- 1.Culture, Sacrifice and Ritual – Part 1
- 2.Culture, Ritual and Sacrifice – Part 2
A renewal of the ideas of sacrifice and ritual can help to found a new culture and explode the false dichotomy of ‘invididual vs. collective’.
Everything we have said presupposes that culture in today’s anti-culture modernity is readily understood in any kind of robust fashion. But what exactly is culture? Or, more to the point, how do we understand the manifestation of culture in any given society?
To answer this question appeal to two concepts is necessary, concepts which in today’s world have been suspiciously placed in radically hostile opposition to one another. I am speaking, of course, about the concepts of individualism and collectivism. It is a consequence of the logic of modernity and the clever language war played upon the average man that these two concepts are presently viewed phenomenologically as standing in a kind of war against one another. It is common to see those taking up the sides of this debate, and whether one champions the absolute primacy of the individual and his ability to prefigure and then carry out his own destiny entirely from within his being, or whether one champions the absolute primacy of the whole to prefigure and then carry out its destiny as a whole with little concern to the needs or desires of its constituent parts, both parties to the debate feel as if they must view the opposing viewpoint as an existential threat requiring total destruction. But this is a false dichotomy, insofar as these two concepts are understood as being ‘at each others’ throats in a constant war of all individuals against all collectives (a subtle irony if one thinks about it). It is far more on the mark to stipulate that these two concepts are integral to a larger and more holistic understanding of both one’s place in the universe as an individual on the one hand, and one’s place in the universe as an individual who is a constituent member of a whole on the other.
Let us imagine that there were only one thinking being to exist on the planet. We’ll call this thinking being ‘John’, and we’ll observe him from an outside viewers’ position. John walks all around the planet searching and being curious about his outside world. Sometimes he turns his reflective and curious gaze back upon himself throughout his travels, wondering if he’ll ever meet anyone who shares similar qualities to himself as a thinking thing. John keeps a map of everywhere he’s travelled so as to never travel the same place more than once; it is a big planet, and he’s only got so much time before his life comes to an end. John never comes across another John, nor anything else like him. He dies alone as the only John to exist on the planet.
Does the concept of an individual make sense in this example? What about the concept of a collective? The answer is that neither of these things makes sense, because each requires the other at an experiential and phenomenal level. One may choose to be an individual only against the backdrop of a collective, or the idea of a collective. And collectives only makes genuine sense against the backdrop of the notion and being of individuality. Moreover, mere ideas about collectives have to actually exist as legitimate real organisms operating in the world before the ideas themselves can have any motivating power.
This is not to say that John could not create the fantastic idea of a collective. He certainly could. And it’s reasonable to believe he would create fantasies along his travels. Fantastical thinking is a peculiar hallmark of the human condition, and story-telling about fantastical worlds and events is a hallmark of human history across cultural and ethnic boundaries. We might even reasonably observe the phenomenon of people actually conceptualizing part of their identity against ideas they’ve created, either as individuals or members of a larger whole. But such an observation would also require the recognition that when individuals do commit to such an action, they do it with the concurrent belief that such fantastic scenarios have the quality of truth behind and within them. A Christian’s identity as an individual Christian who, upon living a virtuous life as a faithful Christian, will ascend into the realm of heaven to be seated at the right hand of the father assumes both the hand and the rest of the father as well as heaven are a substantive place where real and genuine being manifest themselves. As well, European pagans share a similar phenomenological belief when it comes to Valhol (Valhalla). The same, too, may be said of Muslims and any other religious group. The key aspect here is that many of the conceptions of these ‘otherworldy’ places share curious, and not coincidental, similarities with our physical earth and the communities within which we exist. To take just one supporting example, Asgard, in the Nordic mythos, is strikingly similar to the average organization of Nordic communities across ancient Scandinavia.
So, even if John created a fantasy about collectives (and also called them collectives), it would be absurd to think that his fantastic idea about collectives would resemble anything like ours, given his lack of any referential existential component to base it on. It rather seems that such an idea would not occur to him at all. This is all to say that in our actual world, and not in the fictional world of John, collectives exist, individuals exist, and the two only have salience because they both exist, and are not interlocked in the kind of conflict modernity has tricked us into believing is their natural state. John certainly is an individual in the arithmetical sense; he is just one numerical representation of the kind of thing John is – in fact he is the only numerical representation of the kind of thing John is. But we are not reducible to mere numerical representations as the final analysis of what it is to be the kind of things we are. Humanity is not a statistical spreadsheet. As individuals we belong to our larger groups (ethnic, religious, political, social, etc.). And we understand ourselves as collectives by reflecting on the constituent parts which make up our collective whole.
This ‘collective whole’ is what we call culture. Culture is both the individual and the collective, but only when the two are understood to be an infinite and continuous infiltration and ex-filtration of the collective into the individual and the individual into the collective. This is the way in which modernity manifests as an anti-culture: it attempts to divide these concepts and to make them perfectly distinct from one another, ignoring their interpenetration. Thus, when we come to understand the effects modernity has on culture, and the conclusions of the radical notion that individuality and collectivism are engaged in a hostile conflict with each other (which notion suits the technological and materialistic pursuits of the logic of modernity), we may understand that culture in consequence becomes non-existent, and, given a long enough time, even the word ‘culture’ will cease to be a word which impinges any genuine experiential meaning upon our consciousness. Without this understanding of these two concepts, any group which seeks a revival of legitimate metaphysics will ultimately fail in their pursuit of genuine metaphysics – and culture.
There is one final aspect, as we see it, which is absolutely necessary for the men and women of the future to bear in mind when seeking to forge new frontiers and build new foundations. We speak of the idea and activity of sacrifice and ritual. Sacrifice exists as a means to keep one’s own ability to generate a surplus in check. Surplus leads to contentment and decay, but also to increased incentive for large-scale conflict. On both an individual level and communal level the act of sacrifice functions similarly to the function of maintaining an equilibrium between predatory animals and their prey; in instances where human habitation has displaced the traditional natural relationship between predator and prey in ecological environments sans human occupation, the local human settlements take up the role of the natural mechanism of animal population regulation. However, in the case of the individual and his community, the ‘predatory animal’ becomes the inborn ability to accumulate a surplus of stored resources, where a surplus of stored resources can be thought of as a surplus of labour (i.e. potential labour in reserve). In decaying communities this ‘potential labour in reserve’ can quickly become ‘wasted’ labour, whose function and use extends only so far as to satiate the licentious wants and desires of a decadent ruling caste, be that caste explicit or implicit.
It is reasonable to ask why a surplus of stored resources has the potential to manifest as both an individual as well as a communal pathology – politically or socio-culturally – and indeed one possible answer has been alluded to above, albeit rather superficially. We might speculate that another possible answer might be found in the relationship which exists between man and nature. Man is born, from a prior essential existence, into a material existence fraught with struggle. Struggle exists all around him. Indeed, struggle is part of his essence. To ignore man’s need to struggle and overcome produces an essential deficiency which causes him to rot and decay. By sacrificing a portion of their own store of resources, men and communities create the conditions which continuously give meaning and purpose to their existence. In doing so, men and communities keep the noxious odour of decadence and material stagnation in the form of ‘wasted labour’ leading to decadence at bay. All existence is a sacrifice – a trade-off – of some kind. It is exceedingly important in today’s modern age, where almost all considerations of past, present, and future are seen through the lens of material and economic interests, to view the act of ritual sacrifice as our ancestors would have viewed it:
[the] association of the elite with crafts and long-distance trade can not merely be understood as a materialistic and economic phenomenon, but also in terms of qualities and values prevailing within a cosmological frame. … The elite was involved in a process by which resources from outside were brought into their society, where they were subsequently transformed, both materially and symbolically, in order to meet local ideological needs.1
This view is important for various reasons, especially in today’s modern context when economics and economic considerations have become their own peculiar set of ‘ideological needs’, imposing actions which must be undertaken in order to fulfil these presumed ‘needs’. If one wishes to break free of modern pathology, then ceasing to grant economics and economic considerations a place among one’s primary pursuits is paramount. Given this, calls for a ‘redistribution of wealth’ from the decadent elite to the beleaguered ‘have nots’ which has become so fashionable – especially from the camp of the decadent elites themselves – are unsatisfactory. This is not because one lacks care for those beleaguered masses with their extreme material poverty (though certainly some do lack care for them) but rather because such a redistribution fails to take into account, and therefore fails to cure, the deeper disease which creates this rabble class of genuinely and legitimately discontented peoples. It further has the unsavoury side-effect of creating a feeling of alienation, suspicion, and discontent among the largest mass of people whose ‘wealth’ is redistributed: the so-called middle class. By and large, these are a class of people who have been the beneficiaries of the hard labours of their ancestors and who have inherited their wealth, but who have been judicious in their own actions with regard to this wealth through their own respectable work ethic, and have carved out a relatively comfortable existence between the failing masses of the material poor and the decadent smaller mass of material elites. They rightfully see this redistribution as a kind of theft, while also seeing the failures of the lower-income rabble as a manifestation of some inherent worthlessness or inadequacy. This latter opinion can be the result of a pernicious ideology created as a wedge to drive dissent and hatred between these two classes, or it can be seen as a way for the middle class to distance itself from the rabble class, usually so as to attain psychological comfort. Whatever one may say of these various phenomena, the reality is such as it is. Redistribution of wealth from the elite scapegoats to the rabble class as a means to suppress the increasing discontent of the rabble class does create animosity among the middle class against the rabble class where there was likely none, or at least very little, before.
In the modern age in the ‘West’, where ritual, magic, religious custom, and spiritual existence are all dwindling, such attempts at putting a band-aid on a severed limb have manifested in all the predictable outcomes we see playing before our eyes. Further, such attempts fail to grasp the true nature and reason of why and how a limb has been severed in the first place, where such a recognition would lead to adequate remedies of the true problem instead of half-measures meant to take the leftover good arm and stitch it onto the other. The problem still remains, except it has been made worse. Surplus labour is still being accumulated, left to ‘rot’ away in the hands of decadent elites, whose own wealth goes relatively untouched (though it takes on different forms through their actions – e.g. ‘liquid’ debt is turned into temples of debt in the form of massive mansions, opulent trinkets as social status signals etc.) and indeed is increased through this pernicious and misleading ‘redistribution of wealth’. Non-governmental organizations and governmental organizations create programmes to redistribute wealth while taking ‘their cut’ from the top in substantial fees, overheads, and lavish ‘necessities’ in the forms of five-star hotels and dinners, etc. The gods of modernity have demanded ritual sacrifice of the middle class in the name of the rabble class, but in reality this is a sacrifice in name only. Thus, in a sense, ritual never disappears, but only changes its form and the way it is viewed by ritual leaders and the participants. True ritual and sacrifice in the West, however, is a thing of the past. As has been stated above, that which was the object of ritual sacrifice in the past (surplus) as an actual sacrifice, such that the surplus becomes no longer viable as a thing to be used, does not exist. Debt, as the single most visible representation of ‘wealth’ today, through fiat currency, is increasing, where the sacrifice of this currency is made by one group for the functional use by another.
The question now, most visible to the reader, should be where we ought to engage in ritual so as to sacrifice our own capital (in its various forms), in order to avoid the rot which modernity, forcing us to internalize her logic of material decadence, continuously produces in us. This ‘rot’ can be seen most readily in the calls by the global elites for Europeans to abandon the arduous and resource-intensive practice of having and raising children. It is not enough, as was outlined in the first section of this essay, to understand the cosmological ontology of the concepts metaphysics and culture. Just as one’s evolutionary fitness is determined by one’s ability to pass on a genetic legacy, one’s cultural and metaphysical fitness is determined by one’s ability to pass on a metaphysical and cultural legacy. It should be obvious that modernity’s agenda in convincing Europeans to abandon both these aspects by avoiding conceiving and raising children to be the stewards of their culture and metaphysics, is to completely destroy the entire meaning of being European in both the genetic and cultural sense. Having and raising children forces us to sacrifice some degree of our own mental, spiritual, and material resources in the most profound and primal way possible for a man and woman. This truth transcends all temporal, metaphysical, political, and social boundaries. In this sense, having children and (proudly) watching them grow into beautiful vessels of our specific culture is quite literally the one thing which modernity can never take away from us. And, in the environment we find ourselves, such an act is more revolutionary than a hundred Enlightenment massacres. As such, we will find, when venturing into future history, that the nexus of all our cultural and spiritual considerations will have this single truth at its core. Of primary concern for our people in the future will be how communities organize themselves to facilitate the prospect of young couples, and their extended families, may undertake the most primal, revolutionary, and noble pursuit we have in our arsenal of existence, which has never been – and never may be – taken from us if we have the strength to wield it.
There will undoubtedly be critics of this view. One can already hear the internalized defeat injected into these critics by modernity, protesting that such an act is doomed to fail due to the massive social and political organizations infecting the institutions traditionally responsible for educating our children. One can hear the cries of detractors lamenting the absolute feat of almost godly strength and will required to circumvent these organizations and the undermining propaganda meant to instil a modern material rot in our children before they ever reach the age when they themselves are capable of creating, and then stewarding, the next generation of cultural torch-bearers. But then, these are exactly the kinds of men and women we do not wish to see in the future. They are free to succumb to modernity and live a life of relative material and spiritual ease, knowing they will never have to fight against the indoctrination camps at home when raising their own children, nor will they ever have to go without, so that their children may go with. It must be stated that if we do not take risk, we certainly deny ourselves the possibility of failure – but so too the chance of success.
We must also admit the prospect of great pain to which we open ourselves by potentially seeing our own children fall victim to modernity and become agents of a system we seek to step over. But the father does not shirk from conflict, knowing that if he wins his sons might one day face similar conflicts. Nor does the mother forgo motherhood, knowing her daughters will experience the same pain in their own lives. The prospect and act of parenthood gives meaning and purpose to the act of rebuilding a new culture and metaphysics and requires a crucial component which our ancestors had, but which is now denied in any meaningful way to the deracinated masses of modernity. Simply the act of saying ‘these are the values we create and ones which we will live by’ should be enough to step over both these naysayers. All life is a trade-off, and sacrifice and suffering are simply that which brave men and women come to terms with, rather than letting those realities convince them of the virtue of self-inflicted and self-serving cultural suicide. Faith in our own abilities to counteract the degenerative effects of modernity, which wait with bated breath to seize our children, and an undying certainty that we wish to see future generations of Europeans who look, think, feel, and believe like us – and thus have a robust connection to their own heritage and culture – is enough to shut down the arguments from those who hate us, as well as those who doubt us. In so doing, we shall ensure that the culture and metaphysics we seek to build anew for the future both exists and may continue to exist in the faithful hands of our children. Indeed, without both of these neither is possible, and any attempt at one without the other will ultimately lead to the annihilation of both.
1 Lotte Hedeager, ‘Central Places For Acquisition and Transformation,’ in The Viking World, by Neil Price and Stefan Brink (New York, NY: Routledge, 2012)