The non-Traditionalist Muslim Haji Muhammad Legenhausen has written a very nice essay called Why I am not a Traditionalist which is online on a few places on the internet. Legenhausen gives a lengthy and critical comment on the Traditionalist School and some leading Traditionalists. On a few occasions, Legenhausen surely has a point, but his overall critique is fairly easy to shoot holes through. That is not the purpose of my article though.
“Traditionalism [and] its rejection of modernity”
Legenhausen writes: “The basic point is that nothing should be accepted or rejected merely because it is modern and likewise, nothing should be accepted or rejected merely because it is traditional. There is much that is good in modernity, and much that is good in traditional societies. There is much that is bad in modernity, and much that is bad in traditional societies.” Personally I didn’t get the idea that Traditionalism rejects everything that is modern and praises everything that is Traditional, but Legenhausen seems to be of another opinion. It is a question whether or not we should call Evola a ‘real Traditionalist’, but his Revolt Against The Modern World sometimes does have the smell of an over-fanatic longing for “the time of tradition”. Guénon has his sharp edges too, and I do agree with Legenhausen that not too much is written about how the Traditional worldview can be ‘used’ or incorporated in our modern times.
My idea is not to try and write about a ‘Traditionalist’ view on our present time. However (with Legenhausen btw.) I find many ideas that can be found in Traditionalist writings very true, helpfull and meaningfull, I wouldn’t call myself a “Traditionalist” (as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t call myself anything else than “Roy”). Still I find Legenhausen’s remark challenging, so for one of the first times, you will get an article which really contains my (current of course) views on a variety of points. These ideas have mostly been in my head for a long time, long before I started to read Traditionalist books, but since this is the kind of literature that I am occupied with recently, I will use it and refer to it throughout this article.
I opened my article about Traditionalism with a quote from Guénon that I agree with wholeheartedly: “Modern civilization appears in history as a veritable anomaly: of all known civilizations, it is the only one to have developed in a purely material direction, and the only one not based on any principle of a higher order.”
In my country a lot is spoken about values and morals. This is very necessary, because all notion of values, morals, respect, etc. seems to be not of this time. I believe that this is for a large part due to the fact that in an ever increasing speed, people turn their backs on the church and even to religion in general. The lives of many men and women spins around work, television, consumerism and a little bit of ‘relaxation’. Families become smaller and less important, individualisation grows and the idea that the whole world is about men, or even worse, the individual, takes a higher and higher flight. The desires and wishes of every individual sometimes become more important than the needs of the fellow man. If you cause me delay in traffic, I smack your face! The ‘dog-eat-dog’ mentality reaches pitiful peaks. Someone says something critical about some person or group (for example a religion) and this means that you can do something back in tenfold. A country doesn’t have the magnificent system of democracy, so we wage war.
I ascribe this development to the decline of true religionism. I don’t mean to say that if everybody goes to church on Sunday, or to the mosque on Friday, or does his/her daily prayers to the Gods in Asgard, the world will be a better place. It would help, if the foregoers preached respect and openmindedness for sure, but the maintainence of existing power-blocks (churches) is not necessary for a return to a religious worldview. The Traditionalist hypothesis surely offers a very valid basis for a truely respectfull society.
Since all religions came from the same source and are essentially the same and worship the same God under different names, it doesn’t matter if the outside is (very) different. The outwardly religions developed differently in different cultures, in different areas of the world, in different times and sometimes under different prophets. This is only natural and necessary. If the supporters of any religion would go back to the real source of their faith, not following fanatic and dogmatic ‘expert’ interpreters of their texts, living by the noble rules of it, I think there would be much fewer problems in the world. If you really respect the religion or worldview of your fellow man, if you really live a religious life (in the way best fit for you), there would automatically be the values and morals that Dutch politicians try to talk into us. There would be room for discussion without automatically fights and overheated discussions, no prejudices. There would be more respect for the people and (also very important) the world around us.
So what about those other religions that settle in ‘our countries’ due to immigration? In my opinion, the religion of the immigrants doesn’t have anything to do with the subject of immigration, at least, not in the first place. Somebody doesn’t get a permit because (s)he is Muslim or Hindu, but because it is impossible for this person to lead a normal life in his/her own country. I think it is strange that in the decenia of mass immigration (in the USA even centuries) nothing much happened with the hotly debated ‘acclimatisement’ with which I mean, two-sided accustomatisation. To speak of my own country. In the 1950’ies there was much more work than there were workers, so we literaly ‘imported’ workers from a variety of countries. When the economy went down, most of the new Dutchmen stayed. When the economies and other circumstances in many countries in the so-called ‘third world’ got even worse, people started to try to find their happiness in European countries. A story that you -I’m sure- are all familiar with. I don’t agree with people who are of the opinion that the Netherlands are for Dutchman only. The Germanic tribes also only came here after migrating for centuries. We can’t throw out the people that we asked to come here. Also we can’t deny every request to stay here. I am supporter of a very strict immigration policy. Not because I have anything against foreigners, but because we simply can’t manage if each and everyone would come to the Netherlands. Of course we have to help as much as possible, but preferably in the countries that are concerned. The way of helping and the creation of ‘our conditions’ is of course enough for an article on itself. I was not in favour of the attacks of Afghanistan and Iraq, but on the other hand how can you help -for example- women who are suppressed by the very government and its rules?
In any case, on certain terms, immigrants should of course be allowed to stay. If they have been hear for many many years, working, paying taxes, etc. they became part of our country. If the new Dutchmen are really Dutchman (a dubious remark, I know, most things in this part could require detailed founding). If necessary a temporary stay can be an option. For all those here counts, you came to our country by choice, so make yourself fit in and not try to reform the new environment. We have a rainy climate, you can’t change it to sunny one. New Dutchmen do not have to give up their culture entirely, but of course it should fit into the Dutch culture. So respect for people with other opinions and habbits, no suppression of anyone, able to receive criticism, etc. For the old Dutchmen goes, if we aren’t so ‘afraid of what is different’ and just practise our proverbial openmindedness and neutrality, new Dutchmen don’t have to feel attacked and things will be a lot easier. The fact (ascribed above) that we are hardly religious anymore and many immigrants are should be no problem (if the immigrants do not support some kind of ‘fundamental’ explanation of their own faith with un-Dutch results). A woman with a head-scarf should have to be no more offending than a youngster with her face full of piercings, yet we seem to have more problems with the first (because it is a expression of religion?). Respect eachothers religions (or the lack of it), be willing for discussion and questioning in general and I think most problems will be overcome.
I voted “no” when I was asked about the European constitution. Not because I am rigoriously against it, but I was surely against certain parts of0 it, its unclearnesses and most of all because of the way our politicians thought to persuade us to vote in favour. I have mixed feelings about Europe. I definately think that the European countries should work together, especially because the USA gets way too much power (see later). I don’t think that Europe should be one country though. There has to be a way to reign more effectively and there should be more clearity about what countries can do for themselves and what not. A European immigration policy (to come back to the previous part) would be a good idea. Now countries such as Spain stay with a problem that they can’t solve. A European (immigration) police with a fleet would be helpfull. Policy on how immigrants are ‘distributed’ over Europe too. If people leave their own country because these are ‘unlivable’ do they have to be able to decide where they go to? If certain regulations and rules are the same all over Europe, this should have to be a point of discussion. If family already lives here, their whereabouts could be a request to live, but I am against (automatic) family reunions and even more againsts ‘bride imports’. Of course the conditions should be similar all over Europe, that is a subject on its own.
Europe is not entirely what it should be in my opinion, but I think we are better off now than with a European superstate that seemed forthcoming with the European constitution. What concerns the continuing expansion, I think it would be better if the near-Eastern countries would (first) form their own ‘Eastern European Union’ with which the EU can help, but things are not going to work out right if we have these countries join and give them the same rights and duties as the ‘old European’ countries.
Both left and right circles hold a grudge against the USA. I also think that the USA accelarated ‘the decline of the Western world’ (about which more lateron). A violent start (against the original inhabitents of the continent) and an aggressive present does not make me in favour of American politics. ‘Americanisation’ of the European culture is a term that I also like to use myself. Is it the fault of the USA that our cities are full of MacDonalds, Burger Kings and Mixor Chickens where we can get out daily fats? Is it the fault of the USA that our kids spend way too many hours a day watching television that is also getting worse by the day? Is it the fault of the USA that in a country with only one mountain, people drive enormous ‘all terrain cars’? Of course not for 100%, but their aggressive export politics and aggressive promotion for their ‘culture’ doesn’t help. We -on our part- look upto the powerfull USA and try to copy them (especially since WWII). If the Americans have 2 meter TVs, we want 2 meter TVs and if the Americans have enormous cinemas where you can buy full buckets of popcorn for way too much money, we want that too! Slowly but surely the European culture is traded in for an American culture. Now we also have 60 TV channels with shitty news, crappy talkshows and uninteresting documentaries. Now we have our own overweighted children drinking nothing but Coca Cola and having Big Macs for lunch. Not everything that comes from the USA is bad, but we should look very critically to what we take over!
Democracy, G.W. Bush’s favorite subject. Guénon wrote a book about “The Reign Of Quantity And The Sign Of Times”. We are completely blinded by numbers. A man with a lot of money is to be looked upto; a person with a lot of books is wise; a film that is visited by many people is good; and a political party that managed to get many votes during the elections, is fit to rule the country. We Dutchmen know that this is not the case. After Pim Fortuyn’s death, his party got a lot of votes and lead a lot of local governments, but they were not exactly a good political, or even a stable, parties. Bush seems to think that when he takes out the government of Aghanistan and ‘grants’ the population ‘free elections’, everything will be solved. Apparently this is not the case. A political party that draws a lot of attention is chosen by the inhabitents of a country and therefor entitled to rule, so why the big protests when some ‘extreme right’ party is the one with most of the votes? Does Italy have the best possible government? What if the Afghans would reelect the Taliban? There are enough questions to ask about democracy.
So what is the alternative? I don’t think that I have one! In times passed countries and empires where ruled by kings. This one person (with a small group of others) ruled the entire empire and everybody lower in the hierarchy could nothing but obey. The “Traditional” leadership was a member of the highest class, a priest/king. I think a combination of religious and wordly leadership (in contradiction to our strict division between church and state) is not necessarily a bad thing. If the Chinese hadn’t occupied Tibet, I think this (last of the Traditional) country would be very well off with their Dalai and Panchen lamas. A just and religious leader who listens to his/her people and trying to do the best possible, seems better to me than a government of many small parties, all with their own agendas, having to make compromises in order to reign and if the compromises don’t come, the governement falls and the country gets entirely different policies every few years.
A good dictator or the reinstatement of the monarchy then, perhaps communism, but then carried out correctly? Either case is possible if the leaders are good, not corrupt or under influence of groups with their own agendas. But where will we find such leaders and how do we convey the civilians that this is the best sollution? Nowhere at the time and not I’m afraid. Maybe we should oblige Plato’s Politeia on schools and slowly start to work to another system.
In our own day and time, with dictators in the near East, communist suppression in the far East and gangs making rule in Africa, democracy is the least bad of the options, but please not the American type where people vote for the prettiest president instead of the best political program!
The Modern World
As you saw above, the current situation can’t be just altered into something better. This is also the reason that I agree with some of the comments of Legenhausen in his article. “Nothing should be accepted or rejected merely because it is traditional”. Without the right people to judge, it will be hard to say how things should be. What is Traditional. Somebody might say that “Traditionally” only white-haired, blue-eyed ‘Aryan’ people lived in the countries of Northwest Europe, so the rest must be kicked out. The next will say that “Traditionally” a priest-king ruled over the country and he is that priest-king. Also, does the whole system of the castes fit in our current time as Evola thinks? Where are the workers, warriors and priests of our time? Is a soldier not just an employee of the government (it is a profession by choice in the Netherlands by the way)? Does a priest have the influence and wisdom which “Traditionally” belongs to his position? Should we forbid a ‘worker girl’ to marry a soldier? I don’t think we can just turn back the clock and try to live in a ‘Traditional’ society.
The modern time has also brought good things. However Evola reacts against the changing roll that women play in society, I think it is the time for that changing role. Evola thinks that women are no longer women, but half men, because they try to do and achieve the same. It is a simple fact that for the women there are no longer 15 children to bear and to raise and to work on the land as well. They have ‘time’ to make a carreer and when motherhood comes, they have the possibility to devote themselves to that. True, too many women disregard their mother’s duties by starting to work again too soon and too much and by putting the children in daycare, but is the general development that they participate in society too such a bad thing? I think not.
Scientific achievements can’t all be just disregarded. Life got easier, faster, people can develop certain abilities better (unfortunately it is mostly the ratio that we develop), have time and the possiblity for a total different ways eduction, such as travelling to other countries, talking to people from all over the word, knowing what happens elsewhere, ‘simple deceases’ are under control, somebody who breaks a leg does not have to remain cripple, just think of anything you yourself find better than in days past. Not everything modern has to be turn down without thinking, but there are also edges to modernity that we do better get rid off. Typically “Traditional” (this time in the meaning ‘coming from the Traditionalist school) are the arguments against the common ideas of evolution and progress on which almost our entire worlview is based. These ideas also lead towards thinking that men is the top of nature and therefor nature ‘belongs’ to men so we can exploit is. What mankind does to the global environment certainly is not only our biggest problem, but also our biggest hazard for the future. Respect (again) and true understanding of nature (and I don’t mean just physical nature) would make men act differently and in a more responsible manner.
Another result of the ideas of evolution and progress is our obstinate materialism. We got to think that nothing but matter was necessary to have the amoeba evolve to be a human being. Therefor there is nothing but matter. But how did this hypothetical evolution take place? By chance! In only 4 million years, there were so many lucky shots that the ingredients from a soup could become a destructive animal such as a human being. With there only being matter, nothing matters, because there is nothing that we can’t see. It is strange and sad that religion got replaced by materialism. People are no longer happy with what they have. They want to have at least as much as the neighbour. A big house, a big car, nice furniture and a big TV to watch sports on (btw. Evola on sports is magnificent). To be able to achieve all that, we have to work and to work even more, loan money and after having achieved everything that is possible within our possibilities, we are still envious towards people who have more. It is time to let that way of thinking go and re-replace it by a more religious worldview.
One of the strangest things of for example Evola, is that he dedicates a large part of his book Revolt Against The Modern World to explain the ‘Traditional cycles’ that represent the downward trail of the world. From a gold, to a silver, to a bronze to an iron time (or spear-, sword-, wind- and wolftime; or satya, treta, dvapara and kali yuga), the trail that the world is supposed to follow. So why fight and try to get back into the golden time that is long gone? No we shouldn’t just sit back and wait for the end of the world. We should try to bring back the golden time as much as possible, but I think it is realistic to see what things we don’t have influence on and what is typically for our iron / wolf / kali / black age and especially for this age. Not an easy task of course.
So, am I “against the modern world”? Not without questioning I am. I think that I wasn’t born in this time for nothing. I appreciate many of the things of our day and time. I have cases full of books, I have a computer to find and share information and thoughts, I have a car which enables me to meet likeminded people, I can travel to interesting places, I don’t have to worry about winter or summer too much and maybe most importantly, since I don’t have to worry if the harvest or the hunt will succeed or that my children die from starvation or cold, I don’t have to worry about having to defend my country or attack other tribes, I have the time to focus on ‘spiritual matters’ and I can even get to know what people from all over the world and from all kinds of times had to say. I think that this is the biggest advancement of our time. Besides the ‘social duties’ such as work, family, shopping, etc. we actually have the possibility to orientate ourselves on ‘metaphysical’ matters and develop thus that we can help ourself and the people around us better. Too bad that too many people don’t see this and spend their ‘free time’ watching TV, laying in the sun, going to shopping malls without needing anything, etc.
No, the modern world definately has some good sides if we are open to see them, but there are a couple of major flaws that have to be worked on and one way of looking for alternatives, is looking for times past. I am not of the opinion that we should try to revive history, but if things used to be better and these things can be of use in the present time, we use them to make the world a better place. It sure needs that!
Some people have compiled a list of “nine noble virtues” out of the ancient Germanic worldview. To me not the ultimate list of what we once had, but lost (I miss ‘respect’ and ‘open mindedness’ for example), but just have a look how ‘old morals’ were lost, but can still be very helpfull for our present day and time.