Untimely Observations

No Virtue in Suicide


Our civilization rots toward final collapse, and there is scant reason to conserve the ideas and institutions that brought us to this point. Since its inception in the age of Enlightenment and Revolution, the modern West has been on a suicide mission. The current era might very well be its terminal phase as global-scale crises multiply, a factor which only seems to heighten the sense of impending catastrophe. From the grand pyramid schemes wrought by the financial class to far-flung wars for universal democracy, multiculturalism and demographic displacement by masses from alien lands, our power elites are hastening the rush to Judgment Day.

This trajectory to dissolution is driven above all by a profound arrogance. Contemporary society is assured in its faith that humanity can transform the world in service to its desires. This mentality extends as well to “lifestyle choices”, where carnal materialism is propagated as the guide to successful living. Under the ideology of individual liberation, man tears away from the Transcendent and careens through death toward a state much worse than nothingness. Spiritual suicide, whether collective or individual, precedes the physical action.

A recent piece here at Alternative Right advocating suicide as a supposedly “honorable” way out of life casts in stark relief the ultimate choice we must make: shall we serve God, out of love and then duty, or do we rebel? For Truth, beauty and the Good are opposed by the incoherence, absurdity and darkness of rebellion. The oath “non serviam” brings with it a finality and gravity incomprehensible to those still living, a spiritual peril one can dismiss for now- but not forever.

Suicide is a perfectly logical outcome of insurrection against Logos and divine hierarchy. Despair is usually the most visible factor in ending one’s life; after all, the great traitor Judas Iscariot swung from a tree after thinking himself beyond God’s redemption. Yet the role of the primordial sin-pride must not be overlooked. Overweening pride can initiate and define the course of a soul’s plunge into despair and subsequent self-destruction.

As Lucifer proclaimed his intention to usurp the throne of God in Titanic rebellion, a man’s road to Selbstmord can progress in a rather magnificent fashion until his downfall. In the conspicuous case of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Corsican warlord and child of the Revolution was on the verge of realizing dreams of world-empire. After the disastrous Russian campaign and his long retreat back to France, Napoleon would take poison in 1814 in an attempt to escape the shame of resounding defeat. For one so close to godhood, the humiliation must have been unbearable, and suicide seemed a suitable answer to the capricious whims of fate. In this strange way the dialectic of hubris runs from brazen self-assertion to utter self-negation.

From pride emerges the fantasy of total autonomy, the notion of men as self-sufficient, self-creating beings liberated from any higher authority. Any endeavor glorifying man as master of life and death will lead from the frenzied exaltation of self-will to an inevitable crash. The transgression of cosmic order is always punished in due time. Various traditional sources outside of Christian doctrine also affirm the tremendous error of suicide. In Plato’s Laws, the man who kills himself merits no honor.

And what shall he suffer who slays him who of all men, as they say, is his best friend? I mean the suicide, who deprives himself by violence of his appointed share of life, not because the law of the state requires him, nor yet under the compulsion of some painful and inevitable misfortune that has come upon him, nor because he has had to suffer from irremediable and intolerable shame, but who from sloth or want of manliness imposes upon himself an unjust penalty. For him, what ceremonies are there to be of purification and burial God knows…They who meet their death in this way shall be buried alone, and none shall be laid by their side; they shall be buried ingloriously in the borders of the twelve portions of the land, in such places are as uncultivated and nameless, and no column or inscription shall mark the place of their interment. (Laws IX 873)

The philosopher names exceptions to this rule in the beginning of the passage, and it is easy to relate with understanding to circumstances of great misfortune or an unbearable shame which would push an individual toward suicide. Whatever the cultural, mental or emotional context of suicide may be, the act itself is nonetheless a crime against the Natural Law and can be seen as a rebellion against one’s Creator. It brings neither atonement nor peace, but only new levels of alienation. As the metaphysician René Guénon so aptly observed, when man closes himself off from Heaven, he is at the mercy of infernal forces. The case of suicide illustrates this dynamic quite well.

Suicide can only be viewed as sensible within a state of hell, where the presence of God is denied and rejected. The materialist ideas implicit and explicit that infuse modern thought have made significant headway in bringing about just such a state on earth. Only witness how bourgeois Europe marveled at its peace and progress at the dawn of the murderous 20th century. True faith is attacked at every turn and new idols are erected in the ensuing vacuum. We are all well-acquainted with these false gods: wealth, power, equality, sex, science, celebrity, and even knowledge. Yet in the postmodern era, the most potent and widespread counterfeit religion is worship of self.

Granted, few narcissists consciously consider themselves divine beings. But as they hold their will to be sacrosanct, such individuals succumb to the lie of autonomy and march under the standard of rebellion. In the world without God they build, a world deprived of any objective truth, absolutely everything is permitted- murder, adultery, sodomy, infanticide, and, of course, taking one’s own life. These are not sins, but matters of choice left to individuals. To speak of “choice” is beyond the point, though. Existence on the whole is absurd; without the immortality of the human soul, love is meaningless and death retains unchallenged mastery over us all. Our longing for eternity remains, however, even if in increasingly distorted forms.

Man thus attributes to himself godlike power by violating the previously inviolable and then declaring his works to be good. Dostoevsky’s near-mystic Alexei Kirillov shows us a direct line from liberation to suicide, or in the inverted formulation of the hero, liberation through suicide. Adrift in a godless universe, man must necessarily become a god. Kirillov hopes to conquer death and attain divinity by firing a bullet into his own skull, achieving transfiguration through self-will. Ideas like these are insane and extreme to the mass of everyday hedonists who simply want to extract gratification from life, but they are the logical result of abandoning God. Many prefer to ignore the reality that we stand between two paths, a crossroads which Fr. Seraphim Rose described so well:

Man’s freedom has been given him to choose between the true God and himself, between the true path to deification whereon the self is humbled and crucified in this life to be resurrected and exalted in God in eternity, and the false path of self-deification which promises exaltation in this life but ends in the Abyss.

What is the alternative to annihilation? Let us answer the call to arms of Christ Our Lord; He Who trampled death underfoot and revealed Himself as liberating Truth to mankind. Just as our ancestors fought under His banner, restoration of the West to Him is possible, despite its seeming impossibility today. Yet this is a war which begins in our own hearts. Honor is found not in self-indulgence or suicide, but in spiritual struggle and redemption. Do we possess the strength for humility in the face of the world’s derision, the discipline to declare, “Thy will be done, Lord, not mine,” and to hold the line? With God, anything is possible.

E'nla Suavolontade è nostra paceAnd in His will is our peace (Paradiso, Canto III Line 85).