Monday, November 10, 2008

Khoj-Ahmed Noukhaev

Announcing a 73-page paper by Philippe Botto, Khoj-Ahmed Noukhaev et le nationalisme tchétchène, just published by a French think tank, R2R.

Noukhaev's "Barbarism" is, in my view, one of the most remarkable recent manifestations of Traditionalism. What Guénon would have thought of it, I cannot imagine!

The paper is in French, but has an abstract in English:

With regards to the fullness and complexity of his biography, Noukhaev is an emblematic figure of this chaotic sequence of history that saw players from organized criminality enter the Russian political and entrepreneurial scenes. Prosperous businessman, Noukhaev is also the author of numerous papers and essays on the “Chechnya matter”. The ideology that he promotes outlines a nationalist, tribal fundamentalist and “barbarian” utopia. Although his ideology reaches only a marginal range – that close to intelligentsia – it clearly gives us an opportunity to gain knowledge of certain aspects of the Chechnya nationalist discourse. Noukhaev’s work is all the more worthy of interest as he has tried, in his own way, to throw his weight around the evolution of the Russo-Chechnya conflict by promoting a complex and original roadmap to peace.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Contre le monde moderne

For those who prefer to read in French: Against the Modern World is now available in translation as Contre le monde moderne : Le traditionalisme et l'histoire intellectuelle secrète du XXe siècle, from Dervy.

There is an introduction by Jean-Pierre Brach of the École pratique des Hautes Études, and a postface by Thierry Giaccardi, the translator. A few corrections have been made to the text of the original English edition.

ISBN 978-2-84454-563-3, only €22.00.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dugin in plot to topple government of Turkey?!

Sometimes I think I need a separate blog just to report highlights of the activities (or alleged activities) of Alexander Dugin...

Now it is plots and Turkey. For anyone who hasn't noticed, 86 prominent Turks were charged in July 2008 with plotting to foment unrest with the ultimate aim of toppling the (mildly Islamist) AKP government of Turkey, as part of an ultra-nationalist network called Ergenekon. Opinion seems divided--some see Ergenekon as an attempt by a secularist group or even a "deep state" to finish off the AKP, while others see the charges as an attempt by the AKP to finish off some leading secularists and frighten off some others.

The latest twist in the story is the allegation that key Ergenekon members were closely associated with Russia, and that the link was Alexander Dugin. Those who see the charges as being mounted by the AKP against patriotic secularists naturally see these allegations as a further and baseless attempt to discredit those charged. Those who see contemporary Russia as having returned to the most aggressive practices of the old Soviet Union naturally see these allegations as yet another element in a worrying pattern.

Dugin has certainly met some of the Ergenekon figures, and there may even be some overlap of ideas. Whether there is any more truth to the allegations than this may become clear with time, since Turkish prosecutors are reported to be preparing to introduce evidence of Dugin's role in court at some stage.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Islam in Interwar Europe

Just published: Islam in Inter-war Europe, ed. Nathalie Clayer and Eric Germain (New York: Columbia University Press; London: Hurst, 2008).

This book is of interest because it gives part of the wider context in which Traditionalist Sufism evolved. One article on "European Neo-Sufi Movements in the Inter-war Period" (by me) deals specifically with this, but many others are also relevant.

Other topics include: Muslim networks in early twentieth-century Britain, the first Muslim missions on a European Scale, Arab seamen in Britain, and 'Jihad Made in Germany.'

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dugin's networks

A new book on Dugin: Vladimir Ivanov, Alexander Dugin und die rechtsextremen Netzwerke (Stuttgart: Ibidem 2007, €29,90, ISBN 9783898218047).

I haven't read the book, and were it not for the preface by Andreas Umland (a serious scholar who has followed Dugin closely) I would be tempted not to take what it says is its main thesis very seriously.

The book argues that Dugin can be placed within a network of former Warsaw Pact "crypto-fascist" intelligence officers, themselves networked with colleagues in NATO intelligence services services who included former Nazis adopted by the victorious Western allies after the end of the Second World War.

But whether or not this argument is convincing, the book may still be interesting. Read the English abstract (or, if you know German, read the book itself).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is Alexander Dugin really the new sage of the Kremlin?

Fred Weir of The Christian Science Monitor seems to think so. Read "Moscow's moves in Georgia track a script by right-wing prophet: Is Alexander Dugin really the new sage of the Kremlin?" The Christian Science Monitor, September 19, 2008.

Whether or not Dugin is the new sage of the Kremlin, he is making a bigger mark on the internet and the press, according to Google Trends.

Searches for "Dugin" in Latin script above, and press mentions below:

Many of these searches are coming from the United States, but--interestingly--more are coming from Turkey.

Searches in cyrillic, however, have peaked, and press mentions go up and down:

Of course, the big question now is how Dugin's politics relate to his Traditionalism. I haven't had any contact with him since 2006, but my view would be that Traditionalism is still an important part of his motivation and analysis.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Seyyed Hossein Nasr and the Environment: “Ecoside is suicide”

By Anne Marieke Schwencke, Leiden University.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr has been voicing his concerns about the devastation of the natural environment since the end of the 1960s. He has articulated his views in several books--The Encounter of Man and Nature (1966), Man and Nature: the Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (1989) and Religion and the Order of Nature (1996)--and in numerous lectures.

I am presently working on a BA thesis on Nasr’s environmental ideas. Having worked as an environmental policy researcher for some years, the religious perspective on the environmental crisis in Nasr’s thought caught my attention. Nasr’s views are extremely interesting. They provide a different perspective from the mainstream environmental discourse, although he shares common ground with deep-ecology thinkers and venerated icons of the environmental movement like E. F. Schumacher (Small is Beautiful). Present research about Nasr addresses his Traditionalist views, his philosophy, his ideas about ‘science and Islam,’ etc., but his environmental views seem to get less attention.

According to Nasr, the environmental crisis is in fact a spiritual crisis, finding its root cause in the modern Western materialistic and secular worldview. A solution for the environmental crisis is to be found in a rediscovery of ‘traditional’ religious cosmology, values and truths. Nasr explicitly draws on religious, mystical metaphysical systems of thought–not only Islamic–that have, in his view, been eclipsed by modernity and need to be revived. These emphasize the inherent unity and interrelatedness of nature, humanity and the Divine.

My research covers Nasr’s views and the responses to his work (his audiences). All suggestions will be appreciated. Either leave a comment on this blog, or email

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ESSWE PhD Thesis Prize

Nominations are invited for the first biennial ESSWE PhD Thesis prize, awarded by the board of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism. The prize will be given for an outstanding European PhD thesis completed between 1 January 2007 and 1 March 2009 on any aspect of Western Esotericism (broadly conceived). The thesis may be European in the sense of having been submitted at a university in Europe, or in the sense of having been submitted by a European citizen at a university anywhere in the world. The thesis must have been approved formally by the nominee's thesis committee, but the degree need not have been formally awarded.

The prizewinner will be notified in May 2009 and will receive an award of €500 and a certificate, to be presented at the ESSWE conference in Strasbourg, 2-4 July 2009. The thesis will also be recommended for publication in the ARIES Book Series, though the final decision on publication will be taken by the ARIES Book Series editorial board, not the Prize Committee. If it deems that no thesis reaches an appropriate standard, the Prize Committee will not award a prize.

Nominations must be made by electronic mail to the Chair of the Prize Committee, Mark Sedgwick (Aarhus University, Denmark, by 1 March 2009. The nominator must be a faculty member at the institution that awards the nominee’s PhD degree, or a member of the nominee’s thesis committee. Each nominator may make only one nomination. The applications should consist of pdf files of the following material:
  1. A letter of nomination
  2. The nominee's thesis
  3. A separate summary of the thesis, written by the nominee, of no more than ten pages (double spaced)
  4. A brief biographical sketch of the nominee
  5. Documentation to show that the thesis has been approved
Items 1, 3 and 4 must be in English. Item 2 may be in any one of the following languages: English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish. Item 5 may be in any language, so long as a translation into English is provided if it is not in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

The Prize Committee consists of:
  • Mark Sedgwick, Aarhus (Chair)
  • Andreas Kilcher, Zurich
  • Jean-Pierre Brach, Paris

Friday, September 05, 2008

Guénon and "France's Malcolm X"

Guénon has found a new fan in France: Kémi Séba, a somewhat notorious African-nationalist activist, who recently converted to Islam and is being referred to by some as "France's Malcolm X." His following, however, seems considerably smaller than that of America's Malcolm X.

Séba read Guénon in a French jail in early 2008, while serving the most recent of a series of short sentences for inciting racial hatred. In an August 2008 interview with Saphir News, a French Muslim on-line newspaper, he referred to several of Guénon's works, and said that although Guénon was not the only reason for his conversion to Islam, it was Guénon who had shown him that Islam was more than the religion of the Arabs (Séba's previous African-nationalist position had condemned Arabs, and so Islam, as well as Jews, Zionists, and whites in general). Séba's reading of Guénon had evidently led him to accept the Traditionalist version of the perennial philosophy, though Séba did not use the term. Another reason for Séba's conversion to Islam was evidently prior membership of the Nation of Islam. Séba's interviewer, Amara Bamba, also comes over as something of a Guénon enthusiast.

Despite his conversion, Séba remains radical. His Mouvement des Damnés de l’Impérialisme (MDI, Movement of those Damned by Imperialism) and he himself are now standing publicly with Hizbollah against Zionism, for example. The political shift seems to have been from condemning the existing order in the name of Africanism to condemning the existing order in the name of all the oppressed.

Séba was born Stellio Capochichi in 1981 in Strasbourg to parents who had emigrated to France from Benin. Before establishing the MDI, Séba founded and led two other organizations described as "antisemitic ultra-radical mini-groups" by Le Figaro, the Tribu Ka (Ka Tribe, from 2004 until its dissolution by government order in 2006) and the Génération Kémi Séba (from 2007). Although it was the antisemitism of these organizations that drew the attention of the French police and press, antisemitism does not seem to have been their only point.

My thanks to Jean-François Mayer for drawing my attention to the Saphir News interview.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dugin makes Newsweek

A milestone of sorts... Alexander Dugin has at last drawn the attention of Newsweek.

"A selection of young activists from Kremlin-created youth groups like Nashi and the Youth Guards join the leaders and activists of Ukrainian pro-Russian movements to listen to lectures by the likes of Aleksandr Dugin, a leading light of the Eurasia movement, which preaches a Russian-led power block as an alternative to the West."

Owen Matthews, "A Respectable Russia: Vladimir Putin's war has intensified the debate over his nation's future." Newsweek September 1, 2008, published online August 23, 2008.

Newsweek, then The Economist, and now a full length interview in the Los Angeles Times!

--MS September 4, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The early life of Seraphim Rose

A correspondent, Alexandra Koltun, has drawn my attention to an interesting detail in the early life of Seraphim Rose, the Russian Orthodox monk in America who was not exactly a Traditionalist, but for whose spiritual life and teachings Traditionalism was of great importance.

According to an article in the Pomona College Magazine (the magazine of Rose's alma mater), as a young man, Rose was gay. As a monk, of course, he would presumably have been celibate. Koltun wrote, "it may be that people who feel out of synch with the surrounding world may unconsciously welcome an ideology that validates their unease." Indeed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sufism and Transnational Spirituality

PhD and Postdoc positions within research group on “Sufism and Transnational Spirituality,” Aarhus University

Applications are invited for one PhD position and one Postdoc position within a new research group on “Sufism and Transnational Spirituality” at Aarhus University, Denmark. Founded in 1928, Aarhus University is now the second largest university in Denmark, with approximately 35,000 students and a staff of about 9,000.

The research group has not yet received funding, and any appointment is therefore subject to funding being received. Successful applicants will be encouraged to develop an individual research project dealing with Sufism in both the West and the Muslim world (not just the West or just the Muslim world). The positions involve some teaching duties, but these are not onerous, and will start (subject to funding) in August 2009 or August 2010.

Applications are invited from any relevant disciplinary background, but candidates with a background in anthropology, Middle East/Islamic studies, or religious studies are especially encouraged to apply. Knowledge of Arabic or another appropriate language used in the Muslim world will be a distinct advantage. Knowledge of Danish is not required, and there are no restrictions concerning citizenship. Successful applicants will be expected to base themselves in Aarhus for the duration of their research, in either the Department of Anthropology and Ethnography or the Department of the Study of Religion. Residence and employment permits will be arranged by the university if necessary. Remuneration will be in accordance with the appropriate Danish Universities scale, and fieldwork expenses will be covered.

Applicants should email by August 22, 2008 a covering letter of no more than two pages describing in outline a possible research project, a full CV, and up to one writing sample, to Dr Nils Bubandt, Department of Anthropology and Ethnography, University of Aarhus, 8270 Hojbjerg, Denmark. Up to three letters of recommendation may also be submitted, but given the short time available before the deadline, such letters are not required. Any enquiries may be sent in advance of application to either Dr Bubandt ( or Dr Mark Sedgwick (

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New books by Rusmir Mahmutćehajić

Fordham University Press is to publish more translations of books by Rusmir Mahmutćehajić, the Bosnian public intellectual who is the leading representative of Traditionalism in the Balkans.

Fordham University Press has already published English translations of three books by Mahmutćehajić, of which the first was Learning from Bosnia: Approaching Tradition (2005).

The new books, due in 2009, are
  • Malo znanja: O drugim u muslimanskim vidicima. In this, "Mahmutćehajić discusses one of the key questions of the modern world: how to identify and articulate the justification for open, plural societies within the Muslim intellectual tradition."
  • Preko vode: uz pjesmu Maka Dizdara „Modra rijeka“. This is "the outcome of the author’s many years’ study of the relationship between the universal perspective of the perennial philosophy and the traditional Bosnian heritage."

Mahmutćehajić's publisher in Zagreb, Antibarbarus, has just published his Stolačka čaršija: U vidiku perenijalne filozofije ("The Stolac Čaršija: In the Light of the Perennial Philosophy"), which should be interesting, but is not--so far as I know--available in translation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

German Swami: Buddhism in Sri Lanka

"German Swami" was Peter Joachim Schoenfeldt (1907-84). He spent time in mystical circles around the poet Stefan Georg in Berlin in the 1930s, grew interested in Buddhism, and traveled to Sri Lanka in 1936. He became Buddhist as Nyanakhetto, and was later ordained as Swami Gauribala Giri.

By 1971, German Swami had a circle of followers in Sri Lanka that included the former American Beatnik poet Alan Marlowe, and the former Sri Lankan actor Manik Sandrasagra. They were all reading the Traditionalist classics--Coomaraswamy, Guénon, and Schuon. This orientation did not last, however.

While visiting the US with the Sri Lankan president in 1981, Manik Sandrasagra went to Bloomington to meet Schuon. When he heard of this, however, German Swami summoned him back to Sri Lanka. In Sandrasagra's words,
When I returned I asked him why. His response was “You need to be turned off from traditionalism.” He then showed me an article by Schuon that was titled ‘The Problem of Sexuality’ and asked “Do you have a problem with sexuality? Is there a problem with sexuality?” He then smiled and stated in Tamil the famous Yogaswami dictum “Oru Pollapum Illai” meaning ‘Not one problem exists’.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Ananda Coomaraswamy Essay Prize

The heavily Traditionalist and Maryami Philosophy and Religious Studies program at La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia, has announced an Ananda Coomaraswamy Essay Prize.
  • Two winners will collect books and postage to the value of $200 from Fons Vitae Publishing and $200 from World Wisdom Books (the in-house publishers of Frithjof Schuon).
  • The prize calls for "essays that explore . . . the meaning of traditional symbols." Examples given include the drum of Śiva, the Rainbow Serpent of the aboriginal peoples of Australia, the shofar, and the hijab "in the mystical traditions of Islam."
  • There are academic and non-academic alternatives: the prize has two categories, postgraduate and "open."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Alexander Dugin's Networks in Turkey

Key points from Marlène Laruelle's paper on "Russo-Turkish Rapprochement through the Idea of Eurasia: Alexander Dugin's Networks in Turkey," given at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC, Tuesday, April 29, 2008:
  • The concept of concept of Eurasia (Avrasya) was developed independently in Turkey, and its exponents were initially critical of Dugin's Eurasianism.
  • This, however, has now changed. In 2003, the Turkish translation of Dugin's Geopolitics was published as Rus Jeopolitigi Avrasyaci Yaklasim, and according to Laruelle "seems to have gone over well with part of the Turkish military"--especially among "army officers disillusioned by Turkey’s loss of clout in NATO and shocked by the Iraq war."
  • Notable Turks who have participated in events or projects of Dugin's include
    • Suleyman Demirel, formerly president of Turkey
    • Rauf Denktash, at that point president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
    • Kurtulus Taskent, Turkish ambassador to Russia
    • Abdulkadir Ates, representative of the Turkish delegation to the OSCE
  • Dugin's main supporter in Turkey is the Turkish Workers’ Party (Turkiye İşçi Partisi), a "small communist-leaning party."
  • Nothing concrete has yet come of this, though one day it might. A continuing aim is "an interparliamentary Eurasian assembly, including not only Russians and Turks, but also representatives of Iran and the Arab states."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Eurasianism in Russia's ruling party?

My colleague Andreas Umland has raised the question of the significance for Alexander Dugin's Eurasianism of the appointment of Ivan Demidov as the chief ideologue of United Russia, Russia's ruling party ("Новый главный идеолог России," Glavred, April 1, 2008).

Demidov knows Dugin, having collaborated with him on Spas (the Orthodox TV channel on which Dugin has a program). Demidov has in the past expressed his admiration for Dugin ("doubtlessly, a crucial factor, a certain breaking point, in my life, was the appearance of Alexander Dugin").

According to Umland, Demidov has emerged as a "defender of Russia as a unique world civilization and an independent great power," which is certainly compatible with Eurasianism. On the other hand, he clearly rejects some of the more extreme positions associated with that movement, stating that "the word 'Russian' and 'fascism' are antonyms," and that he and his allies will fight against "the introduction of the term 'Russian fascism' in the mass consciousness."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Guénon and Jeanne de Salzmann?

There are rumors of a meeting in Cairo between Guénon and Jeanne de Salzmann (as in Gurdjieff), and I am told that de Salzmann's current followers often value Traditionalist works. Any further information on this would be much appreciated!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Companion to the Works of René Guénon

Just published: Graham Rooth, Prophet for a Dark Age: A Companion to the Works of René Guénon (Sussex Academic Press, 2008). 400 pp. Paperback £29.95 / $59.95. ISBN: 978-1-84519-251-8.

"This book provides an overview of Guénon’s work. It is arranged in four parts each of which provides extracts that express his views directly and commentaries that summarize or paraphrase his written work. The objective is to allow Guénon to speak for himself rather than produce a critique of his ideas."

Good to see such a book coming from an academic press, as I said in the foreword to it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Traditionalism in Kansas

Episode 9 in KTWU's Beyond Theology series, broadcast in January, was "Mysticism and the Perennial Philosophy." It featured Huston Smith and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

KTWU broadcasts mostly in Kansas and is run by Washburn University of Topeka.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Mohammed Webb

An interesting new book is A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb by Umar F. Abd-Allah (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

A Theosophist, Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb converted to Islam in 1888, largely as a result of his reading. He was the only speaker for Islam at the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893. He was the second American ever to convert to Islam.

Webb made the familiar distinction between esoteric and exoteric, identifying Sufism as esoteric Islam, the repository of primordial truth. His own writing, however, concentrated on the exoteric--which is perhaps why, in the end, he had much less impact than the Traditionalists.

Unfortunately, Abd-Allah doesn't seem to know much about Traditionalism (Guénon receives only one brief mention), and so misses these interesting parallels. But in general it's an excellent book, and interesting for all those working on early Traditionalism or on early Western Islam.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Yegor Letov dies

On February 19, 2008, Yegor Letov died of heart disease, aged 43. Born in 1964, Yegor Letov was a punk musician, the founder of Гражданская Оборона (Grazhdanskaya Oborona, Civil Defense) in 1984, and one of the three founders of the National Bolshevik Party in 1992, along with Alexander Dugin and Eduard Limonov.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Casaubon and the Hermetica

Rodger Cunningham writes:

When Isaac Casaubon showed the Hermetica to be Christian-era confections, this didn’t lead to the immediate total collapse of their authority. The great antiquity of the Hermetica continued to be credited for at least a century by many intelligent and learned men, especially natural scientists (!)—including Descartes and Newton—who couldn’t follow Casaubon’s philological arguments and who needed Hermetic ideas as part of their narrative about Man’s domination of Nature. Ironically, it was Cartesianism and Newtonianism that ultimately led to the marginalization of the Hermetica, not by proving anything about them but by leading to a worldview that made them irrelevant. Meanwhile, one of the most immediate effects of Casaubon’s debunking had been the appearance of the Rosicrucian manifestos, which held out initiatic access to supposed primordial truths without the necessity of appealing to primordial documents. Thus Perennialism survived, in more restricted quarters, the downfall of its supposed justification.

  • B. J. T. Dobbs, The Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy: The Hunt for the Green Lion (Cambridge, 1983)
  • Michael Keefer, “The Dreamer’s Path: Descartes and the Sixteenth Century,” Renaissance Quarterly 49 (1996): 30-76

Monday, January 28, 2008

Schuon and the Feathered Sun

The "feathered sun" (see is in effect the "logo" of the Maryamiyya. In Against the Modern World, I imply that it was used only after 1981 (p. 171). In fact, I am told by Rodger Cunningham, it figures prominently on the cover of the 1974 Schuonian anthology The Sword of Gnosis, and may have been used before that by Studies in Comparative Religion.

The emphasis on Native American religion, then, seems to have started even earlier than I thought.

Joseph Epes Brown

A correction concerning the biography of Joseph Epes Brown, author of The Sacred Pipe (1953).

In Against the Modern World, I said that in 1967 Brown “had … once taught at Indiana” (p. 161).

In fact, Brown received his PhD from University of Stockholm in 1970, taught at Indiana from 1970 to 1972, and then at the University of Montana (in the Department of Religious Studies) from 1972 until his retirement in 1989. He died in 2000.

My thanks to Rodger Cunningham for this correction.

Euro-Paganism: One or many?

By Joshua Buckley, editor, TYR

In a recently published article, “The Euro-Pagan Scene: Between Paganism and Radical Right," (Journal for the Study of Radicalism, 2007), Stéphane François deals with a phenomenon that has only rarely been analyzed by outsiders – especially in the Anglophone world: what he calls “Euro-Paganism.” Covering a dizzying array of controversial music groups representing a wide-range of counter-cultural expression, the article makes for fascinating reading. The problem is that the sheer diversity and ambiguity of the material presented defies the author’s attempts to fit it into a meaningful framework. Unfortunately, it also suffers from some considerable shortcomings.

It is extremely difficult for a non-participant to write about youth subcultures. Unlike more conventional political or religious groupings, these subcultures do not present the researcher with much useful textual evidence. The subculture is expressed primarily through music and fashion, both of which are open to myriad interpretations. On the basis of my own experience of such subcultures, I would contend that the majority of participants in these subcultures are largely attracted by music and fashion, and that any ideological component is strictly secondary–even in the case of explicitly political subcultures (e.g. Nazi skinheads or anarchist punks). When ideological positions are expressed, there may be little concern that these positions are consistent or coherent, and one must always question the extent to which they reflect real convictions. More often than not, they may be motivated by considerations of style.

François’s article finds a subculture where, it could be argued, none exists. He identifies certain tendencies (pagan, revolutionary conservative, ecological) which he sees present to varying degrees in the work of music groups identified as part of the “Euro-pagan” scene. While it is certainly the case that some of these tendencies are apparent in some of the groups discussed, it is far less certain that these groups collectively represent anything like a cohesive “movement”–Euro-pagan or otherwise. In attempting to construct a history of the Euro-pagan scene, to define it as a more or less monolithic entity, and to trace the origins of a Euro-pagan ideology, François runs into problems of chronology, categorization, and the flow of influence. He also makes some factual errors. More importantly, it may be a project doomed to failure, especially if–as I would argue–no such “scene” really exists.

One would expect that a music-based subculture would consist of music groups with an identifiably similar sound. This is certainly the criterion for defining music genres like bluegrass, rhythm & blues, or country/western. Yet the vast majority of groups François refers to play wildly divergent styles of music. He describes the groups NON and Changes as precursors of the scene, yet anyone who has heard their music would be hard-pressed to identify any similarities. While Changes played lilting, lyrically poetic folk music akin to, say, Cat Stevens, NON is famous for helping develop power electronics or noise music. NON’s sound is visceral, atonal, and (often) brutal. Such music would have come as quite a shock to the crowds that once gathered to hear Changes play for packed coffeehouses and art galleries in the early- to mid-1970s.

Of course, one might argue that the groups François discusses are bound together by a common worldview or aesthetic. If the various tendencies he elucidates were all present in all of the groups mentioned, he might make a convincing case. However, many of the groups in the article display only one or two affinities–and often only in the most superficial sense. As an example, François describes the Slovenian outfit Laibach as “one of the first Euro-pagan groups.” To my knowledge at least, Laibach have never made reference to paganism at all. According to François’s definition, however, it is Laibach’s utilization of Fascist and other totalitarian imagery that qualifies them for inclusion in the subculture. But besides having nothing to do with paganism, Laibach’s Fascist style has nothing to do with Fascism. It is, rather, part of a larger strategy of post-modern cultural redirection, described at length in Alexei Monroe’s 2005 book Interrogation Machine (MIT Press). François insists that his analysis of Euro-pagan music reveals “the consistency of the message.” Yet one wonders how a subculture which apparently incorporates nostalgia for antiquity with the hyper-modernism of Italian Futurism, and a polytheistic, pagan worldview with the atheistic individualism of the Church of Satan, can be described as “consistent.” What we are really dealing with are multiple subcultures, or groups and individuals that defy categorization–like the aforementioned Laibach.

François sometimes mistakes similarities between groups or ideas for proof that these groups or ideas have had a direct influence on one another. As mentioned above, the group Changes existed in the early- to mid-1970s in the United States. They never released an album during that time, and they disbanded before many of the musicians François discusses were even born. It is true that Changes has since been rediscovered by fans of neofolk music (and have now reformed), and that the group has distinct similarities to some of the bands in François’s article. However, it is virtually impossible that the first incarnation of Changes actually influenced these groups, who could scarcely have discovered Changes’ work until the late-1990s. Even more problematic is François’s discussion of the European (mainly French) New Right. ENR thinkers like Alain de Benoist do have a relatively cohesive ideology that incorporates the pagan, revolutionary conservative, and ecological tendencies François equates with Euro-pagan music. However, while these themes are sometimes present in some of the music under consideration, they are not exclusively so. Moreover, relying on New Right texts to interpret a musical subculture arguably unconnected with the New Right is risky. It is like trying to understand Madonna’s music in terms of Catholic theology, since the singer sometimes wears a crucifix and calls herself “Madonna.” As with the music of Changes, it is unlikely that the first wave of bands François describes (who were mainly English) could have been exposed to New Right texts written mainly in French, and published in scholarly periodicals. Admittedly, some of these texts have been translated in the journal TYR (which I co-edit) but this has only occurred in the last few years. And despite the fact that the journal may appeal to fans of neofolk and other purportedly Euro-pagan music, it can hardly be said to speak for any particular subculture (especially one based primarily on music and fashion). Additionally, if TYR has influenced the development of a Euro-pagan scene, such influence would have to have been retroactive–since almost all of the groups in the article existed before the journal ever appeared.

Certainly, there are various music groups influenced by paganism (who might justly be described as “Euro-pagan”), just as there are music groups influenced by their flirtation with Fascism, an interest in Traditionalism, ecology, the Church of Satan, or the Italian Futurism of F. T. Marinetti. These groups, however, cannot be lumped together and characterized by a “consistent message”–especially when the author must derive that “message” from sources outside the supposed subculture itself. These groups play a variety of music, from folk, to power electronics, to neo-classical, to heavy metal. Many also utilize themes François never mentions, from an interest in psychedelic drugs to deviant sexuality. Some have real political convictions, others are apolitical. The majority use political or historical or religious or occult imagery for purely aesthetic reasons. What all of the groups François mentions have in common is that some of the imagery they use defies the Left/liberal consensus view of what is acceptable, and is therefore troubling for outsiders. François is undoubtedly correct when he describes these fascinations as a sort of “black romanticism”–not unlike the Goth subculture’s antinomian embrace of the macabre. In fact, the influential Goth magazine Propaganda was infamous for its frequent use of Nazi imagery, which jostled for place amongst a more pervasive interest in vampires and the editors’ pronounced homoeroticism. At a certain point, though, trying to explain such things as an “identitarian” response to “globalization and immigration” (except, perhaps, in very specific cases) raises serious questions of credibility.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Traditionalism in Japan (and Greece)

Unesco has produced an Index Translationum, a database of translated books. A quick search reveals that
  • Guénon was translated into Japanese in the 1980s (La crise du monde moderne in 1986 Le roi du monde in 1987). The translator, Yoshihiro Tanaka, seems to specialize in serious esoteric works, and has also translated Antoine Faivre.
  • Guénon and Schuon were translated into Greek in the 1990s (Le symbolisme de la croix in 1993, and in 1995 both La crise du monde moderne and Schuon's Castes et races).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Article on the Boutchichiyya

An excellent article on the Boutchichiyya--if not especially on the Traditionalist aspect, which is barely mentioned: Raphaël Voix, "Implantation d'une confrérie musulmane en France : mécanismes, méthodes et acteurs," Ateliers 28 (2004), pp. 221-48.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Euro-Pagan Scene (Stéphane François)

An interesting article has just been published in the new Journal for the Study of Radicalism: "The Euro-Pagan Scene: Between Paganism and Radical Right," by Dr Stéphane François (vol 1, no. 2, 2007, pp.35-54). It deals in part with what I have called "Music Scene Traditionalism."

François sets out to analyze and explain what he calls the "Euro-pagan" music scene–a term he proposes to cover both the dark folk and pagan sections of industrial music. The Euro-pagan music scene includes America as well as Western Europe and the former Eastern Bloc: "European" is used in an ethnic rather than a geographical sense. My Music Scene Traditionalism is part of his Euro-pagan music scene.

François argues for understanding the Euro-pagan scene as "an identitarian construction" that is "nourished by the fears of a population with European roots faced with a rising influx of immigrants and an expanding globalization that puts cultures and their diversity at risk."

He puts the Euro-pagan scene in the context of Western neo-paganism since the 1970s. He emphasizes that many or perhaps most neo-pagans are on the extreme left, and that "radical ecologist ideas" are more prevalent and more important than Euro-pagan ones. However, "despite the diversity of political beliefs," he finds "a profound doctrinal unity" among all neo-pagans. This consists of

  • "the praise of radical differentialism"
  • "using communitarianism as a solution to multiculturalism"
  • "criticism of western thought, [as] individualist and standardizing"

François notes a number of "fascinations" among the Euro-pagan section of neo-paganism, notably fascinations with

  • "bravery and virility"
  • "the warrior"
  • "the North"
  • "the dark pages of European history"

Interest in Evola, along with definite but less important interest in Ernst Jünger and Corneliu Codreanu, is placed within the context of these fascinations. For many, the point of entry to Evola is not his Traditionalism, but his "idealization of the Indo-European."

This raises the question of which comes first–what François calls "black romanticism" or ideas (including Traditionalism). François does not directly address this question, but does observe that the esoteric content in the scene is sometimes "diluted," "merely make use of esoteric themes and symbols, without adhering to this metaphysical way of thinking." The same might well apply to the political content, but–as he observes–interest in radical politics often preceded involvement in the scene, as in the cases of Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus, who was once a member of the British National Front, and Michael Moynihan of Blood Axis and Tyr, who was a radical communist at the age of 14.

How much all this matters is a question the article does not ask (though it does observe that the scene "opens up new perspectives" for existing rightist groups). It does, however, provide one approach to an answer, by convincingly identifying the scene with two wider phenomena that clearly do matter–ecology, and concern with immigration and globalization.