The Constitution of a Traditional Society: The Capo

Part II ⇒


This is part 1 of the concluding section of Guido De Giorgio‘s description of the establishement of a traditional society. Here, he develops the idea of the supreme leader, above the three castes, whose primary duty is the maintenance of Tradition.

This section, as a whole, needs to be compared to the similar efforts by Guenon, Coomaraswamy, and Evola to describe the respective roles of Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power. However, De Giorgio’s work comes from a completely different place, from a deep understanding of the principles involved. The other three try to make an “argument”, by referring to various scriptures or historical situations. Guido De Giorgio speaks from the heart, from what he knows; he can be judged on that basis. That is how Tradition is to be recovered.

Interspersed within the main topic, as always there are various spiritual gems to be recovered. We can call attention in particular to the notion that a man creates his own life. Also, pace those who want to create a superman, De Giorgio believes that man qua man must vanish in order for something higher to appear.

We could repeat at this point the exhortation that Homer put into the mouth of wise Ulysses when the Greeks appeared to abandon the Trojan adventure and that even Aristotle cited at the end of Book XII of the Metaphysics: “let there be one ruler.” There is first of all the great law of analogy according to which the only leader in time must correspond to the supreme unity in eternity and since God is pure contemplation and only the cognitive fruition of aseity can be conceived in Him, so the Leader inversely will make a pure activity of his life dedicated to the maintenance of his command on the earth.

He holds temporal power, exercises it uncontested, and is the supreme authority whose domain embraces all the active life in its multiple aspects and over which he is the regulator and judge. His function is therefore integrative and his work is strictly dependent on Justice, the highest of the virtues.

If on the one hand, while being the supreme leader, he is above all the prince of the Warriors, his power is exercised over all indiscriminately in the temporal environment because he could not go beyond it without failing in his task and his purpose.

Although he arose from the Warrior caste, in order to carry out his task he is above the three castes and so must, while remaining strictly within the scope of the active life, serve as the harmonious base of the development of the first two castes, from the first receiving consecration, and serving for the protection and the maintenance of the traditional order of the second. In order to preserve inviolate his sovereignty, he will have to guard the Temple that is the foundation of every tradition and defend the Priests who nourish with their spiritual influence the body of the truths accessible only to the contemplatives. While depending spiritually on them, he is absolutely autonomous in his domain and the Priests in this owe him obedience as all men belonging to the other two castes, nor can or should the spiritual insert itself into the temporal and compromise the pure sphere of contemplation which does not have to undergo profanation of that sort.

The unity of command represents the centralizing equilibrium of the active life that loses in the Leader its particularistic and widespread character in order to rise to a level analogous to the Edenic state where everything is put before man who is truly the king of creation. Therefore the Leader vanishes only before God where his sovereignty is annulled in the Lordship of all the lords: everything in this life, he will be in the other that which he will have merited according to the meaning it will have had from God. “Caesar I was, Justinian I am…” [Dante, Paradise vii]. In the face of God the greatest victory will be that which he will have been able to bring back on himself and on what he will have accomplished on earth, nothing will matter for him except the works of justice, rectification, equilibrium, and peace. Since the Leader must always seek peace for his subjects in analogy with that same thing that in the contemplative order is the foundation of every realization and all aspire to that type of activity that develops them. The maintenance of this equilibrium is reserved to the Warriors who will always make war an instrument of peace and not of pure and simple conquest. The unity of the empire avoids the unproductive diffusions of the active life concentrating its energies toward a single end where all disparities and partial imbalances are evened out, therefore if in the Warriors, as was said, inner asceticism is the necessary base for the development of their activity, this is even more strict in the Leader who must annul in himself any individuality whatsoever in order to make justice triumph and the rule secure the empire.

He knows that he is the supreme ruler of the active life and that the active vibration emanates from him that, in analogy with the divine, is extended to all the branches of humanity of which he constitutes the propelling and purifying center through which the backward wave [onda di ritorno] obtains new energy for new possibilities of development in a perpetually mobile and fecund circle of flux and reflux.

We are purely in the sphere of action in which all men necessarily live and to which none are exempt except those who can and must dedicate themselves to the contemplative life: what each man accomplishes in it, and the way in which he accomplishes it, has a very great importance for the equilibrium of human perfection that would be maimed and amputated if an element is removed from that current of active homogeneity that constitutes temporal modality.

All traditions in fact reserve the contemplative life to those for whom it is appropriate and who are worthy of it, while they condemn asceticism and separation from the world for those who lie outside it obeying a sense of inadmissible egoism: those are the weak and the lifeless and they avoid the responsibility of worldly life through real insufficiency. It will be well to insist on that: everyone brings and creates, so to speak, his environment and by this word we do not mean only the closest circle, but the entire temporal extent of human life with everything which is positive and negative in it for the individual. Making use here of an image, we could say that every man has a passage of existence that is not only his world, but all the world that is for him what he is for the world itself: in this passage that starts from the center of a circumference and is contained between two divergent rays which, having as base a segment of the circumference itself, form a cone, there is everything that man wants and that he does not want, his fortune, his misfortune, his battle, his dispute, his victory or his downfall. The essential thing for him is to rise up in ascending planes from the circumference to the center, from the base of the cone to the vertex that represents the greatest of the minimum, i.e., God, while reassimilating all multiplicity gradually into a point only in which he is annulled, because he, dispelling ignorance, will recognize himself in everything, even and above all, in that to which he is most opposite and will recompose in a perfect equilibrium all the antagonisms up to the point of extinguishing them in the highest vortex of his asceticism, or better said, of his recovery, which is God.

When we employ this term, we mean everything that is truly of God in God, truly and not fallaciously, i.e., all the superhuman states of union with God that man can realize only starting from himself in order to reach that which is no longer himself, man before, no longer man afterwards.

The terrestrial level is one experience and not another, that is necessary to start from a base of disablement in order to reach an apex of absolute immutability: these are the two greatest terms in the sphere of that which appears in the seat of human relativity: a fallacious reality, man, a genuine reality, God, the former only illusory, the latter, supreme certainty. But placing oneself at an integrative point of view, one is reality, God, who is no longer a goal which one reaches except through a dissipation of ignorance, as whoever believes real the phantasms of the fog that are non-existent provided the sun dispels and dissolves it.

3 thoughts on “The Constitution of a Traditional Society: The Capo

  1. Of course de Giorgio is discussing an ideal, but it is our task to make the ideal real….if not now then when the time is right……..

    It is also a good question whether or not the Capo could ever actually exist, perhaps Justinian or Charlemagne came close ?

  2. J-A, do you suppose that Guido De Giorgio is proposing a thought experiment along the lines of Plato’s Republic? Although the domain of the Capo is activity, unlike God, he can never be pure act, so there is always non-being or privation associated with his rule. The stronger Leaders can come closer to the ideal.

  3. In the Christian tradition, the capo existed in the form of the Byzantine Emperor, and later the Russian Tsar who was the absolute ruler over both spiritual and temporal realms……..in the East the Emperor protected defended the church but the church was still subject to his laws. In the West the Capo never emerged due to conflicts between the Popes and the Emperors……

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