The modern crisis all goes back to nominalism. The modern muddlings of clear definitions, confusions of really and essentially different things, and denials of essences or definitions in the first place are all outworkings of the nominalist turn. Once suppose that categories are merely conventional, that universals are merely nominal, that life is never simply black or white, but rather only shades of grey, and you find yourself on a steep and slippery slope to chaos.
Walking through the Oakland Airport this evening I spotted another one of those dreary advertisements that all schools of business everywhere throw up, showing some brave person who is not a businessman striding bravely into the brave new world she has dreamed up, and exhorting the reader (and prospective applicant) to “think outside the box,” “do well, but do good,” and most importantly, “challenge the status quo.”
Creativity in business is all well and good, of course, in due proportion, and where there is a better way to do things. But that is not what these ads are about. They are appealing to people who consider themselves “agents of change,” and who want to get into businesses and shake them up so that they are less, you know, businessy and more like NGOs. Not seeking those yucky profits, you see; not selling. Ew!
Dragging myself along the concourse, I reflected on the relentless chorus of “change!” to which we have all been more and more subjected these last 50 years now, and considered (not for the first time) that neo-reaction and traditionalism are the last gasp of the modernist critique of all established authority, with the ironic difference that the established authority they call into question is modernism itself.
Traditionalism is a quintessentially modern phenomenon. It is an artifact of a shattered, rudderless society. In a traditional society, there could be no such thing as traditionalism; for, in a traditional society, any suggestion that perhaps things ought to be done differently than they have been done would be met with horror, and outrage; so that, far from calling for their defense, their traditions would seem to them not even traditional, but rather just, and simply, the way that things must of course be done.
What does it indicate, that modernism has in these latter days elaborated a withering modernist critique of modernism? Is the phenomenon of historically self-conscious traditionalism in fact modernism’s last gasp?
[Part One is here.]
Recall from Part One that traditionalism reconnects man with the true order of being, an order that is systematically denied by modernity. To become an American traditionalist, you must begin to know the elements of traditionalism so that you can begin to see their value and be nourished by them. How is this to be done?
Start at the beginning. You cannot begin to seek the ways of tradition unless you know you need them to counteract the lies of the modern age. And you cannot know that lies are lies unless you know the truths that correct them.
But even if you don’t know the truth, you can often sense that lies are lies. So your traditionalism begins with a sense of discontent of the contemporary world in which you have been immersed. If you have been blessed with the gift of discontentment with the status quo, read on. Traditionalism has what you need.
[But let the buyer beware: Many charlatans know you are discontented. Learn to avoid their snake oil.]
Traditionalism is not simply following tradition, although the ways of our ancestors are an important part of it. Traditions can be corrupted, so you must know the truth behind the tradition. Traditionalism has value not because it is good to follow the ways of our ancestors (although it usually is), but because we Americans have become collectively foolish under the influence of modernity. We need to reconnect with the wisdom of the ages that our ancestors understood better than we. Traditionalism supplies this life-giving connection. Continue reading
[I plan for this to be a nine-part series, rather than, as has been my custom, one lengthy post.]
Previously I argued that you need to be a traditionalist conservative. But how does a non-traditionalist become a traditionalist? This essay addresses the question.
Of course, this not a fully rational process. There is no tight recipe for repentance. But we need to talk about it.
In the previous essay I observed that contemporary thinking is fundamentally wrongheaded. As a result, contemporary societies are fundamentally unravelling and contemporary people (aside from those filled with the demonic energy of the liberal jihad) are spiritually and intellectually demoralized. What is the way out of the madness? Continue reading
The prosperity engendered by high technology opens lots of economic room for nihilism, so we should not perhaps be too surprised to see it blossoming these days. But latter-day reproductive technology also makes it possible for nihilism to follow through in reproduction on its moral commitment to death. I.e., it enables nihilism to delete itself from the population. Never before has nihilism had this power to enact its own ultimate conclusions in concrete acts. Until recently, even most nihilists who ended up killing themselves also reproduced themselves in the meantime, willy nilly.
Mutatis mutandis, then, the population of nihilists should be set to crash, just as that of the Shakers crashed.
There is no patrimony, and hasn’t been for generations. We’ve been making it up as we go for the last 250 years or so, each of us cobbling together on his own the lineaments of a coherent way of life from the jetsam that is the only remnant of what was once the ship that bore our forefathers up together from infancy, piloted by their fathers and kept by their mothers.
That ship is gone, wrecked, taken apart piece by piece and thrown into the sea by improvident sailors, unofficered, free, and drunk.
One of the many reasons I posted so little here at the Orthosphere over the summer was that in the months leading up to the family vacation that began in mid-June I had been feeling more and more discouraged about the culture wars, and thus enervated. The handwriting was on the wall, the Persians at the gates of the City; and other watchmen on the web were doing a great job. What could I add, really, to the fight, especially given that it seemed foredoomed to go against us?
Sure, I was busier than at any time in recent memory with family and business affairs. But such business had not kept me from writing in many decades.
In retrospect, I just needed that vacation. I was tired. I know this because only a few days into the vacation I began to feel hope again.
Birth rates are plummeting globally, so that even in countries where fertility is above replacement, it soon won’t be. In 150 years or so, the only people around will be religious conservatives, because other sorts of people with looser morals aren’t reproducing (thanks to the Pill, and all its knock-on social and economic effects, noticed in this video).
We have to step back and realize that what is happening to man right now is a pervasive and radical winnowing, comparable almost to the Flood. It’s natural selection at work, weeding out liberalism from the gene pool, and via co-evolution from the meme pool. Put another way, liberalism is a lethal intellectual mutation. Whether it takes 50 years, or 1,000, liberalism is doomed, because it is at war with reality. Not only is it not nice to fool Mother Nature, it can never, ever be done in the first place. The Logos of the world is not mocked, no matter how amusing our petty pranks at his expense seem to us.
Fortunately for those who are deleting their own ilk from the world’s future, this winnowing may not involve catastrophic war, plague, or economic collapse. The autophagy of liberalism need not destroy civilization in the process. Civilization, even the West, might just squeak through and prevail in the end, preserving some of the best bits of what it has so far achieved. We might get through this winnowing with very little pain and suffering: no mass death, just a series of successively smaller, successively more traditional generations, as liberals die off after long, entertaining, meaningless lives.
I have an article at the website of the Pope Center for Higher Education on the difficulty of teaching a course on literary criticism in the prevailing post-literate condition. The link is here: http://www.popecenter.org/commentaries/article.html?id=3019. I have another article, or rather the first part of a two-part article, on S. T. Coleridge as a Traditionalist, at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website. The link is here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/a-vision-in-a-dream-s-t-coleridge-on-imagination-and-politics/. My review of James Kalb’s Against Inclusiveness, for The University Bookman, is here: http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/article/todays-totalitarians/.
PS. The Pope Center article is a version of an item that I first posted here at The Orthosphere a couple of months ago.
I have some new or newish pieces up on the current regime and how to fight it. There’s one just out at Crisis Magazine about how bad ideological pluralism is (for starters, it’s a particular system of social control that obviously can’t be pluralistic). There are also a couple at Catholic World Report about why the Church can’t use modern public language to speak to modern man (it’s a sort of technological Newspeak), and about Socratic questioning as a way to disrupt the flow of sophistical patter. And then there’s a piece published at Crisis Magazine during Lent about how to how to be a bit more Lenten if you happen to be a political ranter.