This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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When the traditional precepts are not apt

Generally speaking, we take as our point of departure the doctrinal framework proposed by the traditional religions. This means that often we adopt traditional precepts as our own, and we advise the reader to act accordingly. However, this is not always possible when the contemporary context is so far removed from the traditional one that the precept does not serve the good and might even undermine it. There is some truth to the saying ‘When in Rome…’

We do study the traditional teachings regarding the warrior vocation, but when it comes to applying the traditional teachings in the modern context, we proceed only with great caution. In fact, in most of our discussion on this subject, we will steer away from those ancient precepts and only return to occasionally and at the end, at which point we will recapitulate the traditional approach and explain its relation to the present.

The reader should therefore not be surprised if we neglect to mention the advice given by Japanese sages to the Samurai, nor will we explain in detail the warrior ascesis of the medieval Crusaders.

This will seem strange. After all, is not our stated purpose always to revitalize the traditional wisdom in the man of today? The obstacle here is that the vocations of yesterday are gone. Not only have the traditional paths been hidden (if not demolished) but, to make matters worse, they have been replaced by pseudo-vocations, which operate under the same name as the ancient counterpart but are of a different spirit. This is especially true of the warrior vocation. To act out the traditional precepts within the context of the modern counterfeit would be disastrous. It would be like mistaking a Satanic ‘black mass’ for a Catholic Mass and then trying to attend to the former as if it were the latter. Such would be the result of an attempt to live out the vocation of the Knights Templar within the context of the modern military.

We are presented with a twofold difficulty:

  • We must correct certain errors about the nature of evil, where it is situated, how it is resisted, and by what means, according to the traditional wisdom about man and his vocation.
  • We must guard against the delusional idea that modern men could and should act according to the same guidelines as a medieval knight or a samurai.

All of the advice offered to the traditional warrior type was offered within the context of a traditional civilization, with all that this implies. The traditional world provided a cultural ambience and a concrete social structure outside of which the guidelines for certain vocations lose their spiritual or moral efficacy. Add to this the necessity of religious supports, supports not to be imagined as a merely private pursuit but, on the contrary, incorporated into all levels of social life providing the backdrop for lived experience. All of these factors are necessary to the living out of the warrior vocation, since any vocation is more than just a set of ideas or bits of advice.

In contemporary civilization, all of the aforementioned necessities have been systematically excluded. In comparison to the traditional warrior, the modern man is more like an astronaut launched into space without oxygen, without a tether, and without any instruments for navigation. This absence of spiritual guidance is offered under the banner of ‘freedom’ and is a highly esteemed form of moral suicide. For this reason, it would be foolish to simply reiterate the ancient teachings on warfare and the warrior vocation, since these counsels can only ever be preparatory to a life lived in situ.

Counsels are offered to a certain person in a certain time and place, and the actions counseled cannot be realized without regard to those factors. To load a modern man’s mind with traditional maxims and then launch him into a completely non-traditional world is a recipe for moral and spiritual disaster both for him and for anyone he encounters. At the very least, it will encourage naivety.

None of this implies that the traditional wisdom is or was misguided when it comes to principles, or that it cannot serve as our light and guide. Rather, it sets up our hermeneutic approach in order to avoid any romantic naivety or ideological nonsense.

And so, again, our task is to expose the lies of the modern world while at the same time harboring no delusions about the limits imposed by modern civilization on the spiritual possibilities of its people.

Now, to speak of combat in particular:

In what follows, we assume that although there was certainly, at one time, a path to spiritual realization via combat, and a true warrior ascesis, we suggest that this path, in the absence of the traditional world that maintained it, has become ruinous and mostly inaccessible. Just as it would be catastrophic to promote medieval feudalism as an appropriate social organization for today, so also it would be dangerously misguided to try and propose the model of the Knights Templar for emulation by modern military organizations.

As always, the traditional doctrines are of value as an illustration of true principles, as a way of helping us to discern what is true and what is false in whatever options present themselves to us today. Traditional applications of the doctrine, on the other hand, can be relative.

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