I look like a fool in this picture, but I am a fool, after all… not much that can be done about that.
The act of rice planting, in my mind, is magic. You put this stuff in the ground, and six months later it’s food. How does it happen? Miracles, man. Tide comes in, tide goes out. Aliens. Sure, you can explain why it happens while you sit here at your computer and Google up the details, but if you get out there and do it yourself, maybe you’ll realize that you yourself are a wizard.
Getting off the computer. I am in favor of it.
I am making a list of things that René Guénon is wrong about. Here is a start:
- The role of Tradition in East Asia. Related, Guénon falsely thought that Tradition itself was linked intimately with esoteric knowledge, rather than simply making esoteric knowledge possible and purposeful. Evola corrected some of this, which I will elaborate on in my next post.
- Reincarnation. Guénon believed that no tradition ever espoused reincarnation and that the clear material evidence in its favor was merely “psychic residue“. This is silly nonsense. He invented the term “psychic residue” himself so he hasn’t a foot to stand on calling other traditions false. Evola bizarrely found a basis for this in Buddhism, which Guénon had rejected entirely as false tradition.
I leave you with an adorable Chesterton quote:
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called,”Keep to-morrow dark,” and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) “Cheat the Prophet.” The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clevermen have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.
Posted: June 18th, 2012 | Japan, Tradition
I regard the lack of fun, delight, and love in Guénon and Evola as a deep mistake by both these writers. The Traditionalists are convinced that as occult warriors they must be opposed on principle to the frivolous entertainments of the masses. Their failure is rather incredible, because fun is an exclusive property of the traditional elements of a society.
This may seem incorrect at first glance, because of an inversion that has occurred. Intellectuals now have a solid body of “serious” literature which mocks real tradition, and a constant stream of humor “with a message” employed by the left to mock the right. This seriousness, and this message, is not an integral part of fun, but is injected into it by modern progressivism. The enjoyment is actually drained out of these works by their poisonous politicization. A truly fulfilling sense of humor and fun requires a human concept to play with, so denouncing this concept renders your art less funny and more harsh, even misanthropic. One must only visit a playground to realize that fun is not a destructive force but actually requires rules and can only be fulfilling when those rules are obeyed. Quoting Huizinga’s Homo Ludens: “Play creates order, is order. Into an imperfect world and into the confusion of life it brings a temporary, a limited perfection.” Violating the rules renders a game meaningless.
Huizinga also has an interesting thing to say about poetry, which Spengler noted withers on the vine with the rise of modernity. Poetry cannot be put to work for progressivism, because
If a serious statement is defined as one that may be made in terms of waking life, poetry will never rise to the level of seriousness. It lies beyond seriousness, on that more primitive and original level where the child, the animal, the savage, and the seer belong, in the region of dream, enchantment, ecstasy, laughter. To understand poetry we must be capable of donning the child’s soul like a magic cloak and of forsaking man’s wisdom for the child’s.
The ancient Hindu epics are an incredible proof of this. They are a kind of play, in regular verse often performed with music or actors, that not only sustains tradition but created the tradition itself. Their primitive dreaminess and perennial magic are inseparable from their fun, the fact that they are a joy to listen to and watch. In short, they are a wonder of the world, an impenetrable mystery in a way that a poem celebrating scientific knowledge could never be.
In Chesterton’s The Napoleon of Notting Hill, a king appears who institutes a host of absurd traditions throughout England, requiring every town to appoint a Provost who will wear ridiculous clothes at all times, carry a coat of arms, and be accompanied everywhere he goes by a team of halberd bearers. Nearly all of England is in revolt over this. They think these invented traditions demean their role as serious, modern, secular leaders. But one man, trying to get the king to protect his beloved neighborhood of Notting Hill, engages himself in the game fully, and presents himself to the king with complete pomp and circumstance. The other provosts grumble, but the delighted king addresses them:
You thought to spoil my joke, and bully me out of it, by becoming more and more modern, more and more practical, more and more bustling and rational. Oh, what a feast it was to answer you by becoming more and more august, more and more gracious, more and more ancient and mellow! But this lad has seen how to bowl me out. He has answered me back, vaunt for vaunt, rhetoric for rhetoric. He has lifted the only shield I cannot break, the shield of an impenetrable pomposity.
Fun in the traditional world is an activity that respects the existence of an institution. When there is a butt of a joke in a traditional society, it is the human being, unable to live up to the metaphysical tasks he is asked to fulfill. Human nature, which in tradition is not appealed to with capitalist treats but kept in check by a rigorous order, is a source of comedy that never stops supplying, and can always be much more subtly and pleasingly humorous than leftist, political humor. The object of the traditional joke is not, generally speaking, the shared standards of living. Cultural institutions can be funny either for the people participating in them or the people who despise them, but the latter group are playing a dangerous game. When ridicule of a standard becomes more prominent in society than the standard itself, soon the standard shall be unable to tolerate mockery. Then the standard will fall, and all the humor it gave the world will obviously cease with it; and the world will therefore lose some of its cheeriness and joy.
Christopher Hitchens at his most intelligent observed that men are inherently much funnier than women. He attempted to supply several answers for this, but I believe I have a very simple one. Recently I tried to teach the card game Doubt, or BS, to a large number of Japanese children. This is a simple game where lying gradually becomes inevitable and players are rewarded for spotting the lies of others. Boys and mixed-sex groups picked up the rules quickly. But one group was consisted entirely of little girls, and none of them were willing to accuse their friends of lying. I understood the sincerity of their sweet intentions immediately, but the game as they played it was no fun.
Posted: June 16th, 2012 | Tradition
I’ve written an essay for the popular, well-respected Internet journal Gornahoor called “Players and Pugilists“, on the degrading nature of acting in traditional society. Check it out over there, and leave a comment if you like it. You may need to bump up the font size on your browser by pressing Ctrl+Plus.
Site news, June 11: The spam blocker on this blog was just too much of a pain, so I switched to Disqus. Comments should reappear shortly.
Posted: June 9th, 2012 | Tradition
I received an anonymous email about a book review I wrote on Amazon. The author did not reply to my reply. Feeling a bit underwhelmed by our conversation, I here post my reply for public consumption.
Cool, thanks for the e-mail! The book [The Trickster and the Paranormal] did leave an impression on me after all, although Randi’s Prize made a much deeper impression simply for the author’s impeccable devotion to leaving all options on the table. Randi’s Prize really changed my entire worldview from left-skeptic to right-occultist, and it was the end of a long process that began with Nietzsche and went through Oswald Spengler and Julius Evola.
Accordingly, I don’t subscribe to the current left-wing academic thesis that holds that some group of people today are responsible for all the problems in the world, and the solutions must be provided by everyone else. Neither do I think that there is no such thing as a universal in human society! So I was not at all inclined against Hansen’s theory from the outset; just because Jung is usually wrong does not mean he can’t be right sometimes. But it is very difficult to prove a universal, so I when I go cross-cultural, as I am planning to do in my parahistory book, I tread carefully and take local, involved opinions (called “emic” accounts in anthropology) seriously. If we want to ask whether a trickster metaphor is relevant to any given society, we must look at the language that people are using and see if they are using language that we can identify as trickster. In the case of Japan, the answer is clear beyond a doubt. Trickster spirits are real in Japan, but they are low-level annoyances who you don’t want interfering with serious spiritual business. The Japanese word for Ouija board literally is literally written with the names of tricksters.
The relationship of charismatic power to traditional power is a tricky one. Charismatic power is, after all, populism. Beginning with Jesus the West has really been on a journey figuring out how to embrace populism without losing material power. This led first to the Catholic Church who very earnestly empowered anyone with spiritual talent and suffered materially for doing so, then to the invention of secular politics, which in its final, democratic form actually gives a voice to the grossest kind of charismatic power as long as it conforms to established rules. The marginalization of non-secular charisma as “religion” is a byproduct of this, but this should not imply to the informed reader that the West hates charisma itself. Loving Obama and hating the Pope is actually an embrace of charismatic power over traditional power.
In Japan the question of “church and state” is meaningless because there was never a church. Since c.1867 when the word for religion was invented in Japan, and increasingly since 1945 with the American occupation, there has been a discourse on religion and religious corporations, and the spiritual leaders I referred to in my review were all involved in this discourse. But I regard this as playing catch-up with the Western ability to harness the populace for materialist world-building activities. It will last as long as the project of modernity remains feasible.
Posted: June 5th, 2012 | Book Reviews
Modernity is a becoming, a transient state that arises, and we side with Spengler and differ from both Evola and Guénon in considering it a state which is unavoidable. The attitude towards material conditions which existed before modernity was one of essential ignorance and disinterest, except when specific areas of knowledge had to be mastered to achieve higher ends. It is not shocking to see human beings move from ignorance to knowledge in any field. Rather, it should be expected and appreciated, even when we understand the metaphysical shortcomings of a given age.
In Spengler we have no problem identifying the origin of modernity and materialism. After Nietzsche, Spengler places modernity squarely on the shoulders of Christianity’s “Jewish hatred” of the priestly caste and promise of initiation for the many, a process which gave all of Europe over to spiritual ecstasy for some centuries, but eventually led to Faustian populism. This “Jewish hatred” or “slave morality” is better worded as a disrespect by the captive Jews for foreign priests, converted by Jesus into a disrespect for Jewish priests, converted by Paul into a disrespect for pagan priests, which centuries later, through the difficult work of many smart men, became a disrespect for all priests who claim divine right and duty to the above, rather than popular right and duty to the below. All this is dependently arisen and its origin may be interpreted metaphysically as either historical Becoming or superhistorical Being, depending on how much you like Judaism.
Evola differs from Spengler in seeing modernity as a dark force that can arise at any time, just as Tradition can be restored at any time. In Revolt, which may be regarded as definitive, Evola states that “the fact that civilizations of the traditional type are found in the past becomes merely accidental: the modern world and the traditional world may be regarded as two universal types and two a priori categories of civilization.” In Imperialismo pagano, however, we find that “Christianity is at the root of the evil that has corrupted the West.” This is odd for a work that is almost completely based on Guénon, who viewed Catholic Christianity as a Tradition among peers. Later Evola joins up with Nietzsche and creates a sort of spiritual anti-Semitism, objecting both to “Jewish hatred” and to contemporary attempts to dilute European tradition by involving Jews and other minorities, although he was careful to declaim that many of the people he was objecting to were of Christian European origin. Note that Nietzsche’s slave morality does not force the Jews themselves to be modern, only the Christians who modified their metaphysics. In any case Christianity is here part of the development of what would later be modernity, and in his writings Evola consistently regards any return to Christianity as trying to roll a ball back up a slope, rather than finding metaphysical certainty in a Tradition that was not part of the development of modernity.
In placing the origin of modernity Guénon, the lover of Christianity, has a harder time than Evola. His strongest attempt, I think, is found in Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power. First he asserts the absolute nature of anti-traditional, devolving thought, using the example of the revolts of the Kshatriyas to show how breaks with tradition can appear at any time. Of course, our modernity originated in Europe and not India. Actually, using the Indian example gives Guénon some trouble, because what did Europe have that India lacked, other than Christianity? As a result we are taken of a tour of Philip the Fair, who curtailed the Knights Templar and wrought an increased focus on temporal order, which eventually led to Protestantism, which was soon placed in the hands of Anglo-Saxon rationalism, which, united with French anti-monarchism, at long last gives us secular materialism. Guénon explains the origin of modernity as far as: “There is a kind of political (and therefore entirely external) unity that implies a disregard, if not the denial, of the spiritual principles that alone can establish the true and profound unity of a civilization.” But he fails to explain to us what gave this anti-spiritual concept the necessary power in Europe where it failed in India.
In fact, Guénon’s narrative can be reconciled entirely with Nietzsche (per Spengler), who seems uninterested in the years 300-1300. Guénon provides us with the additional data of European royalty as a kind of Kshatriya caste, slowly developing out of the ruins of the Roman Empire in accordance with the new Christian tradition. Without Nietzsche’s slave morality, though, we cannot see how so many elements could have brought us to materialism; it looks like a staggering number of coincidences at work, all involving elements which seem to lack the necessary uniqueness. Are we to regard the Chinese or Japanese, for example, as insufficiently rational to bring about modernity? Did Southeast Asia lack the requisite number of kingdoms? Were India’s princes insufficiently concerned with material matters? Guénon feigns disinterest towards the entire question in East and West when he says, “We should add that when we speak of the West, we also include Judaism, which … may have even helped somewhat toward forming the modern mentality in general.” But perhaps he worried that too much interest in the Jewish element of Christianity would lead to anti-Semitic feeling, as with Nietzsche; and Guénon was attempting to boost any Tradition opposed to material modernity, so this would not have helped his thesis. It seems entirely possible that Evola did intertwine these two strands to form his own thought, although he does not usually list his influences so openly.
Modernity was born out of spiritual conditions, but it will die owing to material conditions. Christianity will not die with it; it may emerge stronger. The pagan position of Evola is one of superhistorical force and extreme radicalism, which gives power to one’s rejection of modernity, while Guenon’s embrace of Catholicism may feel metaphysically weaker, for Catholicism is now almost completely given over to modernity, but at least it accepts European heritage, the essential race-feeling of Tradition. A third option, of Western Europeans turning to Orthodox Christianity, has proven popular among Traditionalists as an alternative to either of these uncomfortable options, but it is of course a compromise. What we have described here is not an attempt to blame Christianity, nor Judaism, but rather to acquaint differentiated men with these arguments, which will hopefully aid them in finding a comfortable tradition whose language they understand and believe.
Posted: June 4th, 2012 | Tradition