“Deformity in Conformity, I Found This, I Found This”
“Sorel […] reproached Maurras for being too democratic, a reproach which, at first glance, can appear paradoxical. In reality, what Sorel wanted to say is that Maurras, positivist and intellectualist, had repudiated democracy only under its political aspect and not in its philosophical foundation” — Gaëtan Pirou
The Israeli Historian Zeev Sternhell once argued that inter-war rightist political tendencies were not merely reactive explosions of sloganeering and thuggery in the face of Bolshevism. Rather, its generative roots lay in what Fritz Stern entitled as “The Politics of Cultural Despair”. The antecedent source from which these movements sprang was certainly reactive like its later progeny, but its antagonism was different — it was incorporeal, it was an idea.
That idea was Rationalism, which was explicated by the American theorist Francis Parker Yockey: “Rationalism, which is the feeling that everything is subject to and completely explicable by Reason, consequently rejects everything not visible and calculable”. Socratic inquiry rules the day — Logos über alles.
Yockey, who was well-versed in the works of Oswald Spengler, viewed Rationalism as synonymous with the zeitgeist of the 19th century. It was a fertile intellectual climate which engendered and buttressed a number of acidic and degenerative ideologies: Liberalism, Capitalism, Marxism, Darwinism, free trade, Feminism, a preference for rights above duties, and a nascent Cosmopolitanism.
Bands of men will suffice in the face of a tangible enemy, but street brawlers are not equipped to overcome a zeitgeist. Instead of war veterans, the ranks of the reaction to Rationalism was comprised of a cadre of intellectuals, literati, poets, and political theorists.
Unlike earlier reactionaries — men such as Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Bonald, Juan Donoso Cortés, and Adam Müller — this later 19th and early 20th century intellectual and cultural vanguard was not concerned with preserving the hegemony of the Catholic Church, nor were they pre-occupied with the restoration or conservation of European monarchies.
This cadre was future-orientated rather than restorative. Modernity had failed to deliver. For them, the 19th century was a century of drudgery in which spirit and heroism had been snuffed out. They wanted an exit from market society, in which the cash nexus was the only binding force. Like John Mitchel, they lamented “that the chiefs were exchanged for landlords, and the clansmen had sunk into able-bodied paupers”.
The representatives of this tendency form an eclectic corpus — from ersatz Homeric syndicalists such as Georges Sorel, to bizarre mystic nationalists like Standish O’Grady, who viewed Cúchulainn as Ireland’s perennial heroic archetype.
Despite its break with earlier reactionary tendencies, it nonetheless was indebted to the representatives of the old school, to varying degrees. If one man among the ranks of those who opposed 1789 stands out as a father of this later generation of rightists, it is surely the ol’ Savoyard opponent of Jacobinism, Joseph de Maistre.
Unlike the Whig faux-rightist Edmund Burke who legitimised the crystallisation of oligarch rule during the ‘Glorious’ Revolution, de Maistre was an authentic man of the Right whose worldview was anathema to the pre-Revolutionary Encyclopédistes.
In the face of the Enlightenment’s fetish for reason, de Maistre foreshadowed the anti-rationalism of later rightists, stating in his scathing attack on Rousseau: “Human reason reduced to its own resources is perfectly worthless, not only for creating but also for preserving any political or religious association, because it only produces disputes, and, to conduct himself well, man needs not problems but beliefs”.
Julius Langbehn — most famous for his work Rembrandt as Educator; initially misattributed to Friedrich Nietzsche — foreshadowed the illiberal Weimar intellectual current known as the ‘Conservative Revolution’. Langbehn’s Rembrandt can be viewed as a declaration of war which acted as an early catalyst for the later völkisch scouting movements, known as the Wandervogel (meaning wandering bird in English).
Regarding Rationalism, Langbehn opined: “it seems to be deeply rooted in human nature that the nations allow themselves to be ruled for a while by a purely rational culture and they, so long as they stand under the influence of this culture, do not observe at all how empty and untrue it is. Pharisees and sophists, fake scholastics and specialists have represented this principle in the most diverse countries and ages”.
Langbehn, like many of those who opposed the de-mystifying and economics-fixated zeitgeist of the 19th century, viewed heroism, myth, and idealism — the elements which invigorate a nation — as the only solution which would suffice to displace the ruling decadence.
Langbehn states: “only when one turns again to the bearers of an artistic culture as normative national educators will the German nation find its way back to its lost ideals! An artistic national culture will always be at the same time an aristocratic national culture; for it requires ideals, it requires heroes, it cannot abandon its legacy of poetry. Myth is the earliest type of art, and like man, art too is on the right path only if it remains faithful to its best poetic traditions.”
“Nothing Changes; It only Gets Worse”
“For the Right, one might disagree with Oswald Spengler, but one cannot ignore him.” — Kerry Bolton
If Langbehn represents the Conservative Revolution in its infancy, then Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West is the mature and ascendent apotheosis of this intellectual tradition. Given its relative obscurity post-war, it’s difficult to comprehend the sheer extent of the book’s influence in the interim period, from 1918 to 1939.
Spengler conceptualised particular junctures in history — say, for instance, a period in which economics was of eminent import or an earlier stage in which rustic life predominated — as forming merely parts of an overall morphology of an organic civilisation which contained, like a body, stages of infancy, maturation, and ultimately death.
Such stages do not stand alone like atoms, but are instead intimately inter-connected with that which came before and those future phases which have not yet manifested. A civilisation, for Spengler, is a dramatic organic tapestry — holistically encapsulating life and death, heroism and drudgery, faith and calculation, and ultimately the conflict between blood and money.
A key concept in Spengler’s philosophy of history is ‘Second Religiosity’. This phenomenon occurs during the period in which the masses grow tired of the desacralised tyranny of rationalism and materialism — in which the transcendent is abrogated and one feels denuded, spiritually speaking, before an empty cosmos.
Spengler describes the process: “It starts with Rationalism’s fading out in helplessness, then the forms of the springtime become visible, and finally the whole world of the primitive religion, which had receded before the grand forms of the early faith, returns to the foreground, powerful, in the guise of the popular syncretism that is to be found in every culture at this phase”.
Syncretism and Distortion
“Resist and struggle
Your faith is a lie
And, the death of dreams
Shall be a beautiful end” — Death in June, Hollows of Devotion
Emphasis must be placed on the word syncretism. This is not “the religious pastimes of educated and literary-soaked cliques” or the unity of faith and reason of the medieval scholastics. Rather, its source is the “naïve belief that arises, unremarked but spontaneous, among the masses that there is some sort of mystic constitution of actuality.”
It is religion in its crudest and most anachronistic sense. Lacking direction, it will result in a syncretic ‘system’ that collapses before the slightest scrutiny. Yet, its efficacy and staying power are contingent upon forces stronger than reason — namely, faith. As Yockey put it: “Faith is, always has been, and always will be, stronger than facts.”
Syncretic religiosity was famously critiqued by the French esotericist René Guénon. In Theosophy: History of a Pseudo-Religion, Guénon lambasts Blavatsky and her ilk for contriving a doctrine which is a muddle, and hence distortion and dilution, of genuine religious traditions. For Guénon, this counterfeit religiosity is more pernicious than atheism, materialism, and Rationalism.
The political aims of Theosophy should also be mentioned. The first of the Theosophical society’s objects is: “To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.”
A prominent Theosophist, Annie Bessant, played an important role in anti-colonial agitation in India, as well as being an executive committee of the Fabian society. Further, “her partner, Bradlaugh, was an initiate of the Loge des Philadelphe”. This Freemasonic lodge — which operated according to the rite of Memphis-Mizraim — could boast of a membership which included “seminal revolutionists such as Louis Blanc, Blanqui, and Marx”.
“Nice People and Rednecks”
“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.” — W.B. Yeats, Springtime 1913
In the distorted “minds” of the contemporary Irish, 20th Century Ireland is considered a de facto theocratic state in which religious hegemony over our ‘weak-minded’ ancestors was maintained via groupthink, familial pressure, and widespread ignorance.
Yet, by the 1980s it was apparent that a challenger had appeared. It was centred in South Dublin and was socially liberal, making up the bulk of support for the ‘Yes’ side in the 1995 divorce referendum, and the ‘No’ side during the 1983 abortion referendum.
It was Anglophile and hostile to the martial efforts of Irishmen in the six counties during the Troubles. It promoted revisionist accounts of the Rising and the War of Independence — it did not feel shame when it ascribed deviance to great patriots.
Desmond Fennel termed this group nice people. In a sarcastic tone which did not conceal his disdain, Fennel described them as a “minority of nice, reasonable, decent, sensitive, enlightened people […] engaged in a struggle on many fronts against a majority of boorish malevolent rednecks.”
And who are these rednecks? They are “everyone else, but especially Fianna Fáil under Charles Haughey, the great majority of Catholics and their bishops, all Catholic organisations, the IRA and GAA, Sinn Féin, and the Fianna Gael dissidents who frustrate Garret FitzGerald’s good intentions.”
The history of Ireland since the 1980s has been the incremental overcoming of all that this group stood for and held dear.
Desmond Fennell versus South County Dublin
“Only a God Can Save Us” — Martin Heidegger, Der Spiegel
For Fennell, “A civilisation is a political-intellectual construct […] which has a coherent set of values and rules derived from a venerated source — God, seer, lawgiver, holy man or the ancestors.” — given this definition, it would not be an exaggeration to invoke Nietzsche: a transvaluation of all values has occurred in Ireland.
Contained within his definition of civilisation was the source of Fennell’s critique of post-war Liberalism, and by extension the nice people of South Dublin.
Liberalism broke with the religious basis for European civilisation and induced a state of collective anomie in its place. Anomie is a term used to designate the punctuation and rupturing of social, intellectual, and spiritual life when the values which hitherto formed the basis for the social order are abrogated.
In Ireland’s context, it was the Catholic Church and its attendant value system that was replaced. Cardinally, Liberalism failed as a replacement because it lacked “a venerated source, divine or human, guaranteeing the rightness of the rules”.
Without a God to point to as the progenitor of all values, the people were left adrift in a world of competing and contradictory imperatives — all of which were ultimately baseless. Fennell aptly states: “without a venerated source, it was also in practice an orderless hotchpotch offensive to reason.”
His perceptive observation and commentary regarding Ireland at this interregnum point between Catholicism and Liberalism, and more specifically, his identification of rationalistic Liberalism as a hollow project destined to fail, are of such importance that Fennell deserves the utmost esteem — both as a great Irish intellect and as a man of the Right.
Second Religiosity in County Roscommon
“Fairies have disappeared from Ireland and the bull-ring languishes in Spain. But mysticism on the one hand, gladiatorial instincts, blood and asceticism on the other, will always [be]…springs of Creation for these two peoples.” — Wyndham Lewis, BLAST
During the 1980s, an unlikely part of the world experienced its own ‘Second Religiosity’ — Roscommon. It began in 1979. New-agers Michael Tobin and his wife Caroline Kuijper dedicated their lives to “fulfilling…the Divine Design for humankind”.
There is scant information on the internet regarding Tobin and Kuijper. At best, the About section to a codified collection of publications released by the couple provides a slither of information, mostly regarding Tobin — which is not a major loss given that “Tobin devote[d] himself to the broad social and historical vision”, while his wife’s writings concern “the more immediate and personal”.
Tobin’s initial calling in life was as a missionary for the Franciscans. However, this soon changed when he was allegedly “imprisoned as an Amnesty International ‘prisoner of conscience’ in England”. He met his wife on a train in Holland in 1979 and returned to Ireland “where they started a family and worked on the realisation of their solar-age vision for humanity”.
Desmond Fennell assesses their work in his essay ‘Why Conservatism is out of date’. He praises their project as “the most useful kind of work being done today in Ireland”. Like Fennell, they discerned the looming spirit of the age. Although visibly powerful, the Church was in its winter period in Ireland.
With much prescience, Tobin states: “Traditional Irish society is rapidly collapsing. A growing number of people are now accepting the awesome fact that everything they were brought up to believe in is falling apart before their very eyes. All that they have held dear and believed to be so solid [is] crumbling into dust […] all that they have for so long taken for granted is being inexorably destroyed by an ever-developing social earthquake of global proportions”.
Tobin, like Marx, is a great critic, but is rather scant regarding positive prescriptions for the future. He addresses very real issues in his work — drug use, marital breakdown, crime, cults, and so forth. However, his remedy is to actualise a “Solar Age Vision”. What this entails and what it will lead to is omitted by Tobin. At best, a vague utopianism — he speaks in nebulous terms of how the Solar Age will be life enhancing, for instance — is all he has to offer.
Tobin’s solar cult never managed to achieve support or even interest among the general public. One can speculate, along Spenglerian lines, that had it arrived at a later date it may have achieved greater efficacy. The Irish people had not yet experienced the miasma of Rationalism. Today, we experience its spiritual thraldom.
Fascism: The Uses and Abuses of a Concept
“We will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke” — Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto
Tobin’s rejection of the Church and his pessimism regarding Rationalism did not imply a positive disposition toward competing worldviews. “Their writings decry Marxism, technofascism, patriarchal culture, environmental degradation, animal abuse and other aspects of Modernism”.
For a movement which Fennell praises for its “original and global thinking”, its condemnation of ‘technofascism’ is the direct antithesis of the creative impulse. The eternal whipping boy, ‘Fascism’, is a term used more than it is understood.
Fascism was a form of reactive developmentalist nationalism which was responding to Italy’s failure to industrialise, unlike Germany to the North. Its chief tenants were not formed by Mussolini, but rather by Enrico Corradini — a leader of the Italian Nationalist Association which pre-figured the Blackshirts — in the early 1910s.
Corradini’s conception of Italy is central to understand this movement: “We must start by recognising the fact that there are proletarian nations as well as proletarian classes; that is to say, there are nations whose living conditions are subject […] to the way of life of other nations, just as classes are. Once this is realised, nationalism must insist firmly on this truth: Italy is, materially and morally, a proletarian nation.”.
In the face of this predicament, Italian Fascists turned to Friedrich List, the author of the ‘National System of Political Economy’ and an eminent influence upon the economic views of Arthur Griffith.
List counselled underdeveloped nations to reject free trade. Instead, nations should foster their industry via protective tariffs and other means of government intervention until the point is reached at which it is possible for domestic industry to compete equally with international competitors.
According to Orthodox Marxist theory, socialist revolutionary praxis can only occur subsequent to the development of Capitalism. This is owing to the material basis of history — Marxism “broke” with the idealistic and moralistic currents that are prominent in the writings of earlier socialists — which limits and decides the superstructural phenomena in a (mostly) unilateral manner.
The Italian Nationalists (and later Fascists) argued that the revolutionary Marxist praxis in the Italian peninsula was a contradiction and non-starter if they were to act consistently with their conception of history. Given that Italy, at the time, was mostly an agrarian nation with little industry, how could proletarian revolution occur?
If it could, that meant that dialectical materialism was bogus; revolution being contingent on non-economic factors would contravene a basic tenant of Marxism. If it couldn’t, then someone had to industrialise Italy to make Italy fertile for worker uprisings.
Fascism was not Capitalism in decay — it was a form of anti-Imperialist Imperialism (this is consistent, think about it) which sought to instantiate an industrial economy without Liberalism’s baggage. It sought an alternative path toward the modern world. Toward a Place in the Sun for Rome.
Wilhelm Reich Comes to Roscommon
“Time for the onslaught of tomorrow
After all their yesterdays
Taking pleasure in corrosion
The half-crazed have had their say
The half-crazed have had their say
The half-crazed have tried their way” — Death in June, A Nausea
More concerning than his misconceptions regarding Fascism, is Tobin’s endorsement of Wilhelm Reich, whom Tobin likens to Copernicus in terms of his intellectual importance. Desmond Fennell does not mention Tobin’s admiration for Reich in his essays, presumably due to being unaware of him and his significance.
Who was Wilhelm Reich? Reich was a psychoanalyst in the Freudian tradition who was born in Austria. Reich is most famous for his anti-Rightist psychoanalytical (veiled) polemic The Mass Psychology of Fascism — a work which continues to exercise an influence upon the Left.
The basic thesis of Reich’s work is that Fascism is a manifestation of sexual repression. He states: “In brief, the goal of sexual suppression is that of producing an individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and degradation”.
An inverse of this argument is put forth, far more convincingly, by Dr E. Michael Jones, who argues that sexual liberation is a form of control because it releases man’s lower anarchic passions, and thus clouds his judgement.
Reich’s argument is transparently an “application of politicised psychiatry”, which is based purely on conjecture and speculation. A comparative analysis of Nazi and Soviet art reveals that the latter, with its fully clothed depiction of its subjects, is far more “repressed” and Victorian than the Nazis, whose chief sculptor, Arno Breker, produced a multiplicity of nude sculptures. Consider too the habits of the proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio — was he repressed?
It should be noted that Wilhelm Reich’s solution is to sexualise children. Between pages 168 and 169 of the ‘Mass Psychology of Fascism’, Reich states: “Once children and adolescents are reached on a mass basis through their sexual interests, there will be a powerful counterweight against the reactionary forces”.
Reich’s real aims could be of a more personal nature. In his autobiographical work ‘Passion of Youth’, Reich recalls raping maids, engaging in bestiality, and his early incestuous thoughts regarding his mother. It wouldn’t be surprising if Reich’s work was an attempt to justify his actions as good vis-à-vis the behaviour of normal youths by ascribing the term “pathological” to the latter.
Reich’s work is just one of many which were released before and after the war that sought to pathologise Rightism — Adorno’s ‘Authoritarian Personality’ perhaps being the most infamous.
For all of their accusations of sexual repression, contemporary leftist groups, at home and abroad, are ironically awash with accusations of sexual assault committed by male members against women. Or by men against children. Either Leftism breeds a volcanic sexual dysfunction, or such types are attracted to Leftism by virtue of their inner pathologies.
In 1977, many of the leading French leftist intellectuals signed a petition to decriminalise all relations between adults and minors below the age of 15. This was not a fringe or peripheral cause by any means. Figures as prominent as Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Paul Sartre (is anyone surprised?), and so on supported the move.
“There we stood
At the edge of the world
The sun from the sky” — Death in June, Leper Lord
Many rightists long for the days in which genuine and sincere belief flourished. We find the atmosphere of hyper-calculation, in which –isms predominate but belief recedes, to be intolerable.
We must be cautious. We should not allow this longing for sacrality to manifest in a fidelity to degenerative movements that poison surreptitiously. Prominent Theosophists were outwardly amicable toward Christianity, but among their own ranks they spoke of Christ with disdain and swore loyalty to ‘Lucifer, the light bringer’.
Ireland is currently gripped by Rationalism — the question is: for how long? And a more important question is: what will replace it? Will we witness a return to the faith of our recent ancestors? Will Rationalism be displaced by an alien creed? Was Spengler correct? Will a primordial religiosity akin to Tobin’s vague solar cult emerge to fill the void?
Regardless of what comes, we can be certain that the reign of rationalism will soon end. For Faith is stronger than Reason. Man will die for the sake of God — will he do the same for a syllogism?