Reversion to the Mean

If there is a real world, and if it is consistently ordered, and if this consistent orderliness extends to the living portion of that world – these being the de minimis foreconditions of any sort of life whatsoever – then there must be some basic set of policies best suited to the lives of humans as we find them in the world as it is. Such is the proposition at the crux of philosophical Traditionalism, and of all the unconscious chthonic traditions that arose of old and organically from the practice of life, and were one day noticed and then taught by priests and sages. It is obviously true; it cannot but be true.

The Decalogue is the palmary exemplar of that basic set of policies. It is the quintessential answer for man, and so of man, to the Natural and Divine order. In and by it ordered, man fitly meets his environment – his world, and its God – and, as thus meet thereto, is rendered himself fit, so to fare well, and happy, healthy, numerous, and prosperous.

Any deviations from those policies then are in comparison to following them somewhat disadvantageous; so that we should expect deviants of any sort to find their purposes frustrated, their prosperity and health vitiated, their lives shortened and their reproduction hampered, at least at the margin. And so it is indeed. Deviations are then all self-correcting, sooner or later, as dooming deviants to relative poverty, disease, barrenness, unhappiness, and failure.

Reality brooks no disagreements, nor any escape. Not only is it impossible to mess about with Nature and win, but you can’t even proceed to the messing about except by virtue of a preponderant conformity to her iron rules. Deviation is itself, in its beginnings and ends, entirely a function and procedure of Nature, and an instance of her good order. So then, likewise, are pain, and death. The scythe, too, is an instrument of the living God. Even Satan the Accuser has a desk in the court of Heaven, where he serves his appointed office, obedient despite himself to the great Plan of Salvation his Fall necessitated.*

In its war with reality, determined deviance must then lose. So it is self-devouring. The instability of evil, says Whitehead, is the morality of the universe.

So far so good; nothing new here yet, at least to the discourse of Christian reaction – i.e., to Christianity simpliciter, and properly so called. But there is a dynamic at work deeper still, that we can see in operation already if we but look: deviance that survives long enough in its project of deviation – that is, i.e., not immediately lethal – eventually ends up espousing traditional policies and values. The committed transgressive intent on smashing the normative force of custom and tradition sooner or later discovers, recommends and adopts traditional custom as his free and untrammeled choice, and as the deepest, truest expression of his rebellion against tradition.

The end – the final product – of deviation is tradition; or, else, death.

It’s not just that the practical business of life forces unprincipled exceptions on the transgressive, although that is indeed a factor of his correction. It is not just that the transgressive finds himself buying life insurance, cutting back on the drugs, teaching his children to do their homework and respect the teacher, defending his daughter against cads, and even deciding that he really ought to get the kids to church now and then. Nor is it only the nostalgia for old folkways, that bespeak and echo the health and integrity of a coherent society in harmony with its environment, such as is felt by anachronist re-enactors, early music aficionados, neo-pagans, deep ecologists, Thoreauvians, and deracinated whites who name their children after defunct occupations and English towns, or gouge vaguely Viking or Maori figures into their skins. Nor either is it the deep nagging hunger we all feel for significance and meaning in life, for some tincture of grand purpose, high adventure, magic or enchantment or sanctity, that can transfigure and ennoble our daily humdrum struggle by its ordination to some transcendent worthy end, and that, entirely missing from modern life under its own impoverished moral and metaphysical terms, motivates desperate fascinated immersion in fantasy worlds of various sorts – games, science fiction, subcultures – where true quests are still possible, even if empty of real consequence (this being, exactly, the urgent nisus operant in the transgressive’s own mission of transgression, which he feels as a radical Nietzschean protest and rebellion against the empty stupidity of modern materialist life).

No: all those things play a part in the recrudescence of hoary custom in the exciting innovative lives of transgressives, but they are ancillary. The odd thing, and the main thing, is that the more deeply he plumbs the depths of his Faustian project, the more the transgressive finds himself acting traditional as the fulfillment and final realization of that project. Provided he lives long enough, the last outworking of transgressivism in the life of the transgressive is the enactment of tradition.

Examples are not far to seek.

  • Feminism’s insistence that women are really just like men ends in fashions for women – not those of the homosexual haters of women in the fashion industry, but those of the street and the internet, devised by young women themselves – that insist upon the female sex of women by an aggressive display of its features.
  • The emphasis on female sexual power and libertinism ends for women – apparently – in fantasies of their submissive bondage and domination by powerful, violent men as the ultimate turn on.
  • The fight for gay “marriage” presupposes the importance, value, and goodness of real marriage, and has prompted a vigorous public discussion of the character and virtues of traditional marriage, and thus of traditional sex roles, such as we have not seen in centuries that took them for granted.
  • The push to accept transsexuals involves frank and intense worry over its horrific insults to every aspect of their health and welfare, in the process emphasizing the relative health and prosperity of those who live normal lives.
  • Multiculturalism valorizes the patrimonial traditions of other cultures, and ends by a rediscovery of the traditional cultures of the Western nations – first of the Basque and Catalan, the Fleming and Walloon, the Scot and the Gael, the Breton and the Norman, but then eventually, by an insurmountable logical extension, of the English, the German, the French, the Italian, the Greek. Patriotism burgeons, at least among the young Europeans blessed with an ancient national patrimony.
  • Because no nation or person can long live without some fundamental organizing cult or other, to ground and illumine life, the secular repudiation of the cult of the fathers triggers a frantic search for some cult with heart, a search that arrives sooner or later as it matures and deepens at one or another cult of the fathers; so that it is the most traditional, conservative denominations and orders and parishes that now flourish the most, while the disordered heterodox institutions wither and die.
  • Pick up artists discover the “inner game” of manliness, and so of the manly virtues; eventually they realize that the self-mastery of manliness entails filial piety, chastity, sagacity, Stoic courage, and a truly religious approach to life as an integral whole, and so they begin to read about, and insofar as is possible to reiterate, the grand panoptic synthesis of medieval Christianity that reached its worldly apotheosis in the Templar warrior monk, the Crusader, the true knight, the Varangian and Swiss guard. In logic, they soon find themselves up against the matter of the Credo.

Push the edge of the envelope far enough in any direction, and you are bound to run up against the limit of that envelope, where either it stops and corrects you, constraining and disciplining your life according to the originating order of things, or else in rending shoots you forth into the outer darkness, and oblivion.

The experience needn’t be violent.

Anyone who has paddled down a lazy river that runs across a relatively flat plain has seen what can sometimes happen at islands. The river splits, and it can be difficult to tell from upstream which channel represents the deeper, safer choice. A goodly current runs down each of them, and their ends lie both out of sight, around a bend. Most boatmen have now and then erred in such choices, and found themselves dragging their heavy laden craft through the shallows and over gravel, wincing at the thought of the damage thereby inflicted, or else bedeviled by bugs through disgusting sucking mire, snatching brambles and tangled branches, to the point where their side channel rejoins the main current, and they can put in again to float free and clear. Sometimes, also, one can easily tell where the main current lies, but yet in a spirit of adventure decide to gamble on a side channel, betting that its confluence with the central stream will not involve any toilsome wading. What fun it is when the bet works out! The passengers chuckle with pleasure as they duck under overhanging branches, swept along toward the deeper water now gratefully visible downstream. But, how tiresome and ugly when things go badly and the boat or the people on it suffer grievous injury or loathsome, sweaty, mucky travail!

Here’s the thing: one way or another, the side channels always end up rejoining the main stream. It is in the nature of side channels to do so. Side channels cannot but express the fundamental policy of the river as a whole: to flow at every point downhill by the shortest unobstructed route. Side channels, then, are just the river. So indeed are the islands, and the banks, and all the brush and brambles and mud of them. So too are the prodigious quantities of water that flow downstream beneath the banks and bottom of every river, through the soil or under bedrock. All are aspects of the riverine system.

So likewise with us. As no part of the river can set itself apart from the main flow for too long, so nor can we set ourselves against the main flow of man through history. There is no way that man can start being something that is not man, except by starting to be nothing at all. Every deviation from the main stream of manhood is in the end a return to that main stream.

The modern project of radical transgression of moral, social, biological and cosmic order then must one way or another, sooner or later, end by joining its vagrant energy to the main human project of tradition: the inheritance, implementation, and bestowal of policies learned of yore by our ancestors in the school of Nature, and of Nature’s God, and taught to their heirs from generation to generation. God is never mocked, and so nor therefore is his created order; truth will out, and must be heeded, or the penalty is death. Even morbid derogations of this world’s order cannot subsist except by expressing it in some minimal degree. Eliminate all but the last ineliminable bit of the order of being that sustains you in existence, and all that will be left of you is a pure solid kernel of that order. Delete that, and you delete yourself altogether.

So the transgressives have two choices only, in the end: traditional life, or death. Insofar as they manage to survive, and no matter what they say to the contrary, they will have chosen tradition, willy nilly.


* There are two sorts of humility, whether witting or innocent: obedient humility, and disobedient. Since God is, there can be no escaping the actual state of humility. Creatures are all completely humble. They differ only in respect to whether they are aware of their humility, and whether in their humility they are obedient or not. Satan then is as humble as our patron here at the Orthosphere, Saint Michael, but he just doesn’t know it yet; or rather, insofar as he does know it, as disobedient he suffers thereat. Such of his suffering is a factor of his defeat at Michael’s hands.

15 thoughts on “Reversion to the Mean

  1. Pingback: Reversion to the Mean | Neoreactive

  2. Pingback: Reversion to the Mean | Reaction Times

  3. Let’s not forget the canoeists who, having drifted some way down into the shoals and strainers of the minor channel, beach their boat, walk back to the head of the island, and there loudly dissuade other canoes from essaying the main channel. They may allow that the main channel is deep, and swift, and clear, but they will insist that the only paddlers who take it are squares. All the cool people go this away, they will say, pointing to the miasmal lagoon.

    • Hah! Yes. The True Believers, who insist that the problem is not that x has not worked, but that we have not done nearly enough x – things are actually much better than they would have been without x – and so we must triple down on x in order to get the desired outcome.

  4. Very well written. Speaks somewhat to the inevitability of Modernism’s end. With increasing entropy, increasing contradiction, increasing decay, the World of Tradition which is man’s natural way of things is destined to return to its rightful position of dominance.

  5. I remember, a while back, reading Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” and being impressed with just how much effort it takes for civilization to keep nature at bay. If man disappeared from New York City overnight, with no one to man the pumps that keep the water out of the subways, they would flood fairly quickly; and where there is water, there is life, bursting through the sidewalks, winding its way around skyscrapers and bridges to pull them to the earth, and generally reclaiming the ground from which it was long ago expelled.

    Nature can be thwarted to an extent, but the work of thwarting her is long, difficult, grueling, unpleasant, constraining, and self-sacrificial, and she is patient and cunning, forever camped at the gates, with nothing but time on her hands.

    • “Heaven’s laws are not repealable by earth, however Earth may try–and its been trying hard, in some directions, of late” (Thomas Carlyle, 1849). And in the subsequent century and a half, it has tried harder and in more directions.

    • Proph, you might want to check out Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart. It’s a fictional treatment of the same theme, and one of the best, most memorable books I have ever read. A devastating plague wipes out all but a few widely scattered humans – perhaps a thousand, world wide, survive. It takes them years just to find each other and begin society again. Stewart treats not only the return to wilderness of the artifacts of civilization, but also confronts what would happen to the human aspect of civilization in such circumstances. In a word, civilization – writing – would be simply inapposite to those human conditions, and so it would disappear.

      • Earth Abides was adapted for radio in 1950, and is one of the most-requested programs on Sirius XM’s Radio Classics channel, according to the channel’s host. I stayed in the car after getting home just to finish listening to it. Later, I downloaded the PDF of the book and read it. Memorable, and disturbing.

        I would love to hear what Prof. Bertonneau has to say about Earth Abides.

  6. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/02/20) | The Reactivity Place

  7. I like this comment, its very encouraging. Though since the mean includes transgressions, at least until the Lord comes again, there will always be some new diversion from the strait course, some new over correction or heresy.

  8. Pingback: Reversion to the Mean | The Vital Man


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