We will know the authentic aristocracy by the pain that they endure
This week I had the pleasure of talking to Konsequent Frei, whom I met at The Witan earlier this year. We discussed sacrifice, aristocracy, and mensur - the tradition of ritualized dueling that survives in many European academic fraternities. You can find the discussion here; I hope you enjoy. There’s a short introduction in German, but the conversation itself is in English.
To give context to the discussion, below I am including a short excerpt of the talk that I gave at the event. Perhaps in time, the recording will be released. If so, I will pass it on.
A man will not make terrible sacrifices for a movement if he does not observe leadership doing the same. He will not run into the fray for a general that is holding back.
Without the rise of a culture of self-sacrifice and service to one’s brothers - the underpinnings of a true, united, real-world tribe - the Right will not manifest its dreams of action.
One cannot believe that a movement is worth sacrificing everything for - the riches, family, and friends offered by the mainstream - if the movement’s chief exponents live lives of conventional comfort and luxury.
I am reminded of a strange, oblique book by Hermann Hesse, called ‘The Journey to the East’.
It is a difficult, mystical story centering around an ancient initiatory order, in which the unnamed protagonist is called to embark on a pilgrimage with his fellow initiates that doesn’t just traverse geographies, but slips through time, space, reality, and myth.
Each member of the pilgrimage has a particular desire that they wish to satisfy. For our protagonist, it is to gaze upon the face of the beautiful Princess Fatima.
We not only wandered through Space, but also through Time. We moved towards the East, but we also travelled into the Middle Ages and the Golden Age.
Throughout the centuries it had been on the way, towards light and wonder, and each member, each group, indeed our whole host and its great pilgrimage, was only a wave in the eternal stream of human beings, of the eternal strivings of the human spirit towards the East, towards Home.
All of the pilgrims rely - consciously or subconsciously - on Leo, a faithful servant of the expedition, who remains ever cheerful and loyal, performing duties from the most mundane to carrying the order’s most sacred items.
One day, the servant Leo disappears without trace or explanation. Gradually, the disharmony of the initiate pilgrims starts to show - fractures, arguments, uncertainty, doubt, a lack of hope.
Without the inconspicuous but ever-present support and binding energy of Leo - the servant of all - one by one, the initiates lose their faith and fall out of the mystical pilgrimage back into the world of mundanity. Their dreams of having their wishes come true are insufficient to hold them together.
After many years, our protagonist, who has fallen deep into despair and the contemplation of suicide, again encounters Leo, who he begs to bring him back into the spiritual existence of the order.
Leo subjects him to various tests of faith and exercises in self-reflection, but ultimately returns him to the order to stand trial for his apostasy. In the closing moments of the story, it is revealed that the final judgement will be delivered by Leo himself - who is shown to have been the leader of the order from the beginning.
What are we to make of this?
It’s a work that reflects on the futility of engaging with the transcendent in an extractive, demanding, self-serving fashion, rather than in a mode of service.
It is interesting that the protagonist is a writer, who dreams of writing the definitive history of the order. At the end of the story, he is admitted to the order’s archives. Naively, he is overjoyed - until he starts exploring, and realizes that the books therein are so numerous and written in so many languages that summarization is impossible.
No doubt this is Hesse commenting on the futility of his own calling, born of the tension between the mystical nature of Hesse’s wide-ranging spiritual quest and his profession as a writer, which demanded that he codify and record his beliefs and experiences using the blunt medium of language.
I agree with Siddhartha, our wise friend from the East, who once said: ‘Words do not express thoughts very well; everything immediately becomes a little different, a little distorted, a little foolish.'
Words alone cannot convey the true majesty of the transcendent. There are limitations to what the writer can achieve. And yet how many of our leaders are writers?
But the true insight that resides at the heart of the story is that service is an aspect of leadership, and leadership is an aspect of service. True faith begets sacrifice. Without this, can we call it faith at all?
The greatest advantage that the Right has is not that it has something to give people, it is that it has something to demand of them.
People thrive when something is being demanded of them. The most enduring faiths are those that make the strictest demands on their adherents.
Only by tapping into this profound source of energy can we turn the tide of entropy.
We must make genuine and profound demands of people. But they will not adhere to these demands unless they perceive them as absolutely authentic. And young men will not perceive these demands as authentic if they are not situated in a matrix of leadership, action, place, and sacrifice.
From the Book of Matthew:
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
People will only act with the energy required to turn the tide of entropy if they observe us making radical sacrifices ourselves. These will neither be larping fantasies nor grand acts of self-immolation - they will be profound, striking, beautiful acts of service.
Allow me to conclude with a brief observation from my own life.
I returned to the faith I was born into - Catholicism - when I was in my mid-twenties. As my belief deepened I felt compelled to honor the sacrifices that the faith requires.
I asked my now-wife that we should live chastely until marriage. Once we started honoring that sacrifice, it quickly became clear that we should marry in short order. And once we were married, children soon followed.
And so - alone amongst our friends - we were married with children in our mid-twenties, which neither of us expected or were truly prepared for, financially or emotionally. We had made a sacrifice, and it had made us vulnerable.
But a curious thing happened. In our vulnerability, observing our sacrifice, others came to our aid in a way we never expected. My mother, who very much believes in the feminism of her generation, had continually sought to dissuade us from marrying and having children young.
But when we gave her grandchildren, she became a grandmother, and clearly this affected her. We moved closer to each other, and she slowly let her career - which she had planned to continue deep into her retirement years - fade, giving more and more of her time to her children and grandchildren. Our family tightened.
And in the cascade of services that arose on this journey - my confirmation, my wife’s conversion and entry into the faith, our marriage, the baptism of each of our children, our family and friends were again and again called to join us in church to celebrate, and this had a lasting effect on some.
My father recently asked to attend a regular Sunday service with us after decades away from the faith. And so our community tightened too.
I have to say I strongly reject the notion that men with families will be less able to make sacrifices for the cause. In fact I believe that in some sense they are most able, and most able to turn the tide of entropy that besets us as a result.
Men with children are no less capable of bold feats - all three of the men who first landed on the moon had three - nor are they less capable of terrible sacrifice and service. I will end by reading two paragraphs from the Sullivan Ballou letter made famous by the Ken Burns documentary on the American Civil War.
Sullivan Ballou died at the Battle of Bull Run a week after writing these words.
Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me — perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
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Sic transit imperium,