- 1.The Wolf’s Milk – Part 1
- 2.The Wolf’s Milk – Part 2
In a day which has totally undermined the conditions for culture, where can we look for their regeneration?
The three possible founts of a culture of the Right considered in, and rejected by, the previous instalment of this essay unite in a fourth, which, for its connection to all the most valid parts of each of them, proves to be of greater (though still in and of itself deeply insufficient) potential: and that is the concept of ethnicity. Ethnicity, being clearly connected to certain geographical locations and governmental and social structures, can become as a focal point for the development of populism; it provides clear connection between the present state of Western affairs and their deep historical past; and it has the distinct advantage of possessing certain qualities which can be subjected to more or less rigorous scientific measurement, thus demonstrating even to the blind what was obvious to every prior historical epoch without exception, and what is so militantly denied by our own: namely, that there are important, manifest and often unspannable differences standing between human groups.
A brief word must be spent on the scientistic interpretation of ethnicity in particular, which has for some time now been more or less coincident with the idea of race. This is not the place to submit a critique of that concept, but given the importance which it has assumed in certain parts of the contemporary Right, we cannot avoid mentioning several critical concerns.
Considering race only in the narrow acceptation which it has increasingly come to assume in late centuries – which is to say, as any human group differentiated from other human groups by clearly definable and quantifiable traits – we note two essentially misguiding and dangerous tendencies brought about by it. In the first place, this reductio ad mathematicum, which appears to identify and to define ethnicity, actually eliminates the entire basis upon which it stands. No scientific reason can be given as to why a man should care about some mere assemblage of genetically similar individuals. It is understood that, evolutionarily speaking, one is naturally inclined to seek the propagation of one’s ‘genetics’; but the evidence for the force of this ‘evolutionary instinct’ in the present life of Western man is really quite tenuous, given that he shows increasing indifference to procreation and the protection of his ‘genetic community’, which are supposed to be two primary manifestations of ‘evolution’. It is evident enough at any rate that ‘race’, posited exclusively in scientific or scientistic terms, can claim no loyalty in the heart of man. Secondly, race, being an essentially fluid concept, can provide no vital link to the past; for it is probable enough, and in some cases relatively well demonstrated, that this or that contemporary race has less in common with its ancestors than with other extant races. To take but a local example, to judge solely by reconstructed crime rates and by indicators or proxies of measurable human traits, it sometimes seems that the Englishman of today has less in common with the Englishman of five centuries ago than with a Black American in the present-day Bronx. While he clearly pertains to a different race than the latter, he pertains even more to a different race than the former, who were his very progenitors. By the purely scientific standard, he therefore has little enough cause to care what those progenitors might have accomplished, produced or thought. Science, here as elsewhere, implants the idea of progress, forward movement, constant change, and detachment from history and tradition.
Moreover, race, being strictly a biological category, thrusts one back on ‘genetics’, and attempts to explain most if not all of human life in the light of those ‘genetic’. But this is identical to admitting that the present world, the world in which we live and which is effectively lacking in the culture we seek, is what it is on account of insurmountable physical laws which play the tyrant over our very flesh. Ethnicity can be considered a task, and therefore leaves room for human freedom; but ‘genetics’ are a prison of adamantine bars. It is therefore no wonder that the purveyors of the genetic theory of human existence tend toward resignation and the worst kind of pessimism when they consider the present state of affairs; by their worldview, there is no way out of our plight, barring an ‘environmental catastrophe’ sufficient to force a general genetic renovation in the race.
These caveats aside, it is clear enough that when most men speak of race or ethnicity, they do not limit themselves to the mere mathematical sense of the words. They mean to indicate bonds of faith and family, bonds of common custom and shared history, bonds of pride in past creations and proud hope in those to come. They mean to indicate an entire organic and spiritual reality, which the handful of identifiable biologico-scientific factors do not even so much as hint at, and which could not possibly be reconstructed even in fragment from the full sum of data which modern science has at its disposal. The concept of ethnicity absolutely transcends that of scientific race.
This concept has potential for founding the culture of the Right, and is being explored presently with ever greater intensity and fervour by those who would reclaim our vanishing heritage. This is a promising development, yet it also indicates its own limitations: to explore ethnicity, to attempt to reclaim ethnicity or the products of ethnicity, indicates that ethnicity is something that we are in some way losing, or do not possess as we once possessed it. Ethnicity to this extent is an open question, an incomplete or inauthentic category, a moribund or perhaps even perished quality in need of healing or rebirth. Ethnicity opens the way toward discovering principles such as might render fertile the soil of a culture of the Right; but in and of itself, it suggests none. For it opens upon a variety of individual traditions which in many cases are contradictory amongst themselves, and which must therefore be judged individually and independently, in accord with standards which do not derive from them, but which transcend them.
So much for traditionalism; but what of Traditionalism, that quest which seeks out, not merely some given and particular tradition, but the Tradition, the perennial, transhistorical fount of all higher civilizations, from which pure water one might tap the draught of renewal itself?
Whatever qualms and doubts a man of the Right might legitimately have regarding the feasibility of a Traditionalist reawakening in our day, it seems at least clear that he must take it quite seriously, and not dismiss it as our contemporary ‘academics’ are so wont to do.
Turning then to one of the foremost exponents of this idea: Julius Evola viewed Tradition as the unique foundation for a culture of the Right. As he put it in the final chapter of his final book:
The idea of the Right today is awakening interest in wide and various spheres. … In this context, the problem of the relation between the concept of the Right and that of Tradition might acquire a special interest. It is necessary to bring attention to this point if one wishes to give a positive content to the Right, rather than a merely polemical or oppositional one.
Later, he states that ‘The introduction of positive principles is necessary to give force to any true antithesis between Right and Left.’ Yet an artificial dichotomy, like that standing between ‘right and left’, does not become less artificial for becoming more antithetical, and so long as the ‘right’ moves in reaction to the left, it will continue to be a merely reactive, negative affair. Its negative aspect might be buried more or less deeply beneath the surface of its outward manifestations, but it will always be this principle which acts as its prime mover. Yet even abandoning the left-right political spectrum, as is essentially necessary in our day if we are to constitute a culture of the Right (understanding Right here in its original and deeper sense), Evola’s insistence on the necessity of finding positive principles stands: culture, like life itself, is active and not reactive. And it is doubtless that the Tradition, as he and men like Guénon and Schuon have formulated it, has proven to be one of the most promising founts for the reconquest of culture in our day.
Evola was not unaware of the problems with this proposition. In the first place, the transcendent, esoteric Tradition has always and necessarily been expressed in immanent and exoteric traditions. These traditions form as it were the gateway standing between the human world of particularities and specificities, and the higher world of divinities or ‘Forms’. But in our day, these traditions have all to a one been severely wounded if not utterly uprooted. This renders hard the path to get to Tradition, and harder yet the path to carry it back.
Evola proposed to resolve this problem through what he termed, following Goethe, the principle of homology.
Homology does not signify identity but correspondence – not exact reproduction but transposition and reaffirmation of the same formal principles from one level to another, from one situational context to another. If we wish to employ an image, consider a stream, wherein a whirlpool which has disappeared at one given point returns to form itself at another point, in obedience to one and the same law: it is identical but at the same time different, precisely because it is in a fluid medium – like time, like history – that these whirlpools take shape.
This requires, as its absolute prerequisites, on the one hand competent acquaintance with transcendent principles, and on the other hand adequate knowledge of the concrete political and social situation standing before us. That is a rare enough combination; it is also insufficient in and of itself, because work in the first occurs at a very high level, a transcendent level with respect to the work in the second. Contact must be made between the first and the second planes, and this cannot be effected through writing, spiritual work or intellectualizing alone (as this stands at a necessary distance from and disconnect to all action and praxis), nor politicking, activism, or screed writing alone (as this necessarily occurs at the popular level and thus must be undertaken from the perspective of the common view of things). Past ages resolved this problem through the cultivation of the distinction between the esoteric and the exoteric; we owe it to men like Julius Evola, René Guénon, Nietzsche and Leo Strauss if that distinction has been recovered in our day. But Evola and Guénon stood forth like lions, focusing on the esoteric and stating their denunciation of modernity with all force and fury, while seemingly abandoning in large part the subtle question of the potential meaning, use and quality of the exoteric; and Nietzsche attempted to revolutionize this distinction by making his own shockingly outspoken words unpalatable to the soft-hearted and impenetrable to the dull-witted, which opened his philosophy to continual abuses by the cruel and the sophistical. The esoteric and the exoteric must be reunited, Janus-like, to look simultaneously upon two worlds, to speak to each in a different tongue but with a single mind. The great exemplars of this approach are the masters, philosophers and sages of old; but precisely for the difference of our historical context with respect to theirs (the second half of the equation noted above, or the soil on which we work), their approach, which was fitted for rich and well-worked soils, can win but little purchase on our stony and arid lands. Yet at the same time, most of the Moderns have little to teach us, as they primarily preserved the esoteric-exoteric distinction merely to save their skins. But from one modern exemplar it may be that we have something to learn here, and that is Machiavelli.
We might summarize the difficulty confronting Traditionalism thus: the Traditionalist would scout out a road back to the Tradition, or to a Traditional society. He cannot find that road via the merely conservative or ‘traditional’ aspect of the contemporary ‘right’, because that entire ‘right’ in point of fact marks fully half of the revolution of, the forgetfulness of, the deracination and obliteration of, all Traditional forms. He is therefore constrained at least partially to seek elsewhere than in his local ‘traditions’ for what he seeks; he will look abroad, and, if that is not possible, will scour the great teachers of specific historical traditions near and far. He will perhaps dig deeply into his own traditions, far into their past, in a radical movement which necessarily transcends them. He will become a wanderer and a wonderer; he will transform himself, in a word, into a cosmopolitan, albeit in a much deeper and much more beautiful sense than that which is presently used to describe our soulless and utterly mercenary ‘moneyed classes’. He will range over the seven seas and five aeons and the four corners of the Earth to find the surest foundations upon which a new particularist tradition might be built. But that particularist tradition is particular with respect to a time and a place – the very time and place he has foregone in his rovings. And to constitute anything on top of it, one must necessarily make reference to its folk, their particular loves and hates, and everything which ties them concretely and presently to their land; else the bindings one would impose, far from linking them more firmly to their place, will pull them rather abroad, into the folly of a vague ‘historicism’ or a popular and essentially globalistic ‘spiritualism’ and ‘multiculturalism’. In attempting to establish the present moment more solidly, our Traditionalist will have found instead that he has cut it loose.
Moreover, it is often enough precisely the characteristics of globalism, historicism, multiculturalism etc. which characterize the specific folks in our day; for even where they have retained some simulacrum of their old ways, it is evident that these are effectively like those ancient masks found in long-abandoned temples: no sooner has one lain one’s hands upon them than they disintegrate into dust and sand, leaving nothing behind them but the void.
The Traditionalist is therefore confronted with the following paradox: in order to rehabilitate the lost and universal Tradition, he must look to local and specific traditions; but these have been so far compromised, so filled with the weight of dross and lead, that it might no longer be possible to hitch them to the flaming star of Tradition.
It is therefore no wonder that so many Traditionalists choose to retire, to flee, to fall back or to go into hiding, in wait for a new revelation from the gods that would seem to have abandoned us, because we have abandoned them. This is not the place to critique this particular deportment of certain persons, nor would the present author be at all comfortable in doing so, given that he should have to judge men who are in many cases manifestly his superior. But this much is clear: for any one of us who does not feel it in his vocation to get out and go away – for any one of us in whom a love for the Occident still burns, or who would build his family and his home on Western soil – for any one of us who still calls himself a ‘good European’ or a philoccidental – such a path represents not only a danger, but an abdication.
Then we return. Traditionalism today is severely handicapped in an essential way: for today, the authentic initiatic chains, by which Tradition has always been passed on from one generation to the next, have been, if not utterly severed, then certainly reduced in number to the barest minimum, and hidden so far from the public sight that only the men of the most exceptional vocation can any longer ferret them out. There is an open question indeed whether they exist at all any longer in the West, or if they have in fact ‘retired to the East’, and even then in such a way as to be practically inaccessible to nearly everyone.1 Any pupil of Tradition today is therefore forced to have recourse, no longer to living schools, but to the records of what those schools taught – no longer to visible, universally acknowledged and unequivocally legitimate teachers or masters, but only to the books or documented speeches of those teachers or masters. This requires, then, that one have the capacity, less for obedience (which has always been the hallmark of the initiand in prior times) than for independence and fearless, relentless, level-headed judgement, weighing of the true against the false, of gold against pyrite, so as to come upon those first principles which can be employed through the homology of which Evola speaks. The Tradition has transformed from the object of lived life, to the object of living study. And that study is fraught with imposters, frauds, mountebanks, false teachings, dead ends, misunderstandings or incomplete understandings of true doctrines, evident exoteric contradictions containing concealed esoteric unities, as well as a host of genuine and (to uninitiated eyes) legitimate disputes between the greatest Traditionalists on the highest levels.
This does not compromise the authenticity of Traditionalism, particularly for those few who are capable of making some genuine progress in this maze, but it does alter fundamentally the nature of one’s approach to it and one’s use of it; a man must keep above all things his head when he walks in these parlous places, far above the hospitals, medics and sympathies of the city below. His is a labyrinth built on the sky itself. And for this reason, to no other guide can he safely entrust himself than to his own reason alone.
This leads us to one of the only living founts of the Western tradition today – living because it is everliving and cannot desiccate, save as humanity itself should perish:2 and that is philosophy.
Though we cannot here offer argument for this thesis, there is good reason for supposing that philosophy in the proper sense is a strictly Western tradition, which has arisen in no other part of the world, and which for that reason can return us decisively to our own and deepest roots. It can at the very least be said that, leaving aside the occasional absolutely exceptional individual in other nations, philosophy as the West understands it has appeared in at most a couple of Oriental peoples. Be this question as it may, philosophy has lived a fundamentally distinct destiny in the West with respect to any other part of the world, insofar as it has sought here, as no where else, first to be perfectly independent of all statesmanship, statecraft and creed (particularly in the form of classical philosophy, including the great Arabic and Jewish pupils of Aristotle and Plato), and second to concretely legislate the same (particularly in the form of modern philosophy). We are living in a period of crisis in Western philosophy, precisely because it would seem that that philosophy in the second sense has finally revealed itself as a magnificent super-historical reductio ad absurdam, which absurdity we may be destined to actively live out unto its last unravelling, in final and unequivocal demonstration of the fact that man is not fit to legislate mankind, and in any attempt thereto is doomed to fail and fall.
This is not the place to consider the crisis of Western philosophy, save as it touches upon our present theme. We have previously spoken of the principle of homology, which (in fittingly homological fashion) makes decisive appearance here. In the long arc of the past five centuries, modern philosophy has revealed itself as the abandonment of the esoteric-exoteric divide, and its gradual conversion and debasement in the specialist-layman distinction. The dichotomy between the esoteric and the exoteric, which has existed in all high human societies and all great men, is forced upon humanity for the reasons indicated at the opening of this essay. The early moderns, especially the men of the so-called ‘Enlightenment’, in their radical and revolutionary ideas could not state their aims openly, as this would have led at once to their persecution and neutralization; they therefore concealed themselves behind guises of words or else, following a precept laid down already by that protohumanist Lucretius, laced their wormwood with honey. In their vulpine project, they laid the groundwork for a society in which it would no longer be necessary for the philosopher to conceal his thoughts or for the great man to check his tongue; this society, founded on the internally contradictory and essentially volatile marriage of human equality with human freedom, would on the one hand eliminate the aristocratic, and on the other the practical, basis for the esoteric-exoteric divide. But before this could be attained, the Church and the Aristocracy, the great obstacles to such a scheme, had to be confined, hollowed out and eventually vanquished.
Today, standing in the wake of that grandly ambitious scheme, which has proved itself successful to a degree that would have seemed simply incredible five hundred years ago, we find that the philosopher or great man, rather than being liberated, has rather largely ceased to exist. The philosopher has been replaced by the intellectual, the specialist, the scientist, and the technician, who are morally obliged to publish all the issue of their thought, no matter its quality or consequence – which they are not in any case of a grade to judge. The common man is distanced from their theories, not on account of their height or depth or the care with which they are divulged, but rather simply because the years of concentrated study underpinning them, and the jargon with which they are presented, render them abstruse and impenetrable to anyone who is not conversant with their ‘fields’. The high and secret peaks of philosophical inquiry are thus replaced by the low and dense briar patch of technical complexity. On the other side of this same transformation, the exoteric teaching, which we might call practical homology, is replaced by policy study, ‘modernization’, propaganda and ‘Critical Theory’. By these means, societies have been revolutionized and creeds gutted, and even the millennial faith of the Catholic Church itself has been mutated into the ignominious handmaiden of a wretched humanism, utterly in spite of its traditions and dogmas.
It is ours to investigate the extent to which philosophy is able to undo that which it has done; toward that end, the ‘history of philosophy’ becomes central to our study. Therethrough, we might come to terms with what philosophy was, what it has become, and the degree to which that process has represented a necessary and ineluctable transformation, rather than a wilful and evitable revolution, of Western philosophy. Such a study itself is already capable of revealing the principles underpinning our Western spirit, which includes, as has been stated, questions of style of speech, and the whole forgotten art of writing, conversing, and speaking which once characterized the philosopher over almost all other men. It may be that this would make possible a new kind of philosophy, a philosophy fit for our days and our extremities – a lupine philosophy in honour of a beast whose spirit is the marriage of that of the fox and that of the lion.
Religion is the soil of culture; never yet has a godless or faithless people given rise to culture. Religion is also that point at which the principles discussed above coalesce into a practicable unity. For religion solves the problem of both Traditionalism and of philosophy, which, being essentially and necessarily pursuits of the few, cannot touch the many save indirectly and by proxy; religion, if it merit the name, speaks to all men, and each on his level. Religion recaptures ethnicity (for even the most universalist religions necessarily bear the watermark of the people that brought them to rise, and wear customs and costumes fit to the same), and is indeed the glue without which individuals atomize and drift apart; for never once has there been a true people in all the history of the world that did not have its faith and its god. Religion overcomes the difficulty of liberalized and ‘liberated’ secular philosophy which, lacking all borders to its discourse, disperses into a surface froth of petty disputation on questions of less than tertiary importance; for through its dogma, it lays down precepts to which men must publicly adhere, and so sets protective walls around the field of disputations. Finally, religion, being of a necessity tied to, and loyal to, a given and long-revered tradition, is the one force capable in our day of widely reasserting the social and political bonds between man and origins, which have everywhere else been fatally ruptured.
In our day, in the present West, the religious question is essentially reducible to the dispute between Christianity (particularly in the form of Catholicism and Protestantism) and paganism. These two religious views of the world are mutually exclusive; to adopt paganism is to deny the unique divinity of the Christ, and to profess faith in the unique divinity of the Christ is to reject the pagan gods as false gods, if not devils. The tension and the conflict standing between them is not necessarily prejudicial toward the production of culture, for every culturally rich period in Western history has been characterized by such tensions and conflicts precisely. Both paganism and Christianity have independently given to this West periods of cultural excellence, and either one alone today would represent, albeit in radically different ways and with radically different manifestations, a revolution upon the social fabric, capable perchance of sparking a new ‘renaissance’. Yet paganism has against it two thousand years of Christian triumph and of its own eclipse, which, to say the least, calls into question the puissance if not the reality of its gods; and Christianity has been commandeered even in several of its core forms by egalitarianism and humanism, thus calling into question the divine support which purportedly stands beneath its tradition. Both paganism and Christianity today, far from dwelling beyond the corrupting touch of the crisis of the West, are deeply implicated in the same. Any man who takes either seriously – and religion is but a masquerade if it is not taken seriously – thus finds himself in a war to reclaim what has largely been lost: but in that war, whose the deadly seriousness no believer can deny, it might be that a man will find a secret strength he did not know he possessed, which dwells far deeper than his mere genetics and physical makeup, and which permits him to make contact with the divine sphere itself.
Julius Evola, in discussing the potential role of religion in the formation of a true Right, says the following:
Religion … could form its basis. Here, however, the existence of a positive institutionalized religion or Church might appear as a limiting condition: the practical danger arises that this Church might then monopolize spiritual authority.
While it is questionable to what extent this represents a right understanding of the value and role of religion in the life of societies and men, nonetheless it is undeniable that Evola has indicated a fundamental aspect of religious orders. Religion – or, to use our curious contemporary phraseology, ‘established’ religion – is as a river, and the specific form and course it will take at any given historical juncture will be to some extent determined by the quality of its liquid (whether viscous or thin, whether penetrating or mercurial) and to some extent by the shape of the bed upon which it courses. Recent developments in the Catholic Church in particular demonstrate that religion is as much a stay in the life of man, as a territory in need of constant vigilant defence and cultivation. Religion is necessary to establish the horizon around human life, but it cannot be counted upon to maintain the same, because, while it is capable of instilling in human hearts and spirits a spark of divinity, it itself is sure to falter if that spark has been deadened or smothered by external forces.
What is most needful then in the constitution of the culture of the Right today is the cultivation of human souls. This modern man, who is something between a merchant and a slave, must be made to rise as a knight and a warrior. And so, from careful consideration of what has been stated above, it will be evident that more than anything, the discipline and the quality of the soul might be improved in our day by the quest, as such was understood by our chivalric forefathers. We seek out the right principles of human life as they sought out the Grail, for we perceive, as they perceived, a life-giving draught to be contained therewithin, by which the soul of man might wean itself to a higher maturity. The object of our quest is simultaneously its means. And thus the holy struggle to reconquer a religion, a faith and a creed, for our peoples, which might appear to be a secondary battle lain redundantly and dangerously upon the primary, is in fact the true task confronting us; for barring a regeneration of the deepest radices of Europe, not even the most fertile soil will ever produce anything but weeds and thistles.
2Whether its practice might be made impossible is another question. See Leo Strauss, On Tyranny, ‘Restatement’.