The catastrophic “imaginary” (as the postmodernists might say) is alive and well. Haunted by the falling Twin Towers, we imagine still more horrific scenarios to come: dirty bombs, perhaps, reducing our cities to rubble and befouling the air of the countryside with invisible clouds of lethal radiation; or dust bowls spreading like New World saharas across the fruited plain, withering crops on the vine as the polar caps melt and Long Island becomes a watery grave. Such catastrophic conjuring has, of course, been a cash cow for the purveyors of Hollywood B-movie sci-fi since the 1950’s. Our sociologists reassure us that we flock to such entertainments because of the anxieties generated by modernity—the accelerating process of change, our increasing dependence upon vast and faceless bureaucratic systems of control, our heightened sense of vulnerability as our social networks become ever-more virtual. But never fear, they insist; these anxieties are perfectly normal. Indeed, we appear to be developing neural capacities heretofore unknown to the human race, coping mechanisms that will ensure our evolutionary fitness for survival in the challenging age to come when we will, no doubt, begin the Great Migration into what we quaintly call “outer space.”
Well, I, for one, am not reassured. After all, those images of mushroom clouds rising over Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t trick photography. And those imploding towers were equally real. But, you may object, such events are rare enough. Most of us live our lives untouched by the catastrophic. We work, we worship (some of us), we play, we reproduce (some of us), and we die. We suffer personal tragedies, to be sure, but the actuarial odds of our dependable world imploding like those Twin Towers seem rather slim.
According to Guillaume Faye, nothing could be further from the truth. In Archeofuturism, first published in France in 1998 and recently translated into English, he argues that the stability of our civilization has been eroding for some time. Soon, very soon, a “convergence of catastrophes” will accelerate that erosion to such a degree that the world as we know it will be utterly transformed. Faye’s prognosis is focused largely on European concerns, but much of what he has to say is germane to the North American context. He predicts that the “metastasis of the European social fabric” is nearing a critical stage. This metastasis involves an unprecedented collapse of the family structure; a dumbing-down of the educational system; a widespread cultural amnesia—stimulated by mass media—that deprives Europeans of any enduring sense of their own heritage and folkways; the decay of European cities, where rioting, looting, and drug trafficking have become endemic; and, perhaps most alarming, a “demographic colonization” by Islamic immigrants that European civil authorities, in thrall to the politics of multicultural guilt, seem helpless to curtail. Indeed, those authorities are caught in a bind: Even if they were inclined to halt the Islamic influx, declining birthrates among ethnic Europeans demand the importation of cheap foreign laborers, most of them Muslim. As a result, festering immigrant ghettos have become sharia zones that the police dare not disturb for fear of social unrest. Thus the “thousand flags” of Europe may soon be replaced by a single flag bearing the crescent and star, though Faye seems inclined to think that the complete domination of Europe by Islam is unlikely. Instead, he foresees “inevitable” civil war.
Ominously, Faye suggests that Europe will become the primary battleground in a global conflict between the wealthy nations of the North and the poorer nations of the South, a new polarization that is already replacing the old East/West conflict of the Cold War era. The resentments and antagonisms generated by several centuries of European colonization of the South (by which Faye seems to mean the predominantly Muslim belt of nations stretching from the Middle East across northern Africa) have given rise to an antiwhite “globalised racism.” In Faye’s view, the spread of Islam is not so much a religious phenomenon as a psychological and political one: “Islam is becoming the symbolic banner of this revolt against the North—a Freudian revenge against Western imperialism.” Yet the appeal of radical Islam is also rooted in a reaction against the sterile “despiritualisation of values” that the North (including the United States) has sought to export around the globe, what Faye terms the “cult of commodities” and “the dictatorship of spectacle.” As Islamic fundamentalism surges, Europe has all but abandoned its ties to the Christian Faith, its masses adrift in a vacuous secularism.
Faye foresees two additional lines of catastrophic convergence: a global economic crisis and environmental devastation. Of course, he was not the only one in the late 1990’s predicting the possibility of far-reaching economic calamity, but his auguries have proved accurate. He suggests that the crisis will stem from two causes: a degree of state indebtedness far beyond what the banking system can cover, and a “privileging of speculative profits over production.” As a result, the collapse of the capital markets in Europe and North America will usher in a global recession that will very likely eclipse the Great Depression. On the matter of the environmental threat, Faye is perhaps more alarmist than the facts warrant. He cites the usual green litany of horrors: climate change driven by carbon-dioxide emissions, the contamination of the oceans, deforestation. Of course, environmental damage is a serious concern, but it is difficult to see how it could result in the devastating consequences Faye predicts—at least in the short term.
All of these developing lines of catastrophic change will begin to converge, according to Faye, between 2010 and 2020, and all of them are the consequences of a hydra-headed modernity: “secularized evangelism, Anglo-Saxon mercantilism and the individualist philosophy of the Enlightenment, . . . the cult of quantitative development and the affirmation of abstract ‘human rights.’” In this view, the Enlightenment project was from the outset a utopian confabulation of false hopes generated by an unreal vision of human nature. As that house of cards begins to collapse, we face what Carl Schmitt called an “emergency situation” (Ernstfall). All bets are off. The century before us, warns Faye, will be one of storm and steel. The conciliatory politics of egalitarian multiculturalism, of a “world without boundaries,” must be discarded—in fact, will of necessity be discarded as the slow-motion collapse of the West accelerates. For Faye this impending catastrophe is not an occasion for despair, but an opportunity of world-historical importance. He implies that while the European people have thus far remained acquiescent, they will finally, as the economic crisis deepens, “find the strength to react against what awaits them.”
Like his erstwhile colleague on the French New Right, Alain de Benoist, Faye draws much of his historical optimism from the neopagan philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, and in particular Nietzsche’s concept of the Umwertung, or transvaluation of all values, an idea that rests on a belief in the Eternal Return. History, in this view, is not the linear development foisted upon European thought, first by Judeo-Christian monotheism, and then, in secular form, by the Enlightenment. Rather, history is “spherical”; it involves, paradoxically, the Eternal Return of the identical, but “not the same.” In short, history repeats itself, as in the ancient, pre-Christian view, but—and here Nietzsche breaks with the pagans—not in a fatalistic, merely cyclical fashion. Socrates is not doomed to imbibe the hemlock again and again. The cosmos is eternal—without beginning or end—but the cards are reshuffled with each turning of the wheel of fortune. Archaic configurations reemerge in new contexts. In Faye’s view, now is the hour when archaic values must be rediscovered and reactivated, yet fused with a futurity that embraces the vast potentialities of the present with a will to transfigure them. The neologism archeofuturism is intended to suggest such a fusion. Western civilization is dead. A new civilization awaits its birth—a truly European civilization or, more precisely, a Euro-Siberian civilization, one that will rid itself of the pale Galilean and His alien claims of universal truth, the ultimate source of Europe’s woes, and embrace at once a pre-Christian ethos and a rigorously modern science.
While there is much in Faye’s vision of the new century that will appeal to American paleoconservatives, there is also much that will disconcert and dismay them. Most appealing are his unflinching opposition to multiculturalism; his clear-eyed recognition that the militancy of fundamentalist Islam is a direct result of the West’s misguided attempts to impose its liberal-egalitarian hegemony (and its hostility toward traditional cultural identities and customs) on the rest of the world; his defense of the “archaic” importance of family and community, blood and soil; his disgust at the utter worthlessness and obscenity of much that passes for high culture among Western elites; his contempt for our juvenile and spiritually bankrupt popular culture; and his certainty that our preoccupation with trivial issues like “gender” equality and “gay marriage” is an unmistakable sign of our political decadence. Equally admirable is Faye’s call for the renewal of European identity over against, on the one hand, Islamic colonization and, on the other, Anglo-Saxon monoculture. But it is precisely here that objections arise. Faye, like many of his confrères on the European New Right, adopts the view that egalitarianism is a mental disease first introduced into European thought by Christianity, with its doctrine of a single, cosmos-transcending deity. With the advent of the Enlightenment, this disease became virulent, eventually spawning utopian systems of totalitarian domination on both the left and the right. American democratic capitalism, with its globalist ambitions, is yet another, “softer” version of this totalizing mania for a unitary system of exchange that seeks to eradicate all true nationalities and cultural differences—or to render such differences innocuous by transforming them into commodities.
One might object, first of all, to the puerile notion that egalitarianism is somehow an expression of the essence of Christianity. If it is true that Christianity first introduced the metaphysical idea of the equality of souls before God, it does not at all follow that the recognition of such equality inherently demands the cultural and political eradication of cultural difference. This is so obviously a logical fallacy that I can only assume that Faye and the neopagans are engaging in a deliberate act of mythomania. Of course, numerous historians have shown that egalitarianism is, at least in part, a secularized version of the Christian equality of souls, but the assumption made by egalitarians of every stripe—that history is a progressive human construct moving toward a universal egalitarian state of social perfection—is a blatant (and heretical) falsification of orthodox Christian doctrine. I will be writing at greater length about this issue in an upcoming number of this magazine, so for now I will limit myself to one further observation: The Enlightenment, and particularly the radical Enlightenment, was itself shot through with neopagan ideas. Particularly relevant is the monism that first comes into view during the Renaissance in the work of Giordano Bruno and which shapes the deism of the philosophes. For though deism asserts, seemingly in keeping with the monotheistic tradition, the existence of a cosmos-transcending deity, the deist god is little more than a feckless abstraction. Implicitly, deism (allied with modern science) divinizes man, leaving him free to refashion the world according to the dictates of instrumental reason. The philosophes of the European New Right dream of a world rid of the monotheistic curse, of a resacralized cosmos. Again, this is an exercise in postmodern myth-making, an alluring fiction for those yearning to be free of the existential tension between reason and faith that Christianity demands.
Equally troubling, and revealing, is Faye’s apparent willingness to embrace without reservation the new possibilities opened up by biotechnology, what he calls “positive eugenics”: the mass-production of bionic men and women, cloning, assisted procreation, and germ-line therapies. Faye claims that the glorious future promised us by the biotech revolution is being hindered by egalitarian political correctness (in league with monotheistic moralizing), but in reality the liberal-left are among the chief advocates of the new science. The difference is that the egalitarians wish to see its benefits spread as widely as possible. Faye, who is more forthright, boldly asserts his inegalitarian agenda. He foresees the emergence of a two-tiered global order. The poor nations of the South may, encouraged by such entities as the World Bank, continue to believe that they can have a share of the wealth produced by the industrialized North, but the planet cannot possibly sustain “the spread of techno-scientific consumer culture to ten billion people.” As the global economic order continues to disintegrate, the poorer quarters of the world (perhaps the majority of its population) will revert willingly to the pastoral life they have known since the dawn of time. Meanwhile, new elites will emerge, virtually a separate race, masters of a new techno-scientific economy, yet “driven by values other than the consumer frenzy, universalism, and widespread hedonism of the ideology of progress.” But what, precisely, would those other “values” be? Faye is vague on this question, but he seems confident that, in the postcatastrophic future, the new elites will value tolerance above all else—especially tolerance of cultural, political, religious, and ethnic diversity. Yet he foresees (and clearly prefers) a world in which racial and ethnic “mixing” are no longer seen as desirable. Tolerance has its limits, and the multiracial nation-state is a doomed project.
Though Faye disavows any expectation of a world in which swords have been turned into plowshares, there is more than a whiff of utopian thinking in Archeofuturism. On the one hand, he idealizes an “archaic,” prelapsarian pagan past free of the “totalitarian” taint of monotheism; on the other, he celebrates the return of that mythic archaic order ruled and regulated by genetically “enhanced” gnostic elites. But the dream of a return to a resacralized archaic paradisio, where every stone and stream is inhabited by emanations of the primordial divine, is yet another variant of postmodern despair. In a reflection on Nietzsche’s claim that Christianity was nothing more than a Platonism for the masses, the late Philip Rieff noted that, on the contrary, the masses
have resisted and resented Christian faith the more as both science and sociology have promised them release from any and all theologies of truth transcending their immediate worlds and wishes as they would have them fulfilled in a waking dream of life mastered and themselves pleasured.
I would merely add that this resentment of Christian truth (and of its moral imperatives) is characteristic not only of the masses, but all too often of their self-appointed shepherds, the intelligentsia, whether of the left or the right. Guillaume Faye’s vision of a convergence of catastrophes in the near future is altogether plausible, but Dionysus will not lead us out of the ruins.
[Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-Catastrophic Age, by Guillaume Faye
(Arktos Media) 249 pp., $39.00]