“We will kill in ourselves a world in order to build another, a higher one reaching to the heavens.”
— Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
Reaction has a problem with religion. We are now several years into the reactionary renaissance, and by this time, it is near-universally recognized that religion is a positive social force, with a near-unparalleled ability to coordinate societies and encourage virtue. You will find few reactionary writers who don’t speak warmly of some religious views, and a substantial number piously practice some religion or another. At the same time, there is no such consensus about which religious traditions should be given pride of place. Reaction contains Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Pagans and Protestants, a handful of Mormons, and even the occasional Jew—and of course, we cannot forget the actual atheists, quite numerous in reactionary circles, who may harbor some positive thoughts about religion but do not actually practice.
Given this immense diversity, when the official Church of the Restoration is consecrated (or its permanent absence is announced), a lot of people are going to be very disappointed. However, there is a silver lining. While we don’t agree on which religious tradition to support, we do agree that some religions are awful and should be limited or suppressed in a Western context. Islam is the first example that comes to mind, but I consider it of far less importance to the other, native example of a destructive anti-religion: progressivism. Progressivism has been analyzed as a mutant offspring of protestant Christianity even before Moldbug, and that analysis has become part of the core background knowledge with which all reactionaries are familiar.
Yet, this observation itself should give us pause. Progressivism is tremendously useful for social organization. It has effectively taken over the world, but it orients that organization to destructive and anti-civilizational ends. Every positive observation we might make about religion can be recast in a negative light in the case of progressivism.
For example, progressivism encourages people to give up short-term worldly success in favor of higher forms of virtue by becoming childless, genderqueer activists. Progressivism creates a socially validating myth about progress and the future which enables people to orient their lives and feel like they are participating in something larger than themselves. Progressivism describes a higher, moral law which supersedes human-authored statutes, providing the stance to critique the corrupt elements of the current world order. Progressivism gives us a vision of the world as it could be, a Paradise to which we can ascend.
This observation is core to the critique of religion which is offered by atheist reactionaries. The connection of progressivism to Christianity is especially well-known to those pagans who take this cladistic relationship as a reason to discredit Christianity. Even those who are Christians of some kind or another have to recognize that it is not sufficient to have “a religion, any religion”. It matters that we have the right religion. Moldbug treats revealing the religious nature of progressivism as synonymous with discrediting it, but since we’ve decided to take religion a little more seriously, this swift dismissal will no longer suffice. It behooves us to notice the ways in which the religious nature of progressivism actually works to its favor, before we turn to considering how the reactionary is to use this knowledge.
The first thing we notice is a paradox: Progress does not believe itself to be a religion. In general, progressives will turn their nose up at the idea that their beliefs have anything in common with religion, which they generally regard as a reactionary force. It has become more and more widespread to notice the religious quality to progressivism, but so, too, have the denials become more strident. How is it that the most successful religious movement of the 19th and 20th centuries denies that it has anything to do with religion?
The resolution to this paradox lies in the unwilling assist that Progress gets from liberalism, its slightly older sister. One of the core tenets of classical liberalism is that of religious tolerance. The principle of tolerance renders any kind of official, political recognition of religion suspect, enshrining in its place the notion that the state must be strictly neutral with regards to the exercise of religion, which is suffered to exist only as a private, non-political observance. This hampers the ability of religious groups to make explicit religious arguments in the public square, and as the logic of liberalism works itself out, religiosity is gradually marginalized as a significant public force.
At the same time, Progress grows perpetually in influence, precisely because it is not overtly religious. The loss of explicit theism and historic Christian doctrinal content in progressivism is not accidental. It is precisely because Progress maintains the sociological dimension of religion without its doctrinal trappings that it was able to essentially take over most public institutions: it provides the same advantages of coordination and motivation that traditional religions have, but it isn’t barred by liberalism from attempting to take over the state.
Furthermore, by preventing its main rivals attempting to compete with it, progressivism is able to seize control of the state with barely any resistance. This is why liberalism and progressivism are consistently found together, and why there is barely any such thing as a liberal movement that is not also progressive—at least at first. The only reason why we even want to distinguish liberal and progressive ideologies is because there are two peculiar species in which the instincts are divided, and which provide an important counterpoint for this analysis. The first is the non-progressive liberal, who in the U.S. goes by the name of the “mainstream conservative.” In Europe, the equivalent parties are often called “Liberal”, which is at least a more honest name.
This species of liberal is horrified by the apocalyptic and utopian vision of the progressive, but he thinks that the solution to this problem is simply to double down on liberalism. These are the sorts of conservatives who recoil in horror from the notion of a state church or any kind of illiberal policy for combating progressives, the conservatives who consider Vladimir Putin the greatest threat to liberty today. They apply the pesticide which eliminates the natural competitors of progressivism, and then they watch aghast as their fields are filled with progressive weeds. At the other end of the spectrum is the illiberal progressive. This fellow deserves at least the compliment of being clear-thinking and realistic, though not honest. The attitude of the illiberal progressive was described by Moldbug in a well-known essay quoting from the ACLU founder Roger Baldwin, writing in the 1930’s:
In Soviet Russia, despite the rigid controls and suppression of opposition, the regime is dominated by the economic needs of workers and peasants. Their economic power, even when unorganized, is the force behind it. Their liberties won by the Revolution are the ultimate dictators of Soviet policy. In this lies the chief justification for the hope that, with the increasing share by the masses in all activities of life, the rigors of centralized dictatorship will be lessened and the creative forces given free rein. Peasants and workers are keenly aware of their new liberties won by the Revolution. Anywhere you can hear voiced their belief that, whatever their criticism and discontent, that they are “free.” And they constitute over ninety percent of the Russian people. Such an attitude as I express toward the relation of economic to civil liberty may easily be construed as condoning in Russia repressions which I condemn in capitalist countries. It is true that I feel differently about them, because I regard them as unlike. Repressions in western democracies are weapons of struggle in a transition period to socialism. The society the Communists seek to create will be freed of class struggle — if achieved — and therefore of repression.
The purpose of civil liberties is to enable communism, you see, and once we have communism, we no longer require civil liberties. Very clear, wouldn’t you say, comrade? In the contemporary world, this attitude finds its clearest presentation in the social justice movement, which openly assaults the liberal notions of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association. In their place, the SJWs present their speech codes and purity rituals as public obligations, demanding that state and corporate power be used to enforce their ideals and oppress their enemies. These are the students who rioted in Berkely, Middlebury, Yale and Missouri.
We can take some comfort in the fact that their movement seems to have crested, and public opinion seems to be somewhat turning against them. But only a little: what is reasserting itself is merely liberalism in the face of an illiberal progressive movement that overplayed its hand. Liberalism is only ever a holding pattern. Under liberal assumptions, crypto-religious progressives can continue to consolidate power and gain adherents, until they have enough power to attempt to abolish liberalism again.
So, this is where the reactionary movement finds itself: impressed by religious power but unable to agree upon an actual religion and at war with a crypto-religious system that gains enormous power from offering religious zeal without traditional religious forms. There does not seem to be a solution to this problem. Even if you could get all reactionaries to agree to a particular religious tradition, we would only be making the progressives’ job easier, as they would then appeal to the existing liberal tradition and declare the reactionary religion illegitimate as a basis for state power.
Then someone said something to me the other day in a private reactionary forum: could you do progressivism, but from the Right?
To summarize where we’re at so far: I’ve discussed the way the problem of religion within reactionary circles. We have diverse religious commitments and no clear way to resolve the differences between them. Furthermore, under the prevailing ideology of liberalism, any explicitly religious movement which aims to capture the state is considered ipso facto illegitimate, so resolving this tension would weaken reaction rather than strengthening it.
Progressivism exploits this feature of liberalism by marrying religious zeal to a form which is not conventionally religious, allowing it to gain control of the state without activating liberal antibodies—at least, not until it’s too late. With this in mind, it has been suggestion that to fight progressivism we may need a way to “do progressivism from the Right.” What we mean by this is offering an ideology capable of reaping many of the benefits of religion, but which is not a religion on its face and therefore cannot be prohibited on liberal grounds. And yet, this ideology provides the organizing principle for a takeover of the state.
Such a creature, if it were to exist, would need to have several characteristics. The ideology should be non-religious enough that one could argue for it in any forum where explicit religious argument would be poorly received. The crypto-religion should be expressible in terms which limit the instincts of crimestop and sound like practical common sense, rather than arbitrary dogma. This meta-religious ideology should not conflict with the existing religious commitments of reactionaries, whatever they are, but should rather strengthen them. Finally, the ideology should have a “poison pill” aspect: once its initial precepts are accepted, logical consistency should drive one in the direction of full reaction, in much the same way that apparently innocent progressive measures tend to drive their hosts towards full-blown progressivism over time.
This is a heady thing to contemplate, especially because it smacks of the execrable universalist canard that there is some set of non-specific religious principles which underlies all religions and can be found and practiced without the accretions of dogma. Let us begin, then, by disavowing this notion. What I am about to describe is not a religion. It is, at best, the bones of a religion, the seeds from which a religion might grow, or a test by which true religion can be recognized. We lack rituals, communities, and metaphysics. What we do have are the Laws of Gnon: genuine reactionary insights into the nature of the world which accord with every religious tradition and can counteract the beautiful lies of progressivism. If we have rightly discerned nature of Gnon, then every one of these is a truth which will empower us insofar as we embrace it and condemn us if we ignore it.
The first Law of Gnon is the law of hierarchy. Rectitude comes from submission to the proper authorities. It is not earned by mere individual excellence or private holiness. A man finds his true worth by putting his efforts into the service of those above him, and an organization proves its worthiness insofar as it creates an effective hierarchy internally and identifies the men who are fit to hold each rank. Hierarchy is the principle by which Gnon runs the universe. Progressives proclaim the opposite. They proclaim equality, which is a myth except at the lowest levels of the hierarchy. Equality is a mob, a mass, an undirected blob which commands no one and achieves nothing.
Furthermore, the progressives themselves reveal this in their preferences. Every progressive organization that actually accomplishes anything does so because it organizes itself internally on hierarchical lines, and this provides an outlet to undermine them. Progressive organizations should be castigated for their refusal to actual implement equality internally, while reactionary organizations quietly and effectively form themselves into ranks. Let the progressives have their equality. It will be the means by which we defeat them.
The reactionary man, first off, submits himself to the duly constituted authorities around him. In his church, he obeys his priest; on the street, the police. In his home, the reactionary man is a master, and he doesn’t for a moment consider that his family relationships ought to be egalitarian. Where he has authority, he executes it with judgement. Where chaos exists, he look for ways to bring it into order. Great strides have been made in the reactionary movement by taking the inchoate, disorganized early forms of the movement—the uncoordinated blogs and perpetual, cacophonous argument—and forged them into actual societies.
Hierarchy creates strength. Hierarchy is the law of Gnon.
Estote Ergo Vos Perfecti
The second law of Gnon is greatness. Greatness is that towards which we strive. We do not console ourselves with sufficient mediocrity, or minor accomplishments which merely serve to salve our egos. In everything, we strive for greatness, for majesty, for mastery, for the divine. We do not often reach those heights. But in every case, we point towards them, because the struggle to attain those goals makes us who we are and gradually forms us into the image of who we ought to be. This principle stands in stark contrast to the progressive, who is engaged in perpetual apologetics for people as they “naturally” are. The progressive finds people who have failed to reach greatness and expends tremendous energy trying to excuse them or even valorize their failure as a secret success. Thus, the progressive ennobles the gluttonous, the lustful, the slothful, the cowardly and claims that these are true virtues.
Alongside progressivism, there is a widespread strain of American Christianity which likewise prides itself for its glorification of failure, forgetting the call to “make disciples” in its rush to proclaim the forgiveness of sins. The reactionary man will have none of this. We will take in the gluttonous, lustful, lazy, cowards of this age, of course. Sins will be forgiven. But we take these people in in order to challenge them to become strong, and self-controlled, and industrious, and brave. We valorize the physical discipline required for the sculpted physique, the mental discipline required by the learned scholar, and the spiritual discipline required of the true ascetic. Greatness makes us worthy.
Greatness is the law of Gnon.
In Saecula Saeculorum
The third law of Gnon is eternity. Eternity is the yardstick by which we measure our efforts. Ideally, whatever we build, whatever we make, whatever we seek to become, we do it in the hope of it lasting forever. Sometimes we recognize the limits of human frailty, and we console ourselves with accomplishments which may last a mere millenium or so. But the goal is always true permanence: the achievement of forever. And for that reason, we don’t do anything merely temporarily convenient if its convenience interferes with our long-term goals. We plan for our children and our children’s children. We want to be here for the long haul.
The progressive does not think about forever. The progressive often assumes that the future will take care of itself, due to the law of Progress, and so while he may devote himself to playing a part in pushing the world towards the arc of moral progress, he is immediately focused on immediate benefits in his personal life, namely by spending profligately, undermining social norms, destroying institutions, and wrecking societies. All of these things are done for immediate benefits, and what other kind of benefit is there? The gross utilitarian is the worst member of this species, for the utilitarians have constructed an axiom specifically for this scenario, declaring the preferences of unborn people (which is to say, nearly all people) to be meaningless in favor of the pleasures of the currently alive.
The reactionary does not forget his children or his grandchildren. He hopes to bequeath something to future generations. He knows that the only true judge of accomplishment is the judge of eternity, and that pleasures which are transitory will always pale next to those which last forever. We build “to the ages of ages”. We may not win tomorrow. But we who build for the future will be the only ones who arrive to see it.
The final observation is not one of the laws of Gnon, but an observation of their consequences. The black pill states that we will lose without honor. This is a lie. The black pill is really nothing more than the blue pill, because it asserts that pretty lies defeat hard truths. The red pill, meanwhile, the bracing and uncomfortable truths which disturb the things that we wish were true, must ultimately be the white pill. Those who live according to the laws of Gnon will prosper—perhaps not immediately, perhaps not even in the next century. But what is a century to someone who lives with the vision of eternity? Those who align themselves with the laws of Gnon, with hierarchy, with greatness, and with eternity–they will ultimately inherit the world to come. We will win, because the nature of the world is to reward those who understand the nature of the world and act accordingly. We will win, because it is the will of Gnon.
So spread the good news of reaction. In every organization you join, advocate for hierarchy and against democracy. Push for greatness over mediocrity. Prefer long-term gain over short-term pleasures.