The Purgative Fantasy: Reflections on Nihilism, Accelerationism, and the Apocalypse

There is something sinister in the springtime this year. Rather than a serving as a yearly reminder of rebirth and natural beauty, the blooming trees and emergent grasses wear the face of some ancient enemy, awoken from its long slumber. The spreading pestilence makes one long for the dormancy and stasis of winter.

This atmosphere of dread has infected every dimension of our lives. One encounters it in the endless news coverage, the overheard conversations and suspicious glances of coworkers and passersby, the twinge of fear every time someone coughs in our presence. Whether or not this panic is an overreaction only time can tell, but the extreme response is certainly without precedent in recent memory.

While no one seems to believe that this plague will bring about the literal end of mankind, the recent confluence of economic and natural disaster does seem to have pushed people into a more apocalyptic frame of mind – if the recent return of a 32-year-old song to the chart is any indication.

There could be some benefits to this. Wars, plagues, and other social upheavals can lead people to rethink their priorities, and perhaps eliminate some of the dross from their lives. A renewed sense of our own mortality (providentially, perhaps, arising during the penitential season of Lent) might motivate us to focus on our families, our people, our mission, and our own souls rather than the ephemera that occupy so much of our lives. On the other hand, some people are just as likely to embrace an attitude of nihilistic hedonism. This appears to be the sentiment motivating certain populations who have refused to suspend their debauchery in the face of a public health crisis.

Danse macabre

Dance of Death (1493), Michael Wolgemut

Likewise, on a sociopolitical level, the quarantines have temporarily led to cleaner air and water, a reduction in frivolous consumption, curtailed immigration, more family time, and fewer visible instances of social degeneracy. The dominion of employers, bankers, and landlords over our lives has likewise been temporary abrogated. Of course it is entirely possible, indeed likely, that after this blows over people will go on living exactly as they were before, even if it is within a radically changed political and economic climate. There is simply no way to know at this point.

Whatever the case, this unexpected resurgence of apocalyptic mood does lead one to reflect on the deeper reasons for mankind’s perennial obsession with the collapse of civilization. From The Walking Dead all the way back to ancient Babylon, humans have displayed a morbid curiosity about the end of their terrestrial empire. What forms does this take among the political Right, and might any of them be put to productive use?

The Purgative Fantasy

This morbid curiosity about the end of mankind might be attributed, in part, to a subconscious fascination with and longing for death, not just individual but on a mass scale – akin to Freud’s “death instinct” or Thanatos. Longing for the silence and stillness of the deserted battlefield, the abandoned town, the ruined city, the atomic crater. This is both a retreat from the complexities and impurities of human life as well as an expression of misanthropic disgust for the perceived viciousness and pettiness of our species.

battlefield

Verdun, 1916

This instinct takes many forms, and has been ably explicated by Arthur Schopenhauer, Emile Cioran, and Rust Cohle. One of the most prominent expressions nowadays is the “human extinction movement” and “anti-natalism,” which has significant overlap with certain schools of radical environmentalism. One of the most thoroughgoing theorists in this line of thought was the Norwegian mountaineer and philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe. He theorized, in The Last Messiah” (1933), that mankind is a unique product of evolution whose abilities and desires exceed its niche, and is therefore doomed to be destructive and unhappy.

“Whatever happened? A breach in the very unity of life, a biological paradox, an abomination, an absurdity, an exaggeration of disastrous nature. Life had overshot its target, blowing itself apart. A species had been armed too heavily – by spirit made almighty without, but equally a menace to its own well-being.”

His solution went to the root of the problem: “Be infertile and let the earth be silent after ye.”  With mankind’s disappearance, the world might cleansed of this blot on its stark beauty.

dresden bombing

Dresden, 1945

A rather different perspective, more in line with the values of the Right, was promoted by the French “esoteric Hitlerist” and political propagandist Savitri Devi. She also welcomed the prospect of cataclysm and human extinction, but unlike the typically nihilistic and left-leaning anti-natalist, Savitri very strongly upheld the value of life and certain life-forms: the aristocrats of the natural world, whether they be lions, tigers, majestic oak trees, or Aryan man. Faced with a future where the triumph of the Allied powers and the overpopulation of the globe led to the extinction of these higher types, Savitri contemplated to the end of the present cycle with eager anticipation:

“A world without man is, and by far, preferable to a world in which no human élite will rule anymore. The roaring of the lion will again be heard everywhere, in the middle of the night, under a sky resplendent with moonlight or dark and full of stars.”

Savitri appeared to hold some hope that the end of the Kali Yuga would usher in another Golden Age where cosmic order would be restored. But whether this happened or not, she seemed to view mass extinction as the just outcome for a world that had abandoned all higher values and actively oppressed its noblest forms of life.

Licorne nuclear test 1970

French Hydrogen Bomb test, Licorne (1970)

I confess that in my younger years I sympathized with this mindset, born out of a sense that humankind is a kind of cosmic aberration, alien to the rest of earthly life, destroyer of both itself and the natural world. For some years this made me question the morality of parenthood. To bring more life into this thresher, this self-made hell where humans are, as Schopenhauer once wrote, “Both the tormented souls and the devils tormenting them,” seemed a supremely selfish and unconscionable act. In time my priorities changed, but there is still a vague nihilism, a fundamental question mark, that lurks at the foundation of my worldview. No amount of stoicism, Catholicism, amor fati, Anglo-American pride, or fatherhood has ever been able to entirely dispel it. Moreover, I have never been among those who could simply dismiss such a view as “immature,” the late night blathering of chain-smoking undergraduates.

However, while there is an iron logic at the heart of this purgative fantasy, for most it will be an inadequate spur to action. For one, such a purgation is likely to be an act of God, and something that is beyond mankind’s power to control. Moreover, this view is unremittingly nihilistic. It is a creed that cannot be lived or sincerely lauded, since the only way to live in authentic accordance with it would be suicide (preceded, potentially, by mass murder). It is incompatible with the desire to preserve one’s culture, one’s people, or one’s ancestral line. Finally, it is also profoundly inhumane. It is indiscriminate in its misanthropy, and in whatever form it applauds the destruction of good and evil alike, the innocent and the noble along with the wicked. Nor is it simply a matter of snapping one’s fingers and ending human existence, like some kind of Infinity Gauntlet; horror and misery would rule the earth as people and animals suffered brutal and prolonged deaths.

I admit that I used to dream of some magical means by which to purge the earth of some of its excess humanity, purify it, restore balance to nature. As I grew older I realized there is no such magic. Only bullets, fire, famine. And plague.

Doutielt3

“Burial of Plague Victims,” Miniature from The Chronicles of Gilles Li Muisis (1272–1352).

The Great Reset

In addition to this general longing for human extinction, there is another motivation for applauding the end of civilization as we know it. This is the “accelerationist” response, which is sometimes expressed on the extremes of both Left and Right. The belief, simply put, is that “worse is better” and that the collapse of the current system will hasten the achievement of the group’s goals. On the radical environmental Left, this is the collapse of the industrial state and massive reduction in human population; on the libertarian Right, this is the downfall of the managerial state and return to a natural state of tribalism; on the socialist Left, this is the overcoming of capitalism and ushering in a communist utopia; on the White Nationalist Right, it is the end of the current dysfunctional multiethnic liberal state and the institution of the ethnostate; etc.

Whatever one’s preferred outcome, the logic of this belief is predicated upon the assumption that the changes brought about by worsening social conditions will, by creating disruptions and exposing the hollowness of the contemporary system, necessarily be for the better. However, this is by no means guaranteed. For the socialist, the collapse of the neoliberal order may appear to be a positive under any circumstances; but even the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat will not usher in an age of freedom from necessity, but an iron dictatorship in which certain pigs are more equal than others. The odds of our ambitious communists actually becoming commissars are quite slim.

060119-38-History-Medieval-Middle-Ages-Black-Death-Art-Economy

Fresco in the former Abbey of Saint-André-de-Lavaudieu, France (14th century), depicting the plague personified as a woman

Similarly, for the rightist libertarian or anarcho-primitivist, the chances of social collapse returning us to a “state of nature” or resurgent tribalism is equally unlikely. If this is a slow-motion crisis, as a pandemic naturally would be, we should expect to see a significant strengthening of the security state, martial law, increasingly draconian restrictions on behavior and association and speech (as is already happening throughout the world). The fact that the Left holds power over practically every country in the West means that, despite our hopes to the contrary, it is entirely possible that their narrative and goals will remain paramount throughout this process. They will use any crisis as an opportunity to strengthen their stranglehold on speech and association in the name of public safety, to suspend political processes in the name of stability, to arrange more payoffs for their client class in the name of economic recovery and relief, and use their devilish sophistry to somehow blame this crisis on white Christian patriarchs and structural racism. Thus we could end up with a stronger Leftist regime in which even more checks on its power have been removed. It does not have to happen this way, but the changing demographics throughout the West are cause for pessimism.

Moreover, it is unlikely that this collapse would happen at the same time all over the globe. The weakening of America will simply open us up to domination by more vigorous powers, less hindered by Western compunctions concerning human rights and political correctness, and less schizophrenic in their political goals. From what they’re telling us, China is already experiencing a lull in the virus after two months of effective action against it. Given that they kept this under wraps for months in order to avoid compromising their economic position, it is difficult to believe that this mass infection of the West was not a part of their plan, or at least an unexpected silver lining. Our weakness is their strength, and in the long run might put us at their mercy. Despite the Right’s fondness for authoritarianism, China is not our friend and their domination over the West would be a tragedy of immense proportions.

And even if the collapse of global civilization were to occur overnight, this would not return us to an era of wholesome tribalism and rugged individualism. It would, rather, institute a reign of totally brutal anarchism, in which ragtag bands of survivors would be governed by psychopathic warlords and live by theft, rapine, and cannibalism. And while this outcome might be lauded by the Conan the Barbarian Right, it is again quite unlikely that its acolytes would end up being the Negan or Governor in that scenario; and it would doubtless be a far worse situation for the women, children, and lesser men. People who are actually the flower of their race – those motivated by nobility, honor, chivalry; men of genius and soul; beautiful women and innocent children – these would all be utterly stamped out in such a world.

Triumph of Death, Bruegel the Elder

The Triumph of Death (1652), Peter Bruegel the Elder

Both black-pilled nihilism and accelerationism therefore appear to be insufficient responses to contemporary crises, whether pandemics or other potentially catastrophic events.

Apocalypse Viewed from the Right

The significance of these observations for the contemporary Rightist or reactionary is that, as many have noted, there is absolutely no guarantee that things will go our way. The purgative fantasy is just that, a fantasy, beyond acts of God that exceed the human power for destruction; and it is in no way desirable from the perspective of social, cultural, environmental, or racial preservation. Likewise, many groups who place their hopes in the “reset” or acceleration are likely to be disappointed by the outcome.

Given that this crisis is, in and of itself, unlikely to usher in a return of monarchism, ethnic homogeneity, or an American Renaissance, what is the most reasonable response for Men of the Right?

The only reasonable reaction is, on a personal level, to preserve our ancestral values and ensure that these are transmitted to our children, and to adopt a less decadent style of living – more Spartan, more austere, more frugal, more self-sufficient. Culturally, it is important to preserve our memory, our art, music, and history, and most significantly our people. Politically it is absolutely vital that we promote our explanation of these events – the only true explanation – emphasizing that it is a crisis of globalism and neoliberal economics. We must vigorously and publicly confront the lies that have been and will be promulgated on this point, using whatever outlets are available to us.

We might hope, with Ra’s al-Ghul, that these periodic disasters will have a purgative effect, but it is vital that we do all that is within our power to oppose the other likely outcome: a doubling down on the tyranny of the New World Order.

Our inclination towards despair is one of the greatest obstacles to action on behalf of our people, our country, and our God. It infects this movement, as it does all genuinely counter-cultural movements, and no one is immune to it. For my part, over the last few weeks current events have propelled me into a state of morbid brooding, no doubt exacerbated by the perpetual rains and overcast skies in my part of the country.

But on the first day of spring, I awoke to a cold but sunny morning, frost on the ground, trees and daffodils and pansies in bloom. I took my children to a nearby forest, where we were totally alone beneath the ancient boughs, and the serenity of the scene combined with my young children’s innocent wonder at all that we saw helped, for a time, dispel such despair from my mind. It was a reminder that there is a beauty and order in this world that transcends us, and that our highest duty is to preserve it, for ourselves and those that come after us.

Despite the great influence of the perennial philosophy and Traditionalist School on my thought, I cannot claim to have any certainty when it comes to teachings about cosmic cycles and the Kali Yuga. Nevertheless, I leave you with this passage from Rene Guenon, which is instructive for anyone who feels themselves to be living in a time of decay, trouble, and strife.

“The world of disorder and error will be destroyed, and by the purifying and regenerative power of Agni all things will be reestablished and restored in the wholeness of their original state, the end of the present cycle being also the beginning of the future cycle. Those who know that it must be so cannot, even at the heart of the worst confusion, lose their immutable serenity. However irksome it be to live in an epoch of trouble and almost general obscurity, they cannot be affected by it deep in themselves, and it is here that we find the strength of the true elite. Undoubtedly, if the darkness should continue to spread more and more, this elite could, even in the East, become reduced to a very small number. But it is enough that some preserve integrally the true knowledge to be ready, when the ages are completed, to save all that can still be saved from the present world and become the seed of the future world.”

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