What I am about to say does not concern the ordinary man of our day. On the contrary, I have in mind the man who finds himself involved in today’s world, even at its most problematic and paroxysimal points; yet he does not belong inwardly to such a world, nor will he give in to it. He feels himself, in essence, as belonging to a different race from that of the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries. ~ Julius Evola.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Anthony Ludovici - Gentlemanly Virtues

Portrait of Herbert Bernard John Everett by William Orpen (1900)

All the world over, where flourishing and powerful societies have been formed and maintained, the notion of the gentleman has appeared in some form or other as a national ideal. 
Nobody reading Confucius, for instance, or the Li-Ki — which is the Chinese Book of Ceremonies — can doubt for one instant that the idea of the gentleman was and still is a very definite thing in China; nor could such a reader doubt that the Chinese gentleman, even of two thousand years ago, would have been able perfectly to understand every movement and every scruple of his fellow in rank in England of the twentieth century.
There was also the gentleman of ancient Egypt, the gentleman of Athens, and the gentleman of Rome.
All huge and powerful administrations have to rely very largely upon the trust which they can place in a number of high responsible officials who, in moments of great temptation or great trial, will stand honestly and bravely at their posts. All stable family life, too, depends upon the existence of a number of such men, who need not necessarily be State servants, but who, engaged in other walks of life, reveal a similar reliability.

The very existence of a large administration, or of a large nation of citizens, is impossible without such men. And all societies which have started out with the idea of lasting, growing and standing upright, have always instinctively developed the high ideal of the gentleman — the man who can be trusted at all times and all places, the man who is sincere, the man who is staunch and constant in matters of principle, the man who never sacrifices the greater to the less, and the man who is sufficiently, self-reliant to be able to consider others.

It is obvious that the gentleman class, or the body of men who possess the above qualities, falls naturally into various orders; but by far the highest order, is that consisting of those men who, without being necessarily examples of flourishing life, are yet so square and strong in body and soul, that their honour can be subjected to the greatest strain without snapping.
Now it is upon such men alone, that a great nation relies for the preservation and maintenance of its best traditions, for the filling of its most responsible civil offices, and for the high duty of inspiring trust in the mind of the public.

If England has shown any stability at all, it is owing to the fact that as a nation she has reared crop after crop of such men, and that these men have been sent to all corners of the globe, from Barhein in the Persian Gulf, to Kingston in the Island of Jamaica, to represent her and to teach the gentleman's idea of decent living to the world.

Once this class begins to decline, England will be in sore straits; for even examples of flourishing life, when they appear, must find worthy and trusty servants to fill high places, otherwise the best supreme administration would be helpless.

But how do you suppose the virtues of the gentleman are reared? For you are too wise to believe that copybook precepts can do any good, save as a mere confirmation of a deep bodily impulse. You are surely too experienced to suppose that the leopard can change his spots, or that a negro can beget a white child? Then how do you suppose that a strong virtue — a virtue which, like a powerful iron girder, nothing human can snap — is cultivated and produced in a family, in a line of human beings, even in an animal?

On this question Aristotle spoke words of the deepest wisdom. He declared that all virtue was habit, habituation, custom. "The virtues," he says, "we get by first performing single acts . . . by doing just actions, we come to be just; by doing the actions of self-mastery, we come to be perfected in self mastery; and by doing brave actions, brave." 
And then he proceeds: "And to the truth of this, testimony is borne by what takes place in communities; because the law-givers make the individual members good men by habituation, and this is the intention certainly of every law-giver, and all who do it not fail of their intent; but herein consists the difference between a good Constitution and a bad."
A gentleman in body and soul, then, is a creature whose very tissues are habituated to act in an honourable way. For many generations, then, his people must have acted in an honourable way. In order that the first and strongest impulse in his body may be an honourable impulse, such impulses must constantly have been favoured at the cost of other impulses by his ancestors, until the voice of the others is weak and the roar of the honourable impulse tills his being with a noise that drowns all other voices. 

~ from 'A Defence of Aristocracy: A Text-Book for Tories, 1915.    

Many thanks to Julian Louis Hick for suggesting this passage.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Yukio Mishima - Voices of The Heroic Spirits

Now not all the waves
of the four seas are calm,

but in the land of Yamato,
where the sun rises,
the winds are sated, men devote themselves to pleasure.
Under the virtuous rule of His Majesty
peace reigns everywhere.
People exchange lazy and calm smiles,
business deals are done,
pacts are made with enemies;
people run, pushed on by foreign lucre.
Those who no longer want to fight
indulge in cowardly acts:
War, having become a nuisance,
now thrives in the shadows.
The trust between spouses, among friends, has vanished
deceitful democracy has its day,
the world is infested
with duplicitous, easygoing harmony.
Forces are diverted, bodies are held in contempt,
the young are strangled
by inertia, drugs, ambition,
and like sheep they advance in herds
towards mediocre desires
devoid of hope.
Pleasures, too, have lost
their flavour,
and loyalty its strength.
All souls are rotted from within,
and, preached as virtue by old men,
everywhere reigns a cowardly will
to self-assertion
and a contemptible security.
Truth is denied,
real emotions grow lifeless
hope no longer lightens
the steps of those who walk,
the laughter of imbeciles echoes everywhere,
every forehead bears the mark
of the death of the spirit.
Joy and pain fade quickly,
purity is for sale,
even lust is worn out:
people think only of money,
its value is greater than that
of human beings.
Even those who revolt
are looking in their own cunning way
for a tranquil abode,
the faces of those who are at the summit of fame,
swell obscenely.
A decadent beauty
infests the world,
only base truths are believed,
the number of cars increases
and inane speed shatters souls.
Enormous buildings are built,
but great causes collapse,
windows are lit by the neon lights
of unsatisfied desires,
morning after morning
the sun rises dim with smog,
feelings are dulled,
sharp corners are blunted.
Passionate and virile souls
abandon the earth,
dark blood stagnates in peace,
arid and dried up
no longer gushing forth in its purity.
Those who soared in the sky have broken wings
while termites mock
immortal glory.
In days like that,
why would His Majesty
become an ordinary man?

From Eirei no Koe (Voices of the Heroic Spirits), 1966, translated from an Italian edition by Giuliano Adriano Malvicini

Saturday, 23 November 2013

John Morgan - What Guénon and Evola Really Meant by Tradition (...and Why Many Get it Wrong)

    René Guénon

    There is a great deal of confusion about what Guénon and Evola meant by Tradition, 
    and while the terms "traditional" or "traditionalist" are frequently invoked these days, often the evocateur demonstrates in said usage that he does not in fact grasp it. I offer some quotes from Guénon for clarification.
    Guénon on the difference between philosophy, in the modern sense, and Tradition (from "Crisis in the Modern World"):
    "It is true that the word 'philosophy' can, in itself, be understood in quite a legitimate sense, and one which without doubt originally belonged to it, especially if it be true that Pythagoras himself was the first to use it: etymologically it denotes nothing other than 'love of wisdom'; in the first place, therefore, it implies the initial disposition required for the attainment of wisdom, and, by a quite natural extension of this meaning, the quest that is born from this same disposition and that must lead to knowledge. It denotes therefore a preliminary and preparatory stage, a step as it were in the direction of wisdom or a degree corresponding to a lower level of wisdom; the perversion that ensued consisted in taking this transitional stage for an end in itself and in seeking to substitute 'philosophy' for wisdom, a process which implied forgetting or ignoring the true nature of the latter. It was in this way that there arose what may be described as 'profane' philosophy, in other words, a pretended wisdom that was purely human and therefore entirely of the rational order, and that took the place of the true, traditional, supra-rational, and 'non-human' wisdom. However, there still remained something of this true wisdom throughout the whole of antiquity, as is proven primarily by the persistence of the 'mysteries', whose essentially initiatic character is beyond dispute; and it is also true that the teachings of the philosophers themselves usually had both an 'exoteric' and an 'esoteric' side, the latter leaving open the possibility of connection with a higher point of view, which in fact made itself clearly-though perhaps in some respects incompletely-apparent some centuries later among the Alexandrians. For 'profane' philosophy to be definitively constituted as such, it was necessary for exoterism alone to remain and for all esoterism simply to be denied, and it is precisely this that the movement inaugurated by the Greeks was to lead to in the modern world. The tendencies that found expression among the Greeks had to be pushed to the extreme, the undue importance given to rational thought had to grow even greater, before men could arrive at 'rationalism', a specifically modern attitude that consists in not merely ignoring, but expressly denying, everything of a supra-rational order."
    This indicates that Tradition cannot be understood via the means of modern, rationalistic philosophy, and that modern philosophy must always be seen as ultimately incomplete.
    As for lower-t tradition versus Tradition, one must understand that the former has absolutely nothing to do with the notion of Tradition, which is rooted in the esoteric, not the social or historical - even if there is a relationship. The social world is exoteric, and therefore the least important aspect of Tradition.
    From "Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines":
    We have constantly had occasion to speak of tradition, of traditional doctrines or conceptions, and even of traditional languages, and this is really unavoidable when trying to describe the essential characteristics of Eastern thought in all its modalities; but what, to be exact, is tradition? To obviate one possible misunderstanding, let it be said from the outset that we do not take the word “tradition” in the restricted sense sometimes given to it by Western religious thought, when it opposes “tradition” to the written word, using the former of these two terms exclusively for something that has been the object of oral transmission alone. On the contrary, for us tradition, taken in a much more general sense, may be written as well as oral, though it must usually, if not always, have been oral originally. In the present state of things, however, tradition, whether it be religious in form or otherwise, consists everywhere of two complementary branches, written and oral, and we have no hesitation in speaking of “traditional writings”, which would obviously be contradictory if one only gave to the word “tradition” its more specialized meaning; besides, etymologically, tradition simply means “that which is transmitted” in some way or other. In addition, it is necessary to include in tradition, as secondary and derived elements that are nonetheless important for the purpose of forming a complete picture, the whole series of institutions of various kinds which find their principle in the traditional doctrine itself.
    Looked at in this way, tradition may appear to be indistinguishable from civilization itself, which according to certain sociologists consists of “the whole body of techniques, institutions, and beliefs common to a group of men during a certain time”; but how much exactly is this definition worth? In truth, we do not think that civilization can be characterized generally by a formula of this type, which will always be either too comprehensive or too narrow in some respects, with the risk that elements common to all civilizations will be omitted or else that elements belonging to certain particular civilizations only will be included. Thus the preceding definition takes no account of the essentially intellectual element to be found in every civilization, for that is something that cannot be made to fit into the category known as “techniques”, which, as we are told, comprises “those classes of practices specially designed to modify the physical environment”; on the other hand, when these sociologists speak of “beliefs”, adding moreover that the word must be “taken in its usual sense”, they are referring to something that clearly presupposes the presence of the religious viewpoint, which is really confined to certain civilizations only and is not to be found in others. It was in order to avoid all difficulties of this kind that we were content at the start simply to describe a civilization as the product and expression of a certain mental outlook common to a more or less widespread group of men, thus making it possible to treat each particular case separately as regards the exact determination of its constituent elements.
    However that may be, it remains nonetheless true, as far as the East is concerned, that the identification of tradition with the entire civilization is fundamentally justifiable. Every Eastern civilization, taken as a whole, may be seen to be essentially traditional. . . . As for Western civilization, we have shown that it is on the contrary devoid of any traditional character, with the exception of the religious element, which alone has retained it. Social institutions, to be considered traditional, must be effectively attached in their principle to a doctrine that is itself traditional, whether it be metaphysical or religious or of any other conceivable kind. In other words, those institutions are traditional that find their ultimate justification in their more or less direct, but always intentional and conscious, dependence upon a doctrine which, as regards its fundamental nature, is in every case of an intellectual order; but this intellectuality may be found either in a pure state, in cases where one is dealing with an entirely metaphysical doctrine, or else it may be found mingled with other heterogeneous elements, as in the case of the religious or other special modes which a traditional doctrine is capable of assuming. [...]
    In Islam tradition exists under two distinct aspects, one of which is religious—it is upon this aspect that the general body of social institutions is dependent—while the other aspect, which is purely Eastern, is wholly metaphysical. In a certain measure something of the same sort existed in medieval Europe in the case of the Scholastic doctrine, in which Arab influences moreover made themselves felt to an appreciable extent; but in order not to push the analogy too far it should be added that metaphysics was never sufficiently clearly distinguished from theology, that is to say from its special application to the religious mode of thought; moreover, the genuinely metaphysical portion to be found in it is incomplete and remains subject to certain limitations that seem inherent in the whole of Western intellectuality; doubtless these two imperfections should be looked upon as resulting from the double heritage of the Jewish and the Greek mentalities.
    In India we are in the presence of a tradition that is purely metaphysical in its essence; to it are attached, as so many dependent extensions, the diverse applications to which it gives rise, whether in certain secondary branches of the doctrine itself, such as that relating to cosmology, or in the social order, which is moreover strictly governed by the analogical correspondence linking together cosmic existence and human existence. A fact that stands out much more clearly here than in the Islamic tradition, chiefly owing to the absence of the religious point of view and of certain extra-intellectual elements that religion necessarily implies, is the complete subordination of the various particular orders relative to metaphysics, that is to say relative to the realm of universal principles.
    In China, [there is ] the sharp division . . . [between] a metaphysical tradition on the one hand and a social tradition on the other, and these may at first sight appear not only distinct, as in fact they are, but even relatively independent of one another, all the more so since the metaphysical tradition always remained well-nigh exclusively the appanage of an intellectual elite, whereas the social tradition, by reason of its very nature, imposed itself upon all without distinction and claimed their effective participation in an equal degree. It is, however, important to remember that the metaphysical tradition, as constituted under the form of “Taoism”, is a development from the principles of a more primordial tradition, formulated in the I Ching, and it is from this primordial tradition that the whole of the social institutions commonly known under the name of “Confucianism” are entirely derived, though less directly and then only as an application to a contingent sphere. Thus the essential continuity between the two principal aspects of the Far-Eastern civilization is re-established, and their true relationship made clear; but this continuity would almost inevitably be missed if it were not possible to trace them back to their common source, that is to say to the primordial tradition of which the ideographical expression, as fixed from the time of Fu Hsi onward, has been preserved intact for almost fifty centuries."
    Therefore, there can be a relationship between small-t tradition and Tradition, but the latter is not dependent on the former - rather, it is the other way around. The reason Guénon did not see the modern West as a genuine civilization is because, according to the traditionalists, there is no longer a connection between tradition and Tradition. This should highlight the problem inherent in those who use the term "traditionalist," invoking Evola and/or Guénon but who clearly have no grasp of this, and use it however they fancy, and also why tradition isn't exactly irrelevant to an understanding of Tradition, but is certainly woefully incomplete on its own. I offer this note as an attempt to clarify the usage of this term.

    John Morgan is Editor-in-Chief of Arktos

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Thomas Carlyle - The Votes of Fools and Knaves

Thomas Carlyle by Helen Allingham

...But as to universal suffrage, again, - can it be proved that, since the beginning of the world, there was ever given a universal vote in favour of the worthiest man or thing? I have always understood that true worth, in any department, was difficult to recognise; that the worthiest, if he appealed to universal suffrage would have but a poor chance. John Milton, inquiring of universal England what the worth of Paradise Lost was, received for an answer, Five Pounds Sterling. George Hudson, inquiring in like manner what his services on the railways might be worth, received for answer (prompt, temporary answer), Fifteen Hundred Thousand ditto. Alas, Jesus Christ asking the Jews what he deserved, was not the answer, Death on the gallows! - Will your Lordship believe me, I feel it almost a shame to insist on such truisms. Surely the doctrine of judgement by vote of hustings has sunk now, or should be fast sinking, the condition of obsolete with all but the commonest of human intelligences. With me, I must own, it has never had any existence. The mass of men consulted at hustings, upon any matter whatsoever, is as ugly an exhibition of human stupidity as this world sees.

Universal suffrage assembled at hustings, - I will consult it about the quality of New Orleans pork, or the coarser kinds of Irish butter; but as to the character of men, I will if possible ask it no question: or if the question be asked and the answer given, I will generally consider, in cases of any importance, that the said answer is likely to be wrong,- that I have to listen to the said answer and receive it as authentic, and for my own share to go, and with whatever strength may lie in me, do the reverse of the same. Even so, your Lordship; for how should I follow a multitude to do evil? There are such things as multitudes full of beer and nonsense, even of insincere factitious nonsense, who by hypothesis cannot but be wrong. Or what safety will there be in a thousand or ten thousand potwallopers, or blockheads of any rank whatever, if the Fact, namely the whole Universe and the Eternal Destinies, be against me? These latter I for my share will try to follow, even if alone in doing so, it will be better for me.

Your Lordship, there are fools, cowards, knaves, and gluttonous traitors true only to their own appetite, in immense majority, in every rank of life; and there is nothing frightfuler than to see these voting and deciding!

[…] Clearly enough, the King in constitutional countries would wish to ascertain all men's votes, their opinions, volitions on all manner of matters; that so his whole scene of operations, to the last cranny of it, might be illuminated for him, and he, wherever he were working, might work with perfect knowledge of circumstances and materials. But the King, New Downing Street, or whatever the Sovereign's names is, will be a very poor King indeed if he admit all these votes into his system of procedure, and transform them into acts; - indeed I think, in that case, he will not be long for this world as a King! […] 
You ask this and the other man what is his opinion, his notion, about varieties of things: and having ascertained what his notion is, and carried it off as a piece of information, - surely you are bound, many times, most times if you are a wise man, to go directly in the teeth of it, and for his sake and yours to do directly the contrary of it. Any man's opinion one would accept; all men's opinion, could it be had absolutely without trouble, might be worth accepting. Nay on certain points I even ask my horse's opinion: as to whether beans will suit him at this juncture, or a truss of tares; on this and the like points I carefully consult my horse; gather by such language as he has, what my horse's candid opinion as to beans or the truss of tares is, and unhesitatingly follow the same. As what prudent rider would not? There is no foolishest man but knows one and the other thing more clearly than any the wisest man does; no glimmer of human or equine intelligence but can disclose something which even the intelligence of a Newton, not present in that exact juncture of circumstances, would not otherwise have ascertained. To such length you would gladly consult all equine, and much more all human intelligences: - to such length; and, strictly speaking, not any farther.

Of what use towards the general result of finding out what it is wise to do, - which is the one thing needful to all men and nations, - can the fool's vote be? It is either coincident with the wise man's vote, throwing no new light on the matter, and therefore superfluous; or else it is contradictory, and therefore still more superfluous, throwing mere darkness on the matter, and imperatively demanding to be annihilated, and returned to the giver with protest. Woe to you if you leave that valid!

...”But how?” your Lordship asks, and all the world with you: “Are not two men stronger than one; must not two votes carry it over one?” I answer: No, nor two thousand nor two million. Many men vote; but in the end, you will infallibly find, none counts except the few who were in the right...

But if not only the number but the weight of votes preponderate against your Governor, he, never so much in the right, will find it wise to hold his hand; to delay, for a time, this his beneficent execution, which is ultimately inevitable and indispensable, of Heaven's Decrees; the Nation being still unprepared. He will leave the bedarkened Nation yet a while alone. What can he do for it, if not even a small minority will stand by him? Let him strive to enlighten the Nation; let him pray, and in all ways endeavour that the Nation be enlightened, - that a small minority may open their eyes and hearts to the message of Heaven, which he, heavy-laden man and governor has been commissioned to see done in this transitory earth, at his peril!

...On the whole, honour to small minorities, when they are genuine ones. Severe is their battle sometimes, but it is victorious always like that of gods. Tancred of Hauteville's sons, some eight centuries ago, conquered all of Italy, bound it up into organic masses, of vital order after a sort; founded thrones and principalities upon the same, which have not entirely vanished, - which, the last dying wrecks of which, still wait for some worthier successor it would appear. The Tancred Normans were some Four Thousand strong; the Italy they conquered in an open fight, and bound up into masses at their ordering will, might count Eight millions, all as large of bone, as eupeptic and black-whiskered as they. How came the small minority of Normans to prevail in this so hopeless-looking debate? Intrinsically, doubt it not, because they were in the right; because, in a dim, instinctive, but most genuine manner, they were doing the commandment of Heaven, and so Heaven had decided that they were to prevail. But extrinsically also, I can see, it was because the Normans were not afraid to have their skin scratched; and were prepared to die in their quarrel where needful. One man of that humour among a thousand other, consider it! Let the small minority, backed by the whole Universe, and looked on by such a cloud of invisible witnesses, fall into no despair.

From Latter Day Pamphlets No. 6: Parliaments (1850)