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Soseki’s “Kokoro” and Japan’s Modernization – Nguyen

Kokoro (1914) by Natsume Soseki: The Question of Japanese Modernity

By Hoang Nguyen

 

Introductory Remarks: The following article is primarily a review of the novel Kokoro, considered the most important work written by the famous Japanese author Natsume Soseki (1867-1916). Soseki is highly regarded in his native Japan; his works are considered one of the nation’s cultural treasures, his books are required reading in Japanese schools, and his portrait even appears on Japan’s currency. His book Kokoro, in particular, is seen as one of the best representations of the traditional Japanese soul, and as Nguyen’s review reveals, was important in warning the Japanese people against excessive Westernisation. We should note to our readers that another, similar but more in-depth academic analysis of Kokoro was made by Koji Nakamura in his article “Soseki’s Kokoro as a Cross-Cultural Study for Exchange Students from North America and Europe” (alt.), and it will be useful to read that as well to gain a fuller understanding. However, as is evident from most studies on Soseki’s critiques of and warnings against Westernisation, Soseki’s view was limited by his time period (the Meiji era) and preceded the process of true “modernisation without Westernisation,” which manifested itself most clearly over a decade after his death (although it is clear that Westernisation had many limitations even during the Meiji period).

By the 1930’s, Japan began to reassert its ethno-cultural and religious identity and combined it with economic and scientific modernisation, and although this process was disrupted by their defeat in World War II and the ensuing troubling time period (the late 1940s up to the early 1970s), by the later 20th Century (the late 1970s and beyond) they began reasserting their cultural identity once again in a new way. Essentially, despite still facing some cultural problems today which need to be overcome, modernisation without Westernisation is mostly successful in Japan, as Nguyen notes in the beginning of her review, and as Alexander Dugin had also observed in his article “In the Country of the Rising ‘Do’.” However, even if some of Natsume Soseki’s approaches or statements are outdated, this doesn’t mean that Soseki’s literature is irrelevant today. Quite the contrary, by being so ingrained into the culture, Soseki’s works help constantly remind the Japanese to defend their ethno-cultural identity against disintegration by globalisation. Europeans would do well to learn from this. – Daniel Macek (Editor of the “New European Conservative”)

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“Perhaps you will not understand clearly why I am about to die, no more than I can fully understand why General Nogi killed himself. You and I belong to different eras, and so we think differently. There is nothing we can do to bridge the gap between us.” (Sensei from Kokoro)

Japanese Modernity has often been equated with Westernization. The significance of this equation is that it constructs an assumption that modernity is solely based on the Western values. As Japan became a modern nation, assertions were made that the process of modernization was actually the process of Westernization. However, Natsume Soseki, in his most accomplished novel Kokoro, criticized this equation by exposing the modern Japan in conflict with Western values. However, it failed to give a satisfactory alternative solution to the concept of Japanese modernity.

Modernization is by definition a technological process. Although modernity is the result of modernization, modernity necessarily includes not only technological but also social and economic factors. The definition of modernization can be derived from the results of industrial evolution and technological advances which were prevailing in Europe one time in history. However, the definition of modernity should in no way be connected to Western influence since not all countries should follow the same path of economic and social development as the West did.  Therefore, it is obvious that Japan has modernized based on the technological achievements of the West but it is still open to debate whether the modernity of Japan should be the modernity represented by Western countries. Japanese modernity is equal to Western modernity in terms of technological developments, but not necessarily so in social and economic realms.

In KokoroNatsume Soseki told a story happening at the time Japan was modernizing and mentioned a variety of Western influences which were alienating to the Japanese society, at least the society of the Meiji Era. In doing this, Soseki showed us the short-comings of the Western modernity equation, which tries to predetermine a model for the modernity of Japan without any concerns for Japanese long history of traditionsJapanese modernity is a complicated concept and reducing it to a simple Western modernity equation is an eliminating process that sets aside important social and cultural factors.

There are various factors of Western modernity that were criticized in the text. Modern education and capitalism were the two major factors that surfaced in the story. Viewed from a Western modernity viewpoint, these are the necessary factors of modernity. However, throughout the text, Soseki made it clear that trying to attach these factors to Japanese society and the Japanese spectrum of modernity will only create social alienation and miscommunication. Incorporating all these factors into the contrasts between the past and the present, the old and the new, the traditional and the non-traditional, and finally, the dead and the alive, Soseki  drew a spectacular picture of the Japanese society struggling in vain to adapt to Western modernity.

In “Kokoro,” modern education was not helpful in dealing with the reality of life. At this point in history, the Japanese school system had been westernized; therefore, studying activities, especially in higher education, followed strictly the Western model of education. Both the character “I” and Sensei were involved in intellectual activities. However, they do not find any significance value in their studies.

I opened the window of my room, which was on the second floor and, pretending that my diploma was a telescope, I surveyed as much of the world as I could see… Then I threw the diploma down on the desk… In that position, I thought back over my past and tried to imagine what my future would be. I thought about my diploma lying on the desk and, though it seemed to have some significance as a kind of symbol of the beginning of a new life, I could not help feeling that it was a meaningless scrap of paper too.

The diploma, a thing that represents the honor of intellectual activities, has been a symbol of education and reason. The act of “pretending my diploma was a telescope” can be interpreted as the author’s attempt at viewing the world through the knowledge he acquired from school, from the lectures and from his professors. However, that was a failed attempt since he himself admitted that “I could not help feeling that it was a meaningless scrap of paper…” He found no use in the kind of knowledge he acquired. That is why he “threw the diploma down on the desk…” Besides the author who was doubtful about the usefulness of his study, other characters in the story also expressed disbelief in the significance of modern education. Both Sensei and his wife did not know where Sensei’s diploma was even though a diploma is supposed to be important for an intellectual person like Sensei.  For Sensei, at a point of great depression in his life, he felt that “the professors who stood on the platforms seemed very far away, and their voices faint.” That was his disappointment in modern education which is far away from the reality of life. When Sensei sought to be guided in life by the knowledge he acquired from school, he found nothing but faint voices from far-away professors. Modern education based its teachings on Western thoughts; therefore, it does not speak truth to the Japanese society.

As a result, those who received modern education were lost in the gap between the Japanese world and the Western world. Sensei’s wife commented, “I see that higher education has made you adept at empty rationalization.” Ojosan spoke this sentence when she was explaining to the author about her relationship with Sensei. The author kept using his modern reasoning to analyze the relationship between Ojosan and Sensei while Ojosan seemed to insist that “empty rationalization” does not help when it comes to explaining people’s motives.

But sometimes I was inclined to regard his reserve unfavorably. I liked then to think that his reluctance to discuss such a matter was due to timidity born of the conventions of a generation ago. I thought myself more free, in this respect, and more open-minded, than either Sensei or his wife.

The author assumed that his education has made him “more free” and “more open-minded” than Sensei who had the “timidity born of the conventions of a generation ago.” This goes to show that “empty rationalization,” the kind of modern reasoning that the author studied at school, was actually at odds with the Japanese traditional way of thinking, which values human passion more than cold unbiased reason. Reason, in the Japanese way of thinking, is inferior to passion, as Sensei asserted, “I believe that words uttered in passion contain a greater living truth than do those words which express thoughts rationally conceived.” Throughout the whole story, the author kept on analyzing people’s behavior by his modern reasoning. However, as Sensei pointed out, there is something else that the author does not know. “”You have never thought seriously of the reality of death, have you?” I became silent.” Only people of the previous generation could understand “the reality of death.” Both Sensei and the author’s father reacted in a melancholic manner to the death of Meiji Emperor. The author himself could only understand the news as the death of an influential figure. For Sensei and the author’s father, death has a special meaning. Equipped with university knowledge, the author may be good at his field of study but he could never understand the people. However much he studied, he could not understand the spirit of the previous generations (Sensei, Ojosan, his father…). The author’s brother, who also had a university degree, also did not understand Sensei. He said, “That’s the trouble with egoists … They are brazen enough to think they have the right to live idly. It’s a crime not to make the best use of whatever ability one has.”

Obviously, his reasoning was fair. Nevertheless, it is not persuasive because he could not understand that people like Sensei could have a reasonable motive behind their behaviors. It is not what education can teach him. Education could not bridge the gap between different generations. That is also the gap between a traditional Japan and a Westernized Japan that modern education could never fill. Even though Japan has begun to Westernize, to begin “a new life,” the author kept wondering what identity he would absorb in that new life: “… I thought back over my past and tried to imagine what my future would be.” The author thought that with his diploma, he could be sure about his future. However, modern education did not give him the answer to his identity. What will the modern Japanese society? And what is the significance of modern education in shaping such a society and the individuals in that society? These questions remained unanswered to the author as he threw his diploma on the desk and wondered about the future of the society he was living in.

Alienation is the effect of forcing Western modernity on Japanese society. Individualism, originally not associated with modernity, has become so popular in European societies that it entered the spectrum of Western modernity. However, as Japan modernizes, it is not suitable to assume that Japan will absorb individualism the way the West did. When Sensei commented that “… loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves,” the author “could not think of anything to say.” Members of the modern society enjoy the benefits of individualism. However, the traditional Japanese society itself upholds strong values of communal relationships and several aspects of individualism like independence and self-reliance clash with these values. Therefore, the loneliness that both Sensei and the narrator experienced is the alienation that resulted from the rapid development from the Japanese communal space to a modern individualistic society. K, who acquired many aspects of Western modernity like education and intellectual thoughts, had the same fate. K was alienated from his own society. He did not have any close friends since no one could understand his modern thoughts, which he diligently studied from Western texts. By following his study without concerning his family’s opinions, he became the representative of Western individualism. It was his individualistic tendency that drove him away from his own family and society.

Alienation was described more clearly through the miscommunications of the characters in the story. Western societies value the voice of the individual and encourage conversations in constructing a relationship. However, there are things that cannot be conveyed by words and those belong to the traditional sphere that Western ideals seemed to interfere with. Conversations seemed to only disturb the understanding between people. “It was wrong of me. I had intended to make you aware of certain truths. Instead, I have only succeeded in irritating you.”

When the Sensei tried to explain to the narrator his idea about love, he did not manage to express himself clearly. The narrator only got more confused after listening to Sensei’s explanation.“I was trying to explain my earlier remarks because I thought they had irritated you. But in trying to explain, I find that I have upset you once more.”

The constant misunderstanding and miscommunications between the author and Sensei throughout the first two chapters of the story revealed how far people of different generations were from each other. The author belonged to the modern world while Sensei is forever associated with the past. Sensei always lived haunted by his past. Therefore, not understanding the past, the author could not figure out the meaning of Sensei’s behaviors. Western modernity, the kind of “borrowed” modernity, was not valued by Sensei:“True, my ethics may be different from those of the young men of today. But they are at least my own. I did not borrow them for the sake of convenience as a man might a dress suit.”

Western modernity was not meant forJapan. It was like a suit that Japanese people put on in order to modernize but it will never fit. Sensei valued his own ethics even though it is “different from those of young men of today.” It is that difference that forever separated the traditional, the past and the modern, the present. The title of the story is “Kokoro,” which can be translated as “feeling,” the kind of feeling that words cannot easily convey. The story, then, can be interpreted as the author’s journey to understand “kokoro,” to grasp the deepest feelings of Sensei who, to him, was a “half-hidden figure.” At the same time, it is a journey to understand the past and to figure out what is the meaning of the past to the future of his society. In the Japanese spirit, “kokoro” is a sacred realm and a key element of a communal space. Western modernity, whatever benefits it may bring, did not suffice to become the future of Japan simply because it neglects “kokoro.” Miscommunication between Sensei and the narrator was just one example of the many miscommunications between Japanese traditional spirit and Western modernity spirit.

The unsuitability of Western modernity for Japanese society was emphasized by the difference between different generations and between the past and the present.

But you must not think that K’s inability to discard his old ways and begin his life anew was due to his lack of modern concepts. You must understand that to K, his own past seemed too sacred a thing to be thrown away like an old suit of clothes. One might say that his past was his life, and to deny it would have meant that his life thus far had been without purpose… he was forced to look back and remind himself of what his past had meant. And in doing so he could not but continue along the path that he had so far followed.

The influence of the past on K was so great and so “sacred” that even though K has been immersed in modern concepts in his intellectual activities, he could not help but continue his “old ways.” This is the dilemma of Japan. Wanting to move on and to modernize,Japan has adopted Western ideas. However, the shadow of the past and the traditions are still there and Western modernity provided no means to overcome that shadow.

Perhaps you will not understand clearly why I am about to die, no more than I can fully understand why General Nogi killed himself. You and I belong to different eras, and so we think differently. There is nothing we can do to bridge the gap between us.

Both Sensei and the author were helpless in their attempts to understand each other. It is not only the gap between generations. Even though they are living in the same society, Sensei and the author each belonged to a world of his own. Sensei’s world is the Japan of Meiji emperor and General Nogi. The author’s world is the modern, individualistic and capitalistic Japan. Western modernity assumed that those two worlds can coexist peacefully at the same time within Japanese society.  However, that was a misconception. Japan can modernize technologically but it does not necessarily absorb all the social aspects of a Western modern society. Western modernity forced onto Japanese communal space only created clashes and conflicts which cannot be solved.

One example of those conflicts is the negative effect of capitalism on Japanese society.

If there is any property in your family, then I do think you should see to it that your inheritance is properly settled now… But don’t you think that, while your father is alive, you should make sure that you will receive your proper share? When a man dies suddenly, his estate causes more trouble than anything else.

Sensei saw “estate” as troublesome. And he was honest. Inheritance is a highly valued concept in Japanese society. It is through inheritance that traditions can be passed down from generation to generation, and the glory of the past, as a result, would be preserved. However, capitalism attached monetary value to inheritance, thus turning it into a troublesome thing. In a capitalistic world, money and capital are favored over relationships and humans themselves.  It was money that ruined the relationship between Sensei and his uncle. It was also money that exacerbates K’s relationship with both his foster family and his real family. K’s only connection with his foster family is the money he received for his study. When they stopped offering to sponsor his study, K’s relationship with them also ended. All the relationships that were abandoned in the story were due to material conflicts. Money and capital has grown to become so important in that modern society that people could not but give in to its power and neglect their relationships.  K had no time to worry about his family problems because he had to worry about money matters first:

Whether he should return to his original family because of the unhappy incident, or whether he should consider some way of compromise and remain with his adopted family, was a problem for the future, but what required his immediate attention was the question of how he was to pay for his education.

Moreover, money has been described by Sensei as something “evil.” Sensei expressed his contempt for money, “Give a gentleman money, and he will soon turn into a rogue.” Those people who got controlled by money became, in Sensei’s mind, “the personification of all those things in this world which make it unworthy of trust.” The goal of modernity is not, and should not be, a society where people cannot trust each other. The Japanese spirit that has always valued honor and trust will not be able to wholly accept the concept of capitalism and materialism.

Soseki tried to give an alternative to the problem by using the concept of a hybrid. In other words, he wanted the modern Japanese people to inherit the traditions and the social spirit of the past while still moving on with the technological developments introduced by the West. In this solution, He focused on the tradition of inheritance as the key to defining Japanese modernity. Inheritance was used as a means to transporting the social spirit from generation to generation. A series of inheritance were broken in the story all due to the intervention of Western modernity. Sensei lost part of his inheritance because of his capitalistic uncle. K lost his “inheritance” from the foster family because he decided to follow his individualistic dream. However, those were cases of inheritance defined by money value. The kind of inheritance that is more important in the story is the sacred inheritance of the social spirit, which helps to create the hybrid of traditional values and modern tendencies. K is the perfect example of such a social hybrid. He was born in a temple and seemed to embody the important part of Japanese social spirit, the “concentration of mind.” However, at the same time, he was interested in studying the Bible and the Koran. He also likes to talk about subjects like religion and philosophy, which were obviously full of Western thoughts. K kept on living with his “concentration of mind” while constantly updating himself with Western intellectual knowledge through modern education. He succeeded in keeping the Japanese traditional attitude and the Western modern tendencies in dealing with life. His death has a big influence on Sensei. After K’s death, Sensei became another “K.” In this case, death is a kind of sacred inheritance, as the story unfolded.

The kind of social hybrid that K represented was passed down to Sensei when K died, and at the end of the story, it was passed down to the narrator when Sensei committed suicide. Such was Soseki’s approach to the problem of Japanese modernity. However, it was not a perfect solution. K’s reason for studying the Bible is because “one should read a book so highly valued by others.” This explanation somehow hinted that Japan is adopting Western modernity just because this model has been accepted as universal in the Western world. By making this statement, K lost his own identity. Moreover, when he was struck by the Western platonic love for Ojosan, K could not keep his traditional “concentration of mind” anymore and eventually committed suicide. This clash between Western modernity and Japanese traditions has remained unsolved and there was no answer to it other than death.

The novel Kokoro criticized Western modernity by depicting modern education and capitalism in a negative tone. It also showed us the social alienation resulted from the act of forcing a Western model of modernity onto Japanese society. The story itself was filled with darkness and helplessness, which appropriately reflects the atmosphere of a society gradually losing its own identity. The answer given was death, and only hopeless death could end the tension brought about by the clash between Western and Japanese values.

 

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Nguyen, Hoang. “Kokoro (1914) by Natsume Soseki: The Question of Japanese Modernity.” East Asian Pop Culture, 27 March 2012. <http://easdiary.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/kokoro-by-natsume-soseki-the-question-of-japanese-modernity/ >.

 

Notes on Further Reading: A great deal of Natsume Soseki’s works – mostly novels – have been translated into English (and numerous other languages). His most significant works are I Am A Cat, Botchan, Kusamakura/The Three-Cornered World, Sanshiro, Sorekara/And Then, The Gate, and Kokoro.

For those interested in reading and studying other Japanese literature (which is also useful for the study of Japan’s culture, history, and religious attitudes), we recommend the following two anthologies which were edited by Donald Keene: Anthology of Japanese Literature from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New York: Grove Press, 1955), and Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to the Present Day (New York: Grove Press, 1956).

Concerning important modern classic Japanese authors (other than Natsume Soseki) whose works have been translated, we can note the following for readers who are interested: Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Kyoka Izumi, Osamu Dazai, Junichiro Tanizaki, Eiji Yoshikawa, Edogawa Rampo, Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata, Fumiko Enchi, Yasushi Inoue, Shuhei Fujisawa, and Hisashi Inoue.

 

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Ethical Theories of Nishitani, Watsuji, & Berdyaev – Sevilla

“Ethics of Emptiness East and West: Examining Nishitani, Watsuji, and Berdyaev” by Anton Luis Sevilla (PDF – 604 KB):

Ethics of Nishitani, Watsuji, and Berdyaev – Sevilla

“The Communality of Creativity and the Creativity of Communality: A Comparison of the Ethics of Nikolai Berdyaev and Watsuji Tetsuro” by Anton Luis Sevilla (PDF – 308 KB):

Comparison of Berdyaev’s and Watsuji’s Ethics – Sevilla

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Sevilla, Anton Luis. “Ethics of Emptiness East and West: Examining Nishitani, Watsuji, and Berdyaev.” In Questioning Oriental Aesthetics and Thinking: Conflicting Visions of “Asia” Under the Colonial Empires, edited by Shigemi Inaga. Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies, 2010. Retrieved from: <http://publications.nichibun.ac.jp/region/d/NSH/series/kosh/2011-03-31/s001/s026/pdf/article.pdf >.

Sevilla, Anton Luis. “The Communality of Creativity and the Creativity of Communality: A Comparison of the Ethics of Nikolai Berdyaev and Watsuji Tetsuro.” Kritika Kultura, No. 15 (2010), pp. 226-253. Retrieved from: <http://philpapers.org/archive/SEVTCO-2.pdf >.

 

Notes on other resources: See also the article about the debate on Kitaro Nishida’s philosophical positions, a Japanese philosopher who was a significant influence on Tetsuro Watsuji and Keiji Nishitani: “The Nishida Enigma: ‘The Principle of the New World Order’” by Yoko Arisaka. However, we should note to our audience that Arisaka’s article deals mostly with Nishida’s political and cultural philosophy, and only briefly mentions his philosophy in the fields of religion, ontology, science, and ethics. Likewise, Sevilla’s articles above mostly deal with the ethical philosophies and (to a lesser extent) religious philosophies of Watsuji and Nishitani, but neglect the philosophy of culture and climate which Watsuji is well-known for.

More information on all of these thinkers can be found in various books and journals, including for example at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (see Kyoto School, Nishida, Watsuji). Another good reference for external resources on Japanese philosophers is the Japanese Philosophy Blog (see categories of Kyoto School, Nishida, Watsuji) and Nichibunken (see publications search). However, we should warn our readers that the majority of academic resources on these philosophers in English contain anti-Right-wing or anti-Conservative bias and commentaries (especially the Stanford Encyclopedia), and thus must be compared and balanced with alternative explanations for a better understanding. A more neutral, although somewhat limited, discussion of Watsuji’s political (and ethical-social) philosophy can be found in “Watsuji Tetsuro’s Contributions to Political Philosophy” by Kazuhiko Okuda (Paper delivered to the XVIIth World Congress of International Political Science Association (IPSA), Seoul, Korea, August 17·21, 1997. Originally published online at: <http://nirr.lib.niigata-u.ac.jp/bitstream/10623/31224/1/2011_2_iuj1_019.pdf >. ).

 

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Theoretical Reflections on Nationalism – Yoshino

“From Ethnie to Nation: Theoretical Reflections on Nationalism” by Kosaku Yoshino (PDF – 7.12 MB):

Theoretical Reflections on Nationalism – Yoshino

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Yoshino, Kosaku. “From Ethnie to Nation: Theoretical Reflections on Nationalism.” In Japan in Comparative Perspective, edited by Hidehiro Sonoda and S.N. Eisenstadt. Kyoto: International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, 1999. Retrieved from: <http://publications.nichibun.ac.jp/region/d/NSH/series/kosh/1999-11-30-2/s001/s012/pdf/article.pdf >.

 

Note: See also Alain de Benoist’s critical analysis of nationalism, its historical origins, and pre-modern forms of state and ethnic relations in his articles “Nationalism: Phenomenology and Critique” and “The Idea of Empire”.

 

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Modernization without westernization is the first step to reject imperialism – Grego

Modernization without westernization is the first step to reject imperialism

By Antonio Grego

Committee for the project «Eurasia»

 

The staff of the Committee for the project «Eurasia» is organized within three different structures, separated and independent, but all of them are interdependent. Two of them contribute to the scientific and academic work of our Group: «Eurasia», a quarterly of Geopolitical Studies, born in 2004. Since that, «Eurasia» has published many analysis and studies focused on Geostrategy and International Relations. Our second structure is the CESEM Institution («Centro Studi Eurasia-Mediterraneo», a think-tank focused on the Eurasian-Mediterranean partnership).

A brand new organization, it has established ties with many Italian universities, aimed at the training and the apprenticeship of our young collaborators. During these eight years our quarterly has organised many open meetings, conventions and workshops with foreign institutions. Our goal is focused on the knowledge of foreign countries, on the introduction of new books of geopolitics and the explanation of Multipolarism and its trends for a mainstream Italian audience.

Furthermore, we have a web journal called «Stato e Potenza» («State and Power»); it has a definitely more political and militant approach to the global situation. It has been created to reach more people with our analysis focused on issues like Eurasianism and the Multipolar system. In this case our analysis is oriented to a daily examination of capitalism and imperialism. Its style is less scientific than «Eurasia» and «CESEM», but the goal is the same: a strategic and economical analysis of the global system we live in.

We cannot forget that we operate and we organize our public initiatives in a difficult country like Italy. You certainly know that the Ministry of Defense and the Italian Armed Forces have been part of NATO since 1949 (its establishment), and our internal policy has always been influenced (if not directed) by Washington D.C. and London. For almost fifty years the chances for criticizing this situation with independent studies have been restrained, despite the activity of the most important Communist Party of Western Europe. However, the communist forces gradually changed their political field, first joining the Euro-Communist project (created by CIA to divide the leftist parties in Western Europe from the USSR) and finally becoming in the Nineties one of the most pro-American political forces in the Italian politics. Let’s make it clear: the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi raised many doubts before joining the U.S.-led campaign against Gaddafi’s Lybia, while the Democratic Party (the post-Communist and social-democratic formation) was quick in asking for a military intervention.

You can easily understand the Italian scenario within we have to move: a country whose culture has been totally destroyed by Liberalism, nowadays organized in a «left» and a «right». The extreme liberal capitalism was introduced in Italy after the end of the so-called «First Republic» (1948-1992), and it was presented like a panacea for the corruption of the State institutions. It won after the so-called «Mani Pulite» («Clear Hands»), a judicial operation led by Washington D.C. that erased a whole political system and led to the total destruction of the Italian economy based on State industries and the public intervention in the economic field.

Our country was enslaved to the ultra-capitalist era of the unipolar world, with the absolute power of the global finance; in a few years Italy lost most of its industrial assets, bought by Anglo-American societies thanks to deregulated privatizations and denationalizations. Now it seems we are back to those years: after the financial crisis our economy fell into a deep crisis due to its huge debt and the progressive strategic decline of Italy during the Nineties.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Euopean Union decided to impose on Italy a political transition with a so-called «technical government» under Giorgio Napolitano’s supervision. Napolitano is another former Communist who became pro-American during the Seventies. The new Italian Prime Minister is Mario Monti, former president of the European branch of the Trilateral Commission, former commissioner of the European Union and international advisory for Goldman Sachs; the new minister of Defense is admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, member of the NATO General Command, while the new Foreign minister is Giulio Terzi di SantAgata, former Italian ambassador in the United States of America and in Israel. These facts make you clear the political and strategic lines that the new Italian government (not chosen by the Italian people) is going to follow.

Social protests in Italy rise day after day, and in a long period this could benefit our publishing activity. However the pressure and the open hostility by mainstream media toward critic voices is still high, especially in relation with the international politics. In Italy four different reviews of geopolitics are currently published, but on the other hand televisions and other medias ignore these topics; their approach to geopolitics is very superficial and mainly based on the American propaganda. We try to challenge mainstream cultural elites with an activity which relies only on our own economical resources, with many sacrifices but always aiming at the higher dignity and professionalism.

The international situation

The current world order is the result of two main events, happened during the last decade of the past century: the liberal and capitalist counter-revolution in the USSR and the birth of a common market and monetary free area in the European Union. These two events resulted in a stronger influence of the Transatlantic partnership, because of the expansion of the American power in Eastern Europe, from the Baltic countries to the Balkans; moreover, we saw the victory of capitalism in the geopolitical European space, an important event as described in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s publications. The Warsaw’s Pact quick decline and the geopolitical weakening of Russia have been other important factors.

The European Union is currently paying a high price for its military and economical dependance on the American superpower: in Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal workers and small factories are going to be wiped out due to the financial crisis and the financial measures. Brussel’s solutions are focused to help only the private banking system, forgetting the people. This is a complete non-sense because that’s the same sector that led to the current crisis through speculation and the sub-prime derivates market. Meanwhile our countries keep on spending billions to support military campaigns ordered by the United States of America and Great Britain.

The situation we are witnessing is a clear example of the skill of capitalism to perpetuate itself through Space and Time, showing the inadequacy of the optimistic and dogmatist views of the Marxist ideology. Capitalism has never been in danger of its own existence, it can’t destroy itself without the presence of another factor: the political force of a party and a State and its army, the Socialism in a powerful country. At the same time this can be considered like a realist prevision of the Marxist theory: capitalism could contain the seeds for its own destruction.

Globalization has shown two different faces: the worst one consisting in the violent will of expansion of the American power all over the world, the other has seen the spreading of new technologies and economical development in different parts of the planet. This process of modernization is without any doubt positive from the perspective of countries like China, Pakistan, Brazil and India, and could lead to a global change that could create the preconditions for a multipolar order. This can have other effects, like the beginning of a self-destruction of capitalism: in its moment of biggest success, the capital system doesn’t represent only a «division of workforce», but even a «world division» in areas of influence and direct conquer.

Carl Schmitt’s idea of «Great Spaces» has been confirmed in the past years: these constructions exist in a midway between the global order and the single National States. It became reality with the return of Russia as a power after Eltsin’s dark age, and it has been proved when States like China, India, Iran, Turkey and Brazil gained more and more influence. This process was not a simple «Westernization» of the world, but something more and deeper.

On the political side, the idea of «Westernization» isn’t enough to fully understand what’s happening in the world; it could be seen as a part of a bigger process which also includes modernization, a slide from modernity to post-modernity and a general analysis of what we consider as the «West». Every «political resistance» that the unipolarism is now meeting in different part of the world relies on peculiar histories and traditions which capitalism hasn’t been able to defeat. Political and social struggle must rely on these cultures.

The American imperialism represents a brand new structure of global will of power, something we had never seen before in history: a process aimed at the expansion of its influence worldwide, but still different from the old European colonialism. If we consider the world as we know we should infer that the Anglo-American power and its influence have won.

However this conclusion (as Samuel Huntington wrote) has been an illusion for the cultural and political elites in the White House since 1992: the global spreading of the so-called «American Way of life» (its subculture, its movies, its food) cannot lead to a decisive victory. In his famous book «The Clash of Civilizations», Huntington wrote about the Japanese «Wakon-Sai» and the Chinese «Ty-Jong», eras of technical modernization without any Western influence.

The president of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Hu Jintao, recently claimed that China seeks to defend its own tradition from any foreign (Western, we can add) influence. Non-Western cultures have three different paths on their way: defending their cultural identity while achieving modernization (like Hu Jintao said), rejecting both «Westernization» and modernization (just like some Islamic movements and Lin Biao’s Chinese school) or a mid-way of what we can call an inclusive «Westernization», like that we are witnessing now in Turkey.

We believe that the first step to reject imperialism and to seek a real multipolar system can be chosen only by the first way: modernization without «Westernization». In our view the other two way of thinking modernity aren’t winning strategies: on the contrary, they are going to strengthen global capitalism. We can observe this in many cases: Tukey’s Neo-Ottomanism is directed by the USA in organizing

Middle East after the so-called «Arab Spring», and so it is the same for many political and religious groups in Middle East and Asia. The United States of America are seeking a strategy of containment for every possible global competitor, spreading chaos and poverty to weaken them: this can be reached in many different ways, even using some ideologies like a certain radical Ecologism and reactionary ideologies (often with some kind of a religious background) in non-Western parts of the world. At the same time, even some ultra-nationalist movements can be used for their goals, as we can see in some parts of Eastern Europe.

The strategic and technological power will be the key for all those countries willing to increase their influence.

Nowadays, Russia and China are America’s most influential global competitors. The People’s Republic of China has a stronger political system than the Russian; it is based on a Communist and patriotic system and it is seeking an intelligent approach to the global market to improve its own social and technical development. Beijing still relies on the strategy called «non-intromission» in States’ internal affairs (Zhou Enlai explained this at the Bandung Conference), but is studying new tactics to contain Western aggressive policies in Asia.

We are going to see some kind of a new «Cold War» in Africa very soon. Libya and Sudan have been two preliminary examples of that (although Beijing’s reaction to Western aggressions hasn’t been strong). Russia and China are the only non-Western global powers, they are Permanent Members in the United Nations Security Council, they have got nuclear weapons and important military industries. Plus, Russia has got another very important weapon: the world’s biggest resources in oil and gas, and many other raw materials like coal, steel and uranium.

The Soviet defeat marked a dark era not only for its political meaning, but even more for geopolitics: Russia lost its «Great Space», which Vladimir Putin is trying to build again within the Eurasian Union. Without its strategic routes to the South and the East (Central Asia, Ukraine, Belarus), Russia would lose a huge part of its potential.

A new multipolar order would not automatically lead to the defeat of imperialism, to a fair world and an era of peace. This could lead incited to a global conflict and many regional wars, especially in Northern and Central Africa, in the Middle East and in South-Western Asia. The Cold War ended years ago, but the nuclear power still exists and the multipolar order will be a challenge between nuclear superpowers. Multipolarism has already existed in history: for example during the Thirties, after the end of the British imperial power. It resulted in a terrible conflict between the West and the Tripartite Pact, and a subsequent war against the USSR.

The nuclear power was officially born during the days of May 1945. The criminal attack on Japan was a clear message to Moscow: «Now we can fully destroy you». From that moment, Stalin planned how to defend his country from the American imperialist madness. The Russian answer was the very beginning of the Cold War with the Mutual Assured Destruction era.

Now nine Nations have nuclear weapons: the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Israel, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Four of them are NATO members or part of the Western sphere, five of them joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and share partnerships with Russia and China. Of course nobody will declare war on the counterpart (this would be a suicide) with a first strike, so we can assume that conventional weapons will still be used in the future wars, adding some new high-technology and ICT (Information & Communication Technologies) systems. We think that future wars will be fought in the most underveloped areas of the world, where the superpowers strategies and interests will collide.

The Italian case

As we wrote in the beginning of this analysis, Italy is currently in a very difficult position. After the recent regime change, our new government includes a former Goldman Sachs and Trilateral Commission associated member as a Prime Minister, a NATO personality as minister of Defense and a former ambassador to Washington D.C. and Israel is our Foreign minister. This is enough for you to understand the real nature of this «technical government», collecting military, political and economical personnel from Atlantic structures.

The social situation of Italy is worsening day after day: this system is literally crushing every social conquer that Italian workers won during the past decades. Young people have no perspective for their future but in-occupation and unemployment; the State has no chance to get back its sovereignty and independence. The War on Libya marked a milestone. Sivlio Berlusconi’s government, with all its political faults, was still a strict ally of Russia’s Putin and Libya’s Gaddafi. Our State-run oil and gas company, ENI, launched cooperation projects with its Russian and Libyan counterparts like we had never seen before.

Italy is a kind of bridge in the Mediterranean Sea which links Europe to Northern Africa and Middle East. For this reason Italy has been like a NATO aircraft carrier since the end of the Second World War. We have had more than one hundred American and NATO military bases and facilities on our soil since the beginning of the Cold War. More or less every American aggression in the past decades was launched from Italy: the first Gulf War, the War on Serbia, the invasion of Afghanistan, the second Gulf War and the latest War on Libya. We have been forced to a war against an allied country and its people only to follow Western orders (those coming from the nuclear Western powers, France, Great Britain and the USA). If Italy had a different government and a sovereign political system, our country could play an important role to improve a strategic partnership between the Arab countries and Europe and in defending peace and security in areas like the Balkans and Syria.

Fernand Braudel thought the Mediterranean Sea to be an independent economical space that could be totally independent because of its culture, its economy and its political balance. With its internal differences, the Mediterranean Space has been a beacon of light for centuries in the past. Despite some weird interpretations that we totally reject, the example of Roma and its Empire are totally different from the modern American imperialism: Rome’s institutions still today are some of the highest examples that the word has ever known in fields like administrative law, politics and the State system. This model was melted with the Greek one, able to improve and grow up throughout the centuries, and it was translated to other historical experiences like those of Constantinople (during the long era of the Byzantine peace and harmony) and Moscow, the headquarters of a great empire which is the center of the international balance.

Unfortunately it seems that Italy today has forgotten its own lessons and its rich heritage (political, historical and cultural); our country is living in a condition of extreme ethic, political and social decadence.

Because of that, the American influence found the ground to establish its «cultural» model meeting light or no resistance at all in our society and cultural life. One of our main problems is the historical fragmentation of the Italian political and geographical condition; Italy is united by its culture and literature, but sadly divided by its economical internal conditions. The division of Italy (North, Center and South) is shown by two different phenomena: the Northern League, struggling from more than twenty years for the political independence of Northern Italy, and crime organizations based in the Southern regions, like the Mafia.

The economical scenario of modern Italy is based on small and medium-sized factories. In some cases these industries exploit workers, but more often they suffer from the policies of big companies like Agnelli’s FIAT, Pirelli (tires), Benetton (clothing production), linked to the biggest global lobbies and oligopolies. Every year the Italian State supply these big companies with public money, but workers have never seen the results of these operations, which benefit only super managers like FIAT’s Marchionne and Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, whose policies often lead to serious mistakes and damages for our public interests.

Recently Italy has reformed the Article n. 18 of the Workers’ Statute (originally written in 1970), so it is now possible to fire workers without any right cause. Only a judge could decide if the workers has been fired on the basis of a right cause, but even if the worker wins the lawsuit (and that’s not sure) he couldn’t take back his former workplace. Italian banks have shown the same cynical approach: they aren’t funding anymore small factories nor citizens who want to buy houses; their variable rates of interests are too high and their bonds aren’t sustainable for the middle class.

Tens of Italian workers, small businessmen and traders fell into a deep crisis with their own families and the rates of suicides for economical reasons is increasing day after day. Thousands of Italians are losing their job, unemployed young people rate has never been so high (36%), and the public sector and retirement pensions are being targeted by new taxes, while bonus for super managers and big assets were left untouched. Some isolated cases (controls on the fiscal renditions of celebrities) in the last two months must be considered as pure forms of propaganda by an ultra-capitalist government which considers public money more important than a worker’s life.

The same for the European Union: this is a political construction built on economical basis decided by bureaucrats that the people of Europe have never chosen nor elected. Southern Europe is now paying the price for the guidelines that the Brussels-Paris-Berlin alliance implemented under the direction of the White House and London. It can be viewed as a giant octopus ruled by lobbies struggling to keep Europe under NATO’s control.

If the present scenario is dark, our perspectives are brighter: the current system known as the so-called «Second Republic», the main responsible for the triumph of the Anglo-Saxon model in Italy (a majority election system based on a duopoly that Italian never truly accepted) has failed and corruption is creating a deep lack of confidence towards all the political parties. After years of fierce struggle, the two main parties (Bersani’s Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s «Popolo della Libertà») support Mario Monti’s government. The opposition (the Northern League, recently stricken by judiciary scandals and the only movement of the Italian parliament opposing Brussel’s policies) has never been so weak.

The Italian people are going to face serious challenge now and in the next future; the liberal guidelines ordered by Brussels are likely to be implemented until the end of the term of office and next elections (May 2013). We must not ignore that some analysts are saying that the elections could be delayed, allowing Mr. Monti’s government to operate for some additional months. The social situation in the country, the conditions of workers, families and retirees will be something to focus on during the next twelve months. May’s administrative elections will be an interesting test to understand what Italians really think of this situation. The lack of credibility that politics, parties and the parliamentary system is suffering could bring a low turnout as a result. As a paradox, this discredit could lead to an increased support for «non-political» personnel, like the current government itself, but people see and know what this government is doing. This is not a «technical government», but the cynical result of the influence shared by Western lobbies, banking system, big private monopolies, NATO, the High Finance and it embodies the extreme and worst trends of the two main political parties.

 

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Grego, Antonio. “Modernization without westernization is the first step to reject imperialism.” Евразия: Международное Евразийское Движение, 18 May 2012. <http://evrazia.org/article/1985 >.

 

Notes on further reading: The concept in the above article has also been expressed by Alexander Dugin in his article “The Multipolar World and the Postmodern”. An academic study over-viewing the theory and development of the process called “modernization without westernization” in Asia can be found in “Modernization without Westernization: Comparative Observations on the Cases of Japan and China and their Relevance to the Development of the Pacific Rim” by Stuart D.B. Picken (NUCB Journal of Economics and Information Science, Vol. 48, No. 2 (2004), pp. 171-179, <http://www.nucba.ac.jp/themes/s_cic@cic@nucba/pdf/njeis482/14PICKEN.pdf > [Alternative download from our website: Modernization without Westernization – Picken]).

An example of a book written from a specifically Chinese perspective on this topic and focusing almost entirely on China (thus it is not a good resource for studies of developments outside of China) is Between Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the Modernization of Chinese Culture by Li Zonggui (Oxford: Chartridge Books Oxford, 2015). A collection of studies and perspectives on this process in various Asian countries can be found in Cultural Identity and Modernization in Asian Countries: Proceedings of Kokugakuin University Centennial Symposium (Tokyo: Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University, 1983. <http://www2.kokugakuin.ac.jp/ijcc/wp/cimac/index.html >.)

 

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Discussion of Kitaro Nishida’s Philosophy – Arisaka

“The Nishida Enigma: ‘The Principle of the New World Order’” by Yoko Arisaka (PDF – 189 KB):

The Nishida Enigma – Yoko Arisaka

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Arisaka, Yoko. “The Nishida Enigma: ‘The Principle of the New World Order’.” Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Spring 1996): pp. 81-99. Retrieved from: <http://www.arisaka.org/mnipponica.pdf >.

 

Notes on further reading: Studies of Japanese philosophy can be found by researching the website known as The Japanese Philosophy Blog and also the official website of Nichibunken (see publications search), The International Research Center for Japanese Studies, which can be used for research to find numerous resources in Japanese history, culture, religion, society, etc.

In particular, we should mention that Arisaka’s article above deals primarily with Nishida’s cultural and political philosophy, and only briefly mentions his philosophy in the fields of religion, ontology, science, and ethics. For more complete information on Kitaro Nishida’s philosophy, see for example the resources listed at the Japanese Philosophy Blog: Category Nishida Kitaro.

Other posts on the New European Conservative related to Japan and Japanese thought include the following: Alexander Dugin’s “In the Country of the Rising ‘Do’,” Riki Rei’s Review of Naoki Inose’s Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima, Justin Raimondo’s biographical sketch “Mishima: Paleocon as Samurai”, Hoang Nguyen’s review of Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, Kosaku Yoshino’s “Theoretical Reflections on Nationalism”, Anton L. Sevilla’s discussions of Tetsuro Watsuji’s and Nikolai Berdyaev’s ethical theories, and Alexander Dugin’s speech at Tokyo University titled “New Paradigm of Science.”

 

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Mishima: Paleocon as Samurai – Raimondo

Yukio Mishima: Paleocon as Samurai

By Justin Raimondo

 

In Runaway Horses, Yukio Mishima’s portrait of a young right-winger and would-be assassin, the main character, Isao, is inspired by a pamphlet, The League of the Divine Wind, by Tsunanori Yamao—a work of pure imagination, albeit based on historical reality, which takes up all or most of Chapter 9. This is the story of the Shinpuren Incident of 1876, in which a band of rebellious samurai rose up against the “reforms” of the Meiji Restoration. These were radical traditionalists of a uniquely consistent sort: they disdained such Western inventions as guns and cannon, and wielded spears and swords to attack the local garrison.

It was a highly stylized gesture of defiance against the onset of modernity, just the sort of thing that would interest Mishima, whose aesthetics as well as his politics made him sympathetic to the motivations of the rebels, who chafed at the failure of the authorities to resist “foreign influence” and “expel the barbarians.” Mishima lists the outrages that inflame them, starting off with “In Meiji 3, permission was granted to an imperial prince to study in Germany.”

The traditions of the samurai class were being systematically dismantled: not only were their subsidies and subventions, which came out of the Imperial Treasury, dramatically reduced and eventually cut off, to add insult to injury they were told to cut off their top-knots and turn in their swords. It became a crime to carry a sword in public. For the followers of Oen Hayashi—who held white fans over their heads as they walked under electric wires for fear of contamination by Western emanations–that was the last straw.

Oen was a Shinto priest and scholarly defender of the old gods, whose zeal on their behalf inspires a group of young samurai. His views, propagated after his death by the League of the Divine Wind, are clearly Mishima’s, who sums up Oen’s politics thusly:

Cherishing as he did the ideal of glorifying the Imperial Tradition within the land and upholding the national honor in the face of foreign incursion, he was appalled by the vacillation of the Shogunate officials at the time of Perry’s arrival and also by the tactics of those who turned away from the policy of ‘Expel the Barbrians’ but tried to use it to overthrow the Shogunate. He became a recluse and gave himself over to the contemplation of occult wisdom.

Against the arrival of Commodore Perry and modernity, the leaders of the League approach the elder gods with a petition to act. The opening line of Tsunanori’s story sets the stage: “One day in the summer of 1873–the Sixth Year of the Meiji era–four stalwart men of high ideals gathered at the Imperial Shrine in Shingai Village.” They are there to consult the will of the gods in the ritual known as Ukei: in Mishima’s version, a fresh-cut peach branch festooned with paper pendants inscribed with questions for the gods is waved over the Sacred Mirror, and the answers drop from the branch like rain, or tears:

The first of these was in accordance with the wishes of Harukata Kaya and read as follows: ‘To bring an end to misgovernment by admonishing authority even to the forfeiture of life.’

Kaya was bent upon the use of argument, of subduing their enemy without shedding any blood but his own. He wished to insure that his admonition achieved its goal by emulating Ysautake Yokoyama, the samurai of the Satsuma Clan who, in Meiji 3, set the seal upon his heroic remonstrance by slaying himself with his sword as soon as he had delivered his petition. Kaya’s comrades, however, had misgivings about the efficacy of such a course.

The second appeal laid out before the judgement of the gods was “to cut down the unworthy ministers by striking in darkness with the sword,” i.e. a terrorist campaign targeted at the sell-outs and traitors who were delivering Old Nippon over to the foreigners. A poem written on the headband of the 16-year-old Tadao Saruwatari, sums up the feelings of the rebels:

Our land divided, sold to barbarians,
The Sacred Throne in peril.
May the gods of heaven and earth
Behold our loyal devotion.

The leaders of the League twice implored the gods, and twice the answer was the same: the time for action was not propitious. On the third try, however, the gods were apparently in a good mood–or, perhaps, a bad one–because they not only gave the go ahead, but deemed the League a divine army that was to spark a general rising. Their destiny sealed, the League set about making preparations. Nothing was done, of course, without consulting the Divine Will: the battle plan, the division of the forces and their various tasks, the timing–all were calculated according to the sanctions of tradition and the will of the war god Hachiman.

Numbering less than two hundred, they would take on the garrison of the castle of Kumamoto, defended by two thousand government troops. Perhaps some hi-tech firepower might have given them some advantage – say, a cannon or two – but, as Mishima notes, they hotly disdained using the weapons of the foreigners, and rode into battle with swords, spears, and halberds – although they also made several hundreds primitive Molotov cocktails using two bowls packed with gunpowder and gravel.

With the advantage of surprise – and surprise certainly describes the reaction of the garrison, as these oddly-garbed figures, bearing swords and spears, swarmed through the barracks – the League achieved a victory as sweet as it was short: all two thousand defenders fled “like frightened women.” Yet they soon regrouped, and, heartened by reinforcements, went on the counterattack.

The League fought valiantly, but, in the end, they were overwhelmed by superior numbers, not to mention the modern weaponry of their opponents. The defeated army of the gods, gathered together in the sanctuary of a nearby Shinto shrine, determined to fight on, and yet it soon became all too clear that resistance was futile. Government troops swarmed over the countryside like ants in search of sugar. Driven to the ground, the survivors took the only honorable course: they committed seppuku, ritual suicide, one-by-one and in groups. Young and old, priests and samurai, commoners and nobility–yes, and even one woman!–they all went into the next life without hesitation or regret, slitting their throats, falling on their swords, and disemboweling themselves in the gruesome ritual known in the West as hari-kiri.

This, for them–and for the author—was the supreme duty, the proof of their purity, and any other course would have been unthinkable, under the circumstances, and they did it as simply, as easily, as naturally as a Westerner would close his eyes and go to sleep. Their fate prefigured that of the author, and, as he wrote Runaway Horses, Mishima was no doubt already planning his dramatic denouement, an act that would shock the world–but not yet.

Mishima was a writer of extraordinary talent, and so prolific that I cannot even get a handle on how many novels he actually wrote: the number we usually encounter is 40, but that’s not counting the serialized “popular” novels, some of which were never published between book covers, and not thought of as serious by the author. In addition, he produced such a quantity of short stories, essays, plays, screenplays, poems, and polemics that it seemed as if, behind his byline, lurked a literary team rather than a single author.

In his personal life, too, the same energy was evident: at the height of his fame, Mishima was everywhere, socializing with the high and the low, appearing on television, religiously going to the gym where he devoted himself to body-building and kendo, at one point starring in a gangster movie, and traveling the world from Bangkok to Manhattan, reveling in life even as he dreamt endless dreams of death.

Born Kimitake Hiroaka, a small, spindly Mama’s boy, he grew up in wartime Japan a bookish odd-man-out, burdened with a morbid imagination and a predilection for perversions that included but were not limited to homosexuality. Much of his best known earlier work is largely an attempt to work through and come to terms with his childhood demons. Taken from his mother after a mere week or so of life, and forced to attend to his witch of a grandmother in her sickbed, he was not allowed to play with other children, especially boys, and was forced to stay inside playing with origami and reading. He soon devoured all the books in his well-read grandmother’s library: the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, as well as Oscar Wilde, and the poems of Rilke and the Decadents.

His first novel, Hanazakari no Mori (“The Forest in Full Bloom”), was steeped in the spirit and history of Ancient Japan: it consists of profiles of aristocratic figures from widely disparate historical eras. The Japan Mishima evoked was a memory of a time when the grasping egotism and “modern” crudity of contemporary Japanese militarists was unthinkable: When it was a “forest in full bloom,” Japan was a courtly society, where ancient forms were followed to the letter as a matter of course. Mishima’s language, studded with rare words like polished jewels, was elegant, archaic, and yet precise. As one of his translators put it: “He knew the exact word for everything.”

Mishima’s literary debut was overshadowed, however, by the start of the war–an event that transformed everything for the seventeen year old author. As Japan’s fortunes took a turn for the worse, Mishima and his school-fellows lived with the prospect of conscription—and certain death—hanging over them like a tsunami about to crash onto their once-peaceful beach. For the first time since a fortunate wind blew the approaching Mongol fleet off course–that, by the way, is where the League of the Divine Wind got its name–Japan faced the prospect of foreign invasion. The idea that they would die young, and gloriously, was part of the air they breathed.

Mishima became associated with a group of nationalist writers, the Bungei Bunka, for whom the war was a holy task. Known as the Roman-ha (Japanese Romanticists), their goal, in literary-emotional terms, was “purity of sentiment,” as Henry Scott-Stokes puts it in The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima, while their politics consisted of an eclectic mix of Emperor-worship and Marxism: like Mishima, they pined for the Old Japan, which they idealized. They hated the zaibatsu (huge industrial combines that dominated wartime Japan) and Westernized politicians, valorized the samurai, and reveled in the “irony” that defeat, too, could be sweet if it was experienced as the denouement of a heroic gesture.

Mishima’s father, Azusa, was a demanding, unsympathetic character who had squandered the family’s money in an unsuccessful bid to become an entrepreneur: he regularly invaded the boy’s room and tore up his manuscripts, rationalizing his brutality with the view that writing was unproductive and could only divert his young son away from the straight and narrow. In spite of the boy’s literary prowess–he was already being praised by the Bungei Bunka as a genius–Azusa finally prevailed upon him to study law at Tokyo University. That in itself was a feat of some magnitude, since Mishima had always ignored his father’s hectoring as much as possible.

The reason for this unusual concession was no doubt because Mishima found the law intellectually challenging: but there was not much studying done that year. The war was moving rapidly toward its end, and air raids were constant. Students were yanked out of the classroom and mobilized to support the war effort: Mishima and his fellow future lawyers of Japan were put to work in a factory making kamikaze planes:

This great factory worked on a mysterious system of production costs: taking no account of the dictum that capital investment should produce a return, it was dedicated to a monstrous nothingness. No wonder then that each morning the workers had to recite a mystic oath. I have never seen such a strange factory. In it all the techniques of modern science and management, together with the exact and rational thinking of many superior brains, were dedicated to a single end: Death. Producing the Zero-model combat plane used by the suicide squadrons, this great factory resembled a secret cult that operated thunderously–groaning, shrieking, roaring.

This description of the factory appeared in Confessions of a Mask–the book that catapulted him to fame. Fame, however, was in the future: for now, he was just a lonely aesthete amid the unfolding disaster of wartime Japan. As he ran to the air raid shelter, he clutched the pages of what he thought of as his “last” novel, The Middle Ages, an historical tale based on the life and death of Prince Yoshihisa, the son of a Shogun who lived in the 15th century. Yoshihisa attempted a coup, but was killed in battle: what followed was a long period of chaos and fighting, known as the era of the Onin wars, that nearly destroyed Japanese society. Kyoto, the capital, was burned to the ground–a condition that was about to be replicated in contemporary Japan. The feeling of impending disaster was everywhere, and it was just like Mishima to translate this foreboding into a tale out of the fifteenth century.

Japan was slowly but surely being defeated, and as the Americans inched closer to the Japanese homeland, Mishima received the call to report for duty: he was being drafted. As it turned out, however, he was so sickly and thin that they rejected him, much to his relief: the military doctor mistakenly diagnosed him with incipient tuberculosis. Later, in Confessions, he would remark that he had been “forsaken even by Death.” He had escaped, and yet Death still haunted him: or, rather, the desire to embrace it haunted him. He had been denied a glorious death by the army doctor, but he believed he would meet his end in a final cataclysm, as enemy bombers dropped fire from the skies and Tokyo was aflame. “It was in death,” he wrote, “that I had discovered my real ‘life’s aim.’”

As the Japanese government prepared for surrender, Mishima was immersed in his books, writing his first published stories, and making contacts with older authors who would prove instrumental to his career. Hiroshima was devastated, and then Nagasaki: the Americans dropped leaflets over Tokyo laying out the terms of surrender. The Japanese government capitulated.

Mishima was in shock: the Emperor went on the radio to declare that he wasn’t a god, after all. Of this time, he wrote:

The war ended. All I was thinking about, as I listened to the Imperial Rescript announcing the surrender, was the Golden Temple. The bond between the temple and myself had been severed. I thought, now I shall return … to a state in which I exist on one side and beauty on the other. A state which will never improve so long as the world endures.

The death of his sister, Mitsuko, underscored the end of the world he had known: she succumbed to typhoid in October, 1945. The old Japan was crashing down all around him, but to this larger catastrophe Mishima was numbed and oblivious: he simply withdrew into his own private world. He was determined to become a writer, and not only that, but a literary star: one senior literary figure, to whom he brought his work, criticized him for his extravagant Romanticism, and asked him if he wanted to be an original or a popular author: Mishima unhesitatingly chose the latter.

The “reforms” of the MacArthur Regency, the economic and social tumult that surrounded him, did not, at the time, concern him: his family home had escaped any damage, and he hid himself away in what he called his “castle.” Amidst the physical destruction of Tokyo, and the disintegration of all the old values, including the aristocratic “courtly” literary traditions he and his fellows of the Roman-ha upheld, he wasn’t merely indifferent to it all, including the momentous political developments–he was determinedly oblivious. His focus was exclusively on the development of his unique literary imagination, and his efforts to break into the Bundan, the exclusive and inbred club of the Japanese literary establishment.

If Mishima was indifferent to such worldly concerns as politics, then politics weren’t indifferent to him. Postwar Japan was dominated by the Left, and the political trials and purges carried out under the occupation, with the full and enthusiastic cooperation of the Japanese Communist Party, extended into the literary realm. In the winter of 1945, as Mishima was gathering a book of stories for publication, a committee of leftist writers and critics issued an indictment of “literary war criminals,” among whom Mishima’s former mentors and sponsors figured prominently. This was followed by an official purge executed by the American occupation authorities.

Mishima’s effort to storm the castle of the Bundan met with intractable resistance: his association with the Roman-ha as well as his extravagant subjectivism, his stylistic archaicism, and his decidedly un-“progressive” subject matter all kept him out of print, albeit only temporarily.

Mishima was inwardly beset by all sorts of demons, which he mercilessly dissected in his famous Confessions, the book that made him as a writer. Yet he had a will of steel, and this was reflected not only in his ambition, but in his highly disciplined sensibility, which approached every task with a relentless concentration. Still a law student, he studied diligently and prepared for his entrance examination to the civil service with the same fierce concentration that produced reams of stories and a first novel, The Thieves, the story of a young couple that enter into a suicide pact, albeit not out of love for each other.

His career as a civil servant—he was accepted as a minor functionary into the Ministry of Finance—didn’t last very long, and Azusa bitterly opposed his decision to leave his job and become a full-time writer. But when it became apparent that Mishima would persist, his father turned to him and said: “Well then, go ahead, but make sure you are the best writer in the land.” Father and son, so unlike each other in every other way, shared a belief in this possibility. Mishima, for his part, was certain of his destiny: indeed, this certitude seemed almost fully formed from early youth.

Not long before his spectacular death, Mishima was asked by the Tobu department store, one of the biggest such establishments in Japan, to help put together a photographic exhibition of his life and work: it was displayed from November 12 – 19, in 1970. During that time, one-hundred thousand visited the display with it’s black-draped photographs arranged around an antique samurai sword that was to be the instrument of Mishima’s death a few days later. The catalogue, bound in black, contained an introduction by Mishima, in which he said of the exhibition:

I made only one suggestion: that was to divide my forty-five years of life–a life so full of contradictions–into Four Rivers, ‘Writing,,’ ‘Theater,’ ‘Body,” and ‘Action,’ all finally flowing into The Sea of Fertility.

This last was the title of his tetralogy, consisting of Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, and The Decay of the Angel, which covers the period from 1912 to 1975, and can be considered his literary and philosophical testament.

The rivers of writing and action flowed together in the evolution of his political views, from the non-committal anti-political stance of his early works, which are steeped in the personal and the subjective, to his fulsome embrace of Japanese nationalism, albeit of a unique sort.

John Nathan, in his introduction to the new edition of his 1974 biography of Mishima, regrets that his analysis of the writer’s political ideology was overshadowed by Mishima’s personal pathology–the obsession with death revealed in Confessions, and in much of his fiction, rooted in sado-masochistic eroticism. In re-reading the work he hadn’t opened in many years, Nathan confides he was “troubled by the skepticism my argument required me to sustain. In declining to accept Mishima’s words or actions at face value, I failed to recognize the courage and unflinching honesty that are there to be observed.”

In a piece published on New Year’s Day, 1967, Mishima explained that his Westernized lifestyle–he lived in a Western-style house, wore Western clothes, etc.–did not really contradict his nationalist sentiments because “My true life as a writer is in the pure Japan of the Japanese language I use every night in my study. Compared to this, “he averred, “nothing else is of any importance.” Nathan writes:

In the biography, my commitment to reveal Mishima’s nationalism as specious, and as a device for achieving death, prompted me to dismiss this claim as ‘a lame and silly argument’…. Today, I am persuaded, indeed moved, by the same logic I once ridiculed.

Mishima’s fate, Nathan continues, “now appears as one of two historical moments” that seem to have underscored the predicament of modern Japan. Not that Nathan gives up entirely his tiresomely predictable way of looking at Mishima through the lens of amateur psychology: after all, Mishima’s work is the very exemplar of “psychological” fiction, in that the real action is taking place inside the characters’ skulls. So that all the physical action – and there is a lot of that, too–proceeds logically from a clear albeit unique motivation. Yet there was a growing political consciousness, a current that flowed from the merging rivers of writing and action, that represented Mishima’s mature thought.

As he outgrew his exoticism, and shed the skin of a sensitive youth, Mishima underwent a remarkable transformation. One of his critics once remarked that what scared him about Mishima is that he seemed to have sprouted up so fast as a writer that he was all flower and no leaves. And there was something distinctly unhealthy about his extreme aestheticism, with its overtones of Wilde and Raymond Radiguet.

All that began to change, however, as he approached the pinnacle of his success: his novels were being made into films, and there was talk that he was up for a Nobel. For much of his youth, he had swum exclusively in the rivers of writing and theater: as for the body, the thin and sickly Kimitake Hiroaka, with his thin shoulders and pallid complexion, was banished, finally, like a ghost that has lingered too long on this earth, replaced by the chiseled physique of a dedicated bodybuilder. This led directly to the rising of the river of theater, especially when he posed semi-naked in a notorious series of photographs, one of which has him in the classic pose of St. Sebastian, tied to a post and stuck full of arrows. It was a most un-Japanese way of calling attention to himself, and this was made worse when he ventured onto the stage as an actor, appearing in a couple of cheap gangster movies. It was an embarrassment, but Mishima was clearly enjoying himself, and, for all his avowed traditionalism, his innate exhibitionism overrode the Japanese sense of propriety.

The last of the four rivers to swell from a stream into a rushing torrent was that of action, and it propelled him toward his fate. This was really, however, the river of ideology, which for Mishima was his own unique brand of Japanese nationalism: it might be called Japan’s version of paleoconservatism. He didn’t think of himself standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” Instead, he demanded that history must reverse course, and go back to that juncture where a wrong turn was taken.

For Japan, as far as Mishima was concerned, that juncture was located precisely. On February 26, 1936, when he was 11 years old, the young army officers of the Imperial Way faction, at the head of 1,400 troops, seized the Tokyo center and assassinated a number of government officials. They were rising against the power of the “Control” faction, led by Hideki Tojo and a group of old-line bureaucrats who would later come to be charged as war criminals and executed.

At the time, there was great division in military circles and the emperor’s court as to which direction Japanese expansionism ought to take: should they go eastward, and occupy China, or go north and take on the Soviet Union? The Imperial Way faction, being staunchly anti-Communist, wanted to make war on the Kremlin and build a Nipponese empire in the north. The Control group wanted to conquer the Chinese coastline and make its way inward to the Han heartland: this meant also taking on the colonial powers of the West–including the United States—whose interests in China and Southeast Asia were at stake.

The Imperial Way group believed that the Emperor had lost control to a cabal of bureaucratic technocrats, exemplified by Tojo, who had betrayed the traditions of old Japan in their rush to modernize. The Imperial Way solution was to appeal to the Emperor Hirohito to take direct control of the government, and dispense with his scheming ministers and other Westernizers: thus their name Koda-ha, or Imperial Way. They particularly resented to power of the zaibatsu, the great industrial combines that monopolized industry and extended their talons into the government and the Imperial Court. The Emperor, they believed, had been misled: their rebellion was a direct appeal to Hirohito – who firmly rejected their entreaties. Indeed, the Emperor directed the army to put down the rebellion, even as some councilors urged him to compromise: the uprising was crushed, its leaders committed seppuku, and the February Incident went down in the history of Japan was yet another eruption of Nipponese irrationality and “extremism,” like the Shimpuren Incident.

Mishima, however, was sympathetic to the rebels, and it is easy to see why. If the Imperial Way had won, and Tojo and his group cast aside, Japan would never have gone to war with the West, and the devastation of Japan, the occupation, and the radical process of Westernization would all have been avoided. Japan would not have been relegated to the role of an international castrati, forbidden to have a real army, and locked into a mandatory pacifism in which the specter of death had been banished, and, along with it, any sense of meaning, or so Mishima came to believe. “Surely some great God died when the Ni Ni Roku Incident failed,” he wrote. It figured prominently in his later works: the short story “Patriotism,” the prose poem “Voices of the Heroic Dead,” a play, Toka no Kiku, and also in Runaway Horses, where the hero, Isao, invokes it as the inspiration for his own plans for an uprising.

In “Patriotism,” the hero, Lieutenant Takeyama, is the commander of a unit that receives the order to move against the February rebels. As a friend and sympathizer of the rebel leaders, this puts him in a predicament: he will not take up arms against his comrades, yet is unwilling to disobey the direct order of the Emperor. He is shamed that he has been left out of the rebellion: The only way out is to commit seppuku. What follows is the longest, most detailed description of ritual suicide in Japanese literature, bloody and gory and yet strangely idealized. As Lieutenant Takeyama’s intestines are spilling out onto the floor, Mishima remarks: “It would be difficult to imagine a more heroic sight than that of the lieutenant at this moment, as he mustered his strength and flung back his head.”

“Voices of the Heroic Dead” was controversial with both the Left and the Right: the former because it valorized the kamikazee fighters as well as the rebel officers of Ni Ni Roku, and the latter because it criticized Emperor Hirohito for repudiating his own godhood and failing to support the Imperial Way. Here we are taken into a séance, in which the voices of the perished kamikazee pilots and the coup leaders of the Imperial Way group reproach the Emperor Hirohito: “Why did the emperor have to become a human being?” The ghosts of these departed patriots echo this refrain throughout the text. Mishima disdains the second half of the Showa era – Hirohito’s reign – as a time of national listlessness and a “smiling full-bellied peace,” that led to boredom and nihilism. Lassitude had set in:

Strength is decried, the body disdained
Pleasure has lost its substance
Joy and grief alike vanish in an instant
Purity is marketed, dissipation enfeebled
Feeling is dulled, sharpness blunted
Virulent and manly spirits have fled the earth….

This anomie is what he had succumbed to in his youth, and now was learning to conquer. The sickly Kimitake Hiroaka, who cowered in his room and watched the destruction of Tokyo from a distance, as if it were a play, longed for action, for commitment, for belief–and this desire was manifested in his emerging nationalist politics.

The emergence of Mishima as an ideologue of the Emperor system is widely misunderstood: he was not an authoritarian, but rather a critic of Westernized Japanese democracy, which was merely the old bureaucratic zaibatsu-dominated system wearing a “democratic” mask. He saw the Emperor and the Shinto system of Emperor-worship as the essence of the Japanese spirit. The postwar order emasculated Japanese culture, which had previously been represented by both the Chrysanthemum and the Sword: after the Defeat, however, only the Chrysanthemum remained. The Sword was permanently sheathed, the American-imposed “constitution” forbade any form of military activity, and Japanese culture was represented by such pacifistic activities as ikebana (flower arranging), while the darker side was entirely missing.

This dark side, however, was about to reassert itself, Mishima was sure of it, and he did his own part to help it along with the creation of his Tatenokai group, or Shield Society, a group of young patriots he gathered around him in reaction to the tumult of the 1960s, when the Left made giant inroads in Japan (and around the world). This tumult reached a crescendo in Japan with the riots, in the spring of 1960, that greeted the ratification of the US-Japan Security Treaty, which was opposed by both the radical Left and the nationalist Right, albeit for antipathetic reasons.

The student leftists, who took to the streets and battled the police, fascinated Mishima, who admired them for their style if not the substance of their pro-Communist politics. He went out into the streets and reported on the riots for the Mainichi Shimbun. “Patriotism” was written about this time, and his political sensibility began to be more fully developed. The Tatenokai – which he called “the world’s smallest and most spiritual army”—was the culmination of this trend in his thinking: together with these hundred or so patriotic young recruits, in their spiffy designer uniforms, he jumped head-first into the river of action.

Through his connections with influential Liberal Democratic Party mandarins, Mishima managed to get permission for the Tatenokai to participate in training sessions with the Japanese Defense Force. They spend weeks in the JDF training camps, and Mishima is in his element: the world of action. Yet that is just the beginning of his journey down this particular river ….

Mishima’s death is the most well-known aspect of his life, which seems somehow appropriate, given his life-long morbid focus on the subject. It is, however, unfortunate, because the irony is that he was such a creative force: his collected works fill some thirty-plus thick volumes. In his day to day life, too, he was a veritable tornado of activity: he did everything with high energy and intensive focus, whether it was his writing, his body-building, his extensive socializing with a wide network of friends and fellow writers. In the final months and weeks of his life, the pace of his normally hectic activity picked up: he rushed to finish the final volume of “The Sea of Fertility” tetralogy, which was published as The Decay of the Angel.

He had been planning his final gesture of defiance for years, and finally the day approached: he put all his affairs in order, and proceeded with his usual thoroughness and alacrity. Mishima’s initial plan was to somehow enlist the aid of the Japanese Defense Force, which, together with the Tatenokai, would occupy Parliament and demand the revision of the constitution. This fell through, however, when Mishima’s inquiries met with a total lack of interest on the part of JDF officers. The plan was revised: they would take a senior JDF commander hostage, force the authorities to gather the soldiers in a place where Mishima would address them, and then, together, the Tatenokai and the rebel soldiers would carry out a coup, place the Emperor in command of the nation, and reassert Japan’s signal cultural, political, and military identity.

It was a ridiculous scheme, sure to fail, and Mishima–who was no fool–must have known that. Yet he went ahead with it. We can only assume that he knew how it would have to end, and that he wanted it to end precisely as it did.

On November 25, 1970, Mishima was awake and up early with the songbirds. Yoko, his wife, was out of the house, having taken the children to school. He dressed carefully, donning a fundoshi and his Tatenokai uniform. He assembled the items he was taking with him: a brown attache case, which contained a number of daggers, some papers, and a long samurai sword. He placed the final manuscript of The Decay of the Angel on a table in the hallway, in an envelope addressed to the publisher: they were scheduled to come pick it up later in the day. He then made a few phone calls to friendly reporters, hinting that something big was in the works—without saying precisely what was going to happen—and told them to show up at the Ichigaya base of the Japanese defense force in the center of Tokyo. As the morning wore on, a young man in the uniform of the Tatenokai walked through the garden to the front door: Mishima greeted him, and handed him three envelopes, with instructions that these should be taken out to the waiting car and read by the four members of the Tatenokai who had been chosen to accompany him on his final dip in the rive of action. Then he gathered up his briefcase, and left the house.

General Mashita, commander of the Eastern Army, was waiting for his visitors when they arrived at the base, and they were led into his office. After a few preliminary pleasantries, Mishima took off his sword, hanging in its scabbard on his belt, and placed it against the chair as he sat down.

“Tell me,” said General Mashita, “what is this sword you have with you? Did anyone ask you about it on the way in? I am not very clear about the rules on swords, as we don’t carry them anymore ourselves.”

Mishima assured him it was okay, and began to talk about the sword: an antique, made in the seventeenth century by the famous classical smith Seki no Magoroku. “Would you like to see it?”

Mashita indicated that he would, and as he held it, one of the Tatenokai inched forward, according to the plan. Mishima said to the young man: “A handkerchief?” This was the cue, and Mishima’s young follower moved toward the General, who, oblivious to the hidden meaning of the scene playing out before him, returned to his desk to get a tissue with which to wipe the sword. There was more small talk as Mashita examined the blade after wiping it, remarking that he had never seen such a superb weapon in private hands. Mishima looked at his flustered acolyte, who took the hint and moved toward the General, stepped behind him and reached for the General’s neck ….

Mishima and his followers moved quickly: after binding and gagging Mashita, they barricaded the door with heavy furniture. What they didn’t realize, however, was that they were being observed through a peephole in the office door, which allowed anyone outside in the anteroom to look in and see what was happening. The gig was soon up.

Twice unarmed officers tried to break into the room and free the General, and twice they were repulsed by Mishima, who slashed at them with his sword, wounding several. At this point, the Japanese officers–who were confirming by the minute Mishima’s contemptuous dismissal of contemporary Japanese men as all chrysanthemum and no sword–asked what Mishima’s demands were. He readily complied with a written statement slipped under the door: the soldiers of the garrison must assemble in front of the headquarters no later than the hour of noon. Mishima would then be allowed to address them from the balcony outside Mashita’s office window. A ninety-minute truce would be declared, during which time Mishima and his men would not face attack from the JDF. If the officers would not agree, Mishima said he would kill the General and commit suicide. After some urging from Mashita, the officers radioed their commanders, who told them to handle the situation as they saw fit. They agreed to Mishima’s demands.

The soldiers gathered in response to an announcement over the loudspeaker system–and a siren wailed, as if in terror at what was to follow. The news media–already alerted by Mishima–was there in droves, and Mishima crowed: “What a lot of people for the party!”

The four Tatenokai appeared on the balcony, bearing banners that spelled out the conditions under which Mashita’s safety was assured. Mishima’s manifesto, printed as a leaflet, was dropped, and carried by the wind to its intended recipients, who glanced at it with curiosity but hardly any understanding: in it, Mishima appealed to the armed forces to stop being a “toy,” as mandated by the pacifistic Constitution, demanded the restoration of the Emperor to his rightful place as ruler, and complained “we have waited in vain for the Jieitai [JDF] to rebel. If no action is taken, the Western powers will control Japan for the next century!”

The manifesto ended with these stirring words (yes, stirring even to a foreigner):

Let us restore Nippon to its true state and let us die. Will you value only life and let the spirit die? … We will show you a value which is greater than respect for life. Not liberty, not democracy. It is Nippon! Nippon, the land of history and tradition. The Japan we love.

The toy soldiers of the Jieitai read this with incomprehension. Their bafflement only grew as Mishima himself appeared on the balcony. By this time the noise level, already high with the helicopters whirling overhead and the soldiers shouting to each other, reached a crescendo of abuse rising up from the ranks of the men Mishima had hoped to inspire. His plan was to speak for 30 minutes: seven minutes into his speech, however, he gave up. The Jieitai were rebelling, alright–against him. There was nothing to be done but carry out the final act of the drama that had been so long in rehearsals.

Mishima had jumped atop the parapet to be seen by the troops, and now he dropped down back onto the balcony. Inside Mashita’s office, the General’s gag had been loosened, and, as it became apparent what Mishima was about to do, Mashita yelled: “Stop!”

But there was no stopping him. Mishima stripped down to his loincloth, and knelt on the floor, expelling the air from his stomach and shouting a last salute to the Emperor. Then he forced a dagger into his stomach, and cut crosswise, in the prescribed manner. Seppuku is not butchery: it requires precision. As his entrails spilled out, he bent his neck to receive the death blow from Morita, his chief acolyte, who brought down the sword with much force–but missed his mark. Twice more Morita tried, and failed, to decapitate Mishima, instead wounding him grievously. One of the others came forward, who had experience in fencing and kendo, took the sword, and divided Mishima’s head from his body with a single clean stroke.

Today Mishima is looked upon as a fanatic, a crazy person, at best a talented yet flawed writer whose personal demons devoured him in the end: his politics are considered a diversion away from what he was really about, a mere façade for the darkness in his soul. Yet his view of Japan has been vindicated by the gradual rearmament of the Japanese military, and the rise of a new nationalism in Japan, which–while it has hardly inspired a new Shimpuren Incident, or a replay of the February rising of 1936–is reasserting itself. He wanted to live in a nation that had regained a sense of its self, its true self–not the consumerist imitative ikebana-Hello Kitty caricature, but the real, historical Japan, whose origins are lost in the mist of Mount Fuji, the dwelling place of the gods.

 

————–

Raimondo, Justin. “Mishima—Paleocon as Samurai.” Taki’s Magazine, 12 May 2008. <http://takimag.com/article/mishimapaleocon_as_samurai/print#axzz3PfJypKJo >.

 

Notes: For further reading about Mishima and his works, see Riki Rei’s Review of Naoki Inose’s Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima, and also the Yukio Mishima Webpage. For an introduction to Natsume Soseki, a famous Japanese novelist who was an influence on Mishima, see Hoang Nguyen’s discussion of Soseki’s Kokoro and Japan’s modernisation.

For further reading and a list of useful resources about modern Japan and its culture, see the page of Alexander Dugin’s “In the Country of the Rising ‘Do’.”

For those interested in researching Japanese literature in general (which is also useful for the study of Japan’s culture, history, and religious attitudes), we recommend the following two anthologies which were edited by Donald Keene: Anthology of Japanese Literature from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New York: Grove Press, 1955), and Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to the Present Day (New York: Grove Press, 1956). Concerning important modern classic Japanese authors (other than Yukio Mishima) whose works have been translated, we can note the following for readers who are interested: Natsume Soseki, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Kyoka Izumi, Osamu Dazai, Junichiro Tanizaki, Eiji Yoshikawa, Edogawa Rampo, Yasunari Kawabata, Fumiko Enchi, Yasushi Inoue, Shuhei Fujisawa, and Hisashi Inoue.

 

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Review of Inose’s Biography of Mishima – Rei

Review of Naoki Inose’s Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima

By Riki Rei

 

Naoki Inose
Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima
Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2013

Editor’s Note: This is a review of the Japanese edition of Persona, which is available now in English translation. I have read the translation, which appears to be much longer (864 pages) than the Japanese original. It is a treasure trove of information on Mishima. As an aside, the book’s unselfconscious frankness about sex and meticulous cataloging of genealogy and rank give one a sense of the consciousness of pre-Christian European society. – Greg Johnson

***

The Japanese version of Persona was originally published in November 1995 by Bungei Shunshu (literally meaning “the Literary Spring and Autumn”), an established and prestigious publishing house in Japan. The author, Mr. Naoki Inose, is a maverick and contentious figure who served as the vice governor of Tokyo municipality for a long time while also being a highly prolific and popular writer, having penned no less than 30 books so far, mostly on political, historical, and cultural themes. He was lately in hot water, being forced to step down from his official post due to alleged involvement in a murky financial scandal. His political and administrative stance, by post-war Japanese standards, is mainstream conservatism (center-Right).

The main body of the book has about 390 pages, including a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue. There is also a brief postscript and an extensive bibliography which together occupy another nine pages. Considering the length of the book, it is surprising that there are only four chapters. The 17-page Prologue is a novel-like start, the main character of which is a former schoolmate of Yukio Mishima, and whose father also happened to be an old acquaintance and old schoolmate of Mishima’s father Azusa Hiraoka (Hiraoka is the real family name of Mishima), both pursuing the careers of elite imperial government officials, but with quite different fates. The author’s intention in starting the book in this way was to highlight Mishima’s family background so as to shed light on the factors, both familial and historical, that shaped and molded the early development of Mishima’s quite unorthodox and eccentric personality.

Indeed, the author goes far further than most would expect, expatiating on the overall political and social picture of Japan in the late Meiji and early Taisho periods at the very beginning of the 20th century, which, in the author’s presumed reckoning, might better disclose and clarify the political, socio-cultural, and family backdrops of Mishima’s childhood, which was characterized by a mixture of docile and rebellious elements. The first chapter, called “The Mystery of the Assassination of Takashi Hara,” lasts almost 80 pages. Here the author talks about the historical background of the time in which Mishima’s grandfather Sadataro Hiraoka saw his career blossom then wither due to larger and uncontrollable political struggles.

Sadataro was a capable functionary favored and appointed by then the Internal Minister and later the Prime Minister of Japan Takashi Hara, nicknamed the “Commoner Prime Minister,” to be the governor of Karabuto (the Southern half of the Sakhalin Island, ceded to Japan by treaty after the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and forcibly annexed by Soviet Union at the end of WWII). However, due to some suspicious financial dealing and mishaps which were seized by political foes to attack him, and political sectarian conflicts during the Hara administration and after his assassination, Sadataro was relieved of his governorship, and from then on, Mishima’s family’s fortune started to take an abrupt and sharp downturn.

The second chapter, “The Insulated Childhood,” shifts attention from the rise and fall of the Hiraokas to Mishima himself. Mr. Inose spends 90 pages on Mishima’s complex and seeming contradictory childhood, using narration interspersed by flashbacks, and talks about the family life of the Hiraokas, the inter-relationship of family members, religion, Mishima’s grandparents and parents, especially his fastidious and arbitrary grandmother and his bemused father, against the background of decline of the family’s fortunes as a result of political failures of his grandfather. The author devotes large passages to explaining such matters as Mishima’s poor physical health, his tender, timid, and self-isolating personality as a child molded by the uncannily tense family ambience, and his father’s desperate last-ditch effort that brought about his narrow escape from the military draft in his late teen years near the end of the Second World War.

In this chapter, the author also starts to introduce Mishima’s passion for literature, which developed quite early, and his first attempts at writing, as well as his friendship and literary exchanges with several likeminded youths who gave him encouragement and inspiration. One point meriting emphasis is the influence of Zenmei Hasuda, a young imperial army officer, a steadfast traditionalist and nationalist, and a talented writer who killed a senior officer for cursing the Emperor and then committed suicide near the end of the war.

In the third chapter, that lasts almost 100 pages, the author continues to elaborate on the young Mishima’s literary and private life, culminating in his crowning literary achievement, the novel Kinkakuji translated as The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, which the author rightfully perceives as a landmark of the first phase of Mishima’s literary life, which is characterized by richly colored, minutely detailed, and often unsettling depictions of the inner lives of men among the ruins of post-war Japan — a formerly proud nation wallowing in nihilism.

It is noteworthy that Mishima’s works at this stage are rather different from the second stage of his literary activities, in which his works display a clearly nationalist and Rightist perspective. While Mishima’s exquisite writing reached its peak (or near peak) quite early in his life, his understanding of and awakening to the Japanese identity and nationalism centered on the monarchist tradition underwent a gradual process of maturation and was still immature and inchoate at his first literary stage, i.e. the time around his writing of Kinkakuji and other non-nationalist works, in contrast to his second literary phase of more virile, robust, and nationalistic works from Sun and Steel to The Sea of Fertility. In addition, Mishima’s dandyesque personal life of drinking, socializing, and mingling with fashion-conscious rich girls as described in this chapter was also indicative of his less than mature literature and personality at his stage of his life.

Chapter four, being the longest of the four chapters at about 110 pages, stands out as a relatively independent account of Mishima’s later years, dealing with both literature and political/ideological developments, leading to his failed coup, featuring his impassioned exhortation to the military servicemen and his ritual suicide by seppuku. This part covers the Mishima most familiar and interesting to Western readers. The chapter covers his body-building practices, his continued literary endeavors, consummated by the masterpiece The Sea of Fertility,his nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his increasingly active socio-political undertakings, including organizing his private militia troop, the Tatenokai (Shield Society), his serious and strenuous military training in Jieitai (Self-Defense Force), the post-war Japanese military — with the rather naïve aim of safeguarding the Emperor in concerted effort with the military in case of domestic unrest or even sedition at the hands of the leftist or communist radicals — and the events of this final day, November 25, 1970.

Although Persona has an overly long and detailed discussion of Mishima’s family history, the book still flows and proves an engaging read on the whole. The last chapter, though a bit overshadowed by the three preceding chapters, is definitely the most pertinent and fascinating of the whole, filled with interesting facts with insightful and trenchant observations.

Mishima’s veneration of the Emperor (Tenno) and ultimately the Imperial bloodline (Kotoh) of Japan, his candid criticism of Emperor Hirohito, and his final urge toward the coup and the subsequent suicide were already implied in his Kinkakuji, albeit symbolically as the impregnable top floor of the Kinkakuji pavilion itself. These themes became explicit in Voice of the Spirits of Martyrs published in 1966, which especially demonstrates Mishima’s mixed feelings if not overtly bitter resentment of Hirohito for his ignoble role in the failed Ni-Ni-Roku (Feb. 26) Coup of 1936[1] and his abject “I-am-a-human-not-a-god” announcement in 1945.[2] In the book, Mishima speaks through the mouth of a 23-year-old blind man, giving voice to the spirits of the Ni-Ni-Roku rebels and the Kamikaze pilots, i.e., the spirits of martyrs, speaking of the post-war economic boom coupled with the moral decay of Japanese society:

Under the benevolent imperial reign, the society brims with peace and stability. People smile albeit not without conflicts of interest and confusion of friends and foes. Foreign money drives and goads people, and pseudo-humanism becomes a necessity for making a living. The world is shrouded in hypocrisy while physical force and manual labor are despised. Youthful generations feel suffocated by torpor, sloth, drugs, and meaningless fights, yet they all move along the prearranged path of mundanity like meek sheep. People think about making money, even small amounts, for which they degrade their own value. Private cars multiply, whose stupid high speed renders people soulless. Tall buildings mushroom while the righteous cause and moral principles collapse, and the glittering glass windows of those buildings are just like fluorescent lights of implacable desires. Eagles flying high in the sky and break their wings, and the immortal glories are sneered at and derided by termites. In such a time, the Emperor has become a human.[3]

According to Mishima, the daily routines under the rapid economic growth of 1960s is but an ugly and hollow sign of happiness, all attributable to the fact that the Emperor Hirohito has proclaimed himself no longer a divine figure, a sacrosanct “Arahitogami”[4] but a mere human being devoid of sanctity. Mishima expressed this view via the collective voice of the spirits of the martyrs, that the Emperor has assumed a duality of image, one being the last sacred embodiment of the national myth, and the other being one kind smiling grandfather presiding over the economic rationalism of the current age, and it is the latter, the protector of the daily routines of the post-war Japan, that Mishima found intolerable, as the voice of the martyr spirits makes quite clear:

The reign of His Majesty has been dyed in two different colors. The period of the bloody red color ends with the last day of the war, and the period of the ash grey color begins from that day. The period of the authentic red color soaked with blood starts with the day when the utmost sincerity of the brotherly spirits was thrown away, and the period of that pallid grey color starts from the day of the ‘I-am-a-human’ announcement of His Majesty. The immortality of our deaths is thus desecrated.[5]

The “brotherly spirits” here refer to the soldiers of the failed 2.26 coup of 1936, failed by the Emperor Hirohito, by his headstrong refusal to understand and sympathize with their righteous patriotism and pure sincerity. Mishima also believed that the “I-am-a-Human” announcement of Hirohito in the wake of WWII rendered the heroic sacrifices of the lives of the Kamikaze Tokkottai (Special Attack Units) utterly futile and pointless.

According to the author, Mishima’s mother Shizue revealed a little secret about the writing of Voices of the Spirits of Martyrs on the occasion of the commemoration of the seventh anniversary of Mishima’s death, namely, the work was actually written one night. She recollected that Mishima handed the manuscript to her as he had always done and uttered “I wrote this in one stroke last night, and it’s now completed.” She read through it quickly, felt her “blood curdled,” and asked Mishima how he wrote this piece. Mishima answered: “I felt my hand moving naturally and the pen sliding on the paper freely. I simply couldn’t help it even if I wanted to stop my hand. Low voices as if murmuring could be heard across my room in the midnight. The voices seemed to be from a group of men. When I held my breath to listen carefully, I found they were the voices of the dead soldiers who had participated in the 2.26 Incident.” Shizue continued to remark that “I had known the saying about haunting spirits before but didn’t paid attention until that moment when I came to realize that Kimitake (Mishima’s real first name) was perhaps haunted by something, and I felt chills down my spine.”[6]

In the summer of the same year Voices of the Spirits of Martyrs was published, Mishima went to Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island, South Japan, and this trip would prove to have a decisively catalyzing effect on the consolidation of the nationalist and traditionalist ideology that guided his later literary and political actions, provided the urge for the writing of his final work The Sea of Fertility, and eventually paved the way for his suicide. The pivot of Mishima’s interest was the local Samurai warrior group Shinpuren (The League of Divine Wind) which was violently opposed to the various policies of westernizing reform enacted by the Meiji regime in the 1870s.

The original driving force of the Meiji Restoration was the idea of “Revering the Emperor and Repelling the Foreign Barbarians” (Sonnojoi), which stipulated that legitimacy came not from the Shogun but from the Emperor and that Western forces, epitomized by the dreaded “Black Ships,” must be decisively expelled.[7] Yet after abolishing the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate by uniting around the rallying call of “Sonnojoi,” the newly-established Meiji regime immediately and drastically changed its course and started to purse a policy of reform: opening Japan to the outside world, imitating Western ways, and curbing or eliminating the traditional customs of Japanese society deemed by the new regime as un-Western and uncivilized. New laws were promulgated by the Meiji government: the former Shizoku (Samurai aristocrats) were prohibited from carrying swords in public places, a sacred and unalienable right in their eyes, marking their distinguished status from the masses. They were also forced to change their hairstyles (cutting off the buns at the back of their heads). These were the direct causes to the Insurrection of Shinpuren in 1876 (the ninth year of the Meiji period).

The members of Shinpuren were so thoroughly alienated and infuriated by the Meiji government that they went to comical lengths to reject modernity. For example, when banknotes replaced traditional metal coins, they refused to touch them with their hands, picking them up with chopsticks instead. They made long detours to avoid walking under electrical wires. If no detour was possible, they would cover their heads with a white paper fan and pass hurriedly under the wires. They cast salt on the ground after meeting anyone dressed in western garb. When they decided to revolt against the Meiji government, they insisted on using only traditional bladed weapons like the sword (Katana), spear (Yari), and cane knife (Naginata), instead of the “dirty weapons of the western barbarians.”

This group, consisting of about 170 men, launched a night-time attack on the Kumamoto garrison. The garrison troops were caught off guard and initially panicked. But they regrouped and started to fire volleys of bullets into the armor-wearing, sword-wielding Shinpuren warriors storming at them. The samurai fell one after another, and altogether 123 warriors died in the battle or committed seppuku after sustaining serious wounds, including a dozen 16- or 17-year-old teenagers.

It was indeed a sad and heart-wrenching story. Why were they willing to die to protect their right to carry samurai swords? It is hard to comprehend it by the commonsense of our de-spiritualized modern age. The rebellion was mocked by newspapers in Tokyo as an anachronism even at the time, let alone in post-War Japan. Nevertheless, the Shinpuren samurai believed they were serving the cause of righteousness and justice, and it was their spotless sincerity and combination of faith and action that deeply impressed Mishima. The following passage his comment on Shinpuren in a dialogue with Fusao Hayashi[8]:

Talk about the thoroughness of thinking, when thinking expresses itself in an action, there are bound to be impurities entering it, tactics entering it, and human betrayals entering it. This is the case with the concept of ideology in which ends always seem to justify means. Yet the Shinpuren was an exception to the mode of ends justifying means, for which ends equal means and means equal ends, both following the will of gods, thus being exempt from the contradiction and deviation of means and ends in all political movements. This is equivalent to the relation between content and style in arts. I believe there also lies the most essential, and in a sense the most fanatical sheer experimentation of the Japanese spirit (Yamatodamashii).[9]

As hinted previously, the trip to Kumamoto and the examination of the historical record of Shinpuren gave Mishima a model and meaning for his future suicide. In fact, three years before his suicide he published a piece in the Yomiuri Shinbun, in which he stated rather wistfully the following words: “I think forty-two is an age that is barely in time for being a hero. I went to Kumamoto recently to investigate the Shinpuren and was moved by many facts pertaining to it. Among those I discovered, one that struck me particularly was that one of the leaders of theirs named Harukata Kaya died a heroic death at the same age as I am now. It seems I am now at the ceiling age of being a hero.”[10] From such clues, which are actually numerous, the author argues that Mishima started at about forty to reflect on his own death and probably settled on terminating his own life upon the completion of his four-volume lifework The Sea of Fertility.

The heavy influence of Shinpuren is manifest in the second volume of The Sea of Fertility, namely Runaway Horses, in which the protagonist Isao Iinuma, a Right-wing youth, holds a pamphlet titled The Historical Story of Shinpuren and was depicted as possessing an burning aspiration of “raising a Shinpuren of the Showa age.” And the full content of the aforementioned book was inserted into Runaway Horses in the form of a minor drama within a major drama. The historical background of the novel was set in early 1930s. The 19-year-old Isao attempts to assassinate a man called Kurahara, known as the king fixer of backdoor financial dealing, who was in Mishima’s eyes the representation of Japanese bureaucrats who considered the “stability of currency” as the ultimate happiness of the people and preached a cool-headedly mechanical if not callous way of crafting economic policies. Kurahara was quoted saying, “Economics is not a philanthropy; you’ve got to treat 10% of the population as expendable, whereby the rest 90% will be saved, or the entire 100% will die” — the self-justifying words of a typical ultra-realist and even a nihilist — a stark contrast to the pre-War ideal of the Emperor as an absolute patriarch, a profoundly benevolent feudal ruler who guarded the identity, history, and destiny of the Japanese people — a metaphysical figure that Mishima embraced, held dear, and vowed to defend and revive regardless of cost.

In sum, Mishima’s spiritual and historical encounter with Shinpuren and his military training can be viewed as elements in the design of his own death, as steps ascending to the grand stage. Shortly after concluding his military training, Mishima wrote a short book, A Guide to Hagakure, on Jocho Yamamoto’ famous summation of Bushido doctrine, Hagakure. Mishima’s Guide also illuminates his final action:

One needs to learn the value of the martial arts to be pure and noble. If one wants to both live and die with a sense of beauty, one must first strive to fulfill necessary conditions. If one prepares longer, one will decide and act swifter. And though one can choose to perform a decisive action oneself, one cannot always choose the timing of such an action. The timing is made by external factors, is beyond a person’s powers, and falls upon him like a sudden assault. And to live is to prepare for such a fateful moment of being chosen by destiny, isn’t it?! Hagakure means to place stress on a prior awareness and a regulation of the actions for such preparations and for such moments that fate chooses you.[11]

It is exactly in such a fashion that Mishima prepared for and embraced his self-conceived and fate-ordained final moment, to serve a noble, beautiful, and righteous cause.

Notes

  1. Emperor Hirohito was angry at the assassinations of his trusted imperial ministers at the hands of the rebel soldiers. He vehemently refused to lend an ear to the sincere patriotic views of the rebels, refused to side with them, and immediately ordered the suppression of the coup and had the leaders tried and executed quickly.
  2. Emperor Hirohito made this announcement partly due to the pressure of the US occupation forces, i.e. the GHQ, and partly willingly, as a cooperative gesture if not an overtly eager attempt to ingratiate himself with the conqueror.
  3. Naoki Inose, Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima (Tokyo: Bungei Shunshu Press, 1995), p. 323.
  4. Meaning literally “a god appearing in human form,” a highly reverential reference to the Japanese Emperor until the end of WWII.
  5. Persona, pp. 323, 324.
  6. Persona, p. 324.
  7. American naval fleets commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry to force Japan to open itself to the world, which first arrived in 1853 and once again in 1854.
  8. A famous and highly accomplished literary figure of contemporary Japan who is known for being flamboyant and highly contentious writer and literary critic. As a young man, he was a Leftist, he turned toward the Right-wing nationalism in the 1930s and remained a staunch and steadfast nationalist during the war and throughout the post-war years until his death.
  9. Persona, pp. 327, 328.
  10. Persona, p. 333.
  11. Persona, p. 341.

 

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Rei, Riki. “Naoki Inose’s Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 15 September 2014. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/09/naoko-inoses-persona-a-biography-of-yukio-mishima/ >.

 

Notes: For further reading about Mishima and his works, see Justin Raimondo’s biographical sketch “Mishima: Paleocon as Samurai”, and also the Yukio Mishima Webpage. For an introduction to Natsume Soseki, a famous Japanese novelist who was an influence on Mishima, see Hoang Nguyen’s discussion of Soseki’s Kokoro and Japan’s modernisation.

For further reading and a list of useful resources about modern Japan and its culture, see the page of Alexander Dugin’s “In the Country of the Rising ‘Do’.”

For those interested in researching Japanese literature in general (which is also useful for the study of Japan’s culture, history, and religious attitudes), we recommend the following two anthologies which were edited by Donald Keene: Anthology of Japanese Literature from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New York: Grove Press, 1955), and Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to the Present Day (New York: Grove Press, 1956). Concerning important modern classic Japanese authors (other than Yukio Mishima) whose works have been translated, we can note the following for readers who are interested: Natsume Soseki, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Kyoka Izumi, Osamu Dazai, Junichiro Tanizaki, Eiji Yoshikawa, Edogawa Rampo, Yasunari Kawabata, Fumiko Enchi, Yasushi Inoue, Shuhei Fujisawa, and Hisashi Inoue.

 

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On Japan – Dugin

In the Country of the Rising “Do”

By Alexander Dugin

Edited by Daniel Macek

 

Introductory Note: We have edited the following article to fix a number of significant errors and awkward translations made by the original translator (who was not specified by the original publishers). The reason we have chosen to republish this article is because the nature of Japan as it has been in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries is very significant for Europeans. It is not uncommon to find references to the practices of East Asian nations – Japan being the most prominent – among European cultural conservatives, who admire the successes of Japanese restriction of immigration (resulting in a nation that is retains its traditional ethnic types as the vast majority of the population, yet is still culturally rich) combined with its economic successes, as well as the creative combination traditional cultural and religious values with modern science and technology. We believe that this article by Alexander Dugin, despite being very limited, provides an important insight into the Japanese condition. – Daniel Macek (Editor of the “New European Conservative”)

Part 1. The Divine Wind

In this people’s language there is a special word for defining such a science as geo-politics – Chiseygaku, literally “teaching on the well-ordered land.” Such a people cannot be something ordinary.

In this people’s language there is the word Oshym (o-shima); it means “great island.” Such a people has access to the ultimately deep layers of dreams.

In this people’s language the “sovereign,” the “emperor,” is called Tenno, the “Heavenly one.” Such a people itself tastes of heavenly fish.

A gold carp had been rising along the waterfall, but because of its absent-mindedness it didn’t notice that the water had passed and it was moving to the sky. Higher, higher… The red carp is growing, wings come out of him, its scales are getting thicker… and it is now the great red dragon that is swimming in the sky.

Professor Tamotsu Murata [村田保] told that story in the ancient little restaurant in Asakusa residential area, explaining the canvas which hanged there on a wall. The slender old professor from a Samurai family was writing haiku poetry on a paper sheet, whose opposite side was dotted with mathematic formulas. He was finishing a book on the problem of continuality.

“I think we should seek the source of continuum in the mystery of a moment,” he had said not long before. “One day many years ago, when I was totally young, not such as I am now (the impenetrable visage, in which the smile is expressed by the unnoticeable movement of the hair), I was standing in a tiny yard, looking at the sky, and suddenly I understood, that I am; that there is I and only I. And not I as something which had occurred and is lasting, but as something momentary. Continuity is born from a revelatory moment.”

The Japanese read Western philosophy, but understand it in utterly their own way.

Professor Murata asked me to comment his views after his lecture about Kant. The gist of his report was reducible to the following. “Kant shouldn’t have separated the transcendent sphere of reason and empirical world of sensuality. There IS a connexion between them – language is the connexion.”

I answered: “It is an excellent idea, but then we arrive to the conclusion that language is a magical instrument, a magic hermetic means, with the help of which one can turn the rarefied to the dense and the dense to the rarefied.”

“Indeed, how exactly you understood me,” agreed old professor Tamotsu Murata. “And could you subject this approach to criticism?”

“Yes, I could,” I answered, “you have been reading Kant, who belonged to the context of modernity, as being a Japanese, who belongs to a context of non-modernity.”

All Japanese belong to the eternal present. And the fact that Japanese professors, refined and educated in an utterly European way, can treat the classics of rationalism in such a way, foretells that Japan will still shine over the world, like the bloody eye of the non-quantitative, momentarily continual goddess Amaterasu.

Que Japon vive et revive cent mille fois [That Japan lives and relives a hundred thousand times]! When I talked to Parvulesco after my return from Japan, he told the pity of my not letting him know of my trip beforehand. “Mon cher [my dear] Alexander, I would have organized your meeting with my daughter, who teaches French in Tokyo University, and she wouldn’t have had trouble with arranging for you to have audience with Tenno.”

“I will certainly go there again, Jean!”

A mask of the sacred theater “no” hanged on the canvas with the carp. Professor Tamotsu Murata suddenly leapt to his feet from the tatami – he seemed to be thrown up from below – and began to slightly stir the canvas and the mask. The mask revived, reflecting the entire range of emotions – sinister, merry, ironical, cruel ones.

“And if one looks from different perspectives, in it there will appear the entire life. One and the same, seen in different ways, it is no longer one and the same…”

And on other wall of the secret little restaurant of Asakusa there was a faded personage with small horns – the demon Anita, the keeper of hell. There are so many fish in hell…

Then a head of a fish was served to us. It was as big as a wheel of a wagon. I didn’t know that there could be such huge fish. The floor in the restaurant was black and earthen. Its roughness was a cipher key. I caught myself at the fact that I understand a lot more than I notice: All the evenness tries to get closer to death.

The Japanese are the keepers of life. That which is dense, that which can make you breathless, that which is underwater, which is aerial, made of a piece of red dingy cloth, from a dog’s side, from a porcelain cruel doll, from a house as big as a suitcase, from the tinkling of copper bells which notifies the spirits of peoples’ arrival to the jinja [sanctuary] and of their readiness to throw a coin. The jinjas were everywhere that I went along the way – to say little, I saw inside them a lot! One who wants to know what the pure substance of life is should visit Japan.

In the Japanese language, there is “no” and no word “I.” The roaring “hai” (“yes”) is said without voice inflexion, with gleaming black Japanese eyes, with unbelievable wild energy means all in aggregate. Yes – it is the great enthusiasm of sacred holography, when the Universe is focused upon the small piece of land. From the sacred geography to the sacred holography.

At the reception in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was Professor Masaru Sato [佐藤優], who looked like a sumo wrestler. A bit fractally, aggressively, being overfilled by the energy of the mountains, he spoke about Japanese Eurasianism, about necessity of Japan’s return to its former greatness.

“We had a national thinker – Okawa. He was a consistent advocate for the continental bloc – Tokyo-Moscow-Berlin. He foresaw the pernicious consequences of the anti-Russian attitude, and was persuaded that Japan would be able to maintain its influence in the Pacific region only through strategic partnership with Russia.”

“We Japanese,” Sato-san continued, “are in some sense communists, but only with the Emperor. We are for the collectivity, but a hierarchised, sacred one…” The communists of magic.

This is important: everything modernistic in Japan is extremely perfunctory. They have managed it! Yes, they have managed it. The modern is deactivated there, deprived of its metaphysics.

Just as professor Murata in utterly natural way adds to Kant a mere trifle, language as an instrument of operative magic, and the Catholic (!) professor Yoichiro Murakami [村上 陽一郎] operates with the concepts of Buddhism to describe main trends of the history of science, and translates Jung and Pauli (this is called the West!), so the ordinary Japanese turn McDonalds into a jinja. A lantern with hieroglyphs and a swastika, bringing luck, along with several comrades from two million “deities” of Shinto, momentarily turn a hamburger temple of the “New World Order” into the traditional Japanese snackbar. And Professor Toshio Yokoyama [横山 俊夫] from Kyoto interprets “civility” as the traditional attitude of the Japanese to gods, flowers, animals, and people. The civil society in such an interpretation is the society of a sacred rite.

In such case I am a supporter of civil society. A citizen is one who follows the “do”; he who does not follow the “do” is not. “Do” in Japanese is the immanent godliness, including the transcendent aspect as its natural extension. The spirit of Japan (“do”) is unbreakable.

In Japan they have a good attitude towards Americans. The motive? Americans were once able to defeat the godlike Japanese, so therefore they are godlike too. There is no concept of evil. There is only the concept of the path, “do.” In Japan they have a bad attitude towards America. The motive? How can one have a good attitude towards it?

In Japan one could leave a wallet with money on a street and return for it in a week. It would be just there. There is a sufi parable on how a wise sheikh, who knew everything and was a sultan’s chief adviser, left his purse in the market. He remembered that in a week and went to take it back. His murids were bewildered: “either the sheikh has gone out of his mind or there is something we do not understand.” In Asia, purses disappear in the bazaar even if they are firmly gripped in hand. Japan is not Asia, it is beyond Asia. It is the country where the ethical norms of the contemplative sheikh are made a reality.

Japan is unreal. It seems to me that there cannot be such a country.

Technology here is an element of “do.” Assembling electronic devices is an equivalent of the arts of making ritual ekibanas or of the tea ceremony. It is an electronic version of Yemoto, the “do” keepers.

There are no Japanese without “do.”

“Are there avant-garde artists here? Drug addicts? Transvestites? Those who inhabit the modern West?”

“They were here at one time, but disappeared somewhere with time.”

There are drug addicts among newcomers; the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Filipinos. The Japanese cannot be affected by anything. Their customary everyday life is a continuous luxurious hallucination. Under Kyoto bridges people, who live in containers, watch TV. Even in garbage nooks, strange living aesthetics reigns.

Watch out: schoolchildren! They walk in the streets, in the Metro, in historic parks and mountain museums by well-shaped squares. All are in uniform. One ought get in their way. The divine wind once destroyed the Mongolian fleet: Kamikaze. People and wind are relatives. The Japanese schoolchildren are the relatives of the aimed divine wind.

Kami-kaze, the “Divine Wind.” By this one can find a clue to the fascinating figure of Rimbaud: “Le vent de Dieux jettait des glacons aux marres…”

Old Believers of the Beguny (“runners” or “escapists”) persuasion in previous times had a teaching about a secret “Oponskom Tsardom” [Опоньском царстве]. I then understood what was meant by that. It was Shinkoku – the doctrine of “Sacred Japan.”

Shinto priests teach: the ancient good spirits Izanagi-no-mikotu and Izanami-no-mikotu once married with each other and gave birth to the islands Honshu and Kushu. Those main islands resulted only from their lawful wedlock. Before that there appeared spiders and ghosts, and also the small islands. Then they bore also many good spirits and the first emperor Tenno. The brother islands drew out of themselves mountains, rivers, giant red-white fish, which swim in Japan in every pool, offering themselves to skillful cooks (Polyakov and I made friends with one of such fish – this was the fish-professor from Tokyo University), forests, tea, sacred narrow-muzzled dogs, which guard sanctuaries, spirits and conifers, sunbeams and soft clouds, which can be only over the Near-Moscow-Localities. The Emperor bore the Japanese. The Japanese and Japan constitute one kindred alliance. Heaven and earth, a rice sprout, clay, a stream, a stone, a vacuum cleaner, a peasant and a policeman are one kindred organism. In the Japanese the wind, the wind of sweet clouds flows through their veins instead of blood, nourishing the eyes by the flesh of dream. And it is always so. So has it always been and so will it always be.

Shinkoku – where there is nothing to exclude and to include.

Japan is a Eurasian esotericism. It is the clue to ourselves, Oponskom Tsardom. The altar of Eurasia.

In the garden of emperor’s palace, on the remains of a tower built by a Shogun – of which there was no higher in the world, but which was standing for only several years – we spoke with Polyakov about advantage of ontological reflections for heuristic solutions in modern physics, about the equation of Navier and Stokes, about prospects of development of the unified theory of substance on the basis of phase change analysis in works of the physicist called Sinai. Masuda dozed off on a sunlit bench. Suddenly a raven appeared before us. Without speaking, we understood that it was the Shogun’s warrior. It guarded the emperor’s garden, keeping vigilant watch over who was there, where they were, what they did and what they said. The raven was in the size of around two metres. In the eyes of two big-bellied tourists, who perspiringly ascended the tower’s remains with perspiration, the pupils were rolled unseeingly – it seemed they did not see the raven with a pointed coal-black beak. It disappeared noiselessly.

All partitions in Japan are opened, they are made of paper. The membranes between the dimensions have a special structure – very well-ordered, carefully fixed. The approximateness of metamorphoses is conceptualized here, permeated with mathematics.

Japanese cars have the snout of Shinto spirits.

Tetsuya Masuda pointed at an undistinguished, imperceptible stone, which lied at the entrance to a little restaurant on a narrow Kyoto street. “This is a garden.” By the Japanese a stone, a blade of grass, a stem, a little pool, is anyway a garden. They take a fragment of what is and penetrate it with their sacred Japanese attention, and a garden is born. The garden-bringing people.

In Kyoto we were served a fish whose sides were cut off and the raw meat laid beside. From the fish was left its snout, skeleton and caudal fin. It made gasping-for-breath movements by its mouth, blew a little bubble. In the half-dark room I counted nine levels – the floor, the “bar” stand, the table, the benches and so forth – which were at the different distance from an imaginary line. It was as if all the planes must have been shifting as in a multi-mirror elevator. Masuda told the story about his French friend, who had been so horrified by discovering the fact that a fish was breathing that he started to shout at him for him to urgently bring a knife and to “save a poor animal from misery.” Masuda obediently went for a knife, but he could not get it from the owner, who sincerely did not understand what was going on. When he still returned with a knife, the Frenchman with a great effort, in hysteric anguish, had already crushed fish skull with the wooden saucer and had been gazing round perplexedly. “He made the fish suffer rather than attentively observe its death-transfer and participate in it with all his being – the mouth, tongue, stomach…” We looked at the fish, at the small black bubble near its mouth… Polyakov touched its moist nose with a chopstick…

The city’s view was psychedelic. There was not a single direct line; the entire area consisted of a huge number of squares. The area is overflowing with meaning and symbolism, like a Russian cemetery. Everything is satiated with Being. Japan has ontological architecture.

With Polyakov, we founded a new teaching: the Kyoto-Helsinki ontological teaching, the second root of Eurasia.

Eurasia is Japan-centered in our geometry; so teaches Chiseygaku.

The last evening brought us to the Tokyo’s Near-Moscow-Localities. I noticed almost at once upon my arrival to Japan that it had a Russian sky. But only on the last day before my return did it became clear that near Tokyo there were the grasses and flavours of the Near-Moscow-Localities.

Profuse, abundant, black, bloody saps of the earth, a small island of grass and of Russ plus computer lights of Shinkansen, luminous sky-scrapers, twinkling highways, and neon hieroglyphs blink around. It seems to me, that when a Russian dies, he first finds himself in here and drinks the Japanese beer Kirin, until he understands what is what.

Nikolay-do. Before Whitsunday, Matins are served by the Metropolitan of All Japan himself. The icons are all Russian. On the right from the altar there is a picture: the Russian field, the forest, a Russian beauty stands in a crown, with a halo and with a cross in hand; the saint Olga. On the icon there is a fragment of Russian Shinkoku. The icon of Russian field, the Russian forest: two holographic realities. Somewhere in mediastinum of dream they are bound, interwoven by roots. The roots of Oponskom Tsardom, the construction of the Vladivostok-Hokkaido tunnel, Shinkansen from Tokyo to Berlin.

The words inter-flow in a whole, indivisible stream. In kanji one can not only read and write, but also think – think of a whole piece of world, which is indivisible, complete, pulsating from an over-richness of inner Being.

A thought on Japan is the thought about wholeness.
The red rising heart.
The light of the Orient.
They ought rule again and again.
For all the Pacific sphere to co-succeed.

Part 2. The Geonauts

I have been honoured by the visit of the Japanese professor Shukei Yamaguchi [山口 実]. One more of them. Now they visit me every day. That is the right way; if you start to go on visits, go on. Japanese like density very much, as we Russians do, but in another way.

He asked me to explain what “being a Russian” means.

I answered…

He studied Jung’s heritage, and the director of a Jungian college in Switzerland seemed to give his blessing to him to write a research paper on the classification of basic temperaments (introverted and extraverted ones) by different countries and nations. That is a very good idea.

Yamaguchi was coming to the conclusion that Western peoples are of an extraverted type, while Eastern ones are of introverted type, and in Europe the Germans are relatively introverted (“the thinking, reflecting introverted people”). In his classification, the Russians are the “intuitive introverted people,” the Hindus (like the Germans) are the “reflecting introverted people,” and the Japanese are the “sensual introverted people.”

It is clear that the sphere of “introvertedness” is the mental continent of Eurasia.

Introvertedness gravitates towards inner experience, towards “likeness,” towards “unity,” towards “interfusion.” “The inner world is the world of life,” Yamaguchi said. Speaking with him I made out that he worships Absolute Life. That is the essence of Eurasian worship; the Absolute Life. Hence follow some very important definitions:

“Therefore an introverted person, as he is concerned more with his inner life than with the outside material world, is liable to see reality in some form of all-including unity or interfusion. He likes to feel united with Nature. He would not assert himself, because that would mean that he should be independent or separated from the world or other people. He would try to form a group with friends and tends to submerge himself in it. He does not like to be different from other people. When he has to make judgment, he tends to see reality from the point of view of similarity, not from difference. Thus he is inclined to say first ‘yes,’ but later he often says ‘no,’ much to detriment of his credibility.” (Yamaguchi)

It is a description of us, me, the Russian people, the Japanese people, and all good and interesting people in this world.

Next Yamaguchi described the Japanese psychology. For instance, the O-tsuki-mi rite. It is when the Japanese silently, for hours, look at the moon. Their Unconscious bathes then in the moonlight, is cured and cleaned, as the land washes itself in ocean waters, removing scum. The Japanese thoroughly care for their Unconscious, clean, and nurse it.

Each Japanese sees the Moon from his own angle and it changes colour. This is the practice tamamushi-iro. Things change colour based on on how one looks at them; the colour is the voice of the Psyche. True distinctions arise where through different people the common mysterious beam of light of the Absolute Life, which was married to the nation, radiates.

The Japanese hate to subdue the surrounding world, because they do not distinguish themselves from it. And again professor Yamaguchi gives a surprisingly precise sentence: “The Japanese does not like clear distinction, but tends to leave things in ambiguity.” It is as if we are during the lectures of “the New University” [“Нового Университета”]…

At the lection “The Secret Mother” I gave a definition of the human being, which set the groundwork of new Eurasian anthropology: “A man is an inaccurate movement of the Possible.” By “a human,” I had meant a Russian. As it had become clear, the Japanese meet that definition ideally.

I retold Yamaguchi the story of professor Murata and Kant. He listened to me with the great interest. When I had come to the language, which bridges the abyss between the empirical world and the reason, he suddenly interrupted me, waving his hands in the air: “They are connected through the Absolute Life, which radiates through people and things… Kant is incomprehensible without Bergson and Jung!”

Everything is clear with you, I gave up. And that Japanese, who has been living in the West for more than 20 years, has not understood anything of the world in which he has found himself in. And he will never understand. And thank God! Thank you… This imparts to me great strength for my work. To him too, evidently.

Then the professor asked me to tell him about Russia. I answered: “The most important thing in Russia is geonautics, “land-floating,” the theory of liquid land. We conceive of it as a dense tea, not as a stone. Vapours of land rise and form the land ocean. These are multi-dimensional worlds, breathing in Being. The land, the Russian land, has its own Navier-Stokes equation. The Russians walk on land by their entire body, not by their heels. Therefore the Russians are the aerially introverted people. For them the land is not something firm, but something moist and viscous. The Russians drift on land, that is why they do not understand anything. Except for the Japanese; quite to the contrary, they have an understanding of the Japanese.”

Yamaguchi’s eyes were gleaming, double-gleaming, burning. “And how do the Russians make judgments? Logically? Intuitively? Emotionally? Egoistically?”

“No, none are correct. The Russians make judgments according to principle of maximum stupidity. They choose just what is least reasonable and it will bring them a lot of inconvenience. They evade the choice, sabotage it. Choosing absurdly and not to the point, not what is needed and not when it is needed, they make it clear: your proposal, your conditions of choice are idiotic by themselves. And it is proper to answer idiotism by idiotism. It is the active abstentionism. We just do not want to live along the imposed regulations. We are swimming. The essence of Russia is ironic seriousness; the ironic stupidity. Showing ourselves as fools, we laugh at those who do not consider themselves as such. When a Russian is reading Dostoyevsky, he is dying of laughter; Dostoyevsky is an amazingly laughable author.”

“You don’t say! His works are a distressing drama for us… And what about Russian messianism?”

“It is very important. That messianism is pointed towards the West. It is a messianism of the introvertedness. We, as well as other peoples of the East, are an introverted people, although not passive and natural, but aggressive and preternatural. We march under introvertedness as under a standard, extend it over the world, weigh heavily over the membranes of the West, which we do not like, but, by the way, understand. It may be just because of that, that we dislike it so much.”

“But the Russians are very gifted at the sphere of art, beauty…”

“Yes, but not out of aestheticism. When only three hundred years ago we were imposed upon by the Western culture, which was extroverted in its essence, we chose the least rational, least reasonable in it – the sphere of art, where there is more space for the Irrational. But that was a mere substitute for the real land-floating. Quite a poor one, but we succeeded in it, that is true.”

And then the professor couldn’t stand any more. Interrupting me, he said: “I would like to express my emotions by singing.” In his profile there was a phrase “professional whistler.” When I had first seen it I thought “they call probably flautists that.” No, he was a natural, literal “professional whistler.”

Professor Shukei Yamaguchi began to whistle. It was the autumn whistling, dedicated to the thin spider lines of evening, which noiselessly fly down from the sakura branches. The autumn whistling. He whistled the classic academic whistling, helping himself with his hand. The Japanese national whistling. It stays in my ears, that strange whistle…

 

—————–

Dugin, Alexander. “In the Country of the Rising ‘Do.'” Международное Евразийское Движение, 2001. <http://evrazia.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=522 >.

Note: The original Russian version of this article (titled “В стране восходящего ‘До’”) can be found here: <http://www.evrazia.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=683 >.

Notes on Resources for further reading:

See also Dugin’s speech at Tokyo University called “New Paradigm of Science,” which deals with religious, scientific, and ontological philosophy, partly addressing Asian perspectives: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/new-paradigm-of-science-dugin/ >.

For further research on Japanese religious beliefs, we suggest the books Shinto: Origins, Rituals, Festivals, Spirits, Sacred Places by C. Scott Littleton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) and Shinto: the Kami Way by Sokyo Ono (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 1962).

For research on Japanese literature – which also gives good insight into Japan’s history, culture, and religion – we recommend the following two anthologies, edited by Donald Keene: Anthology of Japanese Literature from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New York: Grove Press, 1955), and Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to the Present Day (New York: Grove Press, 1956).

On the Oskorei blog, Joakim Andersen had written an article titled “Lästips: Nationalism och manga” (“Suggested reading: Nationalism and Manga”, in Swedish),  which can also help understand the attraction that some Right-wingers have towards modern Japanese culture as a superior conservative Pagan culture.

On the idea of “Modernization without Westernization” in Japan and China, see the article “Modernization without westernization is the first step to reject imperialism” by Antonio Grego.

A starting point for further research on Japanese philosophies can be found on the website The Japanese Philosophy Blog.

The official website of Nichibunken (日文研), The International Research Center for Japanese Studies, can be used for research to find numerous resources in Japanese history, culture, religion, society, etc. See the publications search for resources readily available online.

 

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Geopolitics of Leviathan – Rix

Geopolitics of Leviathan

By Edouard Rix

Translated by Greg Johnson

 

“Nur Meer und Erde haben hier Gewicht.”
(Only sea and land matter here.)
—Goethe

This article is less concerned with geopolitics than with thalassopolitics, a neologism coined by professor Julien Freund “to call into question certain conceptions of geopolitics that privilege telluric phenomena over maritime phenomena.”

“World history is the history of the fight of maritime powers against continental powers and of continental powers against maritime powers” writes Carl Schmitt in Land and Sea. [1]

In the Middle Ages, the cabbalists interpreted the history of the world as a combat between the powerful whale, Leviathan, and the no less powerful Behemoth, a land animal imagined as looking like an elephant or a bull. [2] Behemoth tries to tear Leviathan with its defenses, its horns or its teeth, while Leviathan, for its part, tries to stop with its fins the mouth and the nose of the land animal to starve or suffocate it. A mythological allegory not unrelated to the blockade of a terrestrial power by a maritime power.

The “Sea Power” of Admiral Mahan

Around the turn of the 20th century, the American Alfred T. Mahan in The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890), the German Friedrich Ratzel in Das Meer als quelle der Volkergrösse [The Sea as Source of National Greatness] (1900), and the British Halford John Mackinder in Britain and the British Seas (1902), attach a paramount importance to the sea as source of power of the nations.

Admiral, historian, and professor at the US Naval Academy, Alfred T. Mahan (1840–1914) is the most famous geopolitician of the sea, his work comprising twenty books and 137 articles. On the basis of the study of European History of the 17th and 18th centuries, he sought to show how maritime power (Sea Power) appeared determinative of the growth and prosperity of nations.

For him, the sea can act against the land, whereas the reverse is not true and, in the long run, the sea always ends up winning any fight against the land. Mahan is deeply persuaded that the control of the seas ensures the domination of the land, which he summarizes with the formula “the Empire of the sea is without any doubt the Empire of the world.” [3] By thus affirming the intrinsic superiority of the maritime empires, he offers a theoretical justification to imperialism, the great expansionist movement of the years 1880–1914.

In The Problem of Asia, published in 1900, Mahan applies his geopolitical paradigm to Asia, insisting on the need for a coalition of maritime powers to contain the progression towards the open sea of the great terrestrial power of the time, Russia. Indeed, he stresses that its central position confers a great strategic advantage on the Russian Empire, because it can extend in all directions, and its internal lines cannot be crossed.

On the other hand—and here lies its principal weakness—its access to the sea is limited, Mahan seeing only three possible axes of expansion: toward Europe, to circumvent the Turkish blockade of the straits, toward the Persian Gulf, and toward the China Sea. This is why the admiral recommends damming up the Russian tellurocracy through the creation of a vast alliance of the maritime powers, thalassocracies, which would include the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan, the Americans asserting themselves as the leaders of this new Holy Alliance.

Halford John Mackinder

Inspired by Admiral Mahan, the British academic Halford John Mackinder (1861–1947) also believed that the fundamental geopolitical reality is the opposition between continental powers and maritime powers. A fundamental idea run throughout his work: the permanent confrontation between the Heartland, i.e. the central-Asian steppe, and the World Island, the continental mass Asia-Africa-Europe.

In 1887, Mackinder delivered a short public speech to the Royal Geographical Society that marked his resounding debut on the geopolitical stage, declaring in particular “there are two types of conquerors today: land wolves and sea wolves.” Behind this allegorical and somewhat enigmatic utterance is the concrete reality of Anglo-Russian competition in Central Asia. In fact, Mackinder was obsessed by the safety of the British Empire vis-à-vis the rise of Germany and Russia. In 1902, in Britain and the British Seas, he noted the decline of Great Britain and concluded from it that she must “divide the burden” with the United States, which would take over sooner or later.

In his famous essay of 1904, “The Geographical Pivot of History,” he formulates his geopolitical theory. One can summarize it in two principal points: (1) Russia occupies the pivotal zone inaccessible to maritime power, from which it can undertake to conquer and control the Eurasian continental mass, (2) against Russia, maritime power, starting from its bastions (Great Britain, the United States, South Africa, Australia, and Japan) that are inaccessible to terrestrial power, encircles the latter and prohibits her from freely reaching the open sea.

Studying the “pre-Colombian” epoch, Mackinder contrasted the Slavs, who inhabited the forests, with the nomadic riders of the steppes. This semi-desert Asian steppe is the Heartland, surrounded by two densely populated crescents: the inner crescent, encompassing India, China, Japan, and Europe, which are territorially adjacent to the Heartland, and the outer crescent, made up of various islands. The inner crescent is regularly subject to the pressures of nomadic horsemen from the steppes of the Heartland.

Everything changed in the “Colombian” age, which saw the confrontation of two mobilities, that of England which began the conquest of the seas, and that of Russia which advanced gradually in Siberia. For the academic Mackinder, this double European expansion, maritime and continental, found its explanation in the opposition between Rome and Greece. Indeed, he affirms that the Germans were civilized and Christianized by the Roman, the Slavs by the Greeks, and that whereas the Romano-Germans conquered the oceans, the Slavs seized the steppes on horseback.

Mackinder made the separation between Byzantine and Western Empires in 395, exacerbated by the Great Schism between Byzantium and Rome in 1054, the nodal point of this opposition. He emphasized that after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, Moscow proclaimed itself the new center of Orthodoxy (the Third Rome). According to him, in the 20th century, this religious antagonism will lead to an ideological antagonism, between Communism and capitalism: Russia, heiress of the Slavic country village community, the Mir, will choose Communism, the West, whose religious practice privileges individual salvation, for capitalism . . .

For Mackinder, the opposition Land/Sea is likely to lean in favor of the land and Russia. Mackinder noted that if the United Kingdom could send an army of 500,000 to South Africa at the time of the Boer Wars, a performance saluted by all the partisans of the maritime power, Russia at the same time had succeeded in an even more exceptional exploit by maintaining an equivalent number of soldiers in the Far East, thousands of kilometers of Moscow, thanks to the Trans-Siberian Railroad. With the railroad, the terrestrial power was henceforth able to deploy its forces as quickly as the oceanic power.

Enthralled by this revolution in land transportation, which would make it possible for Russia to develop an industrialized space that is autonomous from and closed to trade with the thalassocracies, Mackinder predicted the end of the “Colombian” age and concluded that the telluric power is superior, summarizing his thought in a striking aphorism: “Whoever holds continental Europe controls the Heartland. Whoever holds the Heartland controls the World Island.”

Indeed, any economic autonomy in central-Asian space leads automatically to a reorganization of the flow of trade, the inner crescent thus having an interest in developing its commercial relations with the center, the Heartland, to the detriment of the Anglo-Saxon thalassocracies. A few years later, in 1928, Stalin’s announcement of the implementation of the first Five Year Plan would reinforce the British thinker, who did not fail to stress that since the October Revolution, the Soviets built more than 70,000 kilometers of railways.

Shortly after the First World War, Mackinder published Democratic Ideals and Reality, a concise and dense work in which he recalls the importance of the Russian continental mass, that the thalassocracies can neither control from the seas nor invade completely. Thus, concretely, it is imperative to separate Germany from Russia by a “cordon sanitaire,” in order to prevent the union of the Eurasiatic continent. This prophylactic policy was pursued by Lord Curzon, who named Mackinder High Commissioner in “South Russia,” where a military mission assisted the White partisans of Anton Denikin and obtained from them the de facto recognition of the new Republic of Ukraine . . .

To make impossible the unification of Eurasia, Mackinder never ceased recommending the balkanization of Eastern Europe, the amputation from Russia of its Baltic and Ukrainian glacis, the “containment” of Russian forces in Asia so that they could not threaten Persia or India.

Karl Haushofer’s Kontinentalblock

It was in Germany, under the decisive influence of Karl Haushofer (1869–1946), that geopoliticians, diplomats, and National Revolutionary and National Bolshevik theorists (the Jünger brothers, Ernst Niekisch, Karl-Otto Paetel) would oppose thalassocratic pretentions with greatest force.

A Bavarian artillery officer and professor at the War Academy, Karl Haushofer was sent to Japan in 1906 to reorganize the Imperial Army. During his return to Germany on the Trans-Siberian railroad, he became vividly aware of the continental vastness of Russian Eurasia. After the First World War, he earned a doctorate and became professor of geography in Munich, where connected with Rudolf Hess. In 1924, Haushofer founded the famous Zeitschrift für Geopolitik (Journal of Geopolitics). He was the direct intellectual heir to his compatriot Friedrich Ratzel and the Swede Rudolf Kjellén.

To begin, let us set aside the black legend of Haushofer as fanatical Hitlerist who used geopolitics to justify the territorial conquests of the Third Reich, a legend based in “American propaganda efforts,” according to Professor Jean Klein.[4] This diabolization will astonish only those who are ignorant of the anti-thalassocratic orientation of Haushofer’s geopolitics . . .

Haushofer wished to rise above petty nationalisms. Thus, beginning in 1931, in Geopolitik der Pan-Ideen (Geopolitics of Continental Ideas), he advocated the constitution of vast continental spaces as the only means to go beyond the territorial and economic weakness of traditional States. The first stage could be the sub-continental gatherings theorized in 1912 by the geographer E. Banse, who recommended 12 large civilizational regions: Europe, Greater Siberia (Russia included), Australia, the East Indies, Eastern Asia, the “Nigritie” (the “black lands,” i.e., Africa), Mongolia (with China, Indochina, and Indonesia), Greater California, the Andes, America (Atlantic North America), and Amazonia.

Haushofer’s radically continentalist and anti-thalassocratic thought came into focus in 1941, when he published Der Kontinentalblock-Mitteleuropa-Eurasien-Japan (The Continental Bloc Central Europe-Eurasia-Japan). Written after the Germano-Soviet pact, this work argued for a Germano-Italo-Soviet-Japanese alliance that would radically reorganize the Eurasian continental mass. He stressed that the permanent fear of the Anglo-Saxons is the emergence of a Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo axis, which would completely escape the influence of the commercial thalassocracies, which, he writes, practice the policy of the anaconda, which consists in gradually encircling and slowly suffocating its prey. But a unified Eurasia would be too large for the Anglo-American anaconda. Thanks to its gigantic mass, it could resist any blockade.

The idea of a tripartite alliance first occurred to the Japanese and Russians. At the time of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, when the British and Japanese united against the Russians, some of the Japanese leadership—including Hayashi, their ambassador in London, Count Gato, Prince Ito, and Prime Minister Katsura—desired a Germano-Russo-Japanese pact against the English seizure of global sea traffic. The visionary Count Gato recommended a troika in which the central horse, the strongest one, flanked by two lighter and more nervous horses, Germany and Japan. In Russia, the Eurasian idea would be incarnated a few years later by the minister Sergei Witte, the creative genius of the Trans-Siberian Railroad who in 1915 advocated a separate peace with the Kaiser.

Needless to say, Haushofer disapproved of Hitler’s wars of conquest in the East, which went against his historical project of creating a Eurasian continental bloc.

The Anaconda Strategy of Spykman and Brzezinski

The fundamental idea, posed by Mahan and Mackinder, to prohibit Russia’s access to the open sea, would be reformulated by Nicholas John Spykman (1893–1943), who insisted on the pressing need for controlling the maritime ring or Rimland, the littoral zone bordering the Heartland and which runs from Norway to Korea: “Whoever controls the maritime ring holds Eurasia; whoever holds Eurasia controls the destiny of the world.”[5]

Interpreting this maxim at that onset of the Cold War, the United States tried by a policy of “containment” of the USSR, to control the Rimland by means of a network of regional pacts: NATO in Europe, the Baghdad Pact then the Organization of the central treaty of the Middle East, SEATO and ANZUS in the Far East.

With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, one might have expected a strategic redeployment of the USA and a break with Mackinderite orthodoxy. But that was not to be. So much so that still today, the (semi-official) foreign policy adviser most heeded by President Obama proves to be a dedicated disciple of Mackinder: none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, a friend of David Rockefeller, with whom he co-founded the Trilateral Commission in 1973, and Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1980. His major theoretical work, The Grand Chessboard, appeared in 1997, at the time of the wars in Yugoslavia undertaken mainly under his initiative, under the aegis of the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Brzezinski’s strategic analysis cynically reprises Anglo-Saxon geopolitical doxa: Eurasia, which comprises half the planet’s population, constitutes the spatial center of world power. The key to control Eurasia is Central Asia. The key to control Central Asia is Uzbekistan. For this Russophobe of Polish origin, the objective of the American Grand Strategy must be to fight against a China-Russia alliance. Considering that the principal threat comes from Russia, he recommends its encirclement (the anaconda, always the anaconda) by the establishment of military bases, or, in the absence of friendly regimes in the former Soviet republics (Ukraine included), insisting in particular on the necessary utilization of Islamists. Paradoxically, it is in the name of the fight against these same Islamists that American forces were deployed Uzbekistan after September 11th, 2001 . . . Machiavelli is not dead!

Notes

1. C. Schmitt, Terre et Mer (Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1985), p. 23. [See the English translation available on this website here. — Trans.]

2. The names of Leviathan and Behemoth are borrowed from the Book of Job (chapters 40 and 41).

3. A. T. Mahan, The Problem of Asia and its Effect upon International Policies (London: Sampson Low-Marston, 1900), p. 63.

4. Jean Klein, Karl Haushofer, De la géopolitique (Paris: Fayard, 1986).

5. N. Spykman, The Geography of the Peace (New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1944), p. 43.

 

Source: Edouard Rix, Terre & Peuple, No. 46 (Winter Solstice 2010), pp. 39–41. Online: http://tpprovence.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/geopolitique-du-leviathan/

—————

Rix, Edouard. “Geopolitics of Leviathan [Parts 1 & 2].” Counter-Currents Publishing, 10 & 11 August 2011. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/08/geopolitics-of-leviathan-part-1/ > ; <http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/08/geopolitics-of-leviathan-part-2/ >.

 

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New Paradigm of Science – Dugin

New Paradigm of Science

Speech in the Tokyo University

By Alexander Dugin

 

We regard the science as a system of relations of a rational man with a mechanistically interpreted reality. Having arisen at the edge of the New Time in Europe, that system of relations includes both theory – the knowledge about that reality (which claims its own objective character, verifiability and indisputability) – and practice (technics) – the methods of affecting that reality.

The rational man, the man who bases his perception of the world on the “common sense” (“la bonne raison”, “bon sens” or “la bonne foi”) is the subject of the modern science, its self, its creator, its main developer. In the pre-scientific period such a subject did not exist purely or, at least, it did not claim for the rational approach as the only one to formulate the truths of the surrounding reality’s nature. Some certain superrational dogmas and myths always prevailed over the rational man. As to science, it set itself to emancipation from non-rational foundations from the very beginning. And this is just what one of its specific distinctive features consists in. Where this criterion is not observed, we cannot talk about the science in the strict (modern) sense of that word and should use other formulas, such as “pre-scientific conceptions”, “para-scientific method”, “pre-scientific” and in some situations even “post-scientific” approaches.

The mechanistic and atomistic interpretation of reality is the other necessary criterion of understanding science. Only the mechanistic nature, deprived of any faint resemblance of “its immanent-essential life” must be the object of the science. As regards this, Martin Heidegger wrote:

“The science establishes the Actual. It presses for the Actual to appear every time as a result of one or another action, in other words, to appear in the form of visible aftereffects of some causes, which give a good ground for them.”

Such objective-made reality functions completely according to cause-and-effect relationship and is subordinate to a mechanistic determinism. That reality is supposed to be “accessible to strict measurement” (as M. Plank said). As to M. Heidegger, he emphasizes that “any objectivation is calculation”. So then the outside world in the modern science is taken as the Absolute Object, lying before the Absolute Subject, the “Subjective Subject”, and they do not have any common mediating substance with each other. Hence follows the most important classic science principle of reducing “the organism to the mechanism”, the representation of an organism as a complicated, intricate version of a mechanism. In turn, from this emerged the Cartesian thesis of “the animals as mechanical apparatuses” and the radical Lamerti’s statement that “the man is nothing else but the machine”.

Such vision of the world and of the man attains prevalence (in Europe) only in New Time and just in the same period the concept of “science” is realized as describing some system of “exact” relations of two set-apart poles – of the “Subjective Subject” and of the “Objective Object”. In other epochs the term “science” was used in some other, more wide and less precise sense, since both the man and the Nature were perceived absolutely otherwise and their interrelations had fundamentally different character.

So, the main quality of a science as itself consists in striving to attach some autonomous character to the deterministic and mechanistic system of relations between the subject and the object, in purifying that system of relations from any collateral and unscientific, extrascientific factors (theology, traditions, myths, “superstitions” and so forth).

In turn, such an autonomous state, attained by the science, should have brought to ranking the scientific knowledge in its own opinion above the rest gnoseological patterns of pre-scientific and unscientific origin. This last point is extremely essential, since in a historical process the substance of the science was developed in dispute with comprehensive gnoseological systems, mostly related with religions and other topping institutes of a traditional society. The opposition of the science as specific gnoseological system, claiming independence and dominance, to other patterns of cognition and perception of reality, that are inherent in a traditional society, makes the science an ideologically concerned phenomenon.

Methodology of meta-paradigms (Sphere, Ray, Segment)

The main methodological instrument we employ is a principle of paradigms.

The Greek word “paradeigma” literally means “what predetermines the character of the manifested, but at the same time remains outside the manifested” (“para” signifies “over”, “above”, “by what”, “about what”, and “deigma” signifies “manifestation”). In the most broad sense, it is an initial pattern, a matrix, which prefers to act not directly, but through its own manifestations, having predetermined their structure. The paradigm is not manifested by itself and represents a structure-forming reality, which, being not accessible to direct introspection, always remaining “off screen”, establishes the main, basic, fundamental parameters of human thinking and human being. The specificity of paradigm consists in that gnoseological and ontological aspects in it are not divided yet and are subject to distinguishing only as our basic intuitions, having been sifted through the paradigmatic sieve, take form of one or another affirmation of gnoseological or ontological character.

The term “paradigm” was applied by the Platonic and neo-Platonic philosophy schools for describing some supreme, transcendent example, predetermining the structure and form of material things. It was introduced in the science history methodology anew by G. Bergman, who interpreted it as some common principles and standards of the methodological research. T. Kuhn gave more wide interpretation (than by Bergman) of the term, summarizing in it the general context of the scientific conceptions, axioms, methods and certainties, which predetermine weltanshaaung orientations, shared by the scientific community in the given historical situation. Kuhn made the paradigmatic method of research a principle instrument for researching the structure of scientific-technical revolutions. Kuhn’s term “disciplinary matrix” was a specified synonym for “paradigm”.

Even more broad sense was implied in that term by Fritjof Capra, who proposed opposition of two paradigms: the old (classic, Cartesian-Newtonian) one and the new, named by him as “holistic” or “ecologic”, one, destined to replace the rational-discontinuous methodology of mainstream science of New Time.

We use the term “paradigm” in the most common sense, different from those of G. Bergman, T. Kuhn, F. Capra, in the sense of generalization universality. That’s why, to give a more accurate definition, we have had to introduce a concept of “metaparadigm”. We interpret it as a vast aggregate of non-manifest orientations that predetermine the manner itself of understanding and viewing reality’s nature and that, being formed, may give birth to manifold philosophical, scientific, religious, mythological, cultural systems and conceptions, which have some common denominator despite all their formal difference.

In other words, the paradigm is not a myth, but a system of myths and it is able to generate new mythological subjects and recombinations. The paradigm is not a theology, but a system of theologies, which, differing in their concrete affirmations, are reduced to the common proto-matrix. The paradigm is not an ideology, but some pre-ideological nebula, able to crystallize out of itself (as in Laplace’s hypothesis) uncertainly large system of ideologies. The paradigm is not an ideology, but an ultimately underlying reason for ideologies, able to reveal similarity in ideologies, not just different externally, but even opposite, and vice versa, show a fundamental differences in ideologies, very like formally.

In such a vision one cannot draw a strict distinction between a gnoseological ingredient and an ontological ingredient of a paradigm. Each of the global paradigms certainly sets up axiomatic structures, where the statuses of Being, Consciousness, Spirit, World, Origin and their interrelations are predetermined. As to empirical confirmations or refutations of those axiomatic structures, they do not even apply to the paradigms directly, since they affect intermediate levels of formal realization. The question of reflection on the paradigms themselves and their quality is put in special historical moments only, when transition from one paradigm to another occurs. But as soon as the change is accomplished, the possibility itself of such reflection is reduced to minimum. The paradigm predetermines how is what is, what is what is, and finally, how we cognize what is. It is a closed set. In some paradigms the ontology and the gnoseology are knowingly merged, in the others are separated. But it is not a property of level or degree of cognition, it is a result of a paradigmatic influence, which is expressed in multiform series of scientifical, philosiphical, mythological and cultural discourses.

As the most general paradigms we propose to take three paradigms – paradigms of Sphere, of Ray and of Segment. Each of these paradigms might underlie philosophy, science, mythology, theology, gnoseology, and so on. Each paradigm dictates its own model of association with the world, world’s general structure conception, world’s cognition aspects and models.

It is exactly the dialectical development of these paradigms, their interrelationship, and their change determine, in our opinion, the flow of human history, determine the emergence of science itself, its development, conditions of its coming into being. Each of the paradigms totally and radically changes the meaning of the terms and intellectual constructions, which in the formal and lexical way might look identical. The transition from one paradigm to another basically changes the main parameters of reality perception by a human, transforms the status of a human himself.

Each of the paradigms gains prevalence in certain historical periods. And at first sight, their evolution has the character of succession: for example, the paradigm of Sphere was peculiar to the ancient humankind and to traditional societies initially. It is primordial and is found in most ancient and modern (mostly Oriental) civilizations. In historical and geographical senses that paradigm is spread more widely than two others. It corresponds with basic, profound and deep strata of human’s psyche and therefore remains surprisingly stable even in the periods when on the surface it is displaced by other alternative paradigms. The paradigm of the Sphere is based on the fact that the Deity / proto-Principle / Origin is found inside the World, is cosubstantial to the World, inseparably and substantially linked with the World. This gives birth to conception of “cyclic time”, “eternal return”. This motive is a commonplace in all mythological and religious teachings except for Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam; but it is still present in those three in the form of mystical, esoteric trends, somewhat different from dogmatic norms.

The paradigm of the Ray is the next one both in logical and historical aspect. It is connected with the unique theology of those religious forms, that are called “religions of Revelation” or “monotheism”. The idea of world creation from nothing, “ex nihilo” underlies the paradigm of Ray. Such an approach momentarily breaks the continuity of the spherical world, evenly imbued by the Divine presence, the presence of proto-Principle. Here God-Creator seems to be external to the Universe, separated from the nature of Universe. The relation of the beings, present on Earth, to the Origin immediately changes. The reality becomes locked from one side, from the side of its emergence, its origin. The Ray paradigm gives birth to one-directional time, gives grounds for turning history into a “time arrow”. However, the religions of Revelation (though in varied forms) teach that in certain stages of humankind history the alienation, which underlies creation ex nihilo, will be overcome as a display of the “Divine mercy”. And starting from a certain moment the immanent created reality will be “atoned”, “saved” and elevated to the transcendent Origin. That epoch of atonement is called “eschatological” or “messianic”. The world to that moment discontinues being alienated from the Creator and transits to some other mode of being, which roughly reminds of the reality conceptions in the Sphere paradigm. Hence follows that the Ray (or the Hemisphere) is limited from one side, from the side of ‘world creation from nothing’ dogma, and is unlimited from the other side. This “unlimitedness” does not imply indefinitely long duration. The symbol of Ray is taken here metaphorically, just in order to stress the “half-indefinite” character of the model, beginning with the radical rupture and resulting in the blessed reconciliation and reunification. That messianic motive is to varied extent inherent in all monotheistic religions, but is especially clearly expressed in Judaism and Christianity, and in Christianity the eschatological aspect is accentuated unprecedentedly.

The Ray paradigm follows the Sphere paradigm both in logical and historical aspect. It is as if it dissects the Sphere, cutting off the half, that postulated the direct resulting from God (what is called “manifestationism” or “ex deo” creation).

Further, the Segment paradigm follows the Ray paradigm. Here the world’s limitedness from both sides is postulated. Such world appears from nothing and disappears in nothing. It has no direct Divine Origin and no hope for return to Deity. The Universe is conceived as God-abandoned objective reality, closed from all sides by non-existence and death. That paradigm is characteristic for New Time and underlies the modern science.

The Segment paradigm insists that no transition of immanent reality to the transcendent levels is possible, in its most complete forms that paradigm denies the existence of those levels at all. That’s why the Segment paradigm gravitates to atheism, rejecting the transcendent principle. In some cases, however, instead of atheism there is deism in it, which affirms a transcendent Creator, but denies messianism and eschatology. In the viewpoint of Segment paradigm, such deism does not differ from atheism and materialism in almost any way.

The Segment Paradigm gravitates to mechanistic conception of reality nature, to atomism and local situations’ priority. In that paradigm the General, the universal live interrelationship among objects, beings and phenomena is denied. The prevalent approach is discontinuity, divisibility, relativity.

The Segment paradigm follows the Ray paradigm as a result of its development. It is significant, that the Segment paradigm becomes established only where the Sphere paradigm was replaced by the Ray paradigm beforehand. There is a logical and symmetrical correspondence in that fact. With certain approximation and considering the fact that New Time is exactly characterized by the process of the Segment paradigm’s obtaining universal character and its extensive development, one may conceive the paradigm development process as a consequent transition from Sphere through Ray to Segment. In some reality aspects it is so.

So, the general process of paradigm evolution has a whole series of fine points, defining that process, as well as there is some dimensions, where the external successive transition from Sphere to Ray is compensated by the reverse phenomena, that shows ancient Sphere paradigm’ resistibility and stability as regards competing “innovative” paradigms.

We would like to solve the comprehension problem of “scientific epoch” as a whole and having an autonomous structure intellectual paradigm (the Segment paradigm) which exists along with other paradigms (the Sphere and Ray paradigm) which are based on the other premises, that are to the same extent well-grounded (or groundless) as “scientific dogmata”. Sometimes unscientific and even pre-scientific paradigms affect the evolution of the scientific orthodoxy itself, admixing to it and creating intermediate and quasi-homogeneous variants, that often evade looks of researchers who operate with conventional schemes and methodologies.

Apart from “critical rationalism” we are absolutely not sure that preserving modified norms of “classical rationality” is a self-evident truth and that giving the scientific orthodoxy up would bring to humankind’s intellectual degradation. We would like to show that the other, non-scientific paradigms also rest on quite harmonious and complete intellectual constructions, arranged otherwise (which does not mean certainly worse). On the other hand, the “epistemological anarchism” as mixture of all possible paradigms and giving up any general gnoseologic vectors at all can scarcely give really useful and correct intellectual results (though in some cases such an approach may be justified). As to theses of radical positivists, today they are not regarded as serious by anyone.

In our viewpoint, the method of “meta-paradigms” just may set one of the possible landmarks for the further scientific self-consciousness development and the evolution of the phenomenon that according some certain historical inertion (despite the obvious change of functions) is still common to call “science”.

 

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The text of this speech was originally published online at the official Fourth Political Theory website (n.d.): <http://www.4pt.su/el/node/708#sthash.Okm75fc6.dpuf >. (See this essay in PDF format here: New Paradigm of Science).

Note: Our research shows that the theory of paradigms discussed in this speech is based upon the ideas which Aleksandr Dugin expounded in more depth in his dissertation Эволюция парадигмальных оснований науки (Москва: Арктогея, 2002). On the relationship between science and religion and the idea of a reform of science from a religious perspective, related ideas to Dugin’s have been advanced by Mircea Eliade and Gilbert Durand (both of whom influenced Dugin’s thought). For Dugin’s studies on these matters, see also his book Социология Воображения (Москва: Академический проект, 2010), which is his most comprehensive sociological work.

Additional note: We also recommend that our audience read Alexander Dugin’s article on modern Japanese society and culture: ‘In the Country of Rising “Do”’, <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/on-japan-dugin/ >. According to Dugin’s description, Japan has a society in which the qualities of modernity and tradition are very well combined. The Japanese society of recent times (the late 20th Century and early 21st Century) is highly advanced technologically, scientifically, and economically, but it simultaneously possesses a rich and high-quality culture which is very religious, spiritual, conservative, and ethnically identitarian in nature. In other words, it is “revolutionary conservative” because it possesses a culture where the progress of modern science is fused with the spiritual qualities of traditional society. Thus, modern Japanese society can be seen as a source of inspiration and also as a model for European Conservatives and Identitarians, who aim to create a similar type of society for European nations.

 

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