Some considerations on sacred geography and geopolitics
One of the aspects that the French metaphysician René Guénon, in his work The kingdom of quantity and the signs of the times, identifies as a manifestation of what he calls the process of “solidification of the world” is the passage from the sphere (universal symbol of the “egg of the world”, of the “womb of divinity” or of the celestial spheres) to the cube (expression of purely earthly materiality). This idea is found in the traditions of the Far East. Here, spherical symbols have always been traced back to heaven (Tien), while cubic forms to earth (Ti). Two terms which in the Hindu tradition correspond to purusha (essence - heaven) and prakriti (substance - earth). A tradition, the Hindu one, which Guénon himself considered as the closest to the primordial reality, but which since the twentieth century has been repeatedly polluted by the germs of “small-nationalism”. In Guénon's perspective, the most evident aspect of the “passage from the sphere to the cube”, therefore of the process of solidification of the world, is represented by the efforts to reduce the nomadic peoples to sedentary life. They no longer have space in the world and, consequently, are forced within the borders of the modern State. These peoples, far from the luxury and excesses of sedentary life, as the great Arab thinker Ibn Khaldun pointed out in the Prolegomena (al-Muqaddimah) to his monumental work “Book of historical examples” (Kitab al-Ibar), would inevitably be closer to the divine. The truth of this intuition, according to the French metaphysician, would be particularly evident in the biblical text itself; when Cain (farmer), jealous of the benevolence that God shows towards his brother Abel (shepherd), kills him and, as an inevitable consequence, cursed by the Creator. The Guenonian analysis on the theme continues by expressly citing Zionist projects towards the Jews as one of the clearest examples of sedentarization / solidification. In this regard, however, it is good to underline that God himself desired the first sedentarization of the Jewish people, that represented in the Bible and inextricably linked to the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Moreover, this remained valid only as long as God kept his presence intact inside the Temple. When God left the Temple, sedentarization also ceased and nomadism returned in the form of dispersion. From this, it inevitably follows that the new sedentarization is nothing more than a forcing against God. Moreover, as such, it is purely a product of modernity that is part of the process of “westernization” of the Holy Land. In this case, “westernization” means a process aimed at the imposition of western modernity on a global scale. The West is the place where modernity (“cultural” and non-temporal concept) has triumphed over the “myth”. The “western” one is the spatial dimension in which the “de-mythization” of being-in was accomplished. Modernity, by depriving man of the “myth”, has inexorably deprived him of the main instrument through which he self-interprets himself. In addition, in doing so, he condemned Being to oblivion and inauthenticity. The West, therefore, has self-deprived itself of the “intermediate world”: of that mystical-imaginal space of sacred geography in which the visions of the prophets and the symbolic events that raise the human soul take place. This “place” has been degraded to a mere “fantasy” that emanates from the unreal, when, on the contrary, the “true Reality” protrudes from it. With the loss of this mundus imaginalis, where man (suspended between the intelligible and the sensible) meets the Sophia (the holy element from which the divine presence is felt in our world), nihilism and atheism took place as a “higher” expression of the forgetfulness of the Being.
Having said that, a reflection that is not entirely in line with what Guénon said becomes necessary. In fact, regarding the process of solidification of nomadic human realities, he forgets to mention what was the condemnation imposed by God on Cain. This reads: “and now be you more cursed than the earth that opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you cultivate the soil it will no longer give you its products, and you will be a wanderer and fugitive on earth” (Genesis 4: 11-12). God actually condemns Cain to nomadism. Consequently, sedentarization cannot be exclusively an expression of spiritual weakening or a progressive fall into the materialistic abyss. This thought derives from an extremism of the idea of chthonic demonism that led to consider the Earth, and its womb, solely as a generator of monsters and titans. In this sense, a different example of the conceptualization of the Earth is represented by Tradition and by the Iranian world in which part of the Indo-European peoples have settled and have built a specific hierarchy focused on the direct relationship with the land. As is known, Iran (or Airyana) derives from the term “arya”, which means “plowman”. This, in turn derived from the root “ar”, also present in different Latin terms with the same meaning, designates a particular honorific title linked inextricably to the Earth as an expression of stability, fixity and sacred space. This purely traditional idea has its foundation in Mazdean angelology. In the doctrine and practice of the Avesta, in fact, in the ritual of the twenty-eighth day of the month, we read: “We celebrate this liturgy in honor of the Earth who is an Angel”. This Angel is Spenta Armaiti (Ahura Mazda's favorite daughter) who “has as its own ieurgia the Earth as a form of existence having Wisdom as Image”. The earth is, therefore, perceived in the person of its Angel who “impersonates” the Sophia of Mazdeism. In addition, the perception of the sofianic mystery of the Earth (therefore, of geosophy) cannot be fulfilled within the framework of a “positive” geography. It presupposes a “visionary” geography. The cartographic process of the ancient Iranians was based on this visionary geography (which transmutes plants, waters and mountains in their imaginal form) which, by superimposing metaphysical geography on physical one, determined their spatial locations directly and fundamentally.
To the Earth, understood in the aforementioned sense of expression of stability, is inevitably opposed the water as a symbol of mobility and dynamism. Therefore, earth and water are the foundation of every human representation of Earth's space. In geopolitical terms, land and water (more properly understood as “sea”) gave birth to the antithetical categories of tellurocracy and thalassocracy. If Marxism conceives world history as a history of class conflict, for geopolitics, world history is interpreted through the struggle between thalassocratic and tellurocratic powers: Athens and Sparta, Carthage and Rome, Great Britain and Russia, Great Britain and Germany, the United States and the USSR, the United States and China. The land, according to a well-known expression by Carl Schmitt, is the “mother of law”. It is full of “sacral locations” which represent the purest expression of traditional human orders. The Schmittian concept of nomos is of fundamental importance for understanding this reality. It indicates the first measurement from which all other measurement criteria derived. It is the norm: that is, the law. And this concept has a purely theological origin. Nomos, in fact, is the god who generated Dike (justice) from Eusebia. The theological essence of this concept is also evident from the definitions that are attributed to it by various Greek authors. Heraclitus defines the nomos as “divine”; Pindar defines it as “sovereign” while the Platonists and the Stoics even define it as “god”. In particular, Pindar proclaims the absolute dominance of the nomos, that is, of the divine law, over all existing beings. Nomos is king over all beings: rule and guiding principle. It is what Zeus, according to Hesiod, has arranged for men. At the same time, according to the Stoics, it is the rational law according to which everything in the world is prepared by Providence.
It is also good to remember that justice, as it was interpreted at the origins of European civilization, was a metaphysical and not a moral concept. Justice was the set of laws that provided for the being of the entity. Therefore, it was the philosophy understood in the real sense of the term: as essential knowledge and fundamental foundation of the whole political being and, consequently, geopolitical. Geopolitics, in fact, derives directly from the aforementioned “sacral locations”. It is on earth that the link between sovereignty, law, culture / religion and territory has been established. This connection is proven by the semantic parental that exists between the terms rex (the holder of the authority necessary to delimit the borders) and regio (the regional space). The two words would in fact descend from the same Indo-European root. The Latin rex and the Sanskrit raj-(an) would refer to an ancient reg which the linguist Beneviste in his Indo-European Institutions Vocabulary connects to the Greek orégo (spread in a straight line). This meaning would be evident precisely in the Latin term regio, which originally did not indicate a region as physically defined as the point reached by a straight line drawn on the ground or in the sky and, subsequently, the space between lines drawn in different directions. The expression “regere fines”, which is literally about to draw borders in a straight line, therefore indicated the operation of a magical-ritual nature, preceding the construction of a temple or a city, by the rex or priest (he who was invested with maximum power ) in order to indicate the consecrated space on the ground by delimiting the interior and the exterior, the kingdom of the sacred from the profane space, the “national” territory in which it was possible to live from a foreign territory. Thus every expression of building involved a ritual and a symbolism coming from an ancient past. Cities were built in the image of their celestial archetype. And each of them was in its own way the center of the world: a sacred territory in which direct communication between heaven and earth was made possible.
The border itself, the limes, had a sacred value. In Roman times, it was protected by the God Terminus who, according to Ovid, marked the borders of peoples, cities and great kingdoms. His role, according to George Dumézil, corresponded to a main feature of the sovereign god adored by the Indo-Europeans. Only later, with the imperial development of Rome, this characteristic was applied to an autonomous divinity. The concept of limes, understood as a set of fortifications extended along the borders where these were not marked by the sea or by a river (ripa), inevitably refers to the concept of “Empire”. The Empire, although representing (in Heideggerian terms) a deviation from the initial essence of Greekness (having in some way imposed the primacy of action on thought by splitting the original co-belonging of the two terms), still constitutes the culmination par excellence of the associated life of man. The idea of the individual of the modern age and forged through the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and the bourgeois revolutions of the late eighteenth century is alien to the idea of Empire. The Empire, by its nature, tends towards an end that takes on meaning only through forms of community sharing of human life. In this context, the individual rediscovers his own value through a sense of active belonging to a community that is both political and spiritual. This associated life is expressed in a precise division of labor on a hierarchical scale in which each level still enjoys, unlike what is imposed by the modernist regression, the same degree of dignity. It assumes the function of supreme regulator of the relations between the different peoples (ethnos) that compose it. Peaceful coexistence is sanctioned by the unique will of government, which is a direct expression of the divine will. Indeed, the Empire is the instrument through which divine law becomes reality. Sovereignty, therefore, is based on respect and loyalty to a principle of a higher order. The Empire, as an institution that brings together temporal and spiritual power, is the only political system capable of carrying out man's earthly and heavenly mission. Furthermore, in a purely Christian perspective (which already represents its pollution in some way) it is an instrument of the liberation of man from the consequences of sin. This sin consists in that removal of man from God which originated the violence of predatory and selfish instincts.
The redemption from this situation can only take place by divine election. The principles of the earth, elected by God for this purpose, have the task of curbing the criminal human drives and restoring the order destroyed by sin. In fact, according to the Pauline tradition, the Empire is the Katéchon: the power that slows the advance of evil. This “figure” appears in the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. In this letter, the apostle stated that the second coming of Christ is not imminent and that before the new parousia of the Lord, the great apostasy must take place by the one who is described as “the man of iniquity”. However, according to Saint Paul, the mystery of crime was already in progress when he wrote the letter; but the final apostasy is temporarily impeded by “what holds back” (tò katèchon). A braking power was identified by Tertullian and others in the Roman Empire. It was what held the aeon, causing the end to be postponed. In more recent times Carl Schmitt used the term katéchon to indicate a braking force that tries to oppose the destruction of a political order. Now, the following question is inevitable: in what can evil be identified in the modern era? It consists in the loss / cancellation of the aforementioned link between sovereignty, law, culture / religion and territory. It is the detachment from the root. It is by losing contact with the consecrated land that man loses his being in the world. Evil is the uniformity of this world: its deprivation of spatial distinctions by means of thalassocratic power that knows no boundaries but only “security zones”. Consequently, the borders, deprived of their sacred value for some time, are deleted and redefined according to the needs of the hegemonic power of turn. Thus, the Empire is transformed into imperialism and the spatial extension becomes mere quantitative accumulation of space. The thalassocratic empire is a containing without content or whose content is counterfeit. That is, it is homologated space: a pure virtuality that exists only in the context of geographical-ideological counterfeiting. Homologating uniformity is never “unity”. Man, an individual atom, is separated from the others by “social” necessity, but must in any case be standardized on an ideological-cultural level. This uniformity is a caricature of unity: an ideal upside down, a mere deception, the very negation of unity. And this is what Anglo-American imperialism consists of, which, aware of the fact that a geopolitical orientation is always primarily a spiritual orientation, it saw well to build one in his own image and likeness. In this precise historical / temporal moment it is necessary to fight this “uniformity”. Nevertheless, it is clear that it cannot be fought by replacing it with a different kind of uniformity that rejects or limits to the minimum terms the previous ideological approach but which, at the same time, reproduces the same apparatus of technical-military-financial domination under the guise of an alleged “multiplicity” of falsely independent States. And the approach to be followed to combat this uniformity must be purely geopolitical in the precise awareness that the future global order is destined to develop in the sense of a pluriversum of large spaces and that the Empire, as a truly unitary political-spiritual construction, has a perennial possibility that transcends all historical contingencies.
Original text by Daniele Perra:
Translation by Costantino Ceoldo