I don’t consider the former to be in the same villianous league as the latter, more ‘man of his times’ than monster, but, after seeing this striking statue
here in Company’s Garden, Capetown yesterday afternoon, it’s hard not to make comparisons. Both men had visions of world domination, both valued high culture and education. Both apparently had similar strange ghost-related experiences, both, judging from the statue, liked to salute people by sticking their arms straight out in the air. Here are some notes from a listserve the contents of which I think have some credibility, given that well known biographies are quoted:
Cecil Rhodes was one of the richest men in the world at the turn of the 19th century, the creator of De Beers, and founder of a new country. These achievements were, apparently, the result of a one single `great idea’ one which came to him at the age of 24 following initiation into the Masonic Order while at Oxford University. This appears to have triggered something of an epiphany, as outlined in his `Confession of Faith’ which tells of his ambition to
establish a secret society to further the interests of the British Empire and the uniting of the entire Anglo-Saxon race, including America, into one single empire.
An event in Rhodes’ life, soon after this, apparently explains the fervour with which he followed his dream: He was back at the diamond diggings in Kimberley, South Africa. One night, `His friends’, according to biographer Sir Lewis Michell, `found him in his room, blue with fright, his door barricaded with a chest of drawers and other furniture; he insisted that he had seen a ghost.’ Immediately after this ‘crisis,’ Rhodes had his `Confession of Faith’ (which also contained his last will and testament) legally formalised by an attorney. From then on, his star ascended.
Evidently the same thing happened to someone else – Adolf Hitler. In `Hitler Speaks’, published in 1939, Hermann Rauschning recounts an identical event. Soon after, in 1933, Hitler seized power, and at the time reportedly remarked: `I will tell you a secret. I am founding an Order.’ Pretty well exactly what Rhodes had set out to do after his illumination. Rhodes’ secret society dedicated to ruling the world ultimately, it is argued, became reality in Hitler’s SS (Schutzstaffel).
Oswald Spengler, in his prescient work `Decline and Fall of Civilization in the West’, (1918) described the spirit of colonial expansion which possessed Rhodes as something, `daemonic and immense, which grips, forces into service and uses up mankind.’ Both Rhodes and Hitler it seems, encountered something clearly `daemonic’ at crucial times in their careers.
Spengler continues: ’Rhodes is to be regarded as the first precursor of a western type of Caesar. He stands midway between Napoleon and the force-men of the next centuries….in our Germanic world, the spirits of Alaric and Theodoric will come again – there is a first hint of them in Cecil Rhodes.’