lends money. Schmitt made his happiness a challenge to be tested by the contingencies of his actions. This also has a religious dimension as the test of the good God. In ordinary language, the semantics of sovereignty are usually associated with individual habits and a social performance of personality. A person acts sovereignly; that is, with confidence. As a sovereign individual, one succeeds in maintaining one’s composure in various situations. One shows stoic self-control and does not lose one’s civil frame of mind even in difficult situations. One restrains oneself and masters everyday and extraordinary situations. No one always succeeds in this in the game for the conditions and contingencies of finite existence. Whoever pretends to do so appears slightly arrogant. The sovereign disposition must be observed socio-historically and in the context of the situation. The mirrors for princes, courtier literature, bourgeois etiquette guides, military standing orders, or Proletkult manuals define the maxims of behavior very differently. But sovereignty of one’s actions is presupposed in all of these social-psychological characterizations, standardizations, and stylizations.

The game for one’s own sovereignty becomes a mere act with behavior inappropriate to the situation. The attempt to protect one’s sovereignty at all costs means that it has already been lost. This individual lacks empathy for the moment and inadequately plays a role that reveals itself as a “mask.” Sovereign behavior is a game about limits. Bourgeois everyday life attempts to minimize practical challenges through routines. Normalization, embourgeoisement, and routinization sometimes rob life of its charm, kick, vitality, and fleeting charisma, which is complexly interwoven in social structures. Weber had already observed “routinization” (“Veralltäglichung”) to mean a loss of “charisma.” Schmitt despised bourgeois “security” and wanted to preserve the seriousness of challenge in life. Although he was a “bourgeois” professor, married father, and official who was not conspicuously criminal, his diaries sometimes show quite drastically how (p. 89) Schmitt put himself in difficult situations and used escapades to flee from the routines of daily life. He sought salvation through his crises. Prior to 1933, the most important rescuers were his Jewish friends Fritz and Georg Eisler. He also perceived the unconditional solidarity of his second wife, Duschka, as constant salvation. He saw the dramatic tension of his life in the form of a dialectic between a state of exception and salvation. Schmitt was aware of this religious theatricality. “Tout ce qui arrives est adorable,” he often quoted Léon Bloy, and in March 1945 he assured Ernst Jünger, “that man knows no more about his future days than about his life after death” (as quoted in Kiesel 1999, 191).

Schmitt experienced everyday life as a state of exception under the idea of salvation. For this reason he condemned apologetic self-idolization and sacralization of life and despised “bourgeois” security and its view of the future as a stabilized past. He identified his life with the moment of the experience of contingent salvation. His religious feeling of life contradicted stable categories, and here one sees the religious reasons behind his critiques of liberalism and positivism. The double appearance of the normal and the state of emergency is also a religious reassurance. Where the state of normalcy erodes and the capacity of the constitution is called into question, the original religious substance still holds. Even the hubbub makes religious sense and, understood correctly, is still in good order. The end is here, but it comes as salvation. Although Schmitt’s “decisionism” was repeatedly read—by Waldemar Gurian (1934–1935), Helmut Kuhn, and Karl Löwith—as a kind of “nihilism” oblivious to nature, Schmitt himself insisted on a religious and Christian interpretation. Andreas Urs Sommer, in Lexicon of Imaginary Philosophical Works, wrote about a pamphlet, “The State of Siege” (2012, 33–35). According to Sommer, the imaginary logic of Schmitt’s text and its objective possibilities ask the reader to interpret the state of exception ethically and to consider the “biopolitics of the individual” in the form of a commentary on Theresa of Ávila. Sommer reads this “state of siege,” this thoughtful self-repression, as a rigid religious asceticism of concern for oneself. Schmitt, the excessive Bohemian, already displays praise for asceticism in “The Concept of the Political.” There Schmitt identifies the “coming elite” with a “rebirth” of early Christian “asceticism” and “poverty” (Schmitt 1964, 93). In fact, he perceived his life in a state of exception more as an enormous effort and strain than as the loose luck of libertarian amusement. If one follows Schmitt’s autobiographical account of his life, he was seldom if ever happy, before and after 1933, in the everyday sense of relaxed enjoyment of life. But he always considered it religiously fulfilled and meaningful.

Schmitt also conceived of this religiosity of life as a contingent state of exception theologically and metaphysical-historically. Regarding the latter, he spoke—especially between 1922 and 1925—of a turn from “rationalism” to “irrationalism.” Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus gives an outline of this reversal from rationalism to current, “vitalistically” articulated “irrationalism.” He referred to many authors to reflect on his religious irrationalism about the unfathomable transcendence of God, but hardly to any Catholic scholarship (Schmitt 1919, 1926). But even before his acquaintance with Erik Peterson, his understanding of the “renouveaucatholique” and post-Kierkegaard crisis-theological discussions led him back to (p. 90) early Christian experiences. Following Bruno Bauer (Mehring 2010b), he later spoke frequently about the “great parallels” between the present and the early Christian situation. The Church as an institution did not yet exist for early Christianity. Therefore, many dogmatic objections are deflected by Schmitt’s “ur-Christian” self-conception and attitude toward life. His philosophical intuition is the rough nexus of theism, personalism, and decisionism. Schmitt still believed that man is only really an individual within the framework of Christian theism, through an individual relationship to a personal God. He also viewed guilt and atonement as religious occasions of a personal responsibility toward God. Nevertheless, he publicly rejected moral and political responsibility after 1945.


Recent source material and research now present a clearer view of Schmitt’s political and theological distance from his social background and his political Catholicism of the interwar period. Schmitt likely only sought out closer contact with Catholic circles during his Bonn years. He always saw himself as a jurist. Schmitt emphasized the dogmatic and political disempowerment of Catholicism in the process of Christian secularization and attributed the history of the German catastrophe to other ideas and powers. Neither before nor after 1933 did he ever aggressively campaign for organized Catholicism. His doctrines of the political and of sovereignty instead reclaimed Christian theism and personalism for legal theory. The semantic re-Catholicization of his work after 1945, with the publication offensive of 1950, was vigorously rejected by postwar German Catholicism. Once again, majority Catholicism would not accept Schmitt as an upstanding partisan and dogmatically convinced Catholic. Schmitt had a similar view and in his later works no longer stylized himself as a true “Catholic” thinker.

If the overall “Catholic” interpretation of his life and work is therefore hardly justifiable today, one can nonetheless apply the common distinction between a “religious” core and a confessional cloak and view Schmitt as a religious author and person. One can then situate his work in relation to the various religious movements of the history of modern faith. Beyond the churches, Schmitt of course did not belong to any organized sect. His religiosity was highly individual. For this reason, a closer consideration of his apocalyptically dramatized, eccentric lifestyle seems to me more important than questionable labels such as “Gnosticism.” His constitutional political commitment, too, was determined by this perception of crisis. But Schmitt’s methodological definition of the boundary of legal discourse is also systematically important. In his religious discourse, Schmitt did not distinguish extensively between philosophy and theology; he placed philosophy under a (far too) broad conception of “theology” and read all confessional orientations and normative influences religio-historically. He therefore no longer considered his juridical precondition of “personalism” to be capable of justification. He knew no religiously neutral and philosophically justifiable human rights. (p. 91) His short circuit from “personalism” to “theism” is both systematically and politically problematic.

Translated from the German by Jillian DeMair


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                                                                                                                                                                        (1.) Regarding Schmitt’s relationship to the Center Party, his first assessment of Anton Betz’s dissertation, dated July 15, 1924, is of interest. Here he states: “A. Betz, Contributions to the History of Ideas and Literary Foundation of the State and Financial Politics of the Center Party 1870–1918. The topic of the dissertation is all the more difficult and interesting, insofar as it concerns a political party that ideologically justifies the crucial points of its platform. The overall problem of the correlation between political idea and political practice could therefore be more clearly demonstrated. In addition, the political-tactical consideration of shifting relations resulting from the changing demands of time and place could be proven in particular with respect to ideational and principal analysis. The author does often vaguely touch on such questions (the anti-unitary tendencies of the Center, its opposition to the expansion of the Reich’s jurisdiction, to its monopolies, etc.), but overall he still far oversimplifies the difficulty insofar as he assumes without any hesitation that the politics of the Center are grounded not in the actual political situation, but rather in an ‘adamant ideology that is detached from the concrete current circumstances.’ The politics of the Center cannot be so easily treated or understood as ideological politics.” Unless noted otherwise, all translations of source material by the translator.

                                                                                                                                                                        (2.) Following Friedrich Tenbruck, cf. Küenzlen 1980.

                                                                                                                                                                        (3.) On Peterson’s criticism and emphatic recommendation, cf. Geréby 2008.

                                                                                                                                                                        (4.) Kaufmann’s footnote: “The name of Schleiermacher (1768–1834), the leading Protestant theologian of the German romantic movement, means literally veil maker.”

                                                                                                                                                                        (5.) The German original is as follows: “Der Christ muß die Parallele zur Identität erheben, weil für ihn die Kern-Ereignisse des christlichen Aion, Ankunft, Kreuzestod und Auferstehung des Menschensohnes, in unveränderter Präsenz lebendig bleiben” (Schmitt 2007, 163–164).

                                                                                                                                                                        (6.) The German original is as follows: “Die Christenheit ist in ihrem Wesenskern keine Moral und keine Doktrin, keine Bußpredigt und keine Religion im Sinne der vergleichenden Religionswissenschaft, sondern ein geschichtliches Ereignis von unendlicher, unbesitzbarer, unokkupierbarer Einmaligkeit. Es ist die Inkarnation in der Jungfrau. Das christliche Credo spricht von geschichtlichen Vorgängen” (Schmitt 2007, 165).

                                                                                                                                                                        (8.) Nevertheless thought-provoking is Groh 1998.

                                                                                                                                                                        (9.) For an important religious philosophy of the time, cf. Scholz 1921; 1922.