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Conservatives must seek to reorient the interest of the self back to the essential triumvirate of family-State-self. It is only in this way that a society might find the health necessary to endure the force of time and the proclivities of fanciful man…

Every healthy society must be founded upon three essential aspects: the family, the State, and the self. Each aspect is reliant upon the others and, further, needs the others for complete fulfillment. Yet if one of the three could be said to be pivotal to the triumvirate, it is family. The self is born into the family and the State arises out of the collective need to protect and enhance the needs of the family. Society and life-as-we-desire-it are predicated on the family. Next in order of precedence is the State. Since the State is a direct magnification and enhancement of the family’s—that is, the key aspect’s—needs, the State must be prioritized above the self. The State is the vehicle through which the community—i.e. the collective, or collection of families—achieves its collective will; and as such, the State takes precedence over and above the self. The self, being born into the family, is an extension of the family and, over time and the establishment of the defined State, becomes an extension of the State itself. In this way, the self is reliant upon both family and State for its existence. Individual wants and needs must always be subsumed under the first two aspects’ will; the self must always be deprioritized for the sake of the collective. This is why personal (selfish) ideology must always rest firmly and benignly in the background of family and State fulfillment. This is also why the triumvirate must be understood as “family-State-self.”

The Self and Will

Although the self is deprioritized within the essential triumvirate, this does not mean the self is unimportant. Being of the triumvirate, the self is essential to any healthy society. However, the self must be understood as merely an extension of that which precedes it: the family and the State. Yet, moving beyond this “merely,” the self must also be seen as the willful mortar binding the triumvirate together. The self might only be seen as functional if it understands its place within the triumvirate and acts accordingly; acting accordingly means always self-improving. Self-improvement is the means by which both the family and State are enriched and strengthened. The self is never improved for its own sake, but for the sake of the superior aspects: the family and State. In this way, the individual will self-sacrifices for the sake of the collective, thereby improving the group and—by extension– improving the self as well.

The Triumvirate of Self

Self-improvement is achieved through its own triumvirate of body-mind-spirit, or the physical-mental-spiritual. As in the case of the overarching family-State-self triumvirate, each aspect of this self triumvirate likewise depends upon the others, and the corresponding strength of each aspect determines the strength of the organism. Therefore, the physical and mental each must be exercised—i.e. must be made fit—so as to increase individual capacity to fulfill its spiritual mission: self-sacrifice for the sake of the collective. Just as the family is the essential aspect of the family-State-self triumvirate, the spiritual is the essential aspect of the physical-mental-spiritual triumvirate. The spiritual is always understood as that which is transcendent—or, that which transcends the physical-mental realm. The only way to achieve transcendence is to sacrifice the individual will for the sake of the collective will; in this way, the temporal is sacrificed for the enduring and the spiritual aspect emerges. This is why physical and mental fitness for the sake of the family and State—and not the individual—leads to a strengthening of the spirit. One no longer acts for one’s own self, but for the sake of that which transcends him: the family and State. Self-improvement for the sake of anything other than the family and State—i.e. anything other than the collective will—is shameful narcissism, which is to say, unhealth or disease. This is why the focus of any healthy society must be, at its core, the family and the spirit.

The Sickness of Individualism

The modern West began its lustful affair with the self (as individual will) with Luther’s Reformation.[1] The affair was particularly useful in bringing rationalism and self-structured improvement to the fore, leading to exponential growth in Western power. Luther gave the power of reason—the power of God—to man, in a sense. This, in turn, led to the “enlightened” offshoots of Christianity: Christian / scientific pantheism, deism, positivism, humanism, etc. From these turns and the concomitant dethroning of aristocracies, came the rise of the common man.[2] The common man found everywhere the opportunity to satiate his whim and fancy—something previously unknown to him. And while the leaders of the West’s push towards rationalism might have expected more (or less) from their fellow man—i.e. more effort towards self-improvement—what the most optimistic of them got was distinctly less than imagined.

The revolutions of the common man reached their zenith in the American and French revolutions, creating the first modern sociopolitical ideology: liberalism. The intellectual elite devised the contemporary notions of liberty and freedom; liberty being the “freedom from” something; freedom being the “freedom to do” something, barring interference with another’s individual will. The European and American experiments roughly paralleled each other and ultimately settled on certain “guardians”[3] mediating the common man’s tastes through spectacle and media.[4] These guardians’—or elites’—goal, because of liberalism’s synchronous maturation with the free-enterprise system, was and is money. Self-interest was and is the focal point of the liberalistic ideology; likewise, self-interest was and is the fulcrum to a free market. What this self-interest gains in the competition that swells the tide upon which all ships might rise, however, is lost in the disintegration of any healthy and enduring State’s communal integrity—or that official extension of the community, which is the natural extension of the family.

This overwhelming emphasis on self-interest and profit spawned modernity’s second and third alternative ideologies: communism and fascism. These ideologies, too, arose from the stream of rationalism that produced liberalism; but their ensuing divergence from that shared stream rested in the perceived corrosiveness of liberalism on the self and its relationship to the community. To this end, the former concerned itself with the dialectic of class struggle and rectifying the individual’s alienation from himself and fellow citizens as only a means of production for the guardians; the latter concerned itself with a subsumption of the individual into the collective, thereby correcting the community’s disintegration. Each alternative to liberalism’s predominant self-interest (of individual will) saw, as did Luther before them, the inherent flaws in a system predicated on individualism.[5]

The sickness of individualism rests in its prioritization of the individual will over and above the collective will. Without a central focus on self-sacrifice for the collective will (which, again, manifests in the family and State), there can be no transcendence, which is to say, healthy and familial spirituality. Of course, the spiritual does exist in liberalistic societies; especially in America, religious communities abound. Yet the religious spiritualism offered is irrelevant if its crux is not bent on edifying the individual only insofar as the family and State he serves are improved; any additional focus (e.g. solely on a personal relationship with God or the hereafter, or an idealistic adherence to abstractions in the name of “liberty”—i.e. selfish focus), for the purposes of a healthy State, is inconsequential or, at worst, detrimental. And when spirituality is lacking, the triumvirate of self (physical-mental-spiritual) dissipates, resulting in the breakdown of the essential family-State-self triumvirate.

What is to be done?

The second and third alternatives’ solution to combating liberalism’s society-degenerating flaws was to establish a State apparatus capable of mitigating or reorienting the self-interest of the citizenry towards the spiritual, or that which is transcendent. In this respect, each alternatives’ approach was a means whereby tradition might be conserved, wherein pre-Enlightenment society aimed at rallying the citizenry[6] around a common will of the monarch (God) or aristocracy and the communist / fascist apparatus sought to realign the masses to something other than the individual will. Thus it was the individual will which was seen as the bane of modernity, and it was the alternatives’ solution to evade the traps concomitant with an individualistic society by creating and fostering a transcendent cause through which the family and State might be prioritized.

There is nothing “evil” in these alternative ideologies in and of themselves, of course. Though we might take heed to not replicate their shortfalls[7] in our revisiting of their transcendence. If a future alternative to liberalism’s inevitable degenerative self-interest is to be proffered, let alone successful, it too must seek to reorient the interest of the self back to the collective family-State-self. It is only in this way that a society might find the health necessary to endure the force of time and the proclivities of fanciful man.

It is towards this conservatism that we should strive. And therein we might one day be lucky enough to embody the Napoleonic dictum, “The fatherland has the right to expect great things of you”—or perhaps even Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Through a mindful conservatism—one that embraces the positive aspects of tempered reason, as was the aim of our alternative ideologies—we might also overcome the shortfalls of any privileged indolence masquerading as tradition. Tradition must not be upheld for its own sake any more than liberty must be pursued for its own sake; rather, tradition must be understood as the means by which we achieve subsumption of the self into something higher. But while modernity perilously seeks to throw the baby out with the bathwater by supplanting all tradition with pure rationalism (manifested in progressive policies and the pursuit of liberty for its own sake), any meaningful future must conserve the tradition of deprioritizing the self for the sake of those higher things: family and spirit. Only in this way will a society will flourish; only in this way will a society endure.

Transcendence of the self should ever be our aim; transcending the self should ever be our mandate—ad altiora tendo.

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Notes:

[1] We might understand this as the beginning of the Enlightenment, the inadvertent byproduct of Luther’s reforms.

[2] Or so the story goes. Perhaps a more cynical view of modern history might suggest that the people were empowered to choose which of the manufactured worldviews best suited their tastes—instead of formerly silently acquiescing to the dictates of the elite.

[3] Immanuel Kant, What Is Enlightenment? (Berlin: Berlin Monthly, 1784).

[4] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

[5] Luther on the plague of the peasant uprising, the fruits of an empowered and emboldened common man: “[Remember] that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you.… I think there is not a devil left in hell; they have all gone into the peasants. Their raving has gone beyond all measure.” Martin Luther, “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants” (May, 1525).

[6] If rallying was necessary at all—i.e. if the social roles were not implicit.

[7] Dialectical materialism (the infernal distillation of man into calculable material) on the one hand and narrow localism (the damaging overlooking of the forest for the trees) on the other.

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7 replies to this post
  1. Thank you Mr Sommer. You truly have grasped the inner workings of our society in crisis. It is all the more encouraging that you (judging by your profile picture) are still young and hopefully have many more insights to share with us in the coming years. It seems that the very notion of liberalism’s society-degenerating flaws has created an age of underdevoloped minds readily witnessed in the lack of new generations of masterful filmmakers, visual artist, composers etc. As the self gone loose has degenerated the communed dimension of our society it has necessarily degenerated itself in the process, which makes it all the more impressive to read an essay like yours today.

    • Thank you kindly, sir. We’re dealing with a decades-long societal deficiency. I hope our collective will is still substantial enough to adjust course (as we reach our “Homeric Crossroads,” another essay on the site) when time demands it.

      We stand unassailably on the precipice of future survival – as many generations past have also felt. Modernity differs from those prior societies since we truly have the power to undermine (or bolster) our efforts on a global scale. If we maintain present course, we’ll surely slip into the darkness of failure – for even the Romans failed. If we recognize the advantage in sacrifice and commune as a People once more, our leap of faith will carry us to unimagined heights.

      The choice is ours, for time is not our God as long as our will remains.

      Jacoby

  2. One of Friedrich Engels’ books published without Karl Marx was called “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.” And of course, communism is the antithesis, the destruction of all three entities. Your title the “Family, the State, and the Self” is intriguingly close to that. In Ancient Egyptian Papyri, the landholdings of Hellenistic Egypt are divided into Heratike Ge (Priestly lands), Ousiake Ge (Imperial or “Public” Lands), Kleruchike Ge (Military Lands), and Idiotike Ge (Private Property). The last category draws the eye of the English reader because it looks like “Idiotic lands”…. but “O Idios”—means, “the same” or “belonging to oneself”—Dostoyevsky’s “Idiot” was, of course, his own judge and master….”he belonged to himself”….. so the triune concepts of the Family, Private Property, and the State being equal to the Family, the Self, and the State have a very ancient origin, I think.

    The French Structuralist Georges Dumezil also taught a structural analysis of three or four slightly different functional parts of society: (1) a Priestly-Legal Authority, “Souvereigntee Magique et Juridique”, (2) a Military/Executive “Imperial” Authority, and (3) the Force of the Producers, the individuals who support and reproduce society….

    • Hi, Charles –

      I’m certainly *not* advancing the position that “the triune concepts of the Family, Private Property, and the State [are] equal to the Family, the Self, and the State…” Not at all. If you see a parallel, I’m unlikely to dissuade you of it.

      I also don’t see what Dumezil’s “structural analysis” has to do with this discussion. If you’re simply stating a fact, then it’s noted.

      If you have perhaps another point, I’m excited to hear it.

  3. It is very difficult to give this essay’s point any serious consideration when we live in a time when one of your “Triune” elements ( The State) is in an all out war to destroy the other two elements- and has been in that gradual attack for 150 years (accelerated heavily in the last 75). Your use of terms like “Liberalism” and ‘Conservatism’ do nothing to address the real philosophical (and practical) questions. The purpose of philosophy is to improve life by enabling thinking that gets to the practical root of the problems of life. This essay does not do that at all. Example- you put ‘progressive policies’ and the cause of Liberty in the same boat – when in fact they are not anywhere close to each other. ‘Progressive’ policies have never been aimed at improving or advocating Liberty ( only advertised as such to fool the masses) .

    • Scouter –

      The aim of this essay is to encourage us to change what we can in our sphere of influence; this means improving oneself and one’s family to the best of his ability. This, in turn, will improve our State.

      • And I honor that intent . It is personal warfare as every day is a spiritual battle. For me and many others the cultural war is not theoretical. It has been raging for decades and deeply affecting our lives and closest relationships. Struggles have revealed the real darkness and evil that can seep into everyday life. Warnings and foresight have been ignored; great intentions and dreams have been shattered and then picked up again to carry forward despite the tempting calls to surrender faith. The collapse and usurpation of the very institutions of faith themselves are obvious to anyone who will open their eyes while other formerly principled institutions meet the same fate I have never ‘hated’ in my life but I and many others have grown to hate ‘the Left’ and all their anti-human, anti-family , anti-God partners who collectively seek to destroy all that is good and attempt to replace it with themselves at the top of their world of total control. The global totalitarians of today’s world and all of their followers are material manifestations of evil itself – and it is not a sin to hate evil – so I bear no guilt for hating them. I am personally reminded every day of the damage and destruction they have intentionally inflicted on us. None of their shiny toys and entertainments will make me forget they are the enemy. Wounds may hurt and heal but they also serve as a reminder of the presence of the enemy who inflicted them and as motivation to strengthen and prepare for that day.. No.. the cultural and spiritual war is not theoretical and yes we should be beacons and uplifting examples of Life. Try telling a combat-weary soldier returning from ‘the front’ that a ‘good’ soldier is clean, shaven and sharp of mind, and does not allow himself be affected by the evil and horrors he has witnessed (and perpetrated). Tell him that.

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