Authority and Legitimacy

Non vanno distrutti quei capi che quelle masse raggirano, ma vanno distrutte quelle masse che da quei capi si fanno raggirare. ~ Emanuele Cintura Torrente (personal communication)

We have presented three works by Ananda Coomaraswamy, Charles Maurras, and Julius Evola on the themes of the elite and the source and legitimacy of their authority. Remember the two goals we have in mind:

  1. To determine if the Old Right (represented in the chain from Joseph de Maistre to Charles Maurras) offers more than the New Right
  2. To compare Maurras and Evola, a project suggested by Alain de Benoist.

The Education of the Elite

In Eastern Wisdom and Western Knowledge Coomaraswamy mentions the elite in the context of the recovery of Tradition in the West. There are three basic points: the training of the elite, the constitution of the elite, and their interests. Regarding the first point, Coomaraswamy writes:

the work is to be done in the two fields of metaphysics and religion, and that it can only be carried out on the highest intellectual levels, where agreement on first principles can be reached apart from any propaganda on behalf of or even apology for “Western civilization.”

Of necessity, few will have the interest, aptitude, and patience to take on such a project. They embark on that task for their own benefit and spiritual realization; that society as a whole may eventually benefit indirectly is not a motivating factor. There should be no need here to point out that this does not mean a course of study in the academic sense. However, we do want to emphasize that this is obviously different from the training of a king or any other leader. First of all, this means that the intellectual elite will not typically be the temporal rulers.

The more important point is that the recovery of tradition in the West will not come initially from a King imposing tradition. This would seem to be the case in some interpretations of Evola. He seems stuck on the idea that the “priests” broke apart from the royal initiation, leading to the decline of tradition. However, the recovery of tradition, if that were actually true, would require a king before the elite, an absurd notion as a moment of thought will show, not to mention the examples from history.

Moreover, in a very real sense, the elite is not immediately interested in creating a “traditional” society. Although preferable, it is not necessary. The elite will support the diffusion of the knowledge of principles. Nevertheless, where that is not possible, the elite will continue their own project. Paradoxically, modern liberal societies may actually be amenable to that task, since the authorities typically leave them alone in their private spiritual studies.

The Spiritual Training of the Chiefs

Maurras makes a remarkable claim. It is not the masses who need religion, but rather the class of leaders. Although not explicitly a “traditionalist”, he nevertheless states the precise relationship between the spiritual elite and the ruling class. The country benefits from the religious training of the leaders, as it will lead to intelligent decisions as well as the moral restraint of the powerful. He gives the example of English training:

everyone who governed and served in the top jobs had undergone the hard and long intellectual and moral preparation in the old universities, with a lot of Greek verses and Latin discourses, confirms how certain it is that the real happiness of the people depends on the good training of their leaders

This education differs from the intellectual interests of the spiritual elite as its focus is on the practical reason. Apart from the self-discipline and preciseness of thought resulting from the study of the classical languages, the poetry and discourses are about the adventures of ancient heroes as well as the thoughts of military and political leaders. The leaders learn how to apply the principles, but do not require the intellectual discipline to study the first principles themselves. Evola points out that the aristocrats eschew that type of education, and hence we that is the origin of the expression “gentleman’s C”.

The Legitimacy of Authority

Instead of focusing on political structures, which are secondary, Evola in To Be of the Right correctly begins with the “spiritual vision and vision of the world”, that is, to defend the spiritual, aristocratic, and warrior values of Tradition. There cannot be disdain for principles, which always constitute the solid base. That is, in the face of changing circumstances, principles do not change.

One of those principles, according to Evola, is the principle of authority, which will establish the “well-structured, organic, hierarchical State”. Evola then asks the question which we have just answered above: what is the foundation of that authority? He rejects two choices. The first is that authority does not come from below, i.e., from the consent of the governed. He then rejects the “man on a white horse”, the dictator, who can perhaps enforce order for a season, but will not have any long-term impact.

There is a German saying, “Wer A sagt, muss B sagen.” Curiously, Evola says A, but refuses to say B. As he writes, authority requires a “blessing” or “chrism”. That can only come from above; specifically, it is the spiritual authority that legitimizes the political authority by connecting it to its spiritual, transcendent foundation. We recognize first principles since their denial will involve a contradiction; the denial of a spiritual authority over “aristocratic” values, exposes a contradiction.

Quo Vadis?

We have provided some more “road signs” to point to tradition rather than the many pseudo-traditions that abound. Do they understand principles, or are they actually based on secular philosophies and ideologies? Do they promote moral values? Do they seem “aristocratic”, specifically, can anyone imagine “aristocrats of the soul” begging for spare change from their subjects? In days of yore, knights had to have the wherewithal to provide their own arms and horses.

We don’t want to get too polemical at this point since, as Mr. Torrente points out, the problem is not the leaders who deceive the people, but rather the people who let themselves be deceived.

One thought on “Authority and Legitimacy

  1. I thought the piece on Maurras that emphasizes Authority being “born” gave a good contrast to Benoist – presumably, from what I know of Benoist, in his system, Authority arises from the constitution of both the particularity of the race & the “mass” of the race. He wouldn’t admit the possibility of an outsider showing up with supreme Authority. And in a healthy Society, this would be the extreme exception – however, during the Middle Ages, it was common (although not necessarily popular) to have foreign kings or queens or masters.

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