The seventh day of January is not only Orthodox Christmas according to the Julian calendar, but also the birthday of the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin. This 7 January marks Dugin’s 60th birthday, on which occasion Continental-Conscious presents for the first time in English translation an editorial by the Russian Islamic thinker and Dugin’s former Yuzhinsky Circle mentor, Geydar Dzhemal (1947-2016), authored for Dugin’s 50th birthday and published in the newspaper Zavtra (“Tomorrow”, formerly Den – “Day”) in 2012.
A Word on Dugin
Once upon a time, the famous post-war film “A Soldier’s Fate in America” [released in America as “The Roaring Twenties”] made a splash in the Soviet cinematic space. It raised very acute, existential problems surrounding the figure of the heroic, dynamic personality being thrown into a world that is indifferent to such a type, a world that is essentially flabby, pacifist, and completely hostile to everything authentic and heroic.
The fate and life of Alexander Dugin could make up the basis for a similar movie, “An Intellectual’s Fate in Russia.” Especially as a true intellectual in Russia is at once really a soldier, a real soldier of the Spirit waging constant struggle in that space where the activity of the Spirit collides with the hostility of the matter surrounding it. Dugin is such a genuine intellectual.
Among all the writers of the past, perhaps only Dostoyevsky managed to touch upon the peculiarity of true intellectualism, because from time to time his characters suddenly seem to stop and dwell, overshadowed and struck by the terrifying, singular thought that pulls them out of the cog of everyday existence, and then they withdraw from all contact and conversations for the sake of thinking through this enormous, terrifying thought. It doesn’t matter what this thought is. What is important is that it is always grandiose and paradoxical in relation to the exterior world, to the environment in which they find themselves. Shatov and Kirillov are classic archetypes of genuine intellectuals whom only Dostoyevsky could describe. In this sense, Dugin is a Dostoyevskian intellectual. A genuine intellectual is a person for whom their own thought is more important than their own physical existence.
Dugin’s life, like most of ours – but not all, by the way – can be divided into two significant, contrasting parts. There is his life before the 1990s, and his life afterwards. These two parts can be illustrated with the famous expression: “There is a time to gather stones, and a time to scatter them.” In mind here is that the time preceding the events of the ‘90s, which rapidly pulled so many people into the foreground, was undoubtedly a time of gathering stones.
When I met Alexander Gelyevich in 1980, he was still a very young man of 18 years. Within ten years, he had proceeded along an intense path through organizing, structuring, saturating, and educating his intellect, transforming it into a colossal prism focusing, one might say, “the light of distant stars.” He carried out this work on the organizing, structuring, methodological basis of the Guénonian school of Traditionalists. For this, of course, he needed to master the major European languages, which he, being an unusually capable person, did indeed. And not only did he learn English, German, and French, as I advised him to, but he also brought in Spanish, Italian, and other ones I don’t even remember. Before my very eyes he studied Hebrew, became acquainted with Arabic, I think, and in recent years has seemed to have come to know Turkish.
His cultural toolkit has no comparison whatsoever alongside the standard capabilities of ordinary academic workers. He acquired this toolkit by and large at the very beginning of his intellectual path. He had already mastered an immense mass of original sources back in Soviet times. Thanks to our rather unique opportunities and by virtue of our connections, we had access to the “Special Storage Section” (spetskhran). We acquired books from the special storage section of the Academy of Social Sciences and from Foreign Literature. That was a very powerful source of information. In addition, many books were sent to us from abroad.
But this is already a secondary, technical question. The main point is that in 10 years Dugin accomplished enormous work and mastered a scale of knowledge that Western Traditionalist intellectuals never dreamed of. Moreover, upon mastering the methodology and deep understanding of the Traditionalist school, he applied this knowledge to expanding his intellectual horizons beyond narrow metaphysical Traditionalism. Dugin also studied the trends in modern Western academic thought, and he mastered the colossal scholarly space lying on the so-called profane plane of sociologists, economists, and philosophers, whom he examined through the methodological prism of what is called “perennial philosophy”, that is “eternal philosophy”, or supreme knowledge. Herein lies the huge difference with Western Traditionalists, who comfortably sit in clearly structured, limited Guénonism like hen in straw, the difference being that they never lay a golden egg, nor even an ordinary one, due to their sterility.
As for Dugin, in the world of pure erudition he reminds me of the figure of Adam Kadmon, who stands with one hand raised upward and the other pointing down. In Dugin’s case, one hand is raised up to the philosophical sky, while the other is lowered toward the politological, sociological earth. He channels through himself the energetic currents of an intellectualism, at one pole of which is purely metaphysical contemplation, and on the other concrete, practical thinking. Dugin never closed himself in an “ivory tower.” Unlike one of the masters who influenced Dugin the most, the deeply respected Evgeny Golovin, who possessed that Guénonian trait of squeamishness toward contact with modern life. Evgeny Golovin lived at an extreme distance from the external world of events, and when I said that not all of our lives’ can be divided into two parts – before and after the ‘90s – I had in mind Golovin, whose life definitely cannot be divided into parts. Thus as he lived before the ‘90s, thusly did he continue to live after the ‘90s, engaged in exclusively his own research and despising contact with the external environment.
But not all Traditionalists are like that, and we know the example of Julius Evola, who never left the frontline of spiritual and armed battlefield in both the literal and figurative sense. He was a real soldier of the Spirit, up the point that he was wounded amidst a bombardment in 1945 and left paralyzed for the rest of his life. In this sense, Evola’s example is much dearer to Dugin, and he follows the latter despite the fact that the now late Evgeny Golovin was the person whom Dugin always respected and loved.
Dugin’s written scholarly legacy is unique and represents an unprecedented phenomenon in contemporary Russia. And not only in contemporary Russia – I would say that even in the visible past of Russian academicism nothing of the sort has been encountered. In its sheer scale, Dugin’s work is equivalent to the product of a whole scientific institute working over a whole era. This is because the result of analyzing all of the tendencies of modern, world academic thought – scientific, philosophical, and sociological – has passed through the very focus of Dugin’s view, through his soul and through his brain. The volume of this work is such that it has yet to be studied, and perhaps only generations to come will be faced with truly appreciating the scale of this production.
The grandeur of this work is all the more striking in that Dugin generally stands in the middle of an intellectual desert: he is alone! All around him are but fragments of post-Soviet academicism which have rapidly degenerated into a kind of “bobok” [‘gibberish bean’]. That is, in the space that is considered to be academic and professorial, Dugin has absolutely no one to talk with, nor anyone to understand what it is that he’s doing. Moreover, these “gibberish beans”, muttering on fragments of the old Soviet school of the humanities, even in their best, creative youthful era were already very narrowly specialized, and they were always strictly disciplined by the party-ideological method imposed upon them. As soon as this method dissipated and ceased to be their stimulus, their walking stick for the blind, it was as if they completely stopped thinking, because they didn’t know what they were supposed to think about, what to do, and so they could only repeat as much as possible, and very cautiously and with self-censorship, fragments of their fruitless considerations expressed 30-40 years ago. Amidst all of this scorched, deforested post-Soviet intellectualism, consisting only of stumps, stands Alexander Dugin with his colossal scholarly apparatus.
I would say that Dugin has accomplished an intellectual feat. Moreover, he has not limited himself to himself as a phenomenon, but has tried to raise a constellation of intellectuals, working as a teacher and creating clubs, surrounding himself with young, gifted folks who are getting used to the taste of new academic thought. Through them, he is trying to pass on this scope of outlook, one that goes from purely metaphysical contemplation to purely practical field work, concrete sociology, and concrete ethnology.
I would say that the only point which perhaps rings somewhat dissonant alongside this heroic and luminous production – and I would even call Dugin’s work a “work in white” – is the excessive attachment to current political reality, and the excessive expectations which over the past 20 years Dugin has periodically hinged upon one or another trend in our country’s political life. Generally, these expectations have not borne out, as Alexander Gelyevich himself knows today.
Nevertheless, this slight dissonance is absolutely, in no way comparable to the colossal scale and very personality of Dugin and the product of his astonishing activity, unique work ethic, and amazing acuteness of attention toward any thought that appears on the scene of ideas.
I say “scene of ideas”, not “marketplace of ideas”, because for Dugin the world of ideas is a dramatic theater wherein every idea is a tragic character.
– Geydar Dzhemal (11 January 2012)
[Translated by Jafe Arnold]