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Aiming Higher Than Mere Civilization

archer6,375 words

Emericus Durden
Aiming Higher Than Mere Civilization: How Skeptical Nihilism Will Remind Humanity Of Its Long Forgotten Purpose (Emericus Durden Philosophy Series Book 1)
Radical Academic Press, 2014

“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.”

— “Frank Costello,” The Departed 

“Everything you know is wrong.”

— Firesign Theatre[1]

Who is Emericus Durden?

At first, literally the first few minutes at most, I automatically assumed it must be a pseudonym, referencing Fight Club’s Tyler Durden. This was reinforced by the photo purporting to be the “author,” whose style (surely deliberately, as he purports to be a photographer as well) rather resembles the avatar used by “Tyler Durden,” the moderator of the financial blog ZeroHedge.

Being a natural born cheapskate, the best part of the kindle revolution is the plethora of books cheaper than hard copies would be, even if available at all, and liable to sudden, unexplained drops to $0.99 or even less; a plethora so multitudinous that I subscribe to an email alert service to notify me of sudden price reductions.

So when a kindle entitled Aiming Higher Than Mere Civilization: How Skeptical Nihilism Will Remind Humanity Of Its Long Forgotten Purpose, by one bearing the name Emericus Durden, and costing zero, zip, nada, appeared on my update, I could not stand to live another minute before downloading and examining it.

According to his Amazon page:

Mr. Durden strives to create works that are intellectually challenging, perhaps even disturbing, though always exciting, suspenseful, and entertaining. In his writings, Mr. Durden has focused on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the sublime — philosophy and spirituality (e.g., “Aiming Higher Than Civilization”) to the much more hellish — murder and brainwashing (e.g., “Two Heads Equal Two Hands” and “Great & Mighty Things”).

Since a lot of this alt-Right literature I’ve been looking at recently indeed seems to gravitate around the hellish,[2] I was glad to take a break from all the vampires and losers and attend to something more sublime.

The book certainly tries to rise above the usual hipster nihilism of today:

The book represents an attempt by Emericus Durden to sum up, codify, and present in clear language a practical method of allowing each and every human being to rise above their own humanity, surpass the norms of civilization, and become a higher being.

Specifically,

The goal of this book is to wake people up — to awaken them from the sleep of their most cherished beliefs and allow them to become the sole authorities over their own lives.

Waking someone requires disturbing them, and of course “no one likes to be disturbed, and therefore everyone resists being awakened”; in addition, “they believe they, and only they, are right about themselves.” [Durden’s italics].

Perhaps as an enticement, Durden adds that not only will grasping this point benefit the reader “far more than you can imagine,” but if that reader continues on, completing not only the book but practicing the exercises provided, the reader will be transformed into “something else beyond humanity.”[3]

You might think that sort of thing would be attractive, but you would be wrong. To become something beyond humanity is terrifying to almost everyone, since it contradicts everything we have been taught, seemingly “destroy[ing] all human knowledge and truth.”

First, awakening implies that there exists a higher realm, independent of human beings or indeed of any biological organism, immaterial, beyond the reach of scientific research, instruments, or devices. But the rejection, or more precisely, the relativization, of the god Science is anathema (think of the squawking of Dawkins, Hawking, and other intellectual scolds).

ArmofHadrian

Secondly, there is the implication that you can gain access to that immaterial realm, become a higher being yourself, and that of course runs afoul of our so-called “Judeo-Christian heritage.”

And finally, transforming yourself into this Higher Thing implies that

You can create whatever world or reality you exist in, based on your inner vision, imaginations, and the focused intentions underlying belies you choose.

And that, as the reader may have already exclaimed, contradicts plain old common sense.

So far, we are on solidly Traditionalist ground: the refusal to restrict knowledge to that which is revealed by the scientist’s gauges, the corresponding appeal to a kind of higher empiricism that rejects religious “faith” in favor of “work on self” with the aim of attaining higher states of being, and the world-creating powers of that higher being, the Realized Man or Chakrravartin at the Center of the Garden or the axis of the World Tree, are well documented in the works of Guénon and Evola.[4]

Speaking of Evola, Durden also deals with the pesky accusation of elitism in an especially Evolian tone of voice:

Democracy and democratic ideals are second only to scientific progress as my favorite “punching bag” of skeptical nihilism.

Once awakened however, we become part of a “higher” order. So let’s be honest here — the awakened ones form a kind of aristocracy in the sense they have a superior (“higher,” “transcendent”) perspective on humanity compared with the sleepers.

Indeed, Evola’s defense of the Traditional notion of an Elite is based almost entirely on it comprising the members of a spiritual Order whose Authority is legitimized by their access to transcendental realms, vouchsafed to them by their ascetic practices;[5] while, conversely, the justification of a Traditional society is its ability to produce and sustain such Orders (rather than, say, the good of the greatest number, progress, la gloire, Lebensraum, and other paltry materialistic aims).

Indeed, Durden then goes full Kali Yuga on us:

A fourth implication of the idea is that centuries of so-called “progress” have, in fact, been quite the opposite, a steady retrogression and reduction in our creative abilities. Rather than a belief we are the active creators of the world we exist in, we have, in the name of progress, chosen a belief . . . that we are reactive participants in a universe govern by impersonal, random physical forces. [Durden’s italics]

Durden wants us, the sleepers, to wake up, by realizing that, contrary to what we’ve been told our lives long, our much vaunted “knowledge base” is actually “a field of persuasion and disposable beliefs, leaving us without a foundation of truth.”

Although he immediately brings up Nietzsche, I find his language here extremely reminiscent of the Grand Old Man of that boring old school of analytic philosophy, Willard Van Orman Quine, who famously dismissed the whole idea of our knowledge having “foundations” composed of empirical “data” uncontaminated by the theories to be proved by them, or of “logically true” propositions that no one could doubt; instead, there was a “web of belief” in which any proposition, however “central,” could be rejected if one were willing to make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere.[6]

Quine, I understand from those unfortunate enough to have been his teaching assistants, was not one to suffer fools gladly, and I can only imagine the distain he would greeted any darwinomaniac, student or the Oxford “Professor of the Public Understanding of Science,” who suggested that the acceptance of a mere biological theory like natural selection was the criterion of rationality, to say nothing of the stern warning that an increase of .000128 ppm in atmospheric CO2 will bring about global disaster.

To get back to the “method of skeptical nihilism,” it basically consists in itemizing all our beliefs (especially the “core” beliefs such as “there is no higher realm of being” or “only science produces knowledge,” etc.), then locating their origins in “a particular place and time, unavoidably limited by history and locale,” and then concluding that they are “necessarily lacking in any universal qualities.” And then reminding oneself that such half-assed beliefs are “not any more deserving of your respect and admiration than any other.” Repeat as necessary until you recognize “your total detachment from beliefs and habits” as manifested in “a state of awareness devoid of fear, hope, and desire.”

This sort of “genetic” skepticism is often associated with Nietzsche,[7] but although Durden mentions Plato and Descartes as forerunners of his method, it really seems to originate with the Greek Skeptics, such as Sextus Empiricus.[8] Hence, therefore, “skeptical nihilism.”

Rather than getting into this millennia-long discussion, readers are encouraged to try what Durden rather grandiosely calls his “exercises” for themselves; their mileage may vary from his or mine. What’s more interesting is his next move.

Durden immediately sets himself apart from “all those brilliant thinkers . . . from Descartes through Hume to Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and the postmodern philosophers” by pointing out that nihilism is “very useful if you know what to do with it and how to act on it.”

Here again, we find Durden sounding like Evola, who lauded Nietzsche for his very useful destruction of bourgeois complacency, while mourning his lack of access to the transcendental dimension that would have given his whole project a telos in the beyond, and prevented his tragic destiny.[9] Thus “nihilism” is not really the right word for this, although it does still have a sexy ring in some quarters. We might call this “completed nihilism” or “integral nihilism,” as per Evola.

“Cologero” makes a similar point in this context:

Nietzsche needs to be adapted to Tradition, not the reverse. This is what Evola tries to do. . . . In the Traditional view, the world, too, is absurd, since it is the result of an illusion or a fall. The task, therefore, is self-transcendence, to overcome the world. Yet, Nietzsche’s naturalism does not recognize any such transcendence; hence, the world can only be overcome by more power. Unfortunately, that is a Sisyphean task and can only lead to insanity. . . .

Evola rejects the “revolution of nothing” and claims that Nietzsche is merely using rhetorical techniques to appear shocking or sensational. His real target, in Evola’s view, is really “petty morality” and “herd morality,” in order to make room for the higher morality of the superman. It should not be necessary to point out, however, that many Nietzscheans today simply stop at the point of idol smashing and immoralism, i.e., those who cannot recognize any higher principle within themselves. I suppose this is the “danger” that Evola refers to.[10]

Durden is clearly on Evola’s side here, proposing that “what we will do with nihilism here . . . is use it as a tool to transform ourselves” [Durden’s italics]. When our all our beliefs — all — are firmly out of play, we will become aware of ourselves as being really, always already, an immaterial, timeless center of pure awareness.

And just as nihilism is incomplete without that transformation, so the transformed being, as Plato recognized, is incomplete without his return to the social realm, which can now be reconstructed in an optimal manner, based on a new set of “core beliefs” free of the restrictions of scientism, faith, and “common sense.”[11]

It’s useful, I think, to dwell a bit on some aspects of his portrait — apparently from personal experience — of the Higher Being and its lifestyle.

One odd point is his going to the trouble of pointing out that there are

no indications that [his] awakening caused the human organism to vanish or become modified in some unpredictable way . . . it does not affect the general appearance or functioning of the human organism.

“Functioning” might address the rather mundane concern about physical well-being, rather like those New Age books that have a preface about not being a substitute for medical advice, etc. [12]

Otherwise, it seems to be directed at Guénon’s idea that the Realized Man, having transcended the conditions of space and time, would essentially resolve into a point and then just disappear, like a three-dimensional creature in Flatland.[13] If Guénon is right, it would appear that Durden has not achieved the ultimate level of transcendence.

What he purports to have achieved, however, seems consistent with the best accounts of so-called “mystical” experience:

Because awakening from the dream of your beliefs puts you into contact with a “higher” inner reality, your attention or awareness is now “split,” as it were, between two realities, the higher reality you “discover” using this book’s exercises and the lower, human reality you have experienced since birth. The way you access the higher reality is through internal processes like imagination, feeling, contemplation, and meditation.

This picture of the Realized Man’s conscious awareness taking place on two, simultaneous levels, one recognized as relatively “dreamy” and the other, higher level accessed through a process of contemplation, is easily recognized as a recapitulation of Plotinus.[14]

As is the next point, the more you give attention to the higher, or inner, reality, the more you realize that, contra Dawkins, “it is the inner reality that gives rise to the outer reality.”[15]

While the Traditionalist will agree with Durden’s validation of higher realities, one place Durden goes off the rails in that perennial (if you will) bugaboo, reincarnation.

Our identity, then, is located forever in the higher reality, not in the lower reality where human organism exists. And if we do choose a human experience, we will unavoidably be at the mercy, so to speak, of core beliefs 1 through 4 (and only those beliefs, not one more, not one less). [Italics Durden]

The nonphysical point of awareness may enter, exit and reenter human experience as many times as it chooses. This process we might call “reincarnation.” The tendency to choose the same human experience over and over again. . . . we might call “karma.” The opposite tendency of choosing a series of widely different human experiences we might call “consciousness expansion.” Indeed, the intentional exploration of a wide variety [of] human experiences could itself comprise a science of sorts, though one quite different in its structure and assumptions form physical science. [Italics mine]

Indeed, there is such a science, and it is very different from physical science. It’s called “metaphysics,” at least as defined and practiced by Guénon. In that light, he is correct to emphasis that the nature of the experience chosen depends on what he calls “core beliefs,” which here correspond to what Guénon would call the “conditions of three-dimensional existence” (space, time, and extension). Unfortunately, Durden, as he repeats almost obsessively, seems to be completely hung up on “human” experience, to which the reincarnating spirit is assumed to return, varying only in the type of human experience chosen; however “widely” it may vary, it is still recognizably human.[16]

Here we see, as so often before, the spiral replaced by the circle; rather than exhausting the possibilities of a human existence, and then circling back — at one higher degree of pitch to the screw — into an entirely different type of existence, with utterly unimaginable conditions of experience, Durden, and so many “new agers” like him, imagines that any such “return” would be a circling around back to the same place.[17]

Understandably, Durden swings between Nietzschean nihilism, for maximum academic hipster cred, and occasional hints that all this can be found in the mysterious East,[18] to appeal to the hippie types. His method, examining and discarding all beliefs as “relative,” recalls Nietzsche in its appeal to history and psychology, but the basic method can be found in the epistemological disputes of the Greek Sceptics. The latter, however, seemed to think that once all opinion was silenced, a state of ataraxia would ensue, whose blissfulness was in itself a goal.[19] Durden, fitting his pseudonym, has a different goal: to change oneself, and then to change the world.

Actually, as I’ve pointed out before, all this can be found already in our native Neoplatonism, our home-grown Hermeticism, our two-fisted Traditionalism, the New Thought or Mind Cure movement (a.k.a. “The Secret”) from the turn of the previous century.

Like these more academically respectable systems of thought, New Thought relied on the notion of a creative Spirit or Consciousness behind the material world, and accessible by each of us by withdrawing within ourselves. Each of the New Thoughters, in line with their penchant for self-reliance, had their own method to establishing this connection, which provide interesting parallels to Durden’s methods.

Christian Larson, for example, favored a transcendental approach rather the more contemporary nihilism; our ability to control our thoughts now and then proves that we have a point of view superior to them, which can be accessed at any time and therefore at all times.

For example, in Mastery of Self: How To Develop Your Inner Forces And Powers (1909), Larson urges his readers to abandon the “position of influence” in which our mind, and thus our reality, is shaped by external influences (Durden’s “core beliefs”) and instead assume the “positon of self-mastery”:

Your supreme idea should be that you are above it all, superior to it all, and have control of it all. You simply must take this higher ground in all action, thought and consciousness before you can control yourself and direct, for practical purposes, the forces you possess. . . . And though this phase of the subject may appear to be somewhat abstract, we shall find no difficulty in understanding it more fully as we apply the ideas evolved. In fact, when we learn to realize that we, by nature, occupy a position that is above mind and body, this part of the subject will be found more interesting than anything else, and its application more profitable. (Chapter 2)

In the first chapter of Mastery of Fate (1910) Larson writes that

When man thinks what he desires to think, he will become what he desires to become. But to think what he desires to think, he must consciously govern the process through which impressions are formed upon mind.

To govern this process is to have the power to exclude any impression from without that is not desired, and to completely impress upon mind every original thought that may be formed; thus giving mind the power to think only what it consciously chooses to think.[20]

Before man can govern this process, he must understand the difference between the two leading attitudes of mind — the attitude of self-submission, and the attitude of self-supremacy; and must learn how to completely eliminate the former, and how to establish all life, all thought, and all action absolutely upon the latter.[21]

When this is done, no impression can form upon mind without man’s conscious permission; and complete control of the creative power of thought is permanently secured.

To master the creative power of thought is to master the personal self; and to master the personal self is to master fate.

This “State of Self-Supremacy” corresponds to Durden’s Highest Being. In both cases, the road to true freedom is to realize that we are free already, only at the moment we have allowed ourselves to be bemused by the ideas forced on us by society (Stirner’s “spooks”).

There is such a thing as being influenced by conditions that exist in our surroundings; but when we transcend that influence we are in it no more; therefore, to say that we are in it when we are out of it, is to contradict ourselves. And we equally contradict ourselves when we state that we are controlled by environment after we are convinced that we are inherently masters of everything in the personal life.

While you are conscious of the principle of self-supremacy, you are unconscious of the influence of environment; therefore, to speak the truth, you must declare that you are complete master in your own domain.[22]

More recently (post-WWII), Neville Goddard (d/b/a “Neville”), the Alan Watts of New Thought (with a bit of Criswell thrown in), also sounds the Durden note in a more positive, less “nihilistic” way:

If I can deny the limitations of my birth, my environment, and the belief that I am but an extension of my family tree [abandon all “core beliefs”] and feel within myself that I am Christ [the “Higher Being”], and sustain this assumption until it takes a central place and forms the habitual center of my energy [as we’ll see, Durden emphasized the need to enliven that center by concentrating our feelings on it], I will do the works attributed to Jesus [rebuild the world in accordance with new, or at least newly chosen, ideas]. Without thought or effort I will mold a world in harmony with that perfection which I have assumed and feel springing within me.

Any enlargement of our concept of Self involves a somewhat painful parting with strongly rooted hereditary conceptions. The ligaments are strong that old us in the womb of conventional limitations. All that you formerly believed, you no longer believe. You know now that there is no power outside of your own consciousness.

A transformation of consciousness will result in a change of environment and behavior. However, our ordinary alterations of consciousness, as we pass from one state to another, are not transformations, because each of them is so rapidly succeeded by another in the reverse direction; but whenever one state grows so stable as to definitely expel its rivals, then that central habitual state defines the character and is a true transformation.

Neville simplifies the initial process, from skeptical argumentation to simply choosing to believe what you want to be:

“Assume you are already that which you seek and your assumption, though false, if sustained, will harden into fact.”[23]

But Neville and Durden both emphasize that the process requires far more than the relatively simple first step (the college freshman’s “It’s all relative, man” or Oprah’s “Just believe it”). Durden says that

Finding that state of identity with a higher reality, feeling it, then sustaining it over time takes a tremendous amount of concerted effort, and it’s very subtle work. [My italics]

In Neville’s case, the suggestion is not only to simply assume what you want to be, but to hold it in your mind, adore it, feed it, keep it warm, until it becomes a reality in the physical world.

Concentrated observation of one thing shuts out other things and causes them to disappear. The great secret of success is to focus the attention on the feeling of the wish fulfilled without permitting any distraction. All progress depends upon an increase of attention. The ideas which impel you to action are those which dominate the consciousness, those which possess the attention.

To the unenlightened man this will seem to be all fantasy, yet all progress comes from those who do not take the accepted view, nor accept the world as it is. As was stated heretofore, if you can imagine what you please, and if the forms of your thought are as vivid as the forms of nature, you are by virtue of the power of your imagination master of your fate.

Your imagination is you yourself, and the world as your imagination sees it is the real world.[24]

All of which recalls the “Three Ways” discussed in an essay by “Abraxas” (Ercole Quadrelli) collected by Baron Evola in the first volume of his Introduction to Magic.

You must generate—first by imagining and then by realizing ita superior principle confronting everything you usually are (e.g., an instinctive life, thoughts, feelings). This principle must be able to control, contemplate, and measure what you are, in a clear knowledge, moment by moment. There will be two of you: yourself standing before “the other.”

Then, in contrast to the mystical, or Christian, path, where the Principle remains Other, and the Self remains in the feminine position of need and desire,

In the magical, dry, or solar way, you will create a duality in your being not in an unconscious and passive manner (as the mystic does), but consciously and willingly; you will shift directly on the higher part and identify yourself with that superior and subsistent principle, whereas the mystic tends to identify with his lower part, in a relationship of need and of abandonment.

Slowly but gradually, you will strengthen this “other” (which is yourself) and create for it a supremacy, until it knows how to dominate all the powers of the natural part and master them totally. [Then,] the entire being, ready and compliant, reaffirms itself, digests and lets itself be digested, leaving nothing behind.[25]

All of which is to suggest that Durden is incorrect to claim that

This is the first time, so far as I know, anyone has used this sort of reasoning as a means to a higher end rather than as a logical parlor trick ending in exclamations like “Well, there you have it — everything is relatively true — there are no absolutes — anything goes.”[26]

Or, to put it more positively, he’s in the mainstream of esoteric thought.

Speaking of “mainstream,” Europeans like to mock Americans’ “self-help” obsessions, but it’s a perfectly European trait, or rather, a Roman one. Despite all the guff about “democracy” on the one hand (Athens) and the “shining city on a hill” (Jerusalem) on other, Americans have always turned to Rome for serious matters, from our capitols and Senators to the fasces decorating the wall behind the Speaker of the House.

The Greeks of course knew about philosophy as a way of life,[27] but it was the Romans who demanded practicality in all things; under Roman domination, even the Greeks looked more to solace than theory.[28]

Speaking of Stoics and Epicureans, Durden makes an interesting contrast with Lovecraft. The weird author regarded all religious or philosophical ideas of meaning and purpose to be

Very largely the accidental results of traditions rather than basic antidotes, as we may see by comparing the mods of different types and individuals – older and younger, unsophisticated and sophisticated.

Sounding very like Durden, Lovecraft insists that to have “any chance of holding any genuine opinion of value regarding the universe” requires a “slow and painful process of courageous disillusionment.”

Lovecraft, however, derived his ideas less from the Skeptics or Stoics than from the Atomists, like Lucretius, from whom he learned a materialistic, scientistic “skepticism” that confined itself to questioning religious dogmas rather than itself.

What most persons can rationally expect is a kind of working adjustment or resignation in which active pain is cut down to a minimum . . . the highest consistent and practicable goal of mankind is simply an absence of acute and unendurable le suffering – a sensible compromise with an indifferent cosmos which was never built for mankind, and in which mankind is only a microscopic, negligible, and temporary accident. This is the most which the average person will ever get out of life, and he might as well trim his sails accordingly.[29]

Lovecraft never examined his own prejudices,[30] which are also a part of Durden’s relativized “core beliefs.”

Thus, for Lovecraft, the superior man is someone who is honest and brave enough to face oblivion without religious comforts (“I desire only oblivion”). To Evola or Durden, thus would be admirable enough but incomplete, since scientism and “common sense” (Lovecraft’s “local traditions”) are left in place; thus, like Nietzsche, we can call this “incomplete” nihilism, needing to supplemented by something like Evola’s hermetic tradition or Durden’s Absolute Being.[31]

Ironically, Lovecraft, for all his Anglo-Saxonism, would not be considered by Evola as having a truly Aryan attitude in this. In the chapter on “Discernment of the Vocations” in his Doctrine of Awakening, Evola notes that the Aryan does not, as the American Buddhist/hippie cliché has it, react to the perception of the relativity (as Durden would say) of our beliefs about the world with “pain” or “suffering” and seeking an escape, but with sovereign contempt for mere Becoming and a thirst for true Being (as Durden would say). Lovecraft’s comfy Epicureanism is a relatively degenerate attitude.[32]

Ordinarily I might say, you pays your money and you takes your choice, but it occurs to me that all this stuff — from the Stoics to Neville, and even Durden if you keep your eyes open and can wait for the occasional sale — can be found on the ‘net for free, if you just look around a bit.

So it really comes down to whatever works for you. Durden writes well; no fancy touches, just good solid philosophical prose, meaning that anyone with a college degree, let’s say, should be able handle this.[33] You might think the New Thoughters are too earnest and old-fashioned, but I rather find them comforting.[34]

On the other hand, you may prefer Durden’s more up to date version of what the kids might call “hacking your brain,”[35] finding ways to avoid the prison of existing programing (Durden’s “core ideas” such as “only what empirical science can prove is real”); or, as the anarchist collective Crimethinc say:

Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the nature of habit, law, custom or prejudice – and it’s up to you to create the situations.

Notes

1. “Dogs flew spaceships! The Aztecs invented the vacation! Men and women are the same sex! Our forefathers took drugs! Your brain is not the boss! Yes, that’s right — everything you know is wrong!” Firesign Theatre. Everything You Know Is Wrong. Columbia Records, LP – KC-33141 (1974).

2. See, for example, my review of the Hopeless Books “split single” Black House Rocked, here.

3. “If you were never a special person, you are a special person now.” — Firesign Theatre, op. cit.

4. Evola, in particular, given his focus on practical methods of realization; see his Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus (Inner Traditions, 2001) and The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art (Inner Traditions, 1995) From the former: “Those who are called “scientists” today have hatched a real conspiracy; they have made science their monopoly, and absolutely do not want anyone to know more than they do or in a different manner than they do” (p. 4).

5. Daniélou remarks somewhere that far from the invidious picture of the Brahmin lording it over the lower castes, the Sudra laughs at the Brahmin, who cannot enjoy a nice juicy steak and must spend all day reciting boring scriptures.

6. Quine, W. V. O., “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” The Philosophical Review 60: 20–43. Reprinted in From a Logical Point of View (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953). This “paper [is] sometimes regarded as the most important in all of twentieth-century philosophy” — Peter Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 30-33. Read about it here.

7. E.g., his Genealogy of Morals(1887); for an account of the work and its influence, see here.

8. My view of the Sceptics, especially Sextus Empricus, derives from a reading of Scepticism by Arne Naess (Universitetsforlaget, 1968), rather than the rather duller works of classical scholars such as Michael Frede or Myles Burnyeat. See David Hume and Contemporary Philosophy, edited by Ilya Kasavin (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013 ), p58, Notes 1-2 for a discussion of Naess vs. Burnyeat

9. See Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul (Inner Traditions, 2003) especially Part 2: In the World Where God Is Dead.

10. “Evola and Nietzsche, 40 Years Later,” by “Cologero;” here.

11. Evola’s interest in Guénon’s Tradition was sparked by the idea that his previously arrived at notion of the Absolute Self could be grounded in historical reality by being identified with the primordial lawgivers of Tradition; see The Path of Cinnabar (London: Arktos, 2009). See also the discussion of how the Realized Man reconstructs his own new, immortal Diamond Body (Tantric Buddhism; cf. St. Paul’s resurrection body) in The Hermetic Tradition.

12. In Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Franny’s doltish boyfriend, Lane, listening to her narrate her spiritual crisis, observes that “you could do some real damage to your heart” by synchronizing it, as suggested by The Way of the Pilgrim, to recitation of the Jesus Prayer.

13. I think this is towards the end of his Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001).

14. See Plotinus’ Psychology: His Doctrines of the Embodied Soul by H. J. Blumenthal (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971) and Nature, Contemplation and the One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus (University of Toronto Press, 1967; Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation, 1991), by John N. Deck (who taught a popular “gut” philosophy course entitled “Dream Worlds and Real Worlds”); see especially “Is Nature “Real” For Plotinus?”

15. See Deck, op. cit., especially “Making and Efficient causality.” It’s important to note that this does not involve a cliché “dreamy” or “otherworldliness;” historians record how Plotinus was sought after for practical advice and even toke over the guardianship of several orphans; Durden notes that the “mundane daily decisions of an awakened one” are “no longer based on selfish desires and needs” but on higher laws; this is what makes ordinary consciousness, by contrast, the true “dream world.”

16. At least Durden resists the especially New Age fantasy of reappearing as an animal or plant. In The Big Chill, an admirer of the group’s dead pseudo guru Alex reminisces that “He believed in reincarnation. He never ate meat. He said he was afraid he would come back someday as a steak.” See my essay on The Big Chill as an initiatory drama, “Of Costner, Corpses, & Conception: Mother’s Day Meditations on The Untouchables & The Big Chill,” here and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

17. “And the same shit starting all over again” — Karl Marx. See the letter explaining, and gently critiquing, Guénon’s position by Marco Pallis in Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 1, No.1, online here.

18. Referencing among others Nagarjuna (see T. R. V. Murti’s The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (1955; Routledge, 2008), whom Alan Watts liked to pair up with St. Dionysius as masters of the negative way seeks to “remove obstacle to the direct experiencing of reality” — Alan Watts–Here and Now: Contributions to Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion by Peter J. Columbus and Donadrian L. Rice (SUNY, 2012), p. 69; see my review, “There & Then: Personal & Memorial Reflections on Alan Watts (1915-1973),” here.

19. Why bliss, rather than sheer terror, was the result of skepticism is a mystery, to me at least.

20. Training the mind to slow down awareness until impressions can be felt, and judged, before allowing them to enter our consciousness, is a basic initiatic practice; see Evola, Introduction to Magic, op. cit.

21. “I have founded by affair on nothing” — Goethe, and the epigraph to Stirner’s The Ego and His Own.

22. “If you don’t recall which episode of Seinfeld “The Contest” is, then you probably have never seen Seinfeld. But, just to refresh your memory, after George is caught by his mother masturbating, the A-plot concerned a contest between the four main cast members about who could go the longest without self-pleasuring. The episode actually garnered Larry David an Emmy Award for Best Writing, and it launched the catchphrase “Master of my Domain” as a euphemism for masturbation.” — “Master Of My Domain: 5 Fascinating Facts About ‘The Contest,’ ‘Seinfeld’s’ Best Episode” by Dustin Rowles, 10.2.13, here. BTW, “The nearly 30 million viewers who watched the rerun is like three times more than saw the Breaking Bad finale, which has to make “The Contest” the most popular rerun of all time.”

23. Nelville Goddard, Five Lessons and Q&A, Chapter Two.

24. The Power of Awareness, Chapter Six

25. Julius Evola, Introduction to Magic (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2001), pp. 88-91. The process of “cultivating” the Other as part of the process of initiation is referenced in The Silence of the Lambs, where Buffalo Bill cultivates a rare species of moth: “Somebody grew this guy, fed him honey and nightshade, kept him warm. Somebody loved him.”

26. A knock against Paul Feyerabend’s “anarchist theory of knowledge,” which he summarized as “The only rule of science is ‘anything goes’”? See note 31 below.

27. You could read Foucault on this, but you’d be better off reading Pierre Hadot, such as his Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault (Wiley-Blackwell, 1995).

28. The classic work on how much life sucked under the later Empire is, of course, E. R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety: Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine; (Cambridge, 1991 [1965]). In general, see The Cambridge History of Latin, Greek and Early Mediaeval Philosophy; edited by A. H. Armstrong (Cambridge University Press, 1967).

29. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters by H. P. Lovecraft, S. T. Joshi (Ed.), David E. Schultz (Ed.), (Ohio University Press, 2000), pp. 302-04.

31. Starling to Lechter: “You see a lot, Doctor. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you . . . Why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Maybe you’re afraid to.” Dr. Lechter recommends Marcus Aurelius to Starling when giving here the clue to Buffalo Bill’s identity. Joshi notes that the Skeptics DID question themselves.

31. The suggestion that Lovecraft’s “indescribable horror” is actually what a later generation of less uptight seekers would call “the ultimate high, man” has been developed by Erik Davis (see my review of his Nomad Codes here) and used by myself to contrast Lovecraft and Evola in the title essay of The Eldritch Evola … & Others. For a more completely skeptical approach to Science, though also without any necessary connection to transcendence, see Paul K. Feyerabend’s “epistemological anarchism,” which I discussed several times, most recently here.

32. Evola, in Doctrine of Awakening, is keen to promote what scholars call Early or Pali or Hinayana or “primitive” Buddhism as authentically Aryan, regarding the later Mahayana schools as popularized and degenerate; thus he confines his attention to the earliest presentations of the doctrines. Durden, however, as noted above, finds the Mahayana school of Nagarjuna to be simpatico with his project.

33. The kindle presentation is excellent, with no spelling irregularities or odd formatting; however, although the essay is relatively short, if it’s going to have number and title sections why not hyperlink them from the table of contents for easy navigation?

34. They kinda remind me of Prof. E. C. Buehler, who appears in many educational shorts of the ’50s, such as “Speech: Using Your Voice” (Centron, 1950), online here. (And don’t miss Centron regular Herk Harvey; in about ten years, he’ll be filming Carnival of Souls!) I like reading them out loud as if they were being delivered in his earnest, Dale Carnegie voice. “One, you must be heard. Two, you must be understood. Three, you must be pleasing.” Hey, it makes as much sense as Durden’s insistence on using a comfy chair.

35. A phrase I owe to the blog Practical Application of Neville Goddard Principles Today, here.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Greg
    Posted May 18, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    James,

    After reading your review, I bought the book and read maybe a fifth of it. It seemed so interesting but I couldn’t really go on with it after reading the author’s dismissive treatment of science as just another religion. I acknowledge that there are elements of belief in science and progress that are religious in nature but he goes further and claims belief in its ability to describe the physical world is “unfounded.”

    He does not support his thesis at all. Scientific theories, the physical sciences, have predictive powers and when new observations are made they can be confirmed or disproven. Physics and chemistry are not like the social sciences. Nature does give you an answer when you ask— which you may not understand.

    He says he gets blank stares from physicists when he asks them about the foundations of their beliefs. I doubt it. Physicists understand their limitations.

    I will try to read on but his shallow treatment of science makes me skeptical that it will improve.

  2. James O'Meara
    Posted May 8, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I think it will end badly for China, and sooner. Unless your idea of a utopia is a polluted, radioactive shithole.

    https://xerq.io/threads/493127-Holy-shit-China-is-a-shithole-20-Pics-to-prove-it

    • Theodore
      Posted May 8, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      The Chinese need not worry; they merely need to be patient, and let diversity and degeneracy further erode the West. Then they can take White lands, through immigration (see Vancouver), military conquest, or both. Who will stop them? Blacks and Hispanics? Jews who would have already cast their lot in with China and India? The Asian fifth column in America? White liberals, feminists, and transgenders? Or Luddite Traditionalists?

      No doubt, the Chinese will despoil their new territories as well, but then, I really don’t care if it ends badly for them, I care whether it ends badly for us. You can have all the right in the world on your side, but unless you have the force to back it up, it means nothing. Now, maybe if there is “the collapse” high technics will be useless, but who can predict any of that? The prudent approach is to be prepared to fight with whatever may be at hand, whether it is shotguns or ICBMs.

      • James O'Meara
        Posted May 9, 2015 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        But to get back to your main point, and although I wasn’t approaching the book from this angle, what could be MORE useful to the WN cause than a method which uses the Left’s “it’s all relative” argument against the orthodoxies of the Liberal mindset, AND which approaches the subsequent reconstruction from (as Evola would say) the properly Aryan stance of transcendence (rather than New Age/American Buddhist resignation)?

  3. Theodore
    Posted May 8, 2015 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Very well, I will apply “skeptical nihilism” to traditionalism, Evola, Guenon, Savitri Devi, men above and beyond time, kali yuga. spiritual race, absolute racial purity, 99% of “movement” memes, Aryans from Atlantis, Hyperborea, Lemuria, etc. Indeed, I will be nihilistically skeptical about skeptical nihilism itself.

    While racially aware Whites are agonizing over “traditionalism” and planning to eat twigs and branches “after the collapse” and while the majority of liberal Whites agonize over giving Shitavious a hand up in Baltimore, the Chinese are doing gene editing on embryos and updating their nuclear arsenal (all with knowledge originally devised by other races).

    This won’t end well.

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