A Conversation with Frédéric Delavier, Bodybuilder & PhilosopherGregoire Canlorbe
Frédéric Delavier is a French author of books on bodybuilding, who also became a philosopher. His book Guide to Bodybuilding Movements was first published in 1998 and was a worldwide bestseller, with over two million copies sold. It has been translated into more than thirty languages. He is also known as an educational and critical videographer on his YouTube channel. He recently published a treatise on philosophy, The Awakening of Consciousnesses (L’Éveil des Consciences), which is awaiting translation into English.
Grégoire Canlorbe: Could you start by telling us about what motivated your decision to pursue a career in sculpting the body and in writing books on the subject?
Frédéric Delavier: To tell the truth, I have never been a bodybuilder, despite the fact that everyone presents me as such. I do bodybuilding because I like it, and because I like to walk around with a solid form; but I never wanted to have a bodybuilder physique. When I started bodybuilding in my youth, I saw it as a complement to the combat sports that I practiced: a way to increase my strength and therefore my dangerousness on the tatami. I naturally frequented, and observed, bodybuilders on this occasion.
If I ended up writing books on bodybuilding, it was because I had no other choice in order to survive. My original job was as an illustrator. When I was younger, I saw myself becoming a great painter, in the Renaissance style. My chances of succeeding in this field, which were already compromised by the prevalence of modern art, were all the slimmer as I did not have the right contacts. I then turned to advertising, where I worked as a painter and illustrator until oil prices soared at the time of the Gulf War, and the repercussions cost me my job. Unemployed and plunged into poverty, I bounced back by specializing in doing illustrations for bodybuilding magazines.
In addition to making use of my own bodybuilding experiences, which I acquired in sports, I studied morphology at the École des beaux-arts in Paris, and I attended dissection courses at the medical school. In this way, I established myself as the best in my professional field; I still made too little, alas, to be able to live on it. But being patient and perseverant, and also a perfectionist, I developed my Guide to Bodybuilding Movements at the same time. When it came out, the book quickly became a global bestseller, and I continued along this path.
GC: We sometimes hear that literature, whether reading or writing, is a feminine activity, whereas philosophy is authentically masculine. A man who loves literature would be an emasculated man, quite simply. What do you think?
FD: That philosophy is a male activity, this is attested; however, it is exaggerated to claim that literature is a feminine activity. Both men and women read, and write poems, novels, or short stories. But as there exists a certain type of novel which above all aims to trigger emotions, which is aimed at a primarily female audience, it is easy to imagine that literature is a women’s affair or effeminate.
I have in mind what are called romance novels, those mushy love stories which are properly feminine. “Kevin took Carla in his arms. She looked at his big eyes and saw softness, while his face was ordinarily brutal. She knew at that moment that they were bound together for life.” Whether they are written by men or women, these second-rate novels have the sole function of putting women in a trance, to make them feel intense emotions. The analyses they contain are superficial, if not non-existent.
Not all novels are female novels, of course, far from it. A masculine novel is one that contains substantial analyses, and that uses the emotion it provides as a means of engraving them into the reader’s memory. These novels are addressed to both men and women, but are generally written by men; and this is because they emanate from the type of philosophical activity that is masculine. If Guy de Maupassant and Leo Tolstoy can be described as great novelists, it is precisely because they wrote masculine novels, novels that analyze the world with incredible acuteness.
To say that women are not inclined to practice philosophy is not any more sexist than to claim that men are prone to war and that this behavioral trend has caused billions of deaths. It is a simple observation highlighting the division of tasks in humanity. Philosophy can be defined, in the last instance, as the observation of the world and its analysis in order to control it and to bring energy to women who are busy with being motherhoods. It is therefore normal that philosophy is predominantly male, which does not mean that a woman can never shine in this way.
Likewise, to realize that war – the function of which is the territorial defense and predation to take, or conserve, energy and women – is an essentially masculine activity does not exclude the fact that some women can also excel in this murderous area. Mankind is built on the division of tasks, which does not mean that woman does not carry within her male potentialities that can express themselves brilliantly in the hazards of existence – and vice versa.
GC: A striking feature of our recent history has been the rise of the average standard of living to previously unsuspected heights. In your opinion, how could such an enrichment of humanity, which is certainly material but also scientific and philosophical, happen in the last two centuries?
FD: I would say that innovations in industry, coupled with those in transportation and communication, have had a decisive role in the rise of the standard of living. For an invention to change the world, it is not enough for it to just come into existence; it must be transmitted and disseminated on a large scale. In Europe, the traditional role of the Jews, given their intra-ethnic solidarity and their dispersion, was precisely to collect these isolated inventions and to make them known. These synaptic connections, which took shape in the synagogues, surmounted the borders and wove an emerging intelligence across the continent.
The task of networking new ideas is now that of the Internet, which allows a global interconnection unprecedented in human history. Deep in the backcountry, you can access this huge neural network and enrich your knowledge. A new generation of philosophers is rising who are no longer state philosophers, or academics in their ivory tower, but autodidacts who have life experience and who brew digitized information. Theoretical and virtual knowledge is certainly indispensable; but the closeness of real things, the communion with the breath of life, and the acquisition of a man’s experience are necessary, too.
I wish to remind the reader that the principle of true philosophy is not to develop an encyclopedic culture, but to conquer the world’s energy through analysis, and to bring this energy to women, who are programmed for the home. Philosophy is therefore an act of life. Since schools and universities train men in hierarchy and obedience, and inculcate in them a teaching that they must ingest without questioning its validity, it is logical that the great writers and philosophers of today often have poor schooling. But despite this lack, they maintain a free spirit and are able to question the world, thus allowing progress in these two closely-related fields of philosophy and literature.
FD: The success of North Korean Communism in surviving (while the USSR collapsed, and both China and Russia moved towards a market economy) seems to me to be linked to an anthropological fact: Asians are communitarian in essence. North Korea are only realizing the communitarian trends that are rooted in their Asian genes. Because his genetics predispose him to cultivate individualist mores, a European can never be really Communist in his economic and political functioning. But an Asian will always place the group before the individual, even if he lives in a capitalist country like China or Japan.
If North Korea is mediated, it is mainly because Trump, who crystallizes the tension around Kim-Jong Un, sees it as a way to exhibit his strength and his virility before the American people. In this way, too, he makes himself irreproachable concerning his patriotism and his attachment to those American values that are democracy, entrepreneurial freedom, and the resistance towards oppression. In reality, Trump is relatively unaffected by the North Korean regime: The mission he has undertaken is, first and foremost, to establish US energy self-sufficiency over shale gas and oil, the tar sands. But except for when Israel’s security and independence are at stake, he is not interested in foreign policy.
The war that preoccupies Trump is an economic war, which is being fought between the companies involved in oil production in the Middle East and the companies linked to the United States’s oil windfall. Given that, in the eyes of the US government, the Islamic State no longer has the value of an ally of circumstances against Russia, Putin now has a clear field for solving the problem of religious fanaticism in the Middle East. In the wake of it, we are witnessing the formation of a Russo-Turkish alliance that must allow the Russians to gain access to the Mediterranean, and the Turks to avoid the formation of a Kurdish state that would undermine the unity of the territory under Ankara’s control. As I predicted, these ancestral enemies that are Turkey and Russia are becoming allies.
GC: The reemigration of unpatriotic and aggressive legal immigrants (or their descendants), especially those from North Africa, is an idea that is becoming increasingly popular. Your thoughts?
FD: Aggression is a fertile force without which nothing is possible: it is all about knowing how to channel and use it wisely. But besides the fact of North Africans tending – for genetic reasons – to be particularly aggressive, French society is divided into hereditary strata, and offers no social ladder apart from sex and cronyism. The resulting frustration is such that aggression, which runs into a wall, becomes delinquency, big and small. Concerning the “reemigration”: To be fair, sending back people who were born and raised in France, who have French friends, and who in many cases have half-French and half-foreign children, seems to me to be wholly utopian . . .
GC: “If we consider,” as Gaetano Mosca invites us to do in The Ruling Class, “the inner ferment that goes on within the body of every society, we see at once that the struggle for preeminence is far more conspicuous there than the struggle for existence. Competition between individuals of every social unit is focused upon higher position, wealth, authority, and control of the means and instruments that enable a person to direct many human activities, many human wills, as he sees fit.
“The losers, who are of course the majority in that sort of struggle, are not devoured, destroyed, or even kept from reproducing their kind, as is basically characteristic of the struggle for life. They merely enjoy fewer material satisfactions and, especially, less freedom and independence.”
What ideas does this statement of things inspire in you?
FD: This analysis is interesting, but opposing the struggle for preeminence against the struggle for existence leaves me circumspect. The struggle for preeminence is only a by-product of the struggle for life. The competition for power, whether political or economic, always comes down to a competition for the power to lead a long life, to watch over one’s health, and to make beautiful children with beautiful women. It can happen, of course, that people use this energy instead to conquer or keep power, and that they thus no longer have the time, leisure, and energy to make children.
It is even a classic case. These people get power but do not enjoy its fruits – namely, the transmission of their genetic background to strong, beautiful, and vital offspring, which will maximize the chances of survival and propagation of this same genetic legacy. In other words, if you want to be powerful, then make love with beautiful women; and if you want to make love with beautiful women, it is to become immortal. Aggressiveness is this relentless impulse that drives you to fight for power, women, and eternity.
The aggressive instinct, which biological evolution has selected for this reason, is the only true motor of individual achievement. Unfortunately, for those born with strong aggressiveness, but grow up on the wrong side of the barrier, human societies are disproportionately open to competition and the renewal of elites. There are three emblematic examples which, I think, would be examined from this point of view: Turkey, the United States, and France.
Turkey, before being a Muslim country, is a military meritocracy. Turks are Muslim in the family sphere. The rest combine the structure of village camaraderie with a strong meritocracy in the army, which exerts a leading economic and political influence. Religious morality is respected and observed, of course; but at the level of society as a whole, beyond the circle of the family, the army and its chivalrous code of honor have priority in the scale of values. One must be wary of stereotypes and keep in mind this originality of the Turks within the Muslim world. That said, Turkey is not only a military power: its domestic market, its position on the Mediterranean, and the strong relations it maintains with Europe, Russia, and the Middle East give it significant commercial weight.
As for the United States, social mobility takes place there through success in business. Military and religious values are respected, but take second place: money and commerce are the fundamental values. The United States is also meritocratic in its university system; however, it is meritocratic in relation to the whole world. To access prestigious schools, and in this way, access key positions in companies, Americans are not just competing with each other; they are competing with the best students and researchers from around the globe. This disadvantage, which is the price to pay for the superiority of American universities and firms, does not harm American society. The United States is not France.
As I mentioned before, France is a country of sclerotic castes. By this, I mean that your social rank and professional credibility, in many areas, is defined by your degree and the school you attended, not by what you have achieved in life. The entrance requirements for these schools are highly selective: in addition to demanding high registration fees, admission requires that you rank among the top tier in an exam that asks you to recite an astronomical amount of data. Without Mom and Dad to support you financially, including the costs of preparatory classes, and without the calmness to work like a horse (as they say in Hungarian), you can hardly claim the top ranking.
There are other ways to succeed, of course, even if it is practically never through merit. As I mentioned above, there are networks and sex, but also luck. I am thinking in particular of the chance to have access to a new economic niche. The one who sets up the first network of kebab shops in France will become a millionaire and settle in the privileged districts. He will put his children in a school in Neuilly and, in meeting the parents of other students, increase his network. When you are rich, you are neither Jewish, nor Arab, nor yellow, you are simply rich; and all the doors open to you, you are now part of the upper class.
It is worth remembering, by the way, that man is just as much a social animal as an aggressive and individualistic animal. The desire to belong to a given group is not any less pressing than that of proving who we are, the uniqueness of our personality, and of elevating ourselves in society for the sake of beautiful women and immortality. If young people dress as young people, that is to say with the uniform of youth, it is to show that they belong to that group. Ditto for the punk who dresses in that uniform, and the bourgeois who dresses with the bourgeoisie’s uniform.
Belonging to a group is not only a condition of individual survival, because each individual has a very special task assigned to him for the proper functioning of society. If exclusion resonates for the individual as a death sentence, it is also because belonging to a group constitutes a desire that is anchored in the deepest part of our genome. Isolation is a type of moral suffering that kills you slowly. That is why man is ready to make all sorts of compromises to belong to a group: He is ready to conform to all its thoughts and to follow all its modes of expression, so long as it keeps him away from the hell of loneliness.
Merchants and politicians know this well. The former sell the external signs of belonging to the group, as fashion; the latter impose the correct type of thinking for the moment, which they present as what the group thinks. If man dresses and thinks as he is told, it is, in truth, neither to be fashionable nor to espouse the ideas that seem to him morally and intellectually justified, but to belong to the group without which his material subsistence and his moral health are compromised.
GC: Rightly, in my opinion, Jean-Claude Van Damme states, “The most beautiful religion that one can have is to enter into oneself and to digest the essence of life, to digest oneself, and from that, to produce his own religion: instinct. And the culmination of instinct is love!” Does this analysis echo in your own spiritual experience?
FD: Jean-Claude Van Damme, a Belgian philosopher, is right. Does Jesus really say something else? His message was, alas, corrupted and misappropriated by the Catholic Church, just as Islam, as an organized religion, shows no fidelity to the teachings of Muhammad. Entrusting the propagation of the word of Christ to clergymen who are frustrated by not having access to females is to guarantee the misunderstanding of His word by the faithful, who are fatally manipulated and misled. I say it without malice; but with the exception of Buddhism, which is the middle way between philosophy and religion, all cults and all religious bodies are masquerades.
“Drink! Because this is my blood.” “Eat! Because this is my body.” The meaning of these metaphors does not lie in rites that take them literally: the wafer and the altar wine. Their decipherment is through the realization that we are nourished by the world – that we feed on ourselves as we are the world, the consciousness of the world. It is the equivalent of the symbol, the serpent Ouroboros, who bites own his tail and lives by feeding on himself. The idiot will say that he is alone, that he owes nothing to others. A slightly more intelligent man will say that he has free will, and that he is the master of his thoughts and of his will. The wise man will say that he is the way in which God or the Spirit of the World is incarnated in a certain spatio-temporal situation.
What your body thinks, and what your genes dictate to you – it is really the world that thinks and dictates it. Your thoughts are not free. They constitute automatic reactions to what you perceive in the world. Your automatic thoughts are not only determined by the content of your perceptions; they bear the mark of the genes you have inherited, as well as the mark of your social background and of the education you have received. They bear the mark of your confrontation with the world. That which thinks in you is therefore the world, but in a given spatio-temporal context, it is yours. God is only the thought of the world, the world’s self-awareness developed by human beings.
Metaphorically, this is what Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius, and all the wise men and all the prophets, teach. You owe nothing to yourself, you owe everything to the world, for better or worse. “I welcome the Holy Spirit!” The real meaning of this can be expressed in these terms: I welcome the consciousness of the world, and I sacrifice myself, in turn, for the smooth running of the world. This sacrifice is, for example, that of a mother who endures the pain of childbirth, for the cycle of life to continue.
We have talked about spirituality. I would also like to submit my hypothesis regarding the birth of spirituality. From the dawn of mankind, the notions of time in language have enabled man to conceive of himself as “dematerialized” by the spirit in a distant past and in a hypothetical future. In other words, they have enabled man to be able to conceive the mind without the body, and thus to have access to a spirituality, that is, to conceive of the spirit: the spirit of the ancestors, the spirits of nature, then the gods, and finally God, who returns in us, His spirit being incarnated in the flesh, and the circle being closed.
GC: In my humble opinion, loving money does not harm the person or the nation morally. Only the bourgeois mentality is corruptive: the contempt for fighting and the spirit of conquest, the search for endless tranquility and for living without the slightest effort, praising superficiality. In the same manner as what happens to Rocky Balboa in the third installment of the saga, material comfort can foster this state of mind; but it also happens that individuals and societies enrich themselves without becoming bourgeois.
How do you explain that Japan in particular has become a leading economic power without diluting its virility due to the abundance of wealth?
FD: Rocky III indeed highlights the trap of embourgeoisement, a threat that becomes greater as money abounds and everything seems possible. The film also shows that it is a process that is not fatal, since Rocky ends up regaining “the eye of the tiger” and his honor. The key lies in mental strength, the ability to challenge oneself and to extend one’s power on a daily basis; the ability to voluntarily inflict pain upon oneself in order to progress, as great as the temptation to fall asleep in the comfort of life is.
Sylvester Stallone is a man who knows he must not form a bourgeois mentality, and who does everything he can to avoid it. He continues, at age 70, to do bodybuilding at a very high level, and personally runs his own career in writing, and sometimes directing, the movies in which he performs. He is all the more experienced as he has not been spared by life, and he has overcome terrible events: his divorce that left him ruined in the late 1980s, but also his crossing of the desert and, more recently, the death of his son.
The first symptom of embourgeoisement is the loss of the fighting spirit. While a woman is made to raise children and to transmit knowledge to them, a man is made to know the world and to conquer the energy of the world. In this context, he is forced to fight because he is necessarily engaged in competition with other men. A man is therefore made to fight; but he is made to fight for something, his survival and the transmission of his genes, and not to fight against someone or something.
It is in this sense that religion asks us to love our enemies, for who are our enemies, if not those who are opposed to us in the struggle for life? In this struggle, we have no choice but to lead it; but we must fight with each other in a spirit of mutual love and respect. Hatred has no place in the struggle for life. This imperative holds as much for individuals as it holds for nations and civilizations, hoping that the reign of sharing will come about. For the moment, we are still in that of predation.
About Japan, I can’t speak precisely because it is a culture I know little about, apart from the judo and jujitsu that I practiced in my youth. What I can say with certainty, however, is that Japan is immune to embourgeoisement because of the seismic zone in which it is located. The Japanese know that nothing lasts forever there, and that the chatter of society will eventually be quietened cyclical destruction. They live on a small archipelago which is easily subject to overpopulation, and have consequently developed a strong spirit of sacrifice.
GC: A short while ago, you used to wear a mustache, criticizing those who see it as a vain and ostentatious ornament, or even as a sign of physical and moral weakness. Would you say that Victor Newman, the mustachioed star of the serial The Young and the Restless, precisely embodies the alpha male ?
FD: Victor has held the series on his shoulders for more than twenty years! He certainly represents what every woman dreams of: a mature man who possesses great wisdom and who occupies a position of influence; who defeats his enemies and who renders justice ruthlessly. I remember that Victor, who arrived in the serial about forty, saw his musculature growing gradually, to the point of being today bodybuilded. But he has always had his mustache.
The advantage of wearing a mustache, in terms of human relations, is that it facilitates people remembering your face. People all the more easily remember what you look, or looked, like. They all the better associate your face with your name, during your lifetime and beyond. Many politicians, Hitler and Stalin for example, wore a mustache for this reason. Since it helps the memory, it also allows one to receive greater attention from the people, which is an asset in the struggle for political power.
GC: Thank you for your time. Would you like to add something?
FD: There is one last point that I would like to clarify: bodybuilding teaches life. You build your life as you build your body. If you do not work enough, you do not build anything; if you work too much, you destroy yourself. I want to thank you for the quality of your questions, as well as all those who read me and follow me on social media. I am always moved when I receive a message from a person whom I inspired and who was able, through my teachings, to free himself from the human hierarchy to become a free individual.
This conversation between Frédéric Delavier with Grégoire Canlorbe took place in Paris, in November 2017. Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar who has conducted numerous interviews with economists and social scientists for academic journals such as Man and the Economy, which was founded by the Nobel Prizewinning economist Ronald Coase. His interview subjects have included a wide range of renowned personalities such as Yves-Saint Laurent’s co-founder and former President Pierre Bergé, Greenpeace’s co-founder and former President Patrick Moore, and former Czech head of state Václav Klaus. Canlorbe is at work on a book of interviews with the sociologist and philosopher Howard Bloom about mass behavior in the universe, from quarks to humans. Besides his intellectual and journalistic activities, he is the Vice President of the emerging French party, Parti National-Libéral.
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