Neoreaction: is it for real? Part 3: Removing the Nietzschean Veil

The Great Chain of Being. Drawing from Diego Valadés’s Rhetorica Christiana (1579).

In my last two posts I detailed my objections to the influence of Right Nietzscheanism in neoreaction and reaction in general, but lest anyone think I have nothing to offer beyond criticism, in this post I will clearly state what I believe should be a core principle of neoreaction or any conservative or reactionary movement. More specifically, I will address the concept of hierarchy since it seems to me that it is crucial to neoreactionary theory and relevant to the issue of the structuring of neoreaction as a whole.

Before continuing, I must note that I am aware that neoreactionaries differentiate between neoreaction and reaction, or NRx and Rx. What I am advocating is not simple Rx. In fact, I’m not sure that Rx can possibly exist, since all of us living today (and many generations past) were born and baptized into modernity. All Rx is NRx to some extent. However, the “neo” prefix need not carry Nietzschean connotations. T.E. Hulme is my ideal neoreactionary because although he embraced the twentieth century and its technological innovations, he was comfortable discarding much of the philosophical baggage of modernity. He and the modernist artists he associated with (Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound) sought in their different ways to revive reactionary classicism in thoroughly modern cultural environments. The past was turned into a radical force by being thrust into the future.

As my last two posts would suggest, I believe that hierarchies must be based upon absolute values that transcend history, rather than the relative, terminally historicized values of Nietzsche’s hierarchies of power. Now, conservatives of all stripes talk about absolute values, but many forget to mention what these values are. Here, I will abandon caution and humility and venture a dogmatic assertion that will allow us to determine the absolute values that inform the structure of all true hierarchies. This assertion is not merely an idea; it is a truth.

My dogmatic assertion, which has been made countless times by countless others before, is this: all things can be classified and ranked on a scale of value that ascends from the material to the immaterial.

The vision of the universe thus revealed is traditionally referred to as ‘the Great Chain of Being” (see Note 1). All attempts to subvert or distort this truth, which is the basis of right order, have led to error or disaster.

At the top of the great chain of being is God, Whose essence is His existence. Beneath Him are His creations, which stand in analogical relation to Him. In descending order, these creations are angels, man, animals, plants, and inanimate objects. This Great Chain of Being, properly conceived, is the basis for all truly hierarchical thinking, the ultimate expression of which is Christian orthodoxy.

I can’t stress enough that in this hierarchy, as in all true hierarchies, the ranks do not stand in opposition to each other. True hierarchies are always harmonious and inclusive rather than oppressive and exclusionary. In a true hierarchy, there’s a place for everyone. What could be more inclusive than that?

Hierarchical thinking bears little relation to oppositional or dialectical thinking, the classic representation of which is Hegel’s master/slave dialectic, which is echoed in Nietzsche’s master morality and slave morality. Indeed, it is not hierarchical thinking that led to the much-maligned “binary oppositions” or “Manichean dichotomies” that have supposedly plagued Western thought (according to the Left). The Manichean dichotomy (if we are to assume that the term “Manichean” has been chosen for a reason) is a product not of orthodox Christianity but of a long tradition of heretical movements like Gnosticism, Catharism, and any number of modern political religions (see the work of Eric Voegelin for more on this). In recent times, it has been inclusive, supposedly pluralist, non-hierarchical thinking that has led to such great divides. You are either part of the inclusive, pluralistic system or you are a bigot, fascist, fundamentalist or Nazi.

Hierarchical thinking is analogical rather than dialectical (see Note 2). All members of a hierarchy are joined in a relationship of ‘likeness.’ Even the lowest member of the hierarchy bears some resemblance to the highest. Modern thought, by contrast, is based upon relationships of difference and opposition (and the overcoming of such differences and oppositions). This may seem contrary to common sense—surely hierarchical thinking is based on difference! However, difference is essential to the structure of any hierarchy only because likeness is impossible without some amount of difference. Much modern thought simply ignores analogical relationships and focuses only on difference, conceptualizing human roles and identities as existing within systems of difference. For the modern progressive, difference is opposition and reflects an inequality of power; it is something to be overcome. The Nietzschean radical takes things further, affirming boundless plurality and the endless play of difference. Have you ever wondered how the political left keeps finding new forms of inequality to campaign against? Their crusade will never end, for they know that any relationship of difference can be reconceptualized as an oppositional relationship reflecting a power imbalance.

The hierarchical order of the Great Chain of Being can be used to establish a hierarchy of areas of human inquiry and endeavor. I would order these areas of inquiry and endeavor as follows:

Natural Science

The hierarchy descends from areas that are of greater ultimate importance in human life to those that are of greater immediate or practical importance. Most modern heresies take something belonging to the lower ranks and place it on the top (here, I know, I am echoing G.K. Chesterton and especially his books Heretics and Orthodoxy): with nationalism it was Culture/Tradition, with Marxism it was economics, and with Nazism it was natural science (in the form of biological racism).

When I survey the sphere of neoreaction, I see a chaos of influences derived from other movements: Human Biodiversity (HBD), political and economic libertarianism, reactionary traditionalism (such as the European New Right and neo-paganism), and reactionary religious orthodoxy (primarily the various bloggers of the Orthosphere). All of these disparate influences collide, and the only thing holding them together within sphere of neoreaction is the toxic (and intoxicating) glue of Nietzschean philosophy.

I pray that neoreaction, if it evolves and doesn’t fizzle out into irrelevance, will turn to the Great Chain of Being as a guide for the organization not only of the priorities of neoreaction but of its relation to the various other movements in its orbit. The Human Biodiversity (HBD) has much to say that is interesting and useful, but considerations of race and biology should, as I see it, occupy a lower sphere of neoreactionary inquiry and activism. I am not naive enough to think that race is irrelevant as a determinant of human behaviour, but we have seen what happens when race is raised above politics, philosophy, and religion. Economic theories (like Social Credit) have been a feature of reactionary thought for a long time, but when economic solutions are seen as the only solution, you get Ezra Pound, who wasted so much of his mental energy on the problem of money. The reactionary traditionalists have a point to make (and I know there is some controversy as to whether traditionalists are NRx at all, as this concise article by Henry Dampier makes clear), but unless traditions point to transcendent truths, the deification of tradition can only lead to Nietzschean relativism at best. Likewise, a purely political form of neoreaction, which seems to be Moldbug’s ideal, will founder as soon as it sets sail on its own. Neoreaction needs a theological crown, and for that it should turn to the denizens of the Orthosphere, who are producing the most exciting and intelligent material that I have come across in contemporary reactionary circles. All of these influences are worthy of attention, but not of equal attention; neoreaction must establish priorities based upon the hierarchical structure of the universe itself.

A movement that champions the merits of hierarchical relationships will get nowhere if its adherents relate to each other like members of an anarchist collective. Perhaps, though, neoreaction is still in its infancy, and a natural NRx hierarchy will develop over time. I’ll keep watching.

As I am finishing this last post on neoreaction (for now) my conscience is telling me that I may have been a bit hard on Nietzsche. He was a genius, and although his ideas have caused much evil they may also have produced some good. The embrace of Nietzcheanism is perhaps, for some, a necessary step in breaking the spell of naive progressivism–as I think it was for me. Nietzsche’s thought can strip one of many illusions, even if it does not, ultimately, provide an escape from the Matrix of modernity. It is only after removing the Nietzschean veil, through which all things are seen as blurry manifestations of ‘power’ or ‘energy,’ that one can finally see the world as it is and has always been.

Note 1: Arthur O. Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being (1936) is a classic study of this concept, but Lovejoy, in modern fashion, treats it as a mere idea that has taken different forms over time (making it part of the “history of ideas”). His treatment of the Medieval conception of the Great Chain of Being distorts the idea, leading him to identify contradictions where there are none.

Note 2: The distinction between analogical and dialectical thinking is apparently the theme of David Tracy’s highly-regarded theological work The Analogical Imagination (1981). It is on my reading list.