Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wallow-Drunk. — “I think ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are either zombie or capture algorithms when not tied narrowly to a system’s persistence optimization”, says some fellow [1], who, I would guess, believes he is being scientific or rational: it is always the image such men are after, however far it may drift from reality; and I would say that this man has ended up much closer to modern performance-art.
     It is amazing to think that it has taken only a few hundred years from relative calm to this kind of madness. Lately I have had in mind the role of romanticism: the intoxication with feelings, the beautiful-soulism, the individualism which bids a man to fancy that he can define reason and truth in line with his passions, and the irrationalism which has made a fatal pact with the image of reason, science, and progress. [2] But the roots of the madness go very deep, seen in the mechanical philosophy of the seventeenth century, seen in the nominalism of the late middle-ages, and then we look at Old Greece, and there it is again: some kind of intoxication, some desire for formlessness, some humanity-denying animality. It was such that Plato saw and set out to fight.
     Things are not repeated in quite the same way, but it seems that man, when he reaches a rank whereat his humanity is starkly reflected back at him, may, if wisdom has not reached the same rank, conceive a desire to sink into beasthood, as if the sight of what it is to be specifically human frightens him with its calling and responsibility. For that calling is the good life, the rational life, the examined life, and the responsibility is always to it, far away from a life of moral indolence and devil-may-care free-spiritedness. But what a ghastly thing to the man who wishes to cut loose in a spree of thrills and feelings! Better to be a wallowing swine than a striving man — or so the pig-philosophers teach. [3] 
     By this desire for sinking, however, I do not mean the longing for a simpler life. On the contrary: therein one can be fully human. Oddly it seems that man can use all the sophistication of his rational nature to try and thwart that very nature. In our advanced technology and in our complex, long-accumulated systems of thought, we are far better able to bestialise ourselves than were the Old Greeks.

[1] Hopefully Anonymous, comment of 16th December 2010, to TGGP, “Barack Obama as Rockefeller Republican?”, Entitled to an Opinion (weblog), 2nd December 2010. (Transhumanists, in denying their human nature, that is, in refusing to understand themselves as essentially rational animals, or as anything spiritual, but rather in mistaking themselves to be mechanically-determined, algorithmic genebots, or somesuch, are slipping from the human towards the merely animal, whilst pathetically dreaming of reaching the godly.)
[2] See Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1919). Therein: “Man is in danger of being deprived of every last scrap and vestige of his humanity by this working together of romanticism and science. For man becomes human only in so far as he exercises moral choice.” p.262.
[3] For vain protestation against the accusation of pig-philosophy, see J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism (London: Parker, Son, & Bourn, 1863), above all, pp.11-14.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

So Little a Thing. — Latter-day men are loath, in many subtle ways, to acknowledge truth. [1] Take the little matter of bowing. Formerly men would set forth this little bodily token in acknowledging the truth of their standing. It is by the repetition of such tokens that truth is etched upon them. Yet nowadays they fancy that they are freer or of higher worth since they do not have to bow to their lords. Here today untruth runs through everything. It is called for everywhere. There is not a day that goes by wherein our so-called freemen do not demand to be hoodwinked or lied to. They hold their little tokens of truth-spurning pride to be of greater worth: let us seem to be as we wish to be, they cry, and do not make us acknowledge the world by body or by mind; tell us that we are all of the same rank, or even that we are lords, and our lords, our hirelings. Very well, say their managers: this is one demand at least for which we shall readily seek to uphold a plentiful supply. What untruth could be more soothing to the sore and freed envy of the masses? — an untruth and a bare-faced lie repeated, strengthened, and boastfully taken up as a hallowed truth by those whom it is meant to mislead!
     In keeping with the depersonalising of the world, latter-day men are loath to acknowledge the rightfulness of any person standing over them. [2] Only systems, procedures, and processes are allowed this higher standing. Bowing to a person is for them a token of unrightfulness; for they link this to higherness and lowerness amongst persons: why should one person be higher than another? Being crushed under the dead weight of systematic process, on the other hand, being far from equal to it, not knowing how to begin to match it, or even how to live through it as persons — all this does not seem to bother them so much, but, on the contrary, they take it as the onrush of justice after a long dark age.
     Since they will not acknowledge, or let stand, personal power over them, so they demand impersonal power — procedure and process — as the impartial judge of all things: a clockwork god. Yet, steeped in the sins of pride and envy, and drunk on utopian spirits, they do not reckon upon the outcome: that the impersonal power over them will not acknowledge them as persons. By its nature it cannot. It has neither the will nor the facility for such: only persons can acknowledge persons. But how ironic that the revolutionary struggle on the part of the masses for their acknowledgement as persons of equal worth in the state has driven the building of a state which cannot acknowledge them as persons at all! Now it must render them into fit objects for its operation. Hereby it looms to bring them justice after all, namely, having shaped them into unpersons so far as it is possible to do so, and having done so by the freeing and the encouraging of their base materiality, it threatens to do only what is fit for them: to treat them as such.
     That to which bowing is an acknowledgement would have spared them this downfall, this gross indignity against manfulness; indeed this undoing would never have stricken the bond in the first place, for that power called for persons on both sides, it called for true men, to which sadly the latter-day world is too weak and sickly to give birth in numbers.

[1] They are of course loath to acknowledge truth in greatly unsubtle ways too. Race, for instance, the denial of the stark reality of which is weird.
[2] The drive for depersonalisation has been noted for some time. Cf.: Max Stirner, Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum (Leipzig: Verlag von Otto Wigand, 1901 [1845]), p.112: “Was will das Bürgertum damit, daß es gegen jeden persönlichen, d. h. nicht in der ‘Sache’, der ‘Vernunft’ u.s.w. begründeten Befehl eifert? Es kämpft eben nur im Interesse der ‘Sache’ gegen die Herrschaft der ‘Personen’! . . . Das Bürgertum will einen unpersönlichen Herrscher.” [“What does the bourgeoisie want by inveighing against every personal command, that is, against every command not founded on ‘cause’, on ‘reason’, etc? It is simply fighting in the interest of the ‘cause’ against the rule of ‘persons’! . . . The bourgeoisie wants an impersonal ruler.”] See also: the works of Carl Schmitt, in particular “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations” (1929), appended to The Concept of the Political, tr. G. Schwab (London and Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007); and latterly those of Alasdair MacIntyre, Paul Gottfried, Bruce G. Chalton, and James Kalb, amongst others.
The Rule of Gearwork. — No art or skill can ever be fulfilled to the utmost merely by the following of rules and mechanical procedures. An art or skill behoves judgement, practical wisdom, know-how, understanding, a feel for the never-to-be-repeated circumstances, and so forth. It is for this reason that liberalism is so life-clumsy, unwise, and soul-crushingly wretched: its managers and administrators — never statesmen of the old art, let alone kings or lords — are but stopgap-helpmeets of rules and mechanical procedures. If one of them brings his judgement or wisdom to bear, he thereby steps outside the field of what liberalism holds as strictly rightful: he steps into the human field wherein liberalism sees only whim and arbitrariness; he steps away from the hallowed rule of law towards the loathed rule of men. I say “stopgap”, for there has yet to be found a way to replace men wholly with technical process, although it is that to which liberalism tends by its misthought of rightfulness (no man to rule over another; same freedom for all; no privileges; and so forth), and hence it must brook the intervention of men into the bureau-technocratic process, it must brook this slight rule of men, this thin willfulness, this depressed exercise of human judgement, reason, and wisdom, so long as it is scattered across tens of thousands to lessen the personal aspect; but it does so with gritted teeth, as it were, and narrowed eyes. Every personal intervention into the management of human affairs is a sign that a process truly neutral to sundry human values, perfectly “fair” to all cases, indifferent to wilful turns, is not yet fulfilled, that the process still contains personal elements out of which personal interests can arise to upset the dispensing of the perfect “justice” of neutral indifference. Liberalism awaits the day when all men will be overthrown. Kings and athelings were merely the first.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Specify, or Be Damned. — Individualism does not specify itself to be in keeping with any particular society, or even with the existence of society at all, but rather it addresses itself only to an unspecified individuality. Such unspecification about what an individual should be is precisely at the heart of individualism’s boast about its being the friend and not the foe of the individual’s freely seeking to be and to do whatever he chooses. “Do what thou wilt”, it says, whereto it may add the black-box phrase, “so long as it harms none”. Now, given a teaching which says that everyone may do as he pleases, irrespective of all truth, reason, goodness, morality, tradition, authority, obedience, bonds, and so forth, “so long as it harms none”, and which, by its boasted lights, does not specify the kind of society which should be upheld, or even that any should be upheld, how is it that anyone could then come to the belief that it might after all stand as a pillar of any society, let alone a particular one, rather than being, as in truth it is, the rot upon all? One might say that here we are at the brink of sheer madness, inbequeathed through many years of listening to silly tales. But leaving aside an understanding of the teaching itself, which might conceivably have taken any name, the very name which it does carry gives us a clue to its drift, namely, that it seeks to uphold the unspecified individual, and not any society, specified or unspecified.
     There are no ends specific to man as man, rather than to what he shares with mere beasts, which can be reached outside of his fellowship with his kind. No speech nor reasoning, let alone higher arts and sciences, would arise if all men stood from the first outside of fellowship. Every man began as a helpless baby and would have died were it not for the society of his kith and kin. Every man was without speech, and would have remained speechless were it not for the same. Every man was without schooling, and would have stayed unschooled. And so on. No man was ever born into a so-called state of nature, as first imagined by Thomas Hobbes, even if this be helpful as a conceptual threshold for the understanding that the closer a society comes in breaking down towards that threshold, the more brutish it becomes. It is nevertheless a figment which has led to misunderstanding and mischief, and it is from it that individualism has grown. Man’s state of nature is the state of society. Man has never been in the so-called state of nature; for he is by nature a social animal and has always been in fellowship. Individualists, having thoughtlessly taken all social things for granted, and having for the most part imbibed unawares some old spirit of seventeenth-century philosophy, often speak as though they rose out of the ground and shaped themselves in isolation, wherein we glimpse also the drunken idea of self-creation born of Romanticism.
But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god: he is no part of a state. [1]
The liberal concept of man as selfstanding being, free to set his own moral ends, is one of the biggest untruths ever told — and yet folk swallow it whole, whereat we might take it that they are greedy for something.
     Individualism is an emptiness which blights the field of personhood, turning men, if they can still be called such, into mere units of the mass to be gathered up in the total state. Man is a social animal; society is required to actualise a man’s potential as a person. There are no pre-social individual persons. In the light of this, we may see individualism as some deeply primitive recrudescence, the tendency of which is to destroy the very conditions by which one can become a human person. A man cannot be a person without the fellowship, community, or society that made him. Unsocialised, man’s potencies are not activated, and he stays at a level close to a beast, bereft of speech and reason, let alone partaking of the higher arts and sciences.
     Individualistic societies are decomposing social bodies in which kinship-ties are loosened and even cut, and which can be held together only by an all-pervasive and socially-alien bureau-technocratic power — the “coldest of all cold monsters”. In defence of these societies, and, by extension, willing or not, of this bureau-technocratic power, liberals, who sometimes call themselves libertarians, claim the greater freedom of these societies, where the largely unexamined and fuzzily-held concept “freedom” is a multivariate reference, unspecified of what, for what, and to what. In individualistic societies there is more freedom in the direction of baser and thrilling appetites, non-specific to mankind, hence the appeal of this freedom to the mass of baser men; and it is these appetites which dissolve kinship and personhood, bringing even greater demands for individualism, which brings greater freedom in the direction of baser and thrilling appetites, and so on, in a downward spiral. In individualistic societies, the freedom in personhood is much lowered, whilst the freedom in beasthood is heightened; and the bonds of kinship are cut whereby men would be men.
     Liberals and libertarians, being the fiercest enemies of the freedom of personhood, and the strongest friends of the freedom of beasthood, that is to say, of the liberal haze-ideal of the “individual” whatever that individual may be, must be defeated if the freedom of the person as person is to be upheld. Liberalism, or rather its essential individualism, has a gut-feeling and a canny nose for the breaking-up of everything, even of the person, and it knows nothing of creation. The ideal of individualism can only belittle persons and bring to the fore a bulk of fittingly-blank individuals of the mass — fittingly blank for bearing the stamp of the bureau-technocratic regime.
     The conformity that is forged today through the atomized individualism that strips men of their personhood has little to do with the collective identity for which men have always yearned. The conformity today is a stopgap and a takeover of this natural yearning. The atomised individual is stripped bare of his humanity — which has hitherto been actualised in society — and left adrift with his “freely-formed” and “-chosen” opinions, which are in truth nothing of the kind. He cannot think for himself, only of himself, because he is suffering a loss. He rebels against conformity in conformity with everyone else.
As the subversive mind is essentially individualistic and isolationistic, so is it essentially collectivistic and identitarian: on the view inherent in it, the curse of division and of being ‘set against one another’ cannot be surmounted except by a ‘fusion into one’; an actual identification of consciousness, of qualities and of interest. In fact, individualism (tending towards egalitarianism) prefigures collectivism from the outset, and again, collectivism is only individualism raised to the high power of an absolute monism centred in ‘all and every one’. [2]
Individualism foreshadows mass-collectivism. With authorities and societies broken down, nothing can stand in the way of pressing the individual units of alienated humanity, thitherto existing as persons, into a mass, each homogenised unit shaped to fit and imprinted with a set of political ideas and economic desires.
     The pluralism which accompanies individualism is a social dysfunction built on subjectivistic-irrationalistic ethics. It denies that mankind has a nature and thereby a natural end to be fulfilled. Only by that denial does it make sense to say that everyone has a right to pursue any goals and practice any values which he pleases so long as he does not seek to foist them upon others. And how is that disorder to be managed? Why, by the totalitarian bureau-technocratic state of liberaldom! But of course it is not true that under liberaldom one can believe whatever one likes, nor especially what it is rational to believe. In liberaldom one can believe anything one likes so long as it makes no odds against liberaldom; one’s unliberal beliefs, if they can still bear that name, are to be mild quirks of the self, slight hues in an otherwise grey smear of bureaucratic massification.
     The task of liberalism from its beginning, namely, the search for neutral ground whereon the life of all mankind can rest, and whereupon everyone can seek his own ends, can find its end only in a true neutrality and indifference, and that is nowhere to be found in man except in his unpersonhood. Wherefore it is that liberalism’s struggle to settle the life of mankind can find its end only in the death of personhood; and it is for this reason that the struggle against liberalism is the final and most profound one. Liberalism is the greatest evil that mankind has yet faced, and there is almost no-one to withstand it. That lack of withstanding, owed to liberalism’s having swayed almost everyone to its side, is partly why it is the greatest evil.

[1] Aristotle, Politica, Bk.I: 1253a:28-9, tr. B. Jowett, in The Works of Aristotle, Vol.X (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921).
[2] Aurel Kolnai, “Privilege and Liberty” (1949), in Privilege and Liberty and Other Essays in Political Philosophy, ed. D.J. Mahoney (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 1999), p.21-2.
A Dear Gift. — If upon men is stamped the understanding that the speaking of truth will bring them harm, either first of all through scolding and sneering, or, if that lacks to frighten, thence to threats against life and livelihood, then by that alone the bulk of them can be held under sway to untruth, all the more so in these times of faint-hearted swine-men. Here and now, in this fold of thoroughgoing falsehood and shadowy lies, a well-grounded truth may be smeared as dumbness and wickedness, such that to most men, who do not think much and are easily led to believe whatever is of behoof to them and not of bane, it seems to them to be clearly wrong, or at least something the uttering of which calls for a stout heart, which they do not have. As most men today are faint-hearted, and if a belief when uttered is likely to bring sneers and taunts and fun-poking, then so most men are likely to forgo it and fix upon a belief at odds with it or set far asunder from it. In holding such a belief, moreover, men also gain the fun of hounding others, for “it is a pleasure for all needy devils to scold: it gives a little rush of power” [1]. The freedom, nay, the goading, from their masters to scold, sneer, and scoff, and, if needs be, to scare and threaten, when upheld by the inbequeathed feeling that it is the right and reasonable thing to do, is to them a dear gift. It will not easily be pried from their grasp.

[1] [“es ist ein Vergnügen für alle armen Teufel, zu schimpfen, — es giebt einen kleinen Rausch von Macht.”] Friedrich Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung, in Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd.6 (München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), “Streifzüge eines Unzeitgemässen”, §.34, p.132.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A Reactionary’s Affliction. — “Anguish over the decline of civilization is the affliction of a reactionary. The democrat cannot lament the disappearance of something of which he is ignorant.”

Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección (Bogotá, 2001), p.66; translated and published online by Stephen Wauck, Don Colacho’s Aphorisms, No.303, 5th February 2010.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Nunc in Quidnuncitate. — “It is true there is in such a population, of itself, no help at all towards reconstruction of the wreck of your Niagara plunge; of themselves they, with whatever cry of ‘liberty’ in their mouths, are inexorably marked by Destiny as slaves ; and not even the immortal gods could make them free,—except by making them anew and on a different pattern. No help in them at all, to your model Aristocrat, or to any noble man or thing. But then likewise there is no hindrance, or a minimum of it! Nothing there in bar of the noble Few, who we always trust will be born to us, generation after generation; and on whom and whose living of a noble and valiantly cosmic life amid the worst impediments and hugest anarchies, the whole of our hope depends. Yes, on them only! If amid the thickest welter of surrounding gluttony and baseness, and what must be reckoned bottomless anarchy from shore to shore, there be found no man, no small but invincible minority of men, capable of keeping themselves free from all that, and of living a heroically human life, while the millions round them are noisily living a mere beaverish or doglike one, then truly all hope is gone. But we always struggle to believe Not. Aristocracy by title, by fortune and position, who can doubt but there are still precious possibilities among the chosen of that class? And if that fail us, there is still, we hope, the unclassed Aristocracy by nature, not inconsiderable in numbers, and supreme in faculty, in wisdom, human talent, nobleness and courage, ‘who derive their patent of nobility direct from Almighty God’. If indeed these also fail us, and are trodden out under the unanimous torrent of brutish hoofs and hobnails, and cannot vindicate themselves into clearness here and there, but at length cease even to try it,—then indeed it is all ended: national death, scandalous ‘Copper-Captaincy’ as of France, stern Russian Abolition and Erasure as of Poland; in one form or another, well deserved annihilation, and dismissal from God’s universe, that and nothing else lies ahead for our once heroic England too.” [1]

Englishmen have contracted a kind of sickness, maybe incurable, perhaps now inbred, in the fever whereof they trade whatever dear and irrecoverable goods they might hold in return for cheap consumable goods and shiny visions of a marketed future. If it is incurable, if it is innate and inalienable, then they cannot persist for long on the earth, not even as the magpie-vulgarians that they now are. Even the essentials of their existence they would trade for the inessentials of comfort and image. A mindless congratulation of their own ideological kind is so engrained in them by whiggish habit that, even if and whilst deploring the state in which they find themselves, they still praise and take as sacrosanct the very way by which they reached it — and they demand and plead to go further by the same way! The egalitarian-libertarian spirit amongst them has all but destroyed a titled aristocracy set apart from beaverish existence, and it will surely do its best to destroy an untitled kind too. Genius, talent, even finally the meanest advantage, would all be thwarted by their insane demand — their eleutheromania — for that impossible condition, for men at least, of equal liberty for all. The world might have done well long ago to have set the body of their nation in quarantine, and have sought a cure, or, failing that, to have driven a stake through the heart of that old vampire of the continent, but now it is a little too late.

[1] Thomas Carlyle, Shooting Niagara: and After? (London: Chapman & Hall, 1867), pp.23-4; original emphases.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Liberal Mockery of Rights and Duties. — The odd thing about liberals is that they believe they are being magnanimous and not absurd or malevolent in seeking to impose on everyone the non-existent duty of defending the non-existent right to falsehood, stupidity, vice, or whatever other depravities they cannot be bothered to oppose. [1] From their featherbrained credal belief that everyone has the right to believe whatever he wishes, it follows that everyone has the right to false and vicious beliefs, from which it follows in turn that everyone has the corresponding duty of defending the right of their maintenance and growth. Naturally there is no such duty and therefore no right to impose it. Given that every man has the duty and the right to pursue and uphold the true, the good, and the beautiful, it follows that he cannot also have the duty and the right to the contrary. [2] Where morality by reason imposes a duty, liberalism by whim imposes a mockery of it. In seeking to impose the mock-duty of defending the mock-right to the false, the bad, and the ugly, such that they flourish thereunder, liberalism shows itself to be the enemy of the true, the good, and the beautiful, that is to say, of knowledge, culture, society, personhood, and mankind itself, and it is consequently the duty of every man to oppose it.

[1] An example: Rod Liddle, “We must defend the right to be stupid, vile and obnoxious”, The Sunday Times, 17th January 2010. Tim Worstall calls Mr Liddle’s screed “impeccably liberal”, and he is right to do so: it is stupid and smug and seeks to spread its own miscreancy as widely as possible. (Tim Worstall, “One for the anti-Liddle crowd”, Tim Worstall (weblog), 17th January 2010.)
[2] For more depth and discussion, see: David S. Oderberg, “Is There a Right to be Wrong?”, Philosophy, 75 (2000), pp.517-537.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Plague-Sight. — If deadly germs were capable of conscious retrospection, they would be able to look back upon the advance of their own kind throughout a decaying body and see nothing amiss in that regard, but would indeed find much cause for satisfaction at the progress they had made. It is much the same with blighters in human form, as Alasdair MacIntyre suggests:
“History by now in our culture means academic history, and academic history is less than two centuries old. Suppose it were the case that the catastrophe of which my hypothesis speaks had occurred before, or largely before, the founding of academic history, so that the moral and other evaluative presuppositions of academic history derived from the forms of the disorder which it brought about. Suppose, that is, that the standpoint of academic history is such that from its value-neutral viewpoint moral disorder must remain largely invisible. All that the historian — and what is true of the historian is characteristically true also of the social scientist — will be allowed to perceive by the canons and categories of his discipline will be one morality succeeding another: seventeenth-century Puritanism, eighteenth-century hedonism, the Victorian work-ethic and so on, but the very language of order and disorder will not be available to him. If this were to be so, it would at least explain why what I take to be the real world and its fate has remained unrecognized by the academic curriculum. For the forms of the academic curriculum would turn out to be among the symptoms of the disaster whose occurrence the curriculum does not acknowledge.” [1]
Friedrich Nietzsche made a similar point: 
“My objection against the whole of sociology in England and France remains that it knows from experience only the forms of social decay, and in all innocence takes its own instincts of decay as the norm of sociological value-judgements.” [2]
It is good to see a latter-day Aristotelian and the original Nietzschean in some agreement. It is not always a case of Aristotle or Nietzsche, particularly when the latter, by his still good instincts, forgot his own doctrine and spoke as though there were an actual and essential standard of goodness wherefrom it would not be mere personal whim or world-trivial opinion to speak of decay.

[1] Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (London: Duckworth, 2007), p.4.
[2] [“Mein Einwand gegen die ganze Sociologie in England und Frankreich bleibt, dass sie nur die Verfalls-Gebilde der Societät aus Erfahrung kennt und vollkommen unschuldig die eigenen Verfalls-Instinkte als Norm des sociologischen Werthurteils nimmt.”] Friedrich Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung, in Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd.6 (München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), “Streifzüge eines Unzeitgemässen”, §.37, p.138.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Forfeit. — “A genuine social organism can no longer be linked up with this ageing Europe; such has been forfeit since 1789.”

[“Einen wahren gesellschaftlichen Organismus knüpft man in dieses alternde Europa nicht mehr hinein; desgleichen ist seit Anno 1789 verscherzt worden.”] Jacob Burckhardt, Brief an Hermann Schauenburg, [vor dem 14.] September 1849, Briefe (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1929), p. 175.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Great Littleness. — There is no growth of culture without rest and settlement, and every culture worthy of the name begins in the little fields and gardens of social life, wherein the soils are tended with particular care, and wherein deep roots are allowed to form; and even though each little patch might begin delightfully simple and unsophisticated, out of each, and between them all, something grander may arise, which itself provides the grounds for still more cultivation and wild growth, and so it might go on until in each place there arises something sublime and immeasurable. Yet:—
“Present folly seeks the unity of nations and not the creation of a single man from the entire species, so be it; but in acquiring general capabilities, will not a whole set of private sentiments perish? Farewell the tenderness of the fireside; farewell delight in family; among all the beings white, yellow or black, claimed as your compatriots, you will be unable to throw yourself on a brother's breast. Was there nothing in that life of other days, nothing in that narrow space you gazed at from your ivy-framed window? Beyond your horizon you suspected unknown countries of which the bird of passage, the only voyager you saw in autumn, barely told you. It was happiness to think that the hills enclosing you would not vanish before your eyes; that they would surround your loves and friendships; that the sighing of night around your sanctuary would be the only sound to accompany your sleep; that the solitude of your soul would never be troubled, that you would always find your thoughts there, waiting for you, to take up again their familiar conversation. You knew where you were born; you knew where your grave would be; penetrating the forests you could say:
‘Fair trees that once saw my beginning,
Soon you will witness my end.’
“Man has no need to travel to become greater; he bears immensity within. The accents escaping from your breast are immeasurable and find an echo in thousands of other souls: those who lack the melody within themselves will demand it of the universe in vain. Sit on the trunk of a fallen tree in the depths of the woods; if in profound forgetfulness of yourself, in immobility, in silence, you fail to find the infinite, it is useless to wander the shores of the Ganges seeking it.” [1]
If men stay still awhile, they put down roots and draw into themselves the nourishment required for their flourishing; but a constant movement and an unceasing fuss is demanded of them, and they are led hither and thither in pursuit of — what: their own tails? Even those at odds with this restless industry and movement must on account of it become wanderers; but, for them, it is a search for something so simple as home.

[1] François de Chateaubriand, Mémoires d'Outre-tombe, tr. A.S. Kline, BkXLII:14:1, published online by A.S. Kline.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Something in Return. — It is a happy requital for those who play their part in scoffing at the idea of human importance that they can feel so important in doing so.
A Vibrant Corpse. — No aim strikes the latter-day European as more sinister, or is likely to fill him with more loathing, than that of the preservation of his own race, or just of its particular homelands and peoples. It seems to him the greatest taboo and the most forbidden sin — to him who revels in the breaking of taboos, so long as they are healthy; to him who scoffs at the forbiddance of sins, so long as they are to his pleasure! — and the pious observance of the defilement of his own race makes him feel washed of sin. At the passing, or the threat to the survival, of Bantu tribes, Tibetan customs, snow leopards, rare butterflies, elm-trees, and so forth, he can become justly regretful, and even spurred to action; but to the plight of his own race, customs, societies, and so forth, he is quite indifferent, and to any counter-measure, quite hostile. Has anything ever been observed that compares to it? Does it not show at least the withering of a survival-instinct, and perhaps even a diseased will to self-destruction, wherewith he is afflicted? Could it have been guessed even a hundred years ago that Europe would face its defilement and death in the most shameful and ignoble way? Certainly, great upheavals were felt to be coming, fire, blood, destruction; and come they did — but the pious acquiescence to the passing of Europe: could this have been imagined in quite the way that it is occurring? The latter-day European is even too weak to confront his sickness face-to-face. Just that itself would be a sign of healthiness in him. He must meet it as though it were a hopeful opportunity. The sickness of Europe is taken by its deadly microbes, its celebrants, to be a sign of health and a promise of a thriving — nay, “vibrant” — future; and so it is for them. Every sickness is a sign of health, that is to say, of the disease itself, and every corpse teems with life.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Safeguard. — “The heredity of the throne is the guarantee of all heredity and the safeguard of all inheritances.” [1] What hereditary lord would dare to scold the very ideas of hereditary right and inheritance as our public governors have done? If any were to do so by low words or high taxes, he would unwisely put himself in a precarious spot.

[1] Louis-Gabriel-Amboise de Bonald, “Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1817), in Critics of the Enlightenment: Readings in the French Counter-Revolutionary Tradition, tr. & ed., C.O. Blum (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2003), p.74.
A Self-Stuffing Animal. — “Fortune spoils, coddles, lulls, and isolates men, and peoples too; whereas misfortune keeps them awake, stirs, binds, and uplifts them.” [1] A life at odds with deadening conveniences and securities would have to be upheld to keep men on their toes, true blood in their veins, and thoughts in their heads, but it would never sell, not where so-called lifestyle is a commodity like everything else, glamour-packaged and deceit-promoted; and what does not sell makes no difference in our threepenny merchant-culture. A modernist could not choose to live a more noble or reasonable life. He has forgone the belief in reason and freewill. He has desire and utility instead. He desires to be fed and watered like a rare beast, history’s own prize-winning specimen and greatest exhibit, though he never thinks he might end up stuffed, and he sees no worth in anything that does not promise to bring still more fruits to his trough. Under the dominion of comfort-seeking, pleasure-questing, and thoroughgoing liberal drowsiness, man invents misfortunes wherefrom he might never recover, misfortunes which do not uplift but might ruin him utterly. One day he might beg for the old sufferings and misfortunes, if only he still had the mind for it. But, before then, would he have the strength of mind and will to refuse, even just once, yet another bite of poisoned fruit? It is strongly to be doubted. What is the nay-saying whisper of reason against the aye-saying roar of desire? — “To-day the bells and the bonfires express the violent passions of an overjoyed people, when to-morrow their own reeking blood must extinguish their flaming buildings. That thing for which we do most labour and pray, and for the happening whereof we are even transported with joy, is not seldom our utter destruction, and that speedily.” [2]

[1] [“Das Glück verzieht, verwöhnt, schläfert ein und isolirt die Menschen, wie die Völker; da hingegen das Unglück wach erhält, reitzt, bindet und erhebt.”] Adam Heinrich Müller, Die Elemente der Staatskunst, Erster Theil (Berlin: J.D. Sander, 1809), p.8.
[2] William Blundell, Crosby Records: A Cavalier’s Note Book, being Notes, Anecdotes, & Observations of William Blundell, of Crosby, Lancashire, Esquire, ed., T.E. Gibson (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1880), pp.130-1.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Other Powers. — “Of the various powers and faculties we possess, there are some which nature seems both to have planted and reared, so as to have left nothing to human industry. Such are the powers which we have in common with the brutes, and which are necessary to the preservation of the individual, or the continuance of the kind. There are other powers, of which nature hath only planted the seeds in our minds, but hath left the rearing of them to human culture. It is by the proper culture of these, that we are capable of all those improvements in intellectuals, in taste, and in morals, which exalt and dignify human nature; while, on the other hand, the neglect or perversion of them makes its degeneracy and corruption.”

Thomas Reid, An Enquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, ed. D.R. Brookes (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), I:II:21-30, p.13.
Radical Conservative Reaction. — All conservatism worthy of the name is radical. It is little but a name for something petty if it does not wish to preserve the roots of good and harmonious order against the mechanical rot of progressivism. [1] All reaction worthy of the name is likewise radical. Again it is little but such a name if it does not wish to uproot all those modern growths which threaten to overwhelm the very possibility of the true, the good, and the beautiful. And common to both is a strict concern for the quality of the soil.
The true historical upheavals are not those which astonish us by their grandeur and violence. The only important changes whence the renewal of civilisations results, affect ideas, conceptions, and beliefs. The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought. [2]
One looks upon not only the political, social, and economic phenomena of modern times, but also their deeper philosophical or metaphysical roots.
And it occasionally happens that a period in which one had, hitherto, been mainly looking for the coming to birth of new things, suddenly reveals itself as an epoch of fading and decay. [3]
Rotten at the root, working in accordance with a bestial appetite rather than the rational or noble will, working solely in the interests of political power or financial gain, or conserving and cultivating nothing higher than mechanical utility, our demotic regimes and their attendant ideologies have the power to persuade the vast majority of people of the evil of many things which stand in opposition to them, of all that is not rotten and corrosive, of all that sets bounds and cultivates higher things, fostering a war in moral terms against even truth, beauty, goodness, loyalty, trust, decency, honour, and so forth: in short, against anything that is not bestial or radically evil.
The destruction of the old world, as it begins to become visible with the French Revolution, and already even with the Renaissance, is like the atrophy of organic bonds, of nerves and arteries. When the process has come to an end, men of force appear; they sew artful threads and wires into the corpse and move it to more violent but also more grotesque political play. They themselves bear the character of puppets, of a shrill, vociferous, and often horrific cast. The new states have a life-sapping tendency. They can flourish only where there is still an inheritance. When that is used up, the hunger becomes unbearable: like Saturn, they devour their own children. To plot for other orders than those of 1789 is therefore pure survival-instinct. [4]
Against the vital spirit, the deadly-decadent spirit is at war.
Ich bin der Geist der stets verneint!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles was entsteht
Ist werth daß es zu Grunde geht;
Drum besser wär’s, daß nichts entstände.
So ist denn alles was ihr Sünde,
Zerstörung, kurz das Böse nennt,
Mein eigentliches Element. [5]
If it is a lost cause, then so be it. Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlaþ. [6] One must remain faithful to it, resist all demands to participate in the progressivistic ravages of the times, and, if need be, become metaphorically what some actually became after the Norman Conquest: silvatici, forest-dwellers. [7]
The essential thing is not to let oneself be impressed by the omnipotence and apparent triumph of the forces of the epoch. [8]
One is not to compromise one’s soul with the modern world. One is to make no Faustian bargain. If nothing avails against the spirit, then one must ride the tiger, as it were, and preserve oneself in internal exile.
[T]he spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and so many-headed in its incarnations that there seems nothing more to do than personally to refuse to worship any of the hydras’ heads. [9]
Nor should one throw in one’s lot with those others who call themselves conservatives but who serve the maintenance of progressivism. Whilst the progressives are out sowing decay in ever-new ground, these servant-conservatives are tending to the decadent growths of past seasons. And so it goes on with each season. But the reactionary-conservative does not wish to preserve just whatever happens to have been propagated or planted by the progressives of earlier generations, nor does he seek to preserve the status quo of liberaldom: he wishes to see it destroyed, root and branch. With the kind of conservatism that comes to accept and preserve the established depredation and deep-rooted foulness of progressivism, he is at odds; for, besides all else, he sees in it little more than faint-heartedness.

[1] On the question of whether there could be such a thing as radical conservatism, the ever-interesting Mr Dennis Mangan lends his consideration: “Radical Conservatism”, Mangan’s (weblog), 8th October 2009. Here, for my part, I am perhaps at semantic odds.
[2] Gustav Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1896), p.xv.
[3] Johan Huizinga, Preface to The Waning of the Middle Ages (London: Edward Arnold & Co., 1924), p.v.
[4] [“Der Zerstörung der alten Welt, wie sie mit der französischen Revolution und eigentlich schon mit der Renaissance sichtbar zu werden beginnt, gleicht dem Absterben der organischen Verbindungen, der Nerven und Arterien. Wenn der Prozeß zu Ende gelaufen ist, treten die Gewaltmenschen auf; sie ziehen künstliche Fäden und Drähte in den Leichnam und bewegen ihn zu heftigerem, aber zugleich groteskerem politischem Spiel. Sie selbst auch tragen diesen Charakter von Hampelmännern, den grellen, marktschreierischen und oft schauerlichen Zug. Die neuen Staaten haben eine zehlrende Tendenz. Sie können nur gedeihen, wo noch Erbteil vorhanden ist. Wenn das verbraucht ist, wird der Hunger unerträglich, sie fressen wie Saturn die eigenen Kinder auf. Auf andere Ordnungen zu sinnen als die von 1789 ist daher reiner Selbsterhaltungstrieb.”] Ernst Jünger, 18. August 1944, Strahlungen (Tübingen: Heliopolis-Verlag, 1949), p.550.
[5] [“I am the spirit that always negates! And rightly so; for everything that arises is fit to perish; therefore better were it that nothing should arise. Thus, all that you call sin, destruction — in a word, evil — is my proper element.”] Mephistopheles, in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: Erster Theil (Heilbronn: Verlag von Gebr. Henninger, 1886), ll.985-91, p.87.
[6] [“Mind shall be the sterner, heart the bolder, spirit the greater as our strength lessens.”] Byrhtnoth, in The Battle of Maldon, ll. 312-13. (One might say that it is the old world’s counter-principle to the modern world’s declaration that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.)
[7] Of course, in England, it has to be metaphorical anyway, since the forests are mostly gone.
[8] Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger, tr. J. Godwin & C. Fontana (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2003), p.10.
[9] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Amy Ronald, 16th November 1969, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. H. Carpenter (London: Harper Collins, 1995). p.402.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A New Fetish. — “Then all of a sudden . . . a number of impious creatures arrived on the scene, uttering the rankest blasphemies; these were ‘the Moderns’, who overturned the alters of the ancient gods. And behold! the word itself, the mere word modern, had suddenly become a sort of wonder-working shibboleth, a magic formula which robbed the past of all its power. . . . The past, with all its mighty dead, was set at naught. The great thing now was to feel the insolent rapture of youth, to drink deep of its vivifying spirit, to make the most of the day while the day lasted, though the night was bound to come. . . . A new superstition, a new fetish, came into being, and we have not rid ourselves of it even yet. Novelty, which in the nature of things must be perishable, fleeting, has assumed such overwhelming importance in our eyes, that, if it is absent, nothing else avails; if it is present, nothing else is needed. If we would escape the reproach of nullity, if we would avoid being objects of ridicule, if we would save ourselves from utter boredom, we have to be constantly more and more advanced, in art, in morals, in politics, in ideas, and now, such is our nature, all we care about, all that matters to us, is the shock of wonderment and surprise.” [1]

Not a barbarian in awe, but a mechanical philistine — that is what we have been creating: a detached element of our own technology.

[1] Paul Hazard, The European Mind 1680-1715, tr. J. Lewis May (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1964), pp. 46-7.