The Economic Personality

Personality and individual: Differentiation of Concepts

The concept of the “total laborer” as a source of economic history can be supplemented by the formula “economic personality.” Economic personality is a total (integral) worker. In this case, the focus is on the personality in its anthropological interpretation (primarily in the French school of Durkheim-Moss and the followers of F. Boas in the USA). Here, the personality (la personne) is opposed to the individual (l’individu), since the personality is something social, public, complex and artificially created in contrast to the individual, which is an atomic datum of a separate human being without any additional characteristics. The individual is the product of the subtraction of the personality from the person, the result of the liberation of the human unit from any ties and collective structures. Personality consists of the intersection of various forms of collective identity, which can be conceptualized as roles (in sociology) or as filiation (in anthropology). Personality exists and makes sense only in relationship to society. Personality is a set of functions, as well as the result of a person’s conscious and meaningful creation of his or her identity. Personality is never a given; it is a process and a task. Personality is constantly being constructed, and in the course of this construction the surrounding world is established, ordered or, on the contrary, destroyed and chaotized.

Personality is the intersection of numerous identities, each of which belongs to a species; that is, it includes an indefinitely large number of identities as aspects of them. A particular identity is a combination of these filiations (species), each time representing something original—since the number of possibilities within each species, and even more so the combinations of these possibilities, is unlimited. Thus, people use the same language, but they utter with its help many different discourses, which are not so original (as it seems sometimes to the person himself), but also not so predictably recurrent as in the case of a machine or even the signaling system of animal species. Also, identities consist of the overlapping of age, gender, social, ethnic, religious, professional, class, etc. identities, each of which has its own structure. Thus, identity is the intersection of structures whose semantics is determined by the structural context.

The individual is the product of external observation of the human individual, where the personal aspect is either unclear or removed altogether. The individual is thought of in isolation from structures and affiliations and is fixed only on the basis of his actual bodily presence, reactive nervous system, and capacity for autonomous movement. In a certain sense, the individual as a concept is best understood in behaviorist theory: in this theory, the person is black-boxed, and that which interacts with the environment is the individual in its prima facie empirical state. However, while empirically the individual is quite realistic, as a metaphysical concept it is purely nihilistic. Behaviorism claims that it knows nothing about the content of the “black box” and, moreover, that it is not interested in this content. In principle, this is a logical conclusion from the American philosophy of pragmatism. But just because the content is “not interesting” does not mean that it does not exist. This is very important: pure pragmatism, while refusing to be interested in the structure of the individual, still does so modestly and does not draw any conclusion from it about the ontology of what is in the “black box.” American pragmatism is therefore individualism only in part—in its empirical aspect. Radical individualism has different—purely English—roots and is associated with the idea of the elimination of all filial lines. In other words, individualism is built on the conscious and consistent annihilation of the individual, on its negation and on giving this negation a metaphysical and moral status: the annihilation of the individual is a movement toward “truth” and “goodness,” which means “toward the truth of the individual” and “goodness for the individual.

Here we see the line between indifference and hatred: American pragmatism is simply indifferent to the individual, while English liberalism and its universalist and globalist derivatives hate and seek to destroy it. The goal is to transform the individual from an empty concept obtained by subtraction into something real, in which the physical separateness of the singular being would interlock with the element of the metaphysical abyss (obtained by eliminating the individual and all the structures that ground it).

Economy of the Personality

After this explanation, it is easy to apply both concepts—personality and individual—to the economy. The integral (total) worker is precisely an economic personality, not an economic individual. Here integrality, which we characterize as the connection of production and consumption and ownership of the means of production, is supplemented by the most important characteristic: inclusion in social structures that have an organic nature. The integral worker lives (including production and consumption) in a historical and cultural environment, which offers him a branching set of collective identities. This set predetermines his language, clan, faction, place in the kinship system (C. Lévi-Strauss), gender, religion, profession, belonging to a secret society, connection with space, etc. In each of the structures, a person occupies a certain place, endowing him/her with appropriate semantics. And this is what determines his economic activity. The laborer (first of all, the peasant) works not just for survival or enrichment, but for many other—and much more important—motives arising from the structures that form his personality. The laborer labors because of language (which is also a kind of economy—an exchange of speech, greetings, blessings or curses), kin, gender, religion and other statuses. At the same time, labor also involves the whole person—in all the diversity of its constituent elements. In this sense, the integral worker in the process of farming constantly and continuously affirms personal structures, which makes farming a kind of ontological liturgy, creation, protection and renewal of the world.

Economic personality is a quite concrete expression of species properties, where these properties, having multiple levels, are combined in a complex and dynamic combination. If structures are common (although this commonality is not universal, but is determined by the boundaries of culture), their expression and affirmation in personality is always isolated: not only are the structures themselves different in some cases (for example, in the field of gender, profession, castes, where they are, etc.), but their moments are manifested with different degrees of intensity, purity and brightness. Hence, differentials arise, which make life unpredictably diverse: individuals reflecting combinations of common (adjusted for cultural boundaries) structures are always diverse, as they carry differently emphasized and combined elements of these structures. This is what allows us to consider society both as something uniform, permanent, and subject to a common paradigmatic logic, and as something unique and historical, since individual freedom is extremely great and can generate a myriad of situations.

Nevertheless, the society of the integral laborer as a whole is defined by the unity of the paradigm, where the main law is the domination of the individual as the basic gestalt.

This is the kind of society any traditional society is, where the sphere of economy is singled out as a separate rather independent sphere, distinct from the other sphere, which includes warriors, rulers and priests. It is important that warriors and priests do not participate directly in the economy and act as the Other, called to consume the surplus of the economic activity of the integral laborer. It is important that it is the surplus. If warriors and priests demanded something more than surplus (“the cursed part”, J. Bataille), the laborers would die of hunger and shortage, and this would entail the death of warriors and priests themselves. At the same time, in societies where there is no social stratification, the addressee of the destruction of the “cursed part” (excesses) are the spirits, the dead and the gods in whose honor the potlatch is carried out. The Russian word “lihva” is very expressive: it means something superfluous, as well as bank interest, and comes from the base “liho,” “evil.”

From this observation an important principle in the theory of integral toilers emerges: the labor community of integral toilers must be sovereign in the economic sense; that is, it must have complete autarky in every sense. In this case, it will be independent of the superstructure (warriors and priests), who can consume the “cursed part,” or they can be absent, in which case the “cursed part” will be destroyed by the integral laborers themselves in the course of a sacred ritual. Thus, the very prerequisite for the interiorization of the curse will be eliminated. And this interiorization of the curse is the split (Spaltung), which means capitalism.

Capitalism brings with it the splitting of the economic personality, its detachment from structures, that is, its depersonalization. This simultaneously leads to the de-secularization of the labor community, to its dependence on external factors, to the division of labor and to the economic curse: the integral worker (peasant) becomes a bourgeois, that is, an immanent consumer of the cursed part. From here comes the disintegration of the personal character of the economy and a change in the whole nature of the economy: from the economy as a sacred way of life in the context of personal structures to the economy as a way of accumulating material resources. According to Aristotle, this is the transition from economy (οἰκονόμος) to chrematistics (χρηματιστική). The personality is the central figure of the economy as a household. The individual is the artificial unit of chrematistics as a continuous process of enrichment.

Chrematic Individual

The model of capitalism is based on the view of society as a set of economic individuals. In other words, capitalism is not an economic doctrine of the household of personalities, but an anti-economic doctrine that absolutizes the chrematistic individual as a schematization of the egoistic activity of individuals. The chrematistic individual is the result of the split (Spaltung) of the economic personality.

Capitalism assumes that at the heart of economic activity is the individual who seeks enrichment. Not to the balance of the cosmic structure and the sacred element of the liturgy of labor (as an integral toiler), but precisely to enrichment as a monotonous process and an increase in asymmetry. This means that capitalism is the conscious desire to interiorize and cultivate the “cursed part.” This is exactly what the chrematist individual is—he seeks to maximize wealth, and this desire is reflected in the capitalism of desire. Desire here is depersonalized (hence M. Foucault’s “desire machine”), for it is not the desire of the personality, reflecting the structures of filiation, but the nihilistic will of the individual, directed against the structures as such. This chrematistic desire is the force of pure nihilism, directed not only against the personality, but also against the economy as such, and moreover, against man as a structure.

Capitalism destroys the cosmos as a sacred field of existentialization of a community of personalities, asserting instead a space of transactions between chrematistic individuals. These individuals do not exist because each particular person is still—even under capitalism—phenomenologically a person, that is, the intersection of collective filiation. But capitalism seeks to reduce this personal aspect as much as possible, which is only possible by replacing humanity with posthuman individuals. It is in the transition to posthumanism that the chrematistic desire reaches its culmination: the “damned part” realizes the implosion of the human that began with capitalism.

A perfect transaction is only possible between two cyborgs—neural networks that completely lack existentials and connection to personal structures.

But the cyborg is not introduced into the economy today. From the very beginning, capitalism has dealt with the cyborg, because the chrematic individual is the cyborg, an artificial concept obtained through the splitting of the total (integral) laborer. Both the proletarian and the bourgeois are artificial figures obtained by decomposing the peasant (the traditional third function) and then artificially folding the parts into two non-equilibrium sets, the urban exploited and the urban exploiters. Cyborg bourgeois and cyborg proletarians are equally individual and mechanistic at the same time; but the former are dominated by the liberated “accursed part,” while the latter are dominated by the dark mechanical fate of production rooted in the poverty and insignificance of matter. We become bourgeois and proletarian when we cease to be human beings, when we give up our personality.

Economic Eschatology and the 4PT

In the context of the overall structure of the Fourth Political Theory, we can speak of the eschatological structure of economic history.

In the beginning stands the economic personality, the integral (total) worker, which in the specifics of Indo-European societies (primarily in Europe) is represented by the gestalt of the peasant. The full-fledged personality is the peasant, who represents the aspect of man (in the broad sense of the Anthropos) turned to the element of the Earth. In the course of growing bread, the peasant goes through the mystery of death and resurrection, seeing in the fate of grain the fate of man. Peasant labor is an Eleusinian mystery, and it is important that Demeter’s gift to people, thanks to which they moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture (i.e., the gift of the Neolithic revolution), was bread and wine, an ear of wheat and a bunch of grapes. The peasant is a person of mystery, and the economy in its original sense was based on the mysteries of Demeter and Dionysus. These cults did not simply accompany peasant activity; they were this activity itself, represented paradigmatically. The Athenians considered a full-fledged person to be an initiate in the mysteries, and specifically in the Eleusinian mysteries—the mysteries of bread and wine, that is, in the peasant mysteries of death and new birth. This figure is the figure of the integral laborer.

The next point in economic history is the advent of capitalism. It is associated with the splitting of the economic personality, the disintegration of the unified image of the sacred toiler, and consequently with industrialization, urbanization, and the emergence of classes—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Capitalism postulates the chrematic individual as a normative figure, describing him as a symbiosis of animal and machine. The metaphor of the animal “explains” the will to survive and “desire” (as well as the predatory motivation of (anti)social behavior—Hobbes’ lupus), while rationality (Kant’s “pure reason”) is seen as the prototype of artificial intelligence.

This was implicit in early capitalism (the beginning of the New Age) and explicit in late capitalism (Postmodern). Thus, the integral laborer repeated the fate of grain once again, not in the structure of the annual rural cycle, but in “linear” history. However, the linear time of capitalism is a vector directed toward the pure element of death, which nothing follows and is fraught with nothing. The death of the New Age is death without resurrection, death without meaning or hope. And this vector of irreversible death, of annihilation, reaches its maximum at the moment of the appearance of the pure individual, as the culmination of capitalism as a historical stage. The pure individual must be the bearer of physical immortality, because there will be nothing in him that can die. There should be no hint of structure or filiation in him. He must be completely free of all forms of collective identity as well as existentialism. This is the “end of the economy” and the “death of the personality,” but at the same time the flowering of chrematistics and the immortality of the (posthuman) individual. The grain of the human rots, but in its place comes not a resurrected life, but a simulacrum, an electronic Antichrist. Capital is etymologically related to the head (Latin, caput), i.e., capital has historically been a preparation for the coming of artificial intelligence.

So, what is the economic aspect of the Fourth Political Theory that challenges liberalism in its final (terminal) stage?

Theoretically, we should argue for a radical return to the integral toiler, to the economic personality against the disintegrated capitalist “order” (or rather controlled chaos) and the chrematistic individual. This means radical deurbanization and a return to agricultural practices, to the creation of sovereign peasant communities. This is the economic program of the 4PT—the resurrection of the economy after the black night of chrematism, the revival of the economic personality from the abyss of individualism.

But we cannot ignore the bottomless scale of capitalist nihilism. The problem has no technical solution: capitalism cannot be corrected; it must be destroyed. Capitalism is not just the accumulation of the “damned part,” it is the damned part itself, its very essence. Therefore, the struggle against capitalism is not a competition for a more efficient way of life, but a religious eschatological struggle against death. Capitalism historically, or rather hierohistorically, Seynsgeschichtliche, is the penultimate chord of the Eleusinian mystery. The economy rots under the spud of chrematistics, the economic personality is ruptured by the individual, the element and structure of life is destroyed by the mechanics of electronic desire. But all this makes sense if we take economic history as a mystery. This is the last pre-dawn hour. Capitalism today has come to its last stand. The seal of the electronic Antichrist has been broken; everything is coming to light. Not just a crisis or a technical failure, we are entering the moment of the Last Judgment.

But this is the moment of the Resurrection. And for the Resurrection to take place, there must be a subject of Resurrection, that is, an initiate, a person, a peasant, a human being. But it is precisely this figure who dies in history. And it seems to be gone. It is already gone. And it is impossible to bring it back: the distance from the moment of innocence (traditional society) is irreversibly distant and grows so with each passing moment. But at the same time the distance to the final moment of Resurrection is shortening. And all bets are on the fact that what is destined to be resurrected will preserve itself until the final explosive thunder of the trumpet of the Archangel.

Therefore, in the end we see not just an integral laborer, a peasant, an economic personality, but an integrated laborer, not a grain personality, but a sprout personality, a bread personality, a wine personality. The peasant today is conscripted into the militia, his destiny in the last hour before dawn—the darkest hour—to become part of the economic army, whose goal is to defeat Death, to tame time again, to subjugate it to eternity. The Fourth Economic Theory cannot be another projection and fantasies of modernization and optimization. These are not our projections and fantasies; they are encoded and embedded in our imaginarium by Capital. We need to think personally, not individually, historically, not situationally, economically, not chrematically. It is not about building a better economy than liberalism; it is about how to destroy the “damned part.” Accumulated wealth is a gift from the devil; it will disintegrate into shards at the first crowing of the rooster. Only the gratuitous gift belongs to us personally; only the given, the donated, the freely given constitutes our patrimony. Therefore, the dream of the economy must be a knowingly resurrectional, resurrecting, dream of the Gift.


Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.


Featured: Farmers’ Lunch in the Field, by Vladimir Makovsky; painted in 1871.


The French “Nouvelle Droite” (New Right) and the Question of Religion

“In nature, in the cosmos, there is a divine, sacred dimension. In this sense modern “neo-paganism” is a hasty conclusion or, at least, a transitional phase” (Ernst Jünger, The Coming Titans).

When one speaks of the ideas of the “ND” (Nouvelle Droite/New Right), the intellectual current that emerged in France in the 1970s, there is a recurring theme: its position on the question of religion and in particular its option for “paganism.” What exactly does this paganism mean? Where did it come from? Are the ideas of the ND incompatible with a Christian confession? Where, intellectually speaking, has the paganism of the ND led? Here are the answers of someone whose intellectual formation is inscribed in the Nouvelle Droite/New Right and who, nevertheless, is Catholic. A text for debate.

The “Nouvelle Droite/New Right” was known—and is now less and less known—as the school of thought, led by Alain de Benoist, that was born in France in the 1970s and which, since then, has described a trajectory similar to that of meteors: on an unknown course, illuminating the night firmament, attracting attention, also arousing fears—even omens of catastrophe—and, along the way, shedding fragments of disparate behavior, depending on the atmospheric conditions. I am one of those fragments. I entered the intellectual orbit of the “Nouvelle Droite / New Right” (hereinafter “ND”) around 1982. I read absolutely everything published by the ND (which was and has continued to be a great deal), I attended its international colloquia and summer universities (very few Spaniards passed through there) and, for some time, I tried to see that here, in Spain, something similar to what arose there might emerge. This is to underline that these lines, which are intended to be a dispassionate analysis, nevertheless contain an important part of personal confession.

The ND and its Context

The ND was so called because it was a way of thinking different from what was in force at that time—in the 1970s and 1980s—which was the ideological monopoly of the left. It must be repeated: a way of thinking; that is, an intellectual attitude, not a political attitude. Since it was not left-wing, it was called “right-wing.” And since it did not fit into the usual molds of the ordinary right either—because it was neither traditionalist nor liberal—it was called “new.” Given the oppressive atmosphere that the Marxist intelligentsia had imposed on European thought and on the media since the 1960s, the attitude of the ND, uninhibited, intelligent and without complexes, represented a real breath of fresh air for many temperaments, and especially for those who, being by convictions on the right, needed (we needed) to think things in a new and deeper way.

What the ND contributed was a very extensive and intense critique of contemporary civilization, and it did so with a very broad philosophical base—there is no author whose ideas have not served it well, from the Frankfurt School to the great French reactionaries, and from the mystics of medieval Germany to postmodern sociologists—and with a properly multidisciplinary projection; that is to say, it applied to economics as well as to psychology, biology as well as to politics. Someday we will have to recapitulate this immense work, ignominiously reduced by hostile critics to a mere emanation of the “radical right,” and we will see that it is a real reservoir of ideas. As with all deposits, here too there are inexhaustible veins and others that are soon extinguished; galleries of infinite expanse and others that lead to dead ends; valuable materials and others that vanish on contact with the air. In any case, the deposit is there: in the huge collection of texts gathered in the volumes of the journals Nouvelle École, Éléments or Études & Recherches, not to mention the numerous publications published on the periphery of the ND, as well as in the overwhelming books by Alain de Benoist, and in the very long list of texts that have emerged around this initiative. It is a pity—and this says a lot about our times—that most of those who criticize the ND do so without having read a single page of this properly encyclopedic work.

What were the main lines of the critique of the ND? Synthesizing to the bare essentials—and, therefore, simplifying to the point of abuse—we can describe them in three vectors. The starting point was a triple refutation. In the first place, the reprobation of the social culture imposed since the 1960s—much before, in fact—by the left-wing intelligentsia, a social culture that translated into a singular mixture of forced egalitarianism, ideological materialism, generalized moral abdication and infinite hatred towards European identity. Secondly, a deep nonconformism towards the economic civilization imposed by the capitalist order in the West, that type of civilization where no other form of individual or collective life is understood, except through the selfishness of “best interest” and “profitability.” Thirdly, a very characteristic issue of the final years of the Cold War: the weariness of a Europe subjected to the despotism of a bipolar world and the anxious search for its own, European, way to regenerate the spirit of the old continent in the new and threatening world of the great superpowers.

From these three points of origin, the reflection of the ND unfolded in vectors that led naturally to identify; first, the root causes of the evil being criticized, and then to try to think of an alternative to the situation.

The critique of the cultural model of the left led to a dissection of egalitarianism, namely, that dogma of the essential equality of human beings. Such a dissection departed from the usual liberal critique of egalitarianism (that equality undermines efficiency because it inhibits ambition) and focused instead on underlining the anthropological foundations of difference, both among men and among peoples; difference which, in the discourse of the ND, was not so much aimed at creating a new legitimacy for this or that hierarchy as at proposing ways of thinking about diversity: of social functions within a community, of cultural identities, of forms of development, etc.

The second point, the critique of economic civilization—and its corollary, technical civilization—led to the identification of individualism as the origin of the process: Individualism, that is, the conviction that the ultimate horizon of all reflection and action is the individual; his autonomy identified as his “best interest;” his search for happiness interpreted in terms of material success, according to a pattern of behavior that extends from economic life to any other field; from politics to family relations. The need to propose a critical alternative to individualism—without falling, on the other hand, into the annulment of the individual typical of egalitarian systems—led to the search for an alternative sociality, a task in which materials as diverse as the “tribal” sociology of the postmodernists, Christian personalism or the theses of Anglo-Saxon communitarians were brought together: systems of life in common, where the person and the group are not antithetical elements, but complementary realities.

As for the third vector, which stems from dissidence with respect to the world order born of the Cold War, it took the form of a critique of universalism—although it would have been more accurate to speak of “globalism”—which led to a rejection of the idea of a planetary convergence around the North American model and the proposal of a sovereign Europe in the military, diplomatic and economic spheres, the defense of the cultural identities of all peoples, and an alliance of this sovereign Europe with the Third World.

These are, roughly speaking, the elements from which the thought of the ND developed. It would be too long to go into the derivations of each line; for example, the critique of the concept of “humanism,” the distrustful look towards technical civilization, the recovery of elements of the traditional ecological discourse, the proposal of an alternative conception of democracy and the State, the critique of nationalism as a “metaphysics of subjectivity,” etc. It would also be excessive to enumerate the theoretical materials that contributed to support this work; all of them can be found in the publications of the ND and to which we referred.

Criticism of Christianity

Within this work, there was a specific line of reflection that some consider fundamental and others secondary, but which in any case has had the virtue (or rather the defect) of absorbing attention to the point of obscuring the rest of the theoretical ensemble of the ND: the question of religion, resolved in an acerbic criticism of Christianity and in a vindication of a new kind of paganism.

Before explaining this point, it is necessary to point out that, in reality, the sources from which the attitude of the NR towards religion draws are very plural, very diverse, also contradictory: among the names that supported the birth of the Nouvelle École—the first great theoretical review of the movement—there are, for example, quite a few Christians. These sources, moreover, have not led to a homogeneous position, but to different attitudes, which, in turn, have undergone modifications over time. A perfect example of such heterogeneity is the survey, “Avec ou sans Dieu / With or without God,” organized by the magazine Éléments, where different authors related to the heteroclite galaxy of the ND (including myself) and explained their position on the matter. More than fifty years after the ND began its work of reflection, the balance in this matter is very abundant in terms of points of view and potentially rich in openings to other currents, but rather disappointing if one is looking for a solid and well-defined intellectual position. The “pagan drift” is an important feature of Alain de Benoist’s thought and, in this sense, it can be considered “canonical” with respect to the whole of the ND, since he is undoubtedly its main theoretician; but not even in this author can one speak of a continuous position over time, but rather of an evolution that is not always predictable. For the rest, the different strands that built the framework of the thought of the ND on religious matters have ended in dead ends or in an uncomfortable impasse. And this is what we must now examine.

When does the polemical question of Christianity—of anti-Christianity, rather—enter into the general discourse of the ND? It enters at the moment of genealogies, when we try to find the intellectual origin of egalitarianism, individualism and universalism. Christianity, in fact, has an important egalitarian component, since it endows all men equally with a soul of identical value for all, regardless of the place each one occupies in the world of the living; and all men equally will be submitted to divine judgment. Moreover, the Gospel message, abundant in formulas such as “he who humbles himself will be exalted and he who exalts himself will be humbled,” or “the last will be first,” seems designed to nourish subversion. Christianity also has an individualistic component, since salvation is entirely individual, affects only and exclusively the soul of each person and places man’s relationship with God on an eminently personal level. Christianity, finally, is a universal religion, where, as St. Paul preaches, after Revelation there are no longer Greeks or Jews, barbarians or Scythians, but we are all one in Christ, so that belonging to a community is expressly devalued and, in its place, a properly universal consciousness emerges: We are all one, in fact.

In this act of pointing to Christianity as the origin of the essential values of the modern world, it is easy to trace the influence of Nietzsche, both in the Genealogy of Morals and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. But, in the specific case of the ND, perhaps even more important was the influence of the positivist philosopher Louis Rougier, who had recovered the old allegory of the Roman Celsus against Christians. Thus, it was that towards the end of the 1970s, Christianity was characterized in the discourse of the ND as “the Bolshevism of antiquity.” In an environment such as that of European culture in the 1970s, where a Church disrupted by the Second Vatican Council was openly playing the “progressive” card, this criticism seemed to be quite in line with reality.

Let us talk a little more about Louis Rougier, because his role in this story is important. With Rougier (1889-1982), the logical empiricism of the Vienna circle entered the early ambit of the ND (early 1970s). This source brought, from the outset, a scientistic attitude towards reality: empirical truth—read, experimental—became an efficient alternative to the prevailing “ideological” truths of the time, generally derived from the Marxist-Leninist paradigm. Remember that this is the time when biology seemed to be dominated by the environmentalist model of the Soviet Lyssenko and psychology was dominated by Freudian psychoanalysis, both schools which, in their translation into social philosophy, coincide in proposing egalitarian doctrines. As opposed to these doctrines, the ND claimed, in psychology, the experimental work of Eysenck, Jensen or Debray-Ritzen, and in biology, the contributions of ethology (Lorenz, Eibl-Eibesfeldt, etc.) and of the first sociobiologists (Wilson, Dawkins), who coincided in proposing differentialist, i.e., non-egalitarian, models. From this period dates also, by the way, an old error of the interested critics of the ND—the assimilation between their positions and those of sociobiologists. But the ND very quickly distanced itself from sociobiology because it considered that its approach was nothing but a reductionism to genetics. In its place was adopted the vision of Konrad Lorenz, based on a much more elaborate, non-reductionist philosophical anthropology, which perfectly integrated the biological dimension of the human and his cultural dimension: the anthropology of Arnold Gehlen.

From the scientific point of view, it is obvious today that the ND was betting correctly: genetics has proved to be a key discipline, while Lyssenko’s environmentalist delusions are no longer remembered. However, this position had a drawback from the philosophical point of view: it made the discourse of the ND gravitate around a scientistic materialism that vetoed an objective approach to the sacred. And this, despite the fact that some of the inspirers of this scientific position were avowedly Christian, as in the case of Konrad Lorenz.

Louis Rougier is also important in the forging of the discourse of the ND for another contribution, this one in the field of the history of political culture: his book Du paradis à l’utopie (From Paradise to Utopia), which is an explanation (very remarkable, by the way) of how the egalitarian messianism of the left derives directly from a secularization of Christian eschatology, from an earthly-ization of the message of salvation. The thesis of From Paradise to Utopia is, in general terms, unassailable: most of the redemptorist concepts of the left in general and of Marxism in particular find their antecedents in equivalent concepts of the Christian heritage. Thus, Providence is transformed into the Necessity of history and the ultraterrestrial Paradise is transmuted, through utopia, into paradise on earth. The fact that this supposed paradise has led to the Gulag only goes to show the absurdity of the transposition and the correctness of Rougier’s criticism. Now, from this point on, Rougier’s thesis reproaches Christianity for carrying, in germ, the seed of subversion; and in this sense, he will recover—later on—the warnings of the Roman Celsus against the threat that Christians represented for the empire. If Christianity could be secularized into a revolutionary ideal, it is because the Gospel message carried within itself this virtuality. This is the aforementioned characterization of Christianity as “the Bolshevism of antiquity.”

In this way, the anti- or post-Christian line of thought that stemmed from the 19th century came to connect with a general philosophy of scientific matrix, very typical of the 20th century. The “pagan rebellion” that can be traced in certain streaks of German and French romanticism, in the philosophy of Nietzsche and even in works such as Wagner’s (before his Parsifal), went hand-in-hand with the logical critique of the Christian mental model and ended up giving birth, in the ND, to a position of simultaneous rupture with Christianity and with modern ideologies, which were seen as nothing but secularized prolongations of the evangelical message.

The Weakness of the Philosophical Critique of Christianity

Now, to focus the critique of modernity on Christianity was an intellectually risky operation. First, because Christianity, although it is not only a doctrine of the afterlife, is above all a doctrine of spiritual salvation, in such a way that its concepts cannot always be understood as principles of an intellectual-ideological order, ready to be applied materially to the social or political terrain. It is true that preaching an equal soul for all men can be understood as a form of egalitarianism, but it is also true that, according to Christian doctrine, some of these men are saved and others are not, and there are few things less egalitarian than this difference. On the other hand, the theme of man created unanimously in the image and likeness of God is opposed by the parable of the talents, which is a metaphysics of inequality.

The same is true of the other modern “ideologemes” that the critique of the ND attributes to Christianity. For example, in Christian discourse, the theme of individualism—the soul is an individual attribute and salvation is also a matter of the individual—is opposed by the theme of the negation of individuality, expressed in terms that lead to proposing the radical renunciation of all things in the world. The same contradiction is found in the theme of universalism: if in the proclamation that “we are all one” there is an evident affirmation of the unity of believers above the earthly powers, it is no less true that this unity leaves out non-believers; and, on the other hand, the doctrine itself exposes a clear separation of the earthly and spiritual spheres, according to the formula “to God what is God’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” In other words, Christianity can be reproached for one thing and also for the opposite. Focusing the discourse on only one of the facets means deliberately hiding the other and, in that sense, falsifying the whole. To put it bluntly, it is as if the ND, in its critique of Christianity, were describing an object other than the one it intends to criticize.

Let us stress the question of egalitarianism, which is crucial. In general terms, the identification between Christianity and egalitarianism suffers from an initial error, namely—from metaphysical equality does not necessarily derive physical egalitarianism. It is true that the Church, in other times—and precisely in the 1970s—did not fail to fall into this error, allowing or encouraging (depending on the strands) that the doctrine of metaphysical equality (all men are brothers because they all have a soul that is an equal child of God) be “recovered” by the dominant egalitarian discourse (all men are equal). But what the ND does is methodologically debatable: it does not combat the error of these ecclesial strands, i.e., it does not examine the initial premise, but takes it as valid—that is, it accepts the identification between metaphysical equality and political egalitarianism—and from there deduces a general critique of Christianity as the matrix of all egalitarian thought. All subsequent discourse is affected by this methodological error of departure. The results are intellectually very fragile: the equality of souls before God cannot be identified with the equality of men in the State, if only because, in the first case, some are saved and others are not; neither can Christianity be identified with egalitarian thought, if only because, historically, all egalitarian thought has tended to burn down churches and de-Christianize those societies where it triumphed.

In the end, the ND is criticizing a false, phantom Christianity, a mistaken idea of Christianity. Naturally, it could be objected that what the ND criticizes is not Christianity as a religion, but Christianity as a worldview. But the objection itself betrays the error: Christianity is first and foremost a religion, and it makes little sense to criticize an object as something other than what it is. Another thing is that forces arising from the Church itself have desacralized Christianity—for example, turning it into a very materialistic theology of liberation. But here the error is in the executioner; that is, in those who have executed the desacralization, not in the victim, that is, in the desacralized Christianity.

In all this, let us emphasize that the thesis that modernity is a secularization of religious concepts remains valid: modern discourse is really incomprehensible if we do not understand it as secularization. Here we are approaching that Schmittian formula of “political theology”: modernity transfers to the political terrain numerous concepts that were once part of the theological terrain. That is to say that the general pattern of Du paradis a I’utopie (From Paradise to Utopia) is objectively correct, as is much of Louis Rougier’s analysis (think of Le génie de l’Occident /The Genius of the West). But what can be deduced from this pattern of analysis is not so much the secularized triumph of Christianity as its corruption: the supernatural has been translated as natural and thus its essence has been distorted.

The Problem of Paganism

Faced with this Christianity secularized by modernity and supposedly unmasked as “Bolshevism of antiquity,” the ND did not opt for atheism or agnosticism, for that would have led it to a materialism similar to that of liberals and Marxists, but dug into the romantic trunk and revived the term “paganism”: A paganism reconstructed somewhat to contemporary tastes, braided with strands of heroic vitalism, sacred sense of nature, religious dimension of the political community, aestheticizing eroticism, “trifunctional” image of social life according to the model discovered by Georges Dumézil in the Indo-European pantheons, elements of “traditional thought” (Evola, Guénon) and of the “philosophia perennis” (Huxley), models of interpretation of the sacred extracted from Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade, and so on…

The mixture was of the most heteroclite, but it was very suggestive. At a time when either the flatter materialism or the neo-spiritualist sects were spreading everywhere, the paganism of the ND offered a beautiful and attractive panorama. Above all, it offered a way of understanding the sacred at a time when churches were becoming empty. De Benoist expounded this paganism in Comment peut-on être paien (How to be a Pagan) and then underwent successive reformulations. The most brilliant is undoubtedly the dialogue between De Benoist and the Catholic thinker Thomas Molnar (another of the Catholics who supported De Benoist in the founding years of the ND), in the volume, L’éclipse du sacré (The Eclipse of the Sacred), which is a fascinating exploration of the universe of the spirit. Of course, the pagan option of the ND allowed for the shaping of an alternative spirituality from positions that were not egalitarian, but differentialist; not individualistic, but communitarian; not universalist, but identitarian.

The problem was that, in reality, this paganism had no real correlation with European antiquity, but was an intellectual construction twenty centuries later. It would be more appropriate to speak of a “neo-paganism.” It was a matter of updating pre-Christian ways of thinking the spiritual in relation to the social. The ND does not “resurrect” the ancient gods; that of “resurrection” is a widespread argument among critics of the ND, but it does not fit the reality of the texts. What the ND does is to recover the pre-Christian mental structure, which is interpreted as an essentially pluralistic and diversifying structure, and to oppose it to the Christian mental structure, which would be supposedly monistic and homogenizing. The context of this recovery was not of a strictly religious nature (replacing some gods with others), but of identity: to recover a specifically European way of thinking. In this context, the aesthetic rehabilitation of pagan forms—from the Greek column to the Celtic interlace—does not have a theological function, but a symbolic one; it is a matter of manifesting the validity of a deep-rooted, specifically European cultural world.
And in this rehabilitated neo-paganism, where was the sacred, religion, properly speaking? It was left out of the game—and this is the big question. Generally speaking, the paganism of the “de Benoist strand” was enclosed in a “sociological” interpretation. Now, we can talk about the gods, but, if we do not believe in their real existence, are we not in an empty discourse? To interpret the plurality of gods as a poetic representation of the plurality of social, natural and human forces is a valid option; but, ultimately, it is no more scientific than to represent all these things not with gods, but with saints or constellations. Why resort to the pagan pantheon? Out of loyalty to the European tradition? Fine, but why should the pagan pantheon be more “traditional” than the Christian one, because it is autochthonous, uncontaminated by extra-European elements? But are not St. George, St. Benedict or St. Bernard, the processions of the Virgin or the spirit of the Crusade, or the German and Spanish mystics exclusively European?

A similar contradictory atmosphere appears in one of the “aestheticizing” features with which the ND wrapped its pagan strand, namely that of the “liberation of customs.” In the context of the 1970s and 1980s, the theme of “pagan liberation” enjoyed a certain social presentability—as opposed to the caricature of a Christianity drawn with the thick strokes of sexual repression, intellectual narrowness and social egalitarianism, the pagan imaginary represented a lost paradise of freedom of customs, vital joy, intellectual pluralism and political health. Undoubtedly, the second picture is much more sympathetic than the first. The problem is that the portrait is arbitrary.

In the history of pre-Christian Europe, we find as many examples of intellectual pluralism as of fanatical closed-mindedness, of political health as of generalized corruption, of vital joy as of dark superstitious terror, of freedom of customs as of moral austerity. Conversely, in the history of Christian Europe there is no lack (on the contrary, there are plenty) of examples of relaxed social customs, existential joviality, bold thinking and healthy political institutions; especially if we make the prescriptive differences between the colorful Catholic Mediterranean universe and the gloomy Anglo-Saxon Protestant world, for example. All this without going into other considerations, such as, for example, the usual conjunction of political decadence and intellectual splendor, so frequent in history; or, to stick to religious matters, the wide gap that exists in pagan Europe between “religious” thought (where it is possible to speak of such) and popular religiosity. Thus, the radical distinction between the luminous pagan world and the gloomy Christian world does not cease to be somewhat arbitrary. This distinction comes, in reality, from an inverted intellectual process: two series of values are chosen—one positive, the other negative—and are projected a posteriori on referents that contain a lot of imaginary, fantastic and mental construction. The resulting picture is attractive, as usually happens with imaginary creations; but it cannot seriously support a philosophical interpretation of the History of Religions.

On the other hand, and concerning the specific point of freedom of morals, in the discourse of the ND a not minor contradiction arises—even accepting that the pagan moral world is a “liberated” world (which in itself is debatable), how does one combine the defense of freedom of morals with the critique of the narcissistic hedonism of modern Western civilization? For one of the essential characteristics of modern Western civilization is hedonism, the existence of the masses for mass pleasure; and the ND, quite rightly, rebukes that hedonism with such endorsements as Christopher Lasch’s critique of the “Narcissus complex.” The current hedonism is a direct consequence of individualism, of that way of living—typically modern—which consists in the fact that the individual tends to cut all links with everything around him in order to privilege the narrow interest of his own “I”, something that the ND rightly criticizes. What does this “freedom of customs” have to do with that other elementary religiosity of sex as it occurs in primitive societies? Strictly nothing, one thing and the other correspond to different mental worlds. This should warn us against choosing certain contemporary values and projecting them onto past worlds; this will inevitably be an exercise in decontextualization, i.e., a lax construction.

It is not possible to defend freedom of customs and at the same time reprove the narcissistic hedonism of Western civilization. In the same way that it is not possible to defend the importance of one’s own cultural tradition, the validity of the sacred and the European historical identity, and at the same time to proscribe Christianity, which in its Catholic form—more than in its Protestant form—is the form in which the sacred has traditionally manifested itself in the sphere of European identity.

But perhaps the point from which the inadequacy of the ND critique of Christianity is most clearly perceived is precisely that of the charges of the accusation; that is, all those themes in which the anti-Christian discourse of the ND believed it saw the origin of modern evil. For it turns out that those themes—individualism, egalitarianism, universalism—are not exclusively Christian. The idea of the immortal soul breathed into all men appears, in Europe, at least with Pythagoras, that is, in the 6th century BC. Likewise, the idea that there is an inherent quality in the individual, something that singles him out and makes him unique, appears in the Greco-Latin sphere and finds a concrete expression in the concept of “person” developed by the Roman jurists. Finally, the concept of the universal appears, in philosophy, with Plato’s theory of ideas, and in politics, with the praxis of the Roman Empire. Thus, those three “ideologemes” of modernity—egalitarianism, individualism, universalism—which in Christian doctrine appeared in an ambiguous and contradictory manner, appear with much greater clarity in the pagan cultural tradition. Nietzsche himself, in The Birth of Tragedy, did not so much point against the Nazarene as against Socrates, inventor of the “spirit itself.”

And even more, within the presumably pagan arsenal that the ND recovers, there are essential elements that, nevertheless, belong equally to the Christian order. This is the case, for example, of the trifunctional scheme that Dumézil interpreted—brilliantly—in the Indo-European pantheons and that structured at the same time the world of the gods and the world of men around three functions: the first, that of wisdom, identified with priesthood, kingship and law; the second, that of vital force, identified with war, the nobility of arms; the third, that of production and sustenance, identified with agriculture, work, craftsmanship. It is true that the pagan gods of the Indo-European peoples can be structured in these three families, and it is true that the scheme is likewise reproduced in the social order of ancient Europe. It is, moreover, the model that, as Plato tells us, Socrates imagined: a society of human aspect where there is a head (first function, ruling), a chest (second function, warrior) and a belly (third function, producer). Now, this is exactly the same model that Catholic Europe will maintain for a millennium and a half—with the degenerations we know—from the fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution, on the basis of the three medieval orders: oratores, bellatores, laboratories. Where is the Christian subversion?

Theoretical Ellipses

These things are so obvious that, evidently, they could not escape the attention of those who worked in the field. Whether one held a strictly religious view, that is, of belief in supernatural realities, or whether one defined the sacred in philosophical-sociological terms, that is, as a way of representing a worldview, the pagan option was no less problematic than the Christian one. From this point on, the discourse of the ND began to describe theoretical ellipses that did not fail to raise interesting reflections, but which inevitably returned—by definition—to the starting point. We can mention some of them by way of complementary illustration.

A first ellipse was the scientific one: the reflections derived from subatomic physics—Heisenberg, Lupasco, Nicolescu, etc.—led to the identification of a sort of underlying order in the realm of matter and, therefore, to the perception of a sacred imprint in the world. Anne Jobert expounded this in her study, Le retour d’Hermès : de la science au sacré (The Return of Hermes: From Science to the Sacred). The question was of enormous interest and was linked to one of the great contemporary debates. It could have meant a way of thinking the sacred in intimate relation with the scientific interpretation of the world. However, no one in the ND—apart from Jobert herself—went further along that line. On the contrary, from the 1990s onwards, the inspiration of “spiritualist physics” disappeared and was replaced by a pure neo-Darwinism, a position represented in particular by Charles Champetier. Where the strand “scientific spirituality” was followed, so to speak, was no longer in the French ND, but in Italy (Nuova Destra Italiana), in particular with the work of Roberto Fondi, on organicism.

Another example of theoretical ellipsis was the opening of the ND—especially through the journal Krisis—towards Christian personalism, with an interesting debate between Alain de Benoist and Jean-Marie Domenach, Mounier’s intellectual executor—since the ND had marked a position contrary to modern individualism and mass society, nothing more natural than to converge with a current of thought that had arrived at the same position from a different starting point. But Christian personalism is, by definition, Christian, and its concept of the person is built on the conviction that all individuals possess a transcendent value that is identified with the soul. Perhaps the ND could have taken its cue from this convergence with Christian personalism to recover the Roman concept of “person,” but there was no such convergence. On the other hand, around the same time, Nouvelle École published a long work by Alain de Benoist on (against) Jesus of Nazareth, which in reality was nothing more than a recovery of the old and hostile Jewish literature against the “false Messiah.” Another road closed.

More ellipses? The philosophical one, for example. The ND emerged from the Nietzsche impasse by incorporating Heidegger into its theoretical stock. The Heideggerian critique of Western metaphysics—a critique to which the concept of the “will to power” does not escape—could be interpreted as a definitive diagnosis of the modern disease. And the Heideggerian imperative to “think what the Greeks thought, but in an even more Greek way” could well be interpreted as a demand for a return to the pagan origin. Now, Heidegger’s own interpretation, with its denunciation of the “forgetfulness of Being,” carries an implicit longing not only for the sacred as “enchantment of the world” (Weber), but also for the divine as an active presence in the realm of matter. This explains that famous statement to Der Spiegel: “Only a God can save us.”

Personally—and may I be excused for summarily dismissing a matter so subject to discussion—I believe that Heidegger tried throughout his life to speak of God, obstinately trying to do so without pronouncing the word God and personifying Him in the concept Being, and his last breath was precisely to say that only a God can save us. It is a similar path to that of another of the key thinkers for the ND, Ernst Jünger, with the relevant exception that he discovered the divine imprint with less makeup, invoked it frequently and ended up, as is known, converting to Catholicism, despite being from a Protestant background. The discourse of the ND, in this sense, returns once again to its own starting point: it does not hurry the reasoning, it stops before the necessary logical leap—thinking the sacred as divine presence—and goes back to the same place where the first question had been posed.

It is not difficult to suspect that these elliptical developments obey an objection of principle, a mental reservation, a prejudice of departure: the line of thought developed by Alain de Benoist, so fruitful in other fields, so ready to venture into diverse territories—so capable, for example, of reaching convergences with a certain intellectual left on the critique of the market or on the praise of the idea of community—nevertheless suffers from a clear taboo on religious matters, a kind of insurmountable inhibition. This taboo, this inhibition, is no mystery, but is a substantial part of modern thought. It is simply the impossibility of thinking of God—or, more generically, the divinity—as Someone endowed with real existence. The ND shares this modern prejudice that consists in discarding the hypothesis of God. It is interesting—the ND, which has criticized so much—and so rightly—the Western model of thought, both scholastic and Cartesian, because it desacralizes the world, because it separates the sacred from nature, nevertheless remains subject to that same model by implicitly discarding the hypothesis of God.

This is not a new phenomenon in the history of ideas. Let us recall the scene: University of Tübingen, 1791; three young students named Hegel, Hölderlin and Schelling attempt to enlighten a philosophy so spiritual as to satisfy people of a religious temperament and, at the same time, a religion so exact and systematized as to satisfy people of a philosophical spirit. The result was philosophically estimable, but, from the religious point of view, it was an entirely artificial construction. For religion necessarily demands the participation of mystery, and to create mystery is not something within the reach of men.

But let us stop here, because it would take us too far. We can limit ourselves to stating the ultimate conclusion of this journey through the religious problematic of the ND, namely—we are facing a dead end. Consequently, it is valid to think that the itinerary was badly traced from the beginning.

In the end, work in the field of the History of Ideas always runs the risk of Ideas emancipating themselves from History, so that we end up with formally estimable constructions, but with no real basis. To put it in a few words: if Christianity were really the seed of the modern world—materialist, egalitarian, etc.—it would be necessary to explain how it was possible for Christianity to reign in the West for a millennium and a half without the emergence of the modern order, and even more, it would be necessary to explain why the first providence of the modern order, wherever it arose, was always and unfailingly to proclaim the death of Christianity. Since it is impossible to explain these two things and maintain logical coherence, there is no choice but to think that the analysis of the ND, on this point, is wrong.

This does not prevent us from thinking that Christianity faces a major challenge, and this concerns Catholicism more specifically, because it is the last great reservoir of sacredness in the West. This challenge does not concern theological discourse, which is impregnable by its very nature, but the philosophical discourse with which the Church presents itself in the world of secularization; that is, in that world where the sacred has been confined to a corner and religiosity is an individual choice like any other. Before the explosion of modernity, religion, Western metaphysics and political order tended to be one and the same thing; on the contrary, after the revolutions, the Enlightenment—and its glories and its ruins—the triumph of technical civilization and the great wars of the twentieth century, world order goes one way, culture goes another and religion seeks a place in the sun. If in the past Western metaphysics was inseparable from ecclesiastical cathedrae, it is obvious that it has long since ceased to be so; if in the past the order of the world was inseparable from the authority of the Papacy, it is equally obvious that today there is nothing of the sort; if in the past culture and the feeling of the sacred could maintain a relationship of close intimacy, today it is also obvious, finally, that this bond has been broken.

In this regard, Rome has come a long way since the 19th century, and Christian thought (or, if one prefers, the thought of Christians who have dedicated themselves to thinking) has not failed to provide very interesting insights. But the major forces guiding the culture of our time—criticism, suspicion, doubt, uncertainty, fragmentation, nihilism—have shaken the Church as they have everything else, creeds and certainties, ideologies and philosophies. If it was difficult to make faith survive in the world of scientific positivism, as was the case in the 19th century, the task seems even more difficult in the world of technical nihilism, which is the one in which we live. Thus, Christian thought seems fundamentally problematic in matters such as man’s relationship with nature, the presence of religion in the political and social order or the validity of tradition in a culture of permanent change, to give just three examples of daily debates.

However, in this atmosphere of aftermath, where everything seems to have been pushed to its ultimate extreme, as if dragged by the hair by a demonic force, this is precisely where the fundamental questions come back to the fore. No one wonders what is on the other side of the river until their feet touch the shore; today we are already soaked to the waist. This, in any case, is a matter for another reflection. The only thing to be regretted, to return to the thread of our theme, is that the ND or the French New Right, due to its own inhibitions, is no longer in a position to attend this event.


José Javier Esparza, Soanish historian, journalist, writer, has published around thirty books about the history of Spain. He currently directs and presents the political debate programEl gato al agua,” the dean of its genre in Spanish audiovisual work. (Thank you to Arnaud Imatz for all his wonderful help).


Giorgio Locchi and the Suprahumanist Myth

Philosopher, journalist and essayist, Giorgio Locchi (1923-1992) was one of the tutelary figures of non-conformist thought, which deeply influenced two streams: the New Right and Neo-paganism (with the myth of the Suprahuman). In this interview, his son Pierluigi Locchi explores the essential ideas of his father. The interview, conducted by Eyquem Pons, appears through the kind courtesy of Revue Éléments.

Eyquem Pons (EP): Many readers are unaware of the very existence of Giorgio Locchi. Can you resituate who he was? His life, his struggles, his passions?

Pierluigi Locchi (PL): I will answer your question by mentioning some key stages in his life.

Born in Rome on April 15, 1923, my father entered the Nazareno College by competitive examination at the age of ten. Four years later, his Italian and Latin teacher, Padre Vannucci, gave him a book on his fourteenth birthday with these words: “This book is on the Index, but as you will get there one day anyway, I want to be the one who gave it to you. This book was The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music by Friedrich Nietzsche. My father remembered it all his life: “Thanks to him,” he confided to me one day, “I discovered that others felt the same things as me!”

At the end of the war, just 22 years old, my father had to give up higher studies in philosophy that he would have liked to pursue, since he had to provide for his parents quickly. Having opted for a doctorate with a faster course, in philosophy of law, he had nevertheless been chosen by his professor to succeed him in the chair of philosophy of law at La Sapienza University in Rome. Unfortunately, for financial reasons, he could not afford to wait the necessary number of years and took up a career as a journalist. This took him to Paris in 1957, as a correspondent for the Roman daily Il Tempo, where he remained until the end of his life.

The 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s saw Girogio Locchi holed up in his office, but he did end up finding the audience that the University of Rome had not been able to give him, initially in the circle of young French intellectuals frequenting the Librairie de l’Amitié and gathered around the magazine Europe-Action by Dominique Venner and Jean Mabire, among whom a certain Alain de Benoist already stood out, and then especially in the community gathered around GRECE ( Research and Study Group for European Civilization) of which he was one of the co-founding members. Though my father was also a member of the editorial board of the magazine Nouvelle École, to which he contributed very regularly until 1979, his role was rather different. Being the thinking head of this new movement, Locchi was more than a philosopher, journalist, essayist and thinker; he was, as Guillaume Faye rightly wrote, “an awakener and a dynamiter,” exactly in the spirit of Friedrich Nietzsche.

And a whole generation of intellectuals has drunk from the spring of this master, who, after having evolved within or around GRECE and then branched off, still constitutes today the spearhead of non-conforming thought, starting with Alain de Benoist, today the undisputed leader of the New Right. And “old-fashioned” master, my father transmitted a lot orally. I remember in particular the two years when he received on Tuesday evenings in our house in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, a whole assembly of students and young workers, eager for knowledge, gathered in particular for two training periods, one dedicated to Richard Wagner and the other to Friedrich Nietzsche. Who would have believed that? On this double filiation rests a good part of the intellectual formation of those who played and still partly play a preponderant role in European nonconforming culture.

Another great passion of my father was music, and perhaps above all the work of Richard Wagner. I will be eternally grateful to him for letting me discover Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Bayreuth at the age of eleven! Among his other areas of interest, some, such as history, linguistics, our Indo-European past, are well-known. Others, such as quantum physics or logic, are less so. All his knowledge, all his passions, however, were always put by him at the service of a work of unveiling, with Giorgio Locchi holding particularly to his role as historian.

If the history of which he speaks to us is clearly part of a suprahumanist perspective, which I will have the opportunity to speak about, he has always insisted on the role which must be that of any historian, which is to carry out an analysis, sine ira et studio, without hatred or passion, as Spinoza said, that is to say without letting his own necessarily partisan positions influence the way in which this analysis is presented; therefore without taking sides in the exposition of the facts, or more exactly, specifying each time in what perspective, from what point of view the facts are presented. From there, the fight of his whole life became one of working for the understanding of what the suprahumanist myth is, what are the different forms in which it has successively manifested itself for more than a century and a half, and in what it carries within it, which is the renewal of our civilizational heritage. It is a work of both historian and philosopher, the same myth taking each time, from Wagner to Nietzsche, from Heidegger to Locchi, to name but a few, a new form in whoever carries it within him, by the laws of becoming.

EP: What does it bring to this family of thought?

PL: I am always wary of exaggerated enthusiasm and grandiloquent assertions, but I have to repeat the terms used by Guillaume Faye in his “Archaeofuturist reflections inspired by the thought of Giorgio Locchi”: “I weigh my words carefully—without Giorgio Locchi and his work, which is measured by its intensity and not by its quantity, and which also rested on a patient work of oral formation, the real chain of defense of European identity would probably be broken.”

It is therefore a major contribution in two ways, and major for looking to the past, for considering our present, or for projecting ourselves into the future. Major, first, for looking to the near past, considering his work of formation of the new generations of the 1970 and 1980s, generations which in France and in Europe carry today the most radical alternative and innovative thought in face of the system in force, a true system “to kill the people,” as Guillaume Faye rightly wrote. Second, major for looking to the distant past, considering the centrality, that he was the first to grant in the post-war period, to the significance of the Indo-European fact. Regarding our present, we owe him the highlighting of the epochal conflict, recently appeared, between the opposite historical tendencies, irreconcilable and irreducible to each other, which are the egalitarian bimillennial tendency and the suprahumanist tendency. This is a particularly valuable key to understanding. Moreover, the suprahumanist perspective allows the definition of what is common to the various sensibilities and organizations that compose it, beyond the visions and the individual or partisan specificities. As for the future, it is by this same suprahumanist perspective that Locchi allows us to think the alternative to the anthropological decline that Europe is experiencing and to aim at a rebirth of Europe that is only conceivable by the regeneration of our history.

EP: What is the importance of the two works, Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste (Wagner, Nietzsche and the Suprahumanist Myth), and Définitions (Definitions) by Giorgio Locchi?

PL: First of all, a clarification. Only the essays that appeared in Nouvelle École some fifty years ago are being “reissued” in Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste—and the half-century that has passed is in itself an answer to your question. Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste remained unpublished until now. Even though it takes up the theme of Nouvelle École, no. 31, this book is entirely reformulated in the perspective of the author’s open theory of history, which constitutes a key to interpretation briefly sketched out in one or two writings published in France in the 1970s, and brought out here for the first time. This is therefore its first presentation to the French public.

Giorgio Locchi’s work is central for those who want to think about the new European renaissance. It even constitutes a true unveiling, Locchi allows us to understand how and why, after having passed through pagan antiquity and the Western Christian cycle, European identity finds itself today, in a world undergoing profound change, in the midst of forgetting itself, for some, and in the midst of rediscovering itself, for others.

Even unfinished, his work represents for me a true cornerstone of our vision of the world, in the same way as the works of Wagner, Nietzsche or Heidegger, which is why I am delighted that the Iliad Institute is committed to publishing in the coming years the complete texts written by the Roman philosopher.

EP: What is the place for suprahumanism today? And what is the difference between anti-egalitarianism and transhumanism?

PL: I will answer in one or two sentences, by affirming first of all that the suprahumanism corresponds to the crossing of a new stage by the European man and the European civilization, and that by this very fact it is situated in a stage of conscience superior to the one of egalitarianism—which cannot be the case of the simple anti-egalitarianism that is satisfied with inverting a scale of values that would not be convenient for it in egalitarianism. I will also add that transhumanism corresponds to the egalitarian way, to face the anthropological mutation that we know today, and a way whose harmful consequences can be fought only by the suprahumanist vision.

EP: Could you elaborate further?

PL: Certainly, I am well aware of the innovative aspect of the “suprahumanist principle,” and it is therefore necessary, here more than ever, to define the terms we use.

Suprahumanism is this new historical tendency whose founding myth appeared almost at the same time in Wagnerian dramas and sacred scenic representations and in the Nietzschean philosophy and poetics. The suprahumanist tendency spread like wildfire throughout Europe, which in the second half of the 19th century was largely ready to welcome it, in all artistic, cultural and political circles. The founding myth that animated this tendency carried with it a new vision of historical time, the one that Heidegger would define as “authentic temporality,” in which man expresses his historicity, his being-for-history, and that my father named the “three-dimensional conception of historical time,” a spherical vision of historical space-time.

This conception was consubstantial with the work of the authors of the German Conservative Revolution, as with that of a Gabriele d’Annunzio and even of a Charles Maurras. I quote Giorgio Locchi:

“The suprahumanist conception of time is no longer linear, but affirms the three-dimensionality of the time of history, time inextricably linked to that one-dimensional space which is the very consciousness of every human person. Every human consciousness is the place of a present; this present is three-dimensional and its three dimensions, all given together as the three dimensions of physical space are given together, are the actual, the become and the to-be.

“This may seem abstruse, but only because we have been used to a different language for two thousand years. Indeed, the discovery of the three-dimensionality of time, once made, turns out to be a kind of Columbus egg. What is indeed human consciousness, as a place of time immediately given to each of us? It is, on the dimension of the personal becoming, memory, that is to say the presence of the past; it is, on the dimension of actuality, the presence of the spirit in action; it is, on the dimension of the future, the presence of the project and of the pursued goal, project and goal which, stored and present to the spirit, determine the action in progress.”

Giorgio Locchi’s first contribution is precisely to highlight this kinship beyond the strong specificities of each one; this common vision of history; this way of feeling man as a historically free being, which constitutes an absolute novelty: “What we have called up to now the past, the historical past, exists in fact only on the condition of being in some way present, and present to consciousness. In itself, as the past, it is insignificant, or more precisely, ambiguous: it can mean opposite things, have opposite values: and it is each of us, starting from our personal ‘present’, who decides what it should mean in relation to the foreseen future.”

Likewise, Locchi notes, suprahumanist authors “always attach the idea of ‘myth’ to that of ‘revolution,’ within the framework of a conception of history in which the linearity of historical becoming is no longer more than an appearance, in which the ‘origin’ returns in each ‘present,’ is born from each ‘present’ and rises from each ‘present’ toward the future in a project.”

Suprahumanism, as defined by my father, is therefore not an expression or a trend among others, but the common matrix of all artistic, literary, cultural, political or metapolitical expressions aiming at the rebirth of our European civilization, whenever the latter is seen as having come to the end of a cycle and condemned to “rebirth or death.” Another definition—in a way, the term “suprahumanism,” was chosen by Locchi in homage to the Zarathustrian myth of Friedrich Nietzsche.

EP: We are indeed moving away from anti-egalitarianism.

PL: If every suprahumanist is, by definition, in the camp opposed to the egalitarian tendency, every anti-egalitarian does not necessarily belong to the suprahumanist camp, since there is also an anti-egalitarianism that claims egalitarian values simply inverted, such as Satanism, for example.

It should be noted here above all that the appearance of the new suprahumanist historical tendency has allowed the two-thousand-year-old egalitarian tendency to become aware of itself and its unity beyond the differences of the religious, philosophical and political currents that compose it. This explains the ever-increasing “unnatural” rapprochements between the Church and communist unions, between financial oligarchies and anarchist or revolutionary “ecologist” movements, and so on.

There remains the question of transhumanism. Independently of the lexical proximity with the term of suprahumanism, which readily creates at times a confusion, what makes the question particularly complex, is that one meets supporters and detractors of transhumanism in the egalitarian camp and in the superhumanist camp, each one going off its own definition, privileging this or that aspect, and ignoring others.

Let’s try to see more clearly.

Here too, the work of Giorgio Locchi is of great help, but I must once again move the cursor and refer first this time to his description of the three great stages passed by man in the course of his history, and which correspond to three types of social organization. There is no question of going into detail here about hominization, the Neolithic revolution and the contemporary technological revolution. I refer, in particular for the first two, to the second part of the study on ” Lévi-Strauss et l’anthropologie structurelle [Lévi-Strauss and structural anthropology],” in particular in Définitions.

However, I point to an essential observation: where man transforms his environment, he transforms himself. The first man created himself by giving himself, through culture, the means to live in spite of his incomplete biological condition—indeed, where the animal is inscribed in the specific environment given to each species, benefiting from a mode of use inscribed in its genetic code, man is born incomplete and defenseless, exposed to the hostility of the world. No fur to protect himself from the cold, no claws to defend himself, etc. In other words, where the animal has received everything by its own inheritance, where it is born finished, man, in addition to his own biological inheritance which leaves him unfinished, needs a period of extra-uterine gestation, then a long period of education, to appropriate the cultural inheritance, starting with language, which will make him become man. If, as an unfinished mammal, man survived, it is because he forged himself, by forging his own culture, that is to say the weapons that allowed him to create his own environment; he adapted to his needs according to the objectives that he set himself. These can obviously differ according to the types of man and the latitudes, but a constant is common to this first hunter-gatherer man—he is himself both subject and object of his own domestication.

EP: Then the Neolithic revolution.

PL: Things changed radically with the Neolithic revolution, when man added a new string to his bow, that of domesticating living nature. Now, domesticating living nature implies sedentarization and specialization, and therefore a radical modification of the social organization. Locchi indicates in several essays, short and concise, of a crystalline clarity, how our Indo-European ancestors faced this revolution, making their own this new type of man, assuming this splitting of the originally unique man in different types of men and solving the problem through the communitarian link and the assumption of a common destiny. They thus projected a pantheon in which the gods, human and too human, embody the ideal of a world where man has become multiple, while reflecting in their functional trilogy—Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus to put it in the manner Roman—the three social functions (priestly, warlike and productive) of Neolithic society, which the Indo-Europeans therefore conceive of as a community of destiny, chosen and even desired, with its uncertainties. The acceptance of this becoming, in which divided man rediscovers his original unity, is what we call the tragic meaning of history. But Locchi also indicates how, for another part of humanity, this revolution was, on the contrary, a curse, a bitterly regretted loss of the original unity of the first man, a metaphysical unity that must be rediscovered. For this part of humanity, history is to suffered; it is the consequence of a transgression, an evil that must be rid of in order to reconnect with unity, to rediscover the uniqueness of the first man. This other humanity therefore ideally sees itself as One—and expresses it in monotheism. We see here how, already, by redrawing the picture of this previous revolution, we are led to speak of the meaning of history, and of opposing visions of history.

Which brings us back to transhumanism, which is perhaps the most striking symbol of the third great stage just taken by man, that of the domestication of matter-energy, and where man is once again transformed into transforming his environment.

We must of course start by agreeing on the term. This can be understood (at least) in two ways. Either we mean by transhumanism all the new techniques of appropriation, including of man himself by man, that the domestication of matter-energy now allows—biotechnologies, genetic manipulations, but also artificial intelligence and techniques of influence, for example—and in this case transhumanism is an objective fact, a concept that can sum up in one word the new human situation; either we see in transhumanism the objectives that some think they can achieve thanks to these new techniques—and in this case transhumanism is defined according to subjective data specific to the one who judges it “immoral,” because of transgressing or even aiming at abolition of “natural” and “eternal laws.” Now, the key to the domestication of matter-energy enables us to understand that we have no choice but to “deal with” its consequences; and the key to the epochal conflict between opposing tendencies enables us to understand that we find ourselves faced with the same alternative as during the Neolithic revolution—accept the transformation of man or reject it out of nostalgia for the previous state. Our Indo-European ancestors took up the challenge and adopted this transformation. This is exactly what the suprahumanists intend to do, faced with the challenge of modernity.

EP: What can a young reader find in Locchi’s demanding texts?

PL: I remember how, on reading these texts, different elements of my vision of the world, of my way of feeling things, of my analysis of past or recent events found an interpretative key that satisfied both my intellect and my heart, and how they have allowed me to structure my thinking and guide my action throughout my life.

I can only wish the young reader to experience the same sense of unveiling that I experienced for myself many years ago. As a young auditor of the Iliade Institute’s training cycle told me, Locchi’s thought is a “radically modern thought, turned towards the future and which intellectually equips anyone who appropriates it, whatever the field in which he will exercise his talents: artistic, literary, cultural, political or metapolitical.”

EP: Giorgio Locchi developed the idea of “interregnum,” a transitional phase in our history. What does that mean?

PL: As mentioned, we are witnessing the emergence of a third man, even more specialized and socially divided, and therefore, from our European point of view, even more under the obligation, on pain of pure and simple disappearance, to find his unity, his fulfillment in a community of destiny based on a new origin, just as there was a new origin for the second man, a new origin expressed with Homer, with Greek tragedy, the Germanic Edda, Indo- European in its various forms.

This new origin naturally claims continuity, the appropriation of our European heritage, but also requires its overcoming. This new origin—and the Locchian teaching takes on its full meaning here—appears in the form of a new myth. And just as the works of Homer, or the Eddas, or the Rig-Veda embody the European worldview of the Second Man, the suprahumanist myth, as represented by Richard Wagner and formulated by Friedrich Nietzsche, embodies the worldview of the European Third Man. This is the subject of the second book published by the Iliad Institute, Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste (Wagner, Nietzsche and the Suprahumanist Myth).

EP: The Interregnum we are experiencing today corresponds to the period when the two epochal tendencies mentioned above clash without one or the other having really won.

PL: The interregnum will last as long as this conflict between the egalitarian tendency, certainly the majority, but shaken, and the suprahumanist tendency, minority but more determined than ever, is not resolved. We can also say that the interregnum will last as long as the partisans of a European response to the challenges of modernity rise up against the very people who use transhumanist techniques to cause peoples to regress to a stage comparable to that of the animals, enclosing them in an eternal materialistic and hedonistic present which is none other than the end or exit of history. The interregnum will cease only in the event of the total victory of the suprahumanist tendency, or the complete eradication of its representatives.

Contrary to a Dominique Venner who, even if he did not know when it would take place, did not doubt the awakening of Europeans, Giorgio Locchi does not pronounce on a final outcome, and limits himself to indicating that the choice is always possible as long as men will carry within them the suprahumanist myth. In this he is on the same wavelength as Nietzsche, who gave us a first vision of this interregnum by describing man as this bridge stretched between the Beast—the last man—and the Superman, whom he calls for.

EP: Since one of the two books is a collection of definitions, is there a quotation that could summarize or introduce Locchi?

PL: Just one seems difficult to me to find. So, I’m going to skip this.

EP: In spite of a certain mutual affection, Nietzsche nevertheless wrote a pamphlet against Wagner. Isn’t it problematic to present them both as the fathers of suprahumanism?

PL: On the value of these pamphlets (The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche contra Wagner)I refer to the entire chapter Locchi dedicates to the “Nietzsche Case,” which answers your question in a detailed and even “definitive” way, according to Paolo Isotta, an Italian musicologist and author of the afterword entitled, “La Musique, Le Temps, le Mythe” [Music, Time, Myth], where a Stefan George, for example summarizes rather dryly: “Without Wagner, there would be no Birth of Tragedy; without the awakening provoked by Wagner, there would be no Nietzsche…. The Wagner case is in reality the Nietzsche case itself.”

I will limit myself here to quoting two extracts from this chapter:

“Nietzsche drew in philosophical terms the structure of the suprahumanist myth and, by a new language, conferred the first evidence of the implications of this myth. But this myth already existed, because it was represented by and in the Wagnerian drama. Nietzsche did nothing more than give it a ‘name’ and a ‘philosophical’ formulation.”

And further on:

“The fact that Wagner and Nietzsche, one by representation, the other by formulation of an identical myth, create the ‘mythical field’ of suprahumanism and insert it concretely into history, does not mean, moreover, that below the respective representation and formulation of the same myth, they do not have divergent ‘reflections’ on the retrospective opened by the myth and, consequently, on the strategy with which to pursue the ‘goal’ of the suprahumanist tendency.”

EP: In the current debate on the notions of the West and Europe, what place can the thought of Giorgio Locchi take?

PL: You asked for a quote earlier, I’m giving you one as a prelude to my answer: “Europe only exists, and is only possible, when it ceases to be the West of the world. As long as the Europeans do not renounce this logic, any political project will have the effect of nailing them to the historical destiny that stems from Yalta.” Locchi says so in the last of the twelve Definitions brought together in the work which has just appeared, named, following the example of the first Italian edition of the Definizioni: “Europe is not heritage but future mission. If we look more closely, the whole current debate on the notions of the West and Europe can be resolved by adopting this perspective, which is none other, once again, than that of Nietzsche, for that Europe is “Land der Kinder,” land of children and not of fathers, and of Heidegger, when he calls for the “new beginning” of Europe (for example in his first course in the lecture course, Introduction to Metaphysics).

Once again, the distinction between the spherical vision of history, specific to the suprahumanists and the linear, parabolic vision specific to the egalitarians, makes it possible to better understand the distinction between Europe not-heritage-but-mission-future and a Western Europe doomed to disappearance or to the triumph of the annihilation of our civilization.

The fact remains that there is still debate between Europe and the West in the suprahumanist camp. This is due above all to reasons of a semantic order and generally comes from the absence of a possibility of precise expression, because many are still those who feel things in a suprahumanistic way, but remain prisoners of a vocabulary and terms which I hope Locchi’s thought will make it possible to understand to what extent they belong to the opposite tendency. In his study “History and Destiny”, the second of the Definitions, Locchi speaks of a “modern schizophrenic West,” in majority “Judeo-Christian West which ended up discovering itself as such” and where “only the small minorities, scattered here and there, look with nostalgia on the achievements of their oldest ancestors… and dream of resuscitating them”—recalling however that such a return “can never happen” (“we do not bring back the Greeks”), but… can turn into a regeneration of history. And he who says regeneration of history, says regeneration of Europe, uncoupled, therefore, from a now ambiguous and mostly enemy “West.”

The West, with which Europe was certainly able to merge in the past, and to which most of the current leaders of European nations claim to belong, has in fact today become egalitarian and now seems above all to aim for the establishment of a new leveling and populicidal world order. From the Locchian perspective, Europe is opposed to this egalitarian West which no longer has anything to do with the Europe that the suprahumanists are calling for (and it is moreover not without interest to see that more and more, and even within the European Union, a tendency is emerging which, in the name of European sovereignty, opposes the dominant vision which aims to include Europe in the sphere of influence of the United States, rightly perceived as the new center of the West).

EP: How do we apply the “Locchian” reading grid in 2023?

PL: I believe I have already given a certain number of examples, and the last just now. In summary, I would say that with Locchi, any fighter for a new European renaissance has a precious compass allowing them to distinguish, beyond the appearances of a major and complex epoch conflict, what is the responsibility of their own tendency: suprahumanist, within the scope of the opposing egalitarian tendency.

Georges Dumézil: Discovery of the Indo-European Mind

Georges Dumézil was born on March 4, 1898. Associated with the Class of Letters (of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium) since May 5, 1958, where he presented two very learned papers, one on July 3, 1961, the other on January 11, 1965. The Academy also published one of his studies.

In his brief eulogy to Georges Dumézil on November 3, 1986, announcing the death of the French scholar, André Molitor, at the time vice-director of the Class, described the deceased in the following way: “He was in France, and one can say in the world, one of the leading figures in the humanities today… His work led him to search for, and then to progressively decipher, what we may call a ‘key to understanding’ the Indo-European societies of old, which is expressed both in their structures and in their great fundamental myths.” Please allow me to elaborate somewhat on these very accurate and very compact sentences.

If we disregard his activity—however important—as a linguist (especially in the field of Caucasian languages and Quechua), Georges Dumézil was essentially a specialist in Indo-European studies, and we can compare his work mutatis mutandis with that of the pioneers of comparative grammar. These great scholars of the nineteenth century, we remember, had succeeded not only in demonstrating the indisputable kinship of what were called “Indo-European languages” but also in finding certain characteristics of the mother language, this hypothetical language from which all the others had come by transformation and which was called “Indo-European.”

If we want to schematize – with all that schematization has of outrageousness – we will say that Georges Dumézil prolonged, by widening it, the work of comparative grammar. He set out to discover, no longer the language as the great linguists of the last century had done, but the thought, the mental universe of the Indo-Europeans. To do this, he studied and compared the culture of the various ancient peoples descended from the Indo-Europeans, and in particular the privileged manifestations of these cultures, namely the religions, the mythologies and the literatures. This research concerned Nordic societies as well as ancient Rome, the Indo-Iranian world as well as the Caucasus; it was carried out on texts as different (to take a few examples) as the Vedic hymns, the Mahabarata, the Iranian Avesta, the Scandinavian Eddas, the Irish mythological cycle, the Ossetian Nartean epic, or the account of Titus Livius on royal Rome. And the scholar—this deserves to be emphasized—always worked first hand on the texts he used; in other words, he knew (that is, read and deciphered) a good thirty languages.

His method was the comparative method. But where his unfortunate predecessors (for there had already been unsuccessful attempts in the 19th century in the field of comparative mythology) compared proper names, isolated details, relatively minimal facts that only a superficial examination would allow one to believe to be similar, Dumézil attacked, in order to compare them, facts that were homologous in depth, that is to say, different perhaps at first sight, but between which, once these differences had been criticized and analyzed, identical patterns appeared.

For Dumézil was a structuralist. In his work, the comparisons always concerned structured sets of the same meaning, never isolated details. He showed, for example, that it is the same myth, or in any case the same story, Indo-European, that is found at work in four different societies: in Rome (the war and the alliance between the Romans and the Sabines, which, in its origins, founded founded Roman society); in Scandinavia (the fight and the fusion between the Aesir gods and the Vanes gods which, in the Scandinavian mythology, founded the first divine society); in Ireland (the war that led to the fusion of the Túatha Dé Danann and the Fomore during the second battle of Mag Tured, and which, in the Irish mythological cycle, opens the history of Ireland); in India (the conflict, then the close association, of the superior gods and the Nāsatya in Vedic mythology). Four stories, profoundly different in their external presentation, and yet homologous in that they have the same meaning and that they are articulated around the same fundamental notions. In reality, they are illustrations, variously updated, of the same original scheme which showed how our distant ancestors represented (we are in the domain of imaginary representation) the definitive constitution of a viable society.

Thus, by means of the comparison of structured sets, significant as sets, and borrowed from civilizations that are all Indo-European, certainly, but sometimes very distant in time and space, Dumézil sought to find, to bring to light, certain aspects of the Indo-European mentality or imaginary, aspects that had—should we say?—completely escaped his predecessors.

Thus, the Indo-Europeans had not only transmitted their language to their descendants; they had also transmitted ideas to them—at times a particular framework of analysis, let us say a certain vision of the world (the famous “ideology of the three functions”), sometimes specific conceptions (on the night and diurnal light, on the conduct of the warrior, on marriage), even at times narrative or epic patterns, “fragments of literature” in some way. This is indeed the fundamental contribution of Dumézil—to have shown that, in the Indo-European societies of old, the Indo-European heritage was not limited to language, that it also included ideas, representations, narrative schemes; and that it was possible to find them.

There is no question here of entering further into the maze for details of Dumézil’s work—the fruit of more than sixty years of patient and fruitful work, it includes several hundred articles and some sixty books, from Le crime des Lemniennes and Le festin d’immortalité, both published in 1924, to Entretiens avec Didier Éribon, published in 1987, that is to say, one year after his death.

An immense work that took place on the fringes of the French university proper, like that of Claude Lévi-Strauss—a similarity that Pierre Bourdieu underlines in his Homo academicus. Marginal is a characteristic of Dumézil’s career. Let us recall some of the major milestones.

He was demobilized in 1918—he was twenty years old at the time—and remained a high school teacher for only six months, living on various means before taking up a series of posts abroad, which enabled him to learn languages and to become acquainted with different cultures.

First, he was a French lecturer at the University of Warsaw. He did not enjoy it, but, as Claude Lévi-Strauss noted, it was a “good opportunity for him to learn Polish and Russian.” Then Turkey, where in 1925, Georges Dumézil was giving a course in the history of religions at the University of Istanbul. “Mustapha Kemal,” observed the same Lévi-Strauss, “had been told that in France, this kind of teaching had served the struggle against clericalism, and he wanted to try the remedy on his Muslim compatriots. Thanks to him and to [Dumézil], the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul was, for five years, the only one in the world where any degree included a compulsory examination in the history of religions.”

It was during this stay that Dumézil discovered the Caucasians of Turkey and the USSR, in particular the Ossetians, the last descendants of the Scythians, whose language and culture he would save.

He left Turkey in 1931 for Sweden, as a lecturer in French at the University of Upsala. For two years, he resumed his “Indo-European project through Swedish, Old Scandinavian and the folklore of Northern Europe.”

Finally, he returned to France, but remained still outside the “canonical” university: first to the École Pratique des Hautes Études from 1933l then in 1948 to the Collège de France, where he taught for 20 years until his retirement in 1968, as the holder of what would eventually be called the “Chair of Indo-European Civilization.”

His work was only slowly recognized, encountering, perhaps even more in France than abroad, the opposition, the hostility even, of certain solidly established figures. It was the Scandinavian scholars (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) who first accepted his work with warmth, shortly after 1945. The dissemination of his work remained for a long time limited to a narrow circle of specialists, not always benevolent, and sometimes a little outdated. Dumézil had to fight bitterly, even polemically (we will talk about this later), to get his ideas across. But gradually his influence widened. As early as 1968, Pierre Nora regularly included his books in the prestigious “Bibliothèque des sciences humaines,” thus putting his work before the eyes of the general educated public. “What readership I do have,” said Dumézil, “I owe to Gallimard and to this collection.” But Gallimard was not the only one; Payot and Flammarion also published his works in collections for the “educated general public.”

Official honors followed: the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, then the Académie Française, where he was received in 1979, along with that other outsider who was also his friend, Claude Lévi-Strauss. International recognition also came to him, in the form of numerous invitations for courses or conferences. In the United States, we can mention the University of Chicago, where his friend Mircea Eliade invited him, the University of California in Los Angeles, the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton; in Belgium, the University of Brussels and the University of Liège.

After scientific recognition, came the supreme recognition of our time—that which comes from the media. In 1984, Pierre Dumayet met Dumézil for more than an hour for the program “D’Homme à Homme,” which he presented on TF1. But this was only the beginning. 1986 became the “Dumézil year.” Every self-respecting weekly wanted an interview with the scholar (Magazine littéraire, April 1986; Le Point, June 1986, Le Vif-L’express, September 1986). But the apotheosis was the special broadcast of Apostrophes that Bernard Pivot devoted to Dumézil, on July 18, 1986, a few months before his death. But Dumézil was not beguiled by this media hype: “Half a century ago, who would have thought of asking Meillet, Sylvain Lévi, for a public presentation of their discoveries on a music-hall stage? With television, we are there, and well beyond.”

In any case, Bernard Pivot went to interview him at his home, at 82 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs in Paris, an apartment that was, it was said, a “cathedral of books.” The meeting was memorable, and our colleague André Molitor evoked it in this very room, on November 3, 1986: “Those of us who recently saw on television this 88-year-old man explain his work, with simplicity, were struck and conquered by his strong personality.”

And it is true: the image that the scientist gave was endearing; his simplicity, his reserve, his authority, his conviction, the clarity of his presentation, the art with which he was able to convey a particularly difficult subject, all this was impressive and demanded admiration. In fact, practically until his death, he preserved a lucidity and a vigor of spirit.

And then there were those precious interviews with Didier Éribon, which also date from the last months of his life (between February and July 1986). Dumézil, for the very first time, discovered himself in public with simplicity and lucidity, evoking less perhaps his work than his life and his personal path, speaking very freely about his teachers, his friends, his literary and philosophical tastes, his political temptations of youth, life, religion, death.

He died a few months later, on October 11, 1986, at 88 years of age, after having left behind him an immense, innovative, disturbing work, a work also which one is easily characterized as fluid, because it does not present anything fixed; and it is also what sometimes made its access difficult. In fact, as the creator of a new discipline in the field of Indo-European studies, Dumézil had to develop his own method, and when one innovates, trial and error are inevitable. His approach and his thinking were progressively clarified and corrected from one study to the next; and the critics, who eagerly to followed his work, were often behind this evolution. The fact, moreover, that he himself disavowed what he had written up to 1938 on the grounds of a methodological flaw, dismayed some who preferred to “wait and see.”

I will not say anything here about the political recuperations that some people, in particular in the French New Right, have tried to make of Dumézil’s theories, recuperations that have nothing to do with scientific research, and which have at times contributed to the visceral and passionate rejection of his theses.

In any case, this grandiose work is that of a discreet and modest scholar, even if his polemic was bitter, formidable, and full of a ferocious spirit. He had to fight constantly, almost until the end, to have his ideas recognized: “I spent my time,” he said, “polemicizing, but only because I was attacked. One can count on the fingers of one hand the offensives that I myself have initiated against someone, without him having first opened hostilities.” Dumézil felt that he had nothing to impose on anyone; that he had no right to do so. “I am not,” he said, “a master of thought.” This was true in the scientific field, where he systematically refused to have disciples, to direct works; it was also true in political matters. He admitted to a brief “political temptation” for Action Française at the end of the First World War, but the figure of the committed intellectual, so common in the French tradition, was absolutely foreign to him: “I even feel,” he confided to his interlocutor, “a kind of repulsion for people who hold this role.”

It is because deep down, this enthusiast, author of a work as fascinating as it is impressive, this polemicist who fought ceaselessly to have the importance of his discoveries recognized, this master who unquestionably transformed the field of Indo-European studies, was a skeptic. Someone once compared him to a rationalist of the Enlightenment: “You flatter me,” he replied. “I would have liked to be a man of the eighteenth century, but with the feeling that these great minds did not have, for the ephemeral, for the inaccessible.” He became a Freemason in a workshop of the Grand Lodge shortly after his return from Sweden (in 1933), and declared more than 50 years later: “I am still a Freemason; initiation is like baptism, irreversible. But I am in sleep, as they say.” He was agnostic: “Of this self, what will remain after my death, does not worry me. Most probably, nothing will remain of it.”

But perhaps the best example of his “detachment” is his attitude towards his work and the fate it would have after his death. He provides for us an extraordinary lesson.

In fact, when Jean Mistler presented him with his academician’s sword in 1979, Dumézil gave an address, in which he emphasized the relative and provisional character of his work: “I know, because it is a law without exception. I know that this work, in fifty, perhaps in twenty, in ten years, will only be of historical interest; that it will be, by putting things at their worst, ruined, by putting things at their best—which is my hope—pruned, re-trimmed, transformed.” He took up the same idea seven years later in his Entretiens avec Didier Éribon: “Believe me, I have a very strong feeling of the incomplete, relative character of my results. I seem to be modest, but it’s true; I think so deeply. The results of our teachers were also relative and provisional—but where would we be without them?”

And Entretiens avec Didier Éribon ends in the following way.

Éribon: “One day, you told me: if I am wrong, my life has no meaning.”

Dumézil: “My scientific life, yes. But even that is not true: even if I am wrong; it will have had a function; it will have amused me. In any case, today it is too late to do it again. I can no longer escape it. Supposing I am totally wrong, my Indo-Europeans will be like Riemann’s and Lobachevsky’s geometries: constructions outside the real. This is already not so bad. It will mean changing me from one shelf to another in the libraries: I will pass into the ‘novels’ section.”

He was sincere in his expression—full of his usual humor—of the provisional and imperfect character of his work. And yet, his influence, in all sectors of Indo-European studies, is considerable today, and we can say, paraphrasing slightly the words of André Molitor, that his work, long disputed, still sometimes discussed, has now acquired the right to be cited.

And I will leave it to Claude Lévi-Strauss to conclude by welcoming Georges Dumézil under the dome of the Quai Conti: “In your person, Sir, we salute a master of more than encyclopedic knowledge, whose genius was able to establish, between fields that were apparently very distant from one another, and that had until then remained the jealously guarded preserve of specialists, connections that upset everything we thought we knew about the distant past, and which also opened up entirely new perspectives on what you call ‘the dynamics of the human mind.'”


Jacques Poucet is a Belgian philologist, who specializes in ancient Rome. He is Professor Emeritus of the Université catholique de Louvain. [This article was [The original version was published in the Bulletin de la Classe des Lettres et des Sciences Morales et Politiques (6e série, t. 3, 1992) of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium].


Featured image: Georges Dumezil at his office, August 29, 1984.

Indo-European Origins: Eurasian Steppes Or Northern Fjords?

The question of the “home of origin” (Urheimat, Homeland) of the Indo-Europeans has given rise to the most varied hypotheses and suppositions, theories that are analyzed in detail in Alain de Benoist’s book Indo-Europeans: In Search of the Homeland, without the author—nor anyone else—being able to venture a definitive solution, even though the new revelations of paleogenetics point to the “Yamna culture” of the Eurasian steppes, since anthropological and archaeological evidence insistently points to the European Nordic area. In any case, the debate about the “original homeland” of the Indo-Europeans is still open.

5,000 years ago (especially in the period 2800/2500 BC. ), in the Bronze Age, it seems that a people from the Eurasian Pontic steppes, predominantly light pigmented (skin, eyes and hair), nomadic herders and herdsmen, predatory warriors mounted on horseback and with wheeled chariots, used for both transport and combat, with unique funeral rites, innovative metallurgy and unique pottery, began to invade Europe, in successive migratory waves, imposing themselves on the peaceful hunter-gatherer-farmers. In any case, around 2000 B.C., the hardy bands of steppe nomads reached the Atlantic coasts and passed to the British Isles, after a frenetic race of invasion and conquest, devastating in their path the primitive, agricultural, peaceful, matriarchal and egalitarian European pre-civilization cultures.

Their “original habitat”: the steppes of southern Russia and Ukraine, between the Black and Caspian Seas, reaching westward to eastern Hungary across the Balkans, and eastward to present-day Kazakhstan and the Altai, which would validate the hypothesis of the “kurgans” (tombs in the form of burial mounds) of Lithuanian-American archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Her greatest “legacy”: the impressive extension of the Indo-European languages, which include most of the languages spoken from Iceland and Ireland to northern India, in addition to the Indo-European peripheries in America, Australia and South Africa. This “Pontic and Steppe hypothesis” seemed to disprove the “Nordic or Germanic hypothesis” held, among others, by Gustaf Kossinna (and more recently, by Lothar Kilian and Carl-Heinz Boettcher), which fits better with the prehistoric data of mythology and anthropology, but which fell out of favor because of the perverse use of “Aryans” in Nazi Germany. Their “other legacy”: genetic inheritance.

They were the “Yamnayas,” the proto-Indo-Europeans who colonized all of Europe, Central Asia, reaching the southern Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Chinese Turkestan. The “Yamna” culture (“hole” in Russian and Ukrainian, referring to the graves where they buried their dead) are a “ghost people,” as it is known in genetics, a people that have disappeared but can be identified by the genetic, archaeological, linguistic and anthropological traces they has left in their wake. The result is that the genes of the Yamnayas are present, to a greater or lesser extent, in all present-day Europeans.

Thus, paleogenetic research led particularly by the American geneticist David Reich—carried out from 2010 and culminating in 2015—concludes that “today the peoples of western Eurasia (the immense region encompassing Europe, the Near East and much of Central Asia) show a great genetic similarity… Western Eurasia reveals itself to be homogeneous, from the Atlantic façade of Europe to the steppes of Central Asia (Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past). Genetic haplogroups R1a and R1b, transmitted through the paternal line, are the most representative of present-day Europeans, with a predominance of the former in the East and the latter in the West. Precisely, these two branches are directly linked to the Yamnaya ancestors. Thus, around 2500/2000 B.C., according to the data provided by ancient DNA, the “norcaucasian” or “steppic” component was already part of the anthropological heritage of most of the inhabitants of Europe.

It should be noted that, in fact, archaeological, linguistic and mythological disciplines already indicated that the close kinship between the Indo-European languages meant that they all derive from a single original language (Ursprache), which had been spoken by a single people (Urvolk) in a very ancient homeland (Urheimat), to be spread later, in the course of a series of migrations. Thus, the spread of Indo-European languages would represent the expression of a people living in the same geographical area, in a community of culture and civilization, sharing expressions related to flora, fauna, economy and religion. Now, paleogenetics has confirmed this hypothesis.

But how could this rapid migration/expansion have occurred in a people presumably few in number? In the first place, this “rapidity” must be qualified without taking into account the context of war, since according to the researcher Wolfang Haak, the “conquest” of such an immense territory could have taken about 500 years.

Secondly, the explanatory factors of this prehistoric proto-Indo-European “great march” are diverse. The eminently warlike character of the Yamnayas, with an overwhelming superiority in the mastery of metallurgy, reflected in the use of weapons, such as the sword, the dagger, the bow and the battle axe, their extreme mobility through the use of the horse and wheeled chariots, as well as a society structured very hierarchically around a group of men who held supreme leadership of the various clans and tribal families, to which should be added, according to Kristian Kristiansen, a greater anthropological complexion, more corpulence; in short, surely due to a better diet, because compared to a diet basically reduced to cereals and vegetables typical of the Paleo-Europeans, the Yamnayas enjoyed a more caloric diet based also on meat and dairy products. The conquest/invasion was the work, above all, of young men (according to chromosomal sequences, between 5 and 15 men for each woman), of “bands” not very numerous, but very active militarily and sexually, because they had great reproductive success, surely because they enjoyed advantages in the competition for female partners, occupying the summit of symbolic, religious, political, military and social power.

In any case, although the genetic findings attribute a central weight to the Yamnayas in the spread of the Indo-European languages, which tips the balance definitely in favor of some variant of the “steppe hypothesis”, these discoveries do not yet resolve the question of the territory of origin of the Indo-European languages—acknowledges Reich—the place where these languages were spoken before the spectacular Yamnaya expansion. The debate about the “original homeland” of the Indo-Europeans, therefore, remains open.

Despite the tremendous sensation caused by the paleogenetic studies, which revealed the massive migration of the peoples of the Yamnaya steppe culture in the Early Bronze Age to northern, central and western Europe, considering this event as the basis for the spread of the Indo-European languages, other authors are beginning to express their criticism of the genetic inference and, in particular, its implications for the problem of the origins of the Indo-European languages.

According to the genetic revelations, the steppe “Yamna culture” would be associated with the Proto-Indo-European language, while the origin of the derived linguistic groups (Greek, Germanic, Italic, Slavic, Celtic, Baltic, among others) would be attributed to the cultures of the “Chordate pottery” (also called “battle-axe culture,” spread in northern and northeastern Europe). The supporters of this hypothesis, however, are aware of the relative weakness of their conclusions, advancing, for example, that perhaps not all Indo-European peoples come from the Yamnaya, but only some of them. This means, in essence, that we are not dealing then with the cradle of the proto-Indo-European, but only with one of its subfamilies: in this case, the stereopic hypothesis of the origin of the Indo-Europeans would be transformed only into the origin, so to speak, of the Indo-Iranian group.

Many archaeologists doubt that the discoveries in question reflect a direct migration from the “Yamna culture” to the “Chordate culture.” The first doubt is that the Yamnaya people spoke the Proto-Indo-European language. All recognized dates for the fragmentation of the Proto-Indo-European language are between the seventh and fifth millennia BC. The Yamnaya culture is well dated by calibrated radiocarbon chronology: it begins, at the earliest, within the second third of the third millennium BC. Thus, there is a gap of about 2.5 millennia (1.6 millennia minimum).

The Russian archaeologist Leo S. Klejn highlighted a remarkable fact: the strange distribution of steppe genetic contributions to the “Corded Pottery” cultures and their descendants, revealed by Haak and others, very rich in northern Europe and increasingly weaker towards the south, particularly in Hungary, just where the western edge of the “Yamna culture” itself is located. This distribution is at odds with the suggestion that the source of the contribution to the “Corded Pottery” cultures is the southeastern “Yamna culture;” that very distribution seems rather more natural, if it is suggested that the common source (of both cultural units) is in northern Europe—and hence the common cause of genetic similarity.

The mystery of the origin of the Proto-Indo-Europeans remains an enigma, but perhaps not so indecipherable after reading this book.


Jesús Sebastián Lorente is a Spanish lawyer. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Elmanifesto.


Featured image: “Trizna,” by Andrey Shishkin, painted in 2019.