Open Revolt & New Resistance are overjoyed and honored for the opportunity to have a wonderful, eye-opening discussion with the quite brilliant Askr Svarte of the Pagan Traditionalist publishing house based in Siberia SVARTE ASKE. We take the responsibility of doing our best to help develop the Pagan Traditionalist current and the Revolutionary Left Hand Path quite seriously. With that in mind, please remember all of the opinions expressed are SVARTE ASKE’s and in certain instances we may have a different view or perspective. But please understand we support this project 100%.
Pagan Traditionalism for the Kali Yuga: An Interview with Askr Svarte
New Resistance/Open Revolt: Greetings, Askr Svarte! It is a great pleasure for New Resistance and Open Revolt to have the opportunity to interview you and to introduce your work and ideas to our ranks and matrix. Over the past few years, you’ve become one of the most active and original thinkers spearheading a current which you have initiated as “Pagan Traditionalism.” Could you briefly introduce yourself, your path, your activities, and the essence of what you call Pagan Traditionalism?
Askr Svarte: Greetings! Thank you for such an appraisal, although I must admit that my major works and theses are still only known in the English-speaking international space in fragmentary form.
To be brief, I am the author of several books in which I systematically lay out a theory of Pagan Traditionalism along the line of the classics, such as Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist, Collin Cleary, Martin Heidegger, Alexander Dugin, and Evgeny Golovin, along with the active inclusion of a number of different sciences and thinkers whose listing would take much more time than we have now. Some of my works are dedicated to studying the Germano-Scandinavian tradition in particular, as I am an Odinist. I devote considerable attention to the ideas of Martin Heidegger (unlike Collin Cleary, who relies more on Hegel) and to the question of eschatological knowledge and eschatological events in this tradition.
In addition, since 2015 we have been publishing Warha, which is currently the only annual Traditionalist almanac in Russia, and the print organ of Pagan Traditionalism at that. The sixth issue came out this year and numbered more than 300 pages. Working on pure enthusiasm, we’ve also released two issues of Warha Europe in English and distributed it for free. Finally, recently we’ve made it to the public level in Russia: I’ve repeatedly participated on federal TV programs, such as in debates with Orthodox Christians, offered commentary to the media, and we have begun to active cooperate with the scholarly community.
With regards to Pagan Traditionalism, I cannot call myself the author of this concept. This idea was already spoken to by Julius Evola, not to mention Alain de Benoist’s famous book On Being a Pagan, and a number of other authors. If we look deeper, even the Traditionalism of René Guénon relied on the pagan wisdom of the Vedanta and other traditions. I’ve set myself the task of interpreting Traditionalism from purely pagan positions, of discerning paganism’s own ontology, gnoseology, and political spectrum with relation to the current eschatological moment. In my view, in my fundamental two-volume work Polemos: Pagan Traditionalism (the first volume of which is currently being translated into English), I managed to distinguish the main features and structures of this endeavor, whereas further begins the endless world of the individual traditions of various peoples, among which Pagan Traditionalism might acquire different features and dimensions.
Pagan Traditionalism should not remain a purely European philosophical school. It has much greater potential.
In philosophical terms, I would propose to define paganism as a special ontology: the ontology of manifestationism. Paganism is manifestationism, that is the doctrine of the manifestation of the world out of the Divine element. Manifestationism can be expressed in the form of monism (not to be confused with monotheism!), or it can be formulated, without contradictions, in polytheistic traditions. In the Abrahamic religions, God is torn away from the world, and it is impossible to overcome this distance in principle. Wherever Christian or Islamic mysticism speaks of becoming one with God, there is veiled paganism to be discovered. The rift between God and the world as a consequence yields all the corresponding consumer attitudes towards the world as raw material.
The axial points of Pagan Traditionalism are:
- a correct understanding of “what is a thing?” in order to avoid the becoming of Gestell and the world’s transformation into mines and factories;
- existential tension in this world without Tradition (the mood, Stimmung, and existence of Dasein);
- the return of Myth in the world;
– the revelation of another path to the Sacred in these eschatological times.
NR/OR: You have also gained increasing recognition as a thinker and practitioner of the Left Hand Path. This path has many different interpretations, names, connotations, and pretenders, so could you clarify your philosophy of the Left Hand Path and what it means in today’s circumstances of the Kali Yuga?
A.S.: The term “Left Hand Path”, as an umbrella term, encompasses a large number of sometimes diametrically opposed or simply different religious and philosophical doctrines. Let’s try and break this down.
In India, Vamachara arose as a reaction to the degeneration of the Vedanta, as the creation of new paths for divine self-realization outside of the caste system. Thus arose Tantra and alternative stratifications on the level of spiritual development, not on the level of social significance. These are the pashu (the animal, or the man incapable of spirituality), the vira (the active ascetic or adept), and the divya (the master who realizes divinity). Tantrism offers a quick path of deification instead of a long karmic chain of rebirths.
The most radical schools of the Left Hand Path are most closely tied to cults of the Gods of Death, Destruction, and Wisdom, with all the ensuing consequences in the form of radical practices – such as with human skulls, meditations in places of cremations, corpses, and so on. That which is called aghora calls for quickly and harshly destroying all of the adept’s illusions about this world, revealing its Divine source even in the most terrible, horrifying forms.
Now let’s look at Odinism. Stephen McNallen and Stephen Flowers argue that Odinism is a Left Hand Path tradition “by default.” McNallen says that Eastern religions are built on the worship of God and the erasure of the individuality of adepts into a mass of believers, while Odinism affirms the individuality of the adept and his divine nature. In other words, the practicing Odinist embodies Wotan himself. This is true, but there is also a confusion of notions here. The juxtaposition of “individuality vs. the masses” in the theory of American Asatru and Odinists is a repackaging and transferring into the field of religion of the ideological confrontation between the Anglo-French individualism of the Enlightenment against the collectivism of Christianity and Soviet Communism. This is not quite correct. Tradition knows several paths for the maximal manifestation of individuation, or heroic individuation as Julius Evola would say. In Tradition, the individual can only be: an ascetic-monk who is a point of maximal concentration of the Divine within a concrete person – that is to say he is not the individual of the Enlightenment; a warrior-hero, in the likes of Achilles or Hercules; and great kings and rulers. But these figures’ “individualism” is the sum of all valor or the sum of the whole State. This is the principle of the Imperator, the Emperor. All other people embody the nature of their estates or castes, that is, in one way or another they are included into the broad collectives of their castes and clans. For example, the most elder member of the clan is the physical embodiment of the whole clan and family in one body. Of course, the clan-caste system has nothing to do with Communist or Christian collectivism and masses. It is a phenomena of another order.
A more profound understanding of the Left Hand Path in Odinism has been proposed by Collin Cleary in his works Summoning the Gods and What is a Rune?. His view is closer to the provisions of Vamachara, but is not a mere retelling of such. In general, I have been very delighted with the unobtrusive elegance with which Cleary poses his reader with the inevitability and sheer lack of alternative to the Left Hand Path in contemporary Odinism.
My own approach takes as its point of departure the idea of radical practice and revelation of the Divine nature (in particular, of Odin-Wotan) in the most terrifying and harsh forms in the face of the eschatological moment of our days. At the same time, I insist that one should not blindly take ideas from Tantra and retell them in a Scandinavian manner. We need to reveal this dimension of our tradition from within, in our own authentic form, even if it will differ from others. To this question I dedicated my book Approaching and Surrounding, where I actively examine linguistics, mythology, German philosophy (Heidegger, the Jünger brothers, and German poets), history, and also touch upon the problem of technology and politics. Suddenly, it turns out that the radical path to the Other Beginning is not only the experience of ritual practice, but something which affects every sphere. I hope that this book will soon be available in English.
Expressing the foundational idea of the Left Hand Path in Odinism in a nutshell is no simple endeavor, but let us try. The being of Germanic man is loaned from future death, and this coincides with the warrior spirit common to the Germanic peoples. The cornerstone figure of the whole German tradition is Odin/Wotan. Wotan is a rather contradictory God who has numerous dark sides, one of which pertains to his deep self, Selbst/Dasein. In essence, everything that Odin does in the myths is in one way or another related to the search for wisdom and initiation into self-knowledge. This is connected with his death (death as initiation and death as a shamanic journey), his self-sacrifice, and with Ragnarök. Since Wotan, among other things, is also the living spirit of the Germanic peoples, all of this takes on an earthly, historical dimension. Moreover, if we completely agree that the practicing adept embodies Wotan in his earthly life on some degree of scale, then this means that man himself is involved in the deep knowledge of the internal Abyss of the Divine or the Abyss of Nothing, which is the source of Being (Seyn), the world, Odin, and all the other Gods. This is also connected to the very relevant circumstances of the Kali Yuga…
In Russia, the Left Hand Path within Slavic paganism has been revealed and described by the iconic author Veleslav Cherkasov. His teachings draw heavily on Vamachara and Dzogchen, but are told through Slavic myths, occultism, and Traditionalism. One of his books, The Great Perfection Doctrine, is available in English thanks to our cooperation with Fall of Man Press. They have also just published my book on this topic, Gap: At the Left Hand of Odin.
It is also impossible to pass over Alexander Dugin’s original concept of post-Guénonian Traditionalism, which might daringly be called the Left Hand Path in Traditionalism. This is the point of Dugin’s book The Radical Subject and its Double, which was recently made available in Italian. In the latter, Dugin goes against the stream. If classical Traditionalism and conservatism speak of restoration, the rebirth of traditional values, order and peace, the destruction of Post-Modernity, Liberalism, and capitalism, then in The Radical Subject, Dugin argues to the effect of: ‘Let’s look at what all of this is leading to, at how the End of the World will end. If the world of Tradition started to rot, and if decline set in, then this means that this has some kind of mysterious, secret, inapprehensible meaning. There is the wisdom of the Golden Age and there is the wisdom of the End of the World – let us know it and its subjects.’
The Radical Subject is a fascinating text which, it seems to me, virtually no one in Russia even read, although in its power it might stand alongside Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World. Alongside this book, it is also worth reading Dugin’s article, “The Necessity of the Metaphysics of Chaos.” Both paradoxically yet very strongly resonate with the purely Germanic eschatological anticipation of Ragnarök and Wotan’s search for wisdom.
And finally, we might mention all those sorts of modern occult currents of the Left Hand Path which rely on Kabbalah, Satanism, Thelema, New Age, and so on – but they don’t deserve our attention. We won’t speak of them.
NR/OR: You have described yourself as a follower of the Germanic-Scandinavian tradition, and you also have experience in Slavic-Russian Native Faith. Could you expand on this choice of path a bit, and share where you see the key convergences, differences, and possibilities for dialogue between these traditions in particular, and between Europeans and Russians in general?
A.S.: This is indeed the case. I have many friends and associates among Slavic-Russian pagans (Rodnovery, or adherents of Native Faith) – after all, this is the most numerous and diverse milieu in Russia. I have insisted that in the Russian language itself, the very term for paganism, iazychestvo, means a folkish, ethnic form of religiosity (although not in the sense of the 19th-20th century German völkische Bewegung). This is one of the reasons why I follow the Germano-Scandinavian path. My ancestors were Germans, I know my genealogical lines all the way back to the dawn of the 17th century, and I’ve made my pilgrimage to Swabia and Bavaria. I also know that, following my example, several other people from Russian Asatru have also gone to Germany or Scandinavia to establish connections with the Gods of these lands.
I am confident that all pagan traditions are different, and this is something wonderful. I am an ardent opponent of any universalism or “melting pot.” I know that in English the word “diversity” has already become so offensive, that we should use the word “plurality” to designate the existence of different peoples with their own traditions and cultures in their own autonomy on their own lands, without mixing. I recall seeing a joke somewhere sticking it to the leftist “True diversity is ethnic identity for all” – so be it!
Despite all the differences, all of us share some deep, common elements. Georges Dumézil called these “structures” – of society, of repeating motifs in tales and myths, of the functions of Gods, and so on. On the structural level, all Indo-European traditions, including the Slavic, have common points which allow us to find some kind of meta-language for dialogue. This does not annul real historical problems and conflicts between peoples, but it is no less important that today all of us, Rodnovery, Asatru, and Odinists, Celts, Hindus, Native Americans, and pagans of Latin America, Asia, and so on, face a common set of problems: globalization, technologization, capitalism, and the destruction of identities.
This is none other than the case in which the most terrible external reality pushes us to seek a common language above and beyond our momentary disagreements. To a certain extent this idea lies at the heart of our almanac Warha, which we are using to create a field of dialogue between European and Russian thinkers, mystics, philosophers, and poets.
NR/OR: Also on a similar note, for us it is no surprise that you and your ideas have been born in Russia, which has given birth to many great thinkers and activists that we admire and which Europeans have much to learn from, such as Alexander Dugin, Eduard Limonov, and others. Could you say a bit about the Russian context of your ideas?
A.S.: I agree. I somewhat personally know Alexander Dugin, as for 3 or 4 years I headed a regional division of his Eurasian movement, and I am well versed and oriented in his philosophy. With all due respect, however, we simply have different views on some key philosophical questions.
Unfortunately, language barriers hinder more active exchanges of ideas between Russians, Europeans, and Americans. For example, Western audiences are virtually unaware of real, adequate Russian paganism, such as that based on Traditionalism, whereas all sorts of New Age sects actively translate their garbage into English. The West is also virtually unaware of such a phenomenon as the Yuzhinsky Circle of the 1960s in the USSR. The Yuzhinsky Circle was a gathering of the greatest philosophers, poets, Traditionalists, and mystics among whom Alexander Dugin himself studied. It is impossible to correctly present this phenomenon in English, as it is a peculiarly Russian phenomenon, with all the contradictions and paradoxes. I talked about this with Sergey Zhigalkin, a student of Evgeny Golovin and in some sense a “chronicler” of this group. The Yuzhinsky Circle bore the roots of a purely Russian metaphysics, although one with a most profound understanding of Europe, which influenced me. Perhaps instead of so many words and attempts to explain this, all those interested should simply come visit Russia and find themselves a local guide into this abyss. But there are no guarantees.
Russia and Russians are at once Europeans and something unique. From Siberia, where I live, this is especially well evident, and perhaps it’s been useful for me to have such an observatory point away from dying Europe and the similarly rapidly decomposing Russia of the capital. We could say that just as Europe is not the EU, so is Russia not Moscow. If I drive 12 hours from Munich to the East, Europe ends. If I drive 12 hours from my city to the East, I’ll end up in a region where the police are afraid to have any conflict with shamans because of their magical powers and forces. In other words, I have the living Siberian tradition right at my side, and Russians also live there.
NR/OR: What thinkers and fronts do you think are the most relevant and hold the most potential for Revolting Against the Modern World in the spirit of Pagan Traditionalism?
A.S.: This is a most important question. Earlier I mentioned some of the key points, so now we are left with filling this picture as a whole.
We must embrace the return of Myth and re-enchant the world. Following Mircea Eliade, I can affirm that the feeling of the sacred is an innate and structural part of the human mentality. Hence the results: anti-modernism, anti-urbanism, anti-progressivism. The pagan understanding of time as the embodiment or reflection of Eternity is directly opposed to the ill, titanic notion of linear time as endless movement from nowhere to nowhere. Infinity is a simulacrum of Eternity. Some will say that linear time and the corresponding progressive scale are an objective reality, but de facto this is a provincial concept of degraded Europe from the time of the Enlightenment and positivism. Progress, development, and civilization are not objective and universal, global values, but the colonial dictatorship of the “last men” (Nietzsche) or das Man (the faceless masses, a la Heidegger).
Pagan Traditionalism stands for the fundamental plurality of peoples, cultures, and sacred traditions or, if you will, multipolarity without any universalism, including of the Abrahamic type. The globalist pretensions of Islam or Christianity to turn the whole world to their faith should be cut down to the local foci of these religions (the Middle East). Peoples, who at their very core have their own myths and eschatology, should be the subjects on their own lands and preserve their identities. Here we should pay attention to the modern turn in the anthropological sciences, such as the works of Eduardo Kohn, Pierre Clastres, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, etc. They qualitatively and in a very interesting way develop the notion of the plurality of ontologies and peoples, or perspectivism. But any reading of their works should be accompanied by careful reflection and deconstruction, since these are leftist authors. I follow Alain de Benoist’s rule that it’s necessary to “read from the right.”
Looking as broadly as possible, all of this together can be considered a potential platform for a Pagan Traditionalist front embracing all traditions. The main point is for people, philosophers, and thinkers who recognize this to reach agreement amongst themselves.
Another most important front is the fight against the growing dictatorship of technology, which Heidegger called Gestell. Here, I would argue, we should radically and with no regrets cast aside the idea of so-called “Archeofuturism” by Guillaume Faye, although I am talking only about the problem of the relationship between technology and Traditionalist values. On this point, Faye committed a radical mistake which disqualifies him. In the spirit of a philistine view of things, Faye believed that technology, technological progress, and devices are something neutral, something without subjectivity that can be used for good. But this is not the case: technology is not neutral. Technology, if we are talking about virtuality and the newest hi-tech gadgets, is the material embodiment of the ideologies of Modernity and Post-Modernity. Maintaining the production and exploitation of such technologies compels man towards this lifestyle and towards the predatory exploitation of lands, which is alien to the sacred and traditional view of the cosmos and identity. In other words, the upholding of technology will always entail capitalism and liberalism in their worst forms. Clear examples of this, in addition to the capitalist exploitation of subsoils, are bioethics, biopolitics, and necropolitics. In other words, if you don’t like hormone therapy for transgender kids and the leftists propagating it, then you don’t like technology and science, which create and impose the mechanisms for such. The spirit of Faust and Prometheus is the scourge of Europe that released Pandora. It would be an extreme mistake to equate this archetype to that of Wotan. Ernst Jünger also wrote vividly about the situation in which man becomes a hostage to mechanisms and technology in his work The Forest Passage. Nor should the bold argument against development and cities made by Kaarlo Pentti Linkola be ignored.
From a philosophical point of view, the question of technology is rooted in the definition of “what is a thing and production?” We know that the word “reality” comes from the Latin root res, meaning “thing.” So, what reality is depends on what a “thing” is and how it manifests. Will the thing be simply a product that can be produced mechanically or virtually without human participation (which means transhumanism and the end of identity altogether), or a subtle poetry at the intersection of the Fourfold (Heidegger’s das Geviert), or inspirited and animate things akin to the Polynesian Taonga (a la Marcel Mauss)? I definitely stand for the latter variants.
To sum up, we have a set of key terms which are closely interrelated: manifestationism, paganism, plurality, myth, existence (Dasein), eschatology, identity, sacrifice, and the sacred.
If we’re talking about personalities, then attention should be paid to the following authors (in any order): Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Alexander Dugin, Martin Heidegger, Kaarlo Pentti Linkola, Theodore Kaczynski, Ernst and Friedrich Georg Jünger, Collin Cleary, Georges Bataille, Georges Dumézil, Plotinus, Heraclitus, Mircea Eliade, Evgeny Golovin, and Meister Eckhart. Nor should one forget the sacred texts of their own and other traditions.
NR/OR: What is your pearl of advice for new and young comrades seeking Wisdom and Revolt Against the Modern World in Pagan Traditionalism? How can our brothers, sisters, and the un-initiated best get acquainted with and follow your work?
A.S.: I think that I’ve already named some of the most acute problems in direct formulations. These theses need to be taken and made into one’s flesh. In short: we need to boldly and daringly oppose low modernity with high antiquity. And we need to think more about death, to meditate on our own deaths. The best thing that a person can do in their life is to embody myth through their life.
As for our activities, you can not only follow them, but also take part in them. We have several websites up and running and a print almanac. Our doors are open for like-minded thinkers. As for offline activities, one would rather need to come to Russia or, for my part, I would be glad to visit any corner of the world where people are ready to hear our voice and take up our ideas in one form or another.
The European page of our pagan community in Russia, Svarte Aske, can be visited here: www.askrsvarte.org/eu
Our Russian media platform, the Foundation for Traditional Religions, can be checked out here:
Information on my major book, Polemos: Pagan Traditionalism, which is in the process of being translated and published in English, can be accessed here: http://www.polemos.ru/o-knige/
Our various pages and myself can also be found on social networks.
NR/OR: Thank you! We would be greatly pleased if you could leave some final words of your choosing.
A.S.: I hope that the moment will come when we can correctly understand one another and, to the utmost extent, reconcile our ideas for the common good. In any future scenario, we are faced with the critical need to soberly and authentically (das eigene Dasein) pass through necessary dying. Whether this dying will be the path to a new birth or Another Beginning depends on us. For the glory of the Gods.
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