My essay on Identity: The Future of a Paradox appears at the 2017 Symposium of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum along with essays by Paul Gottfried, James Kalb, Valdis Grinsteins, Urho Lintinen, and Richard Cocks, among others. I would like publicly to thank the Forum’s convener Edwin Dyga for his meticulous editorial work and fine presentation of the essays. The Future of a Paradox explores idea, argued in a book by the French historian Rémi Brague, that Western Civilization is uniquely a civilization that has its founding principle outside itself and that has understood itself since its first embodiment in the Roman polity as the steward of something that it received (namely Greek high culture) but did not create. The essay examines this thesis in light of the Western epic tradition beginning with Virgil and proceeding through Ovid, Jordanes, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Snorri Sturluson, Harry Martinson, and Ezra Pound. I offer an extract:
The Gothic successors of the Western Empire stood to Romanitas as Romanitas stood to Hellenism, in a relation of secondarity or even second or third secondarity. When Jordanes, in his Origin and Deeds of the Goths (mid-Sixth Century), narrates Theodoric’s departure from Constantinople for Italy, where with the Eastern Emperor’s permission he would establish himself as viceroy, he uses this quaint phrase: “He set out for Hesperia.” Jordanes’ allusion to Virgil anticipates the Trojan pedigrees that Geoffrey furnishes for the Britannic kings of the annals and Snorri for the Aesir of the sagas. That the gesture approaches self-consciousness to the point of sentimentality neither belies nor obviates it. Now a sentiment, like a father, might be a burden onerous to shoulder, but that fact never divests it of sincerity. A complementary image of shouldering the father, as Brague reminds his readers, is standing on the shoulders of giants, the structure of which subordinates the subject in a slightly different way from the onus, but insists on that subordination nevertheless. In Medieval stained glass, the Saints stand on the shoulders of the Prophets; in Gothic decorative statuary, Pagan figures mingle with Hebrew and Christian figures. It is nearly a thesis in capital letters.
The two images stand in common tension with an opposite image that takes the form of the consciousness or identity that claims, for its own part, an entirely autogenetic status. For [Rémi] Brague, the prototype of that stance is the Second Century Marcionite heresy. As did many Gnostics, Marcion of Sinope (85 – 160) hated and rejected the Old Testament, arguing in respect of the New Testament what Islam would later argue in respect of the Koran, that it was aboriginally new hence genuinely and uniquely primordial and that it therefore abrogated everything that claimed spuriously to have come before it. Modern liberal people are the issue of Marcion despite their complete unfamiliarity with him, and their deluded consciousness corresponds to his point by point. Modernity and liberalism, in the making since the Eighteenth Century at the latest, and currently triumphant in the West, exist in a second reality in which all debts have been cancelled, all obligations annulled, and the way lies open to that urge without origin or goal that goes by the name of progress. Tellingly, in its acute current phase, the modern liberal regime has mounted an explicit attack on family, attempting to define the institution away by imposing contradictory deformations on it by judicial fiat. Likewise, the modern liberal regime attacks sovereignty, the concept that separates one nation from another and by doing so guarantees a people’s rights. The modern liberal regime seeks, rather, a globalizing borderless society in which differential evaluation of ethoi and defense of one’s proper ethos are criminalized. The modern liberal regime pursues an agenda of forced promiscuity for the sake of abolishing difference, while insisting contradictorily that difference is a supreme value. The modern liberal regime collectivizes, homogenizes, and atomizes all at the same time.