Skip to main content
DON’T MISS OUT: Secure your Limited Edition Leather-Bound Books from Arktos today! Order Now

Chōkōdō Shujin explores the evolving meaning of criticism and creation, emphasizing the belief in the infinite creative power of life and the fusion of forces for a future full of possibilities.

The meaning of both the critical and creative spirit is changing. In life and in the arts, we must make our own explanations. We must walk our own paths. We must grasp our own language, our own lives.

The art of realism is the art of criticism. Whereas romanticism was the art of creation, realism was the art of the development of a new critical spirit. Romanticism, which was a violent transition from cold reason to emotional instinct, from the finite to the infinite, from quiet contentment to longing and yearning, in short, from a shallow and cynical criticism to the creative age, attracted the art of realism, which wanted to be more precise, limited and solid, and saw the development of a second critical spirit, or rather, the first critical spirit in a real sense. It is too late to go into detail about the development of the second critical spirit, the first critical spirit in the true sense of the word. What we have to consider is the content of the critical spirit of realism. The question is to what extent the power of the critical spirit of realism was able to criticize life.

Realism brought dissipated life back from empty illusion onto a solid material basis. It has awakened from the limitless world of dreams to the limitless world of reality. For the first time, man set his feet on the unshakable earth and saw human life in all its reality. For the first time, he also came to know the greatness of the power of matter. He has also come to realize that man is an animal. These new observations and knowledge were indeed the discovery of a new world. It was a new wonder. It was neither vague nor haughty like a dream. It was a marvel that was extremely real and orderly. Men had to believe in the infinity of their own wisdom and at the same time, they had to give unbounded respect to the newly discovered power of matter.

Respect for the power of matter is one of the greatest achievements of the critical spirit of realism. It is only through this spirit that we have come to know our own lives from the bottom up. It taught me that I must think about my own life with practical humility. For the first time, our lives have become grounded and certain. We can no longer deny the power of material things as the first, at least minimum, condition of our lives, as a promise.

But the power of matter was a blind power. The consequence of respecting the power of matter was to bow before the blind power of matter. The more we acknowledged the greatness of the blind power, the more we had to realize that there was no escape from that power. Some are so exhausted by the suffering of having to submit to the forces of matter that they have no choice but to forcefully restrain themselves into a heavy, dull, and muddled resignation. Some cannot help but think that life is a kind of trap from which they will never be able to escape. There is only one path one can take in the face of fate, a cold, blind force that cannot be moved or escaped: to open one’s eyes to the quiet contemplation of life, which is ruled by the cold fate, and to watch everything that goes on there. If a man cannot resist and control his destiny, he must at least watch the terrible play of that irresistible destiny. There is no other way but to seek his interest in the stillness of contemplation. Otherwise, there is no choice but to go further and escape from the terrible play of destiny as painlessly as possible. Or, he can immerse himself in a state of technical half-awareness and forget about the pain stimulus for as long as he can.

In short, all of us are united in our recognition of the irresistible force of fate, whether we give up, escape, or drown in illusion. They are one in their recognition of the insurmountability of the power of matter, however small. Was the founding spirit of realism really the recognition of the irresistible force of fate? Should the critical spirit of realism simply dispel the illusion of emptiness and arrogance, and stop at exposing the bitter and harsh material reality? If so, then the critical spirit is merely a knife of injury that cools and destroys life. The weakness of realism can be seen in this.

The critical spirit seeks evidence in material things to give solid ground to human life. But whether the power of matter alone can be the solid basis of human life is, of course, a matter of much debate. The critical spirit of realism ultimately cools and destroys life because it limits the basis of life to matter alone. By overestimating the power of matter, it has ignored the power of human will. The true meaning of the critical spirit is to destroy the old and the false in order to create a new life, in order to build a solid basis for human life. The true meaning of criticism must be creation. If the critical spirit discovers the power of materiality and has no choice but to bow down before it, it has forgotten the original meaning of the critical spirit itself. This is because the critical spirit must, by its very nature, break through all fixed barriers and advance inexorably.

Belief in future possibilities is in part a critique of the present.

George Bernard Shaw, in his commentary on idealism, distinguishes between the idealist and the realist. “Let us imagine a community of a thousand persons, organized for the perpetuation of the species on the basis of the British family as we know it at present. Seven hundred of them, we will suppose, find the British family arrangement quite good enough for them. Two hundred and ninety-nine find it a failure, but must put up with it since they are in a minority. The remaining person occupies a position to be explained presently.” They will accordingly try to persuade themselves that, whatever their own particular domestic arrangements may be, the family is a beautiful and holy natural institution. They do not have the courage to face the facts in front of them and speak their minds. The fox in the old story said that the grapes he did not have were sour, but these two hundred and ninety-nine people said that the grapes they had were sweet. In other words, they create a mask. They cannot stand the naked reality, so they make up their own imaginary pictures, or ideals, as the reality. They then actively preach their so-called ideals to the public. However, the seven hundred people in front of them do not pay any attention to such things, as they do not even suspect the reality in front of them. So the idealists despise them as snobs. But the last one is the one who has the courage to face reality. He is a rebel, an exposer of reality and an iconoclast. Seven hundred people treat this one person as a madman and do not deal with him from the start. When this last one appears, it is the two hundred and ninety-nine who make a fuss. And now they are asking for support from the seven hundred people whom they have previously despised. In other words, they create public opinion in the society. “Ibsen is the last of these. This is the realist,” said Bernard Shaw. In this case, the seven hundred are not criticizing reality from the outset. The two hundred and ninety-nine are not uncritical at all, but their criticism is not thorough; it stops halfway. In other words, true criticism does not exist even among this group of idealists. The true critic is only the last one. This is the representative of the critical spirit, the realist.

Ibsen was certainly a realist in the sense that Bernard Shaw meant. He was a brave man full of the spirit of iconoclasm. However, he was not a critic who only destroyed idols. He did not sit in the cool after destruction and quietly observe and think about it. His destruction and exposure is the stripping away of the existing mask for the sake of the future possibility. Shaw’s so-called idealists had no faith in the possibilities of the future, but were dedicated to the gluing together of the present. Ibsen was an idealist in the sense that he had a mask for the pastime of the present. However, Ibsen believed in the possibility of the future when he removed the mask of the present. He stripped away the mask of the present with the hope that the future was at least possible. The more strongly he believed in or longed for the future, the more ruthlessly and mercilessly he stripped off the present mask. In this sense, he is not only a realist but also a serious idealist.

Belief in future possibilities is in part a critique of the present. Without a critique of the present, it is meaningless to believe in the possibilities of the future. It is also meaningless to criticize the present without believing in the possibilities of the future. The spirit of criticism is in its nature to move forward constantly. Criticism must be applied to the facts of the present, and, at the same time, as a continuation of that criticism, it is inspired to advance towards the possibilities of the future. The true meaning of the critical spirit is to advance towards the possibilities of the future in line with the present. In this sense, the critical spirit is not only the actual spirit, but also the ideal spirit. Ibsen certainly possessed an ideal spirit in this sense as well as a practical spirit in this sense. But his words are only a very vague suggestion of what is possible in the future. When we read Ibsen’s jokes in chronological order, we cannot help but feel a kind of lurid sense of patheticness when we realize that even in his last play, When We Dead Awaken, he was not to be found anywhere in his lifetime. His personal will and destiny or society, his love and business, his variously shaped problems, have all gone unresolved. His destruction of idols was of course always backed by a belief in the future, but even Ibsen could not clearly show the way to reach that future possibility.

The recognition of the irresistible power of matter has gone almost to the extreme rebelliousness of man’s willpower. But human nature has not been able to endure this for a long time. Giving up, avoiding, drowning in illusions, in short, were only temporary self-deceptions. We cannot help but push ourselves to the limit in the power and scope of our life’s activities. We cannot be satisfied with only a small amount of preservation and awareness of our own life. We must create something new by our own strength and by increasing our own strength. We must create our own life by developing our own life force, by giving birth to our own life. We must aim to light up our lives and at the same time create a new and strong light. Our life activities must be at the same time the burning of our own self and the oil of a new and fresh life. In short, we must not be fixed on our present life and be on our feet on the ground of reality, which is unmovable. We must believe in the future activity of life and love the present reality. When we yielded to the power of matter, we were merely the object of its blind activity. We must be the preservers of our own life activity again. We ourselves must be the resistance of life itself. We ourselves must be the creators of life again. We must believe again in the limitlessness of our own creative power. Only when we place the foundation of our life in the belief in our own unlimited creative power, can we recreate our own free life. To believe in the limitlessness of our creative power is to believe in the possibility of the future. To believe in the limitlessness of one’s creative power is to have faith in human nature and not doubt it. To believe in the power and light of human nature is to have no faith in it. In other words, it is a deep and intense faith in life itself.

Among the poets of French Symbolism, Baudelaire lived the most intense and most fulfilling life. In each moment, he gave as much life as he could give and devoured as much life as he could devour. His life was not always pleasant. It was not always so-called happiness. But his life was a life of energy. He was not passive towards life. He did not hesitate or falter. He lived a life of energy, giving as energy gave, receiving as energy received, and living a life of passion. He never spoke of destiny. He never prostrated himself before his destiny. But he also said that human love is at the same time a mad rapture and despair. He grieved for something cold and insurmountable in the depths of his soul. But that fact does not cancel out the fact that he was filled with this sorrow and still believed in the power of life.

Dostoevsky was a realist of the pure Russian style, born of the Russian people. He had both the heart of a saint and the heart of a demon. His mind was that of a saint who could cure evil. He knew the true, ugly, evil, violent, demented, and perverse life, and at the same time he saw the unquenchable light shining in the midst of this dark life. He felt a deep sorrow for evil. He wished to bring goodness, life, back to life from the midst of evil, death. He wished to improve life by the power of his great and profound love and ardor. He could feel the deep sorrow of those who know the truth and the grief of all people who do not share the truth with him. When his heart was filled with this strong pride and deep sadness, he was truly a saint who could overcome evil. His deep and generous sympathy was not ordinary sympathy or humanity. Ordinary humanity has no choice of price. It lacks, at the very least, the ability to find the value of the object that gives sympathy. Sympathy that does not recognize the value of the object is sentimental and shallow. Only when we agree with the value of the object, can we make it come alive. Only then can we make the object come alive. Dostoevsky’s profound and expansive sympathy is a sympathy that can make life dynamic.

Both Baudelaire and Dostoevsky were men who did not rest on their quiet contemplation of the real world. They were men who did not stop to stare at the actual situation. They recognized change in what appeared to be fixed and unchanging, and led the flow of life. Hoping and believing in the activity, freedom, and liberation of life, they never forgot to look up to the light of the white sun drifting at midday, even on the desolate dark road. They believed in the power of their own life and in human love. They believed in the unbreakable creative power of human nature. They believed that through the infinite power of creation, the highest life of man, the life of faith in God, could be attained. They fully believed in the possibilities of the future and found their strength in it.

It must not be overlooked that Dostoevsky’s and Baudelaire’s belief in the infinite creative power of life was conceived in a truly serious critical spirit. Ibsen’s serious critical spirit made him believe in the possibility of a future after destruction. But Ibsen’s power lies not so much in making us believe in future possibilities as in destroying the present for the sake of future possibilities. The serious critical spirit, or belief in future possibilities, which has already been recognised in Ibsen as an idol destroyer, can be seen even more clearly in Dostoevsky and Baudelaire. As I have said repeatedly before, the true nature of the critical spirit is to break through all barriers and to move forward unceasingly. In other words, it is the spirit of breakthrough. The reason why the spirit of breakthrough has ceased before material power is that it can no longer believe in the possibility of the future. It is because it no longer believes in the infinite creative power that sprouts within the critical spirit – the power of human will. Dostoevsky and Baudelaire believed in the creative power of life because they believed that the power to break through all barriers lay within human nature. For them, a serious critical spirit was an immediate faith in life and in its infinite creative power.

We have no choice but to believe in the activity of an infinite power through the irresistible, inexorable movement of life, through the endless upsurge of life.

We must avoid any misunderstanding of reality itself. Reality does not, of course, mean only steeled material existence. The reality of the real is nothing other than human nature itself. It is nothing other than human life itself. All the flows of human life and life activities that live and move and flow, this is the real thing. Flesh and soul, matter and spirit, death and life, everything is in chaos and flux. The real is never fixed at any time. It is the essence of the world that it is constantly changing. It criticizes, destroys, breaks through, creates, grows, fills, and strains, and never ceases to change and evolve. In other words, it is the flow of life. The life that discovers, captures and creates individuality is the concrete reality.

Exposure of the real is, of course, the development of the critical spirit. However, a true critical spirit should not stop at simply exposing the real. The most important thing is that the work of the artist is not only to make a difference, but also to make the world a better place. We must break rather than expose. We must also aim to promote the future flow more than we expose the current stagnation. The most important thing is that the work is not only about the work itself, but also about the work of the artist and the artist’s work. French writers are all keenly critical and seek to develop the realities of the situation. They have a deep interest in developing and investigating. Russian writers try to know everything about the real world with deep affection. They try to catalyse real life without distorting it. There is a difference between a heart that develops for the sake of knowing and a heart that tries to know for the sake of loving. If this rough comparison is allowed, then we must know because we love, and develop because we love and want to know. And this development must at the same time be a search for the value of human nature. This is the development of a new creative spirit.

However, it is easy to criticize, but extremely difficult to create. Destruction and exposure seem to be possible even for those who seek temporary pleasure. This is the reason why imitators and followers of realism and naturalism have emerged. However, it is not easy to create new life after destruction or to believe in life after exposure. Before we can believe or love, we must first have the strength to believe or love. We must have the fullness of life, not the resistance of life. We must have the power to embrace, not to pierce. A man must have the power to love himself first, before anything else. The power of life is infinite, and the power of creation is infinite. At any time we cannot see the full extent of this power. We cannot believe in it until we see it. We have to have that power within ourselves, fill it up within ourselves, and then feel it within ourselves. We cannot help but feel the activity of life within ourselves, and feel its surge within ourselves. We have no choice but to believe in the activity of an infinite power through the irresistible, inexorable movement of life, through the endless upsurge of life. In short, we have no choice but to feel and believe in the power of birth within ourselves.

The unlimited power of birth is for man a great divine power. It is also a great revelation. It is both a great song and a great poem. Sincerity and words, hiding and revealing, the infinite and the finite, are all one. When infinite power takes form in the form of a formless human being, we call it creation. There we feel that we reach and touch the infinite life by means of a finite form. In the midst of finite, fixed matter, I feel the vibrancy of infinite life. For the first time, we are able to experience the light of infinite life and infinite faith. The visible world is no longer our reality. The invisible world will no longer be a dream. The mystery will not be fearful or incomprehensible, but will be the power of life itself. Then we are truly human for the first time. We are people who truly believe in the divine and love evil. Believing in this infinite power of life and possessing this infinite power of creation is the true meaning of the spirit of criticism and creation. True criticism and creation must be one. Infinite creative power based on serious criticism, a serious fusion of the forces of criticism and creation, this is the spirit of symbolism in life and in art. We must first believe in this future possibility and go forward.

The Arktos Restoration Initiative

We have handpicked thirty distinguished titles, previously lost to censorship, befitting any refined bookshelf. These esteemed classics are now offered in limited leather-bound editions, with a mere 100 copies per title. Owning one not only grants you a collector’s item but also supports our mission to restore them in paperback for all.

We will sequentially reveal three titles. After each pre-sale set concludes, we will move to the next trio. As each set is claimed, we will ship these treasures, while also making paperback versions available in our online store.

Your contribution aids the metapolitical battle, ensuring that vital ideas and concepts remain accessible to an ever-expanding audience.

Racial Civil War
The Path of Cinnabar
Chōkōdō Shujin

Chōkōdō Shujin is an artist in the tradition of the Shirakaba-ha,or White Birch School, of Japanese literature. As such, his work is strongly grounded in aesthetics, pessimism, and a strong skepticism towards modernity and technological “advancements.” A believer in art for art’s sake, Shujin is a poet, essayist, novelist, and hack writer of short stories. His translations of Japanese literature into English can be found on his substack:, and Twitter account: @CShujin. His hobbies include smoking cigarettes and thinking unpleasant thoughts. He resides in Aomori, Japan.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x