Nations are Spiritual Entities First

It is routine for Reactionaries to decry the notion that nations subsist in virtue of some congeries of abstract propositions. The “proposition nation” reduces nationality to a few – a very few, a tiny sample – of its formal causes. It’s an improper reduction.

But many on the Right turn and reduce nations to blood and soil. There is more, obviously, to nations than assemblages of similar human bodies in particular vicinities. That suggestion improperly reduces nationality to a few of its material causes.

We will do no better if we reduce nations only to either of the other two sorts of Aristotelian causes: the final and the efficient.

America, for example, is more than the sorts of things she characteristically tends to produce: Hollywood movies, grain, athletes, software, wars, business enterprises, primitive music, fake news, soft drinks, muscle cars, jeans, anomic cities, political entertainments, prosperity, commandos. She is more than her final causes. She is more too than her efficient causes: her economic dynamism, audacity, eagerness, greed, hubris, and so forth.

But nations are more even than all these four sorts of causes somehow or other jumbled together. A jumble is not a coherent, coordinate entity. It has no common life, that orders things according to some common vision. It is just a jumble. It is like a human body that is dead.

None of the Aristotelian causes have any cash value in and of themselves, or even as thrown together in some Receptacle. They are inert. This is so even for efficient causation, which at bottom is just the urge that something or other come to pass.

To get more than a jumble out of a bunch of inert ingredients, you need a coordinating intelligence, in whom and by whom they are all duly proportioned and integrate. You need a living being that has four sorts of causes, all at once together, and concretely synthesized. You need a life. And that life – that career of acts – is prior to the actualization in history of its concrete character, corporeal inputs, products, and energy. The concrete is the fossil of the living act.

So nations are first spiritual before they are any of the components of the spiritual. No whole, no parts; no composition, no composites.

23 thoughts on “Nations are Spiritual Entities First

  1. Pingback: Nations are Spiritual Entities First | Aus-Alt-Right

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  3. “So nations are first spiritual before they are any of the components of the spiritual. No whole, no parts; no composition, no composites.”

    This reminds me of Noah Webster’s definition of “providence.”:

    3. In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence but deny a particular providence *not considering that a general providence consists of particulars*. A belief in divine providence is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is often understood God himself. (emphasis mine)

    • What a fantastic paragraph from Webster! In the second and third sentences alone, he disposes of several persistent errors. With the second sentence, for example, he destroys Deism.

  4. Oswald Spengler insisted that every Great Culture (his equivalent of nation) came into being through an intense mystical vision granted to a founder.

    • Maintenance of a culture requires a more or less constant reiteration of its founding vision, that refreshes the spiritual wellsprings of a people and renews their proper orientation to the world, and to history. The Providential destiny of the nation revealed in such visions must be ever in view of her leaders, at least dimly. Where they have lost sight of that destiny, or have mistaken it, they lose the Mandate of Heaven, and things start to go to Hell.

  5. Another thing to take away from Spengler is his rejection of causal analysis, which according to him inevitably descends into the sort of improper reductionism critiqued here, in favour of morphology.

    • Spengler’s morphology is a type of Platonism, or of the Hebrew typology. We see the same thing in Waddington’s notion of the developmental chreode, Aristotle’s entelechy, and the mathematical strange attractor.

      The argument for treating morphology as prior to causality is straightforward. A thing can’t have causal factors until it is actual, for the simple reason that a thing can’t have anything at all until it is actual. It can have causal factors only ex post. But this means that its causal factors cannot have any influence upon it whatsoever, ex ante; before it is actual, it is not there to be influenced. They cannot, that is to say, cause it to come into being.

      So, new events in the world are not generated by that world. They are ingressions of novel forms from without it.

      What is more, events are prior to their causal factors. That A causes B is a function, not of A, but of B; it is B that makes A causal of B.

      • Or say, the morphology of Perfection, i.e., objective Supremacy, is the pre-reality effectuating the entire Cause.

      • I am not disagreeing. I am fascinated by what appears to be a falsification of “common descent.” Clearly, there is not a father before his son. So that in this particular instance, the “descent” is prior to a “common” thus falsifying “common descent” as so invertedly conceived.

      • I don’t think that common descent is falsified. Causal factors are not ruled out by the priority of morphology in the formation of novel entities. They are, rather, enabled. One aspect of the morphology of a novel entity is its morphological inheritance from predecessors.

        This is tricky. I’ll try to explain more fully. A causes B. But this causal relation is not actual until B is actual. Until B actually exists, A has not caused it. So it is not that A pushes B into existence. Rather, B arrives at actual existence with all its formal properties, including the formal property of its causal inheritance from A. The influence of A upon B is clear enough, and real enough, once there is a B. But not before.

        Once B is actual, then we can see that, yes, A is indeed the father of B, a cause of B. But A is not the source of B. B arrives into the mix from somewhere outside it.

        So, it is not the case that our traditional way of treating causation is wholly overturned by the priority of morphology. Rather, it is shown to be a secondary, derivative phenomenon.

      • Kristor…

        You and I have exactly one worldly father and one Supernatural Father. The Supernatural Father is the “source” which effectuates a worldly Son who shall be prior to his father in actuality. In other words, “common descent,” understood most generically and/or particularly is unfounded. Generically, it falls apart at “common…” At a “source.” There is no “source” in the general understanding of “common descent.” And there is no “source” in “common descent” effectuating the son prior to his father. There just is no “common” in “common descent” even generically speaking. So in particular, “common descent” fails at “descent” because an actual son is prior to his actual father per the metaphysical AND worldly order of things. The “descent” is nothing of the sort. It is son –> father, in particular, per Reality.

      • Well, yes and no. A is not the source of B; but nor is B the source of A! The son does not come to be as something other than the son of his father. The sonship of the son and the fatherhood of the father come into being with the same motion.

        So with each new occasion, the web of causation is maintained, seamlessly, even as it is ramified and extended.

      • Kristor…

        If A = (f)ather and B = (S)on, i.e., Christ, then A is not the source of B, but B is the source of A who then co-(c)reates a (s)on effectuated as a new (f)ather actualizes.

        And all this seems to falsify a “common descent” and per Charlton’s inverted reality, signify a “descent common.” A Father –> Son –> son –> father ordering of reality.

      • The processions of the Trinity are not assimilable to creaturely processions (it’s the other way round). All three Persons of the Trinity arrive eternally, as one act. The divine processions are not a sequence of operations, but one act.

        The Father is nevertheless the source of the other two Persons. His priority is however logical, rather than temporal.

  6. “A thing can’t have causal factors until it is actual, for the simple reason that a thing can’t have anything at all until it is actual. It can have causal factors only ex post. But this means that its causal factors cannot have any influence upon it whatsoever, ex ante; before it is actual, it is not there to be influenced. They cannot, that is to say, cause it to come into being.”

    Hence an observation I’ve reliably made over the years: all reductionist social theories, one way or another, presume the existence of the very thing they purport to explain (not always in a transparently obvious way). It comes out most clearly in various facile attempts to causally reduce religion or some other major social institution to economic interests. E.g. the Marxian “explanation” of religion in terms of its actual or putative ideological function of concealing the exploitative character of social relations. The flaw in the reasoning is that religion, by definition, has to first exist as an effective social force with the ability to shape consciousness *before* it can take on the very “ideological” function that is supposed to explain it.

    • Such explanations invoke the explanandum in the explanans. The social contract explanation of the origin of society is another such. Contracts are features of societies. They cannot therefore operate in a pre-social milieu. Social contract theory then is just a fancy way of saying that societies form because societies form.

      In the most extreme cases, such explanations merely restate the explanans in different terms that sound sophisticated. Such explanations are called “Dormitive Virtue” theories, after the explanation by a quack in Molière’s Imaginary Invalid that opium induces sleep due to its virtus dormitiva.

      Emergence theory is perhaps the palmary example. Complex features emerge from simpler substrates because they emerge from simpler substrates. That’s the theory, in essence. At bottom, it’s a fancy way of saying, “stuff happens.” Darwinism is guilty of the same crime. “Stuff happens, and some of it happens more often than other stuff; and that’s why some stuff happens more often than other stuff.”

      Any attempt at a purely mundane explanation of any aspect of the world is going to end up sooner or later at circularity, because all such explanations try to explain the world by recourse only to … the world. “The world is this way because that’s how the world is.”

  7. I have only started to read Hegel so if I misread what people are saying please forgive me. My comments are about people in general. It seems our nature as people is to focus on both the physical and metaphysical at the same time. Yet, many people seem to compartmentalize them into separate corners of our being. So the tension seems to be when we believe too much in a physical state or to focused on our own metaphysical state. It seems individuals want to push back the dialectic Hegel indentififed. Is this symptomatic of our society’s seemingly easy dismissal of something such as a work/life balance?

    • Thanks for commenting, Jim. There’s nothing to forgive!

      The difficulties begin when we begin to treat the physical as if it were not itself metaphysically environed – as if, in other words, it was somehow not itself metaphysical, through and through. It’s one of the quintessential modern errors. It does seem to me to lie (with several other characteristic modern errors) at the root of the unease, the psychic instability, so endemic to the modern era.

      This instability is part of what has engendered the apparent dichotomy between work and life that seems to us so obvious today. Work is not truly at war with life, as if there were a zero sum game being played out between them. It is integral with life. If we find our work is at war with our life, we are doing bad work – work that is bad for us – and ought to do something different.

      Likewise – to draw an analogy that might make the point a bit more clear – food is not at war with life, but integral thereto. If we find that our food is making us sick, then we are eating food that is bad for us, and ought to eat something different.

      The philosophical errors of modernity – epistemological, metaphysical, political, and so forth – have disintegrated man, and his society. They have sundered the prior integrity of the natural and the divine, the material and the spiritual, the sublime and the routine, heroic sacrifice and sheer hard work. Not that life was a cakewalk in the premodern ages. It was not. In many ways, it was much harder. But, at least, premodern men did not so often suffer the complete and radical demoralization that looms ever over the modern mind, of living a life that has at bottom no importance, no meaning or significance, no value or goodness, nor any possibility thereof.

      To sum up, then: there is no true dialectic between work and life. They are not antitheses. There is only life, and problems of this or that sort encountered in living it: problems with food, with family, with sex, with work, with faith, with addiction, and so forth. Problems take on a specious life of their own only when the overall integrity of life has been disintegrated.

      Such disintegration is not, NB, limited to the modern era. We have always known about the disintegration of the human person that follows inevitably upon slavery to some idol or other – upon, i.e., sin. What makes the modern era peculiarly difficult is that in it, for the first time in human history, the transmundane has been utterly rejected by the reigning dogma of our culture. And the rejection of the transmundane absolutely forecloses any possibility of redemption – of transcendence of sin’s coils – that might for men of other ages have offered some ennoblement of their present sufferings, and so some consolation; some hope; some courage.

      • To me this seems to be the conundrum many people face when they seek to engage in endeavors that include work. Their enjoyment of these endeavors goes beyond the idea of a job’s purpose being to meet a materialistic or subsistence need. Much of our modern discourse about vocational or occupational issues functions on an axis with two poles. The first pole happens to be the axiom many people have been told many times over: “Get a good job so you can pay the bills.” Or the second axiom is something we hear all the time, “At least appreciate the fact you have a job that pays something.” This is not to everyone drops what they are doing in order to go on a quest to find themselves. If people are only given these two choices about structuring life around work, how can they participate in any state, metaphysical or physical. When subsistence and basic material needs become the major concern for oneself or their family it seems all else takes a back seat. This is not a call for a socialist revolution. I guess we should demand society as a whole place a little more emphasis on taking care of the self so we an individual can participate in a state which exists for the purpose of just meeting needs that are just defined by a level of minimal subsistent living. Courage and hope may grow if we change the way society talks about life having to be the serf for its master, work.


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