Ever since my initial treatment of the subject, I’ve always meant to write more on The Natural Aristocracy, but I could never quite get my ideas together. After a bit of a bump in traffic from a Twitter shout-out by Michael Anissimov though, I went back over the post, as well as its comments, to see if I could find a spark that could ignite my thinking on the matter.
I thought initially I could write up something about how even those born with aristocratic potential can fall from its ranks if they fail to cultivate their natural talents, but I don’t see much need to elaborate on that. Squandering your capabilities obviously limits what you do in life and how aristocratic you are. This should be self-evident.
No, I needed something I could really examine in more detail. This comment by House Perspicacity caught my eye. I won’t address what he says directly, for the most part, but the interplay of aristocracy, psychopathy, and virtue is one that offers unique grounds for exploration, and so much of what I say here will be highly related.
Just looking over what I wrote on The Natural Aristocracy some months later, I can already see refinements I would make if I were writing it now. Still, I think I was correct in not necessarily assessing “Virtue” as being a necessary characteristic of the Natural Aristocracy. Some might disagree with me on this, but I think that being naturally aristocratic doesn’t make one in and of themselves virtuous.
Blood matters, and genes are important. That said, environmental influence is still relevant. This is equally true of The Natural Aristocracy, who are probably just as much influenced by their surroundings as anyone else (this is no doubt debatable, as the greater intelligence and capacity for thoughtful reflection might mitigate the ability to be swayed by certain environmental factors).
Aristocrats adapt to the time in which they exist. Whatever is incentivized will be encouraged, and Natural Aristocrats are fairly good at assessing incentives and working out how to use them to achieve the greatest personal benefit. This is especially true for those with a more pragmatic bent to them, as they apply their intelligence and industriousness to achieve their own ends.
If the world is one which incentivizes slave morality, hedonism, and degenerate behavior though, more and more Aristocrats will accept such things as being worthy principles and ideals. Yet this surely cannot be Aristocratic, can it? To appeal to the lowest and most base of values is the antithesis of the aristocratic, is it not?
I agree, yet I think there is some equivocation going on here. Up to this point, I have been discussing what “Aristocracy” means in relation to people. I have refrained from analyzing what “Aristocracy” means in the realm of ideas.
In short, I refer to an idea as “Aristocratic” if it refers to what is best (i.e. Aristotle discussing only the “best” examples of what it means to be human, animal, plant, God…etc) or if it focuses on the elevation of the human to a higher level of skill and capability, understanding, virtue…etc. If it seeks to raise one to a higher level of existence, whether we are talking spiritual, intellectual, physical, or otherwise (though these are far from the only spheres in which we can improve ourselves), it is aristocratic.
The pursuit of “virtue” (whatever that may mean for the Aristocrat in question, whether the 4 Cardinal Virtues, Chivalric Ideals, the Eight-fold Path…etc) is perhaps one of the most noble and aristocratic of all quests. Philosophers, theologians, and all manner of folk throughout history have given their lives to the pursuit of the ideal of “virtue”. The cultivation of morality within the self has been celebrated throughout the ages, and many Natural Aristocrats possess at least some drive to behave nobly and virtuously and to demonstrate right conduct.
Those who fully embrace Aristocratic ideals can be considered (to borrow a term from the great Julius Evola) “Aristocrats of the Soul”. Those Natural Aristocrats who embrace these ideals and live by them are Aristocrats in spirit, mind, body, and character. There is no more fitting term for them than the “Noble Aristocrats”.
So what do I think of those Natural Aristocrats who reject Aristocratic principles like the elevation of the human spirit and the pursuit of virtue? I say they are a Fallen Aristocracy, whose elevation to the halls of power in our society portends a decline and a fall no less palpable than the disasters that befell Rome as the power of the Empire waned.
Without a Noble Aristocracy working for the preservation of the sacred fires of Tradition and Morality, social norms and codes of conduct will erode and decay. When this happens, the baser urges of humanity are unleashed, hedonism becomes the theme of the age, and concepts of Honor and Nobility are given less heed.
It is in this environment that ignoble and Machiavellian tactics in pursuit of ones ends are allowed to flourish. Machivellianism is always an effective way of achieving ones’ ends, but in societies with strong codes of honor, in which social reputation is everything, the cost of such means is usually too high to be worth the execution. In this way, “dishonorable” conduct is discouraged and “virtuous” behavior is given breathing room to survive. Without these checks in place, underhanded and “dirty” behavior becomes overpowering, and from there it always finds a way to run amok.
Natural Aristocrats, being intelligent individuals, catch on to this, of course. In many of them, their ambition overpowers their desire for virtue. Even if they reject the egalitarian impulses that characterize so many modernist philosophies, they can avoid the rejection of the Aristocratic and so avoid joining the ranks of the Fallen Aristocracy. Still, without being devoted to the ideal of virtue, many of them become an Aristocracy of a different sort, a Pragmatic Aristocracy, bent on winning and on achieving their ends at all costs. To a Pragmatic Aristocrat, a fair competition is one in which both sides are giving it everything they’ve got, and neither is leaving any tactic off the table.
In any clash of wills, the Pragmatic triumph over the Noble because they will go to any lengths to achieve their own ends while the Noble will always hold back. Eventually, all Nobles fall to Pragmatists. Played out on the level of civilizations, we see easily how a society headed by Noble Aristocracy can fall victim to the designs of one headed by more Pragmatic sorts, or how within a society, Pragmatist gradually replace Nobles in the seats of power.
A certain percentage of Pragmatists in power is natural, of course. Being pragmatic, they tend to do a fairly good job of governing (sometimes better than the Nobles, for different times and contexts require different types of leaders, and some eras need Pragmatists more than Nobles in charge). Still, as the percentage of Nobles in the Halls of Power declines, leaders become increasingly more ruthless and conniving in order to seize and hold power. There is always a certain degree of Machiavellianism among the powerful, and strong societal institutions can hold this in check at levels that have minimal deleterious effect on the populace, but their ability to keep this tendency in check is not indefinite. Human nature always wins out in the end, and the ruthless and unprincipled and conniving will always find a way to acquire and hold power, while those more principled than them are forced to adopt their tactics in order to keep up. You reach the point when any semblance of honor becomes a weakness at high levels of government.
This is what we see in our time. Psychopathy, sociopathy, and Machiavellianism are traits that give one an edge in the modern world. Is it any wonder that Pragmatic Aristocrats seek to develop these traits in themselves? In a world in which people earned status and acclaim through acts of Virtue, the Pragmatic would become most Noble individuals indeed. In the Modern World, however, virtue can only be, at most, its own reward.
In our present time, we find ourselves with a most ignoble arrangement. The Fallen Aristocracy frames the societal discourse on issues of morality and proper societal conduct, using the natural untermenschen as their pawns. Pragmatic Aristocracy out only for themselves play off of this and find ways to profit and thrive in this environment, giving tacit approval for continued societal degradation. Noble Aristocrats are marginalized and slandered, incapable of cutting it in the highest echelons of society when it is they who are what we need most right now.
The incredibly virtuous are always ostracized in any time and place, but anyone who strives to better themselves in this day and age learns fairly quickly that sharing your struggle leads to resentment more than approval. In this time in which equality is considered the first principle of all morality, almost all attempts to elevate the self to a more Aristocratic existence are (for the most part), not looked on very favorably. Yet this opprobrium must be overcome, for any semblance of a reactionary society will only be made possible through the blood, sweat, toil, and tears of Noble Aristocrats, as well as any Pragmatic Aristocrat allies who perceive it to be in their interest to tag along.
This alliance of the Noble and the Pragmatic is key, of course. Noble Aristocrats care so deeply about the realization of their own virtue they refuse to do whatever it takes to achieve their own ends for risk of compromising their piety. If the ends they seek happen to be, say, the preservation of their society and stability and prosperity for their citizens, the results are often disastrous when this choice is made.
With Pragmatists wholly in charge though, we always witness an inevitable progression to a degenerate state as the baser urges of Human nature are set loose and the pragmatists ride these into power. Only the Pragmatic can counter the Pragmatic, but when only the Pragmatic rule, virtue grinds to a halt. However, the proper functioning of any state is highly dependent on the virtue of the populace. Too many pragmatists and the whole structure of governance turns into a giant crab-bucket, with everyone pulling each other down in their race to the top. At the bottom of society, the common people become increasingly base, hedonistic, and degenerate as the Noble Aristocrats are unable to exercise their capability to preserve morality and virtue among the population.
Thus, Pragmatic Aristocrats need to realize that the cultivation of proper virtue among the populace constitutes a pragmatic goal in itself (failed states are kinder to brutal warlords and savage degenerates than Natural Aristocrats). They also need to realize that they are necessary to achieving that end, because the Noble Aristocrats left on their own in such matters won’t be able to cut it when thrust up against the Progressive Pragmatists who oppose them (this is why Modern Conservatism always fails). If we are to ever see a Reactionary state filled with virtuous people, we need to understand that it can only be made possible if the pragmatists and the Nobles work together.
Noble Aristocrats, you do not have the luxury of actualizing your quest for “virtue” in the present time. That is your burden, the price you pay for your presence in the Kali Yuga. I am certainly not telling you not to be virtuous and strive for ever greater heights of virtue (as I said, that is quite possibly the most Aristocratic of quests), but know that you can only push the cause of reaction so far if your highest priority is your own moral refinement. Much as you might be opposed to it, your best bet if you ever want to see a reactionary state is to not get in the way of the pragmatists who are working toward that end. Get out of the way and let them do what they’re good at.
AQUILA NON CAPIT MUSCAS