In previous posts, I have mentioned something which I refer to as the “natural aristocracy,” which should form the leadership caste within a well-ordered polity. My views on social order demand the rejection of democracy and allied systems which “spread around” authority within a society, leading to increased social entropy and an unnatural, increasingly non-functional social system. Instead, authority and power should be concentrated in the hands of that “wise few” whose energies and abilities are used to provide guidance and direction to a society so that it may be provided with competent, good government and that it may retain rational social structures which are in line with the natural order of things.
Typically in human history, aristocracies have consisted of those who are considered nobles by birth (hereditary aristocracy) or else who gain and keep power through their access to wealth and other resources (plutocracy). While these do not always coincide completely with the natural aristocracy of which I’ll be writing, there is a great deal of consequential overlap, which I will discuss below.
When we talk about an aristocracy being “natural,” what we don’t (or at least shouldn’t) mean is that there is some group of people who are “inherently” superior to their fellows in society, as through genetics or some other deterministic means. Rather, we should understand the term to be describing those who make the effort to adopt, cultivate, and perfect certain traits and capabilities in their own lives that will “naturally” make them stand out from and excel the general run of the masses, simply because the possession of these derived traits will make one superior to those who lack them. In other words, it is not an aristocracy that exists through no merit of its own. Rather, it is an aristocracy that rises to the top as the cream does from the milk, through nourishing their inborn traits by self-discipline while fostering new ones through effort and activity.
In many ways, societies and civilisations are tripartite beings, much as the human being himself is. When members of a society develop and enhance the attributes which perfect spirit, soul, and body, then they also strengthen the organism of their society in the same ways as well. An organism is healthier when its individual cells are healthy. When they are not, the organism begins to approach that entropic equilibrium point known as death. The natural aristocracy are those who go above and beyond the run-of-the-mill members of the ochlos in seeking to perfect themselves in spirit, soul, and body.
The natural aristocrat will seek, first of all, to improve himself in his spirit. This is done by cultivating habits of virtue and temperance which will enable him to master his own high-spiritedness and desires. The “spirit” (pneuma) is the vital principle of man, the anima which deals with his emotions, motivations, responses to stimuli, and so forth. Through self-control, he will not be prone to wild swings of mood or emotion, nor to making foolish decisions or actions. At the same time, he will also seek to positively display virtuous behaviour in his life, the sort of behaviour that will earn him the respect of the respectable with whom he surrounds himself. His conduct will be informed by a genuine devotion to true religion which teaches solid moral principles rather than sentimentalism or mere formalism.
The natural aristocrat will also improve his mind and intellect, he will work to enlarge his soul (psyche). He will be well-read, with a focus on older and classical works which teach lasting truths while avoiding modernistic perversions. Yet, he will not limit his intellectual endeavours merely to acquiring knowledge, but to synthesising and applying it as well. His areas of interest will be broad, not confined to one particular topic or field. He will understand, as Confucius said, that “a gentleman is not a pot.” A pot is good for one thing only – holding things. The superior man, on the other hand, is good for and good at many things. Has range of perceptions and aptitudes will be wide, and he will be as facile in the use of music or art or science as he is in history or philosophy or literature.
The superior man, lastly, will be a man of activity and industriousness. He will actively seek to improve the world around him in real and tangible ways which benefit both himself and his community and society. He will understand what Carlyle meant when he said, “conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.” He won’t just complain about what ought to be done – he will take it upon himself to get out there and do it. Yet, he will also understand that mere rabble-rousing will not solve problems. Rather, he will act intelligently in ways which will advance his goals without undermining his own efforts or those of other good men.
This nobility of merit may often coincide with the more common forms of aristocracy that were mentioned above – those of wealth and heredity. After all, an industrious man is much more likely to find worldly success in life. However, it is also true that many businessmen often focus on business to the exclusion of anything else, including the perfecting of spirit and soul. However, when such a man of industry gives attention to those as well, he will be a natural aristocrat. Likewise, the hereditary aristocracies in Europe (and presumably those elsewhere) originated though the exertions of daring and capable men, men whose descendants were often patrons of the arts and literature and who were often very devoted to spiritual matters as well. Yet, it is also true that such aristocracies can decline due to the degeneracy and profligacy of heirs still riding on the coattails of their distant ancestors. Such was lamented by Horace,
“Time corrupts all. What has it not made worse?
Our grandfathers sired feebler children; theirs
Were weaker still – ourselves; and now our curse
Must be to breed even more degenerate heirs.”
The great opponent of natural aristocracy is democracy, and more generally, the principles of populism and demotism. These actively work against the cultivation of true merit among those who would seek to do so, and instead drag down every one who would try to rise above his fellows. In every area, democracy and populism have weakened the pillars of natural aristocracy.
In the spiritual arena, they have degraded genuine moral religion into a morass of syrupy sentimentality and popular clichés designed to bring in the largest crowds to be entertained (rather than to be taught doctrine and ennobled morally). The man who tries to lead a virtuous life will either be derided as a sap, or else despised for “thinking he’s better than everyone else.”
In the intellectual arena, acquiring an education that is not limited to the lowest common denominator pabulum taught in the public schools marks one out as a “loser.” Learning and knowing things is viewed as a waste of time. Mental capabilities suffer, as does simply the culture of the democratic society. It is not surprising that the grand works of Western civilization – the Mozarts and the Beethovens and the Titians and the other great artists – were generally produced within the courts of Europe’s great monarchies or within the Catholic church. Democracies tend to produce fewer Heinrich Bibers and more Justin Beibers.
The tendency in democratic systems is toward social and economic leveling, which necessarily sets itself against the active and industrious life of the natural aristocrat. In democracies, the masses of the citizenry are always at least a little suspicious of anyone who really begins to excel, figuring that it’s the government’s job to bring them to heel.
Simply put, the natural aristocracy consists of those relative few who really try – and succeed – in doing what is necessary to raise themselves above the level of the common run of humanity. In each area of human existence, they seek to perfect themselves – morally, intellectually, and physically. They will overcome the natural debilitations of human laziness and envy and ignorance, and demonstrate a life characterised by eutaxy and virtue. We should not be reticent or ashamed to acknowledge that such men are superior to others. Let us cast by the wayside the demotic inhibitions against recognising truly superior individuals and rewarding them for their exertions.
That government is best which governs in such a way as to advance superior men into authority. Such a government will almost never be a democratic system of any sort. Aristocracies and monarchies are much more effective at this, and hence tend to be more stable and more competently ran than governments operating on popular principles. One of the goals of Tradition and neoreaction should be the restoration of social and political systems which enable the rise and advancement of this natural aristocracy of superior men.