A Handbook of Traditional Living
Arktos Media, 2010
“By emulating in his everyday activities the archetypal exemplar of myth, man abolishes profane existence in favor of a magical-religious life centered on an eternal present.”
Based on the title, I expected A Handbook of Traditional Living to be about home life, family, and culture from a Traditionalist perspective. However, it focuses more on the kshatriya path of a warrior and practical tools for the spiritual warrior’s daily life. The target audience for this book seems to be young men interested in Julius Evola’s Radical Traditionalism, but there’s plenty for anyone interested in Traditional thought.
A Handbook of Traditional Living is written in two parts: The first serves as an introduction to the world of Tradition and Part II offers guidelines for those engaged in revolutionary politics. The authors, collectively known as Raido, have a kshatriya inclination and as such are focused more on the spiritual component of active social and political engagement rather than academic or cultural philosophy. Its authors touch upon the chief aspects of the Traditional outlook: the notions of metaphysics, esotericism and initiation, caste and authority, cyclical decline, and renewal.
Part I: The World of Tradition
In Part I, the authors describe how humanity once lived in a Golden Age, existing in a state similar to that of the Gods. Only later did we degenerate “into forms of social life dominated by impiety, greed, violence and deceit.” Today we live in the Kali Yuga, when rationalism, egalitarianism, evolutionism, utilitarianism, relativism, individualism, and economism reign supreme. According to Raido, all these are single components “of the same subversive plan, the aim of which is to nullify any human aspiration towards the sacred.” René Guénon calls this process “solidification,” meaning man has replaced the sacred outlook with the material, “which is subject to demonic forces.” Much of the information about Traditionalism is simplified due to it being a short book; however A Handbook of Traditional Living still serves as a strong introduction for those not familiar with these ideas.
The book is a great reference for the integration of the Greater and Lesser Holy Wars. The Greater Holy War is the fight against the enemy within:
This is a profound, immaterial struggle that each person must undertake against greed, rage, fear, cowardice and instinct. Life thus becomes an eternal fight between spiritual forces and their opposite: between solar forces and the dark forces of chaos and matter. The Greater Holy War is waged between the Solar Principle in man, the self, against what is merely human, weak and subject to passions: the I or ego. The Lesser Holy War, instead, is waged against external enemies: barbarians, those who do not belong to one’s community. The Lesser Holy War is cathartic, which is to say: it favours the emergence of an inner enemy. The two paths should become one: he who in the Lesser War experiences the Greater will overcome the ‘death crisis’ by ridding himself of the inner enemy and of the instinct towards self-preservation. Once fear, desire and restlessness have bee overcome, man becomes free of all instincts and afflictions.
An Introduction to Initiation
The human personality can either rise toward the highest or fall to the subhuman or animal levels. Initiation provides an “external” intervention that transmits a spiritual influence. Through initiation, a path is provided for individuals to experience lives of fullness, freed from the ego and in touch with a higher reality. It provides an inner affirmation of the “higher” and neutralizes the negative, “lower” influences. According to Raido: “The initiate inwardly belongs to a different world, one that is no longer agitated or subject to necessity and the rule of the senses. The initiate becomes immortal.”
The authors posit three essential qualities required for the path of initiation:
- Qualification, i.e., power (the power to act);
- Transmission, i.e., virtue (the ability to make one’s power active and effective); and
- Actuality, i.e., the capacity to untiringly perform constant work on oneself (constant awareness of one’s actions).
Part II: The Front of Tradition
The second half of the book delves into practical suggestions for the man of Tradition, as well as groups of men who will fight for Tradition. Much seems influenced by the founder of the Iron Guard (or Legionnaire movement), Corneliu Codreanu, whom Evola said was “one of the worthiest and spiritually best oriented figures that I ever met in the nationalist movements of the time” (Sedgwick, p. 114).
Raido advocates a way of being that’s in line with Thelema’s “without lust of result” and the Bhagavad Gita’s “Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although he is engaged in all kinds of undertakings” (4:20). Every action should be stripped of personal, egoistic motives; otherwise, one is merely agitating, “which turns the individual into a passive recipient and victim of the action itself.”
The Three Tests of the Legionary
Raido describes the three tests Codreanu said the Legionary must pass, which correspond to inner conditions he must attain:
- The mountain of suffering: Its aim is “to sever the personal ties that bind us as individuals and limit our potential for action: family ties, for instance, or those of passion and bourgeois contamination.” It “seeks to provide a new existential foundation through the values of love, honour and loyalty.”
- The forest of wild beats: This refers to everyday life, which in the modern world “constantly attempts to instill conformity in those who do not feel at home within it.”
- The swamp of dejection: This refers to the inner condition of those on the path who stop: “The image of the swamp perfectly encapsulates the inner condition of a man stuck in a muddy terrain hostile to any rapid and incisive action.”
The Vanguard and the Life of the Militant
A Handbook of Traditional Living also discusses the Traditional Vanguard. Its duty is:
to be prepared for the moment when rage will erupt in society, when what will be needed, aside from plans, will be men capable of channeling dissent, not by manipulating it, but by directing it towards the only values capable of justifying revolt: the search for inner freedom.
It should do this by finding new militants and helping them become warriors and future leaders.
Groups of Traditional men work in “Operative Units.” Members should strive to remedy themselves of negative influences—such as hypocrisy, dishonesty, vulgarity, and unseemliness—no small task in the Kali Yuga with its influences. Practically, the militant will shun drugs, alcohol abuse, perversions, and random acts of violence, “which are but signs of human meanness and cowardice.”
This discipline is advised not merely for success in the world—but also, conquering everyday reality is the starting point for the attempt to conquer oneself. This is in accordance with the Western occult tradition which starts with balancing the elements, or Malkuth:
What matters is not what one does, but how one does it. Thus relations with one’s family, girlfriend or friends, as well as work and study commitments—not to mention one’s active engagement as a militant—will have to be experienced in a new light, where individual responsibility and sacrifice take the place of all arbitrariness and emotionality. . . . sentimentality and bourgeois conformity must be replaced by loyalty, clarity and sincerity. The obstacles and difficulties encountered in everyday life should thus be envisaged as a useful occasion to put oneself to the test.
The above quote summarizes the very practical nature of A Handbook of Traditional Living, whether using it as a guide for spiritual attainment or political action.
Overall I was happy with this book. As I mentioned before, it’s certainly not an in-depth study of Traditionalism, but for a short and quick read it’s an excellent introduction. Regardless of whether you’re planning on forming an Operative Unit, it provides a welcome impetus to reexamine one’s way of life in light of Traditional and noble values. A Handbook of Traditional Living is a call to greatness and an excellent reminder of how to go about putting such values into practice in daily life.
Sedgwick, Mark. Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press, 2009.
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