In a conversation I had with the editor of traditionalRIGHT, we discussed the nature of ideology, traditional/conservative, and identity politics. The editor mentioned a discussion he had had with Bill Lind. He asked Bill how being a conservative and a Christian is not ideology. To put some context on this question, it should be noted that Bill Lind stresses the point continually that conservatism is not an ideology. Yet the editor pointed out that Christianity is a set of beliefs rather than a commitment to a tribe or location, much like ideology. Unsatisfied with Bill’s answer, the editor asked me. So I took a swing at it. This article will be a breakdown of my definition of traditionalism and how it is non-ideological.
For starters lets define terms. I will define ideology as: a set of beliefs that are universal in scope (i.e. human rights) and materialist in essence (the denial of a transcendent reality). Identitarianism is: particular in scope (my land, my tribe) and generally material in essence. Traditionalism can either be particular (Ancient Hebrews, Medieval Norse, or Modern Meiji Japan) or universal (Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Platonism, Roman and Mongol Paganism), but both strands of traditionalism are committed to a transcendent reality.
Ideology is an essentially rootless organism; the premier ideology is Marxism. Marxism is universal and materialistic. It denies particularity whether it is gender differences, racial differences, or even IQ differences. It is materialistic in that it denies God, Angels, or Platonic forms. Without any objective transcendent system to appeal to, ideology must of necessity resort to force over persuasion; as Isaac Asimov said: “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Ideology is toxic, anti-rational, anti-human, and anti-life. In that it is universal it has cut itself off from particular reality, and in that it is materialistic it has cut itself off from ultimate reality. With no roots it inevitably withers and dies.
Identitarianism is an essentially particularist world view, and the example I will be using is the New Right (its North American or European branches agree on the essential dogmas); though Black and Native American groups could work as well. Identitarianism shares with ideology a commitment to materialism. They will often talk of the Old Norse gods as examples of Jungian archetypes. This practice has been jeered at by Matthew Parrot as WOTAN (Will Of The Aryan Nation). They may use religious symbolism, but the symbolism is empty formula. The dominant metaphysic of identitarians is materialism. This can be seen with their thinly and not-so-thinly veiled appeals to Nietzsche and the Overman. The edge they have over ideology is that they are not rootless–they have roots in race and land–but the problem is that their roots are constantly in flux. Nothing material is permanent whether it be the land we live on or the people we know. The inherent weakness of idenitarianism is its passibility. It fails to value anything constant.
Now we reach the nub of this whole essay: what is traditionalism? How does one try to define a group that includes Shamanists, Jews, Christians, Shinto, and Hellenists? It’s difficult, but what I hope to do is to distill the essential nature of traditionalism that all these groups participate in. Traditional societies can be either particular or universal as we see with Japanese Shintoism (particular) or Buddhism (universal); therefore neither of these two delimiters can be essential to traditionalism. What is essential to traditionalism is transcendence. All traditional societies agree that there is a world beyond our physical world, a world beyond sight. Only men with great spiritual erudition and insight can peer into that world; they are the prophets, poets, and philosophers of the past. All societies valued the shaman, sage, prophet, and philosopher as the one who could see what really mattered. Plato really comes very close in formulating a general traditional world view. There is the perfect world of forms (immaterial, immortal, and unchanging essences) and physical reality (material, mortal, and passable). Plato’s philosophy is the resolution to Heraclitus’ flux and Parmenides stasis. For the former everything was motion and for the latter everything was fixed. Plato said they both were right, but in different senses. In describing the material world Heraclitus was correct and in describing the spiritual world, it was Parmenides. This world beyond sight that is represented in philosophy, mathematics, geometry, and theology is the ultimate source of reality. Whether this source is called YHWH, Brahma, the Forms, or what have you, all traditional societies see this source as the ground of being.
Are universal or particular traditionalisms superior? I will answer that the universal forms of traditionalism are. For if all traditional societies are rooted in an unchanging expression of reality and the world beyond sight, why should that universal standard be limited to locations or persons in time and space? Furthermore, persons and places are themselves passable and therefore unsuited to be firm foundations for belief. Imagine if rulers were subject to change in length and unit of measurement with the passage of time. Would they be of any use? Of course not, ergo persons and places are the metaphysical equivalent of that useless ruler. Christianity is the metaphysical equivalent of a true ruler that does not change in length or unit of measurement from day to day. The universal does not need the particular to justify itself, thus an appeal to land or race is superfluous at best and incoherent at worst. Christianity is a more consistent traditionalism in that it acknowledges the primacy of God as the universal source of all things, and as a natural concomitant, a relatively uninterested view of race and land. What makes one Christian is not one’s parents or place of birth, but one’s beliefs.
Christianity, which is a subset of traditional society, returning to the editor’s query of Bill, is universal and so is ideology; what makes them different? Is not Christianity just another rootless ideology? No. Ideologies like Marxism are not even capable of being rooted in anything, Christianity, unlike Identitarianism, is rooted in ultimate reality itself or as the case may be, God Himself. Unlike Marxism, Christianity is grounded in something. Unlike identitarianism, Christianity is rooted in something that does not change. Believing that Christanity and ideology are similar merely because they are universal is like believing that worms, caecilians, and snakes are all related because they are shaped like ropes.