Dormition is a state that is neither life nor death. The choice must be made … will it be proactive and creative or passive and reactive?
Venner, Maurras and Jünger
I would like to translate some of Dominique Venner’s blog posts, except his literary heirs promise to go after “pirates” of his works. Instead, I will review an interview published in November 2011 under the title “Europe in Dormition”. Dormition indicates a state that is neither dead nor alive. It referred to Mary’s “falling asleep”, since she could not die. Later, King Arthur was said to be in dormition in Avalon.
When asked, Venner claims that Europe fell asleep after the two world wars. The result was that world power was transferred from Europe to the USA and USSR. More than power, Europe lost faith in itself and was eaten away by a moral crisis and feelings of guilt. There is no connection, however, between the loss of power and the moral crisis, and the subsequent “dormition”. Europe’s wounds were self-inflicted and the dormition, which he fails to see, was due to the destruction of the last remnants of the Holy Roman Empire. In the time period from Charles the Great to Charles I, there was no moral crisis, there was no guilt, and Europe was wide awake.
Nevertheless, at least in 2011 Venner was hopeful. He pointed to the resurgence of civilizations long thought dead, such as China, India, South America, or Islam. The same could happen to Europe. He claimed that massive immigration could kill Europe. On the other hand, the culture shock could perhaps reawaken Europeans to their true identity (whatever it is). This is happening now, “behind the scenes”, as it were, in popular culture although not yet in the political sphere.
Venner went on to discuss two of his major influences: Charles Maurras and Ernst Jünger. He admired Maurras’ hard-nosed character and his courage in the face of ordeals. After his trip to Athens in 1898, Maurras returned a convinced pagan, an inspiring thought to Venner. Venner looked to Homer as the foundation of European civilization: nature as the base, excellence as the principle, and beauty as the horizon.
Those values he received from Maurras who, however, was never confused about the true French identity which was created by the forty Catholic kings of France. While the foundation is important, the structure arising from it is what counts.
Jünger was authenticated by his life, in Venner’s eyes. Venner was moved by Jünger’s high spirituality formed in the forests and nature. He quotes St. Bernard:
You will find more in the forests than in books. The trees will teach you things that no master will tell you.
That is the spirituality of Jünger’s French and Gaulish ancestors, which is what Venner terms “tradition”, which “develops in us without our knowing it.”
Venner never mentioned that both Maurras and Jünger converted to Catholicism before their death. It is hard to believe that, in such thoughtful men, that was from weakness or ignorance. Most likely, it is the correct conclusion of old men who have known nature, excellence, and beauty, yet were still seeking for their fulfillment. Ironically, in Venner’s words, in those men tradition slowly developed within them. Venner makes the choice starkly clear: conversion or suicide. Mock me if you will, I am just trying to save you many years of lost time, if not suicide.
His Favorite Ideas
Charles Maurras, wrote the following as a pagan. I do not repeat this to convert any pagans, but rather to set the standard that they will need to surpass.
All my favorite ideas—order, tradition, discipline, hierarchy, authority, continuity, unity, work, family, corporation, decentralization, autonomy, organization of workers—had been preserved and perfected by Catholicism.
The Moral Conception of the World
The intellectual contemplation of nature, excellence, and beauty, as taught to us by the Greeks, is our foundation. However, European civilization advanced because it was creative, something constructed, not merely contemplated. Hence, to awake from “dormition” is to once again begin to create. In the conclusion of The Theory of Mind as Pure Act, Giovanni Gentile explains:
Idealism is anti-intellectualistic and, in this sense, profoundly Christian, if we take Christianity as meaning the intrinsically moral conception of the world. This moral conception is once which is entirely alien to India and to Greece even in their greatest speculative efforts. The philosophy of India ends in asceticism, in the suppression of the passions, in the extirpation of desire and every root of the human incentive to work, in nirvana. Its ideal, therefore, is the simple negation of the real in which morality realizes itself, human personality.
And in Greek philosophy the highest ethical word it can pronounce is Justice. Justice renders to each his own and therefore preserves the natural order, but it can neither create nor construct a new world. Greek philosophy, therefore, cannot express the essential virtue of mind which is its creative nature, it must produce the good which it cannot find confronting. How could Greek philosophy understand the moral nature of mind seeing that its world was not mind but nature?
The nature need not be material, it might be ideal but it is what the mind contemplates, not what it makes. Greek morality ends in the Stoical doctrine of suicide, a doctrine consistent with its immanent tendency to an intellectualistic conception of a reality in which the subject has no worth. Christianity, on the other hand, discovers the reality which is not until it creates itself, and is what it creates. It cannot be treated like the Greek philosopher’s world, already in existence and waiting to be known till the philosopher is ready to contemplate it, when he has drawn aside as it were, when, as Aristotle would say, all the wants of his life are appeased and life is as it were complete.
It is a reality which waits for us to construct, a reality which is truly even now love and will, because it is the inward effort of the soul, its living process, not its ideal and external model.
It is man himself who rises above humanity and becomes God. And even God is no longer a reality who already is, but the God who is begotten in us and is ourselves insofar as we with our whole being rise to Him. Here mind is no longer intellect but will. The world is no longer what is known but what is made: and therefore not only can we begin to conceive the mind as freedom or moral activity, but the world, the whole world of the Christian, is freed and redeemed.