Can Beauty be a Horizon for Political Combat?

What does beauty have to do with politics? Contrary to what it seems, both have a lot to do (especially when the ugly and the vulgar reign). Such is the reflection that this article raises.

“People have never been moved by anything but poets, and woe to him who does not know how to raise, in the face of poetry that destroys, poetry that promises,” proclaimed, ninety years ago, a certain tribune whose remains have recently been desecrated by the government and whom I have described, in a recent anthology, as a “poet politician.” It is true what he says—metaphorically understood, of course—about people and poetry. But it is not an easy thing to do. It is not evident that a poetic politics manages to rise above the sad prose that usually overshadows the political space, wrapped as it is in the din of passions, high and noble, sometimes, but also vile, and much more frequently. It has always been like this. Even in the times when the res publica knew its highest brilliance—Greece, Rome, the Italian Renaissance—the life of the City has been mired in the mud of turbulence, intrigues and vileness that convulse it.

In the best of cases, political action can, as I said, be noble, courageous, heroic—but as for beautiful, what is said to be beautiful, is not. What it was—and one day perhaps will be again—was an encourager, a promoter of beauty. It is enough to go to the Louvre, to visit the Prado, to pass by the Hermitage, to approach the Uffizi—it is enough to visit the inexhaustible rosary of palaces, temples and monuments that populate our Europe to verify to what point the yearning for the beautiful palpitated in the courts and cities of other times.

Was the “aesthetic taste” of our ancestors so developed, then? Was that so powerful a taste that the lords of liberalism and its democratic masses seem to have lost today?

No, it was not any “aesthetic taste” that, during millennia, spread in the world such a profusion of art. It was a “historical taste;” let’s put it that way. It was an eagerness to endure in time, to defeat death, to defeat it in the only way it can be defeated—by taking root in the collective memory, leaving engraved in stone, inscribed in marble, captured on canvas, written in words, the mark left by men in their passage through time.

What about our passage through time? How will we, the modern and postmodern, pass through it?

On what stone, marble or canvas will our mark be stamped? What monuments, what works of art will we leave? None, of course. The art that could be ours has vanished. In its place the ugly, bland or vulgar is deployed—from painting to architecture, even in our ornamentations and including music. If something manages to escape its encirclement, it does so sporadically, exceptionally. For the first time, beauty has ceased to mark the times. Except for a few rare exceptions, the only great art we know is the one in museums or in palaces, temples or ruins from other eras. Crowds of tourists run around and take selfies in front of what their era will never give them. Once the visit is over, they return to their sad neighborhoods and their comfortable apartments. Sitting on their sofas, they turn on the television.

Why has Beauty Faded Away?

Have we, then, lost our “aesthetic sense,” just as the blind man loses his sense of sight, or the deaf man loses his sense of hearing? No, it is something else. It is not any “sense” that we have lost, it is not any “cognitive faculty” that has been adulterated. The “aesthetic sense” is more than deployed when we deposit on the works of the past that contemplative, passive, inert look, with which we admire works that will leave us all the rapture we want—”oh, oh, how lovely, how magnificent!”—but they will never make Life, palpitating in them, impact us with the thrill of the beautiful.

It was beauty, instead, that struck those who crowded the Greek temples and theaters, those who crowded the Roman forums and circuses, those who crowded the cathedrals and medieval squares, those who sang the verses of our Romances, those who prayed in the Renaissance or Baroque churches, those who went to the comedy theaters, or those who walked through the convoluted alleys whose beauty, so simple, so poor even, still strikes us, the moderns, who will never be shaken by beauty when we drive through the jumble of our urban highways, when we pass without praying in front of our churches that look industrial warehouses, when we enter our industrial estates and sports centers, when we shop in our supermarkets, when we stay (oh, of course, comfort and conveniences, and rightly so, fascinate us! ), when we stay in the reinforced concrete hives that line up, haggard and sad, in the peripheral or central neighborhoods of any urban monster of any country in the world.

“The Greeks, that people of artists,” said Nietzsche, speaking of those who were undoubtedly artists to the highest degree. Not because most of them practiced any art, but because beauty was like a force that, bursting into life, gave it meaning, either through the words of tragedies and foundational texts (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Hesiod, Homer), or through the marble that made up the temples and raised the divinities before which those people recognized themselves.

But let’s leave the Greeks and come back to us—why don’t we recognize ourselves today in beauty? Because there is none! It is as simple as that. But why is there no beauty? Why have we stopped engendering beauty? For one reason—because the beautiful constitutes the highest expression of the spirit, and the spirit is for us a secondary, inessential thing; important only for leisure and amusement, even if it is a lofty, sublime amusement.

Let’s put it another way. If, contrary to the ancients, we do not create or recognize ourselves in beauty, it is because where they recognized themselves was neither in a leisure activity nor in an “aesthetic beauty.” What was at stake was a living beauty, woven on the background of a mythical space, of a sacred breath that, permeating everything, made “something”—an intangible, superior “something”—float in the air of all societies, of all times prior to modernity.

How can beauty reign when nothing like it floats in our air? How can it reign when, for us, nothing is valid unless it bears the mark of the rational? Nothing moves us outside of our prosaic wandering, our daily work and eating in order to, in the end, die. No myth sustains us. No sacred myth, it is necessary to specify—because the other myths, in the banal and negative sense of the term, we have aplenty: Money, Market, Utility; such are their names; those myths about these absolutely indispensable things, but not as foundational myths, not as instances bearing a meaning that they are incapable of giving.

And if nothing gives meaning, if nothing shapes or signifies the splendorous mystery of the world; if nothing expresses that superior, intangible and ineffable “something”—believers call it God—everything then collapses, and beauty finds no place to throb, and beauty hides, ceases to shine, and ugliness takes its place.

Our Paradox

However, our situation is still curious. Never as today, when it shines the least, has beauty been so necessary. Not only to fill the void left by its disappearance. Not only so that someday we may once again be awed by the beautiful things—but alive, but ours—that we may create again. If we need beauty, it is for something even more important. To save us. To give meaning to a life that no longer has meaning.

We have lost our way and our destiny. But, if we have fallen into it, it is for something that, in itself—and the paradox is immense—constitutes an adventure.

A thousand scientific reasons explain—and this is to be celebrated—a thousand questions about how the things of the Universe and of matter, of physics and chemistry, of biology and of the organism function and are articulated, how they are structured. But if such reasons explain the how, none explain nor can explain the what. What is this? What is this, this flower, this mountain, this sea, these trees, these men? What are these men who, living and dying, thinking and speaking, pronounce words that designate and give meaning to the flower, the mountain, the sea, the trees—to everything that, without words to name it, would never be: it would only be there?

As the Universe was during the billions of years of the Great Silence that covered everything—not even God spoke, not even anyone invoked Him or thought about Him—until certain apes decided to get down from the trees, stand up on two legs and emit the grunts that would become the words that, signifying, began to give meaning, to infuse being.

When all this is more than understood and known, what can such things as God or the gods, the sacred breath, the space of the mythical still do? They no longer paint anything; or so at least our times believe. And yet, no. Of course, they paint or can paint. Much even. For a simple reason. Because knowing everything we know about the how of things, we still know nothing about their what and their why, about their meaning and our destiny. What is this, what is that? What is the meaning of our life? Why and for what purpose do we live and die?

In reality, our lights are even dimmer than before. We find ourselves much more helpless than when a thousand images, a thousand flashes, a whole imaginary filled the abyss of existence. It filled it falsely, it is true, as far as the materiality of things is concerned; but it filled it significantly as far as its meaning is concerned. Today, on the other hand, alone and with our reason alone on our shoulders, we do nothing more than wander lost in the abyss.

And yet… Yet we have Art: “We have Art,” Nietzsche said, “in order not to perish because of Truth.” In order not to perish because of that rationality, that scientificity, absolutely indispensable—let us repeat it again and again—but which stiffens our soul.

Does Art remain for us? It would remain for us, rather, if we were able to embrace the challenge it implies. We would be left with Art—that prodigious fiction in which the imaginary displays the most authentic significance of the real—if Art became our watchword, our flag planted in the center of the City. “Artocracy,” Filippo Tomasso Marinetti called it.

This would imply a huge awakening, an artistic and spiritual rebirth as great as that of the other Renaissance. Both on the part of the creators and on the part of a society that, incapable today of considering the empire of ugliness as a catastrophe, limits itself to shrugging its shoulders when it passes by our urban eyesores, or to smiling—but mockingly—when it discovers the monstrosities of our “contemporary art.”

To do this, it would also be necessary for those who, full of identity fervor, fight in the City to include in their proposals and actions the idea—just that, the idea, and it would be a lot—that what is at stake is not only Bread and Justice, as said before; it is not only the unity of the Homeland and its ethnic and cultural continuity; it is not just the fight—exclusively defensive, today—against woke delusions. All of those things are absolutely necessary, it goes without saying. But, beyond them, it is equally necessary to launch existential and cultural ideas and projects in which a whole new way of being and existing is reflected. Ideas and projects that make us aware of the meaninglessness of a life that, crushed, among other things, by the ugly and the vulgar, is gradually falling into the abyss at the bottom of which the face of death appears, smiling like an advertisement.

But not “death by catastrophe, but puddles in an existence without grace or hope. All collective attitudes are born weak…. The life of the community is flattened, it becomes dull, it sinks into bad taste and mediocrity,” denounced, ninety years ago, the tribune who said that only poets can move the people.

Javier Ruiz Portella, journalist, essayist, writer and publisher, in Spain, whose recent book is N’y a-t-il qu’un dieu pour nous sauver? (Is There No God to Save Us?). This article appears through the kind courtesy of La gaceta de la Iberosfera.

Featured: The Cestello Annunciation, by Sandro Botticelli; painted ca. 1489 to 1490.

France: Islamist Hordes and Leftists Declare Civil War

Our headline might be incomprehensible to those who limit themselves to following the news through the official, mainstream media of the System. It is only thanks to alternative media that one can learn that the fire that is sweeping France is not a matter of mere disorder provoked by groups of “youths” from the suburbs—the famous “banlieues” full of emigrated masses.

For four days now, every night the same thing has been happening:

  • fires of all kinds and in particular hundreds of cars belonging to French workers are burned
  • attacks against the police and firemen (several police stations set on fire)
  • devastation of schools, town halls and libraries
  • assault on stores and stores
  • attacks against the Church (an 80-year-old Catholic priest, stripped and beaten, an evangelical church destroyed)
  • dead and wounded (two policemen—of whom nobody speaks—killed yesterday, along with 300 of their colleagues injured)

And all this, not only in the “cités” of the banlieue, where the police dare not even enter, but all over the country, from Marseilles where the Islamic implantation is getting stronger and stronger, to the Nordic Lille, passing, of course, through Paris.

Everything exploded, as usual—as also happened in the USA with the Blacks Live Matter—following the death in Nanterre of Nahel, a little Arab who at seventeen years of age had already been arrested several times (oh, that’s right, only petty crimes, thefts, drug trafficking, that sort of thing). When last Tuesday, during a traffic control, the police stopped the high-end car he was driving, despite not having a license, little Nahel tried to flee, by running over a policeman, who shot to defend himself and avoid being run over—and Nahel thus was killed him.

That’s when it all started. The Afro-Islamic mobs, accompanied by the white left-wing collaborationists, took to the streets. But don’t think that they were motivated by a deep feeling of grief for the death of one of their own. If this death has obviously been the spark that has set everything on fire, it is not what is driving them to loot and devastate everything in their path. It is not with grief wringing their hearts that such outrages are committed. Only those who are moved by a deep hatred for the world that has welcomed them and which they would like to destroy can plunder in this way.

Of course, this world deserves to be destroyed. But for reasons diametrically opposed to those that motivate the mobs. If our world deserves to be destroyed, it is to save, to enlarge civilization—our white and European civilization. Not to destroy it. Not to implant in its place the laws of Islam.

It is all the more necessary to put an end to such a world because the softness of its rulers prevents them from acting with the firmness required on occasions of exception, such as the present one. “It is the sovereign who decides in a state of emergency,” said Carl Schmitt. But so far Macron has not dared to decree any state of emergency, no state of alarm, not even curfews. And this when, at the time of writing, we are entering the fourth night of the most serious riots that France has known since the Paris Commune in 1871. And Macron (apart from surely planning for a helicopter to take him out of the Elysée, as he foresaw when the Yellow Vests rioted) has limited himself to throwing his policemen and gendarmes as bait into the hands of the mobs that attack them. He and his people believe that, with a scolding and a few gentle slaps on the hand, such people can be calmed, soothed, softened. Softening—they imagine—like the softies that such leaders are.

The French people, terrified and locked up in their homes, meanwhile see their cars and their buildings being set on fire by the pack. And the people do nothing. What can they do? Get themselves massacred?

Apart from the fact that their own softness prevents them from taking any action of any sort of risk, it is not up to the people, but to the forces of order to put things right. Including the army, whose intervention, according to a survey by the C-News television channel, is desired by 70% of the population.

A different matter is that later, when normality returns to the streets (if it returns), these same people will vote again for Macron & Co. They are really good at this, and so much more.

Javier Ruiz Portella, journalist, essayist, writer and publisher, in Spain, whose recent book is N’y a-t-il qu’un dieu pour nous sauver? (Is There No God to Save Us?). This article is through the kind courtesy of El Manifiesto.

Politician-Poet José Antonio Primo de Rivera

“We are going to defend our flag joyfully, poetically, by raising it. Because there are some who believe that in order to unite the will… it is necessary to hide everything that can arouse emotion or point out an energetic and extreme attitude. What a mistake!”

The flag that José Antonio Primo de Rivera wanted to raise was obviously a political flag. Raising it, he added: “People have never been moved by anything but poets, and woe betide anyone who does not know how to raise, against the poetry that destroys, the poetry that promises.”

Never had such words—the conjunction of the poetic and the political—resounded with such force in the public arena. Similar things had not even been heard in those times—Greek polis, Roman res publica, monarchy of divine right— in which a kind of sacred breath breathed in the political.

But today? Today, when political life has become a prosaic affair of merchants? Today, the above words—they were pronounced on October 29, 1933 at the founding ceremony of Spanish Falange—sound to our modern ears as outlandish as they are bizarre; and this despite the fact, perhaps someone will add, that they are aesthetically very beautiful. How nice they sound, it must be said! How well-spoken he was! And as handsome, the poor man, as he was! Et cetera.

The Conciliation of Opposites

The conjunction of the poetic and the political—the pretension of mobilizing the masses by invoking a poetic or spiritual spirit—constitutes, it is true, a contradiction in terms.

What happens is that there are contradictions upon contradictions. There are, on the one hand, the disastrous contradictions, the senseless nonsense. And there is, on the other hand, the Great Contradiction—”the embrace of opposites,” I usually call it—which, as Heraclitus already knew, moves the world and life, that life that would never exist without being spurred on by death; or that order of the intelligible that would never exist without being intertwined with that of the sensitive or emotional.

There, in that embrace of opposites, is where the conjunction of the political and the poetic is situated: in the combat that, necessarily mired in the mud of the public arena, is driven by a poetic or spiritual yearning.

What is this Yearning? What is this Struggle?

It is a yearning and a struggle – the very essence of the Jose-Antonian project—in which two contradictory terms are intertwined: revolution and conservation. The revolution that leads to a break with the old, retrograde conception of the world, while at the same time conserving all that, from tradition, it is imperative to conserve.

But what, concretely, do such a revolution and such conservation consist of?

What we must break with, advocates José Antonio, is the flagrant social injustices of liberal-capitalism (not, of course, to replace them with the much worse injustices of socialism). But what we must also put an end to is the decomposition of things, with the loss of their sap or substance—that consequence of individualism and materialism that lead, he wrote, “not to death by catastrophe, but to a stagnation in an existence without grace or hope, where all collective attitudes are born puny… and the life of the community is flattened, hindered, sinks in bad taste and mediocrity.”

Faced with this mediocre and puny life, what is needed is to raise the poetic breath, to unfold the spiritual rebirth of a world governed in our days by exclusive material desires and presided over by an equality and freedoms that, contrary to what his enemies claim, José Antonio did not reject at all. On the contrary, regretting their merely formal character, he seeks to revitalize them, to endow them with authentic meaning and content.

That is why he wrote: “Reader, if you live in a liberal state, try to be a millionaire, and handsome, and smart, and strong. Then, yes… life is yours. You will have publications in which to exercise your freedom of thought, automobiles in which to put into practice your freedom of locomotion.” If you don’t have them, if you are not at the heart of economic power, you will be left in the gutter.

The Nation

And, intertwined with all this, Spain, the Nation: that “unity of destiny.”

The Nation, the Homeland—the pillar of that substantial, organic order for which José Antonio advocated and which is at the antipodes of what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.”

The Nation, the Homeland—the place of tradition, of origins, of destiny. Of all that without which we would be nothing and without which we would speak nothing.

The Nation, history, tradition—that incandescent lava that unfolds over the centuries, linking the living with the dead and projecting them towards those to come.

The Nation—the very negation of narrow-minded, sullen, uncouth nationalism, just as the Fatherland, understood as it should be, represents the negation of tawdry, flat, chauvinistic patriotism.

The Nation—that unity of destiny that is opposed to the “terroir,” whose provincial narrow-mindedness José Antonio fought against.

And What about Francoism in all This?

What has all this to do with the Regime established after the victory of the national side in the Spanish Civil War? Francoism turned José Antonio into a saint and took the Falange to the altars; but its ideals had little to do with the reality of that prosaic and gray Regime, increasingly bourgeois, and which was so far from the poetic breath that “moves the people.”

What could the “cheerful and flirtatious Spain” defended by José Antonio, and the prudish Spain of demure skirts and prissy behaviors encouraged from the pulpits have in common? Except for outward appearances, except for that paraphernalia of belts, squads and blue shirts, very little; almost nothing had they to do with each other. The two had nothing in common.

(Is there no experience that, embodied in reality, allows us to relate it to the ideals of José Antonio? Yes, there are two. The first is the one undertaken by the great poet Gabriele D’Annunzio when he conquered in September 1919 the unredeemed Italian (today Croatian) city of Fiume. During the fifteen months that followed the most innovative of political, cultural and vital experiences, the Poet-Commander and his brave Arditi (the Daredevils) launched themselves, together with the population of the city, into a fascinating right-wing and libertarian, nationalist and cosmopolitan adventure, until they were defeated in December 1920.

The second historical reference is constituted by the so-called German Conservative Revolution, which, as its name indicates, consisted in joining, as José Antonio would do, the two opposing poles of tradition and revolution. Developed between 1918 and 1933, the German Conservative Revolution included thinkers and leaders of the stature of Oswald Spengler, the Jünger brothers, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Ernst von Salomon, Carl Schmitt, Heidegger, etc., not to mention its deep-rooted philosophical invocation of Nietzsche).

A fortnight before being shot, and while offering to try to bring about a cessation of hostilities between the two sides facing each other off to the death, José Antonio himself had intuited everything that separated him from the nascent Francoism. With schematic words—these were his notes to himself—but profound and harsh, he analyzed the social, political and ideological nature of those who had taken up arms.

“A group,” he said, “of generals of desolate political mediocrity. Pure elementary clichés (order, pacification of the spirits)…. Behind: 1) The old intransigent, narrow-minded, antipathetic Carlism. 2) The conservative classes, self-interested, short-sighted, lazy. 3) Agrarian and financial capitalism, that is to say… the lack of any far-reaching national sense.”

The far-reaching national sense, the far-sightedness, the eagle-eyed gaze—this was what characterized the man who, in one of those miracles that only happen once every thousand years, combined two extraordinary traits: those of the seasoned fighter in fierce combat in the political arena, and those of the deep, subtle thinker dedicated to the great challenges of the spirit.

However, that miracle would not last long—about five years-. A burst of machine gun fire finished him off. The trigger was pulled by the same graverobbers who have believed, eighty-seven years later, to be able to erase the presence of José Antonio. A vain endeavor! They can do nothing against the presence and the memory of the only politician-poet, the only politician-philosopher in Spain’s history.

Javier Ruiz Portella, journalist, essayist, writer and publisher, in Spain, whose recent book, N’y a-t-il qu’un dieu pour nous sauver? (Is There No God to Save Us?). This article comes through the kind courtesy of El Manifiesto.

Re-Enchantment Of The World: A Conversation With Javier Portella

We are so very pleased to bring you this interview with Javier Portella, journalist, essayist, writer and publisher, whose recent book, N’y a-t-il qu’un dieu pour nous sauver? (Is There No God to Save Us?) examines the necessity of re-enchantment of the world, from the neo-pagan perspective. We bring this interview through the kind courtesy of Éléments Magazine.

Éléments (É): You published Les esclaves heureux de la liberté (Happy Slaves of Liberty) in French almost ten years ago, a beautiful oxymoron. Tell us about this book? I think it will help us understand the process that led you to write N’y a qu’un dieu pour nous sauver?

Javier Portella (JP): It will help us all the more because my last book is in a way the sequel to Les esclaves heureux de la liberté, which Dominique Venner described, with an overly generous hyperbole, as “a philosophical atomic bomb.” A bomb, insofar as the radical questioning of our time is accompanied by… its praise; by the recognition, more exactly, of its potential virtues. Such a paradox is already contained in the title, which speaks of slaves… free. We have to understand that what makes us slaves is freedom itself, as long as it is not lived in its greatness and adventurousness. What shackles us is the difficulty to stand on the bottomless ground that freedom implies, on the fading of any foundation and very notably of the divine foundation. Insofar as such a fading, such an indeterminacy, is not lived as the risky and joyful adventure that it should be, modern man sees himself tied to (“happy”) chains, where the great mystery that makes the meaning and the beauty of the world, is filled with emptiness and ugliness.

É: The Spanish title of your book is El abismo democrático. There’s no need to translate it, but I would like to ask you to explain it—we didn’t know that democracy hides an abyss. Is it fundamentally hostile to the sacred?

JP: Hostile to the sacred… and to those men who, supposedly free, don’t even see the abyss they have fallen into. They ignore it, because it is covered by the most subtle lie of all: the one that pretends that it is the whole of men who decide their destiny, while these men—these atomized crowds—decide only one thing: to choose every four or five years if they are going to wear a white hat… or a white cap. All the democratic alternatives unfold exclusively within the System, as it is called; within one and the same worldview. If you defend a completely different vision (for example, a vision that is neither materialistic, nor individualistic, nor egalitarian; a vision that advocates the beauty and grandeur of our destiny), you will certainly have the right to defend it; but locked up in the margins, deprived of access to the mainstream media, you will have very little chance of seeing it triumph.

Unless… unless the exception occurs. Because it can happen (very rarely!) that someone appears who, breaking the game, manages to impose a completely different vision of things. May the gods, let’s underline it in passing, have it so for France (and for all of us) next April!

All this is linked to that other dimension of the democratic abyss that you mentioned and which is even more important: hostility to the sacred.

É: Yes, because your subject is not so much religion as the sacred. What difference do you make between the two? What is religion, what is the sacred?

JP: What is the sacred? How can we make men feel it when they have been deprived of it for so long? They swear by the concrete, the tangible, the useful… whereas the sacred—that something that bursts forth in art, nature, the city and the cult of the divine—throws the most intangible in their faces: the ineffable, the wonderful. But perhaps I am going a little quickly. The sacred is not “something,” as I said. It cannot be reduced to this or that. It is like an oscillation, like an incessant coming and going between a presence and an absence, between what we have in hand and what slips from all hands. The sacred impulse (for it is an impulse, a breath, that it is about) offers us everything, but does not let us seize anything. It is elusive. As ineffable as the beauty of nature, which strikes us, says Heidegger, when “the tree in bloom presents itself to us and we present ourselves to it.” The sacred: as ineffable, also, as the other beauty, that of art, which strikes us insofar as it shows everything, reveals everything, at the same time as it veils it by preventing us from supporting ourselves on any founding truth.

For the beauty of art and nature, it is clear; for the enigma of religion too; but why should politics belong, even it, to the sacred? The coronation of the sovereign, as far as I know, has disappeared for a long time; neither magnificence, nor solemnity, nor ritual surround the prince anymore. The emotion that raises the spirit of a people is also gone. The greyest banality, even the most hideous (a wooden language, for example), reigns in the city.

And then? It is the same for the three other domains of the sacred. Nature has become nothing more than a depository from which raw materials and tourist entertainment are extracted. Contemporary “art” is the reign of ugliness and non-art. As for religion, desacralized as it has been for the last fifty years… “The world has become ash-colored,” said Stefan Zweig. But the sacred, however buried it may be, remains no less: in the depths of nature and art. In politics too, where the enigma unfolds between what we are as a people and the impossibility of knowing what makes us be and become such or such, “the unforeseen in history,” as Dominique Venner said, being its key.

É: What specifically about religion? Can a society do without religion as well as other expressions of the sacred? You must agree that this has never happened in history, except in our world. To speak like Alain de Benoist and Thomas Molnar, if this “eclipse of the sacred” persists, can we, as men and as societies, last?

JP: No, it’s obvious. Hence the gravity of the moment. With “the death of God,” as the other said, we have taken all the risks… and we are paying all the consequences. But let’s not fool ourselves. These risks had to be taken—wherever they lead us. And we had no choice. There was no longer any way to continue believing in eternal life, in the foundation of the world by an all-powerful God, in his absolute transcendence, or in his claim to regulate and judge the conduct of men. It was necessary to stop believing, by this very fact, in the effective, not imaginary, reality of the divine, while continuing to believe in its sacred radiance.

But I expressed myself badly (what do you want, one thousand five hundred years of Christian history weigh on our shoulders). The question is not to believe (belief: this intimate act, this personal speculation, which has become the great obsession that Christianity has introduced). The question is not to have faith. The question is to celebrate—whether one has faith or not—the great mystery of the world and of life that the divine expresses; a divine that, recognized as a vital fiction, has no effective intervention—the Epicureans already knew this—in the affairs of mortals.

However, it is the opposite that has been done. Why was this done? Because one could not celebrate, it was believed, a god conceived as a fiction coming from the imaginary. This is to hold the imaginary to be of little value. Notice that such a contempt only concerns the divine imaginary. The same cannot be said of those beings who have emerged from the human imagination and whose names are Antigone, Don Quixote, Faust, Julien Sorel, Bardamu and so many others. Those beings who are more alive than mortals (they never die!); those beings whose deeds and gestures live in us with more intensity than if they had been “real”—without which they would never strike us. In other words, the divine is like art, this theater of shadows and light, this imaginary through the prism of which reality is revealed in its highest truth.

É: But could a god who is openly recognized as imaginary set up something like a cult, like a religion? What do you say to Samuel Beckett when he says: “It is easier to build a temple than to bring down the object of worship?”

JP: I answer that he is wrong; but in a sense he is right. He is wrong, because if the “object of worship”—the sacred, the divine—is not already there, no matter how many temples are built, they will always fail. How else to explain that modernity is the only era incapable of building temples? It certainly raises things that receive such a name. But they are not even temples where one celebrates, as Nietzsche said, “the funeral for the death of God.” What is celebrated in the temple-hangars of our days, vomiting ugliness, ugly on purpose, is a kind of black mass of Ugliness and Bullshit. If the spirit, if the sacred does not impregnate the air of time, the Beautiful—not as an aesthetic refinement: as a shaking—disappears from the temples, from the city and from life.

Becket is quite right if what he means is that the advent of the divine is not ordered. It either happens or it does not happen. Nothing would be more vain than to pretend, by a crazy proclamation of voluntarism, to bring about a god likely to “save us,” it being understood that such a salvation must not be understood in the Christian sense of “redemption of sins,” but in the sense of re-enchantment of the world. And yet, you may say, it is indeed the advent of such a god that Heidegger seeks—and I with him. Certainly. I only say that nobody can know if such a god will come or not. Only Fate, Fatum, that power to which the gods themselves were subject, can decide.

Yet there is something we know, or should know. Such a god—such an expression of the instituting mystery of the being—would know how to arrive only in one condition—that its mythical nature is recognized. What should not prevent that the divine remains wrapped in as many zones of shade or suspension of the judgment as one might want. The instituting mystery of being must always remain mystery. Otherwise, it is being itself which disappears.

Is such a thing possible? Is it possible to recognize and celebrate the poetic-mythical nature of the divine? Or does it imply, on the contrary, a principled impossibility? In the light of our history and our Christian sensibility, it certainly seems impossible. But are there not other historical situations where the divine has presented itself in this way? Doesn’t the history of paganism attest to this? As Alain de Benoist writes, “In paganism, art itself cannot be dissociated from religion. Art is sacred… Not only can the gods be represented, but it is insofar as they can be represented, insofar as men perpetually ensure their representation, that they have a full status of existence” (Comment on peut-on être païen? How Can e Be Pagan?).

The intertwining of men and gods, of art and the divine—here is the key. And intertwining means, the two terms require each other; nothing is first; neither the men nor the gods. To exist, the gods need men who celebrate them and the art that represents them. To exist, men need the gods. This otherness, this sacred without which men would not be anymore.

É: Very well. But, as you say, the emergence of the divine cannot be ordered, nor can the return of paganism be decreed… What is left?

JP: We are left with the only religion that, however shaky it may be, or even degenerate, still stands. I am referring to that Christianity whose followers—today rejected, perhaps tomorrow excommunicated—are, whatever our differences, on the same side of the fence where we stand. In contrast to official Christianity, such as it has developed since the Council and which, far from saving or re-enchanting the world, works for the loss of the world.

Is this something inevitable? I do not know. I only know that once, just once, things have happened quite differently. During the great adventure of the Renaissance, it was not only society that was shaken by its (re)discovery of Antiquity, but also the Church, which, for a good hundred years, between the middle of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, experienced a pagan-Christian syncretism that made possible, among other things, the greatest explosion ever seen in art. This is why I am devoting pages to this syncretism, which seem to me all the more necessary since the matter is surprisingly little known.

What is left of it? Almost nothing, I agree. Nevertheless, it was. And if something has been, there is no impossibility in principle for something similar to happen. Thus, every year in Spain, especially in Andalusia, the processions of Holy Week bring huge crowds (whether they are “believers” or, more surely, “unbelievers”) who are moved, full of fervor, to the passage of Virgins who resemble those goddesses whose name was attached to that of Mary, while that of Jupiter was attached to God the Father and that of Apollo to Christ in the most official texts of the Rome of Alexander VI and other popes of the Renaissance.

It is thin, I admit it. These are only signs; signs—not the proofs—that I was looking for in order to shed some light on the path.

Featured image: “La nascita di Venere” (The Birth of Venus), by Sandro Botticelli, painted ca. 1485.