mardi, 01 février 2011

Modern War as Purge of the Unwanted

Modern War as Purge of the Unwanted

Sometimes what goes on in international politics these days seems incredibly puzzling. If you look at contemporary wars as an example it seems that the “bad guys” are fighting other “bad guys”, while both sides are claiming to be fighting for a righteous cause. In this article I will attempt to give an explanation as to what the underlying reason for these wars is.

Modern War & Ideology.

Most of the readers of this blog are aware of the fact that there were no “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq and that the American government knew it before invading Iraq. The so-called weapons were just a pretext. They were part of the rhetoric about protecting the ‘free world’ (especially the United States) from the ‘evil dictator’, Saddam Hussein, who could ‘threaten our freedom’ to consume what we like in unlimited quantities and thus our very ‘way of life’. Thus, Mr. Saddam was declared part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ and removed by the righteous forces of ‘God’s own country’. The same thing happened in Afghanistan and may or may not happen in Iran.

If we asked the Taliban why they are fighting the Americans, or if we asked Mr. Ahmadinejad why he is so hostile towards them, then I am sure they would say that the Americans are the actual axis of evil (or the “big Satan”), manipulating their allies (the “small Satan”) into fighting for them for an unrighteous cause.

Superficially it seems that there are conflicting views and ideologies causing conflicts and wars.

Ideology: Real or Pretext?

On one level this is certainly correct. But I think most of the readers of this blog will agree with me that neither side really is righteous by any real standard. It is probably not necessary to discuss the American situation in detail save to say that its government is among the most degraded in the world, being habituated as it is to lies, manipulation, double-standards, cultural imperialism, and deep hypocrisy. The above example concerning ‘weapons of mass destruction’ is sufficient to show that.

What about Iran and the others? Are they righteous? I wish they were, but it really seems doubtful. Saddam was just a petty old-fashioned megalomaniac dictator – nothing righteous about him. The Taliban? Well, in my understanding genuine religious governments (for the most part even Islamic ones) were, in the ancient world, always rather liberal. The reason is that the rules of a religion are followed due to cultural conditioning – people follow the tenets of religion because they were brought up with them and because the rest of their family and society around them do. The culture – not external force – was what maintained the sanctity, decency and morality of traditional, religious societies. It was therefore never (or rarely) necessary in Islamic societies to forbid men from shaving or to collapse walls on top of barbers, to shoot or harass girls studying in primary school or dismember women who chose to wear jeans (the last example, to be fair to the Taliban, is from Iraq). Then there is the fact that the rules the Taliban are enforcing are almost certainly not genuinely Islamic. So the Taliban cannot be said to be righteous.

The Islamic Republic? This is probably the one with the most legitimate claim to being a righteous government. On the face of it they have a semi-traditional political system, where the clerics supervise the politicians and make sure all law is within the purview of Islamic teachings. But in practice in Iran’s Islamic teachings are often pushed on a partially unwilling population in a forceful manner – often leading the teachings to be followed in an external, ritualistic way by people who by mentality are modern and would not have cared for tradition if not for state enforcement. This enforced conformity was amply demonstrated with the latest rigged elections and the way demonstrators were brutally arrested, tortured, and even killed. It’s not really that the Iranian opposition is less Islamic than the current conservative government. So if the present conservative, Revolutionary Guard-led government were really concerned about Islam (rather than their own interests) why would they cling to power so desperately? So, even if Iran is better than the others I still think they are at most only 50% righteous.

In conclusion, one could say that although the different parties accuse each other of being unrighteous and use some ideology to justify their war they fall short of the standards they purport to be setting themselves. The whole thing appears to be nothing more than a simple struggle between power-hungry men with big words and big egos but no sense of ‘practice what you preach’.

The Bhagavat Explanation

So, what does this all mean? The ‘bad guys’ are fighting the ‘bad guys’. But what is the underlying reason for it, other than ideological differences? This Srimad Bhagavatam verse, commenting on the battle of Kurukshetra, gives an answer:

“The Lord [Sri Krishna] was pacified after killing those kings who were burdensome to the earth. They were puffed up with their military strength, their horses, elephants, chariots, infantry, etc. He Himself was not a party in the fight. He simply created hostility between the powerful administrators and they fought amongst themselves. He was like the wind which causes friction between bamboos and so sparks a fire.”

In the purport to this verse Srila Prabhupada comments:

“He does not favor either of the unwanted administrators but by His potential power He creates hostility between such unwanted administrators as the air creates fire in the forest by the friction of the bamboos. The fire in the forest takes place automatically by the force of the air and similarly the hostility between different groups of politicians take place by the unseen design of the Lord. The unwanted administrators puffed up by false power and military strength thus become engaged in fighting amongst themselves over ideological conflicts and so exhaust themselves of all powers.”

The purport goes on to explain that the materialistic politicians of today are “the lowest of mankind” because they, being materialistic “fools of the first order” and having a “demoniac mentality”, do not take interest in the “supreme science”. Their interest is limited to things which are temporary and “end with the end of the material body”. (His Divine Grace, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 1, Chapter 11, Text 34.)

What does this mean? Since all the worlds’ governments have been corrupted by either the demoniac spirit of democracy or some brutal dictator dressed as a saint there are no righteous governments in existence today. Why do they go to war? By the arrangement of Sri Krishna, who causes friction among un-aryan leaders to wear them down through war. Thus, modern war is a manifestation of Krishna’s divine mercy, by which He kills the unrighteous and protects “the sane portion of humanity” for the eventual re-establishment of dharma.

The Eldritch Evola

The Eldritch Evola

James J. O'Meara


And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom. — E. A. Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”

Old Castro remembered bits of hideous legend that paled the speculations of theosophists and made man and the world seem recent and transient indeed. There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he said the deathless Chinamen had told him, were still be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity. — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival . . . a survival of a hugely remote period when . . . consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity . . . forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all sorts and kinds . . . — Algernon Blackwood

A little while ago, I decided to use up more of my enforced leisure by reading Part Two of Baron Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World, or at least the first few chapters, with an eye towards once and for all getting a straight picture of the various ‘ages’ and ‘races’ that constitute his take on Tradition, filtering Guénon’s model through the more historically oriented work of Wirth and Co. (See Evola’s “My Explorations of Origins and Tradition” in his The Path of Cinnabar.)

Damned if I didn’t start coming all over with fear and dread, and not just in my attic (if I had one), not unlike those that prevented me from reading completely through Guénon’s Reign of Quantity until several false starts over 25 years.

This time I decided to try and analyze what this dread consisted in, and I think I’ve got it:

By the time one reaches the farthest limits of recorded, or even archeologically validated history, the worst has already happened, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And is this not indeed the theme of “horror” fiction?

Now, I’ve never paid attention to the occasional ‘smart’ comments about Traditionalism as reading like “science fiction,” based largely on supposed borrowing from Theosophy. In fact, I agree with this guy, who makes a modus tollens out of the mockers’ modus ponens:

What is one to do then with a writer of foresight, whose literacy and education remain indubitable, who nevertheless serves up his social and political analysis, however trenchant it is, in the context of an alternate history, the details of which resemble the background of story by Lord Dunsany or Clark Ashton Smith? I am strongly tempted to answer my own question in this way: That perhaps we should begin by reassessing Dunsany and Smith, especially Smith, whose tales of decadent remnant-societies — half-ruined, eroticized, brooding over a shored-up luxuriance, and succumbing to momentary appetite with fatalistic abandon — speak with powerful intuition to our actual circumstances. I do not mean to say, however, that Evola is only metaphorically true, as though his work, like Smith’s, were fiction. I mean that Evola is truly true, on the order of one of Plato’s “True Myths,” no matter how much his truth disconcerts us. — Thomas F. Bertonneau, “Against Nihilism: Julius Evola’s ‘Traditionalist’ Critique of Modernity

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read more than one C. A. S. story, and that years ago in some Lovecraft Mythos anthology, but I’m more inclined anyway to take this back to the Master himself, Lovecraft. How much does Lovecraft resemble Evola, and moreover, is this superficial, or is there a reason?

The answer may lie here:

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.– H. P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

In a 1927 letter to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, Lovecraft writes: “I consider the touch of cosmic outsideness–of dim, shadowy non-terrestrial hints–to be the characteristic feature of my writing.”

Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

Lovecraft takes fear as his theme, and he knows that the greatest fear is inspired not by ghoulies and gore but by the dread of nameless eons. Nameless eons are the stock in trade of Traditionalist cyclical cosmology.

It’s no surprise that today’s Prince of Nihilism gets it:

The human race will disappear. Other races will appear and disappear in turn. The sky will become icy and void, pierced by the feeble light of half-dead stars. Which will also disappear. Everything will disappear. — Michel Houellebecq, H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (1999).

But surely Evola and Co. are not frivolous entertainers, but serious initiates. If Lovecraft seeks to inspire fear, does Evola, and if so, how is that connected to initiation?

We could try this: if Evola inspires new respect for the Lovecraftians, then what if we read Lovecraft as if he were Evola?

It was Alisdair Clarke who called my attention to Polaria: The Gift of the White Stone by W. H. Muller. I’ve never seen more than a couple other references to it (such as this amused and bemused review by one Julianus here) and copies of the barely 200 page paperback seem to have become quite rare, fetching over $200.00 on Amazon.

Muller takes off, with all apparent sincerity, from the preposterous thesis that H. P. Lovecraft “was a Practicing Occultist and that the Lovecraft Circle was a group of High Adepts,” despite overwhelming evidence, found in literally dozens of volumes of letters and innumerable personal reminiscences, to say nothing of S. T. Joshi’s many works, of being a cast-iron materialist of the village atheist ilk. As Julianus says:

The book itself is a Vast Muddle of Mystical Verbiage that draws on Sufism, Theosophy, Rene Guenon, Robert Graves, and others to create a bizarre Syncretic Symbolism from “Phonetic Encodings” in Lovecraft’s work. The Linguistic Fog is comparable only to the work of Kenneth Grant, and it is truly strange that Herr Muller nowhere acknowledges his debt to the Typhonian Titan.

Actually, in its preposterous thesis defended with po-faced sincerity by means of vast scholarship and word and letter mumbo-jumbo, as well as its overall atmosphere of occult doom, I was more put in mind of such works of Ariosophic fascism as Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels’ Theozoology.

Never the less, there are some good bits, relevant to our theme; if Lovecraft‘s tales can be given an initiatic spin, then the connection with Evola becomes clearer:

Lovecraft cloaked his profound esoteric insight in an imagery of horror. . . . Thus it was given a subtle but clear initiatory nature. Many feel attracted by Lovecraft’s forceful imagery, but only a very few know the reason. Only those with a preparedness and already drawn toward the Threshold would be ready to delve into Lovecraft’s work and recover from its depths the eonian Polar message.

Remember, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”

For Fear read “initiation via experiencing the death of the ego and its world.”

Both ego-less animal existence and man’s ego, which is but matrical sensory cognition, originate in the same Matrix of Dream. This must be transcended. It is Polar insight, the inward-looking way that leads out of this cyclic Matrix. However, the man’s ego, being the man-god, fears mystical dissolution, because it fears its “death”. Only if “death” is realized as illusion by experiencing it mystically in life, [perhaps by reading some 'weird tales'] can essencification and spiritual unity be achieved. The ego fears “death” because it does not know that there is none. ‘Fear’ is the sword the ego wields, yet its iron melts away in the black heat of Wisdom.

In Lovecraft’s stories the elements of decay and death prevail. These are the emotional patterns of one approaching the seventh plane of the Threshold. The transformative Way across the Bridge of Fog, from animal-man to god-man, is painful. Everyone claiming the contrary, is speaking with a Minotaurian voice. [Man-animals? Ruh-roh, here comes that Theozoology again!]

The Way leads through the Tomb of the Individual toward the Emergence of the Entity. The same is applicable to humanity. Saturn is throwing its charnel light toward this planet. But the Pilgrim must know that Saturn is but the Threshold, not the Destination. — W. H. Muller, Polaria, p.113

“The Minotaurian voice that Muller refers to is the voice that asserts the supremacy of the ego. It is the animal-man trapped in the labyrinth of ordinary, uninspired consciousness.” — A. Clarke, “Ego Death, Destiny and Serpents in Germanic Mythology

Both Evola and Lovecraft also drew the same or similar immediate political conclusions, both under the influence of cycles, those of Guénon and Spengler, respectively:

Lovecraft saw cultural decline as a slow process that spans 500 to 1000 years. He sought a system that could overcome the cyclical laws of decay, which was also the motivation of Fascism. Lovecraft believed it was possible to re-establish a new “equilibrium” over the course of 50 to 100 years, stating: “There is no need of worrying about civilization so long as the language and the general art tradition survives.” — Kerry Bolton, “Lovecraft’s Fascism

(For the Fascist theme of regeneration or palingenesis, see Roger Griffin’s Modernism and Fascism, reviewed here by Alisdair Clarke.)

Continuing that somewhat optimistic note, perhaps even ego death may not be so bad; In “Calling Cthulhu,” Erik Davis described the then-nascent cult of pop-Cthulhu, and noted that Lovecraft’s “dread” and “horror” seemed to belong to a 19th century materialist confronting vast new vistas opened up by science, not unlike those opened by drugs; as he describes it in a more recent article on Cthulu porn:

In this tangy bon-bon of nihilistic materialism, Lovecraft anticipates a peculiarly modern experience of dread, one conjured not by irrational fears of the dark but rather by the speculative realism of reason itself, staring into the cosmic void. . . . This terror before the empty and ultimately unknowable universe of scientific materialism is what gives the cosmic edge to the cosmic horror that Lovecraft, more than any other writer, injected into the modern imagination (though props must be given up as well to Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, and, in the closing chapters of The Time Machine at least, H. G. Wells). While many secular people proclaim an almost childlike wonder at the mind-melting prospect of the incomprehensibly vast universe sketched out by astrophysics and bodied forth by doctored Hubble shots, Lovecraft would say that we have not really swallowed the implication of this inhuman immensity—that we have not, in other words, correlated our contents. — Erik Davis, “Cthulhu is not cute!”

By contrast, we in the 20th (now 21st) century have actually come to welcome such derangement of the senses, like teenagers love glue huffing.

This seems discount the value of the fear and terror aspect itself, but it’s more soundly based on the real Lovecraft, cowering in his attic, than the “alchemical master” postulated by Muller.

But maybe the kids do have something to teach us:

For those who need a quick refresher:

Editor’s Note: For more imaginative Lovecraft tributes and parodies, see Under Vhoorl’s Shadow: http://www.3×

lundi, 31 janvier 2011

Portrait of Julius Evola - Alexander Slavros

Portrait of Julius Evola by Alexander Slavros


00:10 Publié dans art, Traditions | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : peinture, art, tradition, traditionalisme, evola, italie | | | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

La religione solare nell'impero romano

La religione solare nell’impero romano

Autore: Giovanni Pellegrino


In questo articolo prenderemo in considerazione l’importanza rivestita dalla religione solare nell’impero romano a partire dall’introduzione del culto solare da parte di Elagabalo, avvenuta nel 218.

Nel III ancor più nel IV secolo nell’universo pagano romano esistevano diverse correnti di pensiero in assoluto contrasto tra di loro. Come abbiamo messo in evidenza in due nostri libri, ovvero Il neopaganesimo nella società moderna ed Il ritorno del paganesimo questa conflittualità esistente nel mondo pagano nell’età imperiale favorì senza dubbio la vittoria del cristianesimo sul paganesimo. Senza dubbio la causa più importante che determinò nell’universo pagano romano la formazione di tali correnti in aperto conflitto tra loro fu la crisi della religione politeistica tradizionale.

Premesso ciò torniamo ad occuparci della religione del “Sol Invictus” che era una divinità originaria dell’Oriente particolarmente venerata in Siria: nel III e nel IV secolo diverse religioni orientali fecero il loro ingresso nell’impero romano. La religione solare fu introdotta a Roma nel 218 dal giovanissimo imperatore Elagabalo che decise che il dio solare, venerato nella sua patria, diventasse una divinità onnipotente alla quale avrebbero dovuto assoggettarsi tutti gli altri dei della tradizionale religione romana, ivi compreso Giove. Il tentativo di Elagabalo, già di per se stesso prematuro ed anacronistico, venne inoltre condotto senza nessuna prudenza e senza il minimo rispetto della mentalità e dei costumi socio-religiosi romani. Per tali ragioni esso causò una violenta reazione nell’impero, in quanto profanava i simboli più sacri della tradizione religiosa romana.

Alla fine i romani eliminarono in poco tempo sia l’imperatore Elagabalo sia il suo dio solare di origine siriana. Tale reazione del popolo romano indusse il successore di Elagabalo, ovvero suo cugino Alessandro, a tralasciare in tutto il territorio dell’impero qualsiasi rito che riguardasse la divinità solare, sebbene questa avesse grande importanza presso tutti i membri della famiglia imperiale.

Tuttavia, poco dopo nel paganesimo orientale ebbe grande vigore la riflessione teologica sulla divinità solare. La nuova teologia solare divenne ancora più raffinata a partire dalla metà del III secolo, ricollegandosi a concezioni sempre più chiaramente monoteizzanti. Nella nuova teologia solare Helios acquistò la sua definitiva dimensione, che rimarrà tale anche nel tardo paganesimo. In tali riflessioni la divinità solare era sempre la più importante delle divinità, ma veniva subordinata all’Uno, la somma divinità dei filosofi neoplatonici, che affidava a Helios, come ad un demiurgo, il controllo di tutte le parti dell’universo.

La creazione teologica di un principio universale di tipo monoteizzante suscitò grande interesse nella società dell’epoca. Infatti la teologia solare non solo interpretava in maniera efficace sul piano religioso molte delle più importanti esigenze di quel periodo storico ma diventava anche causa di rilevanti conseguenze in ambito politico, in un’era storica nella quale la dimensione religiosa e quella politica erano strettamente collegate. In questo periodo della storia dell’impero romano la già avvenuta trasformazione dello stato romano in una moltitudine di popoli differenti tra loro per costumi, tradizioni, sistemi politici provocò come importantissima conseguenza sul piano politico una forte conflittualità tra imperatore e senato: la romanizzazione spesso poco efficace e superficiale delle province di recente conquista faceva sì che l’impero dovesse temere non solo il conflitto con i nemici esterni ma anche e soprattutto il conflitto permanente che si sviluppava all’interno dei territori dell’impero.

Considerata sotto questo aspetto, la crisi economica e sociale del terzo secolo fu in gran parte conseguenza dello scontro tra due opposte ideologie, l’una conservatrice tendente a restaurare nell’impero i valori tradizionali della “romanitas”, l’altra modernizzante tendente a dare importanza nell’impero romano a tradizioni religiose, sociali, politiche e culturali che erano in aperto conflitto con gli ideali della romanizzazione. Questo conflitto ideologico -culturale ebbe notevoli conseguenze sul piano politico poiché secondo l’ideologia conservatrice l’imperatore doveva essere scelto secondo il principio dell’adozione del migliore mentre secondo l’altra ideologia l’imperatore doveva essere scelto secondo i criteri di una stabile monarchia ereditaria.

Questo conflitto ideologico, culturale e politico divenne particolarmente forte dopo l’età di Marco Aurelio. Dopo il regno di tale imperatore entrò in crisi il principio dell’adozione del migliore e si affermò sempre più il principio della monarchia ereditaria, che presentava maggiori garanzie di stabilità e continuità rispetto all’altro principio. Anche negli ambienti intellettuali pagani si affermò sempre più il principio della monarchia ereditaria e si comprese che tale ideale politico poteva affermarsi con maggiore facilità se avesse avuto il supporto di una religione adatta a tale scopo. Proprio la religione solare venne considerata negli ambienti intellettuali pagani la più adatta a sostenere questo nuovo tipo di ideologia politica. In sintesi l’imperatore veniva considerato come una persona che godeva dell’appoggio del dio solare, che forniva il suo appoggio anche a tutti i membri della famiglia imperiale. Prendendo le mosse dalle concezioni astrologiche dominanti in quel periodo storico, la religione solare divenne un ottimo supporto per la monarchia ereditaria: tali concezioni astrologiche partivano dal presupposto che le anime preesistenti nell’empireo, allorquando si abbassavano verso la Terra per animare i corpi cui erano destinate, attraversavano la sfera dei pianeti e ne ricevevano determinate qualità. Partendo da tali concezioni astrologiche si affermò la convinzione che il Sole, re degli astri, era egli stesso il padrone del destino degli imperatori, poiché Helios dava a quelle persone che aveva scelto come imperatori la virtù dell’invincibilità, e inoltre li assisteva continuamente nella loro opera di governo proprio come un compagno ed un protettore personale. L’imperatore era perciò legato ad Helios da un rapporto di intima comunione e ne costituiva in qualche modo l’incarnazione sulla Terra: egli era pertanto imperatore per diritto di nascita, perché fin dalla sua venuta al mondo gli astri lo avevano destinato a diventare imperatore (si noti come il determinismo astrologico giocava un ruolo importantissimo nella religione solare non solo per l’imperatore ma per tutti gli esseri umani dal più potente al più umile). L’imperatore, che secondo la religione solare era disceso dal cielo prima di diventare quello che era, dopo la morte risaliva in cielo per vivere in eterno con gli dei; inoltre molti teologi della religione solare sostenevano che l’imperatore dopo la morte fosse portato in cielo dal Sole in persona nella sua quadriga risplendente.

Da quanto abbiamo detto appare evidente che la religione solare e le teorie politiche ad essa collegate davano una giustificazione religiosa al crescente assolutismo degli imperatori romani, ragion per cui molti di essi vennero attratti da tale religione. Per fare un esempio, nella seconda metà del III secolo l’imperatore Gallieno volle che venisse collocata a Roma una statua gigantesca del dio Helios.

Tuttavia fu soprattutto alcuni anni più tardi che il culto del “Sol Invictus” rivestì un ruolo importantissimo a Roma all’epoca degli imperatori illirici. Essi ritennero la religione solare per i suoi stessi intrinseci caratteri il supporto più efficace della monarchia ereditaria che volevano instaurare. Dobbiamo dire che dal punto di vista storico-sociale e politico tali imperatori restaurarono l’unità politica e militare dell’impero romano ed inoltre riuscirono a garantire la pace sociale promuovendo la conciliazione tra le necessità economiche delle varie classi. La religione solare raggiunse il suo apogeo nell’impero romano nel 274 quando Aureliano proclamò il “Deus Sol Invictus” la divinità ufficiale dell’impero e in suo onore costruì a Roma un tempio di straordinaria bellezza, al cui servizio fu preposto un apposito collegio di sacerdoti che presero il nome di “pontifices Dei Solis”. Inoltre molti storici sostengono che in quel periodo la religione solare era ufficialmente imposta ai soldati romani nonché ai capi delle legioni.

Anche i successori di Aureliano continuarono a proteggere ed appoggiare la religione solare. Tuttavia le cose cambiarono radicalmente quando salì al trono Diocleziano. Infatti tale imperatore si prepose come scopo principale del suo regno la restaurazione della romanitas. Nell’ambito di tale restaurazione Diocleziano attribuì grande importanza alla religione tradizionale romana. Diocleziano attribuì grande importanza al culto delle divinità classiche quali Marte, Mercurio, Pallade, Giove ed Ercole. Egli inoltre perseguitò con grande durezza i cristiani, ritenendoli dei pericolosi nemici degli ideali e della religione tradizionale del popolo romano. Per questi motivi la persecuzione voluta da Diocleziano fu una delle più dure della storia del cristianesimo: moltissimi cristiani vennero uccisi, a cominciare da quelli che rivestivano ruoli importanti nell’impero.

Diocleziano costituì anche un sistema di governo che prese il nome di tetrarchia, nel quale il potere sovrano era affidato a quattro persone, ovvero due Augusti e due Cesari. In tale sistema di governo la successione veniva assicurata non per diritto di nascita ma attraverso il tradizionale sistema dell’adozione del migliore. Da quanto abbiamo detto è facile comprendere che l’impero di Diocleziano trovava il suo fondamento etico, politico e religioso non nella religione solare ma nelle divinità della religione tradizionale romana. Tuttavia tutti gli sforzi di Diocleziano di restaurare la romanitas e di far ritornare l’impero romano ai suoi antichi splendori fallirono, tanto che Diocleziano si ritirò amareggiato e deluso a vita privata e non ne volle più sapere di riprendere il suo posto nella tetrarchia.

Dopo il ritiro di Diocleziano dalla scena politica romana ricominciarono le guerre civili originate dai conflitti tra i tetrarchi ed il principio dell’ereditarietà del potere imperiale tornò ad affermarsi e con esso tornò in auge la religione solare. Costantino in gioventù fu un fervente adepto della religione solare, anche perché suo padre, verso il quale il futuro imperatore provò sempre un’ammirazione assoluta ed incondizionata, era a sua volta un convinto adepto del dio Helios. Nella biografia di Costantino scritta da un autore anonimo si sostiene che nel 310 a Costantino sarebbe apparso il dio solare mentre il futuro imperatore era intento a pregare in Gallia in un tempio dedicato alla divinità solare.

Molto complessa da interpretare e da comprendere è la politica religiosa instaurata da Costantino dopo la sua conversione al cristianesimo (Costantino abbandonò la religione solare e si convertì al cristianesimo poiché prima della battaglia di Ponte Milvio, nella quale egli sconfisse Massenzio, gli apparve in cielo una croce. Costantino ordinò che la croce fosse posta sullo scudo di tutti i suoi soldati, in quanto era convinto che in tal modo avrebbe sconfitto Massenzio, conquistando il potere imperiale. Dopo aver sconfitto Massenzio Costantino si convertì al cristianesimo). Tuttavia nessuno può negare che la politica religiosa di Costantino fu dominata dal sincretismo religioso, non solo dopo la vittoria di Ponte Milvio su Massenzio, ma anche dopo che Costantino sconfisse Licinio diventando l’unico imperatore romano (mentre in precedenza Costantino governava la parte occidentale dell’impero e Licinio quella orientale).

Gli storici si sono chiesti come è possibile spiegare il persistente sincretismo religioso di Costantino, pur considerandone sincera la conversione al cristianesimo. A nostro avviso è possibile solo se si tiene presente che la maggior parte dei sudditi di Costantino erano pagani, mentre i cristiani costituivano una minoranza nella popolazione dell’impero. Inoltre i cristiani erano una minoranza quasi totalmente incapace di gestire il potere, poiché Diocleziano, come detto in precedenza, aveva fatto uccidere la maggior parte dei cristiani che avevano qualsiasi tipo di potere.

Nella parte finale di questo articolo cercheremo di dimostrare due cose: in primo luogo che non è corretto sostenere che Costantino si sia convertito al cristianesimo per un puro calcolo politico (in tal caso Costantino dovrebbe essere considerato un politico molto scadente, cosa molto lontana dalla realtà); in secondo luogo che per salvare la vita e il trono Costantino non poteva far altro che una politica religiosa imperniata sul sincretismo, poiché la maggioranza dei suoi sudditi erano adepti o della religione solare o della religione tradizionale romana politeistica, e la scelta del sincretismo fu quindi dovuta a un calcolo politico.

La scelta di Costantino di convertirsi alla religione cristiana non fu calcolo politico per almeno due ragioni. In primo luogo i cristiani erano una minoranza della popolazione dell’impero romano (secondo la maggior parte degli storici costituivano poco meno del 10% della popolazione dell’impero), e per di più quasi totalmente priva di uomini dotati di potere; in secondo luogo Costantino non avrebbe abbandonato la religione solare per un puro calcolo politico, anche per rispetto della memoria di suo padre Costanzo Cloro, il quale non solo era un convinto adepto della religione solare ma aveva più volte invitato Costantino a non abbandonare mai il dio Helios; e dopo la morte eroica di Costanzo Cloro in Britannia l’ammirazione di Costantino verso il padre era aumentata considerevolmente.

Riteniamo opportuno dire qualcosa su Costanzo Cloro che deve essere considerato un buon generale ed un valente uomo politico. Egli rivestì il ruolo di Cesare nella tetrarchia di Diocleziano, poi dopo l’abdicazione di Diocleziano e Massimiano divenne Augusto insieme con Galerio. Costanzo Cloro dimostrò di essere un valoroso condottiero in quanto combatté diverse battaglie per difendere i confini dell’impero. Morì eroicamente in battaglia in Britannia dove si era recato per guidare una spedizione romana contro gli abitanti di quella provincia dell’impero.

Per quanto riguarda la decisione di Costantino di adottare una politica religiosa basata sul sincretismo dobbiamo dire che si trattò di un calcolo politico molto intelligente ed anche inevitabile. Dobbiamo tenere presente che al tempo di Costantino la maggior parte di coloro che facevano parte degli ambienti politici, militari ed intellettuali dell’impero romano erano adepti della religione solare, mentre tra le masse popolari e il proletariato erano prevalenti gli adepti della religione romana tradizionale. Se Costantino si fosse posto in contrasto contro la religione solare si sarebbe messo contro i suoi stessi soldati che lo ammiravano in maniera incondizionata, non solo perché erano in maggioranza adepti del dio Helios, ma anche perché erano stati in gran parte agli ordini di Costanzo Cloro.

D’altra parte se Costantino avesse dimostrato pubblicamente di disprezzare la tradizionale religione romana si sarebbe attirato l’odio delle masse popolari, a quel tempo molto turbolente e frustrate. Di conseguenza Costantino praticò un evidentissimo sincretismo religioso adottando simboli e comportamenti in linea a volte con la religione solare e a volte con la religione tradizionale romana. Inoltre pur essendosi convertito al cristianesimo nel 312 non si fece mai battezzare se non quando si trovava già sul letto di morte gravemente ammalato.

Dopo Costantino i suoi successori praticarono una politica religiosa sempre più filocristiana ed ostile al paganesimo fino a che la religione cristiana divenne la religione ufficiale dell’impero romano. Al declino progressivo del paganesimo non sfuggì neanche la religione solare, che divenne sempre meno importante anche negli ambienti dove aveva esercitato una notevole influenza al tempo di Costantino.

Chiudiamo questo articolo mettendo in evidenza che il paganesimo nel V secolo era quasi totalmente sparito negli ambienti urbani mentre continuava ad essere praticato negli ambienti rurali dove riti come la lustratio finalizzata ad aumentare la fertilità dei campi erano considerati così importanti dalla maggior parte dei contadini che a volte accadde che i cristiani che si rifiutavano di partecipare a tale rito subissero il martirio anche nel V secolo e all’inizio del VI secolo, come attestano alcune iscrizioni trovate in varie province dell’impero.

* * *

Riferimenti bibliografici
G. Pellegrino, Il neopaganesimo nella società moderna, Edisud, Salerno, 2000.
G. Pellegrino, Il ritorno del paganesimo, New Grafic Service, Salerno, 2004.
M. Sordi, L’Impero Romano, Laterza, Bari-Roma, 2003.

The Warrior & the City

The Warrior & the City

Dominique Venner


Translated by Greg Johnson

Hoplite_Armour.jpgIn 1814, at the end of the Napoleonic wars, Benjamin Constant wrote with relief: “We have arrived at the age of commerce, the age that must necessarily replace that of war, as the age of war necessarily had to precede it.” Naïve Benjamin! He took up the very widespread idea of indefinite progress supporting the advent of peace between men and nations.

The age of soft commerce replacing that of war . . . We know what the future made of that prophecy! The age of commerce was imposed, certainly, but by multiplying wars. Under the influence of commerce, science, and industry—in other words “progress”—wars even took on monstrous proportions that nobody could have imagined.

There was, however, some truth in Constant’s false forecast. If the wars continued and even thrived, on the other hand, the figure of the warrior lost his social prestige to the profit of the dubious figure of the tradesman. This is the new age in which we still live, for the time being.

The figure of the warrior was dethroned, and yet the institution of the military has endured more than any other in Europe after 1814. It has endured from the time of the Iliad—thirty centuries—while transforming, adapting to all changes in ages, war, societies, and political regimes, but still preserving its essence, which is the religion of pride, duty, and courage. This permanence in change is comparable only to that of another imposing institution, the Church (or the churches). The reader is shocked. A surprising comparison! And yet . . .

What is the army since Antiquity? It is a quasi-religious institution, with its own history, heroes, rules, and rites. A very old institution, older even than the Church, born from a need as old as humanity, and which is nowhere near ceasing. Among Europeans, it was born from a spirit that is specific to them and which—unlike the Chinese tradition, for example—makes war a value in itself. In other words, it was born from a civic religion arising from war, whose essence, in a word, is admiration for courage in the face of death.

This religion can be defined as that of the city in the Greek or Roman sense of the word. In more modern language, it is a religion of the fatherland, great or small. As Hector put it 30 centuries ago in Book XII of the Iliad, to deflect an ill omen: “It is not for a good outcome that we fight for our fatherland” (XII, 243). Courage and fatherland are connected. In the last battle of the Trojan War, feeling beleaguered and doomed, Hector tears himself from despair with the cry: “Oh well! No, I do not intend to die without a fight, nor without glory, nor without some great deed that is retold in times to come” (XXII, 304–305). One finds this cry of tragic pride in all epochs of a history that glorifies the ill-fated hero, magnified by an epic defeat: Thermopylae, the Song of Roland, Camerone, or Diên Biên Phu.

Chronologically, the warrior band comes before the state. Romulus and his bellicose companions first traced the future boundaries of the City and laid down its inflexible law. For having transgressed it, Remus was sacrificed by his brother. Then, and only then, did the founders seize the Sabine women to ensure their descent. In the foundation of the European state, the order of free warriors precedes that of families. This is why Plato saw Sparta as far closer to the model of the Greek city than Athens.[1]

Weak though they may be, today’s European armies constitute islands of order in a crumbling environment where fictions of states promote chaos. Even diminished, an army remains an institution based on strong discipline and participating in civic discipline. That is why this institution carries in it a genetic seed of restoration, not by seizing power or militarizing society, but by reasserting the primacy of order over disorder. It is what the compagnonnages of the sword did after the disintegration of the Roman Empire and so many others after that.


1. In Les métamorphoses de la cité, essai sur la dynamique de l’Occident (Paris: Flammarion, 2010), based on the reading of Homer, Pierre Manent highlights the role of warlike aristocracies in the foundation of the ancient city.


samedi, 29 janvier 2011

Jacqueline de Romilly et la bonne Grèce


Jacqueline de Romilly et la bonne Grèce

par Claude BOURRINET

Assurément, il n’est guère correct de s’en prendre à une défunte et à son œuvre. La seule excuse à donner est que l’académicienne n’aurait pas pris la peine de réfuter ce qui suit. Cependant, le ton dithyrambique et l’encens qui ont accompagné les obsèques de l’illustre helléniste avait de quoi irriter, non seulement parce que la flagornerie, même quand il s’agit d’un mort, horripile, comme si ce supplément d’âme eût l’heur de faire oublier la catastrophe annoncée qui ruine l’enseignement du latin et du grec en France, mais on ne s’est guère demandé, et pour cause, si la bonne dame du Collège de France avait fait tout ce qu’il fallait pour qu’une telle tragédie fût devenue impensable. Il y eut bien des pétitions, des murmures de couloir, mais Jacqueline de Romilly était bien trop intégrée pour ruer comme une bacchante ou poursuivre les assassins du grec comme une Érinye assoiffée de sang.

À vrai dire, je n’ai jamais essayé de lire un de ses ouvrages sans que le livre me tombe des mains, tellement il est farci de bons sentiments, et de cette manie anachronique de démontrer l’impossible, à savoir que les Grecs, c’était nous, les modernes de 1789, de la République etc. Le paradigme politique a radicalement changé, tant le christianisme a bouleversé notre manière de voir le monde et les hommes, l’individualisme, la marchandisation, la coupure avec un ordre holiste du monde ont contribué à broyer ce qui demeurait de l’Antiquité. Au demeurant, Walter Friedrich Otto le dit très bien dans Les dieux de la Grèce; comme le souligne Détienne dans la préface de cet ouvrage fondamental : « il faut […] prendre la mesure de ce qui nous sépare, de ce qui nous rend étrangers à l’esprit grec; et en conséquence dénoncer les préjugés [positiviste et chrétien] qui nous empêchent de comprendre «  les dieux de la Grèce ” ».

Et si, bien sûr, la Grèce est à l’origine de l’Europe, ce n’est pas dans le sens où les héritiers de la IIIe République l’entendent. D’une certaine manière, même si je me retrouve dans cette époque, en en partageant tous les fondements, y compris les plus scandaleux pour un moderne, et qui sont très éloignés de l’idéologie néochrétienne des droits de l’homme, la Grèce antique est complètement différente du monde contemporain. À son contact, on est en présence avec la véritable altérité (en fait notre identité). Hegel disait que pour un moderne, un Grec est aussi bizarre et étrange qu’un chien.

Voilà ce que qu’écrivait Hegel de l’Africain dans La Raison dans l’Histoire : « C’est précisément pour cette raison que nous ne pouvons vraiment nous identifier, par le sentiment, à sa nature, de la même façon que nous ne pouvons nous identifier à celle d’un chien, ou à celle d’un Grec qui s’agenouillait devant l’image de Zeus. Ce n’est que par la pensée que nous pouvons parvenir à cette compréhension de sa nature; nous ne pouvons en effet sentir que ce qui est semblable à nos sentiments. »

Le fondement de la pensée véritable, c’est ce sentiment d’étrangeté, un arrachement aux certitudes les plus convenues, pour parvenir à notre vérité profonde.

Un Grec est plus proche du Sioux, d’une certaine façon, que du kantien.

Maintenant, avec un effort d’imagination et beaucoup de caractère, on peut se sentir plus proche du Sioux que du kantien.

Jacqueline de Romilly n’a eu donc de cesse d’invoquer la Grèce antique pour louer les vertus supposées de la modernité : la démocratie, dont chacun sait qu’elle est une « invention des Grecs », l’égalité, notamment entre hommes et femmes, les droits de l’homme, etc. La presse ne s’est pas fait faute de le rappeler à satiété, comme si le retour à l’hellénisme ne pouvait que passer par les fourches caudines du politiquement correct.

La source des confusions, lorsqu’on s’avise de s’inspirer des théories politiques de l’Antiquité pour définir les modèles organisationnels de la meilleure société possible, est que nous avons affaire à deux mondes différents, et l’erreur de perspective conduit à des décalages conceptuels et symboliques, à des malentendus. Les notions qui font l’objet d’un glissement suprahistorique fallacieux, confinant à l’anachronisme, sont aisément repérables dans cette phrase, tout à fait représentative du style qu’on trouve chez nos universitaires : « Un sens de l’humanité sorti de l’histoire dont les valeurs et les idées sont toujours dans l’actualité, surtout si on a à l’esprit les remises en cause actuelles des valeurs républicaines de liberté, d’égalité et de fraternité, au nom du droit à la différence confinant à la différence des droits, du communautarisme encouragé par le clientélisme politique, d’un retour radical du religieux et du patriarcat déniant aux femmes qu’elles puissent être les égales de l’homme ! » (Guylain Chevrier, docteur en histoire, cf.

Tout y est, avec même le ton déclamatoire.

La réduction, dans les classes de collège et de lycée, de l’apport hellénique à la démocratie a de quoi irriter. Luciano Canfora , pour ne parler que du terme « démocratie », a démontré que, dans le préambule à la Constitution européenne de 2003, ses concepteurs, par « « bassesse » philologique », ont falsifié les « propos que Thucydide prête à Périclès » (qui était, de facto, prince – prôtos anêr, dixit Thucydide – d’Athènes) en assimilant démocratie et liberté. La « gaffe » provient de leur formation scolaire, qui leur a révélé que « la Grèce a inventé la démocratie » (« formule facile, tellement simplificatrice qu’elle se révèle fausse », écrit Canfora), sans entrevoir qu’« aucun texte écrit par un auteur athénien ne célèbre la démocratie » ! Celle-là, dans l’histoire des Grecs antiques, a été un régime minoritaire, ramassé dans le temps, qu’il n’a pas été si démocratique que cela (au sens moderne), et qu’il a été méprisé par pratiquement tous les penseurs, à commencer par le premier, Platon, qui lui reprocha d’avoir assassiné Socrate. Il faudrait analyser de plus près ce que dit Aristote, qui est plutôt pour le gouvernement des meilleurs.

D’autre part, la notion d’égalité est aussi un piège : Agamemnon par exemple est le primus inter pares. Il n’est pas question d’égalité entre êtres humains, mais entre aristocrates, entre rois. Thersite en sait quelque chose, qui reçoit de la part d’Ulysse un coup de sceptre pour avoir prôné le défaitisme, et, avant tout, pour avoir pris la parole.

Pratiquement personne n’a remis en cause l’esclavage.

Ce que l’on omet de dire, c’est que, si l’on survole l’histoire hellénique jusqu’à Rome et au-delà, le régime qui s’impose et qui, justifié par les stoïciens, les platoniciens et d’autres, semble le plus légitime, surtout après Alexandre, c’est la monarchie. L’Empire romain est fondé sur cette idéologie, comme l’a montré Jerphagnon.

Qu’en est-il de l’égalité entre l’homme et la femme ? Ce n’est pas à un Grec qu’on va faire passer cette baliverne ! Il en aurait bien ri, lui qui, sur cette question, ressemble beaucoup à un musulman, en remisant son épouse dans le gynécée. Lysistrata est une COMÉDIE, destinée à FAIRE RIRE ! Autant dire que l’idée d’égalité entre hommes et femmes était présentée comme une bouffonnerie.

Je renvoie à Vernant pour ce qui est du « mythe d’Œdipe », qu’il dénonce savamment en montrant que Freud s’était trompé sur toute la ligne.

Loin de moi l’idée de démolir la statue funèbre de Jacqueline de Romilly, mais j’avoue que les éloges actuels m’énervent un peu.

Pour apprécier en profondeur la pensée grecque (et subsidiairement romaine), autant lire Vernant, Jerphagnon (l’exquis !), Friedrich Otto, Paul Veyne, qui me semblent plus incisifs que la bonne dame pour classes terminales…

Claude Bourrinet

Article printed from Europe Maxima:

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Celtic Woman - Caledonia by Lady Avalonya

Celtic Woman

Caledonia by Lady Avalonya

jeudi, 27 janvier 2011

Germanic concepts of Fate

Der Germanische Schicksalsglaube by Walther Gehl (1939)

A couple of things made me want to have a look at the explanations that I was offered of the terms “Ørlögr” and “heilagr” and this book was suggested. I got a copy through my library, so I had only 3 weeks to study the book. The Germanic Belief In Fate is a very interesting work, offering tons of information about the subject. Gehl does not really work towards the explanations that I was after, but there are things to work with. I want to introduce you to this book and because this text is too lengthy for a book review, this turned out to be an ‘article’. Of course I read the book with a certain idea in mind, so this review may turn out to be a bit onesided.


Gehl has found a staggering amount of terms to describe “Schicksal” (“Fate”), but most of them do not really have the meaning that we give to that term today. How could it be, with so many words? On page 16 (in the introduction) Gehl writes that words like “sköp” and “ørlög” were used to describe “fate”. Both terms are written with a “.” below the “o”, but I cannot reproduce that character, so I use the nowadays more common way of writing with “ö”. There we have the term that I was looking for, but in another meaning.

On page 19 Gehl writes: “Die gleichmäßigste Verbreitung under den germanischen Worten für “Schicksal’ zeigen die Ableitungen zu den germanischen Stämmen *laga, *gaskapa und *wurði (“the orderly spreading of the Germanic word “Fate” show deductions of the Germanic stems *laga, *gaskapa and *wurði“). Then follow terms from different Germanic languages such as gilagu, aldrlagu, ealdorlegu, feorhlegu, lög, forlög and urlac. The line of terms is interesting since the term “ørlög” seems to be present in most (all?) of the Germanic languages. An interesting remark is made on p.21: “Während as. orlag, ags. orlæg stark zurücktreten, scheint im Ahd. urlac das weitaus verbreiteste Word für “Schicksal” gewesen zu sein. old Norse ørlög is, im Gegensatz zu aldrlag, sköp usw., typisch für die mythologische Dichtung, wird aber auch von der Heldendichtung verwendet, wenn eine Steigerung ins Mythische beabsichted ist”. (“As old Saxon orlag, Anglo-Saxon orlæg are hardly present, it seems as if in old High German urlac is by far the most widely spread word for “Fate”. An. ørlög, contrary to aldrlag, sköp, etc., is typical for the mythological poetry; it is also used in the heroic poetry, but only when when it appears in a mythological context.”) A little further (p.22) Gehl writes that “sköp” is more ‘active’ and “ørlög” more ‘passive’. Later (p.37) Gehl makes that into “Weltlich” (“wordly” for “sköp”) and “mythogisch” (for “ørlög”). Towards the end of the book, the writer speaks about personal and impersonal fate and heroic versus organic.

In another article I have given my ideas about the terms “ørlögr” and “heilagr” and it is in that context that I use these terms. The reason that I started to look into the subject is that the major works about Germanic mythology such as De Vries’ or Meyer’s Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte or Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology hardly (or not at all) speak about “ørlögr” and some of the modern books that I read give other explanations. Gehl seems to do the same. When he quotes texts such as the Eddas or the Gautreksaga, the term seems to use simply “fate” and not “primal law”. Ask and Embla are ørlöglausa (“without fate”) before before the three Gods visit them. Starkadr is given ørlög during a þhing. This seems to be ‘very personal’, even when there is another term for ‘personal ørlög’ being førlög.

On the other hand, “Snorri erzählt in seiner Edda, daß Alföðr (Allvater) zu Anfang stjórnarmenn, “Regenten”, eingesetzt habe mit dem Auftrag, at doema með sér ørlög manna (“das Schicksal der Menschen under sich durch Urteilsspruch zu bestimmen”)”, which means that Odin gave mankind “ørlög” and appointed regents to bestow judgements on it. That would mean that “ørlög” is Divine and further ‘handed down’ to mankind and that is the meaning that I give to the term.

On page 175 Gehl says that Odin knows “Seiðr” and “ørlög manna” (the “ørlög” of man) and when quoting Friedrich Kauffmann on p.225 Gehl speaks about “Urgesetz” and “Urprinzip” and “die tiefe Hintergründe alles Geschehens”, which lives up to my ideas a lot better, since “Urgesetz” is best translated by “primal law” in my opinion, “primal principle” says enough and especially the sentence “the deep background of everything that happens” does not miss much clarity. I would love to read this book by Kauffmann, but I have not been able to track down a copy, it seems unavailable from any Dutch library… But since Gehl also speaks about “überpersönliche schicksalhaften Urgesetse”, maybe in the end he presents what I was looking for anyway.

The rest of the book

Like I said, I was preoccupied when I read this book, but I made a lot more notes than those I gave above. So that you also learn a bit of other things that Gehl describes, here comes ‘the rest of the book’.

When the term “ørlög” is mentioned in the poetic Edda, somewhere near you will also see the term “leggia”, which I myself linked to the Norns (also present in each quote) and which Gehl translates as “schicksalhaft bestimmen”, or “‘fately’ determine”. This usually refers to the personal level. “þær lög lögðu, þær líf kuru, alda börnum, örlög seggja” (Völuspa 21) which is translated: “Laws they established, life allotted, to the sons of men; destinies pronounced” (Thorpe verse 20), “destiny”, a translation that I do not really like personally, but perhaps it says what it should in a way. “Law” for “lög” is more like it and the “ør” part I take for “Ur” or “primal”.

Gehl concludes that “der germanische Schicksalsglaube” is “gemeingermanisch” (pan-Germanic) since he has found terms referring to fate in every text that he studied. As appendix he gives a gigantic list with terms with their sources! This is extremely usefull for other people who want to have a look into the subject. Like I said, “Schicksal”, or better said, the terms that Gehl collected, do not always mean what we do with the term “fate”. A fairly large part of the book is about “Glück”, or “luck”. Terms such as Hamingja, goefa, gipt(a) refer to luck in connection with fate. That first term I would have explained in another way, but on page 67 Gehl writes: “Auch die hamingja is the Summe der körperlichen und geistlichen Vorzüge einer Menschen, oder vielmehr ihre sichtbare Wirkung in then Außenwelt. Auch Character und geistlichen Anlagen einer Menschen kann man auf seine hamingja schließen”. (“Also the hamingja is the sum of the physical and mental parts of men, or perhaps more even it is the visible result in the outer world. Also character and spirit of a man can be seen as his hamingja.”) (p.67)

“Hamingja” is often seen as (a part of) the soul, just as “fylgja”. About the latter Gehl says that the term is to be linked to the idea of heritable luck (p.68). Luck again, but then again: “[...] das Glück [ist] eine selbständig wirkende Macht” (“luck is an independently working force”) (p.67). This is shown when Gehl names terms that seem to refer to both luck and fate. “Heill” (“magisches Glück”) and “goefa”, “gipt(a)”, “hamingja” (“personsgebundenes Glück”) (p. 78).

The writer has a complete chapter about “fylgja”, which he even equates with the “hamingja” on page 145. 15 Pages earlier, Gehl speaks about “fyljur” in animal form and “fylgjur” in the form of a woman. The first appear in dreams and do not live longer than its carrier, man, because it is only the “Doppelgänger” of man. Another word for animal form “fylgja” according to Gehl, is “Hamr”. The “fylgja” in the form of a woman is connected to a person’s death, but this fylgja does survive its carrier, its goes over to “Sippengenossenen”.

Besides all this, but writer also touches upon subject such as magic (Spá, Seiðr, Útiseti / sitjar a haugi, etc.), ideas such as Sipp-/clan-luck and even “aldar rok” (“Welten Schicksal”) and “Weltenglück”, of course about the Norns, “Wurd”, etc., concepts of the soul, such as önd, hugr (“animus nie anima”), etc. and all that with many quotes in the original languages and, as said, a list with all terms and their sources. A wonderfull book with a much wider subject than I was looking for and inspite of the fact that there are more books dealing with this subject, Der Germanische Schicksalsglaube supposedly is the standard work on the subject to the present day.

mercredi, 26 janvier 2011

On honour


On honour

Compensation systems, of which the Old Frisian penalty lists are an example, appear in many societies. [...] The meganism flourishes in a society without a strong (central) authority – in which the government has the monopoly of violence – and where free men form a constitutional state. Such a society is often typified as being a feuding society. In a feuding society an insult or physical violence (sometimes) leads to revenge and revenge (sometimes) to a feud. The state of enmity that rises between two groups of people can be reconciled, compensation plays an important part.

p. 53 (my translation from Dutch to English)

Honour is brused, the dishonoured person is the same as the group (s)he is part of, so anyone of this group can restore the balance by taking revenge of anyone of the group of the offender. This can again lead to counter-action and to avoid that things run out of hand, the initial offence can be compensated with money (or valueble goods). This system is hard to imagine for us individualised Westerners without any notion of honour and we take offence when in other cultures (within our own) (Muslim for example) a system like this starts to operate. So what is that “honour”?

The idea of ‘an eye for an eye’ means that when somebody hits you and you do nothing back, people will say you are a pussy, so you hit back. In the Middle Ages only the people who fought could have honour, so honour came with status. Therefor honour did not have to be defended against anyone, some people simply are not important enough to take offence of. The people whose opinions did count are called honour group and this usually implies family and the small society that a person is member of. A person’s honour therefor is the same as the honour of his group or family and since honour is the highest of goods, it must be defended at every cost.

The author continues with describing honour economy. In the most simple explanation this means that there is a certain ‘amount’ of honour in a certain society, so when somebody’s honour rises, somebody else’s honour deminishes.

The amount of honor in the Icelandic universe was perceived to be constant at best, and over the long run, it seemed to be diminishing. [...] Honor was thus, as a matter of social mathemetics, acquired at someone else’s expense. When yours went up, someone else’s went down.

(a quote from William Miller’s Bloodtaking and Peacemaking.)

This goes very far, another quote from Miller:

The game was a laborious one because it demanded the greatest sensitivity to insult and challenge and because there were no intermissions once it started in earnest at the onset of physical maturity. And old man could no relax, nor even the corpse that had suffered violent death, for the final assessment of the victim’s honor depended on how much compensation or how great a vengeance his kin could exact on his behalf. The interminability of the enterprice is but one reason why this ‘game’ needs quotes. It was a game only in the sense that honor necessarily meant competition. There was nothing trivial about the ‘game’; it was, for people of self-respect, coterminous with social existence itself.

There being one ‘amount of honour’ did not mean that ever member had the same sized piece of the pie. The social position resulted in a larger or smaller piece and somebody ‘stealing somebody’s honour’ resulted in a need to put things back the way they were.

The book as a whole speaks mostly about the financial ways of balancing, but that is not the subject of this short article. Also more at length the writer speaks about the feuds, justice and the rules around those which are also far from the Westerner’s bed. Strange how rapidly our society (contrary to most other societies worldwide) have lost these values and systems. It speaks about texts upto the 17th century.

Lichaam , Eer en Recht in Middeleeuws Friesland – een studie naar de Oudfriese boeteregisters (Body, Honour and Right in Medieval Frisia – a study of Ancient Frisian compensation tariff registers) by Han Nijdam will be reviewed in the book reviews section when I finished it.

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mardi, 25 janvier 2011

Fire in Northern Mythology


Fire in Northern mythology


There are two primal forces in Nordic myths, two forces that are known under the names, “fire” and “ice”. Before there was anything, there was Ginungagap, a “yawning gap”. In the south of it, fire ‘resided’ and in the north, ice. When these two came together, everything started. So, fire is the primal force, one side of the Divine. Some symbology!

It is not strange that fire keeps coming back in the symbology of Nordic mythology. What may be strange is that fire is much better represented than ice, but this is not the subject of this article.

Later in the creation myth, the triple divinity Odin, Hænir (sometimes Hoenir, or Hnir) and Lodur give capacities and make man. “Spirit gave Odin, “óður” gave Hoenir, “lá” gave Lodur and the form of gods”. This is how Rydberg translates Völuspa 18. More often you will read something like “Soul gave Othin, sense gave Hnir, Heat gave Lothur and goodly hue”. (Ari Odhinnsen) In the Prose Edda it is Odin, Vili and Vé who are the givers of these things.


Lodur is often said to be Loki. In the preface to the Reginsmal Odin, Hænir and Loki are named together, so this is not strange. Loki is the most famous of ‘fire Gods’ from the Northern pantheon. The name Loki has been explained in different ways of which two are most interesting in our story. “Logi” supposedly means “flame” and the terms “liuhan” (Gothic) and “lecht” (Anglo-Saxon) are linked to the English word “light”, but also to the term “flame”. The same goes for the term “Lód”.

Fiery triplicity

When you think of it, there are three Gods connected to the concept of fire and also connected to eachother: Heimdallr, Balder and Loki. Heimdallr is the “white As”, the watchman on the Bifrost bridge and is therefor the middleman between the world of men and the world of the Gods. Heimdallr is not only the connecting smoke-pillar representing the Irminsul in the fire ritual, but also unchanging fire. He is the metaphysic flame, beyond time and space. In this regard Heimdallr can be equated with Brahman of the Hindus.

The second name that I mentioned is that of Balder. Balder is Heimdallr, but on another plane. We can place Heimdallr on the godly level, Balder on the human level and Loki on the underwordly level (or Asgard, Midgard and Utgard). Balder is the incarnated fire, the fire in ‘our world’ so to say. He is the warmth of our heart, the sun, the ancestral hearth-fire. To use another Hindu term, Balder may be seen as Atman.

I have already said a few things about Loki, but you can imagine that in regard of the previous, Loki is the destructive, incinerating, consuming fire. Loki is longing and desire.

When I draw this line further, I can say that Balder and Loki are dual aspects of Heimdallr, but on other levels.


Lightning is often connected to fire and when I say lightning, I say Thor. Lightning is sparks of fire when Thor’s hammer hits something. The hammer makes an interesting connection, since with his Mjölnir, Thor kills giants (ice-giants!), but the Mjölnir is also connected with right (the judge’s hammer), consecration (for example of marriages) and initiations (a ‘higher’ form of consecration).


To bring the above together, we get the following picture. Loki, the lower self, turns against the higher self (Balder), causing Ragnarök. During this Ragnarök, Thor kills the Midgard-snake (‘manifestation’), Heimdallr (our divine spark) fights Loki and all this in order to have our higher self ‘become divine’ (in other words: to develop and realise our Balder to become Heimdallr).

An interesting point that does not fit completely in the above is that Surtr, the leader of the fire-giants who raise up to fight the Aesir, also seems to be the cause of the sparks coming from Muspelheimr and thus creation. During Ragnarök Surtr destroys the Bifrost-bridge (Heimdallr’s ‘domain’), kills Freyr and sets the world to flames. Whereas Heimdallr seems to be some ‘overhuman’ fire-aspect, Surtr is more of an ‘underhuman’ aspect. Both larger than our petty selves, but completely opposital. In this regard Surtr maybe represents the outside forces that try to disconnect us from our divine origin. Whatever we may call “evil” maybe. Surtr seems to have always been there and whereas Loki, Balder and Heimdallr are ‘part of us’, Surtr is not.

Of course there are more figures that can be connected to fire, but here I present a certain aspect that may shed light on some of the symbolism in Northern mythology.

lundi, 24 janvier 2011

Kinship, gift-exchange, honour and feud in Medieval Frisia and Iceland

Ancient Icelandic Manuscript depicting Odin
Kinship, gift-exchange, honour and feud in Medieval Frisia and Iceland


In this article I want to say a thing or two about a few interrelated ‘processes’ in the Medieval Germanic society. How groups form and how they are maintained and how ‘mechanisms’ such as honour and feudwork. These at first sight varied subjects will prove to be interwoven.
For this article I have used a few books that you will find listed at the bottom. All authors more or less treat parts of the whole, but from different perspectives and speaking about different societies. It seems as if all of these kinds of works owe a great deal to Willam Miller’s Bloodtaking and Peacemaking which is one of the books that I used. Miller is mostly concerned with Medieval Iceland. Another author I consulted is Jos Bazelmans who dived deeply into the Beowulf story and therefor Anglo-Saxon culture. Another Dutch author, Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld wrote a book about gift-giving mostly concerning people and the Church in the late-medieval Netherlands, a period in which little empires started to arise and this lord-civilian bond is also very present in Bijsterveld’s book. Further I used two articles and last but not least, the inspiration to start this little investigation came from Han Nijdam’s excellent Lichaam, Eer en Recht which is about Medieval Frisian society, with many references to Medieval Iceland.

The individual

Nowdays we speak of an individualistic society, people are atoms in a society and hardly connected to anybody. This was different in times past. In fact, it is not entirely true nowadays either. When you think of who a person is, you think how that person relates to other people to ‘define’ that person. Han Nijdam says: “a person [is] dividable because it is defined in terms of the relationships that he and other members of the society maintains” (Nijdam 50). He continues with a simple example refering to a short film in Sesame Street in which a boy is the newspaper boy for one person, the grandchild of the next and the little brother of the third. The boy is ‘defined’ by the people he relates to. Or the other way around, who he is, depends on the person who describes him.

“If we could abstract a person’s movements and graph them into a network, we would find that the greatest predictor of the identity of the various households in which he or she gained entry, either as visitor or lodger, would be the presence of kin within that household.” William Miller writes (Miller 139), meaning that the visitor would define the persons in the houses he visits by looking at the other people present. Since it still works that way, one can hardly speak of an individual.

So if an individual is defined by his or her surroundings, what are these surroundings? “Family”, “kin”, “sib” , “tribe” perhaps? Just as with an individual, these terms are not so easy to describe, because they too are dependent on the situation. “The oldest Germanic societies that can be reconstructed using historical sources possessed, according to the most widely held opinion, a relatively stable order that was based on the natural principle of blood-relationship. Relationships of descent, whether fictional or not, gave each person a place within the tribal collective.” (Bazelmans 13) On a smaller scale Miller does not only speak of “regional variation[s] in householding practices” (Miller 113), but he continues with saying “that the precise sense of household might change depending on the context in which it is invoked. A household unit as identified for recruitment to the feud is not the same as the household unit used to determine whether someone qualifies for service on a jury or is required to attach himself to a chieftain for the purposes of Thing attendence.” (Miller 114). “Ego-focused kin groupings of shifting composition [...] were quite important in Iceland in a multitude of social and legal settings, even if these groupings were variously constituted depending on a number of personal, social, and other contextual factors and did not include all eligible members. Kinship mattered, even if not all people related to a person felt obliged to assist him or her.” (Miller 140) Or in the words of Jos Bazelmans: “The tribe consisted of a large number of relatively autonomous elements. These were not descent groups in the sense of lineages or clans, but name-bearing groups of disparate size which recruited their members on the basis of kinship and residence in the same geographical area. Each person was not only a member of such corporate, regional groups, but also of an open network of persons related on the father’s or the mother’s side along with dependents (the kindred). Such networks played an important rold especially in the resolution of feuds.” (Bazelmans 3)

“The extend of the kindred, that is, how genealogically distant two people can be and still count each other kin, is formally set in some provisions in the laws at fourth cousins.” (Miller 145) (addition: a fourth cousin is a person of my own generation with whom I share great-great-great-grandparents, in our reckoning that is an 8th grade kinship! Some texts speak of seventh cousins!!)

“Kinship mattered”. But what is a person’s kin? The people he is related to by blood of course, but both in the old and in the current view of things, blood-relations go in two directions, the father’s and the mother’s side. “Bilateralism, the tracing of relationship through links of both sexes, meant that not all a person’s relatives were related to each other. [...] An important feature of bilateral kinship reckoning is that your kin will not entirely coincide with your cousin’s kin; or, from another perspective, you are by virtue of kinship eligible for membership in several different kin groups with different overlap. [...] The kin group, in other words, was not a closed corporation of determinate membership; it did not constitude itself automatically. It always fell to someone to recruit his of her kin for the particular enterprise at hand.” (Miller 155)

You have family on both your father’s and your mother’s side, but the uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces of either side are probably not related to eachother, their kin is different from yours. Therefor the situation exists in which an uncle of both your father’s and mother’s side are called upon, but when one of these uncles invites (or whatever) his kin, he will most likely not ask your other uncle. With that in mind you can only conclude that kinship differs in different situations.

A similar situation goes for “households”, a group of people living in the same house or on the same piece of land under guard of a “householder”. A household is something quite different from kin, since aunts and nieces do not often live in your house and the servants that do, are usually not related by blood. A household surely is a unit of society to take a look at, especially because often it is said that in governmentless society such as in Medieval times there first were separate households:
“Inevitably the attempt was made to add early Iceland to the number of regions that socialized people in nuclear families within simple households. As we shall see, what the sources tell us about the shape of Icelandic householding must compel a different conclusion. The sources, both sagas and laws, are not without their own special problems in this particular topic. For one thing, the laws take an explicit interest in households and even define what constitudes a household unit. But the “juridical” household does not seem to correspond with what archeological evidence there is, nor with saga descriptions of how the main economic unit, the farm, was populated and managed. Outside passages in the laws directly dealing with the legal household, information on householding must be culled from passing comments in the laws and sagas and inferred from contexts devoted explicitly to other matters. The fact that most of our information is acquired incidentally is in its way quite reassuring. Even the most committed member of the Icelandic school of saga scholarschip would have a hard time giving any reason as to why a thirteenth-century saga writer would want to situate his characters in households that had no basis in reality.” (Miller 112/3)

“While the laws formally imposed kinship out to fourth cousins, kinship in the practical or world depended on more than just biological or affinal connections. Just who would be counted kin was clearly subject to much situational variation and was quite context-specific. A second, even a third cousin with whom one shared common interests and with whom one consequently acted or consulted would be counted kin, while a first cousin with whom one was less involved might cease, for practical purposes, to be counted kin at all. Nor might the people with whom one claimed kinship for the purpose of invitations to feasts and weddings be the same people one counted as kin when it came time to assist in a lawsuit or help pay compensation for their wrongdoings.” (Miller 156) Miller calls this “recruitable kin” (Miller 156) and of course the situation is not different nowadays. I suppose the “common interest” could also be with a non-kin version but a friend.

Earlier we saw Jos Bazelmans speaking of “fictional relationships of descent”. This can refer to the famous, but in the used books little described subject of blood-brothership. “Blood-brothership was a formalized relation undertaken between two or more men in which each vowed to avenge the death of the other, just as if he were his own brother.” (Miller 173) And thus a new member of the kin was a fact.

What might sound strange in our logic is that “[i]n various places in the law a sister’s husband is considered an especially close relation. “He is disqualified for interest from sitting on juries and from judging his affine’s cases just as if he were a blood relative.” (Miller 162) This does not count for a wife’s brother!

“People looked to kin and affines for aid in law and life. They avenged each other’s wrongs; they invited each other to weddings and funerals; they gave each other gifts. They stood surety for each other hired on their poorer cousins as servants.” (Miller 178) This had the result that “[o]ne of the chief activities kin undertook with eachother was mutual consultation. Since the target of a vengeance killing might not be the wrongdoer himself, but one of his kin, there was every reason why kin would want to have some say in actions for which others might hold them to account. [...] Uncounseled deeds were considered reckless deeds.” (Miller 164)

The consulting of kin is very different from how things go today. When I do something to somebody, that somebody in most cases will not know my family and if (s)he does,

vendredi, 21 janvier 2011

Frans Eduard Farwerck


Frans Eduard Farwerck

by Roy

Ex: http:://

Some 8 years ago I met my girl­friend. We were both involved in a short-lived Dutch ‘spir­i­tual mag­a­zine’ that liked to treat con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects. Through the edi­tor of the mag­a­zine my girl­friend got acquinted with a Flem­ish ‘Asatru’ group and later so did I. At the time my inter­est still mainly laid at Renais­sance eso­teri­cism, Medieval magic, etc. This was already a bit closer to home, since before I had an inter­est in more exotic, East­ern sub­jects. In any case, meet­ing Asatru excelled my shift towards even more domes­tic inter­ests, the old reli­gion of North­ern Europe. While becom­ing active in the group I ini­tially sticked to my inter­ests, but I heard a lot of inter­est­ing new paths.

In the Nether­lands and Flan­ders we have a chain of fairly large anti­quar­ian book­shops called “De Slegte” and at the time I fre­quently vis­ited our local store. Nowa­days I specif­i­cally hunt for titles instead of just see­ing what I run into. Con­trary to my hab­bits of the time, I took a look through the folklore/faery tales sec­tion and my eye fell on the back of an enor­mous, red book. I took it from the shelf, paged through it and I realised that this had to a be title often used by the founder of the Asatru group. Sim­i­lar ideas, sim­i­lar sub­jects. The back said: Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën. It was not cheap, but I bought it, read it and was blown away.

Since that time, this book has become a true cult-work among Dutch speak­ing hea­thens. The book has been out of print since 1978, but as there is demand for it, the price is pushed upwards. It has not yet become another Alt­ger­man­is­che Reli­gion­s­geschichte (Jan de Vries, 1956 and 1974, this two vol­ume work is usu­ally sold for sev­eral hun­dreds euros), but you do not just visit a (web)shop and buy it. Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën is not impos­si­ble to find and it does not even have to be really expen­sive, but you have to look around not to pay an absurd price for it, since espe­cially after the inter­net cat­a­logues of anti­quar­ian book­shops, some peo­ple fig­ured out what they can ask for the title.

Con­trary to Alt­ger­man­is­che Reli­gion­s­geschichte, Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën is writ­ten in Dutch (De Vries’ book is in Ger­man), nar­row­ing its audi­ence. This and the fact that is no longer in print, caused the fact that the book is unknown and over­looked in the non-Dutchspeaking world, espe­cially in the English-speaking world. I hope that this small arti­cle might change that. Of course, this might put even more pres­sure on the price, but per­haps a for­eign pub­lisher gets the idea of repub­lish­ing or even trans­lat­ing it. But at least, peo­ple who ‘should’ know the book, might now hear of it.

The book I am talk­ing about has the full title Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën en hun sporen tot heden. This is trans­lated as ‘Northern-European mys­ter­ies and their traces to the present’. We know about the mys­tery cults of the medit­er­anean area, Greece, Egypt, etc.; we know about the mys­tery reli­gions of the near and far east, but mys­ter­ies in North­ern Europe? Was ancient North­ern Europe not inhab­ited by stu­pid plun­der­ing bar­bar­ians? Some schol­ars even doubt our ances­tors had a reli­gion to start with, let along a mys­tery cult. This book shows us oth­er­wise and shows more, much much more.

Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën is the result of a life­long inves­ti­ga­tion and the result of a respect­full list of pub­li­ca­tions of the Dutch­man Frans Eduard Far­w­erck who lived from 1889 to 1978. Far­w­erck was a suc­ces­full trader of car­pets and joined Freema­sonry in 1918. It took a while before his first pub­li­ca­tion saw the light of day, in 1927 he pub­lished a book about the world’s mys­tery reli­gions through a reg­u­lar pub­lisher, but under the obvi­ously Masonic pseu­do­nym B.J. van der Zuylen (“Zuylen” is an old way of writ­ing “zuilen”, “pil­lars” and the ini­tials of course refer to Boas an Jachin). This impres­sive 565 paged book gives but lit­tle room to Ger­manic and Celtic mys­ter­ies, but they are already present. Farwerck’s next book is a truly Masonic one about the Hiram myth, pub­lished by “the lodge”. Then the Ger­mans raised to power, Far­w­erck joined the NSB (“nationaal-socialistische beweg­ing”, the Dutch national social­ist party) and he was expelled from “the lodge” in 1934 after a 16 year car­reer in which he reached the absolute high­est rank in his order.

With his national social­ist friends he founded a pub­lish­ing com­pany called “Der Vaderen Erfdeel” (losely trans­lated with “fathers’ her­itage”) through which in 1938 he pub­lished his clas­sic work Lev­end Verleden set­ting the tone for his later writ­ings. Far­w­erck trav­elled exten­sively, mak­ing count­less pho­tos, inves­ti­gat­ing local myths, sto­ries and folk­lore and ‘liv­ing past’ is a col­lec­tion of mostly build­ing and frontage sym­bol­ism, the ori­gins of which he traces back to the prechris­t­ian past. Then a few years of silence follow.

Again as Van der Zuylen in 1953 Far­w­erck pub­lishes Noord-Europese Mys­ter­iën en Inwi­jdin­gen in de Oud­heid (‘Northern-European Mys­ter­ies and Ini­ti­a­tions in ancient times’), a rough ver­sion of his much later Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën. In the same year Far­w­erck pub­lished a book about that mys­te­ri­ous object that is nowa­days called the “Frank’s cas­ket” and after that the extremely inter­est­ing and (almost) impos­si­ble to find Noord-Europa, een der bron­nen van de Maçonieke sym­bol­iek (‘North­ern Europe, one of the sources of Masonic sym­bol­ism’ 1955). This lit­tle book con­tains infor­ma­tion that Far­w­erck appar­ently did not want/dare to pub­lish in his pub­lic pub­li­ca­tion, but roughly it rep­re­sents the next step in his inves­ti­ga­tions that would lead to Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën.

This time under his own name, Far­w­erck again pub­lishes about the mys­tery reli­gions in gen­eral in 1960 and 1 year later fol­lows the final result, the man’s mag­num opus. It is sold out in no-time, but has but one reprint, since Farwerck’s war-past sud­denly became an obsta­cle. The sec­ond print­ing did not sell too well either.

Unfor­tu­nately the war past is a big issue in these parts. Many authors with inter­est in the pagan past of North­ern Europe thought that join­ing the national social­ists could be good for their cause and after the dis­as­ter of WWII they all remained with an inerad­i­ca­ble stain on their per­sons. Some even kept the ide­ol­ogy, oth­ers realised their mis­take, but the result remains that when some peo­ple started to raise ques­tions about cer­tain author’s past, they were banned. Their books were no longer printed or repub­lished, new authors who had no war-past what­so­ever can­not use these authors as their sources. The col­lec­tive shame for the actions of some of our peo­ple have made inves­ti­ga­tions in the sub­ject of the prechris­t­ian reli­gion of North­ern Europe vir­tu­ally impos­si­ble. Even the stan­dard works of Jan de Vries (1890–1964), no mat­ter how highly acclaimed by schol­ars, are no longer avail­ble. Iron­i­cally enough among schol­ars De Vries is pop­u­lar enough to give him some credit, so his Edda trans­la­tion can be found in most book­shops to this day and many authors cite him by lack of bet­ter sources. I do not expect a reprint, let alone a trans­la­tion of the Alt­ger­man­is­che Reli­gion­s­geschichte any time soon. The same goes for Farwerck’s superb work.


But enough about all that, let us talk a bit about the ideas in the book. Of course in a small arti­cle in which I want to give a biog­ra­phy and sum­merise the find­ings of half a decade of inves­ti­ga­tions, I can­not go into much detail. I hope to present you just enough to sparkle your inter­est in the sub­ject and/or inspire peo­ple to learn Dutch and/or do their own investigations.

Noord-Europese Mys­ter­iën

Far­w­erck starts with describ­ing “reli­gious and myth­i­cal con­cep­tions of the Ger­mans con­cern­ing rites of ini­ti­a­tion”. Death and the under­world, bur­ial prac­tices, life after death, imag­i­na­tions of the dead. This is all infor­ma­tion you can also find else­where, but it of course sets the tone, since the next part is about can­di­dates for the Ger­manic God of ini­ti­a­tion. Is it Wodan, is it Balder, is it Donar? Most exten­sively treated is Wodan/Odin. His con­nec­tion to the dead (con­form Mer­cury), his wolves, the eight-legged horse, hang­ings, offer­ing rit­u­als, the Ein­her­jar, all ele­ments that, put in the right per­spec­tive, could sug­gest Wodan has some­thing to do with ini­ti­a­tions. An entire chap­ter is ded­i­cated to the wild hunt(er) that goes around the nightly sky in the Yule-period, Wodan with his legion of the dead. Far­w­erck quotes from folk­lore and local myths to show that the idea of the Wild Hunt(er) can be found from France to Nor­way and from Slavic coun­tries to Ire­land. Wodan in con­nec­tion to fer­til­ity (and there­for again with the dead) is the sub­ject of the next chap­ter. After this Far­w­erck starts look­ing for infor­ma­tion about rites of ini­ti­a­tion, and we are not talk­ing about rites de pas­sage in which a boy becomes a man and a girl a woman. The first story that comes to mind is of course the story of Balder’s death and res­ur­rec­tion, the sec­ond Odin hang­ing down the world tree and learn­ing the runes or the hang­ing of king Vikarr by Starkadr, but first we go to another subject.


After the ground­break­ing work Kul­tische Gehe­im­bünde der Ger­ma­nen (‘cul­tic secret soci­eties of the Ger­mans’ 1934) the sub­ject of “Män­ner­bünde” (‘men bonds’) was ‘hip’ for a while. But… also Höfler became a mem­ber of the Ahnenerbe and the NSDAP so after WWII this was another sub­ject ‘not done’. Only recently schol­ars start to write about the sub­ject again. Even Eng­lish writ­ing schol­ars usu­ally use Höfler’s term “Män­ner­bünde”, so let us stick to that tra­di­tion. Män­ner­bünde, as the term sug­gests, are groups of men that stand with one leg out­side nor­mal soci­ety, they are secret groups. In the con­text of North­ern Euro­pean peo­ples we quickly think about some sort of elite war­rior groups such as the Ein­her­jar, the Uld­hed­nar and the Berz­erkr, but Far­w­erck sug­gests that many of the names that we think were tribes in the writ­ings of the Romans, actu­ally referred to such elite war­rior groups. The Harii, the Chat­tii, the Lan­go­b­ards, even the Vikings in the orig­i­nal mean­ing sup­pos­edly were such groups. Should the Män­ner­bünde have been mere war­rior groups, they would have not been as inter­est­ing as they are though.

When not at war, mem­bers of these groups had all kinds of spe­cial priv­iledges. The right of rep­ri­mand, the right to steal, they had cer­tain dances, fes­tiv­i­ties, dress­ing (such as ani­mal cloth­ing) and spe­cial roles in pub­lic cer­e­monies for fer­til­ity or sea­sonal feasts. Many things sug­gest that mem­bers of these groups ful­filled a spe­cial role in soci­ety, a role which even came with oblig­a­tions such as that of secrecy and sev­eral duties. Far­w­erck shows what he finds around these sub­jects and con­tin­ues to show that such groups have sur­vived much much longer than we may expect. They were cul­tic groups that sur­vived the com­ing of Chris­tian­ity by remod­el­ing to Chris­t­ian groups that we came to know as guilds. Besides such ‘reli­gious guilds’, there were of course the famous work­ers guilds of the masons, the tim­ber­men and the tan­ners, groups that have remark­able sim­i­lar­i­ties to the Män­ner­bünde of old.

Far­w­erck sums up a stag­ger­ing amount of folk­loris­tic hab­bits and other remains that are unmis­tak­enly con­nected to these groups. All kinds of saints seem merely Chris­tian­i­sa­tions of pagan deities and the tra­di­tions around them have but a thin layer of var­nish. Horn– and Mor­ris­dances, Mummer’s plays, sword dances, Schlem­laufen and Klaus­ja­gen, Far­w­erck lets a lot of these nice folk­loris­tic feasts pass the reader. It is amaz­ing how the steal­right or the right to rep­ri­mand are still rights of youth-groups as late as the early 20th cen­tury, groups that have some watered-down ele­ment of wear­ing ani­mal skin and cer­tain dances that have been per­formed in churches until the Ref­or­ma­tion. Of course much infor­ma­tion comes from Chris­t­ian sources try­ing to ban these pagan prac­tices, but this often did not work too well so they were tried to be Christianised.

Recon­struc­tion of ancient initiations

Chap­ter 10 is ded­i­cated to the sum­ming up of infor­ma­tion that Far­w­erck has been able to find to see if he can recon­struct the rites. He starts with the pos­si­ble places where the cer­e­monies would be held. Of course lakes, for­rests, hills, etc. were the sacred places for Ger­mans and Celts alike. There are many toponyms (place names) that sug­gest cer­tain cer­e­monies. Mur­der pits, wolf pits, devil’s hills even  “woensberg”en or places named “Woensel” (now part of the city of Eind­hoven) and “Woens­drecht” all clearly refer to Wodan and in the case of the mur­der pits, could there death-and-resurrection cer­e­monies have been held? There are also toponyms that seem to refer to (sacred) meals (cul­tic meals?), so called “troja burchten” (con­struc­tions or draw­ings in the form of a spi­ral) about which a lot is to say (Far­w­erck uses 24 pages). Then we have the sacred times of the sol­stices and equinoxes around which (folk)stories exist that sug­gest cul­tic rites vague shad­ows of which have been kept in folk­lore and recent fes­ti­vals. After this Far­w­erck comes to cloth­ing, sacred weapons, cer­tain songs and dances, hang­ings and spear-woundings, trav­els to the under­world and res­ur­rec­tions there­from, new names, the sacred potion (usu­ally some­thing made with honey) and old and less old ref­er­ences to broth­er­hoods of all sorts.

Far­w­erck con­tin­ues with guilds. Since they are fairly recent there is more infor­ma­tion avail­able about their struc­ture, hab­bits, legal sta­tus, etc. Not only workers-guilds are spo­ken about, but also for exam­ple shoot­ing guilds, a beloved sub­ject for peo­ple who want to find the traces back to a fur­ther past.

With “build­ing huts” and build­ing guilds we are a step closer to our own time, because you will prob­a­bly know that they are well rep­re­sented in the his­tory the Freema­sons give them­selves. Dif­fer­ent kinds of guilds have all kinds of secrets that are both prac­ti­cal, but also reli­gious. You can read all about it in the pop­u­lar his­to­ries of Freema­sonry, but Far­w­erck presents a nice overview and very inter­est­ing details. Now also fol­low more pho­tos that Far­w­erck took in churches with faces with a hand below their chin, sup­pos­edly a secret sign of mas­ter masons. Of course there are also the master-signs (some sort of sig­na­tures) that often remind of runes, but we are already talk­ing about the 11/12th cen­tury here. Quite some infor­ma­tion about these guilds seems to come directly from Masonic writ­ings, but of course, Masons says that these guilds are their pre­de­ces­sors. And then we get pho­tos of all kinds of strange orna­ments in churches with one-eyed fig­ures (Wodan?), mock­eries of the church, pic­tures of men in strange pos­tures and all kinds of sug­ges­tive scenes that seem too unchris­t­ian to be built into a church.


And there we have it, Far­w­erck spends the last 150 pages of his book show­ing that “Freema­sonry [is] one of the youngest descen­dants of the ancient men bonds”. Hav­ing been a high-ranking Mason him­self, he quotes all kinds of Masonic texts, rit­u­als, etc. (but I think he tells us noth­ing he should bet­ter not) and com­pares them to what we find in myths, sagas, pagan art or folk­lore. The form of the tem­ple, the place where the dif­fer­ent offi­ciants can be found, rit­u­al­is­tic sym­bol­isms such as the limp­ing or signs of recog­ni­tion, sym­bol­ism on the “tableau”, the three pil­lars, the large and the small lights, Masonic cloth­ing (Thor’s iron gloves and gir­dle), the con­se­crat­ing ham­mer and even the open­ing and clos­ing rites, they all seem to have North­ern Euro­pean ori­gins rather than Jew­ish or Egyptian.

There is a lot more to say, but here you have the red thread. In work­ing to his con­clu­sion, Far­w­erck sheds light on a great many ele­ments of folk­lore and (folk) sym­bol­ism, giv­ing new inter­pre­ta­tions of tales, sagas and texts that we know, cross ref­er­enc­ing dif­fer­ent myths and dif­fer­ent folk­tales and all together his book is a true gold­mine and a just rea­son to have grown into being a cult book. This is the kind of book that I hope to run into some time again, but I doubt I ever will. Besides all the works that I own of Dumézil, Eli­ade, Guénon or De Vries, I often first check Far­w­erck, then the rest. Espe­cially when I am look­ing for visu­als, I go to Far­w­erck, since his books are as much stuffed with pho­tos and draw­ings as they are with infor­ma­tion and until this day, he has col­lected an unprece­dented amount of visu­als of details and sym­bol­ism. These alone are a rea­son to get the book.

Even when you are not inter­ested in the North­ern Euro­pean his­tory of Freema­sonry (most peo­ple who buy this book are not), you will find enough infor­ma­tion in the uplighted parts that Far­w­erck needs to present his proof. Per­son­ally I admire the book too for being a non-Traditionalist, he presents a story that almost no Tra­di­tion­al­ist has ever told even though (s)he should have: the unbro­ken chain has been kept in the West though West­ern organ­i­sa­tions until this very day.

jeudi, 13 janvier 2011

Evola on the Egyptian & Tibetan Books of the Dead

Evola on the Egyptian & Tibetan Books of the Dead

Translation anonymous, revised by Greg Johnson


Boris De Rachewiltz
Il libro dei Morti degli antichi Egiziani
Milan: All’Insegna del Pesce d’Oro, 1958

egyptelm.jpgThis publication fills a gap long felt by the many students of the history of religions, since previous editions of the Book of the Dead, this most important document of ancient Egypt, have long been unavailable. The works of Lepsius (1842), Naville (1886), Pierret (1882), Sir Peter Le Page Renouf (1904), and Schiaparelli (1881–1890) can only be found in libraries. The only edition reprinted has been the 1953 edition by E. A. Wallis Budge with facsimiles of the papyri.

Mention should also be made of the G. Kolpaktchy edition published in French and Italian. But it is of little use from the scientific point of view, for the author, animated by the praiseworthy desire to give the inner esoteric sense of many passages of the text has too often been carried away by his imagination, or, worse still, allowed himself to be influenced by dubious ideas taken from modern Theosophy.

The edition and translation by De Rachewiltz—handsomely printed—is based on the Turin papyrus, photographic reproductions of which face the pages of the translation so that any who wish may compare the two. The text is of the Saite Book of the Dead, which is more recent than the Theban version. It was studied and reproduced only by Lepsius, and it is more complete than the Theban version, as it represents the final stage of its development in which the basic themes have been preserved apart from several re-elaborations and additions.

The translation is such that it can serve the purposes of both the specialist and the cultured reader interested in the documents of traditional spirituality. For such readers a little glossary has been added to the translation, which explains the leading themes of the Egyptian mythical-religious world that recur in the text. The translation adheres in the main to the literal meaning of the text, but it does so generally in a way that does not hinder a symbolic or esoteric interpretation, which texts of this kind always allow.

It would be interesting—and would come within the scope of this Review—to draw a comparison between the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Tibetan, Bardo Thödol, first made known by Evans Wenz and later by Professor Tucci, who used more complete text. The idea common to both is that after death the soul still has the ability to take actions on which its fate will depend. It can, in a certain way, overcome destiny, modifying the course it would otherwise follow. To express it in oriental terms, it may be said that it has the power of suspending the effects of the karma.


It should however be noted that this does not refer to just any kind of soul. The Tibetan text shows that the soul is always that of a person who had already travelled part of the way to liberation during his life.

In the case of the Egyptian text, De Rachewiltz points out that it became the Book of the Dead in general only through a process of “democratization,” for in the ancient Empire it had been reserved exclusively to members of the Royal House and of the high priesthood. Indeed, originally the so-called “Osirification” was reserved for them only, and only to them was attributed the ka, the “double,” destined to make way for the sahu, the immortal body that “stands up,” that “does not fall.”

The real title of the Egyptian text is The Book to Lead out to the Day. The real meaning of this expression, imperfectly understood by several translators, alludes to the supreme purpose: to go out into the day means to go out into the immortal light, the invisible light of Amenti. In the Tibetan ritual, as is known, the meeting with absolute light is the first experience and the first test the soul of the dead encounters. An essential part of the Egyptian ritual is overcoming “the second death,” that is to say the disintegration of the spiritual and psychic nucleus detached from the body by the first death (the death of the physical organism). In this connection the motive of an existential danger, of a fundamental risk encountered in the beyond, often acquires highly dramatic features in the Egyptian text. At the same time, the Egyptian text attributes more importance to behavior of a magic and determinative character than does the Tibetan, which accentuates rather the importance and power of knowledge.

tibetlm.jpgNevertheless, there are many parallel points between the two texts dealing with the liberating identifications. Just as in the Tibetan ritual the destruction of the appearance of distinct entities, which all things perceived in the experiences of the other world may acquire, is indicated as a means of liberation, so in the Egyptian text formulae are repeated by means of which the soul of the dead affirms and realizes its identity with the divine figures.

In addition to these, there are the formulas for “transformation.” The soul acquires the capacity of making itself manifest in the form of one or other of the cosmic powers, which in the text are made to correspond mostly to the symbolic theriomorphic figures. It is only through a misinterpretation of these references that some have been led to suppose that the doctrine of reincarnation was part of the ancient esoteric teachings of the Egyptians.

Unfortunately, the Egyptian text as it has come down to us is not systematic in character. The formulas are often presented miscellaneously. Apart from spurious features of a folkloric character, the positions taken fluctuate frequently. There are spiritual ups and downs, inner shortcomings, invocations of a religious and mystical nature.

Yet spite of all this, the prevailing character of the most ancient, clear, and essential portions of the text is most certainly inspired by magic. The soul humbles itself so little in the presence of the ultramundane divinities that it sometimes threatens them with destruction. This is the case even with Osiris and Ra, with reference to the principle of a kind of “transcendent virility.” The soul even asserts a substantial metaphysical connection between itself and the divine essences, sometimes even declaring that its salvation is also theirs. The “opening of the mouth,” by which is meant the reacquisition of the magic power of the word, which can render the formulas efficient and irresistible, “breathing the breath of life,” thus becoming a Living Being, having power over the Waters, taking a Name which does not die, these are the most luminous themes in the vicissitudes of the other world.

The Egyptian text was recited at funerals, as the Tibetan Bardo Thödol was read to the dying and even after their death. In either case the purpose was to help the soul not to forget, to stand up and remain active. De Rachewiltz, moreover, rightly calls attention to the fact that several passages suggest that the Egyptian formulas were used also during life and were held to be useful to the living, so one may recognize in the text the character of a magic ritual in the proper meaning of the words. This may indeed apply not only to some special formulas but to the text as a whole if it be referred to the rites of initiation, for it was unanimously believed in the ancient world that the experiences of initiation corresponded to those of life beyond the grave and that therefore the proceedings required in either case to overcome the “second death” and reach “Osirification” were the same.

In calling attention to this new publication, we would again point out that it makes an important contribution also to those who wish to make a comparative study of Oriental and Western traditions which, in a certain sense, find a connecting link in the traditions of ancient Egypt.

East and West, vol. 10, nos. 1 and 2 (March–June 1959): 126–27.

mardi, 04 janvier 2011

Frans Boenders over Oost en West, primordiale traditie...

Frans Boenders, een Vlaamse Mishima-kenner, over o.a. Oost en West, primordiale traditie en de culturele kaalslag in China


20060221-frans-boenders-3.jpgFrans Boenders gaf begin dit jaar aan de FVG een lezing met als thema Oost en West. Een enorm omvangrijk thema, maar twee kernwaarden kwamen snel bovendrijven: verlichting en verlossing. Verlichting associeerde hij met het Oosten, verlossing met het Westen!

Frans Boenders: Dat komt omdat bij ons de leidende godsdienst of levensvorm er een is van verlossing. De mens is zwak, is wel een afspiegeling van God, maar hij moet zich realiseren hoe zwak hij is en hij moet zich eigenlijk overgeven. Dus de overgave impliceert dat je ergens ook wordt opgevangen, en dat is dan de verlossing, de basisbeweging of de basis dubbele richting. Er is een enorme liefde die de verlossing in het vooruitzicht stelt en de mens moet vertrouwen hebben, bijna blind, in die liefde, en dan zal hij verlost worden. Wat is nu verlichting? Verlichting is iets wat je zelf kunt doen, want we hebben allemaal een bewustzijn gekregen dat kritisch is, sceptisch moet zijn volgens de Boeddha. Het boeddhisme is dan toch immers de enige universele religie die in het Oosten is ontstaan en universeel is geworden, net zoals het christendom ontstaan is in het Nabije Oosten en universeel is geworden. Die laten zich dus uitstekend vergelijken. In het boeddhisme is Boeddha trouwens niets anders dan ‘bodhi’, wat licht is, of wijsheid, als je het anders interpreteert. Je hebt dus een bewustzijn, en met dat bewustzijn moet je het doen. Er zijn modellen, Boeddha zelf zegt: als je dat wilt, kun je mij als model nemen, maar je zult toch altijd kritisch moeten blijven, want je moet het zelf doen. Het zelf doen betekent niet dat je op een arrogante manier op je kennis en je eruditie berust; ik denk zelfs dat te veel kennis en te veel eruditie wegen zijn die niet direct leiden naar de verlichting. Maar je moet bij wijze van spreken eerst tabula rasa maken, een soort leegte in jezelf maken, om het licht te laten schijnen. Dat is natuurlijk maar een metafoor, maar dat zegt wat verlichting is, versus de verlossing.

Maar eigenlijk gaat het dan toch wel om een heel fundamenteel verschil, en dat komt ook tot uiting wanneer je het hebt over denken en bewustzijn! Bijvoorbeeld: ‘ ik BEN een bewustzijn’ tegenover ‘ik HEB bewustzijn’!

Wij zeggen: ‘ik HEB een bewustzijn’. Denk aan Descartes! En we leven toch nog altijd onder die fantastische revolutie. Descartes heeft gezegd: ik kan aan alles twijfelen behalve aan het feit dat ik twijfel, dus dat ik denk. En dus, dat heb ik omdat ik een bewustzijn heb. Ik heb alles, eigenlijk bezitten wij alles, vinden wij. Als we nu even God, de Schepper of de Natuur opzijzetten. Die Natuur werkt ook in mij, maar eigenlijk sta ik boven de Natuur door het hebben van dat bewustzijn. In het Oosten gaat het over: ‘ik BEN bewustzijn’. Dat wil zeggen dat ik een onderdeel ben van het bewustzijn dat eigenlijk het universum is. Het universum denkt in mij. Het vreemde is dat dat in de Franse filosofie ook werd gezegd, door hen die je kunt noemen de poststructuralisten of de late structuralisten: ‘ça pense en moi’, het denkt in mij. Dus die komen daar een beetje in de buurt. Alleen Heidegger, overigens niet mijn favoriet, een westerse filosoof, vond eigenlijk ook dat we een onderdeel zijn van iets wat veel groter is. En de Japanse boeddhisten zijn Heidegger gaan bestuderen, die, toen hij nog leefde, het fantastisch vond dat hij aansluiting kon vinden bij hen. Maar inderdaad, het verschil is dus: in het Oosten houdt men veel minder vast, men bezit veel minder, men hecht ook minder aan bezit. Natuurlijk, met onze kapitalistische uitstraling is dat nu wel allemaal anders geworden, maar traditioneel is het wel zo. Men voelt zich een onderdeel van iets heel groots, en of je dat nu kosmos, universum of de wereldgeest noemt, lazert eigenlijk niets; het is gewoon een manier van leven die toch totaal anders is en die verklaart waarom sommige auteurs, maar daar ben ik het eigenlijk niet mee eens, hebben gezegd dat het Westen altijd het Westen en het Oosten altijd het Oosten zal blijven. ‘And the twain shall never meet’, zoals Kipling het zegt. Daar ben ik het niet mee eens. We kunnen zeker elkaar begrijpen en dat is ook volop bezig, denk ik.

Vaak zie je de opdeling: in het Westen streeft men naar iets, er is een doel, er is een project. In het Oosten zou men zich eerder onderwerpen aan het geheel, zou men eerder berusten! Maar in hoeverre beantwoordt zo’n opdeling nog aan enige realiteit? Economisch bijvoorbeeld zijn nu net India en China dé grote groeiers op wereldniveau!

Dat is de grote paradox vandaag. Tot hiertoe heb ik in zeer algemene termen (want anders kun je het niet, je hebt het in het begin zelf gezegd) Oost en West vergeleken. Ik ging uit van de traditionele levensvormen, om dat wittgensteiniaanse woord te gebruiken. De traditie die dieper gaat dan de verschillende tradities. De traditie die we eigenlijk niet meer kunnen benoemen, maar die de basis vormt van de tradities. Dus ik ben heel ver teruggegaan. Ik heb het boeddhisme ook gezien als een offshoot, als een scheut aan een boom die veel ouder is en die teruggaat tot de vedische tijd, misschien tot de zoroastrische tijd enzovoorts. Aan de andere kant heb ik het christendom ook beschouwd als een scheut van een veel grotere boom, waar natuurlijk het jodendom in het vizier komt, maar ook vele andere dingen. Ook een stuk van het zoroastrisme. Dus uiteindelijk zouden we weer terug kunnen komen. Zo ver ben ik teruggegaan. Dat is natuurlijk gedeeltelijk geïdealiseerd, om niet te zeggen sterk geïdealiseerd. Vandaag zien we dat er maar één ideologie meer bestaat, en dat is het kapitalisme. Of men dat nu in communistische termen of linkse termen het laatkapitalisme noemt, in de hoop dat het zal verdwijnen, dat durf ik niet te zeggen. Ik zie alleen dat het kapitalisme bloeit op een verschrikkelijke manier en dat, zoals je zelf hebt geïmpliceerd in je vraag, China maar ook India (India, waarvan we altijd gedacht hebben dat het veel spiritueler was dan wij) nu plotseling onze meesters worden in het hedendaagse kapitalisme, in onze manier om de informatica en de technologie te gebruiken, allemaal dingen die in wezen van ons komen, dus de westerse wetenschap, dat is het enige geüniversaliseerde kennen. Dat heeft men dan ogenschijnlijk op dit moment, ik zou zeggen, allemaal naar voren geschoven in de hoop, voor sommigen althans, in China en zeker in India, dat datgene wat eronder ligt en waaraan ik daarnet refereerde, als de basis van de tradities, uiteindelijk toch wel zal overleven zoals het altijd heeft gedaan. Maar men begint eraan te twijfelen. En versta onder men, ik begin daar ook aan te twijfelen.

Zeker in China zie je dat. Ik ben toevallig vorig jaar nog naar de Heilige Bergen geweest, die gedeeltelijk boeddhistisch en taoïstisch zijn en eigenlijk die twee religies syncretiseren. Daar blijft niets van over! Wat men heeft gedaan en wat de Chinezen altijd doen, is alles eerst afbreken tot op het bot en dan op hun manier, vanuit hun visie, heropbouwen. Dus wat ik daar zag, was een volkomen loze, valse en misleidende vorm van taoïsme en boeddhisme. Alleen erop gericht om toeristen te lokken, vooral de binnenlandse toeristen overigens, want het is ook een bekend fenomeen dat de hedendaagse Chinezen die vandaag weer internationaal gaan reizen (dat wil zeggen die nieuwe rijken tussen dertig en vijfenveertig jaar, de middenmoot die rijk is, heel rijk is in China), toch die leegte aanvoelen en nu overal in het Oosten, maar ook in het Westen, tempels en kerken gaan bezoeken in de hoop daar iets van op te steken. Ze snappen er dus geen moer meer van en het is een heel rare situatie. Mensen die veel meer vertrouwen hebben in de gang van zaken, los van de interventies van de mens, die zeggen: ‘Dat zal zijn tijd wel hebben, dat komt weer terug. In China heb je altijd van die periodes.’ Ik heb daar mijn twijfels over. Laten we niet vergeten wat er gebeurd is tijdens de culturele revolutie, die officieel maar tien jaar heeft geduurd, van ’65 tot ’75 in de vorige eeuw, maar die eigenlijk al begonnen is in voorbereiding vanaf 1950, de stichting van de volksrepubliek, en geduurd heeft tot het aantreden van Deng Xiaoping in 1979. Dus dat zijn twee generaties die zijn opgevoed zonder enige vorm van religie in de zin van een verbinding van geestelijke solidariteit. En dus, zal dat terugkomen? Ik mag het hopen. Maar een teken aan de wand vond ik dat, toen Deng Xiaoping aantrad en ik voor de BRT toen die documentaires maakte over oosterse religies, dat iemand die later mijn vriend is geworden, de grote specialist op het gebied van het taoïsme, Rik Schipper, gevraagd werd in China om de leden van de Sociale Academie, dus de intellectuele top van China, onderricht te geven in het taoïsme. Want nagenoeg alles was verdwenen. De tempels waren verwoest, de teksten waren vernietigd en diegene die over waren gebleven, werden bestudeerd in het Westen. Op zichzelf is het natuurlijk interessant dat wij in het Westen nu niet de pretentie, maar misschien wel de knowhow hebben om de traditie van de Chinezen en de Indiërs weer nieuwe bedding te geven. Dat is vroeger nog gebeurd met het christendom en de islam, wat de Griekse traditie van ons betreft. Dus het kan wel, maar ik vrees, samenvattend, dat het kapitalisme op dit moment zo allesomvattend is, en dus ook niet te bestrijden valt omdat er niemand is die verantwoordelijk is voor het kapitalisme als ideologie. Het is dus bij wijze van spreken een sluipende ideologie die zich niet kenbaar maakt, maar die wel overal aanwezig is, zodat ik op dit moment niet zie hoe ze tot een einde kan komen. En ik denk wel dat het nodig is om terug te komen tot een waarachtige spiritualiteit.

jeudi, 30 décembre 2010

Monotheïstische religies bedreigen rechtsstaat



Monotheïstische religies bedreigen rechtsstaat

Meindert Fennema

Goddelijke bevelstheorie ontkent individuele autonomie
In de afgelopen tien jaar is vrij plotseling het idee ontstaan dat wij in
een joods-christelijke traditie staan en dat wij die moeten verdedigen tegen
aanspraken die moslims maken op een eigen traditie, gebaseerd op
islamitische wetten die zich niet verdragen met de democratische rechtsorde.

Die stelling impliceert dat de joods-christelijke traditie zich wél laat
combineren met een democratische orde. In zijn recente boek The Secular
Outlook beweert Paul Cliteur echter dat de joods-christelijke traditie net
zo min als de islamitische een positieve bijdrage levert aan de democratie,
omdat ook het jodendom en het christendom gebaseerd zijn op een goddelijke
bevelstheorie die de morele autonomie van de mens ontkent. En zonder morele
autonomie geen liberale democratie.

Als Cliteur gelijk heeft, dient de democratische rechtsorde erop gericht te
zijn alle goddelijke bevelstheorieën buiten de deur te houden. Cliteur noemt
dat in zijn boek ‘het seculiere perspectief’. Burgers die het
‘joods-christelijk perspectief’ omhelzen, staan niet afwijzend ten opzichte
van een rechtsstaat die het christendom een geprivilegieerde positie
toeschrijft. In hun ogen is niet elke goddelijke bevelstheorie een vijand
van de democratie, maar alleen die van de islam.

In dit laatste perspectief herkent men onmiddellijk de opvatting van Frits
Bolkestein over de vrijheid van onderwijs, en de standpunten van de PVV.
Paradoxaal genoeg ligt het standpunt van Rob Riemen, auteur van De eeuwige
terugkeer van het fascisme, daar niet ver van af. Ook Riemen verdedigt onze
cultuur als een joods-christelijke, tegen het platte materialisme van de
PVV: ‘Wat ons daadwerkelijk wordt geboden door de Partij voor de Vrijheid,
is het schaamteloze tegendeel van de joods-christelijke en humanistische
tradities: plat materialisme, benauwend nationalisme, vreemdelingenhaat,
voedsel voor ressentiment, een diepe afkeer van de kunsten en van oefening
in geestelijke waarden, een verstikkende geestelijke bekrompenheid, een fel
verzet tegen de Europese geest en het voortdurend liegen als politiek.’

Riemen beschouwt de PVV daarom als het fascisme in nieuwe gedaante.
Tegenover dat soort fascisme stelt hij een vroeg 20ste-eeuws elitisme dat
hij in een vorig essay ‘adel van de geest’ noemde. Riemen is een groot
bewonderaar van Thomas Mann en een intellectuele erfgenaam van het elitaire
humanisme zoals dat voor de Tweede Wereldoorlog tot vervelens toe
uitgedragen werd door Dirk Coster en door Anthonie Donker, wiens roman
Schaduw der Bergen (1935) sterk geïnspireerd was door Thomas Manns De

Zij verdedigden een religieus humanisme, dat voor Ter Braak en Du Perron te
esoterisch was, ook al deelden zij hun bewondering voor Thomas Mann en hun
afkeer van het fascisme. Slechts op één punt stemmen de elitaire humanisten
en de fascisten merkwaardig overeen: dat is in hun kritiek op de
massacultuur en op de politieke en intellectuele elite die zijn rol als de
drager van hogere geestelijke waarden verzaakt en het volk geen leiding meer

Ook Ella Vogelaar en een deel van haar partijgenoten zien de sociale
democratie in het verlengde van de joods-christelijke traditie, al wil zij
daar de islamitische aan toevoegen.

Wij staan dus voor de keuze tussen een ‘seculiere staat’ die zich niet
uitspreekt over waarden, maar alleen over normen (die van de procedurele
democratie en de rechten van de mens) en de ‘joods-christelijke staat’, die
zijn culturele waarden verdedigt tegen hetzij de islam, hetzij het xenofobe

De cultuurhistorische vraag achter dit politiek-filosofische debat is deze:
is de liberale rechtsstaat een vrucht van de christelijke traditie of juist
van een radicale emancipatie van die traditie. De geschiedenis van de Franse
Revolutie lijkt de laatste interpretatie te ondersteunen, terwijl de
Amerikaanse Revolutie de eerste interpretatie aannemelijker maakt.

De encyclopedisten die de intellectuele voorlopers waren van de Franse
Revolutie waren immers bijna allen atheïst of agnost en keerden zich lang
voor 1789 tegen de macht en de moraal van de katholieke kerk. De kerkelijke
goederen werden in de Franse Revolutie genationaliseerd en de katholieke
moraal zou vervangen moeten worden door de religie van Newton.

In de Amerikaanse revolutie is van een onteigening van kerkelijke goederen
nooit sprake geweest. Er was in Noord-Amerika ook geen katholieke kerk die
als grootgrondbezitter optrad. De christelijke religie was wel prominent
aanwezig, maar was georganiseerd in democratische congregaties met weinig

Het bijzondere aan de Amerikaanse founding fathers was dat zij ook in
religieuze zin dissenters waren. Velen van hen waren naar Amerika gegaan,
omdat zij vervolgd werden door de Anglicaanse kerk. Het zou de VS maken tot
een samenleving waar de scheiding tussen kerk en staat op religieuze gronden
wordt verdedigd, maar ook uit pragmatisme: men wilde voorkomen dat
rivaliserende kerkgenootschappen zouden proberen zich van de staat meester
te maken om hun theologische conflicten te beslechten.

Het religieus pluralisme werd in de VS zodoende de grondslag van de
scheiding van kerk en staat. Die scheiding was ook onderdeel van het
anti-etatisme dat bij de Amerikaanse revolutionairen sterk leefde:
‘Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst
state, an intolerable one.’ (Tom Paine) De Amerikaanse nationale identiteit
is dus ten diepste religieus, maar tegelijk wars van enige vorm van
staatsbemoeienis in religieuze zaken.

In West-Europa daarentegen wordt de staat van oudsher niet alleen beschouwd
als motor van maatschappelijke vernieuwing, maar ook als hoedster van
religieuze waarden. Alleen Frankrijk kent een rigoureuze scheiding van kerk
en staat, maar in de Scandinavische landen, Duitsland, Nederland, Italië en
Spanje zijn er altijd institutionele banden geweest tussen kerk en staat.

De hoop van 19de-eeuwse politiek filosofen dat religie in het
moderniseringsproces vanzelf zou verdwijnen, is ijdel gebleken. De discussie
over de scheiding van kerk en staat heeft sinds 9/11 een nieuwe urgentie
gekregen, waarin theologische discussies weer oplaaien. Is de islam een heel
unieke en gewelddadige religie, of is zij één van de drie abrahamitische
religies die naar hun aard botsen met de democratische rechtsstaat, omdat
zij de morele autonomie van de mens ontkennen?

Volkskrant-redacteur Chris Rutenfrans verdedigt de joods-christelijke
traditie tegen die van de islam. Alleen de laatste leidt in zijn ogen tot
moord en doodslag. Rutenfrans brengt in debat met Cliteur (Opinie & Debat, 4
december) twee argumenten in. Ten eerste zegt hij dat christendom en
jodendom vandaag de dag toch niet of nauwelijks terroristen voortbrengen,
terwijl dat bij de islam wel het geval is. Cliteur antwoordt dat zijn
filosofische verhandeling niet bedoeld is om tot empirisch toetsbare
hypotheses te leiden, maar om in algemene zin de tegenstrijdigheid aan te
tonen tussen de grondslagen van de democratische rechtstaat en de goddelijke
bevels-theorieën, die kenmerkend zijn voor alle monotheïstische

Rutenfrans’ tweede argument is van theologische aard. Volgens hem is Allah
meedogenlozer jegens ongelovigen dan JHWH, die zich volgens hem beperkt tot
het doen doden van vijanden van Israël. Cliteur vindt dat onderscheid niet
relevant, omdat hij onderzoekt in hoeverre een principiële incompatibiliteit
bestaat tussen goddelijke bevelstheorieën en de moderne democratie. Hij is
niet geïnteresseerd in de vraag welke van de drie monotheïstisch religies
het meest gewelddadig is.

Mij dunkt dat het perspectief van een seculiere staat inderdaad het beste
antwoord is op de religieuze en exclusivistische eisen die aan de overheid
gesteld worden. De debatten tussen joden, christenen en moslims lijden
veelal aan een ongemak dat door Freud het narcisme van het kleine verschil
genoemd is.

Meindert Fennema is hoogleraar politieke theorie van etnische verhoudingen
aan de UvA.

vendredi, 17 décembre 2010

Cavalcare la crisi

Cavalcare la crisi

di Stefano Zecchi - Marco Iacona

Fonte: scandalizzareeundiritto

p138.jpg-Evola ha costruito gran parte delle sue riflessioni attorno al concetto di crisi. Lei crede che ciò lo allontani da una cultura italiana che nella sua generalità, nel XX secolo, non ha partorito grandi opere su questo tema? 

«Il tema della crisi è un argomento che ha impegnato buona parte della cultura europea e in questo senso Evola si pone come serio interlocutore. In Italia però, nonostante sia ben conosciuta, la cultura della crisi non viene tematizzata perché domina l’idealismo, quello crociano e quello gentiliano. Si pensi al disconoscimento da parte di Croce del valore di un libro famosissimo come Der Untergang des Abendlandes oppure alle ricerche e alle conferenze in tema di crisi di Husserl o alle tematiche heideggeriane. Ecco, alla sua domanda risponderei di sì, Evola si pone al di fuori della cultura filosofica dominante. Certo poi gioca a suo sfavore la collocazione politica che aumenta il distacco della sua ricerca filosofica dalla restante parte della cultura italiana».               

-Perché ha scritto il saggio introduttivo alla V edizione di Cavalcare la tigre (Stefano Zecchi, Evola, o una filosofia della responsabilità contro il nichilismo, Mediterranee 1995)?

«Fu Gianfranco de Turris ad offrirmi quest’opportunità ed io accetti volentieri. Penso che Cavalcare la tigre sia un testo importante. Evola mostra i limiti della modernità nel momento in cui è trionfante e nel momento in cui esprimersi contro di essa era né più e né meno che un’eresia. Il libro s’incrociava anche con i miei studi, nonostante le tematiche svolte fossero assai diverse. La conoscenza di Cavalcare la tigre era fondamentale perché fondamentale era per me la proposta di un angolo di visuale sul tema della modernità e sul concetto di crisi».

 -Cavalcare la tigre esce agli inizi degli anni Sessanta. Qual è il clima culturale italiano di quel periodo?

«È il clima più ostile possibile nei confronti di una critica alla modernità! La cultura di destra era sotterranea quindi non aveva voce all’interno del dibattito culturale; la cultura laico-liberale e quella comunista si sviluppavano invece su prospettive totalmente diverse da una critica all’idea di modernità. Ma non era solo Evola ad essere bistrattato, si pensi a come erano stati trattati Heidegger e Husserl, cioè gli esponenti di una filosofia che usciva fuori da prospettive diciamo così à la page. Di più, in Italia si stava  instaurando, costruita con grande meticolosità, l’egemonia culturale della sinistra, quindi Evola come altri grandi pensatori europei era posto ai margini del dibattito culturale».       

-Cosa pensa dell’interesse in negativo di Evola per gli esistenzialisti?

«Credo che Evola per certi aspetti abbia visto giusto. La critica evoliana agli esistenzialisti per qualche verso mi sembra analoga alla critica fatta da Henry Miller ai surrealisti. Miller scrisse la Lettera aperta ai surrealisti (che si trova nel volume Max e i fagociti bianchi) accusandoli di intellettualismo e di incapacità di toccare a fondo i temi che essi stessi avevano sollevato. Evola mi dà l’idea di sviluppare una critica, diciamo così, metodologicamente analoga a quella di Miller perché mette in evidenza la mistificazione e le ambiguità di un pensiero esistenziale che in realtà non arriva a porre i veri temi dell’esistenza. Un pensiero che resta come una forma superficiale di interrogazione dell’essere umano».

-Lei scrive che Cavalcare la tigre «può essere letto come un manuale di sopravvivenza» «da chi crede che la società moderna porti al disastro personale e sociale, culturale e politico». Ma in quanto strumento di “salvezza” secondo lei Cavalcare la tigre è davvero efficace?

«Paradossalmente le tematiche evoliane, o comunque se non Evola il clima culturale a cui Evola appartiene sono ben più attuali oggi. Con la perdita dell’enfasi sull’idea di sviluppo e di progresso c’è maggior attenzione ai temi della crisi, e quindi i punti che Evola ha toccato sono di maggiore attualità. Ecco, le critiche di Evola (come alcune cose dette da Heidegger e da Husserl) proprio per questa perdita del valore teoretico ed etico del progresso oggi ritornano. Devo dire però che Cavalcare la tigre ci anche ha dato una mano ad attraversare un deserto: così siamo arrivati all’oggi potendo dire che per fortuna i tempi sono molto diversi».

-Lei mostra qualche affinità col pensiero di Evola...

«Io non sono un “evoliano”, il mio pensiero si sviluppa in modo diverso, sebbene, come dicevo, alcuni aspetti della critica della modernità ritornino nei miei libri. Ricordo ad esempio che quando scrissi un libro come La Bellezza (1990) soltanto il termine “bellezza” venne considerato offensivo nei riguardi della modernità».

-Parafrasando il titolo di un suo libro degli anni Novanta (Stefano Zecchi, Sillabario del nuovo millennio, Mondadori 1993), secondo lei Evola potrebbe essere un pensatore capace di decrittare il nuovo millennio?

«Sicuramente sì. Evola è uno dei grandi pensatori del nostro secolo collocabile, come ho detto più volte, all’interno del filone della crisi. Piuttosto, ripeto, su di lui ha giocato negativamente l’esperienza politica e il fatto che la cultura egemone fosse legata al dibattito politico italiano. Penso che Evola paghi un prezzo che col passare del tempo sarà sempre meno salato».

-Un’ultima domanda. Lei ha scritto di televisione e conosce i mezzi di comunicazione. Potremmo fare un parallelo fra Evola e Pasolini dicendo che si tratta di due autori che si sono opposti al potere trionfante dei moderni mezzi di comunicazione?

«Beh, in Evola c’è anche una sorta di filo moralistico, secondo il quale qualunque fenomeno moderno conduce alla massificazione. In Pasolini invece, a parte il tema moralistico, c’e un’accettazione e perfino un utilizzo dei mezzi di comunicazione di massa. Pasolini è più disponibile perché la sua è una critica ad una modernità dimentica degli aspetti originari dell’esistenza, della dimensione rurale e di quella operaia. Pasolini usa cinema, televisione e giornali ed esercita sul campo le sue critiche. Ritengo invece che Evola non avrebbe mai voluto sporcarsi gli abiti inserendosi fra i protagonisti dei più moderni mezzi di comunicazione».






Tante altre notizie su

vendredi, 10 décembre 2010

La triade homérienne

La triade homérienne

par Dominique VENNER


homere.jpgPour les Anciens, Homère était « le commencement, le milieu et la fin ». Une vision du monde et même une philosophie se déduisent implicitement de ses poèmes. Héraclite en a résumé le socle cosmique par une formulation bien à lui : « L’univers, le même pour tous les êtres, n’a été créé par aucun dieu ni par aucun homme ; mais il a toujours été, est et sera feu éternellement vivant… »

1. La nature comme socle

Chez Homère, la perception d’un cosmos incréé et ordonné s’accompagne d’une vision enchantée portée par les anciens mythes. Les mythes ne sont pas une croyance, mais la manifestation du divin dans le monde. Les forêts, les roches, les bêtes sauvages ont une âme que protège Artémis (Diane pour les Romains). La nature tout entière se confond avec le sacré, et les hommes n’en sont pas isolés. Mais elle n’est pas destinée à satisfaire leurs caprices. En elle, dans son immanence, ici et maintenant, ils trouvent en revanche des réponses à leurs angoisses :

« Comme naissent les feuilles, ainsi font les hommes. Les feuilles, tour à tour, c’est le vent qui les épand sur le sol et la forêt verdoyante qui les fait naître quand se lèvent les jours du printemps. Ainsi des hommes : une génération naît à l’instant où une autre s’efface » (Iliade, VI, 146). Tourne la roue des saisons et de la vie, chacun transmettant quelque chose de lui-même à ceux qui vont suivre, assuré ainsi d’être une parcelle d’éternité. Certitude affermie par la conscience du souvenir à laisser dans la mémoire du futur, ce que dit Hélène dans l’Iliade : « Zeus nous a fait un dur destin afin que nous soyons plus tard chantés par les hommes à venir » (VI, 357-358). Peut-être, mais la gloire d’un noble nom s’efface comme le reste. Ce qui ne passe pas est intérieur, face à soi-même, dans la vérité de la conscience : avoir vécu noblement, sans bassesse, avoir pu se maintenir en accord avec le modèle que l’on s’est fixé.

2. L’excellence comme but

A l’image des héros, les hommes véritables, nobles et accomplis (kalos agatos), cherchent dans le courage de l’action la mesure de leur excellence (arétê), comme les femmes cherchent dans l’amour ou le don de soi la lumière qui les fait exister. Aux uns et aux autres, importe seulement ce qui est beau et fort. « Etre toujours le meilleur, recommande Pelée à son fils Achille, l’emporter sur tous les autres » (Iliade, VI, 208). Quand Pénélope se tourmente à la pensée que son fils Télémaque pourrait être tué par les “prétendants” (usurpateurs), ce qu’elle redoute c’est qu’il meurt « sans gloire », avant d’avoir accompli ce qui ferait de lui un héros à l’égal de son père (Odyssée, IV, 728). Elle sait que les hommes ne doivent rien attendre des dieux et n’espérer d’autre ressource que d’eux-mêmes, ainsi que le dit Hector en rejetant un présage funeste : « Il n’est qu’un bon présage, c’est de combattre pour sa patrie » (Iliade, XII, 243). Lors du combat final de l’Iliade, comprenant qu’il est condamné par les dieux ou le destin, Hector s’arrache au désespoir par un sursaut d’héroïsme tragique : « Eh bien ! non, je n’entends pas mourir sans lutte ni sans gloire, ni sans quelque haut fait dont le récit parvienne aux hommes à venir » (XXII, 304-305).

3. La beauté comme horizon

L’Iliade commence par la colère d’Achille et se termine par son apaisement face à la douleur de Priam. Les héros d’Homère ne sont pas des modèles de perfection. Ils sont sujets à l’erreur et à la démesure en proportion même de leur vitalité. Pour cette raison, ils tombent sous le coup d’une loi immanente qui est le ressort des mythes grecs et de la tragédie. Toute faute comporte châtiment, celle d’Agamemnon comme celle d’Achille. Mais l’innocent peut lui aussi être soudain frappé par le sort, comme Hector et tant d’autres, car nul n’est à l’abri du tragique destin. Cette vision de la vie est étrangère à l’idée d’une justice transcendantale punissant le mal ou le péché. Chez Homère, ni le plaisir, ni le goût de la force, ni la sexualité ne sont jamais assimilés au mal. Hélène n’est pas coupable de la guerre voulue par les dieux (Iliade, III, 161-175). Seuls les dieux sont coupables des fatalités qui s’abattent sur les hommes. Les vertus chantées par Homère ne sont pas morales mais esthétiques. Il croit à l’unité de l’être humain que qualifient son style et ses actes. Les hommes se définissent donc au regard du beau et du laid, du noble et du vil, non du bien ou du mal. Ou, pour dire les choses autrement, l’effort vers la beauté est la condition du bien. Mais la beauté n’est rien sans loyauté ni vaillance. Ainsi Pâris ne peut être vraiment beau puisqu’il est couard. Ce n’est qu’un bellâtre que méprise son frère Hector et même Hellène qu’il a séduite par magie. En revanche, Nestor, en dépit de son âge, conserve la beauté de son courage. Une vie belle, but ultime du meilleur de la philosophie grecque, dont Homère fut l’expression primordiale, suppose le culte de la nature, le respect de la pudeur (Nausicaa ou Pénélope), la bienveillance du fort pour le faible (sauf dans les combats), le mépris pour la bassesse et la laideur, l’admiration pour le héros malheureux. Si l’observation de la nature apprend aux Grecs à mesurer leurs passions, à borner leurs désirs, l’idée qu’ils se font de la sagesse avant Platon est sans fadeur. Ils savent qu’elle est associée aux accords fondamentaux nés d’oppositions surmontées, masculin et féminin, violence et douceur, instinct et raison. Héraclite s’était mis à l’école d’Homère quand il a dit : « La nature aime les contraires : c’est avec elle qu’elle produit l’harmonie. »

Dominique Venner, « La Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire », n°43, juillet-août 2009. Mis en ligne sur le site de Dominique Venner.


jeudi, 09 décembre 2010

Entretien avec Alexandre Belov: communauté païenne russe et arts martiaux



Entretien avec Alexandre Belov:

communauté païenne russe et arts martiaux


Q.: Qu'est-ce que le paganisme pour vous?


AB: Pour moi, le paganisme est en premier lieu la somme des expériences indépendantes vécues au fil de l'histoire par un peuple particulier, tant dans le contexte des processus vitaux que dans le domaine de la connaissance.


Q.: Comment le paganisme slave a-t-il pu survivre sous la férule du communisme?


AB: La dictature communiste n'a nullement contrarié les intérêts du paganisme slave. Il faut ajouter que l'athéisme commu­niste a permis de contenir les attaques chrétiennes contre la liberté de la connaissance. L'ère communiste a ainsi rendu un grand service au paganisme slave.


Q.: Quelle est selon vous la particularité du paganisme slave en comparaison avec les autres paganismes euro­péens?


AB: La particularité essentielle du paganisme slave est d'avoir cultivé radicalement la “grande idée barbare”, c'est-à-dire l'idée d'unir le Nord de glace à l'élément du feu. La variante russe du paganisme slave a joué un plus grand rôle historique dans les traditions d'Europe orientale que le paganisme slave en général, parce qu'il a réussi à conserver et à maintenir durant des siècles au moins trois linéaments païens fondamentaux: l'adoration du Soleil, de trois divinités associées et de Prav (*), c'est-à-dire l'adoration du Dieu du Tonnerre comme divinité principale assurant l'équilibre et l'harmonie de l'univers. Le der­nier avatar de Prav se retrouve dans la désignation en langue russe du christianisme d'Orient, Pravoslaviyé, soit “orthodoxie”. Le nom, au départ païen, a été volé par les chrétiens.


Q.: Quels ont été les réunions, rencontres ou événements qui vous ont conduit à créer la “Communauté Païenne Russe”?


AB: La création de la communauté païenne russe a été suivie par une deuxième naissance: la fondation d'un centre du culte pour toute la Russie, le sanctuaire de Peroun, Dieu du Tonnerre des Slaves anciens, à Radoucha. Cette fondation a été condi­tionnée, d'une part, par la nécessité de propager la tradition nationale du culte, et, d'autre part, par la nécessité de développer cette tradition en prenant en compte la dynamique du développement dans la société contemporaine.


Q.: Pouvez-vous nous parler de la nature particulière de l'Art Martial Slave, que vous pratiquez et enseignez, et la comparer aux arts martiaux orientaux?


AB: Goritsa est un art de combat qui récapitule l'expérience historique de la “lutte russe” et la connecte à cette “grande idée barbare” que je viens de vous évoquer. J'ai créé ce système de lutte et je m'en occupe depuis environ quinze ans. Je m'occupe plus généralement d'arts martiaux depuis 24 ans. L'une des particularités principales de Goritsa est d'utiliser les réflexes les plus caractéristiques des lutteurs cherchant à diriger l'attitude de leurs adversaires. Toutes les actions de l'adversaire relèvent de ce complexe que sont toutes les actions bio-mécaniques typiques. Cela permet d'attaquer un adver­saire en connaissant à l'avance ses réactions possibles. La Goritsa est un système unique de combat qui privilégie l'attaque. La Goritsa n'est donc pas un système d'auto-défense. Autre particularité de la Goritsa: ses sources remontent à la chevalerie et sont héritées du symbolisme physique de l'arme du combattant pendant la lutte. C'est là que réside toute entière la diffé­rence entre cet art martial et sa variante chinoise, qui imite plutôt l'attitude de l'animal. J'ai dénombré plus de vingt différences fondamentales entre l'art martial slave, la Goritsa, et les règles des arts martiaux extrême-orientaux.


Q.: L'Art Martial Slave est-il pratiqué aujourd'hui dans toute la Russie?


AB: Les objectifs et les tâches de la Goritsa sont difficiles à réaliser dans la Russie actuelle, parce que la caste militaire est déconsidérée par la propagande occidentaliste actuelle au profit d'une vision purement économiciste de la société, portée par les financiers qui ne s'intéressent pas aux arts martiaux.


Q.: Vous revenez d'un voyage en Italie. Vous y avez organisé des démonstrations et répendu votre enseignement. Que pensez-vous de l'expansion de l'Art Martial Slave en Europe?


AB: La campagne de promotion de la Goritsa en Europe est possible, même nécessaire, parce que cette méthode de combat exprime un mode de connaissance fondamentalement païen, partant non-conformiste dans le contexte actuel. C'est le meilleur moyen pour recréer une caste guerrière dans toute l'Europe, qui soit animée par des principes qui soient vraiment les siens.


Q.: En dehors de la Russie, quelles sont pour vous les traditions européennes les plus intéressantes?


AB: Ce qui m'attire dans la tradition païenne européenne, c'est surtout la beauté et la sagesse que l'on retrouve dans la poésie épique populaire. Nous découvrons là une éthique authentique. Non importée.

(propos recueillis par Jean de BUSSAC et traduit par Anatoli M. IVANOV).


(*) NDT: “Prav” est un terme difficile à traduire, emprunté au “Livre de Velès”, un faux devenu à mon grand regret très popu­laire parmi les néo-païens russes. “Prav” est à la racine des mots russes “pravy” (droit), “pravda” (vérité) et “pravoslaviyé” (orthodoxie).

mercredi, 08 décembre 2010

Goritsa: la culture guerrière russe


Goritsa: la culture guerrière russe


Russian%20Martial%20Arts.jpgLes immenses étendues russes, ses steppes secouées par les vents et ses peuples anciens comme le monde, résonnent encore du chant mystique d'ancestrales traditions. Mais la tradition ne meurt jamais, et aujourd'hui les esprits fertiles de savants bien écolés s'agitent au-delà des bouleversements du temps et de l'histoire, à la recherche de ce qui rapprochait les hommes à l'aube de la civilisation. Parmi eux, le professeur Alexander Belov, enseignant titulaire de la chaire d'«Histoire des Religions à Moscou».


Fort de son prestige incontestable au sein de la classe guerrière moscovite, il entreprit, au cours des années 70, une longue recherche sur la tradition martiale russe, pour la réexhumer systématiquement. Cette entreprise le mena dans les villages les plus reculés, à entretenir des relations avec d'anciens maîtres et de rudes guerriers de souche paysanne, jusqu'à rendre toute sa splendeur à l'art martial de la Goritsa, méthode de lutte assez complète qui, au cours des siècles, s'était scindée en différentes branches.


Dans la Russie d'aujourd'hui, on assiste à un important réveil de la classe guerrière, à un développement virtuel d'un archétype de bellator bien enraciné dans la branche autochtone de la grande famille indo-européenne. Une rigoureuse conscience de classe rapproche ceux qui appartiennent à cette caste, pour laquelle la conception fondamentale est drujima («Un pour tous, tous pour un»).


A cette renaissance s'ajoute la volonté d'élargir toujours plus la caste elle-même, pour réunir les esprits les plus vifs, l'élite des énergies russes, dans les différents clans guerriers, comme celui des «Loups Bleus» auquel appartient le Prof. Belov. Et cela en vertu de profondes racines philosophico-religieuses qui sont à la base du grand édifice de la Goritsa.


C'est pourquoi la formation d'un aspirant guerrier exige un travail long et complexe. Les prémices ne sont guère favorables: si virtuellement quiconque peut s'entraîner dans la Goritsa, seulement celui qui est choisi par un Maître peut espérer accéder aux niveaux les plus hauts. Parmi les candidats, seuls trois sur dix y parviendront.


L'acceptation du candidat guerrier de la part du Maître, repose sur une fascinante faculté sémiotique: du premier regard le maître est en mesure de juger s'il est opportun de choisir le candidat et dans quelles conditions. Par exemple, il peut se servir d'une classification des typologies humaines basée sur les trois principes de la Nature Prav, Jav et Nam.


Au début de l'entraînement, l'élève tente de rejoindre la sublimation spirituelle en travaillant d'abord sur sa propre personnalité et ensuite sur l'énergie intérieure (ce dernier argument est traité seulement avec les initiés). Dans un deuxième temps on accède à une identité collective puisque l'homme, être essentiellement social, peut tirer une grande force des rapports humains. Symboliquement cette conception est représentée par la lettre «I», l'Individu, inscrite dans la lettre «O», la Collectivité, qui enserre l'individualité.


Le pratiquant, à qui on attribue un compagnon (appelé «Oncle»), est personnellement suivi par le Maître, car l'enseignement doit être adapté aux caractéristiques spécifiques de chacun. Le système d'entraînement tend à exclure l'activité du cortex cérébral pour favoriser celle de parties plus primitives du cerveau, comme le noyau lenticulaire, l'étage inférieur du pédoncule cérébral et le cervelet. En fait, par cette technique, le guerrier agira de manière instinctive, sans interférences de pensée, qui freineraient l'action et empêcheraient un tonus musculaire correct. Comment arrive-t-on à ce résultat?


Au cours d'un entraînement sont proposés environ cent vingt mouvements différents. Le néo-encéphale n'est pas en mesure de les traiter tous, alors il subit une sorte de blocus, pendant que le subconscient prend la relève en amorçant sa propre activité. Durant les premiers mois, le pratiquant, sur base de ces principes, s'entraîne trois fois par jour en raison de quinze minutes par séance.


Justement parce qu'il est fondé sur de complexes réactions psychophysiques, ce type d'entraînement peut provoquer de sérieux problèmes s'il est pratiqué sur un système neuropsychique inadéquat. D'autre part, il est vrai aussi que les instructeurs de Goritsa se décarcassent littéralement afin que leur art puisse profiter à des personnes affligées par des problèmes psychologiques en leur donnant, par la pratique, une meilleure confiance en soi et un meilleur équilibre intérieur.


Ainsi, depuis quelque temps les sections spéciales de l'Armée Russe s'entraînent dans la Goritsa, non seulement pour son utilité au combat, mais aussi pour l'attitude qu'elle insuffle d'aller toujours de l'avant, sans jamais reculer. Attitude très utile même dans certaines situations au quotidien, comme quand on éprouve une certaine crainte vis-à-vis de personnes en position d'autorité. On peut donc engager un combat psychologique et verbal, source de stratégies capables de renverser la situation à son propre avantage, sans parler de l'efficacité certaine que recèle implicitement une mentalité de “gagnant”.


Parmi les disciplines de la Goritsa, il en existe certaines qui possèdent des propriétés curatives: en se basant sur les théories de la médecine ésotérique russe, on stimule des points spécifiques du corps par des mouvements, des percussions et des massages.


Un des aspects essentiels de la culture guerrière russe concerne son substrat religieux-spirituel complexe. A sa base, on découvre un courant théologique très ancien, aujourd'hui connu sous le nom de néopaganisme, qui englobe la vie du pratiquant sous tous ses aspects. Dans cette religion, dont Alexander Belov a été longuement ministre, la position centrale est occupée par les différentes manifestations de la Nature, beaucoup d'entre elles étant symbolisées par des divinités. Ces divinités ne font pas l'objet de vénération, n'étant pas directement reconnues comme quintessences suprêmes: leur rôle est de rappeler à l'adepte (et cette valeur paradigmatique recèle la puissance du symbole) une image bien précise.


La même fonction est attribuée aux simulacres de dieux, de telle sorte que même une image du Christ pourrait être acceptée dans cette perspective et exploitée d'après les coordonnées historico-religieuses qui la caractérisent (par exemple, la bonté et l'amour universel). Il n'y a pas d'acte de foi plus élevé pour ceux qui reconnaissent un sens religieux à la Nature et à ses merveilles!


En quête d'une proximité qui frôle le fusionnement, depuis le mois de mai jusqu'aux premières neiges, les guerriers de la Goritsa s'exercent dans des milieux naturels, en courant et en s'entraînant dans les bois, parmi les arbres séculaires.


C'est le contraire de ce qui se passe dans des villes comme Milan, par exemple, où l'élément «pierre» est prédominant, où l'interaction négative de ces murailles avec l'esprit empêche ce dernier de se détendre: voici pourquoi, dans les grandes métropoles sans végétation, beaucoup de personnes sont affligées par des troubles psychiques. Quand le Prof. Belov vit le Dôme de Milan, tout en étant frappé par la force religieuse qu'il dégageait, il ne l'estima pas plus intense que celle produite par une tempête en montagne.


Dans ce credo essentiellement animiste, qui présume une étroite connexion entre tous les éléments de l'Univers, on accepte une tétralogie élémentaire, développée dans le schéma suivant:


Air - Soleil/Feu - Terre


Les quatre éléments se déplacent perpétuellement en sens rotatif, en engendrant une figure graphique proche du svastika tantrique, pendant qu'au centre sied le dieu Ra. Ra, racine lexicale (et ici la mystique païenne montre le lien lexical de signification-signifant) extrêmement ancienne et commune, et tout particulièrement dans un sens théologique, à plusieurs cultures, depuis le dieu Ra des Egyptiens jusqu'au dieu Rama des Indiens.


Il est intéressant de noter les traces de la syllabe RA dans les toponymes d'une frange centrale du territoire russe qui s'étend du Nord au Sud, comme si elle y avait été véhiculée par les migrations des peuples vers les régions méridionales, depuis la chaîne de l'Oural jusqu'à la Mer d'Aral, au nom hiératique de la Mer Caspienne.


Ra/Rot: le démiurge immobile


Le dieu russe Ra, plus tard appelé Rot, est tellement éloigné des hommes qu'il ne se préoccupe pas de leurs affaires. Toutefois, il reste le démiurge immobile qui déplace les éléments de l'Univers. Parmi ceux-ci le feu, au dieu duquel est consacré un style (aux propriétés curatives), qui représente l'art martial de la Goritsa, puisque le feu est le symbole de l'action et de la dynamique pures: les mouvements circulaires du guerrier doivent envahir l'espace, comme le feu envahit l'air.


L'importance idéologique de certains principes cosmiques, et de l'iconographie religieuse qui s'y rapporte, est telle qu'un disciple se voue à une divinité, choisie parmi celles qui s'accordent le mieux avec sa personnalité, et cette divinité sera son guide dans son itinéraire existentiel et spirituel.


Mais le dieu majeur de cette religion est relié à la trinité de base de la philosophie néopaïenne russe: Nam, terme qui veut désigner le fait de «prendre l'énergie» (se rapportant aussi, par exemple, à ces personnes qui, comme on dit, aspirent  l'énergie d'autrui), Jav, «donner l'énergie»; et Prav, le plus important, l'équilibre entre les deux. Les guerriers ont pour tâche le maintien de cet équilibre. A la conception Prav est lié le dieu principal de l'Olympe russe, comme le Zeus grec: Perun, qui représente aussi l'action continue.


Aujourd'hui, au moment où s'accentuent et s'intensifient les relations entre les peuples et les cultures, la possibilité nous est donnée d'accéder à un patrimoine de sagesse de grande élévation. Nous devons espérer que des esprits ouverts et talentueux parviendront à cueillir le message, pour le perfectionnement permanent et régulier de l'homme et de la vie humaine.



mardi, 30 novembre 2010

Evola on Zen & Everyday Life

Evola on Zen & Everyday Life

Translation anonymous, revised by Greg Johnson


Eugen Herrigel
Zen in the Art of Archery
New York: Vintage, 1999
[Zen nell’arte del tirar d’arco (Turin: Rigois, 1956)]

Kakuzo Okakura
The Book of Tea
Stone Bridge Press, 2007
[II Libro del Te (Rome: Fratelli Bocca, 1955)]

Zen_P.jpgThe first of these little books, translated into Italian from German, is unique of its kind, as a direct and universally accessible introduction to the spirit the fundamental disciplines and behavior of the civilization of the Far East, especially Japan. Herrigel is a German professor who was invited to teach philosophy in a Japanese University, and decided to study the traditional spirit of the country in its most typical living forms. He took a special interest in acquiring an understanding of Zen Buddhism, and strange as it may seem, he was told that the best way to do so was to study the traditional practice of Archery. Herrigel therefore untiringly studied that art for no less than five years, and the book describes how his progress therein and his gradual penetration into the essence of Zen proceeded side by side with archery, conditioning one another reciprocally, leading to a deep inner transformation of the author himself.

The essence of Zen as a conception of the world is, as is known, its special interpretation of the state of nirvana which, partly through the influence of Taoism, is understood in Japan not as a state of evanescent ascetic beatitude, but as something indwelling, an inner liberation, a state free from the fevers, the ordeals, the bonds of the ego, a state which may be preserved while engaged in all the activities and in all the forms of everyday life itself. Thanks to it, life as a whole acquires a different dimension; it is understood and lived in a different way. The “absence of the ego” upon which, in conformity with the spirit of Buddhism, Zen insists so strongly, is not however akin to apathy or atony; it gives rise to a higher form of spontaneous action, of assurance, of freedom and serenity in action. This may be compared to a man who holds on convulsively to something and who, when he lets it go, acquires a higher serenity, a superior sense of freedom and assurance.

After calling attention to all these points, the author notes the existence in the Far East of traditional arts that both arise from this freedom of Zen and offer the means for attaining it through the training required to practice them. Strange as it may seem, the Zen spirit dwells in the Far Eastern Arts taught by the Masters of painting, serving tea, arranging flowers, archery, wrestling, fencing, and so forth. All these arts have a ritual aspect. There are, moreover, ineffable aspects thanks to which true mastery in any of these arts cannot be attained unless one has acquired inner enlightenment and transformation of ordinary self-consciousness, which makes mastery a kind of tangible sacrament.

Thus Herrigel tells us how in learning to draw the long bow, little by little, through the problems involved in this art as it is still taught in Japan, he came to the knowledge and the inner understanding that be sought. He realized that archery was not a sport but rather a kind of ritual action and initiation. To acquire a thorough knowledge of it one had to arrive at the elimination of one’s ego, overcome all tension, and achieve a superior spontaneity. Only then was muscular relaxation paradoxically joined to maximum strength; the archer, the bow, and the target became one whole. The arrow flew as if of its own accord and found its target almost without being aimed. Stated in these terms, the mastery attained is a degree of spirituality, or “Zen,” not as theory and philosophy but as actual experience, as a deeper mode of being.

By describing situations of this kind, based on personal experience, Herrigel’s little book is important not only because it introduces the reader to the spirit of an exotic civilization, but also because it enables us to view in a new light some of our own ancient traditions. We know that in antiquity, and to some extent in the Middle Ages also, jealously guarded traditions, elements of religion, rites, and even mysteries were associated with the various arts. There were “goods” for each of these arts and rites of admission to practice them. The initiation to crafts and professions in certain guilds and “collegia” proceeded along parallel lines with spiritual initiation. Thus, to mention a later case, the symbolism proper to the mason’s art of the medieval builders served as the basis for the first Freemasonry, which drew from it the allegories for the proceedings of the “Great Work.” It may therefore be that in all this the West once knew something of what has been preserved to this day in the Far East in such teachings as “the way of the bow” or “the art of the sword,” held to be identical with the “way of Zen” in a singularly positive form of Buddhism.

The Author of the second little book, to the Italian edition of which we now turn, is a Japanese interested above all in aesthetic problems, who has studied the modern schools of art in Europe and America but has remained faithful to his own traditions and has engaged in a resolute and efficient action in his own country against the introduction of Europeanizing tendencies. His Il Libro del Te confirms in the central part devoted more closely to the subject under consideration, what we have just been saying.

There have been close connections in the Far East between Zen, the “tea schools” and the “tea cult” (the term used by the author to designate this is “teaism,” an infelicitous word given that “theism” indicates in our countries every religion based on the notion of a personal God). Indeed it is claimed that the tea ceremonial as elaborated in Japan in the 16th century was derived from the much more ancient Zen rite of drinking tea from one single cup before the statue of Bodhidharma. Generally speaking this ceremonial rite is one of the many forms in which the Taoist principle of “completeness in the fragment” is expressed. Lu-wu in his book Cha-ching had already asserted that in preparing the tea the same order and the same harmony must he observed that from the Taoist standpoint reigns in all things.

The author adds that it is part of the religion of the art of life. “The tea became a pretext for the enjoyment of moments of meditation and happy detachment in which the host and his guests took part.” Both the site and structure of the rooms built for this special purpose—the tea-rooms (sukiya)—follow the ritualistic principle; they are symbolic. The variegated and partly irregular path that, within the framework of the Ear Eastern art of gardening, leads to the tea-room is emblematic of that preliminary state of meditation that leads to breaking all ties to the outer world, to detachment from the worries and interests of ordinary life.

The style of the room itself is of refined simplicity. In spite of the bare and poverty-stricken appearance it may offer to Western eyes, it follows in every detail a precise intention. The selection and the use of the right materials call for infinite care and attention to detail, so much so that the cost of a perfect tea room may be greater than a whole casement. The term “sukiya”—the author says—originally meant “the house of imagination,” the allusion being not to wandering fancies but to the faculty of detaching oneself from the empirical world, of recollecting oneself and taking refuge in an ideal world.

Other expressions used by the Masters of Tea rite are “the house of emptiness” and “the house of asymmetry.” The first of these expressions traces back directly to the notion of the Void proper to Taoist metaphysics (and here we may recall also the part played by this notion, almost as a key or background in the “aerial” element of Far Eastern painting). The expression “house of asymmetry” refers to the fact that some detail is always intentionally left unfinished and care is taken to arrange things to give the impression of a lacuna. The reason for this is that the sense of completeness and harmony must not arise from something already fixed and repeatable, but must be suggested by an exterior incompleteness which impels one to conceive them inwardly by means of a mental act.

The author deals also of the connections existing between the art of tea and that of selecting and arranging the flowers in the sukiya, here again in conformity with symbolism and a special sensibility. Often one single flower rightly selected and placed is the only ornament of the “house of emptiness.”

Lastly the author reminds us that a special philosophy of daily life is accessory to the tea ritual, so much so that in current Japanese parlance a man lacking in sensibility to the tragi-comical sides of personal life is said to be “lacking in tea,” while those who give way to uncontrolled impulses and feelings are said to have “too much tea.” This brings one back to that ideal of balanced, subtle, and calm superiority, which plays so large apart in the general attitude of the man of the Far East.

If we think of the wide use made of tea in the West, and of the circumstances of this use in our social life, more especially among fashionable circles, it would be natural to draw comparisons which would show that, even in this seemingly commonplace field, as on the plane of ideas, all things of the Orient are diminished when imported into the Western world.

East and West, vol. 7, no. 3, October 1956, pp. 274–76

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mardi, 23 novembre 2010

Aspetti religiosi e storici del Tibet

Aspetti religiosi e storici del Tibet

La storia documentata di questo popolo risale a circa 2300 anni fa, al tempo dell’Impero Macedone in Occidente

Gianluca Padovan


Tibet.jpgIn questi ultimi decenni vari personaggi hanno visto il Tibet come uno degli ultimi territori del Pianeta dove si siano conservate le antiche tradizioni dei cosiddetti “indoeuropei”.

Difatti non si esclude l’ipotesi che le ondate migratorie dall’Europa, avvenute tra il terzo e il primo millennio prima dell’anno zero, abbiano interessato anche questi altopiani, portandovi genti e tradizioni europee. Fino a ieri potevamo osservare che a una quota media di 4000 metri si è sviluppata una cultura che si è mantenuta sostanzialmente indipendente nel corso dei secoli: essa avrebbe avuto tanto da insegnare (o da ricordare) a noi europei rimasti si nelle nostre terre, ma in gran parte privati del nostro retroterra culturale. Gli studi sulla preistoria tibetana sono quasi totalmente mancanti, seppure siano stai riconosciuti siti inquadrabili al paleolitico superiore e al neolitico.

La cultura megalitica è diffusa, con menhir isolati e allineamenti; ad esempio: “a Do-ring, esistono 18 file di monoliti”.1 La lingua tibetana presenta numerosi dialetti ed è compresa, secondo alcuni, nella famiglia sino-tibetana. Ma meriterebbe maggiore attenzione e uno studio comparato più approfondito soprattutto dei così detti dialetti.

Riguardo le loro origini i tibetani ricordano vari miti e uno dei più antichi parla dell’esistenza di un uovo, matrice d’ogni creazione: “Quest’uovo primordiale concentrava in sé tutti gli elementi -aria, terra, fuoco, acqua e spazio- e fece nascere altre diciotto uova: da una di queste scaturì un essere informe, ma capace di pensare, che provò il bisogno di vedere, toccare, ascoltare, sentire, gustare e spostarsi e allora creò a sua volta il corpo umano”.2

L’ordine costituito viene da Nyatri Tsen-po, un re guerriero del cielo che indossa un elmo metallico, i cui simboli del potere sono l’armatura che s’infila da sola e gli oggetti magici che agiscono da soli: la lancia, la spada e lo scudo. Questa sorta di semidio è comunque mortale: “Al momento della morte terrena il suo corpo si trasformò in un arcobaleno e gli permise di risalire nella sua prima patria: lo spazio infinito dove giace in una tomba eterea”.3

Parlando del profilo storico del Tibet, Padma Sambhava traccia un interessante disegno: “I tibetani hanno sempre chiamato il proprio paese Bö, in qualche occasione aggiungendo Khawajen, Terra delle Nevi. La storia documentata risale a circa 2300 anni fa, al tempo dell’Impero Macedone in Occidente, dell’Impero Maurya in India, e del tardo Impero Chou in Cina. Nei suoi primi otto secoli, il Tibet fu governato da una dinastia militare. Aveva un sistema religioso animista, retto da un clero di sciamani esperti nella divinazione, nelle arti magiche e nei sacrifici, mentre il suo sistema di governo s’incentrava su una famiglia reale ritenuta di discendenza divina. I primi sette re discesero sulla terra a governare da una scala di corda sospesa nel cielo, sulla quale sarebbero poi risaliti non appena fosse giunta la loro ora. L’ottavo re, in seguito ad un conflitto di corte, recise la corda che lo legava al cielo e, da allora in poi, i sovrani come i faraoni egiziani, furono sepolti in ampi tumuli funerari insieme ai loro beni e al loro seguito».4

Ricordando il proselitismo dei missionari cattolici, i quali dalle terre dell’India si spingono in Tibet, Giuseppe Tucci riporta un loro raffronto tra mussulmani, induisti e lamaisti, che così si delinea nella considerazione di questi ultimi: “La severa organizzazione dei monasteri, l’abilità dialettica dei maestri, le sottigliezze teologali discusse con arguto vigore di logica nelle radunanze di monaci e l’austerità di molti riti ben disposero la loro anima al Buddismo Tibetano”.5

Parlando del buddhismo non si può dimenticare che il quattordicesimo Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, guida spirituale e politica del Tibet, nonché Nobel per la Pace nel 1989, vive esule in India dal 1959. Dalai Lama è il titolo dato al capo della religione buddista-lamaista residente a Lhasa (Tibet) nel Palazzo del Potala. Nel 1950 le truppe cinesi del governo comunista maoista attaccano il Tibet e con il trattato del 23 maggio 1951 lo stato è integrato nella Repubblica Popolare Cinese. Sono lunghe e complesse le vicende politiche, religiose e militari che vedono coinvolto il territorio tibetano da circa duemila anni; basterà qui ricordare che nel 1720 la Cina interviene militarmente imponendo due propri commissari accanto al Dalai-Lama dell’epoca. Così racconta Thubten Dschigme Norbu, fratello maggiore del Dalai Lama, nonché abate del monastero buddista di Kumbum situato nei pressi di Sining in Cina: “Ancora una volta dovetti recarmi a Sining dalla commissione per il Tibet. Mi dichiararono che dovevo condurre con loro due coniugi e un radiotelegrafista cinesi; quest’ultimo doveva restare sempre in comunicazione con Sining, per informarli costantemente di quanto accadeva alla nostra carovana. Acconsentii a malincuore. Nel loro discorso i comunisti deposero completamente la maschera. Senza preamboli mi sottoposero delle proposte che mi atterrirono e mi irritarono. Quel che dovetti udire era talmente mostruoso, che solo a fatica potevo dominarmi. Se fossi riuscito a convincere il governo di Lhasa ad accogliere le truppe della Repubblica Popolare Cinese come esercito di liberazione e a riconoscere la Cina comunista, sarei stato nominato governatore generale del Tibet. Come tale avrei guidato e sostenuto la grande opera di ricostruzione, in cui la nostra religione sarebbe stata sostituita dall’ideologia comunista. Se il Dalai Lama si fosse opposto, avrei trovato modi e mezzi per levarlo di mezzo. Mi fecero intendere che anche il fratricidio è giustificato, quando si tratta di realizzare le idee comuniste. Portarono esempi, che dimostravano come simili fatti fossero stati premiati con le più alte cariche”.6

Dal 1950 ad oggi più di un milione di tibetani sono morti a causa dell’occupazione cinese, circa seimila monasteri sono stati distrutti e decine di migliaia di persone deportate, tra cui molti monaci. Il territorio è oggetto di un ben preciso programma di deculturazione ed è indiscriminatamente usato per lo stoccaggio di rifiuti nocivi, tossici e radioattivi. Sostanzialmente è diventato la “pattumiera della Cina”.
Gli stati europei stanno a guardare, abbagliati dal mito cinese che irradia la luce del facile guadagno, con l’avvallo di industriali e imprenditori europei nella non considerazione degli operai-schiavi cinesi, decisamente meno impegnativi degli odierni operai-disoccupati europei, nuovi poveri mondiali.
Nonostante questo Dalai Lama non abbia mai proferito una parola contro l’aggressione cinese. In un suo recente libro, L’arte di essere pazienti, riporta le parole di Acharya Shantideva, illuminato buddista dell’VIII sec.: (64) “Anche se altri diffamassero o persino distruggessero immagini sacre, reliquiari e il sacro dharma, è erroneo che io mi arrabbi perché i Buddha non potranno mai essere oltraggiati”.7
Commenta poi così lo scritto: “Si potrebbe cercare di giustificare lo sviluppo dell’odio nei confronti di chi oltraggia tali oggetti con l’amore per il dharma. Shantideva però afferma che non è questa la risposta giusta, giacché in realtà si reagisce in quanto si è incapaci di sopportare il gesto. Ma gli oggetti sacri non possono essere danneggiati”.8

Parlando recentemente con “vecchi” comunisti italiani sono rimasto lievemente perplesso nell’udire che il Dalai Lama è da questi considerato un oppressore del suo popolo, perché ha cercato di mantenere in pieno XX secolo i tibetani in uno stato medievale. Mi ha sconcertato l’acriticità e la scorrettezza delle loro argomentazioni e laconicamente potrei commentare che l’indottrinamento di stampo comunista in Cina permane e i vecchi comunisti italiani guardano a tutto ciò con occhi sognanti. Ad ogni buon conto se delle radici europee c’erano, adesso, anche grazie ai “nuovi europei”, possiamo stare quasi certi che siano scomparse. Ma la speranza, come recita un saggio nostrano, è l’ultima a morire e personalmente credo che qualcuno in Europa rimarrà desto a studiare, a capire e a tramandare.

18 Novembre 2010 12:00:00 -

lundi, 22 novembre 2010

Il mito, per Eliade, dà valore e significato al mondo e alla vita

Il mito, per Eliade, dà valore e significato al mondo e alla vita

di Francesco Lamendola

Fonte: Arianna Editrice [scheda fonte]

L’uomo non può vivere senza miti; meglio: non può vivere senza un sistema di pensiero mitico, che integri in se stesso l’intero fenomeno dell’esistenza.
Poiché l’universo mitico è proprio delle culture arcaiche e di quelle tradizionali, comunque del mondo pre-moderno, esiste un atteggiamento di sufficienza e di distacco nei suoi confronti, quasi che si trattasse della espressione di un pensiero bambino, giustificato in un conteso “primitivo”, ma assolutamente incongruo nella razionale società odierna.
Questo grossolano pregiudizio scientista fa sì che la cultura occidentale moderna stenti a trovare gli strumenti operativi e le stesse categorie concettuali atti a comprendere il fenomeno della mitologia dall’interno, ossia cogliendone  le vitali articolazioni con l’orizzonte spirituale dei popoli che l’hanno elaborata, per dare fondamento alla loro esistenza e per stabilire una relazione di corrispondenza fra se stessi e la realtà circostante.
Il mito non è soltanto uno strumento per razionalizzare i fenomeni naturali e per rassicurare le paure ancestrali dell’uomo, come vorrebbe la Vulgata scientista, ma qualcosa di molto più complesso e di molto più elevato: è una finestra sulla dimensione trascendente spalancata nell’immanente, sull’atemporale nel temporale, sull’assoluto nel relativo.
Grazie al mito, la realtà assume un significato e si presenta all’uomo sotto la categoria dei valori: a cominciare dalla sua stessa esistenza, collegata al passato (antenati) e al futuro (discendenti), nonché a tutti gli altri viventi, vegetali ed animali, al cielo, alla terra, alle stagioni, al giorno e alla notte; e pervasa da poderose correnti di presenze sovrumane, ora benevole ora maligne, che l’uomo stesso può, a determinate condizioni, comprendere e, talvolta, padroneggiare.
Se l’animale cade sotto la freccia del cacciatore, ciò non avviene per esclusivo merito dell’abilità di quest’ultimo; se la spiga di grano germoglia e giunge a maturazione, ciò non è solamente effetto del lavoro dell’agricoltore. Esiste un patto fra l’uomo e le forze della natura, sottoscritto dagli antenati e rinnovato continuamente mediante i riti sciamanici e le prescrizioni totemiche, grazie al quale la Terra offre all’uomo ciò di cui ha bisogno, purché ne usi con saggezza e con moderazione e purché si riconosca debitore di tutto ciò che riceve.
Il mito è la struttura di pensiero che rende ragione di tutto ciò e, di conseguenza, che offre all’uomo la prospettiva di un significato insito nelle cose, in tutte le cose, ivi compreso il suo stesso esistere; in questo senso, si può anche dire che il pensiero mitico è una forma embrionale di pensiero filosofico, o, per dir meglio, una forma di pensiero parallela al pensiero filosofico. Infatti la mitologia non è una sorta di filosofia bambina, ma una forma di pensiero che, come la filosofia, tende a spiegare l’origine delle cose e della vita; non limitandosi - però - alla dimensione del pensiero logico, né ad una conoscenza di tipo oggettivo ed esterno alle cose, ma calandosi, per così dire, nelle cose stesse, onde rivelarne il volto nascosto ed i significati profondi, che parlano all’uomo per mezzo di simboli.
Ciò non significa in alcun modo che il mito sia una forma di conoscenza inferiore alla filosofia; tanto è vero che un filosofo della statura di Platone si è servito del mito proprio per tentare di esplorare alcune delle verità più profonde e difficili. (Ma su tutto questo, vedi anche il nostro precedente articolo: «Il pensiero mitico è diverso, non certo inferiore a quello scientifico», particolarmente dedicato alla riflessione dell’epistemologo tedesco Kurt Hübner, apparso sul sito di Arianna Editrice in data 15/01/2008).
Il grande storico delle religioni Mircea Eliade ha dedicato gran parte dei suoi studi e delle sue riflessioni proprio ad illuminare il significato del mito nel contesto delle culture arcaiche, con particolare riguardo allo sciamanesimo; e, su tale argomento, ha scritto alcune delle pagine più significative che l’intera cultura europea abbia prodotto.
Osserva, dunque, Eliade in «Mito e realtà» (titolo originale: «Myth and Reality»; trasduzione italiana di Giovanni Cantoni, Roma, Borla Editore, 1974, pp. 144-46):

«In un mondo simile [ossia quello del mito], l’uomo non si sente rinchiuso nel suo modo d’esistenza; anch’egli è “aperto”, comunica con il mondo, perché  utilizza lo stesso linguaggio: il simbolo. Se il mondo gli parla attraverso i suoi astri, le sue piante e i suoi animali, i suoi fiumi e i suoi monti, le sue stagioni e le sue notti, l’uomo gli risponde  con i suoi sogni e la sua vita immaginativa, con i suoi antenati oppure con i suoi “totem” - ad un tempo natura, sovranatura ed esseri umani -, con la sua capacità di morire e risuscitare ritualmente nelle sue cerimonie di iniziazione (né più né meno della luna e della vegetazione), con il suo potere di incarnare uno spirito mettendosi una maschera, ecc. Se il mondo è trasparente per l’uomo arcaico, anche questo si sente “guardato” e compreso dal mondo. La selvaggina lo guarda e lo comprende (spesso l’animale si lascia catturare perché sa che l’uomo ha fame), come pure la roccia, o l’albero, o il fiume. Ciascuno ha la sua storia da raccontargli, un consiglio da dargli.
Pur sapendosi essere umano e accettandosi come tale, l’uomo delle società arcaiche sa anche di essere qualche cosa di più.  Per esempio, sa che il suo antenato è stato un animale, oppure che può morire e tornare alla vita (iniziazione, trance sciamanica) , che può influenzare i raccolti con le sue orge (che può comportarsi con la sua sposa come il cielo con la terra o che può avere la parte del vomere e sua moglie quella del solco). Nelle culture più complesse, l’uomo sa che il suo respiro è vento, che le sue ossa sono simili a montagne, che un fuoco brucia nel suo stomaco, che il suo ombelico può diventare “centro del mondo”, ecc.
Non bisogna immaginare che questa “apertura” verso il mondo si traduca in una concezione bucolica dell’esistenza I miti dei “primitivi” e i rituali che ne dipendono non ci rivelano un’Arcadia arcaica. Come si è visto, i paleocoltivatori, assumendosi la responsabilità di far prosperare il mondo vegetale, hanno accettato ugualmente la tortura delle vittime a vantaggio dei raccolti, l’orgia sessuale, il cannibalismo, la caccia di teste.
Si tratta di una concezione tragica dell’esistenza, risultato della valorizzazione religiosa della tortura e della morte violenta. Un mito come quello di Hainuwele [tramandato nelle Isole Molucche, nella parte più orientale dell’odierna Indonesia], e tutto il complesso socio-religioso che esso articola e giustifica, forza l’uomo ad accettare la sua condizione di essere mortale e sessuato, condannato a uccidere e a lavorare per potersi nutrire.  Il mondo vegetale e animale gli “parla” della sua origine, cioè, in ultima analisi, di Hainuwele; il paleo coltivatore comprende questo linguaggio e scopre un significato per tutto ciò che lo circonda e per tutto ciò che fa. Ma questo lo obbliga ad accettare la crudeltà e l’uccisione come parte integrante del suo modo d’essere. Certamente, la crudeltà, la tortura, l’uccisione, non sono comportamenti specifici ed esclusivi dei “primitivi”. Li si incontra lungo tutta la storia, talvolta con un parossismo sconosciuto alle società arcaiche. La differenza consiste soprattutto nel fatto che, per i “primitivi”, questa condotta violenta ha un valore religioso ed è ricalcata  su modelli sovrumani. Questa concezione si è protratta a lungo nella storia. Gli stermini di massa di un Gengis Khan, per esempio, trovano ancora una giustificazione religiosa.
Il mito non è, in se stesso, una garanzia di “bontà” e di moralità. La sua funzione consiste nel rivelare dei modelli e nel fornire così un significato al mondo e al’esistenza umana. Anche il suo ruolo nella costituzione dell’uomo è immenso. In virtù del mito, lo abbiamo detto, le idee di REALTÀ, di VALORE, di TRASCENDENZA, vengono lentamente alla luce. In virtù del mito, il mondo si lascia cogliere come cosmo perfettamente articolato, intelligibile e significativo. Raccontando come le cose sono state fatte, il mito svela per chi e per che cosa sono state fatte e in quale circostanza. Tutte queste “rivelazioni” impegnano direttamente l’uomo, perché costituiscono una “storia sacra”.»

Come si vede, la visione di Eliade è lontanissima da ogni edulcorazione in chiave roussoiana delle società arcaiche; nessun mito del buon selvaggio, nessuna “bontà” intrinseca del mondo mitico: e, del resto, basta un minimo di conoscenza della storia e della letteratura antiche per rendersene immediatamente conto.
Non è forse per espletare un rito di natura espiatoria e propiziatoria che Achille uccide i dodici giovinetti troiani sulla pira di Patroclo; episodio che perfino il raffinato Virgilio, esponente di una cultura molto più “moderna”, riprende nella sua «Eneide»? Ebbene, si tratta di un’azione che acquista significato alla luce della credenza in un legame tra l’aldiqua e l’Aldilà, che trae origine e significato alla luce del mito: nel caso specifico, la credenza che il sangue di alcune vittime innocenti possa placare i Mani di un defunto strappato anzitempo alla vita.
E non sono forse piene le tombe etrusche, a cominciare dalla celeberrima Tomba François di Vulci, di simili raffigurazioni, addirittura impressionanti nella loro carica di tragicità e di cruento realismo, con il demone infernale Charun (latrino Charon), dall’aspetto spaventoso, che accompagna le anime nel loro viaggio al Regno dei morti?
Eliade ci ricorda che la pratica del sacrificio umano è indissolubilmente legata alle culture dei paleocotivatori; e l’archeologia ce ne dà conferma, da un capo all’altro del mondo, dall’Europa alle Americhe: ad esempio con le cerimonie dei Maya per scongiurare la siccità mediante il sacrificio di una fanciulla vergine, che veniva precipitata in un pozzo, o con quella degli Skidi Pawnee dedicata alla Stella del mattino, nella quale, sempre per propiziarsi le forze magiche della natura, essi uccidevano una vergine, all’alba, trafiggendola con piccole frecce infuocate.
Sbagliano, dunque, sia coloro i quali ostentano disprezzo verso la concezione mitica del mondo, sia coloro i quali la idealizzano in maniera ingenuamente acritica, proiettando su di essa il loro vagheggiamento di un Eden incontaminato e perfetto, che nasce dalla frustrazione di essere membri di una società esasperatamente individualista e materialista.
La funzione del mito era ed è essenzialmente quella di rivelare la dimensione nascosta, originaria, delle cose, mostrando la stretta interconnessione che tutte le congiunge e che unisce ad esse anche l’uomo.
Al tempo stesso, il mito tramanda il ricordo di un tempo in cui un ordine felice regnava nel mondo e l’uomo stesso godeva di uno statuto privilegiato; cose entrambe che sono andate perdute a causa di un disordine, di una perturbazione, di una caduta che ha incrinato l’assetto originario, ma che appunto il mito è in grado di recuperare, almeno parzialmente, consentendo all’uomo di ricollegarsi a quella fortunata condizione originaria.
In questo senso, è corretto affermare che il mito punta a reintegrare l’uomo nella sua pienezza ontologica e che tale reintegrazione assume le forme e la prospettiva di una elevazione, ossia di un superamento della sua condizione presente, limitata e precaria, per sviluppare e potenziare in lui le facoltà superiori, ivi compresa quella di parlare alle cose, alle piante, agli animali e, pertanto, di rinsaldare i vincoli magici che tengono in equilibrio le forze cosmiche.
Il mito si collega anche da questo lato allo sciamanesimo e dischiude all’uomo la possibilità di inserirsi non più da spettatore inerme o da vittima rassegnata, ma da autentico protagonista, nel gioco di tali forze cosmiche, dalle quale può attingere poteri e possibilità che, nello stato ordinario di esistenza, sono per lui inimmaginabili.
Infine il mito delinea una concezione sacrale del reale; una concezione, cioè, che, rivestendo di mistero e di potenza gli elementi del cosmo, si pone agli antipodi della nostra cultura secolarizzata e della sua pretesa di capire tutto, di spiegare tutto, di misurare e quantificare ogni cosa, alla luce del Logos strumentale e calcolante.
Il mito, infatti, non è, semplicemente, conoscenza del reale, ma rivelazione: e, come tale, presuppone un “corpus” di dottrine esoteriche che solo nei tempi e nei modi stabiliti possono venir trasmessi di generazione in generazione, essendo di origine superiore all’umana; ciò che va propriamente sotto il nome di Tradizione.
Riconoscendo una Tradizione sovrumana, dalla quale derivano tanto l’ordine cosmico, quando le dottrine iniziatiche che permettono all’uomo di scorgerlo, di rispettarlo e di porsi in sintonia con esso, il mito si pone, in effetti, come una forma di approccio al reale radicalmente diversa, e antagonista, rispetto a quella cui noi moderni siamo ormai talmente abituati, da considerarla l’unica vera e realmente efficace.
Una cosa è certa: finché non scenderemo dal piedistallo della nostra presunzione scientista, non potremo capire nulla del mito e continueremo o a denigrarlo, o a idealizzarlo, senza mai penetrarne l’intima essenza.
Che non si lascia catturare in schemi di tipo esclusivamente logico e scientifico, quali quelli cui siamo abituati da quattro secoli di razionalismo materialista e meccanicista; ma che richiede un salto, una discontinuità nel nostro atteggiamento verso il reale, che coinvolga non solo il Logos, ma tutte le nostre facoltà, a cominciare dai sensi interni e dalle potenzialità sopite dell’anima.

Tante altre notizie su

mercredi, 17 novembre 2010

Remembering René Guénon

Remembering René Guénon

Edouard RIX


Translated by Greg Johnson

Editor’s Note:

This essay and the one that follows are presented in commemoration of René Guénon’s birth on November 15, 1886.

rene_guenon.jpgOn January 7th, 1951, the Frenchman René Guénon, one of the principal representatives of Traditional thought in the 20th century, died in Cairo.

From Occultism to Esotericism

Guénon was born in Blois, on November 15, 1886, to a strongly Catholic family. In 1904, after a pilgrimage to Lourdes, he went to Paris to continue his education. A dawdler, he only obtained his license when he was 29, then at 32 he failed his aggregation in philosophy when his doctoral thesis, devoted to “A General Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines,” was rejected.

Parallel to his studies, Guénon frequented, from his arrival in the capital, the occultist milieu, launching himself headlong into a series of affiliations and initiations. He entered the Hermetic School, was received into the Martinist Order, attended various occultist Masonic organizations, was initiated in the Tebah Lodge of the Grand Lodge of France. In 1908, he was secretary of Second Spiritualistic and Masonic Congress and became Sovereign Grand Commander of the Order of the Renovated Temple. At the age of 23, he was consecrated “bishop of Alexandria” of the Gnostic Church of France, under the name of Palingénius and became editor of La Gnose, “the monthly review devoted to the study of esoteric sciences.”

After several disappointing experiences in the occultist milieu, he turned to the East to find the right path, that of “initiatory Knowledge.” After being interested in Taoism, he was initiated in 1912 into Sufism, an Islamic initiatory current, without embracing the Islamic religion, as he would later explain to a correspondent. Having learned Chinese and Arabic, reading the original texts, he tried to work with initiates in each tradition.

While giving his own lessons and courses of philosophy, René Guénon wrote many articles for Catholic publications like the Revue universelle du Sacré-Cœur Regnabit and Traditionalist publications like the Le Voile d’Isis (Veil of Isis), which became Etudes traditionnelles. He also published books.

The Tradition Against the Modern World

In his Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines (1921), and the Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta (1925), he defined the criteria of universal traditional metaphysics. For Guénon, Tradition means the whole of “metaphysical” knowledge of order: it admits a variety of forms, while remaining one in its essence.

He insists on the idea, already formulated before him by Joseph de Maistre and Fabre d’ Olivet, of a primordial Tradition, which goes back to a supreme Center, the repository of all spiritual knowledge, which diffuses it by the means of “initiatory chains” present in the various religious paths. In Perspectives on Initiation (1946), he defended the need to attach oneself to  a “chain,” to a “regular organization,” but hardly offers an alternative to those who refuse to defer, like him, to Muslim or Oriental ones. But in all fairness, he recognizes that in spite of its degeneration Freemasonry remains in theory a conduit of genuine initiation.

The most interesting aspect of Guénon’s work lies in his radical criticism of the modern world, to which he opposes the world of Tradition as a positive foil. According to him, traditional civilization,which was realized in the Orient as well as the West—India, Medieval Catholicism, Imperial China, the Islamic Caliphate—rests on metaphysical foundations. It is characterized by the recognition of an order higher than anything human and the authority of elites which draw from this transcendent plane the principles necessary to found an articulated social organization.

This rests on the division of society into four castes or functional classes: at the top representatives of spiritual authority, then a warlike aristocracy, a middle-class of the merchants and craftsmen, and finally the toiling masses. This concept of caste refers obviously to the Hindu, Indo-Aryan system, divided between the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. In the same way, ancient Iran, Greece, and Rome also had somewhat analogous social organizations, which one finds, moreover, in the political doctrines of Plato. The ultimate revival of this system in the West was the feudal Middle Ages, the clergy corresponding to the Brahmins, the nobility to the Kshatriyas, the third estate with the Vaishyas, and the serfs with the Shudras.

The polar opposition of the world of the Tradition is held to be modern civilization, which is characterized by desacralization, ignorance of all that is higher than man, materialism, frenzied activity.

Two major books, The Crisis of the Modern World (1927) and The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of  the Times (1946) contain the essence of this critique, to which one can add East and West (1924), which holds that the only remaining Traditional civilizations are in the East. This led Guénon to move to Cairo in 1930, where he took the identity of Sheik Abdel Wahid Yahia.

The Regression of the Castes

René Guénon was never politically active, although he moved in the Parisian circles of Action française, because he believed that “at present, there is no movement deserving one’s adherence.”

For him, we are at the end of a cycle, in the Kali Yuga or “Dark Age” of the ancient Hindu texts or Hesiod’s “Iron Age.” His interpretation of the course of History as decline, resolutely anti-Marxist and reactionary, rests on the idea of the “regression of the castes.” In quasi-mythical times, society is ruled by sacred Kings ruling by divine right selected from the first caste. This is followed by the reign of the warlike caste, secular monarchs, military chiefs, or lords of temporal justice, which comes about in Europe with the decline of great monarchies. Then comes rule by the third estate, the middle-class, aristocracy giving way to plutocracy. Finally comes rule by the last caste, the working class, which finds its logical conclusion in Communism and Sovietism.

The idea of the regression of the castes was taken up by Julius Evola in his masterpiece, Revolt Against the Modern World, published in 1934. Guénon, moreover, allowed the publication of his writings in the cultural page edited by Evola from 1934 to 1943 in the daily newspaper Il Regime Fascista.

Knowledge and Action

Although Evola is indebted to Guénon in many ways, they differ on one point: the relationship of spiritual authority and temporal power, i.e., priesthood and royalty. In its book Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power published in 1929, Guénon affirms the primacy of the priesthood over royalty. For him, the Brahmin is higher than the Kshatriya because knowledge is higher than action and the “metaphysical” domain higher than the “physical.” Even if the members of the sacerdotal caste no longer appear worthy of their function, the validity in principle of their superiority cannot be denied lest one risk the disintegration of the socio-political system. Evola, however, who thought that Western culture is rooted in a “tradition of warriors,” defends the opposite thesis, claiming that Guénon’s reasoning is marked by “brahmanico-sacerdotal point of view of an Oriental.”

Faithful to his nature as a Brahmin, as a sage, René Guénon was more a witness of the Tradition than an actor in his time, contrary to the Kshatriya, the warrior Julius Evola, the 20th century’s only true rebel against the modern world.

Source: “Un témoin de la Tradition: René Guénon,”

mardi, 16 novembre 2010

The Primordial Tradition: A Tribute to Ananda Coomaraswamy

The Primordial Tradition:
A Tribute to Ananda Coomaraswamy

by Ranjit Fernando


Ananda_Coomaraswamy_80232_200.jpgAnanda Coomaraswamy once suggested that Buddhism has been so much admired in the West mainly for what it is not; and he said of Hinduism, that although it had been examined by European scholars for more than a century, a faithful account of it might well be given in the form of a categorical denial of most of the statements that have been made about it, alike by European scholars and by Indians trained in modern modes of thought.

In the same way, it could perhaps be said of Coomaraswamy himself, that he is admired in Lanka, as in India, almost entirely for what he was not, and that a true account of his ideas might well take the form of a denial of most of the statements made about him in the land of his birth.

Coomaraswamy has long been presented, both in India and in Lanka, as a patriot, a famous indologist and art historian, an eminent scholar and orientalist; it would be as well to examine the validity of these widely-held beliefs about a man who was undoubtedly one of the greatest figures of our time.

The subject matter of all Coomaraswamy's mature writings can be placed under one heading, namely, Tradition. The Tradition that he writes about has little to do with the current usage of this term to mean customs or social patterns that have prevailed for some time. Coomaraswamy's theme is the unchanging Primordial and Universal Tradition which, as he shows, was the source from which all the true religions of the present as well as the past came forth, and likewise the forms of all those societies which were molded by religion.

The particular aspect of Tradition which Coomaraswamy chose as his own specialty -- the one best suited to his own talents -- was, of course, the traditional view of art, now mainly associated with the East, but once universally accepted by East and West alike, as also by the civilizations of antiquity and, indeed, by those societies which we are pleased to call primitive. Coomaraswamy never tired of demonstrating that the traditional view of life and of art was always the universal and normal view until the Greeks of the so-called classical period first introduced a view of life and of art fundamentally at variance with the hitherto accepted view.

In his aversion to what has been called 'the Greek miracle', Coomaraswamy is at one with Plato whose attitude to the changes that were taking place in his time was, to say the least, one of the strongest disapproval. Coomaraswamy shows, as Plato did, that the view of life and of art invented and glorified by the Greeks, and subsequently adopted by the Romans was, in the context of the long history of mankind, an abnormal view, an aberration; and that although this view lost its hold on men's minds with the rise of Christendom in the Middle Ages, it was to re-establish itself with greater force at the Renaissance thus becoming responsible for the fundamental ills of the modem world.

In all traditional societies, quite apart from his ability to reason, man was always considered capable of going further and achieving direct, intuitive knowledge of absolute truth which, as the traditionalist writer, Gal Baton says, "carries with it an immediate certainty provided by no other kind of knowledge."

"In the modem world," he continues, "we think in terms of "intellectual progress", by which we mean a progress in the ideas which men formulate with regard to the nature of things; but, from the point of view of traditional knowledge, there can be no progress, except in so far as particular individuals advance from ignorance to reflected or rational know ledge, and from reason to direct intuitive knowledge which, we might add, by its nature cannot be defined, but which, nevertheless stands over and above all other forms of knowledge being nothing less than knowledge itself.

From a traditional point of view, the fault of the Greeks lay in their substitution of the rational faculty for the supra-rational as the highest faculty of man, and in the words of Coomaraswamy's distinguished colleague, Rene Guenon, "it almost seems as if the Greeks, at a moment when they were about to disappear from history, wished to avenge themselves for their incomprehension by imposing on a whole section of mankind the limitations of their own mental horizon." Since the Renaissance, as Baton points out, the modem world has, of course, gone much further than did the Greeks in the denial even of the possibility of a real knowledge which transcends the narrow limits of the individual mentality." Moreover, as we are all aware, that which, from a traditional point of view, appears to be a serious narrowing of horizons, is seen from our modem point of view as an unprecedented intellectual breakthrough!

While it is hardly possible in a brief summary, such as this, to further discuss the issues involved, we might usefully ponder on Plato's story of the subterranean cave where some men have been confined since childhood. These men are familiar only with the shadows cast by a fire upon the dark walls of the cave, which they have all the time to study, and about which they are most knowledgeable. They know nothing of the outside world and therefore do not believe in its existence.

Coomaraswamy, like Plato, would have us realize that we, too, are in darkness like these men, and that we would do well to seek the light of another world above by concerning ourselves with those things, which our ancestors knew and understood so well. He constantly points out, that modem or anti-traditional societies are shaped by the ideas men develop by their own powers of reasoning, there finally being as many sets of ideas as there are men; he also tries to show that traditional societies, on the other hand, were based on perennial ideas of quite another order -ideas of divine origin and revealed -- whereby all the aspects of a society were determined.

A recurrent theme in Coomaraswamy's writings was the traditional view of art. When referring to European art, he repeatedly stressed that Graeco-Roman art and Renaissance art, like all the more modern schools of European art, were of earthly inspiration and therefore of human origin like the philosophies that went with them, whereas traditional art, like traditional philosophy, was related to the metaphysical order and therefore religious in character and divine in origin.

We now see that in his earliest works such as the monumental Medieval Sinhalese Art, Coomaraswamy did not as yet fully understand the difference between these two contrasting points of view which were to form the basis of his later and more significant work; in his early writings, his profound understanding of the traditional arts of Greater India, as indeed his already considerable grasp of the true meaning of religion, was a little clouded with modernistic prejudice, the outcome, no doubt, of his early academic training in England which was of a kind that he had, even then, begun to despise. But later, following his association with the French metaphysician, Rene Guenon, Coomaraswamy's writings assumed the complete correctness of exposition and the great authority, which we associate with his most mature work.

Insofar as we are able to see that a universalist approach to the study of the world's religions, coupled with an understanding of the true meaning of Tradition, have, at the present time, a special importance for the modern world, we shall also see that two men, the Frenchman, Rene Guenon, and Sri Lanka's Ananda Coomaraswamy, stand out as the greatest thinkers of the first half of this century. A great gulf separates their thought from the thought of nearly all their contemporaries. The second half of this century has witnessed the emergence of a whole school founded on their pioneering work and on the Perennial Philosophy, a movement which has found acceptance in many parts of a confused and bewildered world.

It will now be apparent that, if we are to regard Coomaraswamy as an eminent orientalist and art historian, it must first be clearly understood that he stands apart from almost all those other scholars who can be similarly described, in that while they approach the life and art of traditional societies from a modern standpoint {which is both "skeptical and evolutionary", to use his own words), Coomaraswamy, like his few true colleagues and collaborators, takes the view that takes the view that Tradition can only be understood by a careful consideration of its own point of view however inconvenient this may be. Once this is realized, it would certainly be true, not only to say that Coomaraswamy was an eminent scholar but, as Marco Pallis has said, a prince among scholars.

Coomaraswamy saw that a feudal or hierarchical society based on metaphysical principles is essentially superior to the supposedly egalitarian systems held in such high esteem today. Like Plato, he maintained that democracy was one of the worst forms of government, nor did he view any other materialistic system with more favour. His enthusiasm for such institutions as caste and kingship was based, not on sentiment, but on a profound understanding of the vital relationship between spiritual authority and temporal power in society and government. He would hardly have approved of the road which India and Lanka have taken since achieving their so-called independence, although he would have regarded it as inevitable.

It is well known that, from the very beginning, Coomaraswamy deplored the influence of the West on Eastern peoples, and especially the consequences of British rule in Greater India. He has therefore been placed alongside those who in India and Lanka have been regarded as national leaders in the struggle for independence. But here again, a complete difference of approach separates Coomaraswamy from his contemporaries, for it was not imperialism or the domination of one people by another that he was concerned about, but rather the destruction of traditional societies by peoples who had abandoned sacred forms. It was what the British stood for and not the British that he detested; on the contrary, there is no doubt that he loved England because he knew another, older England which in form as well as spirit was so much like the oriental world he understood so well.

It would, in conclusion, be appropriate to quote the words of that highly respected English artist-philosopher, Eric Gill, who in his autobiography paid Coomaraswamy this great tribute:

"There was one person, to whose influence I am deeply grateful; I mean the philosopher and theologian, Ananda Coomaraswamy. Others have written the truth about life and religion and man's work. Others have written good clear English. Others have had the gift of witty exposition. Others have understood the metaphysics of Christianity and others have understood the metaphysics of Hinduism and Buddhism. Others have understood the true significance of erotic drawings and sculptures. Others have seen the relationships of the true and the good and the beautiful. Others have had apparently unlimited learning. Others have loved; others have been kind and generous. But I know of no one else in whom all these gifts and all these powers have been combined. I dare not confess myself his disciple; that would only embarrass him. I can only say that I believe that no other living writer has written the truth in matters of art and life and religion and piety with such wisdom and understanding."

jeudi, 11 novembre 2010


N°10-11 d’Hyperborée