Dalrock has recently tackled the question “What is the manosphere?” Posts like this are an important service to other branches of the neo-reactionary tree, somewhat sympathetic outsiders trying to decide whether the entity in question is entirely, partly, or not at all compatible with their own commitments. “Definitions are important”, Dalrock rightly says. I would add that dogmas, properly enunciated, facilitate conversation rather than shutting it down. It helps to know very clearly what one is being asked to agree or disagree with. This is, if anything, even more true for the “orthosphere”, since the words we would ordinarily use to describe ourselves–“social conservatives”, “traditionalists”, “orthodox Christians”–have been stretched and debased almost to the point of uselessness. I don’t blame liberals, men’s rights activists, or anyone else for believing that social conservatism is what prominent people calling themselves social conservatives say it is. What else are they to think? Nevertheless, what passes for conservatism, even Christian conservatism, these days is deeply contaminated by liberalism, as a look at the historical record and an examination of basic philosophical premises makes clear. By the same standards, the orthosphere is not thus corrupted. The following will be a work of dogmatics, not apologetics. I will not try to convince you that the orthosphere’s beliefs are true, but I do want to give you a sense of what they are and how they differ from those of related schools of thought.
The question of identity
Identity is important. Dalrock and I agree on a lot, but even if we agreed on everything, there would still be this big difference that he sees himself as part of the manosphere, and I don’t see myself as part of it. On the other hand, among many bloggers whom I respect and with whom I often agree, there is an assumption that Christian conservatism as it has existed in the past is an intellectually indefensible thing. It may have reached certain correct conclusions, but for silly reasons. Cogent arguments for conservative conclusions must rely on game, evolutionary psychology, empirical race differences, classical liberalism, neo-paganism, or something else extrinsic to the substance of past conservatism. Past conservatism is an embarrassment, and an important part of establishing the intellectual respectability of one’s position is to disavow any connection to it.
Something very distinctive about the Orthosphere is that we do self-consciously see ourselves as continuing on the European counter-revolutionary tradition of Burke, Coleridge, Maistre, Bonald, Le Play, Taparelli, Kuyper, Dostoevsky, and Maurras. We acknowledge French legitimists, Spanish Carlists, White Russians, and Christian corporatists of Spain, Portugal, and Austria as being part of “our side”. This doesn’t mean we endorse everything they ever said or did, but we do identify with them. We defend basically the same principles and hope to develop their thought rather than starting from scratch.
Of course, who we identify with doesn’t yet tell you what we care about or what we believe. I therefore propose four principles that should give you a sense of it. Regular readers may think these have a bit too much of a “Bonald flavor” to be representative of our whole group, but like all men I am condemned never to be able to escape from myself.
1) The moral community
Liberals maintain that the state should be neutral on questions of religion and the good life. What’s more, they condemn the “tyranny of custom”, “slut-shaming” etc. whereby communities exert informal social pressure to maintain behavioral norms. The right to individual autonomy for them takes precedence over maintaining a communal consensus. Now, all varieties of anti-liberals are quick to point out the inconsistency (or hypocrisy) of the liberal position; they themselves use the force of law, threat of unemployment, and social ostracism to enforce feminism, multiculturalism, and the like.
The orthosphere goes even further. We deny that communal neutrality is either possible or desirable. The state must act with some vision of how the world is and what constitutes justice; there must therefore be some official religion, so we would like for it to be the true religion. Participating in a communal moral consensus, seeing one’s participation in that community as a participation in the sacred order of the cosmos, these are parts of the good life for man. The moral stance of the community is also a matter of justice; good deserves to be affirmed and evil condemned, collectively as well as individually. A community’s orientation to the moral order is usually mediated by an authority figure; thus we insist that authority comes not from the people, but from God, who is subsistent Goodness, the “face” of the moral law. God is rightly sovereign over groups as well as individuals, a principle known as “the social kingship of Christ” to Catholics and as “sphere sovereignty” to Calvinists. An important part of the principle is that the family and the Church receive their authority directly from God, rather than the state.
Practically, this means that we differ from mainstream American conservatives in that we support established Churches, the Biblical doctrine of paternal headship, and social stigmatization of immoral behavior.
2) Given meanings
Why do people think that writing their own wedding vows will make them more authentic? Why did the American Catholic bishops decide it would be better if every Catholic picked his own thing to give up on Fridays, rather than us doing something collectively? Why do people imagine that “being in love” makes fornication less wicked? Why do they regard gender roles as constrictive? Ultimately, it all comes down to the assumption, so widely accepted today that few state it, that the only real meaning of a statement or act is what the actor consciously means by it.
We deny this. The context of human nature and established traditions often impose meanings. Rather than being a burden, the ubiquity of these “given” meanings should be seen as a gift, an enlargement of the soul beyond its power of lone, explicit signification. In the wedding ceremony, using the same words to promise lifelong fidelity that our ancestors used and our descendants will use is part of the meaning. It lifts us out of the particularities of our own lives into conscious participation in a universal mystery. If all Catholics give up meat on Friday, it becomes not just a personal sacrifice, but a sacrifice of the Church herself. Nor may we disregard the meaning of the conjugal act, the calling to love and self-sacrifice inherent in our natures as men and women, or the spiritual significance of being a parent or offspring. We should not want to. Without these given meanings, life would lose much of its weight and seriousness.
Here I would say is something distinctive about orthosphere-style thinking: we tend to regard tradition and natural law as two aspects of the same kind of thing, to be defended together, rather than as two rival sources of authority. Another distinction is the style of argument, with its overriding concern of keeping life meaningful. We would, of course, agree with arguments based on the social utility of natural law and tradition and arguments based on divine command. However, we prefer our way of reasoning, because it hopefully heightens men’s appreciation for things like sex and ritual, as well as defending them from liberal corruption.
Practically, this means that fighting gay marriage is a big deal for us. We connect this to an uncompromising stand on all sexual sins, including things like fornication and onanism that mainstream culture now deems acceptable. We are unenthusiastic about the “springtime of Vatican II”.
3) Loyalty to the particular
While we have some moral duties to everyone (e.g. not to murder them), it is proper that we hold a special love for our kin and countrymen. To them, we owe a particular loyalty. Not only is it right to love the members of our groups; it is right to love those groups themselves. It is right to work for the preservation of one’s nation and culture. It is proper for us to want descendants and to want for them to identify with our ancestors, so that the family maintains a spiritual as well as biological reality. A necessary condition for a culture to survive is for it to be established as a way of life for some region. Otherwise, it is not culture but personal idiosyncrasy. Thus, to demand that every spot on Earth be multicultural is to demand the extinction of culture itself.
Practically, this means opposition to Western anti-white indoctrination and coerced racial integration. Embracing particular loyalties also puts us at odds with mainstream religious conservatives (e.g. the writers at First Things) because we cannot share their uncritical embrace of the civil rights movement. No doubt it is wrong to hate people for their race, but most if not all of what the mainstream calls “racism” we would see as an appropriate preference for one’s own kind. I for one see no problem in the preference blacks, hispanics, and Jews have for their own, but I don’t see why white cultures should be regarded any differently.
4) The intellectual defensibility of orthodox Christianity
The above is pretty self-explanatory. We often deal with objections to Christian doctrine based on their alleged internal incoherence or incompatibility with the genuine discoveries of modern science and history. While not imagining that the Triune Godhead can be completely comprehended by our mortal minds this side of paradise, we do claim that objections to revealed doctrines can be dealt with, and we refuse to retreat into appeals of “mystery”.
That, I think, touches all the bases. Dalrock says that the manosphere is more a conversation than a set of dogmas, although with some few points of general consensus. I would say that the Orthosphere is a more dogmatic entity–one must agree to a number of philosophical principles as well as practical stands to be meaningfully regarded as part of it. Above all, though, I regard the Orthosphere as defined by a certain style of reasoning, what one might call the phenomenologically and theologically-informed natural law thinking we use to defend our beliefs.
I invite my fellow Orthosphere writers (of this site or more generally) to add, correct, and clarify.