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Sovereign Thought – Gwendolyn Taunton (2022)

I have not followed Primordial Traditions / Numen Books / Manticore Press closely enough. A while ago I noticed that I missed a couple of titles. I got three of them, one of those being this book of the helmslady Taunton.

The subtitle promises: “The Philosopher & the Kingdom: From Ancient Greece to the Arthaśāstra”, but it is more: Ancient Greece and Arthasastra. The book is divided in two parts each with its own conclusion. The first part is about Greece, the other part about the far East. I enjoyed the latter part a lot better.

In the part about Greece you will read about politics before democracy and politics instead of democracy with Socrates and Plato as main thinkers of interest.

The part about the far East has more focus on religion and politics. Here the main thinker is Canakya who formed a massive empire three centuries before our common era and wrote down how he managed to do that. Even though his system fell out of use, it seems to enjoy a growing attention today.

Not entirely my subject, but the second part was a good read.

2022 Manticore Press, isbn 0645670006

Restating Orientalism – Wael Hallaq (2018)

Not quite what I expected (or hoped for). I thought this would be a book showing new methods of an orientalist approach. In a way it is, but not about orientalism as a ‘method’, but about orientalism as a subject.

The “Orientalism” from the subject, is mostly a reference to the 1978 book of that title written by Edward Said (1935-2003) who on his turn leaned heavily on Michel Foucault (1926-1984). Said was quite radical in his critique on orientalism as an academic discipline.

Where Foucault theorised about knowledge and power, Said described how orientalists basically supported colonialism. It was not as much as that orientalists tried (try) to describe the orient (whether near or far), but their descriptions serve the purpose of the western occupying forces.

Hallaq sees much in the ideas of Said, but he also has a lot to say about it and, indeed, restate Said’s theories. This results in very dry and academic writing about the role of the west, politics and “a critique of modern knowledge”.

With regard to the latter, a surprising name pops up: René Guénon (1886-1951), which is probably the reason I heard about Hallaq’s book in the first place. Guénon is presented as an “orientalist” and not as an “islamologist” which is ironic, since an often heard critique on Guénon is that his far eastern knowledge came from books, while he lived as a Muslim half his life. Be that as it may, Hallaq praises Guénon’s fierce criticism on western thinking and finds his work in parts clearer than those of Said. The part about Guénon is about the only part which is somewhat about ideas and theories.

I found “Restating Orientalism” a tough read. It is interesting to read how orientalists started to work out the countless varieties of eastern oral laws to bend it to the wests on purposes, but, as mentioned, most of the book is not about such subjects, but about how orientalism too often serves the dominating politics of the west.

Hallaq does propose alternative views, mostly based on Islam and it is in these sparse passages that the book comes near to what I had hoped it would be.

2018 Columbia University Press, isbn 0231187629

Mysticism After Modernism – James O’Meara (2020)

Manticore has titles that take me (slightly) out of my usual bubble, but I did not expect that when I ordered this book.

The book is about: “Crowley, Evola, Neville, Watts, Colin Wilson and Other Populist Gurus”. A few names that are (relatively) unknown to me, but some ‘Traditionalism’ is promised and of course Crowley and Evola make an odd combination, (well, of course not entirely).

The book proves to be a second edition, the first was published in 2018. It is a compilation of essays, most of them published at “North American New Right” website and publishing house Counter Currents. Other texts have been available before in “Aristokratia“. So indeed, you can expect some politics here too.

The book opens with Alan Watts, somewhat new to me and somewhat interesting, but too much Watts for my liking. Then we have William Burroughs (and a bit of Genesis P. Orridge), Aleister Crowley, Julius Evola, Gnosticism, Neville Goddard and at the end, Donald Trump.

There is some sort of red thread here in the author’s words: “America’s home-made Hermeticism, our native-born Neoplatonism, our own two-fisted Traditionalism, the movement generally known as New Thought.”

New Thought, I heard about that. Positive thinking, the Law of Attraction, the Secret, Will what you Want, that sort of things, right? Right indeed! Even though the author has explained it on a few occasions, I cannot make the step from Traditionalism to New Thought in my mind. Neither do I find the essays about the New Thinkers very interesting.

What is a merit of the book is that the texts are written with some humor, references to pop culture (mostly the “Madmen” series and the “Manhunter” film) which gives a new approach to some ideas. Also O’Meara manages to mix up a massive amount of different sources.

Overall I found the book somewhat amusing in its better parts and not entirely my cup of tea in most.

2020 Manticore press, isbn 0648766020

Aristokratia IV – K. Deva (editor) (2017)

I think I am about back up-to-date with the Manticore journal publications. Contrary to the previous two reviews of this publisher “Aristokratia IV” is indeed a journal with an editor and essays of different authors.

Being a Manticore publication there is a lot of Nietzsche of Evola. Being an “Aristokratia” this journal is of a more political / sociological nature. The texts are about a variety of subjects. The opening article is about revolutions in Russia. Then follows Gwendolyn Taunton with a text about the “more Nietzschian than Nietzsche” Italian author Gabriele D’Unnunzio; an interesting text about Nietzsche’s philosophy in practice. Other more biographical texts are about Max Stirner, Emile Zola and Neville Goddard. Further there are sociological and philosophical texts that usually have a slight Traditionalist undertone.

The book ends with a collection of quotes (or so it seems, aphorisms at least) and a couple of book reviews.

The “Aristokratia” series of Manticore is not my preferred line of books, but they usually have a couple of nice texts and going a bit off the paths of my usual literature does not hurt.

2017 Manticore Press, isbn 0994595859

Aristokratia III – K. Deva (editor) (2015)

I guess I am quite at a loss trying to follow Primordial Tradition, erm… Numen Books, or was it Manticore Press? Also the website changed a couple of times and there are several channels on Facebook. So by the time I heard of Gwendolyn Taunton’s latest book called Tantric Traditions, I discovered that by then I had missed two volumes in the Aristokratia series and a book called Operative Traditions. Time to catch up!

Aristokratia is the more political branch of the series of journals. This third volume is subtitled “Hellas”, so in most essays you will run into Plato and Greek democracy, but there is also a lot of Evola, Nietzsche and a few texts that have nothing to do with either Greece or politics, probably texts that fitted better in this journal than in any of the others.

Politics, not entirely my subject. As expected there is a lot of criticism towards democracy, contemporary culture and society and, as the title of the journal suggests, a (new) aristocracy that has to be built in order for the world to survive.

The most interesting article is one of the ‘out of place’ texts and speaks about how Mircea Eliade actually saw Traditionalism, Guénon and Coomaraswamy. Eliade is often seen as a Traditionalist (light), but this is a bit of a one-sided view on the man it seems.

From ancient politics to more recent ones and even a manifesto to build a new form of society, these are the subject that you will find in this journal. The more ‘practical’ side of contemporary Traditionalism so to say.

As I said, not the most interesting of the Manticore journal series to me, but it is always nice to read newly written texts of living persons with unpopular ideas. Volume IV lays ready to be read, so await a review of that one later on.

2015 Manticore Press, isbn 0994252536

Aristokratia II * K. Deva (editor) (2014)

It is good that Amazon recommended me this book, because I do not recall having heard of it before they did. It becomes a bit blurry. Like the first Aristokratia, this journal is published by Manticore Press. Since it looks like the journals that are nowadays published under the name of Numen Books, I simply ‘tagged’ this book ‘Primordial Traditions’, the precursor of Numen Books. But, Numen Books will remain Numen Books and Primordial Traditions seems to come rising from its ashes, so I might have to divide them afterall.
In any case, “Aristokratia” forms the more political arm of Primordial Traditions. The journal comes with 320 pages consisting of 17 essays and 7 book reviews. Three articles are from the hand of Gwendolyn Taunton (another reason to see the link) who delivered some very nice texts. Especially her “Emperor Of The Sun” is an interesting read. Taunton takes the theories of Dumézil a step further and more practically (in contast to Dumézil’s theoretical approach) applies it to far Eastern polics in the past. In another article Taunton aims to portray Julius Evola’s actual ideas by going beyond the characterisations of supporters and opposers. Some other authors we know from the first volume of this journal. Like I said, “Aristokratia” is a more political journal and some essays not only describe the state of contemporary politics, but also offer new insights and ideas. Not all essays are political though. Some are more philosophical and/or tradionalistic.
The journal starts off wonderfully, but in the last third there are a couple of texts that I did not find too appealing and did not read them very attentively.
All in all another interesting journal though and a good addition to the ‘Primordial Traditions series’.
2014 Manticore Press, isbn 0987559834, Aristokratia website

The Radical Tradition * Troy Southgate (editor) (2011)

Here we have the next in the series of publications of Primordial Traditions, the first not edited by Gwendolyn Toynton herself. Where the first publication “Primordial Traditions Compendium 2009” was supposedly a Traditionalistic publication, the second (“Northern Traditions” (2011)) was already less so, this third publication is almost not at all. The subtitle goes: “Philosophy, metapolitics & the conservative revolution”. The title, subtitle and editor make it clear, this is a publication about radical politics. There are a range of those to be found here completely blowing away the ‘left-right’ scale that is still in the minds of many people. Anarchistic nationalism, Intertraditionale, anarcho-gnosticism, the new right, Christian anarchism, third position, nationalistic communism, it is all here. Articles about cultural pessimism, Heidegger, Nietzsche (twice) and Schopenhauer, critical essays about “cosmopolitanism”, human rights, democracy and of course “the coming crisis of Western civilization”; just 185 pages, but a wealth of political thoughts and theories. There are actually only two essays that are Traditionalistic in some way, Toynton’s own “Tradition & Politics”, but more particularly Sean Jobst’s “The role of Islamic mysticism against modern decay”. Jobst is a Muslim convert in order to become Sufi (like René Guénon himself) arguing that the Islam is a flexible and universal religion well-fitting for the West too and that Sufism is a remedy against the rampaging decline of Western culture. A daring statement and a daring article in a publication like this perhaps. Also this article is perhaps the only ‘spiritual’ one in this publication even though most authors opt for more religion or spirituality in politics. Other authors include mostly new names to me, Tomislav Suric, Jonathan Bowden, Wayne John Sturgeon, Ben Craven, the only two that I do know are Toynton and Southgate. And for those wondering about the latter, Southgate wrote an overview of his political carreer and how things went from the National Front to International Third Position, English Nationalist Movement, National Revolutionary Fraction to the National-Anarchist Movement each time giving an inside look of the ideology and thus making thing much clearer than the news usually does.
I am not all that much interested in politics and I cannot say that I ran into something here that makes me change my mind, but it is always nice to read something about what makes peoples’ clocks tic and how varried the world of radical politics is. Not very Traditionalistic like I said, so I am curious about the announced future publications including Alchemical, Occult and Tantric Traditions, a second Northern Traditions and a second Radical Traditions. Plans enough!
2011 Primordial Traditions ltd., isbn 9780473174972

En Mijn Tafelheer Is Plato * Rob Wijnberg (2010)

This is the second book of Wijnberg that I review. The first one I got as a present, this one I bought myself. Wijnberg is a young (1982), Dutch philosopher and active column-author who writes about current events and current society, mostly the Dutch. The title of this new book translates something like “and my host is Plato”, it is a reference to the author’s appearance on television and how he hopes things might be some time. This new book is again filled with essays that he wrote before, many of which are also available on his website. They are ordered a little and a relatively lengthy introduction preceeds them. Wijnberg likes to write about the Dutch politics of today and the populistic politician Geert Wilders in particular, but the scope of subjects is wider in this book, especially towards the end. Scientology, raising children, the ‘sexualising society’, technology and Darwin’s theories, to name a few. All essays are about 5 pages. In these 5 pages Wijnberg manages to put a subject in an historical perspective and give an alternative way of looking at it. Since he has done that hundreds of times, he is (as noone I know) able to do that. This makes this book again a very easy and very thoughtprovoking read. Since there are way too many subjects here, it is impossible to give you an idea of what this book is like, so let me just very shortly summerise one of the essays. The essay “Obama and the tyranny of the weak” starts with Obama’s right on health insurance. The gigantic discussion this bill rose, is ununderstandable for a European because here health insurance has been secured for many many years. Wijnberg uses this subject to explain the fundamental difference between the American Democrates and the Republicans. Republicans base themselves on philosophers as Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755) and think that the government has to interfere with the lives of individuals as little as possible. The obligation to have a health insurance is an illicit interference of the government, since freedom for a Republican is freedom from force. Democrats, on the other hand, think that freedom of the individual increases when the government helps them, with a health insurance that they would normally be denied for example. Taken to the extreme, for the Republicans the norm are the strong/rich, for the Democrates the weak. There is more to say about it, but just to show how the author explains things and gives something to think about.
Only available in Dutch though and one thing that would be nice for a future book is a real book with subjects not touched in 5 pages, but rather something more in depth.
2010 De Bezige Bij, isbn 978023458418

Gods Of The Blood * Mattias Gardell (2003)

There are reasons to say that this is a book I should better not read/review and to say that I should. “The pagan revival and white separatism” is the subtitle and I would not want to raise the suggestion that these two have anything incommon. On the other hand it might be helpfull to know what certain people think and (ab)use so I know what to stay away from. But of course there always is the morbid curiosity. A book about extreme political right heathens. In his “few words on terminology” Gardell writes:

Some of the heathens categorized as “racist” in this study would probably object to the label due to the negative connotations associated with the concept in contemporary mainstraim discourse. […] In this book, then, the term racist is detached from any moral assumptions and simply signifies a person who believes that mankind may be classified into any given number of “races” that “by nature” differ from each other not only in physical but also in mental and moral qualities […]

p. 29
There we have it again, a scholar uses a term which has a certain meaning in the minds of the common man, applies it in his own way, but from the more common perspective the link with certain politics is already made. This will not be very helpfull for the ‘heathen community’. But Gardell shows himself realistic and clear in his classifications. An example:

While not a supremacist, Moynihan does see a connection between genetics and spirituality along the lines of the ethnic Asatrúers. To the extent that metagenetics is a racial philosophy, Moynihan may qualify as a racist, but, again, ethnocentric spirituality should not be confused with Aryan revolutionary activities. There is a world of difference between the Wotansvolk and Blood Axis projects, a lack of correspondence both parties readily acknowledge.

p. 303
Of course this is in a way a bad example, but I just took an often referred to person in the context, a person well known to people who frequently read my music reviews section. Moynihan is a bad example, because Gardell mostly describes a ‘path the other way around’.

The story we are presented here starts with a history of racism in the USA. It is only recently that racists are “considered public villains. Racism was long considered a divinely mandated order of nature and an important pillar of American society, protected by constitutional law.” (p. 29) Thus Gardell describes “the transforming landscapes of American racism”, continues with “the smorgasbord of the revolutionary white-racist counterculture” and only at page 137 he comes to “the pagan revival”. In these first 100 pages Gardell shows the width of ideas in racist communities passing the kind of groups that we (probably) first think of, but also speaks about the invention of populism and for example the current of separatism, supporters of which are best friends with similar groups of (for example) negroid persons in order to come to complete separate habitats. It is also in this line that you can see white racists having contacts with Arab groups, African groups, some even with Muslim groups since the goals are mutual.

What Gardell’s story works towards, though, is religious racism; racists who do not only have interest in biology and politics, but also want a religion to support their cause. Initially many of such groups were Christian, but as time passed, also Christianity came to be seen as a Jewish product which has to be rejected and in the 1970’ies slowly but surely appreciation for the old religion of Northern Europe rose. That is what I meant when I said “the other way around”, via politics to religion. Not enormously many, but quite a few groups and persons are written about at smaller or greater length. All people and groups that Gardell, as a good antropologist, visited, interviewed extensively and participated in their daily lifes.

Gardell describes three kinds of heathen groups: racist, anti-racist and ethnic. The first group are the ‘white separatists’ (to use a very global term), the second (of course) their counterparts, the latter are not political, but still of the opinion that religion has something to do with descent. The first group is treated most extensively, the last in as far as they initially seem to fit within the first cat

Nietzsche En Kant Lezen De Krant * Rob Wijnberg (2009)

I got this book as a holidays-present. Good, because I would probably have never heard of it otherwise. It is a philosophy book about modern politics and society, not really my subject. Wijnberg is a young man, seven years younger than myself, but with an impressive carreer already. This book is his third and the copy I got is 7th printing only half a year after the first publication. Wijnberg used to be an editor at the ‘opinion section’ of one of our major newspapers in which role he declined a pamphlet of the most famous Dutch politicians: Geert Wilders. Currently Wijnberg writes a column each week in the same newspaper, a speed at which he is apparently able to fill books too. “Nietzsche and Kant read the newspaper” is built with such essays. The title is rather cheesy but the subtitle “thinkers of the past about dilemmas of the present” is a bit more promising. When I started to read the book, I was immediately captured by this young man’s eagle eye regarding modern society and politics and his ability to describe his findings critically razorsharp and with the use of old and recent philosophers. The prologue alone is worth buying this book. The variety of subjects are bundled to ‘chapters’ about freedom, truth and power, God and faith, sex and love, identity, equality and the state. Very basic discussions such as the opening essay “why more choice leads to less freedom to choose” or freedom of speech come together with thoughts about journalism, animal rights, “why a believer is hurt so easily”, terrorism and homosexuality. A lot of space is used for current Dutch politics, of course mostly the popular right thinkers Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk, but also established parties from left to right (but mostly of the right) are carefully dissected. Our beloved systems of democracy and capitalism are spoken of, but also the last two American presidents and the war in Iraq. No matter what subject Wijnberg chooses for his ponderings, in easy to read terms he places the subject in history and current society and he finds philosophers from every corner who said something about it. The book is as impressive as it is easy to read and Wijnberg manages to write both critically and constructive without taking sides or passing judgement. Both my own and the previous generation should read this book to learn something about themselves and the world that we live in. I always enjoy fingers on the sore spots of modern living and Wijnberg shows that a philosopher is more than able to do that. Suggested reading, unfortunately as of now, only available in Dutch.
2009 De Bezig Bij, isbn 989023440864