Friday 30 September 2016

Clarification - I am not, and do not claim to be, a reactionary (not even 'neo')

Among the admittedly few bloggers who take notice of my comments, I have quite often been accused of not being a real reactionary; as if this was something I claimed to be, and an accusation I might be assumed to dispute...

Although wrong, this is not all that surprising, because several years ago I did go through a period when I did consider myself a reactionary; and this period included writing my book Thought Prison, and it was at this blog that the Orthosphere was devised and named (mainly by Kristor Lawson) - but it is now quite a while (probably about four years) since I was a part of this movement, or had reactionary aspirations - by which I mean the primary hope or intention of returning society to some earlier phase.

On the contrary, I believe we are in the End Times, the Letter Days - that these times are unique and that the 'destiny' (in the sense of the proper, best, intended future) is therefore qualitatively unlike any era of the past.

Part of this attitude is repulsion, part is attraction. Repulsion is that - when I try empathically to identify with any actual society of the past I find it impossible to yearn for it. There are aspects and phases - sometimes short transitional eras - that I do yearn for: some aspects of Neolithic society, of Anglo Saxon Northumbria in the Golden Age, participating in the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia during the height of the Byzantine Empire, that brief and lovely flowering of the Church of England around the time of Thomas Traherne... little bits and glimpses; but never the whole package.

In particular, I do not want anything on the lines of medieval Europe in the Age of Faith; which seems to be the staple yearning of most reactionaries (either that, or Holy Russia - which I do find preferable; or some kind of puritan commonwealth...). While there is much to admire (I read a lot of Chaucer and his contemporaries, I regard the Gothic Cathedrals as the most beautiful of all buildings) overall I don't much like the idea of Catholic Europe in the way that Chesterton and Belloc painted it. I have tried to make myself, at times; but really I don't. My aversion is solid.

In sum, I cannot regard any previously existing Christian society or type of Christianity as what was wanted or intended - all had good qualities, but all were very deeply and profoundly flawed (not always from their own fault - but usually so). In sum, I am not a traditionalist in any overall sense, nor in any sense which would enable me to point an any actual society and say that was how it was meant to be; that is what Christ intended for us.

I presume a real reactionary must be able to do this, must be able to regard some previous state of affairs as pretty-much ideal, given the constraints (although reactionaries differ greatly among themselves as to what 'that' actually is) but I cannot and do not want to be able to do tit: I am not and do not want to be a reactionary!

Not that I like these times and their trends - they are awful. I am on record of saying on multiple occasions that nowadays in the West seems to be the most evil time and place in human history - the only time when an increasingly systematic inverted morality (good as evil, evil as good) has been officially promoted and enforced in a sustained fashion.

But I am convinced we need to go through these times and out the other side; not back. My diagnosis is that we are stuck in rebellious adolescence - but the adolescence was both necessary and good - the problem was getting stuck for 200 plus years in what was meant to be a short transitional phase leading to a grown up Christianity of a type we never yet have seen.

So I am not a reactionary - I am future orientated. What I would most want is a Christian society, a theocracy - but of a type and nature as yet unseen and unknown (except in glimpses). This would - presumably - delay The End (which seems to be what God wants - he wants this world to last as long as possible, as long as it does good for salvation and theosis) ; but of course in the fullness of time the end will come; and will need to come. But that is God's business, and not even Jesus knew the timing. 

But I regard all previous and existing forms of Christian life as flawed and or stunted; i particular most serious churches are currently severely limited, stunted and distorted by continually having to fight the sexual revolution (they have to do this, it is necessary that they do this, I support them doing this - but the fact is that it takes a serious toll on what is possible for Christian churches in our era).


ted said...

I always liked Nicolás Gómez Dávila's definition of a reactionary (I resonate with this myself):

“If the progressive casts himself into the future, and the conservative into the past, the reactionary does not measure his anxieties with the history of yesterday or with the history of tomorrow. The reactionary does not extol what the next dawn must bring, nor is he terrified by the last shadows of the night. His dwelling rises up in that luminous space where the essential accosts him with its immortal presence. The reactionary escapes the slavery of history because he pursues in the human wilderness the trace of divine footsteps. Man and his deeds are, for the reactionary, a servile and mortal flesh that breathes gusts from beyond the mountains. To be reactionary is to champion causes that do not turn up on the notice board of history, causes where losing does not matter. To be reactionary is to know that we only discover what we think we invent; it is to admit that our imagination does not create, but only lays bares smooth bodies. To be reactionary is not to espouse settled cases, nor to plead for determined conclusions, but rather to submit our will to the necessity that does not constrain, to surrender our freedom to the exigency that does not compel; it is to find sleeping certainties that guide us to the edge of ancient pools. The reactionary is not a nostalgic dreamer of a canceled past, but rather a hunter of sacred shades upon the eternal hills.”

Danelaw said...

Well, I am not sure what you mean - do you mean simply that no society has yet applied very well, or completely, the old ideas? Or are you making the far more serious charge that we still have to find the right ideas?

Owen Barfield thought that 'going forward' would in many ways look very much like going back - he dscribed it as a U shaped thing. He seemed to think we already have the right ideas, and they are quite simlar to the old ideas. He said its possible to see his philosophy as an example of the 'perennial philosophy', and when someone pointed out that Rudolf Steiner's ideas contained nothing you couldn't find in the traditional mystic Jacob Boheme, he admitted there was a great deal of truth in this charge.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Danelaw - I agree with/ am convinced by Barfield on this. But it means that to divide people between reactionaries and modern is inadequate - we are not supposed to be either.

I am critical here of the pathetic/ evil-tending 'more-reactionary-than-thou' discourse at work in the anti-Left blogs - where people accuse each other of deviations from their own version of ideological purity; as if we were supposed to be aiming for a static society of static entities, everything locked-into its 'perfect' postion.

This error in describing Christianity is a by-product of false (incoherent) metaphysical assumptions; and of shoe-horning Christianity into an alien metaphysics; of believing the prior metaphysics rather than the upfront and obvious core message of Christianity.

In fact, Christianity implies a different metaphysics than existed among the intellectuals of the Roman Empire, and it is their metaphysics which needs to be changed.

The advent of Mormonism showed this implicitly, but the major metaphysical breakthrough of Mormonism has never really been clear, nor even acknowledged - hardly even to Mormons (who are understandably focused on other, practical, matters - the clarification first came from a lapsed Mormon, Sterling McMurrin).

And non Mormons are usually blind to the whole issue because they see no alternative to what they already know, do not realise the extent to which they distort Christianity, and cannot believe that Joseph Smith (a hardly-literate farm boy) could have made a major advance in philosophical theology!

(Of course he, *personally*, didn't; but acted under divine inspiration in this regard.)

Danelaw said...

So, if I understand you Bruce, you are objecting to the notion that the good society is a static society - which you say is a Greco-Roman notion - and think Christianity implies that the good society is one in which change occurs, in which evolution occurs - the Steiner/Barfield idea.

So that, the future will not be a return to some former application of Christian principles, nor will it be an improved application of those principles (which would be change of a sort, but maybe still reactionary as in looking back to old values), but will actually evolve new values, new principles, new modes of being - and that we don't even know what these will be yet, they are dimly glimpsed.

We don't yet have the perfect template, and never will, because that is a product of evolution - the perfect template of values and ideas are not those to be found in the Gospels, which it is our job to apply both personally and socially as best as we can, the values found there are not valid for all time but merely one phase in an evolutionary process that will result in a mode of being perhaps only hinted at in the Gospels. The Gospels are less an eternal template of values and more like hints to go in a particular direction.

If this is true, Bruce, is there anything solid we can cling to in your view?

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - I can't really explain this briefly, I'm afraid - but I can answer your question: "is there anything solid we can cling to in your view?" by quoting the previous post "the primary assumptions of God being creator, wholly-good and our wholly-loving Father."

Jason Rose said...

Interesting. Being stuck in a form of eternal adolescence is precisely what Occultist Aleister Crowley wrote about in his 'Book of the Law' nearly a hundred years ago. Whilst I have to wholeheartedly state that I have no real admiration for the man, he has been fairly prescient on the course of mankind's current regression.

These times according to these occultist types were called the 'Age of Horus', and it coincides to a large degree with other titles such as the 'Age of Aquarius', or what is now in general dubbed the 'New Age'. Crowley wrote about the fact that mankind was heading into an age where rampant consumerism, a lack of responsibility and indifference towards traditional morals would reign. I do believe we are at the cusp of a world changing event, but I'm led to believe that time is cyclical and hopefully those who have not totally descended into complete wretchedness will survive whatever is coming to be those who take mankind back on track towards our destiny.