86—Karl Marx, “Monster of Ten Thousand Devils”—Paul Kengor
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While the Catholic Church has condemned Marxism, Communism and socialism from their beginning, an alarming number of those calling themselves Catholic display a sympathy for these ideas: think of America magazine’s 2019 essay on “The Catholic Case of Communism”. Even some orthodox Catholic intellectuals seem to think we should mine the writings of Marx for whatever truth might be contained among the rubbish.
Aside from the fact that Marx’s philosophy represents a war on being itself (in his words, “the ruthless criticism of all that exists”), making it rather difficult to find untainted morsels of truth in his writings, there are other reasons to steer clear. If philosophy is truly the pursuit of wisdom, we should care about the personal lives of philosophers. Marx was a deeply vicious man. He displayed complete contempt for his fellow man, was a virulent racist, despised God and religion, and was an utter hypocrite when it came to money, constantly sponging off his family and acquaintances.
Beyond all that, there is the distinct sense of something demonic in Marx’s personal life. Those who knew him most intimately consistently described him in demonic terms: His son wrote to him as “my dear devil”, his father suggested that he was “governed by a demon”, and Engels referred to him as a “monster of ten thousand devils”.
Marx himself was obsessed with the Devil, writing poems and plays about characters who make pacts with Satan and are resigned to their own damnation. He even told his children an ongoing bedtime story about a man who sold his soul to the Devil. (Marx’s two daughters would die in suicide pacts with their husbands, who were atheistic revolutionaries like their father-in-law.)
In this episode, Paul Kengor, author of The Devil and Karl Marx, discusses this (exhaustively footnoted) evidence of the demonic in Marx’s life. What inspired this man with so much hatred that he called for the “ruthless criticism of all that exists”, beginning with religion?
[2:31] The scope of The Devil and Karl Marx
[10:27] A picture of Marx from those closest to him
[15:33] Marx’s lifelong “ruthless criticism of all that exists”, beginning with religion
[27:16] Satanic themes in Marx’s early literary output
[32:31] Suicide pacts in Marx’s literature and in his children’s lives
[39:31] Walter Duranty and Aleister Crowley
[43:36] Marx’s personal behaviors around money, family, and friends
[49:38] The error of separating philosophy from personal life
[54:45] “Just a phase”?: Why Marx’s youthful writings are relevant to his later work
[57:45] The pedants’ denial that Marxism is present in contemporary movements
Paul Kengor, The Devil and Karl Marx https://www.tanbooks.com/the-devil-and-karl-marx.html
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Episode 27 with Online Great Books’ Scott Hambrick https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/episode-27-always-wanted-to-study-great-books-heres-how-youll-actually-follow-through-scott-hambrick/
Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus.
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Posted by: jplaunder1846 -
Sep. 29, 2020 8:16 PM ET USA
Thank you Tom for such an enlightening interview. Even though I am in my 8oth year and have spent most of my life involved in political and social activities as a Christian there is so much to learn and understand. Tge world is at a critical stage because of concepts such as 'critical theory' and unless Christians especially Catholics don't get their facts right and lead then God help us.