Guillaume Faye in “Le traditionalisme: voilà l’ennemi” Lutte du Peuple, no. 32, 1996.
Translated by Greg Johnson
In the circles of what we might euphemistically call the “revolutionary right,” or more broadly the “anti-liberal right,” one can observe the recurrent rise—like outbreaks of acne—of what one can only call “metaphysical traditionalism.”
Authors like Evola or Heidegger are in general the pretexts—mark my words: the pretexts—for the expression of these tendencies, many aspects of which seem to me negative and demoralizing. These authors themselves really aren’t the problem. To speak only of Evola and Heidegger, the works of neither author—whose true ideas are often extremely distant from those of the “Evolians” and “Heideggerians”—are susceptible to the criticisms that apply to their right-wing “disciples” who are in question here.
How do we characterize this “deviation” of metaphysical traditionalism, and what are the arguments against it? This mentality is characterized by three axiomatic presuppositions:
1. Social life must be governed by “Tradition,” the forgetting of which brings about decadence.
2. All that relates to our time is darkened by this decadence. The further back one goes in the past, the less decadence there is, and vice versa.
3. Ultimately, the only things that matter are “inner” preoccupations and activities, turned towards the contemplation of a certain something usually called “being.”
Without lingering over the relatively pretentious superficiality of this outlook which prefers, instead of true reflection and clarity, the facile obscurity of the unverifiable and the free play of words, which—under the pretext of depth (and even, in certain authors with strong narcissistic tendencies, of “poetry”)—ignores the very essence of all philosophy and all lyricism, one should especially recognize that this metaphysical traditionalism is in profound contradiction with the very values it generally claims to defend, i.e., counteracting the modern ideologies, the spirit known as the “European tradition,” anti-egalitarianism, etc.
Indeed, in the first place, the obsession with decadence and the dogmatic nostalgia that it induces make it seem like a reverse progressivism, an “inverted” linear vision of history: the same frame of mind, inherited from Christian finalism, of all “modern” progressivist ideologies. History does not ascend from the past to the present but descends.
Only, contrary to the progressivist doctrines, traditionalism cultivates a profoundly demoralizing pessimism toward the world. This pessimism is of exactly the same type as the naive optimism of the progressivists. It proceeds from the same mentality and incorporates the same type of vanity, namely a propensity to verbose prophecies and to set oneself up as a judge of society, history, and the like.
This type of traditionalism, in its tendency to hate and denigrate everything in the “present day,” does not only lead its authors to bitterness and an often unjustifiable self-conceit, but reveals serious contradictions that make its discourse incoherent and unbelievable.
This hatred of the present day, the “modern age,” is absolutely not put into practice in day to day life, unlike what one often sees, for example, in Christianity. Our anti-moderns can perfectly well benefit from the conveniences of modern life.
By this they reveal the true meaning of their discourse: the expression of a guilty conscience, a “compensation” carried out by deeply bourgeois souls relatively ill at ease in the current world, but nevertheless unable to get beyond it.
In the second place, this type of traditionalism usually leads to an exaggerated individualism, the very individualism that their “communitarian” vision of the world claims to denounce in modernity.