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A Handbook of Traditional Living:
Theory & Practice

1,447 words

A Handbook of Traditional Living: Theory and Practice
Trans. S. K.
Ed. John B. Morgan
Atktos Media, 2010

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A Handbook of Traditional Living is a slender volume (just under 100 pages) comprising two essays published in Italian in 1997 and 1998 by the Raido Cultural Association. The author or authors are anonymous. The first essay, “The World of Tradition,” is a somewhat dry summary of Julius Evola’s version of Traditionalism especially as expressed in his magnum opus, Revolt Against the Modern World.

I wish to focus here on the second essay, “The Front of Tradition,” which deals with how one might organize in the light of Tradition to struggle against the modern world. This essay is most strongly influenced by Corneliu Codreanu’s Iron Guard. The organization that is proposed is an initiatic, hierarchical spiritual-militant order. Its structure and aims are essentially that of the Iron Guard, but its spiritual content and foundation is Evolian Traditionalism, not the Iron Guard’s Romanian Orthodox Christianity.

The underlying assumption of “The Front of Tradition” is that the modern world is declining of its own accord, in keeping with the downward thrust of history according to Traditional doctrine. We live in the Kali Yuga, the Dark Age, which is the most hostile to the principles of Tradition and the most removed from the Golden Age that inaugurated our present historical cycle. But the furthest remove from the last Golden Age is the closest proximity to the commencement of the next one. And, as the current Dark Age advances deeper into decadence and chaos, there will come a point when objective conditions will permit a fighting vanguard of Traditionalists to intervene successfully in events and contribute to the inauguration of the next Golden Age. But Traditionalists must be prepared to act effectively when eternal conditions align. Sadly, there is no evidence that any serious Traditionalists are even close to being prepared.

“The Front of Tradition” proposes a hierarchical order that assigns rank based on merit and accomplishment not seniority. The assumption is that true order and authority flow from above, thus nobody can associate with the order who is not oriented toward what is above and interested in finding those genuine superiors who can bring him closer to the transcendent principle. Each individual is also duty-bound to pass down what he knows to his inferiors who look to him for guidance. But the primary orientation of each individual has to be upwards, toward the transcendent. It is an attitude of receptivity to Tradition. It is characterized by humility, by the recognition of one’s imperfection and need of completion from above.

Any orientation downwards, toward followers, is only secondary, and a matter of duty rather than inclination. It is an attitude that must be characterized by detachment and impersonality, since one is a teacher not by virtue of one’s personality but simply by virtue of one’s place in a chain of initiation. What one teaches, moreover, is merely the transcendent truth passed on from above, not a product of one’s own ego.

The great destroyer to be avoided is “egoism,” which seems pretty much synonymous with narcissism. The genuine Traditionalist is oriented first and foremost toward reality. Because of this orientation, he enters into relations with others, specifically into an initiatic hierarchical organization. The genuine Traditionalist has a strong and substantial ego; he knows who he is; he had a deep and abiding sense of worth. Because of this, he is capable of setting aside his ego and devoting himself to eternal truth and disinterested, impersonal action in the service of great collective aims.

The egoist, by contrast, is oriented first and foremost toward himself. He is psychologically needy, and to satisfy these needs, he interacts with others. Reality places a distant third in his priorities. Indeed, since egoists are primarily concerned to satisfy their psychological needs though interactions with others, they are often practiced liars and manipulators.

The Right wing is swarming with egoists of this type. They are characterized first and foremost by a neurotic need for attention. Generally, they like to set themselves up as leaders of little grouplets by claiming to have knowledge, expertise, or money they often do not possess, or do not possess to the degree required by their ambitions.

Since the purpose of these groups is the psychological gratification of their leaders, they seldom accomplish anything in the real world. They tend to be “virtual” groups, existing through websites, Facebook, and press releases. Since these groups do not aim at disinterested action, they are consumed with personal rivalries and schisms. Since these groups are not based in unchanging truth but instead are all about playing to the fickle crowd, they are constantly changing their views, activities, and alliances. Anything to keep the spotlight on them.

The best way to avoid egoists is the establishment of a genuinely hierarchical, initiatic order with objective criteria for membership and advancement. The egoist cannot survive in such an environment. He is primarily motivated by the desire to reign over others. He wants to be on top and therefore rejects the need or possibility of completion from above. Instead of seeking out his superiors, he fears them and tries to keep them away. (Most egoists are oblivious to genuinely superior people, whom they often patronize and seek to manipulate. For the superior individual, this often presents an amusing albeit grotesque spectacle, rather like having one’s leg humped by a dog. Egoists are generally more concerned with fighting off the challenges of other egoists, whom they recognize instinctively.)

A Traditionalist order obviously must contain a significant component of indoctrination in the Tradition itself. But indoctrination is only the beginning. The goal is not merely to inform the mind, but to cultivate the character of the student. One cannot just understand Tradition in the abstract, it must sink in and dye the core of one’s character. It must become second nature, so that one perceives and judges the world instantaneously and effortlessly in the light of Tradition. One must also learn prudence, the ability to apply universal principles to unique and shifting concrete circumstances. Tradition is not an ideology, which is a body of abstract ideas that can never be truly internalized and unified with one’s inner self. A lifestyle that is both unique and Traditionalist emerges spontaneously and organically from a truly cultivated individual.

The essay on “The Front of Tradition” is rather skimpy on concrete advice for the cultivation of the individual in the light of Tradition. One appealing notion is the use of discussion. A group that aims at the perfection of its members and their transformation into a vanguard fighting for great impersonal goals cannot allow individuals to hide their flaws and reservations behind bourgeois notions of privacy. Thus a Traditionalist society must practice group discussion in which individuals strive for openness. The goal is not merely the forgiveness of the confessional but the creation of trust and camaraderie that fuses individuals into a higher unity.

But openness about one’s doubts and flaws is merely a prelude to collective criticism and striving, again with the assistance of the group, to overcome oneself. This process of self-disclosure and group criticism and reform is not personal one-upsmanship and back-biting. Indeed, it is the highest form of friendship. The ancients distinguished flatterers from friends. A flatterer tells you what you want to hear. A friend tells you what you need to hear for your own good, even if it might be personally painful, because self-knowledge is necessary for self-improvement.

My main objection to the idea of an order that combines spiritual initiation and militant struggle is that excellence in these two functions are seldom combined in the same individual. The greatest initiate will seldom be the same person as the greatest warrior. Therefore, in establishing a hierarchy, one would have to choose to subordinate one function to another or to follow a leader who combines both functions, but who is inferior to the specialized warrior or the specialized initiate. The first option introduces internal conflict. The second option places leadership in the hands of an inferior individual. Both options lead to an organization that is inferior to one in which spiritual and military functions are distinct.

Overall, A Handbook of Traditional Living is more suggestive than definitive. The purpose of a handbook is not to be “deep” but to be superficial in an exhaustive manner. “Depth” for such a work is a matter of discerning what is essential. Yet there is much here that seems vague and inessential. But I still found this Handbook valuable as a starting point and stimulant for thinking about how some elements of a North American New Right might be organized.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted April 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    A good attempt at organizing a hierarchical society upon merits was chivalry.

    Louis-Ferdinand Céline had a good description for it : ” In truth you see that nature is vile and even worse than that : sadistic. Men are only a feeble version of that nature. Chivalry was a fair conquest. The only one possible : Man – a well regulated savagery.”

  2. Fourmyle of Ceres
    Posted April 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    With Frank Martell’s “The Vanguard System,” this piece offers hope, inspiration, and a new framework.

    One, a Cause – Fourteen Words – supporting the metapolitical project.

    Two, a Movement – the foundation, particularly spiritual, of a New Civilization.

    Three, a Spiritual Organization – a religion based on Tradition in a modern framework, defining the primacy and duties of Patriarchy in What-Christianity-Must-Become.

    Consider the tremendous growth of Scientology, and their new website, for examples to emulate. Consider the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a model, particularly for organizational design.

    An organizational theme?

    “Welcome to Fight Club, Charlie Brown!”

    This Time, The World – Focus Northwest

  3. james Hamilton
    Posted April 29, 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    i promise to read all of this when i have more time

  4. Michael Bell
    Posted April 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    “The essay on ‘The Front of Tradition’ is rather skimpy on concrete advice for the cultivation of the individual in the light of Tradition.”

    This is one of the biggest problems that I have with many Traditionalist writers. While Evola is one of the most brilliant writers/philosophers/spiritual guides ever to grace the Right (if not THE most brilliant), his Ride the Tiger: An Instruction Manual for Aristocrats of the Soul, offers very little in the way of a manual. In fact, the book does more of a job critiquing various 20th century movements and philosophical currents in Evola’s ever-so-complicated language. By the time you’re done reading it you sort of scratch your head and say “So….what exactly do I do again?”

    Codreanu is one of the few I can think of who really offers a pragmatic example of how to form an initiatic, knightly group of real Men. I’m sure there are others I’ve missed, but his works are a good place to start. For My Legionaries reads like a piece of epic prose.

    • Fourmyle of Ceres
      Posted April 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      Michael:

      I agree, and think Evola and Codreanu can be reconciled.

      Codreanu was developing a System that would work in one time, in one place, deriving from an Active Christianity, Pre V-II, Masculine, Patriarchal Roman Catholicism, which has all of the elements needed for a nation-state within it, and then some.

      Evola was trying to define the founding principles at the archetype level, where the same dynamic manifests in different Forms, according to the Cultural Moment.

      Both focused on the development of the warrior-priest caste, where we have been, well, gelded.

      This Time, The World

      Focus Northwest

    • White Republican
      Posted April 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      The subtitle of the English translation of Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger–A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul–may well be misleading. The responsibility for this probably lies with the publisher rather than Evola: I believe that both the Italian and French editions of Ride the Tiger have no subtitle. Ride the Tiger may be a guidebook, but it is certainly not a manual. (However, one must surely be thankful that there will never be a book titled “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Traditionalism” or “Traditionalism for Dummies.”)

      A problem with writing manuals such as A Handbook of Traditional Living is the complexity of their subject. There is no way that a writer can write a manual that simultaneously addresses (1) the organisation as a whole, (2) the units of the organisation (which may be geographic or functional), and (3) the individual member in a satisfactory way. The ideal solution would be to maintain a body responsible for educating and training members. This body would produce a range of literature covering all aspects of education and training and it would continually revise and refine its literature to make it increasingly useful, comprehensive, and authoritative. François Duprat’s envisaged such a body in “Manifeste nationaliste révolutionnaire” or “Année zéro.” The Institut de Formation National of the Front National seems to have been such a body. Judging from what Douglas Hyde writes in Dedication and Leadership, communist parties seem to have had such bodies, or to have effectively performed the functions of such bodies.

      I am thinking of writing an article concerning the disciplines that nationalists need to master. One of these disciplines is what the Greeks called metis, and which is incisively discussed in James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State.

      Regarding the individual member, I think the following excerpt from Peter F. Drucker’s Management Challenges for the 21st Century (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999) is worth pondering and applying. Drucker writes of what he calls “feedback analysis” (pp. 164-65):

      “Whenever one makes a key decision, and whenever one does a key action, one writes down what one expects will happen. And nine months or twelve months later one then feeds back from results to expectations. I have been doing this for some fifteen to twenty years now. And every time I do it I am surprised. And so is everyone who has ever done this.

      “This is by no means a new method. It was invented sometime in the 14th century, by an otherwise totally obscure German theologian. Some 150 years later Jean Calvin (1509-1564) in Geneva, father of Calvinism, and Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Jesuit Order, quite independent of each other, picked up the idea and incorporated it into their rules for every member of their groups, that is, for the Calvinist pastor and the Jesuit priest. This explains why these two new institutions (both founded in the same year, in 1536) had come within thirty years to dominate Europe: Calvinism the Protestant north; the Jesuit Order the Catholic south. By that time each group contained so many thousands of members that most of them had to be ordinary rather than exceptional. Most of them worked alone, if not in complete isolation. Many of them had to work underground and in constant fear of persecution. Yet very few defected. The routine feedback from results to expectations reaffirmed them in their commitment. It enabled them to focus on performance and results, and with it, on achievement and satisfaction.

      “Within a fairly short period of time, maybe two or three years, this simple procedure will tell people first where their strengths are–and this is probably the most important thing to know about oneself. It will show them what they do or fail to do that deprives them of the full yield from their strengths. It will show them where they are not particularly competent. And it will finally show them where they have no strengths and cannot perform.”

      Feedback analysis involves learning (1) what one really wants, (2) what one is really doing, (3) what one is really capable of doing, and (4) what one should be doing. Most people are ignorant in these matters due to their sentimentality, short-sightedness, inertia, and self-indulgence. It is not surprising if everyone who practices feedback analysis is surprised by the results.

      People are prone to underestimate what it takes by way of time and effort to accomplish their goals. The human mind is biased towards optimism as well as self-indulgence, which means that people maximize what they think they can do and minimize what they actually do. The opposition between these two things explains why people frequently abandon or truncate the goals they set for themselves. People want to be paid overtime and to leave work early simultaneously. But to act upon that basis is to have a fool as a master. In life one must pay for one’s way with one’s own efforts.

      Feedback analysis is essential for ensuring that one’s practical priorities, capabilities, and efforts truly correspond to one’s goals and desires. It obviously differs from making New Year’s resolutions, resolutions which bloom then wither away like plants in the desert after it rains.

      I will apply feedback analysis to a few key decisions I need to make soon.

      • Fourmyle of Ceres
        Posted May 1, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        Adults understand our Consensus Trance social systems are failing facades.

        My Moment of Realization led to a five page autobiography, focusing on pivotal events at seven to eight year intervals.

        Themes emerge.

        An est/Landmark Forum instructor said: “Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a Destiny.”

        Daily diary entries of one sentence force a ruthless intellectual honesty on you, linking your life to the metapolitical project.

        No more Lucy’s Rules Football, Charlie Brown!

        This Time, The World

        Focus Northwest

  5. Alaskan
    Posted April 29, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Greg, your scathing section on egoism is too good! Again, you are on target. The “Right”, perhaps even more than the Left, is full of these types and is very damaging to our cause. Great review.

  6. CaptainEuro
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Great article indeed. It’s so true the right wing has always been such a nest for these kinds of egomaniac individuals. I have known a few myself (unfortunately). I do also agree on how ill-prepared some of us are for struggle. We have been conditioned to be pieces of ‘the Machine’ in a way that turning to recognize our true nature and face the music means an epic task.

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