Introduction to Traditionalist Thought
Nihilist Research Report on Traditionalist Ideas
January 16, 2009
As our modern society continues to implode on both an organizational and emotional level, many of us seek other answers. One popular one is Traditionalism, which posits that a universal integral order exists between nature and man based on role and context more than "thing-in-itself" logic including individualism and materialism. While this is a great start, it also opens a doorway to great ignorance for those who partially understand these concepts. Such people, called "Tarditionalists," have hopelessly confused the genre for most by making it into metaphysical drama and theatre.
The solution to ignorance is not to fight it, but to construct a counter-ignorance platform, and so here we introduce several resources that can quickly and easily get you up and learning traditionalism.
While you read, I suggest you keep in mind a single principle: that the scientific method implies that reality operates by consistent principles, and that if we create adaptive responses to these that are accurate to the consistent principles of the world, we fare well; if we do not, we fail. In this light, we can see how all of history is a process of smart people sticking to reality, and others following a fashion or trend to deny reality in favor of a "social reality" which seems to work for awhile then fails because, having drifted far from a response to reality, it is unrealistic. The natural order is not just outside of us, but within us, much as patterns emerge in diverse media with similar but not necessarily visually similar configurations.
Traditionalism is the original idea: that our actions correspond to adaptations to nature both within and without, so there are eternal truths to life. This is in direct contrast to the view that morality or technology have changed the rules of the game. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship, or faced a great fear, knows how eternal the real experience of life can be.
Aldous Huxley - The Perennial Philosophy
This book is the best all-around guide to all philosophies other than modern. Huxley took his favorite resources, and quoting from them, wrote a narrative that stitched together all the pieces. He also gives a great prismatic view, as fans of the ancients tend to like to, by picking multiple points of view and showing their commonality. This is one of the drier resources on here, but if you read it first, everything else fits into place.
Plato - The Republic
In a famous remark, A. N. Whitehead said that the development of Western philosophy could be seen as a series of footnotes to Plato. Like the Hindus, Plato got there first, and put down his ideas in a concise form through dialogues between arch-provocateur Socrates and people who represent psychological archetypes you can represent today. In particular, Plato showed how the world of appearance and the world of structure are incompatible, with only the latter approximating reality as the product of interconnected natural/physical forces, and methodologically debunked the "wishful thinking" that underlies the illusions politicians still use to pander to us. Master this, and you've mastered the game.
Long ago, the ancient Hindus formulated their versions of the truths that every other society before or since has discovered, at least where there are smart people. Technically, Hinduism is "transcendental idealism," or the belief in striving for abstract goals as a way to achieve good as an end and get over fear of good/evil as methods or conditions of life. I find it very cheerful, but unlike most holy books, it doesn't pander to the sheep who want to hear that love will save the day. It's about spiritual war to better yourself and save your society from intellectual entropy, commonly known as "stupidity."
Evola - The Doctrine of Awakening
When most people think of Traditionalism, they think of Evola, because he was the first to unite Nietzschean pragmatic idealism with the ideas of the ancients in an intelligible form, and he was savvy enough to defer religious thinking in favor of psychological and epistemological depictions of reality. This book is about Buddhism, but in it, Evola articulates his basic thought at its clearest.
Friedrich Nietzsche - On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense
At a time when most Western philosophy had become irrelevant, fighting over definitions because social pressures prevented discussion of actual issues like, say, the ongoing parasitism of Western civilization, Nietzsche sliced in with a dual attack: one one side, he was passionate realist who saw how social reality obscured truth just as Plato's world of appearance replaced intelligible design; on the other, he believed that life was best lived in striving joyfully for something difficult, and that complacency was both the enemy of sense and of fun. In this formative writing, Nietzsche separates human "knowing" from reality and points out how our desire to pander to others with socially succinct synopses dooms us to exclude the vital "mythic imagination" that allows us to bond creativity with analysis and appreciate life in a poetic, yet realistic, fashion.
Max Weber: Readings And Commentary On Modernity
Where others looked at society through a critical eye, Weber analyzed its mechanisms and mathematics, and used them to derive a clear view of its psychology. In creating this new sociology, he showed how psychology in a demographic sense determines the "behind the scenes" operation of society in a way that tangible institutions, laws, bureaucracies and public statements could not.
Gottfried Leibniz - Discourse on Metaphysics and Other Essays
Through this collection of both early and mature analyses, Leibniz argues for a redirection of our thinking from the categorical to the descriptive as a means of perceiving a whole reality. Radically simple as that sounds, it sparked dissent for centuries. In these thoughts, Leibniz invents the methodology that Traditionalists later used as a framework for their ideas.
Rene Guenon - The Crisis of Modernity
Basing his work on the arguments of Gottfried Leibniz, Guenon argued that modernity is divided between external manifestations and an inward state of mind that seems to correspond to Nirvana. Thomas Pynchon told us similar things, but then made an error by insisting the division was between symbol and idea; Guenon points out that the division is between judgment and experience. Heavy on bloviation but has good content.
Evola - Revolt Against the Modern World
Making explicit the promise of his more abstruse works, Evola targets modernism as the clueless reliance on external appearance and denial of interconnected, polycausal reality that it is. He shows how the mechanistic material outlook of modern society not only dooms it internally, but also causes a proliferation of problems externally that cannot be addressed because the very constraints of modernist logic exclude such thinking.
Frithjof Schuon - The Essential Frithjof Schuon
Shorter essays allow Schuon to target specific examples of what he believes and avoid the bloviating vagueness common to many neo-Traditionalist dilettantes (we call them Tarditionalists) who like to throw around abstract language as a means of excusing their inaction and or inability to find meaning in life. Schuon systematically analyzes medieval and earlier values and points out their scientific value from an informational and sociological context, showing the mathematics of human populations and the contrast between dogma and demography.
Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
In the allegorical dream-language of literature, Shelley portrays modern man as what he is: a creation of technology now trying to discover his origins in order to find meaning in the continuation of life itself. Carefully disguised as a horror story, this novel also innovated the format used by horror movies today, which is a situation in which the individual must see technology fail him in opposing the supernatural or super-organizational, and also, fight others who refuse to recognize the obvious, before he can face an enemy he has no knowledge of how to defeat.
Conrad - Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness
The first of these books is a meditation on courage and how retreat from facing the need for courage creates emptiness that is worse than death; the second describes how the obsessive compulsion to pursue social symbols of power has weakened Western civilization by making it unable to recognize reality which is, in contrast to our neatly quantified social systems, a chaotic and lawless place designed to make the most realistic prevail.
Tom Wolfe - I am Charlotte Simmons and A Man in Full
Wolfe's characters discover themselves in a modern time ruled by competition for status, since caste structures no longer exist, in which the essential values that can make people like themselves are forgotten. In confronting their own fear of being inadequate, these characters shuck the modern neurosis that had them worrying in the first place, and bond exoteric to esoteric by acting instinctively -- and to their surprise, that turns out to be a wiser course than the ethic of convenience which dooms other characters in these insightful novels.
Michael Crichton - Congo
Humanity confronts its nearest ancestors in this book about how the pretense of knowledge that separates us from apes in fact makes us inferior to them in situations where realistic action is called for. In addition, Crichton assaults all forms of socially-accepted but delusional knowledge, targeting scientific arrogance and mass media with the same motion he uses to assault people who place personal careers and pretense of importance over collective and realistic action.
The insurrectionary (but not revolutionary) arm of Traditionalism, radical traditionalists are those who believe we can put Traditionalist principles in practice and reverse modernism. They tend to have less use for the bloviation that marks theoretical traditionalism, and focus more on the design-level practicality of the Traditionalist idea.
Tyr defines Radical Traditionalism by the following ideals:
- Resacralization of the world versus materialism.
- Natural social hierarchy versus an artificial hierarchy based on wealth.
- The tribal community versus the nation-state.
- Stewardship of the earth versus the "maximization of resources."
- A harmonious relationship between men and women versus the "war between the sexes."
- Handicraft and artisanship versus industrial mass-production.
Michael Moynihan and Joshua Buckley - Tyr: Myth-Culture-Tradition
Radical traditionalism gained a new voice with this collection of essays that rediscover the ancient world through modern methods and an open-minded, liberal study of the past that does not seek to condemn it for the convenience of our mechanistic, commercial and populist empires. Topics range across the board but articles all seek to explicate through concrete example the dual spiritual and practical benefits of a radical Traditionalist outlook.
Deep Ecology - Mission Statement
This radical environmental movement blames "The loss of traditional knowledge, values, and ethics of behavior that celebrate the intrinsic value and sacredness of the natural world and that give the preservation of Nature prime importance." They then give us practical solutions: localize, downsize, and lower population.
Stephen Flowers - The Woodharrow Institute
If your ancestors are from central Europe, the UK or the United States, chances are good you have a German in the family. Flowers explores traditional thought and iconography through a study of traditional Norse-Germanic practices and emphasizes the wholesome, spiritual and intellectual values of this approach. In his view, as that of many other scholars, organic cultural preservation is the one force that can restrain the reckless expansion of commerce and by its hand, mass culture.
ANTI-MODERNISM, NEO-TRIBALISM AND ANTI-GLOBALISM
Ever since ancient philosophers observed that as soon as sea trade was established, and the polyglot language of cities solidified into a single language -- commerce --, culture failed and with it institutions became corrupted, the idea of opposing the common factors among commerce, modernity, single-factor thinking, and what we now call globalism has been on the tips of many tongues. While these philosophies are not labeled with the Traditionalist category, they use the same logical foundation to point out how far we have drifted from reality -- by drifting away from our inner selves.
The Prince of Wales - The Modern Curse that Divides us From Nature
Start here for a simple and forthright assessment of how a lack of harmony with our world has made us into monsters who hate themselves. Assaulting architecture, pollution, culturelessness and commerce at once, one of the last surviving members of the aristocracy points out in clear and enigmatic language how foolish and misleading the modern dream is, and how it has brought us into increasing disorder with promises of "freedom" it has not delivered.
Brad Blanton - Practicing Radical Honesty
Dishonesty, like cracks in a wall, can only spread as the convenient practice of telling partial truths or outright misleading is applied to everything, even our knowledge of our world and ourselves. This book provides a battle plan for stopping the practice of gentle lying in your life, and as a result, conditioning your brain to face each situation honestly without necessarily submerging itself in negativity and depression.
Paul Woodruff - Reverence
The question of how to connect our knowing, judging minds with a reality that passes before we can parse it remains the focus of most esoteric religions. In this short and informal philosophical discourse, Woodruff shows us more than tells us, through a process of saturation in anecdote and observation, how rediscovery of our ability to revere nature and the beauty of life by putting off our fear of it can, through conditioning us to see the whole picture, re-sacralize the reality which we inhabit and escape the smaller, boxlike world creating by our judging minds.
Love and Nihilism: A Parallelism Primer
Written by the same author as the piece you are now reading, this philosophical treatise invents parallelism, which is a way for us to learn to appreciate the interconnected forces that render reality, and stop paying attention to appearance so we can start paying attention to Plato's "intelligible" or design-based view of reality. If you like what you've read so far, this short piece may direct you toward other areas of practice through its information-based analysis of reality.
The American Nihilist Underground Society advocates nihilism, or a removal of interpretive layers from our perception of physical reality, as a means of transcending illusion. Nihilism denies value and purpose, which are byproducts of the human desire to judge reality and make a consensual "social reality" that by seizing on a single material factor misses the intelligible, or design-based, knowledge we need to adapt to reality. ANUS has been promoting nihilism since 1987.
Nihilism is the belief that nothing we perceive has Absolute value; reality exists, but beyond its inherent meaning to us as the physical container of our existence, it has no significance outside of what we perceive. "The world is my representation," indeed. When we strip away all of the values projected onto physical reality and its outcomes, we are left only with personal ideal and natural ideal, and bringing the former into adaptation with the latter is the lifetime task to which nihilism is a gateway.