There are many kinds of tyranny, as there are of monarchy, based upon the soul of the monarch. Some kings seek wealth as a good, and Saudi Arabia made all their citizens rich, giving away like 20,000$ per year, at least back about the nineties, if I am not mistaken. A king cares for the good of his kingdom, and so is royal, though he will conceive of this good in various ways, dependent upon the orders of his soul. Occasionally a King, like ole Alfred, will love and promote learning. But most would seek wealth, the extension of the kingdom and a good legacy or reputation.
Aristotle, of course, has the simplest schema, reducing the Platonic study of the souls and regimes in Book Eight of the Republic to six basic kinds. The legitimate regimes are Kingship, Aristocracy and a kind called “Polity,” while the illegitimate are tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. What distinguishes these two sets, the legitimate and illegitimate, is whether the ruling element aims at the good of the whole political body (Politeuma).
The kinds of regime are based upon the kinds of souls, as these in aggregate make up the political body. This means there are royal, aristocratic, oligarchic and democratic souls, where wisdom, the noble or the useful, the pleasant o the powerful are set upon the throne of the soul. There is a hierarchy of goods and a corresponding order of the soul, set by the things we choose, holding one thing to be more important than another, and continually trying to discern the true hierarchy of the importance of things (and to get our bodies to believe it).
The tyrant holds power to be more important than even avoiding murder, and there is a development of the tyrannical soul shown in the study in Book Nine of the Republic.
There is some question as to whether the classical formula comprehends the tyrannies peculiar to the Twentieth Century, a question taken up by Leo Strauss and Alexander Kojev. We have discussed the characteristics of Twentieth Century Totalitarianism in a previous blog. The question is how to understand things like fascism, Communism and ISIS. These are unlike any tyranny previously known. According to our diagnosis, we have elected a garden variety tyrant of the old sort that is comprehensible to classical political theory. a man who seeks power for himself, to be first, and such things, but also wanting to leave the reputation of beneficence behind him for legacy. What we worry about is the fascist element that will use him, and may come after him. Stalin was one of the new sort of tyrants, seeking to bring about some imagined future condition, an inversion of the Christian image of the kingdom, by killing vast numbers of his own people. Mobsters are usually garden variety tyrants, with some noble elements subjected to the love of power and, oh yes, wealth. (It is shocking how much these rich men, who cannot use more, love money.) Communism and fascism, of course, are opposites, and hated one another more than they hated us, while sharing an interesting list of similarities, like concentration camps. Putin seems rather, hopefully, a garden sort of tyrant, concerned with his reputation for strength and even the “greatness” of Russia (Though not enough to introduce the thought of Jefferson and make them proud to be free men), while ISIS is more closely related to the new tyrannies. It is in fact a third instance in the series Nazi, Communist, Islamic, and depends in its origin for corruption from a Western source. The other two arose out of German philosophy, as a perversion of the intellect and an inversion of the natural orders of the soul.
These mysteries are properly termed the diabolic, as they depend upon the human capacity for error due to high potentials of which they are the perversions. Such a soul is in torment, whether the afterworld is true or not. This is the diabolism of which mythical Satanism is an image, and it has killed more people than the literal Satanists. Twentieth Century Totalitarianism was unleashed upon the earth when Hell gaped open in 1917 and many fell in, as shown in the vision of Sister Lucia of Fatima. Twentieth Century Totalitarianism may even be essentially Anti-Christian in origin, and we maintain that it is not found apart from the hatred of Christianity, though there have been attempted Christian forms. We also hold that these things developed out of the modern reaction to the medieval persecutions done by the Church, a big mistake that set modern philosophy, through the Renaissance, upon an Anti-Christian track.. Hence, modernity, Machiavellianism, Nietzsche and Nazism are anti-Christian forms of tyranny where a perversion of the intellect penetrates into political action. Fascism is a projection onto another race of what ought be the inner “jihad,” against sin in oneself, but it becomes an inversion of the sacrifice of penance preceding baptism. Whole classes, races, and now religions are to be tortured and killed to achieve some imagined inverse utopian hell.
At any rate, these hypotheses are attempts to understand modern totalitarianism, since it surely does not make sense on the basis of the tyrant and the pursuit of ones own power. Stalin and Lenin are failed students of the priesthood who were remarkably self sacrificing for a tyrant, in devotion to the vision of Karl Marx adapted to Russia, where there was no “industrial proletariat,” just poor potato farmers hoping for a bit of vodka against the cold. They are guilty of the murders of 30-70 million people through this perverse ideological vision, by which they are like possessed. The fascists seek a utopia based on race, replacing ethical purity with “race purity,” etc, and it seems that any race might engender such a movement (though truly the Jews the Greeks and perhaps the British, the ancient Chinese of the time of Lao Tzu or the roots of the Sanskrit language alone might be looked to for a superior people, (surely before any Germans!). Putin might like to make and use a Russian version of fascism, like Donney, thinking to use it as a civil religion to increase his power (though it is more likely to use him) now that it is so easy for the garden variety of tyranny to slide into the Twentieth Century variety of fascism. Or, now that our Evangelicals are all lined up behind a tyrant, we will develop some Koresh type Christian fascism similar to the Islamo-fascism of ISIS, then they can fight against their own shadow. One wonders some times whether we are not tempted to repeat the sins in the end times that have brought about the end times, as though to be reminded why this occurring.” Remember, its race, class and religion that distinguish the tree forms of Twentieth Century Totalitarianism. Jesus said, “whatever you do to your brother, that you do to me.” Those who harm others must hope the soul is not immortal, as they have inflicted their own torment on themselves.