Is Irreligious Traditionalism Really Practicable?


No theory of the proper social order – which is to say, no account of social order, whatsoever, no sociology of any sort at all – can succeed if it fails to provide an account of the ontological basis of propriety; for “order” is a term of aesthetic and moral evaluation, and thus itself inherently a measure of *propriety.*

No account of society, then, can fail to imply a prescription of proper social order that transcends all sociality, and informs it, and orders it. This is so even – indeed, a fortiori – when such analyses are couched in terms of economic efficiency, of the Hamiltonian, the Least Path, or of homeostases near some strangely attractive points of thermodynamic equilibrium in the local energetic flux. A sociology that takes no notice of the universal nisus toward survival and reproduction, toward formal perdurance, cannot hope to make sense. And no such nisus can be comprehensible unless it can be understood as motivated by and ordered toward some true and truly apprehensible good; for, if there be no such motivation or order, then no social act, nor any biological act either, can be rational, or even less than rational.

But this is no more than to say that no account of society can succeed in the absence of an absolute moral order, to which it may refer for its measures. And there can be no moral absolute in the absence of an ontological absolute.

Moral opinions, then, are eo ipso, and presuppositionally, religious. They presuppose the existence of the absolute as the first forecondition of moral reasoning.

This should hardly surprise us. If after all there be no ontological absolute, then neither can any proposition of any sort be relative thereto, or therefore either true, or false, or somewhere in between.

17 thoughts on “Is Irreligious Traditionalism Really Practicable?

  1. Pingback: Is Irreligious Traditionalism Really Practicable? | Reaction Times

  2. This is, in my opinion, where neoreaction really gets into trouble and, sadly, why they generally cannot be thought of as useful allies to traditional Christian reactionaries even though we share some material beliefs. This is also why neoreationaries keep having these debates about what the moral boundaries for their movement ought to be. Michael Anissimov is an atheist, which is a real shame not only because of the spiritual implications for his life but also because he can’t get any traction with essays like this one:

    His impulse is understandable but he’s trying to shepherd cats and the cats keeping asking him, “By what authority?” That’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask if one is an atheist and it is a question which thus far no one in neoreaction seems to be able to answer.

    I like the neoreactionary folks on a personal level, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from them, but their movement has a fatal flaw which dooms it to failure, and that flaw is irreligiosity.

    • The recent appearance of “Gnon” in the reactionary blogosphere seems to be an attempt to provide a credible answer for atheist neoreactionaries to the question, “by what authority?” So far I’ve only read a little bit about it, but Gnon appears to be neoreaction’s way of referring to the Logos without using the term “logos.” So far, it is standing in for the logos of the pagan Stoics, what Larry calls the Order of Being. If they keep at it, the atheist neoreactionaries will sooner or later realize that the Stoic logos is coterminous with the Logos of John’s Gospel.

      • I have high hopes for them coming around eventually. So far “Gnon” is mostly used about the *restrictions* imposed by the Logos – the part of the order of being which mandates minimum social orders and says that if your society becomes too disordered on things like sex, money, force, or authority, it dies. Gnon has little to say about the fact that the more optimistic things, such as the universe being orderly, predictable, and susceptible to human understanding and manipulation.

      • Reminds me of St. Justin Martyr (a paraphrase of one of his beliefs): “Every person as a rational being shares in the Logos, carrying within himself a “seed”, and can perceive glimmers of the truth. Thus, the same Logos who revealed himself as a prophetic figure to the Hebrews of the ancient Law also manifested himself partially, in “seeds of truth”, in Greek philosophy.”

      • Indeed, as each images of the Logos, the Truth thereof is implicit in the very fabric of our being, so that we may all in principle discover any bit of it by introspection, by listening to the “still, small voice within.” This accounts for Socrates’ anamnesis, for our intuitive ability to find our way in the abstract realm of mathematics, logic, music and metaphysics without further reference to sensory experience, and there discover truths we have not yet discovered operating in the concrete cosmos. We could never recognize truth in the first place (whether mediated sensually or intellectually) if we had not first cognized it; we could not hear the “ring” of truth for the very first time in our lives unless it resonated with something present in us ab initio, as an aspect of the architecture of our souls.

        … mens est imago Dei, quo capax Dei est et particeps esse potest.
        … the mind is an image of God, wherein is it capable of God, and able to participate Him.

        – a paraphrase of St. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV:11

  3. Is “Traditionalism” to the prophetic and apostolic tradition as medievalism is to the Middle Ages?

    If you’re a Christian, you should be living in and with the prophetic and apostolic tradition. In brief this means living in and from your Baptism, living under God’s law, and living free from condemnation because your condemnation was borne by the Savior at the Cross. In other words, the Christian tradition is the Gospel.

    The Gospel is given to you. In its essence, it is something to which you neither can nor need add anything. The epistles of St. Paul abound with the Gospel as the tradition which is handed on and with evidence of the joy and sorrows thereof.

    The Christian tradition includes the canon of the New Testament, which needs no correction or supplementation. This canon is the measure, in fact, of what is the true prophetic and apostolic tradition.

    Herein we find recorded the words of the Savior, that His kingdom is not of this world. We have opportunities, sometimes, to influence people, including legislators, and may try to do so humbly and patiently, but we don’t look for a reform of society to bring it closer to “tradition.” Part of the Christian tradition is recognition of the distinction between world (including society) and kingdom or Church. That distinction will always remain. Millennarian thinking is not part of the authentic Christian tradition. Do we fret because we see society getting farther and farther from some subconsciously-wished millennial destiny? Brothers and sisters, it never was thus destined.

    • Well, yes and no; or rather, yes but; or perhaps, yes, and.

      Utopianism is a sure sign of idolatry, and a precursor to madness. But while we may not sanely render unto Caesar what is God’s, nevertheless it is our duty to render unto Caesar what is properly his due.

      That the poor are always with us does not excuse us of the duty to succor the poor. That we cannot be perfect does not excuse us from the duty of trying to be perfect.

      And so forth.

      • I’ve wondered how to process “Render Unto Caesar” in a democratic government “Of The People, By The People, For The People.” Is it just totally out the window?

      • Not at all. The main idea Wurmbrand and I were getting at is that we ought not to set our hopes on some utopian scheme, or upon this or that policy innovation or renovation. If Traditionalists got all that we could wish for in the way of political economy, the world would run a lot better, to be sure, and would be less toxic to virtue, but it would still be fallen and wicked, and lives would still be a mess.

        This doesn’t mean we should not try our best to encourage sane public policy. The sanest public policy would result in, e.g., more prudent people, ergo fewer destitute people, so it would really be better, and we ought to strive for it. But we ought not to think that it will fix things at some radical level.

        In the US, then, rendering unto Caesar consists in obeying the law, paying your taxes, participating in the discourse of politics, and getting on with your life as justly as you can in respect to your fellow citizens, drawing the line where the polis requires that you bow down before false gods – for us, these days, mostly sex and death – or do something wicked, like procure abortions.

        We have it relatively easy, compared to our Christian brothers and sisters in dar al Islam.

  4. We should not be too quick to paint ‘NeoReaction’ with as broad a brush, as I think many religious reactionaries would also claim this title. It’s a very loose term, both in terms of worldview and politics.

    I would define NeoReaction thus: An umbrella term covering a wide range of political ideologies that reject modern liberal democracy as both a coherent political system and as a means to forward political goals and agendas.

    The ‘neo’ part really just denotes the recent boom in reactionary interest, making it distinct from past reactionary thought, but I am happy to call myself both a NeoReactionary, a Reactionary, a Theonomist, and various other things.

    As I have commented on other blogs of this nature, Moldbug and various acolytes including Anissimov come from the rejection of liberal democracy (the Cathedral), claiming to have shed themselves of its delusions. They still cling however to the delusion that is most damaging, the delusion of a godless universe.

    Secular Reaction, while producing fine minds and political ideas, is in the end a losing proposition with little basis for its goals. Eventually, these two strains of thought will divide solidly as the movement grows and I would predict that Christian Reactionary philosophy will win out over the almost science fiction dreams of ‘transhumanism’ and such.

  5. To pervert a famous saying, irreligious traditionalism would be an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden implementation of half of any random flavor Paganism. (Original: Note: I am generally not against that, but I think it is honest to say it out loud. Traditionalists necessarily need to see certain things as bigger than themselves in order to avoid being self-centered liberals, so they need to assign sacred status to certain things, and the most obvious candidates are the natural cycle of life and death, anything from motherhood (life) to warriorhood (death). When you see certain natural things as bigger than yourself, you are for all practical purposes a Pagan. When my baby girl was born I for a while felt like those Romans where the father also doubles as the priest of the family, it was for all practical purposes a sacred event, I felt, in a way, anointed by it.

  6. Kristor:

    The recent appearance of “Gnon” in the reactionary blogosphere …

    … might be the glint of a beginning of a realization that Powers and Principalities are every bit as real as atoms and the void.


    • We can hope. The logic is pretty hard to fight: atoms and the void by themselves just don’t cut it. Even Democritus needed the clinamen, a mere trend or clumping in the chaotic motion of the atoms, that conjured the world. But “clinamen” is just a way of waving your hands in the direction of the logos, without using the word “logos.” It’s an implicit abandonment of atomism. That abandonment is sooner or later forced by the fact that there is a world. So, there’s always hope for an atheist, so long as he is honest.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.