As He’s a Man who is a Man & Not an Animal

The Aristocratic “Olympian” Master of Motion

Has Ascetic Values - Is Ready for Active Sacrifice

(from “The Doctrine of Awakening")

[...] One who is the cause and effective master of motion does not himself move. He inspires motion and directs action, but he himself does not act, in the sense that he is not transported, he is not involved in action, he is not action, but is, on the other hand, an impassive, utterly calm and imperative superiority, from whom action proceeds and on whom it depends. As opposed to this idea of true and mastered action, which is only thinkable, however, on the basis of purification from the samsāric element, one who acts while identifying himself with his action, impulsively, urged by passion, by desire, by the irrational, by restless need or vulgar interest, such a one does not really act, but is acted upon. However paradoxical it may sound, his is a passive action - he stands under the sign, not of virility, but of femininity. And under the sign of femininity, the whole modem "telluric" and activist world also stands.(3) It is only a lower, anti-aristocratic form of action that predominates here. Otherwise, it actually betrays that half-conscious desire to deafen and distract, that agitation and clamor that reveal dread of the silence, the internal isolation, the absolute being of higher nature, or it becomes a weapon employed in the revolution of man against the eternal that indeed marks the limit of the samsāric "ignorance" and intoxication of fallen beings.

(3) In reality, all the ancient forms of "telluric" civilizations developed in close connection with feminine and promiscuous cults and with the naturalistic-vital substratum of existence. Cf. J. J. Bachofen. Das Mutterrecht 2nd edn. (Basel, 1897).

All this is generally true of asceticism as a whole. More particularly, it is even possible to demonstrate historically that the ancient Oriental Aryan forms of ascesis are also capable of this application. We should not forget that, if the East, whether Indo- European or Asian, has not until now given to a modern man the impression, from certain aspects, of a civilization that is activistically practical, this is due not to a lack of strength, but to the fact of having absorbed its principal energies in the vertical direction that is beyond becoming and history; few of the well-born in these civilizations had, or have even now, much interest in other forms of achievement. But where these achievements, through external circumstance or through the development of special vocations, have acquired a certain power of attraction over the spirit, the East has shown, on the same plane of action, what energy and will can do when they are shaped essentially by the ascetic view of life. Anyone who objects and points out, for example, the more recent political state of India, forgets that this country, quite apart from its original epics, had its own imperial cycle under Candragupta and under Asoka, a sovereign who was profoundly Buddhist. Besides, we know of no Western text in which heroism and warlike action have received a transcendental justification so precise and a transfiguration so high, as in the Bhagavadgītā; while on another level it is well known that of all the troops England gathered in her empire, those provided by India were the best qualified, composed as they were, not of "soldiers," but of warriors by race and vocation. And it was from warrior stock - as we have seen - that Prince Siddhattha himself came.

But a better example is offered us by Japan. It has been justly stated that “the Russo-Japanese War, to the great surprise of most of the European world, showed us how the supposed ‘emasculated Oriental immobility’ could purposively and heroically fight, on land and sea, the so-called virile Western mobility. The heroism of the Japanese, educated for a millennium and a half by Buddhist doctrine, has shown unmistakably that Buddhism is not the opiate that everyone previously imagined.” Anyone with the interests of the West at heart should indeed hope that the future will not create a change of mind in the Oriental peoples whereby they are led to apply against the West their enormous spiritual potential; that the power that has been created by a millennial ascetic vision of life, should be directed onto the temporal plane on which most of Europe, having cut itself off from its best traditions, has chosen to concentrate.

It was not entirely unintentional that, at the end of this book, we spoke of Zen Buddhism. This particularly esoteric form of the Buddhist doctrine has been the most congenial to the Japanese warrior nobility, and Zen has even been called “the religion of the Samurai.” According to the Japanese point of view, if a man is a man, and not an animal, he can only be a Samurai: courageous, upright, trustworthy, virile, faithful and full of controlled dignity and ready for any active sacrifice. But the precepts of virility, loyalty, courage, control of the mind, instincts, action, and disdain for a soft life and empty luxury - all these are elements of Bushido, the ethics of the Samurai warrior nobility, found in the Zen ascesis, which derived from the Buddhist Doctrine of Awakening their confirmation, integration, and likewise their transcendent basis. It was thus that the Japanese nobleman was capable of a quite special and unconditioned form of heroism: not "tragic" but "Olympian," the heroism of one who can give away his complete life without regrets, with a clear vision of the goal in view and with an entire disregard for his own person, because he is not life and is not person, but already partakes of the superindividual and supertemporal.

These are only examples; and we do not wish to give the idea that we are making a defense of the East or of the Far East. Let us repeat: we are dealing here with general views of life, a distinction between East and West does not enter the discussion since the opposition is one of supernational and supercontinental nature. Our own Middle Ages also knew a sacred heroism, and its history likewise shows, in majestic strokes, how a heroic cycle - whenever the corresponding vocation is present - can develop under the influence of an ascetic view of life, even when this view presents deviations, shortcomings, and limitations of considerable importance as happens in the case of Christianism. Either as detachment beyond action, or as detachment in action and for action, there exists a common tradition. We have purposely made considerable use of the term "Olympian" in order to remind those who might forget. From the ancient Mediterranean "Olympian" world, where the opposition between region of being and region of becoming, between the cycle of generation and the superworld corresponds exactly to the Indo-Aryan opposition between samsāra and nirvāna, we derive our highest heritage, that which the modem world has forgotten but which still persisted in some measure among the Germanic and Roman elements of the best of the Middle Ages. The Olympian view of life, to which every true ascetic value is intimately bound, is the highest, most original, and most Aryan of the West. It holds the symbol of all that, in a higher sense, can be called classical and aristocratic.

A return to ascetic values can, then, be conceived in two forms and in two degrees. A formation of life newly oriented toward the extrasamsāric and "sidereal" element can, in the first place, teach what real action and mastery are to all those who know only their most obscure and irrational forms. In the second place, ascesis as affirmation of pure transcendency, as detachment, not only in action, but beyond action, toward awakening, can ensure that the immobile is not overturned by the changeable, that forces of centrality, forces of the world of being are set up against forces of becoming. Nor should we think of this second process as though we had to do with the presence of guests of stone at a banquet of the agitated and fanatical. To inspire and establish, even in scattered and unknown beings, extrasamsāric forces, may be an action whose invisible effects, even on the plane of visible and historical reality, are considerably more important than many might imagine. It is Buddhist teaching that the Ariya are able to work from a distance, for the good of many, in the human sphere as well as in the "divine," and these spheres would be harmed by differences among the Ariya. It is Buddhist doctrine that when the Ariya, in their disindividualized consciousness, suffuse the world with the irradiant contemplations, they can liberate forces that go out into it and act invisibly upon distant lands and destinies. We think it possible that should the course of history, in spite of appearances, not deteriorate further, this may perhaps be due, less to the efforts and direct action of groups of men and leaders of men, than to the influences proceeding, through the paths of the spirit, from the secret realizations of a few nameless and remote ascetics, in Tibet or on Mount Athos, among the Zen, or in some Trappist or Carthusian cloister of Europe. To an awakened eye, to an eye capable of seeing with the sight of one on the Further Shore, these same realizations would appear as the only steady lights in the darkness, as the only peaks emerging, calm and sovereign, above the seas of mist down in the valleys.(9) Every true ascetic realization becomes inevitably transformed into a support - an invisible one, but for all that nonetheless real and efficacious - for those who, on the visible plane, resist and struggle against the forces of an obscure age.




(9) We may here call to mind the words of the Atharva Veda (12.1.1): "The great truth, the powerful order (rta), the initiation, the ascesis, the rite and the sacrifice sustain the earth.”



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