Royal Esoterica: Metaphysics and Archetypes in Monarchy

Monarchism and kingship are concepts that – in the current political and philosophical climate – are seemingly beyond the point of unthinkable. This is most likely due to a plethora of historical examples so archaic that monarchy is often inextricably tied to the epochs in which it existed; the implication being that, were a monarchic system to arise, it would be swiftly crushed by modernity. The unending criticism of monarchy aside, I felt that it might be interesting to explore, and it certainly has been. I am not now, nor have I ever been an advocate of monarchy or totalitarianism in any of its forms, yet I am interested in the metaphysical underpinnings of the components of monarchism. Here, I will be using Revolt Against the Modern World, published in 1934 by the Italian philosopher and esotericist, Julius Evola, as a tool for exploring these components. Though Revolt Against the Modern World is about much more than monarchy on its own, many of the other topics are not relevant to this subject specifically.

Every traditional civilization is characterized by the presence of beings who, by virtue of their innate or acquired superiority over the human condition, embody within the temporal order the living and efficacious presence of a power that comes from above

One of the first things to note about Evola’s chapter entitled “Regality” is his description of pontifex – essentially a type of being referenced in the above quote. Pontifex (traditionally identified as a king) means “‘builder of bridges’ or of ‘paths’,” bridges and paths which connect the realm of the natural to that of the supernatural. The monarchs’ connection between these two realms indicates they are the “personification of life ‘beyond ordinary life’.” The foundation of authority for these monarchs was the reality that they were imbued with transcendent and nonhuman qualities. The roots of such authority were understood to be of an inherently metaphysical character and the idea that this authority would be bestowed upon some man by a community subject to his decrees was a foreign idea in the world of monarchic tradition. On the contrary, the roots of a king’s power were of spiritual authority; that kings were of divine origin, given power to execute “law from above.”

Themes, Rites, and Symbols of Kingship

One of the many recurring symbols in traditional monarchism is the sun, as well as solar features and associations, both visible and invisible.

In Tradition, kingship was often associated with the solar symbol. In the king, people saw the same “glory” and “victory” proper to the sun and to the light (the symbols of the superior nature), which every morning overcome darkness.

Solar symbolism is certainly not exclusive to European monarchism, as these same symbols are distinguishable in – if not essential to – ancient Egyptian, Persian, Indo-Aryan, Roman, and Zoroastrian religious and hierarchical traditions. However, the conception of solar “glory” or “victory” is not merely a symbol, but rather designated a metaphysical reality. The association with the metaphysical realm was commonly “identified with a nonhuman operating force, which the king did not possess in and by himself.” Some ancient Roman representations of kingship combined the auxiliary properties of the sun such as glory, light, and heavenly fire, with the planetary characteristic of a sphere, which denoted universal authority and dominion.

Ancient Egyptian tradition combined the aforementioned auxiliary elements of solar properties (i.e. glory, victory), with the scepter.

In the oldest texts, the scepter is portrayed as the zigzag bolt of lightning. The regal “force” thus appears as a manifestation of the dazzling, heavenly force. The combination of signs represented the concept of “life-force” (anshus), form a word for “fiery milk,” which is the nourishment of the immortals. This word is not without relation to uraeus, the divine flame, at times life-giving, at other times dangerously destructive, which crowns the head of the Egyptian king in the shape of a serpent.

Another element present in many traditional monarchies around the world is that of the “nonterrestrial power or fluid (sa).” The sa is the convergence of the solar metaphysical components into a consecrating power which “gives witness to the solar, triumphant nature of the king,” and from one king, is bestowed upon another in his ascension.

The theme of the king as the “son of heaven” is not only relegated to Europe and the Middle East, but also appears in Far Eastern tradition. Though the source of the “mandate of heaven” bestowed upon the “son of heaven” (in Far Eastern tradition) is not that of biblical authority (i.e. heaven in the biblical sense), the end results still show a plethora of similarities to Christianity and European Paganism.

This force [mandate of heaven] that comes “from heaven,” according to Lao-tzu, acts without acting (wei wu wei) through an immaterial presence, or by virtue of just being present… When this power is unleashed, the forces of common men, according to Meng-tzu, bend under it as blades of grass under the wind. Concerning wu wei, a text says:

“By its thickness and substantiality, sincerity equals earth; and by its height and splendor it equals heaven. Its extent and duration are without limit. He who possesses the sincerity, without showing himself, he will shine forth, without moving he will renovate others; without acting, he will perfect them.”

Similarly to European monarchs, the Chinese monarch also acted as the “center” between heaven and earth, through which the “mandate of heaven” could be imparted to his subjects. The concept of the monarch as the third power between heaven and earth is perhaps the most frequently recurring idea across all time and throughout all peoples, nations, and kingdoms. This role of centrality was dubbed “Immutability in the middle,” the meaning of which may imply that the middle is precisely where the virtue of heaven is manifested.

The last symbol of kingship which seems relevant to discuss here is that of the circle or wheel. In the center of this wheel is the monarch, who acts as an immovable pole that spins the worldly forces around him, yet keeps them in orbit. This, of course, is an abstraction of one of the prime functions of a king, in that all earthly things move around him, as he is the son of heaven, on earth to execute the mandate of heaven. There are two excellent examples of this to be found in history. The first example is that of the Indian Cakravartin:

We may consider the Hindu notion of the cakravartin, or “universal king.” The cakravartin may be considered the archetype of the regal function of which various kings represent more or less complete images or even particular expressions whenever they conform to the traditional principle. Cakravartin literally means “lord” or “spinner of the wheel.” This notion brings us back to the idea of a center that corresponds also to an inner state, to a way of being, or better yet, to the way of Being.

Another historical example of the archetype of the wheel is the samsara or the “stream of becoming,” which the Hellenes called the “wheel of generation” or “the wheel of fate.” The center of the wheel remains motionless, symbolic of the balance and stability of the monarch, who is not subject to samsara, and can subordinate the activities of lower natures (non-aristocratic citizens) to the higher power by which the king is imbued. Further explanation of the archetype of the wheel is found in the writings of Confucius in The Analects: “The practice of government by means of virtue may be compared to a polestar, which the multitudinous stars pay homage while it stays in its place.” That which orbits around the center of the wheel is subject to the concept of “revolution,” or “the motion occurring around an “unmoved mover”.”

The concept of the wheel is certainly similar to (and was depicted as) a copy of, or a part of the cosmic order, where a central being (the sun in the case of the universe) sits, and around this being, all things move. Some of the attributes of regality in this polar model of monarchy are glory, centrality (polarity), stability, and peace. It must be noted that the notion of peace is specifically defined by inner peace, and not by peace which one might call forced or external. Perhaps another model of the archetype of the wheel could be a “3D model” in the sense that multiple rings, as orbital paths, revolve around the center. In this case, the orbital path of a higher dimension could contain another point or pole (nevertheless subject to revolution) that represents the sacred; whereas the orbital path of the lowest dimension could contain a third point or pole also subject to revolution which would be representative of the human and earthly. Yet, this is only tangentially relevant to the subject matter at hand. In closing, here is another quote regarding Plato, and his writings on Zeus as the center of all things, as well as the cakravartin.

Plato’s reference to the place where Zeus holds counsel with the gods in order to reach a decision concerning the fate of Atlantis: “He accordingly summoned all the gods to his own most glorious abode, which stands at the center of the universe and looks out over the whole realm of change.” The abovementioned notion of cakravartin is also connected to a cycle of enigmatic traditions concerning the real existence of a “center of the world” that exercises this supreme function here on earth. Some fundamental symbols of regality had originally a close relationship with these ideas. One of these symbols was the scepter, the main function of which is analogically related to the “axis of the world.” Another symbol is the throne, an “elevated” place; sitting still on the throne evokes, in addition to the meaning of stability connected to the “pole” and to the “unmoved mover,” the corresponding inner and metaphysical meanings. Considering the correspondence that was originally believed to exist between the nature of the royal man and the nature produced by initiation, in the classical Mysteries we find a ritual consisting of sitting still on a throne.

All quotes within this essay were taken from Revolt Against the Modern World, written by Julius Evola and translated from the original Italian manuscript by Guido Stucco. This translation was published in 1995 by Inner Traditions International.

Advertisements

On Linguistic and Aesthetic Warfare

Social Engineering

The way in which mankind evaluates his being, his nature, his potential – and consequently, his values and his actions – could be compressed into any number of terms, but for reference and simplicity these self-reflective evaluations will be encapsulated here as the Images of Man. I have abridged this definition from the source that will be used as the foundation for the conclusions below. The Changing Images of Man is a 1982 publication procured by The Center for the Study of Social Policy and SRI [Stanford Research Institute] International, which outlines the process by which mankind’s “images” (i.e. conception of his physical self, societal formation, and metaphysical surroundings) change over time, as well as how they can be potentially steered in another direction.

I’ve often found myself, particularly in the last five or six years, fielding questions from older generations in regards to the present day culture and its inability to foster sincere and productive communication. It appears evident that The Changing Images of Man addresses many of the sources behind our cultural phenomenon, and so I will attempt to describe two of these causes to the best of my ability.

Language & Abstraction

Historically, much of mankind’s group cohesion is predicated on a limited dialectic and a common linguistic foundation in an objective truth. We can observe that groups of citizens within the most productive civilizations generally held the same worldview, and were thus able to pursue a common interest with little friction. Yet this common interest often proved far less potent in the aftermath of excessive conquest or invasion. This example is not meant to serve as an argument for cultural relativism, but rather as parallels to a “viral” model in which the spread of the very idea of radical relativism becomes a kind of disassociative to the societal union; that which is highly corrosive to interpersonal trust and accountability.

One of the most critical necessities for language arises from a need to communicate complex metaphysical and philosophical abstractions. Spreading into the West from such institutions as The Frankfurt School, the critical theorist seeks to undermine these abstractions and change their conceptions in order to erode social cohesion. Though I will not describe this much further, many of us can easily observe the effects of the changes in abstraction. For example, complex ideas like gender or race are now so diluted that one almost dare not speak of them for fear of retribution. The point here with regard to The Changing Images of Man is that the confusion over language is almost entirely intentional.

It must be noted that this is not speculative. The Changing Images of Man was written by the Urban and Social Systems Division of Stanford Research Institute and was written with the intention to provide insight into ways in which mankind’s “image” could be influenced to provide outcomes that would be desirable to whichever organization gave funding and inquiry to a study on social engineering.

Aesthetic Terrorism

The field of aesthetics is one which has been debated for millennia, yet more recently, has taken strange and unpredictable turns. The deconstruction of aesthetic beauty naturally follows the deconstruction of linguistic and philosophical concepts, as a sense of nihilism overtakes the artist who has denigrated reality to the point where all is meaningless and nothing is beautiful.

What follows the complete deconstruction and eventual disregard for aesthetics is the antithesis of beauty; art which, by design, is meant to conjure feelings of disgust, shock, and hopelessness in the consumer. Where before, artistic images were meant to illuminate virtue and characterize and beautify truth, now many such images only perpetuate the notion of a relative sense of artistic appreciation.

This is not to say that art is not somewhat subjective, nor is it to say that artists ought not have their own styles and influences. It is to say, however, that on the heels of a disillusion of social trust and the abolishment of objective truth and beauty, we have gone from the stoicism of The School of Athens or the kaleidoscopic magnificence in the roots of Byzantium to the nude feminist vomiting on a canvas or the piles of rusted cans that somehow represents “the hatred of the American dream.”

The function of aesthetics here serves as a literal visual representation of the effects of the corrosion of objective concepts such as truth or beauty. If within man’s image of himself he concedes his beliefs and capitulates to radical relativism, his children and his grandchildren will suffer the consequences of his cowardice.

Conclusion

I sincerely appreciate everyone who took the time to read this. Though this is more of an experimental essay, I will provide the link to The Changing Images of Man below.

The Changing Images of Man – Global Vision Foundation

A Brief History of Politics and Military Conflict in Afghanistan from 1900 (Parts I & II)

Here’s where the story starts to get good. I believe after reading part II, it should be a bit easier to see some modern-day parallels to this conflict. When I reach the more contemporary history of the country, I’ll begin to explain some other factors that come into play in the ME (oil, opium, minerals, geo-strategic significance, etc.). The last part will contain my sources, data, and recommendations for further research.

*****

Part I

Afghanistan is a landlocked, hostile, and nearly inhospitable region located at the crossroads of many of the greatest empires in history. Much of its land is arid and dead, and many other regions of the country are split by mountains and other terrestrial formations, hardly making the land any more survivable. Considering the prerequisites of trade and expansion for any civilization to thrive, opposing states often attempted to claim the land in an effort to procure trade or govern its people. Empires from the middle east, the far east, and and the west have often tried to lay claim to Afghanistan, almost all of which have ended in absolute failure. For these reasons, the perilous terrain of Afghanistan has been quite accurately dubbed The Graveyard of Empires. Dominions throughout India, China, and neighboring middle Eastern countries have fiercely battled for claim of the land, but for the sake of contextualizing the West’s current involvement in the region, we’ll begin in the 19th century.

19th Century

Throughout the 19th century, two of the world’s most prolific empires – Russia and Great Britain – made many attempts to claim Afghanistan, and its borders were quite arbitrarily drawn as intermediaries between the two powers. The Russian empire began to engulf the south, and consisted of modern-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The British empire, attempting to spread to the north, held the modern-day regions of Iraq, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, as well as Oman, Yemen, and the U.A.E just across from the Gulf of Oman.

1919 & The Third Anglo-Afghan War

In 1919, a small group of Afghan soldiers attempted to invade British India, but took heavy casualties and were easily repelled by the British. Soon afterwards, the British empire captured the southernmost region of Afghanistan, cutting it off from the Arabian Sea, and seizing what would reinforce Great Britain’s naval and trade superiority. This southernmost region, currently under the domain of Pakistan, makes up the border between modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, and serves as a reminder of the armistice to end the Third Anglo-Afghan War.

The Third Anglo-Afghan war ended on August 8th, 1919 and resulted in a strategic victory for the British. After establishing the Durand line, separating Afghanistan from the British Empire, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan an independent and sovereign state. Immediately following his declaration, Khan ordered an end to the country’s traditional isolationism. The king also directed the newly formed state to be modernized, leading to women’s education, compulsory elementary schooling, and the abolition of slavery in 1923. However, Khan became ardently opposed by many of the local tribes after abolishing the requirement of the traditional burqa and eliminating restrictions on women’s education. Moderate political turmoil continued and the king’s commands remained largely disregarded.

1933 – 1973

In 1933, King Amanullah Khan was assassinated and shortly thereafter, King Mohammed Zahir Shah took the throne. Shah’s reign would last from the early 1930s to 1973. Throughout his reign, King Zahir Shah modernized the country even further through establishing elections, enforcing political rights, and stressing women’s education.

In 1973, King Mohammed Zahir Shah was replaced by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan, in a bloodless coup. After ascending to office, Daoud Khan abolished the Afghan monarchy, declaring himself the prime minister of Afghanistan. Daoud sought a closer relationship with the USSR, and was sympathetic to the ethnic Pashtun people who’d been displaced by the establishment of the Durand line in 1919. Other ethnic groups in Afghanistan voiced their disfavor over Daoud Khan’s “Pashtun Nationalism,” and in turn, saw the constriction of their personal liberties by Daoud Khan. Massive popular disapproval of Daoud Khan and the state of affairs in Afghanistan culminated in the Saur Revolution of 1978.

Part II

Saur Revolution – 1978

The Saur Revolution, beginning in April of 1978, saw the removal of prime minister Daoud Khan and the installment of the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) led by president Nur Muhammad Taraki and funded by the USSR. With full Soviet support, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan began to push radical economic and cultural Marxist reform. The PDPA itself was not short of internal conflict, and two factions within the party would disagree over the nature of their rule. For the sake of brevity, the two main factions were the Khalq – the more dictatorial or dominant faction; and the Parcham – the more liberal or moderate faction.

It is important to note that Afghanistan is a highly diverse landmass composed of several distinct ethnic groups, many of which practice very traditional forms of Islam. These tribal ethnic groups were often separated by the mountainous terrain of the region, and would typically not interact with one another unless in opposition to an invading or occupying force. None of these ethnic groups are a majority.

The PDPA’s cultural and economic policies saw intense backlash from tribal leaders. Amin – relative to his predecessors – proved to be far less accepting of dissent, and often took to imprisoning or executing his party’s critics.

1979

In March of 1979, riots swept throughout the country in response to the PDPA’s radical policies and their treatment of dissidents.

Nur Muhammad Taraki, seeking to quell the rioting and secure his position from the more radical in his party (namely Hafizullah Amin), turned to the nearby Soviets for military aid and advisory. Nur Muhammad Taraki lost what cohesion was left between himself and the PDPA with his requests to the USSR, and was assassinated by his fellow Khalq member, Hafizullah Amin, who then ascended to the position of president.

Hafizullah Amin’s presidency weakened the government and brought further unrest upon the country, as it was now faced with an increasingly powerful public. The riots quickly grew more violent and more coordinated, and a civil war had begun before the year’s end. Fighting between the PDPA, and their new opponents, the guerrilla mujahideen was intensified.

The U.S.S.R.

The Soviet Union sought control over the situation in Afghanistan for two main reasons: to exert dominance over the region and to prevent the spread of Islam into countries to the north under Soviet control. After witnessing the Iranian Revolution, the USSR understood that, with enough pressure, any middle Eastern country in the area could experience their own Iranian Revolution, thus becoming extremely difficult to control.

The Soviets’ solution to the situation – depose Amin, dominate the region, and get its people under control. This culminated in the Soviet-Afghan War.

The U.S.A

In 1979, the United States (the only other superpower in the world) saw the instability in Afghanistan as an opportunity to waste Soviet time and resources and to halt the spread of communism. Though the exact time frame is contested, the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency became active in Afghanistan during 1979. The US and Saudi Arabia supported both the mujahideen and foreign resistance fighters from Pakistan and supplied them with thousands of FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and some (contested) billions of dollars.

Soviet-Afghan War – Soviet Invasion

In December of 1979, the USSR launched a surprise invasion of Afghanistan. Critical communications and systems of transport were seized and halted by the Red Army. In the same month, Hafizullah Amin was captured in Kabul and executed by the Soviets, who organized a replacement – Soviet loyalist Babrak Karmal of the Parcham faction.

In January of 1980, both the Islamic Conference as well as the UN General Assembly passed resolutions in protest of the Soviet invasion and demanding swift withdrawal of Soviet forces. The US and Saudi Arabia began to more seriously fund the sale of weapons to the mujahideen, the CIA began covert operations through Pakistan, and the Afghan insurgency received specialized training in Pakistan and China.

Soviet-Afghan War – The Insurgency

The Soviet Red Army operated within Afghanistan’s urban areas, which were less resistant to government control. However, the vast majority of Afghanistan is rural, and the mujahideen used this to their advantage as they operated in small groups, waging guerrilla warfare throughout the countryside.

The different tribes fighting against Soviet occupation, realizing that the Soviets would not soon leave, reinforced their concept of Jihad (“Holy War”) – this is mostly considering that the USSR was a foreign, Atheist union that sought control over the region. The mujahideen’s call for Jihad resonated with much of the Islamic world, and the movement saw foreign fighters and supporters, including Osama Bin Laden, come from abroad.

Though Soviet forces were quite effective in strategic operations, waves of mujahideen continued to pour into Afghanistan, making the war a long, grinding operation for the Soviets until 1985.

Part III

Soviet Withdrawal

As the Cold War took its toll on the USSR, a growing anti-war sentiment led to the election of Mikhail Gorbachev and eventually, a withdrawal of the Red Army. In 1987, after consulting with the Afghan government, Mikhail Gorbachev ordered this withdrawal Рultimately lasting from 1988 to 1989. A small amount of Soviet troops stayed active in the region, but were finally withdrawn in 1992 following the collapse of the USSR.