I knew it would be a book that left men stricken and with no choice but to see what they cannot unsee. — Ivan Throne on The Nine Laws
. . . to translate man back into nature; to master the many vain and fanciful interpretations and secondary meanings which have been scribbled and daubed over that eternal basic text homo natura . . . — Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
The self-help literary genre began some time before today’s vast library of texts aimed at providing the reader with a happier and more fulfilling life. Seneca’s letters to his friend Lucilius, with their placid and stoical advice, could aptly be described as an early self-help book. It might be argued that any book read and enjoyed for pleasure or instruction will, as Tennyson wrote, assist “men to rise on the stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things.” But the self-help book specifically aims to provide for the betterment of the art of living, what the American Declaration of Independence rather charmingly calls “the pursuit of happiness,” as though happiness were a stag in a forest.
The first few self-help titles from Amazon’s UK website give a general flavor of the medicine provided: Good Vibes, Good Life; Change Your Habits in Thirty Days; Self-Love (Workbook for Women); Manifest: 7 Steps to Living Your Best Life. If that sort of auto-celebratory mood music is what you require from a self-improvement book, then you ought to avoid Ivan Throne’s The Nine Laws (9L). It does applaud the reader, but not for the personality traits usually assumed to be worthy of applause.
The book’s call for rigorous self-analysis is not the usual clarion of self-help literature, which generally coddles the reader and encourages them to applaud their own efforts. “Never flinch from outcomes you have created,” writes Throne. (Think of how many do and whether you are among their number.) The tone of 9L is closer to remonstration with the self than acceptance, an auto-inquisition. The tiresome phrase “Don’t beat yourself up about it” has no place at Throne’s table. Rather, beat yourself up about it, and really put the boot in. You will emerge tougher and more resilient:
Admit your addictions. Recognize your foul habits. Itemize your glorious skills. Feast upon your beauty. Inspect your ugly traits. As you assess them all, remain icily accurate and unmoved.
This is, as it were, Throne’s sales pitch: “The training within this manual is not pleasant, fun, simple, easy and soothing.” Rather than the confirmation bias to be found in standard books of self-instruction and improvement, 9L is concerned with the “tearing apart and rebuilding of your thought.”
The nine laws themselves that give a center of gravity to the book are: survival, concealment, purpose, endurance, posture, freedom, power, preposterousness, and no laws. The latter refers to “the laws of men, lords, kings and nations,” and shows 9L to be a work of dissidence and resistance, a call to step outside of the ludicrous and hypocritical boundaries set by a corrupt society and into the labyrinth of yourself and the potential range of your effects on the world.
I once owned a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, the famous illustrated medical textbook showing the mechanics of the human body in graphic and somewhat grisly detail, and realized what a shocking book it must have been when first published in 1858. Throne’s book is an analogue, but instead of stripping away the skin of a cadaver to expose muscle, tendon, sinew, and gristle, 9L strips away layers of the living man, and shows something which may not be welcome in the viewing. As T. S. Eliot wrote of Jacobean tragedian John Webster, “He saw the skull beneath the skin.”
Throne’s metaphors are those of violence, swordfights, explosions, the savagery of battle. His martial instincts stem from ninja training, and the intellectual methodology of 9L is an alchemic mixture of martial arts, existentialism, classical wisdom, and the philosophical accelerant provided by the Renaissance. “I needed to find the ninja. And so I sought them out,” he writes, and the combination of a combative martial training and the embodied philosophy of the Eastern martial arts combine with a natural ease with key texts of the Western canon that are more, rather masterfully with Throne, show than tell. Machiavelli looms large in the book, as we shall see, and it is always worth remembering that the Renaissance was as much about power as it was art.
These are violent times unlikely to be pacified in the near future, and although Throne’s injunctions to peel away and inspect the layers of the self — all of them, not just the ones you like — may seem bombastic, if anyone has any better suggestions to attempt to salvage our ragged epoch, we would all love to hear them. The modern world is not a garden party in an English novel. It is part bloody cudgel-war between villages, part martial preparation, and part street fight. What Throne –who has experience in the shark-infested waters of the financial world — does in 9L is sound the bugle so that those approaching the battlefield realize where they are going, and soon. As Gibbon wrote in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, “In times of peace, the Romans prepared for war.”
The language of 9L is Nietzschean, aphoristic, and coercive rather than persuasive. This is entirely appropriate to our interesting times, which have evolved from a slightly befuddled, Whiggish belief in progress and general well-being after the Second World War to our current state, in which we need identity-based social justice and climate change awareness far less than we need the “sneer of cold command” of Shelley’s Ozymandias.
The book was planned by Throne as part of “a war triptych,” but is in fact a three-canvas work as it stands, the three separate linguistic paintings being the language and unpacking of the laws themselves, the language of personal reminiscence, and the historico-mythological language of strength and endurance in the field of deeds. Throne is clearly reacting to a momentous event in his own life, and losing your hearing at the age of four would qualify. The early section on the meningitis that robbed him of music, auditory communication, and birdsong is both moving and establishes the Freudian “primal scene” of the book’s dynamic. Throne will thematize what he calls “the Dark World” which “began without remorse or pity for my loss of hearing.” A section on the breakdown of Throne’s first marriage and his subsequent bonding with his son gives a human tint to much of the book’s martial shades.
Throne writes of the “Dark Triad Man,” and the personality traits the dominant society deems toxic are the very ones promoted in 9L. We generally consider, or are told by the state and reinforced in our beliefs by a brittle-boned society, that Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy are character traits to be avoided in ourselves and castigated in others. Throne begs to differ, asking only instead that these three be not only recognized but worked on as a boxer might train to work on a particular muscle group.
One aspect of the West which seems to unite Left and Right is the distrust of the corporate world. Throne, on the other hand, both emerges from it whole, acknowledges its importance, and advises it. The Nine Laws does not stand outside the corporate world; quite the opposite. Throne’s company, Throne Dynamics, is designed to promote and deliver excellence to a corporate world raised on the bland milk of sales graphs and teamwork presentations. But Throne’s organization is proactive, providing an introductory document at their website entitled The Age of Militants. A primer for 9L, this document “provides the individual with objective measures for existential decisions of conscience, freedom, and dignity before the Third World War and its parallel collapse of security, sustenance and meaning.” Given the current situation in Europe, invoking World War III is not sensationalist fearmongering but a real prospect, and you either prepare for the eventuality or you don’t.
In an exclusive interview for Counter Currents, I asked Ivan to expand on certain aspects of an approach to culture which looks at a casual first glance like a hybrid of a quasi-militaristic training manual and Scientology. He reached naturally for ninja imagery:
Musashi speaks of cutting and not slashing. I speak of One Cut with my students and the Cadre; the principle of firm and decisive spirit in action. The Nine Laws was One Cut, directly through every lie a man wants to believe.
If the philosophy of the ninja sounds melodramatic, that is because the audience does not yet know the nature of the drama.
A concise and accurate understanding of origins of the ninja is not complicated. Ninja have become legend; and as legend, often men treasure drama and magic over practical mundane realities. The most mundane reality is survival. Human beings often refuse to die as easily as you would liquidate them, and the ones that are the most dangerous are also the ones more focused on that survival. The Nine Laws is a war manual for Men. “Education for the cadres that will save us” as Joe Katzman, author of the Foreword, declared.
It is also part of the ethos of the corporate consultancy Throne Dynamics offers, making a clear division between political and religious impulses that have historically driven militaristic training and organization: “We are not a Party or a Church. We are the Company.”
This is not to say that religion and the political are absent from the book, and the danger presented by the current political hegemons is made clear in 9L:
The Left in the West is an active parasite upon their own People, and have broken sufficient concealment for conscience, freedom, and dignity of Men to be insulted, shackled, and murdered in open display.
This might sound hyperbolic, but look to America and you can see this murderous hive coalescing. The insults the Left rain on communitarian and conservative behavior scarcely need illustration. As for shackling, it seems Throne is being metaphorical. Tell that to former Trump advisor Peter Navarro, arrested at the airport and put in handcuffs and leg-irons. As for being “murdered in open display,” witness the callous killing of Cayler Ellingson in North Dakota, run down as his killer believed him to be “a Republican extremist.” Many of the warnings in 9L are coming to pass, and it is as well to prepare.
What of those new and preemptive homesteaders who are doing just that? I asked Ivan his opinion of “preppers”:
I bear affection for preppers. It shows individual initiative . . . Successful preparation for times of civic collapse takes many forms. Today’s scale of unimaginably powerful adversaries brings terror; that is intended, for that is the purpose itself of terror. Paralysis transfixes targets, and transfixed targets are simpler assets to liquidate.
Throne sees no frontier at which the edicts and instruction of the nine laws ends and the more mundane environment of corporate life begins. The training of “cadres” — a central concept for Throne’s operations — revolves around seeing clients as vital troopers who must be made ready for the rapid decline and decay of Western political, economic, and cultural structures. The company demands a value system from its clients, with the foremost being preparation:
That demand is Operational Excellence (“OpEx”) to the minimum viable (“MV”) standard of performance. Your capacity to understand, and personally deliver, on this gradient of human capital and leadership viability is the foundation of your usefulness in the times of extreme political, economic, and military decomposition which are rapidly consuming nations and cultures.” [italics in original]
The aphoristic style of much of 9L allows injunctions to stand unadorned, shorn of what we might term the jargon of inauthenticity. We are all aware of the Left’s propensity to deviate from the paths of Enlightenment reason, which may be imperfect but are the tools we have been given. Throne advises us to “remain grimly vigilant to the beginnings of magical thinking,” to ward off the evil eye of Leftism. His book, and his worldview, is absolutely a product of the Renaissance in tandem with the Enlightenment, and postmodernism is irrelevant here. There are fixed values in Throne’s “infinitely fair” universe, both physical and metaphysical. Both Renaissance and Enlightenment had as a subtext a feature of expression which postmodernism has bizarrely turned against: free speech. Throne’s book is not explicitly political, but, like television, you cannot hide from politics. It comes to you:
Today in the West there is enormous and concentric assault upon free speech of an unusually competent and subtle kind. It is not the simple proclamation of ordinance against speech that offends the dignity of the king, followed by fines and chains.
The king proclaimed not simply that the king should not be insulted, but that his position as God’s representative not be defiled. This is why, for Throne, “Hate speech is the most important to protect. It is the canary in the mine.” Although God is present in 9L, and his word is still law, that law can still be challenged, even if that challenge be fruitless. A strength of belief, however, has departed the West like a shade at dawn; it is no longer present, having been replaced by a weak narcissism (as opposed to Throne’s strong narcissism) on the one hand and a fierce new Islamic flame on the other. As the darkness compounds, the only recognition that means anything is that, as Throne says, “It is a dark world but all of it is gorgeous.” And the appropriate response to that beauty is that of the Dark Triad Man.
The Dark Triad Man is Throne’s Frankenstein’s monster, built from the discarded limbs and organs of those recently living. Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism have been noted. In their own guise, greatness and strength of action appear in 9L as small dramatic vignettes: the assassination of Julius Caesar, Henry V’s speech at Agincourt, Machiavelli’s total understanding of the Italian politics of the Renaissance. All of these are taught from Throne’s pulpit.
The ruling power has its own interests. Those interests are not yours. In possibly the most Nietzschean lines in 9L, Throne writes that “Power is not immoral. It is amoral.” This is what allows Throne’s injunction to reorder the self to reflect a power the state can neither teach nor touch, the power of decisive freedom rather than a type of Potemkin liberty, one that looks from the outside to be truly free and yet is everywhere found in chains. As Throne writes in 9L, “The dark and difficult truth is that freedom is the most dangerous thing in the universe.”
Throne has a message for mankind, and it does not bother him that this is a grandiose claim. All of us who broadly share a political and social vision, as well as a genuine philosophy of existence, and yet who are confused as to why we are losing so abysmally to people who are intellectually negligible, might want to take to heart one of Throne’s most incisive aphorisms: “Get up and walk.”
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