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Heidegger Against the Traditionalists

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1. Introduction

Those on the New Right are bound together partly by shared intellectual interests. Ranking very high indeed on any list of those interests would be the works of Martin Heidegger and those of the Traditionalist [1] school, especially René Guénon and Julius Evola. My own work has been heavily influenced by both Heidegger and Traditionalism. Indeed, my first published essay (“Knowing the Gods”) was strongly Heideggerian, and appeared in the flagship issue of Tyr, a journal that describes itself as “radical traditionalist,” and that I co-founded. This is just one example; many of my essays have been influenced by both schools of thought.

In my work, I have made the assumption that Heidegger’s philosophy and Traditionalism are compatible. This assumption is shared by many others on the Right, to the point that it is sometimes tacitly believed that Heidegger was some kind of Traditionalist, or that Heidegger and the Traditionalists had common values and, perhaps, a common project. These assumptions have never really been challenged, and it is high time to do so. The present essay puts into question the Heidegger-Traditionalism relationship.

Doing so will allow us to accomplish three things, at least:

(a) Arrive at a better understanding of Heidegger. This is vital, for my own study of Heidegger (in which I have been engaged, off and on, for over thirty years) has convinced me that he is not only the essential philosopher for the New Right, he is the only great philosopher of the last hundred years — and quite possibly the greatest philosopher who ever lived. I don’t make such claims lightly, and feel that I have only recently come to truly appreciate how much we need Heidegger. Yet reading Heidegger is extremely difficult. The present essay will help to clarify his thought by putting it into dialogue with the Traditionalists, whose writings are much more accessible, and much more familiar to my readers.

(b) Arrive at a better understanding of Traditionalism. We will find that in important ways Heidegger’s thought is not compatible with Traditionalism. The reason for this is that from a Heideggerian perspective Traditionalism is fundamentally flawed: it is thoroughly (and naïvely) invested in the Western metaphysical tradition which, according to Heidegger, sets the stage for modernity. In other words, because Traditionalism uncritically accepts the validity of Western metaphysical categories, it buys into some of the foundational assumptions of modernity. In the end, Traditionalism has to be judged a thoroughly modern movement, an outgrowth of the very epoch reviled by the Traditionalists themselves. All this, again, becomes clear only if we view Traditionalism, and Western intellectual history, from a Heideggerian perspective. I will argue that that perspective is correct. Thus, part of the purpose of this essay is to convince those on the Right that they need to take a more critical approach to Traditionalism.

(c) Arrive at a new philosophical approach. Although I will argue that Heidegger and Traditionalism are not compatible, the case can nonetheless be made that Heidegger is a traditionalist of sorts, and that, for Heidegger, something like a “primordial tradition” does indeed exist (though it is markedly different from the conceptions of Guénon and Evola). In short, through an engagement with Heidegger’s thought, and how it would respond to Traditionalism, we can arrive at a more adequate traditionalist perspective — one that shares a great many of the values and beliefs of Guénon and Evola, while placing these on a surer philosophical footing. In turn, I will also show that there are limits to Heidegger’s own approach, and that it is flawed in certain ways. Here we achieve a perfect symmetry, for these flaws are perceptible from a traditionalist perspective, broadly speaking. What I will have to say on this latter topic will also be of great interest to anyone influenced by Ásatrú, or the Germanic pagan revivalist movement.

In the end, we will not arrive simply at a fusion of Heidegger and Traditionalism, since both are transformed through the dialogue into which I put them. We will arrive instead at a new philosophical perspective, a new beginning and a new “program” for Western philosophy, one that has rejected Western metaphysics and that seeks to prepare the way for something yet to come, something beyond the modern and the “post-modern.” This new beginning is possible because the groundwork was laid by Heidegger, Guénon, and Evola (to name only three).

The project described above is quite ambitious, and it cannot be carried out in a single essay. Thus, the present text is the first in a series of several projected essays. (The outline of the series is presented as an Appendix, at the end of this essay.) Here, I will limit myself to a basic survey of Heidegger in relation to Traditionalism, his knowledge of Traditionalist writings, and the criticisms he would likely have leveled against this school of thought.

2. Anti-Modernism in Heidegger and the Traditionalists

The primary reason Heidegger gets associated with Guénon and Evola is that all three were trenchant critics of modernity. Heidegger and the Traditionalists hold that modernity is a period of decline, that it is a falling away from an “originary” [2] position that was qualitatively different, and immeasurably superior. Further, the terms in which these authors critique modernity are often remarkably similar.

Consider these lines from Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics, worth quoting at length because they sound like they could have come straight out of Guénon’s The Reign of Quantity and Signs of the Times:

When the farthest corner of the globe has been conquered technologically and can be exploited economically; when any incident you like, at any time you like, becomes accessible as fast as you like; when you can simultaneously “experience” an assassination attempt against a king in France and a symphony concert in Tokyo; when time is nothing but speed, instantaneity, and simultaneity, and time as history has vanished from all Dasein of all peoples; when a boxer counts as the great man of a people; when the tallies of millions at mass meetings are a triumph; then, yes then, there still looms like a specter over all this uproar the question: what for? — where to? — and what then? The spiritual decline of the earth has progressed so far that peoples are in danger of losing their last spiritual strength, the strength that makes it possible even to see the decline [which is meant in relation to the fate of “Being”] and to appraise it as such. This simple observation has nothing to do with cultural pessimism — nor with any optimism either, of course; for the darkening of the world, the flight of the gods, the destruction of the earth, the reduction of human beings to a mass, the hatred and mistrust of everything creative and free has already reached such proportions throughout the whole earth that such childish categories as pessimism and optimism have long become laughable. [3]

In a later passage, Heidegger emphatically reiterates much of this: “We said: on the earth, all over it, a darkening of the world is happening. The essential happenings in this darkening are: the flight of the gods, the destruction of the earth, the reduction of human beings to a mass, the preeminence of the mediocre.” [4] Consider also this passage:

All things sank to the same level, to a surface resembling a blind mirror that no longer mirrors, that casts nothing back. The prevailing dimension became that of extension and number. To be able — this no longer means to spend and to lavish, thanks to lofty overabundance and the mastery of energies; instead, it means only practicing a routine in which anyone can be trained, always combined with a certain amount of sweat and display. In America and Russia, then, this all intensified until it turned into the measureless so-on and so-forth of the ever-identical and the indifferent, until finally this quantitative temper became a quality of its own. By now in those countries the predominance of a cross-section of the indifference is no longer something inconsequential and merely barren but is the onslaught of that which aggressively destroys all rank and all that is world-spiritual, and portrays these as a lie. This is the onslaught of what we call the demonic [in the sense of the destructively evil]. [5]

Finally, let us consider a passage from a later text, What Is Called Thinking? (1953):

The African Sahara is only one kind of wasteland. The devastation of the earth can easily go hand in hand with a guaranteed supreme living standard for man, and just as easily with the organized establishment of a uniform state of happiness for all men. Devastation can be the same as both, and can haunt us everywhere in the most unearthly way — by keeping itself hidden. Devastation does not just mean a slow sinking into the sands. Devastation is the high-velocity expulsion of Mnemosyne. The words, “the wasteland grows,” come from another realm than the current appraisals of our age. Nietzsche said, “the wasteland grows” nearly three quarters of a century ago. And he added, “Woe to him who hides wastelands within.” [6]

These passages give a fairly good summation of the essentials of Heidegger’s critique of modernity, which is worked out in much greater detail in his entire oeuvre. (Arguably, Heidegger’s confrontation with modernity is the central feature of his entire philosophy.) We may note here, especially, four major points. [7] I will set these out below, along with quotations from Guénon’s Reign of Quantity, for comparison:

(a) The predominance of the “quantitative” in modernity; the triumph of the quantitative over the qualitative:

Guénon: “The descending movement of manifestation, and consequently that of the cycle of which it is an expression, takes place away from the positive or essential pole of existence toward its negative or substantial pole, and the result is that all things must progressively take on a decreasingly qualitative and an increasingly quantitative aspect; and that is why the last period of the cycle must show a very special tendency toward the establishment of a ‘reign of quantity.’” [8]

(b) The cancellation of distance in the modern period; the increasing “speed” of modernity:

Guénon: “[Events] are being unfolded nowadays with a speed unexampled in the earlier ages, and this speed goes on increasing and will continue to increase up to the end of the cycle; there is thus something like a progressive ‘contraction’ of duration, the limit of which corresponds to the ‘stopping-point’ previously alluded to; it will be necessary to return to a special consideration of these matters later on, and to explain them more fully.” [9]

And:

“The increase in the speed of events, as the end of the cycle draws near, can be compared to the acceleration that takes place in the fall of heavy bodies: the course of the development of the present humanity closely resembles the movement of a mobile body running down a slope and going faster as it approaches the bottom . . .” [10]

(c) Modernity’s leveling effect; the destruction of an order of rank:

Guénon: “It is no less obvious that differences of aptitude cannot in spite of everything be entirely suppressed, so that a uniform education will not give exactly the same results for all; but it is all too true that, although it cannot confer on anyone qualities that he does not possess, it is on the contrary very well fitted to suppress in everyone all possibilities above the common level; thus the ‘leveling’ always works downward: indeed, it could not work in any other way, being itself only an expression of the tendency toward the lowest, that is, toward pure quantity . . .” [11]

(d) Modernity’s reduction of everything to uniformity:

Guénon: “A mere glance at things as they are is enough to make it clear that the aim is everywhere to reduce everything to uniformity, whether it be human beings themselves or the things among which they live, and it is obvious that such a result can only be obtained by suppressing as far as possible every qualitative distinction . . .” [12]

In later works, Heidegger explicitly ties modernity’s will towards uniformity to the “mechanization” of human beings. The spirit of technology becomes so totalizing that finally human beings themselves are “requisitioned” (to use a Heideggerian expression) and integrated as subsidiary mechanisms within the vast machine of modernity. In this connection, consider this passage from Guénon, worth quoting at length:

Servant of the machine, the man must become a machine himself, and thenceforth his work has nothing really human in it, for it no longer implies the putting to work of any of the qualities that really constitute human nature. The end of all this is what is called in present-day jargon ‘mass-production,’ the purpose of which is only to produce the greatest possible quantity of objects, and of objects as exactly alike as possible, intended for the use of men who are supposed to be no less alike; that is indeed the triumph of quantity, as was pointed out earlier, and it is by the same token the triumph of uniformity. These men who are reduced to mere numerical ‘units’ are expected to live in what can scarcely be called houses, for that would be to misuse the word, but in ‘hives’ of which the compartments will all be planned on the same model, and furnished with objects made by ‘mass-production,’ in such a way as to cause to disappear from the environment in which the people live every qualitative difference. [13]

One last quotation from Guénon: “Man ‘mechanized’ everything and ended at last by mechanizing himself, falling little by little into the condition of numerical units, parodying unity, yet lost in the uniformity and indistinction of the ‘masses,’ that is, in pure multiplicity and nothing else. Surely that is the most complete triumph of quantity over quality that can be imagined.” [14]

It would be pointless to amass further such quotations from Guénon since his work is replete with them — and since many of my readers are much more familiar with Guénon’s work than with Heidegger’s. It would be equally pointless to quote the many virtually identical observations from Evola (who is probably much more familiar to my readers even than Guénon). A substantial amount of Evola’s work is occupied with elaborating and extending Guénon’s critique of modernity, to which Evola devoted entire volumes (e.g., Revolt Against the Modern World, Ride the Tiger, Men Among the Ruins, etc.). However, their positions diverge when Evola advocates that the superior man respond to modernity by “riding the tiger” (i.e., utilizing certain negative elements of the modern world, which might destroy lesser men, for the positive purpose of self-realization).

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3. The Evola Quotation in Heidegger’s Nachlass

The foregoing has hopefully demonstrated to the reader that Heidegger and Guénon held strikingly similar views on modernity. Although Heidegger knew individuals who respected Guénon (e.g., Carl Schmitt and Ernst Jünger), no evidence has emerged that Heidegger actually read Guénon’s work. Very recently, however, evidence has emerged that Heidegger read Evola. However, far from supporting the idea that Heidegger was influenced by Evola or sympathetic to him, an examination of this evidence will demonstrate exactly where Heidegger parts company with Traditionalism. [15]

Amongst Heidegger’s Nachlass (the papers left behind after his death) a handwritten note has been found in which the philosopher quotes a passage from Friedrich Bauer’s 1935 German translation of Revolt Against the Modern World (Erhebung wider die moderne Welt). Here is the passage as Heidegger copied it out:

Wenn eine Rasse die Berührung mit dem, was allein Beständigkeit hat und geben kann — mit der Welt des Seyns — verloren hat, dann sinken die von ihr gebildeten kollektiven Organismen, welches immer ihre Größe und Macht sei, schicksalhaft in die Welt der Zufälligkeit herab.

And here is a translation:

When a race has lost contact with what alone has and can give it permanence [or “stability,” Beständigkeit] — with the world of Beyng [Seyns] then the collective organisms formed by it, whatever be their greatness and power, are destined to sink down into the world of contingency.

For comparison, here is the entire passage from Bauer’s text:

Wenn eine Rasse die Berührung mit dem, was allein Beständigkeit hat und geben kann — mit der Welt des “Seins” — verloren hat, dann sinken die von ihr gebildeten kollektiven Organismen, welches immer ihre Größe und Macht sei, schicksalhaft in die Welt der Zufälligkeit herab: werden Beute des Irrationalen, des Veränderlichen, des “Geschichtichen,” dessen, was von unten und von außen her bedingt ist. [16]

We immediately notice two things when Heidegger’s handwritten version is compared to the original. First, Heidegger has rendered Sein as Seyn. [17] Second, Heidegger replaces a colon with a period and omits the last part of the sentence entirely. The part after the colon can be translated as follows: “[to] become prey to the irrational, the changeable, the ‘historical,’ of what is conditioned from below and from the outside.” Why did Heidegger make these changes? Fully answering this question will allow us to see that Heidegger actually rejects Evola’s Traditionalism in the most fundamental terms possible.

First of all, it is likely that this undated note comes from sometime in the 1930s. During this time, Heidegger began utilizing Seyn, an archaic German spelling of Sein (Being). [18] But why? What did this signify? It was not simply eccentricity on Heidegger’s part. By Seyn, Heidegger meant something distinct from Sein, which refers to the Being that beings have (“Being as such”). Seyn instead refers to what Heidegger calls elsewhere “the clearing” (die Lichtung). This metaphorical expression refers to a clearing in a forest, which allows light to enter in and illuminate what stands within the clearing. Thomas Sheehan describes Heidegger’s clearing as “the always already opened-up ‘space’ that makes the being of things (phenomenologically: the intelligibility of things) possible and necessary.” [19] The clearing is what “gives” Being.

Heidegger writes in “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” (1964):

The forest clearing is experienced in contrast to dense forest, called Dickung in our older language. The substantive “opening” [Lichtung] goes back to the verb “open” [lichten]. The adjective licht “open” is the same word as “light.” To open something means: to make something light, free and open, e.g., to make the forest free of trees at one place. The openness thus originating is the clearing. . . . Light can stream into the clearing, into its openness, and let brightness play with darkness in it. But light never first creates openness. Rather, light presupposes openness. However, the clearing, the opening, is not only free for brightness and darkness, but also for resonance and echo, for sounding and the diminishing of sound. The clearing is the open region for everything that becomes present and absent. . . . What the word [opening] designates in the connection we are now thinking, free openness, is a “primal phenomenon” [Urphänomenon], to use a word of Goethe’s. [20]

Consider a simple example. I approach an unfamiliar object sitting on my doorstep. I cannot place it; try as I might it remains a mystery. But as I approach closer still, all is revealed: I see now that it is an Amazon box. In this moment, what has occurred is that the Being of the object — what it is, what its meaning is — becomes present to me. [21] In order for this to be possible at all, I must bear within me a certain special sort of “openness,” within which the Being of something makes itself known or makes itself present. [22]

Contrary to how empiricists tend to conceive things, I don’t actually experience myself as hanging a label onto the object or slotting it within a mental category. This is an analysis after the fact of experience, not what I actually experience. If we are truer to the phenomenon than the empiricists (i.e., if we are good phenomenologists) we have to report that the experience is actually one in which the Being of the thing seems to “come forth,” or to display itself as we explore the object. But, again, this is only possible because of the “openness” referred to earlier. In this openness, Being displays itself; it is “lit up” within the space of the metaphorical “clearing.”

Thus, for Heidegger it is possible to speak of something deeper or more ultimate than Being itself (hence, an Urphänomenon): that which allows our encounter with the Being of beings in the first place; the open clearing. When Heidegger famously refers to “the forgottenness of Being” (Vergessenheit des Seins) he is actually referring to the forgottenness of the clearing. [23] The clearing is forgotten in the sense that we have forgotten that in virtue of which Being is given to us. As I will discuss later, Heidegger holds that the Western metaphysical tradition, beginning with the Pre-Socratics, systematically forgets the clearing, and he traces all of our modern ills to this forgetting. He writes: “In fact, the history of Western thought begins, not by thinking what is most thought-provoking, but by letting it remain forgotten.” [24]

Now, by contrast, when Evola speaks of “the world of being” (Welt des Seins; mondo di essere) in this passage and elsewhere, he is referring to a Platonic realm of timeless essences that are the true beings, in contrast to the changeful, impermanent terrestrial beings we encounter with the five senses. Traditionalism is heavily dependent on this Platonic metaphysics. Consider, for example, Evola’s words from the very beginning of Revolt:

In order to understand both the spirit of Tradition and its antithesis, modern civilization, it is necessary to begin with the fundamental doctrine of the two natures. According to this doctrine there is a physical order of things and a metaphysical one; there is a mortal nature and an immortal one; there is the superior realm of “being” and the inferior realm of “becoming.” Generally speaking, there is a visible and tangible dimension and, prior to and beyond it, an invisible and intangible dimension that is the support, the source, and the true life of the former. [25]

Not only does Heidegger reject this Platonic metaphysics, he sees it as the first major stage in the decline of the West. Its inception is essentially identical with the “forgottenness” of the clearing spoken of a moment ago. All the aspects of modernity Heidegger was quoted earlier as deploring are ultimately traceable, he believes, to Platonic metaphysics. Thus, Heidegger completely rejects the idea that a “race” declines when it has “lost contact” with being, in the Platonic sense of “being” meant by Evola. Quite the reverse: a race — our race — has declined precisely through its turn toward Platonic metaphysics, and its turn away from the clearing. Thus, when Heidegger swaps Sein for Seyn, he is entirely changing the meaning of what Evola is saying. He is rewriting the passage so that it agrees with his own position: the decline of the West stems from its forgottenness of Seyn (the clearing) and its embrace of the Platonic Sein of the Western metaphysical tradition.

Heidegger omits the last part of Evola’s sentence for similar reasons. Let us look again at those words. Evola tells us that when a race has lost contact with “the world of being” it will “become prey to the irrational, the changeable, the ‘historical,’ of what is conditioned from below and from the outside.” Heidegger omits these words because he rejects Evola’s dichotomy between “being” and “the historical.” Heidegger argues, in fact, that Beyng/the clearing is inherently historical (geschichtlich), and changeable (veränderlich). The Being of things actually changes as culture changes. This is the same thing, fundamentally, as saying that the meaning of things changes over time.

But could the Being/meaning of the Amazon box on my doorstep ever change? Of course. Imagine a future world without Amazon, or one in which Amazon has been declared a monopoly and broken up into a number of different, competing entities. No more Amazon boxes on doorsteps. When you do see them, you see them in museums and you no longer see them simply as utilitarian objects. You no longer think, on glimpsing one, “Oh, my copy of Being and Time has arrived,” or some such. Instead, the Amazon box takes on a new meaning: as a symbol of a dark time we are, happily, well beyond; a time in which we allowed companies like Amazon not only to corner the market and put all smaller competitors out of business, but to shape the information we have access to through censorship and the banning of books.

Thus, if the Being or meaning that things have for us changes over the course of history, as culture and circumstances change, then, contra Evola, Being is inescapably “changeable” and “historical.” Evola also says that a race which loses contact with his idea of being falls prey to “the irrational” (das Irrational, in the German translation). Would Heidegger endorse this as well? Is his idea of Being “irrational”? Well, Heidegger does argue that historical-cultural shifts in Being/meaning are not fully intelligible to human beings. The reason for this is that it is always within Beyng/the clearing that things are meaningful or intelligible to us. It therefore follows that Beyng/the clearing itself is not ultimately intelligible. In a highly qualified sense, we could thus describe it as “irrational.” That Evola implicitly endorses the equation of being with “the rational” in this passage is extremely ironic. As we will see in a later installment, Heidegger argues that this equation is a key feature of the modern inflection of the Western metaphysical tradition, and that all the modern maladies Evola decries are ultimately attributable to it.

Heidegger would have regarded Guénon and Evola as philosophically naïve—for several reasons. First, they uncritically appropriate the Western metaphysical tradition in the name of combating modernity. Yet, as I have already mentioned, Heidegger argues that that tradition is implicated in the decline of the West. Second, the Traditionalists naïvely assert that this metaphysical tradition is “perennial” or timeless. They take Platonism as preserving elements of a primordial tradition that antedates Plato by millennia. They hold that the time of Plato belongs to the Kali Yuga (the fourth age, the decadent “Iron Age”), but they take Plato (and other ancient philosophers) to be preserving an older, indeed timeless wisdom. However, this is pure speculation, for which there is no solid scholarly evidence. [26]

A further Heideggerian objection to Traditionalism may be considered at this point, and it is an extremely serious one. Both Heidegger and the Traditionalists decry rootless modern individualism. However, Heidegger’s critique goes much further. Recall that for the philosopher Being is inherently historical and changeable. What things are for us, or what they mean, is determined in part by our historical situation. Human Dasein is always embedded in a set of concrete historical, cultural circumstances. Heidegger writes: “Only insofar as the human being exists in a definite history are beings given, is truth given. There is no truth given in itself; rather, truth is decision and fate for human beings; it is something human.” [27] This does not, however, mean that truth, as human, is something “subjective”:

We are not humanizing the essence of truth: to the contrary, we are determining the essence of human beings on the basis of truth. Man is transposed into the various gradations of truth. Truth is not above or in man, but man is in truth. Man is in truth inasmuch as truth is this happening of the unconcealment of things on the basis of creative projection. Each individual does not consciously carry out this creative projection; instead, he is already born into a community; he already grows up within a quite definite truth, which he confronts to a greater or lesser degree. Man is the one whose history displays the happening of truth. [28]

As a result of this stance, Heidegger rejects both the Enlightenment ideal of a “view from nowhere,” as well as rootless, modern cosmopolitanism.

Consider, however, the following lines from The Reign of Quantity. Guénon writes disapprovingly of “those among the moderns who consider themselves to be outside all religion” —  i.e., freethinking individualists. He asserts that such men are “at the extreme opposite point from those who, having penetrated to the principial unity of all the traditions, are no longer tied to any particular form.” This latter position, of course, is that of Guénonian Traditionalism itself. In a footnote, he then approvingly quotes Ibn ‘Arabî: “My heart has become capable of all forms: it is a pasture for gazelles and a monastery for Christian monks, and a temple for idols, and the Kaabah of the pilgrim, and the table of the Thorah and the book of the Quran. I am the religion of Love, whatever road his camels may take; my religion and my faith are the true religion.” [29]

Though Guénon contrasts the position of the modern freethinker to the Traditionalist, Heidegger would doubtless argue that there is a fundamental identity between them. The freethinker imagines that he has freed himself from any cultural-religious context and become a kind of intellectual or spiritual cosmopolitan. Yet the Traditionalist thinks the exact same thing. The only difference is that the freethinker believes he has cast off religion or “spirituality” itself, whereas the Traditionalist imagines that he adheres to a decontextualized, ahistorical, and universal spiritual construct called “Tradition.” This standpoint too is fundamentally modern.

One might object, however, that Guénon’s decision to convert to Islam and “go native” in Cairo, where he spent the last twenty years of his life, indicates that he was aware that tradition could not be a free-floating abstraction, and that to be a true Traditionalist one had to choose a living tradition and immerse oneself in it. This is true, as a statement of Guénon’s views. But the very idea that one can choose a tradition buys into the modern conception of the autonomous self who may, from a standpoint of detachment from any cultural or historical context, survey the different traditions and select one. It is no use here to point out that all Muslims must, in a sense, “choose” Islam, as it is not an ethnic religion but a creedal one, whose faith all adherents must profess, and to which anyone may convert. This is a valid point, but a superficial one. Islam emerged from a cultural and historical context quite alien to the West, and which no Westerner may ever truly enter.

You can buy Collin Cleary’s Summoning the Gods here.

4. Conclusion

Let us now consider a couple of objections to this Heideggerian critique of Traditionalism.

First, defenders of Traditionalism might respond that Guénon and Evola are primarily grounded in the Indian tradition, and not in Western metaphysics at all. There are essentially two pieces of evidence for this claim. The first is Guénon and Evola’s endorsement of the Hindu cyclical account of time, of the yugas, which is indeed quite ancient. Both seem to accept this teaching in very literal terms, right down to the traditional Hindu calculations of the time span of each yuga (which strike most modern readers as arbitrary inventions). Second is the primacy granted by both thinkers to Vedanta. Both Guénon and Evola regard the teachings of the Upanishads as an expression of a very ancient ur-metaphysics, which constitutes a “perennial philosophy.”

The dependence of the Traditionalists on the Indian tradition is very real. The trouble, however, is that they interpret the Indian materials in terms of the categories and terminology of Western metaphysics. Indeed, this is especially true of Guénon, who shows no signs of recognizing that there is anything problematic about understanding the Upanishads in terms derived from Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy. For example, right at the beginning of The Reign of Quantity, Guénon discusses the duality of Purusha and Prakriti using the categories of “essence and substance” — then, a page later, he appeals to “form and matter,” then to “act and potency.” [30] This is all Aristotelian terminology. Moreover, there is no attempt on Guénon’s part to recover the “originary” sense of these terms in Aristotle. Instead, he unhesitatingly adopts the medieval scholastic understanding of these distinctions.

It may be that Guénon thought it was valid to discuss Vedanta in Platonic-Aristotelian terms because he regarded the Platonic tradition as itself an expression of the perennial philosophy. Thus, he simply decided a priori that Vedanta and Platonism are two streams flowing from the same source: primordial Tradition. But, again, this is pure speculation. The bottom line is that Guénon and Evola do accord special primacy to the Indian tradition over Western metaphysics — but they see the former almost entirely through the lens of the latter. Thus, despite their interest in Indian thought, they are still thoroughly beholden to Western metaphysics.

It remains to consider a further, much more significant, objection to these Heideggerian critiques of Traditionalism. The primary objection I have raised against Guénon and Evola is that they are thoroughly committed to Western metaphysics. This is a problem because Heidegger argues that the Western tradition is not only a falling away from a more primordial encounter with Being, it actually makes possible the modern decadence that Traditionalists rightly reject. But why we should follow Heidegger in any of this? Why should we accept Heidegger’s negative evaluation of Western metaphysics? Why should we accept the thesis that Platonic metaphysics made modernity possible? The next essay in this series will be devoted to addressing just these questions. It will be the first of several essays offering a compressed summary and commentary on Heidegger’s history and critique of metaphysics, demonstrating that the claims he makes are both plausible and profound. Heidegger is right in thinking that Western metaphysics lies at the root of modernity. We will begin with Heidegger’s critique of Plato.

What did Heidegger have to say about tradition? In “The Age of the World Picture” (1938) He warns us against “merely negating the age” and writes that “The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and presumption, achieves, in itself, nothing, is merely a closing the eyes and blindness towards the historical moment.” [31] But Heidegger also argues that the turn toward metaphysics is a turn away from a more authentic way of encountering Being. It is in this latter conception that we find what may be the equivalent of “primordial tradition” in Heidegger’s thought. One of the conclusions that will be defended in this series of essays is that while Heidegger is clearly not a Guénonian or Evolian Traditionalist, he is actually more traditionalist than the Traditionalists.

Appendix. Outline of the Series:

Part One (the present essay): Why Heidegger and Traditionalism are not compatible; major errors in Traditionalism from a Heideggerian perspective.

Part Two: Heidegger’s history of metaphysics, focusing on his critique of Platonism. This account will deepen our understanding of why Heidegger would regard Traditionalism as a fundamentally modern movement, as well as deepen our understanding of modernity.

Part Three: The continuation of our account of Heidegger’s history of metaphysics, from Plato to Nietzsche. Among other things, Part Three will discuss Evola’s problematic indebtedness to German Idealism, especially J. G. Fichte, whose philosophy (I will argue) is like a vial of fast-acting, concentrated modern poison.

Part Four: From Nietzsche to the present age of post-War modernity, which Heidegger characterizes as das Gestell (“enframing”). Part Four will deal in detail with this fundamental Heideggerian concept, which is central to his critique of technology.

Part Five: How Heidegger proposes that we respond to technological modernity. His project of a “recovery” of a pre-metaphysical standpoint; his “preparation” for the next “dispensation of Beyng.” His phenomenology of authentic human “dwelling” (“the fourfold”), and Gelassenheit.

Part Six: A call for a new philosophical approach, building upon Heidegger and the Traditionalists, while moving beyond them. Three primary components: (1) The recovery of “poetic wisdom” (to borrow a term from G. B. Vico): Heidegger’s project of the recovery of the pre-metaphysical standpoint now applied to myth and folklore, and expanded to include non-Greek sources (e.g., the pre-Christian traditions of Northern Europe); (2) Expanding Heidegger’s project of the “destruction” of the Western tradition to include the Gnostic and Hermetic traditions, Western esotericism, and Western mysticism; (3) Finally, social and cultural criticism from a standpoint informed by the critique of metaphysics, critique of modernity, and recovery of “poetic wisdom.”

 

Notes

[1] I will capitalize the “t” in Traditionalism to indicate the school of Guénon, Evola, et al., as opposed to “traditionalism” in the looser, broader sense of the term. This device is necessary, as I will be using the term in both senses. I should also note that it is primarily the Traditionalism of Guénon and Evola that I am concerned with here. I am comparatively less interested in the “softer” Traditionalism of figures like Coomaraswamy, Schuon, Huston Smith, etc. Most of the objections raised against Guénon and Evola herein would apply to these authors as well.

[2] “Originary” (ursprünglich) is a term frequently used by Heidegger.

[3] Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 40-41. This was originally a lecture course given by Heidegger in 1935. It was published for the first time in German in 1953. The material in square brackets was added by Heidegger when the lecture course was published in 1953.

[4] Fried and Polt, 47.

[5] Fried and Polt, 48-49. Bracketed phrase added by Heidegger for the 1953 edition.

[6] Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?, trans. J. Glenn Gray (New York: Harper Perennial, 1968), 30.

[7] One point is omitted from the discussion below, one which my readers might expect me to discuss: “the flight of the gods.” What Heidegger means by this, however, is complicated, and far from obvious. I will discuss this issue in a later essay.

[8] René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, trans. Lord Northbourne (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), 43.

[9] Reign, 42

[10] Reign, 43. For similar remarks see Julius Evola, Meditations on the Peaks, trans. Guido Stucco (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1998), 45-46.

[11] Reign, 51-52.

[12] Reign, 48.

[13] Reign, pp. 60-61. Compare this to some remarks by Alexandre Kojève: “Hence it would have to be admitted that after the end of history men would construct their edifices and works of art as birds build their nests and spiders spin their webs, would perform their musical concerts after the fashion of frogs and cicadas, would play like young animals and would indulge in love like adult beasts.” See Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, ed. Raymond Queneau and Allan Bloom, trans. James H. Nichols, Jr. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969), 159 (footnote).

[14] Reign p. 194.

[15] The discovery of the note in 2015 received some attention in the German press. Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Thomas Vasek claims that “textual comparisons suggest that Heidegger had not only read Evola, as this note indicates, but was also influenced by his ideas from the mid-thirties on, from his critique of science and technology, his anti-humanism and rejection of Christianity, to his ‘spiritual’ racism.” This is a completely baseless, and, indeed, ludicrous assertion, as I will shortly demonstrate. See Greg Johnson’s analysis of the Heidegger note, and Vasek’s article, here.

[16] Julius Evola, Erhebung wider die moderne Welt, trans. Friedrich Bauer (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1935), 65. The translator actually leaves out portions of Evola’s text, but since Heidegger only read the translation and not the original, these omissions do not concern us here. For the full passage in English translation, see Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World, trans. Guido Stucco (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1995), 56-57.

[17] The “s” at the end of Seins/Seyns in the passage simply indicates the genitive case. The nominative is Sein/Seyn.

[18] Anglophone translators of Heidegger have adopted the convention of rendering Seyn as “Beying.”

[19] Thomas Sheehan, Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), 20.

[20] Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 384-385. This essay was translated by Joan Stambaugh; italics added.

[21] Sheehan argues at length that, for Heidegger, Being and meaning are identical.

[22] This way of expressing things should be understood as figurative, and preliminary. Actually, Heidegger wants to entirely avoid a “subjective” treatment of the clearing as some sort of “faculty” or Kantian a priori structure that I “bear within me.” The reason, at root, is that this treatment of the clearing is phenomenologically untrue. I do not, in fact, experience the clearing as something “in me” that is “mine.” Still less do I experience it as something over which I have any kind of influence or control. There is thus no real basis for “subjectivizing” the clearing; for locating it “within the subject.” Indeed, Heidegger critiques the subject/object distinction prevailing in philosophy since Descartes, which locates certain “properties” as “within” a subject, as if this subject is a kind of cabinet in which we dwell, removed from an “external world.” See Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh, rev. Dennis J. Schmidt (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2010), 60-61.

[23] Generally speaking, this is correct. Unfortunately, Heidegger is inconsistent with his use of Sein/Seyn, sometimes referring to Being, sometimes to the clearing that gives Being.

[24] What is Called Thinking?, 152.

[25] Revolt, 3.

[26] The Traditionalists are in much the same position as the Renaissance “Hermeticists” who falsely believed that the Corpus Hermeticum contained an Egyptian wisdom that far antedated Plato and the Greeks, and from whom those philosophers had taken their basic doctrines. In reality, the Corpus Hermeticum was no older than the first century BC, and it derived its doctrines, in large measure, from Plato and his school.

[27] Martin Heidegger, Being and Truth, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 210), 134. Italics in original.

[28] Being and Truth, 136. Italics in original.

[29] Reign, 62-63.

[30] Reign, 11-12.

[31] Martin Heidegger, Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 72.

 

28 Comments

  1. joe tolson
    Posted December 11, 2020 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    It seems that you are beyond your depth. You have a sunny reading of H. while ignoring his arrogant philo-Occidentalism and summary rejection of all things Eastern, while cribbing Taoism.
    You also side-step his total theo-phobia, a thoroughly modern Western conceit. Also, your view od Islam is uninformed. Islam is, indeed, a continuation of Late Antique spiritual-philosophical discourse.

    • Collin Cleary
      Posted December 12, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Someone who begins a response with “it seems that you are beyond your depth” is not interested in dialogue.

      • Valkyrie of Goddess
        Posted December 15, 2020 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        Collin Cleary is correct on Heidegger’s pointing out an error/malefaction/degeneracy in the western metaphysics and the logic of Aristotle, Abrahamism and it’s daughter the “traditional” Church:

        To see what that error leading to our degeneracy, see the excellent exposé by Dr. Joesph Farrell, PhD. on the philosophical malefaction of THE ANCIENT TOPOLOGICAL METAPHOR OF THE MEDIUM in his book https://feralhouse.com/financial-vipers-of-venice/. The chapter on the Topology can be read here on the web: https://erenow.net/common/financial-vipers-of-venice-alchemical-money-magical-physics-banking-middle-ages-renaissance/2.php To better understand the Topology of “Creation” see this excellent treatise : About the Logic of “Creation”
        and the Primary Distinction (Dharma/Logos) http://hans.wyrdweb.eu/how-create-universe-with-use-simple-logic/:

        • Valkyrie of Goddess
          Posted December 16, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink

          True Dharma/Logos Nationalism:

          A concise overview of the principles of a dharma/logos nationalism (classically defined nationalism!!) by S. D. P. Acharya. The Dharma Manifesto (Locations 532-544). Arktos. https://www.dharmanation.org/the-dharma-manifesto/:

          “The People
          A people consists of an ethnically, linguistically, culturally and spiritually homogenous grouping of autochthonous persons, historically tied to the land upon which they thrive. The present morphological and physiological structure of any specific people has been determined by the geographical terrain that they inhabit, by the climatic conditions in which they matured, and by the social, psychological and spiritual circumstances that genetically molded them as a distinct people. A people, defined in a healthy state, is united in social identity by a common sense of community and tradition, stretching across the expanse of history, and united by a common sense of folk kinship. A people is a family writ large.

          The Nation
          The nation consists of the spirit of an ethnically homogeneous people ( Volksgeist in German, or Jana in Sanskrit) manifest in a greater, trans-clanish, nation-wide, social-political community. A nation is not solely comprised of geographic or political identification, nor by mere legal citizenship in the modern sense, but primarily of shared ethnic and cultural group identification. Only a homogeneously constituted ethno-cultural political formulation can be a nation proper. Thus, the contradictorily absurd ideation of a “multicultural” political state (such as America and Canada as presently constituted, and increasingly many of the once-homogeneous nations of Europe) can never truly be an organic nation in the proper sense of this term, but rather represents a muddled assortment of overlapping, intertwined and competing sub-nations within the context of a forced political union. A nation is a family writ to its largest geographical extent.

          The State
          The State embodies the interests and aspirations of the nation in the form of a recognized and valid governmental/political authority, as well as a territorially demarcated geographical region that is organized in such a manner as to most ably facilitate the growth, prosperity and happiness of the people and the nation. A State is a family writ to its largest geographical extent and organized under a central governing authority, and functioning in the sole interests of and for the benefit of its people.

          Instantiating Natural Law (Logos/Dharma) in the Social-Political Arena

          The ideologies of the twentieth century have all failed us. On the left of the political spectrum, Liberalism, Socialism, Communism and Anarchism have all failed to deliver on the utopian paradise on Earth that they all claimed they could create. From the right, Conservatism, Fascism and Capitalism have all failed in their attempt to recapture the better world that once was. The time has come to put the failed ideologies of the twentieth century behind us. The reality of Natural Law (Logos/Dharma) is eternal (sanatana). It has served as the spiritual crucible from which the greatness of our past heritage has been born. More, it will serve as the blueprint for a renewed spiritual civilization in our immediate future.

          What We Stand For

          1. Logos/Dharma Nationalism stresses quality over quantity both philosophically and in all practical policy decisions.

          2. Logos/Dharma Nationalism strives always for order over chaos, beauty over ugliness; harmony over conflict; the natural over the artificial.

          3. Our orientation is toward the Eternal, rather than merely toward the illusion of materialism.

          4. We fight for the unity and integration of our people over social discord and fragmentation.

          5. The natural and organic takes precedence over the artificial and technological.

          6. We support national freedom, sovereignty and decentralization over forced union, centralization and tyranny.

          7. We uphold the values of hierarchical diversity over that of radical egalitarianism. Truth, freedom and depth are expressed vertically, not horizontally.

          8. We espouse firm morality over relativistic ethics.

          9. We demand the abolition of all incomes unearned by work. All incomes and wealth must be earned through personal creativity, hard work and positive ingenuity.

          10. The private takes precedence over the public.

          Neither Liberal Nor Conservative

          Both modern progressive liberalism, and the reactionary response to liberalism in the form of conservatism, are highly flawed manifestations of conflict-oriented, controlled politics. We thus reject them both. Logos/Dharma Nationalism is neither liberal nor conservative in the normative sense of these terms. Some of our positions will seem conservative to some people, while other positions will seem liberal. Rather, the Logos/Dharma Nation Concept transcends such terms by integrating and surpassing the best of both. Logos/Dharma Nationalism is a radically new way of understanding politics that is based upon eternal principles and a common sense approach.

          Neither Socialism Nor Capitalism

          Socialism is the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few via the mechanism of impersonal centralized government institutions. Capitalism is the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few via the mechanism of impersonal centralized financial and corporate institutions. Logos/Dharma Nationalist economics, on the other hand, is the unleashing of the natural resourceful creativity of human persons in the local context.

          The unnecessary conflict over the antithetical economic theories of socialism and capitalism have led to the death of untold millions, the polarization of the world, and economic stagnation (especially during the post-Cold War period). Logos/Dharma Economics is thoroughly opposed to both economic extremes of Socialism and Capitalism. Both systems have arisen as a direct result of materialism, selfishness and greed. Both systems exult the importance of quantitative acquirement over the inherent qualities of human dignity and spiritual value. Both systems have dehumanized the individual person, have purposefully destroyed the traditional family unit, and have turned the natural beauty and inherent value of the Earth into a devalued commodity designed merely for selfish exploitation.

          General Governance Policies

          1. The sanctity of private property rights will be upheld at all times.

          2. The immediate elimination of the progressive or graduated income tax.

          3. The protection of all rights of inheritance.

          4. Protection of the property of all private citizens.

          5. Radical decentralization and demonopolization of the national banking system.

          6. Radical decentralization of the means of communications and transportation into the hands of localized private family-based institutions.

          7. Radical reduction of instruments of production owned by the state, corporate monopolies, media conglomerates, and the military-industrial complex, as well as encouraging private families to bring waste lands into active cultivation, along with the improvement of the general environment.

          8. Elimination of equal liability of all to labor. Encouragement of small family business, and family run agriculture.

          9. Deindustrialization of the agricultural sector, renewal of the many thousands of small cities and towns containing a population of less than 250,000, thus encouraging a more equitable distribution of population over the country. Rather than all power, culture, opportunity, and means of communication being concentrated in only the 50 largest cities of America, these elements should be shared by thousands of smaller cities, as well as all towns and villages.

          10. All education for children should be provided exclusively by privately run schools and/or home-schooling within the family.

          11. The traditional family (a male husband, a female wife, with or without children) shall eternally form the primary organizational unit of the nation. Each and every other form of government – local, municipal, county, state, federal, etc., – exists in the service of the prosperity, protection and interests of our nation’s traditional family units.

          12. While the government is tasked with providing law enforcement services, the individual, family and local community shall always be recognized and respected as the first line of defense against crime. Thus, all citizens shall bear the right to be armed in any manner each citizen deems necessary to defend himself against the criminal element.[1] Individuals and families have the right to organize themselves into local crime watch and protection associations, and to thus assist local law enforcement agencies in their tasks.

          Instantiating Natural Law (Logos/Dharma) in Modern Governance

          Contrary to what materialist historical revisionists have attempted to convince us, there was indeed a time when people were happy, when government truly represented the highest interests and aspirations of the people, rather than merely those of corrupt politicians, and when society actually functioned in accordance with compassion, reason, and mutual concern. Such was the concept of the Logos/Dharma Nation – government that represents the political instantiation of Natural Law principles.

          Logos/Dharma (Natural Law) is an eternal phenomenon, originating from the Divine will of the Absolute, and serving as the sustaining foundation of all reality. Logos/Dharma was at one time the guiding principle of the planet. Logos/Dharma shall again serve to guide us all back to global sanity in the immediate future. Logos/Dharma is again ascending.

          [1] “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence. From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to ensure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable. The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” – George Washington, in a speech to Congress, January 7, 1790.” ~ S. D. P. Acharya.
          1) The Dharma Manifesto (Locations 532-544). Arktos. https://www.dharmanation.org/the-dharma-manifesto/
          2) https://www.dharmanation.org/what-we-stand-for/
          https://www.dharmanation.org/what-we-stand-for/
          The principles of dharma/logos: https://dharmacentral.com/meaning-of-sanatana-dharma-article.html

    • Northern Light
      Posted December 13, 2020 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      I, for one, would be captivated by an articulated critique of what you perceive as the author’s work to be missing. But there really is no need for such derision.

      • Northern Light
        Posted December 13, 2020 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

        *Perceive as missing from the author’s work*

        Oy vey… It’s past my bedtime.

  2. Jeffrey
    Posted December 11, 2020 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Excellent. I cannot wait to read more.

    • Northern Light
      Posted December 13, 2020 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      I concur. I found this fascinating and look forward to reading further installments.

  3. Right_On
    Posted December 11, 2020 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating essay Collin. (Greg Johnson may have to look to his laurels.)
    When I read Heidegger back in the day, I would have gained so much if you had been providing footnotes. Looking forward to grappling with the next in the series.

    I wonder if the differences between Heidegger and Guénon/Evola on the meaning of “Being” reflect their attitudes to the plausibility or usefulness of idealist schools of philosophy. (Apologies if that’s Mastermind of the Bleedin’ Obvious.)
    If you think that, at bottom, The Real cannot just be “stuff in motion” but rather something more Mind-like then you’ll be attracted to Platonism and Indian metaphysics. Did Heidegger basically accept the naturalistic/Darwinian account of mankind’s origins and evolution?

    • Collin Cleary
      Posted December 12, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      No, actually Heidegger was a critic of Darwinism. I may have something to say about this late in the series. By the way, the best “introductory” book on Heidegger that I happen to know of is Greg Johnson’s “Graduate School with Heidegger.”
      https://counter-currents.com/2020/10/graduate-school-with-heidegger-2/
      I highly recommend it, if you’ve not read it already. Thanks for your kind words!

  4. Francis
    Posted December 12, 2020 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    Outstanding article!

    • Collin Cleary
      Posted December 12, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      Thank you!

  5. Момчило
    Posted December 12, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    From the beginning mister Cleary made a fundamantal mistake. He is saying that Evola embraced “platonic view” of opposition between world of pure forms and material world. That claim is wrong in couple of ways. First in his autobiography ( The Path of Cinnabar) Evola states that his spiritual foundation lays in overcoming all oppositions by means of buddhist method. Secondly in Revolt Evola states (and this is another place where he agrees with Heidegger) that the starting point of modern deviation is wrong INERPRETATION of Plato. That interpretation is something that Cleary takes in full force. Plato can be fully understood only in combination with Plotinus, who explained very precisely that pure forms and material world are not in any kind of opposition, but that pure form is present in entirety in every spot of material object. Mister Cleary also thinks that he will arrive at solution for renewal of Western culture with discussion, that is one of the prime characteristics of modern forma mentis.

    • James O'Meara
      Posted December 12, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      I would guess that you have exactly intuited Evola’s response. I happened just yesterday to be looking into the Preface (actually the Intro. to the 4th Italian ed.) to Revolt, and read this:

      ‘The order of things that I will mainly deal with in this present work, generally speaking, is that in which all materials having a “historical” and “scientific” value are the ones that matter the least; conversely, all the mythical, legendary, and epic elements denied historical truth and demonstrative value acquire here a superior validity and become the source for a more real and certain knowledge. This is precisely the boundary that separates the traditional doctrine from profane culture. The scientific “anathemas” in regard to this approach are well known: “Arbitrary!” “Subjective!” “Preposterous!” In my perspective there is no arbitrariness, subjectivity, or fantasy, just like there is no objectivity and scientific causality the way modern men understand them. All these notions are unreal; all these notions are outside Tradition. Tradition begins wherever it is possible to rise above these notions by achieving a superindividual and nonhuman perspective; thus, I will have a minimal concern for debating and “demonstrating.” The truths that may reveal the world of Tradition are not those that can be “learned” or “discussed”; either they are or they are not. It is only possible to remember them, and this happens when one becomes free of the obstacles represented by various human constructions, first among which are all the results and the methods of specialized researchers; in other words, one becomes free of these encumbrances when the capacity for seeing from that nonhuman perspective, which is the same as the traditional perspective, has been attained. This is one of the essential “protests” that should be made by those who really oppose the modern world.’

      As you have read Path of Cinnabar you will perhaps agree with me that “Traditionalism” was for Evola only a “skin” (as the gamers say) Evola added to his basic doctrine of the Absolute Individual; according to his account in Cinnabar, the latter was to be “made concrete” and historical by being identified with the mythical founders of the traditions that make up the Primordial Tradition. But always the Absolute Individual is the senior partner (to vary the metaphor), which means that Evola has no interest in “truth” as understood by Plato, Descartes OR Heidegger; the Absolute Individual (AI?) CREATES facts; thought does not conform to reality (or “dwell in the clearing”), but reality conforms to Will. “Error is nothing but a feeble truth; truth but a potent error.” (Teoria p 308).

      Arguably this seems less Platonic than Fichtean, so one looks forward to the author’s discussion of Fichte’s “slow acting poison”. You are certainly correct in zeroing in on Plotinus, whom Evola considered the true pinnacle of Greek thought, rather than Plato, Aristotle, or Heidegger’s beloved preSocratics: see the collection of quotations from the Enneads that Evola reprints in vol. 3 of Magic; for example, “It is not a question of becoming good, but of becoming a god.”

      • Collin Cleary
        Posted December 12, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, James O’Meara, for your comments. I will try to respond briefly; what you say really merits a longer discussion, however.
        First, you are correct in seeing Evola’s position as more Fichtean than Platonic. However, Heidegger argues that there is a fundamental continuity between the two. He is not one of those scholars who sees a radical break between ancient and modern philosophy. All the talk about the “Absolute Individual” is thoroughly Fichtean, as is the idea that reality must conform to will. For Heidegger, this buys into the idea that there is such a thing as an autonomous “subject” that sits removed from the world (or, perhaps I should say, from manifestation), gazing upon it, and seeing it merely as an object to be shaped according to the will. Heidegger argues that the roots of this idea are in Plato (I’ll discuss this in the next article). Also, he sees this position as thoroughly “modern” because he holds that the modern standpoint is one that regards the world merely as raw material to be shaped according to human desires (his famous concept of modernity as “das Gestell), by human subjects that have mysteriously liberated themselves from all finite perspectives, all concrete historical and cultural situatedness. (In other words, Evola really binged on the poison that’s now killing us! At least according to Heidegger.) The quote you offer from Evola has much in it that illustrates exactly the sort of thing Heidegger would object to. He would have completely rejected the idea of a “non-human” or “super-individual” perspective. There is no “becoming free of the obstacles represented by various human constructions” because there is no becoming free of being human. However, he did not draw from this the conclusion that all knowledge is therefore “subjective.” Finally, the quotation you include contains the very interesting claim on Evola’s part that “mythical, legendary, and epic elements” are superior to what is said to have “‘historical’ or ‘scientific’ value.” The problem here, however, is that while the moderns deny any validity to myth because it is “not historical,” Evola too buys into the idea that myth is outside the order of history. From a Heideggerian perspective, myth, like everything else, is thoroughly historical. Myths, legends, etc., were all created by historical peoples in response to their changing circumstances and self-understanding. I think Evola is quite correct to look at myth as a source of wisdom superior to modern science. But seeing that that is the case does not require endorsing the idea that myth is somehow ahistorical, or issues from some kind of transcendent, non-human source.
        I think you will find that some of your objections and concerns are addressed by subsequent installments of the series (though perhaps not all!). For example, the connection between Platonism and modernity is really not argued for in the present essay; that’s the big issue covered in part two. And the Fichte connection will be discussed in part three. In any case, thank you for your very stimulating response!

      • Момчило
        Posted December 13, 2020 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        The center of Evola’s work (and life) is overcoming of all conditioning, by way of using methods (maybe Ways is the better word) of various esoteric knowledge. His philosophical phase is just a prelude to this. He stated in the Path that his philosophy (theory of Absolute individual) should be read just out of intellectual curiosity, and that it does not have any real worth for self-realisation. Traditionalism is in no way just some outer layer of his worldview. Evola was at one point of his life on the verge of commiting suicide, what puled him out of abyss was reading Pāli Canon, therefore we can say that Tradition created Evola as we know him. Primordial Tradition antecede particular traditions and mythical founders are only signs that point to the way of self-knowledge. To cut things short, for a long time I was reading more political works of Evola (because I approached his work from nationalistic perspective), and there was in the center of his writings something that eluded my understanding. Only when I started reading The Doctrine of Awakening it hit me like a sledge hammer: The State, nation, art, philosophy……. all that has a meaning only if it serves fulfilment of the mission that men have in this field of manifestation that we call life, and that is orientation of center of our inner being toward Metaphysical Center ( The One in Plotinus terminology) and doing our duties in the this lesser world. Connecting Evola with any figure of modern philosophy is a huge mistake, I recommend reading his esoteric works for getting closer to who he really was. ( The best nonevola book for understanding evolian spirit would be Uporište by Dragoš Kalajić, roughly translated stronghold or standing point, unfortunately it has not been translated to English)

    • Collin Cleary
      Posted December 12, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      I will try to respond, just briefly, to some of your points. You state that Evola’s “spiritual foundation lays in overcoming all oppositions by means of buddhist method.” But did he, in fact, manage to overcome all oppositions, or is he still beholden to some, as I contend? That may have been his intention, but I don’t think he accomplished it. Further, how does one overcome oppositions by “Buddhist method”? This is rather vague. (I think the Buddhists would also be surprised to hear that they have a “method.”) You state, further, that Evola believed “that the starting point of modern deviation is wrong INERPRETATION of Plato.” Evola is right about that. The trouble is that he actually has the wrong interpretation of Plato. His understanding of Platonism is basically in line with the majority of commentators in the philosophical tradition. You state that Plato can only be understood if he is read through the lens of Plotinus “who explained very precisely that pure forms and material world are not in any kind of opposition.” Perhaps you are right, but this is not how Evola read Plato, or how the philosophical tradition reads him. Evola makes it very clear that he believes in a fundamental distinction between the forms and the material world. Finally, you attribute to me the position that Western culture can be renewed through discussion — this after reading only the first part of a six part series. It may well be that Western culture must be renewed through something other than discussion. But, to make an obvious point, we will not discover what that something is except by means of discussion.

      • Момчило
        Posted December 13, 2020 at 5:44 am | Permalink

        Did Evola manage to overcome all oppositions is not something that you, or anyone else, will found out by thinking. Buddhism does not have a method, Buddhism is a method ( a Way is maybe a better word), a method of concentrating all forces of man for purpose of overcoming conditioning of this manifestation ( I have in view original esoteric Buddhism and not later philosophical and religious outgrowth). Somehow you managed to put platonism in center of Evola’s work, as I stated in response to mister O’Meara the focal point is overcoming of this conditioned existence by way of esoteric knowledge and manly actions. No philosophical school can help in this, it can only become an obstacle ( see chapter Destruction of the Demon of Dialectics on The Doctrine of Awakening). The last point is the most complicated ( the renewal of Western culture). Discussion can only have a minor part in that hypothetical renewal, the center of that happening will be occupied by men who actively engage in self-transformation of themselves by activation of their innermost forgotten atavistic forces. How is that gong to happen? Nobody knows, nor can really tell you. Such accomplishments are achieved by harsh trials that will break the most, and extract the finest capabilities of the few men that will have the strength to remain standing on their feet. Such trials are already happening and they are gong to get harder very soon. To prepare one self for the struggle, the inner front of the man must be conquered in order to put maximal resistance on the outer front. Reading Evola is one of the better way to achieve this. This is exactly where Heidegger has his biggest deficiency. I partly agree with you that he is the greatest philosopher (only after Plotinus), but all his work is basically academic talk. He lived a petit bourgeois life of university professor and there is nothing in his teachings that can serve as support for overcoming great dangers of life. I Introduction to Metaphysics Heidegger stated that the man who believes in god has resolved his personal question of being and that he has no need of reading discussion on the matter. Before he died he accepted catholic burial. A good critique of Heidegger is located in chapter of Ride the Tiger; Heidegger: “Retreating Forwards” and “Being-for-Death”Collapse οf Existentialism.

        • Момчило
          Posted December 13, 2020 at 5:47 am | Permalink

          This reply to mister Cleary was accidently put in the wrong place in comment section.

  6. Jürgen
    Posted December 12, 2020 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    I am no Heidegger scholar, but was the whole point of Being and Time not that Time itself is contingent upon Being? Being makes time. Therefore I think that calling Seyn „historical“ errorenous.

    Secondly – is the freethinking individual fundamentally akin to the Traditionalist? Less than this essay makes it seem. Heidegger, being a scholar and a man of letters does not deal in esoteric practice. Whoever has dabbled in such practice, either outside an „orthodoxy“ or inside one, knows that the freethinker or the traditionalist who deals in letters, labels and descriptions has nothing to say to the sage who has pure, first hand experience of eternal truths.

    Lastly, while the frame that Plato offers is fundamentally flawed and I absolutely agree with Heideggers criticism, especially from Evola‘s oeuvre I get the idea that the traditionalists are no scholars (Guenon I believe explicitly denounced scholars), but rather practitioners, sages and seers who employ the language of the day to formulate timeless and being-less truth (but probably not Beying-less truth :D).

    As an addendum I would like to state that Serrano probably stems from the same source in that he is a seer who even less than Guenon and Evola stuck to the established linguistic, grammatical framework of his day.

    • Collin Cleary
      Posted December 13, 2020 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Just a brief response:
      Actually the point of Being and Time is the reverse of what you have said: Being is contingent upon time, and history. Things have Being, or show up to us meaningful, in terms of a cultural frame of reference that was laid down in the past. We also “project” what we expect Being to be, into the future, based upon this frame of reference. In short, Being is thoroughly historical or temporal.

      • Jürgen
        Posted December 15, 2020 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        From wikipedia, of all places:
        quote

        That is, time is understood only from a finite or mortal vantage. Dasein’s essential mode of being in the world is temporal: Having been “thrown” into a world implies a “pastness” in its being.

        End quote

        Seyn is not dependent upon time. Beings and Dasein are. That is the crux of the matter.

        If it were not so, then Heidegger would indeed just be a cartesian relativist and all of the criticism from the likes of Lukascz and Adorno would be justified. I don‘t even mention the Traditionalists here.

  7. Posted December 13, 2020 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    One of best essays, I have read on CC….

  8. Момчило
    Posted December 13, 2020 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Did Evola manage to overcome all oppositions is not something that you, or anyone else, will found out by thinking. Buddhism does not have a method, Buddhism is a method ( a Way is maybe a better word), a method of concentrating all forces of man for purpose of overcoming conditioning of this manifestation ( I have in view original esoteric Buddhism and not later philosophical and religious outgrowth). Somehow you managed to put platonism in center of Evola’s work, as I stated in response to mister O’Meara the focal point is overcoming of this conditioned existence by way of esoteric knowledge and manly actions. No philosophical school can help in this, it can only become an obstacle ( see chapter Destruction of the Demon of Dialectics on The Doctrine of Awakening). The last point is the most complicated ( the renewal of Western culture). Discussion can only have a minor part in that hypothetical renewal, the center of that happening will be occupied by men who actively engage in self-transformation of themselves by activation of their innermost forgotten atavistic forces. How is that gong to happen? Nobody knows, nor can really tell you. Such accomplishments are achieved by harsh trials that will break the most, and extract the finest capabilities of the few men that will have the strength to remain standing on their feet. Such trials are already happening and they are gong to get harder very soon. To prepare one self for the struggle, the inner front of the man must be conquered in order to put maximal resistance on the outer front. Reading Evola is one of the better way to achieve this. This is exactly where Heidegger has his biggest deficiency. I partly agree with you that he is the greatest philosopher (only after Plotinus), but all his work is basically academic talk. He lived a petit bourgeois life of university professor and there is nothing in his teachings that can serve as support for overcoming great dangers of life. I Introduction to Metaphysics Heidegger stated that the man who believes in god has resolved his personal question of being and that he has no need of reading discussion on the matter. Before he died he accepted catholic burial. A good critique of Heidegger is located in chapter of Ride the Tiger; Heidegger: “Retreating Forwards” and “Being-for-Death”Collapse οf Existentialism.

  9. Sudden
    Posted December 14, 2020 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Quite a program. Considering Mr Cleary’s previous works, I’m curious about what we could be in for with this new philosophical approach. A Heideggerian Zen of sorts?

  10. Радован
    Posted December 16, 2020 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    First of all, I must say that the attempt to confront Traditionalists and Heidegger is a rather interesting one. The fact that Heidegger has read Evola is important for understanding Heidegger’s thought.
    I would like to come back to the note:
    When a race has lost contact with … the world of Beyng then the collective organisms formed by it, … are destined to sink down into the world of contingency.
    Central for understanding the note is the notion of Beyin (if we can call Beying a notion). You say that Beying = the clearing, but in spite of a metaphorical interpretation of the clearing and a phenomenological description of encountering an Amazon package it is not clear what the clearing actually “is”.
    In Contributions to Philosophy, Heidegger insists that “Beyng essentially occurs as the event.” And the event is that which gives Being, namely that from which the things in the world get their meaning. You also recognize this fact by saying “The clearing is what “gives” Being.” So, the note reads:
    “When a race has lost contact with … that from which things get their meaning [the world of Beyng] then the collective organisms formed by it, … are destined to sink down into the world of contingency.”
    But what is that from which things get their meaning? How does the event “happen”? Heidegger gives us the clues in The Origin of the Work of Art. There he enumerates several ways in which Being comes to “be”:
    1) By setting-itself-into-the-work, through the work of art to be more precise.
    2) By the act which founds a state
    3) By the proximity of that which is not simply a being but rather the being which is most in being – namely, a God.
    4) By the essential sacrifice.
    5) By the thinker’s questioning, which, as the thinking of being, names being in its question-worthiness.
    Of course, Heidegger does not attempt to give a full list of every possible way in which the event occurs, but he states that science is definitely not on the list.
    Let us come back to the note again, and reread it. Now it would run:
    When a race has lost contact with its works of art, the act of founding its state, its Gods, its essential sacrifices and its thinkers’ questionings, the collective organisms formed by it (its institutions) are destined to sink down into the world of contingency.
    One more thing must be made clear: the event is not something that just happens and passes away. The event does not get “worn out”. In that way, the work of art still can determine the being even thousands of years after it was created, and the world in which it was created was ruined. Rilke’s poem Archaic Torso of Apollo gives us an example. In the light of that, Heidegger keeps the construction “When a race has LOST CONTACT WITH”. The events that determine a race will not stop occurring, just the race will lose connection with them. They will be there, in a dormant state if I may say so, to be reawakened in a more favourable time.

  11. William F. Bhakti
    Posted December 19, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Articles like this are what set CC apart, and the reason it is for me a go-to “daily devotional”.

    Excellent article, sir. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment!

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