Twilight of the Magicians: Aleksandr Dugin and the War Against the West
"If the Fourth Political Practice is not able to realize the end of times, then it would be invalid. The end of days should come; but it will not come by itself. This is a task, it is not a certainty. It is active metaphysics. It is a practice.” - ALEKSANDR DUGIN, THE FOURTH POLITICAL THEORY [I]
The “philosopher” who has done the most to justify Russia’s war against the West is Aleksandr Dugin. He was the first to advocate a Russian invasion of Ukraine. He has also advocated what he calls “the last war of the world-island” – a future conflict against the United States and NATO. His arguments are as fascinating as they are troubling. Disillusioned conservatives in the West imagine that Dugin – like Putin – is a conservative and a Christian. This is the impression he gives, though his writings blend themes of the far left and far right. On close examination his ideas are not something Edmund Burke (the father of conservatism) would have approved.
Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin refers to himself as a Russian philosopher and strategist. He is sometimes described as “Putin’s brain.” As we discover in his writings, Dugin wants to bring about “the end of days.” This was the grand objective of the “Yuzhinskii Circle,”[ii] from whence he emerged long ago. It was a group of Russian occultists born out of the 1960s, working to bring back the antediluvian “Golden Age.” They would follow in the footsteps of Nimrod in the construction of a Tower of Babel. In fact, Dugin has attempted to intellectually link all cultures and traditions according to the formula of “Traditionalism.” Only the Western tradition, debunked as “liberalism,” is excluded from this “project.” According to Dugin, the “Atlanticists” (i.e., the West) must be destroyed and their territories absorbed.
The Yuzhinskii Circle, as political philosopher Eric Voegelin might say, was dedicated to immanentizing the gnostic eschaton. It is not that they were Gnostics with a capital G. They were what Voegelin would have called “parousiastic gnostics” – parousia signifying the Second Coming of Christ. Of course, such people do not actually believe in Christ. According to Voegelin, “The aim of parousiastic gnosticism is to destroy the order of being, which is experienced as defective and unjust, and through man’s creative power to replace it with a perfect and just order.” In order to accomplish this, noted Voegelin, the transcendental origin of being must be “obliterated,” which “requires the decapitation of being – the murder of God.” This murder takes place “speculatively by explaining divine being as the work of man.”[iii] Here we find a form of occultism that shares the same practice as Marxism-Leninism. Where the Marxist-Leninist uses “dialectics” the parousiastic gnostics use esotericism (secret doctrines hidden behind intellectual formulae and symbols). As Dugin biographer James Heiser has hinted, the Yuzhinskii circle was Hermetic rather than Gnostic, yet their aims coincide with Marxism – which may explain the story that Dugin “started [in his youth] working in a KGB archive where he gained access to, and read, large amounts of forbidden literature on Masonry, fascism and paganism.”[iv]
The Yuzhinskii Circle had access to the USSR’s largest Lenin library. Who gave them that access? Who gave them the means to live and work in the USSR? It seems the existence of this group served some dark clandestine purpose. Has there been, deep inside the Soviet regime, a hidden occult circle? No proof of this has been found. According to Russian monographs that do not exist in English, Alexy Shchusev’s design for Lenin’s Mausoleum was influenced by the ideas of Madam Blavatsky, author of The Secret Doctrine.[v] Can we verify this? No. But the design of Lenin’s tomb cannot be accounted for. It is a mock pyramid, built of red granite and black labradorite, in which Lenin’s remains have been mummified. What this implies about Leninism, and the inner workings of the CPSU Central Committee, is hard to evaluate. Men are inconsistent creatures. Ideologies and theologies have been known to join together in unexpected ways.
It is doubly curious that members of the Yuzhinskii Circle started calling themselves “The Black Order of the SS” when led by the philologist Evgenii Golovin (b. 1936), under the inspiration of Yurii Mamleev (b. 1931), a Russian mystic and novelist described as “a representative of the aesthetics of evil.”[vi] Just as Putin’s outward adoption of Russian Orthodoxy is a disguise, so was the adoption of Russian Orthodoxy by the Yuzhinskii Circle. As James Heiser’s research indicates, Dugin merely pays lip service to Orthodoxy, but does not actually practice the religion. At the same time Dugin has adopted all the weapons of cultural Marxism. As he explained in his book, The Fourth Political Theory, “classical Marxists consistently call for insanity….”[vii] Turning to his own theory he added, “Madness is part of the gender arsenal of the Fourth Political Theory.”[viii]
As might be expected from a “former” KGB operative, Dugin’s Fourth Theory aligns with recent Marxian innovations. Dugin seeks to overcome “white European man” through “global egalitarianism.” This is not classic Marxism, as Marx was not an egalitarian; but Soviet strategists long ago found egalitarianism a useful weapon for subverting Western institutions (since egalitarianism is inherently destructive of social order). It is therefore not surprising that Dugin, as an alleged Traditionalist, says that white European males are enemies of “Tradition” because white European males uphold liberalism (the First Political Theory). Therefore, noted Dugin, gender identity must be broken. Here Dugin sets up Western liberalism as a straw man, describing it as a Marxist would – as racism, sexism and classism. “Now we are in this moment of a postmodern re-extension,” wrote Dugin, “and the final breaking of gender. The stages of this break are feminism, homosexuality, sex change operations, and transhumanity.”[ix]
Dugin has also commented on the extent to which Western elites have been influenced by Marxist theories. He is gratified that these elites are prepared to overcome sex by rejecting opposites and making mankind into “cyborgs.” What better operation could there be for immanentizing the eschaton? According to Dugin, “We stand on the transition between the hypermodern and the postmodern, and we do not know where the truth and reality lies.” Therefore, he continued, “in a post-modern construction of gender, there will not be any men.”[x]
To destroy the order of being, Dugin advocates destroying the archetype of man. This archetype, he wrote, is falling to pieces. Conservatives can try though they may, but they cannot reconstruct “man” once he has been deconstructed. The only option will then be “androgyny as practiced by angels.” Here we see that Dugin is a sorcerer putting ideas from various thinkers into a pot over which he repeats dark incantations like those of the weird sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Dugin throws bits and pieces from the philosophers to boil and bake his hell-broth – his Fourth Political Theory. “Russia is invested with a mission in an apocalyptic moment of history,” Dugin told one American interviewer. “Russia is going to accomplish something of global importance; but it is very difficult to describe. It is something metaphysical … something more mysterious.”[xi]
There are even mystical doppelgängers in Dugin’s hell-broth. In his interview with John David Ebert he said, “there are two Putins….” Dugin then referred to Ernst Kantorowicz’s theory that a monarch has two bodies – a corporeal body and a mystical “body politic.” Indulging in his usual metaphysical horseplay, Dugin borrowed from Catholic theology to draw a magic circle around the murderous Russian dictator. It is, indeed, a fitting operation for a black magician – and one we might expect to see. Then, during this same 23 May interview, Dugin tells Ebert, “This mystical body of Putin … is linked with … [the] Russian mission, with the logic of Russian history, and sometimes Putin gives the sign that he is in the direct connection with this imperial … dimension of Russian history [and its] apocalyptical dimension – [a] sacred and holy dimension of our destiny.”[xii]
Explaining his own mystical influence over Putin, Dugin said, “The spirit walks where it wants. The spirit isn’t dependent [on] the normal way of influence, for example, there are so many people around Putin who see him regularly with no influence on him. With zero influence. So it is not about quantity. It is about quality, I would say. Our relations are rather on the level of this deep identity, [rather] than on the surface.”[xiii]
Ebert then interjected, “But you have met with him, personally?” Dugin replied, “I never answer this question.”[xiv] This was said in a faint voice and Ebert had a puzzled look on his face, not knowing what to make of Dugin’s non-answer. Bringing the interview to an end, Ebert congratulated Dugin as his kind of thinker. It is gnostic thinking, of course, as described by Eric Voegelin. Yet Ebert has no clue regarding Dugin’s gnostic objectives. Voegelin wrote, “By gnostic movements we mean such movements as progressivism, positivism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, communism, fascism, and national socialism.”[xv] We can now add Duginism to Voegelin’s list.
Dugin is the architect of an “ersatz religion” collapsible into Marxism. The central project of all ersatz religion is to replace God with man, thereby creating heaven on earth. In practice, however, these ersatz religions lead to mass death. “The nature of a thing cannot be changed,” wrote Voegelin; “whoever tries to ‘alter’ its nature destroys the thing. Man cannot transform himself into a superman [or Soviet man]. Historically, the murder of God is not followed by the superman [or Soviet man], but by the murder of man: the deicide of the gnostic theoreticians is followed by the homicide of the revolutionary practitioners.”[xvi]
Reflecting on Dugin and the Yuzhinskii Circle’s fascination with Nazism, we may be reminded of the occultist Dietrich Eckart, who allegedly said on his deathbed: “Follow Hitler. He will dance, but it is I who have written the music….” Eckart formulated the notion that crimes committed by Germany’s Messiah were justified regardless of the means. The world will only heal, argued Eckart, “after a bloody war of annihilation against the united army of the ‘trolls’….”[xvii] Dugin has provided a similar service for Putin. In Dugin’s schema, the united army of the trolls is none other than NATO; and Dugin has devised an elaborate justification for serial military aggression – first, against Ukraine, then NATO and the United States.
In Dugin’s book, The Last War of the World-Island, a future war against America is said to be inevitable. Dugin argues that Putin must unambiguously challenge Atlanticism or Russia will disappear into oblivion. According to Dugin, “expansion [is necessary] to the natural borders of northwest Eurasia … with the prospect of extending its zone of influence beyond its boundaries, perhaps on a planetary scale.” Dugin added that the fall of the USSR was “a catastrophic step backward.” The objective for Russia must be to control all of Eurasia “from the position of the center of the inner continent.”[xviii]
This is the dogma of Eurasianism, almost identical with teachings Hitler absorbed from members of the mystical Thule Society in Munich in the early 1920s (see, especially, Karl Ernst Haushofer and Rudolf Hess).[xix] The Yuzhinskii Circle, from which Dugin emerged, was fascinated with National Socialism. Yet the most curious project they were involved with during the latter years of the Soviet Union, was the formation of the Pamyat Society, officially known as the National Patriotic Front (NPF), a Russian ultranationalist organization that outwardly identified itself with Orthodox Christianity (while inwardly adopting Nazi terminology).
According to Heiser, Pamyat was supported by “highly placed individuals in the Central Committee, the KGB, and the armed forces [of the USSR] ….”[xx] It appears that experiments were then taking place throughout the USSR in the 1980s. Attempts were being made to synthetically align the far right with communist objectives. Operations of this kind can be traced back to the Soviet infiltration of the Nazi diaspora in the 1940s. It is unsurprising, therefore, that during the 1980s neo-Nazi groups throughout Europe were infiltrated by the KGB or formed by KGB operatives. Tremendous efforts were made to appropriate and synthesize far right ideas if only to exploit their potent anti-Western properties. As it happens, the far right has no unifying ideology. It only exists as a thousand splinters. In the 1980s the KGB asked the question: “How to bring these splinters together?” Furthermore, “How could these splinters be mobilized and merged with the communist left?” This left-right convergence strategy would take years to develop, yet it has developed. Putin has reached out to the far right, and elements on the far right have gravitated to his orbit. It is no accident that Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory attempts to combine ideological themes of the right and left by focusing on the common enemy of both; that is, classical Western liberalism.
Does Dugin control Putin’s ideological trajectory? Perhaps the alignment between Dugin and Putin indicates a common strategy – a long-range plan orchestrated by a “secret strategic center.” Dugin may not be as independent a thinker as we suppose. For example, in 2009 Dugin began advocating all-out war against Ukraine. This was five years before the Donbas war ignited in 2014. Was this clairvoyance on Dugin’s part, or was he following a plan? According to Heiser, “The Ukrainian government has long recognized Dugin as an enemy of Ukraine; in fact, the Ukrainian government formally declared him to be persona non grata for five years, beginning in June 2006, ‘for violating Ukrainian law.’” When Dugin attempted to enter Ukraine in 2007, Kiev deported him for seeking to “destabilize the country.” The Kremlin retaliated on Ukraine for Dugin’s deportation by refusing to allow Mykola Zhulinsky to enter Russia.[xxi] Why would Moscow be so protective of Dugin?
As an advocate of war, Dugin likes to quote Heraclitus to the effect that “war is the father of all things.” There is truth in this melancholy saying, yet Dugin is not at all melancholy. Rather, he is exuberant. Dugin says that America and Russia represent two poles from which spring “inexorable and terrible hatred.” In a 1998 interview Dugin made the following comments: “If the European New Right chooses us [Russians], that means it chooses the barbarian element, and therefore it must choose our methods of action.” Then Dugin explained, “You must take a knife, put on a mask, go out of the house in the evening and kill at least one Yank.” He then added, “I do not know whether any of the New Right activists have ever been under artillery siege, but our people do not only go to meetings or fight at the barricades, they also go to real wars, for instance to the Dniestr district [Moldova], or to Yugoslavia…. The New Right is only a project, and we are its architects. The future truly is ours.”[xxii]
Dugin’s rhetoric got him into trouble in 2014 when he said, “Today’s Ukrainians are a race of degenerates that crawled up from the sewer. Genocide is in order.” He famously added, “Kill, kill, and kill Ukrainians.” And “we must kill all Ukrainians.”[xxiii] As James Heiser ironically put it, Dugin is advancing the cause of war with remarkable erudition. He has, in effect spiked old Cold War wine with a hot war vintage, pouring the lethal concoction into new bottles with “conservative” written onto the labels.
Heiser explained, “For those individuals who remember the Cold War, the ‘geopolitical face’ of Eurasianism is quite familiar because it has a family resemblance to the ‘geopolitical’ face of Marxism-Leninism.”[xxiv] This resemblance is no accident, and shows that Dugin has worked out a serious right-of-center ideology – a cunning beard for the Leninist core of the Soviet successor state. Dugin knows history and philosophy well enough, and has esoteric knowledge to the bargain. Perhaps Dugin imagines that if the Russian authorities pretend to be Eurasianists they will become his kind of Eurasianists. No doubt the same conceit animates the ruling Leninist clique, even as they prepare to send troops to Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua. Let Dugin play with his voodoo dolls. He serves the World Revolution and is Marxism’s instrument in the end.
Every rhetorical inconsistency is resolved when it comes to strategy. Watch what the Russians do and compare it with what they have said. Watch what Dugin says and see the outcome. Russia has aligned itself with communist countries and not with “conservative” countries (i.e., Revolutionary Iran follows a liberation theology version of Islam). Russia is now on a war path. Military moves are underway. The Russian and Chinese governments are accelerating their war preparations. Here is an alliance that threatens the existence of the West. Who will understand this? For those of my former friends who no longer speak to me because they have sided with Russia and Putin – and barrage me with Russian propaganda about corrupt Ukrainian Nazis – I offer this brief journey into “Putin’s brain” (i.e., Dugin). It is shameful that you did not do your homework. It is doubly shameful that you would despise an old friend to side with an old enemy.
NOTES AND LINKS
[i] Alexander Dugin, translation by Mark Sleboda and Michael Millerman, The Fourth Political Theory (UK: Arktos Media Ltd., 2012), Kindle p. 183. This section is titled “Conservatism as the Repudiation of the Logic of History.”
[ii] The Yuzhinskii circle was “a legendary metaphysical salon, an esoteric social circle that gathered in Yuzhinsky Lane in Moscow, in the house No. 3 in the communal apartment of Yuri Mamleev….” The Yuzhinsky Circle, a legendary metaphysical.. | ОКО | VK. Curiously, they had access to the Lenin Library where they first formed. The group engaged in “pagan mystical actions” while dabbling in the fine arts. Supposedly the group discussed cabbala and mysticism while formulating plans to assassinate the leadership of the Communist Party Soviet Union. Any serious student of the Soviet Union can see, immediately, that such a group could not have existed so long without being infiltrated and hijacked by the KGB. Its members were, almost certainly, under state control during the 1980s.
[iii] Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics and Gnosticism (Washington, DC: Regnery, 1997), pp. 35-36.
[iv] James Heiser, The American Empire Should Be Destroyed: Aleksandr Dugin and the Perils of Immanentized Eschatology (Kindle), pp. 37-43.
[v] One of these monographs was translated for me by a Ukrainian friend almost a decade ago. I cannot find the translated section for citation, but remember it well.
[vii] Dugin, The Fourth Political Theory (Kindle), p, 186.
[viii] Ibid, p. 189.
[ix] Ibid, p. 191.
[x] Ibid.pp. 191-192.
[xi] (475) Interview with Alexander Dugin (Philosophy, 4PT, Education, Mysticism, Theatre) – YouTube
[xii] (475) Alexandr Dugin and John David Ebert in Conversation – YouTube, see the 1:30 – 1:35 section of the recording.
[xiv] Ibid, 1:35:45
[xv] Voegelin, p. 57.
[xvi] Ibid, p. 43.
[xvii] Dietrich Eckart – Wikipedia.
[xviii] Alexander Dugin trans. John Bryant, Last War of the World Island: The Geopolitics of Contemporary Russia (London: Arktos, 2015), pp. 139-140.
[xix] Geopolitik – Wikipedia.
[xx] Heiser, p. 46.
[xxi] Ibid, p. 11.
[xxii] Ibid, p. 104.
[xxiii] Are calls to kill all Ukrainians not extremist? (khpg.org), and Aleksandr Dugin – Wikipedia.
[xxiv] Ibid., p. 119.