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It is the time for a path that permits those of us in the West to sustain our cultural barbarism, so that we might not be lost to history like the Sea Peoples or destroyed by the ages like so many ancient civilizations…

A warlike Bronze Age people, known only and cryptically as “the Sea Peoples,” ravaged the Mediterranean / Levant civilizations (circa 1210-1175 BC), paving the way for Western dominance in the region in the following centuries.

We know very little about the Sea Peoples. Mostly, our knowledge of them is sourced in their victims’ brief and ominous descriptions. The powerful Egyptians left several records of them, typically of this sort: “They came from the sea in their war ships and none could stand against them.”[1]

Some have argued that the Sea Peoples were Atlanteans (!), others mention Phoenicians, and still others suspect Europeans migrating south and east for some reason lost to history. There is also some credible evidence that the Sea Peoples played a role in the sacking of Troy—pitting the ancient Greeks against the waning Hittite Empire (after all, Troy lies in modern Turkey, the gateway between the Occident and East).

Yet while we know very little, we can say with certainty that their influence is immeasurable. And while the evidence is scant, we might reasonably suspect the Sea Peoples were early Western Europeans. If this is the case, our cultural ancestors rose up against what they saw as weak and foreign in order to wrest power (resources) away from alien peoples. Had the Sea Peoples not sacked city after city, laying waste to ancient Syrians, Hittites, and Mycenaeans (ancient Greeks), the future of Western civilization becomes uncertain.

It is endlessly fascinating how a people so impactful can be so unknown. This leads us to believe that 1) the Sea Peoples cared little for recording their efforts and far more for defining their efforts through action; this speaks to the power and effectiveness of irrationality—i.e. prioritizing the act over and above the discussion, and 2) more importantly, that three triggers of societal collapse have proportional correspondence: civilization maturity, rationality, and societal weakness.

It is telling—and perhaps should be alarming to us—that how “wise” and “rational” a civilization believes itself to be has no meaningful influence on its actual strength and durability. In fact, the inverse seems more historically accurate. Consider our language: “barbarians” and “barbaric” are conceptually synonymous with “violent” / “violence” and “unscrupulous” or “wild,” etc., while “civilized” and “civilization” are conceptually synonymous with (assumed) “power” / “powerful” and “deliberate” or “rational.” Yet history is rife with examples of civilizations falling to barbaric peoples. Why? It can only be because of the corresponding indices mentioned above: The more maturity, rationality, and presumptive power a civilization assumes, the weaker it becomes. Why is this the case?

Reason, left unmitigated and unchecked, leads a people to assume an unfounded optimism regarding human nature, leading to more tolerance—both internally and externally—more openness (to foreign influence), and a more idealistic Weltanschauung. This inevitably leads to weakness because it directly undermines that which founded the society in the first place. If we closely examine history, we might see that cultures follow similar arcs: In succession, societies generally grow with (1) the familial community, which expands into (2) local clannishness, followed by (3) regional tribalism, then (4) socio-spiritual merging (Age of Gods), leading to (5) barbaric culture (Age of Heroes), and ending with (6) rational civilization (Age of Man). This Age of Man, or rational civilization, is the last step in our cultural pathology because at this point civilization becomes untenable: It is manifest weakness, it is optimism and openness, it is idealism and death.

This civilizational death begins internally, gradually rotting the once-barbaric and spiritual social core via rationalistic idealism,[2] and ultimately culminates in susceptibility to internal civil strife, external force, or some combination thereof. Thus the path is laid for future (foreign) barbaric conquest, recycling the six-step cultural arc listed above.

History’s mysterious Sea Peoples ravaged and dominated because they were barbaric: “They came from the sea in their war ships and none could stand against them.” They left no record of their actions because they had not yet reached the cultural point of their victims, that of rational civilization. Their barbarousness paved the way for Western flourishing in the Mediterranean and Levant; it paved the way for the Greek and Roman Empires, until they, too, succumbed to rational civilization and faced the barbarous Asiatics, who ultimately conquered the Byzantine remnants of Roman dominance at Constantinople in 1453.

It is said that the night before the Ottoman assault, the Byzantine leaders of Constantinople gathered in the Hagia Sophia for a midnight prayer—beseeching the Lord for help against the Muslim invaders. When the service ended, the siege began; and, in the end, more than 4,000 lay dead, nearly 30,000 were enslaved, and countless murders and rapes ensued in the aftermath; Constantinople fell and the Byzantine (Roman) Empire was finished. Idealism will tell you that the Lord works in mysterious ways; a more pragmatic view will tell you that the Byzantine prayers were answered only by foreign savagery. The barbarians won the day, and that which lies beyond this world had no retort.

Civilizations rise and fall, to be sure—but must they? Oswald Spengler, in his brilliant The Decline of the West (1918), assures us that they must, for cultures are organic just like any living thing; Vico, in his New Science (1725), leaves some doubt, for the culture that can sustain its barbarism can disrupt the cultural cycle—Vico understood this to be possible only through religion. What leaves us room to doubt the presumed inevitability of the West’s fall is reason, certainly, but it must be reason tempered with a pragmatic conservatism that allows us to see the shortfalls and weaknesses of reason itself.

The Sea Peoples, effective though they were, had success not because of their inherent strength, but because of their victims’ inherent weakness. The modern West has the luxury of both historical perspective and the fruits of the Enlightenment—luxuries the Sea Peoples did not have. This presents us with an opportunity to take advantage of Vico’s doubt and sustain our barbarism through reasoned, pragmatic conservatism. We are at a crossroads in Western civilization’s history; I have called this a Homeric Crossroads in past essays. We might follow Hector’s path—that of reasoned Enlightenment, that of idealistic optimism; or we might follow the path of Achilles—that of pragmatic conservatism, that of rational barbarism, that of heroic endurance. The choice is ours to win or lose. History has time and again offered us the answers; will we accept those answers, or will we be revolted by them, revolted by human nature, and seek shelter in that which lies beyond our world? Vico counseled us thusly nearly 300 years ago:

if religion is lost among the peoples, they have nothing left to enable them to live in society: no shield of defense, nor means of counsel, nor basis of support, nor even a form by which they may exist in the world at all…. For religions alone can bring the peoples to do virtuous works by appeal to their feelings, which alone moves men to perform them.[3]

Now is the time for a new view of religion—one unburdened by idealism, and one freed by pragmatism. It is the time for a path that permits us to sustain our cultural barbarism, so that we might not be lost to history like the Sea Peoples or destroyed by the ages like so many ancient civilizations. Now is the time for a return to reverence of der heilige Wille; it is the time for the consolidation of our spirit—unser kultureller-Geist—into that higher will which sits untouched by the ages. For good or ill, human nature endures because it is unmarked by the creeping blot of rationalism; it is the business of an enduring People to sacrifice both the rational and irrational to the transcendental spirit of conserving its legacy by any means. In this way, cultural pathology becomes cultural theology, and inevitable illness becomes exceptional apotheosis.

Take heed: It is our business to sacrifice; and it is our business to conquer, that none may stand against us.

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 Notes:

[1] Mark, Joshua “Sea Peoples” (Ancient History Encyclopedia: September 02, 2009).

[2] This is a cumbersome, yet more descriptive way of saying Liberalism. That is, the rational pursuit of conceptual abstractions for their own sake, or even the nominal adherence to the use of such “buzzwords”; e.g. pursuing liberty for liberty’s sake, equality for equality’s sake, tolerance for tolerance’s sake, etc.—i.e. pursuance of an ideal without regard to practical impact. More plainly, something like tolerance, for instance, is pursued for its own theoretical merit, even if it means tolerating hostile forces. Likewise, equality is pursued ever and always, even if it means accepting the injustice of ignoring the superior man and his superior performance. And so on…

[3] Giambattista Vico, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, unabridged., trans. Thomas Goddard and Max Fisch (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968), 426.

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3 replies to this post
  1. “And while the evidence is scant, we might reasonably suspect the Sea Peoples were early Western Europeans.”

    Based on wish fulfillment?

    • If we’re not using reason as a means to achieve spiritual ends, we’re missing the point.

      Likewise, if the essay points the reader to achieve a higher, less selfish end, then the point was grasped. Yet we might reasonably suspect – in our age of rational civilization – that rationality will continue to be used to fill spiritual voids.

  2. The Sea Peoples sound like they were the Vikings 1500 hundred years before the Vikings. If they were mainly a seafaring people, they may have been invaded and destroyed by other barbarians that moved into the Sea Peoples coastal region. No matter who or what you are, there is always someone or something bigger, stronger, smarter, etc…

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