Submission note: "A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, La Trobe University, Bundoora."
This thesis centres on the paradox that ‘death of God’ prophet Friedrich Nietzsche had such a profound effect on new forms of belief in the twentieth century. The German sociologist Max Weber inherited a certain spiritual problematic from Nietzsche, which he detailed in his famous Vocation lectures at Munich University in 1918. Weber urged his audience to recognise the limits of reason in helping find the “way to true being”. Science cannot provide human fulfilment, and while religion is no longer plausible, metaphysical needs remain. This project investigates, through a series of individual case-studies, the ‘strange gods’ and new mythologies that arose as a response to the ‘Nietzsche problem’. Firstly, the young literary critic and proto-existentialist, Georg Lukács, spent the second decade of the twentieth century grubbing for roots, to use Nietzsche’s terms. Lukács, finding little to satisfy his absolutism, eventually escaped from God into politics, making a self-consciously Kierkegaardean leap of faith to join the Communist party in 1919. Secondly, the poet W.H. Auden makes the reverse trajectory: from idealistic political endeavour in the 1930s to an unexpected return to the Anglican Church of his youth in 1940. Auden’s is a highly idiosyncratic and intellectualised version of the Christian God – and his return was widely regarded by critics and audience alike as escapist. Finally, the doctrines of the founders of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung, are examined. While Freud only mild replacements for the “universal neurosis” of religion, Jung sought precisely the opposite for his patients: a “religious outlook” created by way of a larger mythical re-orientation. An adequate to the ‘Nietzsche’ problem remains elusive, yet each of the four protagonists offers an illuminating dead-end
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