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vendredi, 18 octobre 2019

Alexander Dugin & Nicolas Gomez Davila: The Rebellion of the Eternal


Alexander Dugin & Nicolas Gomez Davila: The Rebellion of the Eternal

Ex: https://www.geopolitica.ru

History as “leitmotiv”

Between the motives of revolutionary deeds of modernity, the infamous scourges of slavery, servility, misery, inequality, ignorance and submission have always marched by its rhetoric paths. Tangible and conscious motivations which transit from the lips of individuals to the parliaments of the great contemporary societies and whose combat cements the reasons for being of our modernistic social pacts. Much less adverted is the role of the image-concepts which lay transparent to our daily comprehension of reality and which on the contrary to their overstated and overestimated qualities, conform the rhizomatic nucleus that thrills the movement of men, societies, epochs. We talk of the capital ideas which build the visions about the world, men and history: the great metapolitical triad. Specially is, on the latter variable of the equation –history– that as fundamental category, gravitates the deep thinking of two great geniuses keep apart by geographic antipodes, but reunited in a very singular spirit of the critique against modernity. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, untimely genius of Colombian thinking, and Aleksandr Gel’evich Dugin, grand illustrious of the Russian intelligentsia; represent two taxa of one same philosophy, rising parallels in the illiberal denounce and building their critique, their poetry and their analytics around the different feelings of history which are being played to death in our contemporary epoch.

The authentic reactionary

The feeling of history which detents hegemony in modernity is the linear conception of history. According to the characterization of Dugin, this movement is denominated as monotonic process, understood as growth and accumulation in its own sense and by which one has “the idea that human society is developing, progressing, evolving, growing and each time is better and better”. And in front of the historic eugenics of such conception which debugs the spiritual manifestations still “archaic, pre-modern and not civilized”, diversity of criticisms arise which praises another understanding of time and history. Between them and our Colombian nation, the spirit of Nicolás Gómez Dávila is school for all the dissidents of modern times.

In his condemnation of modernity, the epithets of conservative and reactionary that are centered over Gómez Dávila do not represent to the author however, ashamed motives, but instead the opportunity to realize a transgressive position against modernist morality, re-signifying the appellatives as foundation of his own affirmative stance. Categorically and by principle we must reject any association of the traditional conception of reactionary with that of typical conservative. This is not the counter-revolutionary who fights against liberal and socialist ideas in order to save his comfortable position in the system. His reaction is found by us again in the terrain of confronted histories.

In front of the progressive liberal who swindles that history is liberty and to the radical progressive he affirms that history is right, the reactionary then exerts a haughty attitude in so far as, by accepting the partial dominion of both visions, decides to condemn both. The radical progressive is diagnosed with stupidity because history is immanent rationality which is insinuated progressively towards their absolute revelation. The liberal on his behalf assumes him as immoral in so far as history is liberty which wishes to be absolutely possesses by the man. Liberty as supreme value must not back down not even by the weight of honor. Both progressives guided –despite their differences– by the theological fatality of his history, they demand of the reactionary, gestures and symbols of compensation.

The first demands of him to renounce to condemn the fact is necessary, and the second to not limit himself to abstain if he confesses that the fact is reproachable. Both censor their passive loyalty to defeat.

The revolutionary ethic imperative of the radical and of the liberal, also comes from its historic conceptions. For the radical the spirit of history is the succession of progressive, necessary and determined phases towards the final dominion of universal reason. The moral obligation of the revolutionary is to contribute to the final advent the historic sense.

The radical progressive only adheres to the idea that history cautions, because the profile of necessity reveals the characteristics of new born reason. Since the very same course of history emerges the ideal norm which surrounds it.

dugin_Kult_35_03.jpegMeanwhile for the liberal, the reason that the radical displays its creation of the human will which aspire for absolute freedom.

The revolutionary act condenses the ethical obligation of the liberal, because breaking with whatever bothers him is the essential act of freedom which he realizes.

However, and in front of kilometers of ink that liberals and radicals inject in order to legitimize their historical idea, the reactionary offers lessons and refutes the partial dogmas of the revolutionaries. “History is not necessity, nor freedom, but instead its flexible integration”. He refutes the progressives with their Hemiplegic stories:

The human dust does not seem to rise up like under the breath of a sacred beast; epochs do not seem to order themselves as stadiums in the embryogenesis of a metaphysical animal (…) The whimsical and free of charge will of man is not its rector supreme. The facts do not mold, like a viscous and plastic paste, between eager fingers.

History is not that “autonomous and unique dialectic process” which preaches the Hegelian theory of the one-history, the one-humanity realized in universal reason. All of the contrary, is dialectic diversity.

Indeed, history is not a result of one impersonal necessity, nor from human caprice, but from a dialectic of wills where freewill develops in necessary consequences (…) History, thus, is a tight union of hardened wills in dialectic processes. As deeper the layer where the freewill spreads would be, more diverse the zones of activity which the process determines, and greater its duration would be. The superficial and peripheral act runs out in biographic episodes, while the central and deep act can create an epoch for an entire society.

And under Dugin’s light, this central and profound action is found in the levels of the self-referentiality from one’s own consciousness, there where it runs away from itself in order to give origin to the intimate texture of time: the notions of present, past and future. It is not the world the one which contains time, but instead, the consciousness of man; which by endowing the world with time gives it reality, dimension and figure; in sum, the creation of the world by the internal me. Just as our Russian professor exposes, the future has an ontology, a reality which is nothing more than the one granted by the historicity of a people, of a civilizational organism. History for Dugin is melody –applying Husserlian phenomenology–; it has a content and a sense which is not comprehended without the existence of the entire musical structure, in so, the future as essential component of the melody.

When we comprehend well history, and its logic we can easily guess what will follow, what is about to occur and what will come next. Knowing society, we could identify in its history the harmony, the newspapers, the chorus and the structure of the piece.

Against all Universalist pretension Dugin affirms the cultural diversity of historic time. In each people the self-referentiality of their own historical consciousness –there where the contact with their own being configures their sense of time–, falls into different versions of history. In this sense, the eternal circular time finds its short-circuit in the center of its own consciousness: the past unites infinitely with the future; the image of the Ouroboros. The traditional time on its behalf finds the reencounter with its consciousness in the past, on that every sacred act would be a tireless search of getting back in time. On the contrary, the messianic time, hopes to re encounter its historical consciousness in the future; the inherent scatology to linear history. History, time itself, is and will always be local. Dugin claims:

It is for this reason that humanity as a whole, cannot have a future. It doesn’t have one.

The only possibility that men have –according to the Spenglerian vision– is the one of achieving the possibilities of their own culture not achieved yet. However, Dugin and Gómez Dávila evoke this crusade, the commonality of what surpasses what is purely historical in each culture.

Two stances facing history and the opening of the eternal

Asking for history is reflecting in front of the human condition and its freedom itself in and by time. It’s like this that diversity of answers installs different ethical stances and their consecutive historical praxis in front of how to act and build history. Alexander Dugin and Nicolás Gómez Dávila converge in such a way in their analysis of history and the ethical stance in front of the very same, however their praxis of rebellion moves divergently, but only for matter of layers.

Refuting the progressive sentiment of history does not contaminate Gómez Dávila to give for granted his own understanding of it. Precisely from these comes its ethical reactionary stance as pessimism and historical negation.

The collective epochs are the result of an active communion in an identical decision, or of passive contamination of inert wills; but while the dialectic process in which liberties have been verted lasts, the freedom of the uncomfortable one twists in ineffective rebellion.


In the democratic epoch, the man-mass –according to the Orteguian (Ortega y Gasset) conceptualization– determines the inclination of the historic balance. It is not justice or reason, neither freedom already alienated, but instead the weight of the number and the quantitative which moves our epoch to the endgame of senselessness. By recognizing the futility of its complaint, the reactionary gives the sober contemplation of inevitable defeat.

The reactionary admits the present sterility of its principles and the inutility of his censorships, it not because the spectacle of human confusions is enough. The reactionary does not abstain of acting because the risk might spook him, but because he estimates that actually the social forces are pouring fast the goal he disdains. Inside the present process, the social forces have dug its channel in the rock, and nothing will twist its course while it doesn’t fall in the satin of an uncertain plain.

This stance of patient contemplation which waits for the oppression of historic dialectic falls into its necessary consequences, recalls the opinion of Dugin about the attitude of the conservative revolutionaries which assume how the bad consciousness of times which passes by waiting for the final fatality provides a new opening for authentic freedom.

Let’s leave buffoonery of post-modernity to follow its course; let’s leave it erode the defined paradigms, the ego, the super-ego and the logos; let’s leave it join with the rhizomes, the schizophrenic masses and the fragmented consciousness; for nothingness to leave the substance of the world and, then, the secret doors will open and ancient and eternal ontological archetypes will come to the surface and, in a terrible way, will finish the game.

Then enters the scene of the “temporal” horizon over which his rebellion stance of both authors is funded. Critiquing modernity and its historical dialectic do not condemn them to sigh about past time. Here is the key of their lectures: history will always be history of men. Their social archetypes are trans-historical, supra-historical. The human history is just the excuse for eternal motives; the mundane epochs, colored projections from a far-away ether. Like this is for Dávila:

In effect, even when it would not be necessity, nor caprice, the history for the reactionary, is not however, dialectic of immanent will, but instead temporal adventure between men and what transcends him (…) If the progressive leans towards the future, and the conservative towards the past, the reactionary does not measure his desires with yesterday’s history or with the history of tomorrow.

In that same way Dugin clears the purpose of his rebellion against the monotonic system:

We want to oppose triumphant liberalism something that goes far beyond modernity, advocating the return of pre-modernity, to the traditional world. However, we must comprehend that it must not be a return to the past, but instead to the eternal principles of the tradition which belong to all epochs.

Eternity as its atemporal horizon then opens itself both in its philosophy which is rooted in the ontological, in the eternal present of the human being and the powers that transcends him. While the liberal conservative simply resists to negative tendencies of modernity and the traditionalist longs to return to the golden epochs of his culture, the conservative revolutionary clashes in order to:

Take out from the structure of the world, the roots of evil in order to abolish time itself as a destructive quality of reality and, by doing so, to fulfill like this some kind of parallel secret, the non-evident intention of deity itself.

History does not escape from man, but man does not escape man himself. The absolute liberty of the will from which the progressive mockingly displays has a “genetic” seal. The causality of freewill points out an ontological fingerprint in the effect it imprints over reality: it is the character of human nature, the Dasein (being-there) as the being of the authentic man.

frase celebre nicolas gomez davila libros-books-amazonia.png

But this liberty is falsified when the understanding of man in modernity, in his desire to conquer absolute liberty, abstracts man from himself. It is the kingdom of the inauthentic, of the crippled human essence. Just as it is warned from Heidegger to Dugin, is the inauthenticity of the Dasman (the-they). For Dugin and Gómez Dávila the true liberty is realized when man by opening himself to the eternal is reintegrated in his ontological essentiality recovering what’s contingent in the perennial and the perpetual in the immortal moment: the temporality of myth. And by opening himself to the eternal it is not but an excuse to accommodate for the sacred, understood as the permanent and most truthful, in the core of our being. As this for Gómez Dávila the liberty:

Is not an instance which fails conflicts between instincts, but instead the mountain from which the man contemplates the ascension of nine stars, between the luminous dust of the starred sky (…) the free instant dissipates the vain clarity of the day, in order for it to raise above the horizon of the soul, the immobile universe which slips its passing lights over the tremble of our flesh.

It is not the past which is eternal what gives absolute sense to the stance of the reactionary. Here in his final lines the “Authentic reactionary” unveils his spiritual inclination:

The reactionary does not claim what the next dawn might bring, neither does he grasps the last shadows of the night. His lair rises in that luminous space where the essences interpellate him with their immortal presences.

Action and contemplation

In the search of this “return”, or rather, des-hiding of the eternal sacred, both authors diverge in the what-to-do in front of modern domination. The anti-modern rebellion of Gómez Dávila is not a praxis of active aggressive politics, but instead a very personal negation to following the modern trend.

The reactionary, however, is the stupid which assumes the vanity of condemning history, and the immorality of yielding to it.

His stance is the patient personal contemplation which condemns and denies through crude and transgressive truth in the form of a prosaic, irreverent, elegant, aggressive criticism; but which is assumed as defeated in the contingency of the historical epoch. The reactionary rebels in regards of the sacred and the eternal are revealed freeing him of historical alienation.

The reactionary escapes servitude of history, because he chases in the human jungle the footsteps of divine steps. The men and the facts are, for the reactionary, the servile and mortal flesh which encourages tramontane wind blows. To be reactionary is to defend causes that do not roll over the board of history, causes which are not important to lose

On his behalf, Dugin prefers to choose the path of action and the active revolution in order to give a fatal blow to the already aging modernity and to redirect what must be fate itself. Everything is synthesized in his political work that culminates in revolutionary action which overcomes modern paradigms.

The return to the sacred must be conceived, in the Heideggerian context, as a new beginning, to be built around the concept of Dasein; this, the destruction of the individual concept in favor of the human, concrete, thoughtful fact (…) Marxists and socialists are kids in relation with the great spiritual, social and political revolution which we the representatives of the fourth political theory must realize.

Action and contemplation synthesize the stances which both intellectuals take facing history and which diverge the direction of their own existence. Both however realize their crusade against the tyranny of time and historical progressivism in order to reintegrate to the atemporal of the sacred. We must not discard however the literary plastering of Gómez Dávila simply as passivity and renunciation, the fact of eternizing his denounce already represents a rupture of political transgression. The difference of both perhaps could be understood by the historical contexts in which their biographies are framed. Gómez Dávila suffered the weight of “an epoch without foreseeable”, a “somber place of history” which determined his pessimism and condemned him to “resign to look with patience the human arrogances”, waiting to “act only when necessity is overthrown”. His projection is directed at the transcend which beats and calls inside each man. He points out with passionate prose:

The reactionary is not a nostalgic dreamer of abolished pasts, but instead the hunter of sacred shadows above eternal hills

On the other hand, Dugin enters into scene in a modernity which is crumbling but threatens to take to the grave the human essence itself with it. His rebellion is projected revolution over the earthly and the political action, without pretending in any way to transcend Dasein, which is an imperative task for each people. His proposal demands a new historical principle which culminates completely the end of modernity founding a new epochal life over the return of the sacred and eternal archetypes. For Gómez Dávila, this would be the return of the sign of Christ; its historical praxis: the devotion to the miracle. For Dugin, the aegis of his Russian Orthodox Church, which reaffirms however, a plural comprehension of the gods: the logos of each people.


In order to culminate such shallow exposition of two great anti-modern iconoclasts, we must comprehend that both thinkers complement each other in a rebellion which, being personal stance or political project, shows the anguish of two existences which have dealt with an oppressing and falsifying history for both, and that, however, they do not decant for completing the process with contingent propositions, rather attracting to themselves the immortal presences of the eternal as dominant recuperation of the authenticity of man in an “central and profound act” which could give origin to a new era for awakening the sacred.


Dugin, Alexander. (2012). “The Fourth Political Theory”. New Republic Editions. Barcelona-Spain.

Gómez Dávila, Nicolás (2013). “The authentic reactionary”. Properties of the Chimera N°314 (15-19). University of Antionquia.

Geopolitica.ru. (2017). “Tenemos que hacer explotar el sistema liberal: entrevista al politólogo ruso Alexander Dugin”.

Translation of the above article is also available at The Fourth Revolutionary War: https://4threvolutionarywar.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/aleksandr-dugin-we-...

jeudi, 12 mai 2016

Adversus Haereses: Nicolás Gómez Dávila - Against the Religion of Democracy¹


Krzysztof Urbanek

Adversus Haereses: Nicolás Gómez Dávila - Against the Religion of Democracy¹

Ex: https://sidneytrads.com


Nicolás Gómez Dávila2 is primarily known for his authorship of the five volume work Scholia to an Implicit Text. Those who study Dávila’s life and work mostly focus on these 10,260 aphorisms3 and question what the “implicit text” actually is. Various arbitrary answers are offered by different academics: Franco Volpi believes it is the ideal act which is beyond the Bogotán’s creative reach, Till Kinzel believes it is the books from his library, Francia Elena Goenaga Olivares believes it is God, and numerous other researchers believe that the “implicit text” is Western culture itself.

However, it is rarely asked whether the Author of the Scholia has not elucidated an answer to this himself. Indeed, it appears that in 1988 – thus during the thinker’s life – Francisco Pizano de Brigard (who was a friend of Dávila’s) noted in a special edition of Revista del Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario4 that the “implicit text” appears on pages 60-100 of the first volume of the Textos I.5 There is no evidence that Dávila ever objected to this. Moreover, in the first volume of the Scholia we encounter the Bogotan’s idiosyncratic note: “the writer’s original thought echoes in his passing commentaries.”6

This point is sufficiently pressing to call for a closer reflection on the abovementioned text in order to capture its essence, because the substance of one of the most ingenious works of twentieth century thought revolves around the ideas contained in Dávila’s Scholia to an Implicit Text.


dav2.jpgThe subject of Nicolás Gómez Dávila’s Text Implicite is democracy. According to the Author, democracy is a new religion; more precisely, an anthropotheistic religion in which Man is presented as God. The Catholic Thinker therefore concludes that the ultimate consequence can only be to treat democracy as if it were a form of Satanism.

At the beginning of his thesis, Dávila concerns himself with two main types of democracy: bourgeoisie democracy and people’s democracy. To the Bogotán, the difference between the bourgeoisie and peoples democracies is essentially trivial, give that both strive towards the same goal, namely “the redemption of Man though Man.”

According to the Author of the Scholia, democracy is neither an electoral procedure, nor a social structure, nor an economic order. History illustrates that democracy is accompanied by militant secularism and the criticism of the mere phenomenon of religion. The intent that underpins the secularisation of society emanates from a “Godless zeal” and “secular caution”.7 Students of democracy highlight its religious character: that the sociology of democratic revolutions operates in categories that have been established through religious historicism. Certainly, the religious aspect of democracy is illuminated – I would say rationalised – equally through the bourgeoisie capitalist systems as well as through the peoples’ communistic systems. Gómez admits the primacy of the later8 and adds that while its theories hold that it is the best exemplification of truth, “it could be said that it suffices to reverse [these communistic theories] to not fall into error.”9

Next, Gómez turns his attention to the philosophy of history. He holds that “every philosophy aims to define the relationship between Man and his deeds.”10 He adds, that “the manner in which the relationship between Man and his deeds is defined, determines all universal explanations [i.e. for human conduct]”,11 and “philosophical definition of a particular relationship [i.e. between Man and deed] constitutes a theory of human motivation.”12 The Bogotán considers the plurality of the theories of motivation and their successive or simultaneous application, yet he concludes that “in each motivational theory, to which one may be preferentially disposed, and in each configuration in which he may be found, every deed is coordinated by an earlier religious choice.”13 This original choice – which Man is often oblivious to – defines Man’s attitude towards God and is the ultimate context of the deed. Thus Gómez summarises that “the individual as a historical phenomenon is the product of a religious choice.”14

The Bogotán therefore continues that “as we study any democratic phenomena, only a religious analysis will explain its nature, and thus allow one to ascribe to it appropriate meaning.”15 His definition of democracy appears at this point of reflection: “Democracy is an anthopotheistic religion. Its principle is a choice which has a religious character, a deed in which Man acknowledges Man as a god. Its doctrine is the theology of Man-as-God, its praxis is the realisation of the principle in behaviour, institutions and deeds.”16 Thus Gómez holds that “a godliness that democracy ascribes to the individual […] is a strictly theological definition”17 and therefore “democratic anthropology treats Man’s being in a manner that accords with classical attributes of God.”18

According to the Author of the Scholia, anthopotheism opts for one of two solutions to our present miseries. Either it speaks of a godly past (Orphic cosmogonies or Gnostic sects), or a godly future (democratic religion). Modern democratic religion is a lesson in “painful theogony”,19 and Man is represented as “material for its future condition.”20 Gómez speaks of the ethical lawlessness of anthropotheism, of it sectarianism, and its metaphysical revolt. In the next stage of his reflection, he underlines that “democratic doctrine is an ideological superstructure, patently applied to religious assumptions. The anthropological bias of the democratic doctrine finds its continuation in a militant apologetics.”21 In relation to democratic anthropology, Man is represented by Will, a Will that is free, sovereign and equal. Gómez briefly describes four theses of the democratic ideology’s apologetics:

  1. Pompous atheism (theology of the immanent God);
  2. Progressivism (the idea of progress as theodicy: from matter through Man towards the Devine);
  3. Subjective axiology (value recognised as that which the Will considers its own); and
  4. Common determinism (“total human freedom demands an enslaved universe”22).

dav3.jpgAccording to Nicolás Gómez Dávila, the sovereign Will reigns in liberal and individualistic democracies, while the authentic Will reigns in collective and despotic democracies. In his characterisation of the democratic religion, the Author of the Scholia holds that “the transformation of a liberal and individualistic democracy, into a collective and despotic democracy, does not molest the democratic intention, nor does it depart from its promised objectives.”23 This is because the law of the democratic Will has the mandate to coerce the obedience of the individual Will, due to the fact that the individual Will “sins against its [i.e. the democratic Will’s] own being.”24 Summarising thus far, the Bogotán writes that “continued faith in the democratic ideal interferes with the immediate objectives of the authoritarian democrat, who enslaves in the name of freedom and awaits the coming of a god from without the depraved masses.”25 Thus in the context of Man’s supposed omnipotence, Gómez recalls democracy’s resulting abuse of technology and the “inexorable industrial exploitation of the planet.”26

Next, Gómez come to an historical outline in which he discusses the historical legacy of democratic anthropotheism. He comes to the conclusion that the “modern democratic religion comes into being when Bogomilian and Cathar dualism, and apocalyptic messianism, fuse together.”27 Through a century of evolution, the democratic religion – the “daughter of pride”28 – begets a tremendous number of subsequent ideologies:

All can deceive us: virtue, which dazzles itself, sin, which deforms itself before our eyes. For the whole doctrine to be accepted, all that is required is that one aspect flatter us. When we fall into the enslaving trap, the seemingly chaotic nature of our conduct is then subject to the pressures [i.e. of the ideology] that purports to enforce order.29

Here we see the multiplicity of pathways each of which lead to the same destination: the deification of Man. The Author of the Scholia argues that the watershed moment in the evolution of the democratic religion was the formation of the nation-state, “which believes itself to be the sole judge of its deeds and the ultimate arbiter of its affairs […] which it accepts only those norms which are acknowledged by its own Will, and whose interests is the highest law.”30 According to the Bogotán, “the sovereign nation is the first democratic victory.”31 The only response to this usurpation is to assert the Divine Right of Kings. Such a law will eliminate any absolutizing tendencies: “above the Monarch is the Monarch Most High – shall rain judiciously, anointed by religion, preceded by natural law, guided by the authority of morality.”32

The next stage of the democratic invasion, which justified through the nature of its doctrine, is the mass’s revolutionary demand for freedom. According to Gómez, this way “the masses demand the freedom to be their own tyrant.”33 Equally important is that as soon as the mass’s demands are met, the axiological ties that underpin economic dynamism are destroyed, and the desire for unlimited wealth and prosperity arises. This economic value is subject to the suzerainty of Man, and in Gomez’s opinion, it “is the least absurd symbol of Man’s imaginary sovereignty.”34 The cult of wealth is a typically democratic phenomenon associated with the dominance of the bourgeoisie. Thus the bourgeoisie consciously elects to create and support the existence of a secular state, so as to avoid having to resolve the opposition between his subjective whims against the “interfering axiology”35 of objective or perennial truths:36

[W]hoever tolerates the proposition that the religious perspective interferes with the pursuits of banal materialist or worldly affairs, that ethical righteousness can arrest technological progress, that an aesthetic cause can modify political initiatives and projects, such a person wounds that bourgeoisie sensitivity and betrays the bourgeoisie enterprise.37

In the democratic religion, each individual is granted the superficial authority over his own destiny. Everything is to be subject to the individual’s capricious will. Gómez writes that “economic theft [i.e. when the individual’s right to the fruit of his labour is abrogated, or when the aforesaid axiological ties that underpin economic dynamism are destroyed.] culminates in a pusillanimous individualism, in which ethical indifference is reflected in intellectual anarchy.”38 The Bogotán observes that “reactionary apprehension, which every democratic episode provokes, recreates a theory of human rights and political constitutionalism, so as to contain and restrain the mischievousness of people’s sovereignty.”39 In this context, Gómez recalls the weaknesses of political liberalism. Thus, “[t]he third phase of the democratic conquest is the establishment of the communistic society.”40 Communism, according to the Author, is a conscious project, and

in the communist society, the ambition of the democratic doctrine is revealed. Its goal is not the modest happiness of existing humanity: it’s goal is the recreation of a Man whose sovereignty assumes the omnipotent control over his universe. Communist Man is a deity, who treads on the earthen crust.41

In conclusion, Gómez writes about the resulting ennui and cruelty of Man who attempts unsuccessfully to imitate the omnipotence of God,42 and considers the total reactionary rebellion to be the only sincere response to the anthropotheistic democratic religion.43

Generally speaking, so much on the topic of anthropotheism can be found in the 1959 volume of the Textos. It is worth noting inter alia that in his text Implicite Gómez focuses on futuristic anthropotheism: i.e. the democratic religion itself. Furthermore, while searching for the roots of this democratic religion, he arrives at an anthropotheism fixated on Man’s deified past, or in other words, on Gnosticism. The extent to which there are commentaries concerning Gnosticism in the New Scholia to an Implicit Text,44 these are related to and contingent on the critique of democracy itself in the Scholia to an Implicit Text. It is clearly evident that on reflection, and after a period of omitting to address the issue, Nicolás Gómez Dávila places considerable weight on Gnosticism: this can be found in the overlapping boundaries of religion and philosophy. Moreover, the student can notice that during this period, Gómez departs from a clear distinction marked in his Textos, and all anthropotheism – both past and futuristic – is identified with Gnosticism itself.

In light of the above, it is unsurprising that the Bogotán treats Gnosticism with decisive enmity. The advocates of Gnosticism are apparently considered the greatest enemies of Christianity, and from this perspective he identifies the active threat of its contemporary manifestation: “Christianity should not be defended from the ‘arguments’ of past and present scientism, but against the Gnostic poison.”45 Let us attend to what Gnosticism is historically, and contemplate whether or not Gómez is mistaken when speaking of its toxicity.


‘Gnosticism’ is the label for numerous currents of thought which are based on the knowledge of divine secrets, that are exclusively reserved for an elite. Gnosticism calls for salvation through a higher awareness that is obtained by way of an internal enlightenment. Here we see a so-called ‘self-redemption.’ Gnosticism developed in the second and third century after the birth of Christ in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. It is a syncretic creature which combines many elements common to Hellenic philosophy as well as Judaism and Christianity. The rise of the main current of Gnosticism (whose creators include Basilides of Alexandria, Valentinus of Phrebonis and Marcion of Sinope) is preceded by a pre-Christian gnosis, for example, the Judaic apocalyptic of Qumran, various exotic doctrines of Iranian and Indo-Iranian origin, specific currents of Orphism, as well as neo-Pythegorianism and Platonism.

dav4.jpgThe geneology of Gnosticism is not foreign to Gómez: “the birth of gnosis can evidently be traced to the pre-Christian era, yet its poison has evolved in the shadow of Christianity.”46 Thus the Bogotán ceases to associate Platonism – to which he is endeared – with Gnosticism and directs his suspicions towards Stoicism47 – which he despises: “The Greek roots of Gnosticism spätantike are not found in Platonic dualism but in Stoic monism.”48

Returning to the general principles of Gnosticism, a closer inspection reveals that it can be characterised by the belief in Man’s god-like nature, and while he is often oblivious to this supposed nature, he nonetheless labours to obtain knowledge thereof. According to Gnosticism, the gnostic who thus labours, as well as the divine essence and the gnosis through which knowledge of it is sought, are all consubstantial.49 In other words, the divine aspect of Man’s personality is “dormant” until the moment that the redemptive gnosis has been attained, until the moment that Man becomes aware of his divine essence. In this context, Gómez observes that “the awareness of the Gnostic’s divine nature can be redemptive only when it is the deed of the subject50 when the subject recognises within himself a redeemed being. | Gnosis is idolatry.”51 Thus the continuation of Gnosticism is the Enlightenment and its rationalist programmes: “Only ignorance imprisons the divine nature of Man. This divine nature remains in a state of Fall [i.e. “dormancy” as per ibid.] until it has attained awareness of its divinity. Aufklärung [i.e. Enlightenment] is the careful exposition of Gnosis.”52 “Rationalism is the official sobriquet of Gnosticism.”53 According to the Author of the Scholia, Enlightenment’s faith in progress is connected to the auto-deification of Man: “‘Progress’ is the name of a process in which salvator-salvandus54 restores its Fallen divinity.”55 I believe that on the same philosophical56 basis, it would be appropriate to elucidate Gómez’s antipathy towards Hegel: “Goethe is a pantheist. Hegel is a Gnostic | Pantheism is a slope, only Gnosticism is a cliff edge”57 and “Nietzsche is barely uncivil – Hegel is blasphemous.”58 Now, we may come to learn what the Bogotán believes to be the difference between pantheism and Gnosticism. He writes that:

Because the substance of the matter which is to be understood directly is more important than its form, we need to differentiate naturalist mysticism and personal mysticism from theistic mysticism: likewise we need to differentiate the experience of a pristine world and the experience of the eternal ‘I’ from the experience of the reality of God.
Theistic mysticism is not susceptible to corruption. While naturalistic mysticism degenerates to pantheism, as the ecstatic awareness identifies the pure act of creation with the splendour of the Creator. Moreover, personal mysticism degenerates into Gnosticism, where one is steeped in self-awareness identifies the eternal soul with the perennial God.
The pantheistic attitude is less sinful than Gnostic attitudes because, in the former, Man’s pride is engulfed in the divine conflagration [i.e. of life]. However, an erroneous interpretation of mystic experience leads to a repetition of the sacrilegious.59

Gnostics believe that primordial Man is enslaved by the Demiurge and his worldly powers, as well as his flesh which is the prison of the divine spirit. Thus, redemption occurs by way of liberation from the mundane world and the corporeal flesh. “The Gnostic deification of the soul occurs when the merger of Neoplatonism and Mazdaism automatically results in the unification of Evil and materialism.”60

dav7.jpgIn the second century A.D., Gnosticism was customarily concerned with the Fall of the divine entity; Manicheanism, associated with the gnostic dualist religious currents begotten by Mani in the third century A.D., concerned itself with the duality of and struggle between Good and Evil. After contact with Christianity, Gnosticism assumed the religious elements of Judaism and Christianity, e.g. revelation per se, and in particular the revelation of Christ and the revelation contained in the Scriptures. In the womb of Christianity, Gnosticism stimulates numerous heresies (e.g. Valentinius of Phrebonis and his disciples). Manichaeism is presented as a continuation of Gnosticism, and the inheritors of both currents are the Pualines, Bogomils and Cathars. Gómez does not fully agree with this classification and seems to contradict it, as he earlier writes in Textos I:

Paulinism is closer to the Marcionite doctrines than the Manichean, therefore, as with Bogomilism and equally as in Catharism, Gnostic elements are likely the result of a contamination resulting from the blending of the two.
Gnosticism crystallises on the conventicles of the ‘free spirit’ and Amalric pantheism.61

In any case, the subject of Gnosticism is the attainment of secret knowledge, and its aim is an Enlightenment which is achieved through the revelation of mystic knowledge, where such revelation thus becomes the objects of secret wisdom. Gnostics derive this wisdom from Christ and his prophets, in opposition to faith (in particular Christian faith). Gnosis evolves in centres of Christian communities, particularly within those in which adherents to foreign beliefs can be encountered (Ephesus, Syria and Alexandria). The secret wisdom of Gnosis stands in opposition to naturalism, occultism and the magic of Christian Revelation. Its goal is the exaltation of Man’s hidden natural powers, the demotion of Christ to the role of but one in many unique historic individuals. In this context, it is worth noting Hebrew Docetism, i.e. the questioning Christ’s apparent humanity. Gómez clarifies: “Docetism takes as its beginning not the disdain to matter, but in the desperate need for the transformation of the Redemptor into a mundane vehicle of revelation. | Christ does not redeem Docetism, he evokes it.”62

Syrian Gnosis (centred in Antioch) derives from Simon Magus of Samaria (described by the Fathers of the Church as ‘the Father of all Heresies’). Simon claims that fire is the primordial principle (God acts through fire – reminiscent of the Burning Bush). This God-Fire is no simple concept. It is constituted by two elements: the male (mind) and feminine (thought). From God come the six roots of the Eons (cosmic powers) as well as a seventh, which is present in all, a power known as ‘Father’. The Father begets the world and the reigning six Eons, and a seventh power, which is the ‘Spirit’. According to Simon Magus, matter is not created, it is eternal and shaped by the Demiurge, who is an Angel sent by the Highest God. While Man is formed by Good as well as Evil powers, and thus is naturally corrupted, he is in need of redemption. Simon holds that the world requires redemption though the male element (himself) and the female element (Helen, a prostitute from Tyre63). Historically, this study leads to a moral laxity and the savagery of custom. In this context, it is worth noting that Gómez suggests that obscenity is a motif in Gnostic history: “The Gnostic is susceptible to liturgical profanity, because the sacrum unilaterally contradicts his divinity. | Sacrilegious obscenity is his favourite act. | One of the Gnostic Evangelia is authored by de Sade.”64

Menander, a student of Simon Magus, announces that the world was created by Angels, and enmity reigns between them and Man. Man learns magic from the primordial Absolute65 so as to conquer the Angels, with the aim of achieving redemption. A disciple of Menander was Basilides of Alexandria (second century A.D.). Basilides transplants Syrian gnosis from Antioch to Alexandria. There it merges with the Hebrew Kabbalah and Egyptian wisdom. In the opinion of this Gnostic, within the essence of all can be found the ‘god who isn’t’, and from him emanate numerable Eons. In this science, all emanates from providence: redemption and Evil. The source of all sin is Man’s impulse. Evil,66 and in particular suffering, are substantiated in Man’s previous life. Thus we encounter the concept of pre-existential spiritualism. The soul is capable of recognising and intuitively conceptualising reality.

Isidore of Alexandria, son and disciple of Basilides, is an advocate for amoralism and the total freedom of being. He believes that since redemption is certain, one can do what one pleases, whatever one desires. Gómez thus connects the lawlessness of the Gnostics with the lawlessness of the Revolutionists: “The Gnostic is a born Revolutionary, where the act of an absolute and unreserved rejection is the perfect method through which one announces one’s divine autonomy.”67 According to the Bogotán, the Revolution reached its peak during modernity: “The French Revolution was the highest watermark of the Gnostic tide”68 and “[n]o subsequent Revolution is the result of a new definition of ‘Man’ | All such subsequent Revolutions constitute a reiterated development of the Gnostic definition in changing circumstances.”69 Carpocrates of Alexandria and his son Epiphanes took Isidor’s conceptualisation of immoralism to an extreme. Moreover, they were characterised by their hatred of the Hebrew God. In their vision, Jesus, the natural son of Joseph and Mary, recalled his earlier incarnation and spread hostility aimed at Hebrew laws and customs. Epiphanes claims, that – in the pursuit of redemption – one must sate all manifestations of sensual pleasure and debauchery. Thus Gómez see the anti-Hebraic nature of Gnosticism: “The Gnostic is inevitably anti-Semitic since he must degrade the Creator to the level of the Demiurge.”70

dav5.jpgAnother famous Gnostic is Valentine, who studied Platonism and the secret wisdom of Egypt in Alexandria, and who attended Isidore’s lectures. He established two schools: the Eastern (Alexandria) and the Italian (Rome). The Eastern School interprets the Book of Genesis and the Evangelia, and develops the theory of the Eons which emanate in primordial pairs (Jesus is here one of the greatest Eons). There is a fundamental difference between the ‘good god’ (the Most High primordial Absolute71) and the Demiurge of the world. Equally, Man is represented dualistically. Within him co-exist two elements: the first, originating from the Evil Demiurge and his Angels (impulses are the bad spirits); the second originate from the ‘good god’. Redemption is necessary. It is made possible through the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Eastern School speaks of three types of Man:

  1. Hylic, the seat of the Devil;
  2. Psychic, who have faith but no knowledge (these are capable of choice, to become either Hylic or Pneumatic); and
  3. Pneumatic, who have attained perfect knowledge (gnosis) and are certain to achieve redemption (redemption comes from their nature).

According to this teaching, Jesus’s corporeal form is only phenomenal [i.e. momentarily apparent] animated by the pneumatic soul, and comes to redeem the Psychic type. The Italian School speaks about the meandering wisdom which begets knowledge, and the Fire which – at the End Times – comes forth from the Earth and consumes all matter, along with the Hylic type. In due course of these considerations, Gómez again warns against pride and recommends faith and scepticism: “Scepticism and Faith solely inoculate against Gnostic Pride. | He who does not believe in God, may gracefully lose his faith in himself.”72 Gómez equally reveals his attitude to theological-philosophical speculation: “Where the sceptic does not smile, his metaphysics dissolve into Gnostic speculation.”73

Cerdo (the Syrian) was another well-known Gnostic of the ancient world. He underlines the dualism of the spirit and matter. He juxdeposes the ‘good god’ (the Father of Jesus Christ, the God of the Evangelia) and the god of justice and cruelty (the God of the Old Testament). Marcion, the son of the Bishop of Sinope, was a student of Cerdo. Excluded from the Church (144 A.D.) for advocating heretical beliefs, he founded a Gnostic church in Rome which existed up until the first half of the fifth century. In the context of the Marconite heresy, one can notice that Gómez takes a position in respect to the relationship of Gnosticism and Christianity:

Gnosticism and Christianity, starting from the same origins, move in opposite directions.
On the basis of a common definition of the human condition, the Christian draws the conclusion that he has been created, the Gnostic, that he is a creator.74


Christianity and Gnosticism concern themselves with the same subject matter. The feeling of ‘alienation’ was a common experience.
The state of ‘alienation’ is an historical constant, however it becomes more acute in times of social crisis.
‘Alienation’ is the abstract territory, within which either the romantic-Christian or the democratic-Gnostic answers arise.75

The ultimate answers provided by the Christian and Gnostic are radically at odds. The Bogotán provides an emblematic example: “‘Justice’ is a Gnostic concept. | It is sufficient for the fallen deity to assert its proprietary interest. | We Christians ask for mercy.”76

Marcion writes that the Biblical God, the Demiurge, is Evil and is opposed by the ‘good’ God of the Evangelia. This Gnostic advocates a severe puritanism and ascetics. His Docetist doctrine presents the flesh as the repulsive creation of the Demiurge, and rejects His Resurrection. Here, Christ is not prophesised by the Holy Scripture as the Messiah, and the baptism is reserved solely to the unmarried and eunuchs. Many contemporary Gnostic sects hold that Christ is a purely spiritual entity who liberates the soul, which derives from God but is imprisoned by the Evil Demiurge in the sensual world. Although researches consider that anthropological dualism is common to Gnosis and Neoplatonism, Gómez holds that “Gnosticism can be dualist or monist. | Gnosticism is a theory that concerns itself with the nature of the soul.”77 The dominant current of later Gnosticism held that reality is the deed of a free and radically Evil Power.

A particular expression of this idea is the doctrine of Manicheanism, which arose in the third century through the work of Mani of Ctesiphon. In its infancy, it encountered many religious traditions (in Persia, India and China) and later held that it completed the revelations of Zoroaster, Buddha, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It speaks of two gods, two great and vying creative powers. Each deed of the Evil divinity is contradicted by a deed of the Good divinity. The conflict will come to an end when the Good divinity vanquishes his Evil opponent. Thus, Gnosticism – equally as the religion of democracy – is a relevant phenomenon.


The following are representative of contemporary Gnosticism: New Age, National Socialism, Marxism Leninism and the Psychoanalysis of Jung.78 These fanatical and anti-Christian currents are concerned with the liberation of Man by Man. The author of the Scholia writes that “the Gnostic soteriology ferments in the multiplicity of all modern sects.”79 Moreover, he directs our attention to another aspect of contemporary Gnosticism, i.e. to contradict the lessons of Original Sin: “The dogma of Man’s natural goodness is expressed with the assistance of ethical terminology that is central to the experience of the Gnostic. | Man is naturally good because he is naturally divine.”80

Given the history and characteristics of Gnosticism, let us recall what Nicolás Gómez Dávila has to say about democracy in his Scholia to an Implicit Text. Namely, he determines that democracy is not only a political fact, but also a religion. It is a religion in which Man takes the place of God. The thinker describes this as a “metaphysical perversion”81 and highlights its Gnostic and Satanic background. In the opinion of the Author of the Scholia, contemporary Man behaves as if he were sovereign and as if he alone were capable of deciding questions of Good and Evil, Truth and Falsity, Beauty and Ugliness. A consequence of this worldview and attitude is that the modern world is a spectacle of iniquity.

To Gómez Dávila, democracy is an “Empire of lies”82 in which the masses are hypnotised by pro-liberal propaganda, while terror and slavery reign. The main vehicle of despotic governance is the rule of positivist law83 and a bureaucracy which rapidly becomes its own objective. Bureaucracy oppresses, and its excess are naturally repellent.84 The resulting falsity and disgust felt towards democracy among those who are so repelled is particularly apparent during elections, when democrats commit the most egregious frauds to flatter the masses. This leads to a situation where the masses are bribed with the “promise of another’s property”85 as well as selling one’s self “to the wealthy, for cash | to the poor, in installments.”86 Democratic politicians are ultimately simple frauds who “benefit from their robbery.”87 Thus the thinker believes that “among those popularly elected, those worthy of respect are only the imbeciles – the intelligent man, on the other hand, to be elected, must lie.”88 Moreover, “[w]here those popularly elected do not belong to the lowest intellectual, moral and social class, we can be certain that anti-democratic forces interfered with the natural progress of the democratic process.”89 As a consequence, Dávila further adds that “[i]n a democracy, the ‘Man of principle’ is worth barely a little more [i.e. than the democratic Man].”90

Generally, Gómez Dávila considers politics – as a typically democratic activity – as a “necessary Evil” and “a subordinate activity.”91 In the eyes of the Bogotán Recluse, democracy principally demoralises Man. Not just because of the persistent and enduring culture of falsehood, but also due to the inevitable temporariness of all laws, regulations and political arrangements. Thus, only the unscrupulous are capable of reaching the heights of democratic society, which in turn deepens the corruption of the masses.


The immediately obvious reason for this is because the ruling elite of a democracy cannot pass any reform without guaranteeing their electoral support. Meanwhile, a majority of the electors are unable to truly appreciate the issues on which they are to decide, either directly or indirectly. These characteristic contradictions of the democratic process and democratic man precipitate numerous crises: “the more serious the problem, the greater the number of incompetents who democracy calls upon to provide solutions.”92 Moreover, Gómez Dávila notes that in a democracy there are numerous matters which it is not permitted to raise in public: “race, social illness, the climate of the times, all appear to be corrosive substances [to the democratic status quo].”93 For example, equality is incessantly discussed among the demos. However, the author of the Scholia holds that “people are less equal than they say, but more than they think,” and “if people were to be born equal, they would invent inequality to kill the boredom.”94 He adds that “hierarchy is heavenly”95 and the truly equal are only those condemned to hell.

It is therefore unsurprising that Nicolás Gómez Dávila considers the word “democrat” to be a uniquely pejorative epithet: “the uplift that is felt before Greek literature and art obscures [i.e for future generations] the true nature of Greek Man: jealous, traitorous, sportsman, democrat and deviant.”96 The Columbian, whose work shows him to be the friend of genuine diversity and plurality, cannot in any way accept the presence of the democrat [i.e. due to the democrat’s levelling tendency]. Thus, he arrives to the conclusion that the “height of reactionary wisdom would depend on finding a place even for the democrat.”97

If we realise that the Columbian philosopher is above all the implacable enemy of a progress which is typical for the democrat, as well as his idolatrous worship of science and technology, then it becomes clear that his only response to the modern era is total isolation and solitude. Gómez Dávila is aware of the consequences of these beliefs, and is ready to face them. To him, this is the price of independence and integrity.98 He writes: “The struggle against the modern world must be carried out in solitude. | Where there are two, there is treachery.”99

– Krzysztof Urbanek is a scholar of the work of Nicolás Gómez Dávila and has dedicated his career to translating the work of the Colombian reactionary thinker from Spanish into Polish. His latest work is the 1054 page volume Scholia do Tekstu Implicite (Warsaw: Furta Sacra, 2014).


  1. Furta Sacra Publishing

    [This is a translation from a draft of the original Polish unpublished manuscript by Dr. Krzysztof Urbanek of Furta Sacra publishing, dated 14 April 2016. The translator’s editorial comments are contained within parentheses in the body of the text and footnotes that follow.]

  2. [Throughout this article, Dr. Urbanek will refer to Nicolás Gómez Dávila as the “Author” (of the cited works) or as the “Bogotán” or “Bogotán Recluse” (Dávila being a native of Bogotá, Columbia), the “Thinker”, “Catholic Thinker” or “Philosopher”. These are used interchangeably. N.b., Dávila also referred to himself as “Don Colacho”.]
  3. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005).
  4. Revista del Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Vol 81 No. 542 (April June 1988).
  5. The writer relies on the Spanish language edition of the work: Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Textos (Barcelona: Atalanta, 2010 [Bogotá: Editorial Voluntad, 1959]) pp. 55−84.
  6. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Scholia do Tekstu Implicite, Krzysztof Urbanek (trans.) (Warsaw: Furta Sacra, 2014) p. 105. [Dr. Urbanek’s original text, which is his translation from the Spanish, reads “Każdy pisarz komentuje w nieskończoność swój krótki tekst pierwotny”. The Spanish original was not available to the translator. For the most recent publication of Dávila’s work in English, Anglophone readers are directed to the bilingual edition of his selected aphorisms: Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Scholia to an Implicit Text (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2013). An online archive of English translations of Dávila’s work is located at the “Don Cloacho’s Aphorisms webpage”, <don-colacho.blogspot.com> (accessed 30 April 2016).]
  7. Dávila, Textos, op. cit. p. 59.
  8. [i.e. that communism best exemplifies the religious nature of democratic ideology.]
  9. Dávila, Textos, op. cit. p. 60.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid. p. 61.
  14. Ibid. p. 62.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid. p. 62-63.
  18. Ibid. p. 63.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid. p. 64.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid. p. 69.
  23. Ibid. p. 71.
  24. Ibid. p. 72.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid. p. 73.
  27. Ibid. p. 74.
  28. Ibid. p. 75.
  29. Ibid. p. 76.
  30. Ibid. p. 77.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid. p. 78.
  33. Ibid. p. 79.
  34. Ibid. p. 80.
  35. Ibid. p. 81.
  36. [This is an interpretive translation of Dr. Urbanek’s phraseology. The original text reads: “Burżuazja zaś świadomie wybiera państwo laickie, aby nie musieć konfrontować „swoich kombinacji” z „wtrętami aksjologicznymi”.” The phrase “swoich kombinacji” is taken to mean the mendacity and craftiness of modern Man’s subjective whims, and the “wtrętami aksjologicznymi” is literally translated as an “interfering axiology”. The distinction being drawn by Dr. Urbanek between the two terms is greater than the mere opposition between the subjective and the objective; what is being described is the inversion of the Divine (or natural) order.]
  37. Dávila, Textos, op. cit. p. 81.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Ibid. p. 82.
  41. Ibid. p. 83.
  42. [This is an interpretative translation of Dr. Urbanek’s text. The original words are: “Gómez pisze o znudzeniu i okrucieństwie człowieka, naśladującego wszechmoc Boga.” A literal translation may suggest that the boredom and cruelty of Man is a result of Man’s imitation of God; however, a clearer translation requires the interpolation, into the original text, that the boredom and cruelty is a function of the failed imitation, and furthermore, that any imitation of God is an exercise doomed to failure. Thus, all attempts to deify Man will deaden the individual spirit and dehumanise society. Taken in its context, this is understood to be the intended meaning of Dr. Urbanek’s original text.]
  43. [Here, the total reactionary rebellion – “totalna reakcyjna rebelia” – is the radical rejection of, and departure from, the deification of Man, or in other words, the return to a transcendent and hierarchical paradigm (social, moral and individual) which is antithetical to the demotic ideologies of the eighteenth through to the twentieth centuries. For more on this, see: “Transcendence and the Aristocratic Principle: ‘Throne and Altar’ as Essential Criteria for Civilisation and National Particularism; Defence Against Demotic Tyranny” in Aristokratia III (2015)]
  44. There is only one direct critique of Gnosticism in the two considerable volumes of the Scholia to an Implicit Text. See further: Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. pp. 305-306.
  45. Ibid. p. 819.
  46. Ibid. p. 914.
  47. “Decidedly, Stoicism is the cradle of all error | (Deification of Man, determinism, natural law, egalitarianism, cosmopolitanism, etc. etc.)” (Ibid. p. 402).
  48. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 770.
  49. [This is an interpretive translation of Prof. Urbanek’s original text, which reads “Gnostycyzm mówi o identyczności poznającego, czyli gnostyka, poznawanego, czyli boskiej substancji, i środka poznania, czyli gnozy.” The word “identyczności” may be literally interpreted as “identicality” however “consubstantial” is used for the sake of grammatical clarity. The translator understands this passage to convey the notion that the relationship between the three concepts – the Gnostic, the divine essence and gnosis itself – is to be interpreted in an almost Trinitarian manner. The text that follows is of an elucidatory nature and its translation does not raise any caveats.]
  50. [i.e. when the animating intention to seek and achieve awareness comes from within the individual seeking gnostic redemption.]
  51. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 769.
  52. Ibid. p. 776.
  53. Ibid. p. 739.
  54. “Savior-saved” [likewise, Dr. Urbanek’s translation in his original Polish text is “zbawiający-zbawiany.”]
  55. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 774.
  56. [Dr. Urbanek uses the word “ideowym” which may readily be translated as “ideological”, however, the term “philosophical” is better suited for the English translation in the context of a reactionary critique of modernity.]
  57. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 775.
  58. Ibid. p. 1051.
  59. Ibid. p. 735.
  60. Ibid. p. 817.
  61. Ibid. p. 819.
  62. Ibid. p. 818.
  63. Thus, one may locate the historical basis for an interpretation of the following text of the Scholia: “Modern Man always discovers his soul in a filthy place – such as the paradigmatic brothel in Tyre” (Ibid. p. 775).
  64. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 770.
  65. [Dr. Urbanek’s original text is “Jednia” or “Oneness.”]
  66. Meanwhile, it seems that Gómez has failed to notice the Gnostic interest in Evil, when he writes: “The Gnostic does not ask as per Tertullian: Undem alum? but: Unde Ego?” (I am here, I am faultless) [Prof. Urbanek’s Polish translation reads: “Ja tutaj! Ja doskonały!”] (Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 818).
  67. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 770.
  68. Ibid. p. 773.
  69. Ibid. p. 790.
  70. Ibid. p. 913.
  71. [Dr. Urbanek’s original words read: “prajednia najwyższa” which can be literally translated as the “primordial oneness that is most high.” Here, the treatment of the original text complies with the earlier translation at n 65 supra, adjusted for grammatical clarity.]
  72. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 776. [Prof. Urbanek’s original words, in the last line, read: “Kto nie wierzy w Boga, może zdobyć się na tyle przyzwoitości, by nie wierzyć w siebie.”]
  73. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 701. [The term “smile” here is understood to indicate a disposition of the spirit which is akin to a gracious and humble scepticism, being self-aware of one’s limitations, a sincere and honest ability to approach that which is doubtful or not readily understood, not allowing one’s self to be carried by a wounded ego, a certain levity of heart which reflects and informs one’s intellect and moral attitude.]
  74. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 769.
  75. Ibid. p. 773.
  76. Ibid. p. 774.
  77. Ibid. p. 819. See Gómez further: “The core of Pelagianism is the Gnostic definition of the soul” (Ibid. p. 818).
  78. See further: Witold Myszor (ed.) Gnostycyzm Antyczny i Współczesna Neognoza [“The Gnosticism of Antiquity and Contemporary Neognosticism”] (Warsaw: Akademię Teologii Katolickiej, 1996). [This work is unavailable in English translation.]
  79. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 648.
  80. Ibid. p. 818.
  81. Ibid. p. 587.
  82. Ibid. p. 315.
  83. [Dr. Urbanek’s original words read: “władza sądownicza” which literally translates as the “rule” – in a negative sense, as in the tyranny – of the judicial class or law courts.]
  84. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 480.
  85. Ibid. p. 126.
  86. Ibid. p. 621.
  87. Ibid. p. 985.
  88. Ibid. p. 974.
  89. Ibid. p. 978.
  90. Ibid. p. 893.
  91. Ibid. p. 409.
  92. Ibid. p. 39.
  93. Ibid. p. 638.
  94. Ibid. p. 516.
  95. Ibid. p. 564.
  96. Ibid. p. 1033.
  97. Ibid. p. 683. [Emphasis added by the translator. This is interpreted as an expression of Dávila’s Catholic charity and sense of inclusivity, that he would express a desire to locate a place even for the sacrilegious element.]
  98. [Dr. Urbanek’s original word is “bezkompromizowności” which translates literally as the state of no compromise on principal. Here it is translated for the sake of brevity as “integrity.”]
  99. Dávila, Scholia, Urbanek (trans.) op. cit. p. 482.

Citation Style:

This article is to be cited according to the following convention:

Krzysztof Urbanek, “Adversus Haereses: Nicolás Gómez Dávila Against the Religion of Democracy” Edwin Dyga (translator) SydneyTrads – Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum (30 April 2016) <sydneytrads.com/2016/04/30/2016-symposium-krzysztof-urbanek> (accessed [date]).

vendredi, 26 février 2016

Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Unknown Reactionary


Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Unknown Reactionary

There are two purposes for this article. The first is to introduce the ideas of Nicolás Gómez Dávila to the English-speaking American and European Right. The second is to motivate a more profound approach to his works, in their original Spanish editions and in Italian and German translations. (Sadly, the English translation is deficient.)

His Life

Colombia, like most South American countries, is a state with a high level of miscegenation; we can safely say that less than 15% of the total population could be considered white. This group includes mostly descendants of white Spaniards and descendants of other Europeans, like Italians and Germans, who chose to settle in Colombia instead of migrating to countries with more European population like Argentina or Chile.

This small white population usually — but not always — occupies the upper economic and social levels of Colombian society. The ones who don’t belong to these levels can be found in Colombia’s southwest and central small towns. Needless to say, this white population is not racially conscious, and they are marrying and procreating with non-whites prolifically.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila was born on May 18, 1913, in the city of Bogota, into a white family that belonged to the upper socio-economic levels of the city. He was a descendant of Antonio Nariño, one of the white leaders of the independence movement in Colombia (then known as Nueva Granada). When he was six years old his family moved to Paris, where he studied in a Benedictine school until a severe case of pneumonia forced him to be home schooled with private tutors. He obtained a solid classic education by learning classic languages (Latin and Greek) and modern languages (English, French, and German). When he was 23 years old he came back to Bogota, married, and never left the country again (with the exception of a six months stay in Europe), until his death in May 17, 1994.

He spent his whole life in a voluntary seclusion inside his home library, surrounded by a collection of more than 30,000 volumes, where he employed his time reading and writing. The Italian Franco Volpi, one of the most devout promoters of Gómez Dávila’s thought in Europe, condensed his life in this sentence: “Nació, escribió, murió”[1] (Born, Wrote, Died).

His Works

reaccion.pngAlmost all of Gómez Dávila’s writings are collections of aphorisms called — in Spanish — Escolios. Escolios comes from the Greek scholión, which literally means commentary. This term was used in old manuscripts for commentaries made between the lines by someone other than the original author of the text. These escolios have been compiled into his main works: Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, Escolios a un Texto Implícito II, Nuevos Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, Nuevos Escolios a un Texto Implícito II, and Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implícito.

Gómez Dávila himself gives us two reasons for this type of writing. The first is a quote used as a kind of warning on the first page of his complete works:

“A hand, a foot, a leg, a head,
Stood for the whole to be imagined”
— William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece

The intention of this quote is clear. Gómez Dávila gives the reader fragments and pieces, and it’s the reader’s job to assemble them into a coherent body of thought.

We can find the second reason in Escolios I, in which he affirms “Escribir corto para concluir antes de hastíar”[2] (write curtly to conclude before weariness). This type of writing might be short in length but it is deep in content. An educated reader inevitably recalls Nietzsche’s aphorisms while reading Dávila’s Escolios.

His Thought

The influences on Gómez Dávila’s thought are easy to trace from the books in his library, the most notorious being Niccoló Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche, Justus Möser, Konstatin Leontiev, Joseph de Maistre, Donoso Cortés, Maurice Barrès, and Charles Maurras.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila describes his own position as reactionary. Reaction could be described as a Weltanschaaung because it encompasses attitudes about every aspect of the world and human life. Gómez Dávila describes it in a certain number of escolios, but the most beautiful definition is given with a highly poetical twist: “El reaccionario neto no es soñador de pasados abolidos, sino cazador de sombras sagradas sobre colinas eternas”[3]: “The pure reactionary is not a dreamer of abolished pasts, but a hunter of holy shadows upon eternal hills.”

Is the reactionary a man of the Right? Gómez Dávila gives us the answer: “Aún la derecha de cualquier derecha me parece siempre demasiado a la izquierda”[4]: “Even the Right of any Right looks to me always too far on the Left.” From this Escolio we can see that he believed in the traditional Right/Left political dichotomy, wherein the Right represents order, hierarchy, and aristocracy, and the Left chaos, equality, and democracy.

Franco Volpi describes the Reactionary as “. . . aquel que está en contra de todo porque no existe nada que merezca ser conservado”[5]: “. . . he who’s against everything because there is nothing that deserves to be preserved.” We partially agree with this definition because, while the reactionary is indeed against everything, he’s not a nihilist because everything that he’s against comes from the modern world. The modern world, in all his forms, is the reactionary’s number 1 enemy. Democracy, humanism, equality, atheism, socialism, Marxism, Capitalism, vulgarity, and decadence are the tangible manifestations of this world.

The modern world is a cesspool of vices and decadence, which wants to establish them as the norm: “. . . el mundo moderno nos exigue que aprobemos lo que ni siquiera debería atreverse a pedir que toleraramos”[6]: “. . . the modern world requires us that we approve what it shouldn’t ask us to tolerate.” This escolio, written sometime before 1977, has become truer with every passing day, as every form of depravity and corruption is promoted by the modern world and those who are behind it . . . and the final goal of this agenda is very clear [5].

Modern man is a vulgar being who lacks all virtue and heroism. He is the mass-man, using the term of José Ortega y Gasset. He’s the Untermensch: “Los antiguos veían en el héroe histórico o mítico, en Alejandro o en Aquiles, el módulo de la vida humana. El gran hombre era paradigmático, su existencia ejemplar. El patrón del demócrata, al contrario, es el hombre vulgar. El modelo democrático debe rigurosamente carecer de todo atributo admirable”[7]: “The ancients saw in the historical or mythical hero, in Alexander or Achilles, the center module of human life. The great man was a paradigm and his existence exemplary. On the contrary, the democratic pattern is the vulgar man. The democratic model must rigorously lack of any admirable attribute.”

Modernity and its golem, modern man, are literally the destroyers of worlds: “El moderno destruye más cuando construye que cuando destruye”[8]: “The modern [man] destroys more when [he] builds than when [he] destroys.” We can see in this escolio that the agenda and final goal of the modern world were clear in Nicolás Gómez Dávila’s mind.

Of course, modernity’s favorite form of government is democracy, which is “. . . el regimen politico donde el ciudadano confía los intereses públicos a quienes no confiaría jamás sus intereses privados”[9]: “. . . the political regime where the citizen trusts the public interest to those who he will never trust his private interests”; and in the eyes of Gómez Dávila, Democracy is even “a metaphysical perversion.”[10]

But, what is the ultimate goal of the Reactionary in this world that he despises? Gómez Dávila couldn’t be more clear about it: “. . . izquierdistas y derechistas meramente se disputan la posesión de la sociedad industrial. El reaccionario anhela su muerte”[11]: “. . . leftists and rightists only argue about the ownership of the industrial society. The Reactionary yearns for its death.” The reactionary wants nothing less than the destruction of the modern world.

gomez-davila.jpgNicolás Gómez Dávila, being a devout Catholic, was also highly critical of modern atheism by affirming that “todo fin diferente de Dios nos deshonra”[12]: “every goal different from God dishonors us” and that we must “Creer en Dios, confiar en Cristo”[13]: “Believe in God, trust in Christ.” This spiritual aspect of life is what provides an adequate interpretation of it: “si no heredamos una tradicion espiritual que la interprete, la experiencia de la vida nada enseña”[14]: “if we do not inherit a spiritual tradition which interprets it, life experience teaches nothing.”

Also on the subject of religion, there is a highly suggestive escolio that says “Más que cristiano, soy un Pagano que cree en Cristo[15]: “Rather than a Christian, I am a Pagan who believes in Christ.” This immediately brings to mind Julius Evola’s “Catholic paganism” and James C. Russell’s writings about Germanized Christianity [6], which present something very different from the creed of universalism, equality, tolerance, and love.

Was Nicolás Gómez Dávila racially conscious or aware of the Jewish problem? The only escolio that could hint at an answer is: “El antropólogo actual, bajo la mirada severa de los demócratas, trota rápidamente sobre las diferencias étnicas como sobre ascuas”[16]: “The modern anthropologist, under the severe gaze of democrats, scampers quickly over ethnic differences as over hot coals.” The first aspect of this escolio to keep in mind is that he uses the term ethnic instead of the real term, race. Ethnic is the usual euphemism used for people when they don’t want to upset those who are not of our race. We can only speculate that Gómez Dávila didn’t want to hurt the feelings of some cafe au lait acquaintance, because he lived in a highly mongrelized country, and it is plausible that there was even some miscegenation in his own family.


The reactionary is different from modern humanity; he is strong, spiritual, religious, and aristocratic. He stands above and looks down upon the common beliefs, thoughts, wishes, and desires of modern man. He hates the modern world and wants its destruction. Despite not being explicitly aware of race or the Jewish problem, Gómez Dávila’s writings are valuable and insightful. He is obligatory reading for every man of the Right. 


In Spanish:

Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, Selección (Bogotá, Colombia: Villegas Editores, 2002).

___________, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, Obra Completa , 4 vols. (Bogotá, Colombia: Villegas Editores, 2005). This includes the following works: Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, Escolios a un Texto Implícito II, Nuevos Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, Nuevos Escolios a un Texto Implícito II and Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implícito.

___________, Textos 1 (Bogotá, Colombia: Villegas Editores, 2002).

In German:

___________, Einsamkeiten. Glosen und Text in einem (Vienna: Karolinger Verlag, 1987).

___________, Auf verlorenen Posten. Neue Scholioen zu einem inbegriffenen Text (Vienna: Karolinger Verlag, 1992).

___________, Aufzeichnungen des Besiegten. Fortgesetzte Scholien zu einem inbegriffenen Text (Vienna-Leipzig: Karolinger Verlag, 1994).

In Italian:

___________, In Margine a un Testo Implicito (Milan: Adelphi Edizioni S.P.A, 2001).


1. Franco Volpi, El Solitario de Dios (Bogotá, Colombia, Villegas Editores, 2005), 19. This is a little book in which the author write a short biography and a short introduction for the ideas of Gómez Davila; and was published together with Davila’s complete works.

2. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito I (Bogotá, Colombia, Villegas Editores, 2005), 42.

3. Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, 73.

4. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito II (Bogotá, Colombia, Villegas Editores, 2005), 221.

5. Franco Volpi, Un Ángel Cautivo en el Tiempo (Bogotá, Colombia, Villegas Editores, 2002), 489.

This short text is the epilogue of Gómez Davila’s Escolios a un Texto Implícito Selección, a short (400 pages) selection of some Escolios.

6. Escolios a un Texto Implícito II, 102.

7. Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, 237.

8. Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, 204.

9. Escolios a un Texto Implícito II, 164.

10. Escolios a un Texto Implícito II, 336.

11. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Nuevos Escolios a un Texto Implícito I (Bogotá, Colombia, Villegas Editores, 2005), 189.

12. Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, 82.

13. Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, 25.

14. Escolios a un Texto Implícito II, 333.

15. Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, 201

16. Escolios a un Texto Implícito I, 372.

Thanks to R.H for the proofreading.

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

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/02/nicolas-gomez-davila-unknown-reactionary/

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[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Nicolás_Gómez_Dávila.jpg

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[5] clear: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/09/white-genocide/

[6] Germanized Christianity: http://www.toqonline.com/archives/v1n1/TOQv1n1Francis.pdf

lundi, 18 mai 2015

Nicolás Gómez Dávila – Parteigänger verlorener Sachen

Till Kinzel Brust.jpg


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Donnerstag, 28. Mai 2015, 19 Uhr: Buchvorstellung

Till Kinzel, Paderborn

Nicolás Gómez Dávila – Parteigänger verlorener Sachen


tilldavila.jpgDer Kolumbianer Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913–1994) bezeichnete sich selbst als »Reaktionär«. Sein Denken ist ein Gegenentwurf zur Neuzeit und Aufklärung. Gómez Dávila stellt alles auf den Prüfstand, was manchem Zeitgenossen lieb und teuer geworden ist. »Automatismen demontieren« kann daher als ein Motto seines Denkens gelten. Zweifellos gehört der Autor zu den bedeutenden politischen Theologen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Daß sein Werk lange Zeit nur einem kleinen Kreis zugänglich gewesen ist, liegt vor allem daran, daß Gómez Dávila sich nie besonders um die Verbreitung gekümmert hat. In den letzten Jahren erleben seine Werke aber immer größere Beachtung.


Das 2003 erstmals erschienene Buch von Till Kinzel ist die bis heute einzige Monographie über den lateinamerikanischen Denker. Nun legt der Autor eine stark erweiterte Auflage seines Buches vor, mit dem er alle Zusammenhänge des Denkens von Gómez Dávila beleuchtet. »Lesen heißt einen Stoß erhalten, einen Schlag spüren, auf ein Hindernis treffen«, so Gómez Dávila in seinem Werk »Notas«. Wer die Gedankenwelt des großen Philosophen begreifen möchte, kommt an dieser Monographie nicht vorbei.


Dr. Till Kinzel studierte von 1988 bis 1997 an der Technischen Universität Berlin. 1996 legte er sein Staatsexamen in Alter Geschichte ab. 2001 wurde er mit einer Arbeit zur Platonischen Kulturkritik in Amerika promoviert. 2005 habilitierte er sich für Neuere Englische und Amerikanische Literaturwissenschaft. Er hat an der TU Berlin, der Universität Paderborn und der TU Braunschweig gelehrt.

vendredi, 09 novembre 2012

Nicolás Gómez Dávila: Aphorisms and the Modern World

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Aphorisms and the Modern World

Nicolás Gómez Dávila
 "I distrust every idea that doesn't seem obsolete and grotesque to my contemporaries."

The reactionary does not extol what the next dawn must bring, nor is he terrified by the last shadows of the night. His dwelling rises up in that luminous space where the essential accosts him with its immortal presence. The reactionary escapes the slavery of history because he pursues in the human wilderness the trace of divine footsteps. Man and his deeds are, for the reactionary, a servile and mortal flesh that breathes gusts from beyond the mountains. To be reactionary is to champion causes that do not turn up on the notice board of history, causes where losing does not matter. To be reactionary is to know that we only discover what we think we invent; it is to admit that our imagination does not create, but only lays bares smooth bodies. To be reactionary is not to espouse settled cases, nor to plead for determined conclusions, but rather to submit our will to the necessity that does not constrain, to surrender our freedom to the exigency that does not compel; it is to find sleeping certainties that guide us to the edge of ancient pools. The reactionary is not a nostalgic dreamer of a cancelled past, but rather a hunter of sacred shades upon the eternal hills.

The Authentic Reactionary, Nicolás Gómez Dávila


Nicolás Gómez Dávila (don Colacho) was born 18 May 1913 in Cajicá, Colombia, into an affluent family. He was a prolific writer and important political thinker who is considered to be one of the most intransigent political theoreticians of the twentieth century. It was not until a few years prior to his death in 1994 that his writing began to gain popularity due the translation of some works into German. At the tender age of six his family relocated to Europe, where they resided for the next seventeen years. During his time in Europe, Gómez Dávila contracted a persistent illness which confined him to his bed for long periods, and as a result of this he had to be educated by private tutors with whom he studied Latin, Greek and developed a fondness for classical literature.

When Gómez Dávila turned twenty-three he moved back to Colombia, residing in Bogotá, where he met and married Emilia Nieto Ramos. Here, with his wife and children Gómez Dávila is reported to have led a life of leisure. Assisting his father briefly in the management of a carpet factory, he spent little time in the office, instead preferring to spend his time at the Jockey Club, where he played polo until incurring an injury (Gómez Dávila was thrown from his horse whilst trying to light a cigar.) Following this, he spent more time reading literature. By the end of his life, he had accumulated a library of approximately 30,000 books, many of which were in foreign languages. In addition to the French, English, Latin and Greek he learnt during childhood, Gómez Dávila could also read German, Italian, Portuguese, and was even reportedly learning Danish prior to his death in order to be able to read Søren Kierkegaard in the original language.

Gómez Dávila was also an eminent figure in Colombian society. He assisted Mario Laserna Pinzón found the University of the Andes in 1948 and his advice was often sought by politicians. In 1958 he declined the offer of a position as an adviser to President Alberto Llera after the downfall of the military government in Colombia, and in 1974 he turned down the chance to become the Colombian ambassador at the Court of St. James. Gómez Dávila had resolved early on during his work as a writer that an involvement in politics would be detrimental to his literary career and thus had decided to politely abstain from all political involvement, despite these tempting and prestigious offers.

During his lifetime, Gómez Dávila was a modest man and made few attempts to make his writings widely known. His first two publications were available only to his family and friends in private editions. Only by way of German (and later Italian as well as French and Polish) translations beginning in the late eighties did Gómez Dávila's ideas begin to disperse. Initially his works were more popular in Germany than in Colombia, and a number of prominent German authors such as Ernst Jünger (who in an unpublished letter defined Gómez Dávila's writing as: "A mine for lovers of conservatism"), Martin Mosebach, and Botho Strauß expressed their admiration for Gómez Dávila’s works. His most translated and final work, El Reaccionario Auténtico (The Authentic Reactionary) was published after his death in the Revista de la Universidad de Antioquia.

Gómez Dávila has many unique features that occur within his works, but perhaps the most famous literary feature he is famed for is the aphorism, which remains prominent throughout his writing. Not only is the aphorism used as an aesthetic tool, it is also a purposely deployed technique selected by Gómez Dávila as his method of choice, which he referred to as escolios (or glosses). This technique was used extensively in the five volumes of Escolios a un texto implícito (1977; 1986; 1992).

By definition, an aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a concise and memorable form; the term aphorism literally means a distinction or definition, coming from the Greek ἀφορισμός (aphorismós). In traditional literature, the aphorism is used as a mnemonic technique to relate wisdom and is found in works such as the Sutra literature of India, The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, Hesiod's Works and Days, the Delphic Maxims, and Epictetus' Handbook. In more recent times, the aphorism has been used heavily by philosophers such as Nietzsche and Cioran, both of whom share a number of ideas and perspectives with Gómez Dávila. Nietzsche himself used aphorisms heavily and even went so far as to describe why aphorisms are used – naturally in the form of an aphorism itself – “He who writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read, he wants to be learned by heart.” In regards to Gómez Dávila this is certainly the case, for he himself stated that aphorisms are like seeds containing the promise of “infinite consequences.” Thus, with a short but highly memorable sentence, an idea is planted in the mind of the reader, an idea that hopefully sprouts action, and with it consequences. Similarly in Notas, he stated that the only two “tolerable” ways to write were a long, leisurely style, and a short, elliptical style - since he did not think himself capable of the long, leisurely style, he opted for aphorisms. As indicated above however, Gómez Dávila’s use of the aphorism is not merely a stylistic reference; these short but effective phrases are part of his ‘reactionary’ tactic, which he hurls like bombs into readers minds – where they either detonate or take root, sprouting into the ‘consequences’ their author hoped for. In his own words, he describes his use of aphorisms:

[to] write the second way is to grab the item in its most abstract form, when he is born, or when he dies leaving a pure schema. The idea here is a cross burning, a light bulb. Endless consequences of it will come, not yet but [a] germ, and promise themselves enclosed. Whoever writes well but not touching the surface of the idea, [there] a diamond lasts. The ideas and plays extend the air space. Their relationships are secret, [their] roots hidden. The thought that unites and leads is not revealed in their work, but their fruits [are] unleashed on archipelagos that crop alone in an unknown sea.1

According to Gómez Dávila, in the modern era the reactionary cannot hope to formulate arguments that will convince his opponent, because he does not share any assumptions with his opponent. Moreover, even if the reactionary could argue from certain shared assumptions, modern man’s dogmatism prevents him from listening to different opinions and ideas. Faced with this situation, the reactionary should instead write aphorisms to illicit a response rather than engaging in direct debate. Gómez Dávila compares his aphorisms to shots fired by a guerrilla from behind a thicket on any idea that dares advance along the road. Thus, the reactionary will not convince his opponent, but he may convert him.2 Furthermore, the aphorisms themselves are not written in isolation – when placed together in their context they are equally as informative as any normally composed text could hope to be.

Another function that Gómez Dávila’s aphorisms served was, as their Spanish title (Escolios a un Texto Implícito) suggests, as notes on books he had read. The Spanish word escolio comes from the Greek σχόλιον (scholion). This word is used to describe the annotations made by ancient and medieval scribes and students in the margins of their texts. Many of these aphorisms may therefore be allusions to other works. They constitute the briefest of summaries of books he read and conclusions he had drawn from these works or judgments on these texts.3

Gómez Dávila was a truly devout Christian, and his strand of religious thought is deeply entwined with his ideas on politics, democracy and society as a whole. This is a central concept in understanding Gómez Dávila’s work. However, not all of his thoughts resonated with other religious thinkers of his era, for he realised that his contemporaries were incapable of revitalising either Christianity or Catholicism and thus were not able to ensure the survival of the church in the modern era. Not only did this aggravate some of his fellow Catholics, they also were wary of Gómez Dávila due to his appreciation of authors such as such as Nietzsche and Heidegger, who are not usually regarded as being affable to Christianity.

In regards to the way religion is combined with his political thought, Gómez Dávila, interprets democracy as “less a political fact than a metaphysical perversion” and is a harsh critic of ideology. He defines democracy as “an anthropotheist religion,” which he believes is a methodology that seeks to elevate the common man to a plane above God – which he believes to be a dangerous and unprecedented level of religious anthropocentricism. Though this may sound odd at first, Gómez Dávila is by no means the only author who has claimed that democracy incorporates a religious element into it, and even some contemporary political scientists have asserted that democracy functions as a political religion. Gómez Dávila interpreted the vital sign of democracy being a political religion as the modern state’s hostility to traditional religions, which he believed was because a true religious authority was capable of challenging a government – thus the power of religion has to be curbed in order for the government to have full, unmediated control of the people – and as a consequence of this a democracy had to replace religion by adopting ‘quasi-religious’ elements. It is this light, that contrary to public opinion, Gómez Dávila does not see democracy as a promise of liberation; on the contrary to him democracy represents a loss of freedom. Since democracy has achieved hegemony, spiritual and cultural matters have become secondary to politics, and today when a citizen is branded as a ‘heretic’ is not because of his rejection of a religion, but because they dare to question the controlling political regime. In this regard, Gómez Dávila questions democracy, but he should be regarded as a critic and not an opponent, for as mentioned earlier Gómez Dávila had no interest in a political agenda. To Gómez Dávila, democracy was a political religion that encouraged the exaltation of the cult of individualism to a dangerous status, which set an individual on an undeserved plateau above God and eroded genuine metaphysical belief but replaced it with nothing substantial. However he was not a blind devotee or fundamentalist either, for Gómez Dávila was also a powerful critic of the Church as well as democracy.


Another feature at play within Gómez Dávila’s writing is that he believes equality to be a social construct of modernity – whilst equality levels the playing field for some individuals, for others it hobbles them. Effectively, it creates a mythical average citizen who does not in actuality exist, raising one individual to an elevated position and demoting another. Rather than recognising individual qualities and merits, it removes all hierarchies – not only the negative hierarchies, but also the positive ones. All variation is lost and replaced by the ‘myth of the average’ – and if Gómez Dávila’s interpretation of democracy as a political religion is correct, it then denounces religion and evaluates the mythical ‘average citizen’ to a theoretical level of freedom wherein the ‘average citizen’ is a substitute for the very pinnacle of the religious hierarchy – God. Thus, Gómez Dávila criticises democracy because it seeks to replace the sacred with the average and mundane man. And because democracy replaces religion, it is for this reason that criticism of democracy is the taboo of the West, and the modern equivalent to heresy. Thus, the modern ideologies such as liberalism, democracy, and socialism, were the main targets of Gómez Dávila's criticism, because the world influenced by these ideologies appeared to him decadent and corrupt.

In order to critique ideas, Gómez Dávila created the figure of the ‘reactionary’ as his unmistakable literary mask which he developed into a distinctive type of thinking about the modern world as such. This is explained in The Authentic Reactionary, which refers to one of his most well-known works, El reaccionario auténtico, originally published in Revista Universidad de Antioquia 240 (April-June 1995), 16–19. By adopting this label, Gómez Dávila is defining himself as one who sits in opposition. This is not simply a matter of placing Gómez Dávila into a neat political pigeonhole for clearly defined and organised policies – because he turned down prestigious political positions, and certainly didn’t intend to advocate any political platforms in his literary work. The reactionary is for him not at all a political activist who wants to restore old conditions, but rather a “passenger who suffers a shipwreck with dignity”; the reactionary is “that fool, who possesses the vanity to judge history, and the immorality to come to terms with it.”4 He did not mean to identify himself exclusively with a narrow political position. In several aphorisms, he acknowledged that there is no possibility of reversing the course of history. Rather, the reactionary’s task is to be the guardian of heritages, even the heritage of revolutionaries. This certainly does not mean that Gómez Dávila made his peace with democracy; all it means is that he also did not allow himself to be deluded by promises of the restoration of the old order.5 As we see below;

The existence of the authentic reactionary is usually a scandal to the progressive. His presence causes a vague discomfort. In the face of the reactionary attitude the progressive experiences a slight scorn, accompanied by surprise and restlessness. In order to soothe his apprehensions, the progressive is in the habit of interpreting this unseasonable and shocking attitude as a guise for self-interest or as a symptom of stupidity; but only the journalist, the politician, and the fool are not secretly flustered before the tenacity with which the loftiest intelligences of the West, for the past one hundred fifty years, amass objections against the modern world.6

In this regard Gómez Dávila does not seek to eliminate the concept we know of as ‘modernity’, which he sees as an impossible task. Instead he provides a criticism of modernity, disputing that is natural and that it leads to a false conception of progress. The illusionary doctrine of progress, to Gómez Dávila’s way of thinking is a myth which has been deployed to help enslave workers to capitalism and industrial society, by effectively manipulating the population to believe that they helping to make the world a better place, when effectively the real event that is taking place is that they only serving to make capitalism and consumerism more efficient. The illusion of progress acts as a placebo effect to make the citizens feel better about themselves in a world where god and religion has long since perished, replaced by blind faith in the power of the state. “In order to heal the patient, which it wounded in the 19th century, industrial society had to numb his mind [to pain] in the 20th century.”7

By defending cultural and spiritual heritage, however, Gómez Dávila is not advocating a return to the past – rather be is strategically deploying this as a method to cut ties with the present and create a different future, for in his own words: "To innovate without breaking a tradition we must free ourselves from our immediate predecessors linking us to our remote predecessors".8 Gómez Dávila believes that "The modern world resulted from the confluence of three independent causal series: population growth, democratic propaganda, [and] the industrial revolution" (Successive Scholia, 161). This in turn led to further developments and propaganda which effectively restructured traditional belief and "replaced the myth of a bygone golden age of a future with the plastic age" (Scholia II, 88) leading us to a world where consumerism eventually will replace both religion and politics - "The Gospels and the Communist Manifesto pale, the future is in the hands of Coca-Cola and pornography" (Successive Scholia, 181).

Therefore Gómez Dávila’s stance, dispersed through an assortment of brief aphorisms, becomes much more perceptible to the casual reader in light of The Authentic Reactionary, which for English readers (who as yet are not able to read all of his writing in translation) becomes a pivotal key in understanding Gómez Dávila’s work. The reactionary does not act in isolation from history and modernity, rather he seeks to challenge what he perceives as a false doctrine of progress and looks back in retrospect not to recreate the ancient past, but rather to generate ideas which link modernity to tradition, in order to create real progress by offering an alternative to the current regime of mass consumerism, capitalism and other destructive political ideologies. It is incorrect to locate Gómez Dávila in any existing political paradigm, because there is simply nothing which matches his core ideas…and as such he is correctly identified as what he labelled himself – a ‘reactionary’. His reactionary stance comes close to touching on the topics at the core of writers such as Guénon and Evola, but in regard to linking spiritual and cultural decline to political origins, he actually goes further beyond their ideas to suggest that as an inevitable side product of consumerism, destroying belief in a higher power or God would benefit capitalism and help corporations control the people by encouraging self-indulgent attitudes. Thus politics replaces spirituality, and the citizen replaces god with disguised worship of the state, who in turn rewards them with consumerism. The authentic reactionary is someone who is aware of problems like this in society and provides an intellectual critique of the system whilst remaining aloof from it:

History for the reactionary is a tatter, torn from man’s freedom, fluttering in the breath of destiny. The reactionary cannot be silent because his liberty is not merely a sanctuary where man escapes from deadening routine and takes refuge in order to be his own master. In the free act the reactionary does not just take possession of his essence. Liberty is not an abstract possibility of choosing among known goods, but rather the concrete condition in which we are granted the possession of new goods. Freedom is not a momentary judgment between conflicting instincts, but rather the summit from which man contemplates the ascent of new stars among the luminous dust of the starry sky. Liberty places man among prohibitions that are not physical and imperatives that are not vital. The free moment dispels the unreal brightness of the day, in order that the motionless universe that slides its fleeting lights over the shuddering of our flesh might rise up on the horizon of the soul.9

The soul of Nicolás Gómez Dávila, the authentic reactionary, departed from his flesh in his beloved library on the eve of his 81st birthday, on May 17, 1994. Though achieving fame in Colombia, where his works are well read today, Gómez Dávila remains largely unread in the Occident. Whilst his writing achieved some popularity in Germany, much of it remains untranslated for English readers, which prevents his writing from reaching a wider audience. Hopefully a new generation of authors will appear to pick up the challenge of translating Gómez Dávila’s writing and help him achieve the recognition he deserves as a thinker and philosopher.

Main Works

Escolios a Un Texto Implicito: Obra Completa. Nicolas Gomez Davila, Franco Volpi.

July 2006.Villegas Editores.

Notas I, Mexico 1954 (new edition Bogotá 2003).

Textos I, Bogotá 1959 (new edition Bogotá 2002).

Sucesivos escolios a un texto implícito, Santafé de Bogotá 1992 (new edition Barcelona 2002).

Escolios a un texto implícito. Selección, Bogotá 2001.

El reaccionario auténtico, in Revista de la Universidad de Antioquia, Nr. 240 (April–June 1995), p. 16-19.

De iure, in Revista del Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Senora del Rosario 81. Jg., Nr. 542 (April–June 1988), p. 67-85.

Nuevos escolios a un texto implícito, 2 volumes, Bogotá 1986.

Escolios a un texto implícito, 2 volumes, Bogotá 1977.



1 Volpi, F., An Angel Captive in Time

2  Why aphorisms?

3   Why aphorisms?

4    The Last Reactionary

5 What is a reactionary?

6 Gómez Dávila, N.,The Authentic Reactionary

7 Ibid.

8 Duke, O. T., Nicolás Gómez Dávila: Passion of Anachronism, in Cultural and Bibliographical Bulletin . Issue 40. Volume XXXII, 1997

9 Gómez Dávila, N.,The Authentic Reactionary

Gwendolyn Taunton

Gwendolyn Taunton

Gwendolyn Taunton was the recipient of the Ashton Wylie Award for Literary Excellence in 2009 for her work with Primordial Traditions. Her most recent work is Mimir - Journal of North European Traditions.

jeudi, 19 mai 2011

A Brief Overview of Nicolas Gomez Davila's Thought

A Brief Overview of Nicolás Gómez Dávila's Thought





imagen47.jpgI: Introduction

The most subversive book in our time would be a compendium of old proverbs.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila was a man of wide-ranging interests, and his aphorisms reflect that fact. Although he was to a certain extent an autodidact—he received an excellent secondary education, but never attended university, instead relying on his voluminous library—he may rightfully be considered one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. Among the scholarly topics he wrote about are religion, philosophy, politics, history, literature, aesthetics, and more. Besides these scholarly interests, however, many of his aphorisms betray a more personal dimension, with intimate observations on topics like love and the process of aging.

Gómez Dávila by all accounts valued his privacy and was concerned primarily with finding the truth for himself. Why then, would he write down his thoughts and observations in aphorisms and even publish them, however secretively? Gómez Dávila was, quite possibly, writing a subversive collection of proverbs himself. He disavowed originality, and maintained that he desired only wisdom for himself, but despite his protests that he was not trying to convert anyone to his way of thinking, perhaps he secretly did harbor a hope that he might rouse a few souls from their dogmatic slumber. Of course, Gómez Dávila never resorted to a loud and vulgar way of awakening us moderns; he wrote his aphorisms so that anyone who happened to come across them might be inspired by a wisdom that is ancient yet ever young.

Unfortunately, this wisdom is largely foreign to us today, and precisely for that reason, so subversive. There are, then, quite a few aspects of Gómez Dávila’s work that merit closer examination.

II: Why aphorisms?

The first and most obvious is the very form of Gómez Dávila’s work: aphorisms. There has been some speculation about the motivations behind Gómez Dávila’s choice to write aphorisms, even though he himself gave the most important reason in Notas. In this early work, he stated that the only two “tolerable” ways to write were a long, leisurely style, and a short, elliptical style. However, since he did not think himself capable of the long, leisurely style, he opted for aphorisms. Aphorisms, according to Gómez Dávila, are like seeds containing the promise of “infinite consequences.” Another way to think of these aphorisms is to say that aphorisms are like the summits of ideas, which allow the reader to imagine the massive mountain beneath. The sheer number of aphorisms, then, helps take place of the long, metaphysical meditation Gómez Dávila wished for; each aphorism puts another in its proper context, and taken all together, they provide an outline of the implicit text mentioned in the title. But just as importantly for Gómez Dávila, these aphorisms, while providing context for each other, cannot be made into a thought-deadening system.

Another function that Gómez Dávila’s aphorisms served was, as their Spanish title (Escolios a un Texto Implícito) suggests, as notes on books he had read. The Spanish word escolio comes from the Greek
σχόλιον (scholion). This word is used to describe the annotations made by ancient and medieval scribes and students in the margins of their texts. Many of these aphorisms, then, are allusions to other works. They constitute the briefest of summaries of works he read, conclusions he had drawn from these works, or judgments on these works.

Finally, Gómez Dávila’s use of aphorisms was also motivated in part by polemical considerations. In the modern age, the reactionary cannot hope to formulate arguments that will convince his opponent, because he does not share any assumptions with his opponent. Moreover, even if the reactionary could argue from certain shared assumptions, modern man’s dogmatism prevents him from listening to argumentation. Faced with this situation, the reactionary should instead write aphorisms. Gómez Dávila compares his aphorisms to shots fired by a guerrilla from behind a thicket on any modern idea that dares advance along the road. The reactionary will not convince his opponent, but he may convert him.

III: What is a reactionary?

The second extraordinary feature of Gómez Dávila’s work is its “reactionary,” not merely conservative, content. “Reactionary” is mostly used today as an abusive epithet, sometimes as a synonym for that all-purpose slur, “fascist.” However, Gómez Dávila proudly labeled himself a reactionary and actually created a literary persona for himself as “the authentic reactionary,” precisely because of the stigma attached to the term. Gómez Dávila’s lifework was to be an authentic reactionary.

The term “reactionary,” then, demands some explanation. The reactionary, in the common political sense, is a rare breed in
America, primarily because of America’s own acceptance of the Enlightenment. The reactionary, in European history, as the name indicates, is fighting against something. That something is the French Revolution (and the Enlightenment). The conflict between the forces of the Enlightenment and the ancien régime was much more polarizing in Europe than it ever was in America. While America in the aftermath of its own revolution certainly witnessed its own share of power struggles between politicians with traditional, more aristocratic leanings (Federalists) and more radically democratic tendencies (Republicans), both sides generally accepted the legitimacy of Enlightenment ideals of liberal politics, which included democracy, individual rights, and a commercial society, among other things. There was, ex hypothesi, never any serious possibility that a group of disaffected American Tories would conspire to restore the authority of the British crown over the newly-independent United States.

Europe, on the other hand, and especially in France, the conflict between the heirs of the French Revolution and its opponents—the original reactionaries—still raged during the time Gómez Dávila lived in Paris. Indeed, reactionary ideals exercised a powerful influence over certain sectors of French society until after World War II. One important reason for the persistence of reactionary ideals in France was the Catholic Church’s own resistance to modern liberalism (e.g., Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors) and the persecution it often faced at the hands of secular governments following the Revolution, especially the ThirdRepublic. In France, Catholicism and reaction were often overlapping (though not always identical) categories. The tension between modern liberalism and reaction continued to be felt in French Catholic circles during Vatican II. Though reaction as a cohesive movement largely died in the wake of the Council, it has survived in some French Catholic circles to this day, most visibly among the Lefebvrites (SSPX).

Gómez Dávila’s brand of reaction, however, was different. He did not mean to identify himself exclusively with a narrow political position. In several aphorisms, he acknowledged that there is no possibility of reversing the course of history. Traditionalism, in his eyes, could never be a viable basis for action. Indeed, the reactionary’s task is to be the guardian of heritages, even the heritage of revolutionaries. This certainly does not mean that Gómez Dávila made his peace with democracy; all it means is that he also did not allow himself to be deluded by promises of the restoration of the old order. Moreover, in matters of religion, despite his disdain for Vatican II and his fierce adherence to the traditional Latin Mass, which he shared with most Catholic reactionaries, he recognized that the ordinary reactionaries, the so-called “integralists” of the period, were incapable of renewing the Church. For instance, he maintained in one aphorism that the Church needed to make better use of the historical-critical method of Biblical research—a suggestion which would make many ordinary reactionaries furious. Finally, his appreciation of some authors not usually associated with conservative Catholicism, such as Nietzsche and Heidegger, might make some “traditionalist” readers nervous.

If Gómez Dávila’s brand of reaction was different, what then did he actually stand for? For Gómez Dávila, the reactionary’s task in our age is to resist democracy. By democracy he means “less a political fact than a metaphysical perversion.” Indeed, Gómez Dávila defines democracy as, quite literally, “an anthropotheist religion,” an insane attempt to rival, or even surpass, God. The secret of modernity is that man has begun to worship man, and it is this secret which lurks behind every doctrine of inevitable progress. The reactionary’s resistance, therefore, is religious in nature. “In our time, rebellion is reactionary, or else it is nothing but a hypocritical and facile farce.” The most important and difficult rebellion, however, does not necessarily take place in action. “To think against is more difficult than to act against.” But, all that remains to the reactionary today is “an impotent lucidity." Moreover, Gómez Dávila did not look forward to the establishment of a utopia; what he wanted was to preserve values within the world. For this purpose, not force but art was the more powerful weapon.

Nicolas_Davila_Leben_ist_Guillotine_der_Wahrheit.jpgIV: Sensual, skeptical, religious

The third extraordinary feature of these aphorisms is Gómez Dávila’s unmistakable personality. Much of the pleasure of reading the Escolios consists in slowly getting to know this personality. While Gómez Dávila generally did not indulge in autobiography, in the privately-published Notas he was slightly less guarded about himself. In one line he declares: “Sensual, skeptical, and religious, would perhaps not be a bad definition of what I am.” These are the three basic strands of his personality and his work; they belong together, despite any contradictions the reader might think exist between them.


Gómez Dávila was aware that most people view sensuality and religion as contradictory, but he was determined to keep both these basic features of his personality together. He did not deny that sensuality, in isolation, can be a vice; instead of being discarded, however, it needs to be joined with love—love not of an abstract concept, but of an individual. Indeed, the object of love is the “ineffableness of the individual.” In Gómez Dávila’s philosophy, the sensual, by virtue of its union with love, is intimately united with the individual.

But, what exactly is the sensual? If the sensual is merely defined as the opposite of the abstract, an important element of the sensual will be missing. What is missing is value, an important and recurring term in the Escolios. “The sensual is the presence of a value in the sensible.” One of the most important ways of perceiving the presence of values—which are immortal—is through art. A good painting, for example, gives the spirit “a sensual enrichment.” True sensuality wants its object to enjoy eternity. This mention of eternity, in conjunction with the immortality of values, indicates the ultimate goal of sensuality. If the sensual as the embodiment of values, aspires to eternity, it must be a longing for the only being who is eternal, God. This explains why for Gómez Dávila it is not sensuality, but abstraction, that leads us away from God. This praise of sensuality may sound foreign to many Christians today, but one cannot help but be reminded of St. Thomas Aquinas’ statement: “It must be that God is in all things most intimately” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 8, art. 1).


As has already been hinted at, Gómez Dávila shares with the Romantics and the forefathers of conservatism, such as Joseph de Maistre and Edmund Burke, a distrust of Enlightenment reason and intellect. His references to reason (razón) and intellect (intelecto) are rarely complimentary. Indeed, to avoid confusion with these Enlightenment constructions, he prefers to use the term “intelligence” or “understanding” (inteligencia) to designate man’s ability to perceive truth. The greatest truths, however, are often perceived not by means of abstract concepts, but religious rituals. This skepticism accounts, moreover, for his unsystematic method of composition and his preference for aphorisms. No system is capable of embracing the entire universe in concepts.
Not only is Gómez Dávila extremely skeptical of man’s ability to understand the world, he is also very cautious with respect to man’s ability to do what is right. “Good will” and “sincerity” are not excuses for our mistakes, but instead only make our mistakes more serious. Not surprisingly, he is a strong believer in the reality of sin.

Gómez Dávila, however, did not merely repeat old criticisms of the Enlightenment worship of an abstract reason; he turned skepticism into a strength. This can be seen from his discussion of “problems” and “solutions,” two words that recur throughout his work. Gómez Dávila turns their customary relationship on its head. For him, problems are good, and solutions are bad. His first, and most obvious, objection to solutions is that all the modern world’s solutions simply have not worked. Indeed, the modern world is “drowning in solutions.” This observation, true as it may be, still does not reach the core of Gómez Dávila’s objections to solutions. It is not only modern man who is incapable of finding solutions to the world’s problems; no man can devise solutions to his problems. Problems are not to be solved; they are to be lived out in our lives. For Gómez Dávila, man is an animal that has only a divine solution. Skepticism, then, is not a way of finding reasons not to believe in God, but rather of “pruning our faith” in God.

Another word that recurs throughout the Escolios, often (though not always) in connection with skepticism, is “smile.” I do not have time to make a complete study of the connection between skepticism and smiles, but I suspect that Gómez Dávila is the first philosopher to develop a metaphysics of the smile.


Some readers may be inclined to dismiss or at least minimize the role of religion in Gómez Dávila’s worldview. That would be a fundamental mistake, however, in the most literal sense of the world. The foundation of Gómez Dávila’s thought, of his being, was God. As seen above, his reactionary critique of the modern world is essentially a religious one. The reactionary rebellion, in which Gómez Dávila calls us to join him, consists of recognizing God for who He is, and recognizing man’s utter dependence on God.

“Between the birth of God and His death the history of man unfolds.” This is not a bizarre reversal of Nietzsche’s death of God scenario, or a rehash of Feuerbach’s thesis that man creates the gods in his own image. On the contrary, what Gómez Dávila is saying is that it is our belief in and knowledge of God that make us human and separate us from the animals. The ability to perceive mystery and beauty in the things of this world is unique to man; the apes do not feel the “sacred horror” that men feel. What results from this sacred horror? “God is born in the mystery of things.” This feeling of sacred horror is something each individual must experience for himself. For this reason, Gómez Dávila’s religion was intensely personal: “To depend on God is the being’s being.” “God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.” Indeed, the entire tone of his Escolios is one of contemplation in a pervasive silence, which is only broken by the faint sound of Gómez Dávila writing a comment into one of his notebooks.

At the same time, Gómez Dávila’s personal religiosity did not become an attack on religious institutions as such, and he always remained a son of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, he was not afraid to criticize the Church. Indeed, he wrote numerous aphorisms lamenting developments in the Church, especially in the wake of Vatican II. To pick just one example, “the sacrifice of the Mass today is the torturing of the liturgy.” But he always strove to make sure that his criticisms of the Church were “thought from within the Church.” Much of the poignancy of Gómez Dávila’s laments stems, of course, precisely from his great love for the Church. Despite his disappointment with the present, he was mindful that there is no going back to the primitive Church of the Acts of the Apostles, much less to “the lone Christ of the gospels.”

Gómez Dávila’s Catholicism, then, is a combination of the metaphysical, the anthropological, the aesthetic, and the historical. Indeed, all the different threads of Gómez Dávila’s thought, all the many aphorisms, converge in his belief in God.

V: Conclusion

Finally, two suggestion for those readers whose interest in Gómez Dávila has been piqued by this short essay. First, Gómez Dávila cited Nietzsche in his epigraphs for a reason. He would have nothing but scorn for those readers who enthusiastically quote him without grasping his “very definite philosophical sensibility.” The reader should carefully ponder an aphorism before quoting it—and then only at his own risk.

Second, Gómez Dávila’s aphorisms are truly existential. For Gómez Dávila philosophy is not a purely intellectual discipline, but rather a way of life. Each aphorism should act as a call not just to discern the truth, but to assimilate it and to live it.


mercredi, 18 mai 2011

A Short Life of Nicolas Gomez Davila

A Short Life of Nicolás Gómez Dávila




davila-nicolas-gomez.jpgNicolás Gómez Dávila was born in Cajicá, Colombia (near Bogotá), on May 18, 1913, into a wealthy bourgeois family. When he was six, his family moved to Europe, where they lived for the next seventeen years. During his family’s stay in Europe, young Nicolás would spend most of the year at a school run by Benedictines in Paris, but would often go for his vacations to England. However, during his time in Paris he was beset by a long-lasting illness which confined him to his bed for most of two years. It was during this illness that under the direction of private tutors he learned to read Latin and Greek fluently and to love the classics. His formal education ended at the secondary level.

When Gómez Dávila turned twenty-three, he moved back to Bogotá, and almost immediately upon his return married Emilia Nieto Ramos. According to German writer
Martin Mosebach, she was already married when she met Gómez Dávila, and had to obtain an annulment in order to be able to marry him. However their marriage may have started out, it lasted for over fifty years. After the wedding, the young couple moved into the house in Bogotá that was to remain their home for the course of their entire marriage. There they raised three children: two sons and a daughter.

After establishing his household, Gómez Dávila, or “don Colacho” as he became known to his friends, led a life of leisure. Because his own father was for most of his long life able to attend to the family carpet factory, Gómez Dávila only had to manage the business for a short period himself, before in turn passing it on to his son. However, even during the time when he bore primary responsibility for the business, he did not pay excessive attention to it. Mosebach reports that Gómez Dávila generally only visited the office once a week at midday for about ten minutes, in order to tell the business manager to increase profits, before going out to lunch with friends at the Bogotá Jockey Club, where he was an active member, playing polo and even serving as an officer for a while. (He had to give up polo, though, after injuring himself on his horse—he was thrown off while trying to light a cigar.)

Gómez Dávila was in fact a well-connected member of the Bogotá elite. Besides his membership in the Jockey Club, he helped Mario Laserna Pinzón found the University of the
Andes in 1948. Furthermore, Gómez Dávila’s advice was sought out by Colombian politicians. In 1958, he declined the offer of a position as an adviser to president Alberto Llera after the downfall of the military government in Colombia. horre4305.jpgIn 1974, he turned down the chance to become the Colombian ambassador at the Court of St. James. Although he was well disposed to both governments, Gómez Dávila had resolved early on in his “career” as a writer to stay out of politics. Although some of his friends were disappointed that he did not accept these offers, they later concluded (according to Mosebach) that he was right to refuse the honors—he would have been a disaster as a practical politician.

Gómez Dávila instead spent most of his life, especially after his polo injury, reading and writing in his library. He was a voracious reader, often staying up well into the night to finish a book. By the end of his life, he had accumulated a library of approximately 30,000 volumes. Indeed, his family had trouble disposing of many of the books because so many appealed primarily to specialized scholarly interests, and because so many were in languages other than Spanish. (Diego Pizano states in
this article that Colombia’s Banco de la República has recently decided to acquire the library.) Gómez Dávila, besides learning French, English, Latin, and Greek during his childhood, could read German, Italian, and Portuguese, and was even reportedly learning Danish before his death in order to be able to read Søren Kierkegaard in the original. According to Francisco Pizano, Gómez Dávila regretted that he never succeeded in learning Russian—he started learning it too late in life. In addition to reading, Gómez Dávila enjoyed the company of friends whom he regularly invited to his home for lunch on Sunday afternoons. After the meal, he would retreat into his library with his friends for hours-long, wide-ranging discussions.

The result of all this reading and discussion can be found in our author’s works. Gómez Dávila, however, published these works only very reluctantly during his lifetime. Indeed, his first two works were available only to his family and friends in private editions. In 1954, at the urging of his brother Ignacio, he published Notas (Notes), a collection of aphorisms and short reflections, most no longer than a few paragraphs. In 1959, he published Textos I (Texts I), a collection of essays. The intended second volume never appeared. For nearly twenty years after these hesitant forays into publishing, Gómez Dávila re-worked what he had already produced into the aphorisms which constitute the bulk of his output as an author and for which he is best known. This period of silence ended in 1977 with the publication of two volumes of Escolios a un Texto Implícito (Scholia on the Margin of an Implicit Text). This collection of aphorism was followed in 1986 by two more volumes of Nuevos Escolios a un Texto Implícito (New Scholia on the Margin of an Implicit Text). A final volume of aphorisms was published in 1992 as Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implícito (Further Scholia on the Margin of an Implicit Text). notas-nicolas-gomez-davila-paperback-cover-art.jpgLate in life, Gómez Dávila also wrote two shorter pieces. The first, De iure (De jure) was printed in the spring 1988 issue of the Revista del Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario. His final work,
El Reaccionario Auténtico(The Authentic Reactionary) was published posthumously in the spring 1995 issue of the Revista de la Universidad de Antioquia; it is perhaps the most programmatic of his works. None of these works was published commercially, and none was ever printed in any great numbers during his lifetime. Notas, Textos I, and all five volumes of Escolios have recently been made available again by Villegas Editores, a Bogotá publisher. Villegas Editores has also put out a single-volume selection of aphorisms, compiled by Gómez Dávila's daughter, Rosa Emilia Gómez de Restrepo, entitled Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección.

Gómez Dávila himself did nothing to attract attention to his work. Indeed, his deliberate choice of obscure publishing houses and tiny printing runs seems almost intended to condemn his works to oblivion. Word of Gómez Dávila, however, began to spread slowly toward the end of his own lifetime. Strangely enough, he became best known not in his native
Colombia or in other Spanish-speaking countries, but in the German-speaking world. Philosopher Dietrich von Hidlebrand apparently was the first to make any reference in print in Germany to Gómez Dávila. A few years before his death, German translations of his aphorisms began to appear at the Karolinger Verlag in Vienna. Among the Germans who have professed their admiration of Gómez Dávila are several noted writers, including the late Ernst Jünger, Martin Mosebach, and Botho Strauß. Since his “discovery,” knowledge of his work has spread in other countries in Europe due to the work of a small group of devoted admirers, most especially the late Franco Volpi in Italy. Translations of his works are now also available in French, Italian, and Polish.

Gómez Dávila died in his library on the eve of his 81st birthday, on
May 17, 1994.