Liberalism, 14


Liberalism—both as a political current and an intellectual tradition—is mostly a modern phenomenon that started in the 17th century, although some liberal philosophical ideas had precursors in classical antiquity.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius praised “the idea of a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed”.

Scholars have also recognized a number of principles familiar to contemporary liberals in the works of several Sophists and in the Funeral Oration by Pericles.

Liberal philosophy symbolizes an extensive intellectual tradition that has examined and popularized some of the most important and controversial principles of the modern world. Its immense scholarly and academic output has been characterized as containing “richness and diversity,” but that diversity often has meant that liberalism comes in different formulations and presents a challenge to anyone looking for a clear definition.

Published in: on September 9, 2015 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

JVLIAN excerpts – IX

“Why were you so ungrateful to our gods
as to desert them for the Jews?”

—Julian, addressing the Christians


The Memoir of Julian Augustus

I liked the Armenian eunuch Eutherius as much as I disliked Nicocles. Eutherius taught me court ceremonial three times a week. He was a grave man of natural dignity who did not look or sound like a eunuch. His beard was normal. His voice was low. He had been cut at the age of twenty, so he had known what it was to be a man. He once told me in grisly detail how he had almost died during the operation, “from loss of blood, because the older you are, the more dangerous the operation is. But I have been happy. I have had an interesting life. And there is something to be said for not wasting one’s time in pursuit of sexual pleasure.” But though this was true of Eutherius, it was not true of all eunuchs, especially those at the palace. Despite their incapacity, eunuchs are capable of sexual activity, as I one day witnessed, in a scene I shall describe in its proper place.

Shortly after New Year 349 Eusebius agreed to let me go to Nicomedia on condition that I not attend the lectures of Libanius. As Nicocles put it, “Just as we protect our young from those who suffer from the fever, so we must protect them from dangerous ideas, not to mention poor rhetoric. As stylist, Libanius has a tendency to facetiousness which you would find most boring. As philosopher, he is dangerously committed to the foolish past.” To make sure that I would not cheat, Ecebolius was ordered to accompany me to Nicomedia.

Ecebolius and I arrived at Nicomedia in February 349. In enjoyed myself hugely that winter. I attended lectures. I listened to skilled Sophists debate. I met students of my own age. This was not always an easy matter, for they were terrified of me, while I hardly knew how to behave with them.

Oribasius took delight in showing me his city. He knew my interest in temples (though I was not yet consciously a Hellenist), and we spent several days prowling through the deserted temples on the acropolis and across the Selinos River, which divides the city. Even then, I was stuck by the sadness of once holy buildings now empty save for spiders and scorpions. Only the temple of Asklepion was kept up, and that was because the Asklepion is the center of the intellectual life of the city. It is a large enclave containing theatre, library, gymnasium, porticoes, gardens, and of course the circular temple to the god himself. Most of the buildings date from two centuries ago, when architecture was at its most splendid.

Priscus: From what I gather, Julian in those days was a highly intelligent youth who might have been “captured” for true philosophy. After all, he enjoyed learning. He was good at debate. Properly educated, he might have been another Porphyry or, taking into account his unfortunate birth, another Marcus Aurelius. But Maximus got to him first and exploited his one flaw: the craving for the vague and the incomprehensible which is essentially Asiatic. It is certainly not Greek, even though we Greeks are in a noticeable intellectual decline. Did you know that thanks to the presence of so many foreign students in Athens, our people no longer speak pure Attic but a sort of argot, imprecise and ugly?

Yet despite the barbarism which is slowly extinguishing “the light of the world,” we Athenians still pride ourselves on being able to see things as they are. Show us a stone and we see a stone, not the universe. But like so many others nowadays, poor Julian wanted to believe that man’s life is profoundly more significant than it is. His sickness was the sickness of our age. We want so much not to be extinguished at the end that we will go to any length to make conjurer-tricks for one another simply to obscure the bitter, secret knowledge that it is our fate not to be. If Maximus hadn’t stolen Julian to us, the bishops would have got him. I am sure of that. At heart he was a Christian mystic gone wrong.

Julian Augustus

“With the worship of the dead Jew, the poetry ceased. The Christians wish to replace our beautiful legends with the police record of a reformed Jewish rabbi. Out of this unlikely material they hope to make a final synthesis of all the religions ever known. They now appropriate our feast days. They transform local deities into saints. They borrow from our mystery rites, particularly those of Mithras. The priests of Mithras are called ‘fathers.’ So the Christians call their priests ‘fathers.’ They even imitate the tonsure, hoping to impress new converts with the familiar trappings of an older cult. Now they have started to call the Nazarene ‘savior’ and ‘healer.’ Why? Because one of the most beloved of our gods is Asklepios, whom we call ‘savior’ or ‘healer.’”

“But there is nothing in Mithras to equal the Christian mystery.” I argued for the devil. “What of the Eucharist, the taking of the bread and wine, when Christ said, ‘He who eats of my body and drinks of my blood shall have eternal life.’”

Maximus smiled. “I betray no secret of Mithras when I tell you that we, too, partake of a symbolic meal, recalling the words of the Persian prophet Zarathustra, who said to those who worshiped the One God—and Mithras, ‘He who eats of my body and drinks of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall know salvation.’ That was spoken six centuries before the birth of the Nazarene.”

I was stunned. “Zarathustra was a man…?”

“A prophet. He was stuck down in a temple by enemies. As he lay dying, he said, ‘May God forgive you even as I do.’ No, there is nothing sacred to us that the Galileans have not stolen. The main task of their innumerable councils is to try to make sense of all their borrowings. I don’t envy them.”

Priscus: Interesting to observe Maximus in action.

There is now no doubt in my mind that at this point in Julian’s life almost any of the mystery cults would have got him free of Christianity. He was eager to make the break. Yet it is hard to say quite why, since his mind tended to magic and superstition in precisely the same way the Christian mindset does. Of course, he claimed that Bishop George’s partisanship disgusted him as a boy, and that Porphyry and Plotinus opened his eyes to the absurdity of the Christian claims.

Well and good. But then why turn to something equally absurd? Granted, no educated man can accept the idea of a Jewish rebel as god. But having rejected that myth, how can one then believe that the Persian hero-god Mithras was born of light striking rock, on December 25th, with shepherds watching his birth? (I am told that the Christians have just added those shepherds to the birth of Jesus.)

Of course I am sympathetic to him. He dealt the Christians some good blows and that delighted me. But I cannot sympathize with his fear of extinction. Why is it so important to continue after death? I am in no hurry to depart. But I look on nothing as just that: no thing. How can one fear no thing?

Libanius: Like Julian, I was admitted to the Mithraic rites during my student days. But I had never been a Christian, so I was not making a dramatic and dangerous break with the world I belonged to. However, for Julian it was a brave thing to do. Had Constantius learned of what he had done, it might have cost him his life. Fortunately, Maximus managed the affair so skillfully that Constantius never knew that at the age of nineteen his cousin ceased to be a Christian, in a cave beneath Mount Pion.

Published in: on June 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Germanics and Romans

Celtic buffer and Tacitus

Five decisive things

Alaric and the Fall of Rome

Christianity Spreads

The toll of Judeo-Christianity


Germanic People and the Romans (2)

Excerpted from the 15th and 16th articles of William Pierce’s “Who We Are: a Series of Articles on the History of the White Race”:

The philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, also writing in the first century, shared Tacitus’ respect for the Germans’ martial qualities: “Who are braver than the Germans? Who more impetuous in the charge? Who fonder of arms, in the use of which they are born and nourished, which are their only care?”

Caesar, Tacitus, and other writers also described other attributes of the Germans and various aspects of their lives: their shrines, like those of the Celts and the Balts, were in sacred groves, open to the sky; their family life (in Roman eyes) was remarkably virtuous, although the German predilection for strong drink and games of chance must have been sorely trying to wives; they were extraordinarily hospitable to strangers and fiercely resentful of any infringements on their own rights and freedoms; each man jealously guarded his honor, and a liar was held in worse repute than a murderer; usury and prostitution were unknown among them.

[Here Pierce recounts the clash between the Germanics and the Romans under Caesar, Augustus and Tiberius. Then he adds:]

Five Decisive Things

During the 401 years between Hermann’s victory in the Teutoburger Forest and the sacking of the city of Rome by a German army in August 410, a great many things of historical importance occurred. We will be able to look at only a few of them in detail, however; we do not want to be distracted from our history of the race by the minutiae of political history, no matter how important.

Five things which happened or were ongoing during this period stand out as decisive, from a racial viewpoint. First, there was the continued decadence of the Romans, a matter we have already treated. Second, there was the growing Germanization of the Roman army. Third, there was the migration of the Goths from their home in Scandinavia back to the ancient Indo-European homeland in southern Russia. Fourth, there was the invasion of Europe by a non-White horde from the Far East: the Huns. And fifth, there was the final undermining of Roman strength by the spread of a new religion from the Levant—an Oriental religion of pacifism and egalitarianism which also began to have an effect on the Germans.

When Marcus Aurelius, the last Roman emperor able to inspire any real fear or respect in the Germans, tried to recruit troops to defend Rome’s Danubian border in 168, not even the threat of death induced Italians to enlist in the legions. The emperor finally resorted to conscripting all of Rome’s gladiators, most of whom were Celtic or German prisoners of war, into the army, whereupon the Roman masses, as addicted to their spectator sports as America’s masses are to their TV, threatened insurrection. “He deprives us of our amusements,” the populace cried out in anger against the emperor, “in order to make us philosophers like himself.” As they had become less martial, the Romans—or, rather, the Jews, Syrians, Egyptians and debased Greeks of the Empire who unworthily bore that once-honorable name—had grown ever more fond of the cruel blood sports of the Colosseum.

All-Volunteer Army

Until the end of the third century law prohibited the enlistment of foreigners in the Roman army. Although the law was often violated, it resulted in most of Rome’s soldiers being recruited from among the Celts and Germans of the conquered provinces during a period of about 150 years. By the time of Constantine not even the provinces could provide enough soldiers to defend the degenerate Roman Empire, and the greatest source of military manpower became the free Germans, who enlisted for purely mercenary motives.

By the middle of the fourth century, the Roman army was Roman in name only. Germans not only filled the ranks, but most of the officers, up to the highest levels of command, were Germans as well. Thus, the more or less continual state of war which existed between the free Germans and the Roman Empire during the third, fourth, and fifth centuries—up until 476, when the last Roman emperor was deposed and banished and a German leader ruled Italy as king—was not fought between Germans and Romans, but between Germans on the one side and Germans on the other.

Gold for Blood

The Romans bought their protection instead of fighting for it. Gold paid for blood for more than 200 years, but in the end all their money and their civilized cleverness were not enough.

If the Germans could have added a stronger sense of racial solidarity to their other virtues, they could have put an end to the sewer that was Rome 200 or even 300 years sooner than they did. They would not only have avoided spilling torrents of their own blood, but they could have stamped out a source of poison that, allowed to continue festering, ultimately would infect them.

Declining Rome’s many wars with the Germans involved a number of tribes. The incursions across the Danube into Pannonia that Marcus Aurelius bloodily repulsed in the second century were by tribes confederated with the Marcomanni, for example. During the third and fourth centuries the Franks raided across the Rhine into Gaul, and the Saxons harassed the coasts of that country and Britain. But it was the Goths above all the others who wrote the final chapters of the struggle between Germany and Rome.

Gothic Victory

After several skirmishes between Goths and Romans along the lower Danube, in the year 251 the Goths inflicted the worst defeat on the Romans they had suffered since the Hermannschlacht, annihilating a Roman army and killing its commander, the emperor Decius.

Within two more decades Rome had abandoned all claim to Dacia, and the province which Trajan had conquered 150 years earlier was thenceforth firmly in German hands, with the Danube once again the border between Rome and Germany.

White suicide since Alexander (2)

A recent discussion in another thread moves me to reproduce the following quotation of Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. Although Durant was almost the opposite of a racialist historian, what he says at the beginning of the chapter “From Aristotle to the Renaissance” is germane to understand why the policies that Alexander promoted were poisonous for the still adolescent Greek psyche:


Sparta blockaded and defeated Athens towards the close of the fifth century b. c, political supremacy passed from the mother of Greek philosophy and art, and the vigor and independence of the Athenian mind decayed.

When, in 399 b. c, Socrates was put to death, the soul of Athens died with him, lingering only in his proud pupil, Plato. And when Philip of Macedon defeated the Athenians at Chaeronea in 338 b. c, and Alexander burned the great city of Thebes to the ground three years later, even the ostentatious sparing of Pindar’s home could not cover up the fact that Athenian independence, in government and in thought, was irrevocably destroyed.

The domination of Greek philosophy by the Macedonian Aristotle mirrored the political subjection of Greece by the virile and younger peoples of the north. The death of Alexander (323 b. c.) quickened this process of decay. The boy-emperor, barbarian though he remained after all of Aristotle’s tutoring, had yet learned to revere the rich culture of Greece, and had dreamed of spreading that culture through the Orient in the wake of his victorious armies. The development of Greek commerce, and the multiplication of Greek trading posts throughout Asia Minor, had provided an economic basis for the unification of this region as part of an Hellenic empire; and Alexander hoped that from these busy stations Greek thought, as well as Greek goods, would radiate and conquer.

But he had underrated the inertia and resistance of the Oriental mind, and the mass and depth of Oriental culture. It was only a youthful fancy, after all, to suppose that so immature and unstable a civilization as that of Greece could be imposed upon a civilization immeasurably more widespread, and rooted in the most venerable traditions.

The quantity of Asia proved too much for the quality of Greece. Alexander himself, in the hour of his triumph, was conquered by the soul of the East; he married (among several ladies) the daughter of Darius; he adopted the Persian diadem and robe of state; he introduced into Europe the Oriental notion of the divine right of kings; and at last he astonished a sceptic Greece by announcing, in magnificent Eastern style, that he was a god. Greece laughed; and Alexander drank himself to death.

This subtle infusion of an Asiatic soul into the wearied body of the master Greek was followed rapidly by the pouring of Oriental cults and faiths into Greece along those very lines of communication which the young conqueror had opened up; the broken dykes let in the ocean of Eastern thought upon the lowlands of the still adolescent European mind. The mystic and superstitious faiths which had taken root among the poorer people of Hellas were reinforced and spread about; and the Oriental spirit of apathy and resignation found a ready soil in decadent and despondent Greece.

The introduction of the Stoic philosophy into Athens by the Phoenician merchant Zeno (about 310 b. c.) was but one of a multitude of Oriental infiltrations. Both Stoicism and Epicureanism—the apathetic acceptance of defeat, and the effort to forget defeat in the arms of pleasure—were theories as to how one might yet be happy though subjugated or enslaved; precisely as the pessimistic Oriental stoicism of Schopenhauer and the despondent epicureanism of Renan were in the nineteenth century the symbols of a shattered Revolution and a broken France. Not that these natural antitheses of ethical theory were quite new to Greece. One finds them in the gloomy Heraclitus and the “laughing philosopher” Democritus; and one sees the pupils of Socrates dividing into Cynics and Cyrenaics under the lead of Antisthenes and Aristippus, and extolling, the one school apathy, the other happiness.

Yet these were even then almost exotic modes of thought: imperial Athens did not take to them. But when Greece had seen Chaeronea in blood and Thebes in ashes, it listened to Diogenes; and when the glory had departed from Athens she was ripe for Zeno and Epicurus.

Zeno built his philosophy of apatheia on a determinism which a later Stoic, Chrysippus, found it hard to distinguish from Oriental fatalism. As Schopenhauer deemed it useless for the individual will to fight the universal will, so the Stoic argued that philosophic indifference was the only reasonable attitude to a life in which the struggle for existence is so unfairly doomed to inevitable defeat. If victory is quite impossible it should be scorned. The secret of peace is not to make our achievements equal to our desires, but to lower our desires to the level of our achievements. “If what you have seems insufficient to you,” said the Roman Stoic Seneca (d. 65 a. d.), “then, though you possess the world, you will yet be miserable.” Such a principle cried out to heaven for its opposite, and Epicurus, though himself as Stoic in life as Zeno, supplied it. Epicurus, says Fenelon, “bought a fair garden, which he tilled himself. There it was he set up his school, and there he lived a gentle and agreeable life with his disciples, whom he taught as he walked and worked. He was gentle and affable to all men. He held there was nothing nobler than to apply one’s self to philosophy.” His starting point of conviction that apathy is impossible, and that pleasure—though not necessarily sensual pleasure—is the only conceivable, and quite legitimate, end of life and action.

Epicurus, then, is no epicurean; he exalts the joys of intellect rather than those of sense; he warns against pleasures that excite and disturb the soul which they should rather quiet and appease. In the end he proposes to seek not pleasure in its usual sense, but ataraxia—tranquillity, equanimity, repose of mind; all of which trembles on the verge of Zeno’s “apathy.”

The Romans, coming to despoil Hellas in 146 b. c, found these rival schools dividing the philosophic field; and having neither leisure nor subtlety for speculation themselves, brought back these philosophies with their other spoils to Rome. Great organizers, as much as inevitable slaves, tend to stoic moods: it is difficult to be either master or servant if one is sensitive. So such philosophy as Rome had was mostly of Zeno’s school, whether in Marcus Aurelius the emperor or in Epictetus the slave; and even Lucretius talked epicureanism stoically (like Heine’s Englishman taking his pleasures sadly), and concluded his stern gospel of pleasure by committing suicide. His noble epic “On the Nature of Things,” follows Epicurus in damning pleasure with faint praise.

Nations, too, like individuals, slowly grow and surely die. In the face of warfare and inevitable death, there is no wisdom but in ataraxia, —“to look on all things with a mind at peace.” Here, clearly, the old pagan joy of life is gone, and an almost exotic spirit touches a broken lyre.

Imagine the exhilarating optimism of explicit Stoics like Aurelius or Epictetus. Nothing in all literature is so depressing as the Dissertations of the Slave, unless it be the Meditations of the emperor. “Seek not to have things happen as you choose them, but rather choose that they should happen as they do; and you shall live prosperously.” No doubt one can in this manner dictate the future, and play royal highness to the universe.

Story has it that Epictetus’ master, who treated him with consistent cruelty, one day took to twisting Epictetus’ leg to pass the time away. “If you go on,” said Epictetus calmly, “you will break my leg.” The master went on, and the leg was broken. “Did I not tell you,” Epictetus observed mildly, “that you would break my leg?” Yet there is a certain mystic nobility in this philosophy, as in the quiet courage of some Dostoievskian pacifist. “Never in any case say, I have lost such a thing; but, I have returned it. Is thy child dead?—it is returned. Is thy wife dead?—she is returned. Art thou deprived of thy estate?— is not this also returned?”

In such passages we feel the proximity of Christianity and its dauntless martyrs. In Epictetus the Greco-Roman soul has lost its paganism, and is ready for a new faith. His book had the distinction of being adopted as a religious manual by the early Christian Church. From these Dissertations and Aurelius’ Meditations there is but a step to The Imitation of Christ.

Meanwhile the historical background was melting into newer scenes. There is a remarkable passage in Lucretius which describes the decay of agriculture in the Roman state, and attributes it to the exhaustion of the soil. Whatever the cause, the wealth of Rome passed into poverty, the organization into disintegration, the power and pride into decadence and apathy. Cities faded back into the undistinguished hinterland; the roads fell into disrepair and no longer hummed with trade; the small families of the educated Romans were outbred by the vigorous and untutored German stocks that crept, year after year, across the frontier; pagan culture yielded to Oriental cults; and almost imperceptibly the Empire passed into the Papacy.


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