|Trans||Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften||16. Nr.||Februar 2006|
5.2. Innovation and Reproduction in Austrian Literature and Film
Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld by Paris Gütersloh - A Religious Novel?
[Albert] Paris Gütersloh's (1887-1973)(1) Rede über Blei (1922)(2) is a lengthy essay, which - while rarely mentioning the writer and critic Franz Blei (1871-1942) - outlines "the dangers and pitfalls of writing in a secular society"(3) and reads like a literary manifesto. Consequently, critics have likened it to a Catholic poetics, an authoritative document, "wichtiger als die Werke [Güterslohs] selbst, die nur praktischer Ausdruck dieses Denkens sind und ohne dessen Kennzeichnung weder verstanden noch [...] überhaupt sinnvoll dargestellt werden können."(4) Despite such attempts by the author to shed light on his own fiction, his novels and short stories remain extremely hermetic: "ein schwieriges, anspruchsvolles, den Leser anstrengendes, ihn vielfältig forderndes, häufig überforderndes Werk",(5) as more than one scholar has had to admit.(6)
Gütersloh was brought up in monastic schools ('Stiftsgymnasium' Melk [1898-1900] and 'Stiftsgymnasium' Bozen [1900-04]),(7) for a time under the tutelage of a Benedictine monk, Pater Romuald Pramberger (1877-1967), and considered becoming a Franciscan monk himself. It should therefore not come as a surprise that "[s]cholasticism, Catholicism, and the humanistic education of nineteenth-century Austria are [...] Gütersloh's philosophical reference system",(8) echoed in his anachronistic, anti-modern fiction, characterized by scarcity of action.(9)
As it happens, Gütersloh - in Chapter 17 of his essay on Blei - gives the reader a clue for a pos-sible interpretation of the rather esoteric novel Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld,(10) published at approximately the same time:(11)
Mir liegt geradezu alles daran, den Abscheu des anständigen Menschen, des Ethikers vor dem 'Christen' aus den Überzeugungen, [...] aus dem Zivilisierten, diesem Grabe aller Größe, wieder herauszureißen, wieder auferstehen zu machen, wieder auf ihre Lippen und Zungen, wieder in ihren Geschmack zu bringen. Auf daß der faule Frieden aufhöre, die Feinde einander erkennen, fruchtbarer Kampf wieder möglich sei. Die Losung dieses Kampfes auf eine etwas weitere Formel gebracht, heißt: Mythologie gegen Zivilisation. Heißt: Fruchtbarkeit gegen Sterilität. Heißt Krieg des mit allen Greueln einer Urschöpfung, eines brennenden Sternes einsetzenden neuen Lebens wider das gefriedete, schmerzlose, ja frömmere Leben [my emphasis].(12)
Applied to Innozenz, the literary contribution of an author whose Weltbild was shaped by unorthodox Catholic beliefs,(13) the above statement is an unequivocal call for the moral and intellectual rejuvenation of mankind;(14) because - according to Gütersloh's famous 'materiologischer Fundamentalsatz ': "Die Tiefe ist außen" - "[d]ie Dialektik des Lebens allein liefert die inappellablen Resultate, nicht der Sturz nach innen, in die eilende Kette der Assoziationen, in den Psychologismus".(15) Gütersloh, moralist to the core,(16) firmly believed that human beings, to become true individuals, have to constantly live through crises and face conflicts which require intellectual clarification and moral decisions, tenets reflected in his opposition to belles-lettres ('Kampf gegen den Belletrismus') and his advocacy of a kind of literature that refuses to entertain the reading public.
At this point a brief summary of the story-line of Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld seems in order, since knowledge of this abstruse, and often contradictory early Gütersloh-novel, a prime example of so-called 'fantastic realism' ('phantastischer Realismus') during and after World War I,(17) cannot be taken for granted:
A young man called Innozenz is chosen as divine scourge to punish mankind for neglect of the senses: at night, sleep-walking, and unknown to himself, he visits countless young women and makes them pregnant. They, in turn, give birth to illegitimate children, causing enormous social upheavals. Despite this, he continues to live in blissful ignorance, does not grow older, remaining physically a young man, and eventually reaches the age of three hundred. At last God tells him to visit a wise old man who informs him that it is time for him to reconcile his sensual and spiritual inclinations by seeking true love. The young man meets a rich widow and falls in love with her. But the lady spurns his advances and has him arrested as the seducer everybody is looking for. About to be executed, the sage comes to Innozenz' rescue and turns him into an old man, who joins a monastery, and is subsequently told by the prior that the root of his problem is fear of incestuous contacts. At the same time the king's army starts a futile war to divert the public's attention from the seducer's escape. The widow, now a nun, and the old man, who has become a monk, meet in the king's palace. The nun still wants the old man dead and suggests that she rejuvenate him by magical means, at which point an earthquake destroys the capital of the kingdom. God, angered that his decisions are being interfered with, calls a heavenly council which decides that mankind's punishment will be 'eternity', all human beings being trapped in a time warp. The monk, in his cell, gazing in a mirror, hoping to be rejuvenated, is petrified in this position, and placed by his fellow brethren, as an allegory of vanity, at the entry to the monastery.(18)
From this synopsis of the 'plot' it can be gleaned that it was the author's intention to keep his readers in suspense about the precise meaning of the narrative that unfolds in Innozenz until - near the end - a divine messenger (in the shape of an angel), having summoned a heavenly council to sit in judgment over the hero, and mankind in general, informs God:
"Der Mann, den du, o Herr, aus der Gefangenschaft der Gerechten rettetest, dem du dich offenbartest, der dreihundert Jahre lang das Werkzeug deiner Strafe war, dein unbewußter Gärtner und Wiederbesämer des Gartens der Sinne, [...] dieses Nichts, das du zum Etwas der Geißel machtest, unterstand sich, deine Strafe zu bereuen. Er nannte, was du durch ihn getan, das Böse und setzte die Menschheit als die Unschuldigere und zu Unrecht Bestrafte." (172-73)
Such a statement amounts to an admission that the prohibition of certain aspects of sex are the result of depravity, as one reviewer of Gütersloh's novel wrote a year after its publication.(19) This, in turn, fits in neatly with criticism by the author himself in his essay on Blei that restrictive moral attitudes, advocated for centuries by the Roman Catholic Church in the name of civilization, often manifested themselves in acute hostility towards ordinary sensual pleasures. Indeed, St. Paul's notorious remarks in his Letters to the Corinthians, Timothy, and Titus are striking examples of this tendency, not to mention some of the misogynist statements of the Church Fathers.(20)
Gütersloh's brand of Catholicism, far removed from orthodoxy and dogmatism, was not of a conventional but of a medieval-Thomistic kind, based on his extensive studies of scholasticism. As one critic put it: "Gütersloh bekennt sich zum Katholizismus oder genauer: zur thomistischen Ausprägung des Katholizimus", leading to a 'Theologisierung seines Denkens', defined by Franz Blei as 'Theologik'.(21) All the same, Gütersloh's religious stance in Innozenz is by no means exclusively dictated by Thomism. On the contrary: his religious unorthodoxy is the result of an indebtedness to Gnosticism - reflected in the antithesis between body and soul, beast ('das verklärte Tier') and angel ('der gefallene Engel' ), concepts alien to Christianity - counterbalancing his reliance on the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. The prime concern of this novel, a re-evaluation of sensuousness ('Neubewertung der Sinnlichkeit'),(22) is therefore realized by the inclusion of theological and philosophical concepts gleaned from both Thomism and Gnosticism, an admixture of religious ideas which also determined the narrative form of this book, written as an 'allegorical fantasy',(23) employing narrative techniques of legends, and connecting individual events "through mystical and supernatural transition".(24)
Innozenz, the hero of the novel,(25) is portrayed by Gütersloh as God's tool to punish mankind for having neglected the senses and for having failed to keep body and soul in harmony. The sinister lover ("unheimliche Liebesgast") is presented as a theological allegory,(26) exemplifying on the one hand certain moral issues expounded by Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274) in his Summa Theologiae (1268-73), the theologian's opus magnum, which Gütersloh studied in depth,(27) while at the same time giving vent to the Gnostic view that the universe is a moral battleground.(28)
Central to the novel - underlined by the dual use of the word in the title - is the notion of 'innocence', which figures prominently in Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, but also in the Gnostic dichotomy of matter and spirit. Innozenz is presented as a 'split personality', whose body and soul - or, in Thomistic terminology, his 'beseelter Leib' and 'leibhafte Seele'(29) - are not in harmony, due to a Gnostic dualism "of the heavenly and the degenerate orders of creation", "of the divine and brutish components of human nature".(30) This is symptomatic for Gütersloh's religious unorthodoxy; because, according to Christian theology, body and soul are always intimately linked: "Du bist zwei Wesen", his mentor, a wise old man, informs him at one stage, "[u]nd das eine Wesen weiß nichts vom andern." (21) For some three hundred years - since a state of complete innocence, according to the novel's auctorial narrator, is concomitant to the inability to die (21) - Innozenz has been blissfully unaware of the fact that at night he obeys - metaphorically speaking - the law of 'the sublime animal', i.e. indulges his sexual urges, impregnating an untold number of women, while during the day he adheres to the demands of the 'fallen angel' and behaves in a normal, 'civilized' way.
Vital in this context is that Innozenz is unaware of his nightly activities, since this raises important moral issues. God is using Innozenz ("die Geißel Gottes" ) to punish mankind for its 'lack of fertility', echoed in the charge of 'sterility' in the essay on Blei, Gütersloh's way of metaphorically expressing his criticism of the institutionalized opposition to the pleasures of the senses. Nonetheless - according to the tenets of Thomistic moral theology - the youngster's sins were pardonable ones, as the prior informs him, when he joins a monastery at a later stage:
"Wahrlich, deine Schuld übersteigt die Schuld aller Menschen. [...] Und doch hast du vor allen Sündern und Menschen ein Unermeßliches voraus: Du hast das Kleid der Unschuld. Das Böse in dir, nie erkannt, hat ungeheuer Böses getan. Aber weil es dein Bewußtsein nie erfaßt hat, konnte das noch unberührte Gute nicht zerstört werden." (119)
As far as the notion of 'innocence' as a theological concept is concerned, the Thomistic question goes: to what extent does ignorance exonerate sinners from their evil deeds? Aquinas' answer, expounded in I-II 76,2 of the Summa Theologiae, (31) is as follows:
Non autem imputatur homini ad negligentiam si nesciat ea quae scire non potest. Unde horum ignorantia invincibilis dicitur: quia scilicet studio superari non potest. Et propter hoc talis ignorantia, cum non sit voluntaria, eo quod non est in potestate nostra eam repellere, non est peccatum. Ex quo patet quod nulla ignorantia invincibilis est peccatum: ignorantia autem vincibilis est peccatum, si sit eorum quae aliquis scire tenetur; non autem si sit eorum quae quis scire non tenetur. [However, if a man cannot possibly know something he cannot be called negligent. This type of ignorance is called invincible because it cannot be overcome even with effort. Since such ignorance cannot be conquered by human means it is neither voluntary nor sinful. Thus invincible ignorance is never sinful; vincible ignorance is sinful but only with reference to those things one is obliged to know and not with reference to other things.].(32)
This rather involved Thomistic argument suggests that all depends on whether ignorance, preventing sin, is sinful in itself: for instances of insurmountable ignorance (ignorantia invincibilis), according to Aquinas, are not sinful, and consequently are not the cause of any sins, even if they are objectively the result of wrongdoing. However, there are also instances of surmountable ignorance (ignorantia vincibilis ), which may be sinful if they involve knowledge of those things a moral human being ought to know.
In the light of Thomistic rationalizations such as these, Gütersloh's protagonist cannot possibly be held guilty of any sinfulness; for of the two types of venial sins - veniale ex imperfectus and veniale ex natura sua, i.e. sins pardonable for subjective reasons, due to a lack of insight into the sinfulness of the sinful act, and those pardonable for objective reasons, due to the very nature of the sinful act (cf. Summa I-II 88,2) - the former applies in Innozenz' case. Having committed his 'crimes' in a state of blissful ignorance, the protagonist can quite legitimately be considered an allegorical representation of innocence prior to an awareness of the sinfulness of the deeds, and Gütersloh uses this very feature in the novel as a literary device to attack moral attitudes towards sex in his time.
Consequently, the fictionalization of Aquinas' notion of 'pardonable sins' in the first part of Innozenz is a prime example of the Thomistic maxim: 'Das Sittliche setzt das Natürliche voraus' ('omnes leges humanae sunt derivantur a lege naturalis' ["human laws are all derived from natural law"]).(33) In fact, Aquinas' concept of natural law, based on the principle of synderesis,(34) is one of the most important features of his moral thinking, since this type of law is the framework within which people can make their particular choices in particular circumstances. For this reason 'natural law' needs to be supplemented by sound practical reasoning, what Aquinas calls 'human laws', designed to promote the well-being of people in concrete societies. Consequently, his argument is that from 'natural law' we can derive other laws governing society as a whole, laws aimed at the good of society; and this, in turn, means that, according to Aquinas, 'human laws' derive from 'natural law', i.e. moral conduct presupposes natural behaviour,(35) a development characterized by one critic as Aquinas' "energische Zuwendung zur natürlichen Welt".(36)
At the same time though, Aquinas' notion of veniale ex imperfectus, i.e. sins pardonable due to ignorance, is closely related to the Gnostic doctrine of salvation by knowledge; for one of the main tenets of Gnosticism states that ignorance, not sin in the orthodox Christian meaning, is what involves mankind in suffering. Gütersloh's portrayal of Innozenz' libertinistic tendencies echoes this Gnostic rebellion against traditional Christian concepts of sinfulness, which find expression in a positive prescription of immoralism, condemned by detractors of Gnosticism as "a depraved antinomianism that mocks the laws of this world".(37) The belief in sin as the way to salvation, a theological inversion of the idea of sin itself,(38) although ultimately rejected in the novel, is therefore indicative of the writer's own religious unorthodoxy.
The reverse applies in the second part of Innozenz, when the protagonist comes under the spell of a rich widow, who adversely influences his moral outlook Here, unnatural behaviour becomes the cause of immorality, as decreed by Aquinas the Summa: "Si vero in aliquo a lege naturali discordet, jam non erit lex, sed legis corrupto ("if at any point [human law] departs from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law").(39) However, Gütersloh's soteriologic approach in this half of the novel also contains pronounced Gnostic elements, his portrayal of the hero being characterized by Gnosticism's lacks the idea of atonement for sinful behaviour, except ignorance being that sin.
God, in Gütersloh's novel, having reached the conclusion that enough punishment has been meted out to mankind, and that the hero's 'moral enormity' ("das Unmaß [s]einer Unschuld" ) was beginning to disrupt the equilibrium of heaven and earth (16), decides to call an end to the tribulations suffered by women (66), instructing the wise old man to inform Innozenz:
"Wenn aber die beiden Wesen nicht sich vereinigen, so kann das Tier nicht erlöst werden und der Engel kann nicht zurückkehren in den Himmel. Und wenn du dich nicht änderst, so wirst du nie sterben können. Gott aber hat den unsterblichen Menschen nicht vorgesehen im All. [...] Nicht sterben können, ist der größte Fluch, den es gibt. [...] Damit du aber sterben und eingehen kannst in die ewige Seligkeit, auf daß das Tier stiege [sic] und sich verkläre, der Engel wieder vergehe in Gott, vernimm meinen Rat: Liebe! [...] Liebe ist die vorübergehende Vereinigung des Tieres und des Engels im Menschen. Wenn du liebst, jauchzt das Tier, trauert der Engel [...] Glaube daher dem Engel weniger als dem Tiere. Denn dieses steigt, jenes fällt, und das sich erhebende Böse ist nicht mehr erleuchtet als das getrübte Gute. [...] Sei daher dem Tiere gehorsam und tue, was es befiehlt. [...] Deine Sinne bekämpfe nicht, sondern habe Geduld mit ihnen." (21-24)
Taking heed of this advice, Innozenz looks for female company and falls in love with a widow who had been abused by her late husband, and, as a result, is sexually repressed. She is also a rather insincere person, who - despite her plea for complete abstinence - barely manages to disguise her sexual desires. These become apparent though, when she talks to Innozenz about the 'struggle against the animal' ("vom Kampf gegen das Tier" ) and informs him: "'Ihr dürft nur meine Seele lieben. Im Körper haust das Böse [...]'." (38):
Der Jüngling erfuhr, daß der Böse darnach [sic] trachte, die Unschuld zu Fall zu bringen. Diese als Warnung verkleideten Worte aber wurden von einem glühenden, heidnischen Blicke, der unter dem Engel hinweg zum Jüngling fuhr, wieder durchgestrichen. Der Jüngling sah sie leiden am ewigen Zwiespalt [...]. (37)
Thus, when Innozenz takes her advice literally, abandons his conquest, and leaves, the widow suffers severe sexual withdrawal symptoms:
Als der Jüngling gegangen war, fiel die Dame zu Boden, grub ihre Nägel in das fleischlich Dichte der Teppiche und litt unter dem mißhandelten Tier, das aus allen ihren Poren trat, sie zu mißhandeln. Ihr Brüste schmerzten und bluteten wie Stichwunden, ihre Lippen schwollen an und wurden glühend heiß, ein scharfes Messer durchschnitt im Takt der Pulse fortwährend ihren Schoß. (42)
She renounces all worldly pleasures and joins a convent, providing further evidence for Aquinas' - and Gütersloh's - claim that false moral convictions can only be combated with natural behaviour, and prompting the Devil's comment:
"Diese Dame ist der vollkommenste Ausdruck der Lüge und Entstellung [...]. Wenn sie auch fernerhin nicht mehr dem Tiere gehorcht, wird das hungrige Tier den aufgeblasenen Engel anfallen und irrsinnig werden. Das Tier, dem die Verwirklichung in der irdischen Welt versagt ist, wird in den Kopf des Weibes steigen und dort falsche Visionen von Gott, von den Himmeln, von Gut und Böse und von den Engeln hervorbringen." (42-43)
Which is exactly what happens: for the widow, turned nun, assumes a saintly status ('die Heilige'), i.e. becomes an epitome of precisely those religious values - like self-imposed chastity - under attack in the novel.
In a parallel development, more important than that involving the widow-cum-nun, the reader is informed of Innozenz' reaction to the advice given him by his beloved:
[...] während die Worte der Dame immer mehr ihm einleuchteten, [verdunkelten sich] die des Weisen aber immer tiefer. Weil er Mann, der liebte, war, floß das Falsche des Engels im Weibe mühelos in seiner Sinne durstigen Mund und tränkte ihn scheinbar. Dem Tiere des weisen Mannes jedoch stand als Mann er gleichgültig gegenüber. (41)
Having listened - after his escape from prison - to one of the nun's sermons on the virtues of ascetiscism, Innozenz swears never to relinquish his state of innocence ("er schwur, niemals das Kleid der Unschuld ausziehen zu wollen." ) This helps to explain the narrator's definition of 'innocence', which has baffled critics:(40) for Innozenz' 'fear of incest' ("Der Sinn der Unschuld ist maßlose Inzestscheu" ) was no doubt the result of the potential danger of conincidental sexual contact with one of the countless unidentified children fathered by him in the past. Despite the aging process, and regardless of sage's advice: "'Jetzt aber ist das Kleid der Geißel von dir gefallen, und du mußt zurückkehren in die Herde als ihr demütigster Teil. Erkenne dich endlich und tue, was ich dir schon einmal geraten habe!'" (68), he refuses to resume a normal way of life and announces that he intends to uphold the status quo ("beabsichtigte zu beharren, und zwar im Stande der Unschuld [...]."). (87)
This is an interesting development from a theological point of view; for Innozenz - now an old man - feels obliged to atone for venial sins committed during his previous existence: "[er] sah sich gewillt, für das, was sein zweites Ich getan, mit seinem ersten, das nichts von jenem wußte, zu büßen." (88-89) This decision, the refusal to abandon his state of innocence voluntarily, he considers to be a sacrifice: "Der Glaube aber, der durch die Heilige ihn überzeugt hatte, sah im Opfer schlechthin die größte Bestätigung des religiösen Menschen." (90) As could be expected, Gütersloh's auctorial narrator promptly condemns this notion, calling it one of the most decadent of theological concepts ("Der Begriff des Opfers, dieses morscheste Bild des Denkens" ) ever devised by the Roman Catholic Church ("[die] opferverlangende Kirche" ). And for once, addressing his readers directly, this self-same narrator launches a thinly veiled attack on the Church of Rome, giving vent to Gütersloh's opposition to institutionalized forms of religion and to churches setting their own norms ("Jedes Orakel aber, das Systeme, die Göttlichkeit durch Opferung zu verwirklichen, ausatmet, verwerft!" ).(41)
In any case, the protagonist, desperate to regain his lost state of innocence, forfeited when he was turned into an old man, is determined to atone for sins he supposedly committed as a youngster:
Und der Greis, der nicht mehr erkennen sollte, daß nur zum Zeichen, wie wenig der Greis mit dem Jünglinge, das eine Ich mit dem andern, weder im Guten noch im Bösen, zusammenhing, Gott ihn in einen Jüngling verwandelt hatte, eilte seinem verblendeten Triebe, Buße zu tun und eine unnötige Gerechtigkeit zu suchen, hastig nach. (116)
Not only does Innozenz therefore fail to realize that atoning for wrongdoings committed in a state of ignorance - a pardonable sin, according to Aquinas - amounts to opposing God's will, whose instrument he had been in the past. But by voicing concern that his great age may be the result of a conjurer's trick, and by craving for immortality to remedy this situation, he ignores that he no longer enjoys immunity from evil and is now subject to punishment for sinfulness like any other mortal. Hence, at the very end of the novel, God finds Innozenz - who, in the secrecy of his cell, keeps gazing into a mirror, hoping to be rejuvenated - guilty of narcissism. This self-love, one of the deadly sins according to Aquinas' Summa (I-II 77,4), is illustrated - as in the first half of the novel - by means of a literary device: for the monk, in his petrified posture, is presented as an allegory of vanity, and as such deployed as a warning by his fellow monks at the entrance to their monastery:
[Die Mönche] setzten ihn als brauchbare Statue vor die Pforte ihrer armen, noch ungeschmückten Kirche und berieten, welche Allegorie sie ihn wohl darstellen lassen sollten. Endlich gruben sie in seinen Sockel ein das Wort: Eitelkeit. [...] Und das war seine Strafe, und das ist die Strafe der Eitelkeit: daß sie gar nicht sie selbst ist. Denn die Brüder glaubten vom Mönche, er bewundere seinen jetzigen Zustand. Und dasselbe glauben auch die Menschen vom Eitlen. Wer aber in Wahrheit lebt, weiß, daß die großen Eiteln und die Schönen des Geschlechts, die in den Spiegel blicken, [...] nichts anderes schon bemerken wollen, hic et nunc, als ihre Verwandlung in Unsterbliches. (192)
Theologically speaking, any conduct 'contra Deum', i.e. an opposition to God, is sinful. However, the severity of such sinfulness depends on the extent of such an - objective or subjective - opposition, not on whether actual harm was done. Thomism tolerates no exception to this notion, characterizing sin as aversio a Deo, a rejection of God. However, a rejection of God, for metaphysical reasons, never amounts to total negation; for evil is always a shortfall of goodness, an idea Aquinas seems to have borrowed from St. Augustine's treatise De natura boni, published in 399, a concept explored by Gütersloh's auctorial narrator at one stage in the novel when expounding the so-called 'Prinzip von der Unendlichkeit des Guten':
Das Gute [......] wird nicht böse, nur falsch. Der Stock, den du in das Wasser hältst, wird nicht böse, nur verkürzt. So wird das Gute nicht böse, die Wahrheit seiner Erscheinung nur wird entstellt. [...] Zwar glaubt [...] der Teufel immer, er schüfe das Böse und weiß nie, daß er nur entstellen und verkürzen könne.(73)
Using Aquinas' terminology this means: the aversio a Deo is linked to a conversio ad bonum commutabile, the rejection of God being the common denominator of all sinfulness. But there is also a common denominator for the conversio: selfishness, the cause and origin of all devotion to man-made goods. If there is therefore only one alternative goal, and only one alternative God, namely oneself, such a devotion to unstable goods becomes the root cause for a conversio ad seipsum, love of oneself.(42) As Aquinas put it: "Unde manifestum est quod inordinatus amor sui est causa omnis peccati." (Quite clearly, then, it follows that inordinate self-love is the cause of all sin).(43) Applied to Gütersloh's novel, exclusive attention onto oneself (self-love), coupled with a refusal to obey God's commands, amounts to being guilty of pride, a deadly sin, tantamount to a rejection of God; or, in Aquinas' words: "Dicendum quod peccatum mortale, ut supra dictum est, consistit in aversione ab ultimo fine, qui est Deus […]." [It has already been made clear that mortal sin consists in a turning away from God, the ultimate goal of life (…).].(44)
Nonetheless, God - sitting in judgment over mankind, and Innozenz in particular - refuses to be swayed by arguments put forward by two of the archangels (to destroy all humans in a second deluge, or another kind of Sodom and Gomorrha), and instead adopts the advice, offered by Sophia ("die Mutter des Logos" ), to bestow the 'gift' of eternity on them.(45) As she put it:
"Lehre durch die Sendung der Ewigkeit, daß immer der zweite Augenblick der war, um dessentwillen der erste gelebt wurde. Dieses fortwährende Morgen […] nannten sie das Heute. Und dies, das fortwährende Morgen als Heute, ist der Menschen große Schuld. Denn dadurch schufen sie die Zeit. […] Die Verwesung des ungeborenen ersten Augenblicks im zweiten, die Geburt der Mutter aus dem Schoße der Tochter, ist Zeit. Zeige nun, o Herr, den Menschen jenen ersten Augenblick […] von seiner schrecklichen Seite. Zeige ihnen, wie schrecklich es ist, wenn ein Ich will, daß ein Du ewig ist." (185)
This specific mention of Sophia, a key figure in Gnostic mythology, shows that Gütersloh, despite his repeated references to Thomistic moral concepts, never lost sight of the Gnostic undercurrent in Innozenz. The basic Gnostic myth has many variations, all of which refer to Aeons, intermediate deific beings, who exist between the ultimate, the True God, and men. They, together with the True God, comprise the realm of Fullness (Pleroma) wherein the potency of divinity operates. One of the aeonial beings, bearing the name of Sophia (= Wisdom), is of great importance to the Gnostic world view; for - without being able to go into all the details of Gnostic mythology, used by Gütersloh to oppose Christian civilization - in the course of her journeying, Sophia came to emanate from her own flawed consciousness a being. This being in turn became the creator of the material and psychic cosmos - also called Demiurgos (= half-maker) - who imagined himself to be the ultimate and absolute God. In view of the way it was created, Gnostics consider the world to be flawed, a position often considered blasphemous by Christian orthodoxy. Human nature mirrors the duality in the world, in part being made by the demiurge, the false creator God, often also identified with the God of the Old Testament, and in part consisting of the light of the True God. The Goddess Sophia, also known as Lady Wisdom, is an esoteric archetype, woven together of Hellenic, Judaic, philosophical, and Gnostic strands, whose re-emergence in the 20th century - especially in the writings of C. G. Jung (1875-1961) and Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) - is a sign of the break up of conceptual barriers erected by orthodox religion and social conservatism. The Goddess of Wisdom can in fact be perceived as bridging everyday life and the world of the eternal,(46) especially in view of her suggestion in the novel that Innozenz be punished with 'eternity' for his refusal to seek salvation by virtue of increased knowledge. This is Gnosticism pure, and indicative of profound changes in eschatological thinking: for by interfering with the historical continuum, as God does on the advice of Sophia, i.e. by breaking the traditional chain of cosmic time, Gütersloh allows his hero to be trapped in a kind of 'Gnostic limbo', awaiting mythical time par excellence.(47) The refusal of the protagonist, in the second half of Gütersloh's novel, to acknowledge his loss of innocence, is in fact symptomatic of the conflict between knowledge and ignorance, fundamental for a proper understanding of the Gnostic concept of sin; for the logical consequence of terminating the status of ignorance would be the reversal of the misconduct which brought about this situation in the first place. Hence 'knowledge', in Gnosticism, leads to the redemption of the 'inner man', which cannot be achieved while the 'sinner' remains in a state of 'ignorance'. Consequently, Gnostic redemption aims at deliverance, not as in Christianity from sin and guilt, but from the world and the body, by acknowledging involvement with cosmic powers.(48) In Innozenz' case, having been chosen as God's scourge (albeit it unknown to him), the protagonist can only free himself from guilt through insight into, and subsequent acceptance of, his earlier misconduct, which of course he fails to do. It is also possible though to look at Innozenz' situation from a different angle, offering an added explanation why the protagonist of Gütersloh's novel ends up in 'Gnostic limbo', and why he was not totally condemned. For while in questions of morality and culpability people generally level the accusing finger at their own kind, either in admonition or as an expression of a deep-rooted sense of individual and collective guilt, Gnostics adopt a different stance believing that the world was imperfect from the start, for which the Creator is to blame and not man. Thus Innozenz' behaviour runs counter to Gnostic belief in salvation, which even admits mitigating circumstances, so long as the perpetrator is prepared to remedy faults he has recognized - an essential point, succinctly summed up by Lacarriere: "the evil which taints the whole of creation and alienates man in body, mind, and soul, deprives him of the awareness necessary for his own salvation."(49)
All this leads to the conclusion that Gütersloh's deductions from both Thomism and Gnosticism, and the incorporation of the resultant theological concepts into Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld, are far removed from the thematization of religious problems in novels like Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory (1940). The Austrian writer's anti-naturalistic, theoretical, and highly intellectual fictional stance, highlighted in the significance attached to the Thomistic notions of venial and deadly sins, as well as the emphasis on an alternative - Gnostic - way towards salvation - all these issues in the novel are therefore an indication of Gütersloh's unusual theological viewpoint and a clear sign of his unorthodox brand of Catholicism. Consequently, genres like the religious - not to mention the devotional - novel fail to adequately embrace Gütersloh's approach in Innozenz, a novel which - chronologically - rather belongs to the fiction of the so-called renouveau catholique, a European-wide Catholic counter-movement against anti-religious trends in literature and society at the beginning of this century. The renouveau catholique, though never a proper literary school, unified writers in their opposition to certain contemporary intellectual trends, such as materialism, positivism, determinism, and naturalism, but also in their fight against the authoritarianism and rigidity of the Roman Catholic Church of its time. One of the movement's main themes was the struggle between Good and Evil, exemplified in the contributions to Cahiers de la Quinzaine (1900-1914), the most important socio-political literary journal in France prior to World War I, edited by Charles Péguy (1873-1914). For Péguy, redemption or damnation was the burning question, and in his polemical and critical writings he fought against the modern world, which in its mass approach to life had become sterile, devoid of faith and mechanized.(50) Le Mystère de la Charitè de la Jeanne d'Arc (1910), his major work, in fact became the trendsetter of a movement, which included among its most prominent early representatives Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907), Léon Bloy (1846-1917), Paul Claudel (1868-1955) and Georges Bernanos (1888-1948). That is to say, the renouveau catholique's 'programme' for a new type of fiction aimed at the revival of contemporary literature on the basis of an existentialist kind of Catholicism, still echoed some decades later in the conflict between the Catholic priest and the Mexican police lieutenant in Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory. It would therefore have been indeed surprising if Gütersloh - who during the formative decade of 1904 to 1914 was still a devout Catholic - had not been influenced by this movement, which, since the turn of the century, rapidly spread across Europe. All the same, Gütersloh's writing during the following decade 1914-1924 cannot be quite satisfactorily classified among the fiction of the renouveau catholique either; for his literary work during this period was distinguished by an absence of reactionary elements - characteristic for most of the works of his Catholic contemporaries(51) - while, at the same time achieving notoriety for its fantastic, but also its utopian and subversive features.(52) The question therefore whether Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld may justifiably be called a 'religious novel', as some critics have maintained,(53) is a moot one; for - as should be clear from the
above discussion - such a label cannot possibly be applied to this early work of Gütersloh's. This, no doubt, was also one of the reasons why Thurner felt obliged to qualify his claim that Innozenz is a 'religiöser Roman', stating that this novel - "obwohl von Glaubens- und Sittenfragen durchtränkt" - is anything but "devotional literature" ("ein christliches Erbauungsbuch").(54) In fact, the assertion by a confidant of Gütersloh's in his later years, Pater Alfred Focke, that the author and painter was a 'homo religiosus',(55) seems to be more to the point, since it suggests that Gütersloh was a moralist, preoccupied with specific theological questions, writing novels and short stories whose characters are not simply concerned with general religious problems: "Sie sind Moralisten und kämpfen um spezifische moralische Probleme."(56) The truth of the matter is that in Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld Gütersloh was preoccupied with fictionalizing certain theological concepts borrowed from the Thomistic and the Gnostic traditions of moral philosophy, and above all Aquinas' maxim that 'moral' behaviour is dependent upon 'natural' conduct. In this situation, it was once again Alfred Focke, the Jesuit priest, and Thomist to the core like Gütersloh himself, who succeeded in shedding light on the author's peculiar sort of religious creed; for by referring to a bon mot of Peter Handke's: "Er drehte einmal den bekannten Satz der Bibel 'Was nützt es dem Menschen, die ganze Welt zu gewinnen, dabei aber seine Seele zu verlieren' ironisch um: 'Was nützt es die Seele zu gewinnen, und dabei die Welt, die Wirklichkeit, zu verlieren',"(57) Focke concluded: "Das ist […] bedenkenswert, und Gütersloh hat es bedacht."(58)
Consequently, it seems far more appropriate to label Innozenzoder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld a 'theological' novel, similar to the genre re-introduced by Bernanos a decade or more later (cf. Journal d'un curé de campagne ). One way or the other though, Gütersloh's brand of religious fiction differs substantially from that of other major twentieth century Austro-German writers of religious novels; for, by and large, he restricted his fiction to 'metaphysical punch-lines',(59) either excluding historical references and details altogether, or casting them in an allegorical form.(60) That is, he did not, as is customary for this genre, put religious problems in historical contexts,(61) as Franz Werfel in Der veruntreute Himmel (1939) and Das Lied der Bernadette (1941), or Werner Bergengruen in Am Himmel wie auf Erden (1940), or indeed even Elisabeth Langgässer in Das unauslöschliche Siegel (1946).(62) The result was a novel like Innozenz, which primarily deals with theological problems, and to which historical details are merely tangential.(63) In fact, if for some twentieth century authors "[t]he novel was there not to convey abstract ideas or philosophies", but to "deal with the reality of human figures in their emotional and moral lives",(64) nothing could be further removed from the type of fiction Gütersloh wrote. As Fischer put it in his overall assessment of the Austrian writer's literary œuvre:
Human destiny from religious perspective in conflict with secular interpretations of life, the relationship between God and nature, and man, the appropriate paths towards spiritual truth, the role of trust and doubt, the difficulties of man to understand the will of God, and the almost impossible task of realizing religious truth in a world full of error and sin, these are questions which Gütersloh wrestled with […].(65)
However, these are also the very theological questions raised in Gütersloh's early novel and which recur, in a more or less pronounced form, in virtually all his later novels and short stories, such as: Kain und Abel (1924), Eine sagenhafte Figur (1946), Die Fabeln vom Eros (1947), Sonne und Mond (1962), and Die Fabel von der Freundschaft (1969).
© Jörg Thunecke
(1) Albert Paris Gütersloh is an artistic pseudonym; the author's real name was Albert Conrad Kiehtreiber.
(2) Paris Gütersloh, Die Rede über Blei oder Der Schriftsteller in der Katholizität, Hellerau 1922.
(3) Ludwig Fischer, 'Albert Paris Gütersloh', in Donald G. Daviau (ed.), Major Figures of Modern Austrian Literature, Riverside, Ca 1988, p. 212.
(4) Michael Bielefeld, 'Albert Paris Gütersloh', in Heinz Ludwig Arnold (ed.), Kritisches Lexikon zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur vol.3, München 1985, p. 5.
(5) Ibid, p. 3.
(6) Cf. Fischer, pp. 210-11: "His highly complex, sophisticated, difficult, and often extremely abstract novels found only a small audience among readers."
(7) Cf. Alfred Focke ('Albert Paris Gütersloh [1887-1973]', in Neue Österreichische Biographie ab 1815. Große Österreicher vol.19, Wien/München 1977, pp. 49-51) and Irmgard Hutter ('Gütersloh, 'Die ersten zwanzig Jahre [1899-1918]', in A. P. Gütersloh zum 100. Geburtstag, Wien 1987, pp. 40-41).
(8) Fischer, p. 225; cf. also 'Biographie' in Albert Paris Gütersloh Retrospektive, Frauenbad/Baden b. Wien 1982, pp. 8-13.
(9) Alfred Focke, 'Versuch über A. P. Güterslohs Materiologie', Literatur und Kritik, 68 (1972), 469.
(10) Paris Gütersloh, Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld, Hellerau 1922; page references follow citations in brackets; a partial offprint under the shortened title of 'Paris Gütersloh: Innozenz oder Sinn der Unschuld' [sic] appeared in Die Dichtung (München), 2:2 (1923), pp. 86-106; for this novel Gütersloh was awarded the Fontane Prize in 1923.
(11) According to both Alfred Focke ('Albert Paris Gütersloh [1887-1973]', p. 54) and Irmgard Hutter ('Gütersloh: Die ersten zwanzig Jahre [1899-1918]', p. 44 and p. 45, fnt. 28) Innozenz oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld was written in 1914.
(12) Gütersloh, Die Rede über Blei, pp. 54-55.
(13) Cf. Heribert Hutter, 'Albert Paris Gütersloh: Texte und Miniaturen', in A.P. Güterrsloh zum 100. Geburtstag, Wien 1987, p. 36: "ein Weltbild, das von einer unorthodoxen Katholizität [...] geprägt ist [...]."
(14) Bielefeld, p. 3.
(15) Heimito von Doderer, 'Gütersloh', in Albert Paris Gütersloh - Zum 75. Geburtstag, München 1962, p. 14.
(16) Felix Thurner, Albert Paris Gütersloh - Studien zu seinem Romanwerk, Bern 1970, p. 57.
(17) Cf. Michael Hamburger, From Prophecy to Exorcism. The Premises of Modern German Literature, London 1965, p. 138.
(18) This apparent contradiction at the end of the novel can be explained by the fact that the 'plot', in more than one instance, reflects Gütersloh's adherence to the genre of 'fantastic realism'.
(19) Georg Schäfer, 'Innozenze oder Sinn und Fluch der Unschuld', in Jeremy Adler (ed.), Allegorie und Eros. Texte von und mit Albert Paris Gütersloh, München 1986, pp. 159-60; cf. also 'Neue Romane', Hochland 20:2 (1922/23), 432-35.
(20) Cf. e.g. St. Paul's remarks in 1 Corinthian 11:7, 1 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 2:5; see also Peter Gay, Education of the Senses: The Bourgeois Experience vol.1, Oxford 1984, p. 157.
(21) Erich Jooß, '"Sonne und Mond". Beiträge zum Verständnis eines poetischen Universums', Literatur und Kritik, 95 (1975), 194.
(22) Thurner, p. 63.
(23) Cf. Umberto Eco, The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas, Cambridge, Ma 51997, p. 150.
(24) Fischer, p. 219.
(25) The name only occurs in the title of the novel; elsewhere the protagonist remains anonymous.
(26) Thurner, p. 5.
(27) Gütersloh's copy of Joseph Bernhart's edition of Summe der Theologie (Stuttgart: Kröner 1933ff.) - which corresponds to the modern 3-volume edition (Stuttgart: Kröner 1985) - is part of the 'Nachlaß' owned by Irmgard and Heribert Hutter (Wien).
(28) Stuart Holroyd, The Elements of Gnosticism, Shaftesbury 1994, p. 8.
(29) Otto Hermann Pesch, Thomas Aquinas. Grenze und Größe mittelalterlicher Theologie, Mainz 31995, p. 134; cf. also Herbert Eisenstein's entry on Albert Paris Gütersloh in Dietz-Rüdiger Moser et al., Neues Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur seit 1945, München 1993, p. 432, which refers to "Fleischwerdung des Geistes" and "Versinnlichung des Denkens".
(30) Holroyd, p. 92.
(31) Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, written in the second half of the 13th century, consists of three parts (the final one being incomplete), each made up of over a hundred questions, each question containing a number of articles, each article having five sections: the statement of the problem under consideration, a listing of a number of objections, a section to the contrary, a main response in which St. Thomas gives his own answer to the problem, and numbered answers to the objections; it is the First Division of the Second Part (Prima Secundae) of the Summa - i.e. Qu.71-80 (on Sin), Qu.81-85 (on Original Sin), and Qu. 86-89 (on the Effects of Sin) - that concerns us at this juncture (cf. Vernon J. Bourke, Aquinas' Search for Wisdom, Milwaukee 1965, p. 197, James A. Weisheipl, Friar Thomas D'Aquino. His Life, Thought, and Work, Garden City, NY 1974, pp. 216ff., and Martin Grabmann, Einführung in die Summa Theologiae des Heiligen Thomas von Aquin, Freiburg i.Br 1928, pp. 149-78).
(32)St Thomas Aquians: Summa Theologiae vol.25: Sin, ed. Thomas Gilby, London 1969, pp. 148-49.
(33) Cf. Summa, I-II, 95,2 in St Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae vol.28: Law and Political Theory, ed. Thomas Gilby, London 1966, pp. 104-05 (according to Gilby [op. cit., p. 8, fnt. b] the terms 'lex natura' and 'lex naturalis' are used synonymously in Aquinas' Summa); cf. also Heribert Hutter, 'Texte und Miniaturen', op. cit, p. 3.
(34) 'Synderesis' (from Greek ' s u n t h r h s i z ') corresponds to the Latin 'conscientia' and is a technical term from scholastic philosophy, signifying the innate principle in the moral consciousness of every person, directing the agent to good and restraining him from evil. Aquinas apparently used the term first in De veritate (17,2); in the Summa it is discussed at length in I-I 79,12 (cf. Gilby, op. cit., p. 75, fnt. c, and also Brian Davies, The Thoughts of Thomas Aquinas, Oxford 1993, p. 223).
(35) Cf. Davies, pp. 246-47.
(36) Joseph Pieper, Hinführung zu Thomas Aquin. Zwölf Vorlesungen, München 1958, p. 173.
(37) Giovanni Filoramo, A History of Gnosticism, Oxford 1990, p. 188 (in a subchapter entitled 'Ascetics or Libertines? The Dilemma of Gnostic Ethics').
(38) Cf. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, Boston 21963, p. 274.
(39) Summa I-II 95,2 (in St Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae vol.28: Law and Political Theory, ed. Thomas Gilby [London 1966], pp. 104-05; in this instance Anton C. Pegis' translation was given preference since it conveys the Latin original more smoothly than Gilby's (in Introduction to Saint Thomas Aquinas, New York 1948, p. 649).
(40) Cf. Thurner, p. 71
(41) Gütersloh is supported in this by Aquinas' 'De corruptione boni naturae' in Summa, II-II 85,1-2 (cf. St Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae vol.26: Original Sin, ed. T. C. O' Brien, London 1968, pp. 78-89).
(42) Cf. Pesch, pp. 258-59 and Summa, I-II 77,4.
(43) Summa , I-II 77,5 (in Summa Theologiae, vol.25, op. cit., pp. 172-73).
(44) Summa I-II 77,8 (op. cit, pp. 184-85).
(45) "'Sende den Menschen statt einer Strafe […] ein Geschenk, das sie nicht fassen können, solange sie leben. […] Sende den Menschen die Ewigkeit'." (182)
(46) Cf. Caitlín Matthews, 'Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom', Gnosis. A Journal of the Western Inner Tradition, 13 (1989), 20.
(47) Cf. H. C. Puech, 'La gnose et le temps', in Eranos, 29 (1951), 57-113 and Filoramo, op. cit., pp. 134-37.
(48) Cf. Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis. The Nature & History of Gnosticism , San Francisco 1987, pp. 115-7.
(49) Jacques Lacarriere, The Gnostics, London 1977, p. 11.
(50) Cf. Gisbert Kranz, Modern Christian Literature, New York 1961, pp. 167-70.
(51) Cf. Richard Griffiths, The Reactionary Revolution. The Catholic Revival in French Literature 1870-1914, London 1966, pp. 17-20.
(52) Cf. Rein A. Zondergeld (ed.), Lexikon der phantastischen Literatur, Frankfurt a.M 1983, p. 12.
(53) Thurner, p. 65.
(55) Alfred Focke, 'Grabrede für Paris von Gütersloh', Literatur und Kritik, 78 (1973), 449-50.
(56) Thurner, p. 67.
(57) According to the Gospel of Mark 8:36.
(58) Alfred Focke, 'Güterslohs Glaube oder Ein sublimer Kannibalismus', morgen. Kulturzeitschrift aus Niederösterreich, 12 (1980), 171.
(59) Cf. Werner Welzig, Der deutsche Roman im 20. Jahrhundert, Stuttgart 1967, p. 343.
(60) Cf. Jörg Thunecke, 'Eine sagenhafte Figur (1946) - An Allegorical Novel of the Status Quo. The Re-emergence of Albert Paris Gütersloh at the end of the Second World War', in Anthony Bushell (ed.), Austria 1945-1955. Studies in Political and Cultural Re-emergence, Cardiff 1996, pp. 116-33 and 'Albert Paris Gütersloh und Innere Emigration: Das 9. Kapitel (Interludium) des Romans Sonne und Mond als politische Allegorie', in Johann Holzner/Karl Müller (eds.), Zwischenwelt 6: Literatur der 'inneren Emigration' aus Österreich, Wien 1998, pp. 267-94.
(61) Welzig, p. 361.
(62) Ibid, pp. 355-56.
(63) Cf. Thurner Chpt. II,5: 'Apokalypse des Habsburgerreiches?', pp. 53-54, esp. p. 54: "Es wäre falsch, den mystisch verschwommenen Text in eine einseitige Deutung zu pressen."
(64) Cf. Malcolm Bradbury's recent obituary on the death of Iris Murdoch ('All Kinds of Goodness', Time, February 22, 1999, p. 67).
(65) Fischer, p. 220.
5.2. Innovation and Reproduction in Austrian Literature and Film
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