The problem with Dugin is that he is what he always has been: an academic—he is academician Dugin to the last. After his own fashion, Dugin resembles Jordan Peterson and Reza Jorjani—two other men who write and speak on spiritual matters and yet do so from an intellectual position, not from a spiritual position. This means that Dugin is really a modernist—despite his professed disdain for modernity—and this is quite evident in his remarks about René Guénon. In fairness, I should say that Dugin, as with any thinker, has changed over the years—so what he said in this regard may not reflect his position today, I take his comments on Guénon from the late 1990s. Still, I see no evidence in his recent interviews that his general approach has changed.
Dugin takes issue with Guénon’s contention that our decline into a dark age—the kali-yuga—has been helped along by various secret societies that practice black magic. In particular, Guénon saw the chief culprits as being a “brotherhood of Seth”—snake-worshippers, Satanists essentially—who have pushed forward general dissolution since at least ancient Egypt (Guénon’s idea of a snake cult is redolent of the snake-priest in the original Conan movie). Guénon claimed to have seen images connected to a secret temple used by this cult and he also had an intuitive sense that this cult was in operation—along with other forces.
Dugin poo-poos Guénon in this regard, almost in the same way as contemporary academics and fact-checkers poo-poo “right-wing conspiracy theories”. Dugin says that it is ridiculous to read anything into, as Guénon does, a painting that depicts the snake cult’s god—it is as silly, says Dugin, as to think there is any especial significance to the paintings made by Max Ernst and Salvador Dali. In this statement, Dugin reveals himself to be a modernist through and through, an atheist in fact—for he does not think magic is real, he does not think the spiritual realm is real; he thinks paintings are just paintings.
Yet even Picasso, a Communist and therefore a putative materialist, told Jünger that it did not matter to him if he painted a picture and it was never seen, since the painting still “worked” even if never seen by the eyes of man. So you understand, even in modernity, that most artists see their images as magical-spiritual works—and that is even more true for art forms influenced by Traditionalism, such as Dada. Yet for Dugin, materialist and academic to the last, the painting is just a painting—perhaps it has some metaphorical value or value to push forward his political notions, yet the idea that the painting could change reality simply through its existence is inconceivable for him. It is inconceivable because he is a rationalist, a materialist, and an atheist: the painting might change minds if it were displayed in public, as part of a “Eurasian art” exhibition, otherwise niente.
Dugin’s error in this regard is connected to the way in which he misunderstands what is meant by “Tradition”. Dugin, being an academic plodder, thinks “Tradition” refers to some doctrinal collection—a collection of PhD scrolls, perhaps. Thus, in his view, Russian Orthodoxy is “Traditional”, whereas other religions are not—really, this only reveals Dugin’s chauvinism and his genuine bigotry (a misused term, yet there really is such a thing as bigotry).
“Tradition”, as used by Guénon and Evola, does not refer to a doctrine: it refers to gnosis, an experiential state that awakens a man’s “supra-intelligence” and allows him to acquire knowledge through intuition; for example, he may intuit that there exists a black-magic snake cult that has degraded the world down the centuries. It is this knowledge that Dugin lacks. It is paradoxically inexpressible, it is not like academic analysis and augmentation (of the type deployed by Dugin).The Hindus say: “The truth cannot be spoken.” The Buddhists say: “The finger points to the way, but most people only look at the finger.” Dugin very definitely “looks at the finger” (pull my finger, Professor Dugin). Among all the academics, Wittgenstein was closest to this position with his observations on the limits within language and the mystical virtues found in silence—and, of course, Wittgenstein was never formally trained as an academic and just did a course in engineering for aviation that he never completed; unlike Russell, whom he was far superior to, his mind was never tainted by academia.
So Tradition is not an entity that an organisation “has”, as Dugin thinks. It is not encoded doctrines and the like; it is an experience, often communicated, as with Guénon’s Sufism, from master to pupil only. It is as if Dugin mistakes the rules of lawn tennis for a tennis match; for sure, the Wimbledon rulebook has some relevance to tennis—yet nobody would say you play tennis if you only know the rulebook and never step on the court; men like Peterson, Dugin, and Jorjani are academics—academics never do, they sit on the margins and read the rulebook; in consequence, they miss the thing’s essence.
This is why Dugin cannot credit that an unseen picture could change the world; within his modernistic and rationalistic framework, it is not possible. Similarly, he would not credit—as I have intuited—that there is an active branch of Simonites in New Zealand who pull various psychic strings for the powerful, and that an apparently harmless conference on aviation history is really a meeting place for bona fide wizards. “Please, be serious—we are Eurasianists here!”. For sure, Dugin dresses his modernism up in bells and smells from Orthodoxy—yet at its core lies state worship and Russian chauvinism. Yes, Dugin is very keen on the state; he thinks that all salvation will be found within it—it accords with Russian organicism, apparently.
So much does he like the state, Dugin expresses a surprising sympathy for Communism; perhaps that was just his national-bolshevist stage and he has moved beyond it now—yet at the time he endorsed punks, anarchists, Thelema, and Freemasonry to break down Catholicism in Poland; for all methods are justified, apparently, to aid Russia’s historic mission to absorb the East—and to do so Poland must be de-Catholicised; and was Comrade Stalin so bad after all, did he not advocate Orthodoxy too (after his own fashion)?
Indeed, for Dugin, as for Lenin, “the end justifies the means”—Thelema? Punk? Aggression against a Christian Church? All justified to aid the Eurasian project. This feels rather like what Guénon would call counter-initiation—it is the Bolshevik method applied to national chauvinism and a quasi-spiritual idea, any method is justified for the material cause.
My read on Dugin is that he is basically a politician who has an interest in Russian greatness, and he is not too scrupulous about how such greatness is achieved. If there were a contemporary Stalin on the throne in the Kremlin, then Dugin would endorse him and write apologetics for him—reassure us that, as with the actual Stalin, when he persecutes Orthodox priests it is just to save Orthodoxy from excessive Western influence. Ultimately, the state will save us—so said Dugin in the 1990s: not God, not the individual, not law—the state. And what does Dugin truly worship? Victory Day parades, I think.
Funnily enough, an interviewer at the time enquired why, since Dugin thought Russians are not “individuals”, among the identically dressed National Bolshevik Party cadres Dugin rocked his own style. Dugin equivocated, there is individualism and there is personalism—there has to be a hierarchy, and people at the top get to be more individual…sorry, “personalist”…than people at the bottom. In short, Dugin worships the state and himself; he likes to play around with spiritual notions as ideas, as mufti for his power ambitions—so he takes a dab from Hitler’s Wirth there, a dab of Hyperborea, then he takes a dab of Orthodoxy, a dab of Stalin…bricolage is his method. And what would Guénon say? Syncretism and distinct ideas mixed together—symptomatic of the kali-yuga, of decline and dissolution and cynical muddle.
Notably, Dugin ridicules the European New Right as ineffective men who sat around in seminars for thirty years while they became grey and fat. True, yet Dugin, by contrast, claims to be a man devoted to practical action—the way he speaks is Leninist. We Bolsheviks are practical men, we get results…we imported a Ford production line into Russia—electrification…Of course, this idea as regards “action” inverts true action: true action is subtle action, “travelling without moving”—as appears in Lynch’s Dune. This metaphysical notion is incomprehensible for Dugin, since he is a modernist; he does not think it is real—since he is not on the path, not on the way. He still thinks in rigid rationalistic terms, he thinks like a Leninist; he is a Machiavellian materialist manipulator, and those Orthodox officials who cut him dead for heresy were quite right to do so.
Further, Dugin is a democrat—as you would expect from his non-spiritual ideas—since one reason he gives to dismiss the idea that black-magic cults influence the world is that these organisations are “tiny”, if they exist at all (they certainly do). Dugin thinks that it is only with the masses—mmm sweaty strong proletarians—that power lies: more people, more demonstrations, more bodies. Yet everyone knows the world is made by elites and superior people; only a man who has embraced the reign of quantity could dismiss black magic because there might only be a handful of black magicians on the loose.
The final revelation: Dugin said in the 1990s that he was glad to leave Paris because it “smelt so sweet”; he much preferred to be in dirty, smelly Russia—so much more “real”, cleanliness is decadence. What does this tell us about Dugin? It tells us he is a man who likes dirt, filth—the lower things in life, such as…black magic.