Myth and the Limits of Political Distinction
"In democratic nations, a man who becomes an officer breaks all his ties to civilian life. He leaves it for good and has no interest in returning. His true homeland is the army, because without the rank he occupies he is nothing. His fortunes therefore coincide with those of the army, and because he now rises and falls with the military, he now invests his hopes in it alone. Since the officer’s needs are quite distinct from those of the country, it is possible for him ardently to desire war or to work toward a revolution while the nation aspires above all to stability and peace."
The Left and Right distinction does not capture the subtle differences, nor the complexities, behind political order. Tocqueville's comment on officers makes this clear. In one sense the officer has his conservative sentiments increased, and yet in another they are destroyed.
The same may be said of the Christian relation to Rome, not Left or Right as we understand it but this, nonetheless, often gets lumped in with leftism and destructive aspects. However, this very perspective is secularised, ignores the theological and providential aspects of what was happening, and gets lost instead in the historical and political differences. The Christian return to the inner light may be said to be the true conservative sentiment of that time, and perhaps it was the Romans who had fallen away from their own laws and myths. Much as architecture may fall to formalism, with no blood poured into the columns or foundation, where no essence exists in the political order can there said to be a tradition?
Then with the French Revolution we see another turn. It is generally seen as a revolt against the religious and spiritual world, or at least a protestant undermining of the true religion. Yet the revolution was set forth by Catholics, who provided its very theological foundation with the providential rights of the third estate.
In any instant one may suddenly take on conservative sentiments, instincts, or be seen as having taken them on. And yet even then one may be very far from the traditions or ends to which he aspires. Is a primitivist a conservative or liberal? Even the question of return may be a secular one, blind to the theological laws and numinous signs of the age. We today live beyond history, which is in itself an incredible event worthy of the greatest myths.
Schmitt made poignant criticisms of the reactionaries and absolutists, the idea of the eternal as its own destructive Gordian Knot which is against old concepts of time and power – even a subterfuge of the very law of the eternal. Maistre's "legitimate usurpation" is the center here, as the providential shift is so great that even the most ardent monarchists had to concede something to the revolutionary era, and here something close to Darwinist conceptions. Nietzsche exists as something of a linchpin here, the Antichrist who had most in common with the Christian revolutionaries and anti-revolutionaries, and who himself had an uncertain stance within the 'democratic' age, the leveling process.
At the opposite end of this spectrum one may say that Rousseau's "Man may not be represented" is a greater theological statement than any of the Christian conservatives and the law of divine right, which reveals a grotesque type of representation. The great paradox is that man is most represented where he stands against the idols. All his acts take on destructive qualities, theomorphosis becomes entirely fated and hidden – at once raised to the highest and reduced to base animality. A Laelaps figure, most aptly represented in the late kings who sought nothing more than the completion of power of the private man – present in their physiognomy and what little of their character will be left behind of them as eternal. As with Las Meninas the monarchs can only be represented today; the extent to which simple and idyllic images of life exist in the shadow of the colossal.
Even Dionysus is misunderstood. Nietzsche saw the acts, the technical qualities rather than law. Myth for myth's sake is an entirely modern characterisation. The great tales and fables can never be separated from the most violent morality, fatal in its thought. Christianity brought it to the surface as the last hope of man, drunk on revelation and the simplest wealth.
Is Nietzsche's turning of Hölderlin's Dionysus a conservative or revolutionary sentiment? It has elements of both, but in abandoning the political questions entirely it also loses sight of the theological laws, the simple relation to the numinous signs which remain.
A figure like Nietzsche, or those anarchists who flirted with fascism, the Christian pacifists, primitivists, and others who betray any easy Left-Right distinction would be very useful to study. They suggest the antipolitical, which is really only the truth of the form of the political in our age. Even Schmitt reversed some of his distinctions later in life. Politics must be hidden, in reserve, while also in a permanent state of being, always ready for the highest revolutions, the cataclysmic. Permament reconstitution is the measure of all states, it is merely formalised in modern democracy. One may say that the liberals are completely at peace with this permanent state of cataclysm, of world revolution - not resigned to a defense against earth forces but equal to it. If only fated and of the ephemeral and the eternal.
That all has been reduced to formalism and the technical aspects only shows how at ease we are in proximity to God. Like Tantalus, no divine punishment could ever sway us. And in The Myth of Sisyphus, our relation to the gods could only ever be comic, grotesque, without measure. "Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines, quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum." Liberalism could not live up to the judgement of the age, it even became enamoured of the cosmic laws – but at least it caught a glimpse of them.
The same cannot be said of the reaction, the monarchy and conservative courts blindly stumbled into the liberal trap, and were often its great architects or munitions industrialists. The representative monarchies died first but lived longest, existing much as Kyffhäuser. Those reactionaries who blindly oppose liberalism are then much like the ravens eternally circling the mountain. Of course no one will accept this, they would even proclaim such thinking as that of the enemy. But one will easily recognise that none of them have any of the noble character of even liberals from a hundred years ago.
Today, where problems are deeper and more devastating than ever before, one searches only for easy solutions. This is clear in the opposition to democracy which can know only the simplest of hierarchies - seen in the very means of inquiry, a technical proverbialism, 'what is this thing downstream from?' Classification systems which only further the false distinctions.
Something may be said of this blindness then, of the conservative sentiment which will go to its death without measure or care. It is an Epimethean becoming, or the Become – the entire weight and force of time behind him. And the genealogy of revolution can be traced to Prometheus, the theft of fire, and cosmic betrayals of Zeus. However, such distinctions should never be taken as dogma, or principle. They speak to a morality deeper than the will; in the end Epimetheus was a greater trickster than Prometheus. Like idols and representation, time becomes total where the relation is destroyed – with the end of history time itself becomes the coldest and most cruel of laws.
Cain and Abel, and the Dioscuri are other figures worth investigating. Opposition of the sunwise and widdershins. The maypole and grinding mills – the latter of which most closely resembles governmental bodies in a permanent state of division. The simplicity of civil war experienced peacefully, and unknowingly even in the midst of the greatest destruction; and taken up as principle and reconstitution.