The following is meant as an introductory reading list. Some of these works are straightforward in their focus on man’s relationship with the natural world; others are significant insofar as they express and develop the holistic, organic, and traditional ethos that must undergird any genuine and lasting attempts to preserve wild nature. All stand as a rebuke, whether implicit or explicit, of liberal modernity in its social, political, cultural, and ecological aspects. This list will necessarily be limited to my own education and interests, as well as inescapably Eurocentric in focus. It is a work in progress and I should be grateful for any suggestions.
I. Primordial Tradition
Integral traditionalism holds that primordial man existed in a state of undivided consciousness, with no veil between himself and the sacred. Though mankind fell from this state, echoes of primordial wisdom were preserved in the traditional religious doctrines of the world. Whatever credence one might lend to this view, it is undeniable that these ancient doctrines constitute the greatest metaphysical inheritance of humanity and are essential studying for those seeking wisdom and transcendence. While adapted to the particular cultures and epochs in which they were developed, all affirm that the divine is in all and transcends all; that the cosmos is the emanation or creation of a supreme Being; and that mankind owes its devotion and service to this supreme power. Thus, a genuine commitment to any of these religions entails a sense of humility and reverence for the natural world that is notably absent in any modernist ideology. In the East, the essential doctrines include Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism. In the West, this tradition has its roots in ancient Egyptian wisdom, Northern and paganism, Platonism, and Christianity; these were developed in the works of Christian esotericism and Hermeticism up until the present day.
Eastern: Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Early Buddhist Discourses
Classical Western: Corpus Hermeticum, Bible, Pythagoras, Gnostic Gospels, Plato, Plotinus, Philo of Alexandria, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca
Medieval: Dante’s Divine Comedy, Meister Eckhart, Eriugena, Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Francis, German Theology
Modern Western: Schelling, Fichte, Hegel
Secondary Literature: Glen Magee, Hegel and The Hermetic Tradition; Peter Lamborn Wilson, Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology; John W. Cooper, Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers; Hans Gunther, Religious Attitudes of the Indo-Europeans; Val Dusek. The Holistic Inspirations of Physics; James Russell, Germanization of Medieval Christianity; Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita; Tilak, The Arctic Home in the Vedas; Francis Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition; Proto-Indo-European Religion
II. Indo-European Political and Social Inheritance
According to a widely-accepted hypothesis of Georges Dumezil, prehistoric Indo-European society was divided into three basic functions: a sacral, a martial, and an economic class. This ancient tripartite structure survived in many Western societies even into modernity. It ensures the rule of noble and spiritual over material, and can therefore be considered the organizational principle of Western societies in their most ideal state. This state is to be found in Plato’s ideal republic, in the Spartan regime, in the constitution of the Roman Republic and Empire, in the ancient Germanic kingdoms, and in Medieval Europe, with latter-day versions promulgated by the political theorists of German Idealism.
Plato, Republic and Laws; Aristotle, Politics and Ethics; Cicero, Republic; Xenophon’s Lacedamonian Constitution; Plutarch’s Lives and On Sparta; Dante, Monarchia; Hegel, Philosophy of Right; Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; Hesiod’s Works and Days; Mahabarata; Virgil’s Aeneid, The Prose and Elder Eddas; Saga of the Volsungs; Beowulf, Ulster and Fenian Cycles; Book of Triads; Chrétien de Troyes’ Arthurian romances; Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival; Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
Shan M.M. Winn, Heaven, Heroes, Happiness; M.L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth; Colin Cleary, “Metaphysics of Indo-European Tripartition”; David Anthony, The Horse, The Wheel, and Language; Georges Dumezil, Gods of the Ancient Northmen; Marc Bloch, Feudal Society; Andrew Fraser, The Wasp Question; De Mazza, “Romantic Politics and Society” from Cambridge Companion to German Romanticism
III. Counter-Revolutionaries and the Romantic Counter-Enlightenment
Faced with the upheavals wrought by the French and American Revolutions, as well as the massive social, economic, political, and technological changes the triumph of liberal modernity inflicted upon an unsuspecting world, a number of thinkers penned moving defenses of the traditional European order. These counter-revolutionary thinkers defended a transcendent and hierarchical worldview which is, in our opinion, far more in accord with the requirements of ecological society than anything promoted by the prophets of the Left. The counter-Enlightenment Romantic poets and thinkers, even those once infatuated by the promises of the French Revolution, would later question the free reign it gave to violence and venality; its desacralization of nature and society; and the reign of economics and industry that would come to dominate nineteenth century Britain. These counter-revolutionaries and romantics are therefore significant in their attempts at deconstructing modern liberal ideals right at the moment of their triumph.
Joseph de Maistre, Considerations on France, St. Petersburg Dialogues, Letters on the Spanish Inquisition; Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France [a favorite of more milquetoast conservatives, but contains a valuable defense of monarchy and religion]; Giambattista Vico, The New Science; Juan Donoso Cortes, Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism; Louis de Bonald
William Blake; Wordsworth; Coleridge; Charlotte Bronte; Rousseau [an ambivalent figure; his more reactionary side is predominant in Emile, Essay on Political Economy, and Constitution of Poland); John Ruskin; Thomas Carlyle; Johann Hamman; Johann Herder; Goethe; Schiller; Holderlin; Novalis
IV. The Conservative Revolutionaries
This current in European thought, beginning with Nietzsche, continues the counter-revolutionary critique of modernity but with a different focus. While the early counter-revolutionaries were still strongly rooted in the feudal order and dedicated to the restoration of throne and altar, the German “conservative revolutionaries” of the late nineteenth and twentieth century had little living experience of such institutions. They focused upon the ill effects of bourgeois liberal modernity upon man himself, particularly his inauthenticity, decadence, and domestication. Man’s altered relationship with the natural world was also a subject of interest, particularly the bourgeois alienation from the elemental forces of the wild world. There are really too many thinkers in this category to list, but the following are particularly relevant from our perspective.
Nietzsche: Everything, but especially Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, The Gay Science, and Will to Power
Spengler, Decline of the West; Prussian Socialism; Man and Technics
Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political and Political Theology
Ludwig Klages, Biocentric Metaphysics
For a good overview of both the Conservative Revolution and the Integral Tradition, see this website. It does not appear to have been updated since I first encountered it years ago, but it was an invaluable introduction.
V. Integral Tradition
Paralleling the critique of the Conservative Revolutionaries, the thinkers in the vein of Integral Tradition sought to preserve and practice the authentic metaphysical doctrines of mankind in the face of modern decline. Their works provide invaluable expositions of traditional doctrine as well as insightful critiques of the modern world. A not insignificant amount of their thought concerns the modern relations between man and nature, as well as the traditional conceptions of nature.
Julius Evola: Revolt Against the Modern World, Ride the Tiger; Man Among the Ruins, The Doctrine of Awakening, Mystery of the Grail, Meditations on the Peaks; The Metaphysics of War; Heathen Imperialism
Rene Guenon: Crisis of the Modern World, Reign of Quantity
Fritjof Schuon, The Transcendent Unity of Religions
Valentin Tomberg, Meditations on the Tarot
Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis
VI Blood and Soil: Ecofascism and the New Right
A controversial cast of characters, but nevertheless one that bears consideration. While I cannot endorse these works in their entirety (regarding National Socialism as excessively modernist, populist, utopian, anti-Christian, and brutal), it is nevertheless true that some thinkers aligned with the Third Reich were the most prominent expositors of ecological thought in the twentieth century. Examining their writings offers some correctives to the predominant liberal conceptions of environmentalism and can be instructive regarding what should (and should not) be done to implement ecological policies.
As I have not studied the environmental policies of the Third Reich in much detail, I am not familiar with many primary sources on this subject. Scholarly treatments that appear to be fairly objective include Anna Bramwell, Blood and Soil: Walther Darre and Hitler’s Green Party; Daniel Gasman, Haeckel’s Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology [highly recommended]; Frank Uekoetter, The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany; How Green Were the Nazis?: Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich
Savitri Devi, Impeachment of Man and Reflections of an Aryan Woman; see this archive for a complete collection of her works [Truly a fascinating figure, if one can dissociate the highly idiosyncratic elements of her political thought there are elements here of value]
Miguel Serrano, The Golden Thread [I confess myself mystified by most of his oeuvre, which appears to be the source of the “Nazi flying saucers in Antarctica” trope]
Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil
Alain de Benoist, On Being a Pagan
Guillaume Faye, Archeofuturism
This orientation is fairly common among the New Right online community. A selection of some of the more serious blogs devoted to the subject:
VII. Alternate Americas
While the United States is generally considered to be the most triumphant example of liberal modernity, this monolithic view ignores the other cultural and intellectual traditions that have flourished in this country. Many thinkers within the American “minority tradition” were in fact more enamored of wild nature and agrarianism than the progressives who so persistently defeated them. These include the representatives of the agrarian Southern tradition; the New England Transcendentalists; early wilderness explorers and defenders; and the early twentieth century prophets of decline and racial displacement, who often combined a concern for the preservation of the Anglo-Saxon stock with a desire to preserve wild animals and wilderness areas.
David Hackett Fisher, Albion’s Seed; Colin Woodward, American Nations; Ann Norton, Alternative Americas [works of varying quality about the different ethnic groups that comprise the historic American nation]
William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses; Twelve Southerners, I’ll Take My Stand; Eugene Genovese, The Southern Tradition; Richard Weaver, The Southern Essays
New England Transcendentalism:
Emerson, Nature and Essays; Thoreau, Walden, The Main Woods, and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers; Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter and Tales; Melville, Moby Dick [Despite their sanctimonious progressivism, the Transcendentalists were essentially aristocratic individualists and strongly influenced by Neoplatonic metaphysics, German Idealism, the Vedas, and the direct experience of nature. The latter two listed are not strictly speaking Transcendentalists, but share their spiritual ethos and deep sense of the natural world]
The Wilderness Defenders:
John Muir; Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac; Sigurd Olson; Robinson Jeffers; Robert Marshall
The WASP Elite:
Henry Adams, Mont Sant Michel and Chartres and The Education of Henry Adams; Lothrop Stoddard, Rising Tide of Color, Revolt Against Civilization; Reforging America; Madison Grant, Passing of the Great Race; Theodore Roosevelt, Letters and Speeches
VIII. Earth First!
With changing demographics, the cause of agrarianism and wilderness preservation was largely neglected in the mid-20th century United States, with attention shifting to foreign military adventures, the civil rights movement, and the war on poverty. The New Left considered wilderness to be an elitist concern, detached from the material needs of the poor and minorities. The anti-pollution movement took off around the same time and gave us modern environmentalism, but was still highly focused on human welfare concerns and did not share in the spiritual and aristocratic ethos of the earlier wilderness defenders. This changed in 1980, when a new organization arose to challenge the lukewarm moderation and compromise of the environmental movement and replace it with a thoroughgoing ecocentrism and commitment to direct action. Earth First! was the first organization of its kind. While its naturalist focus attracted many anarchists and hippies to its cause, leading to its complete overhaul in a decade’s time, its early leaders were astute thinkers and deserving of study. They share a somewhat anarchistic and primitivist outlook; but in their spiritual ethos, rejection of liberal politics, anti-humanism, and distrust for the left, these thinkers may be counted among the ecologists of the right.
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire and One Life at a Time, Please; “Immigration and Liberal Taboos”
Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization; “In Defense of Western Civilization”; “Paganism as Resistance”; “Overpopulation and Industrialism”; “Technology and Mortality”; “Population and AIDS”
Paul Watson, Interview with a Pirate: Captain Paul Watson; “On the Precedence of Natural Law”;
IX. Miscellaneous Contemporaries:
While not necessarily belonging in any of the categories above, these are individual thinkers who have challenged the leftist domination of environmentalism since the middle of the twentieth century.
D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, The Plumed Serpent [his famed vulgarity is largely confined to Lady Chatterly and should be understood as a rebellion against the unnatural aspects of English society]
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion [Catholic, linguist, mythologist; famously wrote that “I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking…”]
Edward Goldsmith, The Way and The Great U-Turn [a typical technocrat in some ways, but controversial for his anti-modernism and affiliation with the European New Right]
Robert Heilbronner, Inquiry into the Human Prospect (1975) [of the pessimistic variety, believes that “iron governments” and military-religious social orders will be necessary for the coming age of environmental degradation]
William Ophuls, “Leviathan or Oblivion” in Toward a Steady State Economy (1973); Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity (1977); Requiem for Modern Politics: The Tragedy of the Enlightenment and the Challenge of the New Millennium (1997); Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology (2011) [a Burkean/Platonic conservative of the old stamp, sympathetic to republicanism but skeptical of its prospects in the coming age of war and ecological degradation]
Garrett Hardin, Living Within Limits (1993) [popularized the “tragedy of the commons,” and believed that the only solution was a coercive and authoritarian government to keep human behaviors and populations in check. Notable for his opposition to immigration].
Theodore Kaczynski, Industrial Society and its Future [a thoroughgoing critique of Western civilization and the modern left from the Unabomber himself]
Paul Shepherd, The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game; Coming Home to the Pleistocene; and Nature and Madness [insight into the mind of primordial man and critique of civilization since the dawn of agriculture]
Arne Naess, Ecology, Community and Lifestyle and Ecology of Wisdom [founder of the school of “deep ecology” and one of the few such theorists worthy of study; despite some unfortunate democratic sympathies he was among the first to examine the underlying cultural and philosophical causes of environmental degradation]
John Gray, Straw Dogs and Beyond the New Right [anti-humanist and realist with old right sympathies]
Pentti Linkola, Can Life Prevail?; Essays [calls for draconian measures to ensure population reduction and minimal human impact upon the natural world]
X. Enemies and Critics
One can often learn more from an doctrine’s critics than its friends. These days, it is the critics who bring out those unpalatably illiberal aspects of an ideology that the supporter is most likely to ignore or minimize.
Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the 20th Century
Michael Zimmerman, “Ecofascism: An Enduring Temptation”
Luc Ferry, The New Ecological Order (1995)
William Tucker, Progress and Privilege: America in the Age of Environmentalism (1982)
Donald Gibson, Environmentalism: Ideology and Power (2002)
Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier, Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience
Murray Bookchin, Which Way for the Ecology Movement? (1994)
The Great New Wilderness Debate (1998) and The Wilderness Debate Rages On (2008) [tomes of scholarly articles that cover a wide range of conceptual and political arguments swirling around the concept of wilderness]
Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource [cornucopian economist]
Environmentalism is Fascism [a fascinating though highly critical website; the author correctly identifies the rightist origins of ecological thought and discusses them in great detail, though not very charitably]