Traditionalist social philosophy – a sketch of an idea (Part Three)
By Mark Wegierski
(The earliest drafts of this essay go back to the early 1980s. – author’s note)
The main terrain of action of "the persons of spirit" -- especially the more "politico-philosophical" rather than "religious"-minded ones -- is, of course, the nation, patria, or res publica. (It need hardly be added that a sense of genuine nationhood, civic-mindedness, community, and patriotism, can just as easily occur under the formal aegis of a monarchy as of a republic). The various nations of the Earth could ultimately be seen as spiritual-corporate, organic, living entities, many of them sharing in an unbroken historical continuity of hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
The twin principles of traditionalism are both culture and virtue. Human beings must recognize and try to nurture the striving towards culture and virtue within themselves. Society must be permeated by an atmosphere where culture and virtue will be maximized and intensified. Culture includes the great art, philosophy, and literature of all humankind, as well as the shared historical experience of the spiritual-corporate national entities. The so-called Canon of great works may be increased, but likely only at a very slow rate. Thus, fifty years of human history may produce only one truly profound work, which brings us in touch with the sublime and the spiritual. As for the shared historical experience of a national entity, it may exist at many levels. There are the unconscious, partly conscious, and fully conscious aspects of the national "consciousness". The boundaries of the national consciousness should not be drawn either too narrowly or too widely. Thus, in some senses, the consciousness of ancient Greece and Rome is present even among us. The goal of the preservation of the national consciousness is transcended only by the moral lessons to be drawn from the Canon of great works (the Country of the Mind), by the practically-possible dictates of religion, and by virtue. Ideally-speaking, the preservation of national consciousness and virtue are mutually reinforcing.
Virtue is the moral code which almost all premodern and "spirit-centred" philosophies, and all major religions promote to a greater or lesser extent, but which, a believing Christian must argue, is most authentically expressed in Christianity. Because virtue exists in the realm of Spirit, it must, in general, take precedence over the spiritual-corporate national entities, even though these may also in some senses exist in the mindworld. Gross evil and immorality should not, theoretically speaking, be permitted, even if it is highly instrumental for the preservation and advancement of one's nation. Of course, evil and immoral actions have always occurred in relations between nations -- however, one should be sternly warned against abandoning all human and moral reservations in the name of the advancement of one's nation -- as was done, most notoriously, by Nazi Germany. The traditionalist believes that believing in an ideal (e.g., in norms of behavior or manners) while not always living up to them, is preferable to abandoning an ideal and embracing some feral exaltation of the removal of all self-restraint. This could equally be a criticism of the vicious racially-driven nationalism of Nazi Germany, of the unrestrained countercultural rebellion of the 1960s (and subsequent decades), and of the unrestricted selfishness and greed of consumptionist capitalism.
As was pointed out before, the strength of virtue is that it is theoretically accessible to every human being, regardless of native intelligence and other accidental characteristics. Thus, the simple washerwoman with her deep faith may be closer to truth than a deconstructionist professor with his doctorate. Nevertheless, traditionalist thinkers are necessary to give form and substance to an instinctual vision of truth.
Culture and virtue will be maximized in a society which is permeated with harmony. Harmony, not tyranny or chaos, is the principle of the traditionalist social absolute. Harmony is when society's functioning tends towards an organic, integral whole, in consistency with the ideals of culture and virtue. Yet, it might be asked, has a society like this ever existed? (Some would argue that the ancient Greek polis, medieval Europe, and some periods of Chinese history, were in some senses closest to this ideal.) For Christians, the reason for this perennial failure is found in the symbolic Garden of Eden narrative, where we learn that human nature is "fallen", that is, susceptible to the worst impulses and desires. This story (as well as that of Cain and Abel) reminds us that human nature has a bestial and very dark side. Furthermore, we are warned of the existence of dark powers, which may be the personifications of darkness within us, but to a Christian, must be seen as actually existing in some sense beyond us, for Satan is no atheist.
The Darkness, whatever its cause, is almost irrepressible in fallen human nature. Thus, all elements in a human society should be directed towards keeping these impulses in check. In the Christian conception, the highest freedom is freedom from sin. Laws, the sense of authority, decorum, custom, and tradition are most often the elements of society which keep these darker impulses in check. Yet, organized religion is perhaps the strongest buttress against outbreaks of individual and mass anarchy. That is why religion must be supported strongly, while realizing that the Darkness may re-appear in the most unlikely places. One must "fight the darkness without yielding to the darkness". Even though Pope Alexander VI (Roderigo Borgia) is utterly corrupt, there are persons of virtue and culture who maintain the vision of first principles in the Renaissance, and know that what he is doing is utterly wrong. There is no question of justifying such behaviour in terms of "alternative lifestyles", or "differing value-systems", or "situational ethics", as in modern liberalism.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.