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samedi, 04 août 2018

Sénèque et notre temps

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Sénèque et notre temps

par Nicolas Bonnal

Sénèque est par excellence le penseur du présent perpétuel. Toutes les tares de son empire romain, trop romain, sont les nôtres. Extrait de notre prochain livre : la sagesse transgressive de Sénèque, ou comment supporter des temps insupportables.

C’est la fameuse, c’est l’éternelle lettre XCV, citée par Joseph de Maistre dans la deuxième soirée de Saint-Pétersbourg… dénonciation d’une civilisation monstrueuse dite romaine et regret du bon vieux temps frugal… La civilisation procèderait en raffinement (comparer la France de Macron à celle de Louis XIV), mais alors à quel prix…

« Sans doute, comme vous le dites, cette sagesse de nos aïeux était grossière, surtout à votre naissance, ainsi que tous les autres arts qui avec le temps se sont raffinés de plus en plus. Mais aussi n’avait-on pas besoin alors de cures bien savantes. L’iniquité ne s’était ni élevée si haut, ni propagée si loin : à des vices non compliqués encore des remèdes simples pouvaient résister. »

Sénèque regrette bien entendu l’avènement de la « grande bouffe », de notre « orgie romaine ».

 « Aujourd’hui il faut des moyens de guérir d’autant plus puissants que les maux qui nous attaquent ont bien plus d’énergie. La médecine était autrefois la science de quelques herbes propres à étancher le sang et à fermer les plaies ; depuis, elle est arrivée insensiblement à cette infinité de recettes si variées. Ce n’est pas merveille qu’elle ait eu moins à faire sur des tempéraments robustes, non encore altérés, nourris de substances digestibles que ne viciaient point l’art et la sensualité. »

Tout repose sur l’excitation de la faim ; tout, c’est-à-dire le déclin physique de l’humanité :

« Mais dès qu’au lieu d’apaiser la faim, on ne chercha qu’à l’irriter, et qu’on inventa mille assaisonnements afin d’aiguiser la gourmandise, ce qui pour le besoin était un aliment devint un poids pour la satiété. »

Et Sénèque se sert à merveille de l’accumulation :

« De là cette pâleur, ce tremblement de nerfs qu’a pénétrés le vin, ces maigreurs par indigestion, plus déplorables que celles de la faim ; de là cette incertaine et trébuchante démarche, cette allure, comme dans l’ivresse même, constamment chancelante ; de là cette eau infiltrée partout sous la peau, ce ventre distendu par la malheureuse habitude de recevoir outre mesure ; de là cet épanchement d’une bile jaune, ces traits décolorés, ces consomptions, vraies putréfactions d’hommes vivants, ces doigts retors aux phalanges roidies, ces nerfs insensibles, détendus et privés d’action ou mus par soubresauts, et vibrant sans relâche. Parlerai-je de ces vertiges, de ces tortures d’yeux et d’oreilles, du cerveau qui bouillonne comme un fourmillement, et des ulcères internes qui rongent tous les conduits par où le corps se débarrasse ? »

Comparaison avec le bienheureux temps jadis point marqué par le règne de la quantité gastronomique et calorique :

senequeTame.jpg« On était exempt de ces fléaux quand on ne s’était pas encore laissé fondre aux délices, quand on n’avait de maître et de serviteur que soi. On s’endurcissait le corps à la peine et au vrai travail ; on le fatiguait à la course, à la chasse, aux exercices du labour. On trouvait au retour une nourriture que la faim toute seule savait rendre agréable. Aussi n’était-il pas besoin d’un si grand attirail de médecins, de fers, de boîtes à remèdes. Toute indisposition était simple comme sa cause : la multiplicité des mets a multiplié les maladies. Pour passer par un seul gosier, vois que de substances combinées par le luxe, dévastateur de la terre et de l’onde ! »

Et en effet on dévaste le monde. Avant l’ère moderne et industrielle, l’empire romain fut la cause d’une intense dévastation.

Puis Sénèque s’en prend aux femmes modernes et jouisseuses ; en se masculinisant elles attrapent des maladies des hommes ! Comparaison terrible, que reprendra Juvénal dans sa sixième satire :

« Le prince, et tout à la fois le fondateur de la médecine, a dit que les femmes ne sont sujettes ni à la perte des cheveux ni à la goutte aux jambes. Cependant et leurs cheveux tombent et leurs jambes souffrent de la goutte. Ce n’est pas la constitution des femmes, c’est leur vie qui a changé : c’est pour avoir lutté d’excès avec les hommes qu’elles ont subi les infirmités des hommes. Comme eux elles veillent, elles boivent comme eux ; elles les défient à la gymnastique et à l’orgie ; elles vomissent aussi bien qu’eux ce qu’elles viennent de prendre au refus de leur estomac et rendent toute la même dose du vin qu’elles ont bu ; elles mâchent également de la neige pour rafraîchir leurs entrailles brûlantes. Et leur lubricité ne le cède même pas à la nôtre : nées pour le rôle passif (maudites soient-elles par tous les dieux !), ces inventrices d’une débauche contre nature en viennent à assaillir des hommes. »

Et face au vice la médecine devient impuissante. La femme en perd les privilèges de son sexe :

« Comment donc s’étonner que le plus grand des médecins, celui qui connaît le mieux la nature, soit pris en défaut et qu’il y ait tant de femmes chauves et podagres ? Elles ont perdu à force de vices le privilège de leur sexe ; elles ont dépouillé leur retenue de femmes, les voilà condamnées aux maladies de l’homme. »

Après c’est la formule célèbre : compte nos cuisiniers. 

« Nos maladies sont innombrables ; ne t’en étonne pas ; compte nos cuisiniers. Les études ne sont plus ; les professeurs de sciences libérales, délaissés par la foule, montent dans une chaire sans auditeurs. Aux écoles d’éloquence et de philosophie règne la solitude ; mais quelle affluence aux cuisines ! Quelle nombreuse jeunesse assiège les fourneaux des dissipateurs ! »

colere_5249.jpegEt d’évoquer la pédophilie festive de nos romains diners :

« Je ne cite point ces troupeaux de malheureux enfants qui, après le service du festin, sont encore réservés aux outrages de la chambre à coucher. Je ne cite point ces bandes de mignons classés par races et par couleurs, si bien que tous ceux d’une même file ont la peau du même poli, le premier duvet de même longueur, la même nuance de cheveux, et que les chevelures lisses ne se mêlent point aux frisées. »

Citons la remarque de Joseph de Maistre sur cette page prodigieuse, immortelle :

« Avez-vous présente par hasard la tirade vigoureuse et quelquefois un peu dégoûtante de Sénèque sur les maladies de son siècle?

Il est intéressant de voir l'époque de Néron marquée par une affluence de maux inconnus aux temps qui la précédèrent. »

Sénèque évoque la frénésie meurtrière de l’État… 

« Notre frénésie n’est pas seulement individuelle, elle est nationale : nous réprimons les assassinats, le meurtre d’homme à homme ; mais les guerres, mais l’égorgement des nations, forfait couronné de gloire ! La cupidité, la cruauté, ne connaissent plus de frein : ces fléaux toutefois, tant qu’ils s’exercent dans l’ombre et par quelques hommes, sont moins nuisibles, moins monstrueux »

Et Sénèque de souligner que ces massacres sont légaux, politiques, encouragés par le sénat :

« …mais c’est par décrets du sénat, c’est au nom du peuple que se consomment les mêmes horreurs, et l’on commande aux citoyens en masse ce qu’on défend aux particuliers. L’acte qu’on payerait de sa tête s’il était clandestin, nous le préconisons commis en costume militaire. Loin d’en rougir, l’homme, le plus doux des êtres, met sa joie à verser le sang de son semblable et le sien, à faire des guerres, à les transmettre en héritage à ses fils, tandis qu’entre eux les plus stupides et les plus féroces animaux vivent en paix. »

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L’homme vit et tue en insecte. A côté de cela se développe l’apathie (l’anesthésie, dit l’historien Stanley Payne des citoyens d’aujourd’hui). L’apathie a suivi comme toujours la libération sexuelle ou autre ; et elle est dure à corriger :

« Quant aux esprits émoussés et obtus ou que leurs habitudes dépravées dominent, il faut un long travail pour que leur rouille s’efface. Au reste, si l’on élève plus vite à la perfection les âmes qui tendent au bien, on aidera aussi les âmes faibles et on les arrachera à leurs malheureux préjugés en leur enseignant les dogmes de la philosophie dont l’importante nécessité est si visible. Il y a en nous des penchants qui nous font paresseux pour certaines choses, téméraires pour d’autres. On ne peut ni arrêter cette audace, ni réveiller cette apathie, si l’on n’en fait disparaître les causes, qui sont d’admirer et de craindre à faux. »

Un remède après ce constat de désespoir ? Il faut un noble but pour se protéger :

« Il faut se proposer un but de perfection vers lequel tendent nos efforts et qu’envisagent tous nos actes, toutes nos paroles, comme le navigateur a son étoile pour le diriger dans sa course. Vivre sans but, c’est vivre à l’aventure. Si force est à l’homme de s’en proposer un, les dogmes deviennent nécessaires. Tu m’accorderas, je pense, que rien n’est plus honteux que l’homme indécis, hésitant et timide, qui porte le pied tantôt en arrière, tantôt en avant. C’est ce qui en toutes choses nous arrivera, si nos âmes ne se dépouillent de tout ce qui nous retient en suspens et nous empêche d’agir de toutes nos forces. »

mercredi, 01 août 2018

The Historical Background of Oswald Spengler’s Philosophy of Science

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Between the Heroic & the Immeasurable:
The Historical Background of Oswald Spengler’s Philosophy of Science

Oswald Spengler’s writings on the subject of the philosophy of science are very controversial, not only among his detractors but even for his admirers. What is little understood is that his views on these matters did not exist in a vacuum. Rather, Spengler’s arguments on the sciences articulate a long German tradition of rejecting English science, a tradition that originated in the eighteenth century.

Luke Hodgkin notes:

It is today regarded as a matter of historical fact that Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz both independently conceived and developed the system of mathematical algorithms known collectively by the name of calculus. But this has not always been the prevalent point of view. During the eighteenth century, and much of the nineteenth, Leibniz was viewed by British mathematicians as a devious plagiarist who had not just stolen crucial ideas from Newton, but had also tried to claim the credit for the invention of the subject itself.[1] [2]

This wrongheaded view stems from Newton’s own catty libel of Leibniz on these matters. During this time, the beginning of the eighteenth century, Leibniz’s native Prussia had not yet become a serious power through the wars of Frederick the Great. Leibniz, together with Frederick the Great’s grandfather, founded the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences. Newton’s slanderous account of Leibniz’s achievements would never be forgiven by the Germans, to whom Newton remained a bête noire as long as Germany remained a proud nation.

In the context of inquiring into the matter of how such a pessimist as Spengler could admire so notorious an optimist as Leibniz, two foreign members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences merit attention. The thought of French scientist and philosopher Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, an exponent and defender of Leibnizian ideas, was in many ways a precursor to modern biology. Maupertuis wrote under the patronage of Frederick the Great, about a generation after Leibniz. Compared to other eighteenth-century philosophies, Maupertuis’ worldview, like modern biology and unlike most Enlightenment thought, presents nature as rather “red in tooth and claw.”

An earlier foreign member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, a contemporary and correspondent of Leibniz, Moldavian Prince (and eccentric pretender to descent from Tamerlane) Dimitrie Cantemir, left two cultural legacies to Western history. Initially an Ottoman vassal, he gave traditional Turkish music its first system of notation, ushering in the classical era of Turkish music that would later influence Mozart. Later – after he had turned against the Ottoman Porte in an alliance with Petrine Russia, but was driven out of power and into exile due to his abysmal battlefield leadership – he wrote much about history. Most impactful in the West was a two-volume book that would be translated into English in 1734 as The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire. Voltaire and Gibbon later read Cantemir’s work, as did Victor Hugo.[2] [3]

Notes one biographer, “Cantemir’s philosophy of history is empiric and mechanistic. The destiny in history of empires is viewed . . . through cycles similar to the natural stages of birth, growth, decline, and death.”[3] [4] Long before Nietzsche popularized the argument, Cantemir proposed that high cultures are initially founded by barbarians, and also that a civilization’s level of high culture has nothing to do with its political success.[4] [5] Thus was the Leibnizian intellectual legacy mixed with pessimism even in Leibniz’s own lifetime.

OswSP-MTech.jpegIt was most likely in the context of this scientific tradition and its enemies that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, generally recognized as Germany’s greatest poet (or one of them, at any rate), later authored attacks on Newton’s ideas, such as Theory of Colors. Goethe, an early pioneer in biology and the life sciences, loathed the notion that there is anything universally axiomatic about the mathematical sciences. Goethe had one major predecessor in this, the Anglo-Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop George Berkeley. Like Berkeley, Goethe argued that Newtonian abstractions contradict empirical understandings. Both Berkeley and Goethe, though for different reasons, took issue with the common (or at least, commonly Anglo-Saxon) wisdom that “mathematics is a universal language.”

By the early modern age of European history, when Goethe’s Faust takes place, cabalistic doctrines, notes Carl Schmitt, “became known outside Jewry, as can be gathered from Luther’s Table Talks, Bodin’s Demonomanie, Reland’s Analects, and Eisenmenger’s Entdecktes Judenthum.”[5] [6] This phenomenon can be traced to the indispensable influence of the very inventors of cabalism, collectively speaking, on the West’s transition from feudalism to modern capitalism since the Age of Discovery, and in some cases even earlier. In 1911’s The Jews and Modern Capitalism, Werner Sombart points out that “Venice was a city of Jews” as early as 1152.

Cabalism deeply permeates the worldviews of many influential secret societies of Western history since medieval times, and certainly continuing with the official establishment of Freemasonry in 1717. Although the details will never be entirely clear, it is known that Goethe was involved with the Bavarian Illuminati in his youth. He seems to have experienced conservative disillusionment with it later in life. It is possible that the posthumous publication of Faust: The Second Part of the Tragedy was due at least in part to the book’s ambivalently revealing too much about the esoterica of Goethe’s former occult activities.

What is clear is that he was directly interested in cabalistic concepts. Karin Schutjer persuasively argues that “Goethe had ample opportunity to learn about Jewish Kabbalah – particularly that of the sixteenth-century rabbi Isaac Luria – and good reason to take it seriously . . . Goethe’s interest in Kabbalah might have been further sparked by a prominent argument concerning its philosophical reception: the claim that Kabbalistic ideas underlie Spinoza’s philosophy.”[6] [7]

At one point in the second part of Faust, Goethe shows an interest in monetary issues related to usury or empty currency, as Schopenhauer after him would.[7] [8] This is fitting for a story that takes place in early modern Europe and concerns an alchemist. Some early modern alchemists were known as counterfeiters and would have most likely had contact with Jewish moneylenders. Insofar as his scientific philosophy had a social, and not just an intellectual, significance, this desire on Goethe’s part for economic concreteness was perhaps what led him to reject and combat one key cabalistic doctrine: numerology.

Numerology is the belief that numbers are divine and have prophetic power over the physical world. Goethe held the virtually opposite view of numbers and mathematical systems, proposing that “strict separation must be maintained between the physical sciences and mathematics.” According to Goethe, it is an “important task” to “banish mathematical-philosophical theories from those areas of physical science where they impede rather than advance knowledge,” and to discard the “false notion that a phrase of a mathematical formula can ever take the place of, or set aside, a phenomenon.” To Goethe, mathematics “runs into constant danger when it gets into the terrain of sense-experience.”[8] [9]

In his well-researched 1927 book on Freemasonry, General Erich Ludendorff remarks, “One must study the cabala in order to understand and evaluate the superstitious Jew correctly. He then is no longer a threatening opponent.”[9] [10] In his proceeding discussion of the subject, Ludendorff focuses exclusively on the numerological superstitions in cabalism. Such beliefs are affirmed by a Jewish cabalistic source, which informs us that “Sefirot” is the Hebrew word for numbers, which represent “a Tree of Divine Lights.”[10] [11]

Everything about Goethe’s rejection of scientific materialism can be seen as a rebellion against numerology in the sciences – and certainly, the modern mathematical sciences stand on the shoulders of numerology, as modern chemistry does on alchemy. Schmitt once mentioned the “mysterious Rosicrucian sensibility of Descartes,” a reference to the mysterious cabalistic initiatory movement that dominated the scientific philosophies of the seventeenth century.[11] [12] In this Descartes was hardly alone; the entire epoch of mostly French and English mathematicians in the early modern centuries, which ushered in the modern infinitesimal mathematical systems, was infused with cabalism. Even if it were possible to ignore the growing Jewish intellectual and economic influence on that age, one would still be left with the metaphysical affinities between numerology and even the most scientifically accomplished worldview that takes literally the assumption that numbers are eternal principles.

According to early National Socialist economist Gottfried Feder, “When the Babylonians overcame the Assyrians, the Romans the Carthaginians, the Germans the Romans, there was no continuance of interest slavery; there were no international world powers . . . Only the modern age with its continuity of possession and its international law allowed loan capitals to rise immeasurably.”[12] [13] Writing in 1919, Feder argues with the help of a graph that that “loan-interest capital . . . rises far above human conception and strives for infinity . . . The curve of industrial capital on the other hand remains within the finite!”[13] [14] Goethe may have similarly drawn connections between the kind of economic parasitism satirized in the second part of Faust and what he, like Berkeley, saw as the superstitious modern art of measuring the immeasurable.

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The fusion of science with numerology, it should be noted, is actually not of Hebrew or otherwise pre-Indo-European origin. It originates from pre-Socratic Greek philosophy’s debt, particularly that of the Pythagoreans, to the Indo-Iranian world, chiefly Thrace.[14] [15] (Possibly of note in this regard is that Schopenhauer admired the Thracians for their arch-pessimistic ethos, as though this mindset were the polar opposite of the world-affirming Jewish worldview he loathed.)[15] [16] In any case, Goethe recognized it as a powerful weapon. That he studied numerology has been established by scholars.[16] [17]

A generation before Goethe, Immanuel Kant had propounded the idea that the laws of polarity – the laws of attraction and repulsion – precede the Newtonian laws of matter and motion in every way. This argument would influence Goethe’s friend Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling, another innovator in the life sciences as well as part of the literary and philosophical movement known as Romanticism. By the time Goethe propounded his anti-Newtonian theories and led a philosophical milieu, he had an entire German tradition of such theories to work from.

Goethe’s work was influential in Victorian Britain. Most notably, at least in terms of the scientific history of that era, Darwin would cite Goethe as a botanist in On the Origin of the Species. Darwin’s philosophy of science, to the extent that he had one, was largely built on that of Goethe and the age of what came to be known as Naturphilosophie. Historian of science Robert J. Richards has found that “Darwin was indebted to the Romantics in general and Goethe in particular.”[17] [18] Darwin had been introduced to the German accomplishments in biology, and the German ideas about philosophy of science, mainly through the work of Alexander von Humboldt.[18] [19]

Why has this influence been forgotten? “In the decade after 1918,” explains Nicholas Boyle, “when hundreds of British families of German origin were forcibly repatriated, and those who remained anglicized their names, British intellectual life was ethnically cleansed and the debt of Victorian culture to Germany was erased from memory, or ridiculed.”[19] [20] To some extent, this process had already started since the outbreak of the First World War.

This intellectual ethnic cleansing would not go unreciprocated. In 1915’s Händler und Helden (Merchants and Heroes), German economist and sociologist Werner Sombart attacked the “mercantile” English scientific tradition. Here, Sombart is particularly critical of what he calls the “department-store ethics” of Herbert Spencer, but in general Sombart calls for most English ideas – including English science – to be purged from German national life. In his writings on the philosophy of science, Spengler would answer this call.

Spengler heavily drew on the ideas of Goethe, and evidently also on the views of a pre-Darwinian French Lutheran paleontologist of German origin, Georges Cuvier. For instance, Spengler’s assault on universalism in the physical sciences mostly comes from Goethe, but his rationale for rejecting Darwinian evolution appears to come from Cuvier. The idea that life-forms are immutable, and simply die out, only to be superseded by unrelated new ones – a persistent theme in Spengler – comes more from Cuvier than Goethe.

oswSP-car.jpgCuvier, however, does not belong to the German transcendentalist tradition, so Spengler mentions him only peripherally. On the other hand, in the third chapter of the second volume of The Decline of the West, Spengler uses a word that Charles Francis Atkinson translates as “admitted” to describe how Cuvier propounded the theory of catastrophism. Clearly, Spengler shows himself to be more sympathetic to Cuvier than to what he calls the “English thought” of Darwin.[20] [21]

Several asides about Cuvier are in order. First of all, this criminally underrated thinker is by no means outmoded, at least not in every way. Modern geology operates on a more-Cuvieran-than-Darwinian plane.[21] [22] Secondly, it is worth noting that Ernst Jünger once astutely observed that Cuvier is more useful to modern military science than Darwin.[22] [23] It may also be of interest that the Cuvieran system is even further removed from Lamarckism – and its view of heredity, as a consequence, more thoroughly racialist – than the Darwinian system.[23] [24]

Another scientist of German origin who may have influenced Spengler is the Catholic monk Gregor Mendel, the discoverer of what is now known as genetics. One biography notes:

Though Mendel agreed with Darwin in many respects, he disagreed about the underlying rationale of evolution. Darwin, like most of his contemporaries, saw evolution as a linear process, one that always led to some sort of better product. He did not define “better” in a religious way – to him, a more evolved animal was no closer to God than a less evolved one, an ape no morally better than a squirrel – but in an adaptive way. The ladder that evolving creatures climbed led to greater adaption to the changing world. If Mendel believed in evolution – and whether he did remains a matter of much debate – it was an evolution that occurred within a finite system. The very observation that a particular character trait could be expressed in two opposing ways – round pea versus angular, tall plant versus dwarf – implied limits. Darwin’s evolution was entirely open-ended; Mendel’s, as any good gardener of the time could see, was closed.[24] [25]

How very Goethean – and Spenglerian.

His continuation of the German mission against English science explains, even if it does not entirely excuse, Spengler’s citation of Franz Boas’ now-discredited experiments in craniology in the second volume of The Decline of the West. In his posthumously-published book on Indo-Europeanology, the unfinished but lucid Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte, Spengler cites the contemporary German Nordicist race theorist Hans F. K. Günther in writing that “urbanization is racial decay.”[25] [26] This would seem quite a leap, from citing Boas to citing Günther. However, in the opinion of one historian, Boas and Günther had more in common than they liked to think, because they were both heirs more of the German Idealist tradition in science than what the Anglo-Saxon tradition recognizes as the scientific method.[26] [27] Spengler must have keenly detected this commonality, for his views on racial matters were never synonymous with those of Boas, any more than they were identical to Günther’s.

He probably went too far in his crusade against the Anglo-Saxon scientific tradition, but as we have seen, Spengler was not without his reasons. He was neither the first nor the greatest German philosopher of science to present alternatives to the ruling English paradigms in the sciences, but was rather an heir to a grand tradition. Before dismissing this anti-materialistic tradition as worthless, as today’s historiographers of science still do, we should take into account what it produced.

Darwin’s philosophy of nature was predominantly German; only his Malthusianism, the least interesting aspect of Darwin’s work, was singularly British. As for Einstein, that proficient but unoriginal thinker was absolutely steeped in the German anti-Newtonian tradition, to which he merely put a mathematical formula. These are only the most celebrated examples of scientists influenced by the German tradition defended – maniacally, perhaps, but with noble intentions – in the works of Oswald Spengler.

Whether we consider Spengler’s ideas useful to science or utterly hateful to it, one question remains: Should the German tradition of philosophy of science he defended be taken seriously? Ever since the post-Second World War de-Germanization of Germany, euphemistically called “de-Nazification,” this tradition is now pretty much dead in its own fatherland. But does that make it entirely wrong?

Notes

[1] [28] Luke Hodgkin, A History of Mathematics: From Mesopotamia to Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[2] [29] See the booklet of the CD Istanbul: Dimitrie Cantemir, 1630-1732, written by Stefan Lemny and translated by Jacqueline Minett.

[3] [30] Eugenia Popescu-Judetz, Prince Dimitrie Cantemir: Theorist and Composer of Turkish Music (Istanbul: Pan Yayıncılık, 1999), p. 34.

[4] [31] Dimitrie Cantemir, The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire, vol. I, tr. by Nicholas Tindal (London: Knapton, 1734), p. 151, note 14.

[5] [32] Carl Schmitt, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol, tr. by George Schwab and Erna Hilfstein (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), p. 8.

[6] [33] Karin Schutjer, “Goethe’s Kabbalistic Cosmology [34],” Colloquia Germanica, vol. 39, no. 1 (2006).

[7] [35] J. W. von Goethe, Faust, Part Two, Act I, “Imperial Palace” scene; Schopenhauer, The Wisdom of Life, Chapter III, “Property, or What a Man Has.”

[8] [36] Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe on Science: An Anthology of Goethe’s Scientific Writings (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1996), pp. 65-67.

[9] [37] Erich Ludendorff, The Destruction of Freemasonry Through Revelation of Their Secrets (Mountain City, Tn.: Sacred Truth Publishing), p. 53.

[10] [38] Warren Kenton, Kabbalah: The Divine Plan (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 25.

[11] [39] Schmitt, Leviathan, p. 26.

[12] [40] Gottfried Feder, Manifesto for Breaking the Financial Slavery to Interest, tr. by Alexander Jacob (London: Black House Publishing, 2016), p. 38.

[13] [41] Ibid., pp. 17-18.

[14] [42] See, i.e., Walter Wili, “The Orphic Mysteries and the Greek Spirit,” collected in Joseph Campbell (ed.), The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955).

[15] [43] Arthur Schopenhauer, tr. by E. F. J. Payne, The World as Will and Representation, vol. II (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2014), p. 585.

[16] [44] Ronald Douglas Gray, Goethe the Alchemist (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 6.

[17] [45] Robert J. Richards, The Romantic Conception of Life: Philosophy and Science in the Age of Goethe (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010), p. 435.

[18] [46] Ibid, pp. 518-526.

[19] [47] Nicholas Boyle, Goethe and the English-speaking World: Essays from the Cambridge Symposium for His 250th Anniversary (Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2012), p. 12.

[20] [48] Oswald Spengler, tr. by Charles Francis Atkinson, The Decline of the West vol. II (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), p. 31.

[21] [49] Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), p. 94.

[22] [50] From Jünger’s Aladdin’s Problem: “It is astounding to see how inventiveness grows in nature when existence is at stake. This applies to both defense and pursuit. For every missile, an anti-missile is devised. At times, it all looks like sheer braggadocio. This could lead to a stalemate or else to the moment when the opponent says, ‘I give up’, if he does not knock over the chessboard and ruin the game. Darwin did not go that far; in this context, one is better off with Cuvier’s theory of catastrophes.”

[23] [51] See Georges Cuvier, Essay on the Theory of the Earth (London: Forgotten Books, 2012), pp. 125-128 & pp. 145-165.

[24] [52] Robin Marantz Henig, The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2017), p. 125.

[25] [53] Oswald Spengler, Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1966), Fragment 101.

[26] [54] Amos Morris-Reich, “Race, Ideas, and Ideals: A Comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F. K. Günther [55],” History of European Ideas, vol. 32, no. 3 (2006).

 

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[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/7-31-18-3.jpg

[2] [1]: #_ftn1

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[34] Goethe’s Kabbalistic Cosmology: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23981598?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

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[55] Race, Ideas, and Ideals: A Comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F. K. Günther: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2006.05.001

jeudi, 19 juillet 2018

Revilo P. Oliver & Francis Parker Yockey

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Revilo P. Oliver & Francis Parker Yockey

The writings of Francis Parker Yockey have fascinated the far Right for a half-century and more. I would argue that the person most responsible for this popularity is the late classics professor Revilo P. Oliver. While Prof. Oliver had little practical input in the distribution of Yockey writings (that credit would go more to Willis Carto and George Dietz), it was Oliver’s imprimatur that lent Yockey a gravitas that ensured he would be cherished as something other than the author of some controversial, obscurantist tracts. 

This is true even though Oliver disagreed with Yockey on a number of key points. He championed Yockey even in the early 1960s when Oliver was writing for the John Birch Society and had to couch his praise in evasive words. Years later, when his critical essays were mainly limited to the small-run periodical Liberty Bell and he could write whatever he pleased (which often meant page-long footnotes explicating minutiae of philology, archeology and race), he still held Yockey in great esteem, someone whose errors were as worthy of explication as his insights.

Accordingly, anyone who studies Yockey very quickly runs into Prof. Oliver. Here are some highlights of the Yockey-Oliver connection.

Francis_Parker_Yockey.jpgRPO in the Yockey Biographies

We now have two big Yockey biographies at our disposal. There is Kevin Coogan’s Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International, published in 1999. And, new in 2018, Kerry Bolton’s Yockey: A Fascist Odyssey. Despite the somewhat similar titles, the books are very different, and hardly “synoptic” narratives. While offering many curious details of Yockey’s life, the Bolton book largely takes an historiographic view, reviewing how Yockey was seen and written about through the passing decades. For example, Bolton tells us that one notable American figure of the Right, Wilmot Robertson of The Dispossessed Majority and the magazine Instauration, did not care for Yockey at all. Yockey was too Spenglerian; he followed Spengler’s rather mystical and unprovable idea of historical cycles. Worst of all, he tried to evade the hard and essential factor of biological (or “vertical”) race. Yockey, like Spengler, instead emphasized what he called “horizontal race,” a kinship more of cultural spirit than blood.

As for Oliver, he shared some of these objections, but never ceased to endorse what he saw as the kernel of Yockey’s argument, which was the quasi-organic unity of (Western) culture. He knew of Yockey before Yockey’s Imperium was popularized in the early 1960s. He praised Yockey’s insights in the pages of American Opinion and The American Mercury during that decade. He assisted with the founding of the Yockeyite National Youth Alliance organization in the late 60s. He was still treating Yockey as a figure of serious analysis in the 1980s.

Conversely, in the Coogan study Oliver hardly appears at all. He is merely a name mentioned in passing, mainly with regard to the National Youth Alliance. Coogan ignores RPO’s extensive writing on Yockey. For that matter, Coogan does not seem to be much interested in Imperium—or even have read it, let alone Yockey’s other writings. For Coogan, Yockey’s “philosophy of history” exists mainly as a title of a big cult book that enraptured the far Right in the 1960s and beyond. It is most peculiar to attempt a biography of a philosopher without discussing his philosophy, let alone critics’ commentaries on it, but that is what we have here. And it explains why Coogan makes RPO no more than a minor, ancillary figure.

To digress a little: only about half of Coogan’s Dreamer of the Day pertains to Yockey’s writing or life events. There is little historiography or critical discussion, from RPO or anyone else. And yet the book is far longer than it needs to be (644 pp. in paperback), padded out with every stray rumor and scrap of research the author found. The biographical portion is derived in large part from FOIA files as well as various letters that an earlier researcher, Keith Stimely, received in the 1980s. The rest of the content is a hyperbolic exposition of what Coogan calls the “Fascist International”: a murky stew into which he stirs such extraneous, oddball characters as Chilean diplomat and mystic Miguel Serrano, and British occultist Aleister Crowley. Throughout the book Coogan throws in misinformed, lurid notions about such things as Yockey’s parentage (Coogan has the birthdate of Yockey’s father Louis wrong, and thereby implies Louis was a bastard, born years after his ostensible father died) and researcher Stimely’s personal life (based on allegations in David McCalden’s lively-but-scurrilous Revisionist Newsletter in the 1980s). Sensationalism was the main objective here.

RPO on Comparative Morphology

Much of Oliver’s writing on Yockey is a half-century old now, yet it is still the most trenchant and inclusive analysis. So far as I can tell, he is the only person who analyzed Imperium as a work in a definable genre, what one might call the philosophy of morphological history. In a very long 1963 essay, published in American Opinion (though very un-Birchite in scope and theme), he compares Yockey with a number of others in the school including, most obviously, The Decline of the West‘s Oswald Spengler, Lawrence R. Brown (The Might of the West) and Arnold Toynbee (A Philosophy of History).

Although RPO quibbles with some of Yockey’s factual asides—e.g., his apparent forgetfulness about the Thirty Years War when stating that Germany was fortunate to avoid most of the carnage that depleted the rest of Europe from the Middle Ages onward—he is generally appreciative of and laudatory toward Imperium. The basic reason for this seems to be that, whatever Oliver’s own doubts may have been about Spenglerian theories of historical morphology, or Yockey’s own quasi-mystical belief in Destiny, he agrees with the Yockey’s fundamental argument: that the Western civilization from the Middle Ages at least has been a unitary whole, and that the destructive conflicts of the 20th century amounted to a pathology exacerbated by outside elements:

[T]he culture of the West, like every viable civilization, is a unity in the sense that its parts are organically interdependent. Although architecture, music, literature, the mimetic arts, science, economics, and religion may seem at first glance more or less unrelated, they are all constituent parts of the cultural whole, and the disease of any one will sooner or later affect all the others. Your hands will not long retain their strength, if there is gangrene in the foot or cancer in the stomach.[1]

imperium.pngWriting in 1963, Oliver avoids mention of Yockey’s “culture-distorter” or the Jewish Question (although he makes a nod to that Birchite proxy, the International Communist Conspiracy). Years later, with the “Birch Business” well behind him, Oliver would be more explicit.

This brings us to “The Enemy of Our Enemies” (1981), which George Dietz’s Liberty Bellmagazine put out in a fat issue that also contained Yockey’s own “The Enemy of Europe.” The two monographs were later republished together as a paperback book.[2] Yockey’s extended essay, translated back into English from a surviving German version, is nearly a hundred pages, an excoriation of American hegemony over the European culture-soul. The Oliver section is even longer, a brilliant and cranky, no-holds-barred fulmination. While beginning as an exegesis of Yockey, his influences and his errors, this commentary readily departs from that pretext, delivering instead RPO’s own, broader variation on the general theme:

In 1914, our civilization was worm-eaten at the core, but its brightly glittering surface concealed the corruption within from superficial eyes. It was taken for granted that the globe had become one world, the world of which the Aryan nations were the undisputed masters, while all the lesser races already were, or would soon become, merely the subject inhabitants of their colonial possession. This reasonable conception of the world’s unity oddly survived the catastrophes that followed and it conditioned unthinking mentalities to accept the preposterous notion of the current propaganda for “One World,” which is couched in endless gabble that is designed to conceal the fact that it is to be a globe under the absolute and ruthless dominion of the Jews—a globe on which our race, if not exterminated, will be the most degraded and abject of all.[3]

The Introduction to Imperium: A Question of Attribution

Finally, a note on a point that perennially comes up when Yockey and Oliver are discussed. Was the long foreword to the post-1960 editions of Imperium, signed Willis A. Carto, actually written by Mr. Carto, or by Prof. Oliver? Keith Stimely claimed the latter, in a furious booklet he distributed in the mid-1980s after he left Carto’s employ at the Institute for Historical Review.

When pressed, Oliver was vague on the subject, writing Stimely in 1984 only that he had given Carto permission to use material he had written as suggested introduction to a new reprint of the book. Stimely reproduced part of Oliver’s letter in his anti-Carto booklet, and Kerry Bolton also excerpt it in his Yockey biography:

I wrote a lengthy and signed memorandum on Yockey’s importance as a philosopher of history and a nationalist, hoping to inlist the support of persons who would subsidize a new edition of Imperium . . .  I . . . told Carto to make whatever use he wished of what I had written for an intoduction by him or anyone he chose to introduce the new edition. I therefore gave him the material, and it would be dishonourable of me to try to reclaim it. [4]

This essay-memorandum seems to have vanished. Oliver wrote a review of Imperium some years later (1966) for The American Mercury [5] that bears some resemblance to the philosophical discussion in the Introduction, but is otherwise entirely different: i.e., not a “retread” of some older piece that was repurposed.

When the question was put to them, both Willis Carto and his wife (now widow) Elisabeth maintained that the Introduction was indeed written by Mr. Carto himself. Therefore, worrying through the problem, Kerry Bolton comes to a Solomonic compromise, and says that it

seems plausible, stylistically and philosophically . . . that Carto wrote the first biographical half of the ‘Introduction’ and Oliver wrote the second half, commenting on the Yockeyan doctrine of Culture-pathology.

Notes

[1] Revilo P. Oliver, “History and the Historians,” 1963; collected in America’s Decline, 1983, pp. 276-277. https://archive.org/stream/AmericasDecline1983V2/OLIVERRe... [2]

[2] Yockey and Oliver, The Enemy of Europe/the Enemy of Our Enemies. Liberty Bell Publications, 2003.

[3] https://archive.org/stream/TheEnemyOfOurEnemies/EEE#page/... [3]

[4] Kerry Bolton, Yockey: A Fascist Odyssey. Arktos, 2018.

[5] http://www.revilo-oliver.com/news/1966/06/the-shadow-of-empire-francis-parker-yockey-after-twenty-years/ [4]

 

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[2] https://archive.org/stream/AmericasDecline1983V2/OLIVERReviloP.-Americas_Decline_1983_v2: https://archive.org/stream/AmericasDecline1983V2/OLIVERReviloP.-Americas_Decline_1983_v2

[3] https://archive.org/stream/TheEnemyOfOurEnemies/EEE#page/n49/: https://archive.org/stream/TheEnemyOfOurEnemies/EEE#page/n49/

[4] http://www.revilo-oliver.com/news/1966/06/the-shadow-of-empire-francis-parker-yockey-after-twenty-years/: http://www.revilo-oliver.com/news/1966/06/the-shadow-of-empire-francis-parker-yockey-after-twenty-years/

 

samedi, 14 juillet 2018

Philippe Forget : puissance et réseaux techniques

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Philippe Forget : puissance et réseaux techniques

 
Le philosophe Philippe Forget, auteur du réseau et l'infini et récemment de l'obsession identitaire partage dans cette conférence le fruit de ses recherches sur les notions, de puissance, de technique et de réseaux.
 
Soutenez nous. Soyez mécène : https://www.tipeee.com/cerclearistote ou faites un don Paypal via notre site internet (lien en rouge, en bas à droite) : http://cerclearistote.com/
 

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mardi, 10 juillet 2018

Zygmunt Bauman ou l’insoutenable liquidité de la modernité

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Zygmunt Bauman ou l’insoutenable liquidité de la modernité

par Edouard Rix

C’est à Zygmunt Bauman, sociologue possédant la double nationalité polonaise et britannique, que l’on doit le paradigme de la « modernité liquide ».

Zygmunt Bauman naît à Poznan, en Pologne, en 1925, dans une famille juive non-pratiquante, qui s’enfuit en URSS suite à l’invasion allemande. En 1944, le jeune Zygmunt s’engage dans la 1ère Armée polonaise, sous contrôle soviétique, dans laquelle il devient commissaire politique et participe aux batailles de Kolberg et Berlin. Membre du Parti communiste polonais, il intègre le Corps de sécurité intérieure (KBW), une unité militaire qui lutte contre les nationalistes ukrainiens et la résistance anticommuniste. Devenu major, il en est exclu en 1953, après que son père ait souhaité émigrer en Israël. Pendant ses années de service, il étudie la sociologie et la philosophie. Après l’obtention de sa maîtrise de philosophie en 1954, il devient professeur à l’Université de Varsovie. Il en est exclu - ainsi que du parti communiste - en 1968, et part alors pour Israël, avant de rejoindre l’université anglaise de Leeds en 1971, où il enseignera jusqu’en 1990.

Modernité liquide et société liquide

Bien qu’il soit l’un des principaux représentants de l’école post-moderne, Bauman abandonne, à la fin des années 1990, le concept de « post-modernité » pour ceux de « modernité  liquide » et de « société liquide », qui seraient selon lui caractéristiques de nos modes de vie actuels. Filant la métaphore de la liquidité, il publie successivement L’Amour liquide (2004), La Vie liquide (2006), Le présent liquide (2007).

ZB-liquide.jpgCar pour lui, nos sociétés occidentales sont caractérisées par le passage d’une phase solide de la modernité, stable, immobile et enracinée, à une phase liquide, fluide, volatile et néo-nomade où tout semble se désagréger et se liquéfier, phase « dans laquelle les formes sociales (les structures qui limitent les choix individuels, les institutions qui veillent au maintien des traditions, les modes de comportement acceptables) ne peuvent plus se maintenir durablement en l’état parce qu’elles se décomposent en moins de temps qu’il ne leur en faut pour être forgées et se solidifier[i] ».Tout devient éphémère et jetable.

Pour Bauman « modernité liquide » et « vie liquide » sont intimement liées. La vie liquide est la vie prise dans le flux incessant de la mobilité et de la vitesse. Elle est « précaire, vécue dans des conditions d’incertitude constante[ii] ». « La vie dans une société moderne liquide, écrit-il, ne peut rester immobile. Elle doit se moderniser (lire : continuer chaque jour de se défaire des attributs qui ont dépassé leur date limite de vente, continuer de démanteler/se dépouiller des identités actuellement assemblées/revêtues) - ou périr[iii] ». Dans un récent Eléments, Alain de Benoist précisait les contours de cette société liquide : « La société est devenue flottante. Elle s’est coupée du passé et a cessé de croire en l’avenir, se maintenant ainsi dans un éternel présent où rien ne fait plus sens. Ayant perdu tout ancrage, devenue étrangère à elle-même, elle zappe d’une idée à l’autre, comme on passe d’un produit à l’autre. Elle obéit à la logique de la Mer, faite de flux et de reflux, perdant ainsi le sens de la Terre. Elle donne la priorité à l’économie et au commerce, au détriment de la politique et de la culture[iv] ».

La vie liquide est une vie de consommation. « Elle traite le monde et tous ses fragments animés comme autant d’objets de consommation[v] », avec une date de péremption au-delà de laquelle ils deviennent jetables, l’homme y compris. Les consommateurs individuels ont des identités éphémères, des désirs qui ne peuvent jamais être satisfaits. Cette société consumériste n’a que faire des martyrs et des héros, auxquels elle préfère deux catégories nouvelles : la victime et la célébrité. 

Dans cette société flottante « les meilleurs chances de victoire appartiennent à ceux qui circulent près du sommet de la pyramide globale du pouvoir, ceux pour qui l’espace compte peu et la distance n’est pas une gêne ; ceux qui se sentent chez eux en maints endroits mais dans aucun en particulier. Ils sont aussi légers, vifs et volatiles que le commerce et les finances, de plus en plus globaux et extraterritoriaux, qui assistèrent à leur naissance et soutiennent leur existence nomade[vi] ». Bauman estime que c’est Jacques Attali qui décrit le mieux les hommes qui maîtrisent l’art de la vie liquide : ils aiment « créer, jouir, bouger », vivent dans une société de « valeurs volatiles, insouciante de l’avenir, égoïste et hédoniste », considèrent le « neuf comme une bonne nouvelle, [la] précarité comme une valeur, [l’] instabilité comme un impératif, [le] métissage comme une richesse[vii] ».

L’âge des Mercuriens

Les travaux de Bauman sont à rapprocher de la thèse défendue par Yuri Slezkine dans Le Siècle juif. « L’âge moderne est l’âge des juifs écrit celui-ci. Et le XXe siècle est le siècle des juifs[viii] ». Selon ce professeur de l’Université de Berkeley, il existe dans la plupart des civilisations traditionnelles une opposition structurale entre une majorité de paysans et de guerriers, les « Apolliniens », et une minorité de « nomades fonctionnels », les « Mercuriens ». Les premiers constituent la population autochtone, installée sur la terre, qu’ils cultivent et transmettent à leurs héritiers, tandis que les seconds, issus de minorités étrangères, diasporiques et mobiles - Juifs, Tziganes, Parsis, Jaïns -, sont les dignes descendants de Mercure, « le patron des passeurs de frontières et des intermédiaires ; le protecteur des individus qui vivent de leur agilité d’esprit[ix] ». Au courage guerrier et à l’honneur aristocratique, ces derniers préfèrent l’habileté et l’esprit, aux villages, les grandes villes anonymes.

Or, pour Slezkine, « la modernité signifie que chacun d’entre nous devient urbain, mobile, éduqué, professionnellement flexible », en résumé mercurien. D’où sa conclusion : « En d’autres termes, la modernité, c’est le fait que nous sommes devenus juifs[x] ». Un constat que ne démentiront pas Zygmunt Bauman et Jacques Attali.

Edouard Rix, Réfléchir & Agir, hiver 2017, n°55, pp. 42-43.

Notes

[i] Z. Bauman, Le présent liquide. Peurs sociales et obsessions sécuritaires, Seuil, 2007, p. 7.

[ii] Z. Bauman, La Vie liquide, Pluriel, 2013, p. 8.

[iii] Op. cit., p. 10.

[iv] A. de Benoist, « Une société flottante », Eléments, mai-juin 2016, n° 160, p. 3.

[v] Z. Bauman, La Vie liquide, Pluriel, 2013, p. 19.

[vi] Op. cit., p. 11.

[vii] J. Attali, Chemins de sagesse. Traité du labyrinthe, Fayard, 1996.

[viii] Y. Slezkine, Le Siècle juif, La Découverte, 2009.

[ix] Op. cit.

[x] Op. cit.

dimanche, 01 juillet 2018

The Ancients on Speaking Rightly

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The Ancients on Speaking Rightly

We are all faced with the challenge of speaking, and living, truths which are felt to be offensive by a great many of our countrymen, not to mention the powers that be. This is not a new problem. By definition, the natural diversity of men means that knowledge of the truth is highly unequally distributed and those who know most about the truth are necessarily a tiny minority. This minority must alone face the prejudices and ignorance of the masses and the violence of the state. The Ancients are in universal agreement in saying that the truth must be spoken carefully, with due regard for one’s social position, social harmony, and the general society’s necessarily limited ability to grasp the truth.

Hesiod, that most practical Grecian poet, said: “The tongue’s best treasure among men is when it is sparing, and its greatest charm is when it goes in measure. If you speak ill, you may well hear greater yourself” (Works and Days, 720-25). He advised to “never venture to insult a man for accursed soul-destroying poverty, which is the dispensation of the blessed ones who are for ever” (W&D, 715-20). And ought we not to be even kinder to those suffering from poverty of culture and soul?

On the positive side, Hesiod also eloquently described the almost magical ability of the heaven-blessed king to unite his community through right speech: “upon his tongue” the Muses “shed sweet dew, and out of his mouth the words flow honeyed; and the peoples all look to him as he decides what is to prevail with his straight judgments” (Theogony, 80-90). There was a unique ideal of isogoria – equality or freedom of speech, the right for each citizen to speak before the public –  in ancient Greece. This right however was, even for citizens, not unqualified and entailed responsibility, particularly with regard to the social consequences of one’s words.

In a faraway India, the followers of the Buddha paired gracious, truthful speech with perfect self-control. According to the Gandharan Dharmapada, Gautama said:

One who utters speech that isn’t rough
But instructive and truthful
So that he offends no one,
Him I call a Brahmin.

The one who does no wrong
Through body, speech, or mind,
Restrained in the three ways,
Him I call a Brahmin.

One perfectly calmed, ceased,
A gentle speaker, not puffed up,
Who illuminates the meaning and the Dharma,
Him I call a Brahmin. (Dharmapada, 1.22-24)

Lest one think this is but the fearful self-censorship of peasants and monks, the Norse poets have Odin say much the same thing. The Sayings of the High One (Hávamál) contain several verses advising caution in speech. Odin says:

He’s a wretched man, of evil disposition,
the one who makes fun of everything,
he doesn’t know the one thing he ought to know:
that he is not devoid of faults (Hávamál, 22)

Wise that man seems who retreats
when one guest is insulting another;
the man who mocks at a feast doesn’t know for sure
whether he shoots off his mouth amid enemies. (Háv., 31)[1] [2]

For, as Odin adds: “For those words which one man says to another, often he gets paid back” (Háv., 65). The foul-speaking, friendless man goes to the Assembly and finds himself “among the multitude and has few people to speak for him” (Háv., 62).[2] [3]

One must have the right speech, the most truthful speech possible, according to time and place and audience. The most important truths – those about life and death, about purpose and community – are rarely apprehended explicitly and rationally, nor do they need to be, operating at a far deeper psychological level. Your whole demeanor, your generous attitude ought to, without words, invite your kinsmen to live seriously and love their people. For as Aristotle said, so far as persuasion is concerned, the speaker’s “character contains almost the strongest proof of all” (Rhetoric, 1.2)

Unless you are a prophet (feel free to “announce yourself”), you must work with existing, living traditions, national and spiritual, whatever their imperfections, for these resonate with people and, if appealed to, invite them to higher purposes. (Actually, even the prophets, both ancient and modern, appealed to, expanded upon, and transformed existing traditions.) That which is bad in a tradition can be graciously understated, that which is good celebrated and glorified. You do not convince people with statistics and syllogisms, but by touching their soul. In terms of ethics, a living tradition is worth more than all the libraries and databases in the world.

All this is not to say that one should not say anything offensive to society. All the traditions are equally clear: there are times when truth must be adhered to openly, necessarily meaning the breaking of ties with society, one’s own family, one’s life. The point I would make is that this must not be done carelessly, but with self-mastery and effectiveness. The gains in terms of knowledge of truth must outweigh the costs in terms of social entropy, division, and hatred. Your words are actions. A generation cannot, and should not, be expected to abandon the religion and fundamental values it was brought up with (we ought to have a compassionate thought for the Boomers here). In all this, one should trust one’s instincts rather than calculate. Some truths are spoken in vain if one lacks power. As a Spartan once said: “My friend, your words require the backing of a city” (Plutarch, “Sayings of Lysander,” 8). Socrates lived cryptically his entire life, confounding convention and encouraging the good, choosing to die at precisely the moment when this would make truth resonate for the ages.

aristotelesrhetoric.jpgAbove all, we must shed from within ourselves the idea that we, personally, are “entitled” to free speech or that the masses can welcome the whole truth. If we still have these notions, then we are in fact still slaves to our time’s democratic naïveté. No, free speech is at once a duty and a prize, to be exercised only once we have become worthy, by our own personal excellence and self-mastery. That was, at any rate, the way Diogenes the Cynic saw things, calling free speech “the finest thing of all in life.”[3] [4] But this free speech was not to be used carelessly: the Dog’s notoriously vicious wit and outrageous behavior were always meant to benefit others educationally, metaphorically biting his “friends, so as to save them.”[4] [5] Do not worry about your right to freedom of speech: try to be worthy of freedom of speech.

On this point, I can do better here than quote the philosopher-emperor Julian, in his letter denouncing the so-called “Cynics” of his day, who had degenerated into something like a band of lazy and offensive hippies (my emphasis):

Therefore let him who wishes to be a Cynic philosopher not adopt merely their long cloak or wallet or staff or their way of wearing the hair, as though he were like a man walking unshaved and illiterate in a village that lacked barbers’ shops and schools, but let him consider that reason rather than a staff and a certain plan of life rather than a wallet are the mintmarks of the Cynic philosophy. And freedom of speech he must not employ until he have first proved how much he is worth, as I believe was the case with Crates and Diogenes. For they were so far from bearing with a bad grace any threat of fortune, whether one call such threats caprice or wanton insult, that once when he had been captured by pirates Diogenes joked with them; as for Crates he gave his property to the state, and being physically deformed he made fun of his own lame leg and hunched shoulders. But when his friends gave an entertainment he used to go, whether invited or not, and would reconcile his nearest friends if he learned that they had quarrelled. He used to reprove them not harshly but with a charming manner and not so as to seem to persecute those whom he wished to reform, but as though he wished to be of use both to them and to the bystanders. Yet this was not the chief end and aim of those Cynics, but as I said their main concern was how they might themselves attain to happiness and, as I think, they occupied themselves with other men only in so far as they comprehended that man is by nature a social and political animal; and so they aided their fellow-citizens, not only by practicing but by preaching as well. (To the Uneducated Cynics, 201-02)

Your words are a side effect, a very secondary one, of your way of life. How are you living?

Bibliography

 Aristotle (trans. H. C. Lawson-Tancred), The Art of Rhetoric (London: Penguin, 2004).

Hard, Robin, (ed. and trans.), Diogenes the Cynic: Sayings and Anecdotes with Other Popular Moralists (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Hesiod (trans. M. L. West), Theogony and Works and Days (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Julian (trans. Emily Wright), To the Uneducated Cynics: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/To_the_uneducated_Cynics [6]

Larrington, Carolyne (trans.), The Poetic Edda (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Plutarch (trans. Richard Talbert and Ian Scott-Kilvert), On Sparta (London: Penguin, 2005)

Roebuck, Valerie (trans.), The Dhammapada (London: Penguin, 2010).

Notes

[1] [7] One could also cite verse 32:

Many men are devoted to one another
and yet they fight at feasts;
amongst men there will always be strife,
guest squabbling with guest.

[2] [8] More generally, one is struck at the degree to which the ethos of the Hávamál are in harmony with those of Homer and Hesiod, no doubt reflecting similar ways of life as farmers, wanderers, and conquerors.

[3] [9] Robin Hard (ed. and trans.), Diogenes the Cynic: Sayings and Anecdotes with Other Popular Moralists (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 50.

[4] [10] Ibid., 24.

 

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URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/06/the-ancients-on-speaking-rightly/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Freedom-of-Speech.jpg

[2] [1]: #_ftn1

[3] [2]: #_ftn2

[4] [3]: #_ftn3

[5] [4]: #_ftn4

[6] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/To_the_uneducated_Cynics: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/To_the_uneducated_Cynics

[7] [1]: #_ftnref1

[8] [2]: #_ftnref2

[9] [3]: #_ftnref3

[10] [4]: #_ftnref4

 

 

De Carl Schmitt et du combat tellurique contre le système technétronique

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De Carl Schmitt et du combat tellurique contre le système technétronique

Il y a déjà cinq ans, pendant les fortes manifs des jeunes chrétiens contre les lois socialistes sur la famille (lois depuis soutenues et bénies par la hiérarchie et par l’ONG du Vatican mondialisé, mais c’est une autre histoire), j’écrivais ces lignes :

« Deux éléments m’ont frappé dans les combats qui nous occupent, et qui opposent notre jeune élite catholique au gouvernement mondialiste aux abois : d’une part la Foi, car nous avons là une jeunesse insolente et Fidèle, audacieuse et tourmentée à la fois par l’Ennemi et la cause qu’elle défend ; la condition physique d’autre part, qui ne correspond en rien avec ce que la démocratie-marché, du sexe drogue et rock’n’roll, des centres commerciaux et des jeux vidéo, attend de la jeunesse.»

L’important est la terre que nous laisserons à nos enfants ne cesse-ton de nous dire avec des citations truquées ; mais l’avenir c’est surtout les enfants que nous laisserons à la terre ! Cela les soixante-huitards et leurs accompagnateurs des multinationales l’auront mémorisé. On a ainsi vu des dizaines milliers de jeunes Français – qui pourraient demain être des millions, car il n’y a pas de raison pour que cette jeunesse ne fasse pas des petits agents de résistance ! Affronter la nuit, le froid, la pluie, les gaz, l’attente, la taule, l’insulte, la grosse carcasse du CRS casqué nourri aux amphétamines, aux RTT et aux farines fonctionnaires. Et ici encore le système tombe sur une élite physique qu’il n’avait pas prévue. Une élite qui occupe le terrain, pas les réseaux.

Cette mondialisation ne veut pas d’enfants. Elle abrutit et inhibe physiquement – vous pouvez le voir vraiment partout – des millions si ce n’est des milliards de jeunes par la malbouffe, la pollution, la destruction psychique, la techno-addiction et la distraction, le reniement de la famille, de la nation, des traditions, toutes choses très bien analysées par Tocqueville à propos des pauvres Indiens :

« En affaiblissant parmi les Indiens de l’Amérique du Nord le sentiment de la patrie, en dispersant leurs familles, en obscurcissant leurs traditions, en interrompant la chaîne des souvenirs, en changeant toutes leurs habitudes, et en accroissant outre mesure leurs besoins, la tyrannie européenne les a rendus plus désordonnés et moins civilisés qu’ils n’étaient déjà. »

Et bien les Indiens c’est nous maintenant, quelle que soit notre race ou notre religion, perclus de besoins, de faux messages, de bouffes mortes, de promotions. Et je remarquais qu’il n’y a rien de pire pour le système que d’avoir des jeunes dans la rue (on peut en payer et en promouvoir, les drôles de Nuit debout). Rien de mieux que d’avoir des feints-esprits qui s’agitent sur les réseaux sociaux.

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J’ajoutais :

« Et voici qu’une jeunesse montre des qualités que l’on croyait perdues jusqu’alors, et surtout dans la France anticléricale et libertine à souhait ; des qualités telluriques, écrirai-je en attendant d’expliquer ce terme. Ce sont des qualités glanées au cours des pèlerinages avec les parents ; aux cours des longues messes traditionnelles et des nuits de prières ; au cours de longues marches diurnes et des veillées nocturnes ; de la vie naturelle et de la foi épanouie sous la neige et la pluie. On fait alors montre de résistance, de capacité physique, sans qu’il y rentre de la dégoutante obsession contemporaine du sport qui débouche sur la brutalité, sur l’oisiveté, l’obésité via l’addiction à la bière. On est face aux éléments que l’on croyait oubliés. »

Enfin je citais un grand marxiste, ce qui a souvent le don d’exaspérer les sites mondialistes et d’intriquer les sites gauchistes qui reprennent mes textes. C’est pourtant simple à comprendre : je reprends ce qui est bon (quod verum est meum est, dit Sénèque) :

« Je relis un écrivain marxiste émouvant et oublié, Henri Lefebvre, dénonciateur de la vie quotidienne dans le monde moderne. Lefebvre est un bon marxiste antichrétien mais il sent cette force. D’une part l’URSS crée par manque d’ambition politique le même modèle de citoyen petit-bourgeois passif attendant son match et son embouteillage ; d’autre part la société de consommation crée des temps pseudo-cycliques, comme dira Debord et elle fait aussi semblant de réunir, mais dans le séparé, ce qui était jadis la communauté. Lefebvre rend alors un curieux hommage du vice à la vertu ; et il s’efforce alors à plus d’objectivité sur un ton grinçant.

Le catholicisme se montre dans sa vérité historique un mouvement plutôt qu’une doctrine, un mouvement très vaste, très assimilateur, qui ne crée rien, mais en qui rien ne se perd, avec une certaine prédominance des mythes les plus anciens, les plus tenaces, qui restent pour des raisons multiples acceptés ou acceptables par l’immense majorité des hommes (mythes agraires).

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Le Christ s’exprime par images agraires, il ne faut jamais l’oublier. Il est lié au sol et nous sommes liés à son sang. Ce n’est pas un hasard si Lefebvre en pleine puissance communiste s’interroge sur la résilience absolue de l’Eglise et de notre message :

Eglise, Saint Eglise, après avoir échappé à ton emprise, pendant longtemps je me suis demandé d’où te venait ta puissance.

Oui, le village chrétien qui subsiste avec sa paroisse et son curé, cinquante ans après Carrefour et l’autoroute, deux mille ans après le Christ et deux cents ans après la Révolution industrielle et l’Autre, tout cela tient vraiment du miracle.

Le monde postmoderne est celui du vrai Grand Remplacement : la fin des villages de Cantenac, pour parler comme Guitry. Il a pris une forme radicale sous le gaullisme : voyez le cinéma de Bresson (Balthazar), de Godard (Week-end, Deux ou trois choses), d’Audiard (les Tontons, etc.). Le phénomène était global : voyez les Monstres de Dino Risi qui montraient l’émergence du citoyen mondialisé déraciné et décérébré en Italie. L’ahuri devant sa télé…

Il prône ce monde une absence de nature, une vie de banlieue, une cuisine de fastfood, une distraction technicisée. Enfermé dans un studio à mille euros et connecté dans l’espace virtuel du sexe, du jeu, de l’info. Et cela donne l’évangélisme, cette mouture de contrôle mental qui a pris la place du christianisme dans pas le mal de paroisses, surtout hélas en Amérique du Sud. Ce désastre est lié bien sûr à l’abandon par une classe paysanne de ses racines telluriques. Je me souviens aux bords du lac Titicaca de la puissance et de la présence catholique au magnifique sanctuaire de Copacabana (rien à voir avec la plage, mais rien) ; et de son abandon à la Paz, où justement on vit déjà dans la matrice et le conditionnement. Mais cette reprogrammation par l’évangélisme avait été décidée en haut lieu, comme me le confessa un jour le jeune curé de Guamini dans la Pampa argentine, qui évoquait Kissinger.

J’en viens au sulfureux penseur Carl Schmitt, qui cherchait à expliquer dans son Partisan, le comportement et les raisons de la force des partisans qui résistèrent à Napoléon, à Hitler, aux puissances coloniales qui essayèrent d’en finir avec des résistances éprouvées ; et ne le purent. Schmitt relève quatre critères : l’irrégularité, la mobilité, le combat actif, l’intensité de l’engagement politique. En allemand cela donne : Solche Kriterien sind: Irregularität, gesteigerte Mobilität des aktiven Kampfes und gesteigerte Intensität des politischen Engagements.

Tout son lexique a des racines latines, ce qui n’est pas fortuit, toutes qualités de ces jeunes qui refusèrent de baisser les bras ou d’aller dormir : car on a bien lu l’Evangile dans ces paroisses et l’on sait ce qu’il en coûte de trop dormir !

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Schmitt reconnaît en fait la force paysanne et nationale des résistances communistes ; et il rend hommage à des peuples comme le peuple russe et le peuple espagnol : deux peuples telluriques, enracinés dans leur foi, encadrés par leur clergé, et accoutumés à une vie naturelle et dure de paysan. Ce sont ceux-là et pas les petit-bourgeois protestants qui ont donné du fil à retordre aux armées des Lumières ! Notre auteur souligne à la suite du théoricien espagnol Zamora (comme disait Jankélévitch il faudra un jour réhabiliter la philosophie espagnole) le caractère tellurique de ces bandes de partisans, prêts à tous les sacrifices, et il rappelle la force ces partisans issus d’un monde autochtone et préindustriel. Il souligne qu’une motorisation entraîne une perte de ce caractère tellurique (Ein solcher motorisierter Partisan verliert seinen tellurischen Charakter), même si bien sûr le partisan – ici notre jeune militant catholique – est entraîné à s’adapter et maîtrise mieux que tous les branchés la technologie contemporaine (mais pas moderne, il n’y a de moderne que la conviction) pour mener à bien son ouvrage.

Schmitt reconnaît en tant qu’Allemand vaincu lui aussi en Russie que le partisan est un des derniers soldats – ou sentinelles – de la terre (einer der letzten Posten der Erde ; qu’il signifie toujours une part de notre sol (ein Stück echten Bodens), ajoutant qu’il faut espérer dans le futur que tout ne soit pas dissous par le melting-pot du progrès technique et industriel (Schmelztiegel des industrielltechnischen Fortschritts). En ce qui concerne le catholicisme, qui grâce à Dieu n’est pas le marxisme, on voit bien que le but de réification et de destruction du monde par l’économie devenue follen’a pas atteint son but. Et qu’il en faut encore pour en venir à bout de la vieille foi, dont on découvre que par sa démographie, son courage et son énergie spirituelle et tellurique, elle n’a pas fini de surprendre l’adversaire.

Gardons une condition, dit le maître : den tellurischen Charakter. On comprend que le système ait vidé les campagnes et rempli les cités de tous les déracinés possibles. Le reste s’enferme dans son smartphone, et le tour est joué.

Bibliographie:

Carl Schmitt – Du Partisan

Tocqueville – De la démocratie I, Deuxième partie, Chapitre X

Guy Debord – La Société du Spectacle

Henri Lefebvre – Critique de la vie quotidienne (Editions de l’Arche)

vendredi, 29 juin 2018

Ernst Jünger: Dalle rovine della Tecnica rinascerà l’età dello spirito

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Ernst Jünger: Dalle rovine della Tecnica rinascerà l’età dello spirito

Marcello Veneziani

Ex: http://www.marcelloveneziani.com 

A leggerlo con gli occhi miopi del presente, L’operaio di Ernst Jünger sembra la grandiosa metafora dell’avvento dei tecnici al potere. Anzi il Tecnico stesso sembra l’Operaio in loden, versione estrema della borghesia che si è fatta globale e immateriale come la finanza rispetto all’epoca dell’oro e del decoro.

Ma più in profondità, lo sguardo profetico di Jünger è rivolto a un’epoca planetaria dominata dalla tecnica, che ha un esito a sorpresa rispetto alle sue premesse: la tecnica «spiritualizza la terra». Dopo gli dei, dopo il monoteismo, verrà lo Spirito, signore dell’Età dell’acquario, che appare attraverso i sogni e agisce mediante la magia.

Lo spirito verrà tramite la tecnica, scrive Jünger, nel suo linguaggio oracolare, a volte allusivo, in alcuni tratti reticente, ed esoterico. Dopo la catastrofe e in fondo al tunnel del nichilismo il suo pensiero intuitivo scorge una luce inattesa. Non la luce di un nuovo umanesimo, come pensavano da differenti postazioni i suoi contemporanei Maritain e Gentile, Bloch e Sartre. Ma un disumanesimo integrale, una sorta di superamento dell’umano e non in una dimensione sovrumana, alla Nietzsche, ma compiutamente inumana, geologica e spirituale.

In questa chiave, l’Operaio è un nuovo titano, quasi una figura mitologica, della razza di Anteo, Atlante e Prometeo, che mobilita il mondo tramite la tecnica, che è il suo linguaggio. L’operaio di Jünger – o Milite del lavoro, come preferivano tradurre Delio Cantimori e anche Julius Evola – compie 80 anni e per l’occasione esce finalmente in Italia Maxima-Minima, un libro breve e intenso che fu la prosecuzione dell’opera jüngeriana del ’32 a 32 anni di distanza, nel 1964.

Quando dirigevo da ragazzo una casa editrice, negli anni Ottanta, tentai temerariamente di farlo tradurre in Italia; ma alla Buchmesse, la Fiera del libro di Francoforte, l’agente letterario di Klett Cotta, l’editore tedesco, mi disse che quest’opera era già opzionata in Italia. Ci sono voluti quasi trent’anni per vederla alla luce ora, a cura e con la postfazione di Alessandra Jadicicco.

Un’opera oracolare di minima loquacità e massima densità, in cui si avverte il respiro della grandezza, dove l’eco dell’Operaio si mescola all’eco dello Stato mondiale, Le forbici, Al muro del tempo e altre opere jüngeriane del suo personale «Nuovo Testamento», come egli stesso diceva.

La tesi metafisica è quella: dalla Macchina, per inattese vie, sorgerà lo Spirito; il Mito, il Gioco, la Geologia e l’Astrologia lo porteranno a compimento. Ma dalla Tecnica sorge anche il nemico: laddove il tecnico «conquisti il governo politico, se non dittatoriale, grava la peggiore delle minacce».

Il condensato deteriore della tecnica è l’automatismo, che è il peggiore degli autoritarismi, un dispotismo che uccide la libertà alla radice. E qui Ernst Jünger ritrova suo fratello Friedrich Georg che alla Perfezione della tecnica e all’avvento degli automi aveva dedicato un lucido saggio, degno del suo germano (tradotto in Italia dal Settimo Sigillo nel 2000).

La tesi metapolitica di Jünger è invece l’avvento auspicato dello Stato planetario, dopo l’unificazione del mondo compiuta dalla Tecnica, di cui scriveva negli stessi anni in Italia anche Ugo Spirito. Dopo la patria il mondo intero sarà amato come «Terra Natia».
Destra e sinistra, rivoluzione e conservazione, sono per Jünger braccia di uno stesso corpo.

Ma il politico, rispetto a questi fenomeni grandiosi, è inadeguato, si occupa dell’ovvio dei popoli, si cura del successo e dell’attualità, non si sporge nell’avvenire e, a differenza dell’artista, non dispone di uno sguardo ulteriore.
La miseria della politica propizia il dominio della tecnica (sembrano glosse al presente…). A rimorchio della politica va la giustizia che «segue la politica come gli avvoltoi le campagne degli eserciti». Dei, padri, autorità, eroi tramontano nell’era in cui la prosperità cresce con l’insicurezza.

Tocca all’outsider, che Jünger aveva battezzato già l’Anarca o il Ribelle, avvertire come un sismografo il tempo che verrà. «L’amarezza riguardo ai contemporanei è comprensibile in chi ha da dire cose immense».
Pensieri lucidi e affilati come lame si susseguono nella prosa asciutta e ad alta temperatura di Jünger; a volte sfiorano la storia, i popoli, le culture, le razze.

Precorrendo o incrociando le tesi della Scuola di Francoforte e di Herbert Marcuse in particolare, Jünger nota che la nuova schiavitù e la nuova alienazione non si concentrano più nel tempo della produzione, ma nel tempo libero. La dipendenza si sposta dal lavoro al consumo. Jünger intuisce che la globalizzazione coinvolgerà non solo i popoli più avanzati, ma anche le società feudali e primitive, che rientreranno in pieno nel ciclo della tecnica: e ci pare di vedere le tigri asiatiche, la Cina, l’India e la Corea nel suo sguardo profetico.

Jünger critica la pur grandiosa morfologia della civiltà di Oswald Spengler e incontra invece il nichilismo attivo e poetico di Gottfried Benn e soprattutto il pensiero di Martin Heidegger, che a sua volta studia e fa studiare nei suoi seminari L’operaio e per altri sentieri raggiunge la stessa radura di Jüger, al di là dell’umano.

Ho letto in questi giorni, accanto a Jünger, gli appunti heideggeriani raccolti sotto il titolo La storia dell’Essere dove si respira in altre forme e linguaggi la stessa aria jüngeriana: il dominio planetario della tecnica, la rivoluzione conservatrice, il realismo eroico, il potere di cui i potenti sono esecutori e non dignitari, la guerra e la mobilitazione, la scomparsa dell’umano.

E affiora esplicito il nome di Jünger. Sullo sfondo, come un’allusione che vuol restare in ombra, la tragedia della Germania e dell’Europa.
Quel che alla fine apre all’apocalittico Jünger uno spiraglio di luce nella notte è l’Amor fati, l’accettazione istintiva del destino.

«Tutto ciò che accade è adorabile» scrive Jünger citando Leon Bloy. E una leggera euforia attraversa il paesaggio catastrofico, quasi una musica sorgiva tra le rovine e gli automi.

MV, Il Giornale 2 aprile 2012

 

jeudi, 28 juin 2018

Nicolas Berdyaev on the Despiritualization of the West

Nicolas Berdyaev on the Despiritualization of the West

Ex: https://orthosphere.wordpress.com 

My long-term ongoing project involves reading backwards into the critique of modernity, resurrecting from the archive writers who fifty, seventy-five, or even one hundred years ago, intuited prophetically where such trends as democracy, utilitarianism, and the technocratic conception of science were taking mankind – and who foresaw accurately just how deformed morally and socially Western civilization was likely to become.  The writers in question, with a few exceptions, are today largely forgotten or are remembered under a false image or for spurious reasons.  The names of Karen Blixen, Gustave Le Bon, Jorge Luis Borges, Julius Evola, René Guénon, Hermann Keyserling, Peter Ouspensky, Oswald Spengler, T. Lothrop Stoddard, and Sigrid Undset, among others, have appeared in a series of articles, most of them at The Brussels Journal.  I wish, however, to devote the present occasion to a renewed discussion of the Russian writer-philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev (1874 – 1948), whom the encyclopedias of ideas classify variously, not to say confusingly, as a Christian Existentialist, a Russian Nietzschean, a Neo-Platonist, a follower of Vladimir Solovyev, or an out-and-out mystic and subjectivist.  Berdyaev is perhaps a bit of each of these, while being also much more than any of them.  Academic philosophers have either never heard of Berdyaev or, knowing of him at second hand, perhaps from an encyclopedia article, and being unable to fit him into any Positivist or Postmodern framework, dismiss him summarily.

41ve66kghjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOne might fairly assert that Berdyaev did himself little good publicity-wise by cultivating a style of presentation which, while often resolving its thought-processes in a brilliant, aphoristic utterance, nevertheless takes its time, looks at phenomena from every aspect, analyzes every proposition to its last comma and period, and tends to assert its findings bluntly rather than to argue them politely in the proper syllogistic manner.  In Berdyaev’s defense, a sensitive reader might justifiably interpret his leisurely examination of the modern agony as a deliberate and quite appropriate response to the upheavals that harried him from the time of the 1905 Revolution to the German occupation of France during World War II.  If the Twentieth Century insisted on being precipitate and eruptive in everything, without regard to the lethal mayhem it wreaked, then, by God, Berdyaev, regarding his agenda, would take his sweet time.  Not for him the constant mobilized agitation, the sloganeering hysteria, the goose-stepping and dive-bombing spasms of modernity in full self-apocalypse.  That is another characteristic of Berdyaev – he is all at once leisurely in style and apocalyptic in content.  Berdyaev was quite as apocalyptic in his expository prose as his idol Fyodor Dostoevsky was in his ethical narrative, and being a voice of revelation he expressed himself, again like Dostoevsky, in profoundly religious and indelibly Christian terms.  Berdyaev follows Dostoevsky and anticipates Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his conviction that no society can murder God, as Western secular society has gleefully done, and then go its insouciant way, without consequence.

The titles of Berdyaev’s numerous books, especially when taken in chronological order, tell a story all by themselves: The Meaning of the Creative Act (1916), The Meaning of History (1923), The End of Our Time (1924), Christianity and Class War (1931), The Destiny of Man (1931), The Fate of Man in the Modern World (1934), Christianity and Anti-Semitism (1938), Slavery and Freedom (1939), Spirit and Reality (1946), and The Beginning and the End (1947), among many others.  There is also a posthumous Truth and Revelation (1954).  I call attention to the earliest of the listed titles, The Meaning of the Creative Act.  Berdyaev began his career as a philosophical writer (he never completed his doctorate) with an ambitious study of aesthetics, his theory of which locates the purest manifestation of the highest value of his worldview, freedom, in the labor that generates the work of art and beyond that in all the highest effects of the artwork in its context.  At the end of Berdyaev’s life, he wrote the essays that constitute Truth and Revelation,one of his several ventures into the philosophical-theological sub-genre of theodicy, in which he invokes a “creative response to the appeal of God.”  Whereas in the Catholic and even more so in the Lutheran and Calvinist variants of Christianity there is, according to Berdyaev, a strong “sociomorphic” or “legalistic” distortion of Christian doctrine; in Russian Orthodox commentary, by contrast, “the coming of the Christ has been understood not as a reparation for sin, nor as the offering of a ransom, but as the continuation of the creation of the world and the appearance of the New Adam.”  In Berdyaev’s view, “What God expects from man is not servile submission, not obedience, not the fear of condemnation, but free creative acts.”  Berdyaev adds in an aside that, “I wrote on this subject some while ago in The Meaning of Creativeness,” that is, The Meaning of the Creative Act.  Thus Berdyaev’s work exhibits a remarkable closure, returning at the end to its beginnings, linking as it were its omega with its alpha.

51QG2QgrY+L._AC_UL320_SR212,320_.jpgBy the mid-1930s, in the extended aftermaths of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, and in the context of the ideological dictatorships, the conviction had impressed itself on Berdyaev that the existing Western arrangement, pathologically disordered, betokened the dissolution of civilization, not its continuance.  In The Fate of Man in the Modern World, Berdyaev summarizes his discovery.  In modernity, a brutal phase of history, the human collectivity must endure the effects of ancestral decisions, which subsequent generations might have altered but chose instead to endorse, and live miserably or perhaps die according to them.  Modernity is thus history passing judgment on history, as Berdyaev sees it; and modernity’s brutality, its nastiness, and its inhumanity all stem from the same cause – the repudiation of God and the substitution in His place of a necessarily degraded “natural-social realm.”  Berdyaev writes, “We are witnessing the socialization and nationalization of human souls, of man himself.”  Some causes of this degeneracy lie proximate to their effects.  “Modern bestialism and its attendant dehumanization are based upon idolatry, the worship of technics, race or class or production, and upon the adaptation of atavistic instincts to worship.”  Again, “Dehumanization is… the mechanization of human life.”  With mechanization comes also the “dissolution of man into… functions.”

But what of the radical cause, or causes, that conceals itself, or that conceal themselves, behind these immediate ones?  Towards the end of The Fate, Berdyaev divulges, almost in passing, his sense that “the end of the Renaissance is approaching.”  The formula might strike a person as odd.  Have not several distinguishable phases passed since the Renaissance?  And was not the Renaissance precisely an era of those “free creative acts” that Berdyaev so values?  For Berdyaev, however, the prevailing disorder of the contemporary world would stem from that selfsame conscious reorientation in existence that modernity delights in celebrating, in the most fulsome and effusive terms, as its own bright dawn after the supposed long darkness of the Middle Ages.  The tragic despiritualization of the West began, in Berdyaev’s historical analysis, with the bold proclamation of emancipatory humanism in the artistic and philosophical audacity of Fourteenth Century Italian city-states, whose hubris only now smashes headlong into its proper nemesis.  Berdyaev omits to detail this claim in The Fate, but readers might access his full argument in two of his other titles, The Meaning of the Creative Act and The Meaning of History.

24860515.jpgOne of the pleasures of reading backwards into the dissentient discussion of modernity is the discovery of contrarian judgments, such as Berdyaev’s concerning the Florentine revival of classicism, that stand in refreshing variance with existing conformist opinion.  Will Durant sums up the standing textbook view of the Renaissance in Volume 5 (1953) of his Story of Civilization.  When “the humanists captured the mind of Italy,” as Durant writes, they “turned it from religion to philosophy, from heaven to earth, and revealed to an astonished generation the riches of pagan thought and art.”  Having accomplished all that, according once again to Durant, the umanisti reorganized education on the premise that “the proper study of man was now to be man, in all the potential strength and beauty of his body, in all the joy and pain of his senses and feelings, [and] in all the frail majesty of his reason.”  Durant’s tone implies something beyond mere description; it implies laudatory approval.  Before turning back to Berdyaev, it is worth remarking how obviously wrongheaded Durant is in so few words.  Insofar as the umanisti adopted Platonism – or rather late Neo-Platonism – they cannot exactly be said exclusively to have “turned” the general attention “from heaven to earth.”  Rather, they refocused that attention from the transcendent God of the Bible and the Church Doctors to the celestial powers of Porphryian cosmology, the ones who might be manipulated by magical formulas to serve their earthly masters.  Now in adopting Protagoras’ maxim that, man is the measure, the umanisti did, in fact, “terrestrialize” thinking.  They achieved their end, however, only at the cost of swapping a cosmic-teleological perspective for an egocentric-instrumental one.  It was an act of self-demotion.  Had Berdyaev lived to read Durant’s Renaissance, he himself would inevitably have remarked these easy-to-spot misconceptions.

“There is a profound contrast,” Berdyaev writes in The Meaning of the Creative Act, “between pagan art and Christian art,” or at any rate “the art of the Christian epoch.”  Pagan art, in Berdyaev’s judgment, is “canonic art”; it remains “immanent in this world, rather than transcendent.”  Like the sociomorphic-legalistic forms of religion, canonic art “is still in the law” and still adheres to “obedience.”  Classicism, another word for the canonical, “leaves one in this world, giving only hints of another.”  In Berdyaev’s summary: “The heavens are closed above pagan art and the ideals of perfection are of the here and now, rather than of the beyond.”  Finally, Christian art “is of another spirit.”  Where paganism conceived the world under the form of “a complete and closed dome, beyond which there was nothing,” for Christianity “Heaven opened above the… world and revealed the beyond.”  It follows for Berdyaev that because the essence of the Christian world-orientation is “a transcendental intention towards another world,” a “romantic longing,” as he puts it; then “romantic incompleteness and imperfection of form characterize Christian art.”  Of course, both the pagan and the Christian impulses in art contain within themselves the possibility of self-stultification.  Thus, “Antique classicism,” as Berdyaev writes, despite its attestation of “a structure of this world,” is subject to deformation into “dead academicism.”  Thus, too, Christian art is prone to be “romantically ailing,” making a theme of its yearning, which degenerates into alienation and melancholy, while going blind to the lodestar that makes it to yearn in the first place.  Nevertheless, the Christian consciousness and Christian art represent a revelation of being well beyond what Antiquity could conceive.  Infinity, lying at the heart of Christian sensibility and provoking it into motion, remained unimaginable to the ancients.

If a reader were to guess, respecting the artistic legacy, that Berdyaev preferred the period stretching from St. Francis of Assisi and Dante Alighieri to Cimabue and Giotto (say) to (say) the period stretching from Filippo Brunelleschi and Marsilio Ficino to Michelangelo Buonarroti and Pico Della Mirandola, he would have guessed correctly.  I would caution, however, that Berdyaev’s comparative judgment never constitutes anything like a blanket-condemnation of the yoked Quattrocento and Cinquecento.  Far from it – his appreciation runs high, but it runs to the critical.  Berdyaev sees what these latter two centuries, in their creativity, portended, and he regards them as a derailment of the Western spirit antecedent to his own century’s deepened plight: “The world crisis of creativity is the crisis of canonic art.”  When Berdyaev writes that “canonic art is the adaptation of the creative artist’s energy to the conditions of this world,” his construction superficially resembles Durant’s while at the same time diametrically contradicting it.  An art that had remained Christian would have continued to concern itself with the problem how the spirit might “break out through ‘this world’ to another world, out of the chaotic, heavy, and deformed world into the free and beautiful cosmos.”  In this way it can be so, portentously, that “the end of the Renaissance is approaching.”  What about actual cases?  What does Berdyaev say in respect of this or that poet, painter, sculptor, musician, or philosopher?

9782220031156FS.gifIn The Meaning of the Creative Act, Berdyaev takes Benvenuto Cellini – a much-romanticized figure, using the adjective “romanticized” in its populist connotation – for one signal specimen of the “Renaissance Man.”  Berdyaev is fully aware that describing the Renaissance simply as a revival of paganism amounts to inexcusable naïvety.  “The great Italian Renaissance,” he writes, “is vastly more complex than is usually thought.”  Berdyaev sees the so-called rebirth of classical letters and art as a botched experiment in dialectics, during which “there occurred such a powerful clash between pagan and Christian elements in human nature as had never occurred before.”  The tragedy of the Renaissance consists in the fact, as Berdyaev insists, that, “the Christian transcendental sense of being had so profoundly possessed men’s nature that the integral and final confession of the immanent ideals of life became impossible.”  Cellini embodies the conflict.  In his life, no matter how declaredly “pagan,” “there is still too much of Christianity.”  Cellini could never have been “an integral man,” as his moral degeneracy and spasmodic repentance attested.  In Berdyaev’s argument, Christianity has effectuated, however imperfectly, a theurgic alteration in being towards a higher level.  Cellini’s life illustrates the point.  The attempt to return to being at a lower level must fail, as it failed for Cellini; it can bring only suffering to the subject and in the milieu that attempts it.

Even in the case of another, earlier specimen of the “Renaissance Man,” Sandro Botticelli, the artistic creativity betokens something, as Berdyaev says, “beautiful but painfully divided.”  Berdyaev regards Botticelli, that essential nature of the Quattrocento, as “the most beautiful, the most deeply moved, the most poetic artist of the Renaissance, and as the most divided and unsound.”  The division in Botticelli manifests itself in the crosswise ambiguity of his Venuses and Madonnas: “His Venuses always resembled his Madonnas, just as his Madonnas resembled his Venuses.”  The crossing implies a disaster because for the Venus to be raised up from the elements the Madonna must be brought down from infinity.  The gesture flatters Venus but it contradicts the essence of the Madonna.  Botticelli can create a vernal image of surpassing grace and yet fail to break through to the other world because “classic immanent perfection can no longer be the portion of the Christian soul which has been touched by transcendent longing.”  Botticelli’s career ends in a paroxysm of self-denial under the puritanical influence of Savonarola.  The “secret of the Renaissance,” as Berdyaev writes, “is that it did not succeed.”  The rebirth of pagan innocence implied in Botticelli’s Primaverapromised much but reached a terminus short of patency in Botticelli’s own “renunciation” and thereafter in the “dead academicism” of later artists – most notably for Berdyaev Raphael and Michelangelo.  Berdyaev writes: “Raphael’s classicism in the Christian world produces an impression of deadly rigidity, almost as though it were superfluous, a failure more complete and fatal than the imperfection and division of men in the Quattrocento.”  After Raphael and Michelangelo comes the Baroque.

lelivr_RO30130766.jpgBerdyaev emphasizes the drastic diremption of the Quattrocento by reminding his readers of the earliest, purely Christian phase of the Renaissance.  “It was in mystic Italy, in Joachim de Floris, that the prophetic hope of a new world-epoch of Christianity was born, an epoch of love, and epoch of spirit.”  The pre-perspective painters also loom large in Berdyaev’s appreciation: “Giotto and all the early religious painting of Italy, Arnolfi and others, followed St. Francis and Dante.”  Where Raphael and Leonardo, as Berdyaev intimates, worked in a realm of literalism – copying from nature in a mechanical way – these earlier figures exercised their genius on the level of “symbolism.”  In Berdyaev’s view, “mystic Italy” prefigures late-Nineteenth Century Symbolism, a movement that he found rich in meaning and hopeful in implication.  Joachim, Dante, and St. Francis all violated what Berdyaev calls “the bounds of the average, ordered, canonic way”; their “revolt” precludes “any sort of compromise with the bourgeois spirit,” as did the later revolt of Charles Baudelaire, Henrik Ibsen, and Joris-Karl Huysmans.  Whether it is Giotto or Baudelaire, the theurgic impulse aims, not to “create culture,” but to create “new being.”

A parallel discussion, revisiting some of the purely aesthetic topics, occurs in The Meaning of History, where however Berdyaev, twenty years on from The Meaning of the Creative Act,sharpens his argument.  He now recognizes in the latter phases of the Renaissance not merely a misguided attempt to reinstate classicism as a kind of corrective supplement to Christian civilization but rather a distinctly “anti-Christian” animus.  Berdyaev now discovers in the pagan and Christian anti-dialectic – in their agon – “the theme of man’s destiny” and “the fundamental theme of the philosophy of history.”  Always critical, Berdyaev never blankly praises the Middle Ages.  On the contrary, he allows that, “the defects of the mediaeval consciousness lay in that it did not allow for the free play of man’s energies.”  The Christian-Gothic world emphasized discipline, the suppression of natural urges, and the glorification of purely spiritual striving through the cultivation of prayer in hopes of angelic apparition.  When the Renaissance staged its revolt against religious “ascetism,” however, it took an impossible counter-model in the classical world, which also suffered limitation although of another kind whose significance its immediate post-medieval subscribers tragically failed to see.  The men of the Renaissance rightly sought to explore and realize “man’s potentialities,” but they wrongly put themselves in a polemical relation with Christianity by seeing in classicism the liberating opposite of Christianity.

Gothic Christianity, Berdyaev argues, “held man in subjection to a spiritual authority and thus centralized all human culture.”  Modernity, beginning in the Renaissance, would be centrifugal – a dispersion from the abandoned and partially suppressed spiritual center.  On the positive side, as Berdyaev remarks, “spiritual de-centralization” brought about “the differentiation of all the spheres of social and cultural life,” so that men might now develop them separately, as specialized endeavors.  Yet that same “differentiation,” however necessary, was nevertheless “synonymous with [a transition] from the divine to the human aspects of the world, from the divine depths, interior concentration and the inner core, to an exterior cultural manifestation,” in which predictably over the centuries “the spiritual bond with the center of life grows gradually weaker.”  Other impulses of the Renaissance exacerbate this trend of spiritual attenuation.  Where the Middle Ages had suppressed natural man, the Renaissance rediscovered and exalted him.  Humanism thus “released man’s natural forces and at the same time severed his connection with spiritual authority, divorcing the natural from the spiritual man.”  Shakespeare’s figure of Caliban in The Tempest comes to mind as illustrative, in an observant and knowing way, of one part of Berdyaev’s assertion.  So of another part and in a less observant and knowing way does Francis Bacon’s technocratic utopia in The New Atlantis(1628), where the differentiated sciences come under methodical development with the aim of practical application.

berdiaev.jpgCaliban and emergent mechanical mastery taken together might well form an image to make one skip a breath.  For once the “ebullience” of liberation-from-religion neutralizes “spiritual authority” and stimulates the “differentiation,” natural man, ego-driven and undisciplined, is bound to end up in possession of the Neo-Atlantean instrumentality, whereupon the prospect opens out on no end of mischief.  Berdyaev’s historical diagnosis indeed runs in this direction.  He even formulates the law of what he calls “the strange paradox”: “Man’s self-affirmation leads to his perdition; the free play of human forces unconnected with any higher aim brings about the exhaustion of man’s creative powers.”  The Protestant Reformation of the German North and the so-called Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century in France and the German states represent, in Berdyaev’s scheme, ever-lower stages of this descent into dissolution rather than the steps-upward of the ready version of Progress.  The paradox of humanism consists in its having “affirmed man’s self-confidence” while also having “debased [man] by ceasing to regard him as a being of a higher and divine origin.”

Whereas the Renaissance began with a quest for “perfect natural forms” and a plan “to regenerate and naturalize man’s social life,” it eventuated having “separated man still more irrevocably from nature than had been done by the Middle Ages.”  Man would become doubly alienated – from spirit and nature.  Berdyaev traces this process through the theoretical work of da Vinci to the practical work of the early Industrial Revolution (foreshadowed by Bacon) and then again through the final stages of cosmic alienation in the renewed theorizing of Marx and Nietzsche.  Omitting Berdyaev’s details and coming to his conclusion, “humanist disintegration” leaves all institutions damaged and can itself generate no replacement-idea that might salvage them.  Berdyaev feels the disaster most especially in modern moral life: “There can be no shadow of doubt that we are living in an epoch marked by the bankruptcy of that humanist morality which had been the guiding light of modern history.”  Modern man faces a “volcanic eruption of historical forces” with “his sensibility… disrupted” and while enduring a state of “divorce and isolation from natural life.”

It is against this rich genealogical background to the modern condition that Berdyaev’s harrowing description of Twentieth-Century contemporaneity in his otherwise-abstract Fate of Man in the Modern World begins to take on its full meaning.  Speaking for none other than myself, while expecting that some few might nevertheless agree with me, it strikes me as even more true today than it was in 1936, when Berdyaev wrote it, that “Man,” in the depth of his spirit, “has lost his worth,” not metaphysically (that would be impossible), but from the point of view of a prevailing drastically restricted and entirely utilitarian consciousness.  Man indeed, as Berdyaev writes, “has been torn to tatters.”  In the European Union, for example, and in the Federal Imperial dispensation in the United States, as it seems to me, “masses of men,” quite as Berdyaev put it, “have dropped out of the organized order and harmony of life”; they have “lost the religious sanction for their lives” and “they now demand obligatory organization as the sole means of avoiding final chaos and degeneration.”  And again: “It is noteworthy that at a time when every religious sanction of authority has vanished, we live in a very authoritarian epoch.”

What are the characteristics of this “bestial” world, in which “inhumanity has begun to be presented as something noble, surrounded with an aureole of heroism” and in which also “man, in making himself God, has unmanned himself”?  It is first of all a world dominated, not by “the human personality, or the value of truth,” but rather by “such values as power, technics, race-purity, nationality, the state, the class, the collective” and in which also “the will to justice is overcome by the will to power.”  Berdyaev sees in these phenomena something other than “the triumph of base instincts,” those having been always present, because they are elements of human nature, without exercising the same extreme distortion in the overlapping social, cultural, and political environments.  He sees them rather as the outcome of fatally attractive errors made five hundred years ago and steadily compounded over time.  If there were a return of “idolatry,” for example, that would be precisely what one would expect in a society almost totally visually mediated whose orientation to simulacra of reality began with the obliteration of symbolism in the dominance of perspective in painting.  If there were a destruction of politics and law in an upheaval of “instincts of revenge,” that would be precisely what one would expect in a society that has consummated the rejection of the Biblical morality that began in Humanist skepticism.  Berdyaev sees, in sum, “a return of the human mass to the ancient collective with which its history began.”

41INIodxD3L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBerdyaev certainly never stood alone in his diagnosis of modern despiritualization.  Similar if not identical insights occur under the scrutiny not only of the other writers mentioned at the outset (from Blixen to Undset) but more recently in the work of Jacques Barzun (especially in his great late-career book, From Dawn to Decadence), Roberto Calasso, Jacques Ellul, René Girard, Paul Gottfried, Kenneth Minogue, Roger Scruton, and Eric Voegelin, to name but a few more or less at random.  Yet however many names one crowds together in a sentence, the shared judgment remains in the minority and under exclusion.  In the prevailing liberal-progressive view, the world is monistic and one-dimensional: Everything is race, class, gender, or the state. In Berdyaev’s dissenting view, the world is dualistic and three-dimensional: “Christianity reveals and confirms man’s belonging to two planes of being, to the spiritual and to the natural-social, to the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Caesar.”  It is the first dimension – actually a double dimension – of height and depth that guarantees freedom in the second dimension.  The denial of the realm of height and depth is therefore the essence, a totally negative essence, of the Kingdom of Caesar intransigent.  Berdyaev values man over society because he values spirit over matter,” the sole concern of men on the “natural-social” plane.  The existing society indeed values matter exclusively, to the extent of having fixated itself on the finished product – the latest cell phone or handheld electronic game-player or that contradiction-in-the-adjective, the smart car – while deputizing foreign nations to produce these things.  This same society, a kind of super cargo-cult, deracinated, demoralized, despiritualized, badly educated, deluged in pornography and ideology, and as conformist as any primitive tribe, vigorously denies the spirit, where not explicitly as articulate theory then in behavior.

Hope, as Berdyaev saw it, lay in a pending reversal – that at the nadir of “de-Christianization” the core of Christianity might once again stand forth as “revealed in its pure form.”  That such a revelation will happen, I say with Berdyaev is inevitable; but when it will happen and how much misery it will entail in order to happen, I confess even now at a date more than sixty years after Berdyaev’s death to lie beyond my small power of discernment.

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Guénon et l'interminable crise de la modernité

rene-guenon.jpg

Guénon et l'interminable crise de la modernité

par Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org 

Dans ce livre étonnant écrit il y a presque cent ans Guénon faisait le lien entre la constatation de notre abrutissement et la situation de l’après-guerre mondiale (crise culturelle, sociale, communisme, tiers-mondisme, etc.). Il reconnaissait aussi la montée de l’occidentalisme en orient.

Il évoquait déjà notre abrutissement qui est très grand, qui est même hallucinant. Michael Hoffman évoque les trois « A » : apathie, aboulie, amnésie. Guénon souligne que comme le chien Ran-Tan-Plan de Lucky Luke l’avant-garde modeste des occidentaux « sent confusément » la crise :

« Que l’on puisse parler d’une crise du monde moderne, en prenant ce mot de « crise » dans son acception la plus ordinaire, c’est une chose que beaucoup ne mettent déjà plus en doute, et, à cet égard tout au moins, il s’est produit un changement assez sensible : sous l’action même des événements, certaines illusions commencent à se dissiper, et nous ne pouvons, pour notre part, que nous en féliciter, car il y a là, malgré tout, un symptôme assez favorable, l’indice d’une possibilité de redressement de la mentalité contemporaine, quelque chose qui apparaît comme une faible lueur au milieu du chaos actuel. »

Le progrès ne serait donc pas ce qu’on avait promis au cycliste Virenque : notre civilisation serait mortelle… Or comme on sait grâce à Philippe Grasset elle est surtout mortifère car c’est une anti-civilisation ; mais en étant mortifère elle en devient immortelle. Je me souviens de ce documentaire US consacré à l’adoration des méduses, seule « bête » survivante du pauvre golfe du Mexique. Le commentaire satanique en était enthousiaste, comme ces foules qui vont voir le dernier produit Marvel sur leur extermination prochaine. Guénon :

« C’est ainsi que la croyance à un « progrès » indéfini, qui était tenue naguère encore pour une sorte de dogme intangible et indiscutable, n’est plus aussi généralement admise ; certains entrevoient plus ou moins vaguement, plus ou moins confusément, que la civilisation occidentale, au lieu d’aller toujours en continuant à se développer dans le même sens, pourrait bien arriver un jour à un point d’arrêt, ou même sombrer entièrement dans quelque cataclysme. Peut-être ceux-là ne voient-ils pas nettement où est le danger, et les craintes chimériques ou puériles qu’ils manifestent parfois prouvent suffisamment la persistance de bien des erreurs dans leur esprit ; mais enfin c’est déjà quelque chose qu’ils se rendent compte qu’il y a un danger, même s’ils le sentent plus qu’ils ne le comprennent vraiment, et qu’ils parviennent à concevoir que cette civilisation dont les modernes sont si infatués n’occupe pas une place privilégiée dans l’histoire du monde, qu’elle peut avoir le même sort que tant d’autres qui ont déjà disparu à des époques plus ou moins lointaines, et dont certaines n’ont laissé derrière elles que des traces infimes, des vestiges à peine perceptibles ou difficilement reconnaissables. »

Une civilisation peut être crevée et durer encore. Relisez la Charogne de Baudelaire…

La crise suppose un point critique qu’on n’a toujours pas passé un siècle plus tard (on y revient) :

« Donc, si l’on dit que le monde moderne subit une crise, ce que l’on entend par là le plus habituellement, c’est qu’il est parvenu à un point critique, ou, en d’autres termes, qu’une transformation plus ou moins profonde est imminente, qu’un changement d’orientation devra inévitablement se produire à brève échéance, de gré ou de force, d’une façon plus ou moins brusque, avec ou sans catastrophe. »

Guénon évoque le kali-yuga, notion fourre-tout, bas de gamme aujourd’hui :

« Le monde moderne ira-t-il jusqu’au bas de cette pente fatale, ou bien, comme il est arrivé à la décadence du monde gréco-latin, un nouveau redressement se produira-t-il, cette fois encore, avant qu’il n’ait atteint le fond de l’abîme où il est entraîné ? Il semble bien qu’un arrêt à mi-chemin ne soit plus guère possible, et que, d’après toutes les indications fournies par les doctrines traditionnelles, nous soyons entrés vraiment dans la phase finale du Kali-Yuga, dans la période la plus sombre de cet « âge sombre », dans cet état de dissolution dont il n’est plus possible de sortir que par un cataclysme, car ce n’est plus un simple redressement qui est alors nécessaire, mais une rénovation totale. »

Tragique il rappelle que le désordre règne partout et se répand comme les méduses :

« Le désordre et la confusion règnent dans tous les domaines ; ils ont été portés à un point qui dépasse de loin tout ce qu’on avait vu précédemment, et, partis de l’Occident, ils menacent maintenant d’envahir le monde tout entier ; nous savons bien que leur triomphe ne peut jamais être qu’apparent et passager, mais, à un tel degré, il paraît être le signe de la plus grave de toutes les crises que l’humanité ait traversées au cours de son cycle actuel. Ne sommes-nous pas arrivés à cette époque redoutable annoncée par les Livres sacrés de l’Inde, « où les castes seront mêlées, où la famille même n’existera plus » ?

La famille tout le monde s’en fout maintenant, y compris la distraite Eglise de Rome. Guénon conclut en termes évangéliques :

« Il suffit de regarder autour de soi pour se convaincre que cet état est bien réellement celui du monde actuel, et pour constater partout cette déchéance profonde que l’Évangile appelle « l’abomination de la désolation ».

Plus important pour moi et la thématique de la Fin de l’histoire, du temps immobile depuis des siècles, cette notation sur la France de Louis XIV, déjà aride et moderne, et même anti-traditionnelle (pensez aux bourgeois de Molière) :

« Ce qui est tout à fait extraordinaire, c’est la rapidité avec laquelle la civilisation du moyen âge tomba dans le plus complet oubli ; les hommes du XVIIe siècle n’en avaient plus la moindre notion, et les monuments qui en subsistaient ne représentaient plus rien à leurs yeux, ni dans l’ordre intellectuel, ni même dans l’ordre esthétique ; on peut juger par-là combien la mentalité avait été changée dans l’intervalle. »

Le jeune bourgeois qui douterait des ténèbres du moyen âge ne trouverait pas à se marier, disait Léon Bloy (Exégèse, CXXVII)…

Guénon :

« Il est bien invraisemblable aussi que la légende qui fit du moyen âge une époque de « ténèbres », d’ignorance et de barbarie, ait pris naissance et se soit accréditée d’elle-même, et que la véritable falsification de l’histoire à laquelle les modernes se sont livrés ait été entreprise sans aucune idée préconçue… »

J’ai déjà parlé de Michelet pour qui le moyen âge avait disparu depuis longtemps. Il s’était conservé comme hystérésie (un peu comme la France qui n’est plus rien qu’un sac à stupre, il est temps de le reconnaître en arrêtant d’y pleurnicher) :

« Le vrai moyen âge, pour nous, s’étend du règne de Charlemagne au début du XIVe siècle ; à cette dernière date commence une nouvelle décadence qui, à travers des étapes diverses, ira en s’accentuant jusqu’à nous. C’est là qu’est le véritable point de départ de la crise moderne : c’est le commencement de la désagrégation de la « Chrétienté », à laquelle s’identifiait essentiellement la civilisation occidentale du moyen âge ; c’est, en même temps que la fin du régime féodal, assez étroitement solidaire de cette même « Chrétienté », l’origine de la constitution des « nationalités ». Il faut donc faire remonter l’époque moderne près de deux siècles plus tôt qu’on ne le fait d’ordinaire ; la Renaissance et la Réforme sont surtout des résultantes, et elles n’ont été rendues possibles que par la décadence préalable… »

Les Illuminati dont on nous gave aujourd’hui ne sont en effet que les reproductions des kabbalistes et des sorciers, des alchimistes et des escrocs de tout poil de la Renaissance, espions britanniques y compris. Mais poursuivons car le problème suivant nous importe aussi : l’orient est devenu aussi nul que l’occident. Et si l’occident est crevé, l’orient est en phase terminale de décadence (regardez la numérisation de son humanité à cet orient, que ce soit en Chine ou en Inde – sans parler du monde musulman devenu un zombie comme le christianisme occidental :

« Le désordre moderne, nous l’avons dit, a pris naissance en Occident, et, jusqu’à ces dernières années, il y était toujours demeuré strictement localisé ; mais maintenant il se produit un fait dont la gravité ne doit pas être dissimulée : c’est que ce désordre s’étend partout et semble gagner jusqu’à l’Orient. Certes, l’envahissement occidental n’est pas une chose toute récente, mais il se bornait jusqu’ici à une domination plus ou moins brutale exercée sur les autres peuples, et dont les effets étaient limités au domaine politique et économique ; en dépit de tous les efforts d’une propagande revêtant des formes multiples, l’esprit oriental était impénétrable à toutes les déviations, et les anciennes civilisations traditionnelles subsistaient intactes. »

L’occidentalisation (voyez le ridicule Kim, un sosie CIA selon certains) est donc totale :

« Aujourd’hui, au contraire, il est des Orientaux qui se sont plus ou moins complètement « occidentalisés », qui ont abandonné leur tradition pour adopter toutes les aberrations de l’esprit moderne, et ces éléments dévoyés, grâce à l’enseignement des Universités européennes et américaines, deviennent dans leur propre pays une cause de trouble et d’agitation. »

Guénon nous rassure sans nous rassurer :

« L’esprit traditionnel ne peut mourir, parce qu’il est, dans son essence, supérieur à la mort et au changement ; mais il peut se retirer entièrement du monde extérieur, et alors ce sera véritablement la « fin d’un monde ». D’après tout ce que nous avons dit, la réalisation de cette éventualité dans un avenir relativement peu éloigné n’aurait rien d’invraisemblable ; et, dans la confusion qui, partie de l’Occident, gagne présentement l’Orient, nous pourrions voir le « commencement de la fin », le signe précurseur du moment où, suivant la tradition hindoue, la doctrine sacrée doit être enfermée tout entière dans une conque, pour en sortir intacte à l’aube du monde nouveau. »

L’occident reste un virus en fait :

« Mais laissons là encore une fois les anticipations, et ne regardons que les événements actuels : ce qui est incontestable, c’est que l’Occident envahit tout ; son action s’est d’abord exercée dans le domaine matériel, celui qui était immédiatement à sa portée, soit par la conquête violente, soit par le commerce et l’accaparement des ressources de tous les peuples ; mais maintenant les choses vont encore plus loin. »

Guénon évoque aussi ce besoin démoniaque de prosélytisme humanitaire que j’ai évoqué dans mon texte sur la théosophie et le mondialisme :

« Les Occidentaux, toujours animés par ce besoin de prosélytisme qui leur est si particulier, sont arrivés à faire pénétrer chez les autres, dans une certaine mesure, leur esprit antitraditionnel et matérialiste ; et, tandis que la première forme d’invasion n’atteignait en somme que les corps, celle-ci empoisonne les intelligences et tue la spiritualité ; l’une a d’ailleurs préparé l’autre et l’a rendue possible, de sorte que ce n’est en définitive que par la force brutale que l’Occident est parvenu à s’imposer partout, et il ne pouvait en être autrement, car c’est en cela que réside l’unique supériorité réelle de sa civilisation, si inférieure à tout autre point de vue. »

Rappel des déguisements humanitaires :

« L’envahissement occidental, c’est l’envahissement du matérialisme sous toutes ses formes, et ce ne peut être que cela ; tous les déguisements plus ou moins hypocrites, tous les prétextes « moralistes », toutes les déclamations « humanitaires », toutes les habiletés d’une propagande qui sait à l’occasion se faire insinuante pour mieux atteindre son but de destruction, ne peuvent rien contre cette vérité, qui ne saurait être contestée que par des naïfs ou par ceux qui ont un intérêt quelconque à cette œuvre vraiment « satanique», au sens le plus rigoureux du mot. »

Guénon a tenté et échoué. Comme beaucoup. Cette société est satanique et crèvera après avoir tout souillé et corrompu. Le salut sera personnel.

« Et les folles dirent aux prudentes: Donnez-nous de votre huile, car nos lampes s’éteignent.

Mais les prudentes répondirent, disant: [Non], de peur qu’il n’y en ait pas assez pour nous et pour vous; allez plutôt vers ceux qui en vendent, et achetez‑en pour vous-mêmes. »

Or en grec phronéo veut dire penser et concevoir, pas être prudent ! Etre lucide c’est être - surtout avec des fêtes de la musique comme celle que nous venons de vivre.

Et comme on citait Baudelaire et sa charogne vivante et mélomane qui évoque notre « chienlit » cadavérique et increvable :

« Le soleil rayonnait sur cette pourriture,

Comme afin de la cuire à point,

Et de rendre au centuple à la grande Nature

Tout ce qu’ensemble elle avait joint ;

Et le ciel regardait la carcasse superbe

Comme une fleur s’épanouir (…) »

Cette forme de vie cadavérique exprime bien la vie occidentale contemporaine.

« On eût dit que le corps, enflé d’un souffle vague,

Vivait en se multipliant.

Et ce monde rendait une étrange musique,

Comme l’eau courante et le vent,

Ou le grain qu’un vanneur d’un mouvement rythmique

Agite et tourne dans son van. »

 

Sources

René Guénon – La crise du monde moderne

Bonnal – La culture comme arme de destruction massive

Léon Bloy – Exégèse…

Baudelaire – Les Fleurs du mal

vendredi, 25 mai 2018

Spengler's "Der Mensch Und Die Technik" / Troy Southgate

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Spengler's "Der Mensch

Und Die Technik"

Troy Southgate

 
Troy Southgate's speech about Oswald Spengler's
"Der Mensch Und Die Technik" @ International N-AM Conference
in Madrid 17th and 18th june 2017.
 
More info : www.national-anarchist.net
FIND US ON FACEBOOK!
 

mercredi, 16 mai 2018

Paul Virilio et les armes de dissuasion spatiale

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Paul Virilio et les armes de dissuasion spatiale

Les Carnets de Nicolas Bonnal

« Je pense, mais où suis-je ? »

Urbaniste, philosophe, antisystème, Paul Virilio était interviewé par Jean-Luc Evard il y a dix ans et tenait les propos suivants sur la vitesse :

PVL-2.jpg« Walter Laqueur l’a montré : une vie accélérée remplace l’atmosphère calme et recueillie de l’avant-guerre. De cent mille voitures particulières au sortir de la guerre, l’Allemagne passe à un million deux cent mille dix ans plus tard.

Les techniciens allemands sont aspirés par une seule ambition : les records de vitesse : le « Ruban Bleu » avec le Bremen, la première auto-fusée chez Opel, les trains ultrarapides, le développement de la radio avec ses informations hachées et renouvelées. Agitation, fébrilité, impatience donnent le sentiment de perdre la tête ; un poète trouvera l’image résumant l’époque : « Le temps roule en auto et aucun homme ne peut tenir le volant » 

Ce bon chrétien en tirait des conséquences philosophiques affolantes :

« Nous créons la nouvelle esthétique de la vitesse, nous avons presque détruit la notion d’espace et singulièrement diminué la notion de temps. Nous préparons ainsi l’ubiquité de l’homme multiplié. Nous aboutirons ainsi à l’abolition de l’année, du jour et de l’heure… »

C’est que le pouvoir moderne, financier notamment, a grand besoin de cette violence/vitesse :

« Dans toute course, depuis le monde animal jusqu’au monde concurrentiel des finances. Donc, le pouvoir de la vitesse est en phase avec l’importance de la richesse. Je ne crois pas qu’on puisse comprendre l’histoire, y compris l’histoire sainte, sans l’accélération, sans les phénomènes d’accélération, qui sont rarement mis en lumière. Je donne un petit exemple, un tout petit : celui du Christ entrant à Jérusalem sur un âne. Il y a là un déni du cheval, manifeste. »

Virilio remontait dans le temps :

« La vitesse va jusqu’à la vitesse de la lumière. Quand Josué dispose ses troupes face au soleil, c’est pour la capter dans ses boucliers, c’est déjà l’arme-lumière, il anticipe l’invention du laser. À mon avis, on est là dans la théologie de la vitesse… »

Le progrès adore l’hybris :

« Il n’y a pas de dromologie si on est amené à accélérer ou à freiner. Le mot frein n’a aucun sens, ce qui compte c’est la décélération. Ce qui est en cause dans le progrès, c’est une accélération sans décélération, c’est-à-dire une hybris, une démesure. »

Un beau développement sur l’écologie grise et la « pollution des distances » avec une conséquence, l’incarcération :

« À côté de la pollution des substances (dont traite l’écologie “verte”), il y a une pollution des distances : le progrès réduit à rien l’étendue du monde. Il y a là une perte insupportable, qui sera bien plus rapide que la pollution des substances. Et qui aura des conséquences autrement plus drastiques que celles relevées par Foucault à la suite du grand enfermement — la réalisation du grand enfermement, de l’incarcération du monde, dans un monde réduit par l’accélération des transports et des transmissions. Pour moi, l’écologie grise remet en cause la grandeur nature. La terre n’est pas seulement une sphère, une biosphère, mais aussi une proportion (et là c’est l’architecte qui parle). »

PVL-1.jpgConclusion apocalyptique :

« Projetons-nous en imagination deux générations devant nous : vivre sur terre sera insupportable, de par le phénomène d’incarcération dans un espace réduit à rien. »

Virilio critiquait aussi la conquête spatiale (qui est un simulacre parmi d’autres pourtant) :

« Les astrophysiciens sont déjà en train de nous préparer une autre Terre promise. En Europe, il y a déjà des gens qui vivent enfermés dans des containers pour expérimenter les voyages vers Mars. La vie en exil aux limites de l’extrême. Toutes ces choses-là sont des signes pathologiques de l’exil à venir, ou de l’exode. Derrière l’écologie et la préservation de l’environnement, pour beaucoup de scientifiques, c’est déjà fichu. On est déjà en train d’anticiper une outre-Terre. Ce qui pour moi est une pure folie… »

Il se méfie bien sûr de la promesse virtuelle :

« Le sixième continent est une colonie virtuelle. On nous dit que les gens s’y amusent, que c’est pour leur bien, pour la communication. En réalité, l’aventure coloniale recommence. »

Il rappelle qu’il faut condamner la technoscience – et sa dimension impériale :

« L’idée de la colonie est très importante. Au moment où on demande aux ex-empires coloniaux de faire leur meaculpa, on ne demande pas aux moyens qui ont favorisé la colonie de faire leur mea culpa. Par exemple les navires très performants. Michelet, je crois, disait : « Qui dit colonie dit grande marine. » Les gros porteurs, les grosses fusées ! Il y a là, encore une fois, déni de la responsabilité de la technoscience, le fait qu’elle produit les instruments du pouvoir, du pouvoir de la vitesse. À mon avis, cela n’est pas un hasard si l’on nous dit : « La colonie, c’est affreux » — car on est en train de nous préparer un autre empire. »

Il reconnait que ce monde moderne c’est la fin de la liberté :

« J’ai été occupé. Je suis un enfant de la Blitzkrieg, j’avais dix-onze ans. Entre la guerre-éclair — 1940 — et la fermeture-éclair — 1945 —, c’est mon monde. Je n’ai plus l’impression d’être libre… Les Allemands dans la rue et les amis qui nous bombardaient. Eh bien j’ai de nouveau le sentiment d’être occupé. La mondialisation nous occupe, elle nous enferme. »

Le nomadisme est un leurre :

« Qui sont les sédentaires ? Ceux qui ne quittent jamais leur siège d’avion, d’automobile, ceux qui sont partout chez eux, grâce au téléphone portable. Qui sont les nomades ? Ceux qui ne sont nulle part chez eux sauf sur les trottoirs, sous les tentes des sans-abri. »

Virilio mettait les points sur les I scientifiques :

« Comme disait un scientifique récemment : « Nous appliquons au monde que nous ne connaissons pas la physique que nous connaissons. 

» Là, de fait, on est devant l’illusionnisme scientifique. »

Ce monde moderne c’est la déportation :

« Il y a là quelque chose qui a été vécu dans la déportation et l’extermination nazie. Il ne faut jamais oublier — et là je suis d’accord avec R. Hilberg — que la déportation est plus importante que l’extermination. C’est la déportation qui a mené à l’extermination. Le mouvement de déplacement de population a été l’origine de l’extermination. »

Et d’expliquer comment nous sommes entrés dans la société des dissuadés :

« Je considère qu’après la dissuasion militaire (Est-Ouest), qui a duré une quarantaine d’années, nous sommes entrés, avec la mondialisation, dans l’ère d’une dissuasion civile, c’est-à-dire globale. D’où les interdits si nombreux qui se multiplient aujourd’hui (exemples : un des acteurs de La Cage aux folles déclarant qu’aujourd’hui on ne pourrait plus tourner ce film ; ou mon ami Éric Rohmer à qui son film, L’Astrée, a valu un procès, un président de conseil régional l’attaquant pour avoir déclaré que L’Astrée — le film — n’a pu être tourné sur les lieux du récit engloutis par l’urbanisation, tu te rends compte ?). Donc je suis très sensible au fait que nous sommes des Dissuadés. »

Sources

Jean-Luc Evard, Conférence/entretien avec Paul Virilio

15:54 Publié dans Philosophie | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : philosophie, paul virilio | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

lundi, 14 mai 2018

Luc Roche : Ortega Y Gasset - Penser la modernité

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Luc Roche : Ortega y Gasset - Penser la modernité

 
Luc Roche nous introduit à l'oeuvre du grand penseur libéral Ortega Y Gasset dont il vient de traduire Autour de Galillée aux Editions Perspectives Libres. http://cerclearistote.com/parution-de... Comment penser la Culture, la Civilisation et l’Histoire avec rectitude ? Comment se départir des condamnations faciles, des illusions rétrospectives, de la nostalgie d’âges d’or imaginaires, de l’obsession de la décadence? Ces questions, et bien d’autres, furent au fondement des réflexions de José Ortega y Gasset, lorsqu’il entreprit de penser les grands bouleversements (Renaissance, Lumières) qui nous précédèrent. Il en tira une lecture de l’Histoire plus actuelle que jamais, entre étude des ruptures et analyse des permanences. Loin du manichéisme qui se répand aujourd’hui, il montre, dans chaque époque, le visage de l’invariant et celui du changeant, rétablissant la grande chaîne de l’Histoire. Cette vision féconde est à notre portée pour comprendre notre passé, appréhender notre présent et entrevoir notre avenir. José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955) fut un philosophe, historien des idées et homme politique espagnol. Son ouvrage La Révolte des masses (1929) marqua toute une génération. Autour de Galilée (1933) est traduit pour la première fois en français. Luc Roche est professeur de philosophie et hispanisant.
 

samedi, 12 mai 2018

La critique du Testament de Dieu de Bernard-Henry Lévy (1979)

mardi, 08 mai 2018

Déclin aristocratique et corvée démocratique

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Déclin aristocratique et corvée démocratique 

Les Carnets de Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org

On peut s’adonner à l’adoration de la démocratie en ces temps d’État profond et d’Europe de Bruxelles, il reste que le mot plèbe, dont elle marque la triomphe, a été balayé de tous temps par les génies de l’humanité, à commencer par Platon ou Juvénal, jusqu’à Nietzsche ou Tocqueville. On a évoqué les transformations sociétales (les chiens et les gosses qui parlent aux maîtres et aux parents, etc.) du livre VIII de la République, mais on va revenir ici à la démocratie à la grecque et à sa gestion compliquée…

Fustel de Coulanges dresse un tableau assez terrible de la progression démocratique à Athènes et dans la Grèce ancienne, où elle fut plus cruelle qu’à Athènes, parfois abominable. Mais elle est tellement fatale et inévitable – y compris la décadence qui va avec – qu’on ne va pas la dénoncer !

La Cité dans l’Histoire… Fustel écrit, dans un style proche de Tocqueville :

« Mais telle est la nature humaine que ces hommes, à mesure que leur sort s’améliorait, sentaient plus amèrement ce qu’il leur restait d’inégalité. »

La progression de la plèbe est bien sûr liée à celle de la tyrannie :

« Dans quelques villes, l’admission de la plèbe parmi les citoyens fut l’œuvre des rois ; il en fut ainsi à Rome. Dans d’autres, elle fut l’œuvre des tyrans populaires ; c’est ce qui eut lieu à Corinthe, à Sicyone, à Argos. »

Fustel ici nous fait découvrir un poète méconnu et politiquement réac, Théognis de Mégare. Le passage est passionnant, décrivant un déclin de l’humanité qui nous rappelle celui où Ortega nous explique que l’humanité moderne, comme la romaine, est devenuestupide :

« Le poète Théognis nous donne une idée assez nette de cette révolution et de ses conséquences. Il nous dit que dans Mégare, sa patrie, il y a deux sortes d’hommes. Il appelle l’une la classe des bons, ἀγαθοί; c’est, en effet, le nom qu’elle se donnait dans la plupart des villes grecques. Il appelle l’autre la classe des mauvais, κακοί; c’est encore de ce nom qu’il était d’usage de désigner la classe inférieure. Cette classe, le poète nous décrit sa condition ancienne : « elle ne connaissait autrefois ni les tribunaux ni les lois » ; c’est assez dire qu’elle n’avait pas le droit de cité. Il n’était même pas permis à ces hommes d’approcher de la ville ; « ils vivaient en dehors comme des bêtes sauvages ». Ils n’assistaient pas aux repas religieux ; ils n’avaient pas le droit de se marier dans les familles des bons. »

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Théognis apparaît comme un nostalgique du temps jadis, le laudator temporis acti, façon Bonald par exemple qui écrit au lendemain de la brutale Révolution dite française (comme disait Debord, une bourgeoisie habillée… à la romaine). Il ajoute :

« Mais que tout cela est changé ! les rangs ont été bouleversés, « les mauvais ont été mis au-dessus des bons ». La justice est troublée ; les antiques lois ne sont plus, et des lois d’une nouveauté étrange les ont remplacées. La richesse est devenue l’unique objet des désirs des hommes, parce qu’elle donne la puissance. L’homme de race noble épouse la fille du riche plébéien et « le mariage confond les souches ». 

Et Fustel décrit le noble destin de Théognis :

« Théognis, qui sort d’une famille aristocratique, a vainement essayé de résister au cours des choses. Condamné à l’exil, dépouillé de ses biens, il n’a plus que ses vers pour protester et pour combattre. Mais s’il n’espère pas le succès, du moins il ne doute pas de la justice de sa cause ; il accepte la défaite, mais il garde le sentiment de son droit. A ses yeux, la révolution qui s’est faite est un mal moral, un crime. Fils de l’aristocratie, il lui semble que cette révolution n’a pour elle ni la justice ni les dieux et qu’elle porte atteinte à la religion. « Les dieux, dit-il, ont quitté la terre ; nul ne les craint. La race des hommes pieux a disparu ; on n’a plus souci des Immortels. »

Puis, comme Mircéa Eliade, mais bien avant, Fustel explique que Théognis comprend qu’on oubliera même le souvenir de la nostalgie :

« Ces regrets sont inutiles, il le sait bien. S’il gémit ainsi, c’est par une sorte de devoir pieux, c’est parce qu’il a reçu des anciens « la tradition sainte », et qu’il doit la perpétuer. Mais en vain la tradition même va se flétrir, les fils des nobles vont oublier leur noblesse ; bientôt on les verra tous s’unir par le mariage aux familles plébéiennes, « ils boiront à leurs fêtes et mangeront à leur table » ; ils adopteront bientôt leurs sentiments. Au temps de Théognis, le regret est tout ce qui reste à l’aristocratie grecque, etce regret même va disparaître. »

Et comme on ne descend jamais assez bas, cette semaine j’ai découvert que ma libraire ne savait pas écrire Shakespeare, ma femme que son imprimeur de partitions ignorait qui était Mozart.

Le culte religieux, lié à l’aristocratie (la marque de l’aristocrate c’est la piété, dit Bonald) disparait donc :

« En effet, après Théognis, la noblesse ne fut plus qu’un souvenir.

Les grandes familles continuèrent à garder pieusement le culte domestique et la mémoire des ancêtres ; mais ce fut tout. Il y eut encore des hommes qui s’amusèrent à compter leurs aïeux ; mais on riait de ces hommes. On garda l’usage d’inscrire sur quelques tombes que le mort était de noble race ; mais nulle tentative ne fut faite pour relever un régime à jamais tombé. Isocrate dit avec vérité que de son temps les grandes familles d’Athènes n’existaient plus que dans leurs tombeaux (La cité antique, pp.388-389). »

Arrive la démocratie dont on oublie qu’elle fut surtout une corvée compliquée (comme dit Cochin, il faut se coucher tard pour conspirer longtemps…). Le peuple gagne peu à devenir démocrate. Il en devient esclave, explique Fustel dans des chapitres justement ignorés…

« A mesure que les révolutions suivaient leur cours et que l’on s’éloignait de l’ancien régime, le gouvernement des hommes devenait plus difficile. Il y fallait des règles plus minutieuses, des rouages plus nombreux et plus délicats. C’est ce qu’on peut voir par l’exemple du gouvernement d’Athènes. »

Ici on croirait du Tocqueville. Peut-être que la sensibilité aristocratique de nos deux grands historiens…

Numa_Fustel_de_Coulanges.jpgMais Fustel décrit la corvée démocratique au jour le jour (pp.451-452) :

« On est étonné aussi de tout le travail que cette démocratie exigeait des hommes. C’était un gouvernement fort laborieux. Voyez à quoi se passe la vie d’un Athénien. Un jour il est appelé à l’assemblée de son dème et il a à délibérer sur les intérêts religieux ou financiers de cette petite association. Un autre jour, il est convoqué à l’assemblée de sa tribu ; il s’agit de régler une fête religieuse, ou d’examiner des dépenses, ou de faire des décrets, ou de nommer des chefs et des juges. »

Après c’est du Prévert :

« Trois fois par mois régulièrement il faut qu’il assiste à l’assemblée générale du peuple ; il n’a pas le droit d’y manquer. Or, la séance est longue ; il n’y va pas seulement pour voter : venu dès le matin, il faut qu’il reste jusqu’à une heure avancée du jour à écouter des orateurs. Il ne peut voter qu’autant qu’il a été présent dès l’ouverture de la séance et qu’il a entendu tous les discours. Ce vote est pour lui une affaire des plus sérieuses ; tantôt il s’agit de nommer ses chefs politiques et militaires, c’est-à-dire ceux à qui son intérêt et sa vie vont être confiés pour un an ; tantôt c’est un impôt à établir ou une loi à changer ; tantôt c’est sur la guerre qu’il doit voter, sachant bien qu’il aura à donner son sang ou celui d’un fils. Les intérêts individuels sont unis inséparablement à l’intérêt de l’État. L’homme ne peut être ni indifférent ni léger. »

Tout est préférable au règne des Agathoi (les « bons » de Théognis)… Fustel ajoute :

« Le devoir du citoyen ne se bornait pas à voter. Quand son tour venait, il devait être magistrat dans son dème ou dans sa tribu. Une année sur deux en moyenne, il était héliaste, c’est-à-dire juge, et il passait toute cette année-là dans les tribunaux, occupé à écouter les plaideurs et à appliquer les lois. Il n’y avait guère de citoyen qui ne fût appelé deux fois dans sa vie à faire partie du Sénat des Cinq cents ; alors, pendant une année, il siégeait chaque jour, du matin au soir, recevant les dépositions des magistrats, leur faisant rendre leurs comptes, répondant aux ambassadeurs étrangers, rédigeant les instructions des ambassadeurs athéniens, examinant toutes les affaires qui devaient être soumises au peuple et préparant tous les décrets. »

Avec sa méticulosité et sa soif de taxes et de règlements, la démocratie exige déjà un job à temps plein qui va créer une bureaucratie fonctionnarisée. Et on retombe inévitablement sur l’importance de l’argent déjà dénoncée par Théognis :

«  Enfin il pouvait être magistrat de la cité, archonte, stratège, astynome, si le sort ou le suffrage le désignait. On voit que c’était une lourde charge que d’être citoyen d’un État démocratique, qu’il y avait là de quoi occuper presque toute l’existence, et qu’il restait bien peu de temps pour les travaux personnels et la vie domestique. Aussi Aristote disait-il très-justement que l’homme qui avait besoin de travailler pour vivre ne pouvait pas être citoyen. »

N’oublions que la Révolution Française accoucha de la plus formidable armée de fonctionnaires au monde, celle qui émerveillait aussi bien Taine que le pauvre Karl Marx qui inspira les totalitarismes révolutionnaires(« dans un pays comme la France, où le pouvoir exécutif dispose d’une armée de fonctionnaires de plus d’un demi-million de personnes et tient, par conséquent, constamment sous sa dépendance la plus absolue une quantité énorme d’intérêts et d’existences, où l’État enserre contrôle, réglemente, surveille et tient en tutelle la société civile… »).

On n’est pas ici pour transformer le cours de l’histoire humaine, et on s’en gardera, vu que ce désir malheureux est si souvent promis à un sort malheureux ! Mais on ne s’étonnera alors pas, etj’inviterai à découvrir l’œuvre du philosophe libertarien Hoppe à ce propos, en affirmant que le grand avènement démocratique, avec son cortège de guerres impériales-humanitaires-messianiques, de contrôles étatiques et d’inflation fiscale,  marque souvent la fin d’une civilisation en fait – y compris et surtout sur le plan culturel. Que le phénomène démocratique ait débouché sur le césarisme ici, le fascisme ou le communisme là, et sur la création maintenant d’une caste mondialisée de bureaucrates belliqueux ne devra bouleverser personne.

Sources citées 

Théognis – Elégies (Remacle.org)

Fustel – La cité dans l’histoire (classiques.uqac.ca)

Marx – Le dix-huit Brumaire

samedi, 05 mai 2018

Evola’s Nietzschean Ethics: A Code of Conduct for the Higher Man in Kali Yuga

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Evola’s Nietzschean Ethics:
A Code of Conduct for the Higher Man in Kali Yuga

The subtitle of the English translation of Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger (Cavalcare la Tigre) promises that it offers “A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul.”[1] [2] As a result, one comes to the work with the expectation that it will constitute a kind of “self-help book” for Traditionalists, for “men against time.” One expects that Evola will offer moral support and perhaps even specific instructions for revolting against the modern world. Unfortunately, the subtitle proves misleading. Ride the Tiger is primarily devoted to an analysis of aspects of the present age of decline (the Kali Yuga): critiques of relativism, scientism, modern art, modern music, and of figures like Heidegger and Sartre; discussions of the decline of marriage, the relation between the sexes, drug use, and so forth. Many of the points Evola makes in this volume are made in his other works, sometimes at greater length and more lucidly.

JEv-FN.jpgFor those seeking something like a “how to” guide for living as a Traditionalist, it is mainly the second division of the book (“In the World Where God is Dead”) that offers something, and chiefly it is to be found in Chapter Eight: “The Transcendent Dimension – ‘Life’ and ‘More than Life.’” My purpose in this essay is to piece together the miniature “survival manual” provided by Chapter Eight – some of which consists of little more than hints, conveyed in Evola’s often frustratingly opaque style. It is my view that what we find in these pages is of profound importance for anyone struggling to hold on to his sanity in the face of the decadence and dishonesty of today’s world. It is also essential reading for anyone seeking to achieve the ideal of “self-overcoming” taught by Evola – seeking, in other words, to “ride the tiger.”

The central figure of the book’s second part is unquestionably Friedrich Nietzsche, to whom Evola repeatedly refers. Evola’s attitude toward Nietzsche is critical. However, it is obvious that Nietzsche exercised a profound and positive influence on him. Indeed, virtually every recommendation Evola makes for living as a Traditionalist – in this section of the work, at least – is somehow derived from Nietzsche. This despite the fact that Nietzsche was not a Traditionalist – a fact of which Evola was well aware, and to which I shall turn later.

In the last paragraph of Chapter Seven, Evola announces that in the next chapter he will consider “a line of conduct during the reign of dissolution that is not suitable for everyone, but for a differentiated type, and especially for the heir to the man of the traditional world, who retains his roots in that world even though he finds himself devoid of any support for it in his outer existence.”[2] [3] This “line of conduct” turns out, in Chapter Eight, to be based entirely on statements made by Nietzsche. That chapter opens with a continuation of the discussion of the man who would be “heir to the man of the traditional world.” Evola writes, “What is more, the essential thing is that such a man is characterized by an existential dimension not present in the predominant human type of recent times – that is, the dimension of transcendence.”[3] [4]

Evola clearly regarded this claim as of supreme importance, since he places the entire sentence just quoted in italics. The sentence is important for two reasons. First, as it plainly asserts, it provides the key characteristic of the “differentiated type” for whom Evola writes, or for whom he prepares the ground. Second, the sentence actually provides the key point on which Evola parts company with Nietzsche: for all the profundity and inspiration Nietzsche can provide us, he does not recognize a “dimension of transcendence.” Indeed, he denigrates the very idea as a projection of “slave morality.” Our first step, therefore, must be to understand exactly what Evola means by “the dimension of transcendence.” Unfortunately, in Ride the Tiger Evola does not make this very easy. To anyone familiar with Evola’s other works, however, his meaning is clear.

“Dimension of transcendence” can be understood as having several distinct, but intimately-related meanings in Evola’s philosophy. First, the term “transcendence” simply refers to something existing apart from, or beyond the world around us. The “aristocrats of the soul” living in the Kali Yuga must live their lives in such a way that they “stand apart from” or transcend the world in which they find themselves. This is the meaning of the phrase “men against time,” which I have already used (and which derives from Savitri Devi). The “differentiated type” of which Evola writes is one who has differentiated himself from the times, and from the men who are like “sleepers” or pashu (beasts). Existing in the world in a physical sense, even playing some role (or roles) in that world, one nevertheless lives wholly apart from it at the same time, in a spiritual sense. This is the path of those who aim to “ride the tiger”: they do not separate themselves from the decay, like monks or hermits; instead they live in the midst of it, but remain uncorrupted. (This is also little different from what the Gurdjieffian tradition calls “the fourth way,” and it is the essence of the “Left-Hand Path” as described by Evola and others.)

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However, there is another, deeper sense of the “dimension of transcendence.” The type of man of which Evola speaks is not simply reacting to the world in which he finds himself. This is not what his “apartness” consists in – not fundamentally. Nor does it consist in some kind of intellectual commitment to a “philosophy of Traditionalism,” as found in books by Evola and others. Rather, “transcendence” in the deepest sense refers to the Magnum Opus that is the aim of the “magic” or spiritual alchemy discussed by Evola in his most important works (chiefly Introduction to Magic and The Hermetic Tradition). “Transcendence” means the overcoming of the world and of the ego – really, of all manifestation, whether it is objective (“out there”) or subjective (“in here”). Such overcoming is the work of what is called in Vedanta the “witnessing consciousness.” Evola frequently calls this “the Self.” (For more on this teaching, see my essays “What is Odinism? [5]” in TYR, Vol. 4 [6], and “On Being and Waking” in TYR, Vol. 5, forthcoming [7].)

These different senses of “transcendence” are intertwined. It is only through the second sense of “transcendence,” of the overcoming of all manifestation, that the first sense, standing apart from the modern world, can truly be achieved. The man who is “heir to the man of the traditional world” can retain “his roots in that world” only by the achievement of a state of being that is identical to that of the “highest type” of the traditional world. That type was also “differentiated”: set apart from other men. Fundamentally, however, to be a “differentiated type” does not mean to be differentiated from others. It refers to the state of one who has actively differentiated “himself” from all else, including “the ego.” This active differentiation is the same thing as “identification” with the Self – which, for Evola, is not the dissolution of oneself in an Absolute Other, but the transmutation of “oneself” into “the Self.” Further, the metaphysical differentiation just described is the only sure and true path to the “differentiation” exhibited by the man who lives in the Kali Yuga, but stands apart from it at the same time.

Much later I will discuss how and why Nietzsche fails to understand “the dimension of transcendence,” and how it constitutes the fatal flaw in his philosophy. Recognizing this, Evola nonetheless proceeds to draw from Nietzsche a number of principles which constitute the spirit of “the overman.”[4] [8] Evola offers these as characterizing his own ideal type – with the crucial caveat that, contra Nietzsche, these principles are only truly realizable in a man who has realized in himself the “dimension of transcendence.” Basically, there are ten such principles cited by Evola, each of which he derives from statements made by Nietzsche. The passage in which these occur is highly unusual, since it consists in one long sentence (lasting more than a page), with each principle set off by semi-colons. I will now consider each of these points in turn.

1. “The power to make a law for oneself, the ‘power to refuse and not to act when one is pressed to affirmation by a prodigious force and an enormous tension.’”[5] [9] This first principle is crucial, and must be discussed at length. Earlier, in Chapter Seven (“Being Oneself”), Evola quotes Nietzsche saying, “We must liberate ourselves from morality so that we can live morally.”[6] [10] Evola correctly notes that in such statements, and in the idea of “making a law for oneself,” Nietzsche is following in the footsteps of Kant, who insisted that genuine morality is based upon autonomy – which literally means “a law to oneself.” This is contrasted by Kant to heteronomy (a term Evola also uses in this same context): morality based upon external pressures, or upon fealty to laws established independent of the subject (e.g., following the Ten Commandments, conforming to public opinion, acting so as to win the approval of others, etc.). This is the meaning of saying, “we must liberate ourselves from morality [i.e., from externally imposed moral commandments] so that we can live morally [i.e., autonomously].” In order for the subject’s standpoint to be genuinely moral, he must in a sense “legislate” the moral law for himself, and affirm it as reasonable. Indeed, for Kant, ultimately the authority of the moral law consists in our “willing” it as rational.

Of course, Nietzsche’s position is not Kant’s, though Evola is not very helpful in explaining to us what the difference consists in. He writes that Nietzsche’s notion of autonomy is “on the same lines” as Kant’s “but with the difference that the command is absolutely internal, separate from any external mover, and is not based on a hypothetical law extracted from practical reason that is valid for all and revealed to man’s conscience as such, but rather on one’s own specific being.”[7] [11] There are a good deal of confusions here – so much so that one wonders if Evola has even read Kant. For instance, Kant specifically rejects the idea of an “external mover” for morality (which is the same thing as heteronomy). Further, there is nothing “hypothetical” about Kant’s moral law, the “categorical imperative,” which he specifically defines in contrast to “hypothetical imperatives.” We may also note the vagueness of saying that “the command” must be based “on one’s specific being.”

jev-cumbres.jpgStill, through this gloom one may detect exactly the position that Evola correctly attributes to Nietzsche. Like Kant, Nietzsche demands that the overman practice autonomy, that he give a law to himself. However, Kant held that our self-legislation simultaneously legislates for others: the law I give to myself is the law I would give to any other rational being. The overman, by contrast, legislates for himself only – or possibly for himself and the tiny number of men like him. If we recognize fundamental qualitative differences between human types, then we must consider the possibility that different rules apply to them. Fundamental to Kant’s position is the egalitarian assertion that people do not get to “play by their own rules” (indeed, for Kant the claim to be an exception to general rules, or to make an exception for oneself, is the marker of immorality). If we reject this egalitarianism, then it does indeed follow that certain special individuals get to play by their own rules.

This does not mean that for the self-proclaimed overman “anything goes.” Indeed, any individual who would interpret the foregoing as licensing arbitrary self-indulgence of whims or passions would be immediately disqualified as a potential overman. This will become crystal clear as we proceed with the rest of Evola’s “ten principles” in Chapter Eight. For the moment, simply look once more at the wording Evola borrows from Nietzsche in our first “principle”: the “power to refuse and not to act when one is pressed to affirmation by a prodigious force and an enormous tension.” To refuse what? What sort of force? What sort of tension? The claim seems vague, yet it is actually quite clear: autonomy means, fundamentally, the power to say no to whatever forces or tensions press us to affirm them or give way to them.

The “forces” in question could be internal or external: they could be the force of social and environmental circumstances; they could be the force of my own passions, habits, and inclinations. It is a great folly to think that my passions and such are “mine,” and that in following them I am “free.” Whatever creates an “enormous tension” in me and demands I give way, whether it comes from “in me” or “outside me” is precisely not mine. Only the autonomous “I” that can see this is “mine,” and only it can say no to these forces. It has “the power to refuse and not to act.” Essentially, Nietzsche and Evola are talking about self-mastery. This is the “law” that the overman – and the “differentiated type” – gives to himself. And clearly it is not “universalizable”; the overman does not and cannot expect others to follow him in this.[8] [12]

In short, this first principle asks of us that we cultivate in ourselves the power to refuse or to negate – in one fashion or other – all that which would command us. Again, this applies also to forces within me, such as passions and desires. Such refusal may not always amount to literally thwarting or annihilating forces that influence us. In some cases, this is impossible. Our “refusal” may sometimes consist only in seeing the force in question, as when I see that I am acting out of ingrained habit, even when, at that moment, I am powerless to resist. Such “seeing” already places distance between us and the force that would move us: it says, in effect, “I am not that.” As we move through Evola’s other principles, we will learn more about the exercise of this very special kind of autonomy.

2. “The natural and free asceticism moved to test its own strength by gauging ‘the power of a will according to the degree of resistance, pain, and torment that it can bear in order to turn them to its own advantage.’”[9] [13] Here we have another expression of the “autonomy” of the differentiated type. Such a man tests his own strength and will, by deliberately choosing that which is difficult. Unlike the Last Man, who has left “the regions where it is hard to live,”[10] [14] the overman/differentiated man seeks them out.

Evola writes that “from this point of view everything that existence offers in the way of evil, pain, and obstacles . . . is accepted, even desired.”[11] [15] This may be the most important of all the points that Evola makes in this chapter – and it is a principle that can serve as a lifeline for all men living in the Kali Yuga, or in any time. If we can live up to this principle, then we have made ourselves truly worthy of the mantle of “overman.” The idea is this: can I say “yes” to whatever hardship life offers me? Can I use all of life’s suffering and evils as a way to test and to transform myself? Can I forge myself in the fire of suffering? And, going a step further, can I desire hardship and suffering? It is one thing, of course, to accept some obstacle or calamity as a means to test myself. It is quite another to actively desire such things.

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Here we must consider our feelings very carefully. Personally, I do not fear my own death nearly as much as the death of those close to me. And I fear my own physical incapacitation and decline more than death. Is it psychologically realistic for me to desire the death of my loved ones, or desire a crippling disease, as a way to test myself? No, it is not – and this is not what Evola and Nietzsche mean. Rather, the mental attitude in question is one where we say a great, general “yes” to all that life can bring in the way of hardship. Further, we welcome such challenges, for without them we would not grow. It is not that we desire this specific calamity or that, but we do desire, in general, to be tested. And, finally, we welcome such testing with supreme confidence: whatever life flings at me, I will overcome. In a sense, I will absorb all negativity and only grow stronger by means of it.

3. Evola next speaks of the “principle of not obeying the passions, but of holding them on a leash.” Then he quotes Nietzsche: “greatness of character does not consist in not having such passions: one must have them to the greatest degree, but held in check, and moreover doing this with simplicity, not feeling any particular satisfaction thereby.”[12] [16] This follows from the very first principle, discussed earlier. To repeat, giving free rein to our passions has nothing to do with autonomy, freedom, or mastery. Indeed, it is the primary way in which the common man finds himself controlled.

To see this, one must be able to recognize “one’s own” passions as, in reality, other. I do not choose these things, or the power they exert. What follows from this, however, is not necessarily thwarting those passions or “denying oneself.” As Evola explains in several of his works, the Left-Hand Path consists precisely in making use of that which would enslave or destroy a lesser man. We hold the passions “on a leash,” Evola says. The metaphor is appropriate. Our passions must be like well-trained dogs. Such animals are filled with passionate intensity for the chase – but their master controls them completely: at a command, they run after their prey, but only when commanded. As Nietzsche’s words suggest, the greatest man is not the man whose passions are weak. A man with weak passions finds them fairly easy to control! The superior man is one whose passions are incredibly strong – one in whom the “life force” is strong – but who holds those passions in check.

4. Nietzsche writes, “the superior man is distinguished from the inferior by his intrepidity, by his defiance of unhappiness.”[13] [17] Here too we have invaluable advice for living. The intrepid man is fearless and unwavering; he endures. But why does Nietzsche connect this with “defiance of unhappiness”? The answer is that just as the average man is a slave to the passions that sweep him away at any given time, so he is also a prisoner of his “moods.” Most men rise in the morning and find themselves in one mood or another: “today I am happy,” “today I am sad.” They accept that, in effect, some determination has been made for them, and that they are powerless in the matter. If the unhappiness endures, they have a “disease” which they look to drugs or alcohol to cure.

evola-the-yoga-of-power.jpgAs with the passions, the average man “owns” his moods: “this unhappiness is mine, it is me,” he says, in effect. The superior man learns to see his moods as if they were the weather – or, better yet, as if they were minor demons besetting him: external mischief makers, to whom he has the power to say “yes” or “no.” The superior man, upon finding that he feels unhappiness, says “ah yes, there it is again.” Immediately, seeing “his” unhappiness as other – as a habit, a pattern, a kind of passing mental cloud – he refuses identification with it. And he sets about intrepidly conquering unhappiness. He will not acquiesce to it.

5. The above does not mean, however, that the superior man intrepidly sets about trying to make himself “happy.” Evola quotes Nietzsche as saying “it is a sign of regression when pleasure begins to be considered as the highest principle.”[14] [18] The superior man responds with incredulity to those who “point the way to happiness,” and respond, “But what does happiness mean to us?”[15] [19] The preoccupation with “happiness” is characteristic of the inferior modern type Nietzsche refers to as “the Last Man” (“‘We have invented happiness,’ say the last men, and they blink. They have left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth.”[16] [20]

But if we do not seek happiness, in the name of what do we “defy unhappiness”? Answer: in the name of greatness, self-mastery, self-overcoming. Kant can be of some limited help to us here as well, for he said that the aim of life should not be happiness, but making oneself worthy of happiness. Many individuals may achieve happiness (actually, the dumber one is, the greater one’s chances). But only some are worthy of happiness. The superior man is worthy of happiness, whether he has it or not. And he does not care either way. He does not even aim, really, to be worthy of happiness, but to be worthy of greatness, like Aristotle’s “great-souled man” (megalopsuchos).[17] [21]

6. According to Evola, the superior man claims the right (quoting Nietzsche) “to exceptional acts as attempts at victory over oneself and as acts of freedom . . . to assure oneself, with a sort of asceticism, a preponderance and a certitude of one’s own strength of will.”[18] [22] This point is related to the second principle, discussed earlier. The superior man is master, first and foremost, of himself. He therefore seeks opportunities to test himself in exceptional ways. Evola provides an extended discussion of one form of such self-testing in his Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest (and, of course, for Evola mountain climbing was not entirely metaphorical!). Through such opportunities, one “assures oneself” of the strength of one’s will. But there is more: through such tests, one’s will becomes even stronger.

“Asceticism” suggests self-denial. But how does such testing of the will constitute “denying oneself”? The key, of course, lies in asking “what is my self?” The self that is denied in such acts of “self-mastery” is precisely the self that seeks to hold on to life, to safety, to security, and to its ephemeral preoccupations and possessions. We “deny” this self precisely by threatening what it values most. To master it is to progressively still its voice and loosen its hold on us. It is in this fashion that a higher self – what Evola, again, calls the Self – grows in us.

7. The superior man affirms the freedom which includes “keeping the distance which separates us, being indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privations, even to life itself.”[19] [23] This mostly reaffirms points made earlier. But what is “the distance that separates us”? Here Nietzsche could be referring to hierarchy, or what he often calls “the order of rank.” He could also be referring to the well-known desire of the superior man for apartness, verging sometimes on a desire for isolation. The superior man takes himself away from others; he has little need for the company of human beings, unless they are like himself. And even then, he desires the company of such men only in small and infrequent doses. He is repulsed by crowds, and by situations that force him to feel the heat and breath and press of others. Such feelings are an infallible marker of the superior soul – but they are not a “virtue” to be cultivated. One either has such feelings, or one does not. One is either the superior type, or a “people person.”

jev-bow.jpgIf we consult the context in which the quote appears – an important section of Twilight of the Idols – Nietzsche offers us little help in understanding specifically what he means by “the distance that separates us.” But the surrounding context is a goldmine of reflections on the superior type, and it is surprising that Evola does not quote it more fully. Nietzsche remarks that “war educates for freedom” (a point on which Evola reflects at length in his Metaphysics of War), then writes:

For what is freedom? Having the will to responsibility for oneself. Maintaining the distance that separates us. Becoming indifferent to trouble, hardships, deprivation, even to life. Being ready to sacrifice people to one’s cause, not excluding oneself. Freedom means that the manly instincts, the instincts that celebrate war and winning, dominate other instincts, for example the instinct for “happiness.” The human being who has become free, not to mention the spirit that has become free, steps all over the contemptible sort of wellbeing dreamt of by grocers, Christians, cows, women, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free human being is a warrior.[20] [24]

The rest of the passage is well worth reading.

8. Evola tells us that the superior man rejects “the insidious confusion between discipline and enfeeblement.” The goal of discipline is not to produce weakness, but a greater strength. “He who does not dominate is weak, dissipated, inconstant.” To discipline oneself is to dominate one’s passions. As we saw in our discussion of the third principle, this does not mean stamping out the passions or denying them. Neither does it mean indulging them: the man who heedlessly indulges his passions becomes “weak, dissipated, inconstant.” Rather, the superior man learns how to control his passions and to make use of them as a means for self-transformation. It is only when the passions are mastered – when we have reached the point that we cannot be swept away by them – that we can give expression to them in such a way that they become vehicles for self-overcoming.

Evola quotes Nietzsche: “Excess is a reproach only against those who have no right to it; and almost all the passions have been brought into ill repute on account of those who were not sufficiently strong to employ them.”[21] [25] The convergence of Nietzsche’s position with Evola’s portrayal of the Left-Hand Path could not be clearer. The superior man has a right to “excess” because, unlike the common man, he is not swept away by the passions. He holds them “on a leash” (see earlier), and uses them as means to transcend the ego, and to achieve a higher state. The common man, who identifies with his passions, becomes wholly a slave to them, and is sucked dry. He gives “excess” a bad reputation.

9. Evola’s penultimate principle is in the spirit of Nietzsche, but does not quote from him. Evola writes: “To point the way of those who, free from all bonds, obeying only their own law, are unbending in obedience to it and above every human weakness.”[22] [26] The first words of this passage are somewhat ambiguous: what does Evola mean by “to point the way of those who . . .” (the original Italian – l’indicare la via di coloro che – is no more helpful). Perhaps what is meant here is simply that the superior type points the way for others. He serves as an example – or he serves as the vanguard. This is not, of course, an ideal to which just anyone can aspire. But the example of the superior man can serve to “awaken” others who have the same potential. This was, indeed, something like Nietzsche’s own literary intention: to point the way to the Overman; to awaken those whose souls are strong enough.

10. Finally, Evola tells us that the superior type is “heir to the equivocal virtus of the Renaissance despots,” and that he is “capable of generosity, quick to offer manly aid, of ‘generous virtue,’ magnanimity, and superiority to his own individuality.”[23] [27] Here Evola alludes to Nietzsche’s qualified admiration for Cesare Borgia (who Nietzsche offers as an example of what he calls the “men of prey”). The rest of the quote, however, calls to mind Aristotle’s description of the great-souled man – especially the use of the term “magnanimity,” which some translators prefer to “greatness of soul.”[24] [28] The superior man is not a beast. He is capable of such virtues as generosity and benevolence. This is because he is free from that which holds lesser men in thrall. The superior man can be generous with such things as money and possessions, for these have little or no value for him. He can be generous in overlooking the faults of others, for he expects little of them anyway. He can even be generous in forgiving his enemies – when they are safely at his feet. The superior man can do all of this because he possesses “superiority to his own individuality”: he is not bound to the pretensions of his own ego, and to the worldly goods the ego craves.

FNiet-dessins.jpgEvola’s very long sentence about the superior man now ends with the following summation:

all these are the positive elements that the man of Tradition also makes his own, but which are only comprehensible and attainable when ‘life’ is ‘more than life,’ that is, through transcendence. They are values attainable only by those in whom there is something else, and something more, than mere life.

In other words, Nietzsche presents us with a rich and inspiring portrayal of the superior man. And yet, the principles he discusses will have a positive result, and serve the “man of Tradition,” only if we turn Nietzsche on his head. Earlier in Chapter Eight, Evola writes: “Nietzsche’s solution of the problem of the meaning of life, consisting in the affirmation that this meaning does not exist outside of life, and that life in itself is meaning . . . is valid only on the presupposition of a being that has transcendence as its essential component.” (Evola places this entire statement in italics.) In other words, to put the matter quite simply, the meaning of life as life itself is only valid when a man’s life is devoted to transcendence (in the senses discussed earlier). Or we could say, somewhat more obscurely, that Nietzsche’s points are valid when man’s life transcends life.

Evola’s claim goes to the heart of his criticism of Nietzsche. A page later, he speaks of conflicting tendencies within Nietzsche’s thought. On the one hand, we have a “naturalistic exaltation of life” that runs the risk of “a surrender of being to the simple world of instincts and passions.” The danger here is that these will then assert themselves “through the will, making it their servant.”[25] [29] Nietzsche, of course, is famous for his theory of the “will to power.” But surrender to the baser impulses of ego and organism will result in those impulses hijacking will and using it for their own purposes. One then becomes a slave to instincts and passions, and the antithesis of a free, autonomous being.

On the other hand, one finds in Nietzsche “testimonies to a reaction to life that cannot arise out of life itself, but solely from a principle superior to it, as revealed in a characteristic phrase: ‘Spirit is the life that cuts through life’ (Geist ist das Leben, das selber ins Leben schneidet).” In other words, Nietzsche’s thought exhibits a fundamental contradiction – a contradiction that cannot be resolved within his thought, but only in Evola’s. One can find other tensions in Nietzsche’s thought as well. I might mention, for example, his evident preference for the values of “master morality,” and his analysis of “slave morality” as arising from hatred of life — which nevertheless co-exist with his relativism concerning values. Yet there is so much in Nietzsche that is brilliant and inspiring, we wish we could accept the whole and declare ourselves Nietzscheans. But we simply cannot. This turns out to be no problem, since Evola absorbs what is positive and useful in Nietzsche, and places it within the context of Tradition. In spite of what Nietzsche himself may say, one feels he is more at home with Tradition, than with “perspectivism.”[26] [30]

Evola’s ten “Nietzschean principles,” reframed for the “man of Tradition,” provide an inspiring guide for life in this Wolf Age. They point the way. They show us what we must become. These are ideas that challenge us to become worthy of them.

Notes

[1] [31] Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul, trans. Joscelyn Godwin and Constance Fontana (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2003).

[2] [32] Evola, 46, my italics.

[3] [33] Evola, 47.

[4] [34] Übermensch; translated in Ride the Tiger as “superman.”

[5] [35] Quoting Nietzsche, Will to Power, section 778.

[6] [36] Evola, 41. Translator notes “adapted from the aphorism in Kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 7, part 1, 371.”

[7] [37] Evola, 41.

[8] [38] There is a great deal more that can be said here about the difference between Kantian and Nietzschean “autonomy.” Indeed, there is an argument to be made that Kant is much closer to Nietzsche than Evola (or Nietzsche) would allow. Ultimately, one sees the stark difference between Kant and Nietzsche in the “egalitarianism” of the different formulations of Kant’s categorical imperative. How can a man who is qualitatively different and superior to others commit to following no other law than what he would will all others follow? How can he affirm the inherent “dignity” in others, who seem to have no dignity at all? Should he affirm their potential dignity, which they themselves simply do not see and may never live up to? But suppose they are so limited, constitutionally, that actualizing that “human dignity” is more or less impossible for them? Kant wants us to affirm that whatever men may actually be, they are nonetheless potentially rational, and thus they possess inherent dignity. For those of us who have seen more of the world than Königsberg, and who have soured on the dreams of Enlightenment, this rings hollow. And how can the overman be expected to adhere to the (self-willed) command to always treat others as ends in themselves, but never as means only – when the vast bulk of humanity seems hardly good for anything other than being used as means to the ends of greater men?

[9] [39] The translator’s note: “Adapted from Twilight of the Idols, ‘Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,’ sect. 38, where, however, it is ‘freedom’ that is thus gauged.” Beware: Evola sometimes alters Nietzsche’s wording.

[10] [40] Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, “Zarathustra’s Prologue,” 5.

[11] [41] Evola, 49.

[12] [42] Evola, 49. The Will to Power, sect. 928.

[13] [43] Will to Power, sect. 222.

[14] [44] Will to Power, sect. 790.

[15] [45] Will to Power, sect. 781.

[16] [46] Thus Spake Zarathustra, “Zarathustra’s Prologue,” 5.

[17] [47] Aristotle also said that the aim of human life is “happiness” (eudaimonia) – but “happiness” has a connotation here different from the familiar one.

[18] [48] Will to Power, sect. 921.

[19] [49] Twilight of the Idols, “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,” sect. 38. Italics added by Evola.

[20] [50] See Twilight of the Idols, trans. Richard Polt (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997), 74-75.

[21] [51] Here I have substituted the translation of Walter Kaufmann and R. G. Hollingdale for the one provided in Ride the Tiger, as it is more accurate and concise. See The Will to Power, trans. Kaufmann and Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), 408.

[22] [52] Evola, 49.

[23] [53] The translators of Ride the Tiger direct us here to Beyond Good and Evil, sect. 260.

[24] [54] Grandezza d’animo literally translates to “greatness of soul.”

[25] [55] Evola, 48.

[26] [56] Evola writes (p. 52), “[Nietzsche’s] case illustrates in precise terms what can, and indeed must, occur in a human type in which transcendence has awakened, yes, but who is uncentered with regard to it.”

 

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mardi, 01 mai 2018

The Winter of Spengler’s Discontent

OSPy.jpg

The Winter of Spengler’s Discontent

 
The decline of Spengler: reconsidering High Cultures
 
Ex: http://westdest.blogspot.com
 
It has been decades since I last tackled Oswald Spengler, and it seemed time to refresh my understanding of his major work.  Upon the advice of a Spengler expert (and following the Pareto Principle), I acquired the abridged edition of The Decline of the West.
 
OSPb1.jpgFirst, a few words about Spengler’s writing in this book, which I found to be terrible: like Heidegger, overly dense and sometimes nearly incomprehensible in the pompous old school German style (in contrast, Nietzsche, particularly apart from Zarathustra, was exceedingly comprehensible and easily understandable).  Contrary to all of Spengler’s breathless fans, I did not find his magnum opus to be very well written.  It’s a terribly boring, turgid compilation of rambling prose.  I can only imagine the full-scale version is worse (and if memory serves, it was). Another point is that Spengler’s deconstructivism is highly annoying to the more empiricist among us, his idea that Nature is a function of a particular culture.  Well (and the same applies to some of Yockey’s [plagiarized] rambling on the subject), for some cultures, Nature apparently is a more accurate “function” of reality than for others, and this more accurate representation of objective reality has real world consequences that cannot be evaded.
 
Thus, Spengler’s rambling on “Nature Knowledge” can be for the most part safely ignored.  Spengler laughably wrote: “Every atomic theory, therefore, is a myth, and not an experience.”  Yes, tell that to the Japanese of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who encountered the myth – not the experience, oh no! – of being blasted by atom bombs.  Spengler’s comments about the “uranium atom” are particularly ludicrous in hindsight. I have to say: Spengler was an idiot (*).
 
The problem with Spengler (and Yockey) and science is that the Spenglerian view could be tenable if science was only a purely abstract phenomenon, with no practical real world consequences.  Unfortunately, for Spengler, science leads to technics, and the outcome of technics (contra Yockey) is directly related to the reality behind the science.  In the absence of real world consequences, in the absence of technics, the Spenglerians can pretend that there is no objective difference between, say, Classical or Egyptian physics on the one hand, and Faustian physics on the other. However, the former, if followed to technics, will not lead to methods that can obliterate cities, shatter mountains, and sink islands; while the latter can, and has.  Facts are facts. “Theory is working hypothesis…” according to Spengler’s formulation of Faustian technics, but that can be just as easily reversed: the working hypothesis is based upon theory.  Without scientific theory, practical technics is mere makeshift tinkering.
 
OSPb2.jpgThe sections “Race is Style” and “People and Nation” are of course relevant from a racial nationalist perspective, and reflects Spengler’s anti-scientific stupidity, this time about biological race.  Those of you familiar with Yockey’s wrong-headed assertions on this topic will see all the same in Spengler’s work (from which Yockey lifted his assertions).  This has been critiqued by many – from Revilo Oliver to myself – and it is not necessary to rehash all of the arguments against the Spenglerian (Boasian) deconstructivist attitudes toward biological race.  We can just shake our heads sadly about Spengler’s racial fantasies – that is as absurd as that of any hysterical leftist SJW race-denier – and move on to other issues.
 
The comments by Spengler (and others) about the Russian soul and Russian character, and its “non-Faustian” nature (‘the horizontal expansive plain…the plain, the plain….”) are interesting, and may well have some validity (as a close look at Russian literature informs us, to some degree).  But this can all be taken too far.  With the benefit of hindsight obviously not available to Spengler himself – but which is just as obviously available to modern-day Spenglerians – we look at the Russian interest in space exploration, particularly during the Soviet period, and ask – was that merely just for political propaganda purposes?  The answer is not quite clear.  There are differences between cultures, yes, but when there is an underlying racial affinity, then the different cultures are not quite orthogonal to each other.  And the same principle applies to the Classical-Faustian distinction as well. Spengler would argue that the Classical and Faustian are as different from each other than either are to, say, the Chinese, Indian, or Egyptian.  I think that’s nonsense, and the same applies to Russian-Faustian/Western.  There are differences and then there are DIFFERENCES.  Being more objective about Spengler’s ideas than Spengler himself, I hope the “differences between differences” are obvious.
 
The section on “State and History” was actually readable and made some valid points, but I disagree with Spenglerian inevitability, and I believe he draws the line of the Fellah stage too early in some historical cases. The high point of the Roman Empire, the Pax Romana – was a historyless desert?  Spengler, I think, became too enamored with his own theories (or nonsense, if you want to be harsh).  The “Philosophy of Politics” section is also readable, with some useful points, but also has, obviously, areas of profound disagreement between Spengler and reality.  The idea that the “born statesman” has – or should have - no convictions, should be a completely amoral actor dealing with facts and effects with no ideology affecting their actions - that I reject. Who is or is not a “born statesmen?”  The examples Spengler gives are ludicrous given his assertion. Sulla, Robespierre, Bismarck, and Pitt – they all acted with no underlying ideology or conviction influencing their actions?  I will say his comments about the value of a “tradition” in politics, statesmanship, in fact in any manifestation or organized human activity (comments mirrored by Yockey), are basically sound. Again, in reading Spengler, there are some diamonds in the piles of dirt and dung; one has to dig them out and treasure them.  However, the diamond-to-dung ratio is not enough to grant Spengler the acclaim as a “great writer.” While Spengler and his ideas have worth, whether or not we agree with all of them, I wonder if he may not be one of the most over-rated writers in history.
 
OSPb3.jpgThose are mere details however.  Important details, but not the fundamental, the main thesis.  So, what about the main thesis of his work?  The overall idea of cyclical history?  Yockey’s lifting of that idea in his own work?  Rereading Spengler’s major thesis hasn’t changed my mind about it in any major way, but there are some further points to make.
 
To begin with, I do believe that Spengler was on to something; his most fundamental observations about the cyclical nature of High Cultures, in their broadest sense, have validity.  I reject his self-assured assertions about inevitability and his smug and snide pontification about the emptiness of current and future cultural possibilities, as well as his complete lack of self-awareness of the effects of his fundamental observation on the ability of future generations to interfere with what was previously a completely unguided historical process.  By analogy, before the germ theory of infectious disease was asserted, and then proven as fact, man was for the most part helpless against the onslaught of microbes, apart from the natural and (by conscious thought) unguided processes of the human immune system.  After the discovery of the germ-disease link, we have preventive and therapeutic interventions against these diseases.  Furthering this analogy, we can say that before Spengler, man was helpless in the face of historical inevitability; after Spengler and his discovery, the situation is changed.
 
Another point: being more familiar with Yockey’s work than with Spengler’s, I note how much Yockey plagiarized from Spengler.  Everyone talks about Yockey plagiarizing Carl Schmitt, and that Spengler “inspired” Yockey  - well, if by “inspired” you mean ruthlessly copy than, yes, Yockey was very “inspired.”  However, I do not say that to disparage Yockey or Imperium, the work which contains most of the plagiarism in question.  Yockey was a political polemicist, and Imperium was meant to be a thoroughly political work, sort of a Communist Manifesto for fascists, it wasn’t meant as a scholarly work and Yockey made no pretense of any original thought in that book. So, I just note for the record that the plagiarism took place.  I also note that, in a real sense, it is good that the plagiarism did take place, because Imperium is much more readable, much more digestible, than Spengler’s ponderous work, which is, as stated above, a caricature of “heavy” self-indulgent pedantic German scholarship.  Spengler’s views on (biological) race, as derived from his statements in this book, were as wrong-headed as Yockey’s regurgitation of them.  But enough of that; it is a side-issue at this time, and has been already discussed, by myself and (many) others, with respect to Imperium.
 
OSPb4.jpgLet’s get back to Spengler’s content, and some of my objections alluded to above.  Thus, as far as content goes, my “take” on it remains the same; I agree with much but I disagree with much as well, particularly the “pessimistic” inevitability of it, and the smug arrogance in suggesting, or implying, that disagreement with that aspect of the work implies some sort of mental weakness, delusion, or cowardice on the part of the reader.  Spengler himself suggests that he “truth” of the book is a “truth” for him, a “truth” for a particular Culture in a particular time, and should not necessarily be viewed as an absolute truth in any or every sense (indeed, it everything from science to mathematics is, according to Spengler, formed by the Culture which creates it, and is thus no absolute in any universal sense, then we can quote Pilate ‘“what is truth?”).  Therefore, my “truth” in the current year leads me to conclusions different from Spengler; one can again assert that Spengler himself, by writing the book and outlining he problem, himself undermined his assertion of inevitability, since know we can understand the trajectories of Cultures and, possibly, how to affect those trajectories.
 
I’ll have more to say about that shortly.
 
One thing about re-reading the book that did influence me – more of a minor point – is that I’m now more in agreement (although not totally in agreement) with Spengler that the Classical Culture was quite different from out Western Faustian one.  There was always a sense of a different style, a different mindset, a different worldview, but The Decline of the West, and the evidence Spengler presents, helps clarify the Classical-Faustian distinction and brings it into stark relief.  So, yes, there’s more to that issue than I previously thought.  However, it doesn’t’ change the fact that both the Classical and the Faustian (or Western) High Cultures came into being in Europe, created by Europeans, and, therefore, if we accept one aspect of Spenglerian inevitability – the actual “decline of the West” – and indeed we appear to be ahead of schedule, well into Winter, then we can discard other aspects of inevitability and assert that Europe and Europeans are well capable of creating other High Cultures.
 
So, I will say that Spengler exaggerates the Classical-Faustian divide, even though I’m a bit more supportive of his views on that than before.  There is an intermediate ground between saying the two Cultures are completely and utterly distinct entities with absolutely no connection and saying that the Faustian is merely an outgrowth of the Classical.  On a side note, as a result of re-reading Spengler, I’m now studying the last period of the Western Roman Empire, from Adrianople to Odoacer, to (1) examine the parallels to our own day, (2) discern the “breaking point” where the last vestiges of the Classical World died out (What happened? How?  What came after, what was the result?), and (3) to re-examine stupid “movement” dogma on how the later Empire was becoming ever more decadent as a result of racial changes (if anything, the later Empire was more moral than before).
 
OSPb5.jpgThat is related to an important deficit in the work of Spengler that I have read.  He describes the lifecycle of High Cultures, but never really dissects why the cultures inevitably (or so he says) move from Culture to Civilization to Fellahdom.  What actually are the mechanistic causes of Spring to Summer to Fall to Winter?  I guess that Spengler (and Yockey) would just say that it is what it is, that the Culture is life an organism that grows old and dies.  The problem is that this analogy is just that, an analogy.  A Culture is composed of living organisms, humans, but is itself not alive. And esoteric rambling about a “cosmic beat” explains nothing.  If ones buys into the Spenglerian premise, then some rigorous analysis as to why High Cultures progress in particular ways is necessary.  We need an anatomical and molecular analysis of the “living organism” of the High Culture. Does Frost’s genetic pacification play a role? The cycle, noted by Hamilton, of barbarian invasions, the influx of altruism genes, followed by the aging of the civilization at which point fresh barbarian genes are required to spark a renaissance in the depleted fellhahs?  The moral decay that occurs with too much luxury, too much wealth, too much power?  A form of memetic exhaustion?  
 
By analogy to the memetic exhaustion hypothesis, consider successful television shows.  Although a few of these have been unusually very long lasting – but even these eventually do go off the air – the vast majority follow a trajectory of a lifespan of, say, half-a-dozen years or so.  In the first season of a successful show, there is freshness and novelty, experimentation with plotlines and characters, some unevenness, but excitement and the growth of a fan base.  Then the show reaches a crest wave of success – compelling storylines, solid character development, a strong fan base. This is followed by a bit of stagnation, attempts are made to shake things up, introducing new characters, altering the basic storyline, which may well cause a secondary, shorter spike in interest (Caesarism?), followed by “jumping the shark,” actors leaving the show, stale and repetitious stories, flat characters, a loss of interest of the fan base, decline, and eventual cancellation.  At some point, the show exhausts the memetic possibilities of its setting, characters, and fundamental storyline, and the “magic” is lost.  Does a Culture likewise exhaust all the possibilities of its actualization?  But unlike a TV show, where the station and the show writers (and the fans and reviewers) are consciously following the show’s trajectory and ratings, a High Culture is, or has been, independent of such analysis and direction.  In what way does memetic exhaustion promote the next phase of development?  Further, given Spengler’s identification of the cycle, does this now mean that a High Culture can be tracked analogous to a defined cultural artifact, like a TV show?  If so, how?  Can an elite consciously and directly alter a culture’s direction?  Can they “cancel” it and create a new one?  These are questions that require the rigorous analysis of mechanism previously stated as being required.
 
What about moving forward?
 
ospb6.jpgI maintain that those of us in the interregnum between High Cultures have the power to shape the next High Culture to come, to plant the seed, to choose the specific seed to plant, to nurture it as it grows up toward the sun.  Analogous to lucid dreaming, in our awareness of the Spenglerian thesis – to the extent that it is true – we can guide what was in the past an unconscious and organic flowering, speed it up, and mold it in particular directions.  Obviously, the extent of this control is limited; one cannot “preplan” an entire High Culture in advance, but one can influence its direction, and get it jumpstarted. Imagine some asteroid or comet hurtling toward Earth; if you can deflect it just a small bit, when it is far enough away, that small deflection will become amplified over time, over the long distances it travels at great speeds, and it would them miss the Earth by a healthy margin.  Giving a “nudge” in the right direction at the very beginning of a High Culture’s flowering can be enough, over time, to create a path along which it will develop.  The exact outcome, the precise path, cannot be determined or even precisely predicted, but the general direction, the overall constraints of a set of possible paths, I believe can be determined and predicted.  You might not be able to pinpoint a direction to the precision of saying, “we’re going to Boston” but perhaps to the extent of “we are going to the Northeast United States.”  And that would be enough.
 
In any case, imagine a person, or group of people, and here I mean our people, who today or tomorrow (broadly defined) wish to create cultural artifacts.  And this culture creation can be of our current Western Faustian High Culture or some new one to come.  Very well.  Should they refrain from doing so simply because Spengler insisted that the time of culture was over, and we should now be concerned only with technics and conquest?  When Spenglerism takes itself too seriously, it descends into absurdity.  It is best thought of as possible guidance, as broad outlines, as description – but not any sort of definitive absolute prescription.
 
By the way, having a European Imperium – which Spenglerians would say is a marker of late Civilization – is not in my opinion in any way incompatible with the creation of a new High Culture.  After all, some Spenglerians are fond of telling us that a new High Culture is likely to come from Russia, and Russia is, as many Duginite Russian “nationalists” like to tell us, an empire.  So massive states, including multiethnic empires, can very well be the wellsprings of new cultures.  We shouldn’t confuse surface political forms with the underlying cultural realities.
 
ospb7.jpgSpeaking of Russia, another part of Spengler’s work that I found reasonably well argued and somewhat convincing (as well as fairly novel) is his idea of applying the concept of pseudomorphosis to human populations. In particular, one cannot really dispute some of his points about the Magian and Russian cultures in this regard, but when he says that Antony should have won at Actium – what nonsense is that?  So, that Rome should have become more tainted with Near Eastern cults and ideas even more than it was?  What’s the opposite of pseudomorphosis – where a Civilization becomes memetically conquered by a meme originating from a young Culture?  How did the memetic virus of Christianity infect the West?  Wouldn’t it have been worse if Actium was won by the East?  When Spengler writes of “syncretism” he begins to touch upon this reversal, which eventually goes in both directions (and as Type I “movement” apologists for Christianity like to tell us, that religion was eventually “Germanized” in the West).
 
Speaking of Christianity, Spengler’s comments about Jesus are interesting, but in my opinion too naive and too positive.  Yes, the meeting between Jesus and Pontius Pilate was world historical and meaningful; however, I view it from the Pilate perspective rather than, as Spengler does, the Jesus perspective.  Spengler takes his own view too seriously in the sense that – and the Antony-Actium thing fits here – and he seems to think that we all need to look from the viewpoint of “what was best for the new Magian High Culture?”  Personally, I could care less – I care about – only care about – those High Cultures of racially European origin (Classical, Faustian, Russian, and what comes next for the West).  Let the Magians worry about the Magian.  What? The poor little NECs were suppressed by the Classical?  Too bad. Who cares about them?  Spengler rightfully outlines how alien the Magian worldview is from the Faustian; thus, why should Faustian peoples care about Magians or follow a Magian religion like Christianity?
 
Spengler’s basic, fundamental thesis is novel and powerful: the idea of a series of High Cultures, moving in parallel with similar life morphologies.  But he went too far, arrogantly casting his idea with the aura of rigid inevitability – neglecting that the very act of identifying and evaluating the phenomenon, and doing so as part of a history-obsessed Faustian High Culture, forever destroyed a basic prerequisite of the phenomenon’s previous record of repeatability; i.e., that it was unknown and ahistorical.  Ironically, Spengler’s own observations are a major reason why the patterns he observed are no longer inevitable, or, perhaps better said no longer immune from intentional manipulation and control.  When the process was unknown, unidentified, and occurring in the background independent of direct human perception, it was beyond control, once identified and classified, that no longer necessarily holds.  
 
Let’s reconsider the analogy I made above, about the discovery of the germ theory of disease.  Before discovery, there was inevitability of certain events; with vaccination, that no longer holds.  Smallpox epidemics are no longer inevitable.  Even if the decline of the West (which has already occurred) is not stoppable, the idea that rollover to the next European High Culture is beyond control has been refuted by the knowledge gained by Spengler’s own analysis.  Spengler himself is responsible for eliminating the clockwork inevitability of his system.  What kind of “Fellah” status can a people really have once they – or at least their intellectual elites – are aware of Spenglerism?  Is a “Fellah” aware of their “Fellahsm” really “Fellah” anymore?  Or is that an oxymoron?  The Spenglerian Cycle can occur in its previously manifested form only when its actors – human actors in various cultures and civilizations and post-civilizations – are not consciously aware of its workings.  Once aware, the illusion of inevitability fades, once aware, and awareness manifested in those with a will to power, the knowledge becomes a tool and the Cycle becomes amenable to manipulation and direction.  Spengler’s work was based on the analysis of High Cultures that were to a very basic extent unaware of their own existence in these terms, unable to look at themselves objectively from “outside.”  That is no longer the case.
 
ospb8.jpgAnd if Spengler’s main thesis is flawed by its own self-realization, what can one say about his side ideas?  Those, particularly dealing with science, are absolute hogwash.  In that sense, Spengler is over-rated, never mind his poor writing, including his horrifically turgid style.  Yockey may have been offended by this “blasphemy” against his idol – “The Philosopher of History” – but it is nevertheless warranted.
 
Do I recommend The Decline of the West to the reader?  No.  As per the Pareto Principle, just read Imperium, which will take 20% of your effort and give you 80% of Spenglerism.
 
Notes:
 
*A particularly retarded footnote: “And it may be asserted that the downright faith that Haeckel, for example, pins to the names atom, matter, energy, is not essentially different from the fetishism of Neanderthal Man.”
 
Yeah, that’s great Oswald, you pompous semi-Jewish purveyor of ponderous Teutonic rumblings.  Too bad this idiot wasn’t around in the 1950s; they could have tied him to the Castle Bravo thermonuclear device and he could have experienced the “downright faith” that what he was about to experience was just the subjective interpretation of the Faustian High Culture.  Oswald would have been deconstructed indeed!
 
And for those who wish to take the Yockeyian line that technics is separate from scientific theory - that is nonsense.  The technics of nuclear power or GPS systems require an understanding of the underlying physics; the technics of CRISPR requires an understanding of the biological principles involved.  Can you train someone to use those technics, at a low level, without understanding the science?  Of course you can, but what’s the point?  Someone can read a history book without knowing Spengler, someone can fix a car engine without knowing about internal combustion.  But you cannot construct, refine, improve, or replace with something superior a technic without knowing the principles behind it. Read up on the difficulties nations had in figuring out how to get thermonuclear weapons to work (and, no, it’s not that you stick a tank of hydrogen behind an atom bomb) and you’ll understand how integral theory is for getting the technics to work and keep working.  It doesn’t take an understanding of nuclear physics to drop the bomb; however, it does require such an understanding to invent the bomb to begin with.
 
Further:
 
I can’t help notice that the buffoon Chad Crowley cites Spengler to support some of his viewpoints, even though Spengler’s fundamental thesis was that ALL High Cultures have an innate tendency to travel along the same socio-economic-politico-religious trajectory; the case of Rome is not unique, and “racial degeneration” by no means needs to be invoked to explain any of the broader changes that, according to Spengler, were destined to occur there as in any other culture he studied.

lundi, 30 avril 2018

Le holisme comme réponse au monde moderne

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Le holisme comme réponse au monde moderne

par Georges FELTIN-TRACOL

Du grec holos, « entier », le holisme est un terme inventé en 1926 par le général Jan Christiaan Smuts, Premier ministre d’Afrique du Sud, pour désigner un ensemble supérieur à la somme de ses parties. L’écrivain britannique Arthur Koestler vulgarisa la notion dans Le cheval dans la locomotive (1967) et Janus (1978). L’anthropologue français Louis Dumont s’y référait déjà en 1966 dans Homo hierarchicus.

Bien connu pour son action permanente envers les plus démunis des nôtres, le pasteur Jean-Pierre Blanchard reprend à son compte le concept dans son nouvel essai L’Alternative holiste ou la grande révolte antimoderne (Dualpha, coll. « Patrimoine des héritages », préface de Patrick Gofman, 2017, 156 p., 21 €). Il y développe une thèse qui risque d’agacer tous ceux qui gardent un mur de Berlin dans leur tête.

Si le monde moderne se caractérise par le triomphe de l’individu et l’extension illimitée de ses droits considérés comme des désirs inaliénables à assouvir, l’univers traditionnel préfère accorder la primauté au collectif, au groupe, à la communauté. Certes, chacune de ces visions du monde antagonistes comporte une part de l’autre. La domination de la Modernité demeure toutefois écrasante, d’où des réactions parfois violentes. Ainsi le pasteur Blanchard voit-il dans la longue révolte des paysans mexicains entre 1911 et 1929 la première manifestation du holisme. Ensuite surgiront tour à tour les révolutions communiste, fasciste et nationale-socialiste. L’auteur insiste longuement sur le paradoxe bolchevique : le progressisme revendiqué se transforma en un conservatoire des traditions nationales et populaires. Le communisme réel est en fait un holisme contrarié par le matérialisme historique. On sait maintenant que la République populaire démocratique de Corée a une société plus communautaire, plus holiste, que cet agrégat bancal d’atomes individualistes déréglés qu’est le Canada.

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Aujourd’hui, la vision holistique des rapports collectifs humains prend la forme de l’idéologie islamiste. Le choc frontal entre la modernité occidentale et cet autre holisme est brutal. L’incantation lacrymale et victimaire aux droits de l’homme, au « vivre ensemble » et à l’individu-tyran n’écartera pas la menace islamiste; elle la fortifiera au contraire. La civilisation européenne ne survivra que si elle renoue avec « la transcendance, ce retour qui combat le monde occidental bourgeois issu de la philosophie des Lumières [qui] offre de nouvelles perspectives pour l’avenir (p. 156) », un avenir holistique, communautaire et organique pour les peuples autochtones d’Europe.

Georges Feltin-Tracol

• « Chronique hebdomadaire du Village planétaire », n° 76, diffusée sur Radio-Libertés, le 27 avril 2018.

mardi, 24 avril 2018

Ronald Beiner’s Dangerous Minds

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Ronald Beiner’s Dangerous Minds

Ronald Beiner
Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018

index.jpgRonald Beiner is a Canadian Jewish political theorist who teaches at the University of Toronto. I’ve been reading his work since the early 1990s, starting with What’s the Matter with Liberalism? (1992). I have always admired Beiner’s clear and lively writing and his ability to see straight through jargon and cant to hone in on the flaws of the positions he examines. He is also refreshingly free of Left-wing sectarianism and willing to engage with political theorists of the Right, like Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, Michael Oakeshott, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Thus, although I was delighted that a theorist of his caliber had decided to write a book on the contemporary far Right, I was also worried that he might, after a typically open and searching engagement with our outlook, discover some fatal flaw.

But it turns out that an honest confrontation with our movement is a bridge too far. Beiner does not even wish to engage with our ideas, much less critique them. Instead, he uses the rise of the Right simply as lurid packaging to sell his publisher a book that focuses on Nietzsche and Heidegger. (The cover is of the torchlight march at Unite the Right, which is supposed to look sinister.)

Beiner’s target is not the Right, but the Left, specifically those who think that Nietzsche and Heidegger can be profitably appropriated for Left-wing causes. To combat this view, he mounts a persuasive case that Nietzsche and Heidegger are deeply anti-liberal thinkers. Thus, although Dangerous Minds is sensationalist and dismissive in its treatment of our movement, it is nevertheless extremely useful to us. If anyone wants to understand why Nietzsche and Heidegger are so useful to the New Right, Beiner gives a clear and engaging account in a bit more than 100 pages.

Since Beiner wants to cast our movement in the worst possible light, he naturally begins with Hailgate [2]:

In the fateful fall of 2016, a far-right ideologue named Richard B. Spencer stirred up some fame for himself by exclaiming in a conference packed with his followers not far from the White House: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” On the face of it, this mad proclamation would appear to have nothing in common with the glorious tradition of Western philosophy.

But think again.

Beiner then quotes Spencer denouncing “fucking middle class” values and proclaiming “I love empire, I love power, I love achievement.” We even learn from a Jewish female reporter that Spencer will sometimes “get a boner” from reading about Napoleon. (Another triumph of press engagement [3].)

This is Nietzsche’s work, declares Beiner.

Beiner goes on to call Spencer a “lunatic ideologue” (p. 11) and an advocate of “virulently antiliberal, antidemocratic radicalism” (p. 12). He blames it all on a graduate seminar on Nietzsche that Spencer took at the University of Chicago. This is laying it on a bit thick, since Spencer is not offering a system of ideas. He’s just name-dropping and Nietzsche-posting to impress middlebrow journalists. Perhaps sensing this, Beiner turns his attention to a prolific author of essays and books, Alexander Dugin. Beiner easily establishes the Nietzschean and Heideggerian pedigree of Dugin’s dangerous ideas.

Naturally, at this point, I was wondering if I was next, so I flipped to the back of the book to see if my name appeared in the index. But there is no index. (This from a serious academic publisher?) So I continued to read. By the end, I was a bit relieved, and maybe a bit miffed, to receive no mention at all in Dangerous Minds. Nor is Counter-Currents mentioned by name, although it is referred to on page 12 as “One of the typically odious far-right websites” and on page 150 as “Another far-right outfit of the same ilk” as Arktos. In the first case, Beiner refers to James O’Meara’s review of Jason Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas [4], but he does not name O’Meara or give the url of the review. (Jorjani is, however, singled out for abuse as a “crackpot philosopher.”) In the second case, Beiner provides the url of my Heidegger commemoration [5] but does not cite the author or title. Beiner is known as a Left-wing admirer of Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom. These glaring oversights might lead those of a Straussian bent to think that Beiner regards Counter-Currents, James O’Meara, me, and perhaps Collin Cleary [6], who is also noticeably omitted, to be of central importance. But of course he has plausible deniability.

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Beiner zeroes in on equality as the essential issue that divides the Left and the Right:

A view of society where all individuals are fundamentally equal or a view of society where people can live meaningful lives only under the banner of fundamental hierarchy: this is an either/or, not a moral-political choice that can be submitted to compromise or splitting the difference. . . . [O]ne either sees egalitarianism as essential to the proper acknowledgement of universal human dignity, or one sees it as the destruction of what’s most human because its incompatible with human nobility rightly understood. (p. 8)

This is basically correct, but I have two caveats.

First, I think equality and liberty are genuine political values. But they are not the most important values. Individual self-actualization and the pursuit of the common good are more important than individual liberty, for instance. And justice is more important than equality, since justice requires unequal people receive unequal treatment. But even here, justice demands that unequal status and rewards be proportionate to unequal merit. By this Aristotelian view of justice, however, most forms of contemporary social and political inequality are grossly unjust.

This is why I oppose people on the Right who praise “hierarchy” as such. Not all hierarchies are just. Thus one can defend the principle of hierarchy without embracing ideas like hereditary monarchy, aristocracy, and caste, much less slavery. These are at best merely imperfect historical illustrations of the principle of hierarchy, not blueprints for the future.

Second, the notion of “universal human dignity” is simply an article of faith, like Stoic and Christian ideas of providence and liberal ideas of progress. Progress and providence are our trump cards against ultimate misfortune. They allow us to keep believing that things will work out in the end. “Dignity” is really a trump card against dehumanization: it is the assertion that no matter how botched, degraded, and corrupt a human being is, he is still a human being; he still possesses some intrinsic worth that he can use, as a measure of last resort, to gain some consideration from the rest of us. But when aliens land and discover that human beings are delicious, appeals to the universal dignity of rational beings are not going to save us. True nobility requires that we face reality and dispense with such moralistic illusions.

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But that does not mean that we dispense with empathy for others. I have zero patience for people on the Right who defend slavery, colonialism, imperialism, and genocide. They are guilty of another form of providential wishful thinking, for they apparently feel themselves invulnerable to the sufferings they would cheerfully inflict on others. It does not occur to them that others could do the same to them. But nobility requires thinking and living without such illusions. You might be high and mighty today, but you are not bulletproof (which is really all Hobbes meant by equality). Empathy allows us to imagine ourselves in the positions of others. Fortune can elevate or lower us into the positions of others. And if none of us are immune to fortune, then we should create a political system in which we could morally bear to trade places with anyone, a society in which all social stations are fundamentally just. This leads to the sort of live-and-let-live ethos that is at the core of ethnonationalism as I define it.

This is why I don’t regard Alexander Dugin and Richard Spencer as contributing anything to White Nationalism, which is the advocacy of ethnic self-determination for all white peoples. Instead, they are simply apologists for Russian imperial revanchism. Spencer regards ethnonationalism as “petty,” siding with the UK against Scottish independence, the EU against Brexit, and Spain against Catalan independence. But although he opposes the UK leaving the EU, he opposes Ukraine joining it. He praises the EU as a transnational, imperial organization — but not NATO. Clearly, he is more interested in shilling for Russian geopolitical interests than in setting forth a coherent moral and political framework for white survival. I can’t blame Beiner for focusing on Dugin and Spencer, however, because they embrace all of Nietzsche’s most lurid and questionable ideas as well as his good ones.

Beiner on Nietzsche

According to Beiner’s chapter on “Reading Nietzsche in an Age of Resurgent Fascism,” the “one central, animating Nietzschean idea” is: “Western civilization is going down the toilet because of too much emphasis on truth and rationality and too much emphasis on equal human dignity” (p. 24). (This passage also illustrates the vulgar and often hysterical tone of Beiner’s polemic. Dangerous Minds has a rambling, informal, often autobiographical style that makes it read like an extended blog post. Beiner also peppers his prose with exclamation points, sometimes 4 or 5 to the page, to drive his points home. I began to worry that he would soon resort to emoticons.)

Nietzsche offers two arguments against liberalism. First, liberalism destroys the meaning of life. Second, liberalism destroys human nobility.

For Nietzsche, a meaningful life requires a normative culture as the context or “horizon” in which each individual is immersed and formed. In short, a meaningful life is rooted in ethnic identity, although Nietzsche does not put it in these terms, as he was deeply alienated from and ambivalent about his own German identity. A normative culture provides an encompassing worldview and a hierarchy of values. These need not be “true” in any metaphysical sense to provide foundations for a meaningful life. Hence the danger of modernity’s high value for truth and rationality. These horizons are always plural (there are many different cultures), and they are closed (they generate differences between insiders and outsiders, us and them; thus they are “political” in Carl Schmitt’s sense of the word).

Liberalism destroys meaning because it is cosmopolitan and egalitarian. Its cosmopolitanism opens horizons to other cultures and undermines attachment to one’s own culture. Its egalitarianism overthrows value hierarchies that make people feel bad about themselves. The result is the collapse of rootedness and meaning and the emergence of nihilism. This is why Nietzsche “regards old-fashioned nineteenth-century liberalism — to say nothing of radicalized twentieth- and twenty-first century versions — as rendering culture per se impossible” (p. 34).

Nbgev.jpgBeiner doesn’t offer a very clear account of why Nietzsche thinks liberalism undermines human nobility. The short answer is that it is simply the political application of the slave revolt in morals, in which the aristocratic virtues of the ancients were transmuted into Christian and eventually liberal vices, and the vices of the enslaved and downtrodden were transmuted into virtues.

But what makes us noble in the first place? Like Hegel, Nietzsche believes that human nobility shows itself by triumphing over the fear of death and loss and doing beautiful and noble things in spite of them. Thus, human nobility is essentially connected with facing up to the tragic character of human life and finding the strength to carry on.

Liberalism, like Platonism, Stoicism, and Christianity, is anti-tragic because it is based on faith in providence, the idea that the universe is ruled by and directed toward the good — appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Providence denies the ultimate reality of loss, finitude, and evil, blinding us to the tragic dimension of life and replacing it with the stoner mantra that “it’s all good.” It is a delusion of ultimate metaphysical invulnerability to evil and loss.

Modern liberals replace faith in providence with faith in progress, which they believe will result in the perfection of mankind and the amelioration of human suffering and evils. It is a false vision of the world that smothers the possibility of human nobility. Although Beiner has the chutzpah to suggest that maybe Nietzscheans can ennoble themselves by enduring life in the “iron cage” of modernity and learning to love the Last Man (p. 116). (Why not ennoble oneself even more by living with head-lice as well?)

The plurality of horizons also means the possibility of existential conflict and the necessity of choosing and taking responsibility for one’s choices. As Schmitt argued, however, the whole liberal ethos is to replace the government of responsible choosers — the sovereign — with the government of laws, rules, and anonymous bureaucrats.

Beiner doesn’t delve too deeply into Nietzsche’s views of nobility because he wants to hang them on Nietzsche’s praise of slavery, caste, war, and cruelty. But while it is true that these phenomena accompanied the emergence of aristocratic values — and most of what we recognize as high culture, for that matter, for the leisure that gave rise to science and culture was secured by the labor of slaves — one can legitimately ask if it is possible to bring about a rebirth of aristocratic values and high culture without first becoming barbarians again. For instance, this is the utopia offered by Social Credit, the preferred economic theory of interwar Anglophone fascists, who hoped to unleash human nobility and creativity once machines put us all out of work.

But if we cannot renew civilization without starting over from scratch, then I would gladly hit the reset button rather than allow the world to decline endlessly into detritus. Thus, on Nietzschean and Heideggerian grounds, it makes sense to try to renew the world, because if one fails, that failure might contribute to the civilizational reset that we need. Indeed, the more catastrophic the failure, the greater the chance of a fresh start. The only way we can’t win is if we don’t try.

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Beiner on Heidegger

Beiner’s chapter on “Reading Heidegger in an Age of Resurgent Fascism” is less incisive than his account of Nietzsche, largely because he does not see how close Heidegger really is to Nietzsche. Beiner takes Heidegger’s question of Being at face value and finds it rather bizarre that Heidegger could think that modern civilization is going to hell because of forgetting about Being. But for Heidegger Being = meaning [7], and the modern oblivion of Being is basically the same thing that Nietzsche meant by the collapse of closed normative horizons and the rise of nihilism. Indeed, Heidegger’s concept of Dasein simply refers to man as a being situated within and defined by horizons of meaning. The occlusion of these horizons by the false individualism and cosmopolitanism of modernity leads to nihilism, a life deprived of meaning.

Heidegger thought National Socialism could bring about the spiritual renewal of the German people — and presumably any other nation that tried it — by rejecting cosmopolitanism and individualism and reaffirming the rootedness, community, and the closed horizon of the nation. He rejected National Socialism when he came to see it as just another form of modern technological nihilism. Nietzsche, of course, rejected German nationalism, but Heidegger’s thinking was truer to the implications of Nietzsche’s thinking about the closed cultural horizons that grant meaning.

Beiner is at his best in his reading of Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism,” his post-war statement publicly inaugurating “the late Heidegger.” Beiner correctly discerns that Heidegger’s lament against the “homelessness” of modern man and his loss of Heimat (homeland) is an expression of the same fundamentally reactionary, anti-modern, anti-cosmopolitan, and pro-nationalist sentiments that led him to embrace National Socialism. Indeed, there’s good reason to think that Heidegger never changed his fundamental political philosophy at all. The only thing that changed was his evaluation of National Socialism and his adoption of a more oblique and esoteric way of speaking about politics under the repressive conditions of the Occupation and the Federal Republic. Carrying out Heidegger’s project of offering a case for a non-nihilistic, non-totalitarian form of ethnonationalism is the project of the New Right as I define it.

Heidegger and the Holocaust

Beiner, like many Jewish commentators, seems to feel that Heidegger owes him a personal apology for the Holocaust. We are told that Heidegger’s silence about the Holocaust is unforgivable. But when we point out that Heidegger did say something about the Holocaust, namely that it was a sinister application of mechanized modern mass slaughter to human beings, we are told that this view is also unforgivable, since the Holocaust somehow transcends all attempts to classify and understand it. Which would seem to require that we say nothing about it at all, but we have already learned that this is unforgivable as well.

Beiner tells the story of Rudolf Bultmann’s visit to Heidegger after the war, when he told Heidegger, “Now you must like Augustine write your retractions [Retractiones] . . . in the final analysis for the truth of your thought.” Bultmann continues: “Heidegger’s face became a stony mask. He left without saying anything further” (p. 119).

Beiner treats this as outrageous. But Heidegger’s reaction is not hard to understand. He had nothing to retract. He felt that he had done nothing wrong. He was not responsible for the war or the Holocaust. They were none of his doing or his intention. They were part and parcel of the very nihilism that he opposed. The fact that the National Socialist regime went so terribly wrong did not refute Heidegger’s basic diagnosis of the problems of modern rootlessness and nihilism but rather proved how all-pervasive they were. Nor did anything the Nazis did refute the deep truth of ethnonationalism as the political corollary of spiritually awakening from the nightmare of liberal modernity. Thus Heidegger absolutely refused to say anything about the war or the Holocaust that could be interpreted as conceding that modern liberal democracy had somehow been proven true. Instead, he continued to make essentially the same arguments as he made before the war, but in more esoteric terms by focusing on rootlessness and technology.

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Bultmann was telling Heidegger to lie, to retract beliefs he believed were true, and to do it in the name of “the truth of [his] thought” when in fact the only motive could be to win the approval of the victors. But that approval was something Heidegger decided to do without. Frankly, Bultmann was making an indecent proposal, and Heidegger’s stony silence was admirably restrained.

Beiner mentions that according to Gadamer, Heidegger “was so preoccupied by modernity’s forgetfulness of Being [rootlessness, nihilism] that even the Nazi genocide ‘appeared to him as something minimal compared to the future that awaits us’” (p. 107). Here’s another unforgivable statement breaching Heidegger’s unforgivable silence. But this unforgivable statement is, unfortunately, quite prophetic. For the consummation of global technological civilization, including the erasure of borders and the destruction of roots, will lead to a genocide far vaster and more complete than the Holocaust. I refer the reader to my essays “White Extinction [8],” “White Genocide [9],” and especially “Why the Holocaust Happened, and Why It Won’t Happen Again [10].”

A New Age of Gods?

Both Nietzsche and Heidegger think that spiritual health requires unreflective belief in and commitment to a closed, normatively binding cultural horizon. Christianity, post-Socratic philosophy, and the Enlightenment, however, made self-reflection and universal truth into transcendent values. But as Nietzsche argued, this was a self-defeating move, for Christianity could not stand up to rational criticism. Reason soon escaped the control of the Church, which led to the downfall of Christianity (Nietzsche’s “death of God”), the erasure of the West’s horizon, and the rise of modern nihilism. It follows that the return to spiritual health requires the emergence of a new age of unreflective belief and commitment. Giambattista Vico called this an “Age of Gods,” the first age of a new historical cycle.

The great question is: can a new “Age of Gods” emerge within the context of our present civilization, or must the modern world perish utterly, completely liquidating the Western tradition of philosophy, science, and liberalism, so that mankind can truly believe, belong, and obey again? The new horizons and myths that we need, moreover, cannot be “chosen,” for adopting a belief system as a matter of choice is not an alternative to nihilism, it is just an expression of it. Genuine belief is not chosen. It chooses you. It does not belong to you. You belong to it.

Nietzsche believed that a new age of gods could be imposed by great philosopher-legislators who could create new myths and new tables of values. Under Nietzsche’s sway, Heidegger believed this as well, and it accounts for why he thought National Socialism could lead to a spiritual renewal of Germany. It was only later that Heidegger realized that National Socialism was not an alternative to nihilism, but an expression of it.

It was at this point that Heidegger began his great confrontation with Nietzsche in the mid-1930s. Heidegger later told Gadamer that “Nietzsche ruined me.” Nietzsche ruined Heidegger by offering him nihilism as a cure for nihilism. Nietzsche made Heidegger a Nazi. Heidegger overcame Nazism by overcoming Nietzsche.

heidegger.jpgIn Heidegger’s later terminology, Nietzsche and National Socialism were both “humanistic,” premised on the idea that the human mind creates culture, whereas in fact culture creates the human mind. No genuine belief can be chosen. It has to seize us. This is one of the senses of Heidegger’s later concept of Ereignis, often translated “the event of appropriation”: the beginning of a new historical epoch seizes and enthralls us. This is the meaning of Heidegger’s later claim that “Only a god can save us now” — as opposed to a philosopher-dictator.

One could, however, read Nietzsche in a non-humanistic way, if one sees his rhapsodies to the Übermensch, the philosopher-legislator, and the coming century of global wars (yes, Nietzsche predicted that) not as a solution to modern nihilism, but as an intensification of it to the breaking point as a way of hurrying along the downfall of the modern world and inaugurating a new age of gods. (“That which is falling should also be pushed.”) If this is Nietzsche’s true view, then offering nihilism to cure nihilism is not a self-contradiction, it is just sound homeopathic medicine.

Beiner asks “are any of us really prepared to entertain the possibility of the comprehensive cancelling-out of modernity to which Heidegger in his radicalism seems committed?” (p. 105). Elsewhere he asks “. . . with what do we undertake to replace [liberal modernity]? A regime of warriors and priests? A return from Enlightenment to magic?” (p. 132). But Beiner is asking these questions from within liberal modernity, and of course from within that perspective, people are going to cling to liberalism simply out of fear. From Heidegger’s point of view, we will only have a solution when individuals can no longer pose such questions. Instead, the answers will be imposed upon us by historical forces outside our comprehension or control.

A Smug Criticism of Smugness

Beiner’s conclusion, “How to Do Theory in Politically Treacherous Times,” is, like the rest of his book, directed to Leftist academics. He makes a strong case against the smugness and complacency of contemporary political theorists, who think they can ignore the Right because we have been refuted by history: “For Rawls, Rorty, and Habermas, Nietzsche has been refuted by history and sociology. He hasn’t! He can only be refuted by a more compelling account of the human good” (p. 125). This is excellent advice, but it ill-accords with Beiner’s own supremely smug, question-begging, and dismissive tone throughout Dangerous Minds. Judging from what he does, as opposed to what he says, Beiner’s real aim is not to intellectually engage the Right, but to censor and suppress it. But if Beiner really does want to debate the philosophical foundations of the New Right, I’m game.

Should We Read Heidegger and Nietzsche?

If Nietzsche and Heidegger are so dangerous to liberal democracy, shouldn’t something be done to keep their books out of the hands of impressionable young men?

Beiner ends his discussion of Nietzsche by referring to Leo Strauss’s advice to Canadian conservative political philosopher George Grant, who was about to embark on a series of popular radio lectures on Nietzsche. Strauss viewed Nietzsche as a profoundly dangerous thinker and advised Grant not to talk about Nietzsche at all but simply refer to his “epigones” Freud and Weber. The only reason Beiner brings this up, of course, is to plant the idea that academics should drop Nietzsche from the canon. Beiner, however, strenuously denies that this is his intent in his Introduction:

Hopefully no reader of my book will draws from it the unfortunate conclusion that we should just walk away from Nietzsche and Heidegger — that is, stop reading them. [Of course reading them does not necessarily entail teaching them, especially to undergraduates.] On the contrary, I think that we need to read them in ways that make us more conscious of, more reflective about, and more self-critical of the limits of the liberal view of life and hence what defines that view of life. But if one is handling intellectually radioactive materials, one has to be much less naïve about what one is dealing with. . . . We need to open our eyes, at once intellectually, morally, and politically, to just how dangerous they are. (p. 14)

But this seems disingenuous in light of Beiner’s repeated assertion that Nietzsche and Heidegger should have censored their own ideas insofar as they are dangerous to liberal modernity:

There is a kind of insane recklessness to Nietzsche — as if nothing he could write, no matter how irresponsible, no matter how inflammatory, could possibly do any harm. All that matters is raising the stakes, and there is no such thing as raising the stakes too high. (p. 63)

One has to ask: “To whom does Beiner think Nietzsche is being irresponsible? What could his thought possibly harm?” The answer, of course, is the modern liberal democratic world, the world that Nietzsche rejects, the world that Nietzsche crafted his doctrines to destroy.

MHages.jpgBeiner is even more blatant in his advocacy of self-censorship in Heidegger’s case:

Near the end of his life, Heidegger decided to include the Black Notebooks (including explicitly racist passages conjuring up a diabolical conspiracy on the part of “World Judaism” [sic: World Jewry]) in the official Collected Works, whereas any reasonably sane person would have burned them, or at least burned the most incriminating passages. It’s as if he either were trying to spur a revival of fascist ideology or intended to confess to the world just how grievously stained he had been by that ideology. All of this is thoroughly damning. (pp. 113–14)

Again, one must ask: “Sane by whose standards? Incriminating to whom? Damning by whose standards?” The answer, of course, is: modern liberal democrats. But Heidegger thought these people were intellectually benighted and morally corrupt. So why should be censor his thought to conform to their sensibilities? To hell with them. He was addressing himself to freer minds, to a better world, to generations yet to come.

At the beginning of his Heidegger chapter, Beiner also writes:

The question I’m raising in this chapter is whether, finding ourselves now in a political landscape where the possibility increasingly looms of Heidegger as a potential resource for the far right, it might be best for left Heideggerianism (a paradox to being with) to close up shop. (p. 67)

Since virtually everyone teaching Heidegger in academia today is a Leftist, this basically amounts to removing Heidegger from the canon. Beiner’s talk of looming possibilities and potential resources is off the mark, for Heidegger already is a resource and inspiration for the New Right, and he knows this. (Frankly, I hope Left-wing Heideggerians close up shop soon. It would be an ideal opportunity to launch the Heidegger Graduate School [11].)

It is absurd to wish that Nietzsche and Heidegger had censored their ideas to remove their challenges to the system they despised and wished to destroy. If liberals want to stop these ideas from influencing policy, they need to refute them. Demanding censorship is simply an admission that one cannot refute ideas rationally and thus must repress them. Asking one’s opponents to engage in self-censorship takes some brass. If liberals can’t refute anti-liberals like Nietzsche and Heidegger, they are just going to have to screw up their resolve and do their own censorship. This is hardly a stretch, sadly, since the suppression of dissent is second nature to modern academics. It’s really all they have left.

Indeed, if wishing aloud that Nietzsche and Heidegger had censored themselves has any practical meaning today, it is as a suggestion that political theorists and philosophers censor themselves and their syllabi, i.e., remove Nietzsche and Heidegger from the canon.

If Beiner is really arguing that Leftists should stop teaching Nietzsche and Heidegger, he apparently did not anticipate what would happen if his book fell into the hands of Rightist readers like me. For Dangerous Minds, despite its obnoxious rhetoric and smug dismissal of our movement, is a very helpful introduction to Nietzsche and Heidegger as anti-liberal thinkers. Thus I recommend it highly. And if I have anything to say about it, this book will help create a whole lot more dangerous minds, a whole new generation of Right-wing Nietzscheans and Heideggerians.

 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/04/ronald-beiners-dangerous-minds/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Beiner.jpg

[2] Hailgate: https://www.counter-currents.com/2016/11/the-alt-right-obituary-for-a-brand/

[3] press engagement: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/03/in-bed-with-the-press/

[4] James O’Meara’s review of Jason Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas: https://www.counter-currents.com/2016/09/jason-jorjanis-prometheus-and-atlas/

[5] Heidegger commemoration: https://www.counter-currents.com/2017/09/remembering-martin-heidegger-7/

[6] Collin Cleary: https://www.counter-currents.com/2012/06/heidegger-an-introduction-for-anti-modernists-part-1/

[7] for Heidegger Being = meaning: https://www.counter-currents.com/2014/12/making-sense-of-heidegger/

[8] White Extinction: https://www.counter-currents.com/2017/06/white-extinction-2/

[9] White Genocide: https://www.counter-currents.com/2015/09/white-genocide/

[10] Why the Holocaust Happened, and Why It Won’t Happen Again: https://www.counter-currents.com/2016/03/why-the-holocaust-happened/

[11] Heidegger Graduate School: https://www.counter-currents.com/2016/02/graduate-school-with-heidegger/

samedi, 21 avril 2018

Françoise Bonardel: Jung et la Gnose

Carl-Gustav-Jung.jpg

Françoise Bonardel

Jung et la Gnose

Françoise Bonardel présente son dernier ouvrage Jung et la Gnose paru aux éditions Pierre Guillaume de Roux. Soutenez nous.
Soyez mécène : https://www.tipeee.com/cerclearistote ou faites un don Paypal via notre site internet (lien en rouge, en bas à droite) : http://cerclearistote.com/
 

lundi, 26 mars 2018

Sans arme, ni haine, ni violence

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Sans arme, ni haine, ni violence

par Antonin Campana

Ex: http://www.autochtonisme.com

Pour le pouvoir en place, les Français de souche n’ont aucune existence juridique et le peuple autochtone n’existe pas. Or, dire d’un peuple qu’il n’existe pas est d’une violence inouïe, d’autant que les ressorts psychologiques de cette négation sont toujours à rechercher dans le désir malsain d’effacer physiquement le peuple en question. La négation généralisée du droit à l’existence des peuples autochtones européens est une extermination symbolique qui se double d’une extermination réelle puisque ceux-ci tendent à disparaître sous l’effet d’une submersion migratoire organisée. La question de la contestation du régime politique en place revêt donc un caractère vital pour les peuples autochtones. Mais quelle forme doit prendre concrètement la lutte ? Doit-elle être aussi violente que peut l’être le régime ou doit-elle, au contraire, faire appel à une forme de « désobéissance civile » ? Notre position sur le sujet est sans ambigüité : nous considérons que l’usage de la violence est à bannir absolument. Cela pour plusieurs raisons :

Premièrement, les Européens ont été largement domestiqués. Ils furent autrefois des conquérants  capables de soumettre le monde, mais force est de constater qu’ils n’ont plus qu’une lointaine ressemblance avec leurs ancêtres. On ne doit rien attendre de gens qui laissent sans réagir leurs femmes se faire violer, comme à Cologne en décembre 2015. L’Européen type est un quinquagénaire isolé qui n’aspire plus qu’à une retraite paisible. Autant en être conscient.

 Deuxièmement, les Etats supranationaux européens se sont dotés de moyens qui les rendent indestructibles frontalement : arsenal juridique (loi sur le renseignement, lois contre le terrorisme…), capacités techniques (satellites, logiciels espions, « boîtes noires »…), moyens de renseignement  (écoutes, balises, indicateurs…), militarisation du cadre urbain (plan Vigipirate, opération sentinelle), forces de police efficaces et soumises, paramétrages des moyens militaires pour répondre à la violence civile (« opération ronces »), etc.

Troisièmement, notre peuple ne se relèverait pas d’une défaite. En cas de défaite « à domicile », face à l’Etat  supranational, face aux communautés allochtones, voire, ce qui est le plus probable, face aux deux réunis contre lui, la dilution de notre peuple s’accélèrerait inéluctablement.

Quatrièmement, voulons-nous la Syrie pour nos enfants, si d’autres solutions sont possibles ? La violence est toujours réciproque. Décider de l’employer est un acte grave dont il faut bien peser les conséquences sur soi, sa famille et son peuple.

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En d’autres termes, la violence, en l’état actuel des choses, n’est pas envisageable. Il faut faire face au régime avec réalisme et ne pas l’attaquer sur son point fort. La population autochtone est une masse d’individus isolés, incapables d’agir ensemble, ne se faisant pas confiance, inconscients parfois de la situation, bref, pour tout dire : incapables de résister. Le premier travail consistera donc à rassembler le « reste pur » de la population (les « Réfractaires ») puis à organiser celui-ci de manière à agréger progressivement toute la population. Ce premier travail, non-violent par définition, devra se concrétiser par la formation d’un Etat parallèle, d’un gouvernement parallèle et de communautés autochtones. La proto-nation autochtone ainsi formée et structurée sera une puissante force de résistance au régime en place, à condition de ne pas faire le jeu d’un régime paramétré pour vaincre toute opposition frontale et d’adopter une forme de « désobéissance civile ».

« La désobéissance civile est le refus assumé et public de se soumettre à une loi, un règlement, une organisation ou un pouvoir jugé inique par ceux qui le contestent, tout en faisant de ce refus une arme de combat pacifique » (Wikipedia). La désobéissance civile s’adresse au sens de la justice de la majorité au nom de « principes supérieurs » qui ont été violés. On parlera ici du droit à l’existence du peuple autochtone, droit ouvertement bafoué par le pouvoir républicain.

La désobéissance civile n’est pas la passivité. C’est un combat. Comme tout combat, la désobéissance civile a une stratégie et mène des actions. Que ces actions soient non-violentes ne changent rien à leur nature. Elles devront tenir compte des « ressources » disponibles (ressources humaines, financières, médiatiques…), de la situation (rapport de force…) et de l’état de conscience de la population (l’action sera-t-elle comprise ?). Elles devront aussi trouver leur place et leur justification par leur conformité à la stratégie choisie.

La référence absolue en matière de lutte non-violente est le politologue américain Gene Sharp. Celui que certains nomment le « Machiavel de la non-violence » n’est certes pas un ami des peuples autochtones. L’Albert Einstein Institution fondée par Sharp en 1983 est la vitrine séduisante de la CIA et de l’OTAN. Financée par la National Endowment for Democracy (CIA), l’Albert Einstein Institution travaille en étroite collaboration avec d’autres officines spécialisées dans « l’ingérence démocratique » comme l’USAID, Freedom House, ou l’Open Society de Georges Soros.

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Il est admis par l’ensemble des analystes que les théories de Gene Sharp sont à l’origine des révolutions de couleurs. L’Albert Einstein Institution revendique d’ailleurs la « révolution originelle » (sic) en Serbie (2000), la « révolution orange » en Ukraine (2004), la « révolution des tulipes » au Kirghizistan (2005) auxquelles nous pouvons ajouter la « révolution des roses » en Géorgie (2003), la  « révolution bleue » en Biélorussie (2005) et même le « printemps arabe » en Tunisie, Egypte et  Syrie durant les premières semaines (2010-2012).

Le lecteur accoutumé à ce blog aura compris que conformément à ce qu’énonce Gene Sharp, nous avons défini une « stratégie globale » (libérer le peuple autochtone du « corps d’associés » qui l’étouffe et du régime qui l’opprime) et des stratégies plus limitées se situant dans la stratégie globale (rassembler et organiser ; lutter pour les droits).

La « stratégie globale » détermine l’objectif à atteindre (la libération du peuple autochtone). Elle coordonne l’action de l’ensemble des organisations, des communautés, des institutions autochtones de manière à atteindre cet objectif. Les stratégies limitées, ou intermédiaires, ont un niveau de planification plus restreint. Nous en déterminons deux :

  • Une « stratégie de conservation » : rassembler, organiser et protéger ce qui subsiste (le peuple autochtone, l’identité autochtone,  les terres autochtones…). L’Etat parallèle autochtone et les communautés autochtones sont à la fois des buts et des moyens dédiés à cette stratégie.
  • Une « stratégie d’expansion » : lutter pour obtenir des droits collectifs croissants, jusqu’au droit à l’existence nationale. La désobéissance civile non-violente est, selon nous, le moyen à privilégier pour atteindre les objectifs de cette stratégie.

Les stratégies de conservation et d’expansion ont chacune leurs propres objectifs. Ceux-ci doivent être en cohérence avec la stratégie globale retenue. Pour atteindre ces objectifs stratégiques, il est nécessaire de procéder par étapes en utilisant des « tactiques » appropriées en fonction des ressources disponibles, du contexte et des opportunités. Les engagements tactiques mobilisent un ensemble de moyens sur une période courte, des domaines spécifiques et des objectifs mineurs (campagne de sensibilisation à l’antijaphétisme, campagne de boycott de produits…) . Les gains tactiques obtenus réalisent progressivement les buts stratégiques fixés. Au contraire de la stratégie qui détermine des objectifs plus ou moins lointains et généraux, la tactique vise donc des actions limitées et des objectifs restreints à la portée d’un mouvement de libération.

Les engagements tactiques utilisent des « méthodes », c’est-à-dire des formes d’action pour atteindre leurs objectifs. Ces « méthodes » sont multiples et doivent toujours, selon nous, être non-violentes. Dans son manuel, De la dictature à la démocratie (L’Harmattan 2009), Gene Sharp répertorie près de 200 méthodes d’actions non-violentes. Le politologue les classe en trois catégories :

1. Les méthodes de protestation et de persuasion non-violentes :

  • Parades, marches, veillées…
  • Communications à de larges audiences (journaux, livres, sites internet…)
  • Groupes de pression
  • Pressions sur les individus (fonctionnaires, journalistes, politiciens…)
  • Défilés de voitures, sons symboliques, port de symboles, fausses funérailles, hommage sur une tombe…
  • Rassemblements publics, silence, action de « tourner le dos »
  • Enseignement et formation
  • Etc.

2. Les méthodes de non-coopération

  • Non-coopération sociale : ostracisme de personnes, boycott social sélectif, excommunication…
  • Non-coopération avec évènements, coutumes et institutions sociales 
  • Boycott économique : boycott de produits, d’enseignes, de commerces, de films, refus de payer les loyers, Retraits de dépôts bancaires, refus de déclaration de revenus…
  • Grèves
  • Non-coopération politique : Rejet de l’autorité : rejet d’allégeance, refus de soutien public, désobéissance déguisée, docilité réticente et lente
  • Boycott des élections
  • Retrait du système scolaire d’Etat
  • Boycott des institutions, associations, structures ayant un soutien d’Etat
  • Blocage de lignes de communication ou d’information
  • Non-coopération administrative, judiciaire, retards, obstructions, report des tâches…
  • Etc.

3. Les méthodes d’intervention non-violentes

  •  interventions psychologiques : jeûnes de pression morale, harcèlements, exposition volontaire aux éléments…
  • Interventions physiques : sit-in, occupation d’espaces, invasion non-violente, obstruction non-violente, occupation avec voitures…
  • Interventions sociales : engorgement de services, institutions sociales alternatives, interventions orales en public, travail au ralenti…
  • Interventions économiques : grève, prise de contrôle non-violente d’un terrain, marchés alternatifs, institutions économiques alternatives…
  • Interventions politiques : surcharge de systèmes administratifs, double pouvoir et gouvernement parallèle…

on-the-duty-of-civil-disobedience-9781625587701_lg.jpgDans cette optique, la résistance autochtone peut mener une multitude d’actions non-violentes : blocages momentanés de certains nœuds routiers, autoroutiers ou ferroviaires ; résistance fiscale ; boycott des élections ; lobbying ; constitution de ZAD identitaires ; interpellation d’élus républicains ;  sit-in ; occupation d’écoles ; manifestations ; harcèlement ; etc.  Il n’y a de limites que notre imagination… et l’étendue du Grand Rassemblement, c’est-à-dire des forces disponibles.

Ce sont en effet les ressources humaines disponibles qui conditionneront en grande partie la nature et l’ampleur des actions entreprises. Tout plan d’action devra au préalable évaluer le plus précisément possible la situation et les possibilités d’action. Une action réussie est une action qui aura d’une part entamé la légitimité du régime et qui aura d’autre part propagé parmi les Autochtones l’idée de sécession et de rassemblement. Gene Sharp établit que les actions initiales devront comporter peu de risques, surtout si la population est craintive et se sent impuissante, ce qui est le cas pour le peuple autochtone. Il faudra alors limiter l’action à des protestations symboliques ou à des actes de non-coopération limités et temporaires (dépose de fleurs dans un emplacement symbolique, veillées, boycotts…).  L’important est de fixer des objectifs intermédiaires réalisables dont le succès ne peut qu’encourager à la répétition. Il n’y a rien de plus facile que d’engorger le standard téléphonique d’une municipalité hostile, que d’harceler la permanence d’un politicien, que de donner de la voix lors de la projection d’un film antijaphite. Répété 1000 fois, « sans haine, sans violence et sans armes », ces petites actions uniront le peuple autochtone et abattront le régime en place.   

Antonin Campana

An evocation of Ludwig Klages

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An evocation of Ludwig Klages

by Thierry Durolle

It is important for the militants of the Greater Europe to possess a philosophical background which enables them to build or comfort a proper Weltanschaaung. One important understanding, we believe, is the antagonistic relationship between the philosophie des Lumières and the (neo) romantic movement. The latter was embodied by a lot of different thinkers and writers, most of them being German.

Some of us would think that Friederich Nieztsche would represent the zenith of  this movement, whose ideas would consist of a « surhumanism », as per the Italian thinker Giorgio Locchi’s writtings. For sure Nietzsche is a good start so to speak and he obviously influenced and will influence a lot people out there. Thinking of Nietzsche’s heirs, the names of Oswald Spengler and Ludwig Klages immediately come to mind. If the first one became famous with his Decline of the West, Ludwig Klages remains quite unknown to some.

LK-buch.jpgLudwig Klages was a one-of-a-kind brilliant man who is firstly known for his graphology work. But it is his philosophical work especially which deserves our attention. In fact, Klages belongs to what used to be called Lebensphilopsohie, a term that applies to Nietzsche’s. One thing they share is this dionysiac view on life which is often called « biocentric » when applied to Klages’ philosophy. His anti-christianity is another common point with Friedrich Nietzsche, and the same goes for a genre of paganism, or pantheism, shared by both philosophers.

Nevertheless, Nietzsche’s famous concept of Wille zur Macht (Will to Power), a concept often misunderstood, does not meet Ludwig Klages’ approval. Indeed, he considers it to be a spark which lit the fire of modern technician craziness - working hand in hand with the worst kind of capitalism at some point. For if Klages is against capitalism, in a wider view, he is against liberalism in general. One important criticism he addresses to both technician and capitalist systems is the destructive effect they both exert on nature.

Ludwig Klages is to be considered as a pioneer of ecology. In 1913, he delivered a speech which was later turned into a small book called Man and Earth. In his speech, Klages foresaw the future devastation caused by capitalism on nature such as the animal extinction, the alienation of the producer/consumer system and even mass tourism. This text must be read by any Right-Wing ecologist.

Thanks to Arktos, glimpses of Ludwig Klages work are now available to the public in English in the form of two books. The first one - entitled Ludwig Klages The Biocentric Worldview - consists of a collection of selected texts which stress the author’s biocentrism. The second one - Ludwig Klages Cosmogonic Reflections - is a collection of aphorism. Both books contain foreword by Joseph D. Pryce who excellently introduce the reader to Ludwig Klages. The reading of Ludwig Klages texts completes those written by Nietzsche and Spengler in a poetic manner typical of Germany’s best authors.

vendredi, 23 mars 2018

The Black Sun: Dionysus, Nietzsche, and Greek Myth

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The Black Sun: Dionysus, Nietzsche, and Greek Myth

Gwendolyn Taunton

Ex: https://manticorepress.net


Affirmation of life even it its strangest and sternest problems, the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustibility through the sacrifice of its highest types – that is what I call the Dionysian…Not so as to get rid of pity and terror, not so as to purify oneself of a dangerous emotion through its vehement discharge – it was thus Aristotle understood it – but, beyond pity and terror, to realize in oneself the eternal joy of becoming – that joy which also encompasses joy in destruction…And with that I again return to that place from which I set out –The Birth of Tragedy was my first revaluation of all values: with that I again plant myself in the soil out of which I draw all that I will and can – I, the last disciple of the philosopher Dionysus – I, the teacher of the eternal recurrence(Nietzsche, “What I Owe to the Ancients”)

It is a well known fact that most of the early writings of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, revolve around a prognosis of duality concerning the two Hellenic deities, Apollo and Dionysus. This dichotomy, which first appears in The Birth of Tragedy, is subsequently modified by Nietzsche in his later works so that the characteristics of the God Apollo are reflected and absorbed by his polar opposite, Dionysus. Though this topic has been examined frequently by philosophers, it has not been examined sufficiently in terms of its relation to the Greek myths which pertain to the two Gods in question. Certainly, Nietzsche was no stranger to Classical myth, for prior to composing his philosophical works, Nietzsche was a professor of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. This interest in mythology is also illustrated in his exploration of the use of mythology as tool by which to shape culture. The Birth of Tragedy is based upon Greek myth and literature, and also contains much of the groundwork upon which he would develop his later premises. Setting the tone at the very beginning of The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche writes:[spacer height=”20px”]

We shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics, once we perceive not merely by logical inference, but with the immediate certainty of vision, that the continuous development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian duality – just as procreation depends on the duality of the sexes, involving perpetual strife with only periodically intervening reconciliations. The terms Dionysian and Apollonian we borrow from the Greeks, who disclose to the discerning mind the profound mysteries of their view of art, not, to be sure, in concepts, but in the intensely clear figures of their gods. Through Apollo and Dionysus, the two art deities of the Greeks, we come to recognize that in the Greek world there existed a tremendous opposition…[1]

Initially then, Nietzsche’s theory concerning Apollo and Dionysus was primarily concerned with aesthetic theory, a theory which he would later expand to a position of predominance at the heart of his philosophy. Since Nietzsche chose the science of aesthetics as the starting point for his ideas, it is also the point at which we shall begin the comparison of his philosophy with the Hellenic Tradition.

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The opposition between Apollo and Dionysus is one of the core themes within The Birth of Tragedy, but in Nietzsche’s later works, Apollo is mentioned only sporadically, if at all, and his figure appears to have been totally superseded by his rival Dionysus. In The Birth of Tragedy, Apollo and Dionysus are clearly defined by Nietzsche, and the spheres of their influence are carefully demarcated. In Nietzsche’s later writings, Apollo is conspicuous by the virtue of his absence – Dionysus remains and has ascended to a position of prominence in Nietzsche’s philosophy, but Apollo, who was an integral part of the dichotomy featured in The Birth of Tragedy, has disappeared, almost without a trace. There is in fact, a simple reason for the disappearance of Apollo – he is in fact still present, within the figure of Dionysus. What begins in The Birth of Tragedy as a dichotomy shifts to synthesis in Nietzsche’s later works, with the name Dionysus being used to refer to the unified aspect of both Apollo and Dionysus, in what Nietzsche believes to the ultimate manifestation of both deities. In early works the synthesis between Apollo & Dionysus is incomplete – they are still two opposing principles – “Thus in The Birth of Tragedy, Apollo, the god of light, beauty and harmony is in opposition to Dionysian drunkenness and chaos”.[2] The fraternal union of Apollo & Dionysus that forms the basis of Nietzsche’s view is, according to him, symbolized in art, and specifically in Greek tragedy.[3] Greek tragedy, by its fusion of dialogue and chorus; image and music, exhibits for Nietzsche the union of the Apollonian and Dionysian, a union in which Dionysian passion and dithyrambic madness merge with Apollonian measure and lucidity, and original chaos and pessimism are overcome in a tragic attitude that is affirmative and heroic.[4]

The moment of Dionysian “terror” arrives when […] a cognitive failure or wandering occurs, when the principle of individuation, which is Apollo’s “collapses” […] and gives way to another perception, to a contradiction of appearances and perhaps even to their defeasibility as such (their “exception”). It occurs “when [one] suddenly loses faith in […] the cognitive form of phenomena. Just as dreams […] satisfy profoundly our innermost being, our common [deepest] ground [der gemeinsame Untergrund], so too, symmetrically, do “terror” and “blissful” ecstasy…well up from the innermost depths [Grunde] of man once the strict controls of the Apollonian principle relax. Then “we steal a glimpse into the nature of the Dionysian”.[5]

apollonooooooo.jpgThe Apollonian and the Dionysian are two cognitive states in which art appears as the power of nature in man.[6] Art for Nietzsche is fundamentally not an expression of culture, but is what Heidegger calls “eine Gestaltung des Willens zur Macht” a manifestation of the will to power. And since the will to power is the essence of being itself, art becomes “die Gestaltung des Seienden in Ganzen,” a manifestation of being as a whole.[7] This concept of the artist as a creator, and of the aspect of the creative process as the manifestation of the will, is a key component of much of Nietzsche’s thought – it is the artist, the creator who diligently scribes the new value tables. Taking this into accord, we must also allow for the possibility that Thus Spake Zarathustra opens the doors for a new form of artist, who rather than working with paint or clay, instead provides the Uebermensch, the artist that etches their social vision on the canvas of humanity itself.  It is in the character of the Uebermensch that we see the unification of the Dionysian (instinct) and Apollonian (intellect) as the manifestation of the will to power, to which Nietzsche also attributes the following tautological value “The Will to Truth is the Will to Power”.[8] This statement can be interpreted as meaning that by attributing the will to instinct, truth exists as a naturally occurring phenomena – it exists independently of the intellect, which permits many different interpretations of the truth in its primordial state. The truth lies primarily in the will, the subconscious, and the original raw instinctual state that Nietzsche identified with Dionysus. In The Gay Science Nietzsche says:

For the longest time, thinking was considered as only conscious, only now do we discover the truth that the greatest part of our intellectual activity lies in the unconscious […] theories of Schopenhauer and his teaching of the primacy of the will over the intellect. The unconscious becomes a source of wisdom and knowledge that can reach into the fundamental aspects of human existence, while the intellect is held to be an abstracting and falsifying mechanism that is directed, not toward truth but toward “mastery and possession.” [9]

Thus the will to power originates not in the conscious, but in the subconscious. Returning to the proposed dichotomy betwixt Dionysus and Apollo, in his later works the two creative impulses become increasingly merged, eventually reaching a point in his philosophy wherein Dionysus refers not to the singular God, but rather a syncretism of Apollo and Dionysus in equal quantity. “The two art drives must unfold their powers in a strict proportion, according to the law of eternal justice.”[10] For Nietzsche, the highest goal of tragedy is achieved in the harmony between two radically distinct realms of art, between the principles that govern the Apollonian plastic arts and epic poetry and those that govern the Dionysian art of music.[11] To be complete and  to derive ultimate mastery from the creative process, one must harness both the impulses represented by Apollo and Dionysus – the instinctual urge and potent creative power of Dionysus, coupled with the skill and intellectualism of Apollo’s craftsmanship – in sum both natural creative power from the will and the skills learnt within a social grouping. This definition will hold true for all creative ventures and is not restricted to the artistic process; ‘will’ and ‘skill’ need to act in harmony and concord.

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In Nietzsche’s philosophy, Apollo and Dionysus are so closely entwined as to render them inseparable. Apollo, as the principle of appearance and of individuation, is that which grants appearance to the Dionysian form, without for Apollo, Dionysus remains bereft of physical appearance.

That [Dionysus] appears at all with such epic precision and clarity is the work of the dream interpreter, Apollo […] His appearances are at best instances of “typical ‘ideality,’” epiphanies of the “idea” or “idol”, mere masks and after images (Abbilde[er]). To “appear” Dionysus must take on a form.[12]

In his natural state, Dionysus has no form, it is only by reflux with Apollo, who represents the nature of form that Dionysus, as the nature of the formless, can appear to us at all. Likewise, Apollo without Dionysus becomes lost in a world of form – the complex levels of abstraction derived from the Dionysian impulse are absent. Neither god can function effectively without the workings of the other.  Dionysus appears, after all, only thanks to the Apollonian principle. This is Nietzsche’s rendition of Apollo and Dionysus, his reworking of the Hellenic mythos, forged into a powerful philosophy that has influenced much of the modern era. Yet how close is this new interpretation to the original mythology of the ancient Greeks, and how much of this is Nietzsche’s own creation? It is well known that Nietzsche and his contemporary Wagner both saw the merit in reshaping old myths to create new socio-political values. To fully understand Nietzsche’s retelling of the Dionysus myth and separate the modern ideas from that of the ancients, we need to examine the Hellenic sources on Dionysus.

apolyre.jpgMyths of Dionysus are often used to depict a stranger or an outsider to the community as a repository for the mysterious and prohibited features of another culture. Unsavory characteristics that the Greeks tend to ascribe to foreigners are attributed to him, and various myths depict his initial rejection by the authority of the polis – yet Dionysus’ birth at Thebes, as well as the appearance of his name on Linear B tablets, indicates that this is no stranger, but in fact a native, and that the rejected foreign characteristics ascribed to him are in fact Greek characteristics.[13] Rather than being a representative of foreign culture what we are in fact observing in the character of Dionysus is the archetype of the outsider; someone who sits outside the boundaries of the cultural norm, or who represents the disruptive element in society which either by its nature effects a change or is removed by the culture which its very presence threatens to alter. Dionysus represents as Plutarch observed, “the whole wet element” in nature – blood, semen, sap, wine, and all the life giving juice. He is in fact a synthesis of both chaos and form, of orgiastic impulses and visionary states – at one with the life of nature and its eternal cycle of birth and death, of destruction and creation.[14]  This disruptive element, by being associated with the blood, semen, sap, and wine is an obvious metaphor for the vital force itself, the wet element, being representative of “life in the raw”. This notion of “life” is intricately interwoven into the figure of Dionysus in the esoteric understanding of his cult, and indeed throughout the philosophy of the Greeks themselves, who had two different words for life, both possessing the  same root as Vita (Latin: Life) but present in very different phonetic forms: bios and zoë.[15]

Plotinos called zoë the “time of the soul”, during which the soul, in its course of rebirths, moves on from one bios to another […] the Greeks clung to a not-characterized “life” that underlies every bios and stands in a very different relationship to death than does a “life” that includes death among its characteristics […] This experience differs from the sum of experiences that constitute the bios, the content of each individual man’s written or unwritten biography. The experience of life without characterization – of precisely that life which “resounded” for the Greeks in the word zoë – is, on the other hand, indescribable.[16]

Zoë is Life in its immortal and transcendent aspect, and is thus representative of the pure primordial state. Zoëis the presupposition of the death drive; death exists only in relation to zoë. It is a product of life in accordance with a dialectic that is a process not of thought, but of life itself, of the zoë in each individual bios.[17]

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The other primary association of Dionysus is with the chthonic elements, and we frequently find him taking the form of snakes. According to the myth of his dismemberment by the Titans, a myth which is strongly associated with Delphi, he was born of Persephone, after Zeus, taking snake form, had impregnated her. [18] In Euripides Bacchae, Dionysus, being the son of Semele, is a god of dark and frightening subterranean powers; yet being also the son of Zeus, he mediates between the chthonic and civilized worlds, once again playing the role of a liminal outsider that passes in transit from one domain to another.[19] Through his association with natural forces, a description of his temple has been left to us by a physician from Thasos: “A temple in the open air, an open air naos with an altar and a cradle of vine branches; a fine lair, always green; and for the initiates a room in which to sing the evoe.”[20] This stands in direct contrast to Apollo, who was represented by architectural and artificial beauty. Likewise his music was radically different to that of Apollo’s; “A stranger, he should be admitted into the city, for his music is varied, not distant and monotone like the tunes of Apollo’s golden lyre”. (Euripides Bacchae 126-134, 155-156)[21]

Both Gods were concerned with the imagery of life, art, and as we shall see soon, the sun. Moreover, though their forces were essentially opposite, they two Gods were essentially representative of two polarities for the same force, meeting occasionally in perfect balance to reveal an unfolding Hegelian dialectic that was the creative process of life itself and the esoteric nature of the solar path, for just as Dionysus was the chthonic deity (and here we intentionally use the word Chthon instead of the word Gē  – Chthon being literally underworld and Gē being the earth or ground) and Apollo was a Solar deity; but not the physical aspect of the sun as a heavenly body, this was ascribed by to the god Helios instead. Rather Apollo represented the human aspect of the solar path (and in this he is equivalent to the Vedic deity Savitar), and its application to the mortal realm; rather than being the light of the sky, Apollo is the light of the mind: intellect and creation. He is as bright as Dionysus is dark – in Dionysus the instinct, the natural force of zoë is prevalent, associated with the chthonic world below ground because he is immortal, his power normally unseen. He rules during Apollo’s absence in Hyperborea because the sun has passed to another land, the reign of the bright sun has passed and the time of the black sun commences – the black sun being the hidden aspect of the solar path, represented by the departure of Apollo in this myth.

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Apollo is frequently mentioned in connection to Dionysus in Greek myth. Inscriptions dating from the third century B.C., mention that Dionysos Kadmeios reigned alongside Apollo over the assembly of Theben gods.[22] Likewise on Rhodes a holiday called Sminthia was celebrated there in memory of a time mice attacked the vines there and were destroyed by Apollo and Dionysus, who shared the epithet Sminthios on the island.[23] They are even cited together in the Odyssey (XI 312-25), and also in the story of the death of Koronis, who was shot by Artemis, and this at Apollo’s instigation because she had betrayed the god with a mortal lover.[24] Also, the twin peaks on Parnassos traditionally known as the “peaks of Apollo and Dionysus.”[25] Their association and worship however, was even more closely entwined at Delphi, for as Leicester Holland has perceived:

(1) Dionysus spoke oracles at Delphi before Apollo did; (2) his bones were placed in a basin beside the tripod; (3) the omphalos was his tomb. It is well known, moreover, that Dionysus was second only to Apollo in Delphian and Parnassian worship; Plutarch, in fact, assigns to Dionysus an equal share with Apollo in Delphi[26]

A Pindaric Scholiast says that Python ruled the prophetic tripod on which Dionysus was the first to speak oracles; that then Apollo killed the snake and took over.[27] The association of Apollo and Dionysus in Delphi, moreover, was not limited to their connection to the Delphic Oracle. We also find this relationship echoed in the commemoration of the Great flood which was celebrated each year at a Delphian festival called Aiglē, celebrated two or three days before the full moon of January or February, at the same time as the Athenian Anthesteria festival, the last day of which was devoted to commemorating the victims of the Great Flood; this was the same time of the year when Apollo was believed at Delphi to return from his sojourn among the Hyperboreans. Moreover, Dionysus is said to have perished and returned to life in the flood.[28] Apollo’s Hyperborean absence is his yearly death – Apollonios says that Apollo shed tears when he went to the Hyperborean land; thence flows the Eridanos, on whose banks the Heliades wail without cease; and extremely low spirits came over the Argonauts as they sailed that river of amber tears.[29]

This is the time of Dionysus’ reign at Delphi in which he was the center of Delphic worship for the three winter months, when Apollo was absent. Plutarch, himself a priest of the Pythian Apollo, Amphictyonic official and a frequent visitor to Delphi,  says that for nine months the paean was sung in Apollo’s honour at sacrifices, but at the beginning of winter the paeans suddenly ceased, then for three months men sang dithyrambs and addressed themselves to Dionysus rather than to Apollo.[30] Chthonian Dionysus manifested himself especially at the winter festival when the souls of the dead rose to walk briefly in the upper world again, in the festival that the Athenians called Anthesteria, whose Delphian counterpart was the Theophania. The Theophania marked the end of Dionysus’ reign and Apollo’s return; Dionysus and the ghosts descended once more to Hades realm.[31] In this immortal aspect Dionysus is very far removed from being a god of the dead and winter; representing instead immortal life, the zoë, which was employed in Dionysian cult to release psychosomatic energies summoned from the depths that were discharged in a physical cult of life.[32]

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Dionysus is the depiction of transcendent primordial life, life that persists even during the absence of Apollo (the Sun) – for as much as Apollo is the Golden Sun, Dionysus is the Black or Winter Sun, reigning in the world below ground whilst Apollo’s presence departs for another hemisphere, dead to the people of Delphi, the Winter Sun reigns in Apollo’s absence. Far from being antagonistic opposites, Apollo and Dionysus were so closely related in Greek myth that according to Deinarchos, Dionysus was killed and buried at Delphi beside the golden Apollo.[33] Likewise, in the Lykourgos tetralogy of Aischylos, the cry “Ivy-Apollo, Bakchios, the soothsayer,” is heard when the Thracian bacchantes, the Bassarai, attacks Orpheus, the worshipper of Apollo and the sun. The cry suggests a higher knowledge of the connection between Apollo and Dionysus, the dark god, whom Orpheus denies in favour of the luminous god. In the Lykymnios of Euripides the same connection is attested by the cry, “Lord, laurel-loving Bakchios, Paean Apollo, player of the Lyre.”[34] Similarly, we find anotherpaean by Philodamos addressed to Dionysus from Delphi: “Come hither, Lord Dithyrambos, Backchos…..Bromios now in the spring’s holy period.”[35] The pediments of the temple of Apollo also portray on one side Apollo with Leto, Artemis, and the Muses, and on the other side Dionysus and the thyiads, and a vase painting of c.400 B.C. shows Apollo and Dionysus in Delphi holding their hands to one another.[36]

An analysis of Nietzsche’s philosophy concerning the role of Apollo and Dionysus in Hellenic myth thus reveals more than even a direct parallel. Not only did Nietzsche comprehend the nature of the opposition between Apollo and Dionysus, he understood this aspect of their cult on the esoteric level, that their forces, rather than being antagonistic are instead complementary, with both Gods performing two different aesthetic techniques in the service of the same social function, which reaches its pinnacle of development when both creative processes are elevated in tandem within an individual. Nietzsche understood the symbolism of myths and literature concerning the two gods, and he actually elaborated upon it, adding the works of Schopenhauer to create a complex philosophy concerning not only the interplay of aesthetics in the role of the creative process, but also the nature of the will and the psychological process used to create a certain type, which is exemplified in both his ideals of the Ubermensch and the Free Spirit. Both of these higher types derive their impetus from the synchronicity of the Dionysian and Apollonian drives, hence why in Nietzsche’s later works following The Birth of Tragedy only the Dionysian impulse is referred to, this term not being used to signify just Dionysus, but rather the balanced integration of the two forces. This ideal of eternal life (zoë) is also located in Nietzsche’s theory of Eternal Reoccurrence – it denies the timeless eternity of a supernatural God, but affirms the eternity of the ever-creating and destroying powers in nature and man, for like the solar symbolism of Apollo and Dionysus, it is a notion of cyclical time. To Nietzsche, the figure of Dionysus is the supreme affirmation of life, the instinct and the will to power, with the will to power being an expression of the will to life and to truth at its highest exaltation – “It is a Dionysian Yea-Saying to the world as it is, without deduction, exception and selection…it is the highest attitude that a philosopher can reach; to stand Dionysiacally toward existence: my formula for this is amor fati”’[37]  Dionysus is thus to both Nietzsche and the Greeks, the highest expression of Life in its primordial and transcendent meaning, the hidden power of the Black Sun and the subconscious impulse of the will.

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To order at: https://manticorepress.net

Endnotes:

[1]James I. Porter, The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on the Birth of Tragedy, (California: Stanford University Press, 2002), 40

[2]Rose Pfeffer, Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus, (New Jersey: Associated University Presses, Inc. 1977), 31

[3] Ibid.,31

[4] Ibid., 51

[5] James I. Porter, The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on the Birth of Tragedy, 50-51

[6] Ibid., 221

[7] Ibid., 205-206

[8] Rose Pfeffer, Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus, 114

[9] Ibid, 113

[10] James I. Porter, The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on the Birth of Tragedy, 82

[11] Rose Pfeffer, Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus, 32

[12] James I. Porter, The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on the Birth of Tragedy, 99

[13]Dora C. Pozzi, and John M. Wickerman, Myth & the Polis, (New York: Cornell University 1991), 36

[14]Rose Pfeffer, Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus,  126

[15] Carl Kerényi, Dionysos Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, (New Jersey: Princeton university press,  1996), xxxxi

[16] Ibid., xxxxv

[17] Ibid., 204-205

[18] Joseph Fontenrose, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and its Origins (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 378

[19]Dora C. Pozzi, and John M. Wickerman, Myth & the Polis,  147

[20]Marcel Detienne, trans. Arthur Goldhammer Dionysos At Large, (London: Harvard Univeristy Press 1989), 46

[21]Dora C. Pozzi, and John M. Wickerman, Myth & the Polis,   144

[22] Marcel Detienne, trans. Arthur Goldhammer Dionysos At Large, 18

[23] Daniel E. Gershenson, Apollo the Wolf-God in Journal of Indo-European Studies, Mongraph number 8 (Virginia: Institute for the Study of Man 1991), 32

[24]Carl Kerényi, Dionysos Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, (New Jersey: Princeton university press,  1996), 103

[25] Dora C. Pozzi, and John M. Wickerman, Myth & the Polis,  139

[26] Joseph Fontenrose, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and its Origins (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 375

[27] Ibid., 376

[28]Daniel E. Gershenson, Apollo the Wolf-God in Journal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph number 8, 61

[29] Joseph Fontenrose, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and its Origins (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 387

[30] Ibid., 379

[31] Ibid., 380-381

[32] Ibid., 219

[33] Ibid., 388

[34] Carl Kerényi, Dionysos Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, (New Jersey: Princeton university press,  1996), 233

[35] Ibid.,217

[36] Walter F. Otto, Dionysus: Myth and Cult, (Dallas: Spring Publications, 1989) 203

[37] Rose Pfeffer, Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus,  261

mercredi, 21 mars 2018

Hannah Arendt and Richard Weaver on the Crisis of Western Education

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Hannah Arendt and Richard Weaver on the Crisis of Western Education

In writing not so long ago about my appropriation of the “smart classroom” (that obtrusion of entertainment-technology into the solemnity of the academic space) so as to introduce students in a “Modern Drama” course to the mid-Nineteenth Century operatic theater of Richard Wagner, I concluded with the following thought concerning today’s collegians: “Their education, even in college, once they get there, leaves them bereft of high-cultural experience. That is a pity because taste tends to become fixed in late adolescence.” I remarked that contemporary freshmen, coming from a culturally jejune public-school curriculum, hover as though on a verge, intellectually speaking. “They will never respond to esthetic greatness unless they have an opportunity to experience it”; and yet, “those opportunities shrink away to fewer and fewer every year.”

In writing about the struggles that students experienced, first in understanding and then in articulating their responses, to two challenging novels by H. G. Wells, I ended with this meditation: “Like any healthy person, the specimen college student welcomes the chance to see things from a higher perspective, but the system as it stands is designed precisely to deprive students of any higher perspective. What passes for education is a mental diet of infant pabulum and an entrenched infantilism is one of its noticeable results.”

HAtot.jpgWagner was born in 1813, two centuries ago last year; he died in 1883, more than one hundred and thirty years ago. Wells was born in 1866; he died in 1946, nearly seventy years ago. To most college students, dates such as 1813, 1883, 1866, and 1946 are so many meaningless references, number-conglomerations about as significant from their perspective as the number-designations before the course-descriptions in the college catalogue. I was born in 1954. I can report accurately that I first read Wells, his War of the Worlds, in 1965, when I was a fourth-grader at Toland Way Elementary in Highland Park, California. I believe it was my brother, sixteen years my elder from my father’s first marriage, who recommended it. My father needed to check out the Wells omnibus from the Colorado Street branch of the Los Angeles Public Library because the institution shelved it in the adult section and I held borrowing privileges only in the children’s section. I first heard music by Wagner in 1970 or 71, when a quirky, German-born English teacher at Santa Monica High School, who went by the name of Gary Johnston, decided to enliven his summer “Myth and Folklore” course, or lighten the burden of his instruction, by providing us with mimeographed sheets of the libretto and playing for us on a portable stereo in the classroom excerpts from The Ring of the Nibelung.

The encounter with The War of the Worlds made a reader. A doctoral degree in Comparative Literature from UCLA (1990) and teaching career, such as it is, are late effects of the cause. The encounter with The Ring awakened a passionate interest in the Edda and the sagas, a curiosity for serious music, and an inclination to investigate into my mother’s Swedish ancestry, which (the last) eventuated in my first degree, a baccalaureate in Germanic and Scandinavian Languages, also from UCLA.

Other keynote events give articulation to my intellectual journey to adulthood. I omit to mention them, wishing not to bore my readers, except to say that they all have something in common with the two that I have just mentioned: Breaking into the immature consciousness, they put the child, or the adolescent, suddenly in touch with the past, with a tradition – and that bridging of temporal loci entailed the complementary experience that it lifted the initiate out of the present and thus also out of himself. The War of the Worlds is noticeably Edwardian; people take the train, ride in horse-carts, or walk; they read newspapers. Wagner’s Ring takes place in the time-before-time of myth, but its story has connections to events in the Fifth Century AD. Either way, the experience is foreign to someone whose milieu was the mid-Twentieth Century or is, as today, the incipient Twenty-First Century.

In both cases also, an older agent of transmission recommended to the younger person something that he regarded as meaningful and valuable – that the recommender implicitly (in the case of my brother) or explicitly (in the case of the eccentric English teacher) wished to preserve or conserve or pass along by making the representative of a new cohort amenably aware of it. Wells and Wagner made good gifts, intellectually; they proved themselves investments whose value has steadily increased over the years. Without such charitable gestures, every generation would begin again at the degree-zero of culture and history. Viewed in that light, contemporary education is not merely uncharitable; it is stingy and mean – its gift to the present is invariably the present, and when it mentions the past, it does so in language haughty and derisive.

I recently ran across a previous formulation of the same insight, to whose precedence and superior clarity I humbly defer. “It seems to me,” wrote philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906 - 1975) in her chapter on “The Crisis in Education” (included in her book Between Past and Present, 1961), “that conservatism, in the sense of conservation, is of the essence of the educational activity, whose task is always to cherish and protect something – the child against the world, the world against the child, the new against the old, the old against the new.” Arendt argues in a corollary to her “conservation” thesis that education functions “to preserve the world against the mortality of its creators and inhabitants,” an idea with a good Platonic pedigree. Arendt defines the teacher’s mission as the responsibility “to mediate between the old and the new, so that his very profession requires of him an extraordinary respect for the past.” At the same time, education must constitute itself as something more than “simple, unreflective perseverance.” Otherwise education becomes indoctrination, the production-line of Mandarins for the staffing of the managerial class, or mere rote learning.

HAvita.jpgA good deal of contemporary education at all levels resembles just what Arendt describes, as indoctrinators prod students to internalize the correct opinions concerning the limited range of topics while guarding them against contamination by actual knowledge and rendering them incapable of independent judgment. The mandarins receive their training in the Ivy League while the rest receive instruction in the state colleges in how to defer to the righteous decrees of the mandarinate. Ideally, as Arendt urges, education should stand aloof from politics and social pressure rather than serving them. Politics and social pressure are corrupting forces, always totalitarian in their direction, always trying to crowd out everything else that constitutes the human world, so that nothing else constitutive of that world might compete with them. Politics and social pressure, belonging as they do to the isolated present, must stand in a hostile relation to history and tradition; respecting only themselves, they invariably revolt against “respect for the past.”

When Arendt writes of “the world” she means the continuum of tradition, that lore of human trial-and-error from which wisdom derives, that forms the object of the conscious curatorship that goes by the name of high culture. It is in this sense of “the world,” as the high-cultural image-of-existence, that the most oft-quoted passage from Arendt’s essay should be understood: “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.”

One phrase in particular, the one concerning the question whether the current adult cohort will leave the members of current child-cohort “to their own devices,” has only increased in poignancy in the decades since “The Crisis of Education” first appeared. Politics and social pressure are now fully digitized and they make themselves universal through the ubiquitous “devices.” The necessary first reflection of the philosopher might well be the Cartesian formula, “I think therefore I am,” which indicates his reflective character. What then is the character of the person whose defining mental activity is not thinking, but tweeting? His character is assimilated to what I have elsewhere named post-literacy. He has become detached from the high-cultural continuum, detached also from history, whose medium is literature, and detached therefore from the possibilities of meaningful growth beyond the paltriness of youth-oriented popular entertainment. He might acquire vocational knowledge and skills, which he can apply to a job, but he will remain in his state of limitation and deprivation through the phase his merely chronological adulthood. He will suffer from a low level of verbal competency, from a restricted ability to reason, and from a concomitant vulnerability of manipulation through political propaganda and advertising.

Arendt writes of assuming responsibility for the inherited world, as the conservative or curatorial heart of education. A strikingly complementary notion occurs in the work of one of Arendt’s contemporaries who also wrote about the perils threatening education in the period of the Cold War. This writer saw in the self-styled progressive pedagogy of his day, which in his view had already begun to subvert traditional education, an essential “irresponsibility to the past and to the structure of reality in the present.” Indeed, he saw that the assumptions of this revolutionary coup-d’état in the classroom could never “serve as the foundations of culture because [they] are out of line with what is.” It was the case that “where [these assumptions] are allowed to provide foundations,” or to allege to provide foundations, “they imperil the whole structure.”

The other writer is Richard Weaver (1910 - 1963) and the lines quoted above come from the chapter on “The Gnostics of Education” in his book Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of Our Time (published posthumously, 1964). Arendt was a woman of the Left; Weaver was a man of the Right. That their separate and independent commentaries on the same topic, appearing in book form within three years of one another, should be so convergent and complementary is striking. What explains it? A commitment to civilization, shared across the political frontier, might be the best answer to the question. Both Arendt and Weaver, in contrast to the advocates of avant-garde pedagogy whom they criticize, see education in its conservative or curatorial role as a civilizational, rather than as a social, institution. When the high-school English teacher in Santa Monica brought his portable stereo to the classroom and invited his students to listen to Wagner, he appealed to them in the name of civilization, not in the name of society. At the time, society’s idea of music was The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. When I challenge students to read and appreciate Tono-Bungay by Wells, I do so in the name of civilization, not of society, whose notion of literary challenge is non-existent.

HAhuman.jpgWhereas Arendt expresses concern for the direction that education takes in a world, that of the late 1950s, dominated by technocratic convictions, Weaver frankly condemns “the progressive movement in education” for being a type of “apostasy,” and its advocates and practitioners for being “attackers and saboteurs” of actual education. Beginning with the same conception of education, Weaver departs from Arendt in his diagnosis of existing educational arrangements. Among their important traits, these progressives are epistemological nihilists who “do not have faith in the existence of knowledge” and whose real aim is “the educationally illicit one of conditioning the young for political purposes.” The revolutionary educational regime is also, in Weaver’s scrutiny of it, utopian and therefore totalitarian. It proposes “to substitute a subjective wishfulness for an historical reality.” Weaver omits to quote directly from the prescriptions of the radical educators, preferring to distill them in the form of his own summary. It is easy, however, to find textual support for that summary. In John Dewey’s seminal “Pedagogic Creed” (1909), with its bizarre imitation of the Nicene Creed (Dewey [1859 - 1952] was self-declaredly atheist), the anti-intellectualism of the School of the Radiant Future becomes immediately evident.

According to Weaver, the object of progressive education “is not to teach knowledge”; it is rather, as the slogan says, to “teach students.” Dewey’s “Creed” fully supports Weaver’s characterization of progressive education just as it inaugurates the American chapter of Twentieth-Century pseudo-pedagogy. “I believe,” Dewey writes, “that we violate the child’s nature and render difficult the best ethical results, by introducing the child too abruptly to a number of special studies, of reading, writing, geography, etc., out of relation to this social life.” Never mind that “reading, writing, geography” and all that the etcetera also covers constitute Arendt’s “world,” that arduously accumulated representation of reality to which civilized people constantly refer in their negotiations in the market and in private. The world in its pre-existence must stand out of the way. Elsewhere, writes Dewey: “I believe, therefore, that the true center of correlation on the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child’s own social activities.” The anti-literacy implicit in these formulas is quite astonishing; it is also at the root of the post-literate condition prevailing a century later.

In another formula, Dewey anticipates and justifies Twentieth-Century political indoctrination: “I believe that the image is the great instrument of instruction. What a child gets out of any subject presented to him is simply the images which he himself forms with regard to it.” Like good Chinese-Communist re-education leader, Dewey sees consciousness as “essentially motor or impulsive” and as “passive,” waiting to be remolded or, in Dewey’s unkillable phrase, “socialized.” Notice how the two formulas contradict one another. On the one hand, the child is supposed, creatively and originally, to produce the “images” through which he will learn. On the other hand, the child must submit willy-nilly to a regime of “socialization,” which implies external agency acting on a pliable object. One last quotation from the “Creed” will aid in understanding why Weaver refers to modern educators as “Gnostics,” which at first blanch is a rather odd attribution. While recalling his atheism, we let Dewey speak: “I believe that in this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.”

Yes, Dewey invoked “the prophet of the true God” and “the true kingdom of God.” How to explain such hyperboles and grotesqueries? When Weaver sought the origins of the counter-intuitive propositions that education-reformers propound, the result of his search startled him. The rhetorical temerity with which he introduces his discovery attests his surprise. Weaver’s sense that “progressive education is a wholesale apostasy, involving the abandonment of fundamental and long-held beliefs about man and the world” directed him to the examination of historical apostasies. Among these he found only one that seemed to him “of a nature and magnitude to warrant comparison” modern pedagogic Messianism: “The Gnosticism of the first and second centuries A.D.”

Weaver gleaned the basic facts about Gnosticism from various Patristic texts and from the relevant chapters of Eric Voegelin’s New Science of Politics (1952), which he footnotes. Pedagogic Messianism, like ancient Gnosis, regards Creation as botched and imperfect, with the duty falling to man, who is more Godlike than the Creator, to fulfill it. The world, as either Pedagogic Messianism or ancient Gnosis sees it, including the entire human or cultural achievement, is an affront to man from which, bearing the spark of true divinity within him, man must escape; either that or destroy it so as to create again, this time perfectly. The Gnostics’ view of “the natural blessedness of man” and their rejection of any requirement for man to be redeemed by external agency made them, as Weaver writes, “antiauthoritarian.” Weaver remarks that such a notion “has a parallel in the attempts of our ‘progressive’ educationists to base everything on psychology,” quite as Dewey did. Weaver concludes that “the progressive educationists of our time, while not Gnostics in the sense of historical descent, are Gnostics in their thinking.” Furthermore, “their gnosticism exhibits the same kind of delusion, fantasy, unreality, and unacceptable metaphysics which the Church Fathers… challenged and put an end to.”

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It is possible to add to Weaver’s description of the Gnostic attitude. Gnosticism, wherever it manifests itself, is only antiauthoritarian as a starting gesture; it invariably presents itself, once it has gained lodgment in an institution, as absolutely and incontrovertibly authoritative in status. It knows what it knows (the Greek gnosis means access to knowledge not vouchsafed to others) and it tolerates as a claim to knowledge only its own claim; it regards all other claims with implacable hostility. The original Gnosticism founded itself parasitically in received tradition, which it declared false while nominating itself as true; that resentment is the substructure of all Gnosis, whether of the ancient or modern varieties, is abundantly evident. A totally antithetic resentment is moreover totally dependent on what it anathematizes or resents; it produces nothing original. By way of compensation, as St. Augustine already observed of the Manichaeans, Gnosticism orders itself in a mockery of the hierarchy that it rejects, endows itself with ranks and distinctions, and congratulates itself on its dazzling achievements. It invents a special language, impermeable to outsiders, which it marks its users as an elect – all of which describes the innumerable contemporary Schools of Education to the proverbial “T.”

The specific crisis of education that Arendt and Weaver saw in common from their noticeably different perspectives is merely an instance of a larger crisis, a crisis of civilization as a whole through which the West has been passing perhaps since the Reformation but at least since the Eighteenth Century. This crisis is a revolt of those for whom the pressure of civilization is too great to bear, for whom therefore civilization is an unbearable burden. For the ego-in-revolt even so benign a thing as literacy is unbearable so that to it (the ego) and for it, literacy (and along with it literature) must together be sacrificed. Pictures please these people so pictures they shall retain; they are pretty and the mental challenge in them disturbs no one. Only through such sacrifices, and through such recursions to culturally primitive forms, will what Dewey brazenly called “the kingdom of God” be realized. It is best to have a clear view of the phenomenon, as grim as the prospect is.

mardi, 06 mars 2018

Pour une éthique européenne de la tenue...

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Pour une éthique européenne de la tenue...

par Henri Levavasseur

Ex: http://metapoinfos.hautetfort.com

Nous reproduisons ci-dessous un texte d'Henri Levavasseur, cueilli sur le site de l'Institut Iliade et consacré à la réhabilitation d'une éthique de la tenue, en ces temps de relâchement et d'ensauvagement. Docteur en histoire et linguiste, l'auteur est spécialiste des cultures germaniques anciennes et de la protohistoire de l’Europe septentrionale.

Pour une éthique européenne de la tenue

Ouvert par le cataclysme de la Première Guerre Mondiale, le cycle du « sombre vingtième-siècle » a plongé l’Europe dans une crise de civilisation sans précédent, l’amenant à secréter elle-même, à travers les idéaux faisandés d’un universalisme ennemi des nations et des peuples, le poison du « grand effacement » qui menace de détruire jusqu’aux racines de son génie.

Rien, pourtant, n’est encore joué : il appartient aux jeunes Européens de ne pas se résigner et d’écrire une autre histoire, en accord avec les immenses potentialités d’une culture multimillénaire. C’est en puisant dans leur longue mémoire, en procédant au « grand ressourcement », qu’ils apprendront à se connaître eux-mêmes, à donner sens et forme à leur destin, afin de trouver les ressources morales permettant de relever les défis qui les attendent. Confrontés à la dissolution des institutions et de la cité dans le magma d’une société multiculturelle, multi-ethnique et multi-conflictuelle, cette jeunesse devra se rassembler sur son propre sol en communautés pérennes, organiques et soudées.

De telles communautés ne reposent pas seulement sur des liens de solidarité mutuelle, mais aussi sur la valeur individuelle, c’est-à-dire sur la capacité de chacun à recevoir, incarner et transmettre l’héritage commun.

Cette valeur ne se mesure pas seulement à l’aune des capacités intellectuelles et physiques, ou du talent artistique — même si ces qualités sont éminemment précieuses. Ici intervient la notion d’éthique, associée à celle de tenue, qui jouent toutes deux un rôle fondamental dans la vision européenne du monde.

Comme l’écrivait Pierre Drieu La Rochelle : « on est plus fidèle à une attitude qu’à des idées » (Gilles, 1939).

Que convient-il donc d’entendre par « éthique de la tenue » ? Quelles sont les formes spécifiques que revêt cette éthique dans l’histoire de la civilisation européenne ? Quels sont enfin les modes d’expression possibles, permettant aujourd’hui d’incarner cette éthique ?

Qu’est-ce que l’« éthique de la tenue » ?

Les dictionnaires contemporains définissent volontiers l’éthique comme une réflexion philosophique fondamentale, sur laquelle la morale établit ses normes, ses limites et ses devoirs.

Dans cette optique, le détail des prescriptions morales, fondées sur la distinction du bien et du mal, est susceptible de varier d’une société ou d’une religion à l’autre, tandis que l’éthique en appelle à la raison pour poser des principes universels, par de-là les contingences historiques et les particularismes de chaque civilisation.

Cette conception de l’éthique, propre à la tradition philosophique des Lumières, a naturellement peu à voir avec celle dont nous allons nous entretenir.

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Revenons à l’origine du mot. Étymologiquement, éthique et morale renvoient, dans le monde antique, aux mêmes notions. Le mot français « morale » dérive du latin moralis, qui provient lui-même de mos, « mœurs », « coutume », « usage » — le mos majorum, « coutume ancestrale », fondant la morale du citoyen romain de l’époque classique. Le mot « éthique » trouve son origine dans le grec « ἦθος », qui présente les principales significations suivantes :

  1. « séjour habituel, lieux familiers, demeure » (employé au pluriel) : ἦθεα désigne dans l’Iliade les pâturages des chevaux, tout comme νομός (« part », « portion de territoire », « pâturage », qui prend ensuite le sens de « coutume, loi, usage », le verbe νέμειν, « attribuer, répartir, régler selon la coutume ») ;
  2. « disposition de l’âme, manière d’être, caractère » : notamment la célèbre formule d’Héraclite ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων (« la manière d’être, pour l’homme, est empreinte divine ») ; la joie, le courage, la noblesse sont par exemple des ἤθη, que les différents arts s’efforcent d’imiter ;
  3. « coutume, usage, mœurs » (cf. également la forme ἔθος, « coutume, usage ») ; dans sa Théogonie, Hésiode évoque les νόμοι et les ἦθεα des immortels, c’est-à-dire les lois et les usages des dieux. L’ethos d’un peuple trouve ses racines dans la tradition et repose donc sur une transmission.

Dans le domaine de l’art oratoire, ἦθος prend en outre un sens particulier : les Grecs distinguent en effet entre le logos, qui renvoie à la logique, le pathos, qui renvoie à la sensibilité, et l’éthos qui correspond à ce que nous nommons le « style ».

On saisit d’emblée que l’ethos ne renvoie pas chez les Grecs à une quelconque morale universelle, fondée sur l’opposition du bien et du mal : il s’agit au contraire d’un concept évoquant le caractère propre d’un être donné, en lien avec le lieu où il séjourne et la manière dont il se comporte habituellement — d’où le sens de « coutume », d’« usage », que l’on retrouve également dans le latin mos.

Le mot ἔθος est d’ailleurs étymologiquement apparenté à ἔθνος (« famille, clan, peuple »), ainsi qu’à ἔθω (« personne familière », « les siens »). Ce dernier terme, lui même apparenté au latin sodalis (« compagnon », « ami »), dérive d’une racine de indo-européenne *su̯ē̆dh- (« faire sien », « se poser soi-même »), que l’on retrouve dans le sanscrit svádhā (« pouvoir personnel », « autorité naturelle », « usage », « coutume »), le vieil-haut-allemand sito ou l’allemand Sitte, « coutume », « mœurs ».

Au sens étymologique, l’éthique désigne donc la manière d’être au monde en conformité avec l’usage, la coutume, la tradition en un lieu donné. Elle est la manière dont les êtres se tiennent face au monde, dans leur séjour habituel. On retrouve d’ailleurs ce lien entre les notions de coutume, de séjour et de tenue dans la proximité étymologique entre les termes français « habitation, habitude, habit », apparentés au latin habitus, « manière d’être ».

tenue1.jpgTrès tôt, le mot « habit » est associé dans notre langue à l’idée de « maintien » de « tenue », au sens de « tenir sa place et son rang ».

Il est donc tout à fait pertinent de parler d’éthique de la tenue, dans la mesure où cette formule permet de définir une forme d’exigence tournée vers un idéal humain propre à notre civilisation, à nos mœurs, nos traditions et nos coutumes, indépendamment des formes universelles de morale, qu’elles soient d’essence religieuse ou laïque, c’est-à-dire fondées soit sur le dogme et la foi, soit sur une définition abstraite de la raison humaine, détachée de tout enracinement spécifique.

Comment définir l’éthique européenne de la tenue ? Comme toujours, à partir de l’étude des figures emblématiques que nous livre notre histoire depuis l’antiquité.

L’éthique de la tenue dans l’histoire européenne

Sans nier la valeur des exempla légués par la grande tradition classique, nous ne nous réfèrerons pas ici à telle ou telle anecdote édifiante, mais tenterons de saisir l’essence de notre tradition de manière à la fois plus générale et plus profonde, en évoquant quelques « figures archétypiques » qui dessinent les contours d’une éthique propre aux élites européennes.

Cette éthique renvoie à un certain idéal aristocratique, dont les traits principaux présentent une continuité étonnante depuis l’antiquité, en dépit des particularismes liés à tel ou tel peuple, et malgré les divers bouleversements sociaux, religieux et politiques qu’a pu connaitre l’Europe au fil des siècles.

Quatre types fondamentaux ont profondément marqué l’imaginaire européen, et constituent en quelque sorte les figures tutélaires auxquelles toute élite authentique doit se référer : le héros homérique, le citoyen romain, le chevalier médiéval, le gentilhomme.

Le héros homérique évolue dans un univers où le jugement porté sur l’homme ne repose pas sur la dualité du bien et du mal, en tant que critères moraux fondés sur la crainte de dieu, l’amour du prochain, la crainte du châtiment et l’espérance du salut éternel, mais sur la distinction du beau et du laid, de ce qui est honorable et de ce qui ne l’est pas, sur la nécessité de se montrer digne de l’estime de ses pairs, conformément à des règles de comportement fondées sur la coutume ancestrale.

L’idée de faute originelle est absente : le « bien » (ἀγαθόν, « ce qui bon ») est ce qui conforme au juste ordonnancement des choses et de l’univers (κόσμος, « ordre [de l’univers] », mais aussi « parure, ornement »). L’expression καλὸς κἀγαθός (« beau et bon »), à laquelle se conforme l’aristocratie athénienne, désigne un idéal de perfection humaine où la qualité du paraître rejoint celle de l’être : le philosophe Werner Jaeger évoque à ce propos, dans son ouvrage Paideia, consacré à la formation de l’homme grec, un « idéal chevaleresque de la personnalité humaine complète, harmonieuse d’âme et de corps, compétente au combat comme en paroles, dans la chanson comme dans l’action ».

tenue2.jpgA l’inverse, toute manifestation de démesure (ὕϐρις), chez les hommes comme chez les dieux, entraîne une catastrophe. Nous sommes ici aux antipodes de ce que le philosophe Heidegger décèle dans la modernité occidentale, à savoir la « métaphysique de l’illimité » — l’appétit du « toujours plus », auquel nous devons opposer la logique du « toujours mieux ».

Pour revenir aux textes d’Homère, « toute transgression de l’harmonie, de la mesure, de la conduite droite, se paie au prix fort, ainsi la funeste colère d’Achille, prétexte de l’Iliade. Homère ignore l’intériorisation d’une morale fondée sur la faute et la culpabilité. (…) Il met en action des vertus et leurs contraires, le courage et la lâcheté, l’honneur et la bassesse, la magnanimité et la rancune, la loyauté et la traîtrise. Il montre aussi des caractères, sans rien dissimuler de leurs contradictions, Hector et sa lucidité, Pénélope et sa féminité, Achille et sa vaillance, Ulysse et son habilité, Nestor et sa raison, Pâris et sa faiblesse, Hélène et son extrême sensualité. Les poèmes homériques ne parlent pas en formules conceptuelles ou dogmatiques. Ils donnent pourtant des réponses claires aux questions de la vie et de la mort » (D. Venner, Histoire et tradition des Européens, pp. 108–109).

Héritière du monde grec, mais aussi d’une tradition propre, fondée en grande partie sur un héritage indo-européen, la civilisation romaine nous a également légué un idéal aristocratique d’une grande valeur : celui du citoyen de l’époque classique. Ce dernier apparait constamment soucieux de sa dignitas, aussi bien personnelle que familiale. Pour la préserver, il est prêt à aller jusqu’au sacrifice de sa vie : la mort volontaire est à Rome un sort toujours préférable au déshonneur.

La dignitas s’enracine dans la virtus, non pas la vertu au sens chrétien du terme, mais la qualité qui distingue l’homme, vir : l’énergie morale, la force d’âme, la maîtrise de soi (gravitas), qui se situe au cœur de l’enseignement des Stoïciens.

Ces qualités sont indissociables de la pietas, c’est-à-dire du respect de la tradition (mos majorum), du devoir rendu aux dieux et à la famille, en particulier au père, devoirs auxquels s’ajoute le service de l’état. Avec la virtus, la clementia et la iustitia, la pietas est l’une des quatre vertus impériales reconnues à Auguste sur l’inscription du bouclier d’or (clipeus aureus) placé en son honneur dans la Curia Iulia. Comme chez les Grecs, l’idéal du citoyen romain se fonde sur l’unité de l’être et du paraître. C’est le sens de la formule de Juvénal : mens sana in corpore sano.

Scipion fait graver sur son tombeau la formule suivante « Ma vie a enrichi les vertus de ma race. J’ai engendré des enfants, j’ai cherché à égaler les exploits de mon père. J’ai mérité la louange de mes ancêtres, qui se sont réjouis de me voir né pour leur gloire. Ma dignitas a rendu fameuse ma race » (cité par D. Venner, id., p. 136).

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La chevalerie médiévale reprend une partie de cet héritage, associé certes aux vertus chrétiennes, mais également au vieil idéal martial et à la conception de l’honneur répandus dans les sociétés celtiques et germaniques. Dominique Venner (id., pp. 178–179) qualifie l’éthique chevaleresque d’« éthique incarnée » : « prouesse, largesse et loyauté sont ses attributs que l’honneur résume. L’élégance de l’âme commande d’être vaillant jusqu’à la témérité ».

L’exigence de fidélité à la parole donnée pousse à tenir la foi jurée jusqu’à la mort, attitude magnifiquement exaltée dans la Chanson des Nibelungen, de telle sorte que l’idéal du sacrifice héroïque, présent dans toute la tradition épique du monde germanique, a sans doute contribué de façon décisive à l’acceptation du christianisme par les peuples du Barbaricum. Le poème saxon Heliand décrit d’ailleurs le Christ et ses disciples comme un prince germanique entourés de ses vassaux, tandis que les noces de Cana apparaissent comme un festin guerrier.

tenue5.jpgA l’époque moderne, la figure du gentilhomme représente la synthèse et l’aboutissement de ces divers héritages, à travers l’équilibre entre les talents de l’homme d’épée et de l’homme d’esprit, alliant élégance morale, distinction, courage et maîtrise de soi. Tel est l’idéal, largement partagé à travers toute l’Europe, que s’efforcent d’atteindre le Junker prussien et le gentleman britannique.

Une certaine forme de stoïcisme propre à l’homme d’action est commune aux quatre types que nous venons d’évoquer.

Est-ce à dire, cependant, que l’éthique de la tenue se trouve réservée à une élite sociale fondée exclusivement sur des règles de transmission héréditaire ? Si cette dernière a naturellement toujours joué un rôle central, il convient de rappeler l’importance d’autres formes d’institutions méritocratiques, reposant sur la notion de compagnonnage guerrier. Les concepts de noblesse et de chevalerie, par exemple, ne sont pas strictement identiques.

Comme le souligne Dominique Venner (Un samouraï d’Occident, p. 294), nos racines « ne sont pas seulement celles de l’hérédité, auxquelles on peut être infidèle, ce sont également celles de l’esprit, c’est-à-dire de la tradition qu’il appartient à chacun de se réapproprier ».

Quelles leçons concrètes la jeunesse européenne de notre temps, déterminée à s’engager sur la même voie, peut-elle toutefois recueillir de ces exemples si éloignés de notre quotidien ? En apparence, les modèles que nous venons d’évoquer semblent dépassés pour plusieurs raisons : l’environnement social, culturel et politique traditionnel, nécessaire à l’éducation d’une véritable élite, a aujourd’hui été en grande partie balayé ; la noblesse a cessé d’être une institution, d’assurer un rôle politique central et de « donner le ton » ; les valeurs dominantes sont au contraire celles de l’hédonisme individualiste et de l’égalitarisme, même si les inégalités économiques et sociales sont par ailleurs de plus en plus criantes ; la notion d’élite est largement dépréciée, ou se trouve associée à des types humains opposés à ceux de l’ancienne aristocratie européenne ; l’élitisme est même perçu comme un travers ; enfin, un grand nombre de ceux qui sont en mesure de réclamer, en tant qu’héritiers par le sang et par le nom, le patrimoine spirituel de l’ancienne aristocratie européenne, adoptent parfois des comportements assez éloignés des valeurs de leurs aïeux.

Médiocrité et vulgarité ne constituent pas nécessairement des tares nouvelles, propres à notre époque, mais elles font aujourd’hui l’objet d’une complaisance sans précédent, qui trouve son expression la plus achevée dans les « modèles » imposés aux populations sidérées par les loisirs de masse et le matraquage publicitaire : il s’agit d’une véritable inversion des canons esthétiques et éthiques. L’idéal aristocratique n’a pas nécessairement disparu, mais il ne structure plus la société.

Pourtant, chacun de nous peut encore choisir d’incarner une part de l’éthique aristocratique européenne, en la déclinant — au féminin comme au masculin — dans des situations et des engagements très divers.

Cette possibilité revêt une portée qui dépasse les seuls destins individuels. Dominique Venner le rappelle dans le Samouraï d’Occident (p. 296) : « Les ébranlements de notre temps ont des causes qui excèdent les seuls forces de la politique ou des réformes sociales. Il ne suffit pas de modifier des lois ou de remplacer un ministre par un autre pour construire de l’ordre là où sévit le chaos. Pour changer les comportements (…), il faut réformer les esprits, une tâche à toujours recommencer ».

L’éthique de la tenue est l’expression individuelle et communautaire de cette réforme des esprits, prélude au nécessaire réveil de l’Europe en dormition. Elle est une voie d’excellence, dans laquelle la jeunesse européenne doit aujourd’hui réapprendre à s’engager.

L’éthique de la tenue pour les Européens d’aujourd’hui

S’il peut paraître difficile d’établir les critères objectifs de la « tenue », chacun sait instinctivement définir ce qu’il convient de rejeter : le débraillé, la vulgarité, le laisser-aller. Ce dernier peut prendre des formes diverses : laisser-aller du corps (avachissement ou exhibition vulgaire), laisser-aller du vêtement (le modèle « united colors », universel et « unisexe »), laisser-aller du comportement et de l’attitude (manque de maîtrise de soi, oubli des règles élémentaires de la courtoisie et du savoir-vivre), laisser-aller du langage (outrance, approximation ou vulgarité), laisser-aller de l’esprit et de l’intellect (paresse intellectuelle, conformisme), laisser-aller de l’âme (perte du sens de l’honneur et de la parole donnée, de la fidélité à ses principes et à son héritage, absence de courage).

tenue6.jpgA toutes ces formes d’abandon de soi-même, il faut précisément opposer la notion de « tenue ». Celle-ci constitue une ascèse — ce qui n’implique pas nécessairement une vie « ascétique » : au-delà de son acception religieuse, passée dans le vocabulaire chrétien par l’intermédiaire du latin chrétien asceta, le mot est apparenté au grec ἄσκησις (« exercice »), qui désigne à l’origine divers types d’activités artistiques ou physiques, en particulier l’athlétisme. L’ascèse est donc avant tout une discipline.

L’éthique de la tenue se fonde en définitive sur la volonté de vivre en européen, conformément à notre tradition. Fidèle à la « longue mémoire européenne », Dominique Venner nous rappelle à ce propos que « l’esthétique fonde l’éthique » (Un samouraï d’Occident, 2013), et nous incite à nous référer à ce qu’il nomme la « triade homérique » : « la nature comme socle, l’excellence comme but, la beauté comme horizon ».

La nature comme socle, c’est non seulement respecter l’ordre naturel et ses grands équilibres, d’un point de vue aussi bien écologique qu’anthropologique (à travers la polarité du masculin et du féminin), mais également assumer et transmettre les caractères spécifiques de notre patrimoine héréditaire européen. C’est savoir s’immerger régulièrement dans la splendeur de nos paysages et s’attacher à la dimension communautaire de nos traditions à travers la célébration des fêtes calendaires traditionnelles, associées au cycle annuel.

L’excellence comme but, c’est conserver le souci de l’élégance morale, pratiquer une certaine retenue et cultiver l’exigence envers soi-même ; c’est s’efforcer à l’adéquation de la pensée et de l’action, de l’être et du paraître, tendre à se dépasser plus qu’à rechercher son « épanouissement personnel » dans une perspective strictement hédoniste, se soumettre à une discipline librement consentie plus que de revendiquer une liberté totale ; c’est se savoir « maillon d’une chaîne », servir plus que se servir, se montrer exigeant dans le choix de ses pairs tout en étant capable d’affronter la solitude ; enfin et surtout, c’est transmettre cet ensemble d’exigences par l’exemple, en ne se reniant jamais soi-même au profit de la facilité, du confort ou de la sécurité. Le plus sûr moyen d’y parvenir est de construire ce que Dominique Venner appelle notre « citadelle intérieure », par la méditation quotidienne, la lecture, mais aussi la discipline du corps (notamment à travers la pratique sportive, afin d’entretenir le sens de l’effort et le goût de l’action).

La beauté comme horizon, c’est — à défaut de pouvoir « ré-enchanter » le monde par ses seules forces lorsque les dieux paraissent l’avoir déserté — ne jamais laisser la laideur avoir prise sur soi, se soustraire autant que possible à son emprise (en se gardant de l’accoutumance aux distractions « à la mode », alliant vulgarité, bêtise et inversion des valeurs) ; c’est rechercher au contraire toutes les occasions de nourrir son esprit par la contemplation du beau ; c’est aussi manifester, à la mesure de ses moyens, ce souci de la beauté et de l’élégance jusque dans les moindres occasions du quotidien, dans les objets qui nous entourent, la décoration de notre habitat comme dans la tenue vestimentaire, en conformité avec notre esthétique européenne. Tel est le plus sûr moyen de rayonner, d’éveiller et de transmettre, aux enfants comme aux adultes. L’éthique de la tenue est aussi une esthétique : se « tenir », c’est donner forme à son existence.

Dominique Venner a résumé l’ensemble de ces préceptes dans le Samouraï d’Occident (pp. 292, 296–297) : « Dans leur diversité, les hommes n’existent que par ce qui les distingue, clans, peuples, nations, cultures, civilisations, et non par ce qu’ils ont superficiellement en commun. Seule leur animalité est universelle (…). Quelle que soit votre action, votre priorité doit être de cultiver en vous, chaque jour, comme une invocation inaugurale, une foi indestructible dans la permanence de la tradition européenne ».

L’éthique de la tenue, c’est vivre en Européen !

Henri Levavasseur (Institut Iliade, 28 février 2018)

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