Thursday, February 08, 2024

Traditionalism and Nikolai Berdyaev

The Polish philosopher Marek Jedliński has just published an article in Studia z Historii Filozofii (in English) entitled “Russian Yearning for Elite Power: Nikolai Berdyaev’s Reflections on the Metaphysics of Democratism” (available here). Berdyaev (1874-1948, pictured) was a Russian philosopher and exile whose critique of modernity was grounded in religion. 

Jedliński, who has previously published on Julius Evola, René Guénon, and Traditionalism, terms Berdyaev a “traditionalist” and compares him in several respects with Guénon, especially with regard to their understandings of modernity and democracy. Berdyaev even wrote of a “democratic ideology of quantity” (48). There are certainly interesting parallels, but in the end Berdyaev was not a perennialist, even if he was an anti-modernist. 

Jedliński’s article raises the question of what Guénon and Berdyaev thought of each other’s work. They both lived in Paris at the same time, and Berdyaev’s key Le Nouveau Moyen-Âge (The New Middle Ages) was published in French in 1924. Berdyaev was friends with Jacques Maritain, at one point Guénon’s sponsor. Yet Guénon never seems to have mentioned Berdyaev, nor Berdyaev Guénon.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Dugin's multiple contexts

An excellent article on the multiple contexts of Alexander Dugin and Eurasianism has just been published in the New York Review of Books. It is “Russian Exceptionalism” (available here) by Gary Saul Morson, a scholar of Russian literature who has read Dugin and other Eurasianists carefully. He places Dugin in three larger contexts: the “Russian Exceptionalism” of his title, early Eurasianism, and contemporary Russia. And he may well be right in all three ways. He concludes that “Far from distorting earlier Eurasianism, Dugin’s bloodthirstiness represents its predictable development.” I myself would prefer “apocalypticism” to “bloodthirstiness,” but I must admit that the current Dugin can certainly seem rather bloodthirsty. 

Two thirds of the article is about the early Eurasianism of Nikolai Trubetskoy, Pyotr Savitsky, and Lev Gumilev, to which too little attention is usually paid. In Morson’s view, Dugin synthesized this “with the work of practitioners of geopolitics from Halford Mackinder on, along with structuralists, postmodernists (Jean-François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze), French ‘traditionalists’ (René Guénon and Alain de Benoist), and various Nazis or ex-Nazis, including Julius Evola, Carl Schmitt, and, of course, Martin Heidegger.” Yes, though Benoist would not identify himself as a Traditionalist like Guénon, even if there is indeed much Traditionalism in his through. And Evola, of course, should be listed as a Traditionalist, not a Nazi—he was never even a proper Fascist, let alone a Nazi. But this is not the point: the article is about contexts, not the classification of Dugin’s sources.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Removal of comments by Maude Murray

This blog previously included a number of comments posted by Maude Murray, formerly the third wife of Frithjof Schuon. These comments have been deleted following a request from Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, lawyers acting for Michael Fitzgerald, said to be a former member of the Maryamiyya once close to Schuon, and World Wisdom Inc., the publisher linked to the Maryamiyya that publishes many books by Schuon and other Maryami and Traditionalist authors.

In May 2023 Fitzgerald and World Wisdom obtained an injunction from the Indianapolis U.S. District Court prohibiting Murray from distributing or selling copies of Third Wife of the Muslim Shaykh Frithjof Schuon within the U. S. (though not outside the U. S.), and also requiring YouTube to delete certain videos made by Murray. For the book, see earlier post here.

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath have pointed out to me that the injunction also prohibits Murray from “disseminating… information of any type concerning or in any way related to Frithjof Schuon, Catherine Schuon, or Michael Fitzgerald, including disseminating this information through any and all blogs and social media platforms” and that “interactive computer services that operate, host, or otherwise control websites which host this content are ordered… to remove such… postings.”

I am not a lawyer, and I am not sure on what basis anybody can be prohibited from disseminating such a wide class of information. But I accept that the Indianapolis U.S. District Court has made this prohibition, whatever its reasons, and I know that Blogger, which hosts this blog, is subject to the jurisdiction of the court. I accept that the comments made on this blog by Murray concerned Schuon, and so I have reluctantly removed them—reluctantly because, apart from anything else, I believe in freedom of speech as an important human right. But the injunction made by the Indianapolis U.S. District Court leaves me no choice.

A draft of this post was shown to Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, who “respectfully decline[d] to comment.”

Delayed comments on this blog

Apologies! I have just discovered a large number of comments that the system never sent to me for moderation, and which were therefore never published. I have now posted them all, and hope this will not happen again.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Understanding and Misunderstanding Dugin

Hal Brands, of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, has published a useful article in Foreign Policy, “The Promise and Peril of Geopolitics” (here), placing Alexander’s Dugin’s Geopolitics in its wider context, going back to the British geographer Halford Mackinder (1861-1947) and forward to Chinese and American geopolitical perspectives today. Brands starts by describing Dugin as “a bit of a madman,” but still helps our understanding of one aspect of his thought.

The same cannot be said of the Ayn Rand Institute (129,000 subscribers), which has listed among its eight best podcasts of 2023 “From Russia with Evil: The Philosophy of Alexander Dugin” (here)  a discussion by two Ayn Rand Institute fellows, Nikos Sotirakopoulos and Ziemowit Gowin. The podcast is interesting because, despite often seeming to know Dugin’s work well, Sotirakopoulos and Gowin still get it back to front. They start by describing Dugin as a “Russian ultra-nationalist,” which ignores his views on nationalism, and then identify the two key elements in his thought as condemnation of individualism and celebration of the ethnos. They then confuse cause and effect when they assert that Dugin condemns modernity because modernity “destroys tradition and tradition is one of the most important aspects of ethnos.” Thus “for Dugin tradition is good no matter what is your tradition—to do… I don’t know… human sacrifices? Good, it’s your tradition.” Dugin, as a postmodernist, does not believe that there is any one single truth. Ultimately, “Dugin welcomes any form of irrationality which for him can be used as a shield against reason.” This interpretation allows Sotirakopoulos and Gowin to condemn Dugin and his thought. 

It is, however, hardly accurate. It is not the case that Dugin, as a postmodernist, believes that all traditions and irrationalities are equal, but that, as a Traditionalist, he condemns modernity as the negation of a very specific tradition—which Sotirakopoulos and Gowin in fact come close to recognizing when they refer to Dugin’s belief in “a crazy eclecticism of mysticism, of religion or even religions.” Traditionalism is indeed in a sense eclectic, but not exactly crazy, and for Dugin long precedes any postmodernism. 

The Ayn Rand Institute is quite entitled to condemn Dugin, but would do well to get his thought right before they do so.