We are men of the middle ages, not only because that is our destiny, the fatality of history, but also because we will it. You, you are still men of modern times, because you refuse to choose. ~ Nicolas Berdyaev
The power of a new Middle Ages is needed. ~ Julius Evola, Pagan Imperialism
Samsara is Nirvana ~ Nagarjuna
The sensible is the symbol of the divine ~ St Bonaventure
The attack against the power of a new Middle Ages is constant, sometimes even coming from unexpected sources. Recently a bizarre argument has been circulating around the Internet. It claims that the starting point for the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas, to wit, that knowledge begins with the senses, “leads to” the modern world. When pressed about the meaning of “leads to”, the author has no answer. Either there is a logical or empirical necessity coercing the conclusion from the premises, or there is not.
By that logic, for example, Euclidean geometry “leads to” Riemannian geometry. But the latter actually denies one of Euclid’s postulates, so there is no logical relationship. Similarly, if the road “leads to” Rome, it also leads to the pit when you walk off the edge. That then turns out to be the crux of the argument: the fellow does not want to follow the road to Rome. Hence, he presents this elaborate and prolix ruse to justify his own apostasy. Never mind that the Nordic-Roman Medieval Tradition encompasses much more than Thomas Aquinas. Even if he succeeds in pulling out that brick, like some giant Jenga game, the structure remains intact.
Being and Becoming
In the very first paragraph of the first chapter of Revolt against the Modern World, Julius Evola writes:
In order to understand both the spirit of Tradition and its antithesis, modern civilization, it is necessary to begin with the fundamental doctrine of the two natures. According to this doctrine there is a physical order of things and a metaphysical one; there is a mortal nature and an immortal one; there is the superior realm of “being” and the inferior realm of “becoming.” Generally speaking, there is a visible and tangible dimension and, prior to and beyond it, an invisible and intangible dimension that is the support, the source, and true life of the former.
The alleged argument asserts Aquinas, by beginning with the senses, creates somehow a “two story” philosophy. From that, the modern world can dispense with the second story of Being, focusing solely on the lower story of Becoming.
Obviously, that can happen only through the forgetfulness of Being. The modern mind forgets about being, mistaking the changing world of appearances for Being itself. Opposed to that, Thomism tries to “lead to” the awakening of Being by beginning with sense experience. Once understood, the world of becoming is intuited as a theophany of the world of Being. If not understood, then the worldview of naturalism arises, which is just the denial of the world of Being. Julius Evola, in Pagan Imperialism identifies this ignorance:
Far from exhausting itself in naturalism—as today only the ignorance or the tendentious falsification of some people are able to present it—beyond knowing the ideals of manly overcoming and of absolute liberation, in the pagan conception, the world was a living body, suffused with secret, divine, and demonic forces, with meanings and with symbols, as illustrated by that saying of Olympiodorus: “the sensible expression of the invisible”.
Olympiodorus was the last of the pagan philosophers at Alexandria, but his statement applies likewise to the Christian philosophers who followed him. The modern mind displays “ignorance” of knowledge, but the “tendentious falsification” of the author’s screed is much more sinister.
Johann Fichte understood this when he wrote about the “Divine Idea of the World [that] lies at the bottom of Appearance” and “Sensuous appearance is the vesture, the embodiment of the Divine Idea.” Goethe calls this the “Open Secret”, because it is open to all, yet seen by none. You need to choose whether or not to see this.
Hierarchy and Docetism
The authors of the Middle Ages could not imagine … the Universal Church without a pope. Because if the world is governed hierarchically, Christianity or the Sanctum Imperium cannot be otherwise. Hierarchy is a pyramid which exists only when it is complete. ~ Valentin Tomberg, Meditations on the Tarot
The opposite of Naturalism is Docetism. The former denies the world of Being, while the latter denies the world of Becoming. Docetism wants to inhabit some abstract spiritual reality, while denying its sensible expression in the physical world. Since the spiritual world is a Cosmic Hierarchy, it has a peak. Hence, to avoid Docetism, the world of Becoming, which is the symbol of the Divine, needs a peak. Hence, the denial of Thomism leads the author of that screed to the denial of the Pope. As we said, he is an apostate seeking, apparently, justification.
The vestiges of liberalism remain even in those who decry it the most. The following claim occurs so often these, it could be mistaken for a straw man. But it goes something like this: “I have done a deep study of the Church Fathers and reached the conclusion that the Orthodox Church is most faithful to them.” What could better exemplify the Protestant spirit? Of John Stuart Mill’s “marketplace of ideas”, in which one evaluates competing worldviews and chooses one “based on the evidence”.
But that is to remain at a lower level of knowledge. Doxa, or opinion, is our knowledge of sense phenomena. Dianoia is rational discursive knowledge; that is, the “weighing of evidence”, disputation, and so on. But the highest level of knowledge is episteme, that is, the direct, unmediated intuition of Being. That is what the Fathers teach.
So when we arrive at that level of knowledge, we “see” the truth of the cosmic order. Our “choice” in that case is to submit to it. Tomberg explains:
The vow of obedience is the practice of silencing personal desires, emotions and imagination in the face of reason and conscience; it is the primacy of the ideal [Being] as opposed to the apparent [Becoming], the nation as opposed to the personal, humanity as opposed to the nation, and God as opposed to humanity. It is the life of cosmic and human hierarchical ordering; it is the meaning and justification of the fact that there are Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominions, Virtues, Powers; Principalities, Archangels, Angels; Priests, Knights and Commoners. Obedience is order: it is international law; it is the state; it is the Church; it is universal peace. True obedience is the very opposite of tyranny and slavery, since its root is the love which issues from faith and confidence. That which is above serves that which is below and that which is below obeys that which is above. Obedience is the practical conclusion to that which one recognises as the existence of something higher than oneself. Whosoever recognises God, obeys.
Tomberg is describing the virtue of Piety – one of the Roman virtues as well as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Piety means the submission to whatever is higher, relinquishing the merely personal element. This sort of obedience is based not on ignorance, but on knowledge of Being; it is not coerced by an outside force, but is freely embraced.
This is the foundation of a Traditional society. How could such a society function if everyone starts “examining the evidence” and coming to different conclusions? You could not rely on or trust anyone. It is the replacement of the knowledge of the Sacred with arbitrary personal opinion.