Aristocracy of the sun
To be an aristocrat of the sun
you don’t need one single social inferior to exalt you;
you draw your nobility direct from the sun
let other people be what they like.
I am that I am
from the sun,
and people are not my measure.
Perhaps, if we started right, all the children could grow up sunny
We need have no dead people, money-slaves and social worms.
Thus, dear reader, begins the second half of the book you have in front of you. The first half of this book focused on criticism and destruction, and this half will try to build a positive doctrine and practice from the ashes of our ruined world. Lawrence’s chosen symbol, the phoenix, is an appropriate symbol for what we are trying to do here. The world is burning, and will soon be burnt down, but we need to ensure that something new rises from the ashes. The custodians who will help to preserve culture and tradition, and will usher the world into a new era are the sun-men, or sun aristocrats. We have proven that democracy is a system that well serves the Machine, but authoritarian dictatorships also serve the Machine. What we want is a gentle aristocrat who has been touched by the sun, and who has seen the light of the Gods. In a democracy, the masses of people, including the base, the uneducated, and criminals, choose their leaders, and those leaders derive their power from those base individuals along with the corrupt moneyed classes. A sun-man doesn’t derive his powers from the people, especially from society’s baser elements, but directly from the sun and moon. In an ideal society, or, ideally, in Rananim, sun-men would ensure that children are raised to be in touch with the cosmos from the time of their births. A sunny child becomes a sunny man, and a sunny man is a man against the Machine. Previously, we have mentioned sun-men, and the need for sun-men, but have waited until now to fully explicate what that means. Here, we are limiting our discussion to the worldly functions of a sun-man, but in a later chapter on the sun and moon, we will explicate the more religious functions of the sun-men. One of the clearest passages in Lawrence’s oeuvre that describes the need for a spiritual aristocracy is the following passage from his introduction to Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor:
Men bow down to the lord of bread, first and foremost. For, by knowing the difference between earthly and heavenly bread, he is able calmly to distribute the earthly bread, and to give it, for the commonalty, the heavenly taste which they can never give it. That is why, in a democracy, the earthly bread loses its taste, the salt loses its savour, and there is no one to bow down to.
It is not man’s weakness that he needs someone to bow down to. It is his nature, and his strength, for it puts him into touch with far, far, greater life, than if he stood alone. All life bows to the sun. But the sun is very far away to the common man. It needs someone to bring it to him. It needs a lord: what the Christians call, one of the elect, to bring the sun to the common man, and put the sun in his heart. The sight of a true lord, a noble, a nature-hero puts the sun into the heart of the ordinary man, who is no hero, and therefore cannot know the sun direct.
This is one of the real mysteries. As the Inquisitor says, the mystery of the elect is one of the inexplicable mysteries of Christianity, just as the lord, the natural lord among men, is one of the inexplicable mysteries of humanity throughout time. We must accept the mystery, that’s all.
But to do so is not diabolic.
And Ivan need not have been so tragic and satanic. He had made a discovery about men, which was due to be made. It was the re-discovery of a fact which was known universally almost till the end of the eighteenth century, when the illusion of the perfectibility of men, of all men, took hold in the imagination of the civilised nations. It was an illusion. And Ivan has to make a re-statement of the old truth, that most men cannot choose between good and evil, because it is so extremely difficult to know which is which, especially in crucial cases: and that most men cannot see the difference between life-values and money-values, they can only see money-values; even nice simple people who live by the life-values, kind and natural, yet can only estimate value in terms of money. So let the specially-gifted few make the decision between good and evil, and establish the life-values against the money-values. And let the many accept the decision, with gratitude, and bow down to the few, in the hierarchy. What is diabolical or satanic in that? […] Let them be glad they’ve found the truth again.
As Lawrence makes clear, democracy and the leveling of peoples into a bland and stale equality deprives life of its “savour.” Hierarchy is in the nature of things, and to dispense with that leads to unnatural systems, which are fertile grounds for the growth of aberrations, such as the Machine. Our source of life is the sun, but we, today, think of the sun only as a ball of gas. The common people can’t look at the sun and see the spiritual realities behind its burning, glowing facade. This is why a sun-man is needed, a true lord of life who can dispense truth, justice, and the wisdom of the ages to the populace in a way they can digest. Making decisions is hard. The masses should leave off trying to run the world and determine the truth, and should gratefully accept the rulings, truth, and blessings dispensed by the sun-men. A sun man may not be the strongest, nor the most intelligent, and certainly will not be the wealthiest, but he is the most full of being and has come to know the dark Gods. As Lawrence writes:
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What […is] wanted, […is] some sort of a new show: a new recognition of the life-mystery, a departure from the dreariness of money-making, money-having, and money-spending. It […means] a new recognition of difference, of highness and of lowness, of one man meet for service and another man clean with glory, having majesty in himself, the innate majesty of the purest being, not the strongest instrument, like Napoleon. Not the tuppenny trick-majesty of Kaisers. But the true majesty of the single soul which has all its own weaknesses, but its strength in spite of them, its own lovableness, as well as its might and dread. The single soul that stands naked between the dark God and the dark-blooded masses of men.
Even a dictator would be preferable to our degenerate democracy, but a dictator who brings life, not death; a dictator for the Gods, not against them. “If you want a dictator, whether it is Lenin, or Mussolini, or Primo de Rivera, ask, not whether he can set money in circulation, but if he can set life in motion, by dictating to his people.”It matters not whether one man or ten are in power, so long as life is good, and the flow of being is restored. I would take loss of liberty in the strictest dictatorship any day if it meant the saving of the planet, and the awakening of the earth’s population. Since things are so degenerate and decadent right now, we need to set in place a world-wide resurrection, and the only kind of person who can do this is a messiah, a savior, the sun-man among sun-men. As Lawrence writes:
Man’s life consists in a connection with all things in the universe. Whoever can establish, or initiate a new connection between mankind and the circumambient universe is, in his own degree, a saviour. Because mankind is always exhausting its human possibilities, always degenerating into repetition, torpor, ennui, lifelessness. When ennui sets in, it is a sign that human vitality is waning, and the human connection with the universe is gone stale.
Then he who comes to make a new revelation, a new connection, whether he be soldier, statesman, poet, philosopher, artist, he is a saviour. […]
To man, the very sun goes stale, becomes a habit. Comes a saviour, a seer, and the very sun dances new in heaven.
That is because the sun is always sun beyond sun beyond sun. The sun is every sun that ever has been, Helios or Mithras, the sun of China or of Brahma, or of Peru or of Mexico: great gorgeous suns, besides which our puny “envelope of incandescent gas” is a smoky candle-wick.
It is our fault. When man becomes stale and paltry, his sun is the mere stuff that our sun is. When man is great and splendid, the sun of China and Mithras blazes over him and gives him, not radiant energy in the form of heat and light, but life, life, life! […]
Man is great according as his relation to the living universe is vast and vital.
Men are related to men: including women: and this, of course, is very important. But one would think it were everything. One would think, to read modern books, that the life of any tuppenny bank-clerk was more important than sun, moon, and stars; and to read the pert drivel of the critics, one would be led to imagine that every three-farthing whipper-snapper who lifts up his voice in approval or censure were the thrice-greatest Hermes speaking in judgment out of the mysteries.
This is the democratic age of cheap clap-trap, and it sits in jackdaw judgment on all greatness.
And this is the result of making, in our own conceit, man the measure of the universe. Don’t you be taken in. The universe, so vast and profound, measures man up very accurately, for the yelping mongrel with his tail between his legs, that he is. And the great sun, and the moon, with a smile will soon start dropping the mongrel down the vast refuse-pit of oblivion. Oh, the universe has a terrible hole in the middle of it, an oubliette for all of you, whipper-snappering mongrels.
Man, of course, being measure of the universe, is measured only against man. Has, of course, vital relationship only with his own cheap little species. Hence the cheap little twaddler he has become.
In the great ages, man had vital relation with man, with woman: and beyond that, with the cow, the lion, the bull, the cat, the eagle, the beetle, the serpent. And beyond these, with narcissus and anemone, mistletoe and oak-tree, myrtle, olive, and lotus. And beyond these with humus and slanting water, cloud-towers and rainbow and the sweeping sun-limbs. And beyond that, with sun and moon, the living night and the living day.
Do you imagine the great realities, even the ram of Amon, are only symbols of something human? Do you imagine the great symbols, the dragon, the snake, the bull, only refer to bits, qualities or attributes of little man? It is puerile. The puerility, the puppyish conceit of modern […] humanity is almost funny.
Amon, the great ram, do you think he doesn’t stand alone in the universe, without your permission, oh cheap little man? Just because he’s there, do you think you bred him, out of your own almightiness, you cheap-jack?
Amon, the great ram! Mithras, the great bull! The mistletoe on the tree. Do you think, you stuffy little human fool sitting in a chair and wearing lambswool underwear, and eating your mutton and beef under the Christmas decoration, do you think then that Amon, Mithras, mistletoe, and the whole Tree of Life were just invented to contribute to your complacency? […]
Was not the ram created before you were, you twaddler? Did he not come in night out of chaos? And is he not still clothed in might?—To you, he is mutton. Your wonderful perspicacity relates you to him just that far. But any farther, he is—well, wool.
Don’t you see, idiot and fool, that you have lost the ram out of your life entirely, and it is one great connection gone, one great life-flow broken? Don’t you see you are so much the emptier, mutton-stuffed and wool-wadded, but lifeless, lifeless.
And the oak-tree, the slow great oak-tree, isn’t he alive? Doesn’t he live where you don’t live, with a vast silence you shall never, never penetrate, though you chop him into kindling shred from shred? He is alive with life such as you have not got and will never have. And in so far as he is a vast, powerful, silent life, you should worship him.
You should seek a living relation with him. Didn’t the old Englishman have a living, vital relation to the oak-tree, a mystic relation? Yes, mystic! Didn’t the red-faced old Admirals who made England, have a living relation in sacredness, with the oak-tee which was their ship, their ark? The last living vibration and power in pure connection, between man and tree, coming down from the Druids. […]
Do you think the tree is not, now and for ever, sacred and fearsome? The trees have turned against you, fools, and you are running in imbecility to your own destruction.
Do you think the bull is at your disposal, you zenith of creation? Why, I tell you, the blood of the bull is indeed your poison. Your veins are bursting, with beef. […]
My cow Susan is at my disposal indeed. But when I see her suddenly emerging, jet-black, sliding through the gate of her little corral into the open sun, does not my heart stand still, and cry out, in some long-forgotten tongue, salutation to the fearsome one? Is not even now my life widened and deepened in connection with her life, throbbing with the other pulse, of the bull’s blood?
Is not this my life, this throbbing of the bull’s blood in my blood?
And as the white cock calls in the doorway, who calls? Merely a barnyard rooster, worth a dollar-and-a-half. But listen! Under the old dawns of creation the Holy Ghost, the Mediator, shouts aloud in the twilight. And every time I hear him, a fountain of vitality gushes up in my body. It is life.
So it is! Degree after degree after degree widens out the relation between man and his universe, till it reaches the sun, and the night.
The impulse of existence, of course, is to devour all the lower orders of life. So man now looks upon the white cock, the cow, the ram, as good to eat.
But living and having being means the relatedness between me and all things. In so far as I am I, a being who is proud and in place, I have a connection with my circumambient universe, and I know my place. When the white cock crows, I do not hear myself, or some anthropomorphic conceit, crowing. I hear the not-me, the voice of the Holy Ghost. And when I see the hard, solid, longish green cones thrusting up at blue heaven from the high bluish tips of the balsam pine, I say: Behold! Look at the strong, fertile silence of the thrusting tree! God is in the bush like a clenched dark fist, or a thrust phallus.
So it is with every natural thing. It has a vital relation with all other natural things. Only the machine is absolved from vital relation. It is based on the mystery of neuters. The neutralising of one great natural force against another, makes mechanical power. Makes the engine’s wheels go round.
Does the earth go round like a wheel, in the same way? No! In the living, balanced, hovering flight of the earth, there is a strange leaning, an unstatic equilibrium, a balance that is non-balance. This is owing to the relativity of earth, moon, and sun, a vital, even sentient relatedness, never perpendicular: nothing neutral or neuter.
Every natural thing has its own living relation to every other natural thing. So the tiger, striped in gold and black, lies and stretches his limbs in perfection between all that the day is, and all that is night. He has a by-the-way relatedness with trees, soil, water, man, cobras, deer, ants, and of course, the she-tiger. Of all these he is reckless as Caesar was, when he stretches himself superbly. When he stretches himself superbly, he stretches himself between the living day and the living night, the vast inexhaustible duality of creation. And he is the fanged and brindled Holy Ghost, with ice-shiny whiskers.
The same with man. His life consists in a relation with all things: stone, earth, trees, flowers, water, insects, fishes, birds, creatures, sun, rainbow, children, woman, other men. But his greatest and final relation is with the sun, the sun of suns: and with the night, which is moon and dark and stars. In the last great connections, he lifts his body speechless to the sun, and, the same body, but so different, to the moon and the stars, and the spaces between the stars.
Sun! Yes, the actual sun! That which blazes in the day! Which scientists call a sphere of blazing gas;—what a lot of human gas there is, which has never been set ablaze!—and which the Greeks call Helios!
The sun, I tell you, is alive, and more alive than I am, or a tree is. It may have blazing gas, as I have hair, and a tree has leaves. But I tell you, it is the Holy Ghost in full raiment, shaking and walking, and alive as a tiger is, only more so, in the sky.
And when I can turn my body to the sun, and say: “Sun! Sun!”—and we meet—then I am come finally into my own. For the universe of day, finally, is the sun. And when the day of the sun is my day too, I am a lord of all the world.
And at night, when the silence of the moon, and the stars, and the spaces between the stars, is the silence of me too, then I am come into my own by night. For night is a vast untellable life, and the Holy Ghost starry, beheld as we only behold night on earth.
In his ultimate and surpassing relation, man is given only to that which he can never describe or account for; the sun, as it is alive, and the living night.
A man’s supreme moment of active life is when he looks up and is with the sun, and is with the sun as a woman is with child. The actual yellow sun of morning.
This makes man a lord, an aristocrat of life.
And the supreme moment of quiescent life is when a man looks up into the night, and is gone into the night, so the night is like a woman with child, bearing him. And this, a man has to himself.
The true aristocrat is the man who has passed all the relationships, and has met the sun, and the sun is with him as a diadem.
Caesar was like this. He passed through the great relationships, with ruthlessness, and came to the sun. And he became a sun-man. But he was too unconscious. He was not aware that the sun forever was beyond him, and that only in his relation to the sun was he deified. He wanted to be God.
Alexander was wiser. He placed himself a god among men. But when blood flowed from a wound in him, he said, Look! It is the blood of a man like other men.
The sun makes man a lord: an aristocrat: almost a deity. But in his consummation with night and the moon, man knows for ever his own passing away.
But no man is man in all his splendour till he passes further than every relationship: further than mankind and womankind, in the last leap to the sun, to the night. The man who can touch both sun and night, as the woman touched the garment of Jesus, becomes a lord and a saviour, in his own kind. With the sun he has his final and ultimate relationship, beyond man or woman, or anything human or created. And in this final relation is he most intensely alive, surpassing.
Every creature at its zenith surpasses creation and is alone in the face of the sun, and the night: the sun that lives, and the night that lives and survives. Then we pass beyond every other relationship, and every other relationship, even the intensest passion of love, sinks into subordination and obscurity. Indeed, every relationship, even that of purest love, is only an approach nearer and nearer, to a man’s last consummation with the sun, with the moon or night. And in the consummation with the sun, even love is left behind.
He who has the sun in his face, in his body, he is the pure aristocrat. He who has the sun in his breast, and the moon in his belly, he is the first: the aristocrat of aristocrats, supreme in the aristocracy of life.
Because he is most alive.
Being alive constitutes an aristocracy which there is no getting beyond. He who is most alive, intrinsically, is king, whether men admit it or not. In the face of the sun.
Life rises in circles, in degree. The most living is the highest. And the lower shall serve the higher, if there is to be any life among men.
More life! More vivid life! Not more safe cabbages, or meaningless masses of people.
Perhaps Dostoevsky was more vividly alive than Plato; culminating a more vivid life circle, and giving the clue towards a higher circle still. But the clue hidden, as it always is hidden, in every revelation, underneath what is stated.
All creation contributes, and must contribute to this: towards the achieving of a vaster, vivider cycle of life. That is the goal of living. He who gets nearer the sun is leader, the aristocrat of aristocrats. Or he who, like Dostoevsky, gets nearest the moon of our not-being.
There is, of course, the power of mere conservatism and inertia. Deserts made the cactus thorny. But the cactus still is a rose of roses.
Whereas a sort of cowardice made the porcupine spiny. There is a difference between the cowardice of inertia, which now governs the democratic masses, particularly the capitalist masses: and the conservative fighting spirit which saved the cactus in the middle of the desert.
The democratic mass, capitalist and proletariat alike, are a vast, sluggish, ghastlily greedy porcupine, lumbering with inertia. Even Bolshevism is the same porcupine: nothing but greed and inertia.
The cactus had a rose to fight for But what has democracy to fight for, against the living elements, except money, money, money!
The world is stuck squalid inside an achieved form, and bristling with a myriad spines, to protect its hulking body as it feeds, feeds: gnawing the bark of the young tree of life, and killing it from the top downwards. Leaving its spines to fester and fester in the nose of the gay dog.
The actual porcupine, in spite of legend, cannot shoot its quills. But mankind, the porcupine out-pigging the porcupine, can stick quills into the face of the sun.
Bah! Enough of the squalor of democratic humanity. It is time to begin to recognize the aristocracy of the sun. The children of the sun shall be lords of the earth.
There will form a new aristocracy, irrespective of nationality, of men who have reached the sun. Men of the sun, whether Chinese or Hottentot or Nordic, or Hindu or Esquimo, if they touch the sun in the heavens, are lords of the earth. And together they will form the aristocracy of the world. And in the coming era they will rule the world; a confraternity of the living sun, making the embers of financial internationalism and industrial internationalism pale upon the hearth of the earth.
Life in the modern world is stale. We desperately need a savior to come; a savior who may re-establish a vital connection to the cosmos and to all things in the cosmos. A true savior would help us to see that a God lies hidden in every animal, and that a vital pulse of life flows through every tree, and even stationary rocks. A true savior would be a man of the sun both because he sees the true spiritual significance of the sun, and because he can imbue others with sun-life. The sun is not just the sun; the sun is Apollo and countless other deities.
Just look to the ancient Egyptians for how different things could be. They worshiped the true spiritual significance behind and beyond the sun, and they knew that a God dwelt within every living thing. Imagine how changed your life would be if you could see a hawk and know that there lies a God within its breast. We are so lost today: we no longer believe in the—very real—Gods, we no longer see the Divine everywhere, and we no longer know how to interpret symbols. Really, the sun-men must come, and come quickly, for we need these great men to teach us the meanings of sacred symbols, which may lead us to the Gods.
All is alive. Modern man may condescend to declare animals sentient, but never trees, and certainly not inanimate rocks, but rocks are the living, embodied manifestation of the Gods. A singular rock may not have a soul, but each rock partakes of the soul of the world. A tree is alive, and even has tree-consciousness. Trees, all trees are sacred, and they must be worshiped, not cut down. You wonder why the Gods and the fairies have absconded? It is because we have cut down the sacred groves.
The Gods are still here; they are here in the trees, the flowers, the animals, and the sun-men. We all have daemons within us, and if we become enlightened, dark Gods descend upon us and shower us with their power. The Holy Ghost is not out there somewhere, but in the breast of every living creature. All you need to do is to get back in touch with all of creation.
All of creation is alive and full of Gods, just as Thales and Proclus believed. Everything living contains elements of the highest order of reality, traces of its divine essence. But, the Machine is not alive; it is dead, it is empty of the Divine, and is symbolic of the one thing without life, namely nothingness. Humans, like plants and animals, have a soul, but when they become like the Machine, they become like unto robots, and the power they gain in this world comes at the cost of the sacrifice of their souls, since a robot is no longer a man, nor is it alive. All of life is fecund, but machines can never breed, nor give birth. Sadly, in this, modern man is becoming more machine-like, more of a eunuch, every day, since men and women may still be able to make babies, but they are losing the ability to be lovingly and spiritually creative. A medieval man’s hands could make grain grow, make bread, and form beautiful vessels of clay, but a modern man’s hands seem only able to click and scroll.
Though all things are alive, the sun and the moon are more alive, so our saviors must get their vitality from the sun and moon, and when they do they are able to shower some of this vitality onto their followers. The sun is not just the sun, but is part of the eternal and inexhaustible Fire at the root of all things, and the source of all life. The greatest goal of the sun-man is to come into a living connection with this Fire, so that when he passes away he does not die, but becomes like unto the Fire, passing beyond all things human, yet retaining his memories. He will live brightly, like a star, and be an immortal friend of the immortal Gods. This is not some dull, cerebral immortality, but is a furtherance of and expansion of life, for the goal we have now and forever more is to be most fully alive.
We must search for the sun-men and if we find them and they will accept us, pledge our allegiance to them. With their help, we must build our Rananim, as Lawrence envisioned, and flee to it as our refuge from the modern world. Only then may we achieve the splendor and glory our hearts so desperately desire. As Lawrence writes:
The human heart needs, needs, needs, splendour, gorgeousness, pride, assumption, glory, and lordship. Perhaps it needs these even more than it needs love: at last, even more than bread. And every great king makes every man a little lord in his own tiny sphere, fills the imagination with lordship and splendour, satisfies the soul.
A sun-man does not take away from men, but gives, gives life, love, and a bridge to the Gods.
The Sight of God
Men are not alike in the sight of God
Oh no, oh no!
Men are anything but alike in the sight of God.
In the sight of God and the unknown gods
most men don’t matter at all, any more than ants matter to men:
only the few, the very few, matter in the sight of God, and the living
The truth that Lawrence shares in this poem is not politically correct and may not be palatable to most, but it is true. Men are not alike in the sight of the Gods. The only things that are perfectly alike are produced by machines, and nothing could be less machine-like than the Gods, nor the Fire that is the source of their being. Machine-made things are perfect only in their uniformity and standardization. This is why most machine-made things are ugly, and their ugliness diminishes our aliveness. All true works of art are imperfect, but their imperfection is part of their perfection. Just look to some of Michelangelo’s “unfinished” sculptures: they are perfect, whereas all the art produced by multi-million dollar printing machines lacks life and soul. Likewise, the imperfections of all creatures are part of their perfection. If the Gods wanted everything to be uniform, they could have made things so, but they did not want this. As such, everyone and everything is different. No one is born unloved by the Gods, and everyone can become loved by the Gods. But most people refuse to worship the Gods and revere their sacred manifestations on earth, namely the sky, the trees, the animals, mountains, and sun-men. The only men that matter to the Gods are those men who are worshipers of life and who strive to get into touch with the vital pulse of things. Since most men today aspire to machine-like perfection and deny that anything truly alive populates the universe, they have become like unto robots, things most hated by the Gods. Even the Machine is less hated by the Gods, for as a principle of lifelessness it could never attain enlightenment, nor ever bow down before the living pinnacles of creation, as a living human being can, when they choose not to ostracize themselves from the rest of creation. And since so many men don’t matter today, and because there is so much overpopulation, and so much evil perpetuated by evil men, we should perhaps consider Lawrence’s advice regarding the death penalty:
It is a great mistake to abolish the death penalty. If I were dictator […] I should have judges with sensitive, living hearts: not abstract intellects. And because the instinctive heart recognised a man as evil, I would have that man destroyed. Quickly. Because good warm life is now in danger.
Ah yes, men must learn to serve
not for money, but for life.
Ah yes, men must learn to obey
not a boss, but the gleam of life on the face of a man
who has looked into the eyes of the gods.
Man is only perfectly human
when he looks beyond humanity.
Modern man feels it is beneath his dignity to serve, despite the fact that he serves his boss every day. Service is not bad if it is service to life and the Gods. A sun-man who bows down before the trees, moon, sun, and Gods is not less free, but more free than the man who refuses to serve. Serving the Gods frees a man to truly live a life of power and joy. And since most men cannot see the faces of the Gods, they must bow down before the men who know the Gods. Man as such, measured against man, is always flawed, and can only—as Lawrence writes—achieve perfection when he goes beyond his limited human self to discover the Divine within.
Now, when we are quickly approaching rock bottom by our failures with regard to climate change, environmental collapse, war and pestilence and technological gridlock, and have already caused great sufferings to ourselves and our planet, there are glimmerings of hope that we are on the cusp of a great awakening; one in which we leave off money, things, and selfishness, and start to bow down in service to the Lords of Life. As Spengler writes, this awakening will initiate a renewal of tradition, and will be a great life-restoring catalyst:
Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect. […] [T]here wakes at last a deep yearning for all old and worthy tradition that still lingers alive. Men are tired to disgust of money-economy. They hope for salvation from somewhere or other, for some true ideal of honour and chivalry, of inward nobility, of unselfishness and duty. And now dawns the time when the form-filled powers of the blood, which the rationalism of the Megalopolis has suppressed, reawaken in the depths. Everything in the order of dynastic tradition and old nobility that has saved itself up for the future, everything that there is of high money-disdaining ethic, everything that is intrinsically sound enough to be, in Frederick the Great’s words, the—servant—the hard-working, self-sacrificing, caring servant—of the State—all this becomes suddenly the focus of immense life-forces.
We cannot just copy ancient forms, for that would be mechanical, but we should look to ancient forms for better ways of being and knowing, and dispense with modern forms that have proved destructive. Strangely enough, the paradox of modernity is that the more we collectively gain power and knowledge, the less power and knowledge an individual has. Think of the person at a supermarket who can’t rectify an error because the automated check-out system is not properly programmed to recognize the error. Only twenty years ago such problems would have been quickly and easily rectified by a human, but now they are in the hands of a computer. How many times do the customer and cashier stand by helplessly because “the system is down.” This is a disastrous descent of the human race, and puts us on the cusp of nothingness. As Heidegger writes:
[T]he possibility of a thoughtful conversation with a tradition that invigorates and nurtures us is lacking, because we instead consign our speaking to electronic thinking and calculating machines, an occurrence that will lead modern technology and science to completely new procedures and unforeseeable results that probably will push reflective thinking aside as something useless and hence superfluous.
Some form of technology has existed on this planet for thousands of years, but it was always designed around the human, rather than having the human mold to the individual machine. Additionally, technology used to always be a means to an end, but now technology has become virtually an end in itself and humans have virtually become means to this meaningless end, with all the disastrous consequences that entails. As Heidegger writes:
What is distinctive about modern technology is that it is no longer a mere “means” at all, and no longer merely stands in the “service” of something else, but that it itself is unfolding a kind of domination of its own. Technology itself demands of itself and for itself, and indeed intrinsically develops, its own kind of discipline and its own kind of awareness of conquest. Thus, for example, the fabrication of factories for the purpose of fabricating fabricated products[…] The fascinating side of this process can, especially in conjunction with the discipline pertaining to technology, cover over to a large extent the “misery” into which human beings are thrust by technologization.
This is a vicious circle. The only way to escape is to follow the teachings of Lawrence as espoused in this book. We need to dispense with the systems of today, but also with many of the old forms as well, and, instead, go back, back to something truly ancient and noble, which was life-affirming and spurred man onto noble heights. As Lawrence writes:
I don’t believe any more in democracy. But I can’t believe in the old sort of aristocracy, either, nor can I wish it back, splendid as it was. What I believe in is the old Homeric aristocracy, when grandeur was inside the man, and he lived in a simple wooden house. Then, the men that were grand inside themselves, like Ulysses, were the chieftains and the aristocrats by instinct and by choice. At least we’ll hope so. And the Red Indians only knew the aristocrat by instinct. The leader was leader in his own being, not because he was somebody’s son or had so much money.
It’s got to be so again. They say it won’t work. I say, why not? If men could once recognise the natural aristocrat when they set eyes on him, they can still. They can still choose him if they would.
This is as far from modern dictatorships or medieval hereditary kingships as possible. This is what Lawrence speaks of when he refers to aristocracy and sun-men. It is not a system, but it is noble and beautiful, and can work if only we try. How do we start? We first humble ourselves before the sun, then we learn to recognize the sun in other men. It is a start and a good one at that.
As for the old hereditary forms of the past, they were not ideal according to Lawrence, but they were far better and far more vital than what we have today. As Lawrence declares, even the imperfect systems of the past would be better than what we have now:
We have blamed the great aristocratic systems of the past, because of the automatic principle of heredity upon which they were established. A great man does not necessarily have a son at all great. We have blamed the great ecclesiastical system of the Church of Rome for the autocratic principle of mediation on which it was established; we blame the automatism of caste, and of dogma. And then what? What do we put in place of all these semi-vital principles? The utterly non-vital, completely automatised system of material production. The ghosts of the great dead must turn on us.
An aristocracy of the sun does not diminish men; democracy diminishes men. Malevolent dictators and tyrants, and self-aggrandizing plutocrats diminish men. There will always be power, and there will always be hierarchies, but it should be a hierarchy of life and spirit rather than of money and inherited privilege. Pledging yourself to a master does not diminish you, but frees you to live your life, so that you can leave decisions outside of your purview to your master. Aside from this, and more importantly, when you pledge yourself to a master, just as all spiritual seekers of all times have done, you lose nothing, but you gain the power of the sun and the Gods from your master. As Lawrence writes:
Power is there, and always will be. As soon as two or three men come together, especially to do something, then power comes into being, and one man is a leader, a master. It is inevitable.
Accept it, recognise the natural power in the man, as men did in the past, and give it homage, then there is a great joy, an uplifting, and a potency passes from the powerful to the less powerful. There is a stream of power. And in this, men have their best collective being, now and forever, and a corresponding flame springs up in yourself. Give homage and allegiance to a hero, and you become yourself heroic. It is the law of men.
Heidegger, Martin. Hölderlin’s Hymn “the Ister”. Translated by William Mcneill and Julia Davis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.
———. The Principle of Reason. Translated by Reginald Lilly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.
Lawrence, D. H. Apocalypse. Edited by Mara Kalnins. London: Penguin Books, 1995.
———. Introductions and Reviews. Edited by N. H. Reeve and John Worthen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Kangaroo. Edited by Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. Edited by Virginia Crosswhite Hyde. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays. Edited by Michael Herbert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
———. “Sea and Sardinia.” In D. H. Lawrence and Italy, 137–326. London: Penguin Books, 2007.
———. The Poems. Edited by Christopher Pollnitz. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of the West. Edited by Arthur Helps and Helmut Werner. Translated by Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.
D. H. Lawrence, The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 457.
D. H. Lawrence, Introductions and Reviews, ed. N. H. Reeve and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 134.
D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 303.
D. H. Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, ed. Michael Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 323.
D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse, ed. Mara Kalnins (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 71.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:550.
D. H. Lawrence, “Sea and Sardinia,” in D. H. Lawrence and Italy (London: Penguin Books, 2007), 150.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:561.
Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, ed. Arthur Helps and Helmut Werner, trans. Charles Francis Atkinson (New York: Vintage Books, 2006), 396.
Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, trans. Reginald Lilly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 15.
Martin Heidegger, Hölderlin’s Hymn “the Ister”, trans. William Mcneill and Julia Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 44.
D. H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, ed. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 145.
Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, 111.
Lawrence, Apocalypse, 68.
C.S. Lewis would agree:
'In our world,' said Eustace, 'a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.'
'Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.'
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.