Monday, 7 December 2009

Plague-Sight. — If deadly germs were capable of conscious retrospection, they would be able to look back upon the advance of their own kind throughout a decaying body and see nothing amiss in that regard, but would indeed find much cause for satisfaction at the progress they had made. It is much the same with blighters in human form, as Alasdair MacIntyre suggests:
“History by now in our culture means academic history, and academic history is less than two centuries old. Suppose it were the case that the catastrophe of which my hypothesis speaks had occurred before, or largely before, the founding of academic history, so that the moral and other evaluative presuppositions of academic history derived from the forms of the disorder which it brought about. Suppose, that is, that the standpoint of academic history is such that from its value-neutral viewpoint moral disorder must remain largely invisible. All that the historian — and what is true of the historian is characteristically true also of the social scientist — will be allowed to perceive by the canons and categories of his discipline will be one morality succeeding another: seventeenth-century Puritanism, eighteenth-century hedonism, the Victorian work-ethic and so on, but the very language of order and disorder will not be available to him. If this were to be so, it would at least explain why what I take to be the real world and its fate has remained unrecognized by the academic curriculum. For the forms of the academic curriculum would turn out to be among the symptoms of the disaster whose occurrence the curriculum does not acknowledge.” [1]
Friedrich Nietzsche made a similar point: 
“My objection against the whole of sociology in England and France remains that it knows from experience only the forms of social decay, and in all innocence takes its own instincts of decay as the norm of sociological value-judgements.” [2]
It is good to see a latter-day Aristotelian and the original Nietzschean in some agreement. It is not always a case of Aristotle or Nietzsche, particularly when the latter, by his still good instincts, forgot his own doctrine and spoke as though there were an actual and essential standard of goodness wherefrom it would not be mere personal whim or world-trivial opinion to speak of decay.

[1] Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (London: Duckworth, 2007), p.4.
[2] [“Mein Einwand gegen die ganze Sociologie in England und Frankreich bleibt, dass sie nur die Verfalls-Gebilde der Societät aus Erfahrung kennt und vollkommen unschuldig die eigenen Verfalls-Instinkte als Norm des sociologischen Werthurteils nimmt.”] Friedrich Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung, in Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd.6 (München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), “Streifzüge eines Unzeitgemässen”, §.37, p.138.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Forfeit. — “A genuine social organism can no longer be linked up with this ageing Europe; such has been forfeit since 1789.”

[“Einen wahren gesellschaftlichen Organismus knüpft man in dieses alternde Europa nicht mehr hinein; desgleichen ist seit Anno 1789 verscherzt worden.”] Jacob Burckhardt, Brief an Hermann Schauenburg, [vor dem 14.] September 1849, Briefe (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1929), p. 175.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Great Littleness. — There is no growth of culture without rest and settlement, and every culture worthy of the name begins in the little fields and gardens of social life, wherein the soils are tended with particular care, and wherein deep roots are allowed to form; and even though each little patch might begin delightfully simple and unsophisticated, out of each, and between them all, something grander may arise, which itself provides the grounds for still more cultivation and wild growth, and so it might go on until in each place there arises something sublime and immeasurable. Yet:—
“Present folly seeks the unity of nations and not the creation of a single man from the entire species, so be it; but in acquiring general capabilities, will not a whole set of private sentiments perish? Farewell the tenderness of the fireside; farewell delight in family; among all the beings white, yellow or black, claimed as your compatriots, you will be unable to throw yourself on a brother's breast. Was there nothing in that life of other days, nothing in that narrow space you gazed at from your ivy-framed window? Beyond your horizon you suspected unknown countries of which the bird of passage, the only voyager you saw in autumn, barely told you. It was happiness to think that the hills enclosing you would not vanish before your eyes; that they would surround your loves and friendships; that the sighing of night around your sanctuary would be the only sound to accompany your sleep; that the solitude of your soul would never be troubled, that you would always find your thoughts there, waiting for you, to take up again their familiar conversation. You knew where you were born; you knew where your grave would be; penetrating the forests you could say:
‘Fair trees that once saw my beginning,
Soon you will witness my end.’
“Man has no need to travel to become greater; he bears immensity within. The accents escaping from your breast are immeasurable and find an echo in thousands of other souls: those who lack the melody within themselves will demand it of the universe in vain. Sit on the trunk of a fallen tree in the depths of the woods; if in profound forgetfulness of yourself, in immobility, in silence, you fail to find the infinite, it is useless to wander the shores of the Ganges seeking it.” [1]
If men stay still awhile, they put down roots and draw into themselves the nourishment required for their flourishing; but a constant movement and an unceasing fuss is demanded of them, and they are led hither and thither in pursuit of — what: their own tails? Even those at odds with this restless industry and movement must on account of it become wanderers; but, for them, it is a search for something so simple as home.

[1] François de Chateaubriand, Mémoires d'Outre-tombe, tr. A.S. Kline, BkXLII:14:1, published online by A.S. Kline.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Something in Return. — It is a happy requital for those who play their part in scoffing at the idea of human importance that they can feel so important in doing so.
A Vibrant Corpse. — No aim strikes the latter-day European as more sinister, or is likely to fill him with more loathing, than that of the preservation of his own race, or just of its particular homelands and peoples. It seems to him the greatest taboo and the most forbidden sin — to him who revels in the breaking of taboos, so long as they are healthy; to him who scoffs at the forbiddance of sins, so long as they are to his pleasure! — and the pious observance of the defilement of his own race makes him feel washed of sin. At the passing, or the threat to the survival, of Bantu tribes, Tibetan customs, snow leopards, rare butterflies, elm-trees, and so forth, he can become justly regretful, and even spurred to action; but to the plight of his own race, customs, societies, and so forth, he is quite indifferent, and to any counter-measure, quite hostile. Has anything ever been observed that compares to it? Does it not show at least the withering of a survival-instinct, and perhaps even a diseased will to self-destruction, wherewith he is afflicted? Could it have been guessed even a hundred years ago that Europe would face its defilement and death in the most shameful and ignoble way? Certainly, great upheavals were felt to be coming, fire, blood, destruction; and come they did — but the pious acquiescence to the passing of Europe: could this have been imagined in quite the way that it is occurring? The latter-day European is even too weak to confront his sickness face-to-face. Just that itself would be a sign of healthiness in him. He must meet it as though it were a hopeful opportunity. The sickness of Europe is taken by its deadly microbes, its celebrants, to be a sign of health and a promise of a thriving — nay, “vibrant” — future; and so it is for them. Every sickness is a sign of health, that is to say, of the disease itself, and every corpse teems with life.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Safeguard. — “The heredity of the throne is the guarantee of all heredity and the safeguard of all inheritances.” [1] What hereditary lord would dare to scold the very ideas of hereditary right and inheritance as our public governors have done? If any were to do so by low words or high taxes, he would unwisely put himself in a precarious spot.

[1] Louis-Gabriel-Amboise de Bonald, “Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1817), in Critics of the Enlightenment: Readings in the French Counter-Revolutionary Tradition, tr. & ed., C.O. Blum (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2003), p.74.
A Self-Stuffing Animal. — “Fortune spoils, coddles, lulls, and isolates men, and peoples too; whereas misfortune keeps them awake, stirs, binds, and uplifts them.” [1] A life at odds with deadening conveniences and securities would have to be upheld to keep men on their toes, true blood in their veins, and thoughts in their heads, but it would never sell, not where so-called lifestyle is a commodity like everything else, glamour-packaged and deceit-promoted; and what does not sell makes no difference in our threepenny merchant-culture. A modernist could not choose to live a more noble or reasonable life. He has forgone the belief in reason and freewill. He has desire and utility instead. He desires to be fed and watered like a rare beast, history’s own prize-winning specimen and greatest exhibit, though he never thinks he might end up stuffed, and he sees no worth in anything that does not promise to bring still more fruits to his trough. Under the dominion of comfort-seeking, pleasure-questing, and thoroughgoing liberal drowsiness, man invents misfortunes wherefrom he might never recover, misfortunes which do not uplift but might ruin him utterly. One day he might beg for the old sufferings and misfortunes, if only he still had the mind for it. But, before then, would he have the strength of mind and will to refuse, even just once, yet another bite of poisoned fruit? It is strongly to be doubted. What is the nay-saying whisper of reason against the aye-saying roar of desire? — “To-day the bells and the bonfires express the violent passions of an overjoyed people, when to-morrow their own reeking blood must extinguish their flaming buildings. That thing for which we do most labour and pray, and for the happening whereof we are even transported with joy, is not seldom our utter destruction, and that speedily.” [2]

[1] [“Das Glück verzieht, verwöhnt, schläfert ein und isolirt die Menschen, wie die Völker; da hingegen das Unglück wach erhält, reitzt, bindet und erhebt.”] Adam Heinrich Müller, Die Elemente der Staatskunst, Erster Theil (Berlin: J.D. Sander, 1809), p.8.
[2] William Blundell, Crosby Records: A Cavalier’s Note Book, being Notes, Anecdotes, & Observations of William Blundell, of Crosby, Lancashire, Esquire, ed., T.E. Gibson (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1880), pp.130-1.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Other Powers. — “Of the various powers and faculties we possess, there are some which nature seems both to have planted and reared, so as to have left nothing to human industry. Such are the powers which we have in common with the brutes, and which are necessary to the preservation of the individual, or the continuance of the kind. There are other powers, of which nature hath only planted the seeds in our minds, but hath left the rearing of them to human culture. It is by the proper culture of these, that we are capable of all those improvements in intellectuals, in taste, and in morals, which exalt and dignify human nature; while, on the other hand, the neglect or perversion of them makes its degeneracy and corruption.”

Thomas Reid, An Enquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, ed. D.R. Brookes (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), I:II:21-30, p.13.
Radical Conservative Reaction. — All conservatism worthy of the name is radical. It is little but a name for something petty if it does not wish to preserve the roots of good and harmonious order against the mechanical rot of progressivism. [1] All reaction worthy of the name is likewise radical. Again it is little but such a name if it does not wish to uproot all those modern growths which threaten to overwhelm the very possibility of the true, the good, and the beautiful. And common to both is a strict concern for the quality of the soil.
The true historical upheavals are not those which astonish us by their grandeur and violence. The only important changes whence the renewal of civilisations results, affect ideas, conceptions, and beliefs. The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought. [2]
One looks upon not only the political, social, and economic phenomena of modern times, but also their deeper philosophical or metaphysical roots.
And it occasionally happens that a period in which one had, hitherto, been mainly looking for the coming to birth of new things, suddenly reveals itself as an epoch of fading and decay. [3]
Rotten at the root, working in accordance with a bestial appetite rather than the rational or noble will, working solely in the interests of political power or financial gain, or conserving and cultivating nothing higher than mechanical utility, our demotic regimes and their attendant ideologies have the power to persuade the vast majority of people of the evil of many things which stand in opposition to them, of all that is not rotten and corrosive, of all that sets bounds and cultivates higher things, fostering a war in moral terms against even truth, beauty, goodness, loyalty, trust, decency, honour, and so forth: in short, against anything that is not bestial or radically evil.
The destruction of the old world, as it begins to become visible with the French Revolution, and already even with the Renaissance, is like the atrophy of organic bonds, of nerves and arteries. When the process has come to an end, men of force appear; they sew artful threads and wires into the corpse and move it to more violent but also more grotesque political play. They themselves bear the character of puppets, of a shrill, vociferous, and often horrific cast. The new states have a life-sapping tendency. They can flourish only where there is still an inheritance. When that is used up, the hunger becomes unbearable: like Saturn, they devour their own children. To plot for other orders than those of 1789 is therefore pure survival-instinct. [4]
Against the vital spirit, the deadly-decadent spirit is at war.
Ich bin der Geist der stets verneint!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles was entsteht
Ist werth daß es zu Grunde geht;
Drum besser wär’s, daß nichts entstände.
So ist denn alles was ihr Sünde,
Zerstörung, kurz das Böse nennt,
Mein eigentliches Element. [5]
If it is a lost cause, then so be it. Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlaþ. [6] One must remain faithful to it, resist all demands to participate in the progressivistic ravages of the times, and, if need be, become metaphorically what some actually became after the Norman Conquest: silvatici, forest-dwellers. [7]
The essential thing is not to let oneself be impressed by the omnipotence and apparent triumph of the forces of the epoch. [8]
One is not to compromise one’s soul with the modern world. One is to make no Faustian bargain. If nothing avails against the spirit, then one must ride the tiger, as it were, and preserve oneself in internal exile.
[T]he spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and so many-headed in its incarnations that there seems nothing more to do than personally to refuse to worship any of the hydras’ heads. [9]
Nor should one throw in one’s lot with those others who call themselves conservatives but who serve the maintenance of progressivism. Whilst the progressives are out sowing decay in ever-new ground, these servant-conservatives are tending to the decadent growths of past seasons. And so it goes on with each season. But the reactionary-conservative does not wish to preserve just whatever happens to have been propagated or planted by the progressives of earlier generations, nor does he seek to preserve the status quo of liberaldom: he wishes to see it destroyed, root and branch. With the kind of conservatism that comes to accept and preserve the established depredation and deep-rooted foulness of progressivism, he is at odds; for, besides all else, he sees in it little more than faint-heartedness.

[1] On the question of whether there could be such a thing as radical conservatism, the ever-interesting Mr Dennis Mangan lends his consideration: “Radical Conservatism”, Mangan’s (weblog), 8th October 2009. Here, for my part, I am perhaps at semantic odds.
[2] Gustav Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1896), p.xv.
[3] Johan Huizinga, Preface to The Waning of the Middle Ages (London: Edward Arnold & Co., 1924), p.v.
[4] [“Der Zerstörung der alten Welt, wie sie mit der französischen Revolution und eigentlich schon mit der Renaissance sichtbar zu werden beginnt, gleicht dem Absterben der organischen Verbindungen, der Nerven und Arterien. Wenn der Prozeß zu Ende gelaufen ist, treten die Gewaltmenschen auf; sie ziehen künstliche Fäden und Drähte in den Leichnam und bewegen ihn zu heftigerem, aber zugleich groteskerem politischem Spiel. Sie selbst auch tragen diesen Charakter von Hampelmännern, den grellen, marktschreierischen und oft schauerlichen Zug. Die neuen Staaten haben eine zehlrende Tendenz. Sie können nur gedeihen, wo noch Erbteil vorhanden ist. Wenn das verbraucht ist, wird der Hunger unerträglich, sie fressen wie Saturn die eigenen Kinder auf. Auf andere Ordnungen zu sinnen als die von 1789 ist daher reiner Selbsterhaltungstrieb.”] Ernst Jünger, 18. August 1944, Strahlungen (Tübingen: Heliopolis-Verlag, 1949), p.550.
[5] [“I am the spirit that always negates! And rightly so; for everything that arises is fit to perish; therefore better were it that nothing should arise. Thus, all that you call sin, destruction — in a word, evil — is my proper element.”] Mephistopheles, in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: Erster Theil (Heilbronn: Verlag von Gebr. Henninger, 1886), ll.985-91, p.87.
[6] [“Mind shall be the sterner, heart the bolder, spirit the greater as our strength lessens.”] Byrhtnoth, in The Battle of Maldon, ll. 312-13. (One might say that it is the old world’s counter-principle to the modern world’s declaration that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.)
[7] Of course, in England, it has to be metaphorical anyway, since the forests are mostly gone.
[8] Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger, tr. J. Godwin & C. Fontana (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2003), p.10.
[9] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Amy Ronald, 16th November 1969, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. H. Carpenter (London: Harper Collins, 1995). p.402.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A New Fetish. — “Then all of a sudden . . . a number of impious creatures arrived on the scene, uttering the rankest blasphemies; these were ‘the Moderns’, who overturned the alters of the ancient gods. And behold! the word itself, the mere word modern, had suddenly become a sort of wonder-working shibboleth, a magic formula which robbed the past of all its power. . . . The past, with all its mighty dead, was set at naught. The great thing now was to feel the insolent rapture of youth, to drink deep of its vivifying spirit, to make the most of the day while the day lasted, though the night was bound to come. . . . A new superstition, a new fetish, came into being, and we have not rid ourselves of it even yet. Novelty, which in the nature of things must be perishable, fleeting, has assumed such overwhelming importance in our eyes, that, if it is absent, nothing else avails; if it is present, nothing else is needed. If we would escape the reproach of nullity, if we would avoid being objects of ridicule, if we would save ourselves from utter boredom, we have to be constantly more and more advanced, in art, in morals, in politics, in ideas, and now, such is our nature, all we care about, all that matters to us, is the shock of wonderment and surprise.” [1]

Not a barbarian in awe, but a mechanical philistine — that is what we have been creating: a detached element of our own technology.

[1] Paul Hazard, The European Mind 1680-1715, tr. J. Lewis May (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1964), pp. 46-7.