Towards a Neoreactionary Aesthetic

‘Neath an eyeless sky, the inkblack sea
Moves softly, utters not save a quiet sound
A lapping-sound, not saying what may be
The reach of its voice a furthest bound;
And beyond it, nothing, nothing known
Though the wind the boat has gently blown
Unsteady on shifting and traceless ground
And quickly away from it has flown.

Allow us a map, and a lamp electric
That by instrument we may probe the dark
Unheard sounds and an unseen metric
Keep alive in us that unknown spark
To burn bright and not consume or mar
Has the unbounded one come yet so far
For night over night the days to mark
His journey — adrift, without a star?

Adrift Without a Star

Generally, most cultural studies are done post facto, that is, to analyze that which has already taken place and is, because it is no longer taking place, a motionless body subject to dissection. We imagine that we understand culture that has passed from us because we can examine its ephemera from a safe distance; we inherently grasp the paradox of Heisenberg. For to say something about a living human culture is to alter that living human culture (provided that culture is aware of what was said.) To describe a person living is either to insult or flatter them; we may attempt zero proscription, but vanity comes not from an opinionated mirror but a neutral mirror and an opinionated gazer.

It is worth beginning a tradition of cultural self-examination, if such a thing did not exist, a way of describing what is ongoing and thus a way of describing that entails knowledge of something as living, and not a detailed examination of its husks and fossils. When I use the term ‘towards’ I do not mean to imply this is something that does not exist; rather, that it is something extant but nascent; something which, once it is named, will be recognized.

When I started following neoreactionary writers and blogs a while ago (at first, unintentionally, since there was no formal label to it) I began to collect impressions — informally — of the way in which neoreaction expresses itself. While some thrived on the notion of the different parts of neoreaction as being different, I looked instead for the reason why they were somehow able to cling together.

This is by no means exhaustive; these concepts are emergent and I have only included those that I have become certain of due to emphasis and repetition.

1. Survival

The first commonality I recognized was that of survival. Pedants may note that based on a scientific definition, x or y group of people being swallowed up whole by an army of immigrants is not an issue of survival. Survival, as they blithely see it, is merely the perpetuation of a species. Species however, is not such a rigid concept as they would have it, as it is another word for ‘kind’. Species in general is the point between ‘groupings’ of things that are similar but differ, and those that are the same but are differentiated. It is unclear that this point can be established absolutely other than by intuition, but that survival is nothing other than the perpetuation of a kind.

In this aesthetic concept of survival also is included the notion of thriving, since a kind is not merely a brute fact. To say that the European survives is to also say that what makes him European also survives. This doesn’t mean white skin alone, but also the traditions which brought forth the artifacts we know as European culture. To merely have the artifacts is not the have the European; to merely have the ideas or the genetic descendents is not to have the European.

The harsh mentality required, the sense of realism and unsentimentality, to perpetuate not only one’s genes but one’s traditions and destiny, is the sense of this part of the neoreactionary aesthetic. The sense that necessity hates children, that nature devours ‘her’ children, but that men must love and protect their children? The sense that even in a world that ignores death, survival of a type involves choices that are regarded as inegalitarian and at least mildly immoral? This is what is meant by ‘Survival’.

In this is also packaged a contempt for social hubris; it is an internalization of the story of Faust as applied to the West by Spengler. A contempt for ideas which pretend to be good but are actually destructive, such as equality. While inegalitarianism is definitely both reactionary and neoreactionary, inequality-as-such doesn’t stand alone as a unifying concept in neoreaction. This is because inequality, like equality, is static; passive. Equalization can be viewed as an active process within the left wherein all walls are torn down, and all great things are brought low. But ‘inequalization’ is not a contrary process; inequality is the state of nature, for the most part, and Survival is the central activity which runs counter to Equality. In Survival, some do better than others; but this is well because in general, the able survive and the weak and unfit do not. Applied to the social scale (as it primarily is) it means that movements like the Shakers are contemptible; having no means to propagate themselves through time, they had nothing but a moral passion which ended in extinction.

The Cathedral, bar none, represents the penultimate of perverse survival, the Faustian model of ‘deals with the devil’. As Moldbug put it, you’re not going to beat the Cathedral by offering obesience to the devil; they are already running a constant Aztec Festival of sacrifices to him. This is called the Kali Yuga for a reason. Things which survive by merely displacing the necessities of their prolongation, say, like the thief — are awarded the highest contempt. For they hubristically claim freedom from the rules, all the while they are doing dark things in the background to keep their face from melting off of their skin. But one cannot actually appease Necessity (GNON) – merely displace the consequences for a time. Contempt for this behavior has run through Western literature for awhile (take, A Portrait of Dorian Gray) and in neoreaction it links up to the notion of Survival.

CS Lewis is known to have said:

“I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.”

The survival of humanity as such is not mere longevity either; to prolong mankind only to have him permanently relegated to eating his own excrement in straw huts is not Survival. Happiness should be understood in the context of this quote to mean Excellence or Wholeness (and not euphoria or contentment.) Humans exist to be excellent, and their excellence to the end of more excellence, and so forth. But this also dovetails further in that, Survival has the ultimate goal of preserving a destiny. As Lewis says, mere longevity is contemptible. If it is man’s destiny to make his replacement, this is not horrible, but is the survival of the most essential thing, the spirit of order. Individual men and even groups will be eclipsed in importance in this (their particular glory is beautiful, but is subordinate to the transcendent.) Nietzsche somewhat expresses this when he says, “These I love, because they have brought forth the superman.” Man is indeed self-surpassing, and whether this means the extinction of his present biological form for this activity, this tradition, to continue, or not, is not important. Mere survival is of course the substrate for all of this to be able to happen; this is a hierarchy of value.

Thus in Survival you get a glimpse of the concept of subordination of values and respect for necessity. Man must live to work, and must work to thrive, and must thrive to create culture. But if his culture is such that it kills him, it has upset the hierarchy and will fall. But on the other hand, if the higher aspect makes the life, the work and the thriving more excellent, it leads further on and further up to transcendent values. But if and only if it does not at the same time undermine itself. The Cathedral can, in this sense, be seen as a system which tries to finesse higher values by undermining the lower values, much like a person trying to remove the bottom layer of the Jenga tower to build up. One notorious error of the Cathedral, Demotism, is a foolish concept of man ‘surpassing himself’ in the collective. But man is a face and a collective is a chimera. He does not surpass but is subsumed. He feels transcendence because the crowd is larger than him, but only in quantity. Thus he seems to progress to transcendence while actually moving towards Extinction.

2. Exit

The phallic form itself is emblematic of Exit. That which pierces the heavens comes to a point; it elongates, it thrusts, it penetrates through barriers, even the firmaments themselves. While not beautiful in and of themselves, skyscrapers have a quality of Exit to them morphologically. The flying-machine, the rocket, the ship, the car, all of these present aspects of the aesthetic of Exit. Exit is masculine, transcendent and impregnated with distance. Exit is aggression, conquest, domination; but it is also exploration, discovery and adventure. It is the begetter.

The notion of Exit-to-Survival is the link which connects Exit to Survival in neoreaction. Things which cannot properly mix need to separate. Failures to assimilate must proceed to divorces; Exit is as much abdication as it is expulsion. Secession as a concept is tightly bound to the concept of Exit in neoreactionary thought; Exiting on one level to Survive on another level. The Confederates left the union so they would not have to leave their homes and practices. In this, neoreaction (As with some parts of Survival) departs from paleoreaction. Paleoreaction considers Exit to be a species of Exile, which is what is done to those you want to get rid of. But Exile is only possible when one has Exited from the obligation to keep those people; if the United States wants to expel millions of illegal immigrants, it will not do so until it has explicitly or implicitly abandoned certain alliances and agreements. As long as it agrees to sit in council with those who oppose it, it cannot take action for its own interests. Exit is first.

The United States itself is an experiment in prolonged Exit, ever-expanding, mobile, and unstable. Obviously, Exit cannot be a singular value since it would be counter to survival; if every time a person had a difficulty in a marriage they left, we would not have the two to three children per family necessary to continue human life, and by extension, anything humans wish to do going forward, whether Progress is something that can exist at all, or not. Exit sits poised as a dynamic, driving force, a constant threat to the Cathedral, who can be likened unto an abusive, adulterous spouse. The United States Federal Government is finding itself specifically in this position vis a vis its States more and more; of dedicating itself to foreign ideals (adultery) over those of its own States, and foisting exploitative programs (abuse) on them ‘for their own good’.

Exit also compels us to look for more anti-fragile, robust and adaptive forms of Survival that allow us mobility and the ability to transform our new environment to preserve our tradition rather than wail in exile as Israel of old did. Efficiency obviously plays a role here, but not in the sense of men pulling levers to pump out plastic cars. Efficiency here is in the sense of form; aerodynamics, lack of total waste, compactness, etc. When the whole human is considered (in the case of Survival above) ‘waste’ no longer means ‘energy not used to sell goods’ but rather means ‘that which remains unused and becomes pollution.’ A system, particularly a social system, which does not pollute its people is efficient, for it has no waste.

Only the most ruthlessly efficient systems thus can be effective at Exit; because their quality of Survival is anti-fragile. They do not pollute themselves, even though they may move mountains. A purely materialistic view of efficiency cannot obtain a good result, though the brutality of material efficiency is important to the aesthetic of exit, since it is a constant reminder of the harshness of the forces resisting Exit.

3. Chaos (Void)

The essential quality of Chaos in neoreaction makes some people, particularly those more bohemian/artist types, confuse it with a leftward movement. There are several layers to this confusion, partly stemming from limits of language on the one hand, and a misunderstanding of order and chaos on the other.

There is a field known as Chaos Theory, which at first seems inaptly named, since it is actually about ‘Order out of Chaos’ – it seems to thus be a very unchaotic theory after all, being actually about order, and implicitly, the ways in which order is almost a force that reasserts itself in the face of instability. Anyone who read the book Jurassic Park (the movie doesn’t count for this at all, since it lacks the cerebral aspect) knows actually a thing or two about chaos. In the original that I read, between chapters it showed diagrams of a system moving from a state of fluidity, step by step to a state of complete crystallization. Crystallization, similar to the ‘Civilization’ or aptly named ‘Winter’ phase in Decline of the West, seems to be a state of almost maximal order, in that the system has become in many ways very regular and structured. More on this in a moment.

The general basic concept in Chaos Theory is that a given system (some whole) may be in an orderly or disorderly state. As disorder increases, the system becomes less and less stable, until it reaches a certain point and a new, possibly unforeseen order emerges suddenly. My understanding is that in some situations, the system may go different directions, but they are always a sharp disconnect from the previously disordered state. This uncontrolled re-ordering is called in this context ‘Bifurcation’. The existence of this phenomena itself has two implications: 1. that anarchism as expressed by the Left is probably impossible, since order may always re-emerge nigh spontaneously; there is no guarantee the ‘order’ will be novel at all or even ‘free’. 2. there is indeed something to the concept of creative destruction; and this is right-Anarchism. (It also seems a bit naive to me, but that is my philosophical leanings speaking.)

Sometimes, it seems, this Bifurcation will be literal; the disordered unitive system will become multiple now-better-ordered systems. This is kind of what happens in most ‘breakdowns’ of order anyway; but circumstances and human meddling can rapidly bring the new systems into disorder, too. Disorder in this sense is useless to us and destructive. In one sense, one of the primary mantras of the left is ‘To Disorder’ things. Disordering of art, architecture, music, religion, ethics, law, sex relations, and on and on. This disordering is for the sake of breaking down the old, stable, and possibly realistic, inegalitarian order to try to replace it with a more ‘just’ system. Given what I have said about increased disorder, there is actually no direct control over the resulting system; this is part of the Intelligence problem. The Intelligence problem is that you don’t get information out of non-information; the only instances of information coming out of non-information are of minds (already information generators) impressing their own thoughts onto places where no information actually is. (Take cloud gazing as the quotidian example.) The process of disordering REDUCES intelligibility and overall the actual power of human agency to reform an order. For those who understand this, disorder is repackaged as New Order; the primary sucker is the Liberal.

Back to the original example. Crystallization is a state of rigid disorder, like a corpse. Chaos might be thought of as ‘fluid order’, a system too fluid to ever be rigidly controlled, like a baby. As the system formalizes it may develop rigidity as a substitute for genuine order; bigotry, which originally just meant stubbornness of opinion, has a negative connotation inasmuch as it represents genuinely replacing thought with dogma. But as we said, fluid order is not without its rules, so there is a necessary amount of bigotry required in the sane mind. In fact, it does seem that flexible rules of thumb (stereotypes) have been replaced with rigid universals (total human equality). The latter of this is “actual bigotry” in the pejorative sense; but it because it is inclusive of ‘others’ it doesn’t feel bigoted. It should be noted that This Is The Only Real Way Rigidity Increases. No one, aside from those in situations of extreme danger, will develop an otherwise very rigid system for dealing with the world.

So in the Jurassic Park diagrams, the system went from fluidity to rigidity, chaos to crystallization, or order to disorder. The crystal cathedral fools us with its many faces and its complexity, but its complexity is completely externalized. It is Inside Out.

But Chaos is not only used in this sense; while Catallaxy is all about the kind of Chaos I just mentioned, it does exist within the Religious Traditional wing of neoreaction to some extent as well. Anyone who has been in an Orthodox Church without pews during a big service will get this sense of Chaos as fluid, complex order. Crowds are often falsely admired because it is thought wrongly that they inherently possess this ideal character. Crowds of people who all share a common cultural assumption that is strong enough (those flexible rules of thumb, there) can function this way. This is how Open Source software has worked, and the ‘misogyny’ people feel in Software Development is protecting the Chaos (The Fluid Order) of the system. People who are different enough require written and explicit rules, which begins the process of crystallization. It is this fluid order alone that is like ‘the Tao’, for when the Tao disappears, benevolence and righteousness appear. This process can be seen at work as we speak.

The other sense of Chaos is the sense of disruption, disorder applied to disorder. It should be remembered that chemotherapy (once called iatrochemistry) is an ancient practice whereby poison is used to destroy another poison, for when you don’t have a specific cure the best you can do is try to kill the disordering activity within the system with a more virulent disorder.

In discussing the problem of Destructive Ratchets, I mentioned that in the Orthodox teaching, sin operates as a destructive ratchet. Now, some of this is implied already in scripture: “The wages of sin is death”, but the explicit expression of it doesn’t seem to show up until the Desert Fathers; in particular the Philokalia has some writings regarding it. The origin of sin is thought (Christ says as much) and so the process of sin goes as follows: 1. Temptation by thought. (At this point the thought can be ignored and no ratchet will happen.) 2. Entertaining thought. 3. Wrestling with thought. 4. Agreeing with thought. 5. Intention to sin. 6. Action of sin. 7. Habituation of sin. 8. Death.

It is fairly obvious that if this is a ratchet, the best thing that can happen is for some disaster to disrupt the process before it reaches step 8. Physical death serves this purpose, but also various sicknesses, misfortunes and conflicts do as well. It is for this reason, perhaps not alone, that saints are glad of the evils that befall them. Chaos existentially limits the action of this ratchet, ‘misfortune’ being the most common expression of this sort of disruption.

Chaos goes further, though; the ‘face of the deep’ in Genesis is a primordial unformed, unseen void; That it is called ‘water’ in the Septuagint Greek lets us know something about the peculiar state of Chaos in the Void. The Void is thus Darkness but not shadow (a shadow is a deprivation of light caused by an object) but rather the substrate of all existence, only properly ‘unseen’ when no physical light is present. This peculiar chiaroscuro – the lights of the city against the night, the stars against the sky, or in general, white figures on a field of black, is part of the aesthetic of Chaos.

The void is the actual ‘fifth element’ (not life as the movie suggests) in the classical element system.

The connection to the Survival and Exit aesthetics should be obvious; Chaos is the substrate, and the unseen action (or non-action) against disorder, the interloper. Disorder is a mere ‘messing up order’.  Chaos is substantial where disorder is insubstantial. Chaos is the ‘quintessence’ of things, chaotic itself and yet always-begetting order. Breaking down disorder, since disorder is maladaptive. Exit is a way to induce bifurcation, to quickly reduce entropy through separation from the highly entropic system. If no immediate exit is available, Chaos will create one.

The Kipling poem, “The gods of the Copybook Headings” expresses the aesthetic of ‘chaos versus disorder’ very well. (see note here, too, for what the ‘gods’ were inspired by)

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

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6 comments

  1. In the original that I read, between chapters it showed diagrams of a system moving from a state of fluidity, step by step to a state of complete crystallization. Crystallization, similar to the ‘Civilization’ or aptly named ‘Winter’ phase in Decline of the West, seems to be a state of almost maximal order, in that the system has become in many ways very regular and structured.

    cf. Lasch’s claim (in The True and Only Heaven, I think) that states tend inevitably toward Brezhnevite sclerosis — states are necessary, but they’re still a cancer. Not that this wasn’t known before. Thomas Jefferson on how to care for trees.

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