Aristokratia IV: D’Annunzio, Nietzsche, Stirner, & Social Revolt
Edited by K. Deva; with contributions from K. R. Bolton, Gwendolyn Taunton, Rene Walter Pletat, David Muller, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Boris Nad, James O’Meara, Lukas Kubena, Jarrad Ackert, and N. M. Phoenix
Manticore Press, 2016
It’s a cause for celebration that the wholly admirable Aristokratia project from Manticore Press continues on, now producing its fourth annual collection of the finest in esoteric philosophical and political studies.
This issue is divided into three parts: “Disquisitions,” “Compositions,” and “Evaluations.” Previous outings concentrated on Evola, Nietzsche, and Hellenism. This time, the editor formulates his target as:
The period of the 19th – 20th century produced rapid changes in culture, technology, and political thought. From the aristocratic radicalism of D’Annunzio and Nietzsche, through to Marx, and the extreme individualism of Stirner, the time was ripe for revolution.
And so, this issue starts off in “Disquisitions,” with substantial essays reconsidering the unjustly neglected (in the Anglosphere, at least), very different but equally revolutionary D’Annunzio (Gwendolyn von Taunton’s “Gabriele D’Annunzio: Nietzsche, Politics, and the Übermensch in Italy”) and Stirner (“Max Stirner: The Consummate Individualist” by René Walter Pletat, translated by Alexander Jacob). They bookend Kerry Bolton’s “Psychohistory, Physiology, and Social Revolt,” of which more anon.
Taunton emphasizes D’Annunzio as a disciple of Nietzsche, but more importantly as one of those he called his readers of the future, readers who would seek to take Nietzsche’s work further in their lives and in history. She dismisses both Mussolini’s attempt to co-opt his fame as “The Second Coming of D’Annunzio” and the hostility of post-war academics, and concludes that D’Annunzio was a great “creator of deeds.”
D’Annunzio certainly left a lasting imprint on history; he provided us with Fiume, countless novels and dramas, and a great resurgence in Italian national pride.
Although equally forgotten today, Stirner was – unlike D’Annunzio – already almost unknown in his own time, and most of those who knew him didn’t think much of him, anyway. Even his name is a dodge: a schoolboy nickname of the actual Johann Kaspar Schmidt.
The two thinkers are not that different; D’Annunzio was an “aristocratic radical” who “had a ‘revolutionary’ personality, not a ‘conservative’ one; his heroes were “all ‘anarchists’ intent on manifesting their will in bold action.” Asked to explain why he crossed the aisle from the Right to the Left, he sneered that “It pleased me for a moment . . . I remain an individualist, fiercely and to the uttermost.”
Stirner, on the other hand, was the consummate egoist, although his egoism was far from the Aristotelian concept-mongering of an Ayn Rand. For Stirner, concepts – all concepts – are either tools to help impose my will, or else prisons. Secular man prides himself on “freeing” mankind from religious domination; from priests, in short. But Stirner insists the secularist has only substituted the concepts of the rising bourgeoisie – “freedom,” “liberty,” “human rights,” and other “spooks,” as he calls them, that are more fashionable now than ever. Away with them all!
The idea of God and priestly commandments are, according to Stirner, to be replaced by the true will of the “I”. Likewise, just as one does not free oneself from anything that is considered pleasant and highly convenient, men need intellectual guidance really only for individualistic and egoistic reasons, and it is again egoists who economically and politically exploit this apparent need among the widespread credulity of the masses. ‘Egoism’, that is, ‘selfness’, according to Stirner, is the creator of everything.”
Thus does the “consummate individualist” meet – in the space beyond Left and Right, as well as beyond good and evil – with the aristocratic radical on the common ground of Life. D’Annunzio, when describing his movement from the Right to the equally irrelevant Left, sounds like Stirner:
On one side there are many dead men howling and on the other a few men alive. As a man of intellect I advance toward Life.
An idea that D’Annunzio learned from Nietzsche, but which Nietzsche learned from Stirner.
Artistokratia does not shun conceptual analysis entirely, since they are the necessary tools for understanding and confronting our historical situation. Lukas Kubena dissects the idea of “Ontological Historicism”:
We think of history as a timeline, as a series of events extending a few thousand years into the past leading up to a vaguely defined point in time known as the present. Worse yet, it has become the habit of contemporary historians to assert that in some bizarre act of teleology that History, in its absolute sense, is proceeding towards a vaguely defined ontological end.
Kubena contrasts this with “the Traditionalist Cycle or the cyclical view of history,” held by “the great civilizations of antiquity,” which “conceived of the universe as corresponding to cosmic Ages or Cycles”; even those few monotheisms that held to a linear view still incorporated the idea of “an earthly paradise in Man’s distant past.”
While modern Man, of the “progressive” Left or the “Spenglerian” Alt Right, is proud of his “Faustian spirit,” Kubena suggests this, like the one offered to the original Faust, is a fool’s bargain:
Western man and the civilization he created have been defined by the Faustian yearning for truth at all costs which eventually led him towards the Age of Exploration, global proselytism through missionary conversions, and universalist creeds of morality and socio-economic doctrines. His cargo ships sail all the world’s oceans, his airplanes roar across the skies, his satellites in untold numbers orbit around this earth-ball and his spacecraft have pierced the veil beyond the solar system and his global networks have encased the entire planet in a web of information. But, like Faust who sold his soul for ultimate knowledge, Western man now finds that it was all an illusion— he has become soft, decadent, self-hating and apathetic— the empires built by his forebears are no more, his cities are unrecognizable from how they were a mere generation ago. He has become tired of life. The boundless speed and energy of his Culture has made him prematurely old and he can do nothing but lie down in his heated-bed and mope in resentment over the foreigners who have appropriated both his cities and his great works.
Boris Nad then gives us a brief but densely informative survey of “The Idea of the Centre” which, in his opinion, “reaches its highest meaning in the Indo-European traditions.”
The Cycle and the Center, I might add, have been key concepts in my own writings here at Counter-Currents, right from the start, and these two essays would make excellent places to start for those looking to explore these ideas further.
Two further contributions explore the cultural products of this civilizational decline. In “From Heroes to Underdogs,” David Müller explores what I’ve called “cockroach literature”:
In consideration of the decline of man, there is perhaps no greater example than in literature to show the fundamental transition from the aristocratic principle to the state of the common, the underdog, and the antihero. In the past, man idolised and exalted the state of the heroic, those valiant beings that transcended the very limits of understanding and common human capacity to attain a higher spirit. In contrast, the modern world has brought about a rejection of this ideal, or to the decline of the heroic to suit a lesser position entirely.
And here’s an unexpected treat: “Homage to Zola,” an address by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, translated once more by Alexander Jacob. While Zola may, in a sense, have been the founder of “cockroach literature,” he at least still thought that the diseased men and conditions so exposed might be subject to some kind of providence, perhaps Science or Revolution. “But since that time, it has not been better. Since L’assommoir, it has not been better.”
The Cycle has continued, the Center has not held. Now, only massive lies hold society together (our “fake news”) and we can only dream of a writer who would have the courage of Zola in minutely observing today’s cockroach civilization. (Céline, perhaps?)
When we have become normal, in the sense that our civilisations understand and desire it and soon demand it, I think that we shall finally explode also with wickedness. We will have been left with only the instinct for destruction to divert ourselves with. It is that which is cultivated from school and that one maintains throughout what is still called life. Nine lines of crime, one of boredom. We will all die together, with pleasure altogether, in a world that we will have taken fifty centuries to barbwire with constraints and anxieties.
It must not be thought that Aristokratia’s project is purely antiquarian or theoretical, or entirely pessimistic. Indeed, Artistokratia keeps its readers fully informed on the most important political events of our day!
In the wake of Donald J. Trump’s electoral victory in the United States, which has rendered the pedestrian goodthinkers of the Left in disarray and despair, readers will find much interest in “Magick for Housewives: The Thought of Neville Goddard,” the self-taught mystic whose tall, handsome, charismatic, British-accented presence thrived on the then-cutting edge audio-visual lecture circuit before and after the Second World War, but whose roots lay in the Western Hermetic tradition and whose influence continues all the way to today’s White House.
Meanwhile, Kerry Bolton’s “Psychohistory, Physiology, and Social Revolt” examines the personality types of Leftist revolutionary leaders and finds that they had:
A will-to-destroy, wrapped within an ideological façade of rationalization . . . that states that entire classes are at war for supremacy as part of an inexorable historical process, and that denigrates the fundamental premises of a civilized society as bourgeois and in need of destruction, [which] is going to unleash atavisms that are barely repressed and more commonly expressed in normal times as individual acts of criminality and sociopathy.
Bolton traces the exploitation of this barbaric atavism of the mob by psychopathic “leaders” from the French Revolution through the Bolshevik, to the cultural jihads of the Islamic State and the Taliban, right up to the Occupy movement and the BLM riots. Today, we see the same mentality exploiting the same atavisms in the planned “demonstrations” against the Trump inauguration.
What unites most of these essays is a concern expressed by Michael Ledeen in his book on D’Annunzio’s adventure in Fiume, as quoted by von Taunton: modern civilization is a “thin veneer that barely covered up the savage and violent human instincts.”
In “Nietzsche as a Physician of Culture,” von Taunton returns to examine Nietzsche’s prescriptions for the unique problems of modern civilization, where the loss of any other unifying factor leaves it to culture to take up the task of tying civilization together, while simultaneously the valorization of work and the worker leads to the denigration of “mere” artists and scholars.
“Compositions” brings us Jarrad Ackert’s “Do Not Believe in Yourself (or Tearing at the Seams of a Flower),” described as “An original work in a similar style and sentiment to Emil Cioran and Nicolás Gómez Dávila.” And therefore, I would add, that of Nietzsche. These brief, cynical aphorisms sullenly meditate on the sickness and danger of Consciousness, the “fall into time” and discrimination, providing a poetic complement to von Taunton’s essay on Nietzsche as physician.
Hearing my name from out of the mouth of others is like being caught in a prison break.
There are thoughts where sensations should be; an architecture where empty space should breathe.
Finally, “Evaluations” brings us reviews of recent works of the esoteric, political, and aesthetic Right: Social & Political Thought of Julius Evola, The Eldritch Evola & Others, Borderline: A Traditionalist Outline for Modern Man, Summoning the Gods, and Prometheus and Atlas. Readers of Counter-Currents are likely familiar with all or most of these titles, and will not only look forward to these evaluations, but also be able to infer that this is a similar “must have” volume.
Aristokratia IV is a typical production of Manticore Press: well-designed and laid-out; sturdily bound with an attractive cover in the Traditionalist manner (shadowy, though in bright white and orangey colors, unlike the previous, darker covers). Truly a pleasure to have and to read. Get yours today!
1. See Hakim Bey, “March on Fiume,” here.
2. Prompted by his prominent forehead, we might translate it as Max Forehead, as in “Max Headroom.” He preferred to regard it as implying big brains, as well as being related somewhat to Stern (star), and “appropriated it,” as we say today as a pseudonym.
3. See, for example, “The Corner at the Center of the World: Traditional Metaphysics in a Late Tale of Henry James,” and “The Eldritch Evola,” both reprinted in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others: Traditionalist Meditations on Literature, Art, & Culture; ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).
4. For instance, in “Kafka, Our Folk-Comrade” and other essays collected in Green Nazis in Space! New Essays on Literature, Art, & Culture; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).
5. For more on Goddard and his influence on Trump, see my Trump: The Art of the Meme (Amazon Kindle, 2016). Von Taunton’s discussion of D’Annunzio’s political career – despite despising democracy, his electoral campaign was a success – invites comparison with Trump as well; she even describes his campaign slogan – the Candidate for Beauty – as at least an attempt at “trolling” the electorate, and quoting Marinetti on D’Annunzio “converting celebrity into power.”
6. See, for example, “Man Sets Himself On Fire Outside Trump D.C. Hotel In Protest Of Inauguration,” here, and “As Project Veritas Exposes “DisruptJ20” Plot To Cause Inauguration Chaos, Deplorables Out Organizer As Potential #PizzaGate Pedo,” here.
7. Michael Ledeen, The First Duce: D’Annunzio at Fiume (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1979), p. 5. Neville would likely agree in general, but his main concern is with the individual who “out-pictures” his environment.
8. Just as, even outside the context of democracy, D’Annunzio’s aesthetic activities and religious processions were not frippery but necessary to unite the ethnically diverse population of Fiume.
9. For the classic statement, see Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture; translated by Alexander Dru (New York: Pantheon, 1952; latest edition, with a Foreword by James V. Schall, San Francisco: Ignatius Press: 2009). Pieper explicitly sets himself in opposition to both Marx and Jünger as ideologues of Work, while D’Annunzio speaks for the Western Tradition of Leisure and the Festival when he says, “Where breathes the human being to whom the whole day, from dawn to dusk, is a festival” (quoted by Taunton).