Living in Accordance with Our Tradition
By Dominique Venner
Translated by Giuliano Adriano Malvicini
Every great people own a primordial tradition that is different from all the others. It is the past and the future, the world of the depths, the bedrock that supports, the source from which one may draw as one sees fit. It is the stable axis at the center of the turning wheel of change. As Hannah Arendt put it, it is the “authority that chooses and names, transmits and conserves, indicates where the treasures are to be found and what their value is.”
This dynamic conception of tradition is different from the Guénonian notion of a single, universal and hermetic tradition, which is supposedly common to all peoples and all times, and which originates in a revelation from an unidentified “beyond”. That such an idea is decidedly a-historical has not bothered its theoreticians. In their view, the world and history, for three or for thousand years, is no more than a regression, a fatal involution, the negation of of the world of what they call “tradition”, that of a golden age inspired by the Vedic and Hesiodic cosmologies. One must admit that the anti-materialism of this school is stimulating. On the other hand, its syncretism is ambiguous, to the point of leading some of its adepts, and not the least of them, to convert to Islam. Moreover, its critique of modernity has only lead to an admission of impotence. Unable to go beyond an often legitimate critique and propose an alternative way of life, the traditionalist school has taken refuge in an eschatological waiting for catastrophe. (1) That which is thinking of a high standard in Guénon or Evola, sometimes turns into sterile rhetoric among their disciples. (2) Whatever reservations we may have with regard to the Evola’s claims, we will always be indebted to him for having forcefully shown, in his work, that beyond all specific religious references, there is a spiritual path of tradition that is opposed to the materialism of which the Enlightenment was an expression. Evola was not only a creative thinker, he also proved, in his own life, the heroic values that he had developed in his work.
In order to avoid all confusion with the ordinary meaning of the old traditionalisms, however respectable they might be, we suggest a neologism, that of “traditionism”.
For Europeans, as for other peoples, the authentic tradition can only be their own. That is the tradition that opposes nihilism through the return to the sources specific to the European ancestral soul. Contrary to materialism, tradition does not explain the higher through the lower, ethics through heredity, politics through interests, love through sexuality. However, heredity has its part in ethics and culture, interest has its part in politics, and sexuality has its part in love. However, tradition orders them in a hierarchy. It constructs personal and collective existence from above to below. As in the allegory in Plato’s “Timaeus”, the sovereign spirit, relying on the courage of the heart, commands the appetites. But that does not mean that the spirit and the body can be separated. In the same way, authentic love is at once a communion of souls and a carnal harmony.
Tradition is not an idea. It is a way of being and of living, in accordance with the Timaeus’ precept that “the goal of human life is to establish order and harmony in one’s body and one’s soul, in the image of the order of the cosmos.” Which means that life is a path towards this goal.
In the future, the desire to live in accordance with our tradition will be felt more and more strongly, as the chaos of nihilism is exacerbated. In order to find itself again, the European soul, so often straining towards conquests and the infinite, is destined to return to itself through an effort of introspection and knowledge. Its Greek and Apollonian side, which are so rich, offers a model of wisdom in finitude, the lack of which will become more and more painful. But this pain is necessary. One must pass through the night to reach the dawn.
For Europeans, living according to their tradition first of all presupposes an awakening of consciousness, a thirst for true spirituality, practiced through personal reflection while in contact with a superior thought. One’s level of education does not constitute a barrier. “The learning of many things”, said Heraclitus, “does not teach understanding”. And he added: “To all men is granted the ability to know themselves and to think rightly.” One must also practice meditation, but austerity is not necessary. Xenophanes of Colophon even provided the following pleasant instructions: “One should hold such converse by the fire-side in the winter season, lying on a soft couch, well-fed, drinking sweet wine, nibbling peas: ‘Who are you among men, and where from?” Epicurius, who was more demanding, recommended two exercises: keeping a journal and imposing upon oneself a daily examination of conscience. That was what the stoics practiced. With the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, they handed down to us the model for all spirtual exercises.
Taking notes, reading, re-reading, learning, repeating daily a few aphorisms from an author associated with the tradition, that is what provides one with a point of support. Homer or Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus, Montaigne or Nietzsche, Evola or Jünger, poets who elevate and memorialists who incite to distance. The only rule is to choose that which elevates, while enjoying one’s reading.
To live in accordance with tradition is to conform to the ideal that it embodies, to cultivate excellence in relation to one’s nature, to find one’s roots again, to transmit the heritage, to stand united with one’s own kind. It also means driving out nihilism from oneself, even if one must pretend to pay tribute to a society that remains subjugated by nihilism through the bonds of desire. This implies a certain frugality, imposing limits upon oneself in order to liberate oneself from the chains of consumerism. It also means finding one’s way back to the poetic perception of the sacred in nature, in love, in family, in pleasure and in action. To live in accordance with tradition also means giving a form to one’s existence, by being one’s own demanding judge, one’s gaze turned towards the awakened beauty of one’s heart, rather than towards the ugliness of a decomposing world.
(1) Generally speaking, the pessimism intrinsic to counter-revolutionary thought – from which Evola distinguishes himself – comes from a fixation with form (political and social institutions), to the detriment of the essence of things (which persist behind change).
(2) The academic Marco Tarchi, who has for a long time been interested in Evola, has criticized in him a sterile discourse peopled by dreams of “warriors” and “aristocrats” (cf. the journal “Vouloir”, Bruxelles, january-february 1991. This journal is edited by the philologist Robert Steuckers).
Excerpt from the book Histoire et traditions des Européens: 30,000 ans d’identité (Paris: Éditions du Rocher, 2002).
Venner, Dominique. “Living in Accordance with Our Tradition.” Eurocontinentalism Journal, 5 Octoboer 2013. <http://eurocontinentalism.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/living-in-accordance-with-our-tradition-dominique-venner/ >.