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.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Friedrich Nietzsche - A Lack of Noble Manners

On the lack of noble manners. 
-- Soldiers and their leaders have always a far better relationship with one another than workers and their employers. So far at least, culture that rests on a military foundation still stands high above all so called industrial civilisation; the latter, in its present form, is in general the meanest mode of existence that has ever been. It is simply the law of necessity that operates here: people want to live, and have to sell themselves; but they despise him who exploits their necessity and purchases the worker. It is curious that the subjection to powerful, fear inspiring, and even dreadful individuals, to tyrants and leaders of armies, is not at all felt so painfully as the subjection to such undistinguished and uninteresting persons as the captains of industry; in the employer the worker usually sees merely a crafty, blood sucking dog of a man who speculates on all misery and the employers name, form, character, and reputation are altogether indifferent to them. It is probable that the manufacturers and great magnates of commerce have hitherto lacked too much all those forms and attributes of a superior kind, which alone make persons interesting; if they had had the nobility of the nobly born in their looks and bearing, there would perhaps have been no socialism in the masses of the people. For these are really ready for slavery of every kind, provided that the superior class above them constantly shows itself legitimately superior, and born to command by its noble presence! The commonest man feels that nobility is not to be improvised, and that it is his part to honour it as the fruit of long periods of time. But the absence of the higher presence, and the notorious vulgarity of manufacturers with ruddy, fat hands, gives him the idea that only accident and luck has elevated the one above the other. Well then so he reasons with himself - let us try accident and luck! Our turn to throw the dice! And thus socialism is born. 

~ The Gay Science, BK. 1, 40.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Thomas Carlyle - The Great Machine

Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle [1873]

Here follows extracts from Thomas Carlyle's  1829 essay Signs of the Times, an early attack on the utilitarian, materialist and mechanistic worldview that has come to dominate much of the modern world.

Were we required to characterise this age of ours by any single epithet, we should be tempted to call it, not an Heroical, Devotional, Philosophical, or Moral Age, but, above all others, the Mechanical Age. 

It is the Age of Machinery, in every outward and inward sense of that word; the age which, with its whole undivided might, forwards, teaches and practices the great art of adapting means to ends […] Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand. They have lost faith in individual endeavour, and in natural force, of any kind. Not for internal perfection, but for external combinations and arrangements, for institutions, constitutions, for Mechanism of one sort or other, do they hope and struggle. Their whole efforts, attachments, opinions, turn on mechanism, and are of a mechanical character […] 

Nowhere, for example, is the deep, almost exclusive faith we have in Mechanism more visible than in the Politics of this time. Civil government does by its nature include much that is mechanical, and must be treated accordingly. We term it indeed, in ordinary language, the Machine of Society, and talk of it as the grand working wheel from which all private machines must derive, or to which they must adapt, their movements […]

It is no longer the moral, religious, spiritual condition of the people that is our concern, but their physical, practical, economical condition, as regulated by public laws. Thus is the Body-politic more than ever worshipped and tendered; but the Soul-politic less than ever. Love of country, in any high or generous sense, in any other than an almost animal sense, or mere habit, has little importance attached to it in such reforms, or in the opposition shown them. Men are to be guided only by their self-interests. Good government is a good balancing of these; and, except a keen eye and appetite for self-interest, requires no virtue in any quarter. To both parties it is emphatically a machine: to the discontented, a 
"taxing-machine "; to the contented, a "machine for securing property." Its duties and its faults are not those of a father, but of an active parish-constable[...]

But though Mechanism, wisely contrived, has done much for man in a social and moral point of view, we cannot be persuaded that it has ever been the chief source of his worth or happiness. Consider the great elements of human enjoyment, the attainments and possessions that exalt man's life to its present height, and see what part of these he owes to institutions, to Mechanism of any kind; and what to the instinctive, unbounded force, which Nature herself lent him, and still continues to him [...] Science and Art have, from first to last, been the free gift of Nature; an unsolicited, unexpected gift; often even a fatal one […] They originated in the Dynamical nature of man, not in his Mechanical nature.[...] 

Strange as it may see if we read History with any degree thoughtfulness, we shall find that checks and balances of Profit and Loss have never been the grand agents with men. that they have never been roused into deep, thorough, all-pervading efforts by any computable prospect of Profit and Loss, for any visible, finite object; but always for some invisible and infinite one. The Crusades took their rise in Religion; their visible object was, commercially speaking, worth nothing. It was the boundless Invisible world that was laid bare in the imaginations of those men; and in its burning light, the visible shrunk as a scroll. Not mechanical, nor produced by mechanical means, was this vast movement. No dining at Freemasons' Tavern, with the other long train of modern machinery; no cunning reconciliation of "vested interests," was required here: only the passionate voice of one man, the rapt soul looking through the eyes of one man; and rugged, steel-clad Europe trembled beneath his words, and followed him whither he listed. […] 

Man is not the creature and product of Mechanism; but, in a far truer sense, its creator and producer: it is the noble People that makes the noble Government; rather than conversely. On the whole, Institutions are much; but they are not all. The freest and highest spirits of the world have often been found under strange outward circumstances: Saint Paul and his brother Apostles were politically slaves; Epictetus was personally one. Again, forget the influences of Chivalry and Religion, and ask: What countries produced Columbus and Las Casas? Or, descending from virtue and heroism to mere energy and spiritual talent: Cortes, Pizarro, Alba, Ximenes? The Spaniards of the sixteenth century were indisputably the noblest nation of Europe: yet they had the Inquisition and Philip II. They have the same government at this day; and are the lowest nation […] 

These and the like facts are so familiar, the truths which they preach so obvious, and have in all past times been so universally believed and acted on, that we should almost feel ashamed for repeating them; were it not that, on every hand, the memory of them seems to have passed away, or at best died into a faint tradition, of no value as a practical principle […]

By our skill in Mechanism, it has come to pass, that in the management of external things we excel all other ages; while in whatever respects the pure moral nature, in true dignity of soul and character, we are perhaps inferior to most civilised ages[...] In fact, if we look deeper, we shall find that this faith in Mechanism has now struck its roots down into man's most intimate, primary sources of conviction; and is thence sending up, over his whole life and activity, innumerable stems, — fruit-bearing and poison-bearing. The truth is, men have lost their belief in the Invisible, and believe, and hope, and work only in the Visible; or, to speak it in other words: This is not a Religious age. Only the material, the immediately practical, not the divine and spiritual, is important to us. The infinite, absolute character of Virtue has passed into a finite, conditional one; it is no longer a worship of the Beautiful and Good; but a calculation of the Profitable. Worship, indeed, in any sense, is not recognised among us, or is mechanically explained into Fear of pain, or Hope of pleasure. Our true Deity is Mechanism. It has subdued external Nature for us, and we think it will do all other things. We are Giants in physical power: in a deeper than metaphorical sense, we are Titans, that strive, by heaping mountain on mountain, to conquer Heaven also[...] 

We figure Society as a "Machine," and that mind is opposed to mind, as body is to body; whereby two, or at most ten, little minds must be stronger than one great mind. Notable absurdity! For the plain truth, very plain, we think is, that minds are opposed to minds in quite a different way; and one man that has a higher Wisdom, a hitherto unknown spiritual Truth in him, is stronger, not than ten men that have it not, or than ten thousand, but than all men that have it not; and stands among them with a quite ethereal, angelic power, as with a sword out of Heaven's own armory, sky-tempered, which no buckler, and no tower of brass, will finally withstand.

Monday, 17 March 2014

L'action française 2000 interviews Dominique Venner

Translation by Giuliano Adriano Malvicini

L’Action française 2000: You define yourself as a "meditative historian". What precisely do you mean by this term?

Dominique Venner: To meditate is not to daydream, but to intensely fix one's thoughts on a precise object. I have always been astonished by the fact that people are so little astonished. Above all when it comes to history. And yet, astonishment is the first condition of thought. In the conventional interpretation of History, one describes a succession of events as though they were necessary or self-evident. But that's false. Nothing is ever necessary or self-evident. Everything is always held in suspense by the unforeseeable. Neither Richelieu nor Mazarin, for example, neither Caesar nor Octave, nor the Chinese emperor Shi Huangdi, the great founder, were necessary or pre-ordained by Providence. They could all have never existed or have died before completing their work. In the face of facts and unforeseeable historical events, I ask myself the questions that lazy history doesn't ask, I meditate. For example: Louis XIV was called le Roi Très Chrétien ("the Most Christian King"). Despite this, he had Versailles and his park built as a hymn to the divinities of ancient paganism. Surprising, isn't it? And the source of new reflections on the representations of the king and the religion of his time, which has nothing to with the pious story invented in the nineteenth century. Let's dwell for a moment upon the Great King, who witnessed the English revolution and the execution of Charles the first in january 1649. An astonishing revolution! In the following century, Edmund Burke could oppose the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the French Revolution of 1789. Why did a "conservative revolution" take place in England  and a destructive revolution take place in France? That's a good question, and there are a hundred answers. There's something to meditate upon. Moreover, since I was born in troubling times for a Frenchman and a European, a time that has seen the collapse of our old power and the destruction of certainties that were considered eternal, I meditate by studying History outside of all conventions. Following the example of Ulysses, I believe that thought is a prerequisite for action. I even believe that it is action.

AF: Europe today is "dormant", as you nicely put it. Why is that?

DV : When I think of Europe, I'm not thinking about political or technocratic structures, I'm thinking of our multi-millenial civilisation, our identity, a certain "European" way of thinking, of feeling and of living, across time. Yes, Europe is historically "dormant". Since when? Since the second half of the twentieth century, after the catastrophe of the two wars that started in 1914 and ended in 1945. When the universal exhibition opened in Paris in 1900, Europe was the intellectual and spiritual centre of the world. She dominated everything, almost everywhere. The United States was still only a marginal power. Fifty years later, everything was reversed! After Yalta, a Europe bled of its strength was divided up between the two new powers that had emerged in the Century of 1914: the United States and the USSR. Two Messianic powers that wanted to impose on her their models: Americanism and communism. I might add that Europe has not only lost its power and its colonies, worse still, it has lost faith in itself, eroded by an unheard of moral crisis and manipulation by guilt. She is "dormant".

AF: You are nevertheless optimistic with regard to her identitarian awakening. So what are, this time, the reasons for hope?

DV: Those reasons are above all connected with the "shock of History" that we are currently experiencing without knowing it. This "shock" heralds a new era. It began with the collapse of the USSR and of communism in 1989. At the same time, old powers and old civilisations, previously thought to be dead, went through a spectacular revival, China, India, Islam (despite its conflicts), South America, to speak only of large entities. The unipolar world that the power of the dollar wanted is being replaced by a multipolar world, and that will give Europe its chance. However, she is confronted with a  huge and unprecedented historical danger, the mass immigration of populations that bring with them another civilisation. Mass immigration is producing, on European soil, a shock of civilisations that could end up being deadly. But, in an astonishing historical surprise, it could also reveal itself to be our salvation. From the alterity represented by the immigrant populations, their customs, and their treatment of women, which deeply shocks us, we are seeing a new awareness being born among Europeans of their identity, an awareness that they rarely possessed in the past. Let me add that in spite of all these dangers, I also believe in the survival of the fundamental qualities of energy and innovation that are characteristic of Europeans. For the moment, they are not being exercised in the realm of politics, which is why we can't see them.

AF : How may the lessons of the great masters of the dawn of European civilization, Hesiod and Homer, be salutary for us?

DV : Homer has bequeathed to us, in its pure state, the model of a specific mental morphology - our own - prior to the distortions of contrary influences. We need to impregnate ourselves with it if we are to be spiritually reborn, as a precondition to other forms of renaissance. The consequences of the Century of 1914 have cast the French and Europeans into an immense disorder. Nothing escapes it. This disorder affects both churches and laymen. So much so that we we are witnessing apparently bewildering attempts on the part of the upper hierarchies of the church to come together with the Islam of the immigrants. These attempts rightly shock many Catholics. They go beyond the "obligation of hospitality" invoked by the pastoralism of submission, and also have to do with a kind of solidarity between monotheistic "believers" in the face of the growing religious indifference of society. That is the explicit meaning of meetings like the one in Assisi. In short, when disorder has become general, you have to go back to what is completely pure, to the fundamental sources of our civilisation, which go back much farther than Christianity, as Benedict XVI reminded us in his Regensburg speech. That is why we have to go back to Homer and the granite foundations of our founding poems, nature as a bedrock, excellence as a goal and beauty as the horizon. That's a truth that Charles Maurras had seen clearly since his youth.

AF : You speak, not without admiration, of the "intractable character" of Maurras. Did he influence you intellectually?

DV: I have never concealed my admiration for Maurras' bravery in the face of hardship. But I have also been a close reader of his early writings and an observer of his development. Just recently I read the correspondence between Charles Maurras and the abbé Penon (1883-1928), published by Privat in 2008. It's a primary source. As you know, abbé Penon, who later became the bishop of Moulins, had been the private tutor and later the confessor of the young Maurras. He saw his task compromised by development of his pupil and the inflexible autonomy of his mind. The abbé had introduced the boy to Greek and Roman literature, which little by little turned him away from Christianity. The young Maurras' stay in Athens on the occasion of the first Olympic games in 1898, completed the transformation. It's all summed up in a letter of June 28, 1896, which I can quote for you: "I return from Athens more remote, more hostile to Christianity than before. Believe me, it was there that the perfect men lived…" After having referred to Sophocles, Homer and Plato, the young Maurras concludes: "I am returning from Athens as a pure polytheist. All that was still vague and confused in my thought has become sparklingly clear…" Right until his death in 1928, l’abbé Penon tried to make Maurras go back on this conversion. All he could get out of him were purely formal concessions, but also Maurras' argument that in his eyes, the Catholic church had once corrected, through its principle of order, the pernicious nature of primitive Christianity.

AF : You are a Jüngerian practitioner of the "recourse to the forest". Have you found peace there, or a way to prepare for the wars of the future?

DV: Before writing so many books, Ernst Jünger started out by living, in the trenches of WWI, certain ideas that he later articulated. Jünger was authenticated by his life. That made me take his writings seriously. I should also add that the image of the "recourse to the forest" resonates very strongly with me. I don't see it as an incitement to go underground, but to discover the noble spirituality manifested in trees and nature, or as Bernard de Clairvaux said: "You will find more in forests than in books. The trees will teach you things that no master will speak to you of". That's proof that in him, the spirituality of his Frankish and Gallic ancestors was still alive. That is what I call tradition. It makes its way through us, unbeknownst to us.

From the journal of the Centre royaliste d'Action française

Monday, 10 March 2014

Roger Scruton - On Free Trade

The Money Changers Marinus van Reymerswaele (Follower of) c.-1548

It is only free-market dogma that persuades people that free trade is a real possibility in the modern world.  

All trade is massively subsidized, usually in the interests of the stronger party—as American agriculture is subsidized, not merely by direct payments to farmers but by laws that permit crops ruled unsafe elsewhere, by standards in animal welfare that we in Britain would not countenance, by the existence of publicly funded roads and infrastructure that ensure rapid transport of goods to the port of exit, and so on. 

And all trade is or ought to be subject to prohibition and restriction in the interest not merely of local conditions but also of moral, religious and national imperatives.

 If free trade means the importation of pornography into Islamic countries, who can defend it? If it means taking advantage of sweated or even slave labour where that is available and importing the tortured remains of battery-farmed animals wherever they can be sold, why is it such a boon? If it means allowing anonymous shareholders who neither know nor care about Hungary to own and control the Budapest water supply, is it not the most dangerous of long-term policies? The fact is that free trade is neither possible nor desirable. 

It is for each nation to establish the regulatory regime that will maximize trade with its neighbours, while protecting the local customs, moral ideals and privileged relations on which national identity depends.

Roger Scruton, A Political Philosophy [London and New York: Continuum, 2006].

Monday, 3 March 2014

Herodotus - Advice for Rulers

King Croesus to his vanquisher Cyrus on how to pacify his new subjects, as related by Herodotus in The Histories:

“What end to this business, Croesus? It seems that the Lydians will never stop making trouble for me and for themselves. It occurs to me that it may be best to make slaves of them; for it seems I have acted like one who slays the father and spares the children. So likewise I have taken with me you who were more than a father to the Lydians, and handed the city over to the Lydians themselves; and then indeed I marvel that they revolt!” 

So Cyrus uttered his thought; but Croesus feared that he would destroy Sardis, and answered him thus: “O King, what you say is reasonable. But do not ever yield to anger, or destroy an ancient city that is innocent both of the former and of the present offense. For the former I am responsible, and bear the punishment on my head; while Pactyes, in whose charge you left Sardis, does this present wrong; let him, then, pay the penalty. But pardon the Lydians, and give them this command so that they not revolt or pose a danger to you: send and forbid them to possess weapons of war, and order them to wear tunics under their cloaks and knee-boots on their feet, and to teach their sons lyre-playing and song and dance and shop-keeping. And quickly, O king, you shall see them become women instead of men, so that you need not fear them, that they might revolt.