History, Action, & the Timeless
Translated by R. G. Fowler
“Time, Space and Number
Fell from the black firmament,
Into the still and sombre sea.
Shroud of silence and shade,
The night erases absolutely
Time, Space and Number.”
—Leconte de Lisle (“Villanelle” [pastoral poem], Poèmes Tragiques)
Have you ever wondered at the irreversible flow of the hours, and the impossibility of going back upstream? And have you felt how much we are prisoners of time, in all that relates to our sense experience? Prisoners of space, certainly, since we are material bodies, even if we are not only that, and a body cannot be conceived independently of its position in relation to points of reference, but even more so captives of time, since a temporal succession is necessarily directed, and only lived in one direction: from the past, fixed in its irrevocability, towards the future, perhaps just as irrevocable but apprehended as an indefiniteness of possible situations—of more or less probable virtualities—as long as it did not become “present,” i.e., in fact, past; definitive history?
There is, certainly, a limit to the ability of a body of flesh and blood—and nerves—like ours to traverse space. Man has managed—at the price, it is true, of enormous difficulties, but finally managed, under certain conditions—to leave the field of attraction of the Earth, of which we had until then been prisoners, and to leap beyond. Oh, not very far! Only as far as the Moon, i.e., in the most immediate vicinity of our planet. (It should be said in passing that it is Aryans—one Aryan especially, the mathematician von Braun—who made this exploit possible, and other Aryans who achieved it.) It is only a beginning. But this “first step” allows “all the hopes,” say the experts who studied the question. What they pompously call “the conquest of space” would be only an affair of technical progress, thus of study and patience.
There is, despite everything, it seems, a limit. For if technical progress is indefinite, physical space is too. It is imprudent to make predictions in this field. Who could have affirmed, only a few decades ago, that men would indeed see one day our Earth “rising” and “setting”—an enormous luminous disc, blue and white, on a black background—on the lunar horizon? Nevertheless, it appears to me quite improbable that man can ever venture beyond our solar system, so vast, on our scale, so negligible, on that of cosmos. But it remains certain that, even if it remains forever impossible in practice to cross a limit (of which we are unaware still), we can despite everything conceive, imagine an indefinite expansion in this direction. Beyond the last limit reached—be it inside the solar system or beyond—there will always be “the extent”; a not-traversed distance which one “could traverse if . . .” one possessed more powerful means. There is no theoretical limit. Space is essentially what can be traversed—and that, in all directions. There would be, in fact, no practical limit for a hypothetical explorer who would need neither to nourish himself nor to sleep (who would not wear out) and who would direct a transport apparatus also capable of indefinitely renewing its driving energy. And even if it is not, even if it can never be materially realizable, one can imagine such a voyage, which would last forever, across space.
On the other hand, one knows that, even aided by the most excellent memory, it is impossible actually to go back in time, and, even aided by an abundance of political intuition and individual and collective psychology, to follow its course beyond tomorrow and even “this evening.” Above I mentioned the irrevocability of the past, that one can forget, certainly, or than one can deform—that one inevitably deforms, even though one tries to reconstruct it without bias—but that one cannot change; which from now is out of reach, as if printed forever in an immense impersonal and infallible memory: the memory of the Universe; out of reach, but also out of range, unknowable, because not directly relivable.
One often wants to say that “the past is nothing”; that “what is no more is as if it had never been.” I, for my part, never could understand this assimilation of given life, yesterday and the day before, to pure nothing. No doubt I too have memory. It is not the absence of the past—the impossibility of “recapturing” it—that strikes me the most, but on the contrary its eternal presence—the impossibility of altering the least detail of it. What is made, or said—or thought—has been made, or said, or thought. One can do another thing; say another thing; direct one’s thought in a completely different direction. But this “other thing,” this “converted” thought (turned in another direction) are new irrevocable things, which are superimposed on the first without destroying them. I always sensed that, as far back as I can remember. As a child, I attended a “free” school, a Catholic school, and followed with the other little girls the lessons of the catechism. They told us, among other things, that “God can do anything.” Having each time reflected on such a declaration, one day I hazarded to ask for a word, and said, as soon as I was free to express myself: “I came today to class at eight o’clock in the morning, Lyons time. Can ‘God’ make that no longer true, but that I would have come, say, at eight-thirty, still Lyons time, that goes without saying? Can he change the past?” And the teacher not having been able to answer my question in a manner satisfactory to my child’s mind, I was detached a little more from the idea of this too-human “God” that they presented to me—the God whose shocking partiality towards “man” had started, at the dawn my life, to repulse me. And the irrevocability of the past—of the present moment, as soon as it fell into the past—always haunted me: source of joy, source of anxiety; precious knowledge, since it dominated the conduct of my life.
More than forty years later—in 1953—I was to write a “prose poem” every stanza of which finishes with the words: “While we never forget; never forgive.” I evoked there the memory of the glory that was the Third German Reich, and also my bitterness (and that of my comrades) at the thought of the persecution of us without respite, and of all the efforts made after the Second World War to kill our Hitlerian faith. The attitude was not, for me, new. At eight years of age, barely a few months before the First World War, had I not once declared that, “I hate it: Christianity because it makes it a duty for the faithful to forgive,” revolted as I was with the idea of “forgiveness” granted to children guilty of torturing insects or other defenseless animals, as with adult authors of gratuitous atrocities, whatever age it may be, provided that the cowardly and therefore degrading act is followed by repentance, however tardy?
Forgiveness—or forgetting—can change completely the relationship between people, from the moment when it is given totally, and from the heart. It cannot change what is, once and for all, fixed in the past. It is not even certain that the relationship between individuals and entire peoples would improve much, if the former started to practice forgiveness of offenses, trivial as well as grave, and if the latter abolished, suddenly, the teaching of history to their young people. They would cease being hated for the reasons they are despised, or at least opposed, today. But given human nature with its covetousness, its vanity, and its selfishness, they would soon discover other pretexts for enmity. (The animals have a short memory—and how! Each generation, ignorant of the repeated cruelties of man, is ready to trust him again, and, in the case of domestic animals, to give him the unconditional love, of which only beings that do not reason are capable. And yet . . . this complete forgetting does not improve at all the conduct of man towards the rest of creation. Would the forgetting of history not have, this time between men, a similar result, or rather a similar lack of one?)
In any event, no “new beginning,” however happy, can obscure what has occurred once. To have been, be it only once, is, in a certain manner, to be forever. Neither forgetting nor forgiveness, nor even the indefinite succession of the millennia—can do anything about it. And the least of events—the least on our scale—are as indelible as those we consider the most important. Everything “exists” in the same manner as the “past”—past in the eyes of individuals who can live their experience only according to a “before” and an “after.”
* * *
No doubt the notion of the irrevocable “existence” of the past, gives only rather cold comfort to people tormented by nostalgia for “happy” lived or imagined times. Time refuses to “suspend her flight” in response to the supplication of the poet enamored of fugitive beauty—be it for just an hour of quiet communion with a beloved woman (and, through her, and beyond her, with the harmony of the spheres), or an “hour of glory,” i.e., of communion, amidst resounding fanfares, or the thunder of arms, or the roar of frenzied crowds, with the soul of a whole people and, through her and beyond her, still and always, with the Divine—another aspect of the Divine.
It is possible, sometimes—and generally without making any special attempt to remember—to relive, as in a flash, a moment of one’s past, and with an incredible intensity, as if self-awareness were suddenly hallucinated without the sense of being any less in the world. The slightest thing—a taste, very much in the present, like that of the “petite Madeleine” that Proust cites in his famous analysis of “reliving”; a furtive, formerly inhaled odor; a melody that one had believed forgotten; a simple sound like that of water dripping—is enough to put, for a moment, one’s consciousness in a state which it “knows” is the same as one it knew years and sometimes decades, more than half a century, before; a state of euphoria or anxiety, even of anguish, depending on the moment, re-appearing like a miracle from the fog of the past—a moment that had not ceased to “exist” in the manner of completed things, but that suddenly takes on the distinctness, is thrown into the relief, of the present, as if a mysterious spotlight directed the daylight of living presence upon it.
These experiences are, however, rare. And if it is possible to evoke them, they scarcely last, even for people with great powers of recollection. And then they concern—except in cases that are completely exceptional and, moreover, most of the time debatable—only the personal past of the one who “revives” such a state or episode, not the historical past. Yet there are people who are much more interested in the history of their people—or even that of other people—than in their own past. And though scholars who make it their profession succeed in reconstituting the past after a fashion, starting from vestiges and documents, which, at first glance, seem to be “the essence” of history, and though certain erudite scholars sometimes astonish their readers or listeners with the quantity and meticulousness of the details they know of the habits of a particular personage, the intrigues of a particular chancellery, or the everyday life of a vanished people, it remains no less certain that the past of the civilized world—the most easy to grasp, however, since it, for its part, has left us visible traces—escapes us. We know it indirectly and in bits that our investigators endeavor to put together, in the manner of a puzzle missing half or three quarters of the pieces. And even if we had all the pieces, we would still not know, because to know is to live—or to re-live—and no individual subjected to the category of Time can live history. What an individual can, at most, know directly, i.e., live, and what he can then remember, sometimes with an incredible clarity, is the history of his time insofar as he has himself contributed to making it; in other words, it is his history, in which he is situated in an ensemble that exceeds him and often crushes him.
There is undoubtedly a history truer than what scholars will one day the reconstruct. Because what appears to be “the essence” of an epoch, studied through documents and vestiges, is not it. What is essential is the atmosphere of an epoch, or a moment within an epoch: the atmosphere that can only be grasped through the direct experience of someone who lived it: one whose personal history is steeped in it. Guy Sajer, in his admirable book The Forgotten Soldier, has given us the essence of the campaign in Russia of 1941-1945. He knew how to give his pages such a power of suggestion, precisely because, along with thousands of others in the ranks of the Wehrmacht, then in the élite “Grossdeutschland” division, he made the campaign in Russia; because it represents a slice of his own life. When, in three thousand years, historians want to have an idea of the Second World War, on this particular front, they will acquire much more just reading the book of Sajer (which deserves to survive) than trying to reconstitute, using sporadic impersonal documents, the advance and the retreat of the armies of the Reich. But, I repeat, they will acquire an idea of it, not knowledge, an idea, a little like we have today acquired one of the decline of Egypt on the international scene at the end of the Twentieth Dynasty, through what remains to us of the juicy report of Wenamon, special envoy of Rameses XI (or rather of the high priest Herihor) to Zakarbaal, “king” of Guébal, or Gubla, which the Greeks called Byblos, in 1117 B.C.
Nothing gives us more intensely the experience of what I called in other writings the “bondage of Time” than the impossibility of letting our “I” travel in the historical past in which we did not live, and which we thus cannot “remember.” Nothing makes us feel our isolation within our own epoch, like our incapacity to live directly, at will, in some other time, in some other country; to travel in time as we travel in space. We can visit all the earth as it is today, not see it as it was formerly. It is impossible for us, for example, to actually plunge ourselves into the atmosphere of the temple of Karnak—or even only one street of Thebes—under Thutmose III; to find ourselves in Babylon at the time of Hammurabi—or with the Aryans, before they left the old Arctic fatherland; or in the midst of the artists painting the frescos in the caves of Lascaux or Altamira, with as much realism as we have somewhere in the world in our own epoch, having come there on foot, or by car, by train, by boat or airplane. And this impression of a definitive barrier–or of a veil, which lets us divine some outlines but prohibits us forever from a more precise vision—is all the more painful, perhaps, that the civilization that we would like to know directly is chronologically more close to us, while being qualitatively more different from that in the midst of which we are forced to remain.
History always fascinated me; the history of the whole world, in all its richness. But particularly painful for me is knowing that I will never be able to know pre-Colombian America directly . . . going to live there for some time; that it will never again be possible to see Ténochtitlan, or Cuzco, as the Spaniards saw these cities for the first time, four hundred and fifty years ago, or less, i.e., yesterday. As a teenager, I cursed the conquerors who changed the face of the New World. I would have wished that nobody discovered it, so that it remained intact. One could then have known it without reversing the course of time; known it as it was the day before the conquest, or rather as a natural evolution would have modified it little by little over four or five centuries, without destroying the characteristic traits.
But it goes without saying that my true torment, since the disaster of 1945, is to know that it was from now on impossible for me to have direct experience of the atmosphere of the Third German Reich, in which I have not, alas, lived. (Believing that it was to last indefinitely—that there would be no war or that, if there were one, Hitlerian Germany would come out victorious—I had the false impression that nothing pressed me to return to Europe, and that, moreover, I was “useful” for the Aryan cause where I was). Now that all is finished, I think with bitterness that one could, thirty years ago only, plunge oneself immediately, without the intermediary of texts, images, audio recordings, or accounts of comrades, into this environment of enthusiasm and order, power and manly beauty, that belonged to Hitlerian civilization. Thirty years! It is not “yesterday,” it is today; it is “a few minutes ago.” And I have the sensation of having come so close to the life and the death—the glorious death, in the service of our Führer—that should have been mine.
But one cannot “go back” five minutes much less 1500 years, or 500 million years, into the unalterable past, now transformed into “eternity”—timeless existence. And it is as impossible to attend today the Congress of the Socialist National Party of September 1935 as it is it to traverse the earth in the epoch when it seemed to have become forever the domain of the dinosaurs; impossible . . . save for one of those very rare sages who are, by asceticism—the transposition of consciousness—released from the bonds of time.
* * *
It should be noted that nostalgia for the past is almost universal—not nostalgia for the same epoch, undoubtedly; and not necessarily for a historical past, that the individual learns how to admire only by the testimony of other men. There are people who would readily sacrifice three quarters of dearly gained experience to become young again—beautiful, and full of health; full of enthusiasm, also, in the ignorance of all that human society reserved for them. The majority would like to be able, without artifice, to keep the body and face they had at twenty—or eighteen—and the joyous force of youth, without having to pay for these treasures with the loss of their experience; to be able to retain and the wisdom of age and the freshness, the health, and the force of youth. But everyone knows that it is impossible—as impossible as to actually put oneself back in a given historical epoch.
All considered, it is doubtful that there would be any advantage to becoming young again at the price of losing accumulated experience: one would be given to the same errors, one would commit the same wrongs, having become again what one had been; and one would not enjoy the comparison between the two ages, having lost any consciousness of the state of old age.
It is certain, also, that “to go back to Thebes in the time of Thutmose III” would be to become an Egyptian, even a foreigner in Egypt, at this time, thus unable to appreciate the privilege of being there, and probably nostalgic for the time of the great Pharaohs who built the pyramids. What all those who aspire to go back to the past really desire is to go back without losing their current mentality and memory of our time, without which no comparison is thinkable and no “return back” has, consequently, any interest. But then their aspiration appears absurd. Is it indeed so if, instead of sticking to its contents, one considers what I will call its significance?
Aside from the nineteenth century—the nineteenth century minus those “dissidents” of genius who are Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, and, in France, Leconte de Lisle and some others perhaps—there are, I believe, few times as self-inflated as ours, regarding their science and especially their technical achievements. There are two domains to which an intense propaganda, on a worldwide scale, draws the attention of the crowd, in order to inculcate in it the pride of the present: the “conquest of space” and the progress of medicine and surgery—the second more so perhaps than the first. One makes a point, apparently, of giving all citizens of the proud “consumer societies,” as much as possible, to be at the same time “more and more sick and better and better cared for,” and to encourage the adoption, at least by the “intellectuals” of the countries known as underdeveloped, of the humane and utilitarian ideal of the consumer societies, thus their preoccupation with the present and with a future oriented in the same direction.
Yet, in spite of this propaganda which, in Europe, starts in primary school, what one notes, if one poses to pupils of fourteen or fifteen years, as subject of French composition, the question: “In which time and where would you like to live, if you had the choice?” Three quarters of the class state they prefer some past time to their own. I know it, having made the experiment many times. And the responses would be just as conclusive, if not more so, if one addressed not young people, but adults. There is almost always a past that each holds, from his point of view, to be better than the century in which he lives. Points of view being different, the chosen times are not the same for everyone. But they all belong—or almost all—to the past. One could say that, in spite of the amazing achievements of our time in the technical domain (and that of pure science, it should well be said), and in spite of the enormous publicity given to this progress, there remains everywhere an immense nostalgia for what cannot return; and an insurmountable sadness, that tedium does not suffice to explain, hangs over the world. And—what is more—it also seems that as far back as one can go by thought, it always was so.
As I said above: the Egyptian of the time of Thutmose III, i.e., of the time when his country was at the pinnacle of glory, probably felt nostalgia for the time when the great Pyramids had been built—and that this time . . . was the epoch when the gods themselves governed the Valley of the Nile. All the ancient peoples, among whom the Tradition was still alive: Germans, Celts, Greeks, Latins, Chinese, Japanese, Amerindians—felt nostalgia of the reign of the Gods, in other words the dawn of the temporal cycle close to the end of which we live today. And the younger peoples, even as they forgot the teaching of the sages and professed no longer to believe in anything besides the power of human science, source of indefinitely increased progress, cannot be stave off the consciousness of a lack, impossible to explain—a lack that no material well-being, nor any improvement of the techniques of pleasure, can fill.
From time to time—more and more seldom, moreover, as the world succumbs to the influence of consumer “civilizations”—a sage appears (like, for example, René Guénon or Julius Evola) who denounces in his writings the true nature of the universal dissatisfaction, or a poet (like, a few decades before, Leconte de Lisle) who recalls it while putting in the mouth of a character words with magical resonances, which seem to come from the depth of the ages:
Silence! I see again the innocence of the world,
I will sing again with the harmonious winds
The forest spreads out under the glory of the skies;
The force and the beauty of the fertile earth
In a sublime dream live in my eyes.
The quiet evening unites, with the sighs of the doves,
In the golden mist which bathes the thickets,
The soft roars of friendly lions;
The Terrestrial Garden smiles, free of tombs,
With angels sleeping in the shade of palms.
and further on, in the same poem,
Eden, O the most dear and most sweet of dreams,
You towards whom I heaved useless sobs . . .
It is the evocation of the inconceivable Golden Age of all the ancient traditions—and of those that derive from it—the recollection of the time when the visible order reflected the eternal order, without distortion or error, in the manner of a perfect mirror. And it is also the cry of despair of he who feels himself carried in spite of himself always further from this world that is ideal but inaccessible because past; who knows that no combat “against Time” will return it to him. It is the expression of universal nostalgia for the glorious dawn of our cycle, and that of all cycles—nostalgia which is translated into everyday life by this tendency of all men, or almost, including the majority of young people themselves, to prefer at least an aspect of the past in the increasingly disappointing present.
He who declares that he would like to have lived at a time other than his own does not know what he says. It is probable that if he could, even by keeping his present personality and the memory of the ugliness of his time, actually be transported to a past of his choosing, he would not be long in becoming disappointed in it. Once the contrasting effect is tempered, he would start to notice all that, seen close up, would shock him in this past, that distance allowed him to idealize. What he actually seeks, what he aspires to without knowing, is the one age of our cycle (like all cycles) that, being the faithful image of the divine order, visible perfection reflecting Invisible perfection, could “be idealized” without any flattering perspective; the only one that cannot deceive.
Any individual nostalgia for the past encompasses and expresses the immense universal longing for the Golden Age, or Age of Truth (the Satya Yuga of the Sanskrit Scriptures). Any melancholy of the mature or old man at the thought of his own youth, also symbolizes, to a slight degree, the nostalgia for the youth of the world, latent at all living things, and more and more intense in some men, as soon as a temporal cycle approaches its end.
* * *
The future, personal or historical, is as impenetrable, as impossible to live, as the past. We can at most, by reasoning by analogy, or by letting ourselves be carried away by the rhythm of the habitual, deduce or imagine what will be in the immediate future. We can say, for example, that the road will be covered tomorrow with ice since it has just rained this evening and that then the thermometer abruptly started to go down below zero degrees centigrade; or that the price of food will increase since the strikers in the transportation services obtained satisfaction; or that a store, “open the every day except Monday,” will be open next Thursday. On the other hand, it is completely impossible for anyone who is a mere man to envisage what Europe will look like in three thousand years, just as nobody could, in the Bronze Age, represent the current aspect of the same continent, with industrial cities in the place of its ancient forests.
That is not to say that the future does not “exist” already in a certain fashion, merely as an ensemble of virtualities destined to be realized, and that this “existence” is not as irrevocable as that of the past. For a consciousness liberated from the servitude of the “before” and “after,” everything would exist on the same basis, the future like the past, in what the sages call the “Eternal Present”—the timeless. To predict a future state or event is not to deduce it from known data, at the risk of being mistaken (by not taking account of certain data that are hidden, even unknowable); it is to see it, in the way in which an observer, seated on an aircraft, grasps a detail of the terrestrial landscape, amid many others that he apprehends together, whereas the traveler on the ground can only distinguish it in a succession of which he himself takes part, “before” one detail; “after” another. In other words, it is only seen in “the Eternal Present” that what we conceive—we, prisoners of Time—as a debatable possibility, becomes a true fact; a “given,” as irrevocable as the past. It is an affair of perspective—and of clairvoyance. Even contemplated on high, a landscape is clearer for the observer gifted with good eyesight. But it is enough that he stands above it to have an overall view of it, that the man on the ground does not have, however rapid may be his movements.
History reports that on 18 March 1314 Jacques de Molay, before going up to pyre, assigned “to the tribunal of God” the two men responsible for the suppression of his Order: the Pope Clement V, “in one month,” and the king Philip the Fair, “in one year.” The two men died within the time allotted, or rather seen in the optics of the eternal present by the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. And more than eighteen hundred years earlier, it is said, Confucius, questioned by his disciples on the influence his teaching would have, answered that it “would dominate China for 25 centuries.” With a margin of fifty years, he spoke the truth. He also had, in the same optic of the sage who is raised “above time,” seen, from beginning to end, an evolution which no calculation could envisage.
But I repeat: the sage capable of transcending time is already more than a man. The future, already “present” for him, that he reads, remains, in the consciousness subjected to “the before” and “the after” something that is built at every moment, in prolongation of the lived present; that becomes at every moment present, or rather past, the “present” being only a moving limit. Inalterable, it is, no doubt, just like the past, since there are rare consciousnessesses that can live in one and the other in the manner of the present. Nevertheless, as long as it does not become past, it is felt, by the man who lives on the level of Time, as depending more or less on a choice in every moment. Only with the past does a consciousness related to Time have the certainty that it is given, irrevocably—the result of an ancient choice, perhaps (if such is believed), but that it is too late to want to modify, that in some manner one is caught there.
* * *
“But if,” it will be said to me, “in the optics of the man above Time, the future is ‘given’ as well as the past, what becomes of the concepts of freedom and responsibility? If a sage is able to see centuries in advance, how long a civilizing doctrine is destined to preserve its credence among one or several people, what use is it to militate ‘for’ or ‘against’ anything?”
I believe that there are, in response to that, some remarks to be made. First we must specify that any action—in the sense in which we hear it when we speak about “combat” and “militants,” or when we keep in mind the actions of everyday life—is closely related to the concept of time (of time, at the very least, if not, in addition, of space). We should then note that the philosophical concepts of freedom and responsibility have meaning only in connection with an action, direct or indirect—actual or possible, and even materially impossible to direct or modify on behalf of whoever conceives it, such as, for example, the case of any retrospectively thought action—but always with an action, which could or had to be conceived. It should, finally, be well understood that in consequence of this, these concepts no longer have any sense when one rises from the temporal state to that of the consciousness out of time.
For he who is placed in “the eternal present,” i.e., outside of time, it is a question neither of freedom nor of responsibility, but only of being and non-being; of possibility and absurdity. The world that we see and sense together, that others have or will have seen and felt—indefinite possibilities that have or will have taken shape—is quite simply what it is, and, in view of the inner nature of each limited (individual) existence which makes it up, could not be otherwise. The consciousness above Time “sees” it, but does not take part in it, even though it may have to go down there sometimes, as a clairvoyant instrument of a necessary action.
The beings that cannot think, because they are deprived of the word, thus of the general idea, nevertheless act, but are not responsible. Each behaves according to its nature, and could not behave differently. And “to be free,” for them, consists simply in not being opposed by some force external to them in the manifestation of their spontaneity in the exercise their functions: not to be locked up between four walls or the bars of a cage; to bear neither harness nor muzzle; not to be tethered, or deprived of water or food, or the access to the opposite sex of the same species, and—in the case of plants—not to be deprived of water, earth, and light, and not to be thwarted in their growth by some obstacle. One can add that the majority of humans are, although able to speak, neither more free nor more responsible than the humblest animal, or even plant. Exactly like the rest of living things, they do what their instincts, their appetites, and the demands of the moment urge them to do, insofar as obstacles and external constraints allow them. At most, some among them believe themselves responsible Having heard repeatedly that this is “a characteristic of man,” and in their “affordable dwellings”—among the refrigerator, washing machine, and television set—as in the factories and offices where they spend eight hours per day under blinding neon lights, they feel less imprisoned than the unhappy tigers of the Zoological garden. (Which only tends to show that the tigers are healthier than them in body and spirit, since they themselves are aware of their captivity, and that they suffer from it.)
Freedom3 and responsibility are to be sought to differing degrees between the extremes either of action in time without thought, or consciousness out of time, without action, or accompanied by action that is completely detached, impersonal; accomplished in accord with an objective need. In other words, in an absolute manner, nobody is “free,” if “freedom” means the power to direct the future as one pleases. The future is apparently entirely directed, since there exist the rare sages who know it in advance, or rather who apprehend it as a “present.” But it is undeniable that every time he has to make decisions, the man of good will who lives and thinks in time has the impression of choosingbetween two or more possibilities; that he has the impression that the future, at least in its immediate course—and also in its remote course, if it is a decision of obvious historical impact—depends partly (and sometimes entirely, on the Earthly plane) on him. It is, undoubtedly, only an impression. But it is an impression of such tenacity that it is impossible not to take it into account, from the psychological point of view. It forms so much a part of the experience of any man whose soul is even slightly complex, who must act in time, that it persists even if this man is well-informed in advance—either by an invincible intuition, or by the obviousness of the facts that follow one another, or by some prophecy to which he gives credence—of what the future will be in spite of his personal action.
Sometimes even, if his soul is less complex, i.e., in fact less divided against itself, the agent who has a presentiment of, who even knows what will be the inescapable course of events, will decide—and that, without it being necessary for him “to deliberate”—in favor of the action most useless from the practical point of view. Teia, the last king of the Ostrogoths in Italy, knew that it was no longer possible for his people to remain the Masters of the peninsula. That did not prevent him from throwing himself without the least hesitation into the fight against Byzantium and from finding, in the famous “battle of the Vesuvius”—in 563—a death worthy of him. He is attributed the historic remark which, even if he did not actually say it, renders his attitude well: “It is not a question of us leaving or not leaving Italy; it is a question of leaving it with or without honor.” Words of a lord and . . . words of a man “against Time,” i.e., defeated in advance on the material plane.
One can say that to the extent that what the Sanskrit Scriptures call the Dark Age unfolds and a temporal cycle approaches its end, more and more lords—in both the biological and psychological senses of the word—are men “against Time,” defeated in advance on the material plane. They do not feel any less “free” in their spontaneous choice of a practically useless act. The impression of freedom is thus not at all related to hesitation and “deliberation” before a decision. It is related to the capacity of the agent to imagine a future different from the one that will follow from his act—what, in fact, he would like to see follow, if possible—and with the illusion that he himself has to be the source and principle of this act, whereas he is only the instrument of the realization in our world of time—the movement from the virtual to the actual—of possibilities that are entirely predestined since they already exist as actualities in the “eternal present.” In other words, this impression of freedom is dependant at the same time on the thought of the agent and his ignorance. For the man who acts in time, true freedom consists in the absence of external or interior constraint (i.e., coming from deep contradictions in his “self”), and of the total authorship of the “self” in relation to the decision and the act. The ignorance of this future which sometimes partly follows from the act—but which cannot follow fully, in the case of a practically useless act—can help certain men to act. (Was it not said that the foreknowledge of the fate that awaited all their civilizations had broken the spirit of the American leaders of the sixteenth century, Aztecs as well as Incas, to the point of preventing them from resisting the Spaniards as quickly and as vigorously as they could have done, if they had never been informed of prophecies of destruction?). It can give the illusion of an absence of constraint—a knowledge of the absence of the constraint of Destiny—and thus allow the blossoming of hope, which is a force of action.
But, as I mentioned above, the Strong do not require this assistance to achieve what the sense of honor dictates to them, which is always the consciousness of fidelity to a Leader, or an idea, or both, and the duty that this implies. Even in full knowledge that the future escapes them, that their beloved truth will from now on remain hidden under a bushel, indefinitely, they will decide for action, useless, certainly, but honorable; for beautiful action, daughter of all that is more permanent, more fundamental to their lordly “selves”; action for which they will be rigorously responsible and that they will never regret, because it is “them.”
They can, certainly, imagine a future different from that which they consider only with horror or distaste, and to which all their attitude opposes them. But they cannot conceive of themselves acting differently. In them, there is neither irrelevant “deliberation,” nor choice, but the reaction of all their being in the face of the elementary alternative: to be oneself, or to deny oneself; internal necessity—exactly like the sage “above Time” when he acts. The sole difference is that, for those who do not yet “see” the future from the point of view of the eternal, this internal need does not necessarily merge with that which governs the visible and invisible cosmos, and Being itself, beyond all its manifestations. It can, by accident, merge with it. But it also can represent only the fidelity of action to the “ego” of the agent, sages being rare, and a great character not always—alas!—being put in service of a true idea, an eternal cause. That suffices to render the agent absolutely responsible. For one is responsible for everything one supports: initially for his own action, insofar as it expresses his true “self”; and then, for the actions of all those with whom one is linked by a common faith. So much the worse for the man who gives his energy to a doctrine that moves him away from the eternal instead of bringing him closer! No value of the individual as such, no nobility of character can make a false idea true and make a cause centered on false ideas or half-truths objectively justifiable.
* * *
He who is raised above time and who, in spite of that—or precisely because of that, if he has a mission to accomplish—thinks it good to act in time, acts with the sureness of beings that do not choose; with that of the plant that grows toward the sun—what am I saying?—with that of the magnet that attracts iron, or of the elements that combine to yield the compounds that chemistry studies. With consciousness in addition, certainly, but without deliberation or choice, since he “knows” clearly, and there is choice only for the consciousness that does not know, or that knows only imperfectly. (One does not “choose” between the two propositions, “Two and two make four” and “Two and two make five.” It is known that the first is true, the second false. One does not “choose,” either, to think that an object is white, if it is seen as such. One feels the impossibility of accepting any judgment that excludes its “whiteness.”)
What can encourage the decision of one who is still a prisoner of time—who thus does not “know,” who does not “see” what will be the future of the creation to which he contributes, and who has the impression that he “chooses” his action? What can encourage him then, especially if he is ignorant of the whole future yet knows that it will goagainst him, and against all in the world that is most dear to him, and that his action is on the practical level perfectly useless? What could sustain the attitude of men like Teia, last king of the Goths in Italy? Or like the Amerindian princes and warriors, who, in spite of the decree of their own Gods, deciphered in the heaven by the sages of their lands, fought all the same, albeit too late—and with desperate heroism—against the Spaniards? Or, closer to us, like those thousands of Germans and Aryans of the whole world, who, even when they knew quite well all was lost, even when nothing more remained of the great National Socialist Reich than a few square meters pounded by Russian artillery, continued to fight, against thousands, like lions?4
What can sustain the action, the refusal to yield, the defiance, the useless attitude, not of a martyr who foresees, beyond death, a future of bliss that will compensate him for the worst torments in this world, but of the enthusiasts of all lost causes who have hope neither in this world nor in another—who are not even enlightened enough to imagine the triumph of their truth at the dawn of a future temporal cycle and who, humanly speaking, must have the impression that they fight, suffer, and die for nothing? What can theyoppose to this nothing, that is worth all the sacrifices?
They can oppose—and no doubt do oppose, be it only subconsciously—the only certitude that remains when all the rest collapse: that of the irrevocability of the past. It is not about the future of their people and the world, on which they will have no influence. It is even less about their personal futures, which long ago ceased to interest them. It is about the beauty of the moment that they will live, immediately, in one second, in one hour, it does not matter when; it is about the beauty of this moment that represents, in time without end, the last scene of their combat, the moment that, as soon as it is lived, takes on the unshakeable stability that is the very essence of the past; which will still “exist,” in the manner of the past as a whole, in millions and billions of years, long after there is anyone on earth who remembers it—when there is no more earth; no more solar system; when all the visible worlds of today cease to exist materially. They feel that this moment is all that still depends on them; all that is still given to them to create. They feel that it is in their power to make it beautiful, or ugly: beautiful, if it fits into the every structure of their being, like the perfect detail that crowns a work of art, the last perfect phrase of a musical composition, without which it would be truncated, abortive, blocked in its motion; ugly, if they contradict it, if they betray it; if, far from completing and crowning it, they detract from its value; if they destroy it, the way a last brushstroke can change a smile into a grimace, or the way a drop of impure liquid can taint, can forever destroy, the most glorious of perfumes. They feel—they know—that it depends on them to make it beautiful or ugly, according to whether they proclaim, and proclaim for eternity, their honor or their shame; their fidelity to their true raison d’être, or their disavowal. (For what is it to disavow, as soon as they become unpopular, the principles that one professed, a king or a leader one pretended to love and serve as long as there was some tangible advantage to do it? It does not prove that one “had been misled”—if not, one would have changed sometime earlier—but it shows that one values effort only for attaining purchasable comfort and pleasures, and that one is incapable of disinterested allegiance, not only towards the leaders whom one betrayed, but towards anyone; that one has neither honor nor courage, in other words, that one is not “a man,” even if one has a human form. For a coward is not a man.)
The horror of an eternity of ugliness—for the revulsion of a man of honor before a degrading action or attitude is nothing else—is perhaps more decisive even than the aspiration of the faithful one, vanquished on the material plan, to remain himself after the defeat. In fact, if it is rare that a man knows himself before circumstances reveal his true scale of values to him, he at least knows himself, to a certain extent, negatively. If he does not know, in general, of what he is capable, at least he has—and that, apparently, as an awakening of his self-consciousness—a sufficiently clear idea or feeling of some things that he would never do; of some attitudes that could never be his, whatever the circumstances. The man of good race recoils spontaneously before a degrading action or attitude. He feels that once done, or adopted—once it has become an integral part of the past, henceforth unchangeable—it would mark him for eternity, in other words would sully him and make him irremediably ugly. And it is against this projection of his degraded “self”—against this contrast between the nobility, the beauty which he feels in him, and the image that he has made of the ugliness that is inseparable from all cowardice, which would cover his fallen being—that he revolts. Anything, rather than that! Anything, rather than to become an object so repellent!—and that forever, because no contrition canerase what once was; no forgiveness can change the past.
And what one can say of the vanquished of this world who acts “against Time”—i.e., futilely, from the point of view of his hostile contemporaries—is also true of those for whom any action properly speaking is forbidden, without them having inevitably transcended the temporal domain either, and who continue to live, day after day, for years and decades, in the spirit of a doctrine contrary to the current of Time. They leave, in the lonely course of their existence, with their expression more and more hindered, an indelible page in unwritten History. The most humble among them could claim for himself a spiritual kinship, undoubtedly remote but undeniable, with certain famous figures: with a Hypatia, in the Alexandria of the fourth and the fifth centuries, increasingly controlled by Christianity; with a Pletho in the fifteenth century, in the environment of Byzantine Hellenism, completely impregnated with Christian theology. He could, in his moments of depression, think of all those who, in forced inactivity, almost complete—or a phantom of activity, that their persecutors contrived to render useless5—continue, in an indefinite captivity, to be most eloquent witnesses of their faith. (In writing these lines, I myself think of Rudolf Hess and Walter Reder, locked up, the first thirty years already, or almost, the second twenty-seven, behind the bars of a prison.6) He could with reason tell himself that he is, that his brothers in faith are, and for always; that all that they represent continues on in them, already in our visible and tangible world.
Ancient Hellenism lives in Pletho, as in a few other men of the fifteenth century, insofar as they preserved its spirit. In the same way the “true Germany,” i.e., the Germany that has found its old spirit in Hitlerism, lives in the cell of Rudolf Hess—and more invincibly than everywhere else, certainly, since the prisoner of Spandau is one of the spiritual initiators of the more than political Movement that “the Party” represented at its origins, and probably one of the co-initiates of the Führer. She also lives—their truth and theirvision—in Walter Reder and in all the faithful Germans who are still captives, if any still are, as well as in the immortal figures of the irrevocable past such as, for example, Doctor Joseph Goebbels and his wife, who in their spectacular demise carried along the six children that they had given to the Third Reich rather than letting them survive it. Not to mention the Führer himself, who all his life was the Man at the same time “out of Time” and “against Time”—“out of Time,” if one considers him from the point of view of knowledge, “against Time” (against the current of universal decadence, more and more obvious at the end of our cycle), if one speaks about him from the point of view of action.
But I will add that, unless one has like him transcended Time by the direct consciousness of “the original significance of things,” 7 it is not possible to sweep up, be it only for a few short years, millions people in a combat against the general tendency of temporal manifestation, especially close to the end of a cycle. He who, still captive of “the before” and “the after,” cannot in all objectivity attach his action or its attitude to the “original significance of things,” is justified only by the beauty of this episode in unwritten History that is, and that will remain, even if unknown forever, his own history. The consciousness of the beauty of something that nothing can destroy any longer, is for the individual that which is the most ennobling—all the more so that all beauty is, even if he does not realize it, the radiance of a hidden truth.
But as a lived experience, it relates to only him and those who accept the same values. It can be sufficient for him. For many of them, already, this immutably beautiful past will be soon only one past. Only he who, being raised out of Time, knows that his action “against Time” reflects the truth of always—the truth whose Source is the divine order—can transmit to the multitudes not this truth (which is incommunicable, and which, in addition, would not interest them) but his faith in necessary action; his conviction that hiscombat against inverted values long preached and accepted, against erroneous ideas, against the reversal of natural hierarchies, is the only one worthy of all the sacrifices. Only he can do it, because there is, in him, at the same time as the joy of combat, even if practically useless, on behalf of a true idea, the vision of our historical cycle in its place in the indefinite rhythmic unfolding of all the cycles, in the “Eternal Present”; because there is, in the objectivity of this vision, a light capable of being projected, be it only for an instant—a few years—on our world, like a glimmer heralding the dawn of the next cycle; a force capable for an instant of holding it back in its race toward disintegration.
The multitudes are seduced by this light, and feel this force—but not for long. Any mass is, by nature, inert. The man of vision whom Adolf Hitler was, attracted the privileged crowds for a time, like a magnet attracts iron. They felt they had a God for a leader—a man in contact with “the original”—eternal—“sense of things.” But they did notunderstand him. He vanished; they again became the modern crowd. They remained, however, marked in their substance by the memory of a unique experience, and imprinted with an immense nostalgia: a nostalgia that the swirl of the life haunted by the idea of the money, production, comfort and supersaturated with purchasable pleasures, cannot dissipate. I have been told that more than thirteen thousand young people commit suicide every year, in West Germany alone.
There is, fortunately, also a youth that, knowing fully that they will never themselves see the equivalent of what the Third Reich was, lives with courage and conviction the faith that counters the current of time—the faith in the eternity of the Race, concrete symbol of the eternal beyond the visible and transcendent world—that the Führer left in their care in his so-called “political” testament. They live it with courage and without hope, in the manner of the Strong who need neither support nor consolation. When these young people, who are now twelve, fifteen, or eighteen years old, have become old men and women, those of them who will have remained faithful without defect every day of their existence—in thought, in their silence; in their speech, whenever possible; by their behavior in the “small” things as in the great ones—those, I say, will be able, even without ever rising above the “before” and “after,” to consider the page of unwritten History that their life will represent, and be content with it as a work of beauty. To this page, their children will add another. And the faith will be handed down.
There are, finally, some very rare faithful ones who, sensing in the teaching of the Führer doctrines that are more than political, persist in their study, regardless of the lost war and the tenacious hostility of the whole world, conditioned by the enemy, in order to discover what constitutes its enduring value. Little by little they realize that Hitlerlism—Aryan racism in its expression of yesterday and today—if it is examined stripped of the contingencies that marked its birth, is nothing else than one way, which implies in its Founder the vision, in all those who follow him in spirit, the acceptance, of the metaphysical truths at the base of all the ancient traditions, in other words the supreme truth. And they endeavor to approach the missing Leader, while approaching He who he actually was: He who, in the Bhagavad-Gita, teaches the Aryan Warrior the mystery of the union with the infinite Self through violent action, freed of any attachment; He who returns from age in age to fight “for Justice,” i.e., for the restoration of the divine order, against the current of Time. In other words, they seek the eternal, certain that only they will find it.
1. This was written in 1969 or 1970 — Trans.
2. Leconte de Lisle, in the poem “Cain,” in Barbaric Poems.
3. Here I am discussing, naturally, freedom in the sense in which this word is generally understood, not “freedom” in the metaphysical sense in which, for example, René Guénon understands it.
4. Inter alia the French members of the Waffen S.S. who defended Berlin until the end.
5. The vegetables and fruits that the “seven” of Spandau were allowed to cultivate were, upon maturity, systematically destroyed. Nobody benefited from it!
6. This sentence was written in December 1970.
7. “der Ursinn der Dinge,” (Mein Kampf, p. 440).
Source: Chapter 5 of Souveniers et réflexions d’une Aryenne (Memories and Reflections of an Aryan Woman), http://savitridevi.org/M&R_chapter_5.html