Open Letter to Traditionalists
Firstly, I think it is appropriate to define what a Traditionalist is, or rather how I interpret Traditionalism. It is a worldview that finds value and direct applications of historic principles and institutions in the “modern” world, not as a form of regression, but as the best means to pursue and secure our development, progress, and culture as a civilization. It is best thought of as an evolutionary frame Not revolutionary frame. That out of the way, let’s begin!
It is one of those rare moments of agreement between two groups so different as Traditionalists and Modernists. What I am referring to of course is the “irreplaceability or irreplicability of our previous social, cultural, and/or political state.” Traditionalists see it as a more virtuous time, or at the very least, a better time in human affairs but one which cannot be restored because they see those days as a product of various factors which have either decayed or have been destroyed by forces which embody the modern world, i.e., secularism, atheism, egalitarianism, Jacobinism, etc. for Traditionalists any hope of mending what was broken or restoring what was lost died in the fires of the revolutions which spread in the last +200 years. Modernists on the other hand see a period that cannot be restored because we have naturally moved past those old and outdated notions and have no use for forms or knowledge from the past. Modernists see oppression, exploitation, profiteering, conquest, and undue suffering of a massive degree from anything before at most 1980, so their window of reference is certainly very limited.
Well, I’m here to say to both the Trads and Moderns, and yes this includes all of you very impressive intellects who have even written books (you know who you all are ), actually both of you are wrong. The past cannot be revived as it was, this is true, but analogues can be created that mirror and subsequently generate, to a greater or lesser degree, those qualities of the past which are so sought after.
As is often times said, history doesn’t repeat itself with photographic accuracy, but it rhymes. It won’t be a LARPing quest or a fake revival as Modernists often accuse any historic revival of being, it will be a real transformation with the past as our guide. Accusations are leveled against any form of “fake” revival no matter the area or discipline, Architecture, Education, Fashion, Social arrangements, etc. because for modernists everything is in the moment, everything’s proper place is that EXACT point in time, history is regarded as largely overrated, something to be heavily criticize with hindsight by the woke, but certainly not something to be inspired by. “Unironically” advocating for monarchism, traditional ways of practicing one’s faith, or respecting hierarchy and showing deference to rank, all will probably be seen as you having some form of mental disease. Modernists are literally incapable of understanding the world in any other way than the “here and now” and what we have now is obviously superior to anything and everything from the past.
The Huge problem with that kind of thinking is it’s a fleeting notion, everything is hanging in the air and permanently deracinated, at its most extreme it borders on Solipsism. So really at this point, modernism doesn’t much need to be referenced or consulted, especially woke modernism, they have nothing to say on the matter other than that the past has no value. Traditionalists do see value in the past and so I am here to draw them out of their depressed slump! To encourage them to get more active in different ways from previously.
The past was itself a creation, an amalgamation of many different factors, perhaps not a conscious creation, but the factors which created them were consciously enacted and pursued. Some cultural, some political, some religious, and some philosophical. Not all of those factors are necessarily equal however, because while they are all important the amenability of the most impactful one(s) to the others could prove decisive. Many traditionalists view religion and social norms as important, but those are really products or successful flowerings of the most important two factors, Government and Philosophy. So here again I am to tell Trads that mass conversions are not even that important, at least not currently.
We just need to travel back in time a little bit, back to the foundations of Western civilization, Rome.
Though ancient Greece definitely had an impact on the development of the West, it was largely the conquests of Rome which turned those civilizational qualities of the Mediterranean world into a truly Transalpine, European, and Western civilization and identity. The Accomplishments, Grandeur, and Prestige of Rome were not lost even on the Germanic Tribes that settled western lands as Roman rule faded there, but I’m getting ahead of myself just a bit.
Rome was a culture and civilization that began in 753 BC and lasted as a Kingdom until the year 509 when the Kings were ousted and a Republic established. Roman institutions and offices like the Consuls, Praetors, Quaestors, and Senate and various forms of law and customs were developed and evolved during this time. During the latter half first century BC Rome evolved yet again into an Empire due to the corrupted nature of the Republic and the inability of the government to take decisive and necessary action on popular issues or even compensate the Legions which defended the Republic. Julius Caesar and later his grandnephew Augustus Caesar would both reform and transform the Roman Government, a decision that would have profound implications for the next 1,800 – 1,900 years at least.
The crisis of the Third Century nearly saw Rome rip itself apart, but it was able to survive the maelstrom with the brilliance, talent, and marshal ability of various Emperor’s, many of whom had far shorter tenures than they should have had or otherwise could have had. At the end of this crisis the emperor Diocletian rose to power and attempted to resolve many of the crucial issues within the empire, one was Imperial management, and the other was social order. Diocletian’s solution to the former was dividing Imperial administration between two senior Emperors, known as Augustus, and two junior Emperors, known as Caesar. Diocletian’s solution to the latter issue would, like Augustus and Julius Caesar, have profound implications for the next 900 – 1,000 years, and it was twofold; creating the system we now know as serfdom to solve the issues surrounding employment and agriculture as the chaos of the civil wars had seen much upheaval that many roman citizens fled the countryside and their farms for the relative safety of the cities. The second was to remedy the religious issue and resulted in many persecutions of Christians. The Christian faith was in many ways diametrically opposed in its philosophy and theology to roman religion, culture, and values; as such many roman Emperor’s, especially Diocletian, saw them as a seditious group towards which tolerance was not extended as it was to other religions throughout the Empire.
After Diocletian another civil war began and when the dust settled the emperor Constantine, later St. Constantine the Great, arose as sole Emperor of Rome. He, like Diocletian, would have a profound impact on the Western world, this time right up until today; He legalized Christianity. After nearly 300 years of persecution, Christian’s could come out of secrecy and hiding and practice their faith in the open alongside the other faiths of the Empire. Several Emperor’s later and Theodosius the Great would make Christianity the official and only religion of the Roman Empire. Though the devotees of the old faiths were not dead, and could not be killed off so easily, even by Theodosius’s decree, they eventually faded, either going underground or officially converting. The Frankish Kingdom and Empire under the Merovingians and Carolingians would set the foundations of a Catholic France and Germany, the Visigoths in Iberia whose heirs of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon would preserve Christianity in the North of the peninsula until the final ending of the Reconquista in 1492 AD after its beginning in 801 AD.
All of this might seem like pointless history, but it actually has a profound point to make, especially to Traditionalists who as I had said before see religion and social norms as being of most importance, sometimes to the sacrifice of all else. But as I have demonstrated here Christianity, the Religion Western Trads most adhered to, did not spread and effect western civilization in a vacuum, it had solid and important institutions into which it grew and through which it spread. The Catholic Church ironically uses the exact same organizational hierarchy that was developed by Emperor Diocletian, one of the faiths most rigid oppressors. And it was only 8 years from the retirement of Diocletian in 305, to the Edict of Milan by Constantine, which extended toleration to Christianity and legalized it in 313, so it was an extremely fast adjustment, really an about-face in terms of policy by the Empire.
My ultimate point here is to demonstrate to the Traditionalists that you are attempting to grow your crops in a soil that has been sown with much salt. There is poison is this environment that will not admit the roots you are attempting to lay down. First all of that poison must be removed, it must be flushed out, in other words you cannot lay down religious and cultural roots before you fertilize the corrupted soil where all of that will grow. The Roman Empire was the plow of the past that prepared the field of Europe for further planting, and it allowed for the countries of the West to Rise. The same fields prepared by Constantine and Theodosius allowed for them to flower and bear fruit in a certain way, a cornucopia of history that we recognize.
Traditional/Christian Kingship in late antiquity and the Early-Middle Ages existed because there were Kingdoms in existence that preceded the faith’s migration, the faith may have transfigured those Kingdoms, but it certainly did not grow them out of the ground. Traditional Western Civilization, from late antiquity to the Middle-Ages, and from the Renaissance to the Early Modern Period, was and is not just a product of the dominant faith, it is just as much a product of the intellectual and political inheritances as well. There are important reasons why Roman writings survived, why people studied Greek and Roman philosophy, why speeches of many Roman senators survived, why Julius Caesars Gaelic Wars survived, why Courthouses look like Roman temples, why Christian cathedrals are shaped like Roman Basilicas, why we remember Charles the Great as Charlemagne, why so many Kingdoms sought to emulate the Might and Glory of Rome, on and on we could go for days on end!
It is my opinion and advice to Trads (and one in which I hope they will take up!) that politics, government, and philosophy are far more important objectives to focus on in the public sphere, Not mass conversions. When it comes to the revival or emulation of past systems and structures through our civilization flourished and progressed and was secure, the soil must first be tilled and fertilized before the seeds can be sown. Religious practice and social etiquette are harder things to achieve if the political and philosophical structures that cultures and societies find themselves in do not easily or readily admit, support, or partner with them.
History doesn’t repeat with photographic accuracy, but it rhymes; and it might be hard for Traditionalists to admit that this rhyme may be one that is far older than they would like it to be. But if it is true that this song has its rhyme over 1,800 years ago, we definitely need to recognize that, accept it, and work with it, not against it. You pray for a Constantine or Theodosius, I pray for an Aurelian or Julian, but I’m sure we can both agree that praying for an Augustus wouldn’t be half bad!
Best and Warmest Regards, ~ A.P.