Untimely Observations

The "Big Tent" Tradition

I've read through several essays now concerning the Alternative Right asking what it should be, what it shouldn't be, who it should include, where it must go and so forth. I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own, for whatever they're worth.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

That's the title of the conceptual artwork pictured above.

A dead shark suspended in formaldehyde and coupled with a tricky title may seem like the height of art world pretense. But I first came across it when I was fairly young, and the title stuck with me. It's become a visual symbol for me of ideas that we all talk about but which the human mind cannot truly comprehend. Death. Eternity. The expanse of the universe. I know that one day I will cease to exist, but life is all I know. I cannot truly comprehend not being here.

Another thing I cannot comprehend is faith in God.

The Physical Impossibility of Belief in the Mind of a Non-Believer.

I can speak of the unifying quality of faith, how nice it must be to live in that kind of world -- the kind of world that still has magic and miracles in it. But I cannot, even for a moment, imagine that any of the world's gods are truly real. I cannot imagine praying to them and believing that something will happen. That must be a nice feeling, to imagine someone out there cares what you do and what thoughts you have and whether you've been naughty or nice, but even as I write that all I see is man's vanity and ego. I don't mean to be disrespectful -- I was raised a Catholic and I have some Catholic friends who I hold in very high regard. I also have some friends who really, truly believe there are other supernatural forces at work in the world. I'm not angry at religious people and I have no axe to grind. Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are at least as delusional as the people they criticize. Science and reason simply do not and by definition cannot offer the compelling narratives or the emotional experiences that the human mind seems to crave. Most men are not scientists, and they never will be.

Still, I can't even begin to convince myself that the supernatural is real or true.

In some sense, I suppose that makes me a product of my generation. A generation with access to so much information. A generation of skeptics and "Mythbusters" who click over to snopes.com the moment they hear a story too weird to be true. Because it probably is. And there's probably a simple explanation for it.

When I see how we've mythologized the Kennedys, MLK, Abraham Lincoln and countless celebrities in only a generation or so, it's easy to see how real events become tall tales in the retelling. Was Jesus just another slick street preacher, a Jim Jones or a David Koresh of yesteryear whose loyal followers whitewashed and trumped up his legend? Again, I apologize, but it seems a lot more likely to me, having dealt with humans on a regular basis for 35 years, than the idea that he was the son of an all powerful being who sent him to earth to save the souls of mankind. That sounds like some Heaven's Gate craziness, using the same criteria we'd all use to judge events as they unfold today.

As aesthetically and philosophically appealing as neopagan traditions and myths are to me, I can't manufacture in myself a sincere belief in Odin, Thor or Zeus, either. Thor is a kickass god, but he's no more real to me than Crom or the peoples of Middle Earth. All of these myths and gods and fictional characters are useful as metaphors for aspects of the human experience, but to select one and claim to be a true believer would be too postmodern, too insincere, too à la cart.

The problem with the theo-traditional option and the neopagan options are that it is no longer the 17th Century or the 14th Century or the 2nd Century. We do not live in the Ancient worlds of the Greeks or the Romans or the Celts or the Norsemen, much as I might prefer it. It's the 21st century, and so many of us inhabit a world in which the gods truly are dead, and so many more of us keep them on life support only as a contingency plan, as a pleasant daydream or as a social nicety. The lines of sincere religious tradition have been broken for many if not most people, and they will be nearly impossible to repair under the bright lights of contemporary media and the scrutiny of science. We may yearn for the world of tradition, but I doubt that we can truly know it so long as we stand in the modern world.

On the fringes of structures of barbaric grandeur-rationalism, practical atheism, and materialism-there sprang up sporadic forms of spirituality and mysticism, even irruptions from the supersensible, which do not indicate a re-ascent but are symptoms of decay. Their expressions no longer take their stamp from the religion of the origins, from the severe forms inherited from the dominating elites who stood at the center of an organic and qualitative civilization. In the phase in question, even the positive religions lose any higher dimension; they become secularized, one-dimensional, and cease to exercise their original functions. The "second religiosity" develops outside them-often even in opposition to them-but also outside the principal and predominant currents of existence, and signifies, in general, a phenomenon of escapism, alienation, and confused compensation that in no way impinges seriously on the reality of a soulless, mechanistic, and purely earthly civilization.

—Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger

There is a tradition, however, to which the majority of those in The Alternative Right can claim a living and legitimate connection: The Western Tradition.

We may be a rag-tag band of neopagans, atheists and Christians, but we are men (and women) of The West.

And especially this week, surrounded by the Christian crosses and Celtic knots of St. Patrick's Day, one has to admit that The West has always been a bit of a mixed bag. It has its roots in the Ancient world of the pagan Greeks and Romans, borrows from the Jews and all sorts of heathens, was long intertwined with Christianized empires, but at some point -- long before the countercultural 1960s -- The West left the Pope to his throne in Vatican City.

In the West, one of the most important hinges of disagreement between the Right and the Left is the point at which the Western tradition turned on itself completely. It has been the project of the Left to dismantle and defame the West. The Left seeks the celebration of diversity for diversity's sake alone, it seeks to draw foreign influences into the West and make all cultures relative and equal to one another.

The Left seeks an enforced sameness, with a celebration of superficial differences. I once wrote that the gay left's idea of "diversity" is a lot like The Village People. They can all wear different stupid outfits so long as they sing the same stupid song. The same observation applies to the Left in general.

Perhaps the same could be said of the Right, or the Alternative Right. Perhaps we just have a different song. A better song.

The common ground we seem to share on the right is a concern for the future of Western culture and civilization. We can rally round The Western Canon -- which includes Western philosophy and literature from pagan, Christian, Deist and atheist sources. We can stand our ground against the left, and fight to maintain a sense of continuity with the history and the heritage of European peoples.

For my part as a Western Man, my friends are those who are friendly to the Western Tradition, and my enemies are those who are enemies of that tradition. I find much of value in Eastern and other traditions. But as Kipling wrote: "East is East, and West is West." We can coexist and share ideas and recognize threads common to the human experience. That said, everything is not the same; everything is not everything. My people were never samurai. We have our own history -- a history that includes Roman legions and Vikings, knights and Crusaders, conquistadors and cowboys. The artistic, philosophical and technological achievements of the West are truly awe-inspiring when compared to any standard. We can claim one of the richest traditions on the planet.

The Alternative Right may always be a union of smaller tribes, separate ideological states. But one of the things that attracted me initially to the Alternative Right was what appears to be an alliance of these "radical" traditions in support of our shared Western Tradition.