by Daniel Gurpide
GREEK “ARETÉ” : ARYAN EXCELLENCE
The tragic urge to self-overcoming (transcendence) may be identified as the only way man and his presence in the world may be ennobled, and this was the primary element of traditional Aryan ethics. It is what the ancient Greeks called areté, the quest for excellence: the act of living up to one’s full potential.
For Aristotle, the doctrine of areté included the following virtues: andreia (courage), dikaiosyne (justice), and sophrosyne (self-restraint). In Greek mythology, Sophrosyne was a Greek goddess. She was the spirit of moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint, and discretion. She was considered to be one of the good spirits that escaped from Pandora’s box and fled to Olympus after Pandora opened the lid. The complex meaning of sophrosyne, so important to the ancients, is very difficult to convey in English. It is perhaps best expressed by the two most famous sayings of the Oracle of Delphi: ‘nothing in excess’ and ‘know thyself.’
Since Propertarianism recovers and transfigures the founding myths of Indo-European culture, when it comes to specifying its particular tenets such features as the following might be listed: an eminently aristocratic conception of the human individual; the importance of honour (‘shame’ rather than ‘sin’); a heroic attitude towards life’s challenges; the exaltation and sacralisation of the world, beauty, the body, strength, and health; the rejection of any ‘worlds beyond’; and the inseparability of morality and aesthetics.
The highest value for an Aryan ethics undoubtedly lies not in a form of ‘justice’ whose purpose is essentially interpreted as flattening the social order in the name of equality, but in all that may allow man to surpass himself. Since to consider the implications of life’s basic framework as unjust would be palpably absurd, such classic antitheses as noble vs. base, courageous vs. cowardly, honourable vs. dishonourable, beautiful vs. deformed, sick vs. healthy come to replace the antitheses operative in a morality based on the concept of sin: good vs. evil, humble vs. vainglorious, submissive vs. proud, weak vs. arrogant, modest vs. boastful.
EASTERN WISDOM (I)
The habit of contrasting the crude materialism of the West with the spiritualism of the East needs to be revised. The great Asiatic civilizations developed in a pre-logical era; the mind groped for truth through intuition, symbol, magic and mysticism. It was irrational. It refused to see the external world as an autonomous reality capable of being shaped and adapted through an understanding of its laws.
The West, thanks to the Greek genius, succeeded in rising to the level of rational thought, founded on respect for a principle of no concern to the Oriental mind, the principle of contradiction. By associating the Hellenic Logos with the Roman Law, Europe realized a synthesis which, despite many tribulations, is still the most miraculous accomplishment of the human adventure.
EASTERN WISDOM (II): CONFUCIANISM
The Chinese were an industrious and practical people. They excelled in map-making and meteorology; they created the science of seismography and were pioneers in civil and hydraulic engineering. To their ingenuity the world owes the first mechanical clocks with escapements and balance wheels; powder, which they used for fireworks long before making hand grenades; the compass; paper; silk; and printing with movable letters. Nevertheless, they did not apply this inventiveness to their industry, which remained essentially unchanged over the two thousand years between the accession of the Han and the fall of the Manchu dynasty.
Why not? Because the Chinese were interested in a different set of values from those which preoccupied the West. Instead of trying to dominate nature, the Chinese sought to adjust themselves to a cosmic environment, natural and human. The two essential problems of concern to the Chinese were the search for good government and the art of finding contentment in the midst of poverty and adversity.
The first problem concerned Confucius. He regarded man as essentially social, and he took as his personal mission the saving of a world which seemed to him to be in full decadence. His solution involved the restoration of five essential virtues: good manners, distributive justice, kindness, filial piety and wisdom.
Confucianism, at once a theory of government and a theory of ethics, produced strong patterns of social ritualism, and the written language of China helped maintain this conformity. The immobility of words, formed of monosyllables, tended to stereotype thought and to freeze social life.
Confucius and his school recognized this when they insisted that the remedy for the disorders of the times was to be found in the “rectification of words”. To assure good government, everything had to be identified by its true name, and everyone had to conduct himself in accordance with the correct designation of his function. The incorrect use of words was a semantic sin leading to social disorder.
It was important, therefore, that public functionaries be recruited by examinations based on their knowledge of classical books, named and written in an ancient language very different from that in contemporary use, and requiring the mastery of tens of thousands of characters. For two thousand years the institution of the Mandarins attracted the best minds into the services of an administration whose primary concern was to maintain a static social order, in harmony with and dependent upon an unchanging cosmic order.
EASTERN WISDOM (III): TAOISM
Taoism, anterior to Confucianism, stands in sharp contrast to it. However, its results were even worse, for Taoism negated logic and encouraged evasion.
Lao-Tse attributed all misfortunes to man’s departures from the state of nature when he tried to control his destiny.
The social virtues praised by Confucius – justice, good manners, wisdom and kindness – were regarded as conventions and obstacles to the natural order of things and deserving only of contempt. Laws merely multiplied the number of thieves and bandits.
For Confucius, the good sovereign was one who did everything possible for his people; for Lao-Tse, the best sovereign was one who saw that he could do nothing and let matters take a natural course. Man must return to his original state of innocence.
Through asceticism, life could be prolonged; immortality itself was possible for him who could absorb himself in the ecstasy of Tao, an indescribable reality which was everywhere, which had no definite limits and was the origin and supreme law of things.
EASTERN WISDOM (IV): CHINA (conclusion)
Such mentalities (Confucianism, Taoism) made progress of the Western sort a theoretical as well as a practical impossibility. Prior to the arrival of Westerners, China was a closed society which regarded itself as perfect, as having nothing to learn from foreigners.
Withdrawn behind an intellectual and moral “Chinese Wall,” the Middle Empire could not develop until the arrival of the barbarians, the European and American “devils.”
Chinese mathematical thought was profoundly arithmetic and algebraic, but unlike the Greek mind it never developed an axiomatic and deductive geometry.
Failing to conceive the idea of natural law, the Chinese did not develop the fundamental sciences until after the arrival of the missionaries from the West. Nature was a symbolism to be deciphered, and for this purpose a number of pseudosciences were constructed – numerology, astrology and physiognomy – all of which were incompatible with the discovery of physical laws.
The Chinese never rose to the abstract idea of a homogeneous and isotropic space such as Euclid conceived and could express in geometric terms. Their physics remained caught in the metaphysics of Yin and Yang, the five elements, and their symbolic affinities. Hence their science never got beyond the pre-Galileo level.
Joseph Needham, perhaps the greatest authority on Chinese science, observes:
“When we say that modern science developed only in Europe and only in the time of Galileo at the end of the Renaissance, we are trying to say that then and then only were laid the foundations of the structure of the natural sciences as we know them today; that is to say, the application to nature of mathematical hypotheses, the full understanding and systematic use of the experimental method, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, the geometrization of space and the acceptance of a mechanical model of reality.”
EASTERN WISDOM (& VII): ZEN
Zen was introduced in Japan at the end of the 12th century, five hundred years after Confucianism and Buddhism. It acknowledges neither God nor life beyond death, does not emphasize the distinction between good and evil and does not have a fixed doctrine or holy scripture.
The teachings of Zen, which “do not stand upon words,” are transmitted through provoking paradoxes and extravagant questions (koans):
“Two hands clap and there is a sound, what is the sound of one hand?”
“Two sisters are crossing the street, which one is the older sister?”
“What is Zen? Three pounds of flax.”
Koans are described by Zen masters as pointers to an unmediated “pure Consciousness, devoid of cognitive activity.” The one unforgivable sin in a Zen monastery is to be too logical. The demon to be exorcised is rational thinking: classifying and categorizing, conceptual definitions, coherent reasoning. Abstract thinking prevents instant enlightenment (satori). The idea is to suppress the verbal restrictions imposed by tradition and consequently destroy the inhibitions caused by paralyzing timidity.
Reflecting kills action, therefore “If you walk, just walk. If you sit, just sit. Don’t wobble!” and to the terrorized victim of traditional Japanese education, it is even recommended: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”
As Taoism in China, Zen must be seen as a counterbalance to the rigidly conservative Confucianism. The traditional dread of unforeseen situations is neutralized by springing surprises and shocks on the disciple and encouraging him to reciprocate in equally eccentric fashion. The koan technique is designed to bring out that side of a person which the social code condemns: “the unexpected man”.
Zen influence on Japanese arts was at one time (16th and 17th centuries) quite profound: on painting, landscape gardening, flower arranging, the tea ceremony, fireflies chasing, swordsmanship, archery, judo. It created a unique lifestyle.
However, although originally Japanese Zen emphasized a kind of spontaneity which was creative in nature, this spontaneity quickly became an automatic and mechanistic spontaneity which in turn drained Japanese culture of its vitality. It degenerated into a mere routine, dealing only with stereotypical subjects in a petrified style. Koans ended up becoming at best a hilarious leg-pull, an existentialist hoax, and at worst, a web of solemn absurdities: “Ugly is beautiful, false is true and also conversely”. This is not Orwell, it was written in all seriousness by Suzuki, the foremost propounder of modern Zen.
Zen, originally a cure for de-conditioning, ended up becoming a new type of social conditioning.
EASTERN WISDOM (V): INDIA
After an honorable start, India failed to attain through its own efforts the level of technical and scientific competence of the West. As with China, the failure was traceable to a different way of looking at the world.
East and West started with the same pessimistic assumptions: the human condition is precarious, painful and fleeting. Theoris of Megara, Simonides of Chios and the Greek tragedies all passed judgments on existence fully as bleak as Buddha´s. But the responses were different. In the West, they suggested actions to improve the situation; in India, evasion.
Western man sought to remedy the misery of his condition by mastery of the world; the Hindu sought to escape the world by mastery of self, of the internal life of the spirit. The Western mind believed in the reality of the external world and undertook to impose upon it the power of man‘s will; the Hindu regarded the external world and the idea of Ego as illusory, and sought to submerged personality in the quietude of the impersonal and timeless „Self.“
The highest wisdom was to escape from the wheel of rebirths by the technique of depersonalization, to be had through the mastery of knowledge of Samkhya or the psychosomatic methods of deliverance of Yoga. The purpose in both cases was to enter in an ecstatic fusion with the Absolute (Brahma), who in his positive form is Being itself, and in his negative form is Nothingness, the Nirvana.
To this metaphysics, with its denial of the wish to live, must be added a compartmentalization of Hindu society which prevented the invigorating circulation of elites that alone can keep a society healthy. There was no possibility of rising from one caste to another; there was no „social ladder“ to climb. Nothing was done prior to 1950 to change this situation.
EASTERN WISDOM (VI): ISLAM, ARABIC CIVILIZATION
From the 8th to the 12th century the Islamic Empire, made up of many peoples, extending from the Pyrenees to the limits of China, preserved Hellenic science, enriched it with borrowings from Persia, India and even China, and finally transmitted it to the Latin West.
Expelled from Europe by the Christians, driven from Asia by the Mongols, subjected to the Turks in Egypt, the Arabs lost contact with the Persians, the Syrians, the Christians and the Jews whose presence had played a vitalizing role in Arab culture. Thrown back upon themselves, they sank into a long torpor from which they were not aroused until the 19th century and the coming of the peoples of the West.
How is this sleep of Islam to be explained?
It was due to the fact that the Parsees, the Christians, the Jews and the Pagans who accepted the religion of Islam had done so more to be free from various onerous taxes than from any real conversion. The scholars who constituted the “Arab Miracle” were for the most part Syrians, Persians and Spaniards, peoples who were not Arab by blood, and had nothing of the Arab spirit. Once these alien elements were eliminated, the Islamic masses again fell under the yoke of their fanatical imams.
From 1200 on, a theological reaction swept through Islam. There were no longer philosophers – the word itself became synonymous with ‘infidel’ – and only occasionally was there a scholar like the historian Ibn-Khaldun. The Turks, devoid of any critical and probing spirit, imposed their heavy yoke on Islam; and Islam, returning to its sources, paralyzed inquiry into a formula which brooked no answer: “Allah aalam” (God knows best what is).
The traditionalism of Islam is incompatible with the spirit of inquiry and the idea of progress. For the Muslim, all truth worth knowing is contained in the Koran, at once a dogma and a code of faith, whose prescriptions regulate the smallest details of life. Whatever happens is the will of Allah. All is preordained; the only thing to do is to submit without complaint.
This fatalism is destructive of effort, of any manifestation of personal will. It expresses the atavistic resignation of the nomad before the emptiness of the desert. Belief in another life, full of sensuous delights, of houris and fresh meadows, consoles the faithful for present tribulations. This mentality rules out restlessness, dissatisfaction with self, that constant drive to improve which is the ethical mainspring of the internal life of Western man.