They say that a man will become the books he reads and the people he associates with. But in our modern, "tolerant" society- a society in which we have little control over who we surround ourselves with-, the power of the book over the development of the mind becomes even more powerful. Tragically, few people read in the critical, classical sense these days. Instead, we scan the internet; we read what someone else writes about a book, and then think to ourselves, "Ah, now I understand the book; there's no need to read it."
How sad and stupid we have become...
The written word is a powerful thing. In fact, for centuries of socio-cultural development, literacy could be used almost as a proxy for freedom itself: Masters could read; slaves could not. And that was all one needed to know. Somewhat paradoxically, we "modern men" who live in a world that long ago abandoned slavery have in turn abandoned the very mechanism by which it was once measured: the ability to read and write. Moreover, we have abandoned it at precisely the moment in which we need it most, with father dishonored, with the nuclear family in a multi-generational free-fall, and with manhood and masculinity condemned both in school and in society.
Luckily, we can always rediscover what we have lost; when the world has failed us, the book remains. And so with that, we humbly present a short list of books that every man should read, in no particular order.
Book 1: Hagakure, by Tsunetomo Yamamoto
Manhood is nothing if not the pursuit of honor, and in the face of death and destruction. And nobody exemplifies that standard more so than the Samurai of feudal Japan. But although we know much about the Samurai, most of what we know has come down to us second-hand. This is why the Hagakure is of such monumental value: It was written by a Samurai, about the Samurai, for the benefit of the Samurai. Thankfully, the book takes no prisoners, and leaps into the Way of the Samurai from the very first page with the following damned manly passage:
"The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one's aim is to die a dog's death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one's aim."
~ Tsunetomo Yamamoto
Book 2: Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield
Two millennia before the Samurai came into existence, a small tribe of Hellenes had already begun building what must be considered even to this day perhaps the greatest warrior society ever to have existed in human history: the Spartans. And none have brought their ethos to life quite like Steven Pressfield, whose brilliant book Gates of Fire became an instant classic upon publication. Having himself been a Marine, he is an author uniquely acquainted with the theory of war and the philosophy of the warrior, and expresses that acquaintance with ease, for instance in the following passage:
"War, not peace, produces virtue; war, not peace, purges vice; war, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love, eradicating in the crucible of necessity all which is base and ignoble. There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods. Do not despise war, my young friend, nor delude yourself that mercy and compassion are virtues superior to andreia, to manly valor."
~ Steven Pressfield
Gates of Fire
Book 3: The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray is well-known among literati as an English classic. But what is rarely discussed is Oscar Wilde's insight into the soul of modern man, and into the dangers of materialism. For The Picture of Dorian Gray is, above all else, a criticism of modernism, of its soullessness and superficiality; moreover, it is a warning. "Be cautious, young man," it seems to say, "for all that glitters is not gold."
"You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit."
~ Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Book 4: Dune, by Frank Herbert
Frank Herbert's brilliant book Dune- and indeed the entirety of the original Dune series- is a master's class on Nietzschean philosophy taught via science fiction. Dune is many things: a superhero novel; a treatise on man's relationship with the world; a deep and penetrating look into the mechanics of power dynamics within human society- and much, much more. Without Dune, there would be no Star Wars and no Star Trek. Frank Herbert's insight into human psychology was second to none in the science fiction world, and his ability to consistently express those insights in novel forms was incomparable.
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer; fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear; I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
~ Frank Herbert
Book 5: Demons, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
It was once said that even if Dostoevsky had not been such a brilliant psychologist, he still would have been the greatest writer of all time, if only because he could paint pictures as though he were Rembrandt. This may or may not be the case, but the very statement reveals the monster of genius that was Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. Finally, his character Nikolay Stavrogin may be one of the greatest literary creations ever written, and is a perfect representation of man in the modern world: lost, vicious, and damned to himself.
"You cannot imagine what sorrow and anger seize one's whole soul when a great idea, which one has long and piously revered, is picked up by some bunglers and dragged into the street, to more fools like themselves, and one suddenly meets it in the flea market, unrecognizable, dirty, askew, absurdly presented, without proportion, without harmony, a toy for stupid children."
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky
Book 6: Beyond Good & Evil, by Friedrich Nietzsche
There is perhaps no philosopher in history who delved more deeply into the depths of the human condition than Friedrich Nietzsche, and none of his books expressed that depth in a more logical, systematic fashion than Beyond Good & Evil. Nietzsche was fearless in his willingness to face the truth- no matter how horrifying-, and no philosopher has ever written prose like Nietzsche wrote prose: ecstatically, half-mad, and without pity either for himself or humanity. Beyond Good & Evil may well be his most quoted book- and that is saying something. Of all philosophers, Nietzsche is the most quotable, not to mention the most misunderstood.
"To recognize untruth as a condition of life- that certainly means resisting accustomed value feelings in a dangerous way, and a philosophy that risks this would by that token alone place itself beyond good and evil."
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Beyond Good & Evil
Book 7: The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell
We mentioned earlier that without Frank Herbert, there would be no Star Wars; the same could be said for Joseph Campbell. For it was Campbell's work in The Hero With a Thousand Faces that changed our understanding of male-mythic psychology forever- and created a blueprint for what he referred to as the Hero's Journey. Campbell was a monster among academics, which is interesting because before he came along, "mythologist" was not really a thing at all; Campbell made it a thing, because his work- and the genius that shined through it- simply could not be ignored. And today, that work is still considered a classic, especially among Jungians, as can be seen in the quote below:
"The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form - all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void."
~ Joseph Campbell
The Hero With a Thousand Faces
~ Joshua van Asakinda
[Note: This content is self-funded and self-published; please consider supporting it by donating through our payment portal at PayPal.]
Violence is nothing new, although in light of the current condition of the world, it may at first glance appear somehow more shocking; we recoil, and wonder what has gone wrong- never thinking to reflect upon the fact that violence is the default state of humanity, and anything else is a luxury. Still, it is a problem, and problems have solutions. However, virtually nobody really understands the problem of violence today- mostly because nobody who has the power to do anything about it is really interested in a solution. Shootings, after all, are both politically and financially useful, not to mention dramatic; they appeal perversely to the uncivilized barbarian in each of us, and we simply cannot turn away from the spectacle, no matter how morbid, no matter how tragic.
The media knows this, and has been admitting it for decades: “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Just look at the ratings.
And so we focus upon the most dramatic aspect of the story- the part that sells; we focus upon firearms, for instance, or we focus upon poverty. But firearms and poverty are merely a symptom of a much deeper and far more difficult problem…
In order to solve this problem, however, we must first ask ourselves why so many young, disaffected men- and they are young, disaffected men, all of them- feel so isolated, and so alienated. Because mass shootings are without a doubt a modern problem; such events were virtually unthinkable even half a century ago. So what happened? How did such horrifying violence suddenly become so damnably commonplace? What did we do to cause this trend (and we did do something)?
It did not simply magic itself into being.
The secret may be revealed in “the manifesto.” So many of these young men leave their thoughts behind after the fact. More and more often, we see them leave behind “the manifesto,” that biography of confusion and frustration. And these manifestos share a number of themes, including:
However, what is most critical is the fact that “the manifesto” exists at all. Because what is a manifesto but a desire to be heard? And this, ultimately, is the problem: With each passing year, more and more young men find themselves feeling that they are not being heard, that they are not being listened to, that their problems are not being addressed- and this is resulting in a pervasive sense of nihilism, social alienation, and failed romantic relationships (we will focus on this last point, incidentally).
The question is: What changed in modern society that resulted in that feeling of not being heard, of no longer being a part of society but rather outcast and alienated- and therefore in the feeling of being justified in doing it harm? And for that answer, we must turn to the sexual revolution. Because the sexual revolution resulted in a number of changes to society that were extremely damaging to young men in particular:
Because the sexual revolution began to eat away at the fabric of monogamy itself, it resulted in a rapid and dramatic shift in social mores. In some sense, it resulted in a regression to an older form of society, with looser social ties and more ambiguous relationships between men and women. Even cuckoldry and polyamory have found themselves becoming popular once again. However, en vogue or not, such “arrangements” are psychosexually disastrous- both for men and for women-, but because men are by nature more violent than women, and tend to express their frustrations through physical violence more often, the consequences of psychosexual frustration in men are far more dramatic, and far more dangerous.
Historically speaking, monogamy stabilizes society. Without monogamy, rich and powerful men tend to hoard women, which results in many men being left without a partner; there is even a modern term for such men: INCEL (that is, involuntary celibates). This diminishment of the number of available sexual partners increases the risk of violence among men, and by a ridiculous margin. Such a situation has more often than not resulted in sky-high murder rates in non-monogamous societies (I recall reading once about a particular tribe in which 100% of the males in the tribe had murdered another male of the tribe at some point); with the institution of monogamy, however, comes peace, both personally and culturally. And so there is a very real psychological mechanism underlying the sexual frustrations of these young men who are driven to such horrific ends in order to be heard, to be noticed, to be recognized- as men, as men worthy of being heard, noticed, and recognized.
Their logic is distorted, obviously. But that is entirely the point: Our society is creating and perpetuating psychosexual distortion; this is resulting in real, physical violence on an unheard of scale- and that is a problem. Because the very structure of modern society is contradictory to our shared evolutionary programming, and thus, to psychosexual health in general. As a result, greater and greater numbers of young men are finding themselves feeling lost, confused, frustrated, and without leadership; they have no sense of belonging to society, and no sense of society belonging to them; the world, for them, is entirely alien and enemy- and until that problem is addressed, any other so-called “solution” is destined to fail.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
[Note: This content is self-funded and self-published; please consider supporting it by donating through our payment portal at PayPal.]
What we are witnessing in the world today is essentially the revolt of men against a world that no longer honors or respects manhood. This is without doubt the most dangerous problem facing society today; the incarceration of mass numbers of young men is only a small part of the situation. After all, men constitute nearly half the human species (statistically, just under 50%), and if history is any indication, a small subset of those men possess the vast majority of the potential for taking up the mantle of leadership in the world today. Historically, the minority make the world, and that minority has almost always been male.
However, something has changed in the world today. For maleness is not merely genetic; it is cultural- and that culture of maleness must be learned, and can only be transmitted from man to boy. Because ultimately, we do not learn through education; we learn through emulation. In the case of boys, the object of that emulation is and must be the father, or some surrogate father figure (actual genetic kinship is essentially irrelevant). And yet now the lineage of transmission between grandfather to father to son has been broken, and boys are no longer raised by their fathers but rather by their mothers, which can be seen seen in the graphs below.
This situation, which is the result a welfare system that has artificially distorted human psychology- not only in males but in females as well- is absolutely untenable. Not only has it destroyed men; it has destroyed women as well- and will destroy human society if the situation is not rectified. But how can that be accomplished, when so much damage has already been done? Fortunately, the situation is not hopeless, provided we admit and understood the root of the problem.
Mas & Fem
The power of the father cannot be overestimated. And this can be proven by the profound effects his absence has upon the psychology of his children. The absence of a father has been shown to increase the risk for virtually every disorder it has ever been tested against; the children of single mothers have higher rates of violence, gang involvement, drug and alcohol abuse, and of course criminality in general. But perhaps most shockingly, there appears to be no increase in risk for any of this for the children of single fathers.
It is here that we are forced to enter into the realm of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell (with some modification). From a psycho-mythic point of view, it is the father that represents authority, especially for males. The reason for this is simple enough: The father is stronger than the mother, but less prone to sympathy- in other words, the father has power but lacks mercy while the mother has mercy but lacks power. As a result, we are psychologically predisposed to viewing the father as the earthly representation of discipline and to viewing the mother as the earthly representation of compassion.
This is seen in religion as well, as God is almost always represented as a father rather than a mother, and is only represented as a mother in pre-civilized- that is, unstructured and undisciplined- social systems. All the examples of man rising out of savagery into civilization have entailed the rise of a masculine and patriarchal religious authority of some sort. For instance:
The list goes on and on, but the point is easily made. Furthermore, we can see the relationship between God and the father in the negative effect of an absentee father on religion, which can be seen in the graphs below.
"Our fathers were our models for God.
If our fathers bailed on us, what does that tell us about God?"
~ Fight Club ~
However, it does no good to pretend that we can turn back the clock.
We are here, and this is the situation we find ourselves in. So what do we do now, and where do we go from here? How do we re-instill a healthy manhood in an entire generation of boys raised by women, with no conception of what healthy manhood really is? That will be difficult, admittedly, but not impossible.
How Manhood Gets Right
Boys- and men as well- thirst for social interaction. This fact flies in the face of much of modern psychology, which has effectively branded boys and young men as anti-social. Such an argument cannot be taken seriously by anybody who understands manhood: Males are not anti-social, but simply long for a different kind of social interaction than do females. And that is why males typically are attracted to competitive, hierarchical social systems: sports, business, leadership, military, etc.
Such things are more and more being denied them today. While the push for "inclusion" has resulted in more and more opportunity for females, it has resulted in less and less opportunity for males to be males among other males. There are no environments left anymore in which men can be men with other men. The consequences are troubling: Males are being judged more and more by the standards of females, and worse, males are judging themselves more and more by the standards of females. Not only is such a situation deeply demoralizing, it is also psychologically dysfunctional in the extreme. Simply stated, men are not women, and cannot be judged according to the standards of what is psychologically healthy for women.
And yet we do just that, at both the personal level and the cultural level.
The result is that boys have simply been opting out of the game, hence the rise of gang, "incels" ("involuntary celibates") and MGTOW ("Men Going Their Own Way"), none of which is healthy, but all of which express the same sense of disenfranchisement that young men feel in the face of a world that no longer values their masculinity. They have been left utterly alone and adrift, with no idea how to right the ship. And there is really only one solution: mentorship. Older men- or even men of a similar age who have already found their way- simply must begin taking other men under their wing.
Mentorship, which exists all throughout the ancient world in the form of various rites of passage, is the psychophysiological mechanism by which boys are directed into the state of manhood, which is essentially a state of leadership and fatherhood, and which is necessary in order for the human being to flourish, not only as individuals but as groups of individuals. Sadly, rites of passage are barely an afterthought in the modern world: They do still exist in certain arenas- sports, the military, and the martial arts, for instance- but in general have been condemned; even fraternity "hazings" have been nearly universally abolished on college campuses. However, these rites of passage, though apparently senseless and barbaric, actually serve a very important purpose in male psychology because male psychology is both hierarchical and competitive; male psychology is dependent upon stratification, and the competition that determines placement within that order of rank. When these mechanisms are removed, male psychology becomes unmoored from its anchoring point in the world. This results, predictably, in a rapid descent of male psychological health and wellbeing. Finally, society itself begins to unravel, because when that half of the species designed for leadership loses its way, the rest will surely follow.
This is why it is so very important for us all- men especially- to rediscover the classical tradition of manhood. It became apparent to me early in my graduate studies that the modern psychological paradigm had utterly abandoned manhood in all respects, and that a new paradigm was needed. Hopefully, it will make some impact in the world. But if not, at least we may not remain silent, content to watch the world fall apart, like sheep, meekly awaiting the slaughter.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
[Note: This content is self-funded and self-published; please consider supporting it by donating through our payment portal at PayPal.]
There should be no doubt in the mind of anybody even slightly well-acquainted with the study of psychology that something is deeply, deeply wrong with the world today. From a purely psychiatric point of view, the evidence is clear: We are currently witnessing monumental explosions in the prevalence of virtually every known psychiatric disorder; millions upon millions of human beings have been rendered nearly incapable of functioning in the real world without being under the influence of some form of drug, whether via prescription or self-medication. With every passing year, the psychology of the typical westerner becomes more and more a psychology of confusion, fragmentation, and degeneration. But the rapid descent of the psychological wellbeing of modern man is hardly new; the roots of the problem run deep into the past...
Human beings are the only species that need a reason- a higher, deeper reason- beyond and behind the physical in order to feel themselves fulfilled. Consequently, it might be said that the question of fulfillment is inherently metaphysical- that is, that it requires a greater-than-merely-physical answer-, and thus that its answer stands dependent upon this most metaphysical question. Historically speaking, the problem of nihilism was rarely a problem at all for most of human history, for both religion and philosophy were in agreement upon this at least: Man has meaning, and man's world has meaning as well. Whether that meaning might be called God, Logos, Jehovah, or Buddhadhatu- was hardly relevant.
However, things had already begun to change when Friedrich Nietzsche defined nihilism as that condition in which "the highest values devalue themselves." For it was during the 19th century that two movements paradoxically at odds with one another- capitalism and communism- met, waged war, and effectively destroyed "the highest values." Capitalism with all its luxury and decadence had already begun to poison what might be called the European classical tradition; communism addressed this event, and in so doing condemned that same classical tradition while claiming to be the path to a newer, better, brighter world. Between them, the classical tradition- "the highest values"- had little chance of survival. As Nietzsche had warned, "the death of God" was on the horizon...
The catastrophic consequences of "the death of God" and man's isolation and alienation from himself and from his highest values- primarily by means of a great number of theories that might be loosely defined as modernism- was a common theme in the works of a diverse range of thinkers, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky (Demons), Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good & Evil), Émile Durkheim (Suicide), Carl Jung (Modern Man in Search of a Soul), Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning), Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces), and Philip Rieff (My Life Among the Deathworks). And although their ideas and analyses regarding the subject vary widely, they all touch upon a similar problem: Man has been disconnected from himself and from his natural condition, and this has resulted in a kind of psychological distortion- that is, an abiding sense of meaninglessness-, which Nietzsche called nihilism and considered the most horrifying of all historical possibilities.
Tragically, nihilism in praxis has now become the norm. And although we may call that nihilism by many and even contradictory names- capitalism, communism, consumerism, corporatism, etc.-, it lies festering within the vast majority of modernism either as a cause or as a consequence, and it must be dealt with eventually. Hopefully, it will be dealt with soon; time is running out, after all, and we are already two centuries behind. Nobody denies that the world has its problems- and yet nobody wants to address what lies at the root of all of them...
Mas & Fem
Although it may no longer be politically correct to speak the truth- even an obvious truth-, men and women are fundamentally different, and at every level of human development: the chromosomal, the genetic, the structural, the neurological, the psychological, the social, the cultural, the behavioral. There are literally no aspects of the human condition in which men and women are equal. None. Zero. Furthermore, these differences express themselves at both the personal level and the cultural level- that is, they scale in magnitude.
These differences persist across time and space, and are apparent in every culture ever tested. The social argument- that these differences are mere "social constructs," and have no reality in and of themselves- would perhaps hold water if cultures could be found that show the opposite trend, but such a culture has never yet been discovered. The list of sex-specific universals is enormous: Never in history have females formed the majority of any military; never in history have females formed the majority of weapon makers or metal workers of any kind; never in history have females formed the majority of workers of the most dangerous jobs. The list goes on and on. And controlling for socialization provides no help: Cultures high in gender equality oftentimes show even greater degrees of gender differentiation than cultures low in gender equality, almost as though the free pursuit of personal fulfillment creates a higher degree of inequality- and indeed, that seems to be the only answer.
So men and women are fundamentally different, at every level of human development, and in every culture ever studied, no matter where in time and space. Men and women, once more and for the last time, are different. This does not imply that the one is better than the other, or that the one is more necessary than the other. In fact, the very spirit of male-female relationships is one of partnership: Human sexuality is founded upon cooperation and complementarity rather than combativeness. This natural propensity for partnership benefits both sexes, though for the purpose of this discussion, we will focus on manhood.
Generally speaking, men are bigger, stronger, faster, more violent, less sympathetic, tactical, tribalistic, and prone to linearity and discrimination in thought process. These traits make sense from an evolutionary point of view: Men have been, are, and will always be the protectors of the tribe, and so they display a far stronger inclination towards leadership and that general willingness to march into danger, destruction, and death that so typically characterizes the heroic personality, which makes sense in this context (because the male investment in children, physically speaking, is exceedingly small compared to that of the female- a few hours, perhaps-, he is, from the genetic perspective, more disposable, and so more inclined to risk his own safety for that of the tribe); women, on the other hand, have been, are, and will always be the creators and caretakers of children, and so they display higher degrees of empathy, verbal fluency, and appreciation for verbal communication, along with generally higher risk and danger aversion, which also makes sense in this context (because the female investment in children, physically speaking, is exceedingly large compared to that of the male- nine months plus years of care-, she is, from the genetic perspective, less disposable, and so less inclined to risk her own safety for that of the tribe). And so all of these differences take on a kind of logic when considered from an evolutionary point of view: Because it only takes a single man to repopulate a village while every pregnancy threatens the life of a woman, masculine psychology is designed for self-sacrifice while feminine psychology is designed for nurturing life.
Furthermore, men appreciate the traditionally "hard" virtues far more than women, and vice versa: Men appreciate "tactical" virtues- that is, virtues that are useful in battle, such as strength, wisdom, and fearlessness- while women appreciate "pathetic" virtues- that is, sympathetic virtues that bind individuals together, such as love, mercy, and compassion. This yin/yang polarization of human sexual psychology is deeply ingrained in the species, and cannot be argued away, no matter how subtle the academic sleight of hand. The pattern repeats over and over, in all times and in all places.
Men, therefore, are characterized by two qualities that generally set them apart from women: leadership and protection- that is, men enter into danger first (the real meaning of leadership), and establish borders and boundaries (both physical and philosophical) in order to protect the tribe. This is manhood in its most simplistic form: It is hardness of mind, and the willingness to make difficult decisions for the greater good. Paradoxically, this may sometimes look a lot like amorality, or even immorality. But there is sometimes reason in madness.
Walking that fine line is not easy, however. The entire purpose of society, after all, is to teach individuals to obey what is highest within themselves, in order to rise above those seeds of self-destruction that lie within each of us: hatred, greed, and delusion. This is even more critical in the case of boys, who- by virtue of the fact that they are bigger, stronger, faster, more violent, less sympathetic, tactical, tribalistic, and prone to linearity and discrimination in thought process- can wreak havoc on society if they are not taught how to master themselves. And so for the vast majority of human history, there has been a tradition of training boys- of teaching them what manhood really means- and this tradition has always been passed down from grandfather to father to son, or, alternately, when the natural father is absent, the tradition can even be passed down from teacher to student, or from mentor to mentee, as in the case of military cultures, but it is always passed down organically, from adult male to adolescent male, and never from adult female to adolescent male.
After all, the natural character of a woman is oriented towards softness rather than hardness, and so the quality of masculine psychology- and therefore, all the needs of male-oriented pedagogy- typically run contrary to female psychology. The willingness to draw hard lines, the willingness to demand heavy sacrifices- these cannot be communicated via womanhood, partially because most human beings do not learn so much through education as through emulation. So although a mother may try to give her son some idea of what manhood is, she can never be a man, and so her instruction will always be the instruction of an outsider. Thus, her teachings will always ring hollow.
So what happens when there is an explosion of single-motherhood, and boys are left to their own devices, without fathers to teach them the tradition? What happens when boys are left in a perpetual state of boyhood, and never learn what manhood really means? Predictably, the results are catastrophic.
How Manhood Goes Wrong
The purpose of boyhood is the effective transition into manhood.
Every behavior expressed by a boy is essentially manhood in development. When he plays, he plays at things that will one day make him useful- not only to himself, but to his wife, his children, and his companions: He plays rough because life is hard; he competes with other boys because male social systems are hierarchical in structure, and and he prides himself on being strong and loyal and courageous because males are psychologically attuned to crisis environments that require strength, loyalty, and courage. These behaviors are normal and natural in boys, in spite of their having been condemned by feminist psychologists. But they are neither "harmful" nor "dangerous;" they are neither "toxic" nor "problematic."
So the phrase "boys will be boys" really means "men will be men"- in other words, that boys are unique (in that they are not girls) precisely because men are unique (in that they are not women). And that is an eminently rational position, one supported not only by common sense but also by thousands of years of scientific enquiry.
However, because common sense is no longer common, perhaps some data would be in order. Because psychiatric disorders and general psychological dysfunction result in lower success in life and higher rates of asocial behavior, incarceration rates can be used as a general proxy for dysfunction. As we can see from the graph below, imprisonment in the United States was fairly uncommon up until the 1980s when there was a sudden spike in rates of imprisonment.
Incidentally, these rates are almost entirely male rates. Women are wildly under-represented among prison populations, as can be seen in the graph below. Similar variations in representation can be found universally throughout human civilization, no matter the time or place. Crime, whether we like it or not, is a quintessentially masculine phenomenon.
So the question, of course, is why do we see the explosion in incarceration rates specifically in the 1980s? One possible suggestion- and, it should be noted, the only correct suggestion in light of the data- is that this had everything to do with the rise of single motherhood and the corollary drop in father engagement in the United States. Although it should go without saying, the welfare system has essentially incentivized the single parent family, and to disastrous effect.
Something clearly needs to be done; the only question is what.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
[Full disclosure: I am both a Buddhist and a Nietzschean. At first glance, these two philosophies may appear to be at odds. And yet, I do not find- or rather, feel- any particular animosity between them, at least when they are both understood properly. Nonetheless, I have always been aware that my feelings towards their relationship are strange, and have wondered whether or not they might be reconciled. For myself, I have grown convinced that such a reconciliation is not only possible but probable, and can be achieved with little difficulty; what follows is my reasoning.]
Question: Can traditional religion (in this case, Buddhist) be reconciled with natural philosophy (in this case, Nietzschean)? In other words, are religious imperatives compatible with the practical observations of philosophy? Or are we instead doomed to an epistemological dualism: either an essentially religious worldview or an essentially natural worldview- but never both? Put differently, is a unified theory of existence entailing both religion and philosophy tenable at all? Can a practical moral system of behavior be derived from natural philosophy that is in accord with traditional religion, without resorting to intellectual gymnastics?
A few definitions are in order...
Definition 1- "Will": The capacity for action, for causing some effect upon reality.
Definition 2- "Power": The measure of the capacity for action, for causing some effect upon reality.
Definition 3- "Religion": The pursuit of the metaphysical; the pursuit of whatever is higher and greater than physical reality, called by whatever name.
Definition 4- "Morality": The sanctioning of behaviors in accord with those truths revealed by the pursuit of the metaphysical; the suppression of lower, physical instincts and impulses to higher, metaphysical instincts and impulses.
Definition 5: "Self-mastery": The cultivation of the human being through higher, metaphysical instincts and impulses; the realization of spiritual potential, accomplished by means of self-denial of more fundamental thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Now, in order to proceed, we must make two assumptions...
The first assumption, which is fundamentally Buddhist: Whatever is, simply is mind- or rather, altered and affected by mind. Because whatever we perceive to exist is conditioned by our perception of it. However, this must be understood to be an epistemological insight or assertion rather than an ontological insight or assertion- that is, it is a truth about our interaction with reality than than reality in and of itself. Furthermore, it must be understood that the Buddha used two words to describe the mind, the first being citta, the second being manas. This is an important distinction, for citta represents the emotional mind while manas represents the intellectual mind; citta is sometimes even translated as "heart." And so the Buddha was arguing that we create the world with the mind that wills as well as with the mind that knows- and thus, the cultivation of the mind/will is critical to Buddhism (hence its long tradition of seemingly-paradoxical martial-monastic training).
The second assumption, which is fundamentally Nietzschean: Whatever is, simply is power- or rather, will to power (wille zur macht, as it was called by Friedrich Nietzsche). Because all actions- whether moral, amoral, or immoral- are expressions of will in some form, and result in effects that alter reality; these effects are measurable, and the measure of these effects is a quantum of power. But can we get from this assumption to a traditionally religious ground? Or is such a worldview doomed to tyranny and wickedness, as it was during World War II when Nietzsche's philosophy of power was adopted whole-heartedly by the Nazi Party of Germany? Ultimately, the critical factor is not power itself- because everything is power- but rather the manner in which that power is expressed, and whether that expression reveals wellness or sickness, waxing strength or waning strength, the will in control or the will in descent.
Here we come to the ultimate crux of the question, because it may very well be that by using power as an ultimate measure of value- again, because power simply is reality in its essence- that we may construct a value system that is at once cohesive and in yet accord with a traditionally religious worldview. How? By continuing down the rabbit hole; by acknowledging that power is, first and foremost, an internal condition rather than an external condition- that it is mastery over the self that most clearly represents power, and that the fanatical need (all needs represent deficiencies) to overpower another betrays not power at all but rather weakness, internal chaos, or as Nietzsche called it, "anarchy among the instincts." But how can we be certain that power is an internal condition rather than an external condition, or is this rather wishful thinking?
Certainly, there are those that prefer to conceal their weaknesses behind the veil of virtue; they say, "I'm too good to do that," rather than what they ought to say, which is (the truth), "I'm too weak to do that." Nonetheless, because the same will that exists within each of us also exists within each and every other thing and being, our control over things in the world must always be limited- and severely limited, almost to be point of being utterly inconsequential. However, we can control ourselves. That is, after all, the central teaching of Buddhism: We can master ourselves- and that is enough; in fact, that is the path of Awakening!
Nothing else is necessary- only mastery of the self. But what does mastery of the self look like, exactly?
And so it becomes clear that a system of moral behavior rooted in power is possible, provided we are consistent in its application. Would a man who had attained mastery over himself lie? No, because that lie would reveal fear in the face of truth. Would a man who had attained mastery over himself steal? No, because that theft would reveal a deficiency within himself in regards to his own ability to fulfill his own needs. Would a man who had attained mastery over himself rape or murder the innocent? No, clearly, because such crimes would reveal that he had not in fact mastered his own instincts and impulses, and that he remained enslaved before the tyranny of his own passions.
Finally, we are forced to admit that those that have historically spoken about power most loudly have too often been those least acquainted with its possession. For as Nietzsche himself once remarked, "Slaves make the worst masters." Because power- real power- is quiet, self-satisfied and self-sufficient. It needs nothing; it lacks nothing- and so it demands nothing.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
The human being is a meaning-seeking organism. For although he may pursue sex, fame and fortune, or the intoxication of military victory, ultimately, all of these are but proxies; they are mere expressions of a deeper and far more primordial instinct: the pursuit of purpose- that is, of a goal, of a path to that goal, and of a will sufficient to walk that path no matter the consequences. And so when all the superficialities of society are stripped away, it becomes clear that what man truly needs and longs for is not material gain at all but rather meaning and manhood. This can hardly be argued; philosophers have known it since the beginning of history- but who reads philosophy these days?
Man's pursuit of purposeful living- what Socrates referred to as eudaemonia (εὐδαιμονία), the nobility of the spirit- can hardly be ignored. And yet we live in a world that is, to quote Nietzsche's madman, "plunging continually" into chaos and darkness:
"Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!" -- As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. "Has he got lost?" asked one. "Did he lose his way like a child?" asked another. "Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?" -- Thus they yelled and laughed.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The Gay Science
Friedrich Nietzsche, of course, has not been the only one to fear the dangers of nihilism- of a world without meaning. In some form or other, the idea has been discussed by great minds as diverse as Émile Durkheim, Viktor Frankl, Joseph Campbell, and in more modern times, Simon Sinek. And there is good reason for fearing "the advent of nihilism:" A man without meaning is a terrifying thing indeed. When man finds himself devoid of meaning, he finds himself alone and adrift, alienated even before himself- and finally, toxic, vicious, self-denying and self-destroying (and that is to say nothing of what such a man may do to the world!).
However, recognizing that nihilism is dangerous- both personally and culturally- is only the first step; determining what can be done about it is something else entirely. The problem is complex, and seems resistant to simple solutions. It is not a problem that can be legislated away; no amount of social or political engineering has ever been or will ever be sufficient to quell the chaos at the heart of the human being. And so there is nothing to be done but for man to rediscover at last his own purpose and destiny. There are no other options.
After all, if we fail in this regard, we may truly find ourselves lost forever in "the tombs and sepulchers of God..."
~ Joshua van Asakinda
Whatever is has power; whatever is not is powerless. Fundamentally, therefore, what we perceive as reality is essentially a system of power, a dynamic and evolving matrix for power-acquisition, power-ascension, and power-annihilation. Power- whether represented through physics, biological complexity, or socio-cultural symbols (money, women, etc.)- simply is reality itself, and everything that exists within reality is an expression of it. This, of course, is hardly a popular idea.
A few great minds notwithstanding, the general trend of modern society has been against "power"- at least linguistically. "Power is bad; power is wicked; power is tyranny"- so goes the argument. However, power itself is neither moral nor immoral; power simply is, and like anything else that exists by virtue of being fundamental to reality itself, power can only be moral or immoral insofar as its use is moral or immoral. But that is not an ontological truth, nor is it an epistemological truth; rather, it is an axiological truth- that is, a truth about values, a truth about virtues. And so it is, simply stated, not a question of philosophy but rather of psychology.
Regardless, even the argument against a philosophy of power remains- an act of power. Because what is power but the capacity for will, willing, and willfulness? It is the capacity for vying, acting, pushing, fighting...the question "For what?" is entirely irrelevant. And so whether we prefer to be honest and forthright- and so call power what it is- or rather lie, deceive, dissemble, and manipulate- and so call it by one of ten thousand socially-sanctioned labels-, the disagreement itself is proof of the point: We cannot exist without power, without seeking power, without contending for power.
The only real question is what one should do with it once he has it. But who asks such questions these days? Nobody. Or rather, nobody but myself...
Agonistic Existentialism I
Today, power is considered only with skepticism. We condemn power; we have been conditioned to be untrusting of powerful persons, and of the pursuit of power in general. It is, perhaps, the consequence of our shared Judaeo-Christian upbringing. But what is life if not a continual struggle for power? Where there is life, there is will, and the will to power- what Nietzsche called der wille zur macht-, for power is merely the capacity to will, and that is the essence of being as opposed to non-being; it is the capacity for the creation of something beyond ourselves. Nietzsche's original term in German, after all, (wille zur macht) implies a creative act- macht as opposed to kraft-, an important distinction that is too often overlooked.
Assuming for a moment that we can all agree that strength of will is worth having- and it is, for nothing can be accomplished without it-, and assuming for a moment that strength of will is a necessary prerequisite of all other virtues- and it is, for virtue is nothing if not the capacity for self-command in the face of temptation-, then we might ask ourselves a question: What is necessary in order to develop power? And the answer is, first and foremost: pain- and not only pain, but perhaps also conflict, suffering, despondency, degeneration, and nihilism. After all, where there is no stress, there is no growth; where is no adversity, there is no overcoming of adversity. Because what is good within us is always entangled with what is dark within us...
And so, we must be grateful for strength, and we must also be grateful for our trials and tribulations. Because it is only through trial and tribulation that we develop the strength of will necessary to overcome the next set of trials and tribulations; we grow, hour by hour and year by year, through pain and the conquest of pain. There are always two forces at work in everything: yin and yang; right and wrong; goodness and darkness; the Buddha and Mara; Jesus and the Devil; nirvana and samsara; AWAKENING and the Wheel of Birth and Death...
This is the essence of the philosophy of power- of agonistic existentialism (Æ)- insofar as the human being is concerned: It is a kind of quasi-moral dialectic. "Is such-and-such right?" we wonder to ourselves. "Perhaps, but it will only seed its opposite: Goodness leads to weakness; weakness leads to darkness; darkness leads to hardness; hardness leads to goodness- and the wheel goes round and round and round..." Finally, we are compelled to admit to ourselves that our foreground estimates of right and wrong- that is, our moral categories- are quite a bit more complicated than most of us would care to admit. Because it is not difficult to imagine, for instance, that one might do a very "good" thing for a "bad" reason- for instance, slavish obedience to the law-, or that one might do a very "bad" thing for a "good" reason- for instance, out of a sense of love and loyalty for a friend or family member. Furthermore, if the relationship between these two categories of value is indeed as complicated as it appears to be- if, in other words, "good" outcomes can come from "bad" inputs and "bad" outcomes can come from "good" inputs-, then we must admit that we require a new standard by which to measure the relative value of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; we find ourselves pressed with a decision either to find a deeper solution to the moral problem, or to abandon moral evaluations of any kind altogether.
Now, clearly, individual human beings cannot be held accountable for the large-scale consequences of their behaviors, which are at any rate incalculable; they can only be held accountable for themselves - and yet that is precisely the point. Because there is only one measure by which we can determine whether or not an action is desirable (we cannot even say "right" or "wrong" in this sense); there is only one question that we must ask ourselves: "Does this reveal strength, and mastery of the individual over himself?" Ultimately, that is all what we all desire, after all, and in any event, we cannot reasonably predict the end results of our actions past their immediate effects. So to judge the value of an action by any other measure conceals from us our own motivations, which leads to deception and dishonesty towards ourselves and others, not to mention moral and psychological slavishness. To judge the value of an action by its consequences, however, is an equally foolish goal, and also destined to fail; the complexity of the world is far too vast to calculate "ends" or "effects" of actions. After all, how far down the road should we calculate the consequences of our actions? A day? A year? And to what extent? How far should our estimations reach, across how many miles and millions of miles? Quickly we realize that such a theory of behavior would lead to insanity- and it has.
Our modern conceptions of right and wrong are deeply flawed; we have traded wisdom, which is ambiguous yet authentic, for short-hand rules for moral action, which are unambiguous but inauthentic. The effect has been disastrous; the world is now filled with philosophical contradictions- we ourselves are filled with philosophical contradictions!-, and too often we find ourselves unwittingly condemning the very causes of the conditions that we claim to support, and vice versa. Everywhere we look, we find turmoil and conflict, and it is entirely due to our inability to recognize three very important truths:
This then- the internalization of the pursuit of power- is what we may call self-mastery, which is a far stronger and more truthful philosophy than what most of us believe in today (if the vast majority of people can be said to believe anything at all; most of us are merely conditioned to believe). It is also the essential characteristic of all ancient religious traditions; it is only because of modernism- that is, the weakening effects of material prosperity on human psycho-physiology- that our religions have decayed. And it is what might be loosely called the way of the warrior. Tragically, the wisdom of old has been almost entirely abandoned, and with catastrophic consequences...
Agonistic Existentialism II
There is no doubt the world is in disarray. For generations, public social policy has been determined largely by academics who long ago abandoned the classical tradition of philosophy. As a result, masculinity of worldview- that is, heroism, in philosophy and in psychology- is no longer even discussed in academic circles, and in spite of the fact that both war and the warrior continue to exist. But as a result of the abolition of masculinity from the humanities (it still exists to some degree in STEM fields, where reality matters and truth is paramount), the classical has been replaced by the modernist; philosophies oriented towards truth, willpower, and meaning have been replaced by philosophies oriented towards contempt for truth, contempt for willpower, and contempt for meaning- in short, nihilism. Consequently, the modernist/post-modernist worldview (if it can even be called a worldview) now has a de facto stranglehold on theory, which has resulted in a long-term, downstream de facto stranglehold on public policy. Because of this, most public policy is now anti-male in orientation, whether policymakers are aware of it or not.
Western society has thus shifted its trajectory away from manhood, sex roles, the natural family, hierarchy, competition, the pursuit of meaning, etc.- and towards a more "progressive" worldview in which truth is suppressed, weakness results from decadence, and nothing has meaning but the satisfaction of physical desires. Such a worldview is untenable; it cannot endure for long- because it runs contrary to the higher needs of the human being and thus results in psycho-social regression. After all, the classical tradition was the fundamental foundation upon which civilization has always been predicated; it developed over thousands of years as a method for leveraging the human condition to the advantage of the species, and as a method for overcoming the selfishness that sleeps at the heart of the human being. And so when the classical tradition is abandoned, the basic underlying principles that make civilization possible are likewise abandoned. Predictably, the fabric of society begins to wear thin, and we find ourselves returning to savagery and tribalism...
The modernist paradigm is a philosophy of weakness: It condemns power and the pursuit of power in theory; it looks with distrust (if not contempt) upon those that possesses power, either as individuals or as groups of individuals; it sees victors and victims everywhere, and cannot even imagine a non-zero sum relationship between individuals of varying strata; it breeds and conditions weakness in practical application, and openly condemns traditional modes of pedagogy merely by virtue of their being traditional- that is, masculine in orientation. This results in the gradual erosion of self-agency at the level of the individual, and the ever-increasing feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with the world- and this is the root of much resentment. Modernism destroys the will by destroying the conditions that strengthen the will, and thus destroys the capacity of the individual for self-determination- and that is slavery almost by definition. Because what is slavery if not the eradication of the will of the individual, and the suppression of his capacity for self-determination?
What is needed most today is a new virilist psychological paradigm to counteract the old feminist psychological paradigm, which has so completely taken over the field of psychology that the study can no longer be said to represent men or manhood at all. Because the current system breeds weakness; it can do nothing but breed weakness, as it has abolished the very principles that result in strength: stress, trial and tribulation, victory in the face of danger. Furthermore, because it destroys the human being, it in effect destroys the basic unit of human civilization itself; it is a ticking bomb laid at the very foundation of society.
~ Joshua van Asakinda