by Brett Stevens
Over the generations, a sense of dread has been building: the observation that — despite some things which have improved — our society is heading downward. Its organization, or the pattern of how it holds itself together, is fraying. It is the death of the West.
We all make fun of the old guys who rail about how in their day the steaks were redder and the whiskey sweeter, but perhaps those were merely symbols for an ongoing decay in quality. Quality is measured by the experience as a whole, and not particular items that seem brighter and newer than others.
Over at The Mad Monarchist a new article gives voice to concern about the collapse of the West:
We are at or are fast approaching the point of critical mass for western civilization…The internationalists have the world firmly in their grip and with the United States circling the drain, western civilization is going the same way. Of course, all monarchists know that the USA was never a pure example of western civilization, it has never had any of the high culture of Europe but that is to be expected as it is a branch rather than the tree itself.
…The leaders of the EU have emasculated the countries of Europe to empower their central EU government while also making sure that Europe itself is never significant again. They are all part of the same internationalist clique. They don’t want any European country to be great because that would detract from the European Union and they don’t really want Europe to be great because they have nothing but contempt for European culture, European history and western civilization in general. Some actively want to destroy it while others are just looking out for themselves and willingly go along with those who do want to destroy it to further their own interests.
He makes excellent points and the following notions are designed to harmonize with those, not contradict them.
We do not get to a state such as our present condition without first having lost track of our future. Future is tied to past; past shows us not only what worked and what did not, but also who we are and from that, where we should be going. But that past was rejected in favor of egalitarianism during The Enlightenment™. Egalitarianism states that all people are equal, which means that the individual — not culture, values, philosophy, heritage or social order — determines the future. We base our decisions not on what has worked, or what would be good, but what individuals want to do. This creates a transition to a facilitative society.
Facilitative societies have many problems, but the two largest are the need for control, and the passivity of the population. When each person does whatever they want, there is no balance in social order nor is there a central idea to which people “harmonize” or find themselves in resonance with and attempt to fulfill. Morality would be one example of this type of order. Control in turn creates passivity. Citizens are accustomed to doing whatever they want unless stopped, but also become familiar with correction by their ideological leaders. As a result, they do not act toward any purpose, but instead flit around and do nothing of import unless explicitly told to do otherwise. The far extreme of this is what happens in authoritarian societies where people refuse to act unless commanded because the risks of unauthorized action are too great, and the state will step in at some point and tell them what to do anyway. Like children of an overbearing parent, they wait for this correction and achieve nothing in the meantime.
Control-based societies become miserable places. As the 21st century has taught us, even when “free” and “tolerant” places they become tyrannical because those in power — or those who want to join them — must manufacture a constant series of ideological crises in order to keep motivating the population. A facilitative society has no objectives, therefore must style every change as a “war” or a defensive action. This self-pity mentality spreads to the population at large. Between the constant war for ideological clarity, and the general apathy of the population to everything else, decay results and the society plunges downward into a spiral of despair. Eventually it loses all social order and becomes a third-world style society, unable to organize itself to have public hygiene, rule of law, freedom from corruption and even social order itself.
The origin of this decay begins with egalitarianism (or “equality”) which is itself a form of individualism, or the demand by the individual that society support him in his choices without a corresponding investment by the individual in society. All of the subsidy states — socialism, communism, and even consumerism which is capitalism supported through low-return consumer purchases funded by state welfare programs — are based in this form of radical individualism. It comes about when societies become “bottom-heavy,” or have many individuals who know nothing about how to run a society who nonetheless demand participation in its decision-making. These individuals band together into a “Crowd,” and through a philosophy of Crowdism develop a sense of victimhood based in self-pity which spurs them to attack their society and convert it into a facilitative society.
Control then becomes required because facilitative societies are chaotic and individuals, acting on radical individualism, tend to externalize the costs of their actions to others. Conservatism arises as a resistance to this movement, but generally fails because its adherents are unable to articulate what they really need, which is an end to the facilitative society. Early experiments in liberalism in France and Russia showed how quickly revolutions turn to ideological enforcement, usually by inventing or discovering enemies, and from that to authoritarianism. Conservative experiments in using this force against liberalism, as seen in Italy and Germany, met with less than shining results because of the inherent control-tendencies of liberal society which prevented the restoration of organic culture.
Opposite the control-based facilitative society is the leadership-based society. This is part of what is called “tradition,” which is a way of viewing the world through both (a) realistic and (b) transcendental viewpoints. These aim to discover methods that work in the real world, but to point them toward “transcendentals” or eternal goals that can never be fully realized and thus can both harmonize and motivate a society without the war/victimhood narrative of egalitarian societies. In these societies, leaders do not “control” their population but actually lead it, meaning that they discover necessary tasks and keep people organized toward transcendental goals. Leadership societies have purpose, and as a result, in them people have roles in which they fulfill parts of the overall ongoing goal. Paul Woodruff refers to the basis of the glories of the past as “reverence,” or an awe and transcendental appreciation for our world, and this seems like an appropriate basis for the combination of strong cultural, religious and moral feeling that traditional societies have.
Perhaps the best definition of tradition comes from Aldous Huxley, who wrote The Perennial Philosophy to detail what is present in such societies. He outlines a mixture of religion and philosophy that serves as a principle of social order and personal order simultaneously:
More than twenty-five centuries have passed since that which has been called the Perennial Philosophy was first committed to writing; and in the course of those centuries it has found expression, now partial, now complete, now in this form, now in that, again and again. In Vedanta and Hebrew prophecy, in the Tao Teh King and the Platonic dialogues, in the Gospel according to St. John and Mahayana theology, in Plotinus and the Areopagite, among the Persian Sufis and the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance–the Perennial Philosophy has spoken almost all the languages of Asia and Europe and has made use of the terminology and traditions of every one of the higher religions. But under all this confusion of tongues and myths, of local histories and particularist doctrines, there remains a Highest Common Factor, which is the Perennial Philosophy in what may be called its chemically pure state. This final purity can never, of course, be expressed by any verbal statement of the philosophy, however undogmatic that statement may be, however deliberately syncretistic. The very fact that it is set down at a certain time by a certain writer, using this or that language, automatically imposes a certain sociological and personal bias on the doctrines so formulated. It is only the act of contemplation when words and even personality are transcended, that the pure state of the Perennial Philosophy can actually be known. The records left by those who have known it in this way make it abundantly clear that all of them, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Hebrew, Taoist, Christian, or Mohammedan, were attempting to describe the same essentially indescribable Fact.
The original scriptures of most religions are poetical and unsystematic. Theology, which generally takes the form of a reasoned commentary on the parables and aphorisms of the scriptures, tends to make its appearance at a later stage of religious history. The Bhagavad-Gita occupies an intermediate position between scripture and theology; for it combines the poetical qualities of the first with the clear-cut methodicalness of the second. The book may be described, writes Ananda K. Coomaraswamy in his admirable Hinduism and Buddhism, “as a compendium of the whole Vedic doctrine to be found in the earlier Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads, and being therefore the basis of all the later developments, it can be regarded as the focus of all Indian religion” is also one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the Perennial Philosophy ever to have been made. Hence its enduring value, not only for Indians, but for all mankind.
At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.
- The phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness–the world of things and animals and men and even gods–is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.
- Human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
- Man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
- Man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.
Tradition treats reality as fact and includes in that fact a philosophical and metaphysical exploration of the order of life. Julius Evola gave us a hint in “On the Secret of Degeneration”:
If we look at the secret of degeneration from the exclusively traditional point of view, it becomes even harder to solve it completely. It is then a matter of the division of all cultures into two main types. On the one hand there are the traditional cultures, whose principle is identical and unchangeable, despite all the differences evident on the surface. The axis of these cultures and the summit of their hierarchical order consists of metaphysical, supra-individual powers and actions, which serve to inform and justify everything that is merely human, temporal, subject to becoming and to “history.” On the other hand there is “modern culture,” which is actually the anti-tradition and which exhausts itself in a construction of purely human and earthly conditions and in the total development of these, in pursuit of a life entirely detached from the “higher world.”
In a traditional culture, all is viewed by its significance as ideal; in a modern culture, all is material. This does not limit the ideal to the metaphysical alone, because ideas like loyalty, values and morality come first before material convenience. The difference lies in the tendency of traditional cultures to view the significance of acts as if, in Kant’s words, they were to “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” The order of nature itself as an idea matters more than material fate or condition. Where a modern culture is pragmatic, a traditional culture views itself through the lens of purpose and in that a sense of the underlying informational order to the universe. When radical individualism takes over, and cultures view themselves through egalitarianism, the idea of individuals deferring to an invisible social order formed of honor, loyalty, duty, culture, values and heritage becomes impossible.
That outlook creates a transcendental effect on a society by which it sacralizes itself not as an end, but as a means to more of the sacred. Like the transcendentals “the good, the beautiful and the true,” a traditional culture aims for the principle of every act and aspect of being. These principles are more important than materiality because, in the view of traditional cultures, they create materiality. Whether this is atheistic or theistic matters little. A society can either idealize the patterns of reality itself, or its own people, and the latter path leads to decay and ruin. On a simple level, when principles such as law, justice, integrity and honor are lost, corruption reigns. On a greater level, when principles such as morality are placed first, it becomes impossible for wholesale abuses in which damages of individual acts are socialized to the group to become valid. Tradition is the opposite of utilitarianism, which argues from what a group feels — statistically, or by majority — benefits them as individuals. As the West has turned from this traditional view, it has plunged into slow but inexorable decline.
While we search today for answers, all of our methods resemble symptomatic or palliative treatment. That is: we do not believe we can strike at the core of our decay, and instead apply intermediates. To reverse our decline, we must first — as Kant reminds us — choose to be good. We must target the transcendentals. With a little thought and some reading of history, we can see that these mandate a society quite unlike our own: ruled by an aristocracy, united by heritage and culture, governed not by laws but by principles and, perhaps most importantly, one that has reverence for life and the fact that there are more important things than convenience and survival. The answer is not as simple as a theocracy, or nationalism, or even cultural reign, but includes all of the above. We must restore our identity as the West not just as a physical group, but as a principle: those who do what is right, no matter how inconvenient, and rise accordingly.