GNON is an acronym popular among reactionaries. It stands for “the God of Nature Or Nature.” It is intended to function for reactionaries and their interlocutors of an agnostic or atheist persuasion as the Torah, Logos, dharma or Tao do for religious types, but without entangling them in any religious commitments, or the difficulties that ever attend them. It is the Order of Being. The general idea is that, whether or not there be any God of Nature who is its source, Nature herself has an inherent and utterly implacable, incontrovertible order, which we contravene at our peril, and which it behooves us therefore to discover and then faithfully and meetly enact; so that, recusing ourselves for the nonce from any tiresome discussions of a religious sort, with their endless bitter controversies over obscure points of doctrine, we may get on quickly to remembering that it is a Very Bad Idea to Mess with Mother Nature, to learning about her, and to shaping our policies accordingly.
This is certainly true. It really is a bad idea to mess with Mother Nature. So GNON is a handy way to cut to the chase in controversies over policy. It has furthermore the advantage of engendering a more ready agreement among our modernist adversaries to the notion that things have real natures, real essences, and that reality therefore is really ordered toward the realization of their natural ends, so that she imposes her order upon us willy nilly. Modernists are generally besot with Science™, so their minds are open to the notion of Natural Law (although not, usually, to questions about what and how it might be, how it might operate, and so forth). And they revere The Environment™ and Ecology™, even naming them after the divine Gaia, angel of our planet. Mother Nature is in their intellectual economy therefore a term with rather a concrete referent. They view her as more than a mere placeholder or heuristic, albeit less perhaps than a vengeful divine person, who might at any moment reach out and crush the life from them for their transgressions.
Whether they are correct so to debase her power and dignity is a question they do not often entertain. Meseems they have not perhaps been much out in the woods and wilds and desert wastes when she is in her wrathful moods, and felt how puny are they, and how vain all their fancy conceits. They spend their time too much indoors, perhaps.
The world is dangerous, or it is nothing.
But even a merely hypothetical obeisance to Mother Nature nevertheless opens the modern mind a crack to the notion that we simply *cannot* controvert her. And this recognition can furnish a few square inches of common ground from which a modernist and a tradent may at least agree upon meanings of the terms of their discourse; a first prerequisite of discourse as such, rather than mere lethal combat. From that, a modernist may possibly find himself compelled to agree to the justice of our perspective, if not to its truth (the integrity of justice and truth is not generally acknowledged by such minds; not at first, anyway).
So GNON is handy. It is in fact a wonderful cudgel, in the right hands. Allow me to mention in this respect the beautiful Tumblr site Wrath of GNON, a fecund source of daily aesthetic delectation to such as we, a continual reminder of the precious value and beauty of our beleaguered patrimony, and a bottomless font of trenchant memes.
Notwithstanding all that, and despite the recusal from theological battles it enables, GNON is inherently a religious concept. Nature is nothing without her God. By herself, she is no more than a series of adventitious events, not as a whole ordered to any purpose transcendent to herself – which is to say, not ordered. Except insofar as they are grounded in Eternity and ordered under his Law, events are just stuff happening for no reason, and cannot therefore by themselves sway us authoritatively. If Nature is just stuff bouncing around, then any order we might ourselves propose for our lives is just as good as – nay, better than – her dead aimless thrashings. For, we evidently have reasons of our own, even if there be no others. Why subject ourselves to mere chaos? Why subject ourselves to anything at all? If there be no God of Nature, there can be no reason, no rhyme to things, in the end nothing to which we might subject ourselves in the first place. Any sort of subjection in that event would be no more than a basic and stupid misprision of the true situation.
In practice, no one thus errs. Everyone behaves as if the world really is ordered, and thus – whether they realize it or not, whether or not they admit it to themselves – that it is ordered to some absolutely transcendent end; this being the only way that things can be ordered ultimately, ergo really. There is no other way to behave, for behavior per se presupposes the teleological orderliness of things.
Then again, this very fact constitutes the appeal to the modern rootless mind of the notion of GNON. Men all know deep down that in living they rely every moment upon God and his Son the Logos, who is the Order of Being. This knowledge is the source of the profound cognitive dissonance that bedevils faithless men, of their despair, their rage and terror at their fundamental bewilderment when all things ought by right, they cannot but feel, to make good coherent sense, and to flow together toward some final triumphant good. GNON can let them think for a moment in calm dispassion about their true relation to the Order of Being, without triggering all their pent up feelings. It can open their minds to the truth that there is Truth, and thus to a beginning of spiritual health.
So, I’ll take it as a sign of that health, and a useful lever. Thanks be to God for GNON.
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“Refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good. Joy, then, does not break with solidarity. When it is the right kind of joy, when it is not egotistic, when it comes from the perception of the good, then it wants to communicate itself, and it gets passed on.”
— Joseph Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
– Jack Gilbert, A Brief For The Defense
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We might look at gnon as a stepping stone to Christ. But we can also look at it as an attempt at cafeteria realism: a realization that the specific presently dominant modern anti-realism is insane which stops short of embracing the reality of Christ the King.
So is it a good thing? I suspect it depends on the individual. Apostasy from modern anti-realism is good. Followed up with failure to embrace the concretely real though just leads to some other sort of anti-realism. And who is to say, in the words of the Prophet Townshend, whether the new boss is any better than the old boss?
There are an infinite number of ways to go wrong. There is only one Way, Truth, and Life; and it is not gnon or Zeus any more than it is secular modernism.
Whenever liberals (which reactionaries are, whether they admit it or not) discard a fundamental aspect of human life or culture, they always end up reinventing the wheel.
Gnon is one such re-invention. See also: the state as a reinvention of culture, the school system as a reinvention of child care, and pro football as a reinvention of public religion.
Sure. But GNON is not a stable resting place for the questing mind. It leads inexorably to theism proper, of a traditional orthodox sort. GNON is just a way to denote the Logos. And once a faithless mind has arrived at GNON, it cannot return to a relaxed conviction that there is no Logos.
Neither is – just for example – Allah. An atheist converting to Islam is more than just a step in the direction of theism proper. But we can’t say that it is a categorically good step. Leaps from one gross error to a different gross error are not always things to be celebrated, and can sometimes lead to a mostly harmless academic beheading people in the name of Allah.
Heck, atheism itself is not a stable resting place for the questing mind: it is a childish fundamentalism for the incurious and profoundly ignorant.
Well, yeah. But GNON seems to be a gateway to Christian orthodoxy, rather than to Islam. Islam after all involves a philosophical repudiation of even the Stoic Logos, ergo of any notion of GNON. Strict Moslems don’t think there is such a thing: there is only the inscrutable will of Allah.
But the bottom line is that *any* concept can be a gateway to error. The Stairway to Heaven ascends a razor’s edge. Look at Tertullian. Still one of the greatest Fathers, and in later life a Montanist. There is never in life a guarantee against a Fall. But there is a guarantee against any faith – against even starting up the Stairway. If an atheist cannot admit even to GNON, there is zero chance that he can ever admit to YHWH – or, then, likewise, to any of the many heresies and errors that ever beset the man of faith.
Only a theist can possibly be a heretic.
This is actually interesting. It means that an atheist *cannot even be wrong about God.* He can’t have a coherent opinion on the matter. His opinions on the matter must all rather be incoherent, devoid of any definite meaning. And this is pretty much what our atheist adversaries of late so angrily insisted: atheism, they cried, is “free of content.” It asserts nothing. How then could it be wrong – or more to the point, right?
Gnon is a useful bridging concept. I really like it. Many may study the necessary outworkings of Gnon, and then come to study His nature at a later date to get a richer, fuller understanding of Tradition.
My impression is that a recognition of GNON tends immediately to a lively recognition of Beauty, and the beginning of a quest to understand what and how Beauty Means – an inherently alluring and fascinating project, with YHWH its Grail.
In reading up on GNoN, a term I’d never heard before, my first, uncharitable, reaction was:
That being said, my problem is with the apparent equivalence given to nature and to nature’s God as seemingly equal bases for an intelligible life. What is at stake with the loss of God as the guarantor of reality is the very idea of intelligibility. What is at danger of being lost by the believers in nature sans metaphysical foundation is the ideal of an intelligible world, described by Wilbur Urban as:
When we reject the reality of the transcendent, we fall back into paganism and this seems to be the position of much of the non-religious right. It’s also idolatry plain and simple. In his essay usually presented as Against the Neo-pagans, Evola observes that the main trait of today’s pagan outlook:
Yeah, GNON seems more than anything else to be a non-committal recognition that there is Something Out There to be reckoned with after all. At first, anyway. But as I indicate in the post, GNON is inherently religious: no God, no Nature. Once that recognition of Something Out There has occurred, the reckoning must soon get underway in earnest. And that leads quickly toward more definite and more orthodox commitments.
The aforementioned Wrath of GNON is a case in point. It is chock full of traditional Catholic and Orthodox memes.
You might be right about GNoN being a useful tool, but as a Buddhist I’m perhaps excessively wary of natural theology. My position on metaphysical knowledge is much like that described by Assmann:
Assmann’s perspective seems straightforwardly obvious to metaphysical realists such as we. But to a skeptic, GNON is a revolutionary notion. It is the beginning of the end of his skepticism. Without that, no motion toward realism is going to seem credible to him. To recognize GNON for the first time is not to solve the problem of skepticism, but to understand it.
I must admit that it is hard for me to follow Moldbug’s main recommendation and read old books because I can’t stand their usually far too poetic and emotional style. And I am atheist. Anyway, one mental replacement I tend to make is that when e.g. de Maistre says something along lines “invoked God’s wrath and punishment” or “is agaist God’s will or the divine order” I replace it with “had an unforeseen consequence that originated in a yet unknown law of nature”. As far as I know this is a mostly valid approach: most traditional Catholics and also Anglicans believed and still do that the divine will is mostly expressed through the laws and order of nature. Direct interventions, i.e. miracles are possible but rare. The utility of such a replacement is that it emphasizes that it is possible to learn about these things empirically. I don’t mean the usual “scientism” argument that everything is knowable empirically, but merely that everything that tends to cause social disaster or social flourishing must be knowable empirically because it is not the kind of thing you can only find out in mystical meditation or prayer.
The question I would like to ask is to what extent do you find this approach usable? I mean, you do believe direct miracles and miraculous punishments also happen – but how often? Would you agree violating the divine order _usually_ has natural consequences and not direct miraculous punishments? Any exceptions? Is there any social-political event in history where you suspect direct intervention? For example, de Maistre’s classic argument that the French Revolution was divine punishment of the aristocrats dabbling into Enlightenment – can we interpret this naturalistically? I.e. they tried to govern based on false theories of human psychology and that caused it?
In my view–and I am sure many totally disagree–I think miracles are completely misunderstood by atheists and many theists.
Miracle comes from late Latin miraculum (a wonder, marvel) from mariri, to wonder at.
So to witness or read about a miracle fills the witness (or the reader) with a sense of wonder. Without reducing a miracle to simply its affective dimension, it has to be understood that it is the affective dimension of the miracle that is definitive of it being a miracle. This is in contrast to a miracle being either contrary to natural laws or extremely improbable.
If we read about the Virgin Birth, it is clear that everyone knows that virgins don’t give birth. So a pregnant virgin giving birth is something that extends the limits of language outside of our ordinary conventions–in other words, a description of something indescribable, something wonderful or awesome beyond comprehension.
Now I think whether you are an atheist or theist, you have had some apprehension of these moments of wonder, where one’s categories break down, where something mighty and awesome is revealed, where words fail. The question is whether one assigns any MEANING or IMPORTANCE to these experience.
When we talk about Christian dogma, say the Virgin Birth, we are talking about an event that a community, that is, the Church, has a shared sense that this event is reveals a cosmic experience of wonder, and is given great meaning and importance in the experience of the community. Without getting into Islam, it is certainly the case that atheists see in the birth of Christ nothing wonderful, and an experience that is completely quotidian.
In some sense, the miracles define the religious traditions, they demarcate historical events that they hold as expressing miraculous import. Second, differences between traditions represent disagreements about what “was actually a miracle” or not.
It is not so much that in a miracle, the laws of nature have broken down, but that within the world, something beyond the world has broken through, has been unveiled, for all to see. Further, it is less important to have some abstract belief in “miracles” than it is to be able to apprehend the miraculous dimension of common experience.
In some sense, I think God is revealed in collective trauma, and this is, of course, the communal experience of divine judgment, and the connection between law, morality, and warfare. It is here that GNON has a place.
Yet I think the real limit of GNON is that while it reveals the severity, even if just, of the Divine. It fails to disclose the other aspect of God’s nature, beyond justice, which is mercy and love.
GNON. Summed in in all the Beauty,Hardship and deadliness of nature.
Where all things since the fall seems designed to trap to maim and to kill. For one is constant entropy where all things decay and corruption entered the gene pool eventually accumulating non-infectious diseases both lethal and non-lethal.
A world where men need either ocular or physical crutches like contacts,glasses and walking sticks to hold up a shorter leg. Where some men are born blind or deaf. Where bacteria eat away at human flesh and where leeches swallow earthworms who sputter blood as they are eaten. The physical examples can go on and on.
And endlessly hostile universe that is nonetheless wondrous and at once degrading and destructive to us and other creatures on the globe. A nature red in tooth and claw filled with violence and corruption.
For some this leads men to believe that either God is cruel or God is non-existent.
As much as others perceive divine order and goodness in nature.
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For the record, the seminal post on Gnon came from Nick Land here. He thought a lot more of it than I ever did. He was ready to offer me a chalice of goat’s blood. But it was never more than a short-hand for Telos in natural law. We (atheists and theists) might not agree on who is doing that “intending”, but it is clear to all observers that there exists intent, and to fight against it is in any case foolhardy. As a Catholic, I cannot but see Nature carrying out the will of Her Creator.
Wow, Bohemund, I did not know you were in at the creation of GNON. That’s cool.
It’s a tremendously valuable notion in practice, because it allows traditionalists and reactionaries to get down to business. Our valuable Buddhist ally Nilakantha said something of the same sort over in the thread on Mark Citadel’s Open Letter to Pope Francis, where controversy has erupted between Protestant and Catholic traditionalists on the one hand, and Catholic and Orthodox traditionalists on the other. This in a thread discussing a post of common interest to traditionalists of any sort. A similar brouhaha took place in the comments to Alan Roebuck’s recent post on his Standard Orthosphere Disclaimer. A gentlemanly nod to GNON might have saved a lot of heat. Not that these discussions are uninteresting or unimportant, but the main thing at this point is to get the guns to the top of the hill so that they can punish the horde besieging Vienna. Fistfights among the soldiers rolling in the muck will lose the day. The men must rather all pull together, for if the Turks win, it will be bad news for Christians of all sorts and conditions. Especially the traditionalists among them.
Nevertheless, as I have said already in this thread, GNON is an unstable place for a questing mind to pause. It is a way to table the issue of theism for the nonce, rather than settling it. Indeed, so far is GNON from settling the issue of theism, that it rather raises it to an excruciating pitch of tension.
I see only two ways out of that apogee of intellectual discomfort. One is the relaxation into theism (and then, naturally, into the sorts of ecclesial disputes so beloved of the theist ilk)(these begin to matter only to minds that take theism to be true)(for, since theism is in fact true, they are therefore important). The other is the rejection of both horns of GNON, and a fall into rebellion against the order of being per se, and in all its aspects.
No need, ever, for scare quotes around intension. If there were no such thing as intension, then there could be no such thing as an intention to indicate the sort of failure actually to refer that scare quotes impute. No intension, then no “intension.” So that, if “intension,” then intension.
The reason I am atheist is that I am incapable of correct, non-idolatrous belief. My imagination is not good enough to visualize a God that is not yet another entity in the world somewhere but a ground of being behind the world. I am not alone with this, I think most religious people are idolatrous, it is just that they write “Christ” on their idol – Feser on “theistic personalism” – , but are similary uncapable of imagining a ground of being. It is very hard for a human to do, almost tempted to say it cannot come from human effort, only grace. And even idolatrous Christianity may have social or psychological benefits, I give that, but I like correctness and accuracy so I think it is more honest for me to stay atheist until I become capable of believing in a non-entity, non-creature, not-in-the-world, non-idol God. I don’t see the use in adopting an idolatrous kind of belief for me. As long as one believes on the idolatrous level, his picture God stays an entity, and thus subject to Occam’s razor: why multiply them unnecessarily? Theism can only defeat Occam’s razor through positing a definitely non-entity God and since I cannot really imagine that, I must stick to the razor.
You’ve set yourself a threshold to belief that no finite mind can possibly pass. It’s as if you’d said to yourself that you’d not begin to count your change until you knew exactly how big infinity is, or to tell the time of day until you understood just how long eternity lasts.
The mature philosophical theist sees that there must necessarily be an ultimate Ground of Being, and that he cannot comprehend it, but that as ultimate it must be perfect; that it must be holy. Worship is the only appropriate response to holiness.
Right, he finds himself trapped in the postmodern catastrophe. Knowledge of the ultimate ground of all Being is necessarily incomplete[*]; therefore we cannot say anything definite about it at all.
[*] This also happens to be true of knowledge of any and all sufficiently interesting actually existing things: that is, positivism is incoherent.
Hah! Just so. If you deferred eating until you comprehended digestion …
Knowledge is always formal; all formal systems interesting enough to be competent to basic arithmetic are incompletable.
The Incompleteness Theorem is thus among many other things a demonstration of the logical necessity of formal infinity somehow or other concresced in an act of infinitely competent comprehension – i.e., of an infinite *mind.*
Your reason, summarized is “I don’t believe in God because I can’t believe in God.”
I am not belittling you here. It’s a common challenge even for those who are Christians and want to believe with their whole heart. But this is why, even though oceans of ink and forests of trees have been sacrificed to craft rational arguments for the existence of God, faith is necessary to actually believe in Him.
Your belief/practice is idolatrous only if the putative hierophany you worship is in fact not a plenary manifestation of God. Regardless of what you may think of the doctrinal formulations of the Fourth Council, its intent was to safeguard the foundational Christian belief that worship (latria) is due to Christ since he is the plenary manifestation of God in the form of a man. To prove this worship is idolatrous I would think you have to prove at least one of two propositions: 1.Christ is not God, or 2. Worship is appropriate for that which is not the Absolute.
Precisely, yes. There is no reason that the infinite may not express himself wholly in and as a finity – as a man, a seraph, a god, a bush afire, a pillar of cloud, a quickening enlightening fire; as a Person with whom we may hold converse. Indeed as he has told us, whatever we do to other creatures we do to him. He suffuses all things; what is any creature in the first instance but an expression of the Absolute?
That the Absolute is everywhere does not mean he may not be right here, right now, and – as immediate, definite, and concrete – obliging our response.
From a Christian perspective, Jesus Christ is an icon of God fashioned by God for his people, so we worship Christ. Further, we venerate icons of Christ because those icons resemble God’s own icon.
I agree with you on one level, given the nature of God, it would be impossible to know God unless God revealed himself in the course of history to humans. Further, to truly know God as well as we possibly could in this life, a book is insufficient, because we have no means of interpreting the Divine Word. The Word would have to become flesh for humans to experience true gnosis.
I’m not sure if I agree with that since Christ simply is God. Do you mean that the incarnation could be thought as “God’s Icon,” as in He incarnated Himself as to unveil a higher truth to Man, and thus the incarnation serves a similar function as icons do?
I had the same reaction at first, Jim, but then I recalled that there is no reason an icon cannot be itself the thing it represents. This is implicit in sacramental theology. The sacrament signifies what it also is. It signifies what it does in virtue of the fact that it is what it signifies.
Then also I seem to recall that in the Orthodox theology of the icon, icons do indeed participate what they represent. Relics, likewise, and such holy places as the Holy Sepulcher. Ditto also for Scripture: the Word of the Lord is the Logos in his entirety.
Thus Jesus of Nazareth is both an icon of YHWH and is YHWH simpliciter.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
The other problem with the Word as Book vs. Word as Flesh:
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.
To say that the Word is Incarnate is not to say that God is *nothing but* the body of Jesus. Likewise, to say that the Word is encoded in Scripture is not to say that the God is *completely* encoded in Scripture. Icons don’t recapitulate exhaustively what they partake; rather, they are each a synecdoche.
Jim is right, my initial comments, misinterpreted, could decay into some kind of Arian/Origenist subordinationist Trinity–but that is precisely why it took centuries to work out the correct formulation of faith.
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Make Gnon great again! I guess it is only possible to make our awareness of it great. Gnon is there is there is there. We conform or we forget or we rebel. Actually a forgetful conformity is probably best, at least for the many.
The funny thing about GNON is that you can’t help obeying him. What I mean is, you can’t disobey him except in virtue of your preponderant agreement with him; can’t deny Natural Law without employing it in the act of your denial. Thus to argue with GNON is to contradict oneself, implicitly. This is why leftists and liberals need so many more meds than traditionalists and conservatives. Their internal life is incoherent; is neurotic.
It isn’t GNON that needs to be made great again, but rather our theology and metaphysics respecting him.
Reblogged this on A Life Un-Lived and commented:
Thanks be to Gnon for God, that children may perceive that reality is merciless by placating their fears with a merciful god.
Reblogged this on "The Horror! The Horror!" and commented:
An excellent statement on GNON
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hi Kristor, im looking for your contact address.
sorry to be posting on here..
this is in regards to a publication, could you please get in touch with me?
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Vishnu is not Brahma’s son.
Had someone mentioned Vishnu or Brahma?
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