Only six books

Twelve days ago I said that John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty was one of the very few books that, from the academic canon imposed by the faculties of philosophy, I find readable. But I failed to mention the other five.

Plato is boring but I find amusing the Memorabilia, in which Xenophon illustrates more piquaresquely than Plato the figure of Socrates.

The same I can say of the Confessions of St. Augustine, although I cannot be in more disagreement with such dude. From the Middle Ages I’d make a leap to Voltaire’s Candide, and thence to Schopenhauer’s second volume of Parerga and Paralipomena (translated as Essays and Aphorisms by Penguin Classics).

I mean books that are a real treat from the strictly literary point of view: those that you’d love to have in your bookshelf. The last one on my list is Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo, although, again, that does not mean that I necessarily agree with the author.

Mill’s quote

Or:

Conspiracy theories in white nationalism

 
This is a postscript of what I said yesterday about Richard Spencer and friends on the subject of John F. Kennedy’s assassination by Oswald—and by Oswald alone.

My trouble with white nationalists is not only that they are inferior to the National Socialists on all counts. Many of them also commit the cardinal sin of haughtiness. I won’t elaborate much on this accusation except saying that, of the few works of the cannon in academic philosophy that I find readable, one of them is On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. Consider this statement from Mill’s book:

‘He who knows only his own side of the case,
knows little of that’.

Spencer et al who give some credence to the conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination know little of their subject, as they have not listened the other side by, say, reading Vincent Bugliosi’s book. And exactly the same can be said of what ‘truther’ nationalists believe about 9/11: they know only their own side.

Haughtiness.

I won’t even discuss these topics in this site with them unless they do their homework. If for example they have spent a hundred hours reading conspiratorial literature on JFK, they now have to spend a hundred more of the literature debunking the claims, etcetera.

Published in: on October 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm  Comments (3)  

Liberalism, 16

Classical and modern

Enlightenment philosophers are given credit for shaping liberal ideas. Thomas Hobbes attempted to determine the purpose and the justification of governing authority in a post-civil war England. Employing the idea of a state of nature—a hypothetical war-like scenario prior to the State—he constructed the idea of a social contract which individuals enter into to guarantee their security and in so doing form the State, concluding that only an absolute sovereign would be fully able to sustain such a peace.

John Locke, while adopting Hobbes’s idea of a state of nature and social contract, nevertheless argued that when the monarch becomes a tyrant, that constituted a violation of the social contract, which bestows life, liberty, and property as a natural right. He concluded that the people have a right to overthrow a tyrant. By placing life, liberty and property as the supreme value of law and authority, Locke formulated the basis of liberalism based on social contract theory.

To these early enlightenment thinkers securing the most essential amenities of life—liberty and private property among them—required the formation of a “sovereign” authority with universal jurisdiction. In a natural state of affairs, liberals argued, humans were driven by the instincts of survival and self-preservation, and the only way to escape from such a dangerous existence was to form a common and supreme power capable of arbitrating between competing human desires. This power could be formed in the framework of a civil society that allows individuals to make a voluntary social contract with the sovereign authority, transferring their natural rights to that authority in return for the protection of life, liberty, and property.

These early liberals often disagreed about the most appropriate form of government, but they all shared the belief that liberty was natural and that its restriction needed strong justification. Liberals generally believed in limited government, although several liberal philosophers decried government outright, with Thomas Paine writing that “government even in its best state is a necessary evil”.

As part of the project to limit the powers of government, various liberal theorists such as James Madison and the Baron de Montesquieu conceived the notion of separation of powers, a system designed to equally distribute governmental authority among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Governments had to realize, liberals maintained, that poor and improper governance gave the people authority to overthrow the ruling order through any and all possible means, even through outright violence and revolution, if needed.

Contemporary liberals, heavily influenced by social liberalism, have continued to support limited constitutional government while also advocating for state services and provisions to ensure equal rights. Modern liberals claim that formal or official guarantees of individual rights are irrelevant when individuals lack the material means to benefit from those rights and call for a greater role for government in the administration of economic affairs.

Early liberals also laid the groundwork for the separation of church and state. As heirs of the Enlightenment, liberals believed that any given social and political order emanated from human interactions, not from divine will. Many liberals were openly hostile to religious belief itself, but most concentrated their opposition to the union of religious and political authority, arguing that faith could prosper on its own, without official sponsorship or administration by the state.

Beyond identifying a clear role for government in modern society, liberals also have obsessed over the meaning and nature of the most important principle in liberal philosophy: liberty. From the 17th century until the 19th century, liberals—from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill—conceptualized liberty as the absence of interference from government and from other individuals, claiming that all people should have the freedom to develop their own unique abilities and capacities without being sabotaged by others. Mill’s On Liberty (1859), one of the classic texts in liberal philosophy, proclaimed that “the only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way”. Support for laissez-faire capitalism is often associated with this principle, with Friedrich Hayek arguing in The Road to Serfdom (1944) that reliance on free markets would preclude totalitarian control by the state.

tom green

Beginning in the late 19th century, however, a new conception of liberty entered the liberal intellectual arena. This new kind of liberty became known as positive liberty to distinguish it from the prior negative version, and it was first developed by British philosopher Thomas Hill Green. Green rejected the idea that humans were driven solely by self-interest, emphasizing instead the complex circumstances that are involved in the evolution of our moral character. In a very profound step for the future of modern liberalism, he also tasked society and political institutions with the enhancement of individual freedom and identity and the development of moral character, will and reason and the state to create the conditions that allow for the above, giving the opportunity for genuine choice. Foreshadowing the new liberty as the freedom to act rather than to avoid suffering from the acts of others, Green wrote the following:

If it were ever reasonable to wish that the usage of words had been other than it has been… one might be inclined to wish that the term “freedom” had been confined to the… power to do what one wills.

Rather than previous liberal conceptions viewing society as populated by selfish individuals, Green viewed society as an organic whole in which all individuals have a duty to promote the common good. His ideas spread rapidly and were developed by other thinkers such as L.T. Hobhouse and John Hobson.

In a few years, this New Liberalism had become the essential social and political program of the Liberal Party in Britain, and it would encircle much of the world in the 20th century. In addition to examining negative and positive liberty, liberals have tried to understand the proper relationship between liberty and democracy. As they struggled to expand suffrage rights, liberals increasingly understood that people left out of the democratic decision-making process were liable to the tyranny of the majority, a concept explained in Mill’s On Liberty and in Democracy in America (1835) by Alexis de Tocqueville. As a response, liberals began demanding proper safeguards to thwart majorities in their attempts at suppressing the rights of minorities.

Besides liberty, liberals have developed several other principles important to the construction of their philosophical structure, such as equality, pluralism, and toleration. Highlighting the confusion over the first principle, Voltaire commented that “equality is at once the most natural and at times the most chimeral of things”. All forms of liberalism assume, in some basic sense, that individuals are equal.

In maintaining that people are naturally equal, liberals assume that they all possess the same right to liberty. In other words, no one is inherently entitled to enjoy the benefits of liberal society more than anyone else, and all people are equal subjects before the law.

Beyond this basic conception, liberal theorists diverge on their understanding of equality. American philosopher John Rawls emphasized the need to ensure not only equality under the law, but also the equal distribution of material resources that individuals required to develop their aspirations in life. Libertarian thinker Robert Nozick disagreed with Rawls, championing the former version of Lockean equality instead.

To contribute to the development of liberty, liberals also have promoted concepts like pluralism and toleration. By pluralism, liberals refer to the proliferation of opinions and beliefs that characterize a stable social order. Unlike many of their competitors and predecessors, liberals do not seek conformity and homogeneity in the way that people think; in fact, their efforts have been geared towards establishing a governing framework that harmonizes and minimizes conflicting views, but still allows those views to exist and flourish.

For liberal philosophy, pluralism leads easily to toleration. Since individuals will hold diverging viewpoints, liberals argue, they ought to uphold and respect the right of one another to disagree. From the liberal perspective, toleration was initially connected to religious toleration, with Spinoza condemning “the stupidity of religious persecution and ideological wars”. Toleration also played a central role in the ideas of Kant and John Stuart Mill. Both thinkers believed that society will contain different conceptions of a good ethical life and that people should be allowed to make their own choices without interference from the state or other individuals.

Liberalism, 11

Social liberalism

By the end of the nineteenth century, the principles of classical liberalism were being increasingly challenged by downturns in economic growth, a growing perception of the evils of poverty, unemployment and relative deprivation present within modern industrial cities, and the agitation of organized labor. The ideal of the self-made individual, who through hard work and talent could make his or her place in the world, seemed increasingly implausible.

A major political reaction against the changes introduced by industrialization and laissez-faire capitalism came from conservatives concerned about social balance, although socialism later became a more important force for change and reform. Some Victorian writers—including Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, and Matthew Arnold—became early influential critics of social injustice.

Stuart_Mill_G_F_Watts

John Stuart Mill contributed enormously to liberal thought by combining elements of classical liberalism with what eventually became known as the new liberalism. Mill’s 1859 On Liberty addressed the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. He gave an impassioned defense of free speech, arguing that free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. Mill defined “social liberty” as protection from “the tyranny of political rulers.” He introduced a number of different concepts of the form tyranny can take, referred to as social tyranny, and tyranny of the majority respectively. Social liberty meant limits on the ruler’s power through obtaining recognition of political liberties or rights and by the establishment of a system of “constitutional checks.”

However, although Mill’s initial economic philosophy supported free markets and argued that progressive taxation penalized those who worked harder, he later altered his views toward a more socialist bent, adding chapters to his Principles of Political Economy in defense of a socialist outlook, and defending some socialist causes, including the radical proposal that the whole wage system be abolished in favor of a co-operative wage system.

Another early liberal convert to greater government intervention was Thomas Hill Green. Green regarded the national state as legitimate only to the extent that it upholds a system of rights and obligations that is most likely to foster individual self-realization.

This strand began to coalesce into the social liberalism movement at the turn of the twentieth century in Britain. The New Liberals, which included intellectuals like L.T. Hobhouse, and John A. Hobson, saw individual liberty as something achievable only under favorable social and economic circumstances. In their view, the poverty, squalor, and ignorance in which many people lived made it impossible for freedom and individuality to flourish. New Liberals believed that these conditions could be ameliorated only through collective action coordinated by a strong, welfare-oriented, and interventionist state.

The People’s Budget of 1909, championed by David Lloyd George and fellow liberal Winston Churchill, introduced unprecedented taxes on the wealthy in Britain and radical social welfare programs to the country’s policies. It was the first budget with the expressed intent of redistributing wealth among the public.

Liberalism, 9

Classical liberalism

The development into maturity of classical liberalism took place before and after the French Revolution in Britain, and was based on the following core concepts: classical economics, free trade, laissez-faire government with minimal intervention and taxation and a balanced budget. Classical liberals were committed to individualism, liberty and equal rights. The primary intellectual influences on 19th century liberal trends were those of Adam Smith and the classical economists, and Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

adam-smith

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, was to provide most of the ideas of economics, at least until the publication of J. S. Mill’s Principles in 1848. Smith addressed the motivation for economic activity, the causes of prices and the distribution of wealth, and the policies the state should follow in order to maximize wealth.

Smith wrote that as long as supply, demand, prices, and competition were left free of government regulation, the pursuit of material self-interest, rather than altruism, would maximize the wealth of a society through profit-driven production of goods and services. An “invisible hand” directed individuals and firms to work toward the nation’s good as an unintended consequence of efforts to maximize their own gain. This provided a moral justification for the accumulation of wealth, which had previously been viewed by some as sinful.

His main emphasis was on the benefit of free internal and international trade, which he thought could increase wealth through specialization in production. He also opposed restrictive trade preferences, state grants of monopolies, and employers’ organizations and trade unions. Government should be limited to defense, public works and the administration of justice, financed by taxes based on income. Smith was one of the progenitors of the idea, which was long central to classical liberalism and has resurfaced in the globalization literature of the later 20th and early 21st centuries, that free trade promotes peace.

Jeremy_Bentham

Utilitarianism provided the political justification for the implementation of economic liberalism by British governments, which was to dominate economic policy from the 1830s. Although utilitarianism prompted legislative and administrative reform and John Stuart Mill’s later writings on the subject foreshadowed the welfare state, it was mainly used as a justification for laissez-faire. The central concept of utilitarianism, which was developed by Jeremy Bentham, was that public policy should seek to provide “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”. While this could be interpreted as a justification for state action to reduce poverty, it was used by classical liberals to justify inaction with the argument that the net benefit to all individuals would be higher. His philosophy proved to be extremely influential on government policy and led to increased Benthamite attempts at government social control, including Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police, prison reforms, the workhouses and asylums for the mentally ill.

The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 was a watershed moment and encapsulated the triumph of free trade and liberal economics. The Anti-Corn Law League brought together a coalition of liberal and radical groups in support of free trade under the leadership of Richard Cobden and John Bright, who opposed militarism and public expenditure. Their policies of low public expenditure and low taxation were later adopted by the liberal chancellor of the exchequer and later prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone. Although British classical liberals aspired to a minimum of state activity, the passage of the Factory Acts in the early 19th century which involved government interference in the economy met with their approval.

On Buddha & Evola

Or:

“The existence of Buddhism
should scare the White Nationalists
who can’t think of anything but Jews”

by Cesar Tort


In a previous post I talked about my golden rule: never read those authors or philosophers who write in obscure prose.
I confess that, in the past, when I was researching the pseudoscience called psychiatry, I had to read a book of one of those authors who deliberately and unnecessarily wrote in extremely opaque prose. I refer to Michel Foucault’s analysis of how the “mental health” movement was launched after an edict of Louis XIV that created, under the umbrella name of “General Hospital,” a prison in Paris for people who had not broken any law. While I found historical data in Foucault’s Madness and Civilization germane to my investigation, I also found much tasteless sludge in his text from a strictly literary, didactic viewpoint.

I mention this only to show that I can decipher opaque prose if I wish. But only in an exceptional case, where no other historical works on the same subject were available, I dared to break my rule.

turgid book

Such was not the case when I tried to read Julius Evola’s Metaphysics of Sex. After a few pages I realized that it was written deliberately in opaque prose and, since I was not researching the subject to write a book (as was the case of my study of psychiatry), my copy of Evola’s book ended in the trash can.

This illustrates my extreme passion for crystal-clear and distinct language, and my loathsome even for the great minds of Western thought that refuse to write in readable prose. In fact, what I liked the most in Leszek Kolakowski’s monumental, three-volume deconstruction of Marxism was the passage where he said that every metaphysical insight of Hegel had already been written before him, and in much clearer language. Kolakowski’s honest sentence contrasted sharply with Hans Küng’s dishonest appraisal of Hegel in a heavy treatise of my library that, to date, has escaped the trash can, The Incarnation of God: An Introduction to Hegel’s Theological Thought as Prolegomena to a Future Christology where Küng dishonestly claims that Hegel wrote his philosophy in pristine prose!

One of my favorite books is Matthew Stewart’s The Truth About Everything: An Irreverent History of Philosophy. Stewart goes as far as trying to debunk almost the entire field of philosophy, partly for the specious use of obscure prose in many of the works of the greatest thinkers. Just for the record, of the Western philosophical canon I only like Augustine’s Confessions and Nietzsche’s Ecce homo in spite of the fact that both autobiographers became mad; Voltaire’s Candide, Schopenhauer’s Essays and Aphorisms and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, which I still like because free speech has now been curtailed in Mill’s native country. All of these works were written in clear prose. The Truth About Everything corroborated what I already knew but was afraid to say aloud. I would like to explain this book’s thesis not by quoting Stewart but by pointing out to something that I have figured out by myself.

The accepted view about Kant’s metaphysics is that it’s too complex and profound for the layman to understand. Those who study the snares of language, on the other hand, point out that Confucius detected the trick of using obscure language to pose as a profound metaphysician. Unlike the Chinese, the West hasn’t learned to detect this trick, and even today white nationalist sites such as Counter-Currents have presented obfuscating authors as deep thinkers (Alex Dugin, only the most recent case). A single example will suffice: If the interpretation of the universities is right, that is to say, if philosophers are so profound that only a few can grasp their ideas, how do you explain that Kant, the philosopher who introduced such obscurantism into the modern West, has been interpreted in dramatically different ways by such giants as Schopenhauer and Heidegger?

The answer is obvious. The goal of gratuitously obscuring language is that, by the heaviest and densest imaginable screens of smoke thus lifted, the philosopher’s System becomes impregnable to criticism. For instance, after honest psychologists found fatal flaws in Sigmund Freud’s edifice, the orthodox Freudian Jacques Lacan reacted by translating all of Freud’s claims, written in clear German prose, to an opaque French that only the initiate could understand. But of course: we don’t need to spend precious time trying to decipher the Ecrits of the charlatan Lacan to refute Freud. Just go directly to Freud’s original texts!

Today Counter-Currents published an erudite Evola essay on Buddhism, where Evola tries to spare the founder of Buddhism from any criticism from the Right by claiming that his philosophy was not effeminate like today’s liberals, but virile. But Evola represents exactly what is wrong with complex philosophizing that moved me to put one of his books into the trash can. In his essay published at C-C he even claims that Zen stands for a return to the original Buddhism, something that is patently untrue (see below). If you ask exactly what is Evola leaving out I would say that Buddhism contained the seeds of race treason for the Aryans in India. In a recent comment at this blog, Stubbs said:

Our race has had some really bad ideas over the ages: Alexander the Great telling all his soldiers to miscegenate, the Roman Empire making “citizens” out of aliens, the Aryan prince who founded Buddhism abolishing the caste system, White rulers in Egypt and Persia letting their countries go dark, not to mention the simple infighting and disorganization that would make our race easy prey for Jews or Muslims [and Mongols I would add]. Frankly, the existence of Buddhism should scare the White Nationalists who can’t think of anything but Jews.

Stubbs is right, and to prove it I have no choice but to debunk one of the most venerated religious icons of the West after the 1960s started to replace Christianity with Oriental cults and New Age nonsense.

In my twenties I read The Three Pillars of Zen and was greatly impressed by the enlightenment experience (“satori”) of a Japanese executive in that book of Philip Kapleau. Since there were no Zen schools in the city where I lived it’s no coincidence that the same month that I became interested in Zen I fell, instead, in the Eschatology cult. Infinite soul odysseys I had to cross through before I stopped seeking my salvation in mysticism, cults or the paranormal. In the remainder of this entry I’ll dwell with some of my conclusions about Buddhism after my long, dark night of the soul was finally over.

Pali is an ancient dialect of India, the equivalent for Buddhists of Latin for Roman Catholics. A text called Tripiṭaka, written in Pali, is the oldest about the life of Buddha.

“Tripiṭaka” means three baskets or divisions called the Pali Canon: Digha Nikaya (Dialogues of the Buddha), Majjhima Nikaya (Sayings of average length) and Samyutta Nikaya (Similar sayings). This “Bible” of Buddhism is formidable: a mountain of literature that secular laymen cannot address as easily as the Torah, the New Testament or the Koran. Fortunately, Wisdom Publications sells a splendid English edition with extensive introductions, summaries of the sutras attributed to Buddha, and hundreds of notes and appendices in three volumes which together consist of more than 4,000 pages. Unlike the extensive Talmud the Pali Canon is, as to abstract ideas, very dense. In addition to abstract teachings it contains interpretations and the Order’s rule attributed to Buddha. The recent translation to English is an invaluable collection for those interested in Buddhism who don’t know Pali. However, since I follow my golden rule the dense psycho-metaphysics in The Long Discourses of The Buddha: a translation of the Digha Nikaya by Maurice Walshe (1995), The Middle Length Discourses of The Buddha: a translation of the Majjhima Nikaya by Bhikkhu Nanamoli (1995), and The Connected Discourses of The Buddha: a translation of the Samyutta Nikaya by Bhikkhu Bodhi (2002) might find a place in my personal library, but I’ll never read them from cover to cover. Never.

Evola did not read them either, since this translation is so recent. But whether we like it or not we have to start from the Pali Canon, aided by modern commentators, to speculate about who might have been the historical Buddha, if he was a historical figure at all. For the moment I must rely on other scholars for what I venture to say below.


The Buddha of dogma

Buddha was born between the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. in a border of what is now Nepal and India (incidentally, a border crossed by one of my brothers in one of his searches for the “spiritual”). This seems to be true story. But legend says that Buddha was conceived when his virginal mother dreamed with a white elephant, which of course brings to mind the gospel’s nativity legends.

Birthplacebuddha

(Birthplace of Siddhatta in Lumbini)

Very few know that the narrative of the gospels of Matthew and Luke about the virginal conception of Jesus is not original. The Tripiṭaka also mentions a sage and a king worshiping the baby Buddha, which appears centuries after in the gospel narrative of the Magi. Moreover, the texts say that when Buddha was about thirty he suffered temptations by a devil (like Jesus in the desert at the same age) that wanted to prevent his enlightenment. And like the famous Sermon on the Mount of Jesus, Buddha is credited with the famous Sermon of Fire in which he speaks of the passions and human deceit (“Everything is on fire …”).

Like Jesus, Buddha is regarded by tradition as a man of extraordinary compassion for the downcast, and believers also attribute to him diverse miracles, like the Enlightened One having walked on the sea and calmed storms; stopped a plague in a village; more spectacular levitations than the ones attributed to Catholic saints, and even bilocations of his body. Like the Christian gospel, when Buddha died tradition says that the earth trembled and that the light of heaven was darkened. New Testament scholar Randel Helms suspects that the narrative of Jesus walking on the sea was modeled on Buddhist legends.

The Pali Canon claims that at thirty-five Buddha attained enlightenment; that the man reached the level of awakening from a world of illusion and thus became a “buddha” (legend speaks of previous Buddhas, like the Buddha Amida or the Buddha Kakusandha, but according to scholarship they are not historical figures). It is fascinating to compare the oldest and concise narrative of Buddha’s enlightenment with the legends about the same event, developed in much more recent types of Buddhism, like the Japanese Zen. But before doing it let’s think of the development of the Easter story in the New Testament.

The earliest New Testament writing, the epistles of Paul, do not talk of empty tombs, appearances of the risen Jesus, or the Ascension: they are only tortuous proclamations of faith without colorful resurrection narratives.

The Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the canonical gospels, speaks for the first time of the empty tomb but no Ascension or postmortem appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples.

Matthew and Luke do talk about the apparitions, but Matthew omits Jesus’ Ascension into heaven.

Luke’s Acts mention the ascension but the theological type of Christology like “In the beginning was the Word…” was not yet developed.

Only in the last of the gospels to be written, the gospel of John, appears a developed Christology interwoven with other narratives about Jesus.

For the critical reader it is obvious that the writers of the New Testament added layer after layer of inspiring legends to a more primordial tale. And if the resurrection is the top event in Christianity, the Buddha’s enlightenment after his last meditation under the Bo tree is the maximum event for Buddhism. The story that conquered my imagination about the Buddha when I just left behind my teens was precisely the experience of the satori, or enlightenment, when he saw the planet Venus in the morning after his final session under the tree. “Wonder of wonders!” the Buddha said aloud. “Intrinsically all living beings are buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this.”

The mistake I made at twenty was taking for real the late and extremely elaborated narratives about the Buddha’s enlightenment: the story told by Yasutani-roshi in The Three Pillars of Zen. At that time I could not think as modern historians do: study the oldest texts if you want to speculate about what might have happened in history. However, had I read the new, most scholarly edition of the Tripiṭaka instead of The Three Pillars of Zen, no numinous spirit would have awakened in my mind, a spirit sparked by my reading the words of the roshi.

Once “enlightened,” the official story goes, Buddha’s mission was to teach the dharma to mankind and he delivered his first sermon. Rewording some later texts, the starting point of his teaching seems to be something like this: “Here is the sacred truth of suffering. Birth is suffering, aging is suffering… Here is the truth about the origin of suffering: desire.” And the way to suppress human suffering involves an austere life, a happy golden mean between the ruthless asceticism that the saint practiced and the worldly life. The eightfold path or “path to liberation” leads to nirvana.


The Siddhatta of history?

This eightfold path suggests that Buddha taught a kind of what Scientologists call “OT levels.” We could see the arhats or “perfected ones” as the “clears” or “liberated” in Ronald Hubbard’s psycho-babble cult. The Tripiṭaka also says that the five ascetics who had departed him then recognized the Buddha, underwent their “path to liberation” and reached the level of arhats. Buddha would be the leader of a sect with half hundred arhats or perfected men.

My comparison to modern, destructive cults may sound pretty irreverent, but that’s precisely what the irreverent history of Western philosophy by Matthew Stewart taught me. If we can mock the Wisdom of the West, why aren’t we allowed to mock the Wisdom of the East too?

White nationalist circles are fond of saying that Buddha was ethnically Aryan. But “The Buddha” is a title similar to “The Christ” of Christians to designate the man Jesus, or “The Prophet” of Muslims to refer to Mohammed. Unlike Jesus or Mohammed, the stories about Buddha were written several centuries after his death. If we want to speculate from such late legends, we must start with the name itself. As I never call “Christ” the human Jesus because I’m not Christian, from this line on I won’t call “Buddha” the human Siddhatta because I’m not Buddhist.

Sidhartha Gautama is Sanskrit for Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, the language that perhaps the founder of the religion spoke. If he existed he would have been called “Siddhatta” (Gotama was the name of his father). A person who has reached the “buddha” level simply means that he is an “enlightened one,” as the word Christ means “anointed one” in Greek (i.e., the messiah).

Like the charlatan Hubbard, who obscured his message with a mountain of unnecessary neologisms for terms already known in previous esoteric movements, Siddhatta was not original. Alara Kalama, his first teacher, had told Siddhatta that he, Siddhatta’s master, had reached “the sphere of nothing,” and his second teacher taught him to achieve “the sphere without perception and without no perception.” Whatever they told him in real life, these cryptic thoughts would inspire Siddhatta about his idea of the nirvana. Like Hubbard, all he did was to change the names and claim that “nirvana” was a plane superior to our own plane of existence.

After dropping his first teachers, and like the sanctimonious Christians of later centuries, it seems that Siddhatta practiced severe asceticism, increasingly eating less rice. Later artistic representations depict the anorexic Siddhatta with the skin of his stomach appearing almost next to his spine. The ancient text Majjhima Nikaya puts in Siddhatta’s mouth these words: “My buttocks seem wild ox hoof.” Siddhatta felt the danger of dying and accepted milk and rice offered by a peasant girl. He recovered gradually and his first disciples abandoned him after he quitted ascetics. Legend tells us that after surpassing the temptations of the devil, in his meditation sessions Siddhatta retrieved the memories of his past existences. (The founder of another religion, Hubbard, also claimed having remembered his past lives.)

Whether these stories were historical or not, may I remind my readers the most elementary rules of logic. Clearly, if reincarnation does not exist, both Hinduism and Buddhism are based on deception. Similarly, if Yahweh didn’t speak to Moses at Sinai, Judaism is based on a lie. If Jesus was not resurrected, Christianity is based on a lie. And if the angel did not speak to Muhammad, Islam is based on a lie. The only difference with the doctrine of reincarnation is that it was not original of Siddhatta: it preceded him within the metaphysical tradition of his homeland. But the postmodern psyche is shaped so that the mere fact that such an ancient doctrine enjoys wide acceptance makes it respectable.

Siddhatta visited the house of his father. Legend tells us that Yasodhara, the wife Siddhatta had abandoned, fell under his feet. Siddhatta’s father asked his son to establish the rule that no child could be ordered monk of the new religion, unless he obtained permission of his father. Siddhatta nodded. If the anecdote is historical it proves that the now “enlightened” man allowed himself to be treated like a child, again.

Sarnath

(Dhâmek Stûpa in Sârnâth, India, site of the first teaching of Siddhatta)

In Jetavana Siddhatta founded a famous monastery which became his headquarters and where he gave his sermons. The movement grew and soon many monasteries were founded in the major towns of the valley of Ganges. The Hindus believed that Siddhatta had a special trick for galvanic attraction. As Mother Teresa would later do also in India, Siddhatta visited the patients: a PR trick we see even in the careers of politicians during election campaigns.

Siddhatta died of old age, and it is instructive to know that before dying he became seriously ill. Similar to what the leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, said after his guru died in 1986—that Hubbard voluntarily got rid of his body—, Siddhatta’s followers believe that he passed away voluntarily. He was cremated; his relics divided to the satisfaction of the various groups.

The central Buddhist doctrine, that suffering is caused by attachment to life, is a typical oriental escape from Life. After the magnificent sculptures in classical times of young Aryan bodies, the Eastern spirit of apathy and resignation (see my recent quote of Will Durant at Occidental Dissent) was reflected in Greek art through sculptures of sick old men. What a difference with the self-image of the Hellenes when Athens was at its height!

The other Siddhatta doctrine, that overcoming worldly attachment overcomes suffering, is the perfect corollary of such a pessimistic worldview. It is surprising that the religions that arose on dry soil, like Judaism and Christianity, have fantasized about a utopian future while moist religions, such as Buddhism and other Indian cults, preach the annihilation of the desire: one of the oldest definitions of nirvana. The central belief of Buddhism is that, if we get rid of attachment, we free ourselves from suffering. From this standpoint you will understand why devout Buddhists meditate hour after hour. The object is, to put it in contemporary terms, to turn the ego faculty off, an ego from which all suffering is derived.

Anyone who believes that we must cast out our desires would do well to shoot himself: the most direct way to destroy the ego, and forever. Siddhatta’s followers would object because of their sacred belief in the reincarnation chain, which condemns the suicidal individual to another, and probably worse, life. I remember how I was disappointed by the author of The Three Pillars of Zen while reading another of his books in a bookstore. The now “roshi-Kapleau” condemned both suicide and euthanasia. But the concept of nirvana is much like what we may experience after death: going nowhere, as we were before birth.

The painful way that the historical Siddhatta died contrasts with the serene depictions in Buddhist art. This is why in this post I did not reproduce any artistic iconography of India’s saint. They are all flawed and depict the Buddha of dogma, not the Siddhatta of history. More fundamental is the fact that the doctrine of reincarnation, as understood by Hinduists, Buddhists, Scientologists and many New Agers, is cowardly and un-Aryan.

Pace Evola I see no Übermensch in Siddhatta or in early Buddhism.