Liberalism Yes – No? But Which Liberalism?

“If we exclude the minority of those who do not want to be liberal, everyone declares himself to be liberal or is liberal without knowing it,” many liberals like to say. Others, on the other hand, less optimistic or more demanding, see our era as one of triumphant statism. In France, isn’t there always more regulation and more government? Doesn’t public spending in France represent more than 57% of GDP? So, what is liberalism then?

Heir to the Enlightenment, liberalism is defined as the doctrine that advocates the defense of individual rights. A doctrine that has prevailed in the West for nearly four centuries, although the word is much more recent; neither Montesquieu nor Locke, to name but two, ever called themselves “liberals.” The term liberales (liberals) seems to have first appeared in Spain, in the years 1810-1811. In the Cortes of Cadiz, when the 1812 Constitution was adopted, there were three tendencies: the traditionalists, the Spanish-American deputies, and the liberals. One third of the members of this constituent assembly belonged to the clergy, an active minority of whom were liberals.

But for the majority of French authors, it is indeed the Revolution of 1789, which, daughter of the Enlightenment, is fundamentally liberal (it is only marginally socialist with Gracchus Babeuf). The Revolution is the (or a) decisive moment of rupture in the history of France. It marks the beginning of the period of offensive liberalism. Liberalism was then a left-wing doctrine, which was rejected on the right only after the birth and expansion of socialism. In the aftermath of the great national event, in the tradition of Chateaubriand and Tocqueville, Christian liberals developed the thesis that modern European and Western political history could not be the product of a struggle against Christianity; there was no break with the Revolution – but, on the contrary, continuity and adaptation, a sort of “secularization” of evangelical values. The classic work of Pierre Manent, Histoire intellectuelle du libéralisme. Dix leçons (1987), on the philosophical foundations of liberal thought, is part and parcel of this tradition.

Finally, on the other hand, many other authors, especially foreign ones, insist on the fact that the democratic-liberal history is that of a long and slow evolution, marked by numerous stages, well before the French Revolution. They enumerate in very board strokes, the Cortes of Leon (1188), the Catalan Cortes (1192), the English Magna Carta (1215), the Hungarian Golden Bull (1222), the Swiss Federal Charter (1291), the Swedish General Code of Magnus Erikson (ca. 1350), the Union of Utrecht (1579), the Petition for Rights (England, 1628), the Mayflower Compact of the American Pilgrim Fathers (1620), the Bill of Rights (England, 1689), the Swedish Constitution (1720), the Declaration of Independence (1776), the United States Constitution (1789), etc.

Beyond the differences, according to the times, of countries and leanings (notably with those who grant more to civil society or more to the state), liberalism possesses a fundamental unity which makes it possible to characterize it on the political and economic level. It is the doctrinal foundation, on the one hand, of parliamentary or representative democracy, and, on the other, of the market economy or capitalism. The philosophical conception in which it is rooted makes the individual reason the measure and judge of truth. It is an individualistic rationalism, which, at the origin and in France, is mostly anti-Catholic, anti-clerical and even anti-Christian (which is not the case in the rest of Europe, neither in the Catholic South, in Italy, Austria or Spain, nor in the Protestant countries).

The glorious claims, asserted by the majority of liberals up to the 1980s, allow us to define the liberal system of thought. These claims are numerous and imposing – philosophical eclecticism; individual freedom and freedom from everything beyond the individual; freedom of conscience; freedom of the press; habeas corpus; distinction between civil society and the state; free trade; laissez-faire; religion of the market; defense of private property; distrust of the state; limited government; separation of political and religious powers; taste for savings; respect for balanced budgets; sympathy for representative assemblies and parties of notables; defense of political and associative pluralism; bourgeois relativist morality based on the exaltation of work; contractual freedom; politics of the lesser evil; search for the middle way; compromise as a rule of government; respect for legality; equality before the law; social rights guaranteed by the state (not all liberals agree on this point, of course); the right of citizens to choose and periodically elect their political representatives; and finally, the power of elected officials of wealth and knowledge, if not of true intelligence.

Criticism of liberalism developed very early, from the beginning of the 19th century. The first indictments were drawn up by a host of traditionalist Catholic authors, four of the best known being the Frenchmen Joseph de Maistre and Louis de Bonald, and the Spaniard Jaime Balmes and the former liberal Juan Donoso Cortes. All of them denounced the disease of individualism and economism. As early as the end of the 1840s, Donoso Cortés affirmed that every great political and human question presupposes and envelops a great theological question, that a society sooner or later loses its culture when it loses its religion, that liberal individualism has its natural counterpart in socialist collectivism. There was no severer critic of economism and the great mortar of world revolution than the Marquis de Valdegamas (see the anthology of works by Donoso Cortés, who was secretary to Queen Isabel II, deputy and minister plenipotentiary, Théologie de l’histoire et crise de civilisation (Theology of History and the Crisis of Civilization).

The founding fathers of anti-capitalism were not only the non-Marxist socialists (before Marx and the Marxists), but also, and rather, the counter-revolutionary thinkers, who were succeeded by the social-legitimists. Nowadays, the radical critique of liberalism remains largely indebted to the thinkers of the 19th century, and to the legions of later authors, socialists, socialist-nationalists, nationalist-republicans, monarchist-legitimists, conservative-revolutionaries (such as, Carl Schmitt), non-conformist personalists of the 1930s, fascists, revolutionary syndicalists, anarchists, and Marxist socialists.

Nearly forty years ago, two Sorbonne academics, Raymond Polin and his son Claude Polin, opposed and debated each other in a suggestive essay: Le libéralisme oui, non. Espoir ou peril? (Liberalism, Yes or No? Hope or Peril?). The recent criticisms of Christopher Lasch, Michel Onfray, Jean-Claude Michéa, Alain de Benoist, even the communist Michel Clouscard, or the economist and supporter of the Woke movement, Thomas Piketty, to name but a few, are only recent echoes of an already old controversy. Pleas and accusations hardly vary; only the number of followers of one camp or the other fluctuates.

Liberalism is reproached above all for being the carrier of the disease of individualism. It is said to have the defect of seeing the world as a market; its logic, purely economic, is that of profit. It enslaves the producing classes, strengthens the power of finance, tramples traditional values, dissolves societies, foments ethnic and religious divisions in the name of multiculturalism.

Besides individualism, the most solid accusation against liberalism is twofold. First, is its ideological link with the capitalist economic system (freedom of exchange must allow the substitution of the bad politics of men by the natural and beneficial circulation of goods). Second, is its negation of politics, or its unpolitical character, which follows directly from its defense of individualism. The negation of the “permanent imperatives of politics,” which results from any consequent individualism, leads to a political practice of distrust, to a negative attitude towards any political power and any form of state. From a philosophical-political point of view, there is no liberal politics of a general character – but only a liberal critique of politics.

Anti-liberals thus claim that liberalism always tends to underestimate the state and the political, and that it is always associated with capitalism, whatever its form, private or public, agrarian, industrial, entrepreneurial, managerial or financial. But is this always the case? “No,” resolutely answers the Italian sociologist, Carlo Gambescia, professor at the Scuola di Liberalismo of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi (Rome). His thesis, debatable but solidly argued, is expounded in an essential work that was published in Italy under the title, Liberalismo triste. Un percorso de Burke a Berlin (Sad Liberalism. From Burke to Berlin). It was then translated and prefaced in Spain by the political scientist, Jerónimo Molina Cano, a recognized specialist in the works of Raymond Aron, Julien Freund and Gaston Bouthoul. One can only deplore the absence of a French version of this work, which has no equivalent in France.

Let us summarize and comment on the main arguments of this innovative work. Gambescia distinguishes four liberalisms; to do so, he uses in each case the suffix -archic (which corresponds to a notion of command, power, regime or political theory). There is, he says, micro-archic, an-archic, macro-archic and archic liberalism. The reader will now forgive me for having to quote a whole series of thinkers, but Gambescia’s classification cannot be understood otherwise.

The first liberalism, micro-archic, is a current of thought going back to David Hume, Adam Smith and the Scottish precursors of the 18th century. It continued in the 19th and 20th centuries with Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, the early first Robert Nozick and even Ayn Rand. One could also compare it to the authors of the Chicago School of Economics (with Nobel Prize winners, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Gary Stanley Becker, Ronald Coase and Robert E. Lucas). It is a legal-economic liberalism, based on the idea of a “minimum state,” of a power with reduced dimensions, and thus, “micro-archic,” This liberalism pursues individual interest, guided by the invisible hand of the market. It dislikes the state and taxes, without calling for their abolition. The state fulfills here only a residual function, as the legitimate holder of force for its internal and external use.

The second liberalism is an-archic. It is libertarianism; or, to better translate the American expression, “libertarianism,” which has many points in common with the Austrian School. It is represented in the twentieth century by thinkers, such as, Murray N. Rothbard, Hans Hermann Hope and Walter Block. These an-archic or libertarian thinkers reject the very idea of a minimum or residual state, which they replace with the utopia of the absolute free exercise of individual rights, in particular life, liberty and property. For them, the state, whether democratic or dictatorial, is always the worst aggressor of the persons and properties of the citizens.

The third, macro-archical liberalism, was born with the English utilitarian, Jeremy Bentham, in the 18th-19th centuries and developed with John Stuart Mill in the 19th century. In the twentieth century, this third filiation led to the early John Rawls, to Rolf Dahrendorf and John Dewey. We can also link it to John Locke (17th century), Emmanuel Kant (18th century) and John Maynard Keynes (20th century). What is important here is the prevalence of the idea of a specific form of common good. The state is not content to be the guarantor of laws and law; it must be interventionist. It must impose upon itself the task of fostering equal starting conditions for all citizens.

These thinkers allow and justify an increasingly invasive power, in particular through fiscalism. The aim is to artificially level the interests of individuals, which, in experience, does not really generate a more just society, but rather a public bureaucracy that is more invasive and suffocating every day. This macro-archical liberalism is contractualist (supporter of the social contract of Hobbes and Locke). It is very close to social liberalism and redistributive social democracy. It is perhaps worth recalling here that, paradoxically, not only did Roosevelt’s and Truman’s economists admire Keynes, but also Hitler’s economists, such as Dr. Schacht. The Keynesians, for their part, admired Hitler’s economic policies (see Keynes’ preface to the German edition of the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936).

Finally, there is a fourth liberalism, archaic, realist, possibilist, without illusions; or, as Pierre Manent puts it, “melancholic,” which does not trust the market, and which wants to serve the individual, while defending the importance of political science. The pages that Carlo Gambescia dedicates to this liberalism are among the most original and substantial. Archaic liberalism, he explains, admits reality, and recognizes the existence of power as an inescapable component of social and political life. Politics is for him the sociological articulation of polemos, the theater of conflicts and recurring struggles. He is conscious of the imperfect nature of man and society, of the fragility and the precariousness of the human conquests, and of the possible corruption of all the institutions. For this liberalism, the conjunction of individual interests does not always lead spontaneously and artificially to the general interest.

As history shows, it is sometimes necessary to resort to iron and fire. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the names of the arch liberals are Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Max Weber, Guglielmo Ferrero, Robert Michels, Benedetto Croce, Simone Weil, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Jules Monnerot, José Ortega y Gasset, Wilhelm Röpke (and all the proponents of the social market economy), Raymond Aron, Gaston Bouthoul, Julien Freund, Jules Monnerot, Maurice Allais, Harold Laski, Giovanni Sartori, Eric Voegelin, Isaiah Berlin, and nowadays Dalmacio Negro Pavón, Pierre Manent, Chantal Delsol, etc.

Archaic liberalism abhors utopian unrealism. Four works, chosen from among those Gambescia cites, exemplify and measure this. In Socialist Systems (1902-1903), Pareto writes: “Every society, if it is to survive, must sooner or later adopt measures to prevent acts that would endanger its very existence. There are only two ways to proceed. One can take away the freedom of men to perform these acts, and thus prevent the dreaded evil; or, on the contrary, one can leave men free and repress harmful acts, directly or indirectly, leaving men to bear the consequences of their acts. Freedom has, as its complement and correction, responsibility – the two are inseparable. If one does not want to have recourse to the second of the means indicated [one can liberate men by making them bear the consequences], one must necessarily have recourse to the first [suppressing liberty to prevent], unless one wants the ruin of society.”

In History as Thought and as Action (1938), the famous Italian anti-fascist thinker, Benedetto Croce, takes the opposite view from Fukuyama and the American democrats and neo-conservatives who advocate the export and establishment of democracy in the world (a doctrine that we know today is in reality a screen for American imperialism). Croce, well known for rejecting the possibility of a strong identity between a contingent economic system (liberism) and an immanent principle (liberalism), writes these words: “The liberal conception, as a religion of development and history, excludes and condemns, under the name of ‘utopia,’ the idea of a definitive and perfect state, or a state of rest, in whatever form it has been proposed or may be proposed, from the Edenic forms of earthly paradise, from those of the golden ages and the lost paradise of Jauja, to the variously political ones of ‘one flock and one shepherd,’ of a humanity enlightened by reason or calculation, of a totally communist and egalitarian society, without external or internal struggles; from those conceived by the naive popular spirit, to those reasoned by philosophers like Immanuel Kant.”

Gambescia drives the point home with a timely reference to the sad experience of “exporting Western democracy” to Afghanistan, a “pride of reason” that has led to a disregard for the country’s traditions and cultural substratum. He recalls the role played by President Hamid Karzai, the man from the United States, later accused of having received CIA funding. These few premonitory pages would deserve to be updated because we know since then that the opium trade has been increasingly flourishing under Karzai’s mandates (2001-2014), that he was dropped by the Americans when he got closer to Iran and Pakistan, that he was then an advisor to the government in Kabul, and that he finally negotiated with the Taliban in August 2021 (the Taliban suddenly became “moderate” through the magic of words and propaganda), as part of a “national reconciliation process” and a “peaceful transfer of power.”

The third characteristic text of realist liberalism, which we shall quote, is that of Wilhelm Röpke. The German ordo-liberal writes in The Social Crisis of Our Time (1942): “… a free market and performance competition do not just occur—as the laissez-faire philosophers of historical liberalism have asserted—because the state remains completely passive; they are by no means the surprisingly positive product of a negative economic policy. They are, rather, extremely fragile artificial products which depend on many other circumstances and pre- suppose not only a high degree of business ethics but also a state constantly concerned to maintain the freedom of the market and of competition in its legislation, administration, law courts, financial policy and spiritual and moral leadership, by creating the necessary framework of laws and institutions, by laying down the rules for competition and watching over their observance with relentless but just severity.”

Finally, the fourth example is that of the French sociologist and professor at the University of Strasbourg, Julien Freund. The author of The Essence of Politics (1965), said evocatively: “Politics passes, politics remains.” According to Freund, the political constitutes an essence for two reasons: on the one hand, it is one of the constant, fundamental, impossible to remove categories of human nature and existence; and, on the other hand, it is a reality that remains identical to itself, in spite of variations in power, regimes and changes in borders.” Man “is capable of transforming society like a demiurge, but only within the limits of the presuppositions of politics. In other words, society allows itself to be disciplined, to be formed, to be deformed…. The demiurge is the master of the forms, not of the essences.” He added without wavering: when a political unit ceases to fight it ceases to exist.

For the archaic liberal or realist thinker, without a political decision and a public force to defend it, the right to property has no chance of enduring. The political force pre-exists the right. This means that the conjunction of interests always has a political nature in the sense of polemos. Law without a sword to guarantee and defend it can easily be trampled and violated. No written constitution can last, if there is no solid executive, no coherent oligarchy able to defend it. There can be no serious international policy without knowing and admitting the place, and determining role of, force and reason of state.

The archaic liberal respects the constants of politics or meta-politics that are the distinction between the governors and the governed, the Iron Law of the oligarchy (subject of Dalmacio Negro Pavón’s book, 2015); the alternation of phases of progress and decadence, of order and disorder; and finally, it recognizes or never excludes the distinction between friend and foe, fundamental and recurrent in the political sphere.

The explanatory model of liberalism that Gambescia proposes has many merits, but it is obviously not perfect. Thomas Hobbes and Montesquieu, who belong to the history of liberalism, are absent from his classification. “They are,” he says, “two problematic thinkers, difficult to classify in my schema.” Hobbes, a progressive individualist, who trusts the role of the state, could be brought closer to the macro-archical liberals, while Montesquieu, who believes in the spirit of laws and gentle commerce, could be a fellow traveler of micro-archical liberals.

On the other hand, Gambescia’s judgment of Rousseau remains partial and uncertain. He takes up the thesis of the Israeli historian, Yaakov Talmon, on the totalitarian democracy of Rousseau (Robespierre’s teacher) and on the similarities between Jacobinism and Stalinism. Indeed, in the thought of the author of the Social Contract, the citizen is subjected to a higher law that Rousseau is compelled to admit as yje citizen’s own ignored will. And this is enough, according to the Italian sociologist, to exclude him definitively and without other form of trial, from the liberal tradition. But the reality is perhaps more complex and more subtle. Without the triple influence of Rousseau (the anti-Christian democrat-republican), Voltaire (the anti-Christian monarchist absolutist) and Montesquieu (the liberal-conservative monarchist who does not confuse the Christian religion with the forms it may have taken in political society), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen becomes difficult to understand.

Usually, one associates Rousseau correctly with the democratic-republican tradition opposed to the liberal tradition. But Rousseau’s critique is carried out in the name of the demands of liberalism, within liberalism and not outside it. Rousseau appropriates the promises of liberalism. He admits the premises but denounces the consequences. He is a thinker of freedom; he is attached to individual freedom and to the right of property, even though he criticizes the absolute right or the unlimited enjoyment of it, which moreover makes him join here paradoxically Christian traditionalism [Liberalism establishes solidly the right of property and makes of it a strictly individual right, whereas the Christian tradition, regarded it as a natural but social right, limited by the law and the social duties of the owner].

Like all the philosophers of the Enlightenment and liberal thinkers, Rousseau seeks to answer the question of how to be free while obeying laws. Like them, he recognizes the need for a regulating criterion of freedom to counterbalance the individualist conception. Like them, he looks for it but does not manage to find it. His answer is ultimately a sophism – one is free when one obeys the general will. In Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good (1955), Bertrand de Jouvenel writes on this subject: “Insofar as progress develops hedonism and moral relativism, and individual freedom is conceived as the right to obey appetites, society can only be maintained by means of a very strong power.” Rousseau had undoubtedly the taste of the paradox and the contradiction, but nevertheless the majority of the French republican democrats followed him or were influenced by him. This was the case of Pierre Leroux, Ledru-Rollin, Proudhon (even if he criticizes him), Georges Sand, Napoleon III, etc. and this is not nothing.

Another questionable point in Gambescia’s book is the lightness with which he treats the question of the enemies of liberalism. There is, he says, a so-called “holy alliance between reactionaries, traditionalists and revolutionaries.” Behind the criticism of liberalism lies hidden the radical criticism of modernity, the hatred of the present, common to reactionary traditionalists and revolutionaries. At both extremes, there is the same gnostic rejection of man, marked, for some, by pessimism (the evil in Louis de Bonald or Christopher Lasch); and, for others, by optimism (the good in Karl Marx or Slavoj Zizek). Revolutionary Gnosticism, the main enemy of liberalism, is a sort of vein inspiring the different movements that are traditionalism, positivism, Marxism, anarchism, psychoanalysis, fascism, national socialism, ecologism, progressivism, etc. According to Gambescia, they are all based on the conviction that it is possible to eliminate evil from the world, thanks to the knowledge (gnosis) of the right method to change the course of history. Anti-capitalist and anti-liberal gnosticism implies a real disdain for the real man and facts.

Carlo Gambescia, a rigorous and honest sociologist, slips up here and gives way to being a fiery pamphleteer: “In short, why don’t intellectuals like liberalism?” The answer he gives is confoundingly simple: “To put it bluntly, it’s because they are mental lazybones, who aspire at the same time to social recognition, a distinction that in the marketplace of ideas is within the reach of all those who propose a false but useful idea.”

After having, not without reason, criticized the amalgams and the summary Manichaeism of Zeev Sternhell in The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, Gambescia falls into the same trap. He claims to support his demonstration by relying on Bonald’s thought. Michel Toda, who to my knowledge is the only French specialist in the thought of the Viscount, is in a better position to give an opinion.

However, in order to take the measure of Gambescia’s misguidance on this point, it is enough to recall here the importance of the dogma of original sin for Donoso Cortès: human nature is neither good nor perverse, but only fallen. “The disruptive heresy, which, on the one hand, denies original sin, while affirming, on the other hand, that man does not need divine guidance – this heresy leads first to affirm the sovereignty of the mind, then to affirm the sovereignty of the will, and finally to affirm the sovereignty of the passions – three disruptive sovereignties. Donoso Cortès also explains: “This is my whole doctrine: the natural triumph of evil over good and the supernatural triumph of God over evil. Therein lies the condemnation of all progressive systems, by means of which modern philosophers, deceivers by profession, lull the people to sleep, those children who never leave childhood.”

It remains to be seen whether, as Gambescia seems to think, liberalism is an inescapable basis of the history of ideas from which variations are possible but only if they are minor. And even more, if the realist liberalism that he rightly defends in his brilliant and enlightening book is still a bearer of future and hope when it has been marginalized and murdered by the other liberalisms?


Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés


The featured image shows, “A Dirge,” by John Byam Liston Shaw; painyed in 1899.

To Rearm Minds: Some Reflections On Opposition

I read with great attention and interest the essay on opposition, by Ryszard Legutko, the testimony of a man who lived and suffered for decades the horrible “communist paradise.” Obviously, I share his analyses and concerns. I would only like to add a few comments based on my personal experience in France, as an academic, then as an international civil servant, and as an entrepreneur, before enjoying an independent and peaceful semi-retirement.

Not without some naivety, Professor Legutko confesses “… it never occurred to me that the Western world may produce a society and a state of mind where the opposition as a permanent constituent of political and social life may disappear or become unwelcome.” It is probably this sentence that touched and saddened me the most.

In my childhood and during my student life, I knew the French Fourth Republic and then the Fifth Republic. Under De Gaulle, there was a presidential majority (a mixture of non-Marxist, liberal and nationalist lefts and rights) and a mostly socialist-communist opposition; but also an Atlanticist right (both moderate and radical). The communist unions were omnipresent and omnipotent at that time, whereas today they play only a marginal or residual role. The Catholic Church was still dynamic and powerful, the faithful were relatively numerous, whereas nowadays only 2% of the population is still practicing and 51% of the French do not believe in God. A society that loses its religion, sooner or later loses its culture, said Donoso Cortés almost two centuries ago.

In the years 1960-1980, the French university and the world of culture were infiltrated and even dominated by Marxism (those of the militants or sympathizers of the pro-Soviet PCF – but even more so, those of the leftists, Maoists, Castroists, Trotskyists and libertarians/anarchists). Since the end of World War II, French culture had been largely dominated by the extreme left (it was the time of Sartre and Beauvoir, who had been former collaborators under Vichy; later that of the Franco-German leftist Cohn-Bendit, defender of pedophilia, etc.).

At the end of the 1940s, the PCF represented 25% of the electorate; and from the beginning of the 1960s (a decade marked by Vatican II and May ’68) Marxist leftism was rampant in the university and the mainstream media. There were some brilliant anti-communist figures such as Raymond Aron, Thierry Maulnier or Bertrand de Jouvenel, but the political and cultural pluralism was still very relative.

The Marxist or crypto-Marxist neo-inquisitors watched over and locked down the debate for the most part. Anyone who wanted to make a career in the intellectual or academic world had to give guarantees and, above all, not to confront opponents openly. Examples abound of academics and intellectuals who were victims of official Marxist and leftist-Marxist censorship – the historian Pierre Chaunu, for denouncing abortion and the demographic collapse of Europe; sociologist Jules Monnerot, for dissecting the Marxist Revolution; writer Jean Raspail, for prophesying savage or mass immigration; political scientist Julien Freund, for his defense of realism in politics; sinologist Simon Leys, for denouncing Maoism; later, the sociologist Paul Yonnet, for analyzing the causes of the French malaise; the specialist of slavery, Olivier Petré Grenouilleau, for revealing the extent of the Eastern and intra-African slave trade and not only the Western one; the medievalist historian Sylvain Gouguenheim, for having destroyed the myth of a West that would never have existed without Islam, etc.

The complete list of pariahs and outcasts would be long, very long. One should not be fooled either – censorship existed well before the 1990s, well before the beginning of the grip of political correctness.

Censorship has even always existed, in all places and at all times under religious, moral, social or political forms (Tocqueville evoked it, largely in the case of American conformism). The problem is that in the liberal “representative or pluralist” democracies of Europe and America of the 21st century, the relative political-social consensus has completely exploded.

Censorship, which used to be exercised by the state (whether aristocratic, monarchical or republican, dictatorial or democratic), is now practiced by private entities, by large multinational companies, and by NGOs specialized in the defense of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities and the protection of illegal immigrants. These private entities benefit from the tacit or express support of the majority of the political-economical-media oligarchy, which, in order to preserve its privileges, has chosen to allow large private companies and NGOs to replace the state more and more openly in the doctrinal and arbitrary limitation of freedom of expression.

Moreover, liberal-libertarian and social-liberal self-righteousness has imposed itself in the journalistic and academic world because of a way of being, a general disposition, a habitus in both professions. Added to this is the weight of self-censorship and mutual surveillance, and the pusillanimity of journalists and academics who are concerned about securing their professional future and promotion. As a result, only a third of citizens believe that the media provide credible information. Hannah Arendt knew and said that the virtue of courage is not very widespread among intellectuals.

Professor Legutko denounces in severe terms the danger of homogeneity that threatens Europe and America. We can only agree with him. In France, more and more intellectuals are echoing him. They are still a minority, but their number is growing and continues to grow over the years. A good part of the citizens finally feels represented on the cultural level. In his work, Théorie de la dictature (Theory of Dictatorship, 2019), the Proudhonian, Gaullian, materialist and atheist philosopher, Michel Onfray echoes Mr. Legutko and completes his diagnosis. Onfray identifies seven main stages in the establishment of the new type of totalitarianism that threatens to stifle us and against which he invites us to react – destroying freedom; impoverishing language; abolishing truth; erasing nature; propagating hatred; aspiring to the Maastrichtian Empire; and, of course, instrumentalizing, erasing, denying and suppressing history. It is a shocking fact!

Actually, all history refutes the “progressive” optimism based on the postulate that “our Western civilization is indefinitely perfectible.” The truth is precisely the opposite – a civilization, that is to say, a great politico-cultural unit built by a group of peoples more or less close to each other, cannot avoid reaching a certain degree of exhaustion at which it begins to deteriorate or decompose. A nation (or the people who compose it) rests both on its history and on its will to maintain its being, to develop and to regenerate itself. This is why one cannot believe in the value and richness of the diversity of peoples and nations without fighting globalization, or political-cultural homogenization.

Professor Legutko concludes: “The crucial question that one has to ask oneself today is whether this Goliath can be stopped and some kind of plurality returns, particularly whether Western conservatism will revive to the degree that it can prevent the Left’s march to a brave new world.” I will put the question in more radical terms: Is the depression, the decline, the fatigue, the sleep, the anesthesia, the decomposition, the dormitio, or, to put it bluntly, the decadence of Europe and the West still reversible or inevitable and fatal?

To remain optimistic, let us reread these words from Toynbee’s A Study of History (1972):

“Breakdowns are not inevitable and not irretrievable; but, if the process of disintegration is allowed to continued, I find that it seems to follow a common pattern in most instances. The masses become estranged from their leaders, who then try to cling to their position by using force as substitute for their lost power of attraction. I trace the fragmentation of society into a dominant minority, an internal proletariat, and external proletariat consisting of the barbarians on its fringes; and I sketch the social reactions of these diverse groups to the ordeal of disintegration. I also find a corresponding psychological schism in the souls of people who happen to have been born into this unhappy age. Discordant psychic tendencies which are perhaps always latent in human nature now find free play. People lose their bearings, and rush down blind alleys, seeking escape. Greater souls detach themselves from life; still greater souls try to transfigure life into something higher than mere life as we know it on Earth, and sow the seeds of a fresh spiritual advance.”

God willing, Toynbee is right. But since ideological war has been declared, it is high time to take up the challenge, to organize resistance, to rearm minds. The task is immense and the forces of the adversary considerable, not only in Poland or in Eastern Europe, but in all of Western Europe and in the entire West. Only future generations will be likely be able carry out this struggle. But the struggle can mitigate the catastrophe, and the struggle is above all a duty for us.


Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECDHe is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.


The featured image shows, “Portrait of a Knight,” by Vittore Carpaccio; painted in 1505.

The Dialectic Of Imbecility And The Western Elites’ Will To Power – Part 4

The following program, in no particular order, contains the ideas which the Western world’s elite agree, if successful, would fix up the world –

  • the elimination of the Western traditional family
  • the elimination of Western traditional religion
  • the elimination of Western (now interpreted as white) privilege
  • the elimination of the right of freedom of speech (to have a platform is a privilege only to be granted to those who think correctly in a way commensurate with ensuring justice for all)
  • the elimination of biological sexual identity and the right of a child to choose what sex it wants (feels) itself to be
  • the total compliance with a “philosophy” about why the world is how it is and how it can be fixed
  • total trust in those who educate us in this “philosophy”
  • total trust in the state which is dedicated to the “administration of things” according to philosophical principles, such as diversity and equality – diversity meaning people with certain characteristics are the same
  • total trust in science – and the consensus that has been politically deemed to be its teaching to anyone who resists
  • total trust in non-elected officials from journalists to intelligence operatives, as well as elected officials, if they deprive you of your rights in the name of “the science”
  • a cashless economy, so that wealth cannot be stored away from those entrusted to ensure that one is deserving of one’s wealth,
  • a universal income, so that anyone who is not deserving of that income may be denied it
  • a proscription on natural birth, so as to save the planet from the Anthropocene

Of course universal income is at this stage still only an idea, as is the proscription on birth; but they look to be inevitable. Presently, universal income is advocated by the world’s richest people; and they do so at a time when a cashless economy is increasingly becoming realized. A cashless economy will enable the globalized and globalist state to access anyone’s savings, thus to ensure that none can escape its panopticon (this term was popularized by Michel Foucault, a left wing intellectual icon, at a time when surveillance was far less prevalent and when the liberal democratic state was far less beholden to a class of people who take their cues from people like Foucault).

As for population control, Michael Moore’s film, Planet of the Humans, on the inefficient and anti-environmental impact of green energy was wrongly and widely hailed by people who generally disagree with him on pretty well everything because they saw it as an acknowledgment of (his) left wing folly. What they missed was that it was a call for depopulation – and the potential tyranny behind such a call would make the Hitlers and Stalins of the world look like namby-pambies in the mass murdering stake. For we have now become so accustomed to abortion, not as an exceptional undertaking to save a mother’s life, or even preserve her mental well-being, but as a routine decision based upon our inconvenience – and the state as a public protector of our safety, and its intrusion into every sphere of our life.

So, it will seem perfectly natural when we reach the stage that one will need state permission to have children, and it may well be, in order to discriminate against LGBTQ etc. all natural births will be prohibited as discriminatory.

Further, now that it has become acceptable to discriminate and persecute people who deviate from any of the requirements about sexuality, gender, biology, ‘the science’, COVID vaccination, Islam, critical race theory, surely only a monster would think that people who have shown themselves to be monsters, and agents of oppression should have children. As well, we have seen that as a new narrative of oppression gains traction among the elite, as a subject requiring educators, and people to be educated, as well as people to be blamed for whatever horrors this particular form of oppression incurs, it must remain.

Anyone, but a complete idiot, might wonder why after so many decades of exposure, say, to racism that, as critical race theorists, leading Democrats, top ranking military officers, and intelligence officers hold that racism is now worse than ever. The answer to that is, if you think this way you are not yet a complete imbecile. Anyone but an imbecile should also be able to see that clientelism requires clients – actual victims of injustice, or misfortune, don’t really matter, unless they feed the larger narrative and its professional opportunities.

However, because the above “game plan” is globalist, it does not mean that the program will win out in the way that its players think it will, anymore that the game of communism played out the way the Bolsheviks thought it would. Reality has a habit of having its way. Thus, it was that Marxists got concentration camps and mass death instead of their promised overcoming of alienation.

The program is also a fail-safe way to ensure the geopolitical destruction of the West at the hand of its enemies, which, inter alia, means the complete destruction of all the inroads of recognition made by Western progressives, whose astonishing ignorance about the impact of Islamism in Western Europe and future consequences of Islamist geopolitical inroads being made as the West tears itself apart, is a recurrent theme in writings of the insightful Bruce Bawer, who is gay and Christian. (A good and typical example of the extent of this ignorance is exhibited in the case of Sinead O’Conner, the singer whose public protest against the Church because of child sexual abuse, and who is now a convert to the religion founded by a man who had sexual intercourse with his nine year old wife).

And, while, as members of Turkey’s ruling party openly say, the demographic transformations in Western Europe may lead Western Europe to become Muslim – it is China (and as is also the case with Islamic peoples) with its very conservative adherence to the family, that is best positioned to take advantage of the West’s self-destruction, and dictate its future and the values it will tolerate.

Though, it may well be that by the time the West is but a vassal of China, China’s dictatorial policies might seem like welcome relief from what are increasingly looking like inevitable race wars, which, again will benefit the West’s geopolitical rivals far more than it will benefit blacks, or Latinos. (It is noteworthy how in all bonfire of race, playing itself out in the USA, the group that has by far the most shocking history to deal with, native Americans, don’t really figure at all. I suspect it is because they are not numerous enough in North America to be serious clients servicing ongoing political or public service careers, so their lives don’t sufficiently matter to be part of the propaganda race-war drive).

It only goes to show the contempt with which our intelligence is held that someone who bangs on about white privilege and race would think that no one would notice the sleight of hand deployed in simply shifting between color and linguistic characteristics so as to fuel conflict. But, of course, any three year old can notice that there is no consistency in any of this, that it is imbecilic thinking – albeit it is a dialectic of imbecilic thinking – that it is all about polarization.

Some three decades ago, a victim of oppression teaching at UCLA, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, realized that all the oppression stacked up in multiple ways and she drew upon the legal term of intersectionality to help identify all the identities that might lead one to be disadvantaged – as she, a Harvard graduate, must have been. While the intent was to draw attention to the multiple ways oppression and identity inter-twine – so that there could be ways of the various oppressed finding some common ground – it was essentially a response to the obvious problem of polarization; the problem of a lack of commonality, and lack of communion with community.

And, in spite of the institutional triumph in North America, Western Europe and Australasia today of identity politics and studies, what really is evident is the scramble and conflict between the identities for resources, opportunities, prestige and power by claiming they have less opportunity and access because they are more oppressed: white feminists being trumped by black feminists, or by the transgender activists so that having a vagina does not count when it comes to being a woman, and or a white gay male (say a film producer) might be slightly down the totem pole of victimhood from a white straight male (even, say, a guy selling gas).

So, we now require an education system now that can identify and ensure the institutional justification and distribution of resources on the basis of the different gradations of oppression that accrue to different identities. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge etc. have all morphed from being institutions of higher learning into institutions of imbecilic cultivation – as for the professions that would seem to be so far removed from these imbecilic issues – math, dentistry, engineering, accountancy etc., just as in the Soviet Union, where eventually even genetics was completely politicized, the totalitarian imbeciles are making sure that no discipline or training can escape the reach of their dialectic of imbecility.

At the heart of the ceaseless expansion of the dialectic of imbecility destroying minds, hearts, character, and institutions is the self – the self-wanting to be and being identified as all-important, being everything, wanting to have everything – from respect and pride, to pity and opportunity. This is the self that wants no sacrifice; it wants access to that big magic bin I spoke of earlier – and the way to have access is to present itself as being disadvantaged in access to it.

Once upon a time some people thought the access was given to the Jews, then it was men, then straights – now we all know, and have teachers and professionals telling us the answer – it is the whites that get all that undeserved access. That this is where the hell of self-obsession leads – it is the diabolical sin of pride – the pride Milton describes when he has Eve worship a tree thinking once she eats from the tree of knowledge she will be as God, or Satan who wants to be God, and to beguile assumes the form of a slithering slimy creature. It is also, sadly, completely self-serving, which is why (as anyone with a modicum of understanding of the laws of the spirit knows) it is utterly destructive of the soul.

The imbecilic self may want to cling to its identity as a Woman, Black, Latino, blah blah; but anyone who is happy to construe himself or herself in such term is just another imbecile. And that s/he, as much as anyone else, who is happy to go along, accepts that someone assumes to speak on behalf of/for an identity – as if having an identity always meant being, feeling, thinking x,y,z… blah blah. And it is precisely the making of imbeciles that is behind the self-serving nature of the dialectic of the imbecilic.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


The featured image shows, “Erregte Menschen (Excited People),” by Emil Nolde; painted in 1913.

Traditionis Custodes: Mistep Into Incomprehension

Incomprehension is what predominates when reading the motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes and the accompanying letter to the bishops. One does not understand the justification or the necessity of such a document, and all the more so because the Pope has legislated on the basis of an incomplete argument and false information.

The Incomplete Argument

To say that John Paul II’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei was motivated only by “an ecclesial reason to recompose the unity of the Church” is not accurate. Certainly, that was a major reason, but there was another reason omitted by Francis: “All the Pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended ‘harmony’ which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit” (Ecclesia Dei n. 5-a).

False Information

Pope Francis affirms that the generosity of John Paul II and Benedict XVI was used by the traditionalists to oppose the Mass of Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, by putting in danger the unity of the Church. He has thus said: “The opportunity offered by St. John Paul II, and with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, to restore the unity of the ecclesial body, while respecting the various liturgical sensibilities, has been used to increase distances, to harden differences and to build oppositions that wound the Church and hinder her progress, exposing her to the risk of division…. But I am also saddened by the instrumental use of the 1962 Missale Romanum, which is increasingly characterized by a growing rejection, not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Second Vatican Council, with the unfounded and untenable claim that it has betrayed Tradition and the ‘true Church’…. It is increasingly evident in the words and attitudes of many that there is a close relationship between the choice of celebrations according to the pre-Vatican II liturgical books and the rejection of the Church and its institutions in the name of what they consider to be the ‘true Church.’ This is behavior that contradicts communion, feeding this impulse to divide.”

The very vocabulary used by Francis is that of the Society of St. Pius X. The “true Church!” No traditionalist, faithful to Rome, uses it! So, his statement is true if we limit ourselves to the Society of St. Pius X. But it is false if we apply it to the vast majority of the “Ecclesia Dei” movement; that there are cases that correspond to what the Pope says is true, but they are very much in the minority: why apply a collective punishment for the fault of a few? Would it not have been enough to crack down on those? Obviously, we do not live in the same world as the Pope or his advisors, because their world simply does not correspond to reality; they see it as a homogeneous world that is in fact that of the Society of Saint Pius X alone! Who is advising and enlightening the Pope on these matters?

Based on biased information about the real situation, it is made to appear that the Pope is responding to a demand that is only that of a small minority who have always been fiercely hostile to the Extraordinary Form.

The Pope’s Objective…

…and its predictable dramatic consequences: “It is to defend the unity of the Body of Christ that I am obliged to revoke the faculty granted by my predecessors. The distorted use that has been made of it is contrary to the reasons that led them to grant the freedom to celebrate Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum.”

In wanting to defend unity, this motu proprio will bring misunderstanding, confusion, drama and finally stir up divisions instead of reducing them. It will achieve the opposite of its objective! In one stroke of the pen, it sweeps away 35 years of efforts by John Paul II and Benedict XVI to calm the situation and bring about a peace that is imperfect but real. Even the synthesis of the CEF, though not very benevolent towards the traditionalist world, recognized that Summorum Pontificum had led globally to a “calmed situation,” which our investigation has largely confirmed.

It will reawaken the liturgical war, exacerbate the resistance of the traditionalists, and, above all, lead to a number of departures towards the Society of Saint Pius X (which must be delighted with this motu proprio which will feed their troops and confirm what they have been repeating since 1988, namely that Rome cannot be trusted; thus confirming their refusal of any reconciliation) – all precisely what John Paul II and Benedict XVI had been able to avoid by their attention to this traditionalist world. This risks becoming an immense mess.

Let us add an important remark from a historical and psychological point of view. Paul VI was ready to make concessions on the Mass, if Archbishop Lefebvre had not rejected Vatican II (it was the famous declaration of November 21, 1974 against the “modernist Rome” of the Council that caused the problem). But John Paul II and Benedict XVI understood that liturgical appeasement was the necessary condition for the most reserved traditionalists to open up to the Council and assimilate it. By tightening the grip on the Mass, Francis will achieve the opposite result to the one legitimately sought.

Double Standards?

The tone of the motu proprio and of the letter is so harsh and severe against the Traditionalists that one cannot help but think that there is a double standard. While Francis insists so often on mercy, leniency, forgiveness – while he is so patient with the Church of Germany which is on the verge of schism – he, the common Father, does not show even a hint of love or understanding for those who are nevertheless a small part of his flock! In these documents, the traditionalists appear as harmful, who are just being tolerated in “Indian reservations,” until they fall into line; the stated objective being to make them disappear (without ever questioning whether they could bring something to the Church, in terms of youth, dynamism, vocations). Are there so many convinced practicing Catholics in the West that it is necessary to drastically limit a part of them?

Recent history has shown that despising and persecuting the Traditionalists in this way does not help them to evolve. On the contrary, it stirs up the resistance of the most hardened. They become more rigid; and this goes against the desired goal of promoting unity.

Let us pay tribute here to the French Bishops’ Conference for their communiqué of July 17, which shows esteem for the “traditionalists:” “They [the bishops] wish to express to the faithful, who usually celebrate according to the missal of Saint John XXIII and to their pastors, their vigilance, the esteem they have for the spiritual zeal of these faithful, and their determination to pursue the mission together, in the communion of the Church and according to the norms in force.”

Contempt For The Great Work Of Benedict XVI

These two documents of the pope turn, without any nuance for the work of reconciliation of John Paul II, and especially of Benedict XVI, starting from an analysis of the facts which is false, and proceed right up to cancelling the essential contribution of the pope emeritus who had distinguished the two ordinary and extraordinary forms of the same Roman rite. In so doing, the Pope also eliminates the legal existence of the former Extraordinary Form (as if it no longer existed), thus plunging the Church back into an endless liturgical dispute over the legal status of the Mass of St. Pius V. We return to the regime of tolerance according to more severe modalities than those of 1988, that of the “merciful parenthesis…” which is hardly merciful anymore! That is to say, a setback of more than thirty years by a single act of government.

What Strategy Of Rome Can We See In The Background?

The two documents of Francis show very clearly that the Pope wants to eradicate the Traditionalist world in the Church, to make sure that the Mass of St. Pius V disappears – everything is done to prevent this movement from growing (prohibition of any new group and an obstacle course for the diocesan priest who would like to celebrate with the old Ordo). Everything is being done so that in the long run the traditional Mass will be celebrated only in the Society of Saint Pius X and its satellites.

It seems, therefore, that the Pope’s strategy is to push the recalcitrant towards the Society of St. Pius X, so that the whole of the Traditionalist world will find itself there – they will thus be perfectly controlled and isolated in an “Indian reservation,” cut off from Rome and the dioceses, but with which a minimum link can be maintained in order to avoid a formal schism. This explains why the Pope no longer seeks reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, but shows great generosity towards them by recognizing the full validity of marriages and confessions, by encouraging them to be received in churches during pilgrimages, etc. All this is consistent – and the exact opposite of all the past efforts of John Paul II and Benedict XVI – for the unity of the Church.

Liturgical Exclusivism?

Is this motu proprio not an opportunity for those institutes that refuse to celebrate the ordinary form (which, let us specify, are in the minority within the “Ecclesia Dei” galaxy) to question themselves very seriously about the liturgical, theological and ecclesial validity of this refusal?

Since 1988, the popes have invited us not to refuse the very principle of the celebration of the new Ordo (it is true that the positions of the Ecclesia Dei Commission have fluctuated on the subject, and not helping to clarify it), which in no way takes away from the charism proper to these institutes for the old Mass. Benedict XVI was very explicit in his 2007 letter to the bishops and, in this regard, it must be noted that the lines have hardly moved since then. By obeying the Pope on this crucial point, would not these institutes demonstrate, by their very example, that Francis is wrong in his analysis?

Conclusion

All this is sad because it is unjust; and it is therefore legitimate to complain about it, to argue, to ask tirelessly for a reform of this motu proprio, or for the most flexible application of this text possible, while respecting the authority and the function of the Pope. The bishops will have an essential role to play. Everything will depend on the way they apply this motu proprio – the first reactions observed are encouraging, and I thank those bishops who are concerned for their entire flock.

It is also up to them to bring back to Rome more accurate information about who the traditionalists really are. Recent history has shown that they are not used to letting themselves be done for without reacting. Let’s hope that most of them do not fall back into a “resistance” that turns into revolt and open disobedience. The example not to be followed is that of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X; and we can see where that leads. It is hard to suffer for the Church, but it cannot fail to bear fruit.


Christophe Geffroy publishes the magazine, La Nef.


The featured image shows the Madonna of Misericordia, by Piero della Francesca, ca. 1460.

Towards Totalitarianism: An Interview With Rod Dreher And Mathieu Bock-Côté

Through the generosity of La Nef, we are greatly privileged to present this interview with Rod Dreher, the well-known Orthodox journalist and writer, who is the author, most recently, of Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents – and Mathieu Bock-Côté, the Quebec sociologist, thinker and writer, whose new book is La Révolution racialiste, et autres virus idéologiques. The interview is conducted by Christophe Geffroy.


La Nef (LN): How would you summarize the main dangers threatening our Western democracies and do you consider that there is a serious risk of drifting towards a form of totalitarianism?

Mathieu Bock-Côté (MBC): Whatever those who do not want to see anything say, the diversity-regime everywhere imposes increasingly severe ideological control of populations, as if it was necessary to transform Western societies into a vast ideological re-education camp. Whether we are talking about the situation in universities, in the media, or in private enterprise, Wokism is normalizing and turning into the Inquisition. Through it, political correctness becomes fanatical.

Mathieu Bock-Côté

At the heart of this ideological dynamic is the demonization of the so-called white man who must kneel down, self-criticize and even self-destruct, in order for the world to be reborn, under the sign of diverse revelation. All Western societies are structured around white supremacy, and they must tear themselves away from it. It is only in this way that “systemic racism” will collapse, which however requires a complete reconstruction of all social relations and a permanent control of public speech, to prevent remarks transgressing the “inclusive” and diverse orthodoxy. Western historical majorities have taken up the baton from the Vendée and the Kulaks in the narrative of the scapegoat – they are treated like the dead wood of humanity.

So, to answer your question, I believe, yes, that we are faced with a totalitarian temptation – the resistance of peoples is extreme right-wing; dissent is assimilated to hatred; the laws to combat the latter are increasingly coercive; phobization of the political opponent becomes the norm; and through this, we dream of making a new, New Man, forever renouncing his Western filiation to be reborn purged of his past. History is accelerating – the woke inquisition represents the 1793 of the diversitarian regime.

Rod Dreher (RD): We are already in what I call “soft totalitarianism.” I call it “soft” for several reasons. Firstly, since it does not look like the Soviet version, with the gulags, it is more difficult to detect. Second, it makes people believe that it is full of compassion towards the victims. Yet it is still totalitarianism! Twenty years ago, René Girard understood this. He said: “The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical escalation has transformed concern for the victims into totalitarian command and permanent inquisition. “

A totalitarian order is an order in which there is only one acceptable political point of view, an order in which all of life is politicized. This order is conquering the institutions of life in the Anglosphere with astonishing speed. What is soft today will become hard.

Solzhenitsyn said that communism conquered Russia because “men had forgotten God.” This is also true for us, in our time and in our country. We have turned our backs on God and find that it is impossible to build a life-giving civilization without Him. Michel Houellebecq is a great diagnostician of the fatal malaise of the West. When the transcendent dimension of life has been forgotten, or denied, people try to fill the void of God within themselves through sex, shopping, and hedonism. And when that doesn’t work, they turn to political pseudo-religion.

Rod Dreher

Hannah Arendt’s book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), studied how Germany and Russia fell into totalitarianism. All of the major signs identified by Arendt are present today, in particular our deep sense of social atomization, our love of transgression and our contempt for the truth.

LN: The new tyranny is exercised by a police force of thought which has acquired an exorbitant power. How do you explain this hold on people’s minds, and especially the fact that it affects subjects unanimously rejected not long ago (the new “racialism,” “marriage” between people of the same sex, surrogacy, euthanasia, etc.)?

RD: Eminent American sociologist James Davison Hunter argues that almost all cultural revolutions begin with the elites, who disseminate their ideas through their networks and then to the masses. In the United States, this highly ideological way of thinking first won over the elites in the universities. Most of their ideas were so extreme that one didn’t worry about their spreading. But when these ideas hit the media, the propaganda never stopped.

Six years ago, large corporations got heavily involved in promoting progressive cultural policies – pro-LGBT, pro-Black Lives Matter, etc. – perhaps to prevent the Left from asking too many questions about their business practices.

Today, what is called “woke capitalism” is perhaps the most effective force in American society that drives these progressive follies. At the heart of the problem is that its followers now control all points of entry into the middle class and career success. This is now the ideology of those who want to succeed professionally, and of the young generation heavily indoctrinated by social media.

MBC: I absolutely agree with Rod Dreher about the revolutionary power of woke capitalism. Having said that, you will allow me to sort out the subjects you raise and not to condemn or accept them as a whole; but I understand the meaning of your question. The peculiarity of the “diversitarian” regime is precisely to normalize the claims from “minorities,” and to pathologize what was until recently called common sense, by reducing it to an aged stock of prejudices and stereotypes. It appropriates the reference to democracy in order to reverse its meaning – which now boils down to the extension of the rights of “minorities” and the de-substantialization of the historical people. It has the administrative apparatus of the social state, converted into a therapeutic state, to modify social behavior.

Thus, it suffices for a movement claiming to be for “minorities” to formulate a demand for it to be immediately translated into a fundamental right which it therefore becomes scandalous to oppose. Whoever confesses the slightest reservation will be designated for public revenge, as we have seen with the fate reserved for J.K. Rowling, who had the nerve to recall that a man is not a woman, and to contest the transformation of identity fluidity as a new anthropological norm in Western societies. It is not without reason that gender theory takes place so much in our public life – if we manage to make a society accept that men and women do not exist and are only arbitrary social constructions, then we can make society accept everything. At the heart of the diversitarian regime, we find a constructivist fantasy – that of the integral plasticity of the social order. We also see it in what is called “inclusive writing.” Everything, everything, everything, must be ideologized.

LN: Are not all these drifts, which gradually reduce our freedoms, due, in particular, to the fact that, like children too spoiled by a long period of prosperity without major hardships, Western people have lost the love of freedom. We have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic that most prefer “health security” to their freedoms?

RD: I don’t know if it’s correct to say that the problem is a loss of our love of freedom. I cannot speak about the situation in France, which has experienced a much more severe health lockdown than in the United States. But in America, I saw something different during the Covid. Many people thought that any attempt at coercion was intolerable. The idea of making a sacrifice for the common good struck them as bizarre and offensive.

My experience of speaking with Christian dissidents in the Soviet bloc has made me realize that, in addition to strong faith, the two things absolutely necessary to resist oppression are solidarity with others and consent to suffering. We don’t have that anymore. It feels like America is collapsing.
I believe things will become clearer with the under 40s. They are much more anxious than previous generations. Many of them will willingly give up their political freedoms in exchange for a guarantee of personal enjoyment and security. They will not only accept soft totalitarianism, but demand it. A professor told me that he had stopped teaching Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World (1932) because none of his students recognized it was a dystopia; they all thought it looked like paradise.

MBC: The real issue lies elsewhere, I think. We underestimate the effect of the ideological conditioning of the last decades, which has delegitimized all common norms and which has sanctified the victim position. “I am a victim of the white man therefore I am.” This is how we now access public space.
Our civilization is haunted by the fantasy of its own annihilation, as also evidenced by antispeciesist neurosis.

LN: In Europe, massive immigration has imported a major problem with Islam being now the majority in certain neighborhoods and impossible to assimilate, not to mention Islamism and the terror it blindly sows. What do you think? Do you think the dangers are the same in North America and Europe?

MBC: No society can be absolutely indifferent to the population that makes it up. A people is not just a legal, administrative or statistical abstraction. It would be wrong to underestimate the effect of massive immigration which is destroying the cultural and demographic balances of Western societies, especially as it goes far beyond their capacity for integration. This is also true in North America, which is not, however, a homogeneous bloc. The United States seems to me to have taken over from the USSR as the revolutionary power of our time and is now getting lost in an obsession with diversity that will ruin it. This country seems doomed to me to be lost in a spiral of regressive violence. I say it with sadness – I loved the United States.

Canada is a non-country. It has renounced its history to become the receptacle of the embodied diversity utopia, the place of radicalized multiculturalism. As a proclaimed post-national state, it believes it represents the next step in the history of mankind.

Allow me a few words on the situation of the people of Quebec, landlocked in a federation that denies its existence, and accuses it of ethnic supremacism every time it seeks to recall federation. The question of Quebec is inseparable from the old aspiration of the Quebecois people to assume their “vital difference” in America, and ultimately to establish themselves as an independent state. But massive immigration condemns French-speaking Quebecers to become a minority in their own country – in other words, to become foreigners at home, because populations of immigrant origin are Canadianizing and Anglicizing themselves much more than they are Quebecizing and francizing. We are witnessing the quiet erasure of a people in their own country, where it is gradually transformed into a residue of folklore. The question of small nations, to use the category forged by Milan Kundera, reminds us of one thing – it is important for what we will call a “historic people” to remain clearly in the majority at home. It is on this condition that they will succeed in integrating men and women from elsewhere into their culture.

RD: I would like to respond to Mathieu about the disintegration of the United States. I am living in Budapest for the summer months on a scholarship. It is utterly astonishing to me how clearly obvious America’s suicide appears from Europe. I’m not surprised that we Americans are destroying our country – that’s obvious to anyone with a brain. But stepping outside the borders of the United States makes you realize that it’s even worse than we thought. I have felt for the past few years that the best way to understand what lies ahead for America is to look at the history of the Spanish Civil War. Americans have a lot of guns, but it’s impossible for me to imagine that we’ll have a real civil war. I believe that the state will eventually impose a social credit system to control the population, because that is the only way to contain the violence of people who despise what the ruling ideologues do to them.

To come back to your question, I believe that Islam is first and foremost a European problem. In North America, Muslim immigrants assimilate more easily. It seems to me that you Europeans cannot face the problem because the Left will not let you speak frankly about it. God help you if this Anglo-Saxon cultural virus of racialist theory finds a way to infect Europe, and mutates into a pro-Islamic form. There will be no possible solution in that case.

We see in America that where this racialist ideology has prevailed, dialogue is utterly impossible; everything becomes a question of power. I don’t know if a peaceful solution is even possible now. This is why I believe more than ever in the “Benedictine Option.” There is no escape from what is to come – but with God’s help we can bear it.

LN: A purely procedural democracy like ours, emancipated from all limits, because having rejected the idea of a truth that goes beyond us, can only lead to the tyranny of the majority, or more precisely of organized minorities practicing a severe police force of thought to impose their views “democratically.” Is a democracy without God, that is to say without transcendence imposing limits on the human will – is such a democracy even viable?

MBC: In this regard, I am modern – modern democracy cannot be based on the assumption of God, even less in a world where his existence is no longer taken for granted. This does not mean, however, that the question of transcendence can be abolished. But the transcendence of the moderns is culture, knowing that we are rubbing shoulders with the abyss, and that the world can slip away under our feet. Hence the importance of transmission, of ensuring its duration, bequeathing the heritage of civilization, which is ours, while enriching it. Let me add that the Covid crisis has shown us how inhuman a ritualized, artificialized existence is. The abandonment of funeral rituals during the pandemic brought us, in the name of sanitary reason, to the threshold of barbarism. Likewise, it is not a question of denying the sacred, which is consubstantial with the political and historical order, and which has invested in the nation – are we not talking about the sacred love of the fatherland?

One thing is certain. The integral contractualism of existence pushes towards the dissolution of the world, insofar as it is reality itself which must dissolve under the weight of a tyrannical subjectivity, which comes to the conclusion that it is the non-existence of the world. The West, existentially pitted and reduced to a series of disembodied principles, no longer knows how to respond to Islam, which it wants to see as a spiritual preference among others, and no longer as a civilization; no more than before Islam. massive immigration. We need to rediscover a political philosophy allowing us to perceive and politically recapture anthropological permanence.

RD: This is an extremely important question. The short answer is no, it is not viable, for the reason given in your question. I think of the famous line of T.S. Eliot: “If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.” Maybe I lack vision, but I don’t see how we can live in peace without God, except under tyranny. Most of us see clearly that liberalism is dying because it has been so successful in “freeing” the individual from God, from the community and from the past. No one can live like this forever. But what will replace it?

In North America, Mathieu and I live in pluralistic countries. If liberalism can no longer rule us, then what? In the United States, there are a few Catholic intellectuals who offer an integralist view, but it is a utopian dream. Catholics are a minority in America, and the number of them who would submit to a “full Christian state” would not fill a small town ballpark. They are looking for a political solution to a problem that is basically spiritual. And they are not alone. Both on the Left and on the Right, everyone is really looking for God – but a God compatible with their individual and liberal conceptions that they will not be able to find, so they create a world ready to accept the Antichrist.


Translated from the French by N. Dass.


The featured image shows, “Safe and Sanitized,” by Jordan Henderson; painted 2021.

St. Joan Of Arc And The Feminists

One can only be surprised, at first glance, that feminists have not adopted the figure of Joan of Arc as the standard of their cause. A strong woman if there ever was one, despite her five feet height; the great general of the armies of Charles VII, with a frank tongue, especially in front of those men in gowns, with such virile courage that it never ceases to amaze us. Joan still disturbs the self-righteous of today, as she disturbed those of old. If Christine de Pisan, whom hysterical women would forcibly enthroned as the first feminist, recognized in the Maid the instrument of God, the feminists for their part have abandoned Joan who nevertheless still succeeds in rallying under her banner royalists and republicans, believers and atheists.

Indeed, Joan, well-ensconced in the cohort of saints, is an anomaly, a real-to-goodness head-scratcher. On closer inspection, as the Church did when she canonized her a hundred years ago, Joan is a woman from the soil, attached to a homeland, Catholic by faith and morals. A woman submissive to Her Lord God, Whom she first served.

For France

For Free France, such a charming pleonasm, Joan gave up her life. It does not have to be shown that feminism is a current that sprang from the anti-patriotic, internationalist and communist Left, the one that claimed ninety million lives in the past century. For these universalist ideologues who ape the Catholic Church, it would have been blessed to show Joan as a victim of the Church, burned because of witchcraft, witchcraft put forward today as the emancipation of women. But such an image of the region of Épinal does not stand up to examination of the facts. This good Lorraine girl was burned alive by the English, said Villon. The English – invaders, for centuries eyeing our beautiful country. Foreigners in short, supported by traitors to the country, including Cauchon the bishop. We saw others such, in other times. Nothing new under Satan’s sun.

The saints all promoted universal equality and dignity of the human race; none of them encouraged the dissolution of nations and identities in a babelized sabayon enslaved to a supranational entity. Joan is no exception to the rule.

From the steps of the Kingdom, in Lorraine, God made a saint germinate, to offer her to France. Joan herself says that she “came” to France, guided by her voices. She left her land to save one that was obviously not hers. She has acquired, if it is possible to afford this anachronism, our nationality by the law of spilled blood, like the legionaries. To drive the English out of France was the mission to which she was employed, and we know by heart her famous word, that are difficult today to repeat without attracting the wrath of the Left in the first row of feminists (the violence against the Nemesis collective on March 8, 2020 in Paris): “Whether God loves the English, I don’t know. But He does want them at home.” In these few words, Joan reaffirms that God, Creator of the Earth, has also delimited its territories, assigned to each people, and that it is His will that each one remains in his place. As to whether God loves the English, doubt is always in order…

And then there is that sword that Joan unearthed from behind an altar in Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois, guided by her voices. Charles Martel’s sword, which repelled the Arabs, waited there for seven centuries for Joan to repel the English. God’s plan for France spans thousands of years before our eyes, which never ceases to leave disbelievers of all persuasions skeptical.

For Purity

Virginity also irritates the said feminists. Behind “my body, my choice” is the demand to do anything with your body and to make others and society pay the price. How to associate the one who insisted on having “never killed anybody” with the right to kill children in the womb of their mothers?

Joan may be a virgin; but she is nonetheless aware of the dangers that threaten women, as evidenced by her insistence on keeping her men’s clothes in English jails so as not to be raped. Likewise, the day she jumped from a Beaurevoir tower, preferring to risk her life rather than her marriage. Yet there are other saints who were not spared the infamy of rape. Joan’s virginity bothered her accusers, as it bothers feminists today. What slanderous and scabrous comments has she endured? Joan was truly pure according to her companions in arms, alongside whom she slept in the straw during the campaign. In the midst of the soldiers, like the other men, Joan undressed every evening to heal her wounds. “I would not have dared to approach Joan because of all the kindness that I saw in her,” said Bertrand de Poulengy. And Jean de Metz goes further: “I was inflamed with the words of the Maid and with a love for her, divine, I believe.” So, it was with them, as with other soldiers. Radiant with purity in the midst of filth, by the grace of God, Joan made men better.

This purity, which she treasured, she demanded of her men and also of women. The only time Joan struck with the flat of her sword, it was a whore who violated by her morals the holy war she was waging.

The state of virginity corresponded to her state in life. We must devote ourselves entirely, man or woman, to our state of duty, and the service of God demands an even greater sacrifice. Thus, Joan advised a pseudo-clairvoyant “to return to her husband, to do the work of his house, his household and to feed his children” (During the interview with Catherine de La Rochelle in the winter of 1430.). Hard to swallow for feminists.

We must believe that virginity takes on a special character in the eyes of God because the order of virgins has at least two generals for the armies: Saint Mary at the head of the celestial legions; Saint Joan of Arc at the head of the French armies. The Middle Ages had seen other women lead armies; Blanche of Castille, Joan of Brittany, etc. But they were noble, married and none entered the fray. While the humble laborer’s daughter, Martel’s sword in its scabbard at her side and the banner with the arms of Christ in hand, led the attack, always the first to cry, “Forward,” exposing herself to the thrusts of spears and darts.

For God

What cannot fail to bother feminists more than anything else is that Joan only has “the will of God” on her lips and not her own. Joan’s faith contradicts their rewriting of history. It was Christ who freed women from the bondage in which religions had locked them in antiquity. Just as He freed men. What Christine de Pisan had already said, what Régine Pernoud brilliantly noted. The status of women in the Christian Kingdom was quite different from this perpetual minority to which the Republic forced her in the 19th century. Dignitas auctoritas et potestas enjoyed by women were by God and for God. There is then no need to claim rights against men, in the first place, presented as eternal oppressors of women by feminists.

Far from the bloodthirsty fury fantasized by the bourgeois of Paris, Joan wept loudly for the English dead on the battlefield, not because they were dead; she had kindly asked them to leave France, too bad for them; but because they died deprived of the sacrament of confession.

“Jesus, Mary, God served first.” It is self-forgetfulness that is disturbing in our hours of individualism. No ego in Joan, just the notion of service. With exemplary piety, Joan had prayed every day since childhood, all the time; going to confession before each battle. She demanded the same of her soldiers – the state of grace. Every Sunday, Joan traded in her war clothes for her best dress before going to Mass. Joan received Communion as soon as she could, something unusual at that time. Even excommunicated at the end of her sentencing trial, her despicable jailers could refuse her the Holy Communion which she received a few moments before going up to the stake. “I will not last a year,” the Maid had predicted. And the nineteen-year-old martyr was never been seen prophesying her death in this way and extinguishing herself in the midst of the flames, repeating the sweet name of “Jesus.”

“In effeminate times,” in the words of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, God arouses women to put men back in their place as men, as if to make fun of them. And that, ultimately, feminism cannot accept.


Élodie Perolini is a writer, editor and mother, who loves writing about France and God. (This article appears through the gracious courtesy of La Nef).


The featured image shows, “Entry of Joan of Arc into Orléans, May 8, 1429,” by Henry Scheffer; painted in 1843.

Curing The Real Disease

It was in the years following the Civil War, America was hard on the path to “becoming great.” The industrial revolution had moved into full swing, railroads criss-crossed the country, immigration was gaining speed, and wealth was accumulating at a rate never seen before. We were slowly moving from our original agrarian economy towards life as an industrial nation. The middle-class was growing, education was increasing, and the life of management was the aspiration of many. We were also getting sick in new ways.

In 1868, the first article on the term neurasthenia was published. Though the word had been around some thirty years, it was making its debut as a more wide-spread diagnosis. The symptoms associated with it were: fatigue, anxiety, headache, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, neuralgia, and depressed mood. If all of that sounds familiar, it’s because it never went away. We simply call it by different names now. And, speaking of names, William James (Varieties of Religious Experience), called it “Americanitis.”

This “disease” was blamed on a variety of causes. Many of them had to do with the modern lifestyle and more generalized circumstances of our existence. America, in the late 1800’s was already “losing its religion.” There was some vague sense that the religious ideas of earlier times (America’s earlier times) were inadequate. There were many new denominations (results of the various revivals of the 19th century). There were also a large wave of cult-like movements (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Science, etc.). Pentecostalism had much of its birth during this same period. Of little note to some was the rise of Anglo-Catholicism in this period, a movement within mainline Anglican thought that looked back to times prior to the Reformation for its inspiration. A number of leading figures in things like the Arts and Crafts Movement came from this religious background. They were looking for an older spiritual model (and an economic model) to treat the disease that modernity had unleashed.

It has to be acknowledged, I think, that many of us today are inheritors of the same interior sense that “something is wrong.” Early in the 20th century, writers such as GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc offered crititicisms of “modernity” drawn from a traditional, Catholic worldview. Serious thinkers have continued that same narrative (not all of them Christian) ever since. And so we have Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Jung, 1933), Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl, 1946), and other such major works, decade by decade, fumbling towards a way of speaking about the emptiness of modern life. The modern liberation movements, as well as the youth movements of the 60’s should be read in this same light even though their critiques, in time, were themselves to become symptomatic of modernity.

A tragic attempt to address the malaise of modern neurasthenia was a sense that American men were growing too soft and unmanly towards the end of the 19th century. There were conversations that spoke of the need for a “good war” and of a “great cause” to regenerate what had become lacking. Such sentiments certainly played a large role in the Spanish-American War, the unabashed launch of America’s soft colonialism. The themes of that time have been replayed in every subsequent conflict. Whether we have been “making the world safe for democracy” or simply uninstalling various hostile regimes, variations of the same explanations and marketing have accompanied our efforts. Such explanations were plausible in World War II, but have rung increasingly hollow ever since.

Having largely lost our religion(s), modernity has seen fit to create new ones. If we wonder what constitutes a modern religion (or efforts to create one) we need look no further than our public liturgies. Various months of the year are now designated as holy seasons set-aside to honor various oppressed groups or causes. It is an effort to liturgize the nation as the bringer and guardian of justice in the world, an effort that seeks to renew our sense of mission and to portray our nation as something that we believe in. It must be noted that as a nation, we have not been content to be one among many. We have found it necessary to “believe” in our country. It is a symptom of religious bankruptcy. As often as not, major sports events (Super Bowls) are pressed into duty as bearers of significance and meaning. The pious liturgies that surround them have become pathetic as they try ever-harder to say things that simply are not true or do not matter. This game is not important – it’s just a game.

The difficulty with engineered religions, or causes that serve as substitutes, is that they fail to transcend. Regardless of how great many moments or ideas might be, they easily die a thousand deaths as their many non-transcendent failures come to mind. In the late 1960’s, the singer Peggy Lee registered a hit single, “Is that all there is?” It is a song with the lilt of a French chanson, à la Edith Piaf. It moves through the great moments of life, including love and even death itself, but offers its sad refrain:

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

This is our context, the world of modernity. It is also our sickness, an empty lassitude whose hunger invites never-ending experiments of conferring meaning on our world. The “better world” that modernity pursues shifts relentlessly and changes as though it were directed by Paris fashionistas. At the same time, it is met with increasing anger and frustration, a predictable response to what are essentially imposed religious views.

William James offered the interesting observation that war is a “sacrament” of the nation state. He had in mind the larger conflicts of his time. War grants a unity and a sense of purpose and participation to the country that is almost unrivaled. In our time, the response to the attack of 911 comes the closest to that sacramental purpose. However, with conflicts that dragged on for two decades, it began to wane in its effectiveness. It remains a touchstone at present, an event to which others are compared in efforts to foster another occasion of sacramental war. All of these sacramental efforts and the public liturgies that surround them, however, fail to serve any transcendent purpose. The nation state and modernity itself (which is primarily a form of economic activity) simply do not and cannot rise to the level of eternal significance. Indeed, their ultimate banality mocks us.

I am often asked, when writing on this topic, what response Christians should make. What do we do about the state? How do we respond to modernity? For the state – quit “believing” in it. We are commanded in Scripture to pray for those in authority. We are not commanded to make the state better or participate in its projects. We are commanded to serve our neighbors as we fulfill the law of God. However, I think it is important to work at “clearing the fog” of modern propaganda regarding the place of the nation state in the scheme of things. I would frame a response to modernity in this manner: we are not responsible for foreign religions. Though Christian language and carefully selected ideas are often employed in the selling of modernity’s many projects, it is a mistake to honor its false claims. Make no mistake, modernity will offer no credit, in the end, to Christ, the Church, or to people of faith. Its interests lie elsewhere.

The proper response to these things will seem modest. Live the life of the Church. The cure of modernity’s neurasthenia is found not in yet one more successful project, but in the long work of salvation set in our midst in Christ’s death and resurrection. Our faith is not a chaplaincy to the culture, or a mere artifact of an older world. The Church is the Body of Christ into which all things will be gathered, both in heaven and on earth. It is the Way of Life as well as a way of life. It is not given to us to control how we are seen by the world, or whether the world thinks us useful. It is for us to be swallowed up by Christ and to manifest His salvation to the world. We were told from the very beginning that would should be patient, just as we were promised from the beginning that we would suffer with Christ.

I think the sickness that haunts our culture is that we fail to know and see what is good and to give thanks for the grace that permeates all things. When that is forgotten, nothing will satisfy, nothing will transcend. There is no better world to be built, nor great wars to be won. There is today, and that is enough.


Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


The featured image shows the progress of cholera; watercolor, dated 1831.

On Homer’s Iliad: Why Eris, Mimesis and Menis Matter More Than Ever

The excerpt that follows is from Confessions of Odysseus by the late Nalin Ranasinghe (1960-2020), who was professor of philosophy at Assumption College.

This book is a unique reading of Homer in that it seeks to examine modernity through the Iliad and the Odyssey. As Predrag Cicovacki in his indispensable preface to the book, elucidates: “In Ranasinghe’s view, Odysseus is both the first recognizable human being and a model of curious and concupiscent human rationality that constantly strives toward the virtues of self-knowledge and moderation. Homer leads us to believe that the cosmos leans toward virtue, although its fundamental truths may be inherently unspeakable. This is the line of thought that Ranasinghe believes was further developed by Socrates, Plato, and Jesus, while being obscured by Aristotle, Augustine, and their followers. Homer’s later epic and his central insights are, according to Ranasinghe, the most fertile soil on which a humane civilization can grow and flourish.”

The book is forthcoming from St. Augustine. Be sure to pick up your copy of this very interesting journey of ideas.


When I started this book, it was Obama’s hour. He hoped to end the Bush wars, fix the economy and bridge our divisions. Homer’s epic pointed towards a new Oresteia: a millennial trilogy going from oracular Oprah and orgulous Osama to obsequious Obama. But we fell from tragedy into a satyr play, an infernal Punch & Judy parody of Achilles’ divine rage/Menis at Troy. This internecine strife delights the ruling rich; taking sides like Olympians, they pit puppets against proles. Yes, they can plunder without risk (or even dismantle the state) if we’re distracted by rage.

Our masque of Menis began when a new Clytemnestra enraged the white proletariat; its honest but blind fury soon found a demagogic messiah. Thirsting for hot blood they declared war on the bi-coastal elite, “deep state,” Jews, blacks, aliens, science, and the world. While this rebirth of rage thrills the mob, our hidden gods use its innate nihilism to push a crass agenda. As his war against all rages endlessly, their puppet-messiah mocks morality, fakes news, fosters crony capitalism, and gets America high on hatred. My tale ends apocalyptically when his puppeteers emerge to claim power over a bankrupt state and its alienated citizenry. Corporate tyranny, race war, cyber addiction, and debt slavery await if we do not stop this fake Achilles and the real rage he arouses.

That is why we must return to our origins—reading the Iliad and studying the blinding power rage exerts over city and soul before seeking Homer’s cure for this disease. While the remedy is found in his tale of Odysseus’ late return from Troy to save Ithaca, we must first ask our oracle the right question by decoding the Iliad. Homer has done most of our work for us; Socrates and Plato only retrieved what was implicit in his texts. They used a way of Midrash finely begun by Attic tragedy. This playful exegetic art was replaced by Aristotle’s scholastic science, but it can yet be recovered.

Homer must be read as the wisest Greeks did, not for fantastic tales of the Olympians but because his myths reveal eternal constants of the human state: the soul’s ruling passions and the possibility of knowing and educating these false gods. Wrestled with thus the Iliad becomes a cautionary tale, not one urging literal reading or mindless mimesis. It may always be that for the few who grasp Homer, many more will obey his gods or imitate his antiheroes; but the Odyssey hints that while its poet sees this potential for misuse, he is willing to take a noble risk and hope that eros can listen to and educate thumos. This faith is implicit in his tale of Achilles and the Trojan War. It is vital today that we see how the West’s end resembles its angry origins, as depicted in the Iliad. This is why Homer is said to be as fresh as the morning newspaper. His wisdom may outlive our literacy.

Even as subservient propagandists try to justify the ways of kings to man as divine providence, genuine inspired poetry continues its subversive struggle to reveal how the true gods see the world in all its fragile beauty; to this extent bards are literally poet/makers or better, savior/refreshers of reality. Thus, the Iliad shows how a plague of Menis, divine or divinized rage, infected our ancestors. But if this tragic poem is not read rightly—but seen as a paean to the glory of Ares/Achilles—this plague will return to punish our perverse piety and violent ignorance. Eris’ apple that began the Trojan war thus resembles the forbidden fruit of Eden that brought us the Fall. These very forces, viral strife and toxic knowledge, have joined their baleful powers again today.

The Unlikely Aristeia Of Hephaestus

Achilles is the starting point of each generation. Politicians raising new armies to kill each other rekindle his wrath and deploy his ever-alluring archetype for power and profit. He is used today in a way that would make even Agamemnon’s gross shade blush. The formless souls of our young are stunted by easy access to infernal weapons; we become self-forgetting, superpowered and superfluous by technology. Hephaestus does not hobble anymore; by his artifice and Hobbes’ counsel, the war of all against all has been escalated exponentially. No more Aphrodite’s cuckolded spouse, this god now exceeds Ares and Athena in glory and might; he makes angry boys socially inept and economically useless, but able to take pagan vengeance on judgmental Christian culture.

In short, as Max Weber sagely saw, Hephaestus the deformed deity once thrown down from heaven, may now be seen to have restored the Olympians for a secular second sailing. Today it is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the Gods (worship them as Hera, Ares, Aphrodite and Dionysus or call them jealousy, violence, sex and alcohol as any good sociologist would) are more powerful than that Enlightenment paradigm, the educated post-Christian individual, could possibly imagine. The confidence in calculation that led men to abandon the Homeric, Platonic, or Christian soul and replace it with Aristotle’s nous or silicon chips is thus proven by experience to be misplaced and unfounded. Even artificial intelligence or the much-anticipated event of the “Singularity” cannot save us from ourselves. Thus, if they have not done so already, the Gods and/or centrifugal forces of postmodernity have chosen to tear soul, city, and cosmos apart. Today technology has created a world where everyone from 8 to 80 strives to be Achilles at 18. Even worse, since our culture has been infantilized by promises of eternal youth and mindless pleasure, we are all concupiscent consumers: selfish suitors as ripe for slaughter as Penelope’s wooers.

But the deeper question is if we, like Achilles, his comrades, and the stupid suitors, are trapped by Hephaestus in a Hobbesian Hell, a war of all against all from which there are only apparent armistices but never any true respite or relief. Even Jesus could not bring peace on earth. Then, after Christianity became the exclusive faith of a persecuting empire, St. Augustine rendered unto Caesar the perverse doctrine that due to original sin, life on earth is a dark state of continual deserved punishment; further, as peace is impossible, good Christians must meekly await the apocalypse. In this condition slavery is to be preferred over rule since there are fewer opportunities for sin. Augustine also denied self-knowledge; we only know ourselves as sinners. He asserts, and we must believe, that God/the Church knows us better than we know ourselves. He/it also predetermines whether or not we are good or evil, destined for heavenly bliss or hellish damnation.

Made to choose between undeserved slavery/sin and ostracized outlaw-hood, many men plea-bargained: they accepted the false charges against their soul and picked theocratic authoritarianism over raw anarchy. This craven wish for liberation from freedom trumps self-knowledge’s lonely innocence. As Paul told the Romans, if human righteousness is possible then Christ died in vain.

Modern technology offers a way out of this dilemma. It promises the Epicurean earthly pleasure of a suitor’s life to those who follow religion merely to enjoy the bliss of Christian heaven. As long as he renounces egalitarian ethics and spurns talk of human rights or justice, a bold man can enroll himself among the ranks of the elect and become a predator on a natural order that is destined to pass away. In time he may also come to enjoy the exquisite pleasure of chastising the natural slaves of creation. Augustinian Christianity, as both Luther and Calvin discovered, even gives a religious justification for this Darwinian distinction between the elect, the few mysteriously and undeservedly favored by God, and the losers left behind, unredeemed and doubly predestined. In short, we can enjoy a glorious life of a predator on earth and do so with a divine mandate. As the allied gods of terror and technology have brought us back to Homeric times, this book will claim that only Odysseus can redeem us from Achilles and set the cycle of civilization in motion again.

The Afterlife Of Achilles

But does blind Homer presume to criticize shining Achilles? Is the hero of the Iliad truly more like one of Penelope’s suitors than Odysseus? Is Achilles’ tale but an epic tragedy, and not the West’s founding epic of a betrayed hero? Can we hear his cry of rage and not hear Roland’s horn in an empty forest? I will argue that instead of trying to emulate him, as Alexander did, we must instead resist the siren song of his splendid vices and opt for the way of life led by Odysseus and Socrates. Achilles and Alexander spelled death to civic friendship, even as their bellicosity seemingly united Hellas. Achilles’ rage caused the Dark Ages as surely as Alexander ended Athenian freedom; Augustus then destroyed the Roman Republic and became universal landlord of a pacified empire. Later Augustine solidified this Thousand Year Reich by making a castrated Christianity its creed.

Perhaps only Odysseus and Socrates/Plato deliberately deviated from the brutal order wrought by Achilles’ potent afterlife. Achilles, Aristotle, Alexander, and Augustus are ultimately imperial and un-Athenian in that they address hoi polloi in the imperative. It is presumed that their divine mandate, tradition or force majeure trumps any right of plebs to think, speak, or act for themselves. Silencing dissent is necessary once the “best” lose reverence for the soul, their own included, and deign to rule directly over the huddled many they could have had killed. Statesmanship becomes a technique serving the Hobbesian imperative of keeping the people alive, orderly, and productive.

In short, the natural result of charismatic Caesarism is implicit slavery. And, if Caesarism is the telos of Achilles’ immortal desire for glory, his legacy or body is empire. From each of Caesar’s wounds grows a tradition, a Roman road or information superhighway, bringing civilization and trade smoothly down to every categorized part of a far-flung empire in time and space. There is no possibility of questioning precedent or going upstream by the liquid medium of dialectic; truth is reified as sacred tradition or even naturalized so that other possibilities cannot be imagined. Happiness is found when men pursue safe commodious pleasures under their landlord’s shadow.

Shakespeare saw that while the evil men do out-lives them, the good is interred with their bones.

Even a benign Imperator will use bad epic poetry to elevate his deeds, power, and divine mandate; he does so at the expense of nobles like Glaucus and Sarpedon who looked to tragedy to hallow their heroic rights. Poetry rather than sheer force of arms is the ultimate basis of lasting power over men; it gives their hegemony divine sanction. This is why Homer is greater than Achilles; what is a hero without a poet? While Augustus rather than Aeneas is the hero of Virgil’s artificial epic, Homer is dishonored when paid epigones turn his heroic tragedy into pseudo-epic founding poems.

This is why we must continually ponder if Homer sought to elevate Achilles to the unrivaled status he came to enjoy in pagan antiquity and every subsequent classical revival. In short, was Homer’s original intent descriptive and cautionary or prescriptive and valorizing? And if his true purpose is the former, could it be that the Iliad’s alluring surface serves to preserve its esoteric meaning over time, to survive a barbaric or imperial age when texts had to be memorized and recited? We shall make this argument later when we consider the end of Book 5 of the Odyssey where this very possibility seems to be analogically depicted. It is possible that Homer arrived after the Dark Ages and saw the potential for a tragic rendering of much older tales of Achilles and his mad wrath. Even though my reading of the Odyssey presupposes the ultimate insufficiency of the Iliad and its hero, a vexing matter that has consumed more gallons of ink than the quantity of heroic blood originally shed at Troy, and thus necessarily cannot be irrefutably proved here, I can show plausible grounds emerging from within the Iliad to support this outlaw interpretation.

It all began when Achilles lost faith in Zeus. After first rebelling against the selfish ways of Agamemnon, Zeus’ mortal counterpart, he then found himself to have been ultimately tricked by the god. But what is he apart from Zeus’ favor? Achilles once likened Patroclus to a little girl crying to her mother but is he any different? Further, the toxic deal Achilles has with Zeus leads to the disgrace of the hero as well the discrediting of the Iliad’s gods. Both Zeus and Achilles, not to mention Agamemnon, are ruled by necessity and care only for their own ascendency, glory, and power. While Zeus undergoes change in the shift from Iliad to Odyssey, Achilles only sees the emptiness of the deathless glory he cold-bloodedly sought. First, the sad wraith of Patroclus indicates the existence of soul, then Hector’s body proves immune to every humiliation Achilles can inflict, and finally Priam reveals that he too is braver than Achilles. Priam humbled himself, before the man who killed so many of his sons, out of love. This fond folly made him risk war for Paris; now it leads him to travel with Hermes, the leader of souls to Hades, to plead with Achilles’ Hellish rage. But Priam’s action shows us that he is a braver man and better lover than the “Best of the Achaeans.” Achilles’ guilty secret is that he loves his rage more than Patroclus. It makes him hate himself more than the man clad in his armor whom he slew: Hector. This could be why he protests too much in his humiliation of Hector’s body. He is already punishing himself in Hades.

*****

Voluntarism And Nihilism

War is easy to declare and almost impossible to conclude. For this reason, unjust relationships are so hard to end. Admission of prior wrongdoing leads to a demand for compensation and discredits illicit authority. This is why Agamemnon readily concedes Achilles’ martial superiority but then invokes a qualitative difference he must maintain by force of will; if not, he ceases to be king (or God in the case of Zeus). Even Zeus must maintain this irrational ratio with the other gods. Any true king or god thus must exceed logos! This absurd necessity compels masters but rules slaves.

Agamemnon grants that Achilles is a better warrior—but only because he displays a psychopathic indifference to life that his corrupt cynical commander can only feign sometimes. The Lion King creates rough order within but claims that he must always fight the original chaos outside. Yet if this logic is taken to an extreme, Agamemnon fears it will expose its ugly origin in his greedy will. The evil Achilles rages against is not ontological but artificial; it feeds on human selfishness. In short, growth and becoming must not be denied for the sake of being—defined as rigid order. Men need not be herded like unruly animals. Such an attitude denies the fluid quality of a human soul, affirms the cosmic primacy of violence, and denies the goodness and beauty of ultimate reality.

The seemingly craven Greek kings know quite well that if they query Agamemnon’s arbitrary will and undeserved hegemony, it is not only the justice and plans of Zeus that will come ultimately under fire, their own lordship will soon be scrutinized by men like Thersites; and so even meritocratic Odysseus cannot voice the resentment he feels towards aristocratic Achilles. The prospects of demagoguery and nihilistic anarchy loom once we have an exploited army united by unjust suffering; the demos must never see that sacred hierarchy ultimately rests on the human soul unknowingly denying itself. As they vainly defy Zeus’ will, Hera and Poseidon hint that their brother’s claims to total power are not as absolute as he says. This is also mimed in Odysseus’ duel with the Cyclopes when the hero claims to act in Zeus’ name. Wordy Polyphemus, the hero’s own ugly shadow, voices the resentment of the chthonic life forces exploited by Cronos’ crooked son. But this craft of cheating craftsman is not a tool to be readily turned against its users; if not used prudently, it can be a potent demagogic/fascist device once the many wrest power from their rulers. Freedmen must not emulate divine power; they should try instead to become fully human. Homeric humanism deftly steers between the Charybdis of greedy kings and the Scylla of the mob.

This is why the potential Achilles stands for must not be ruled by Ares or armed by Hephaestus. While he posthumously serves as an archetype by which angry youth are manipulated, Achilles himself is not courageous; true courage is erotic, it is not born of thumos, rage, or despair. Achilles is as solipsistic as Hamlet, but his rage is indulged by Thetis the ultimate helicopter parent. His guilt for Patroclus reveals all that is left of Achilles’ humanity. Patroclus was the last human Achilles had a loving relationship with. His lover’s affection was all that could contain Achilles’ titanic rage. After his death, many mediocre myths about his quasi-divine rage for glory began to possess/infect other men, even Penelope’s wooers. The myths made its victims as blind to results as to causes; they were happy to live in the immediate now, in the presence of the deluding power possessing them. Ares is not in the Odyssey; he is replaced by the giant shadow of Achilles. Ares only exists in the past via pre-Homeric bards, or in a caricatured form, in the present, as the suitors.

By reducing Ares to human proportions, both in his comic portrait of the god and by his tragic account of Achilles, Homer makes it possible for the contagious power of rage to be understood and addressed. But as we saw, Ares will be reincarnated as Mars the father of Romulus founder of Rome. Such a resurrection spells death to city and Eros; Roma is Amor spelled backwards. It represents a recipe by which a cold-blooded will to power can be made sacred and eternal; in effect, the so-called Eternal City is actually the death of the city state and the triumph of oligarchic family values. By contrast, Athena stands for the erotic ideal of a polity based on the potential for logos in all. The Odyssey may be read in this political way, not as the mother of all revenge tales.

Moving To The Odyssey

This political reading can be summed up simply. While Achilles saw too late that political theology’s gods are as unjust as its goals are empty, Odysseus is fated to atone for his sins and order his soul. Only then can he reconcile with Athena and receive a new account of divine justice, Troy’s true treasure, that may be brought back to Hellas. The two Homeric works are two halves of a whole: the first, a tragedy describing the perennial temptations inherited by every generation; and the second, an epic prescribing how these psychic diseases are cured. But while all youth seek to be Achilles, a truth as universal as that attributing mortality to Socrates, few gain the telos of life; Odysseus’ self-knowledge is as hard to hold as Socratic wisdom. The Iliad attracts the diseased many by its angry allure before a self-selected few are cured by continually re-reading the Odyssey.

While Homer is magnificently impartial in his refusal to take sides in the tragic conflict between Greeks and Trojans in the Iliad, it is evident in the Odyssey that there is a chasm between the two texts that has to be resolved. There is also a most urgent political problem to be addressed. This state of affairs may be seen to stem from the Iliad and the Trojan War but is found to derive more immediately from Achilles and Agamemnon. The mimetic attraction exerted by the former and the latter’s inability to assert legitimate authority have led to the state of affairs we see at the start of the Odyssey. It is not just the anarchy in Ithaca that is troubling. Many of the best heroes have perished and those who survive are but shadows of their great reputations. For all their fine war stories and professed love for his father, neither Nestor nor Menelaus can offer Telemachus even minimal military aid. They can no longer lay claim to Zeus-given authority over their war veterans or their angry orphans. This is why Odysseus is warned not to return home as Agamemnon did.

The losses and disillusionment caused by the war has made the alliance between Greeks forged by Agamemnon disintegrate. Anarchy reigns in many places and there is no longer any stomach for war or respect for rule. While Nestor, the ultimate survivor, is now more priest than king, Menelaus seems to rely on magic potions and money to rule Sparta. The Dark Ages are upon Hellas and they result from the Trojan War’s bitter aftereffects. Before it men thought they were divine puppets; too weak for self-rule, they preferred currying favor with gods and kings that licensed them to violate the even weaker. But the war exposed the weakness and folly of kings and even gods. Men who cannot trust their betters often lose the power to believe in their own virtue or that of others.

Hannah Arendt saw that politics, the basis of any human community that fosters true virtue, is the opposite of violence. The Iliad and Odyssey both reveal this crucial disjunction. In the Iliad Ajax and Priam are both braver than Achilles for neither embraced rage. Aristotle teaches that courage involves virtuous but risky acts chosen deliberately despite loving life and hating death. While Ajax is always there for his comrades, Achilles likes to slaughter the fleeing for his greater glory. His psychopathic indifference to other lives is punctured by his lover’s death; Patroclus’ display of civic courage shows the emptiness of Achilles’ entitled excellence; love, courage, humility, and friendship are all erotic and relational virtues. As such, they are alien to Achilles’ thumotic soul.

No longer secure in his thumotic identity as the chosen one, Achilles is driven back from his unreflective “heroic” existence between divine and human realms, down to the shallow depths of his soul. It now means little for him to be the spoiled darling of the gods. Even if fools imitate him and envy his great menis, Achilles’ spirit is already dead. In his lurid tale of the underworld Odysseus hints that like Heracles, the Iliad’s hero is in two places at once; despite the rage that made his glory immortal in Hellas, Achilles’ soul only knows self-hatred in Hades. It is clear that he does not want to be recalled or admired for acts that now torment him eternally. He wishes to be even less than a slave; even a slave is trustworthy within limits. We too realize that Achilles is limitless and untrustworthy. Role models like him make politics—and its basis, trust—impossible.

It follows that Achilles, being incapable of friendship, is inimical to cities and civilization; he must not be seen as the West’s founding hero but as the hater of every city and wall—not just Troy’s. Walls do not make a city, but a wall of fear is built around the Greek camp after Achilles changes the quality of the comradeship between this band of pirates. Even Troy becomes less of a city by the favor Zeus bestows on Hector at Achilles’ request. Though for a while Hector is the besieger of the Greek walls he is but Achilles’ factor, even before donning his fatal armor. Is the temporary rout of the Greeks due to Hector, Achilles, or Zeus? Once Zeus withdraws his favor, hubris-hungover Hector elects to fight outside the walls, dooming himself and his city. The loss of Hector cost the Trojans more than Achilles’ death weakened the Greeks. It could even be that Achilles had to die before Odysseus takes Troy; glory is exchanged for guile and human intellect seems to matter more than the short-lived gifts of immoral gods. It is as if Odysseus must bring Achilles down with Heracles’ bow for the war to end. Athena’s metis has to defeat Ares’ raging menis.

The reader of the Iliad has knowledge that neither Greeks nor Trojans were privy to. Intelligence of Thetis’s successful request that Zeus help her son by humbling Agamemnon’s forces helps us see through the brazen “armor of the lie” worn by Achilles; he is not one who hates more than the gates of Hades someone who says one thing and means another. While Nestor shrewdly suspects that Achilles has a secret deal with Zeus, a deal never disclosed even to Patroclus, but which serves as the basis for his confident expectation that Agamemnon will come begging to him, we see that Achilles is not just a spoilt glory-hound but a real traitor. This pledge explains Achilles’ belated promise to arm when his own ships were attacked. But, as with most divine bargains, he is fooled when Patroclus is killed. Then, as Phoenix warned, an ugly thumotic necessity, born of rage, shame, and self-hatred makes Achilles take up arms but at the cost of the immortal glory he madly desired.

Achilles stands for the disillusionment of the young with corrupt leaders and the rigged community norms sustaining them. Like him they return to their tents or Hobbesian suburbs and commodious booty. While Achilles’ earlier immediate and unreflective “all-in” state is like Heidegger’s fatalistic rejection of self-knowledge, for it lets us be at the disposal of Zeus or Hitler, his deep grief is proof of a soul’s existence. But this sorrow must be led from the tent/cave and clad decently—not left in the brazen armor of the lie. Achilles was first ruled by false value-markers that disordered his soul; those were norms of virtue set by corrupt Agamemnon. These honors he rejects with fitting disgust. But nihilism is not the answer. Neither is a long obscure life. We turn to the Odyssey. It is Odysseus who must “transition” from Ares/Achilles into himself: he must be more than a Hephaestus who captures the Achilles-miming suitors of Aphrodite/Helen’s cousin in his web of lies and trickery.

How A City Should Read The Iliad

Achilles’ tale is tragic, not epic. The Iliad is cautionary and not foundational. After losing his quasi-divine self-sufficiency, realizing that he too needs the political goods of love and comradeship, Achilles sees that his peers could no longer give him respect or friendship. Since he is favored by gods and not truly fighting beside them, he is merely a tool for victory: like Philoctetes’ bow. So even killing Hector is empty; it cannot remove the disgrace or negative kleos he sustained by allowing Patroclus to be killed in his place. Achilles reveals the extent of his knowledge when he rigs the games for Patroclus. Earlier he rejected the glory gained from a rigged war and the cheating Olympians. Next believing there is nothing more and, playing the role of Zeus as he presides over the funeral games, he offered a less violent glory for those like Antilochus who belong to the next generation. Then, as noted, he meets a braver man than himself: Priam. Priam’s futile love for his dead son penetrated Achilles’ arms and did what Hector could not. The Iliad teaches that there is no glory without courage; but this quality is born of love, not from mad despair or tragic thumos.

Tragedy exposes the deeper rules undergirding the beauty of the cosmos and the tragic hero is happy to see this sublime vision, even in death, although he gains no profit from this insight and lacks the ability to take it back to the cave. Achilles is not truly the best; what he has is the unfair favor of the gods, compounded further by the treacherous deal he makes with Zeus. This inequity is imaged in Patroclus’ funeral games. It is also so with Ajax; it is ultimately the favor of Athena who gives Odysseus Achilles’ arms. Yet this very apotheosis as Achilles/Ares destroys Odysseus; he cannot educate his own soul. As Heraclitus said, “it is difficult to fight thumos, it buys what it wishes at the cost of psyche” DK B85. Odysseus must learn to renounce this rough magic, become invulnerable in the heel and spike the landing or return to common humanity in a way that truly redeems the ache/rage of his laos/people. This is how he truly surpasses Achilles! The hero of the Iliad merely stands beside the people’s pain but does not mitigate or represent it. Homeric tragedy becomes true epic in the Odyssey. Here, instead of living off his thumos, Odysseus uses his psychic and erotic ability to see all souls and cities. He thus gives fine expression in both speech and deed to what Aristotle would describe much later as a soul’s power to be all things. The soul is also the basis for the axiomatic assertion of human equality, a lofty ideal first explored in the Odyssey.

The Greeks came to see that human souls were best cultivated in a polis. And, as Aristotle tells us in his Ethics, a polity finds its origin in the extension of friendship. The Iliad shows how even the gifts and favors of the gods were not sufficient to actualize Achilles’ soul. While interactions among the Greeks provide fine examples of comradeship, their union does not on final analysis exist to foster a good life for all; despite providing us many pregnant pre-political instances of ad hoc deliberation among pirate kings, their discussions pertain to tactics rather than the common good. It is only after the war’s bitter pyrrhic end that the true interests of the many become visible.

But Troy does not serve as an example of a polis either. Priam’s city is but the oikos or household of a wealthy family; the Trojans do not argue over strategy or discuss whether or not Helen should be returned to Menelaus. It is hard to imagine the besieged men of Troy putting Paris’ marital bliss before their bodily safety and fighting ten long years just for Helen. While men like Priam and Hector were pious, and duly offered fine sacrifices to the gods, there is something lacking in merely ritual virtue—although failing to honor the Olympians in this way will certainly incur their ill favor. Trojan piety is stagnant and there is no mutually beneficial interaction with the gods; Troy’s god-built walls are too thick. The towering city of Ilium is but a royal citadel held together by its great wealth. His gold lets Priam indulge Paris, buy allies, and withstand a long siege. It is vital to see that Odysseus’ household is like Troy. Here too, great wealth is feasted away and not replenished.

But the Iliad also gives many reminders that Olympus itself is like a rich household. The gods seem to lead an Epicurean existence that is only relieved by the excitement of the war. But even the gods are not truly self-sufficient since they crave honor and a self-knowledge they cannot give themselves; it seems that happiness or eudaimonia is closely related to divine activity beside heroic mortals; the deathless gods can only revel in their power when they use it meaningfully. This involves human tragedy and not divine comedy. Left to themselves the gods are like the idle playful Phaiakians, and Athena is no better than lovesick princess Nausicaa; it seems that even gods must go “slumming” like Paris to find beauty and meaning beyond their perfect essentiality. Even the gods are political animals; they can best be groomed, known, or seen by us in a just city.

The converse of this ironic situation is seen in the Odyssey’s second half; now we find that the heroes whom the gods need do not hold virtue apart from the gods or their fellow men. This is the essence of tragedy; the case of Achilles is paradigmatic and not exceptional. As much as we admire towering Ajax, he is not self-sufficiently clad in virtue. Sophocles will have jealous Athena break Ajax: first by seducing him with glory, then manipulating his rage, and finally leading him to see his comrades through divine eyes: as cattle. While Ajax never manifested this fury when he took on Hector and was most himself when he fought fearless foes threatening these comrades, he seems no better than an angry ox once Athena champions Odysseus, his rival for the arms of Achilles.

Upon final analysis the Iliad could be read as a duel between a god and man: Zeus and Achilles. Both seek to remain in unrivalled unchanged superiority and yet, by the tragedy’s end, both have lost. While Achilles’ fall is more overtly imminent, the seeming victor—following a pattern seen with Patroclus, Hector, and even Achilles himself—is warned of his own swift approaching death. Even as Zeus and Apollo will unite to bring about the end of Achilles, seemingly the greatest threat to the limits between gods and men, the doomed mortal’s disillusioned rage has exposed the “two-faced double-dealing” ways of Zeus and himself. While these most ignominious epithets were hurled at Ares, careful readers/hearers of the Iliad know that the god and man to whom they best apply are Zeus and Achilles. They are as badly exposed as Patroclus was before Hector slew him.

But how then do we deal with the problem of Achilles? His angry ghost appears before each new generation of disillusioned youth, and his siren song lures them towards short brief lives of rage and destruction. As noted before, the issue is most acute in our time; surely it is not by chance that a zombie-resurrection of the Greek gods occurs before us. Hobbes’ mad “war of all against all” has reached a crescendo today with a loss of faith in Christian logos and a recognition that our technocratic elites are as shamelessly corrupt as they are ignorant. We must find a better way of interaction between gods and men before Achilles’ rage gives us up to scavenging birds and dogs. In short, the corruption of Agamemnon/Hillary does not prove Thersites/Trump to be our savior.

I will conclude by saying that Homer’s solution to the problem of Achilles is to be found in his Odyssey. While the Iliad describes it with unmatched eloquence, the problem would have existed whether not Homer would have given it expression; but his tragic poem provides an account of Menis and its causes that makes it possible for us to discern the outlines of a response. We need to conceive of a relation between gods and men in terms that are less adversarial and fatalistic. Homer helps to us view Achilles skeptically, to not allow his blazing anger and mimetic attraction to blind our capacity for prudent action. Odysseus exemplifies this human power when he successfully prevents Achilles from leading the army against Troy before it was fed. Homer likewise provides intellectual nourishment that protects his careful readers from the heady intoxication of the Menis he describes so well; he makes it possible for us to not be stampeded into seeing Troy through Achilles’ bloodshot eyes; as noted, Agamemnon’s corruption does not make Achilles infallible or even right. The armor of glory given him by Hephaestus make Achilles’ soul hard to see. It is only by studying his afterlife, in Hades and Hellas, that the tragic truth of Achilles becomes visible. As we shall see, even Odysseus must overcome Achilles’ blinding charisma if he is to return home.

While Bruno Snell brilliantly describes Homeric divinities as puppeteers manipulating men through strings attached to their various emotions and vital organs, Vico is more faithful to the esoteric intent of Homer. He depicts heroes wrestling with their gods, much as Jacob did with the Angel of the Lord, gaining meaning and identity from this nightlong struggle. I suggest that a similar agon is undertaken in the Odyssey by its hero, himself a peerless wrestler as Book 23 of the Iliad recounts. But Odysseus must not only strive against the gods, he has to also contend with two other equally slippery opponents: his own soul and the Iliad itself. For this ultimate trial he must descend into the psychic underworld and reconstitute the collective consciousness of Hellas. His tale gives posterity a mythic account of a higher justice, a subtle erotic power that guides souls better than anointed king or jealous god could. The humanistic arc of civilization itself originates from Odysseus’ bow and Homer’s lyre. The following book seeks to describe this epic beginning.


The featured image shows Dante, Homer, Virgil on Mount Parnassus (detail), by Raphael, painted ca. 1510-1511.

A Pastor’s Letter From Prison

Canada has been enforcing draconian lockdown measures against its own citizens, the severest of such measures are in the province of Alberta. A few brave Christians have been defying this tyranny – and paying for their “disobedience” with prison-time. Reverend Tim Stephens is currently in prison for defying the provincial government’s health regulations. Please pray for him and remember others in Canada who are suffering in this way. The letter that follows, addressed to the government of Alberta, explains why, for him, resistance to political oppression is part of his Christian obedience.


Mr. Premier and MLAs,

I write this from my jail cell in the Calgary Remand Centre. The past week I’ve missed my wedding anniversary and Fathers’ Day. My children will remember this Fathers’ Day as a time when they wept over the phone as I did my best to stay composed before other inmates while expressing my love for my children.

Your government has wrongfully put me on the horns of a dilemma. Either I forsake my convictions before God, or I’m imprisoned for some unknown time, taken from my family and the church community I’m entrusted to serve. If I choose the former then I deny God, thus I’m left facing the consequences of the latter. My conscience is captive to the Word of God and shall not be moved.

I realize that you think it’s best to adapt or change religious practices to work within the confines of your overbearing rules, but to adapt or change what I believe God calls me to do is to deny what God has called me to do.

For example, I’m commanded by Jesus, who died to make me his own, to practice hospitality. In fact, as a pastor, this must be a defining mark of my life. Hospitality is the practice of welcoming guests into your home. A practice forbidden by your government for 6 months. When forced to choose between obeying God and obeying men, the choice is clear.

I’ve shared publicly, and on many occasions how our theological convictions, mined from never-changing Scripture, come into conflict with your ever-changing “laws.” AHS continues to make public statements that they tried “working” with us, which is shorthand for them seeking unbending compliance through greater threats of punishment. Not once has anyone in your government shown any interest in actually working with us.

You have said that we have access to our independent judiciary for such discussions. However, our courts continue to refrain from weighing in on the constitutionality of your health orders. AHS lawyers continue to argue that more time is needed to produce the evidence that your office says it is using to make these restrictions. The courts have not proved to be a timely option for us. Your government can get a court order within the week. We are waiting on a hearing set for the end of September that began with lawyers in December of last year. The dates have been pushed back numerous times.

Mr. Premier and elected MLAs, I’m pleading with you to uphold our highest laws to which you are held to account. Temporary public health orders do not supersede our Alberta Bill of Rights, nor our Candian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I know that I am in the minority, but these laws are designed to protect the minority.

Mr. Premier, I know these restrictions will be lifted soon. I ask that you refrain from using imprisonment ever again to seek compliance to health orders. My imprisonment may be applauded by the left, but it has made Alberta the world-wide embarrassment of conservative governments.

As restrictions are lifted, return responsibility to the people of Alberta and return it for good. May this not be a pattern for your government in the future.

Thank you,

Tim Stephens

Pastor of Fairview Baptist Church


The featured image shows, “Saint Paul in prison,” by Rembrandt, painted in 1627.

The Natural Law, Impossibility Of Planned Eugenics, And The Chaos Of Transhumanism

We intend to develop here two reasons why a genetically or economically planned human society, which ignores both social inequality and intragroup competition, whether peaceful or coercive, is, in fact, intensely disadvantaged in its self-preservation, even doomed to failure. On the one hand, the projected success of a future sexuated individual in reproducing (and living long enough, and well enough, to become a mature, vigorous sexual reproducer), in the framework of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction, can neither be measured nor be existing in the absence of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities. And that, just as the rentability of a future allocation of capital goods can be neither measured nor even projected, in the absence of capital goods subject to the market price and to the right of private property.

To put it in another way, the calculation of the “fitness” of a future sexuated individual is not more possible to a eugenics planning body than the calculation of the economic rentability of a future allocation of capital is possible to an economic planning body. The implementation of a functional order in human society necessarily passes through the acceptance of these two cosmic laws that are the respective impossibilities of a (centrally) planned eugenics and of a (centrally) planned economy. On the other hand, there are at least two other cosmic laws whose acceptance is necessarily required for a functional social order in the human species: namely the fact that physical-mental inequality necessarily characterizes a sexually reproducing species; and the fact that decentralized intragroup competition for preeminence, survival, and reproduction is indispensable for the success of a group of vertebrates in intergroup competition for survival and preeminence.

A Word On State Eugenics

Before we get to the heart of the matter, it is useful that we proceed with some conceptual clarifications on state eugenics, which admits a positive modality (i.e., dedicated to promoting, or requiring the transmission of, traits considered positive) and a negative modality (i.e., dedicated to disadvantaging or prohibiting the transmission of traits considered negative).

The goal of state eugenics, either positive or negative, is not only to reach a population carrying exclusively the traits that it considers positive (or to come as close as possible to it); but to ensure that the members of the population in question are virtually capable of winning individually in a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction (that nevertheless corresponds to the socio-natural environment of said population), or of compromising their own individual survival and reproduction in the reproductive interest of the population (taken as a whole).

By “planner-type state eugenics” or “planning-type state eugenics,” we mean state eugenics that enjoys ownership of individual genetic capital, and which decides who has the right to reproduce and who should reproduce with whom. We will call “state eugenics of the semi-planner type” (or “state eugenics of the semi-planning type”) state eugenics that shows itself to be planning, either in the sole field of positive eugenics, or in the sole field of negative eugenics, but not in both fields. To our knowledge, whereas planner-type (rather than semi-planner type) state eugenics has been found only in fiction, semi-planner (rather than planner) state eugenics has genuinely existed: in England, America, Germany, and elsewhere. It continues to exist at least in China, where the communist administration, notably, renders the authorization for those couples deemed dysgenic to marry conditional on permanent contraception.

By “incentive-type state eugenics,” we mean state eugenics that uses incentives (fiscal, for example), but leaves mating decisions to be carried out in a decentralized mode, thus recognizing the authority of the family’s patriarch (over the mating of his offspring) or the freedom of individuals in the choice of their mating partners. To our knowledge, the actually implemented state eugenics of the semi-planner type have classically been (and, as in contemporary China, continue to be classically) state eugenics that, while showing themselves to be notably planning (and not only inciting) in the field of negative eugenics, prove to be only inciting (rather than planning) in the field of positive eugenics.

Without establishing the state as the owner of individual genetic capital, a semi-planner-type state eugenics exercises a planning confined, either to the positive field of eugenics, or to the negative field. A state eugenics of the semi-planner type allows that, as far as strictly concerns a given field of eugenics, either the positive or the negative field, decentralized decisions are taken in the allocation of individual genetic capital towards reproductive sexual unions, decisions that he will potentially undertakes to influence (via non-coercive incentives).

When it comes to following a criterion in its planning of reproductions, a planning-type eugenist state has no other possible choice than to take as the criterion of its decision to order or prohibit a certain reproductive union the reproductive success that the offspring that would result from that reproductive union under the planning eugenist state (if the latter were actually ordered by the planning eugenist state and carried out) would reach in a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction (if the offspring in question were founding itself participating in such a competition instead of finding itself under the supervision of a planning eugenist state).

For the reason that a (centralized) planning of reproductions is necessarily deprived of a criterion for centralized planning (i.e., a criterion for the centralized selection of those reproductions required, and therefore, authorized) that it can find in itself, which is therefore not borrowed from its representation of the individual planning of an organism meeting decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction and wanting the best “fitness” for its offspring, a planning eugenist state (what amounts to speaking of a genetically planning state) is necessarily incapable of taking a criterion for selecting ordered (and therefore, authorized) reproductions other than the representation of the reproductive success that the offspring of a hypothetical ordered reproductive union would achieve in the presence of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

By “entrepreneurial economy” or “decentralized entrepreneurial economy,” we mean an economy where the allocation of capital takes place in the context of capital goods subject to private property rights (and to free entrepreneurial competition for monetary profit) rather than in the context of the absence of property rights over capital goods or in the context of central planning by a state that owns capital goods.

By “decentralized competition for survival and reproduction,” we mean an (individual) competition for survival and reproduction in the presence of the formal possibility of everyone to take part in said competition and in the context of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities (rather than centralized due to central planning by a state that owns the genetic capital replacing any sexual opportunity for decentralized reproduction).

Just as a planning eugenist state aspires to do as well (or aspires to do better) in terms of “fitness” as decentralized competition for survival and reproduction would, so a state planning the economy aspires to do as well (or aspires to do better) in terms of economic rentability as decentralized entrepreneurial competition would do. Because those two types of central planning are both incapable of planning action, both are doomed to failure in their respective ambitions.

The “fitness” of an individual designates his success in generating an offspring qualitative (i.e., itself happy in said reproductive success) and numerous in the context of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction, therefore in the presence of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction (what nevertheless includes the scenario where there is only one fertile sexual partner for all individuals of the opposite sex, a scenario comparable to the “natural monopoly” in an economy). Just as the market prices of capital goods can no more exist outside a market for capital goods than the rentability of a certain allocation of capital can be calculated in the absence of market prices, decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities can no more exist outside a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction than an individual’s “fitness” can exist (and can be calculated) in the absence of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

Just as a state planning the economy intends to dispense with the existence of a market for capital goods in its projection or verification of the rentability of the allocated capital, a state planning eugenics intends to dispense with the existence of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction in its projection or verification of the “fitness” of an individual, i.e., the success an individual, if he were in a context of decentralized struggle (for survival and reproduction), would reach in the begetting of a numerous and qualitative descent. Whereas the “fitness” of the individual to be born of the allocation of a certain genetic capital (towards a certain reproductive union) is irremediably prevented (and not only rendered non-measurable and non-plannable) by the absence of decentralized reproductive sexual opportunities under a state planning eugenics, the economic capital allocated by a state planning economy remains allocated profitably or not; but the rentability in question is irremediably rendered non-measurable (and, in that regard, rendered non-plannable) by the absence of market prices for capital goods.

The fact that a state planning eugenics is necessarily incapable of forming an idea of “fitness” (since the decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction are necessarily absent under a state planning eugenics) will not be without incidence on the genetic quality of the engendered population in terms of the ability to live long enough (and healthy enough) to become a mature (and vigorous) reproductive breeder. As the central planning of the allocation of genetic capital to reproductive sexual unions, because of its necessarily erratic character, will generate individuals who would be less and less able to prevail in a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction (corresponding to the socio-natural environment of the concerned population), it will engender individuals who—in the concrete context of planned eugenics—will be less and less able to become vigorous and attractive sexual reproducers or to live long enough to reach sexual maturity.

From Gnosticism To Transhumanism

In the weak sense, transhumanism covers any doctrine that promotes the “overcoming” of homo sapiens via genetic engineering and bio-robotic engineering (including the implantation of electronic devices in the human brain, what one may call “neuro-robotic engineering” or “the neuro-robotic compartment of bio-robotic engineering”). In the strong sense, transhumanism covers any doctrine that promotes the instinctual, mental emasculation of homo sapiens, and its genetic homogenization (in terms of IQ and physical aptitude), via eugenics and the aforementioned genetic and bio-robotic engineerings—and that, for the purpose of obtaining an allegedly pain-free human existence. By the project of homo sapiens’s instinctual emasculation, we mean the project (dear to transhumanists in the strong sense) of reconfiguring human instincts in such a way that the virile mind (i.e., independent and capable of criticism and dissent) and the virile instincts of territoriality, independent thought, war, selfishness, the enjoyment of luxury and of sexual pleasure, the taste for power and for competition, or the desire to distinguish oneself, are eradicated from the psyche human.

To do that, transhumanists advocate, if not planning-type state eugenics, at least eugenics and genetic and bio-robotics engineerings. A transhumanist ideal in the strong sense is not necessarily an ideal in favor of planning state eugenics or even an ideal in favor of state eugenics as such: in other words, the transhumanism in the strong sense adopting state eugenics (either of the planning type or not) is only a modality of transhumanism in the strong sense. But whether it adopts state eugenics or not, transhumanism in the strong sense is doomed to engender a dysfunctional society for the reason that such a society would collide with the cosmic order. Strong transhumanism, and even weak transhumanism, is nothing else than a revolt against the cosmic order: a revolt all the more pronounced in the case of strong transhumanism. In the following lines, we will above deal with transhumanism in the strong sense and use the term “transhumanism” in its strong sense exclusively.

The project of “overcoming” homo sapiens via both genetic and bio-robotic (including neuro-robotic) engineering necessarily succumbs to what Friedrich A. von Hayek called the “fatal conceit” of omniscience, i.e., the conceit that genetic and neuro-robotic engineering is able to understand and predict a phenomenon that, in reality, is irremediably beyond human understanding as it is made (and positioned) in the cosmic order. As for the modality of neuro-robotic engineering that consists of implanting behavior-regulating chips in the human brain, it is needless to specify that it falls within the “road to serfdom.”

To that cognitive hybris with regard to the cosmos is necessarily added a conceit of omnipotence when the “overcoming” of homo sapiens in question consists more precisely of replacing the human being as he stems from decentralized and spontaneous biological evolution with a “new man” as much emasculated in his instincts and behavior as undifferentiated genetically, socially, and physically-mentally. Here, the cosmos is definitely seen both as totally disorganized and as infinitely shapeable: a clay that is both chaotic and malleable at will.

To put it in another way, transhumanism, while denying that there is a certain order in the universe (and a harmony within which humans must find their place), affirms that homo sapiens is able to provide the universe with the order which it supposedly lacks; and, while denying that human existence has any meaning within the universe, asserts that homo sapiens is able (and has) to “overcome” himself—via eugenics and via genetic and bio-robotic engineering—and to become a being no less omnipotent (and omniscient) with regard to the cosmos than “freed” from his virile instincts and from genetic inequality. In that regard, transhumanism comes as a secularized outgrowth of Gnosticism, an outgrowth where rebellion against an evil demiurge turns into rebellion against a vain and chaotic universe; and where the “liberation” from the divine sparks that are human souls with regard to the prison of material bodies, accomplished through knowledge, magic, and the rejection of Yahweh’s commandments, turns into “liberation” (via knowledge, technology, and eugenics) both of human biological nature with regard to the instincts, aptitudes, and inequalities of homo sapiens and of the creative powers of the human with regard to the limits assigned to them by his biological condition.

It is worth specifying that Gnosticism is only a part of the larger current of Judeo-Hellenic esotericism that fermented in Alexandria before continuing notably in the Kabbalah, a current that a certain literature hostile to Judaism believes it can amalgamate in its entirety, wrongly, with the only Gnostic modality. Contrary to what some of those studying the distant esoteric roots of contemporary transhumanism claim, Gnosticism and transhumanism stand in stark contrast to the Old Testament’s (and by extension, Talmudic and Kabbalistic) conception of the human being and the role that he is in a position to play in the cosmos.

In the mindset of the Old Testament, it is true that the human is seen as commissioned by God to co-create the cosmos; but precisely, the mandate of creation that is in question here consists, not of destroying and replacing the work of God (including human nature as God designed it), but of completing and sustaining the cosmos that God has created and delivered to humans. Hence the metaphor of the Garden of Eden that expresses the role of gardener of the cosmos devolved to humans: the role of preserving and crowning divine creation. Here, the human is certainly made in the image of God, or even directly linked to God; but precisely, far from the human being divine or called to render himself divine, he finds himself only in a relationship of (virtual) resemblance to God, a resemblance that he is called to concretize through submitting nature to himself (in the understanding nevertheless of the divine wisdom inherent in the arrangement of creation) and through submitting to the commandments of God: commandments which aim to enable man to discipline his instincts and, in that regard, to accomplish what renders him virtually made in the image of God and virtually capable of co-creating and exploiting the cosmos.

That conception of the way in which humans can and must behave with regard to nature contrasts just as much with the sacralization of nature (prohibiting its lesser exploitation by humans) constitutive of certain paganisms as with the condemnation of nature (and its perception as an enemy to be eradicated) constitutive of transhumanism. It is notably perpetuated into well-understood traditional Catholicism, namely the Catholicism of the papal reform of the 11th century, and into American-Protestantism. A secularized echo of that is the notion that man, if he intends to submit to nature to the extent possible, is forced himself to submit to nature and to the knowledge of nature. That echo does not only suggest what is possibly the symbolic meaning of the biblical text; it expresses what is a completely “scientific” appreciation both of the way in which the human is inscribed in the cosmos and of the degree to which the human can render himself creator and dominator and of the conditions under which that is possible to him.

Far from order being unknown to cosmic and biological evolution (such as conjectured the “theory of evolution” in a corroborated mode), a certain order governs inter-particle relations just as much as, to quote Robert Ardrey, “the movement of stars within galaxies, galaxies in their relations with others,” “the orbits of planets about their sun, moons about their planet,” and the “transactions of animals.” Neither the random nature of genetic mutations, nor the undesigned character of evolution, change anything to the facts “that animal treaties are honored; that baboons do not commit suicide in wars of troop against troop; that kittiwakes successfully defend their cliff-hung properties and raise their young; that lions and elephants restrict their numbers so that a habitat will not be exhausted by too numerous offspring,” or, finally, “that when species can no longer meet the challenge of environment, they must quietly expire.”

It is true that there are some doctrinal defenses of transhumanism that, instead of denying the order present in the nature, fully recognize the existence of said order, and even conceive of evolution as a designed process and the cosmos as organized on purpose. But precisely, those are inconsistent theoretical devices that, instead of drawing from the existence of the natural order the necessary implication, namely that the submission to the natural order limits and conditions the liberation of the creative and exploiting powers of humans, see homo sapiens as a virtually omnipotent being who will be able (with technical progress) to substitute for the natural order and the present version of the human species a new cosmos and a “new man.”

In that regard, the expectation of the “Singularity” (i.e., the day when artificial intelligence will allegedly overtake human intelligence and will henceforth be able to self-maintain and self-improve) in certain modalities of transhumanist faith comes as a twisted and secularized millennialist pattern, the expectation of the biological homogenization of humans and of their instinctual cyborgization and reprogramming when the era of the Singularity comes superseding the expectation of communist equality and of the mental regeneration of humans in the abundance of “grace” when the millennial era preceding the “last judgment” comes.

The natural impossibility of planning in eugenics is nevertheless a disappointment for the hopes of the type of transhumanism that favors planned eugenics. The natural impossibility of genetic equality (in a sexually reproducing species) and the natural indispensability (to the functionality of a vertebrate-society) of decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence are so many disappointments for the hopes of transhumanism generally speaking, which falls within what Ardrey, without thinking of transhumanism (to our knowledge), called the “philosophy of the impossible.” Namely that, in defiance of properly understood science, “we have pursued the mastery of nature as if we ourselves were not a portion of that nature;” as if nature were not our “partner” (rather than our “slave”) and the “laws applying to us” were not “applying to all.”

An ambiguous notion, “natural law” can designate, among other things, an allegedly objective categorical injunction (such as the injunction “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife nor his servant”); a necessary regularity in the cosmic order; a categorical injunction allegedly objective and allegedly inferred from human nature (as the principle of non-aggression allegedly is); a functional and universal human rule of law; or a functional human rule of law rendered functional by its formulation and implementation of all or part of the implications of a certain cosmic regularity for the functionality of human society.

In the present article, we will call “natural law” a certain necessary regularity of the cosmic order that, on the one hand, renders functional a certain rule of human law formulating and implementing all or part of what that factual regularity implies in order for human society to be functional; which, on the other hand, renders dysfunctional any rule of law undertaking to transgress all or part of the implications of that factual regularity for a properly functional human society.

Any functional human rule of law is functional in that it contributes, if not to the preeminence of the group, at least to its survival (in specifying that preeminence is an asset for survival). Any functional human rule of law does not derive its functionality from the fact it formulates and implements an implication of a cosmic regularity; but any human rule of law that (like the collective ownership of economic or genetic capital) undertakes to get rid of a certain implication by a certain cosmic regularity is ipso facto rendered dysfunctional.

Precisely, the necessity of the calculation (of monetary profit or of profit in terms of “fitness”) for planning action in economy or in eugenics is one of the “natural laws” (in the aforementioned sense) that jointly render dysfunctional the legal basis of decentralized entrepreneurial competition and the legal basis of decentralized organismic competition for survival and reproduction; and jointly render dysfunctional the collective ownership of capital goods and the collective ownership of genetic capital.

Just as economic planning is in rebellion against the natural law of the need for anticipated market prices in the elaboration of economic plans (what may also be called “the law of the impossibility of planning (centrally) an economy”), planning in eugenics—and, in that regard, transhumanism of the type turned towards planned eugenics—are in rebellion against the natural law of the need for anticipated sexual reproductive opportunities in the elaboration of anticipations on the “fitness” of a projected newborn (what may also be called “the law of the impossibility of planning (centrally) eugenics”). Whether or not it is of a type supporting planned eugenics, transhumanism is also in rebellion against at least two other natural laws.

Although Robert Ardrey sometimes lacked clarity as to the meaning in which he spoke of “natural law,” and although he did not tackle (to our knowledge) the theme of transhumanism, we owe him in The Social Contract the identification of those two other natural laws against which transhumanism rebels (in vain): namely “the law of inequality” in species with sexual reproduction; and “the law of equal opportunity” in vertebrate species. The law of inequality is the law that genetic inequality, and therefore physical-mental inequality, is inevitable in a sexually reproducing species. For its part, the law of equal opportunity is the law that the equal opportunity of the members of a vertebrate society to take part in the “disorder” of the decentralized intragroup competition to survive, reproduce, and occupy a high position in the “pecking order” is an indispensable instrument for sorting out and making good use of individual aptitudes for the success of a group of vertebrates to perpetuate itself.

By “decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence,” we mean an intragroup competition (peaceful or coercive) for survival, reproduction, and preeminence that is formally open to everyone in society; and which operates in the company of unhindered social inequalities (including innate ones), in the context of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction, and in the presence of a hierarchical order formally open to social mobility and to the recomposition of elites. In view of those two natural laws that are the law of inequality and the law of equal opportunity, a human social order that hinders or ignores any social inequality (including hierarchical) will be rendered not less dysfunctional than a human social order that hinders or ignores any formal system of intragroup decentralized competition (including decentralized competition for preeminence).

A transhumanist social order, i.e., repressing just as well any genetic inequality (in addition to any social inequality) as any genetic existence of a virile instinct (in addition to any social existence of decentralized intragroup competition), will be rendered all the more dysfunctional. Besides, whether the planning of reproductions consists of planning acts of carnal mating between individuals or of planning in vitro fertilization, a transhumanist social order of the planning type (i.e., of the type in favor of planned eugenics) will be rendered dysfunctional as much by its attempt to transgress the natural laws of identity and equal opportunity as by its attempt to transgress the natural law of the impossibility of planned eugenics.

On that subject, the society depicted in Brave New World comes as a borderline case of a transhumanist society of the planning type, in which genetic inequality is accepted (albeit planned) and in which instinctual emasculation remains incomplete (albeit largely advanced), with notably the quest for sexual pleasure persisting in society. The fact remains that, precisely, genetic reproductions and inequalities are planned there (and that, without the novel portraying the nonetheless erratic character of genetic planning, which is necessarily incapable of planning); and that intellective emasculation (i.e., the suppression of any mental capacity to think in a virile, therefore independent and critical, mode) is complete there, with no human stemming from planned eugenics in the depicted society proving able to think for himself.

What dismays the transhumanist with genetic inequality (and, by extension, social inequality) and intragroup or intergroup competition (and the instincts associated with it) is fundamentally that those things create “suffering,” “wickedness,” “violence,” and “tearing” in the world. When it comes more precisely to intergroup warfare or the decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence, another reason for dismay in the transhumanist, not less fundamental, is that the disorder associated with it is thought to be an outright aberration, a horror that should be replaced with a total order.

To the indispensability of economic and juridico-political inequalities (including those attached to birth) for a functional human society responds, however, the not less indispensable character of the disorder linked to an “equal opportunity” offered to all members of society. But “the equal opportunity” whose implementation is in question here (if one wants human society to be functional) does not reside in the equality of formal or material starting conditions, what would contravene the aforementioned principle to allow all inequalities to flourish, including those associated with birth. “The equal opportunity” that is in question here consists of a formal equal opportunity to take part in a decentralized intragroup competition for survival and reproduction, as well as for the escalation of the group’s hierarchical order and the occupation of a high position within said hierarchical order.

That struggle for preeminence takes the form of what biologist Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards described as a “struggle for conventional prices by conventional means.” A fact which (to our knowledge) was not raised more in Mises than in Ardrey or Wynne-Edwards, the entrepreneurial competition for monetary profit only makes to deploy (in the economic field) the competition for “conventional prices” (in that case, monetary profit) by “conventional means” (in that case, the allocation of economic capital) that is at work in any functional vertebrates society, the losers in entrepreneurial competition (i.e., those entrepreneurs who are most mistaken or are the latest in the allocation of capital in anticipation of changes in investment or consumption demand) seeing themselves constrained to a low or negative income (and, in that regard, a inferior social position) just as the losers in the struggle for preeminence are relegated to a lower social rung generally speaking.

Ultimately, what renders free entrepreneurship functional (in terms of the group’s success in sustaining itself and in facing the challenges met by its survival, including the challenge of preeminence) is notably that such social institution accords with the three natural laws that are the law of inequality (in the sense that entrepreneurial income inequalities germinate from genetic inequalities without paralleling them), the law of equal opportunity (in the sense that entrepreneurial freedom offers everyone an equal formal opportunity to take a chance as an entrepreneur), and the law of the impossible central planning in economy (in the sense that entrepreneurial plans are exercised in place of a central planning body, which would be precisely incapable of planning). To put it in another way, what renders entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial freedom beneficial to the group is notably the fact that they fit into harmony with the cosmic order.

The Impossibility Of Planned Eugenics: A Neo-Misesian Argument

Ludwig von Mises defended freedom (including entrepreneurial) at a time when the academic consensus was that the central planning of an economy works, as well as a semi-planning state eugenics of the sterilizing type and of the transhumanist type (although the term “transhumanism” would only be forged in the 1950s, by a Julien Huxley approving the totalitarian world prophesied and denounced by his own brother Aldous). The officials of the Communist Party of China, as well as the men of the superclass, are both counting on the renewal of such consensus. In addition to his convincing demonstration of the impossibility of economic calculation for a planning committee, Mises had some very appropriate remarks on state eugenics of the planning or semi-planning type: namely that the latter, as Mises writes in his epilogue to Socialism, “aims at placing some men, backed by the police power, in complete control of human reproduction;” and that “as every supporter of economic planning aims at the execution of his own plan only, so every advocate of eugenic planning [or semi-planning] aims at the execution of his own plan and wants himself to act as the breeder of human stock,” the criteria retained to judge the physical or psychological traits that deserve to be preserved varying from one eugenics plan to another.

It is nevertheless regrettable that Mises did not distinguish between state eugenics of the planning (or semi-planning) type and state eugenics of the inciting type, implicitly reducing any state eugenics measure to a eugenics of the planned or semi-planned type in his references to “eugenics.” It is not less regrettable that he did not point out that the variance of the criteria retained in state eugenics devices to judge the traits worthy of being transmitted was, in part, due to the own variance of the criteria for social selection of surviving individuals (as opposed to those of selection criteria for individual survivals that relate to the natural and climatic environment), which vary according to society (as the natural selection criteria of those who will survive long enough to achieve sexual maturity vary depending on the natural environment).

Also and above all, Mises did not notice (or did not come across as noticing) that his argument in favor of the impossibility of economic planning (i.e., the central planning of the allocation of economic capital to the branches of activity, within the framework of the collective ownership of said economic capital) was transposable to genetic planning (i.e., the central planning of the allocation of genetic capital to reproductive sexual unions, within the framework of the collective ownership of genetic capital ). A planning eugenic state is certainly able to get an idea of the success of a hypothetical future newborn in reaching sexual maturity and vigor in the joint framework of its social selective environment and of its natural selective environment. It remains incapable as much of giving oneself a criterion for selecting the required (and therefore, authorized) reproductions other than the “fitness” of the offspring associated with them (i.e., the degree to which the offspring associated with them would be able to engender numerous and qualitative offspring if it were placed in the context of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction) as of getting an idea of said “fitness” in the absence of anticipated sexual opportunities of reproduction.

Under a state planning eugenics, when an individual organism was just born and would be (in all the probable life scenarios) incapable of encountering a decentralized sexual opportunity of reproduction (within the framework of a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction corresponding to the socio-natural environment of said individual organism), seized or not, it is probable that the same organism will fail (even if the planning eugenist state leaves it in peace) to reach sexual maturity or to become a vigorous, attractive sexual reproducer. A state “planning” eugenics is, in fact, necessarily incapable of planning (and, in that regard, necessarily erratic), from which it follows that it will obtain organisms whose “fitness” would be weaker and weaker—and, in that regard, a population who, in the concrete context of planned eugenics, will be less and less qualified for sexual attractiveness and vigor or less and less likely to reach sexual maturity.

One easily imagines a defender of planned eugenics retorting that a planning eugenist state may well be incapable of planning, but that all that matters is the success of said state in ensuring that all or part of its population reproduce and that the physical-mental traits that it values are thus transmitted. Yet, the fact is that the only objective criterion for establishing the biological success of an individual organism is that said organism, if it were confronted with a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction corresponding to its own socio-natural environment, would achieve individual reproductive success in at least one probable life scenario (or, in at least one probable life scenario, would contribute to the group’s reproductive success through spontaneous sacrifice). Because over time, the probability necessarily increases that the majority of the individual organisms to be derived from planned eugenics are objective biological failure (due to the fact that the calculation of the “fitness” of a future individual organism is irremediably impossible for the planner), the planning eugenist state is doomed to reach less and less success in producing individual organisms which, in the concrete context of planned eugenics, live long enough to transmit the physical-mental traits that the planning eugenist state values. At least, the ones of those valued traits that are the rarest and most sophisticated. That fatality is comparable to that of shortages and waste in a planned economy, where collective ownership of capital renders economic calculation impossible.

Although Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. von Hayek agree to consider the existence of a market for capital goods as a very useful assistant (and in the strict case of Mises: even a necessary condition) of the calculation of the rentability of decisions in the allocation of capital, their respective arguments in favor of such conclusion diverge significantly. Whereas Hayek asserts that in the absence of present market prices for capital goods, the information present on the economic conditions (i.e., demographics, technology, consumer and investor priorities, etc.) of the moment find themselves difficultly communicable to a planning committee trying to calculate the rentability of a certain allocation decision, Mises argues that in the absence of a capital market, a planning committee—regardless of the accuracy of its knowledge of present economic conditions or the accuracy of its anticipation of future economic conditions—finds itself necessarily deprived of an indispensable tool for economic calculation.

In the Misesian approach to economic calculation, those of the market prices that are properly required for economic calculation constitute future market prices (rather than present market prices); and economic calculation is based on the uncertain anticipation of said future market prices (rather than on the certainty of current market prices). But even in the case where a planning committee would enjoy complete omniscience as to present economic conditions and perfect accuracy in its anticipation of future economic conditions, he would remain incapable of calculating the rentability of an allocation decision. In the Hayekian approach to economic calculation, a planning committee would be quite able to practice economic calculation in the presence of perfect omniscience as to the current economic conditions (and that, despite the uncertainty weighing on future economic conditions).

Mises’ argument against the possibility of economic calculation under a central planning regime goes even further and affirms the praxeological rather than cognitive origin of the impossibility of economic calculation for a planning committee—namely that the latter, even in the presence of perfect omniscience about the present and of a perfectly correct anticipation about the future, would remain deprived of an instrument indispensable to the type of action that is economic calculation. In other words, market prices as Mises sees them, present or future, do much more than communicate a certain information: they render said information usable for economic calculation, while a planning committee is necessarily incapable of integrating into an economic calculation the information he has about the present or the forecasts he makes about the future (however perfect they are). Besides, those of market prices that are important for the economic calculation as conceived by Mises are the future market prices, the entrepreneurial task including the anticipation of the latter and the allocation of capital on the basis of said anticipation.

For our part, we are of the opinion that in the presence of perfect omniscience about the present economic conditions, the economic calculation would certainly be dispensable to a planning committee in the strict case of a static economy, where the committee’s blind “groping” would allow it in the long run to determine the correct allocation of capital; but that economic calculation, even in that scenario of a static, perfectly known economy, would still remain impossible. When it comes to planning in a dynamic economy, economic calculation is indeed indispensable for the committee—even in the case where the committee has perfect information about the present conditions and an exact anticipation of future conditions.

In the absence of a capital market, economic calculation is not less impossible in the context of a static economy (and that, regardless of the accuracy of the information in the hands of the committee) than in the context of a dynamic economy, and that, regardless of the accuracy of the committee’s knowledge of the present and the accuracy of its anticipation of the future. On the question of economic calculation under a regime of collective ownership of capital, we therefore subscribe to Mises’s argument rather than to Hayek’s one. In the presence of moving economic conditions, a task incumbent on the one who allocates a capital good is to anticipate future changes in economic conditions, changes that are irremediably uncertain. In the absence of ex ante anticipation of future market prices and of ex post verification of those expectations (via the profit experience: positive or negative), it is respectively impossible to adapt ex ante the allocation of capital to the idea that one has of future changes in economic conditions–and impossible to adapt ex post the allocation previously carried out to the actual changes encountered.

The problem for the one who allocates some capital good is not only to be able to (correctly) anticipate the future; it is also to be able to proceed with economic calculation in view of the elaborated expectations (and that, whether the calculation is correct or incorrect), the impossibility of economic calculation applying as much to a planning committee with incorrect forecasts as to a committee with correct forecasts. It is not fortuitous that the joint perception of time as cyclical—and of any technical or economic innovation as a transgression of the cosmic order—has been characteristic of some of the historical societies ignoring, if not the private ownership of capital, at least the use of money. Such “cosmological” beliefs are quite consistent with a static (or relatively frozen) economy.

Through Western Christianity, especially the Catholicism of the papal reform and American-Protestantism, individualist economic law (inherited from Rome) and the Old Testament’s conceptions of time as linear—and of the human as mandated to bring to the world as much technical and economic as cognitive progress (and, in that sense, to co-create divine creation)—played a decisive role in the cultural awareness process through which the West started encouraging and judging possible, even inevitable, economic and technical progress in a capitalist framework. Precisely, a chimaera of the USSR—in congruence with its “cosmological” beliefs of the Marxist-Leninist type, a secularized outgrowth of Christian millenarianism—was to expect to conciliate the establishment of collective ownership of capital with the perpetuation of the economic progress associated with prior capitalist economies.

Like Nazi Germany in its day, there is little doubt that Xi Jinping’s China would like to conciliate, in due time, the central planning of genetic capital with the perpetuation of the biological progress previously associated with the decentralized process of mutation and selection. The implementation of such an enterprise of eugenics planning, under the aegis of a Beijing committee, would be no less erratic than the economic planning of Mao Zedong’s time. Whether it pursues the establishment of a perfect physical-mental homogeneity or remains attached to a certain inequality in that area, whether it is concerned with engendering exclusively servile individuals or intends to engender (also or only) geniuses, therefore independent and creative minds, genetic planning, i.e., the planning of reproductive unions and births, is simply unable to anticipate with certainty the future of genetic conditions. Besides, it is rigorously impossible for its expectations, true or false, to translate into a calculation of “fitness.”

Mises, who in Human Action correctly noted that “men cannot improve the natural and social conditions which bring about the creator and his creation,” but that it is both “impossible to rear geniuses by eugenics, to train them by schooling, or to organize their activities” and possible to “organize society in such a way that no room is left for pioneers and their path-breaking,” nevertheless refrained from investigating the reason why (central) planning in the genetic domain—in other words, state eugenics of the planning type—cannot be able to plan the genetic occurrence of geniuses. At the very least, the genetic occurrence of geniuses who are not objective failures of biological evolution, i.e., are not organisms who, if they were placed under the circumstances of a decentralized struggle (for survival and reproduction) corresponding to their socio-natural environment, would not be up (to survive and reproduce) in any probable life scenario.

The absence of a Misesian argument against the possibility for planning eugenics to plan the genetic occurrence of geniuses who would be up to the task in a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction (or would be so in at least one probable life scenario in the context of said struggle) is all the more regrettable as Mises only had to point out that the impossibility of economic calculation for the economic planner was transposable to the calculation of “fitness” for the eugenics planner.

The anticipation of a profitable market price in monetary terms is to the entrepreneurial allocation of economic capital to a branch of activity what the anticipation of a sexual opportunity reproductive (i.e., engendering offspring), decentralized (i.e., whose establishment is not a matter of central planning, but of the spontaneous interaction between individuals: whether peaceful or coercive), and eugenic (i.e., optimal in terms of the offspring’s genetic quality) is to the organismic allocation of genetic capital towards a sexual union. It is no more possible to calculate the rentability of the projected decisions in allocating the capital in the absence of anticipated market prices than it is to calculate “fitness” (i.e., the rentability in terms of the number of qualitative descendants engendered in a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction) of a projected newborn in the absence of the anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

The evolution of economic conditions (in the context of a dynamic economy) is no less uncertain than the evolution of genetic conditions. Besides, a planning committee, whether it is responsible for planning the allocation of economic capital (to various branches of activity) or the allocation of genetic capital (to various reproductive unions), is doomed to wander in the dark—for lack of being able to take into account anticipated market prices in the calculation of the projected rentability of an economic capital soon allocated to a branch of industry or anticipated decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction in the calculation of the projected “fitness” of the individual who will be born hypothetically from the forthcoming allocation of a genetic capital towards a mating.

Anticipation of future costs and benefits (in terms of rentability) in a programmed allocation of economic capital based on the uncertain present anticipation of future economic data is no less impossible outside of a decentralized, peaceful competition between owners (or borrowers) of productive goods anticipating in monetary terms the expected costs and benefits than the anticipation of future costs and benefits (in terms of reproductive success in a decentralized struggle for life and reproduction) in a programmed allocation of individual genetic capital grounded on the present uncertain anticipation of future genetic data (including future mutations) outside of a decentralized competition—whether peaceful or coercive—between individual organisms anticipating the number of descendants resulting from the seizure of an anticipated sexual opportunity, whether coercive or voluntary.

In society, individual planning in the presence of a peaceful, decentralized economic competition between entrepreneurs anticipating (in a climate of uncertainty) the future monetary prices attached to capital goods subject to private property rights is no less necessary for the establishment of a superior economic scaffolding (in terms of viability and complexity) than individual planning in the presence of a decentralized biological competition (for survival and reproduction), whether peaceful or coercive, between individual organisms anticipating the uncertain future of genetic data (including future genetic mutations) is necessary for the establishment of a superior genetic scaffolding (in terms of viability and complexity).

In genetics as in economics, the decentralized order is more viable and more complex than the planned order, which is doomed to remain rudimentary (at best) by reason of the fact that the action of planning is impossible for a planning central body. What renders economic or genetic planning impossible is not the volume (and the dispersion) of information about the present genetic or economic data: in other words, it is not the fact that said information is too large and too much dispersed in order for it to be communicable to a human brain, or even to a computer, responsible for economic or genetic planning. Nor is it the uncertainty weighing on the future.

Whatever the information (about the present genetic or economic data) in the hands of the planner or of the planning committee; whatever the accuracy of the anticipation (about future genetic or economic data) on the part of the planner or of the committee, planning is irremediably incapable of a planning action (i.e., incapable of determining and handling means for planning purposes)—and that, by reason of the fact that, outside of anticipations of future profits and losses (in monetary terms or in terms of the qualitative descent linked to the seizure of a decentralized sexual opportunity), it is impossible for anyone, even a computer, to calculate “fitness” or economic rentability.

The changes to come in economic conditions are just as uncertain and unpredictable as the genetic mutations in a future newborn. Neither the planning of reproductions, nor intervention on the genome of the embryos, can allow a central planning committee to remedy such uncertainty. But, besides, in order to calculate the “fitness” of a future newborn, the committee would have to come to terms with anticipating the decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction in the future existence of said newborn, which is for it structurally impossible for the reason that central planning supersedes the possibility of such opportunities. Just as a man and a woman who have just mated cannot anticipate with certainty the genetic condition of the offspring hypothetically resulting from their carnal relationship (and that, whether their mating is unplanned or falls within the decision of a reproductions-planning committee), a biologist working on the genome of an embryo cannot anticipate with certainty the genetic mutations that his intervention will cause (and that, whether the biologist in question carries out his intervention in the context of a central planning of births or in the presence of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities).

Besides, if the intervention or mating is carried out under a regime of central planning of reproductions (i.e., a regime of collective ownership of genetic capital), a biologist-interventionist or a duo of future parents cannot calculate the “fitness” of the future newborn on the basis of their anticipations about said newborn. What renders central planning in economy or in genetics impossible is a “praxeological” rather than cognitive problem: a central body of economic planning is no less deprived of the possibility of planning action (i.e., the action consisting of determining and using means in view of a pursued planning) than is a central body of genetic planning.

Outside of the ex ante anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction (in the future life of the future newborn) and the ex post verification of that anticipation, it is respectively impossible to have an ex ante idea of what would be the reproductive success of said newborn (in a situation of decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction) and to verify ex post the idea that one had of the “fitness” of said newborn. In that regard, it is respectively impossible to adapt ex ante the allocation of genetic capital to the forecast of the future offspring’s “fitness” and to adapt ex post the allocation of genetic capital to the actual “fitness” of said offspring.

Likewise, outside of the ex ante anticipation of the monetary profit associated with future market prices and the ex post observation of the monetary profit (positive or negative) finally encountered, it is respectively impossible to form an ex ante idea of the rentability of a certain planned allocation of economic capital and to verify ex post the idea that one had of the rentability of that allocation. In that regard, it is respectively impossible to adapt ex ante the allocation of economic capital to the expected rentability and to adapt ex post the new decisions in the allocation of capital to the actual rentability of the previous allocation.

As pointed out by Ludwig von Mises in Human Action, even in the scenario (which Mises seems to find conceivable but improbable) where an economic planner, in solving the differential equations of a general equilibrium model, would manage to “solve” without economic calculation “all problems concerning the most advantageous arrangement of all production activities,” and where “the precise image of the final goal he must aim at [would be] present to his mind,” it would nevertheless “remain essential problems which cannot be dealt with without economic calculation.”

These problems are the ones that relate to the identification and implementation of the “successive steps” through which the planned economy should pass so that “the given economic system” be transformed “in the most appropriate and expedient way” and, ultimately, replaced with “the system aimed at.” Contrary to what Vilfredo Pareto and Enrico Barone affirmed, the calculation (via the resolution of differential equations) of an optimum in the distribution and use of the factors of production cannot allow a central planning body to bypass the absence of a market for capital goods. For want of being able to count on anticipated market prices, a central planning body having a perfect knowledge of the optimum to be reached cannot more practice the calculation indispensable to the discovery and adoption of the path leading to the optimum than a mountaineer deprived of his equipment, but knowing perfectly the coveted mountain, can reach the top of said mountain.

It is not only false that in the absence of a market for capital goods, it is only difficult (rather than impossible stricto sensu) to know in their entirety the data that the differential equations of the general equilibrium must take into account. Even though knowing said data in their entirety were indeed possible for a central planning body, the Hayekian assertion that economic planning is only arduous (rather than impossible stricto sensu) would still remain refuted by the fact that, in the absence of anticipated market prices, it is quite simply impossible for the planner to channel a planned economy towards the state of optimum, regardless of the information the planner has about the optimum.

It is regrettable that Mises did not consider extending to planned eugenics his remark on the impossibility (in the absence of anticipated market prices) of optimizing a planned economy. In the absence of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities, it is impossible for a eugenics planning body to practice the calculation (of “fitness”) indispensable to the roaming the path leading to an optimum (in terms of the group’s survival and reproduction) in the genetics of a given population.

The optimum itself, whether genetic or economic, cannot be discovered outside of the organismic or entrepreneurial experience of profit and loss (in terms of “fitness” or in monetary terms). Just like, from the preferences of the “demanding” people to the most satisfactory and economical use of the technology in force, a part of the economic data from which the differential equations of the “general equilibrium” of a given economy can be constructed—and therefore the economic optimum itself—are not discoverable outside of the entrepreneurial experience of monetary profits and losses, a part of the genetic data (i.e., a part of the data that characterize the nature and function of genes) in a given population (in that case, those genetic data which directly contribute to individual reproductive success in a decentralized competition for reproduction or to individual success in a derived form of said competition, and those which directly contribute to the reproduction of the group to the detriment of individual reproductive success) and therefore the genetic optimum itself cannot be discovered outside of the organismic experience of profits and losses in terms of “fitness” (i.e., in terms of the success in seizing decentralized and reproductive sexual opportunities that allow a large, qualitative offspring) or outside of the account of said organismic experience.

In defense of the possibility of economic planning, Oskar Lange proposed a solution to the problem of economic calculation consisting for a communist state in simulating market prices, in calculating the respective supply and demand for the latter, and in determining forward the price adjusting supply and demand. In the opinion of Ludwig von Mises, responding to Lange, his solution wrongly reduced economic calculation to the one practiced by simple managers, thus ignoring the own economic calculation on the part of entrepreneurs and speculators, which is nevertheless indispensable for the allocation of capitals.

The activities of entrepreneurs and speculators, added Mises, cannot be simulated since in the absence of individual responsibility in that area, i.e., the fact of putting their own money at stake, no one would be motivated to behave as an entrepreneur or as a speculator. While Mises’ response to Lange’s solution consisted in pointing out that his model of a communist economy, in addition to ignoring the need for entrepreneurship and speculation, would nonetheless remain unrealistic if, taking into account said necessity, he would ask disinterested and disempowered actors to “play” the entrepreneurs and investors, Hayek’s response was that Lange’s model proposed an impracticable approach due to lack of the required information.

For our part, we go further than the respective counter-arguments of Mises and Hayek. Even in the presence of perfect information about the present and perfectly correct anticipation of the future, even in the presence of disinterested and nonetheless involved actors, equilibrium prices cannot be simulated—and that, for the reason that one can no more simulate entrepreneurship or speculation than one can simulate, generally speaking, the things of life. It is simply impossible to know the preferences of the demanding people in the absence of the observation of concrete purchasing activities (and the associated profit, whether positive or negative), and therefore, to simulate the entrepreneurial experience of demonstrated preferences.

The impossibility of simulation applies as much to the decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction as it does to market prices. Surreptitiously, Lange recognized that only a capitalist economy is functional; and that for that reason, a communist economy has no choice but to simulate a capitalist in order to render itself functional. But precisely, one cannot more simulate the entrepreneurial discovery of equilibrium prices than one can simulate the organismic discovery of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction. Simulating an entrepreneurial competition in order to discover its result is not less absurd than simulating a military battle or a decentralized competition for reproduction in order to discover its result. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a general, or an organism, there is no other choice than “going to the front lines” in order to be in the picture.

Transhumanism: A Revolt Against The Crowned Cosmos

The impossibility for the external observer of a current individual organism (at the stage of childhood or embryo) or the external anticipator of a future individual organism to calculate the “fitness” of the observed or projected organism in the absence of the anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction in the future existence of said organism founds the impossibility of planning genetic evolution, said impossibility in turn founding the two “natural laws” stated by Robert Ardrey. Namely “the law of inequality” (in the strict case of species with sexual reproduction) and (in the strict case of vertebrate species) “the law of equal opportunity.”

Unbeknownst to Ardrey (who approached the grasp of this law without ever conceiving it clearly), the impossibility of planning genetic evolution is truly the first of natural laws, the one from which follows the two Robert Ardrey rightly formulated. Whereas transhumanism, in default of necessarily rebelling against the law of the impossible genetic planning, necessarily rebels against “the law of inequality” (i.e., the necessary counterpart of sexual unions, decentralized or not, that is physical-mental inequality), as well as against “the law of equal opportunity” (i.e., the instrument necessary for the exercise of individual physical and mental aptitudes in a way contributing to the collective functionality that is decentralized intragroup competition for preeminence, survival, and reproduction), genetic planning necessarily rebels not less against the law of equal opportunity than against the law of the impossibility of planning genetic evolution.

When it strictly comes to genetic planning of the transhumanist type (what amounts to speaking of transhumanism of the planning type), it is necessarily in rebellion against each of the aforementioned three laws. Planned eugenics necessarily joins transhumanism in hostility to “the law of equal opportunity;” and that, in that planned eugenics—without it being necessarily in favor of genetic equality—necessarily aspires to ensure that the social (including hierarchical) destiny of any newborn to come is pre-known and pre-decided from its conception instead of being revealed and engendered by the result of a decentralized competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence.

Since decentralized sexual reproduction opportunities are necessarily absent in the context of collective ownership of genetic capital substituted for decentralized competition for reproduction, it is not more possible to escape the impossibility of planning genetic evolution in intending to planning for a negative “fitness” (in the reproductive interest of the group) than in intending to planning for one that is positive (if not in the group’s reproductive interest, at least in the individual’s reproductive interest); and that, just as it is not more possible to escape the impossibility of planning genetic evolution in resigning oneself to proceeding without the anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction than in resigning oneself to simulating decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

The decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction that an organismic allocator experiences cannot be simulated alongside a planning committee replacing decentralized competition for reproduction, no more than the profitable prices (in monetary terms) that an entrepreneurial allocator experience can be simulated alongside a planning committee replacing decentralized competition for monetary profit. Genetic planning is not less in rebellion against a natural law (in that case, the law of the impossibility of planning genetics) than is economic planning: in that case, the law of the impossibility of planning economy.

Genetic or economic planning shares with transhumanism a spirit of rebellion against the natural order, and therefore the order created by God from an Abrahamic perspective. Whoever rebels against all or part of the natural order intends to replace it (in whole or in part) with a new, allegedly better order, thus rebelling against God himself or adhering to the idea that God, if it existed, would deserve one rebels against Him. The Bible can either be taken literally or taken symbolically (as the sages of Alexandria began to do).

The mandate of divine origin assigned to humans, according to the Old Testament, to crown creation while respecting the law of divine origin can either be taken literally; either taken symbolically in the sense that the human has a capacity of creation which complements cosmic creativity, but that his own capacity of creation will turn against himself if it comes to believe to be able to transgress the natural laws of this world. Likewise, the transhumanist, communist, anarcho-capitalist, or plannist rebellion against the natural order can present literal gnosticist motives—as is the case, for example, in Karl Marx’s poem titled “Human Pride,” where the poet praises the “demonic confusion” of his own speech and promises to work for the joint fall of the world and of God, “that pygmy giant,” and for the building of a new era on “the ruins of the [elder] world” in “giving to [his] words power of action.” Just like it can present secularized gnosticist motives, in which case said rebellion will start from the idea that God, in default of existing, would deserve to be fought if he did exist.

Whether one takes into account the followers of a properly secularized modality of transhumanism or those of a modality that retains “religious” motives, the human feelings that govern adherence to the transhumanist discourse (beyond its various modalities) remain strictly the same: the rejection of the natural order, therefore the order created by God from a literal gnosticist (or semi-gnosticist) perspective; and a misguided mode of compassion for the weak and the degenerate here below, therefore the failures of evolution from a transhumanist perspective, either secularized or not. Not the compassion that aims to alleviate the fate of those who do not keep up with the decentralized struggle for life, reproduction, and preeminence (more precisely, the specific form that said struggle takes in view of their socio-natural environment); but the compassion that, abhorring selection and the struggles associated with it, represents (and intends to achieve) a society of late times where (both physical and mental) inequalities would be eliminated, where war, power, and sexual pleasure would cease to be pursued things pursued.

A dream that inspires the transhumanist program of a final era of humanity in which an emasculated, peaceful, and egalitarian way of life would be established via genetic manipulation and via cyborgization. The idea of a chaotic, cruel nature, from which man must and can emancipate himself (in rendering himself divine and in replacing nature with an order that is exclusively of his own doing), delights the transhumanist, who comes as an intramundane, technophile variant of the gnosticist in that he believes that instead of spiritually detaching himself from the allegedly chaotic nature, the human must—via genetic and bio-robotic engineering—subvert and replace the material world.

Yet, far from nature being chaotic, it is subject to an order that—however cruel and selective it is—nonetheless remains an order. An order that, despite the disorder that accompanies it, is nevertheless accomplished through said disorder notably; and as Robert Ardrey has described it, “what contemporary evolutionary thought can bring to social philosophy is [notably] the demonstrable need for structured disorder within the larger structures of [social] order” so that “without that degree of disorder tolerating and promoting to fullest development the diversity of its members, society must wither and vanish in the competitions of group selection.”

The idea that we would continue our promethean gesture of domination of nature in emancipating ourselves from said nature (and the associated selection procedures) is not less deceptive. Dominating our natural environment through technology and economy establishes us, not as deniers, but as continuators of nature, what differs substantially from the transhumanist project of escaping from the selection process (and therefore, of denying, escaping nature). In Abrahamic terms, while the first perspective extends and honors divine creation, the second is of satanic obedience.

Transhumanists are not less mystified by the idea that, in view of the contradictory nature of human instincts, a morality concerned with being based on evolution would only end up erecting mutually contradictory instincts as mutually contradictory norms; and that because of the fact our instincts contradict each other, they are simply dysfunctional and should be eliminated by genetic engineering. That opinion, which stems from yet another misunderstanding of evolution by transhumanists, is wrong as to the sense of an evolutionary morality, i.e., a morality that takes into account evolution and human instincts as they have been produced by evolution.

Homo sapiens being a species with instincts not less incomplete (in terms of ensuring the viability of social organization and, more broadly, success in group selection) and weakened (in terms of being the only influence to weigh on human behavior: instead of acquired culture or reason) than chaotic, i.e., in contradiction with each other (and that, despite a certain hierarchy operating itself instinctively, which remains too much relative), “evolutionary” morality will not consist of establishing a certain instinct as a norm: in the mode of the inference “It is natural, therefore it is good.” Said morality instead consists in identifying those behaviors, partly instinctual, partly associated with reason or acquired culture, which will render a group functional (and increase its chances of winning in group selection).

Such a functionality, while it is operated in a rigorously instinctual mode in the case of animal societies (other than human), is not assured in the case of human societies, which are jointly constrained to complete the work of nature in this area and susceptible to fail in that area. In other words, “evolutionary” morality is not about morally justifying an instinct on the grounds that it is the product of evolution; but about fulfilling the wisdom towards which the instincts of homo sapiens, “suspended,” according to Robert Ardrey’s wording, “between dicta three billion years old and a foresight nouveau riche, swinging between [instinctual] wisdoms of most ancient origin and a power of both learning and ignorance,” tend imperfectly—due to the weakened, incomplete, and chaotic character of said instincts of homo sapiens, “animal of doubtful future.”

Genetic or neuro-robotic engineering, the planning of births, physical-mental equalization, or instinctual emasculation are so many horizons coming as a technophile, intramundane variation of gnosticism and bathing in the illusion that the cosmos is simply chaotic and stochastic; and that human beings, although they are a haphazard product of the evolution that takes place in this random, disordered world, are nevertheless able to render themselves the gods of this universe through technology and knowledge, i.e., able to substitute for the allegedly vain and disorderly nature an effective and senseful order.

For those hearts misled by gnosticism or its derivatives, it is worth remembering that the cosmos is at the same time evolving and organized, random and senseful, achievable and intransgressible. We human beings, who are made, if not in the image of God, at least in the image of the cosmos, are certainly bound to pursue cosmic creativity (through knowledge, technique, art, or social change); but also to keep in mind that we neither are nor will be gods: that the human pursuit of cosmic creativity must be accomplished with respect for a certain natural order, the transgression of which necessarily results into an immanent punishment.

Crowning divine creation, but not subverting it, that is the way for us who, symbolically (if not literally), are both made in His image and made for His law. Subverting divine creation and claiming to render oneself divine in place of God, that is the ill-fated path of hearts misled by a rebellion of satanic obedience, from transhumanists to economic or genetic planers. God wanted for us neither servility towards the universe nor disobedience towards universal wisdom; but the humble crowning of divine creation, the bringing of the final touch, by the creature who remains in its place, i.e., who accepts that it is irremediably like divine instead of claiming that it can render itself divine. From Silicon Valley engineers to superclass men and to the officials of the Chinese Communist Party, transhumanists are in rebellion against the divine creation. An elected nation, America must fight against the “destructionist” forces of transhumanism as it has long fought against those of communism.

The project on the part of the most radical of transhumanists to suppress all violence and all domination of the world stage could only achieve its ends through suppressing or “reprogramming” the atoms and the stars themselves. For, as highlighted by Howard Bloom (without him, to our knowledge, addressing transhumanism from this angle), the very first hierarchical orders, far preceding the pecking orders of chicken, manifested in the assembly of atoms or galaxies. While the proton dominates the electron, of which it determines the central point of the orbit, the black hole or the gravitational center dominates and controls a galaxy. As for the sun, he is metaphorically the king in the feudal order of the solar system: the monarch before whom the planets bow, which see the moons bow before the planets. It is true that, since it seems that it is not felt or conscious (but what do we actually know of it, as it stands?), the violence of stars or atoms as such does not concern transhumanism.

But given that violence in the physical sense constitutes a fractal pattern declining at each emergent level of the universe, which sentient or conscious beings have only inherited, the fact remains that transhumanism can reach its goal only in drying up the source of that fractal pattern and reprogramming or replacing the elementary particles. If it turned out that they could not do it, it is likely that they would then opt for a return to nothingness in due form. They would come to terms with setting out to destroy the universe itself—in default of being able to prove to God that they could replace His creation with a morbid and dried up universe.

Ardrey did not believe that he was saying so well when he warned us against the “dreary” morning that, “knowing or not,” many of our contemporaries are putting in place, the one “when you and I awake and leopards are gone; when starlings in hordes no longer chatter in the plane trees gossiping about the adventures of the day to come; when the lone tomcat fails to return from his night’s excesses; when robins cease to cry out their belligerent challenges to the bushes beyond the lawn; when the skies lack larks and the shrubbery lacks sex-obsessed rabbits hopping after each other; when hawks cease their eternal, circling searching and the gullery by the rocks falls silent; when the diversity of species no longer illuminates the morning hour and the diversity of men has vanished like the last dawn-afflicted star.” Ardrey expressed himself there in metaphorical terms; but the future he envisioned is literally the future that the most radical of transhumanists want for all of us… humans, leopards, bears, bees, flowers, or dachshunds.

Conclusion

The attitude of the transhumanists towards the cosmos is that of a capricious, angry three-year-old child towards a tower a few centimeters high built with kaplas (namely blocks made of Landes pines), that the adults have constructed with the idea that the kid continues their construction through building the roof of the tower with additional kaplas. Because he will refuse to take into account gravity, the weight of the boards, the need to balance the kaplas so that they hold together, the little capricious will fail to build the roof, or even cause the collapse of a part of the tower.

Deploring the impossibility of manipulating the kaplas as he pleases, he will get angry with the boards and the tower. With a kick (for example), he will break the tower or what is left of it—unless the adults themselves take charge of destroying the tower (or what is left of it) to give a “good lesson” to the kid, the one that the cosmos has its laws and that they limit and allow the constructive and dominating powers of the human being, and that he must therefore learn (and learn to respect) the cosmic laws if he intends to render himself “as master and owner” of the boards.

Just as Mises (rightly) called “[Charles] Fourier complex” the psychological state of fleeing economic reality into an imaginary world that ignores the laws of ours in the economic field, therefore ignores the scarcity of resources, the unpleasantness of work, and the indispensability of market prices for economic calculation, one may call “Julian Huxley complex” the psychological state of fleeing biological reality into an imaginary world that ignores the laws of ours in the field of biological evolution, therefore ignores as much the genetic inequality between the members of a sexual species and the need (for a functional order) of the relative disorder of the decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence among the members of a vertebrate species as the indispensability of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction for the calculation of “fitness.”

About the mental immaturity of the transhumanist, who got stuck or regressed to the mental level of the aforementioned brat, one can say what Mises wrote (rightly) about the socialists’ own neurosis. Namely that, “This being the character of the socialist dream, it is understandable that every one of the partisans of socialism expects from it precisely what has so far been denied to him. Socialist [or transhumanist] authors promise not only wealth for all, but also happiness in love for everybody, the full physical and spiritual development of each individual, the unfolding of great artistic and scientific talents in all men, etc.

Only latterly did Trotsky state in one of his writings that in the socialist society “the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” The socialist paradise [just like the transhumanist paradise] will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. All socialist [or transhumanist] literature is full of such nonsense.

But it is just this nonsense that wins it the most supporters. One cannot send every person suffering from a Fourier complex [or from a Julian Huxley complex] to the doctor for psychoanalytic treatment; the number of those afflicted with it is far too great. No other remedy is possible in this case than the treatment of the illness by the patient himself. Through self-knowledge he must learn to endure his lot in life without looking for a scapegoat on which he can lay all the blame, and he must endeavor to grasp the fundamental laws of social cooperation [or of biological evolution].


Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar, based in Paris. Besides conducting a series of academic interviews with social scientists, physicists, and cultural figures, he has authored a number of metapolitical and philosophical articles. He also worked on a (currently finalized) conversation book with the philosopher, Howard Bloom. See his website: gregoirecanlorbe.com.


The featured image shows, “L’antigrazioso (The Anti-graceful),” by Umberto Boccioni, painted in 1912.