NOOMAKHIA: GEOSOPHY – The Horizons of Cultures: The Geography of Logoi

Author: Alexander Dugin

Translator: Jafe Arnold

Chapter 1 of Noomakhia: Wars of the Mind – Geosophy: Horizons and Civilizations
(Moscow: Academic Project, 2017)

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The Horizons of Cultures: The Geography of Logoi

Virtually all of the books of the Noomakhia series are dedicated to what might be called “Geosophy” or “plural anthropology.”

In the first volume of Noomakhia, The Three Logoi [1], we offered a most general representation of the Three Logoi as three basic paradigms within the framework of which one can interpret the semantic structures of any culture and civilization. In the very least, we have proceed from precisely such a possibility as our initial position, allowing for the possibility of this tripartite reading in each and every society with numerous overlaps and combinations. As we proceed to examine different civilizations, we are faced with either accepting the conviction that such an approach, upon which all of Noomakhia is based, is indeed competent or, upon encountering insurmountable obstacles, recognizing the limited applicability of this noological methodology. The triplicity of the fundamental Logoi constitutes the essence of Noomakhia, and we will pursue this in the most diverse historical, religious, and social contexts. The main substance  which we understand by the “Three Logoi” described in the first volume will be further refined as we examine the most diverse civilizations and cultures, first and foremost the Hellenic and Byzantine, where the corresponding figures of Apollo, Dionysus, and Cybele attained their clearest and most generalized expression. We have taken the latter to be a universal structural template, a paradigm. Thus, the two volumes of Noomakhia dedicated to the Greeks are of great importance to any correct and complete understanding of the foundational paradigms on which our study is based.

In the present work, we will examine yet another aspect of the plurality of Logoi. In the first book, we described – in the most general contours and primarily based on the example of the Hellenic cultural circle which determined the destiny of Western Europe for the last two and a half millennia – the structure of the three fundamental paradigms of thinking corresponding to three types of philosophy, religion, mythology, ritual, symbolism, gnoseology, ontology, and anthropology. The three paradigms which we distinguished – those of Apollo, Dionysus, and Cybele – can be considered the main constituent moments of the vertical topography. In our point of view, these three paradigms comprehensively exhaust all the possible variations of the concretization of the Mind (Νοῦς) in the Logos and logological structures. Although we limited ourselves to the Hellenic zone, it is theoretically possible to arrive at an analogous model on the basis of other cultural templates, be they developed and detailed like Indian and Chinese philosophy, or altogether archaic, such as in the case of shamanic complexes or the most elementary mythological systems.

This vertical topography of the Three Logoi can be envisioned as a perpendicular angle constructed upon and penetrating each geographical (or, more precisely, geocultural and geosophical) zone of the world. Every cultural space (cultural-historical type, civilization) by definition can possess Apollonian, Dionysian, or Cybelean dimensions as three dimensions of  its (cultural) space, i.e., height (the Light Logos), breadth (the Dark Logos) and depth (the Black Logos). We say “can”, for this does not mean that each of these Logoi will necessarily be present, much less predominate. The diversity of cultures and societies on earth lies in that every culture and every society presents its own kind of projection of the three vertical Logoi in different proportions and different relations. One of the Logoi might dominate in one place while the others remain in a virtual state; elsewhere, the picture can be more complex. The Three Empires of the Logoi are projected onto each culture not only in terms of this geometrical schema, but always also from different angles, just as one and the same projected image can, taking into consideration different folds, curvatures, breaks, dips, etc., yield different shapes on different surfaces. When reflected upon the sea, the sun’s rays are transformed from straight lines into curved lines, and their constancy gives way to a rhythmically repetitive sinusoid. Light disappears on a dark surface; it is reflected in a mirror, and so on. If we add to this understanding the fact that cultural fields are not strictly horizontal with relation to noetic topography, but are reflected at certain angles which differ from culture to culture, then we can appreciate and estimate just how diverse and multidimensional cultural geography can be, just how multifaceted the field of geosophy is, and, as follows, we can appreciate the richness of anthropological pluralism. The very identification of the presence of three Logoi and the discernment of the dramatic war between their Empires fundamentally enriches our understanding of the structures of the Mind, imparting vital and intense volume. Taking into account the diversity of the projections onto the horizontal plane of human cultures which these Logoi and Noomakhia can yield, turns the whole picture into a grand panorama of qualitative intellectual plurality, a fertile and substantive pluriversum.

In the first book of Noomakhia, we primarily busied ourselves with the vertical symmetries and oppositions of noology, as well as the philosophies and mythologies which express such. Now we shall transition to horizontal symmetries and approach the study of the diversity of the Logoi among civilizations and cultures. In the following books of Noomakhia, we intend to present a number of developed illustrations of how the Logoi independently and distinctly manifest themselves in the most different civilizations, both those close to Europe and those distant. This qualitatively complicates the overall picture of noology. We will see how, in addition to or beyond the war between the Three Empires, the oppositions and conflicts between these Empires are projected onto the horizontal plane, as well as the internal polycentrism and historical dynamics inherent to these projections. This will explain many aspects of inter-civilizational relations and inter-cultural ties, but still the resultant field of geosophy will present itself as an extremely complex model, even in its mere static structure, without taking into account temporal (whether cyclical or unilinear) dynamics. Taking into consideration the dynamic changes in cultural systems which are organized along primordially different lines and represent a field of intense battle between the Three Noetic Empires, promises to transform history, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology and cultural studies into such a complex picture, simultaneously containing such a multiplicity of layers and levels, that it should come as no surprise why no one has undertaken such before. After all, the hands of the most courageous and resolute scholar can waiver in the face of such an abundance of materials and the sheer quantity of relevant factors. Thus, all previous undertakings which, no matter what, pursued something similar, will be made all the more valuable to us.

Yet the horizontality discussed in this volume of Noomakhia is such only in correlation with the verticality of the model of the Three Logoi. Horizontality in itself is multidimensional and polycentric. It harbors not only the static layers of culture that are discernible independently of time and which constitute the structure of permanent identity, but also historical dynamics, over the course of which the very proportions of relations between these layers dialectically change. Thus, in each and every civilization (culture), we must inscribe history into the unchanging synchronic model of identity, as well as situate space in the structure of civilizational time. On this matter, Martin Heidegger posed the followed fundamental question in his Ponderings (The Black Notebooks):

Не является ли пространство временем народа?

Ist das auch der Raum als die Zeit für ein «Volk»?

Is that also space as time for a “people”?

Пространство и время не нечто рядоположенное, что было бы «дано», но прорыв и начало бытия, которое должно быть отвоёвано.

Raum und Zeit nicht das Nebeneinander, das es so «gibt», sondern Ausbruch und Anbruch des Seins, das ersrtitten warden muss.

Space and time not the juxtaposed, which is simply “given,” but instead the opening and upsurge of being, which must be striven for. [2]

Heidegger’s use of the two words Ausbruch and Anbruch is important as a formula for expressing being in both space and time. Both are formed by the common root brechen, that is “to smash”, “to sever”, “to break through”, “to split.” Space corresponds to the Ausbruch of being (Sein or Seyn), and time is the Anbruch of being (Sein or Seyn). Ausbruch can be interpreted as an “invasion”, “breakthrough”, “acute unfolding”, or “upsurge.” Being unfolds as space (living space, the space of the people) and thereby “surges” into existence, making it present. Time begins the being of Anbruch, that is “opening”, “revelation”, “discovery.” Space and time therefore form a common, but differentiated horizon of ontology based on a fundamental trauma – that of the “breaking”, “splitting”, the “glaringness of the abyss”, of the “primordial differential.” The Romanian philosopher Lucian Blaga called this the “divine differential” that lies at the heart of the cosmogonic act [3]. It is on these grounds that Blaga based his analysis of cultural and epistemological forms which he interpreted through the analysis of spatial and temporal horizons.[4]

Time and space, that is to say the dynamism and stasis and of every culture, together compose the intertwined edges of a common semantic horizon which we conceptualize as a horizon only by force of the fact that we are examining it in light of the noological vertical of the Three Logoi. In and of itself, a “horizon” is not flat, but simultaneously contains several dimensions – both spatial and temporal.

Therefore, we can envision the structure of this horizontal topography which is of priority interest to us in this work as a spatial-temporal whole. If we evaluate it from the synchronic perspective, then it can be seen as qualitative space or “living space” (Lebensraum a la Friedrich Ratzel [5]), i.e., a field which harbors events and meanings (Raumsinn or “spatial meaning” [6]) The discipline of Geopolitics as it developed over the 19th and 20th centuries was founded on this principle, yet this view can also be detected – indeed, like virtually everything else – in ancient Hellenistic culture, especially in the Neoplatonists and above all in Proclus.

If we approach this horizon from a diachronic point of view, then we will have to deal with the phenomenon of “history” in the form of a chronological sequence strung out along a semantic axis. History here opens up as a semantic sequence. Heidegger called this understanding of history “onto-history”, Seynsgeschichte.[7] Proceeding from this Hedeiggerian methodology, a closely related concept was proposed by the French philosopher and historian of religions Henry Corbin, who coined the notion of l’historial, or “existential-semantic time”.[8] Insofar as here we are dealing with a semantic chain, the diachronic order of unfolding cannot be free from the structure predetermining it, which in a religious context is usually referred to as “Providence” or “Predestination.” In the historial, everything is determined by the structure, which dictates not so much events themselves as the uniqueness of their interpretation (and, further, their tripartite significance, if we evoke the Three Logoi). The present volume of Noomakhia is devoted to substantiating this methodology. In this study, the phenomenon of culture or civilization is put at the center of attention as the most precise expression of a horizon. The highest form of this refinement is what we call a “Logos of Civilization”, or “Horizontal Logos” (insofar as such represents a shaped and reflected expression of the horizon itself).

The plurality of Daseins

The boundaries and characteristic signposts of different cultural spaces or civilizations can be defined in terms of the most diverse criteria which ultimately yield different results. We should clarify that we do not draw a terminological distinction between “culture” and “civilization”, unless otherwise specifically stipulated, in the spirit of that proposed by Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) [9]. Insofar as there exist many definitions of culture and civilization and many authors who study such, we cannot rely on any established unambiguity in definitions, interpretations, and theoretical generalizations. Therefore, we shall explain right away just which rules we intend to be guided by in the composition of our geosophical map.

First of all, we naturally do not claim to present any complete and detailed description of the Logoi of all different cultures, which is even theoretically impossible. The examples which we have taken for examination are rather arbitrary and are evoked only to illustrate the general approach to the plurality of Logoi which we have developed over the course of Noomakhia. For this reason in some cultures and societies we have chosen only that which interests us as a priority and that which most explicitly resonates with the three Logoi that we have distinguished. We consider the very notion of a “cultural Logos” or “Logos of a given culture”, i.e., the Logos of a people, religion, society, or civilization, to be a projection of the three universal (vertical) Logoi onto a given horizon (whose complex nature we have hitherto emphasized). Thus, the Horizontal Logos (the Logos of Civilization) is unpacked into three vertical, noological vectors. In other words, every concrete culture is a most complex code consisting of three fundamental elements.

Secondly, between all the different criteria for “culture” and intellectual expression, we primarily aspire to emphasize and take into consideration the existential dimension. Such a conceptualization is founded on the theory of the plurality of Daseins which we have outlined in our other works, first and foremost those dealing with Martin Heidegger [10]. This means that we believe that the basic, phenomenological level of the “thinking presence” of man in the world differs in its deepest roots, and this difference is the foundation upon which the structures of culture, society, philosophy, politics, knowledge, science, and art are built. We consider the Dasein of each civilization, in its approach to death, to be unique, and it is this existential plurality that determines differences in secondary significations and configurations.

Dasein is the root structure of man’s presence in the world, the fundamental backdrop of his existence. Although Heidegger himself, as befits a true European, was ethnocentric and believed the fate of Western European civilization to be the fate of all of humanity and the European Logos to be the universal Logos, we can nevertheless attempt to isolate Heidegger’s deep insight into the essence of the existential roots of man, taken as “thinking presence” (Dasein), from such claims to universality. In such a case, we acquire the concept of the plurality of Daseins as several existential poles corresponding to the nomenclature of civilizations. Consequently, we have the following picture:

I. At the heart of every civilization lies a special “thinking presence”, Dasein.

II. This “thinking presence”, Dasein, determines the structure of a given civilization’s Logos, that is to say it lies at the basis of the metaphysics which can subsequently be built upon the root structure of the Dasein.

III. The “thinking presence” of Dasein is responsible for both the basic structure of the Logos that is a result of its unfolding as well as this Logos’ transformation over the course of the whole cycle of a civilization’s historical being. We can see this in Heidegger’s analysis of the onto-history, Seynsgeschichte, of Western civilization, as well as in Henry Corbin’s concept of the historial [11].

IV. The plurality of “thinking presences” can be postulated both outside of a concrete civilization (as an other Dasein), as well as, with certain nuances, within it. Accordingly, in Mediterranean civilization, Hellenic, Roman, as well as Egyptian, Semitic, Chaldean, and Anatolian poles were all present, as are Germanic, Celtic, Latin, and other poles present within European civilization. Each of these poles can be analyzed on the basis of its existentials.

V. From the point of view of Noomakhia, the Logos of a given civilization (even in the form of its own inter-civilizational versions) can be subjected to spectral analysis with the aim of identifying the proportions between the three fundamental types of noology – the Logos of Apollo, the Logos of Dionysus, and the Logos of Cybele – the proportions of which can, theoretically, differ in any possible manner within any given civilization.

VI. Hypothesis: The differences in the concrete spectral structure of the Logoi of civilizations must be rooted in the differences of their root foundations, the “thinking presence” of their Daseins.

VII. Thus, on the basis of an Heideggerianism that has been expanded in all directions, and on the basis of Hedeiggerianism’s experience of the “destruction” of Western European metaphysics and the Western European historial, we can develop a methodological foundation for building a plural anthropology and a geosophical map of civilizations, where the Logos of each civilization corresponds to a special Dasein.

On these grounds, we can correlate the model of Heidegger’s existential analysis of the history of the Western Logos with those of other philosophies and civilizations – not to accept such as universal, but with the aim of seeking those possible homologies or, on the contrary, differences which, by virtue of the developed state of studies on European civilization and the relatively underdeveloped state of other civilizational studies, might turn out to be extremely useful and substantive. We have already accomplished something of this sort in the book The Possibility of Russian Philosophy [12] where, in trying to apply the Dasein’s existentials to the Russian “thinking presence”, we developed an extremely substantive and impressive framework qualitatively differing from the one which Heidegger cited as the quality of the existentials of Dasein in Sein und Zeit [13].

martin_haydegger_vozmozhnost_russkoy_filosofii

Thus, it has been revealed in practice that, when speaking of Dasein, Heidegger was in fact dealing with the European, Indo-European, Hellenic, Apollonian, and Germanic Dasein. The Russian Dasein looks significantly different, and it is completely obvious that the Russian Logos, when we try to reconstruct its main features, should also look completely different, for such explains to us the differences between civilizations and, indeed, justifies those intuitions as to the uniqueness and originality of Russian civilization advanced by the Slavophiles, Danilevsky, the Eurasianists, Spengler, and many other authors. It is only obvious that such differences should also be found in the existential structure of the “thinking presences” of other civilizations as well. Accordingly, the Heideggerian methodology for studying Dasein, ingeniously applied by Heidegger himself to his own civilization, can, given appropriate corrections and generalizations, be successfully applied to others (as the first approximation of the Russian Dasein has shown [14]).

The observant reader who has attentively read the first book of Noomakhia, The Three Logoi, could remark at this point: If we have correlated the philosophical phenomenology upon which Heidegger based his views of Dasein with the Logos of Dionysus, then would it really be justified for us to take precisely this Logos – as one of the vectors of the common noological map, as the intellectual jurisdiction of only one of the three Empires of the Mind) – to be the main quality of a cultural unit? This objection is well founded, but we would like respond to it thusly: The Logos of Dionysus to which phenomenology indeed corresponds, is in a certain sense intermediary between the two other poles of Noomakhia; therefore, we can correlate this Logos with the “middle world”, that is the horizontal section located strictly between the Logos of Apollo and the Logos of Cybele, between Heaven and Hell. Thus, we very well can begin precisely with this Logos as the phenomenological fixation of civilization (cultural space). This does not mean that, upon defining (however roughly) the zone of a concrete Dasein, we must stop there. On the contrary, we are faced with discerning the very structure of the correlation between the Three Logoi projected upon a given area, their balances and proportions. In other words, proceeding from an existential analysis, we will try to reconstruct both the Uranic (the Apollonian, the celestial) and the Chthonic (the maternal, the subterranean) dimensions of the cultures under examination. Of course, in some cases we will have to deviate from this application, such as if the Apollonian element or Cybelean Logos clearly predominate and clearly define the morphology of the Dasein. One example of this is the strictly Apollonian Iranian logos [15] or, conversely, the titanic Logos of the Semites [16], in which the intermediary, Dionysian dimension is weak, secondary, or derivative.

Thirdly, we do not wish to pass any final judgements regarding the scale which we have employed. We know some civilizations, such as the European and Russian, much better for a number of quite understandable reasons, hence logically follows our more detailed description of their particular points, such as our discernment in the field of European civilization multiple versions of this Dasein and their pronouncements in particular dimensions of the Dasein of the cultures of North and South America. We know much less about Asian and African cultures and the cultural circle of Oceania, so in examining them we have restricted ourselves to rather approximate generalizations, a point which concerns our own cultural limitations and does not reflect any simplicity or schematics of the cultural worlds under examination. In all of their regions, Asia, Africa, and Oceania present an astonishing ethnic, cultural, intellectual, and existential originality and a most wealthy plurality not only of shades, but also of colors, figures, thoughts, and theories.

The ensuing compilation of this map of geosophy can be continued in this direction to any and all points of the Earth’s space inhabited by people – among technologically developed cultures as well as among the archipelagoes of archaic societies, ethnoi, and tribes whose wealth, diversity, and originality were discerned by the new anthropology of the “cultural school” of Franz Boas, the “social school” of Bronisław Malinowski , and the “structural school” of Claude Lévi-Strauss.[17] 

Ethnocentra and Ethnocentrism

The notion of a connection between thinking and geography can be found among different peoples in Antiquity. Various ethnoi explained the extraordinary qualities of (as a rule, their own) cultures in terms of special geographical conditions. This is the subject of what in the 20th century came to be defined as the field of “sacred geography” and, in its more pragmatic application, Geopolitics [18]. The Ancient Chinese, for instance, were convinced that their country lies in the center of the world, and it is precisely on these grounds that the Chinese called their state the Middle Empire or Middle Kingdom. In the view of the Ancient Jews, Israel, the “promised land” is also to be found at the center of the world, with its center in Jerusalem. It is telling that, according to Judaism, Jerusalem is home to the gates leading both down below the earth, to Sheol, to hell, as well as up to Heaven, are located. The Greeks also placed the region of their Mediterranean resettlement at the center of the Earth, and Proclus argued that the people of Attica were, unlike the populations of the hotter and colder countries, predisposed towards philosophy by virtue of the influence of this temperate climate. The Ancient Persians were convinced that the territory of Iran (Iranshahr) stood at the center of the Earth. The name of the city Babylon meant “Gate of God” and thereby implied a chosen point in space through which the gods enter and exit, i.e., the middle place between the sky and the underworld. In the Temple of Apollo in Delphi to this day rests the Omphalos, the sacred stone whose location was held to determine the center of the world. In the Christian era, the Byzantines believed the center of the ecumene to be Constantinople, the New Rome with its spiritual center in the Hagia Sophia. In the Scandinavian Eddas we find the term Midgard, or “Middle Earth.” We also find such views among the Ancient Slavs, the Irish (who saw Ireland as the island at the center of Earth), the Japanese, and so on. These perspectives are religious reflections of what we propose to represent as the projection of the vertical noetic topography onto the horizontal. Every culture (civilization) conceives itself as being the middle plane in the vertical model of the three worlds. But this vertical centrality is valid for all points on Earth and, as follows, for all ethnoi and cultural zones and, according to the logic of the ethnocentrum, is affirmed along the horizontal plane in contrast to other surrounding, differing cultures and peoples (hence the phenomenon of “ethnocentrism”). This is in line with the stable mythological practice of placing the dwelling place of a people in the center of the horizontal space of Earth, a theme which we invariably encounter in the views expressed by both great civilizations as well as small and archaic tribes.

If in the vertical sense this topography can be recognized as justified, with the nuance that different cultural spaces (in different periods), while existing on one “physical” plane, can find themselves under the preeminent influence of one or another Logos which renders their common vertical “centrality” more differentiated (some contemporary civilizations may be located closer to the subterranean zones of the Great Mother, while others closer to the celestial worlds of the Apollonian Logos), then in the horizontal sense this gives rise to the problem of situational relativity. The center is defined as a special space endowed with special and unique characteristics in comparison (contrast) with those of surrounding territories. Thus, the question of the plurality of horizontal centers raises the problem of “cultural relativity”, or the plurality of ethnocentra. Every culture proceeds from the fact that it itself is in the center of the intellectual universe. Consequently, every culture is built upon the presumption of its own uniqueness, universality, and “singularity.” Its Logos and the less obvious Dasein at its heart are taken as a point of reference and paradigm. This is how the ethnocentrum is formed. Man believes the Logos of the ethnocentrum to which he relates (which is almost always his own ethnocentrum or, in some cases, the ethnocentrum which he believes to be normative, e.g. the “Europe” of Russian “Westernizers” or the “Europe” of Asian “globalists”) to be “universal”, “obvious,” “self-evident”, and the “best.”

Here we arrive at the main methodological quality of geosophy. In order to correctly interpret the structures of a given civilization (culture), we must deliberately, consciously refrain from projecting our own ethnocentric views. Here we should turn to the phenomenology of philosophy, deconstruction, and apperception to bracket our own “ethnocentrism” which leads us to believe that the methods and criteria for evaluating our own civilization are a universal scale for interpreting all other cultures. In contrast to the semantic structure of the ethnocentrum which structures space, and departing from its exceptionalism and implicit superiority, we must consciously allow for the plurality and qualitative equality of ethnocentra, we must recognize every ethnocentrum to have the right to its own cultural topography, and we must share this topography to the extent that we wish to conceptualize the roots of its existential structure.

One advocate of the phenomenological method in the history of religions, Henry Corbin, who devoted many years to the study of Shiism and its philosophy, in some of his texts arrived at a complete identification with the society he studied, even using the phrase “We, Shiites.” While himself a Protestant Christian by confession and a phenomenologist in the field of the comparative study of religions, Corbin recognized that studying another religion is fully possible only if one abstracts himself over the course of study from his own established dogmatic and confessional positions – otherwise, we will be left with a variety of apologetics and insistences on the universality of our ethnocentrum. However, this need not entail an irreversible change of confession and cultural code. Corbin himself remained a Christian even though in his studies of Shiism he adopted the positions of another ethnocentrum for the sake of fuller understanding, and as a result of which his works were rendered more weighty, authoritative, and foundational. The point is not to leave the zone of one ethnocentrum only to enter another, but to accomplish the process of transparent philosophical apperception, to conceptualize one’s “natural”, “historical” position as ethnocentric and, without departing from one’s loyalty to such, to recognize that other studied cultures are just as ethnocentric and just as well claim “universality”, “exclusivism”, and “obviousness” as our own.

We cannot abolish the ethnocentrum, for in such a case we would be left without any philosophical territory, without any place for situating ourselves and our study; we would be left outside of the phenomenon we are examining. The only solution is to consciously accept the plurality of ethnocentra as founded on the plurality of Daseins, to accept that each and every one is built on the implicit recognition of its own (and not someone else’s or any outsider’s) centrality and exclusivity. In order to break through to cultural codes, we must recognize their existential rules. If not, we will remain within the confines of our own ethnocentrum and will not be able to travel beyond it. Even if we decide to act strictly impartially, still the Dasein embedded deep inside us will make itself known, albeit indirectly. And if we attempt to uproot it without accepting a new one, then we will simply disappear as a “thinking presence.” All that remains is to enter ethnocentra by accepting their structures, while also preserving consciousness of the fact that we are dealing not with anything “universal”, but with “relative universality” – not with a universum, but a pluriversum, in which any “exclusivity” and “self-evidence” are in essence no more than established protocol necessitated for the sake of free intellectual movement throughout a given cultural zone.

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Footnotes: 

[1] Alexander Dugin, Noomakhia: Wars of the Mind – The Three Logoi: Apollo, Dionysus, and Cybele (Moscow: Academic Project, 2014)

[2] Martin Heidegger, Überlegungen II-VI (Schwarze Hefte 1931-1938) (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2014), p. 18. English translation from Martin Heidegger, Ponderings II-VI (Black Notebooks 1931-1938), translated by Richard Rojcewicz, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016), p. 14.

[3] Lucian Blaga, Les differentielles divines (Paris: Librairie du savoir, 1990).

[4] Lucian Blaga, Trilogie de la culture (Paris: Librairie du savoir, 1995); Ibidem, Trilogie de la connaissance (Paris: Libraire du savoir, 1992).

[5] Friedrich Ratzel, Anthropogeographie, Bd. 1-2 (Stuttgart: J. Engelhorn, 1882-1891).

[6] Friedrich Ratzel, Politische Geographie (Munich/Leipzig: R. Oldenbourg, 1897).

[7] Martin Heidegger, Geschichte des Seyns (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2012).

[8] Corbin employed the archaic French term historial in 1938 in his French translation of the fifth chapter of Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit to convey the difference between the German words historische (in French historique) and geschichtliche (historial). The first – historische or das Historische – denotes the totality of historical facts and their correlations, while the second – geschichtliche or das Geschichtliche (l’historial being the French substantive) bears the meanings of existence, fate, and predestination.

[9] Oswald Spengler, Zakat Evropy. Obraz i deistvitel’nost’ (Moscow: Nauka, 1993).

[10] Alexander Dugin, Martin HeideggerVozmozhnost’ russkoi filosofii [“The Possibility of Russian Philosophy”] (Moscow: Academic Project, 2012).

[11] Alexander Dugin, Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning (Moscow: Academic Project, 2010)/ (Arlington: Radix/Washington Summit Publishers, 2014).

[12] See footnote 10.

[13] Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Tubingen: Max Niemeyer, 1972).

[14] See footnote 10.

[15] Alexander Dugin, Noomakhia – The Iranian Logos: The War of Light and the Culture of Awaiting (Moscow: Academic project, 2016).

[16] Alexander Dugin, Noomakhia – The Semites: The Monotheism of the Moon and the Gestalt of Baal (Moscow: Academic Project, 2016).

[17] Alexander Dugin, Etnosotsiologiia [“Ethnosociology”] (Moscow: Academic Project, 2011). Partially in English: Ethnos and Society (translated by Michael Millerman, London: Arktos, 2018). 

[18] Alexander Dugin, Geopolitika (Moscow: Academic Project, 2011).

 

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NOOMAKHIA: Wars of the Mind

“Traditionalism as a Theory: Sophia, Plato and the Event” – Alexander Dugin (2013)

Author: Alexander Dugin

Translator: Jafe Arnold

Chapter 8 of In Search of the Dark Logos: Philosophico-Theological Outlines

(Moscow: Academic Project/Department of the Sociology of International Relations, Faculty of Sociology, Moscow State University, 2013).

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Mark Sedgwick and his hypothesis on Sophia Perennis

In his book, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century [1], the contemporary scholar and historian of Traditionalism, Mark Sedgwick, based on research into the philosophical sources of the worldview of the founder of Traditionalism, René Guénon, advanced the hypothesis that the Traditionalist movement, in its assertion of Sophia Perennis (Philosophia Perennis) and the “Primordial Tradition” as its foundational theory, is based not on some “mythical”, exotic, “Eastern” sources, but on none other than the Western philosophical tradition, whose roots can be traced back to the Renaissance Platonism of Gemistus Plethon, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Agostino Steuco, etc. The current which took shape in this circle elevated the figure of Sophia and the corresponding notion of “Primordial Theology” (as in Steuco’s Prisca theologia), and the content of this “primordial theology” boiled down to Platonism, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism, which were rediscovered in Western Europe thanks to translations from Greek of a broad spectrum of these currents, whose texts were brought by the Greek Gemistus Plethon from Byzantium in the final period before its final fall. Although Sedgwick’s thesis has seemed to many Traditionalists to be “disrobing”, overall this analysis of the intellectual circles of the Renaissance Neoplatonists and their ideas demonstrates a considerable convergence with Guénon’s views and those of his followers. 

In turn, the works of the English Dame Frances Yates dedicated to these very same intellectual currents of the European Renaissance and Modernity [2] have shown just how enormous of an influence Platonism exerted on the formation of the philosophical, scientific, and political views of this transitional epoch. Both Sedgwick and Yates show how a significant number of the founding fathers of the modern scientific view of the world were in fact largely inspired by mystical-religious ideas and Neoplatonic theories, even though only one side of their works – that tied to empiricism, rationalism, mechanism, etc. – would make it into the scientific canons of Modernity, while the mysticism and “Perennialism” of the Renaissance would be left “behind the scenes” or alternatively interpreted in naturalistic, pantheistic, or deist directions. A prominent example of this is Issac Newton, who was both an alchemist and a Kabbalist on the one hand and, on the other, the founding father of mechanistic physics and rationalist, empiricist natural science. The historian of religions Mircea Eliade, who in his youth participated in the Traditionalist movement, developed this perspective with the proposal that we view the rational-scientific and progressist topography of the philosophy of Modernity as a product of the secularization of European Hermeticism. 

These considerations led Sedgwick to reconsider the influence of Traditionalism on philosophy, science, and to a certain extent politics in the 20th century. This movement, lying at the heart of Modernity and appearing in new form as the philosophy developed by René Guénon, Julius Evola, and a broad circle of thinkers on which the former had decisive impact, was much more significant and important than can be judged on the basis of mere superficial familiarity with the subject. At the same time, they appear to be somewhat more modest and even, to a certain extent, marginal. At the source of Modernity lies Platonic universalism, which became the ideological grounds for proclaiming the universalism of the rational philosophy of post-Medieval Europe. Gradually, the bulk of attention came to be drawn towards the technological side of this movement, towards pure empiricism and rationalism, while the metaphysical dimension was neglected and written off as one of the costs and remnants of “Medieval irrationalism.” However, following this scheme, it turns out that with the exhaustion of the technocratic, rationalist philosophy, Baconist scientism, and Cartesian dualism of the epoch of Modernity, this second side, which had long since receded to the periphery, began to make itself known again. Guénon’s Traditionalism became its developed manifesto. Hence the growth of Traditionalism’s significance in correlation with the ever broader and deeper consciousness of the “crisis of the modern world.” Thus, in the transition to Post-Modernity, Modernity has once again remembered its “occult roots.” The Enlightenment, now called into question, has turned towards its “Rosicrucian” beginning. 

This hypothesis of Sedgwick and Yates, shared by a number of other authors, is productive. In the very least, it raises the status of Traditionalism to that of one of the most important philosophical currents to emerge in the critical moment of the exhaustion of the agenda of the classical scientific rationality of Modernity and with the formation of the first Post-Modern theories subjecting Modernity to deconstruction. If we recognize that at the very heart of Modernity, which claimed rationalism and the theory of progress to be the foundations of its universalism, there lies a set of irrational views that appeal to deep antiquity for substantiation, i.e., the Platonic-mystical and Hermetic universalism of the Perennialist and Sophiological shade, then Modernity itself appears under a completely different light, and Post-Modern critics thereby acquire yet another argument, namely, that Modernity was not at all what it claimed to be, but was merely a poorly disguised, masked version of the traditional society which Modernity sought to overcome, annul, and dismantle. 

On the other hand, Traditionalism itself thereby appears to be a phenomenon that is critical of, but nonetheless related to Modernity. It is not simply the “continuation of Tradition” by inertia, but an altogether specific and original critical philosophy which refutes Modernity and subjects the latter to merciless critique on the basis of a special, complex set of ideas and theories which, taken together in their sum, constitute a “Perennialism” or “universal esotericism” which, it ought to be noted, does not coincide with any one single really existing historical tradition. Thus, we are only one step away from recognizing Traditionalism to be a “construct.” The revolutionary, critical, and modern potential of Guénon’s philosophy was rightfully noticed by the Traditionalist René Alleau, who proposed to consider Guénon alongside Marx as one among the constellation of radical revolutionaries and critics of modern civilization.[3] 

From Prisca theologia to René Guénon

A number of various, altogether interesting conclusions can be extracted from Sedgwick’s analysis.[4] Here we will fixate on merely one point, that of the conceptual unity of 20th century Traditionalism (Guénon, Evola, etc.) and Renaissance Platonism (Plethon, Ficino, Steuco, etc.). Both of these philosophical currents can be generalized with the notion of “Perennialism.”

If we can historically trace Guénon’s philosophical inspirations back to the Renaissance, which Guénon himself harshly criticized for misunderstanding the sacred civilization of the Middle Ages, and if we can find there the first formulations of Sophia Perennis or the Prisca theologia which compose the foundation of Traditionalist philosophy, then in it becomes completely obvious that these currents came to Western Europe in the Renaissance from the much deeper past and, to a certain extent, from a different cultural context (more specifically, the Byzantine-Greek). Of course, Platonism was well known in Medieval European Scholasticism, but it had long since yielded to Averroism and Aristotelianism enshrined virtually dogmatically in the realism of Thomas Aquinas. Hermeticism had existed in the form of alchemical currents and esoteric fraternities, but in the Renaissance these tendencies surfaced in rather vivid and magistral form, such as in the forms of open Neoplatonism and philosophically-formulated Hermeticism (with numerous direct or indirect polytheistic elements), which claimed to be not merely a secret tradition parallel to the dominant Scholasticism, but a foundational, universal worldview. Renaissance Platonism and Hermeticism directly opposed Catholic Tomism and formulated the agenda of Renaissance Humanism. This humanism was magical and sacred: man was understood to be the “perfect man”, the Platonic philosopher, the Angel-Initiator. 

The Renaissance Platonists appealed directly to the works of Plato, Plotinus, Hermes Trismegistus, and the broader corpus of Neoplatonic and Hermetic theories, many of which were freshly translated from Greek. Platonic humanism was reformed into a conceptual, theoretical bloc and began its offensive against previous philosophical and theological constructs. The Neoplatonists justified their claims to truth by emphasizing the antiquity of their sources and by claiming to propose a philosophical paradigm which could generalize different religious confessions, and as such was more universal and more profound than the Catholic religion of Europe. This synthesis came to include, in the very least, Byzantine Orthodoxy, but the reform program of Gemistus Plethon was even broader, proposing a restoration of “Platonic theology” as a whole and a return to certain aspects of polytheism. Platonism, like Hermeticism, was seen not simply as one philosophical or religious tendency among many others, but as “universal wisdom” capable of serving as a key to the most diverse philosophies and religions, as a common denominator. This idea of a meta-religious generalization became the most important notion of the Rosicrucian movement and, later, European Masonry (as shown by Yates). 

This universalism was substantiated by references to “Perennialism”, to the existence of some kind of exclusive instance in which all of world wisdom, independently of historical peripeteia, is present and preserved in its “paradisal”, primordial state. This “perennial wisdom”, Sophia, was the point of departure that allowed one to examine specific religions and philosophies as individual and historically conditioned constructs, thus laying claims to a universality transcending any and all individualities. This Sophia was knowable and, as follows, he who participated in her, loved her, and identified with her received access to “absolute knowledge.” Renaissance Humanism was therefore Sophiological. Sophia was treated as the Angel of humanity, the latter’s living and eternally present, eternally youthful archetype or eidos. 

It is by all means possible that European Modernity’s claims to the universalism of its values are to be sought in precisely this source. As Catholic ecumenism was abandoned, the cultural messianism of the West demanded new substantiation, and such was found in “Perennialism”: the new Europe, post-Medieval Europe, conceived itself to be the privileged region of the revealed, eternal Sophia, and on these grounds the Europeans of Modernity acquired their mandate to newly master and conquer the world, seeing themselves as not merely raptorial colonizers, but as the bearers of higher universal knowledge. This explains the special incandescence of the era of geographical discoveries and (Francis Bacon’s) call to discover Atlantis not only in the new colonies, but in the Old World itself. Thus, Renaissance Platonism and its corresponding Perennialism ought to be considered a most important factor in the formation of the structure of Modernity as a whole. The profane universalism of progressist and rationalist Europe has its roots in the sacred super-rationalism of the Renaissance Platonists oriented towards eternity and deep antiquity. 

The construct of Sophia 

The “constructivist” character of Renaissance Neoplatonism is obvious to us. We can easily trace how and on what sources it was constructed. The Hermetic Poimandres and Asclepius attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, as well as the cosmological and anthropological dialogues of Plato (the Timaeus, the Republic, the Laws, the Symposium, etc.) were taken to be universal and interpreted in the spirit of the Neoplatonic systematizations of Plotinus and his followers. Neoplatonism situated Sophia as its main content, its systematized philosophical hologram. And it is through this prism that other religions and philosophical systems were interpreted as individual cases of a generalized perennial(ist) paradigm. René Guénon acted in approximately the same manner as he employed a system of definite metaphysical, cosmological, and anthropological views to examine various traditions, religions, and the modern world itself as a denial of these views and, in its final phase (the opening of the egg from below) a parody of them. Not a single religion, theology, or philosophical system contains the paradigmatic matrix with which Guénon operated. But it is with the aid of this matrix, taken from somewhere else, that historical religions, theologies, and philosophers were altogether successfully treated and interpreted by him. Guénon based himself on the “Primordial Tradition”, sanātana dharma, or Sophia Perennis, and he drew his knowledge directly thither. The Renaissance Platonists acted in precisely the same way. 

With Sophia, both the Renaissance Platonists and Guénon in the 20th century deconstructed everything else. The very algorithm of their deconstructions was, in turn, represented by a construct: the construct of Sophia.

The “Dark Logos” of Neoplatonism

The artificial character of Renaissance Perennialism is rather transparent. But here the question should be posed: how does this Renaissance Platonism, which lies at the origins of 20th century Traditionalism, relate to the Platonism on which it was constructed? In other words, was this constructivist nature a quality of the Renaissance anticipating Modernity, or did the very material upon which Renaissance Sophiology was constructed lend any definite grounds to this approach and display any convergent qualities?

With regards to Neoplatonism (from Plotinus and Porphyry through Iamblichus to Proclus and Damascius), this is nearly obvious: Neoplatonism presented a construct developed on the basis of the main ideas of Plato, but in synthesis with other Hellenistic and Middle Eastern philosophical, religious, and mystical systems. This Neoplatonism was distinguished by its extraordinary inclusivity: it selectively incorporated Platonic re-interpretations of Aristotle (and accordingly, a re-thinking of the Stoa), Orphism, Pythagoreanism, Egyptian Hermetism, cults from Syria and Asia Minor (theurgy, the Chaldean Oracles), and Iranian dualist doctrines and Chaldean astrology. On the basis of Plato’s Parmenides and his main hypotheses, Proclus constructed an elaborate “Platonic theology” which was carried on and substantially re-interpreted by Damascius. The latter’s commentaries on the Timaeus thoroughly and in great detail described a synthetic cosmology built on the principle of noocentrism. 

The system that the late Neoplatonists of the Hellenistic era built with their open metaphysics and apophatic, dialectical Logos can, without a doubt, be fully considered to be an earlier version of the “Perennialism” which we encounter in the Renaissance. In Proclus’ works, particularly his exegeses, we can see the skeleton of all the later derivations of Neoplatonism, both religious and philosophical. His theories and methods can unmistakably be sensed in the Areopagites and, further, in the whole tradition of “mystical theology” which became so widespread in the West (from Scotus Eriugena to Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, and Jakob Böhme) as well as in the East. We can find the dialectic of the uncreated One developed by Proclus in the works of the Islamic thinkers of Al-Falasifa, in Ibn Arabi and the Ishraq school, whereby it defined the dramatic picture of Ishmailite theology and eschatology. Moreover, the classical method of Kabbalistic interpretations of the Zohar and early Kabbalah fully reproduced Proclus’ fixation on certain words and phrases (and their numerological equivalents) in Plato’s dialogues which at other times seemed only secondary. Henry Corbin rightly noted that the Parmenides was for Proclus the Theogony, on the basis of which he would later develop his Platonic Theology. Plato’s Parmenides was a kind of Bible or Sacred Scripture for negative, Neoplatonic, apophatic theology.[5] Every word of Plato’s was subjected to detailed and comprehensive hermeneutics. The idea that Plato was the “sail” of the Divine became a Neoplatonic dogma in its own right.

Neoplatonism conceived itself to be a universal tradition on the basis of which one could interpret all existing religions and philosophical systems. It was the religion of the Logos, a noocentric cosmology and apophatic metaphysics claiming the ability to interpret any and all forms of polytheism, symbolism, and theurgic rites. Following the Greek Neoplatonists, this idea penetrated other religious environments as well, such as in the works of al-Farabi and Ibin Sina, the Sufis, the philosophers of the Ishraq school, the initiatic verses of Rumi and the diaries of Ruzbehan Baqli, to the synthetic doctrines of Haydar Amoli or Mulla Sadra. Something analogous can also be encountered in Kabbalah, as well as in Christian mysticism (with some reservations). Everywhere we look, we encounter the idea of Sophia Perennis and spiritual universalism, reproducing in one form or another the noocentric, and at times paradoxical and dialectical, “Dark Logos” of the Neoplatonists. This Logos is “dark” because it postulates the pre-existential nature of the Principial (the One), the vertical of the Logos is opened upwards, and because it constantly and repeatedly upturns the strict laws of Aristotelian reason with its foundational principles of triumph, denial, excluding the third. Instead of logical clarity, we are dealing here with a paradox, an aporia, or a super-rational ambiguity (amphibole) which is evasive, demanding of the high art of dialectics, and which leads the “philosopher” (whether the Sufi, the adept, or the initiate) through the dizzying chain of insights and initiations, upon each new link of which consciousness collapses and is recreated anew. 

Having established this state of affairs, we can easily extend the history of Renaissance Platonism and its Perennialist construct of Sophia even further back than a millennium. Gemistus Plethon and his Neoplatonic reform in Mystras on the eve of the fall of the Byzantine Empire can be seen as a link in the direct transmission of this tradition from the last Diadochi of the Athenian Academy expelled by Justinian, to Michael Psellos, to the unsuccessful Neoplatonist deemed heretic John Italus, and to the Florentine circle established by Marsilio Ficino around Prince Cosimo Medici. In addition to the Greek branch, we can also consider the “Islamic trace”, where the Dark Logos of apophatic “Platonic theology” became the common denominator of a wide range of different currents representing the heights of Muslim philosophy, theology, and culture. Another route ran through Jewish Kabbalah, which was structured according to the very same algorithm. Finally, in the Latin world, we can see the numerous streams of Hermeticism, alchemy, mysticism, as well as all Gnostic sects and millenarian currents (in the spirit of the doctrine of the Three Kingdoms of the Calabrian Joachim de Flore) which flowed into the revolutionary ocean of the Reanissance. Still further from the Renaissance, following Sedgwick and Yates and numerous other authors studying modern mystical and occult orders, lodges, and sects, we can trace the line of the dark Logos through even more reliable and well-researched material, from Giordano Bruno to the Rosicrucians, Masons, mystics, and the representatives of “occultism” among whom Guénon discovered it and laid it at the heart of his completely original and extremely influential Traditionalist philosophy. 

Thus, tracing the genesis of this construct of Sophia leads us to the history of the Logos  as it has unfolded in the periphery of Western European culture and, as Corbin has shown, in the center of the Islamic spiritual tradition (where the “Dark Logos” was not exclusive and one, but was adjacent to and sometimes sharply rivaled rationalist kalam, Asharite atomism, Fiqr, and Salafist purism). The difficult reception of Kabbalah in the Jewish world and its nearly full and final acceptance as a flawless orthodoxy make up yet another page in this history. Jewish Kabbalah fell into the sphere of interests of the Renaissance Neoplatonists, and in the works of Pico della Mirandola and Reuchlin (and later of Knorr von Rosenroth) we can detect the outlines of a project to establish a “Christian Kabbalah.” Further, once again through Masonry and Hermeticism, Kabbalah reached Fabre d’Olivet, Eliphas Lévi, Papus, Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, and Guénon himself. In Guénon and in his “revolutionary” Perennialism, all of these numerous streams come together to compose the most modern, capacious, and systematized worldview. 

Theory as Homeland

Now we are left with posing a final question, namely: To what extent did the Neoplatonists of the first centuries of our era create something completely unique and original out of the texts, ideas, and traditions associated with the name of Plato, and to what extent can we find something similar in the works of Plato himself? Here the works of the great scholar of Plato, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism, the French curé André-Jean Festiègere, come to our aid.[6] Festiègere draws our attention to the meaning imbued in the notion of “Theory” (θεορία) in Plato’s era and in his own philosophy. Originally, this notion meant an “inspection”, “survey”, “contemplation”, “meditation”, or “observation.” In Ancient Greece, in philosophical milieus, it bore two subtle terminological nuances: 

  1. A “theory” was a survey of the cultures and societies of different peoples, among whom the philosopher should travel and dwell as part of his preparation for a new life (hence why we constantly read of the travels of philosophers to other countries: “traveling” is a purely philosophical occupation). 
  2. By analogy with the survey of different nations, societies, and their religious and ritual systems, a “theory” was a survey of different systems and ideological connections leading to a higher principle.

This connection between traveling and theoretical contemplation is extremely important. Theory is the contemplation of that which is different, taken to culminate in a common, universal model. Plato’s doctrine of ideas itself is directly associated with contemplation. The contemplation of ideas is active “theorizing”, or the distinguishing of common and unchanging paradigms as well as constantly changing phenomena. Just as the Hellenic philosophical traveler studies the religions and customs of different Mediterranean societies, seeks correspondences with the Greek religion and Greek traditions, establishes analogies and, when necessary, replenishes his own religious views and his language, so does the Hellenic philosopher contemplate ideas, the universals of the infinite order of things and phenomena. There are many societies, religions, and cults, and the contemplative traveler strives to deduce from his survey that which is common, that which he has already identified in the places he has been and in the new, still unknown countries and lands in which he finds himself. The case is strictly the same with immersion into the world of ideas and in the process of comparing them with the world of phenomena. Contemplation and theory are the construction of the common, the culmination of a model. 

In Plato, this acquires a distinct and salient character. Theory as construction is simultaneously illumination, enlightenment, and absorbing the rays of the Good. Ideas are indifferent to things, but they are not indifferent to those who strive to theorize, whom they passionately rush to meet, in excelsis. The field of theory thus transforms into the space of epiphany, where ideas are not only reflected, but acquire a specific being and are embodied in the theoretical existence of the philosopher. By traveling to temples and shrines to various gods and by being present at different rituals, the theoretician (the one who contemplates) prepares to meet with the real God for whom all the different gods of different cults serve as masks, names, and messengers (angels). In different rites and sacred ceremonies, the philosopher rushes to the main philosophical rite, the rite of rites, where the main realization to be accomplished is the discerned merger of the noetic cosmos with the aesthetic cosmos, the “fulfillment of all fulfillments”, the magical meeting of God with the raging sea of multiplicity. Later, this ritual of all rituals would be conceptualized by the Neoplatonists as theurgy. 

Plato’s Theory is therefore not simply a preparation for something – for political activism or sacred rites – but is a higher form of reality, the ultimate expression of concentrated praxis. Contemplation is thus the work of the gods, and is their blissful rest and the source of higher pleasure. Theory is the place where being, dispersed into multitude and elusive in difference, is tied together into the knot of intense concentration, finding in itself elastic unity and bright clarity. The contemplative philosopher stands above the priest and the king, for he rises to the zone of pure divinity, un-diluted by any additional functional burdens and completely free from multiplicity, both temporal (the change of moments) and spatial (the change of places). The culmination of this journey is the return to the philosophical Homeland, where there is no more time or relative forms. Theory is the Homeland. None other than nostalgia for it pushes the philosopher to travel through both countries and the networks of light-like ideas in search of the point of Sophia, whom the philosopher loves with all his being. 

This understanding of Theory illustrates how Plato’s philosophy was that very synthetic universalism which generalizes different philosophical systems and knowledge just as the traveler generalizes the experience of the societies he witnesses. Plato’s works therefore present not one point of view to one or another question, but always several; they become material for contemplation and, like steps, they lead to a higher synthesis. At the peak of this synthesis, ideas begin to live beyond the discursive Platonic text and reveal themselves directly to those who have followed Plato and the personages of his dialogues to the very end, where the stairs leading to the sky end. There dialogue ends, but theory does not. Now the philosopher must take one more step, this time without Plato and texts – this is the step of thought, the step of illumination, the step of contemplation. The step into the sky. Only there does real Platonism – the “secret doctrine” – begin. It has not been transmitted to anyone; it can only be discovered independently, through the sacred experience of theory.

Open Philosophy 

As the formulator of theory, as the guide to the geography of ideas, Plato created a consciously open philosophy, in which the main point is not uttered, but must be sought and experienced independently. Hence the term “philo-soph”, or “lover of Sophia”, of Wisdom. If the question at hand was simply who bears this Wisdom, we would be dealing with a closed system, that is, something individual. Wisdom cannot be learned, it is not a given. One can only break through to it upon enormous labor and at the cost of incredible efforts. Philosophy is the realm where minds and hearts gather together in passionately thirsting for Wisdom, whey they are fallen in love with Sophia and are excited contenders for her hand. No one has any guarantees. There is only Love. Led by Her, they embark on their journey, towards contemplation, towards theory. They settle in the vicinity of Sophia and inch ever closer to her. They seek the universal, and thereby themselves become more and more generalized, eidetic, and less and less individual. Philosophers construct themselves in the vicinity of Wisdom. Purifying themselves in Her rays, they reveal evermore distinct contours. 

In the case of Plato, this means that we are dealing with the Logos as such, for the Logos is in its nearly original form, is still undefined, and is open to being opened or closed, understood in one way or another, or conceived and outlined in one or another vector. In Plato, philosophy is the sharp impulse of nearing Sophia Perennis, the leap into the ocean of eternal light, it is contemplative and divine praxis. In this sense, philosophy is higher than religion and myth, insofar as religions and myths are but testimonies to the main actor – Saint Sophia. Therefore, Plato himself can be called a “Perennialist” and, correspondingly, a Traditionalist. It does not matter whether Plato adhered to Greek civil piety and offered sacrifices to the gods and heroes of his polis. Such was part of a much more important and significant philosophical cult: the cult of Sophia, the cult of the pure Logos. 

Plato as an Event

Let us pose the final question. Did “Perennialism”, Traditionalism, universalism, and the philosophical cult of Sophia all begin with Plato’s Theory? With his doctrine of ideas? With his Timaean cosmology? 

For Guénon and Traditionalists, such a personification would be a scandal. But upon fully recognizing Plato’s direct connection to the “Primordial Tradition”, Traditionalists would undoubtedly begin to see Plato as a link in the golden chain of initiates which stretches back to the dawn of creation, to the earthly paradise, and which has become increasingly difficult to access, closed, and exclusive in our time, the Kali Yuga, the “end times”, the era of the “great parody.” Traditionalists understand “perennialism” literally and even somewhat naively. Such can by all means be seen as a symmetrical response to the just as literal and even more naive historicism which predominates in Modernity. Yet in the vicinity of eternity, “before” and “after”, “now” and “then” are not so important. Indeed, they have no meaning. What is important is what. Plato, like Zarathustra in Iran, might have been both an historical figure and a sacred personage, like al-Khidr or the Angel-Initiator. Perhaps there are multiple Platos. And this means that Plato’s spirit can be called upon (as Plotinus did in the temple of Isis); he can be appealed to. His return can be awaited, for there is no irreversibility in eternity. In eternity, everything is reversible – everything has even already been reversed. In the most rationalized form, one could accept that Plato merely transmitted knowledge that he had acquired along the chain of initiation, and in this sense was their ordinary re-translator who became world famous only by virtue of the importance of the truths he voiced, as a kind of philosophical prophet. 

Yet Plato can be approached in other ways as well, for example, as an Event in the spirit of the Heideggerian Ereignis. This would distance us from both the “Perennialists” and the “historicists.” Plato happened and philosophy happened. Sophia was designated and the philosophical geography was marked. If this was supposed to have happened, then it would have happened no matter what – whether by way of Plato or someone else, should we be reproached on this matter. But perhaps it would be better to think differently: if Plato did not exist, there would be nothing else. In particular, there would be no notes in the margins of his texts. There would be no philosophy. If Plato was in fact divine, then he cannot be subordinated to any mechanical necessity. Nothing can oblige him to be. Further, if he had not risked everything to become Plato, his philosophy would have been negligible. Thus, Sophia might not have been. Or in other words: instead of Sophia, instead of the secret bride of the order of lovers, something else could have been revealed to Plato.

Plato’s exceptionality (although perhaps this is just as wrong and does not correspond to the truth) is more existentially attractive and productive than his link in the chain, even if it is the golden one. Plato’s divinity lies in that he was human.

Modern Traditionalism is, of course, more adequate than profane academic philosophy and is more prosperous than Post-Modernity. But all the signs of Traditionalism’s transformation into a convention, a routine, into a “scholasticism”, of its conscious quenching of any living movement of the soul or heart, are glaring. Here it is discovered that “Perennialism” is a construct and always was such from the very beginning. The appeal of a Traditionalist towards really existing tradition decides nothing, just as Plato’s reverence for his paternal gods did not exhaust his philosophy. 

Traditionalism is something other than tradition. It is a breakthrough to that which is the tradition of traditions, the secret grain, the theory. But being a theory, a construct, it needs to be continuously recreated. A construct is not so bad if the matter at hand is something rooted in the light nature of man himself. By creating, man creates himself. Therefore, Traditionalism must either happen or disappear. Its claims are too enormous and its bar has been set too high by Guénon and the Sophiologists on whom he constructed his doctrine. “Perennialism” means that Sophia is Perennis: she is here and now. But how can we relate the fact of the Kali Yuga, our God-forsaken “now” and the dustbin of the modern Western-centric global world, our vile, desolate “here”, with the rays of the Angel-Initiator, the light of Great Love, and the nature of man as a winged divine being? The Gnostics offered a dualist answer which often seems to be the only one acceptable and applicable to us. But is this not simply a recognition of our own weakness, of our own personal inability to transform the “Cover” into the “Mirror”, Absence into Presence, apophany into epiphany, and occultation into revelation? Is this not the signature on the warrant for the death of the Logos, the insuperability of Western nihilism, or the recognition of the closed, self-referential world to be the only possible and real? 

Traditionalists frequently speak of the “great parody” that is the modern world. This is true, but are they themselves not a parody? After all, not only Guénon, but the Neoplatonists, and Plato himself can all be parodied. 

The discrepancies between Traditionalism and Heidegger did not hinder Henry Corbin from engaging Neoplatonism in Islam with love and delicate refinement over the course of his life. Such is the behavior of a living person who responds to Sophia’s whisper no matter where it resounds.

Today this whisper is more silent than ever. But it cannot be so quiet as to be indistinguishable at all. We must learn to listen to silence, for silence sometimes conveys extremely meaningful things. 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Saint Petersburg: 1997); Ibidem., The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (Moscow: Aleteia, Enigma, 1999); Ibidem., Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2000). 

[3] Réné Alleau, De Marx à Guénon: d’une critique ‘radicale’ à une critique ‘principielle’ des societés modernes (Paris, Les dossiers H., 1984).

[4] Some aspects of this question have already been treated in Alexander Dugin, Postfilosofiia (Moscow: Eurasian Movement, 2009).

[5] Henry Corbin, Le paradoxe du monothéisme (Paris, 1981).

[6] André-Jean Festugière, Contemplation et vie contemplative selon Platon (Saint Petersburg: Nauka, 2009).

Martin Heidegger, Russia, and Political Philosophy

Author: Leonid Savin

Translator: Jafe Arnold

The works of Martin Heidegger have recently been met with heightened interest in a number of countries. While interpretations of his texts vary widely, it is interesting that Heidegger’s legacy is constantly criticized by liberals across the board, regardless of where and what the object of criticism is – be it Heidegger’s work as a university professor, his interest in Ancient Greek philosophy and related interpretations of antiquity, or his relationship with the political regime in Germany before and after 1945. One gets the impression that liberals intentionally strive to demonize Heidegger and his works, yet the profundity and depth of this German philosopher’s thought gives them no break. Clearly, this is because Heidegger’s ideas harbor a message which is relevant to the creation of a counter-liberal project that can be realized in the most diverse forms. This is the idea of Dasein applied to a political perspective. We will discuss this in more detail below, but first it is necessary to embark on a brief excursion into the history of the study of Martin Heidegger’s ideas in Russia.

In the Soviet Union, Martin Heidegger’s ideas were not known to the general public, primarily because the peak of his activities coincided with Nazi rule in Germany. Heidegger himself, like many ideologists of the conservative revolution in Germany, criticized many aspects of National Socialism, but in the Soviet period any philosophy that did not follow the Marxist tradition was treated as bourgeois, false, and harmful. Perhaps the only exception is the work of Vladimir Bibikhin, although his translations of Heidegger’s Being and Time and Time and Being were published in Russia only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moreover, these translations have been repeatedly criticized for having too simplistic of an approach, incorrect terminological interpretations, linguistic mistakes, etc. Bibikhin’s lecture courses on early Heidegger at Moscow State University were delivered only in 1990-1992, i.e., during late Perestroika when the horizons of what was permissible in the USSR were expanding. That being said, it bears noting that a circle of followers of Martin Heidegger’s ideas had formed in the academic sphere in Moscow in the 1980’s. A similar situation took shape in St. Petersburg, which later found manifestation in translation and publishing activities.

Starting in the late 1990’s, other works by this German thinker began to be translated and published. The quality of translations improved considerably (and was done by different authors), and Heidegger’s legacy began to be taught at different Russian universities. Heidegger’s main philosophical concepts became obligatory for students at faculties of philosophy. However, the study of philosophical ideas does not mean that students will become philosophers or appeal to certain such concepts with regards to political processes. Plato and Aristotle are studied from the school-bench early on, but who is seriously engaged in using these philosophers of Ancient Greece’s ideas in discussing socio-political issues today?

Interest in the ideas of Martin Heidegger in the context of Russian politics was triggered in the early 2000’s by the various articles and presentations of the Russian philosopher and geopolitician Alexander Dugin.

Later, these materials were systematized and presented in voluminous texts. In 2010, the publishing house “Academic Project” released Alexander Dugin’s book, Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning, which was logically succeeded in the following year by Martin Heidegger: The Possibility of a Russian Philosophy. In 2014, both works were released by the same publishing house in a single volume entitled Martin Heidegger: The Last God. Dugin’s interpretation of Heidegger’s ideas is tied to the history of Russian ideas, Orthodox Christianity, and a special path of state development including the theory of Eurasianism.

Needless to say, recounting Heidegger’s philosophical doctrine in a short journal publication would be senseless. Hundreds of volumes have been published in Germany alone which include whole works, lectures, and diaries. For our scope, let us focus merely on some provisions which, in our opinion, are applicable in a political context.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out that Heidegger employed many neologisms to describe the unfolding of time and being. One such key concept is Dasein, which is often translated as “being-here”. The French philosopher Henry Corbin translated this term as “human reality”, but for the sake of genuine, complete understanding, this and many other of Heidegger’s terms are best left untranslated. They should be provided in the original alongside something similar in one’s native language. Other possible variations should also be considered. For example, das Man expresses inauthentic Dasein that has fallen into banality, whereas in authentic existing, Dasein has the property of being-towards-death – Sein zum Tode – which represents existential terror. Terror is counterposed to fear, which imbues the world with external things and the internal world with empty worries. Interesting to note in this regard is the fact that modern Western policies and liberalism as such are built on fear. This tendency dates back centuries and is directly connected to the formation of Western (European) philosophy.

Let us add that another one of Dasein’s properties is spatiality, as space depends on Dasein, while on the other hand it is not a function of time. Dasein conditionally exists between the outer and inner, the past and present, the margin and the instant. Dasein has existential parameters – being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-Sein), being-in (In-sein), being-with (Mit-sein), care (die Sorge), thrownness (Geworfenheit), Befindlichkeit (attunement, sofindingness, disposedness), fear (Furcht), understanding (Verstehen), discourse (Rede), and mood (Stimmung).

Another important element of Heidegger’s philosophy is the fourfold encompassing Sky, Divinities, Earth, and Mortals – which are depicted in the following manner: the Sky in the upper left, the Divinities (immortals) in the upper right, mortals (people) in the bottom left, and the Earth in the lower right. An axis runs between people and gods and another between Sky and Earth. The center of the fourfold is the most authentic modus of the existence of Dasein.

It should also be noted that Heidegger distinguishes between past and that which has passed, what is present and what is now, and the future and what is forthcoming. Dasein, according to Heidegger, must make a fundamental choice between the forthcoming and the future, i.e., the choice of authentic existing and directly confronting being (Seyn). Then the forthcoming will become the future. If Dasein chooses inauthentic existence, then the forthcoming will only be forthcoming, and therefore will not come into being.

Upon describing all of these elements of Heidegger’s philosophy in detail, Alexander Dugin poses a question: can one speak of a specific Russian Dasein? What are its existentials? In what does it differ from the European Dasein? Dugin arrives at the conclusion that a special Russian Dasein does exist, and not only a Russian one, for at the heart of each civilization lies a particular “thinking presence”, Dasein, which determines the structure of a given civilization’s Logos. As follows, every people (civilization) has its own special set of existentials.

And here we can find the political dimension of Dasein as Dugin sees it in his proposed concept of the Fourth Political Theory. Dugin focuses on three political theories claimed to be universal – Liberalism, Marxism and Fascism (National-Socialism). Each of them has their own subject of history.

Historical experience has proven that the Western liberal world has tried to forcibly impose its will upon all others. According to this idea, all public systems of the Earth are variants of the Western – liberal – system1 and their distinctive features should disappear before the approach of the conclusion of this world epoch.2.

Jean Baudrillard also states that this is not a clash of civilizations, but an almost innate resistance between one universal homogeneous culture and those who resist this globalization.3.

Apart from Liberalism, two more ideologies are known for having tried to achieve world supremacy, namely: Communism (i.e. Marxism in its various aspects) and Fascism/National Socialism. As Alexander Dugin rightly notes, Fascism arose after the first two ideologies and disappeared before them. After the disintegration of the USSR, the Marxism that was born in the 19th Century has been definitely discredited as well. Liberalism, based mainly on individualism and the atomistic society, human rights and the Leviathan-State described by Hobbes, emerged because of bellum omnium contra omnes4 and has long held on.

Here it is necessary to analyze the relation of the aforesaid ideologies in the contexts of their contemporary times and the loci from which they emerged.

We know that Marxism was a somewhat futuristic idea – Marxism prophesied the future victory of Communism at a time that nonetheless remained uncertain. In this regard it is a messianic doctrine, seeing the inevitability of its victory that would usher the culmination and end of the historical process. But Marx was a false prophet and this victory never eventuated.

National Socialism and Fascism, on the contrary, tried to recreate the abundance of a mythic Golden Age, but with a modernist form5. Fascism and National Socialism were attempts to usher in a new cycle of time, laying the basis for a new Civilization in the aftermath of what was seen as a cultural decline and death of the Western Civilization (hence the idea of the Thousand-Year Reich). This was abortive too.

Liberalism (like Marxism) proclaimed the end of history, most cogently described by Francis Fukuyama (as “the End of History and the Last Man)6. Such an end, nonetheless, never took place; and we have instead a nomadic-like “information society” composed of atomized, egoist individuals 7 that consume avidly the fruits of techno-culture. Moreover, tremendous economic collapses are taking place worldwide; violent conflicts occur (numerous local revolts, but also long-term wars on an international scale); and disappointment dominates our world rather than the universal utopia promised in the name of “progress.”8

From such an historical perspective, it is possible to understand the links between the emergence of an ideology within a particular historical epoch, or what has been called the zeitgeist or “spirit of the age.”

Fascism and National Socialism saw the foundations of history in the state (Fascism) or race (Hitlerian National socialism). For Marxism it was the working class and economic relations between classes. Liberalism on the other hand, sees history in terms of the atomized individual detached from the complex of cultural heritage and inter-social contact and communication. However, nobody has hitherto considered as the subject of history the People as Being, with all the richness of intercultural links, traditions, ethnic features and worldview.

If we consider various alternatives, even nominally ‘socialist’ countries have adopted liberal mechanisms and patterns that have exposed regions with a traditional way of life to accelerated transformation, deterioration and outright obliteration. The destruction of the peasantry, religion and family bonds by Marxism were manifestations of this disruption of traditional organic societies, whether in Maoist China or the USSR under Lenin and Trotsky.

This fundamental opposition to tradition embodied in both Liberalism and Marxism can be understood by the method of historical analysis considered above: Marxism and Liberalism both emerged from the same zeitgeist in the instance of these doctrines, from the spirit of money.9

Several attempts to create alternatives to neo-Liberalism are now visible – such as the political Shia in Iran, where the main state goal is the acceleration of the arrival of the Mahdi and the revision of socialism in Latin America (reforms in Bolivia are especially indicative). These anti-Liberal responses, nonetheless, are limited within the borders of their relevant, single statehood.

Ancient Greece is the source of all three theories of political philosophy. It is important to understand that at the beginning of philosophical thought, the Greeks considered the primary question of Being. However, they risked obfuscation by the nuances of the most complicated relation between being and thinking, between pure being (Seyn) and its expression in existence (Seiende), between human being (Dasein) and being in itself (Sein).10

It is noteworthy that three waves of globalization have been the corollaries of the aforementioned three political theories (Marxism, Fascism, and Liberalism). As a result, we need after them a new political theory which will generate a Fourth Wave: the re-establishment of (every) People with its eternal values. In other words, Dasein will be the subject of history. Every People has its very own Dasein. And, of course, after necessary philosophical considerations, political action must proceed.

Let us continue the preceding discussion about Heidegger’s ideas in Russia in the context of politics. It is significant that in Russia in 2016, Heidegger’s notebooks, Ponderings II-VI, known as his “Black Notebooks 1931-1938”, were published by the Gaidar Institute – a liberal organization which Russian conservative circles consider to be a network of agents of Western influence. Yegor Gaidar was the author of the liberal economic reforms in Russia under President Yeltsin and held the post of Minister of Finance in 1992. Gaidar was also acting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and acting Minister of Economics in 1993-1994. Due to his reforms, the country was subject to inflation, privatization, and many sectors of the economy were ruined. The latter work of Heidegger’s is considered his most politicized, in which he speaks not only of philosophical categories, but of the role of the Germans in history, upbringing and education, as well as the political project of National Socialism. The Gaidar Institute most likely intended to discredit Heidegger’s teachings with such, but the opposite has happened, as the publication of Heidegger’s diaries has been met with widespread interest.

Paradoxically, in this work Heidegger criticizes Liberalism in the following manner: “The ‘liberal’ sees ‘connectedness’ in his own way. He sees only ‘dependencies’ – ‘influences’, but he never understands that there can be an influencing which is of service to the genuine basic stream of all flowing and provides a path and a direction.”11 Let us present a few more quotations from this work which, in our opinion, are of interest with regards to our approach.

The metaphysics of Dasein must become deeper in accord with the innermost structure of that metaphysics and must expand into the metapolitics ‘of’ the historical people.”12

The worthiness for power out of the greatness of Dasein – and Dasein out of the truth of its mission.”13

Education — the effective and binding realization of the power of the state, taking that power as the will of a people to itself.”14

At issue is a leap into specifically historical Da-sein. This leap can be carried out only as the liberation of what is given as endowment into what is given as task.”15

As Dugin has pointed out, if early Heidegger assumed that Dasein is something given, then later Heidegger concluded that Dasein is something that must be discovered, substantiated, and constituted. To this end, it is necessary first and foremost to accomplish a serious intellectual process (see Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking).

It is crucial to understand that although Heidegger’s ideas are considered to be a kind of culmination of European philosophy (which began with the Ancient Greeks, a point which is symbolic in itself since Heidegger built his hypotheses on an analysis of Ancient Greek philosophers), Heidegger is also often classified as a thinker who transcended Eurocentrism. For this reason, still during his lifetime, many of Heidegger’s concepts were welcomed in regions that had developed critiques of philosophy with regards to the European heritage as a whole. For example, enormous interest in Heidegger’s works could be found in 20th century Latin America. In Brazil, Heidegger’s works were addressed by Vicente Ferreira da Silva, in Argentina by Carlos Astrada, Vicente Fantone, Enrique Dussel, and Francisco Romero, in Venezuela by Juan David Garcia Bacca, and in Colombia by Ruben Sierra Mejia. Additional confirmation of this can be found in the words of the Iranian philosopher Ahmad Fardid to the effect that Heidegger can be seen as a figure of global significance, not merely as a representative of European thought. Given that Fardid, who is known for his concept of Gharbzadegi, or “Westoxification”, was a consistent critic of Western thought, which he believed contributed to the emergence of nihilism, such recognition of Heidegger is rather telling.

Indeed, Heidegger has had followers not only in Iran, but in many Asian countries as well. In Japan in the 1930’s, Heidegger’s student Kitaro Nishida founded the Kyoto School of Philosophy. Although in Japan Heidegger was largely considered a bearer of the European spirit (following the Meiji reforms, Japan was swept with excessive enthusiasm for everything European, especially German culture and philosophy), it is interesting to note that Heidegger’s notion of “existence” was redrafted in a Buddhist spirit as “true being” (genjitsu sonzai) and “Nothing” (“Oblivion”) was interpreted as “emptiness” (shunya). In other words, the Japanese interpreted Martin Heidegger’s basic concepts in accordance with their own concepts and often blended his terms with the concepts of such European existentialists as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Gabriel Marcel. Another Japanese philosopher, Keiji Nishitani, has adapted Heidegger’s ideas to traditional Eastern models, as is so often done in the East. Parallels between traditional Eastern philosophy and Heideggerian analysis have also been drawn in Korea by Hwa Yol Jung.

In this regard, Russia and the study of Martin Heidegger’s legacy form a kind of bridge between Europe and the East, between the rigid rationalism that has subsumed European consciousness since the Middle Ages, and the abstract contemplative thinking characteristic of Asian peoples. Let us say even more directly that Eurasianism and Heideggerianism are in some sense interconnected and spiritually close tendencies among contemporary ideological currents in Russia.

Although these two schools can also be examined as independent philosophical doctrines, as is often done by secular scholars and opportunistic political scientists, any deep understanding of one can be had only upon grasping the other.

Footnotes:

1 For example, the insistence that all states and peoples should adopt the Westminster English parliamentary system as a universal model regardless of ancient traditions, social structures and hierarchies.

2 « Les droits de l´homme et le nouvel occidentalisme » in L’Homme et la socié (numéro spécial [1987], p.9

3 Jean Baudrillard, Power Inferno, Paris: Galilée, 2002. Also see for example Jean Baudrillard, “The Violence of the Global” (< http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=385>).

4 In English: War of all against all.

5 Hence the criticism of National Socialism and Fascism by Right-Traditionalists such as Julius Evola. See K R Bolton, Thinkers of the Right (Luton, 2003), p. 173..

6 Francis Fukuyama The End of History and the Last Man , Penguin Books, 1992.

7 G Pascal Zachary, The Global Me, NSW, Australia: Allen and Unwin, 2000.

8 Clive Hamilton, Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough, NSW, Australia: Allen and Unwin, 2005.

9 This is the meaning of Spengler’s statement that, “Herein lies the secret of why all radical (i.e. poor) parties necessarily become the tools of the money-powers, the Equites, the Bourse. Theoretically their enemy is capital, but practically they attack, not the Bourse, but Tradition on behalf of the Bourse. This is as true today as it was for the Gracchuan age, and in all countries…” Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, (London : George Allen & Unwin , 1971), Vol. 2, p. 464.

10 See Martin Heidegger on these terms.

11 Martin Heidegger, Ponderings II-VI: Black Notebooks 1931-1938 (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2016), 28.

12 Ibid, 91.

13 Ibid, 83.

14 Ibid, 89.

15 Ibid, 173.