Another European conservative tells of his journey
Reading the honest story of the noble Swedish contributor, I am quick to discover how such an evolution has occurred in my own life just as much. My home country, the Netherlands, is probably comparable to Sweden in terms of political correctness, loss of direction and—sad to say—overall social absurdity. Although I am only 23 years old, I figure to have a come a long way already in trying to make sense of it all and looking for some kind of solution. The discovery of the many delights of conservatism has brought me great joy, although I do experience substantial difficulty in trying to work out a comprehensive conservatism.
Your 1996 article on Buchanan shows this is challenging many others.
Seeing as I had to find my way to conservatism all by myself in a most unconservative country, the relative success of this journey in such a hostile environment is promising. The fact that a respectable number of my friends and family display sincere interest and even willingness to join the path encourages the positive thought that true conservatism is far from dead. Future endeavors in the realm of cultural reanimation have become a healthy obsession and I find comfort in the myriad of possibilities that seem to flow from the pure love of re-establishing community on all levels.
Furthermore, while the sense of urgency is higher than ever, I have found the warmth of traditional spirituality by its stress on timelessness, durability and eternal order. And I know this might sound absurd, but it is through a rediscovery of (Germanic) paganism that I have come to a deep traditionalist understanding of culture, civilization and the permanent things. The immense respect I have for J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis has allowed me to work out a harmonization of this paganism and the unmistakable qualities of Christianity. If there is a point to be made, it is that my personal evolution has led me to believe that the rediscovery, recognition and revaluation of all the roots of our civilization are crucial for the rebirth of the West. That includes the pagan, as becomes perfectly clear in Tolkien’s perfect and powerful synthesis of Western heritage. And it shows that combining these strengths can help put an end to the sickness of the West and the ever-growing threat that Islam poses.
Therefore, let us be fired by our heritage to shape a conservatism that bears no blind sides and remains ever wholesome.
LA to Wolfhard:
Thank you for this fine letter, which I find inspiring and I think will be inspiring to others. It is a joy to read of your journey of rediscovering the roots of the European culture. At first, when you spoke of your interest in paganism, I thought you were of the European New Right which is pagan and anti-Christian, which I oppose, but, happily, you then spoke of seeking a synthesis of the pagan and the Christian. Tolkien of course works such a synthesis in his books, or, rather, he attempts such a synthesis, since, in my view, the pagan Germanic with its gloomy emphasis on overwhelming evil and all-powerful doom sometimes seems to overshadow the Christian in his work.
Nevertheless, a synthesis, or as you put it, a harmonization between these two religious/cultural roots is the way to go. After all, it was in the synthesis of the pagan/Germanic and the Christian/classical that Western culture was born in the first place. As I’ve written before, unlike with other religions such as Islam or Orthodox Judaism, no earthly society or people can base itself on Christianity alone, since the New Testament, which is about how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, is not an adequate guide to the organization of earthly society and the sustainment of a culture. Therefore other sources in addition to the Christian are needed, which then work in tension with the Christian to create a larger whole, though of course Christianity must remain the spiritual center. To use Tolkien’s favorite word, Western culture is “doomed” to being multidimensional and multi-layered. Either it sustains its multi-layered essence, or it dies.
The gloominess that pervades Tolkien’s work, and indeed, the pagan world-view, shall not be of much help in saving the West. The courage, optimism and hope of hobbits—which are so beautifully symbolized by the stout but cheerful celtic flute [player?] in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings—seem to me Christian. These are virtues we need in order to refrain from giving up altogether. And they appeal to every man and woman of the West.
However, Christianity as an institution has a bad reputation among a great deal of socially motivated people, obviously not wholly undeserved considering past actions. Embracing certain pagan elements, on the other hand, might send a positive message to all those lost souls, the atomized and secular individuals. For one, because it shows a certain kind of open-mindedness which, for centuries, has characteristically and admirably set the West apart from the Islamic world. And, because of the relative historical and theological innocence that people associate with paganism. Furthermore, one can point to the importance of natural law and traditionalism in pagan mystery, as compared to the scientistic “truth” and social engineering spawned by utopian idealism. C.S. Lewis had lovely and sharp things to say about the famous “abolition of man” that inevitably follows the latter. Plus, there is a sure fighting spirit in paganism that, under the guidance of Christian mercy and calm, leads to just and balanced battling, when needed. This and more is to be gained from finding merit in all of the West’s heritage.
I think you are very right, judging that the West is “doomed” by its multi-layered essence. Though it is a burden we must carry, it blesses us with the kind of self reflection that is virtually unparalleled and too often overlooked by the many cultural relativists of our time. And while I don’t fully agree with you in seeing Christianity as the designated spiritual center of our civilization, I sincerely believe there are no real obstacles for the mutual acceptance of paganism and Christianity. Especially since both have the capability to evolve for the better. This understanding of heritage fuels the need for an informing conservative message, that, at once, rekindles the fire in the hearts of our people.
In closing, I wish to thank you for your kind words and above all the high quality of your invaluable contribution to the civilizational debate. With conviction I say View from the Right embodies the spirit, wit and grace of what should exemplify conservative thought.
With kind regards,
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 12, 2005 08:46 PM | Send
You seem to want Christian attitudes and virtues, rather than Christianity itself, and this is based on your suspicion of the Christian churches as presently constituted. I cannot blame you for feeling this way. I myself believe that the Christian church, as it presently exists in its liberal, ecumenical, dhimmified form, is largely an enemy of the white West. But since the Christian Church was the parent of Western culture, its debased condition is obviously at the center of our civilizational crisis. However, I believe that Christianity can be reformed and can become, as it was in the Middle Ages, the spiritual bulwark of the West instead of a fifth column within it. But this may not happen. So, again, I cannot blame you for your reliance on the non-Christian elements of European culture.
The problem I had with the writers of the European New Right when I read them years ago was that they kept invoking the pagan as the cure for Europe’s ills, but the pagan seemed to remain an abstract slogan. A more serious problem was their outright anti-Americanism and anti-Christianity. It’s one thing to be critical of Christianity and America. It’s another thing to be an enemy of Christianity and America.
You, of course, speak in a very different tone. While our respective emphases are somewhat different, the theme or reconciliation and harmonization of the different elements that constitute the West is key for both of us.
However, when you speak of paganism, what exactly are you referring to? Please give me an idea of some of these pagan elements you want us to embrace.
Thank you for the exchange, and the very kind comments.