Chapter presidents have a heavy burden of responsibility to lead semi-guided reading discussions, safe activism and organization techniques on campus, a necessity for a public presence in the form of a blog, and then also take time to study for your classes. This is a demanding job, you don’t get paid, it involves a significant amount of individual activism, but your potential employers might not appreciate it if you put this on your resume. We’ll write you a letter of recommendation if you log the hours and are able to show us that you’re “in it to win it”. No, don’t actually log the hours you put into the project, but we will write you a letter of recommendation if you earn it.
New chapter leaders are always asking us how to do “it” and what they should be doing to properly lead a reading discussion. What follows is an eight month reading discussion syllabus with notes for a semi-guided discussion. There are lots of different ways to do it, and this is just one of them.
Notes on reading materials
All reading materials are available in the public domain, free access on the Internet, or by loan from your library. The only book that may take time to find is Julius Evola’s “Rene Guenon: A Teacher for Modern Times”. Please contact the Traditionalist Youth Network by Email if you need a PDF copy of the book. I strongly recommend that all chapter presidents read the books by Evola, Chesterton, and Yockey in their entirety. It is not necessary to have previously read the books completely to lead the reading discussions, but it does help.
Structure of reading discussions
Discussion groups one and two are very important. These two sessions provide the fundamental definition of what Traditionalism is and why religion is an important part of a Traditionalist lifestyle. This also starts the discussion against individualism and capitalism. The third and fourth discussions groups are about where the state receives its authority and why we should support and protect our legitimate political institutions and cultural identities. The fifth and sixth discussion groups are about consumerism and capitalism and how these things are a danger to our racial and cultural identities. Finally, the seventh and eighth discussion groups are intermediate to advanced discussions on Traditionalist and identitarian philosophy.
Each reading discussion becomes progressively more advanced and will rely more and more heavily on the previous discussions. The chapter president will need to recapitulate the results of the previous reading discussions in a blog post or by Email for those were not able to attend, and he or she will also need to have read the prescribed material in advance of the discussion meeting. Those who are new to Traditionalist philosophy may need to read the materials two or three times before being able to confidently and intelligently lead a semi-guided discussion. It is better if discussion participants are able to do the reading on their own, but do not depend on them to have done so. The whole reason that people attend reading discussions is to hear the material explained in a down to earth and straightforward manner, and they will not attend if you tell them that they are strictly required to do the reading. There will be some students who are sincerely interested in discussing the reading and you must be prepared to accommodate them and meaningfully participate. Those students who are well prepared for discussion or have previously studied Traditionalism will be well positioned to teach you something important, so be mindful to let those kinds of students participate and lead as well. Above all else remember that the reading discussions are an interrogation of the text, not an interrogation of each other.
Reading Discussion 1
G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, pp 3 -16)
- Introduction In Defence of Everything Else
- This chapter outlines the purpose of Orthodoxy, and how the reader should interpret the book. The chapter is, broadly, a defense and promotion of Christianity. It is also about each person’s individual journey away from and back again into Christianity. The idea behind this very short intro chapter is about explaining that no person can “discover” a personal religion. The only true religion, which in Chesterton’s definition is Christianity in accordance with the Apostolic Creed, pre-exists anything that we might discover personally. The message in this chapter is that there is not an individual religion for every person, but that there is a religion that is right for all people. Chesterton holds up Christianity as this one religion that is right for all people and also capable of accommodating a wide range of lifestyles.
- The Maniac
- This is Chesterton’s opening jab at materialism, rationalism, and empiricism. The title of the chapter should describe Chesterton’s opinion of the person who tries to live without the mysticism and mystery that is Christianity. This chapter is also a rejection of individualism. An important theme in this chapter is that logic without spirituality is insanity because of the way that it leads to constrained modes of thinking (see page 11 for more on this theme). Additionally, this chapter reinforces the idea that materialism leads to a narrow belief in the self.
Reading Discussion 2
Julius Evola (Men Among the Ruins, pp 112- 132)
- Revolution – Counterrevolution – Tradition
- This chapter gives a technical explanation of what Tradition is (see fourth page of this chapter) and why it is important to us. Evola also makes the case for what and why reactionary conservatism is the key to success for Traditionalists involved in politics. Do note that reactionary conservatism is specifically defined and has a special meaning not directly intuited from the words. Evola also goes directly into his argument about the inherent disposability of governments, and the inherent limitations for humans to always faithfully carry out the ideals and Traditionalism towards long term goals.
- Sovereignty – Authority – Imperium
- Evola explains what the political state is, where it derives its power, and where our loyalties should be if we have interest in preserving the power of the state. This is a more complex chapter, it might take a moment longer to read than some of the others, but it is essential to cover this one in the first month or two of regular discussion. Evola defines what the political domain is and what its authentic political powers are. He also explains how Man is able to ascend to the class of person legitimately authorized to wield the power and authority of the state.
Reading Discussion 3
Julius Evola (Men Among the Ruins, pp 133 – 155)
- Personality — Freedom — Hierarchy
- Keywords to focus on in this chapter are Liberalism, Marxism, Totalitarianism, Anti-Freedom, and the danger associated with being a person and an individual. This chapter defines what kinds of forces work to tear down the socio-political structures that are established as authentic political powers. This chapter depends on the discussion leader and participants having already examined the previous chapter in the book. Chesterton’s second chapter of Orthodoxy (The Maniac) could be paired with this chapter for discussion, but it must not be discussed prior to the first chapter in Orthodoxy or Men Among the Ruins. This chapter is distinctly anti-egalitarian and rejects the idea that all people could be equals. This is the beginning of Evola’s defense of hierarchical societies, what freedom would look like under such conditions. There is a distinction between being a “man” and being a “person”. The more important idea from this chapter is that the form or manner of society that we have is a means and not the ends. Evola wants us to use society as a means towards perfecting man, and in the journey for that end the specific form that our society embodies is not the goal in itself.
- Organic State — Totalitarianism
- This chapter is much shorter than the previous three, but it must not be read any faster. When there is an organic state with a legitimate hierarchy it produces a powerful synergy that pulls men towards a unified good, and the spirit of hierarchy and Tradition is the only requirement to counter a totalitarian state. Totalitarianism is pointed out as a threat to this traditional and organic state, and Evola also gives a short description of the kind of world view that the organic state’s enemies abide by (see page 152). An important distinction is made in this chapter; totalitarianism doesn’t inexplicably spring up out of nowhere, it fills the gaps that Tradition leaves unoccupied.
Reading Discussion 4
G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, pp 44 – 54)
- Flag of the World
- This chapter is a defense of patriotism and why we should love the land and the nation that we are born into. The major premise is that we have been in the fight for the land since before our time by virtue of the fact that it is yours. The second major argument in this chapter is about understanding where our rules comes from and what they are designed to protect. The focus for this chapter is to understand that the rules we live by are not for defending the sanctity of man, rather rules are for protecting the sanctity of the things that we encounter in our daily life. This chapter is also about explaining why we choose to defend things that no rational person could ever choose to fight for. Chesterton also begins a short defense of how and why Christian dogmatism fills a disconnect or gap in human comprehension and how we come to understand the world.
Reading Discussion 5
Julius Evola (Men Among the Ruins, pp 165 – 177)
- Work, the Demonic Nature of the Economy.
- This chapter gives a good discussion on how capitalism and Marxism are related, and why we cannot subsume societal, cultural, and identitarian interests to economic interests. Evola looks at the conflict between the self and whole again, and explains why we cannot have trapped subservience to the economy. The argument also shows why Marxism and capitalism are both against societies that don’t embrace advanced industrialism. The economically interested people who embrace capitalist and Marxist worldviews are of the lowest social value, and their consumerist lifestyles are spiritually deleterious. This chapter reinforces the idea that we should be more concerned with actualizing our potential, instead of finding the best paying job; to work is not the ultimate goal in a persons life. The most important part of this chapter emphasizes that it is not our hierarchical station in life that defines our value as people, it is how well that we have mastered ourselves that determines our worth.
Reading Discussion 6
Francis Parker Yockey (Imperium)
Yockey’s definition of race is holistic, detailed, and highly nuanced. His view on race is both biological and social. The biological aspect of race is no less important than the social aspect, but he gives a much wider discussion to the social aspect. This does not discount the biological importance of race, but it does give a very strong and defense of race as a social construct and why it is at least as important as the biological aspect of race.
- Subjective Meaning of Race (pp 292 – 299)
- Race is defined as an individual feeling and a concept in this section. Yockey describes race as something that we live in the service of. It is something that we can live and die for, and even renounce and live completely in the absence of. There is also a brief discussion of what an objective meaning of race is, and how it undeniably exists outside of the subjective definition. Do not gloss over this portion, because it is important to acknowledge that the objective definition of race exists within the history of a people.
- Horizontal Race vs. Vertical Race (pp 300 – 303)
- Important as race is, Yockey does not want us to obsess about it. He blames 19th Century views on race as being responsible for producing nationalism and race supremacy. Yockey does not want us to look at race as existing in a vertical hierarchy, because it leads to a trapped feedback loop of aesthetic racial fetishization. An important nuance in Yockey’s definition of race is that we do not belong to a race, we either have it or we don’t.
- Race and Policy (pp 304 – 316)
- This is where Yockey explains how the objective and subjective definitions of race come are important to consider when making political decisions. Yockey also explains how racial and cultural identities are important and work to protect the national identity of a people. It is worth repeating that Yockey did not believe in race supremacism, but also that any people who ignore their own racial and cultural identities are committing the most grievous ignorance that can damage their culture.
Reading Discussion 7
- Julius Evola (René Guénon: A Teacher for Modern Times, all pages) (Available by request from most libraries, please Email [email protected] for a PDF copy)
- This book is for an intermediate to advanced discussion on Traditionalism and identiarianism, and is Julius Evola’s remarks on René Guénon’s teachings. It is not necessary to have read any of Guénon’s writings before this point, but it will help. Treat this reading like you would for any of the materials from your small group discussions in your college courses and you should be okay. This reading is Evola’s interpretation of Guénon’s teachings, and what is important to remember from this text is that Guénon’s teachings would have been the same if he had approached it from a western Christian mysticism perspective than from an eastern mysticism perspective.
Reading Discussion 8
Alexander Dugin, and Francis Parker Yockey
- Fourth Political Theory: Some Suggestions for the American People (Dugin, Internet Blog Post) http://openrevolt.info/2014/04/01/dugin-fourth-political-theory-america/
- This blog post by Dugin is about fixing something that Americans are lacking. Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory is about developing a “deep identity” that transcends knee-jerk reactionary activism and passive diffused identity. This article argues that Americans had no pre-modern identity and thus have no identity today outside of that created by modernity and decadent materialism. He describes Americans as Europeans in exile, and he outlines three solutions for Americans. Refer to the article for a concise summary of these options.
- These following three sections from Imperium are supposed to be read in contrast to Dugin’s article. It is possible to agree or disagree with both authors, or to agree with only one. The important part is to get the reading discussion participants to engage the material, pick a position, and argue in its defense.
- The Origins of America (Imperium, pp 445 – 449)
- This chapter talks about how America’s Founding Fathers (the signers of the constitution) were deeply influenced by 19th Century rationalist and empiricist philosophy. Yockey also describes how America was unique in the way that it never truly had to fight and die for its national borders in the way that European nations did.
- The American Ideology (Imperium, pp 450 – 457)
- The rationalist and individualist roots of America’s founding are discussed here, and also how the US Constitution’s concept of “separation of powers” was taken from French philosopher Montesquieu’s writings. Yockey also discusses America’s transition from rationalism into messianism and how this changed the way that America makes war, and the way that we inject our ideology into our practice of war.
- The War of Secession (Imperium, pp 458 – 462)
- Notwithstanding the historical significance of the American Civil War, there are some very important distinctions made here. One important note is Yockey’s spirit-to-material ratio for victory in battle, and the other is that the American Civil War was the largest war in Western Civilization until the first World War. An important part of this section to note is that when the American states went to war they were able to form a highly effective officer and enlisted corps that were capable of making formidable warfare. This is the idea that stands in contrast to Dugin’s article. Dugin claims that Americans have no Deep Identity, but without having a Deep Identity it would not have been possible for the states to have raised such powerful armies from among themselves, nor would it have been possible for the states to have rallied such an intensely powerful army to fight during the American War of Independence against the British Crown. The previous two sections are valuable for discussion to pose the question of when that Deep Identity stopped existing, or how did we lose it.
- The Origins of America (Imperium, pp 445 – 449)
List of Required and Recommended Readings
- (recommended) Rhetoric of Agitation and Control (Bowers, Ochs. Any edition) http://www.amazon.com/Rhetoric-Agitation-Control-John-Bowers/dp/1577666143
- (recommended) Rules for Radicals (Alinsky. Any edition.)
- (recommended) Crisis of the Modern World (Rene Guenon)
- (required) Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton) http://www.ccel.org/ccel/chesterton/orthodoxy.html
- (required) Men Among the Ruins (Julius Evola)https://archive.org/details/MenAmongTheRuins
- (required) Imperium (Francis Parker Yockey) https://archive.org/details/Imperium_352
A Guide for New Chapters: An Eight Month Syllabus by Thomas Buhls is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.