Valor, fearlessness, fortitude, resourcefulness, and also, not fleeing in war, charity, and the ability to rule, are the natural duties of a Kshatriya. — Bhagavad Gita 18:23
According to a widely-accepted hypothesis of Georges Dumézil, prehistoric Indo-European society was divided into three basic functions: a sacral, a martial, and an economic class. This tripartite ideology survived the Indo-European migrations throughout Europe and Asia and has persisted, with various modifications, into modernity. In medieval Europe, for instance, feudal society was divided into “those who pray, those who fight, and those who work”: the priests, nobles, and merchants/farmers who comprised the Three Estates of the Realm. Among the Indo-Aryan peoples of ancient India, these castes were known as the Brahmin, the Kshatriya, and the Vaisya.
With the decline of the tripartite Indo-European order and the embourgeoisement of Western society over the last five hundred years, these caste distinctions might seem to have little applicability to 21st century America. Curiously, many on the Right, particularly reactionaries and integral traditionalists, continue to analyze our society in these terms. What’s more puzzling, some theorists tend to employ the most chronologically and culturally distinct terminology of all, the Hindu distinction of Brahmin, Kshatriya, and Vaisya.
Despite its anachronistic tenor, these foreign terms have certain advantages over those which are more familiar to Western ears (priests, kings, knights, patricians, optimates, populares, bourgeois, proletarians, and so forth). For one, the Hindu caste distinctions are more descriptive and precise in terms of both social function and disposition. Indeed, the abiding usefulness of these terms is due to their correspondence to perennial human types. Additionally, their very foreignness makes them a useful analytic tool.
Of the three twice-born castes (we shall leave aside the Sudra laborers and Dalit “untouchables” for now), the priestly Brahmin and the warlike Kshatriya have proven of greatest interest to reactionaries. Modernity has largely been the creation of intellectual-academic Brahmins supported by the bourgeois Vaisya, assisted in moments of revolutionary upheaval by Sudra and Dalit rabble.
By contrast, the Kshatriya is the most inherently reactionary of the castes in its orientation towards order, hierarchy, and justice. It is clear that understanding, identifying, and cultivating the Kshatriya among us is essential to the work of Restoration.
Essential – but exceedingly difficult, especially in the present age. While the contemporary Brahmins are easy to find in the halls of academia or the media, where they serve as the priests, apologists, and inquisitors of our secular liberal religion; and while the respectable Vaisya caste also clearly corresponds to the bourgeoisie that comprises the economic backbone of American society, the 21st century American Kshatriya is more elusive.
We might begin by considering the role and characteristics of the class in question. The Kshatriya’s traditional function is twofold, oriented towards maintaining internal order (the administrative/judicial function) and protecting the state from external threats (the military function). Historically the Kshatriya would hail from the landed aristocracy, typically a patrician, warrior, king, noble, or judge.
Here we are already presented with a puzzle, as the functions of fighting and ruling do not self-evidently go together – consider the difference between the Viking berserker and the Roman senator, for instance. Given its greater applicability to our situation we will be more concerned with the latter function, though it is important to remember that the warrior and the ruler are united in their duty to acquire and exercise power, and prior to the modern era these duties went hand in hand.
Regarding the Kshatriya’s personal characteristics, a brief sketch will suffice. His highest values are honor, nobility, and dignity. He admires the harsh Spartan virtues and disdains bourgeois ease, timidity, and weakness, as well as low-caste vulgarity and degeneracy. He prefers the laconic and aphoristic in his speech, and is viscerally averse to academic circumlocution. He may have a deep interest in genealogy, family lore, and preserving the traditions and remnants of the past; more generally, he will have a love for the history and landscapes of his homeland, a devotion to its people and its gods. He will often delight in physicality, in his own strength and in competition with others. Historically he was expected to be adept in all things bodily, skilled in the martial arts and committed to achieving mastery over his physical form as well as his own mind (remember that the historical Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, hailed from the Kshatriya caste). According to traditional doctrine, unlike the intellectualistic Brahmin, the warrior-ruler is generally more emotive, moved by inspirational rhetoric, grand ideas, righteous anger, and deep feelings of loyalty and fidelity to his superiors, his people, and his land. In the West, the Germanic warrior ethos was synthesized with Christianity and gave Europe the code of chivalry, which enjoined the knight to defend his lord, his Church, and his people, especially the weak and oppressed.
In short, the Kshatriya is concerned with fighting valiantly, ruling justly, and realizing the possibilities of the human condition. “What is the true object of the Kshatriya’s life and his true happiness?” asks Sri Aurobindo in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. “Not self-pleasing and domestic happiness and a life of comfort and peaceful joy with friends and relatives, but to battle for the right is his true object of life […] to find a cause for which he can lay down his life or by victory win the crown and glory of the hero’s existence is his greatest happiness” . Our Western prototypes include the Spartan warrior, the Roman legionnaire or senator, the medieval knight, the Renaissance courtier, and the Prussian soldier.
With this ideal type in mind, we might begin by seeking our contemporary Kshatriya among the “Amerikaners,” heritage Americans of European stock but deeply rooted in their native soil, loyal to its people and traditions rather than abstract ideologies or material acquisition.
Historically, the Kshatriya would be a warrior, a soldier, or otherwise involved in the exercise of force and maintenance of order. However, while some men of Kshatriya disposition may be found among the ranks of the military and law enforcement (and indeed even among our honorable judges, statesmen, and civil servants), the correspondence is inexact. Whatever distinct military class this country once had has always been dependent upon the civil authority and deprived of significant domestic decision-making power. Moreover, the martial ethos in this country has been hopelessly compromised by decades of ideological meddling. Even the most elite military units are under the spiritual and literal control of the academics and oligarchs who dictate policy. For all his bravery, rather than being a ruler in his own right the American soldier or policeman is ultimately a hired gun for the presently-corrupted Brahminate, doing their bidding at the expense of his own soul.
Additionally, while it is difficult to judge contemporary soldiers, lawmen, and politicians with regards to disposition, it seems safe to say that the call of duty is not the deciding factor for many pursuing these professions nowadays. Or at least far distant to ambition, pecuniary gain, and job security.
It is therefore exceedingly difficult to point to a distinct socioeconomic or professional group in the contemporary United States that corresponds to the classical Kshatriya. The last such clearly defined class to exist on this soil was probably the antebellum Southern aristocracy, comprised of landed elites who exercised political power and prized martial valor, whose self-perception was heavily indebted to the ideal of the Roman farmer-warrior, feudal manorialism, and Herrenvolk republicanism. This society, with its origins in the English Middle Ages, was brought to the New World by the Cavaliers following the Royalist defeat at Worcester, and breathed its last at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865. Its remnants have been steadily worn down by a century and a half of Reconstruction, industrialization, and demographic change.
It therefore seems we have no objective means of determining just who the American Kshatriya are, despite their vital importance to the Restoration. This is hardly surprising. America represents, in theory, the triumph of the third estate, consciously founded upon a rejection of nobility and priestcraft. Moreover, the ethnic chaos and regression of castes in the modern world means that a man is rarely born into the role he is destined to play.
Now, more than ever, a discernment of vocations is necessary. To avoid misunderstanding one’s vocation, absolute honesty and deep introspection is required, taking into account one’s earliest dispositions, upbringing, and life trajectory, what Evola and Guénon would call a “personal equation.” In the case of the Kshatriya, the key elements appear to be a sense of profound duty toward one’s people, one’s homeland, and the truth; a distaste for bourgeois complacency and materialism as well as low-caste vulgarity; and an orientation towards power and the practical application of knowledge.
If upon reflection one concludes that his chief motivation is knowledge, he will likely be more comfortably classed among the Brahminate. The key difference between the Kshatriya and the Brahmin is that the former is more interested in the practical application of knowledge, the latter in its acquisition and theorization. The Brahmin has an essential role to play in generating ideas, (provided he can free himself from the default liberal progressivism of his caste these days), but is unlikely to be interested in the actual practice of power. When he is, it tends to manifest itself in fruitless utopianism or horrific acts of violence (i.e. the Jacobins, Bolsheviks, Khmer Rouge, al-Qaeda, etc.).
Alternatively, if one’s talents tend toward business or craftsmanship he would be better situated among the Vaisya. Industrialists, artisans, and innovators are necessary to secure the prosperity and material progress of society and have an important role to play in its maintenance and advancement. However, they are unlikely to be interested the exercise of political power and lean towards conservatism, as any political upheaval cuts into their ability to perform their role.
Having discerned one’s Kshatriya vocation, what follows are some suggestions for cultivating this nature in order to “become who you are.”
1) Embrace the Warrior Ethos
The primary function of the Kshatriya is to uphold justice and to fight for his god and his people. Anyone who identifies as a Kshatriya must therefore embrace the martial virtues.
Given their historical significance, enlisting in the military or law enforcement constitute the most obvious means of pursuing this path, depending upon one’s personal equation and situation. However, this is not necessary and by no means sufficient to develop the Kshatriya nature. There are a number of perfectly legitimate reasons not to take up such professions nowadays, particularly if one is averse to doing the bidding of an illegitimate and at times quite evil bureaucracy.
Regardless of his profession, the Kshatriya must embrace a kind of warrior ethos in his daily life, which involves developing physical and moral courage and fortitude.
The Kshatriya should be familiar with the physical and technical demands of combat: this includes strength training and conditioning, martial arts, a knowledge of weaponry, fieldcraft, first aid, and so forth, sufficient to defend himself, his family, and his community in times of crisis. In addition to the benefits for one’s body, mind, and spirit, a strong, physically capable, and beautiful form serves as a rebellion against the ugliness of contemporary society, making our bodies spiritual weapons in the war against modernity.
In order to perform his duties unflinchingly, the Kshatriya must be mentally and morally strong, shunning softness and embracing a voluntary asceticism in his life. This might involve a Spartan regimen of diet and harsh physical discipline, cold baths, early rising, the avoidance of intoxicants, fasting; anything that trains the flesh and the mind to endure hardship. The goal is to feel greater pleasure in the exercise of the will than we derive from what we are denying ourselves. Take the path of greater resistance. Declare yourself at war with your baser inclinations, and let victory in this battle be your greatest joy.
In the absence of war the Kshatriya could easily lead a life as soft and decadent as any Left-wing professor. It is therefore all the more necessary to experience struggle and sacrifice and hardship, even if it is self-imposed, so as to escape the bubble of modern liberal society and plant one’s feet firmly on the ground.
And even though now may not be the time for the heroism of the battlefield, modern life offers other opportunities for heroism and self-overcoming, however mundane they may seem: the struggle with temptation and sloth; telling the most difficult truths; disciplined commitment to one’s principles; a willingness to go to war – in word and in deed – with the servants of the Enemy. Ultimately, the Kshatriya must develop the will to do his duty with honor and efficacy. Like Nietzsche, we might wish upon them “the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not – that one endures.”
2) Cultivate Imperial Mindset
In addition to training his body and will to reject softness, the Kshatriya must also free his mind from the snares of modernity. This is particularly challenging in the contemporary United States, where much of our knowledge of the present is filtered through the liberal progressive lense of the Brahminate. The American Kshatriya finds himself in a position of intellectual and spiritual weakness vis-à-vis the Brahmin and must therefore strive to develop his own understanding in light of traditional social and political thought.
While most of the American Right is wholly occupied with responding to the latest Leftist insanity, either through delusional conservatism or slavish resentment, the Kshatriya adopts the imperial mindset. As Michael Perilloux described it (in a now-vanished Social Matter article), “Their tone of thought is ‘we are the ruling class, or will be. Let us think how to responsibly guide this thing in a better direction in response to these complex challenges.’ […] They think like a ruling class in exile, which believes in its own mandate and competence.”
The first key to developing intellectual sovereignty is to extricate oneself from the iron cage of modernity by reading old books. As a Kshatriya, the goal is not simply abstract understanding, but rather absorbing the knowledge therein and applying it to the present. To combat the weak thinking and mental indiscipline of contemporary schooling, a solid grounding in the trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric is indispensable.
While individual Kshatriya will of course specialize in whatever field his interests and talents lie, all should attain some understanding of statecraft, philosophy, strategy, history, high culture, and economics; these are the classic liberal arts, the basis of the free man’s action in the world. An understanding of human psychology is also key to making sound judgments of character (this may be more adequately gained through personal observation and reading old novels than college psychology coursework).
Contemporary society assails us with distraction. The ability to concentrate has become a lost art. In order to free ourselves from its grip we must step away from time to time, leaving aside the smartphones and televisions and advertisements. Practice awareness. Meditation (perhaps using some of the early Buddhist techniques described by Evola), the close reading of sacred texts, time spent in nature and in solitude, are all necessary means of cultivating this interior detachment from modernity and its narcotics.
Finally, given the active role he is called upon to play in the Restoration and his vocation as a judge and ruler of men, the Kshatriya must be adept at expressing his ideas in public. A facility with speaking and persuasion is essential, as well as knowledge of negotiation and diplomacy. The ideal Kshatriya will have a gravitas and presence (reinforced by his impressive physique and stoic virtue) that stands as a rebuke to modernity and its degenerate advocates.
Taken together, this would have comprised the classical education of an aristocrat. The essential goal of the Kshatriya’s intellectual development is to free his mind from modernity, particularly from reliance upon the degenerate modern Brahminate, and to develop an integral and comprehensive worldview upon which to act.
3) Ride the Tiger
When looking upon the wasteland of the modern world, it is difficult not to question the purpose and efficacy of our work. It might seem that any endeavor to impose order upon this maelstrom is destined to fail. If it is true that mankind is living in the Kali Yuga, then no amount of effort by the Man Against Time will achieve anything more than a brief eddy of order in the universal river of entropy and chaos.
What is it that prevents our Kshatriya from succumbing to despair and nihilism? A cornerstone of aristocratic ethics is the ideal of doing one’s duty with detachment from results. This ethos is variously known as Karmayoga in the Bhagavad Gita, wu-wei in the writings of the Taoists, and Abgeschiedenheit in the Christian mysticism of Meister Eckhart. Julius Evola called it “Riding the Tiger”: comporting oneself with dignity and integrity in a world of ruins.
The Kshatriya’s life is devoted to war. This may be physical war, or it may be politics (war by other means); now we are speaking of a spiritual war, the “greater war” in which the Kshatriya strives to transcend his petty humanity and align his will with that of God. The final requirement for the Kshatriya, and perhaps the most difficult, is to fight this greater war. To sanctify all of his works and do his duty with detachment and honor. While acting in the world, our Kshatriya must avoid being ensnared and corrupted by it. His disposition must be one of continual war against modernity.
* * *
In conclusion, despite lacking a clearly defined territory or institution of their own, the American Kshatriya might regard themselves as temporarily embarrassed nobility. They are an aristocracy-in-exile, the rightful ruling caste of this country, the only one to genuinely care for the commonweal above ideological or mercantile concerns, imbued with a love for the land and its people as well as a sense of loyalty and duty.
Having mastered his body, mind, and will, how is the Kshatriya to serve his god and his people? How one proceeds from this point depends upon a variety of personal factors and strategic considerations. Some within the Right favor activism, street demonstrations, and working within the political system; while others, such as Neoreactionaries, favor a “passivist” approach which forswears any direct political engagement and instead strives to “become worthy” of power while laying the groundwork for the Restoration.
Whatever one’s approach, there are certain preparatory actions that can be taken by anyone who feels the call. One can devote time to research and knowledge, developing a comprehensive political program and governing ethos; and also become personally worthy and organize with others to build a Männerbund. One should seek to occupy and govern territory – whether it be our own families and social circles, or our local churches, schools, community groups, and towns – building a viable alternative to the “Cathedral.” Additionally, recognizing himself as the spearhead of a noble lineage, any Kshatriya who is able will strive to perpetuate his line and raise his children in the ways of their forefathers.
The Kshatriya’s role is to serve the true king and do God’s will on earth. In the absence of a king he must serve those whom the king would defend. Defend the land against feckless exploitation and destruction. Defend the nation’s history against oblivion. Defend the people against its enemies: both external, who threaten terror or invasion or military attack; and internal, the traitors and fifth columnists, the chattering classes and deracinated intellectuals, the disaffected insurrectionists and opportunists and nihilists, the purveyors of lust and addiction and mindless distraction. Defend the religion and symbols of his people against those who would profane them.
Protect the innocent, bring justice to malefactors, stem the tide of decadence, and impose order upon the land. This is the credo of the Kshatriya. The Restoration cannot succeed without it.
An earlier version of this essay was published at Social Matter Magazine.
1. Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 7, The Creed of the Aryan Fighter, p. 60.
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