ON DUGIN’S ‘METAPHYSICS OF NATIONAL BOLSHEVISM’

Dugins’s ‘Metaphysics of National Bolshevism’ (1966) – a Philosophical Critique

(see also www.nationalbolshevism.org )

Introduction

In his book on ‘The Knights Templar of the Proletariat’(1966) and other writings Aleksandr Dugin provided valuable and important new insights into the history of National Bolshevism and a valuable impulse toward its renewal as an expression of a politics of “radical mysticism”. Unfortunately however, his attempt at a definition of the metaphysical foundations of National Bolshevism is, I believe, highly questionable – if not dangerously misleading in its philosophical superficiality. Indeed it could be said to be an extreme example of what he himself writes about Julius Evola – namely “that there is a certain discrepancy between his metaphysical contradictions and political convictions”. In the case of Dugin the “discrepancy” in his 1966 book is vast. That is not to say that it may not have diminished over time and as his worldview has evolved – indeed there is evidence of this – but then the question remains as to the clarity and healthiness of the direction that his metaphysical and political convictions have taken since the mid-nineties.

Falling for the Big Lie of Capitalist ‘Individualism’

Writing on ‘The Metaphysics of National Bolshevism’ in 1966, Dugin defines National Bolshevism as an enemy – indeed THE enemy – of ‘The Open Society’ in the sense defined by Karl Popper in his book ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’.

The most felicitous and full definition of national-bolshevism will be as follows: “National-bolshevism is a super-ideology, common for all open society enemies”. Not just one of the hostile to such society ideologies, but it is exactly its full conscious, total and natural antithesis.”

In what way however does Dugin understand Nat-Bol as the enemy of ‘the open society’? His answer is clear:

“National-bolshevism is a kind of an ideology, which is built on the full and radical denial of the individual and his central role.”

This is Dugin’s first major and profound error. For in identifying Nat-Bol with a “full and radical denial of the individual” he does not negate but rather colludes with Popper’s worldview, offering a mere mirror image of its metaphysical foundations – and in particular its false equation of capitalist democracies with ‘open societies’ which allow ‘individuality’ and ‘individualism’ to flower.

Like Popper – but in stark contrast to Marx – Dugin does not in any way properly distinguish capitalist concepts of ‘individuality’ or ‘individualism’ and plain capitalistic egotism on the other.
No one was more aware than Marx of the ‘Big Lie’ that equates capitalism with an authentic flowering of ‘individuality’ – seeing as he did how wage-slavery and the reduction of human labour and time to a purchaseable commodity is in fact the chief obstacle in the way of human beings fulfilling their individual creative potentials (just as capitalist consumerism also reduce individuality to identification with and ownership of branded commodities). Yet it seems that Dugin has fallen for this Big Lie, and ignores the ever-increasing number of young people across the globe whose individuality has ever-less chance of flowering in the open society ruled by the ‘Absolutism of Money’.

What sort of ‘individualism’ is it that condemns the potential (or actual) creative artist, writer, composer, inventor, craftsman, thinker – or even spiritual healer or teacher – to a lifetime of wage-slavery in a menial McJob – and that solely because their individual values, gifts and potentials have no ‘market value’? Clearly it is not anything worthy of the term “individualism” at all – indeed it is that “full and radical denial of individuality” that Dugin wishes to present to us as the metaphysics of Nat-Bol. It is also a negation of true individuality by an ‘Absolute’ –not the sort of ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ Absolute that Dugin wishes to imply by this term but the Absolutism of Money – what Dugin himself calls Mammonism, acknowledging that Marx “… genially identified the maximum Absolute self-alienation of Capital, the social formation which actively subjected the Europe contemporary to him”. In this context, one wonders how Dugin could possibly explain, except as some bizarre error, Marx’s explicit description of communism – and that in ‘The Communist Manifesto’ itself – as a society in which the “the free development of each [i.e. the individual] is the condition for the free development of all”? Is Marx too merely affirming a form of Popperesque, Western-bourgeois individualism? And if the very term “open society” signifies all that National Bolshevism opposes, is it not a paradox that Dugin himself refers to Russia as that nation whose tradition and future can offer us a model of an “open mystic community”. In other words, an “open society” – albeit one of a wholly different nature to Popper’s understanding of this term.

Individualism as ‘Subjectivism’

“…it can be asserted that the national-bolshevism is strongly against the “subjective” and strongly for the “objective”. It is not the question: materialism or idealism? The question is: the objective idealism and objective materialism (on one side!) or subjective idealism and also subjective materialism (2) (on the other!).”

Dugin’s grave error in confusing individualism with bourgeois egotism is here metaphysically compounded by his identification of individualism as such with “subjectivism” and “subjective idealism”. Correspondingly, he identifies the philosopy of Nat-Bol with “objective idealism” and “objective materialism”.
This certainly does not square with Dugin’s outspokenly critical view of Western scientific ‘positivism’. For the metaphysical essence of this ‘positivistic’ science is nothing if not a form of ‘objective idealism’ in the most literal sense – since what else does this ‘science’ do except take its own abstract theoreretical constructs and mathematical formulae – its ‘ideas’ as more ‘objectively’ real that the tangibly experienced phenomena they are used to ‘explain’. ‘Positivist’ science does not actually take as its starting point any ‘positively’ experienced phenomena of any sort at all – and nor can it do so. For its essence consists of equating truth with ‘objectivity’, and then in turn equating objectivity with its own purely quantitative constructs – rather than any of the countless, tangible qualitative elements dimensions of our lived, subjective experience of reality – both everyday reality and mystical realities. Thus from a positivistic scientific perspective – essentially a form of ‘objective idealism’ – our qualitative subjective experience of colour in a flower or painting or of tones in a person’s voice or a piece of music is reduced to an inexplicable subjective ‘effect’ caused by mere quantitatively defined wavelength or frequency of electro-magnetic ‘energy’. Here it should be noted that the modern scientific usage of the term ‘energy’ itself is highly questionable, ‘positive’ science having turned the term ‘energy’ into an objectified, purely quantitative and abstract theoretical construct or ‘idea’ – one far removed from both the root Greek meaning of energein, let alone the gnoseological meaning of divine ‘energies’ in Orthodox Christian mysticism and metaphysics.

Then again, whilst Dugin praises Julius Evola’s book on ‘The Tantra of Power’, which deals with Indian religious thought – and in particular with the so-called ‘Kaula’ school of what has come to be known as the tantric tradition of ‘Kashmir Shaivism’ – Dugin is clearly almost wholly ignorant of the metaphysical foundations of this tradition. The mass of errors and conflations in both Dugin’s ‘metaphysics’ and in his understanding of Indian metaphysics are condensed in one paragraph:

“So, the philosophical policy of the national-bolshevism affirms the natural unity of the ideologies, which are based on the statement of the central position of the objective, which is conferred the same status as the Absolute, without dependence on how this objective character (outwardness) is interpreted. It could be said that the supreme national-bolshevism metaphysical maxim is the Hinduist formula “Atman is Brahman”. In Hinduism “Atman” is the supreme, transcendent human’s “Ego”, being regardless of the individual “ego”, but inside this “ego” as its most intimate and mysterious part, slipping the immanent grasp. The “Atman” is the internal Spirit, but the objective and over-individual one. “Brahman” is the absolute reality, embracing the individual from without, the outer objective character, elevated to its supreme primary source. The identity of “Atman” and “Brahman” in transcendent unity is the crown of Hindu metaphysics and, above all, it is the base for the way of spiritual becoming. This is the point, common for all the sacred doctrines, without any exception. In all of them the question is about the main aim of human’s existence, that is the self-overcoming, expanding beyond the bounds of the small individual ‘ego’; the way away from that “ego” either outside or inside brings to the same victorious outcome.”

Within this paragraph we see asserted or implied a number of metaphysical assertions which are either highly questionable philosophically, and/or are simply historically ignorant and inaccurate. These I enumerate below:

1.In referring to the “the small individual ‘ego’”, Dugin implicitly equates or conflates what is “individual” with the self as “ego”.

2.Quoting the Vedantic maxim that “Atman is Brahman” without exploring or questioning in any way the meaning of the Sanskrit term ‘Atman’ – if translated as ‘self’ in contrast to ‘ego’.

3.Attributing the “absolute reality” denoted by Brahman an “objective” character and in this way failing the elementary philosophical test of recognising that any attribution of ‘objectivity’ to reality – “absolute” or otherwise – automatically implies a subject – that subject for whom reality takes the form of an object or objects, or who gives it the form of an object or objects (for example in the form of commodities).

4.Ignoring the radical historical difference between the Vedantic notion of the Absolute (‘Brahman’) as ‘Being’ from the Kashmiri Shaivite recognition of the Absolute (‘Anuttara’/‘Paramashiva’) as a transcendent-immanent ‘Awareness’ i.e. as a universal and absolute subjectivity – albeit one that is neither the private property of any egoic ‘subject’ in the Western sense nor the mere property or by-product of any ‘object’ such as the brain – as Western science would have us believe.

5.Making no mention of Sri Abhinavagupta – himself the most important synthesist of Indian religious and tantric thought and the most important philosopher and practitioner of Kaula tantra as described by Evola.

6.Not distinguishing different levels and dimension of subjectivity – individual, collective, cultural, national – and cosmic-universal – not to mention the dimension of inter-subjectivity which links them all.
One wonders what Dugin would make of some of the most radical, seminal and metaphysically significant quotations from the scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism (the Vijananabhairavatantra, the Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta) as well as from its principle metaphysician – Abinavagupta – and from his chief disciple, Kshemaraja:

Awareness is the nature of the Self.
Awareness, Shiva, is the soul of the world.
For the yogi who has attained the state of Bhairava [simultaneous awareness of their outer and inner experiencing] the entire world [outer as well as inner] is experienced as their body.

the Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta

The entire world is the play of the universal awareness.
One who sees it in this way becomes liberated while in the body.
Meditate on one’s own body as the universe, and as having the nature of awareness.
The yogi is always mindful of that witnessing awareness which alone is the subject of everything, which is always a subject and never an object.
Whether outside or inside, Shiva [pure awareness] is omnipresent.

the Vijnanabhairavatantra

The being of all things that are recognised in awareness in turn depend on awareness.

Abhinavagupta

Every appearance owes its existence to the light of awareness.
Nothing can have its own being without the light of awareness.

Kshemaraja

Absolute Subjectivism and ‘The Awareness Principle’

“In philosophical language ‘individualism’ is practically identified with ‘subjectivism’.”

Thus writes Dugin. Yet what “philosophical language” identifies ‘individualism’ with ‘subjectivism’ if not the language of Western metaphysics alone. For this is a language in which ‘subjectivity’ as such is reduced to a plurality of egoic ‘subjects’ – each of which owns or possesses its own individual ‘consciousnessness’ or ‘subjectivity’ as if it were a form of private property. What, in contrast to Indian thought, Western metaphysics decisively lacks is any concept whatsoever of a universal and absolute subjectivity or awareness. Instead it reduces ‘subjectivity’ solely to a property of individual subjects or a product of material objects. As a result, it is unable to even consider the notion that every ‘individual’ being and every seemingly ‘material’ body – is no mere separate ‘subject’ or ‘object’ but rather a uniquely individualised portion, expression and embodiment of a universal awareness or ‘absolute subjectivity’ – both distinct and inseparable from it. Just as ‘spirit’ alone is precisely that which truly ‘matters’ – which literally materialises itself in all things, so also is the essence of ‘spirit’ – the universal awareness recognised in Indian tantric thought – precisely that which individualises itself in countless forms, physical and non-physical, both as gods and as humans. It is therefore no Absolute that can be opposed to or set against ‘individuality’ or ‘subjectivity’ – for it is the very source of all individualised consciousness, and therefore also what most deeply or ‘spiritually’ links all things and all beings – both with one another and with ‘God’. Here the word God however, does not refer to some sort of singular, supreme, absolute or divine ‘subject’ that merely has or possesses awareness or subjectivity. Rather it refers to that God which IS awareness or subjectivity, an awareness which is also the essence of Self and not its private property.

What is referred to in Indian traditions as ‘God-Consciousness’ is thus not some consciousness ‘belonging’ to a God or to a specific god. It is that universal all-pervading Consciousness which IS God – and to which we all belong. For just as there can be nothing ‘outside’ space, or ‘before’ or ‘after’ time, so there can be nothing ‘outside’, ‘before’ or ‘after’ consciousness or subjectivity. The metaphysical starting point of thought is therefore not the existence, presence or ‘Being’ of any universe, world or thing – any ‘being – but rather a primordial awareness of Being and of beings.

The recognition that Awareness and not Being is therefore the 1st principle of all that is – this is what I call ‘The Awareness Principle’. It goes along with the recognition that awareness as such cannot – in principle – be reduced to or objectified in the form of any being we are aware of. Another term for ‘The Awareness Principle’ is not ‘Absolute Idealism’ but ‘Absolute Subjectivism’ – the recognition that
(1) awareness is everything and everywhere, and (2) that every ‘individual’ thing that is or exists – every ‘being’ from a atom, molecule or cell, stone, plant, animal, human being or a god – is itself a unique awareness in its own right – with its source in that universal awareness which is ‘Godness’ (Gottheit) as such.

If this metaphysical principle were to be taken as the foundation of ‘National Bolshevism’ in its political dimension, then the danger of which Dugin himself is aware – that of identifying the nationhood itself with race or ethnicity or ‘ethnic purity’ would disappear, as would the danger of falsely identifying the divine-universal awareness with a ‘totalitarian’ or ‘collectivist’ subjectivity and/or its ruling individual subject –the ‘Great Leader’.

This is not to say that ‘greatness’, ‘leadership and even acknowledgement of the importance of ‘great leaders’ are not important Conservative-Revolutionary and National Bolshevik values. The question is rather what essentially constitutes the ‘greatness’ of an individual or nation and what is it that allows them to become a ‘leading light’ for other individuals and nations – rather than a mere symbol or icon of authentic greatness and leadership – or else a more or less grossly distorted combination of both authentic and purely iconic or cultic greatness and leadership of the sort exemplified by Hitler, Stalin and Mao (whose iconic role is now narcissistically imitated by dwarves such as Putin).

In this context it is also important that we seek to deeply understand such ‘Leaders’ as Stalin, even if we refuse to worship them as icons or totally reject them as ‘models’ of Greatness. The simplistic alternative is simply to see them as either human gods or human aberrations. ‘Understanding’ here does not mean ‘sympathising’. It means clarifying the as-yet misunderstood metaphysical contradictions and dilemmas that pervaded and distorted their personalities and actions – contradictions and dilemmas of which they themselves were not aware of – or were unable to conceptualise and free themselves of. It also means understanding the manifold variety of meanings they held for others – whether ardent followers and/or persecutory victims – together with the entire spectrum of meanings they held for those countless individuals who found themselves in between these extreme poles.

The same applies to the term ‘National Bolshevism’. Part of our understanding of what this term means cannot be reduced to a single ‘meaning’ or ‘definition’. Instead it must take into account the many different meanings and significance that the term ‘National Bolshevism’ (and both words in it) held, holds – or still could hold – for different individuals, groups and nations.

Postscript

If there is any authentic greatness and capacity for leadership in Dugin himself, it lies not in his knowledge or actions, insights or errors – in the answers he offers in theory or practice – but in the fact that he is an individual who has, since 1966, continued to seek new understandings and in this way show respect for the fact that there will always remain deeper questions to be asked.

For as Heidegger so wisely affirmed, questioning is not mere prelude to finding some final answer or solution. Instead “Questioning is the piety of thinking.”

Similarly, ‘thinking’ is not simply ‘reasoning’ but an awareness of that which is still questionable and question-worthy in any ‘answer’. In its essence thinking is something that wholly transcends concepts of ‘rationality’ and ‘irrationality’ – having essentially to do not with the Latin ratio but with the Greek notions of logos and noos, not with calculation or measurement but with a meditative awareness (noos) that in-gathers and lays out (Greek legein) what speaks to us dia-logos i.e. not just in words but ‘through the word’ and ‘radically’ – speaking from the divine roots of both the individual soul and of the world soul.

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