I am now a few years into fatherhood. With many on the Right, I’ve pondered the best means insulating my children from the degeneracy of contemporary society while inculcating the virtues and mindset of the heroic, traditional world. It is clear that the True Right must develop a distinctive culture that sets it apart from the corrupt mainstream, and this includes the education of our young. It must differ from that of the modern liberal democrat, whose desired result is a compliant citizen, consumer, and office drone. Needless to say, it must also differ from education as envisioned by the contemporary Left, rooted in culture-destroying and postmodern critical theory. Even the approach of the “traditionalist conservative” – who wants to preserve the classical curriculum and Latin for their own sakes and to maintain a kind of stasis in society and culture – is insufficient. The aim is not merely to preserve classical learning, but to revive classical living.
In this spirit, I wish to offer my own reflections on childrearing from the perspective of the True Right. What may distinguish my approach from that of other thinkers on the subject, which will be explained at greater length below, is that my reading and observations lead me to believe that children are born in possession of an original nobility, a purity and innocence and heroism, rendering them superior to adults in most respects. The aim of education, rather than “stamping out” their nature, is in fact to cultivate and preserve this nobility against the corrupting influences of adolescence and adulthood.
Why do we have children?
For my part, the decision did not come naturally. Given my melancholy nature and peculiar worldview, for a long time I questioned the morality of bringing another soul into a life full of pain, anxiety, and boredom, of whose value I was never quite convinced. These concerns, in addition to my youthful fixation on overpopulation, made the act of reproduction itself seem selfish and hypocritical. Moreover, I had certain juvenile career goals that were incompatible with domestic life: legionnaire, ascetic, wilderness hermit, Hemingwayesque novelist. At times I felt so detached from my own family and the daily concerns of normal people that I felt unsuited to be a father. I also feared that I would not have the material resources to raise my children in the manner I wished.
Of course, on another level I never doubted that I would eventually have children, simply by virtue of my upbringing, my biological drives, and the fact that I married a traditional woman of healthy instincts. Ultimately I did have a child, and the love and purpose I derived from the first made the others an easy choice. Nevertheless, though I’ve outgrown some of the juvenile pretensions that made me so hesitant, I have never forgotten my early reservations about having children, and these continue to influence my approach to parenting.
Why do we have children? Merely posing the question is perhaps indicative of our decadence; but we live in decadent times, so it is worth pondering. Do we have children for personal fulfillment, or for someone to take care of us in old age? This is self-gratification. Because life is a gift? Sometimes, maybe, and for some people – but certainly not for all. Because some divinity wills it? Only in some religions, and at any rate not for everyone all the time. Out of a biological imperative, in order to perpetuate our bloodline and race? This does not account for why we should feel compelled to perpetuate our race in the first place.
And why do we refrain from having children, when we have the ability? More disposable income, more free time, more opportunities for travel and material acquisition? Obviously self-gratification. So as not to interfere with our professional lives or vocations? All but a handful will discover, too late, that this was a mistake. So as not to “burden the Earth” or bring new life into this thresher? Then we leave the world to the descendants of fools.
As I see it, once one removes purely biological and egocentric impulses from the equation, there are two particularly compelling reasons for having children. One is the Nietzschean answer: to serve as perpetuators of noble values and culture, and with them the very means of overcoming the “all too human” for ourselves and those who follow us. The other is to share the joys of childhood and to recover its state of mind within ourselves, enabling us to act more profoundly in the world and attain to higher states of being.
Regarding the latter point, I would argue that childhood is one of the few things in life that exists purely for itself, requiring no justification. In contrast to certain interpretations of St. Augustine’s doctrine of “original sin” (1), various religions, cultures, and ideologies (such as Romanticism) believed that children possess a sense of wonder, innocence, and nobility that is lost as we age. In their naïveté, curiosity, frankness, and greater proximity to the world of instinct and spirit, children are superior to the adults who have lost these qualities when with the pressures of society and material life, and their innocence should be emulated rather than stamped out. Spiritual practitioners spend lifetimes trying to recover what the child possesses naturally.
On this subject, in his De Profundis Oscar Wilde said of Christ: “He took children as the type of what people should try to become. He held them up as examples to their elders, which I myself have always thought the chief use of children, if what is perfect should have a use.” And from the man Himself: “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
This valorization of the childlike might seem to be contradicted by the actual experience of raising children, as they often behave in irrational, selfish, and egocentric ways. However, I believe that most of these apparent faults are due to 1) a lack of world experience and ignorance of expectations, 2) righteous anger at the perceived injustices and seemingly unnecessary limitations placed upon them (an inability to understand that certain rules are “for their own good”); and, of course, 3) the natural ill humor that comes from hunger, exhaustion, etc. Once these factors are taken into account, the vast majority of children will be found to be superior in empathy, honesty, positive outlook, and overall joy in life to the average adult.
With this in mind, it is important that children should be cared for as children, with an eye to respecting and preserving their childhood, rather than treated merely as little adults-to-be. This is not to say that the future should be disregarded, of course. As they get older and the realities of life prevent them from remaining as pure, innocent, and carefree as they were, children should be taught to be skeptical of the world’s demands while retaining as much of their original nobility as possible. Their initiation into the injustices of the adult world should, ideally, be gradual, guided, and balanced by other factors. This is not purely for its own sake, but because a relatively happy childhood contributes to the confidence and inner reserves necessary to live well.
Moreover, one of the greatest joys of parenthood is reliving certain aspects of childhood through the eyes of your own children. The world becomes a magical place again, and we regain a little of our ability to experience reality unfiltered by the incessant chattering and anxieties of our conscious minds. As we begin our slow descent into the dreary grayness of middle age, this second childhood can help to reinvigorate our sense of wonder and excitement in life. This does not merely help us gain more out of our lives on a personal level, but better equips us to act in the world, to whatever end we have been called. And regaining this purer state of mind is also essential to attaining any higher mental or physical state.
But childhood cannot last forever. One way or another, we are all initiated into the world of adulthood, its duties and sorrows and rewards. Our purpose thereafter becomes to retain as much of the nobility of our youths as we can, while simultaneously striving to overcome the limitations of our human condition, sustain what is valuable in our culture, and defend the innocent against those who would do them harm. Thus, we come to the second purpose of having children: in order to perpetuate our values and, essentially, take our place as the bannermen of our family, people, and gods when we have passed beyond the mortal vale. This requires providing them with a solid foundation of trust, autonomy, and strength while preparing them for the duties of adulthood.
To provide a historical example, according to David Hackett Fisher, this model of parenting – cultivating independence and autonomy during childhood while preparing children for the harsh demands of adult life – was practiced by the gentry of colonial Virginia. In opposition to the brutal “will-breaking” of Puritan New England,
Visitors commonly remarked that Virginians seemed to be exceptionally indulgent towards their children… But growing up in Virginia was in some ways even more difficult than in New England. The culture of the Chesapeake colonies placed two different and even contradictory demands upon its young. On the one hand youngsters were compelled to develop strong and autonomous wills. On the other hand they were expected to yield willingly to the requirements of an hierarchical culture… In place of the Puritan will-breaking, young Virginians at a very early age were actively encouraged to exercise their wills. Parents took pride in their youngsters’ childish acts of psychic autonomy…
He observes further:
A primary goal of socialization in Virginia was to prepare the child to take its proper place in the social hierarchy. The child’s will was not broken, but in a phrase that Virginians liked to use, it was ‘severely bent against itself.’ This end was accomplished primarily by requiring children to observe elaborate rituals of self-restraint… Young gentlemen of Virginia were given ‘freedom of the will’ not as an end in itself, but as a means of achieving virtue – that is, of living in harmony with reason, nature, and fortune… It was a stoic ideal which cultivated a calm acceptance of life. It taught that one must fear nothing and accept whatever fate might bring with courage, honesty, dignity, and grace. The mastery of this stoic creed was one of the central goals of socialization in Virginia (2).
Children must therefore be treated as children, allowed to express their essential free spirit and nobility, while also prepared for their vocations and role as defenders of their family, their people, and their gods. In order to perform this role most perfectly, one must possess a strong and independent personality, confidence, prodigious willpower, indomitable courage, and a strong sense of empathy and noblesse oblige. These are the qualities promoted by traditional ethics the world over.
Based upon these observations, I posit that the ideal approach to childrearing (for Men of the Right, at any rate) would be one that preserves wholesomeness and purity and childhood for their own sakes, avoids degeneracy and compromise with modernity to the greatest extent possible (teaching the practical and vocational skills required for such independence), and at the same time cultivates these essential characteristics of the aristocrat.
To what degree is this even possible in 21st century America? Few of us have the resources for the classical aristocratic education, and most of the institutions that traditionally provided this education have been hopelessly compromised anyways. Most of us also likely feel that we lack the necessary knowledge and skills to educate our children in this manner.
Fortunately, we live in a time when libraries, museums, and the internet can provide us with a wealth of knowledge that would be envied by aristocrats of old. Knowledge or mere information itself is not sufficient, of course; a key feature of the liberal education is learning how to think and live as a free man. This was never the exclusive domain of universities or tutors, and has always been the responsibility of one’s parents and peers. All of this is to say that one does not require land, title, or great wealth to raise an aristocrat. It is simply necessary to provide a secure and enriching environment; educate your child in love, empathy, dignity, honor, and nobility; and provide ample opportunities for outdoor and cultural experience. The remainder of this essay will consider the outlines of this early childhood education in more detail.
Pregnancy to Infancy
Clearly, one of the most important things when having a child is to choose one’s mate wisely. This is essential not simply from a genetic-racial-cultural-familial perspective, but the more basic question of whether you actually can see yourself raising a child with this person for two decades or longer. Most of the mistakes we make in this life can be corrected, but getting stuck in an acrimonious co-parenting relationship for the next eighteen years is a difficult pit to crawl out of.
In providing for these biological necessities and preparing for children, you do not need as much money as you think. It is helpful to have a stable residence and employment, and enough financial security to avoid a stressful environment for the expectant mother or new parents. Most people who are convinced that they need “X” amount in the bank, or to have attained a certain position at work, before having children are most likely trying to push it off for other reasons (speaking from experience). Young children are cheap, provided you have decent health insurance, and especially if they nurse and you don’t spoil them unduly.
In order to encourage a healthy and well-developed child, one’s preparations should begin while they are in the womb. Common sense is generally correct on this score: the child’s mother should eat properly, get adequate exercise, and avoid toxic substances. While the burden of this falls largely upon the mother, the father can also help by assisting with household tasks, meal preparation, and encouraging exercise. Additionally, fathers can help to alleviate stress on expectant mothers, since stress affects the fetus and its development. Listening to certain kinds of music in utero is popular, and while the jury is out on whether or not it actually increases intelligence, it does appear that children’s tastes in food and possibly music are shaped in part by prenatal exposure.
When the baby is born, ensuring a safe, stable, and loving environment are key to encouraging proper development. The child should be frequently unswaddled and encouraged to roll, crawl, and walk as he or she wishes. Ample sensory stimulation, exposure to a wide variety of textures and particularly the outdoors, will help in development. One does not require expensive toys in order to accomplish this, as children are often amused the most by common household objects. From the earliest age children should be spoken to frequently (not simply “baby talk”) and read to as often as they are willing to sit still. Their exposure to technology, namely television and “smart” devices, should be extremely limited. While it is not always feasible, nursing the child as long as possible has myriad health benefits, in addition to cultivating a strong bond between mother and child.
As the child grows older, proper nutrition is essential, for its own sake and for the sake of cultivating good habits. Children naturally have little understanding of this, and given the option most would likely eat sweets all day. Rather than taking an authoritarian approach, one should provide children with a choice between two or three acceptable options.
The Natural World
If you want to lead a young person on to the right path of education, be careful not to disturb his naively trustful and personally immediate relationship with nature: forest and cliff, storm and vulture, the single flower, the butterfly, the meadow and the mountainside must speak to him in their own tongues; at the same time he must recognize himself in them as in countless dispersed reflexes and reflections and in a multi-colored whirl of changing appearances; in this way he will unconsciously sympathize with the metaphysical oneness of all things in the great metaphor of nature, and at the same time calm himself with their eternal perseverance and necessity. But how many young people are permitted to grow up disposed so closely and almost personally to nature! The others must early on learn another truth: how one subjugates nature toward one’s own ends… What has been lost in this newly imposed view is not merely some poetic phantasmagoria but the instinctive, true and unique understanding of nature: and in its place we now have clever calculation and a cunning overcoming of nature (3).
Children have a special relationship to the natural world. They are curious about their surroundings wherever they are, but seem to have a particular fascination with flowers, grass, trees, mud, water, and animals. They treat aspects of the natural world as animate beings, and for them the whole world appears alive and full of wonder. They have acute powers of observation, likely because they are focused on the moment and not overburdened with cares and superfluous thoughts, as adults are. They notice things that adults do not, such as the crescent moon in the pale blue sky or a lone butterfly in a field of flowers.
Children should, therefore, be outside as much as possible, barefoot and unclothed as much as possible, exposed to all kinds of weather and seasons. They should be encouraged to explore, to play in puddles and creeks and mud, to handle bugs and worms. This is a good opportunity to teach them (and learn for yourself, if you do not know) the names and properties of plants and animals, the stars and constellations, facts about the seasons. They will absorb this knowledge faster than you and will retain some of it for the rest of their lives.
Children have a notable fascination for animals of all kinds, and express an innate biophilia. They typically desire to feed animals, pet them, squeeze them, and protect them from harm (though this does not prevent them from harming them by accident). Some research indicates that there is a genetic basis for loving animals, which is correlated with a broader love of nature. There is certainly an ethnic and cultural component to this as well. Pet-keeping is one of the few outlets available for this instinct in urban society, and a good way to encourage empathy and responsibility. (There might be valid ethical arguments against keeping pets, but considering that the alternative for domestic animals like cats and dogs is euthanasia, bringing the animal into a home that will take care of it seems the more humane option).
While not everyone can inherit a country estate, children’s world of experience should have a rural and wild component, in order to avoid that one-sidedness that tends to afflict children growing up in urban areas. They should watch movies and read books about animals, forests, farms, weather, stars; fairy tales and fables also frequently have a natural component. If one lives in the city, there is still an opportunity for such experiences at local parks and hiking trails, as well as zoos and aquariums, though these can provide a somewhat skewed image of animals compared to seeing them in their natural element. Scouting organizations used to be helpful for this sort of thing. Though many have become hopelessly compromised, there may still be good local options available.
The Spartan Agoge
Many on the Right have a fascination with Spartan education, and for good reason: it is radically different from the methods employed in the modern West, and produced a race of the most fearsome warriors in human history. I would not go so far as to recommend the Spartan system whole cloth, because it is rather one-sided in its focus on the martial virtues (as Plato and Aristotle observed) and seemingly geared towards stamping out most bonds of human affection beyond patriotism and esprit de corps.
Nevertheless, we should attempt to cultivate the Spartan virtues in our children from a young age, in order to accustom them to more austere and rigorous lives and to thrive in conditions of hardship. In terms of physical hardiness, from the youngest age (within reason) children should be encouraged to go outdoors unclothed, barefoot, and in a variety of temperatures. It is my experience that children typically enjoy or are unfazed by this sort of thing anyways, and it is only as we get older that we become hypersensitive to temperature extremes. Children should be taught to swim as early as possible, since this is a valuable survival skill and a source of great enjoyment.
With respect to pain and hunger, encourage a healthy stoicism. While their initial reaction to discomfort may be extreme, children can often be taught to “laugh it off” or get over such things more quickly than adults (whose pain is intensified by brooding on it). Individual play and exploration should be allowed, to the greatest extent possible, as opposed to the contemporary preference for filling a child’s schedule with structured extracurricular activities.
Brutality and bullying behavior should never be tolerated, since such petty viciousness is inherently contemptible. That being said, controlled aggression and martial skill are necessary in order to cultivate courage and the defense of the innocent and our people. Some early kind of martial arts training is therefore advisable. I’ve also encouraged my children’s fondness for play fighting, within reason. It is important that such violence only be encouraged in a spirit of sportsmanship and directed towards either competition or defense.
This cultivation of Spartan hardiness, stoicism, and frankness will give children a foundation of discipline that is essential to their later endeavors. As Eduardo Velasco wrote of the agoge:
[…] all instruction was intended to cultivate Spartan abilities as will to power, decision-making, the pleasure of responsibility, valor, courage, bravery, stoicism, patriotism, the martial, the ability of leadership, sobriety, self-control, asceticism, austerity, sacrifice and suffering, courage, physical and moral toughness, the sense of duty and honor, fortitude, wisdom, psychological and spiritual balance; the quick wit, sharp and cold and chivalry education, character building, solemnity, respect, brevity, iron discipline, efficiency, holy obedience and aggression. A wide range of important and basic qualities, today endangered… The result was a man of superior type, with a cool head and insensitive to pain, suffering and discomfort, who used to think quickly in times of great danger and stress… A man accustomed to outdoor life, which forged an unbreakable bond with his land, which was regarded as a sacred legacy, a responsibility. A gymnast with impressive physical form, a true athlete.
In order to avoid the character-warping effects of trauma and abuse, however, one should encourage this harshness as a form of play, a game or a challenge; ideally the child should embrace it voluntarily, with a light and joyful heart, and should never doubt his parents’ love and the security of his world. For all of his faults, Rousseau understood this principle of raising children quite well. In his Emile, he counsels the child’s educator to encourage resilience and stoicism through a variety of methods: minimal swaddling, exposure to heat, cold, hunger, thirst, fatigue, darkness, fearful and ugly things – all in order to prevent artificial fears and weaknesses from arising. However, attempting to control a child’s behavior by harsh discipline and forced submission merely makes him servile, rebellious, or a tyrant himself. The preferable approach is to use natural consequences to teach children, creating obstacles to undesirable behaviors rather than punishments; and above all, to “love childhood, promote its games, its pleasures, its amiable instincts” rather than spoiling it by harshness, excessive rigor, or oppressive discipline.
Greatness of Soul
Balancing the Spartan education, then, is the nurturing aspect of parenting that is important to raising a well-adjusted child. Most parents, of course, will take this as a given, but it can be challenging to straddle the line between over-indulgence and excessive harshness. Basically, a sense of security and unconditional love provides a foundation for later confidence, a fundamental optimism that a child will carry for the rest of their life. People can of course do quite well without this, and those with adverse childhoods will often surpass their peers due to an insatiable need to overcome and succeed. But this is a happy accident, compared to the large number of people from such backgrounds who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, and other poor life outcomes. Even in the best cases, such a childhood risks warping the character in some way.
Another important quality that should be cultivated in children is empathy. It is unclear that one can do much to encourage this quality, as much of it is likely genetic and expressed naturally. Even very young children show glimmerings of empathy and compassion: discomfort at the pain of others, attempts to soothe people when upset; an understanding that helping is good and hurting is bad; a basic sense of justice and fairness; and early inklings of righteous anger, guilt, and shame. While some might posit that children are essentially amoral or demonic little vessels of sin, in my experience children are generally quite affectionate with siblings, parents, family members, and friends. This really only diminishes when their will is frustrated in some way, or they lack the appropriate social understanding.
Though such qualities are probably inherent, by encouraging kindness and pointedly disapproving of and disciplining acts of cruelty, as well as mirroring such qualities in your own life, one can hopefully point children in the right direction. Even people who are not naturally sensitive to others can learn appropriate behavior, if only out of self-interest. The code of chivalry, for instance, was an institutional method of encouraging such behavior on the part of highly aggressive warrior aristocrats who might otherwise turn to rapine and slaughter. By joining a concept of charity and protection of the weak with their own sense of honor and noblesse oblige, the chivalric code bridled masculine aggression towards more socially-positive ends.
For those who might object that the higher man has no use for sympathy and kindness, I would point out that such qualities are expressions of strength, not weakness. Nietzsche himself, though rejecting pity and prizing a hardness that was lacking in nineteenth-century manhood, nevertheless named sympathy one of the “four virtues” along with insight, courage, and solitude; and spoke of the “Roman Caesar with Christ’s soul” as a model of the higher man (4).
As the Caesar reference indicates, simply telling children to be “nice” and not cultivating the sterner virtues is a recipe for weaklings and doormats: as Zarathustra exclaims, “I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they have no claws” (5). True compassion – a highly compromised word, perhaps better rendered as benevolence or goodwill – is valuable if it is part of a more expansive magnanimity, or greatness of soul. The genuine aristocrat is not some cruel and arrogant overlord, but a courtly figure who demonstrates kindness towards his inferiors and respect for his peers. Thus, aside from the obvious inherent value of empathy and compassion, these form an essential component of noble behavior.
Education and Taste
Children today are beset by vulgar, degenerate, and stupefying influences. These come from pop culture, television, social media, corrupted peers, school curricula, the food industry, and adults (sometimes even relatives) who should know better. If left wholly to these influences, even the most innately noble child would have a difficult time preserving their nobility and attaining to a life of aristocratic libertas. And as we all know, simply sending children to school and college is no guarantee that they will receive a truly liberal education, an education for a free man and an aristocrat: schools are indoctrination factories, and many children emerge from them worse off than if they had never gone in the first place.
The onus of ensuring that a child receives a true liberal education, preparing them to think freely, to appreciate and contribute to the culture of their people, cannot be delegated. It falls to the parents. In older aristocratic families, educating children for their future roles as governors, scholars, diplomats, religious leaders, or warriors was taken very seriously. Such families, of course, often possessed extensive land holdings, libraries, artworks, and the means to employ top scholars and educators. Their children were schooled in history, art, science, religion, language, and the military arts, and formed the prototype of the “Renaissance man.”
Of course, nowadays most families, even aristocratic ones, have lost the wealth and power that enabled such a high degree of culture. However, we are blessed to live in a time when almost infinite knowledge and experiences are within our grasp, such as even ancient kings could not dream of. We have the internet, online book sales, libraries, countless museums and parks and concert halls, airplane travel. The danger is failing to sort the gold from the dross – we have too many options, not too few, and discipline is required in order ensure that we expose ourselves and our children to the best influences.
One should begin a child’s education early. Reading to children, even less than a year old, will hopefully foster a love of language, sadly lacking in many children today. It will also improve their verbal intelligence and vocabulary. Ideally, the reading choices would consist of fairy tales, myths, moral lessons, and the history of one’s people. Regardless of financial status, one can utilize all available resources to expose children to a variety of kinds of science and culture – parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, libraries, concerns. In addition to art and letters, exposure to ennobling music is important at a youthful age. They’ll probably still like Baby Shark and whatever rubbish their little friends like, but at least they’ll have been exposed to Beethoven. In addition, children should be encouraged to learn a musical instrument (and the theory behind it, when they’re old enough). This will give them a greater appreciation for music and also cultivates mathematical intelligence. The association of music and mathematics was well known in the classical Quadrivium.
From our perspective, while intelligence and skills are undeniably important, it is preferable not to take the “Tiger Mom” approach of forcing academic achievement on very young children. You will likely end up with an accomplished but neurotic and emotionally stunted child (and quite possibly a resentful one, at that). Moreover, the freedom of the genuine aristocrat is incompatible with the chronic anxiety of the overachiever. We are not trying to make prodigies here – most children are not prodigies, and most prodigies end up miserable and dysfunctional anyways. Intelligence is important to cultivate but brilliance is not essential to being a successful, useful, or noble person. The key is to expose a child to as many influences as possible while their curiosity is at its peak. Young children are notoriously curious, constantly asking questions, a quality that can be extremely annoying but is invaluable to their development. Their memory and receptiveness are truly astonishing, and time spent answering their questions will not be wasted.
That being said, a key part of education is what to leave out. Technology, particularly smartphones, television, and movies are among the biggest offenders. The sheer degeneracy and idiocy of much of our culture has also infected children’s entertainment. The stuff I grew up watching, shows on Nickelodeon and the movies of the Disney Renaissance, seem like Citizen Kane compared to most of what is produced today; this does not even include the plethora of mindless YouTube videos that are somehow irresistible for small children. Use of television and smartphones should be strictly limited, of course (ideally none at all, but this is extremely difficult). If children are going to watch TV, try to make sure they are watching something older and wholesome, rather than the atrocious and utterly compromised children’s programming of today – even the purportedly “educational.” If you put a phone in their hands, the children will have a hard time letting it go. They love bright, colorful, flashing lights, silly songs and voices, etc. But, all things considered, most children will still prefer to be outside, and that is where they should be whenever possible.
The aim of an aristocratic education is to cultivate the qualities of courage, empathy, selflessness, and good taste. The purpose is to enable the child to enjoy his childhood more fully and maintain his youthful vigor, wholesomeness, and idealism into adulthood; and to equip them to act as a force for good in the world. These qualities combined constitute the definition of nobility. For most people, a noble demeanor is a result of self-respect as well as a sense of duty to one’s ancestors. This link to the past is something that can be cultivated from a nearly age.
Children have a love of fantasy, and around the age of two or three they develop a fascination with certain figures – often Disney princesses or superheroes – indicating the beginning of role model emulation. This can often be a prolonged obsession, as the child wishes to mimic their hero in clothing, speech, and mannerisms. Unlike adults, children are not embarrassed by their imagination and can embrace this mimicry unselfconsciously, provided they are not humiliated for it. In the best cases, this hero worship will gradually shift into emulating the noble behaviors and authentic deeper nature of the hero, internalizing the figure and assimilating it to their own nature. As parents, provided the hero is of sufficient caliber, we can encourage this emulation, playing with them, acting out scenes from the hero’s story, talking about what the hero would do in certain situations. Ideally, as the child ages, this hero emulation will shift from pop culture to figures from history, myth, and legend.
Another means of cultivating noble values is through history. This includes, first and foremost, one’s family history. Knowing the tales and struggles of one’s immediate ancestors, particularly those still living, as well as the triumphs of more distant forebears instills a sense of pride and honor. One regards oneself as part of a chain stretching back into the distant past, rather than an atomized individual arising randomly in a meaningless universe. While very young children may be unable to appreciate this, the effort to tell them about their family history and particularly to spend time around their aged relatives will not be wasted.
It is also important that children be taught from a young age the history and traditions of their people. As mentioned above, this involves early exposure to mythology, folklore, and significant works of literature; this can be done by telling the stories directly, reading the children age-appropriate versions, and watching movies about these figures (in moderation). Contemporary children deeply saturated by popular culture have a shared set of myths and references provided by that culture, degenerate and anti-aristocratic though they are. In the past, even a hundred years ago, this common culture was provided (among the elite at least) by the Bible, classical mythology, and European history. Knowledge of this history cultivates a sense of continuity, belonging, and identity that can also serve as a source of pride and confidence.
In addition to the benevolence and magnanimity discussed above, the courage to do what is right is an essential noble trait, and can be encouraged by this sense of familial and national history. While very young children can be timid about many things due to unfamiliarity, they are by and large courageous and undaunted by the adult fear of failure or humiliation. Some fears and suspicions are of course quite reasonable. However, as parents we should not encourage irrational phobias of darkness, insects, etc. by showing fear ourselves. We ought, rather, to encourage adventurousness and bravery.
Honesty has always been considered a particularly noble trait, and it is remarkably common in children (often to their parents’ chagrin). Children are frank in their opinions and observations, and unafraid to ask for what they want. As Emerson wrote, “The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature.” Though this potentially rude behavior must be tempered in time by courtesy, it is nevertheless a lordly quality that we lose as we grow older.
Finally, while many aspects of religion are beyond the grasp of most children, they typically have a magical view of existence to begin with, and some suitably vague notion of pantheism or God may be an appropriate means of giving form to these early notions. Moreover, participation in certain forms of religious rituals, like participation in martial arts or various social niceties, inculcates a salutary discipline. Even Nietzsche, no friend of religion, acknowledged that it served an important function for the noble, helping them “to prepare themselves for future ruling and obeying: those slowly ascending classes… receive enough nudges and temptations from religion to walk the paths to higher spirituality, to test the feelings of great self-overcoming, of silence and solitude” (6). Some version of religiosity teaches the spirit of reverence, which is a noble emotion that is largely absent today.
Ultimately, true nobility is in the blood and the bearing. It is not determined simply by one’s actions, or intentions, or intellectual attitudes, but is something far more essential: “Some fundamental certainty that a noble soul has about itself, something that cannot be sought, nor found, nor perhaps lost. The noble soul has reverence for itself” (7). This characteristic is likely inborn, but can be brought to the fore and diligently cultivated by the parent.
The Military School of Life
The goals of this general approach to education are, one, to create the conditions for a fulfilling childhood, which is both an intrinsic good as well as an important contributor to later confidence and efficacy. Secondly, the aim is to direct children towards a life of noble service and striving for greatness in whatever arena they are most suited for. This is promoted by encouraging endurance, cultivating empathy, and fostering prodigious strength of will and indomitable bravery. Not all children will possess these qualities, and still fewer will use them towards the ideal goals of service, nobility, and transcendence; but those who do might one day be counted among the genuine ārya, the Knights of Old Europe, the League of Shadows, the arhats, the Übermenschen, the Men Against Time. This is the “youthful” quality of which Evola spoke, which is more than mere biological youth:
Thus, looking around us, can we really consider — other than in a biological sense — an unfortunately considerable part of the “youth” in today’s Italy to be “young”? This indifferent and unprincipled youth, absorbed by materialism and petty hedonism, incapable of any enthusiasm, incapable of coherence, livening up, at the most, to football matches and bicycle races? We would rather say that this “youth” was dead even before having been born. Today, anybody who refuses to yield, anyone who lives an idea, anyone capable of remaining standing, upright, despising everything feeble, devious, underhanded, cowardly, whatever their age, is infinitely more “young” than this peculiar “youth.”
If we were to indicate the fundamental characteristic of youth in this higher sense, we would define it as the will to the unconditioned. In fact, this is the factor that accounts for, on the one hand, all idealism in a positive sense, and on the other, all forms of courage, enthusiasm, creative initiative, and ability to move resolutely to new positions, with little concern for one’s own person. In particular, physically, true youth is characterized precisely by the almost paradoxical disposition of a superabundance of life, which, instead of being attached to itself, expends itself without reserve and is able to consider its own death as of no account.
The highest ambition should not consist in being a revolutionary at all costs, but rather in being the exponent of a tradition, the bearer of a transmitted force, which should be enhanced and potentiated with anything that can secure the inflexibility of its direction.
Taking account of all that has been written here, I would suggest another possible justification for having children. If we admit the existence of souls, as the True Right does, then for a soul that has descended into matter, there is nothing more conducive to transcendence than being born as a human. Moreover, rather than merely thinking of reproduction as “pulling a soul out of blissful nonexistence,” we might consider it instead a blessing – since we will be cast into existence anyways – to be born as a human to parents who are of sufficient spiritual stuff to contemplate such questions.
Ultimately, one hopes that by perpetuating a noble line and cultivating proper values, one’s children will work to preserve what is best in their heritage and for the betterment of their people. Even in this ideal case, once the innocent joy of childhood is lost, our children become a kind of sacrifice upon the altar of the world, subject to its sufferings and indignities, and we can only hope that the joy and purpose our children derive from this life are greater than the grief. Perhaps the recognition of this sacrifice can make one a better parent.
It is possible that our efforts as parents will amount to very little. Given the heritability of most significant traits, it seems unlikely that we will make a child who dislikes music lessons a pianist, or a child of middling intellect a genius, or a clumsy child an athlete, or a selfish child a saint. Much depends upon the genes, and much also depends upon the environment outside the home: peer influences and experiences as teenagers and young adults, when the parental influence has weakened. All of this is simply in the nature of human existence. And as Nietzsche observed, much of a person’s greatness depends upon having the right experiences at the right time: “I absolutely cannot see how one can later make up for having failed to go to a good school at the proper time… The most desirable thing is still under all circumstances a hard discipline at the proper time, i.e. at that age at which it still makes one proud to see that much is demanded of one” (8). Greatness, nobility, and transcendence of the human condition cannot be guaranteed by a one-size-fits-all educational method, and much of it is left to chance.
But, as parents, the greatest give we can give is to strive to create an environment which will bring out our children’s natural gifts, rather than crushing or frustrating them. In the end, we only have it in our power to give them a happy childhood and happy memories of childhood, whatever may happen after. We may not hold their tomorrows in our hands, but we do hold their todays.
An earlier version of this essay was published at Counter-Currents Magazine on October 15, 2020.
- Current misunderstandings aside, the essence of original sin is not that all humans are from birth guilty or at fault for the sin of Adam, or that unbaptized newborns who die are consigned to eternal hellfire. Esoterically, it means that due to the emergence of human self-will in place of divine and natural law, man became separate from God and fell under the dominion of death, sin (self-will), “the world,” the devil. It indicates a propensity to sin, a susceptibility to the temptations of the world – something that is, alas, apparent even in small children, though they are themselves pure and free of personal guilt. Put most simply, original sin consists in the emergence of self-will that results in man’s alienation from God, from the rest of Creation, and from himself.
- David Hackett Fisher, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York Oxford University Press, 1989), 313-316.
- From an 1872 public lecture by Nietzsche, quoted in Graham Parkes, “Human/Nature in Nietzsche and Taoism,” in Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought, ed. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989), 82.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), section 126.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 1995), “On Those Who Are Sublime”
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), section 61.
- Ibid., 287.
- Will to Power, section 912.