The Green Swastika – Environmentalism in the Third Reich

From Malthus to Mifepristone: A Primer on the Population Control Movement

The History of the Population Control Movement 1798 to 1998

Dictatorship of the Landlords - The Green Roots of the Housing Crisis

Cultural Marxism and the Alt-Right

The Meaning of Corporatism

356 Enviro-critical Websites and additional info about the organized enviro-critical movement

Pierre Trudeau: Eco-fascist

A Primer for the Paris Climate Talks

Jorge Bergoglio's Green Encyclical

Environmentalism and Aboriginal Supremacism (Part 2): The Mobilization of Aboriginal Opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Environmentalism and Aboriginal Supremacism in Canada - Part 1 - Idle No More

Of Buffalo and Biofuel - More Tales of Environmentalism in Alberta

War on Coal

In Praise of the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act (Bill C-38)

Environmentalism and Edmonton Land Use Politics

The "Tar Sands" Campaign and the Suppression of North America's Energy Potential

Desertec and Environmentalism's North African Campaign

The Environmental Movement in Alberta

Environmentalism 400 BC

Spirit of NAWAPA

Waldheim's Monster:
United Nations' Ecofascist Programme

Early 19th Century British "Environmentalism"

Environmentalism's Appropriation of Christianity

Environmentalism's Environment

The Continental Counter-Enlightenment

The American Eco-Oligarchy update

If Only This Were About Oil


Who is Affraid of The Big Green Wolf

The Gore Presidential Bid

The Groundbreaking Career of Doctor Science

The English Environmental Elite, Global Warming, and The Anglican Church

The Great Global Warming Hoax

The American Oligarchy's Economic Warfare Campaign on British Columbians

Gasman's Haeckel's Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology

By William Walter Kay

Look how little the leopards have lost their spots!

Professor Gasman’s Haeckel’s Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology provides insights into the coherent fascist intellectual doctrine that, by 1920, was embraced by a wide swath of European academics and artists. Defining features of this cohort were:

They referred to themselves as: ecologists, naturalists and socio-biologists.
They were pseudo-scientists bent on subverting real science.

Their mantras were: natural, holistic, and organic.

Their Religion of Nature was basically a revival of Pantheism. They worshipped Earth as a divine living organism. Human achievements were disparaged as scant and fleeting compared to Nature’s glory.

They desired scientist-led governance. Scientists probed Nature’s divine realm, hence scientists alone understood the political implications of Nature’s laws.

They were pessimistic and denied the existence of progress.

They exhibited a longing for primitivism.

They were organizationally and ideologically linked to the organic foods movement.

They were organizationally and ideologically allied with the occultist/neo-pagan milieu.

They were divided between those who wanted to replace Christianity and those who wanted to modify Christianity.

They dreaded human overpopulation and were active in eugenics/population control strategizing.

They considered humanitarianism to be scientifically incorrect.

They described society as an organism that grew organically out of Nature.

They saw direct continuity between biological and sociological laws, and contended that bio-evolutionary laws should literally be the basis for human laws.

They believed human survival required abject conformity to the environmental totality. Human liberation would come not through dominion over Nature but through submission to Natural Law.

They opposed capitalist industrialization and sought to reinvigorate beleaguered countryside interests undermined by the rise of industrial cities. Hostility to industrial capitalism manifested in criticism of what was deemed lifeless scientific-mechanical thinking.

They stridently opposed democracy.

Gasman did not set out to expose similarities between environmentalism and fascism. His book makes no reference to environmentalism nor ventures off the topic of European academic trends circa 1870-1920.


Gasman and History
Haeckel, Monism, and the Fin de Siècle Zeitgeist
Some of Haeckel's Austrian and French Disciples
Haeckel and Italian Fascism

Gasman and History

Gasman’s The Scientific Origins of National Socialism (1971) exposed German zoologist Ernst Haeckel’s role in the rise of Nazism. His sequel, Haeckel’s Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology (1991), discusses Haeckel’s contribution to fascism elsewhere in Europe. For the sequel Gasman visited Jena’s Haeckel Haus library, which became accessible after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He discovered a trove of letters to Haeckel from proto-fascist intellectuals.

Gasman’s thesis is that fascism was a coherent intellectual doctrine advocating a scientist-led social transformation. The biological sciences were key factors in fascism’s birth and development. Haeckel provided scientific legitimization for this movement. Fascist intellectual doctrine crystalized before 1919 in a process inseparable from the widespread Haeckelian cultural reformation. Monism, Haeckel’s religion, was a common denominator among various national fascisms. There was obvious Monist content in the thought of Mussolini, Hitler, and Norway’s Quisling and Britain’s Oswald Mosley.

Gasman concludes his introductory chapter with:

“…Fascist ideology was largely a consequence of the direct and specific transformation of a widely held, popular scientific system... This scientifically based ideology, in turn, proved powerful enough to generate a political movement that was able to gain influence and ascendancy in a number of unstable political and social environments, and hence to play a predominant, though not exclusive role in the origins of Fascism. The ideology in question was the evolutionary Monist science and philosophy of the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel...”

Gasman concludes his book thusly:

“Fascism emerged as an expression of the intellectual and cultural forces that had been unleashed by the Monist movement in the decades around the turn of the 20th century… Fascism and its glorification of the power of evil immanence, was only a variation on Haeckelian Monism’s most essential philosophical axioms and scientific, political and religious beliefs.”

Haeckel’s contribution to fascism has been hosed down the memory drain. Gasman explains this ongoing historical lapse, in part, by recalling:

In West Germany a major conference on Haeckel, organized in 1978 by the Association of German Societies for the History of Medicine, gave expression to a widely held opinion in that country, when it set out to run determined interference against the idea that Haeckel, the enlightened, progressive, secular, and above all materialist thinker could be associated with mysticism and the genesis of National Socialism.”

Several ruses conceal Haeckel’s contribution to fascism:

    1. Historians highlight Social Darwinism’s role in fascist ideology. However, fascist ideologues studied Haeckel, not Darwin. When Continental Europeans discussed evolution, they typically regurgitated Haeckel’s quasi-Darwinist theories.
    2. The late 19th century rebellion against Western Civilization and Christianity, ascribed to Nietzsche, should be credited to Haeckel.
    3. Henri Bergson et al. are named as inspiring the fascist precursors: Syndicalism and Futurism. Syndicalist tracts are unmistakably Haeckelian. Futurism was far closer to Haeckel than to Bergson’s moralistic Catholicism, where one finds no aggressive socio-biology or war mongering.
    4. Haeckel is portrayed as a materialist, empiricist, and left-wing progressive. Haeckel was an idealist, mystic, elitist, racist reactionary.
    5. Proto-fascist ideologues who were also Haeckel disciples have either been deleted from history or have had their connection to Haeckel deleted.

Haeckel, Monism, and the Fin de Siècle Zeitgeist

Lamarck introduced biological evolution (“transformism”) in Zoological Philosophy (1809). Darwin improved on Lamarck’s thesis in Origin of the Species (1859). Continental Europe’s salon set preferred Lamarck to Darwin. The “Darwinian” clubs that proliferated across Europe in the late 19th century were mislabelled.

Far more so than in the English-speaking world, on the Continent an extreme reactionary world-view, framed as “Social Darwinist,” gained currency. This process occurred alongside a counter-attack on Comtian positivism (empiricism). Anti-positivism was marked by syncretic mysticism and militant irrationalism. In this milieu “German science” carried the force of law. The era also witnessed the budding of “volkisch” creeds seeking to reinvigorate beleaguered countryside interests undermined by the rise of industrial cities.

Ernst Haeckel was born in 1834 in Potsdam. After receiving a doctorate in zoology (1861) he became Professor of Zoology at the University of Jena in 1862 where, apart from his travels, he lived until his death in 1919. His academic focus was on how eco-systems shaped life-forms (morphs). He coined the word “ecology.”

Haeckel’s cyclical view of history, and consequent denial of linear progress, probably derives from Vico. Haeckel cited Spinoza and Bruno as sources of his pantheism. A lesser-known influence was the French writer Eliphas Levi, who self-described as a materialist and atheist yet cloaked a belief in a mystical “Universal Agent” in scientific jargon – a formula similar to Haeckel’s. More importantly, Haeckel was a product of German Romanticism/German Nature Philosophy. Haeckel was this school’s effort to digest Darwin.

In his famous address to the 38th Congress of German Naturalists (Stettin, 1863) Haeckel presented a manifesto for German evolutionists. German Darwinism would be a cosmic philosophy capable of solving pressing social problems. Haeckel’s Darwinism was a political religion, a cornerstone for a reformation.

Haeckel claimed to believe in Darwinism, i.e. materialistic Natural Selection. In reality, he described an evolutionary process guided by mysterious forces, i.e. an idealistic, Romantic vision nearer Lamarck than Darwin. Haeckel vociferously championed Lamarck. He neither abandoned the belief in ongoing spontaneous generation of life nor the idea of inherited acquired characteristics. His racial theories were exact expressions of Lamarckian processes.

Haeckel’s Darwinism literally provided the basis for social laws. Western Civilization’s defect was its effort to rationally re-construct society divorced from Nature’s laws. Man’s survival dictated conformity to the environmental totality.

Haeckel’s show-piece was “evolutionary recapitulation” (a.k.a. Biogenetic Law, or “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”), which asserted that the development of each individual organism repeats, in abbreviated form, the stages of evolution. History dictated the traits of species and races. This theory dominated biological and anthropological science. (Freud’s Oedipus Complex was a recapitulation theory.) Haeckel mentored a generation of leading biologists including the “vitalist” Hans Driesch and the neo-Lamarckian Richard Semon.

Haeckel’s many books were reissued in countless editions. Better known titles were: General Morphology (1866), Natural History of Creation (1868), The Evolution of Man (1874), Perigenesis of the Plastidule (1875), History of the Creation of the Higher Organisms (1877), Cell-Souls and Soul-Cells (1878), Monism as Connecting Science and Religion (1892), Monism as Connecting Science and Religion (1897), The Riddle of the Universe (1899), and God-Nature (1914).

Haeckel drifted toward mysticism. Later tomes contended the universe was alive and that matter had a soul. By 1914 he was penning pantheistic tributes to “immortal germplasm. Despite materialistic posturing, Haeckel became evermore Romantic, anti-Reason, even alchemical and magical. His science subverted science.

Haeckel clung to the label “atheism” while preaching the world was living divinity. Haeckel always stipulated that his “materialism” presumed a matter fused with spirit. He claimed the “Monistic idea of God… recognizes the divine spirit in all things.” He elsewhere said: “God is everywhere.” He spoke of God: “the almighty,” “the single creator,” “the single cause of all things,” “the absolute,” and “the sum of all matter and energy.

In the 1870s, as Haeckel emerged as a Europe-wide celebrity, he focused on the socio-biology of human races. As early as 1868 he praised Sparta’s ruthless eugenics. He contended each race possessed a spirit. By 1877 he was unequivocally pushing a science-cloaked doctrine of Aryan supremacy.

During the 1870s Haeckel included into his religion, Monism, the tenet that because Nature was inherently aristocratic, then all forms of egalitarianism and democracy violated biological laws.

Haeckel’s voyages to the tropics spawned a longing for primitivism. He described tribal peoples as admirable uncivilized collectivities. Through Haeckel, the “noble savage” became the “anthropological savage.”

Before the turn of the century, a major German publisher, Eugen Diederichs, devoted himself to distributing the works of Haeckel and his followers. Diederichs moved to Jena.

Haeckel’s The Riddle of the Universe (1899) became an immediate international best-seller. The book claimed Jesus was the offspring of an illicit liaison between Mary and a Greek Centurion. Christ was an Aryan. The book denounced the spiritual tyranny of the Papacy and lauded the pantheism of Bruno. The Riddle deified “psychoplasm.”

In 1904 Haeckel was guest speaker at the International Freethinkers Congress in Rome. In the same year he chaired a competition, funded by Friedrich Krupp, to select the best eugenics text. Capitalizing on his immense popularity, Haeckel proposed chartering a Monist church. Two years later (1906) the German Monist League was launched. The scientific salons of the Monist League attracted Berlin, Vienna, and Zurich’s high society.

German Monist League President, Nobel Prize winner Wilhelm Ostwald, formulated his own spiritual theory – Energetics. This rhetorical flourish proved a central motif for fascist philosophes obsessed with the enigma of energy.

Fellow League leader, Wilhelm Boelsche (Haeckel’s biographer) wrote a best-selling Monist-inspired work on sex among wild animals. Boelsche launched his own cult of Eros/Agape.

Another League notable, Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrhenius, popularized the concept of life on Earth arising from spores (panspermia) wafting in from outer space.

By his 80th birthday (1914) Haeckel had been granted honorific membership in 100 European professional and scientific societies.


Monism meant “mono-ness” or “oneness.” Monists preached the oneness of spirit and matter; the oneness of the organic and inorganic; the oneness of Man and Nature. Talk of “holistic” and “organic” mesmerized Germans.

Christianity had to be replaced because it was “dualist,” i.e. it separated spirit from matter, God from Man. Descartes, the “pupil of the Jesuits,” was likewise denounced for his dualist philosophy. Dualism and its brood of mechanical sciences and nefarious industrial creations alienated Man from his Natural environment. Liberation would come not in dominion over Nature but in submission to Nature. Man’s achievements were scant compared to Nature’s glory. Monism re-united Man with Nature.

Monists disputed linear progress. They believed in cyclical undulating evolution. They emphasized brute force and raw instinct. Natural Laws determined human existence and had to be obeyed. Humanitarianism was “scientifically incorrect”. Universal rights were a French Revolutionary myth. They stridently denounced parliamentary democracy and craved a hierarchical-centralized world – cardinal principles of fascism.

Monists pushed racism, anti-Semitism, eugenics, and euthanasia. Germans (Aryans) were the top rung of the evolutionary ladder. Haeckel contended the hereditary gap between German high society and primitive African tribes was greater than the hereditary gap between those tribes and apes. Monists deemed Asian population growth a mortal threat.

Monists blamed Jews for imposing monotheism onto Europe. Jews were viewed as a source of decadence and morbidity. Jews symbolized Man’s rebellion against Nature. Haeckel advocated the immediate exclusion of Jews from contemporary social life.

The German Monist League became a clearing house for eugenics proposals. Haeckel’s legion fostered Germany’s eugenics policies.

During WWI the journal of the Monist League, and Haeckel’s Eternity (1915), espoused a militaristic bellicosity plainly presaging Nazism. Haeckel was a founder of the imperialist Pan-German League.

Monists adhered to the zeitgeist’s pervasive pessimism. Europe had been declining since Christianity began suppressing creative instincts. Haeckel preached this before and after Nietzsche.

Monists veered toward spiritualism in the 1890s, especially in Germany and Scandinavia. They spoke of the world as a breathing organism. They worshipped Nature as a divinity. This was part of a trend wherein persons of religious sensibility incapable of remaining Christian embraced all manner of supernatural products: Theosophy, occultism, magic, Kabala speculations, Neo-Platonist ravings. Antiquated debris of every kind, heaped haphazardly, returned in defiance of common sense.

Monists facilitated the astonishing recrudescence of Bruno’s hermeticism as a viable intellectual tradition. Hermeticism and Monism were near identical doctrines. Both worshipped “Pan” and the “All in the All.” Edouard Schure, the most popular French hermetic, praised Haeckel. His The Great Initiates declared Monism to be the point of departure for modern science and art. Monist evocation of hermetic sun worship portended many fascist rituals.

Monists venerated Renaissance alchemists as forbearers. The alchemists’ belief in a prima material imbued with godliness was not far from Haeckel’s “matter-spirit-universal-ether.” Haeckel’s “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” resembles alchemy’s “microcosm and macrocosm” and “as above so below.” Renaissance notions of the Eternal Return driven by divine, irrational forces resemble Haeckel’s cyclical evolutionary theory.

The magical cult of Theosophy appealed to Monists seeking scientific rationales to validate their anti-science inclinations. Haeckel encouraged theosophical groups and freely admitted to having been correctly described by Theosophists.

In identical language Monists and Theosophists offered their pseudo-scientific religion as a replacement for “dead” Christianity to heal a Europe torn asunder by the triumph of lifeless scientific-mechanical thinking. After 1900 the two currents merged. Their brand of spiritualism became a fascist trademark.

Theosophist high priestess Mme Blavatsky’s famous The Secret Doctrine is a Haeckelian tract filled with reverence for the mystical “one homogenous substance.” Annie Besant, another leading Theosophist, was a Haeckel acolyte. The English translation of arch-Haeckelian Jules Soury’s Religion of Israel was published by Besant’s London-based society. French Theosophist Jules Lermina’s The Occult Science opened with a tribute to Haeckel’s genius.
Avant-garde artists, Modernists, were subject to Monism’s overpowering prestige. Modernists attacked “bourgeois” liberalism and championed the aristocratic nature of art. Art Nouveau paintings were Monist logos. Art Nouveau’s main journal was edited by a prominent Monist.

Monism played a monumental role in stimulating German avant-garde painters. Berlin’s Dada guru dedicated his most famous painting to Haeckel. The Blue Rider clique emphasized: pantheism, apocalypticism, primitivism, and the Earth-idea. The Blue Rider leader (and founder of Abstract Expressionism) stressed the “organic bond with nature” and the “biological paradigm.” He worked from Haeckel’s illustrations, particularly his drawings of “invertebrate denizens of the deep.” Another Blue Rider worked exclusively from Haeckel’s sketches, particularly of his famous crude radial flowers. Haeckel gloated about how his sketches launched “a new aesthetic sense.”

Matisse’s patron, French parliamentarian Marcel Sembat, was a Monist League founder who led the French delegation to the First International Monist Congress (Hamburg, 1911). Matisse was a Vichy sympathizer.

Gauguin’s world-view was grounded in books by Theosophist Gerald Massey, translated and prefaced by Soury. Gauguin’s Noa Noa denounces “dualism” and praises primitive cosmology. Veneration for primitive cultures was a Monist-Modernist intersection. The magical primitivism of Picasso can be linked to Monism.

Monist-inspired authors include: Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, Jack London, Thomas Mann, and Thomas Hardy.

Haeckel's Austrian and French Disciples

Austrian anthroposophist guru Rudolf Steiner met privately with Haeckel and the two maintained a decades-long correspondence. Steiner’s books and articles lauded Haeckel as one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Steiner’s followers treated Haeckel’s The Riddle like a bible.

After 1890 Monists gravitated to Steiner. Members of both cults joined the Bruno Bund. Haeckel distanced himself from Steiner who, unlike Haeckel, openly affirmed his mysticism rather than concealing it beneath a scientific veneer. Affinities and contacts between Monists and Steinerites survived well into the 20th century.

Austrian sociologist Gustav Ratzenhofer (1842-1904) was a German Monist League hero. His sociology was pure Monism. In texts published in 1893 and 1899 Ratzenhofer: attacked liberalism, reduced justice to brute force, and described peace as a time to prepare for war. He obsessed over a spiritual energy, “Urkraft,” which he claimed was scientifically validated.

Ratzenhofer considered aristocracy to be natural. The masses, left to their own devices, would bring on their own physical and moral decline. Talk of gender equality was “insanity.”

Ratzenhofer considered race war to be natural. He was an anti-Semite. He opposed race-mixing and claimed Lapps, Gypsies, and other un-civilizable races should be removed from social life. He pioneered the ultra-nationalist volkisch creed about the geographical rootedness of biological races. He prophesized the coming of a Fuhrer.

General Ratzenhofer was Chief of Austria’s Military High Court.

Jules Soury’s (1842-1915) intellect was shaped by his long affiliation with Haeckel. His correspondence with Haeckel ran from 1878 to 1914. He was Haeckel’s spokesman par excellence. He translated a number of Haeckel’s works into French and generated a torrent of his own Monist books and lectures.

Soury described Haeckel as: “the illustrious scientist,” “the celebrated naturalist,” and “the daring genius.” Soury’s four-volume opus (1877 to 1882) claimed Haeckel’s ideas were superior to all others in history. He claimed Haeckel inspired “most of the scientific books that were being published in Europe.” The series ended in a 30-page ode to Haeckel’s unparalleled, epoch-making achievements.

Upon the release of Haeckel’s Monism as Connecting Science and Religion (1892), Soury expressed disquiet over the book’s religious tenor. “I cannot follow you onto this terrain,” opined Soury. However, Soury soon followed and his adulation grew.

Soury: opposed liberalism and democracy, supported physiological determinism, viewed evolution as blind and purposeless, and contended Christ was an Aryan.

As a founder of the ultra-right French Action group, and as a mentor to leading French reactionaries, Soury was an architect of French fascism. He also profoundly influenced the Parisian art scene.

While Soury preached Monism, he wanted to preserve French Catholicism. Two titans of French fascism, Barres and Maurras, shared Soury’s rejection of religious Catholicism in favour of Catholicism’s historic-racial roots. They wanted a de-Semitized Catholicism. “If you desire to be an atheist,” Soury declared, “then be Catholic in France.”

Soury’s Nationalist Campaign (1902) is the prequel of Hitler’s Mein Kampf wherein Soury proudly describes himself as an anti-Semite. France was divided between Aryans and Jews. The latter posed a religious and racial danger to the former. Judaism was a “racial fact,” not a theology. The worship of the Hebrew God undermined Aryan mental health. The book explicitly argues that saving the Aryan race required destroying the Jewish race. Soury based this conclusion on scientific arguments. The book leans on Haeckel’s scientific authority ad nauseam, with numerous references to Biogenetic Law and the biological character of races.

Georges Vacher de Lapouge (1854-1936) was a long-time champion of Monism who, as late as 1934, boasted of being Haeckel’s personal collaborator. The two men exchanged letters for over 30 years. In an 1888 letter Vacher de Lapouge confided:

A great part of my theory is in effect immediately dependent upon your doctrine…”
In an 1896 letter Vacher de Lapouge discussed how his Monist lectures at the University of Montpellier provoked such uproar that his course was cancelled and he was demoted to librarian.

Vacher de Lapouge translated two of Haeckel’s books, penning prefaces for both.

Vacher de Lapouge denounced Catholic opposition to Monist evolutionary ideas. He prophesied a new spiritual age wherein “the confession of Haeckel” – the indestructible Religion of Nature – would be Man’s central faith. Vacher de Lapouge:

I associate myself with the great naturalist (Haeckel) in professing the supreme monist dogma: God is everything, in all, all over. He is eternal. He is infinite.”

In Vacher de Lapouge’s vision, scientists would be politicians. As scientists probed Nature’s divine realm, they alone understood the political implications of Nature’s laws. Scientists were God’s avatars.

He repudiated French Revolutionary ideals. “Determinism, inequality, and selection” vanquished “liberty, fraternity, and equality.”

Vacher de Lapouge was an anti-Semite and Aryan supremacist. History was driven by racial inequality. Aryans were a precious ferment whose exhaustion marked the end of civilization. Democracy was a racial tragedy. He advocated exterminating inferior races.

Vacher de Lapouge’s memory was honoured by the Third Reich and the Vichy regime. He was a celebrated figure in the Pantheon of fascist prophets.

While Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931) is remembered as a Darwinist, he was a Haeckelian. Under the pressures of WWI Le Bon did denounce Haeckel’s premise of continuity between biological and sociological law. However until that time, he was a dedicated Monist. Le Bon believed in: physiological determinism, materio-vitalism, collective racial souls, and undulating evolutionary cycles.

Le Bon came to Paris to study medicine and biology in the 1860s when evolution was the rage. His mentor was a Haeckel confidante who translated Haeckel’s articles while presiding over the French Anthropological Society. Le Bon was also close to Monist League co-founder Charles Richet, editor of the Scientific Review.

Le Bon achieved fame in the 1880s with his two-volume Man and Societies. These paraphrases of Haeckel advocated: determinism, spiritualism, Lamarckianism, and defended Haeckel’s racism with quotes from Haeckel. In Lamarckian fashion, Le Bon contended America’s white population were becoming “redskins” due to environmental factors.

Le Bon’s The Psychology of Crowds (1894) relied entirely on Monist principles. The irrationality of common people necessitated elites. Le Bon saw an ethereal mental vibration in crowds; a collective unconscious – ideas that became guiding lights for fascist dictators.

Le Bon’s Psychology of Socialism (1899) denounced egalitarian creeds (liberal, democratic, and socialist) as violations of Natural Law. The masses were biologically inferior to upper classes; hence, there was urgent need to suppress democracy.

Robert Michels’ career began in 1901 with a publication in a Monist journal. The sociology texts he wrote between 1911 and 1914 reflected the prevailing Haeckelianism. He singled out Haeckel as a “completely correct” thinker who elevated sociology to a science. Elsewhere, Michels wrote approvingly of Monist-inspired thinkers, Monist evolutionary theory, and the organic nature of society.

In 1912, at the First International Eugenics Congress, Michels declared his fundamental thesis to be the iron law of oligarchy. This paralleled Haeckel’s aristocratic assumptions.

Michels considered eugenics the pressing issue for science. He was an avid morphologist. After studying eye color, hair color, nose shape, skeletal construction and facial muscles, he concluded each social class had a unique physiognomy. The feudal aristocracy were in biological decay because they permitted lower classes to penetrate their ranks.

Michels considered biology to the discipline closest to economics. Moreover, physiological determinism, not classical economics, explained class differentiation. The indigent condition of the working class resulted from workers being genetically inferior. Egalitarians were fools. The future belonged to biological elites.

When George Sorel (1847-1922) began his intellectual journey writing for a French Marxist journal in the 1890s, he already possessed an intimate knowledge of Haeckel’s works and activities. Sorel argued Marxism would remain viable only if it squared its doctrines with biology. He wrote favourable reviews of Vacher de Lapouge and Le Bon, finding much truth in the former’s “radical Social Darwinism.”

In his The Socialist Future of the Syndicates (1898) Sorel purged socialism of utopianism and egalitarianism. Capitalism would not be overthrown. The task was to facilitate society’s undulating evolution with worker syndicates. “Society” meant the national-racial community. Syndicates would be formed by biologically elite workers. Ordinary workers would be excluded because absorbing weaklings would weaken the syndicate. Sorel rejected quantitative numerical democracy.

(From its turn-of-the-century origin, the European syndicalist movement sought to steer socialism away from economic determinism toward biological determinism. Partly because syndicalists rarely cited Haeckel, historians view Marx, Proudhon, Bergson, and Saint-Simon as syndicalism’s inspiration. However the syndicalist canon reveals Haeckel to be their dominant influence.)

Sorel clung to his Marxist identity but selected only passages from Marx adaptable to Haeckelianism. He sought to unite science and philosophy and found a living party of organic science. He completely identified with Ferri’s formulation that socialism meant unleashing Darwinism.

Sorel wrote influential essays between 1906 and 1908 for the journal Socialist Movement. His Reflections on Violence glorified irrational myths as vital social bonds. Myths were unconscious truths embodied in evolutionary law. The working class’s myth was the general strike. Sorel:

A myth cannot be refuted since it is, at bottom, identical with the conviction of a group...”

A footnote to this essay asserts Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law was so well known it was pointless to discuss its obvious value as an analytical tool. Sorel thus conformed to the general trend that accepted Haeckelian science as axiomatic, therefore not needing citation.

Sorel’s morality mirrored Haeckel’s moral relativism. Naïve human morality conflicted with “the evolution of organic life.” Instinct over-powered Reason.

Sorel praised Haeckel for not hiding the link between evolutionism and theodicy and for arguing that:

“…a more noble idea of God be created, like the one which has inspired the pantheistic philosophers.

As he retreated from Marxism, Sorel increasingly described the revolution in organic, mystical terms. Revolution came to mean converting workers to the evolutionary religion.

Haeckel and Italian Fascism

Haeckel guided a multiplicity of Italian individuals and organizations for 50 years. A substantial number of Italian academic journals adhered to Haeckelianism. Haeckel’s prestige eclipsed Darwin’s. His influence on Italian socialism exceeded Marx’s.


Although he did not use the word “Monism” Vilfredo Pareto’s (1848-1923) writings bear unmistakable Monist features such as: a) Nature is the basis for social laws; b) Christianity is harmful; c) science proves social inequality is natural; d) free will is a myth; e) evolution is cyclical; and f) “Social Darwinism” is a well-ordered doctrine.

Pareto’s mentors were Ratzenhofer, Le Bon, Vacher de Lapouge, etc.

Pareto’s famous The Mind and Society (1916) is a rendition of Haeckel’s The Riddle. The book is written from a physiological determinist vantage point and extols Biogenetic Law.

Pareto called democracy “evil.” He opined:

The least we can do is to divide society into two strata: a higher stratum which usually contains the rulers, and a lower stratum, which usually contains the ruled.”

Pareto castigated liberalism as a bourgeois illusion leading to lawlessness. He shouted:

The rising enemies of liberalism need not hide their hand any more” (because) “syndicalism is here and now giving us an insight into what is likely to be the strength and dignity of the new elite.”

To Pareto, eugenics was a racial issue. Europe was threatened by alien races. Humanitarians only protected weak, ill-adapted race-rejects. Pareto’s hope that the peasantry would provide genetic material for future elites anticipated fascism’s fawning over rural classes.


Throughout the 19th century “positivism” dominated Italy’s non-clerical intelligentsia. After 1870, due to Haeckelianism’s infiltration of Italian academia, the main branch of Italian positivism lost the traits of traditional positivism (empiricism, materialism, humanitarianism, and enthusiasm for progress). Italian positivists clung to the label “positivism” while reinventing its content. They deployed the theological concepts traditional positivists had dismissed as naïve. They replaced positivist tenets with Monist ones. Italian positivism preserved an undeserved reputation as a materialist, liberal, progressive doctrine. The Fascist state placed the “positivist” misnomer on regressive policies pertaining to population, policing, health, education, and ecology.

Italy’s chief positivist journal, Scientific Philosophy Review, was launched in 1880 by Enrico Morselli (1852-1929). The journal was committed to Haeckel, not Comte. Morselli rebelled against Comtian positivism for being incompatible with spiritualism and overly reliant on materialism. The journal was Italy’s counterpart to Haeckel’s Kosmos. After the journal’s demise in 1891, Morselli founded Review of Sociology – Italy’s chief sociology journal.

Morselli taught psychiatry at the University of Genoa and ran the Royal Asylum for the Insane (Genoa). He founded, and for 50 years led, the main Italian positivist organization. He authored a plethora of books on anthropology and biology. His General Anthropology (1911) became a standard textbook.

While boasting trendy “social-anarchist” and later “syndicalist” affiliations, Morselli was a reactionary. He reverted to biological explanations of social problems, and he denigrated Western humanistic and rational traditions. In 1890 he co-founded the Dante Alighieri Society whose declared intention was an Italian Mediterranean empire. This Society was the Italian counterpart to the Pan-German League.

Morselli’s adulatory letters to Haeckel reveal his devotion to his “illustrious and dear master.” An 1882 letter describes “the harsh struggle that we have to wage in Italy on behalf of the monist doctrine.” The struggle was not in vain as many of Italy’s most studious youth were being converted. He begged Haeckel for written materials. Similar letters followed for decades.

Morselli published a laudatory essay celebrating the 8th edition of Haeckel’s Natural History of Creation. Morselli’s lengthy introduction to the Italian translation of The Riddle exposed a decidedly non-positivist commitment to spiritualism and idealism and uncannily anticipated the flights of rhetorical fancy characteristic of the Mussolini era.

Morselli’s Animal Magnetism (1886) postulated the existence of bio-magnetic forces and related paranormal phenomena – theories akin to Anton Mesmer’s 18th century occultism. Dr. Morselli prescribed magnetic balancing as medicine.

Morselli elsewhere injected occultism and spiritualism into the corpus of positivism. He revived an interest the 15th century alchemist Paracelsus, and he praised the pantheism of Giordano Bruno. He complained Italians found it difficult to embrace the “pantheistic God.”

Morselli proffered an Italian version of volkisch ideology, and he proposed eugenics ideals for Italians (whom he deemed Aryans). Morselli’s fatalism and his positive view of suicide presaged the fascist’s steely indifference to death.
In 1900 Morselli and Roberto Assagioli co-founded the Psyche journal. Assagioli became a top Fascist spokesman.

Under Fascism, until his 1929 death, Morselli’s career continued uninterrupted. He praised Haeckel in his final publications.

Morselli’s co-editor on Scientific Philosophy Review, Giuseppe Sergi (1841-1936), was: founder-President of the Rome Anthropological Society, editor of Anthropological Review, and contributing editor of Sociological Review.

The “syndicalist-fascist” Sergi was a proud follower of Haeckel. A 1904 letter to his “illustrious master” described seeing Haeckel in Rome as “the event of a lifetime.”

Sergi tempered his enthusiasm for Haeckel because Sergi believed Italians to be a race separate from, and superior to, Germans. He arrived at such views by measuring thousands of skulls.

Sergi’s address to the 1912 International Congress of Eugenics stressed the overlay between biology and politics and how physiology was the key. Extensive analysis of craniums, skeletons, skin color, iris color, and hair texture convinced Sergi races were fixed biological entities. He believed racial intermingling led to sterility. He quoted, Fritz Lenz, the future Nazi eugenicist. Sergi used racism to justify Italian domination of the Mediterranean.

Another Scientific Philosophy Review editor,Roberto Ardigo (1828-1920), was the most distinguished Italian positivist. In 1863 Ardigo was the devout Catholic canon of the Cathedral of Mantua. In an 1869 discourse on Renaissance Catholicism, Ardigo outed himself as a Monist. In 1870 he left the church to teach at Mantua Lyceum. By 1881 he was Dean of Philosophical History at the University of Padua, a position he held until his 1909 retirement.

While Ardigo’s Positivist Morality and Sociology maintained a pretense of scientific rigour, his mantra “the indistinct” (“the unknowable”) was unmistakably Haeckelian. He claimed a literal continuity existed between Nature’s laws and sociological laws. Society was a Natural organism. The social body grew organically out of the Natural body. He rejected liberalism and human rights. Ardigo’s texts acquired “must-read” reputations in Italy.

Before his death, Ardigo anointed Mussolini as Italy’s rising intellectual star.


The Italian Socialist Party (ISP, est. 1892) was captivated by positivism’s scientific veneer. A sizable right-wing ISP faction revised Marxism to jibe with modern biology. A left-wing faction remained committed to economics and dialectical materialism. Even much of this left-wing ultimately embraced Haeckelian positivism and then went over to Fascism.

ISP potentate and criminologist Enrico Ferri was a physiological determinist. His Socialism and Modern Science (1895), although subtitled “Darwin, Marx and Spencer,” made only scattered references to these thinkers while discussing Haeckel in depth. Ferri claimed: a) Nature moved in meaningless cycles; b) Christianity frustrated Natural Selection; c) elites were necessary; and d) women were scientifically proven to be inferior.

In 1902 Ferri became editor of Italy’s leading Marxist newspaper, Avanti!, and he founded the journal Il Socialismo. (For the latter achievement he received congrats from French Monist Charles Richet.) Il Socialismo was sympathetic to Pareto. One frequent Il Socialismo contributor, Alfredo Nicefero, became a leading Fascist ideologue. Another Il Socialismo writer,Paolo Orano, infused spiritualism into socialism in a long series of articles arguing that biologically unique, instinct-driven social classes drove history. Individualism benefitted only businessmen. Socio-biology overrode egalitarianism.

Ferri rejected emancipation and equality as biologically impossible. By reformulating Marxism in accordance with Monism, particularly its natural aristocracy theory, Ferri presaged Fascist corporatism. Ferri’s “socialism” was a somber feudal-like destiny founded on obligatory labour and committed to eugenics. Ferri and many of his ISP comrades became enthusiastic Mussolini supporters.


Giovanni Papini’s first visit to a library was to fetch a biography of Darwin by an Italian positivist. By 1900 proselytizing Monism was the focus of the youthful Papini’s life.

En route to what would become a successful literary career, Papini rejected the positivist branch of Monism as too stultifying and passive. He continued to apply Monist principles, albeit infused with more mystic-idealist content. He advocated a free play of non-rational instinct and claimed all puny accomplishments of Reason would dissolve in Nature. He rejected Christianity (“old rabbit-hearted Nazarenism”) in favour of a new religion synthesizing science and mysticism to cure Italians’ alienation.

In 1903 Papini helped found the journal Leonardo, and he became an editor of the ultra-nationalist journal Il Regno. His 1904 essay “We Are Reactionaries” declared democracy and socialism to be ideologies of the bourgeois enemy. Politics should be restricted to biological elites. Parliamentary democracy divided and weakened Italy.

His autobiography denounced the working class as “stupid, impotent, and incompetent.” He called for nationalism and armament. His sermons about “the spirit” anticipated Fascist refrains about “the will.”

Papini descended into ancient superstitions and frankly magical pursuits. His passages on historical cycles of redemption drew heavily from Goethe.

In 1913 Papini and various Modernist artists (including Futurists) launched the journal Lacerba, whose motifs were relativism, irrationalism, and elitism. The Futurists invigorated Papini’s Florentine circle with militant Monism. Modernists who welcomed Fascism were Haeckel disciples, especially the Futurists, whose unscrupulous Social Darwinism dovetailed with the Fascist party line.

Filippo Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto was a statement of radical Haeckelianism. Progress demanded cruelty, injustice, and might. War was a means toward biological improvement. Marinetti committed himself unwaveringly to Mussolini.


During Mussolini’s childhood Haeckelianism was a prevalent world-view. He was assigned Ardigo’s Positivist Morality as a young student, and he was versed in Haeckelian anti-clericalism.

While still a young man, Mussolini was recruited into Ferri’s “socialist” circle. Under Ferri’s guidance, Mussolini wrote the essay, Man and God (1904) – a faithful paraphrase, if not plagiarism, of Haeckel’s The Riddle. In a 1909 Avanti! article Mussolini celebrated the centenary of Darwin’s birth.

Mussolini denounced “dualism.” He described the organic spirit of inorganic matter. In discussing race, he painstakingly adhered to Haeckel’s lines of argument. Socialism was a cultural revolution aimed at Monist goals. “Darwinism” was the culmination of history.

During WWI, as Mussolini divested himself of Marxism, Haeckelian clichés – hierarchy, race, and struggle – became his catchphrases.

During and after his rise to power, Haeckelian dogma guided Mussolini, albeit not exclusively. His phraseology remained replete with: “matter and spirit,” “the struggle,” and “the naturalness of aristocracy.” Nations had souls rooted in the soil. He condemned democracy and praised the Latin race. On the eve of his March on Rome (October 1922) Mussolini still claimed to be a syndicalist.

In 1929 Mussolini claimed Christianity was born in Palestine but became Catholic in Rome; adding that had Christianity not come to Rome it would have disappeared. (Haeckel said exactly the same.)

A prominent contributor to Mussolini’s personal journal, Gerarchia, wrote about the continuity between biological and sociological laws and emphasized spiritual politics. He claimed Fascism was an expression of Biogenetic Law. A contributing editor for Gerachia in his 1929 obituary for Morselli dubbed Morselli Italy’s greatest disciple of “il Nostro Haeckel,” going as far as saying Morselli’s erudition rivalled Haeckel’s. Frequent contributors to Gerachia’s science section were renowned Haeckelian physiologists. Another contributor, and state official, dwelled on organicism and transformism while describing Fascism as a scientific discipline.

Mussolini’s demographic-eugenics policy wonk, Corrado Gini, achieved fame for his address at the Monist-inspired First International Eugenics Conference (London, 1912). Fascist eugenics policies in general were championed by a circle of Nazi-like theoreticians among whom Haeckel’s physiological determinism and biological racism were standard.


Haeckel coined the word “ecology” and founded the always-political, value-laden, pseudo-scientific scholastic discipline of Ecology. This academic genus operates under the names: Conservation Biology, Human Ecology, Ethno-Botany, etc. and is never far from activism and controversy. Haeckel performed the same sort of focal ideological function in the fascist movement that Marx performed in the revolutionary socialist movement. The ecological movement broadly overlaps with the environmental movement.

Here are four illustrations of the contiguous development of these integrated movements:

  1. The Ecological Society of America (est. 1915) changes its name to the Ecologists Union in 1946 and then to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 1951. In 2011 TNC had revenues of $1.2 billion and owned land assets valued at $6 billion.
  2. The American Eugenics Society was founded in 1921 by several of America’s wealthiest men. The Society was racist and classist and advocated involuntary sterilization. The Society was renamed the Society for the Study of Social Biology in 1970s, but before that key members and funders of the Society built up the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA, est. 1941). PPFA uses its $1 billion in annual revenues to run 820 clinics that provide abortion/contraceptive services to low-income Americans. PPFA founded and leads International Planned Parenthood Federation, which uses its $125 million annual budget to run clinics in developing countries.
  3. The followers of the Monist sibling cult of Rudolf Steiner are now known as Anthroposophists. They operate over 10,000 commercial enterprises (organic farms, homeopathic clinics, and Waldorf schools) – green businesses all.
  4. Diederichs Publishing, which flogged Haeckel’s books, is now a subsidiary of the Bertelsmann media conglomerate (world’s largest book publisher), an enterprise easily connected to both Nazism and environmentalism.

Nature has many meanings. Nature can mean wilderness, as in an area of undeveloped land populated with wild animals and plants. Keeping tracts in a natural state is a land-use strategy critical in maintaining high land values, rents, and agricultural prices. Nature can also mean the inherent quality of a thing. Inheritors justify their wealth by pointing to inherent virtues of their lineage. At the confluence of these “natures” are the inbred dynasts of the landed estate who justify their privileges with references to the genetic nature and who defend their fortunes by preserving nature. Such naturalists were at the center of the fascism and are at the centre of the environmentalism.

Unlike their fascist forbearers, environmentalists are cautious about preaching abolition of democracy. However, they are not shy about practising abolition of democracy. In every western country they have created parallel governance. This diarchy is achieved by appropriating state resources and integrating them with movement-controlled state-like entities in the private sector. Their most visible achievements are the imperious “Environmental” ministries they conjured at all levels of government in the 1970s. These are supplemented by a myriad of agencies and sub-departments involved in enviro-regulation. Then there is the deliberately inscrutable jumble of quasi-government tribunals and councils conjoined to thousands of environmentalist non-governmental organizations. The upshot is government policies regarding land and water use, fisheries and wildlife, forestry and mining, energy and climate, culture and education, etc. are drafted and implemented by unelected, unaccountable, and largely unknown people. Wither democracy...

Final word goes to the proto-fascist Haeckel-disciple Robert Michels:

The democratic currents of history resemble successive waves. They break ever on the same shoal. They are ever renewed. This enduring spectacle is simultaneously encouraging and depressing. When democracies have gained a certain stage of development, they undergo a gradual transformation, adopting the aristocratic spirit, and in many cases also the aristocratic forms, against which at the outset they struggled so fiercely.”


Except for the “Conclusion” all facts in this review come from:

Gasman, Daniel. Haeckel’s Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology, 1998, Peter Lang Publishing, New York.

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