I just read the book Anthony Ludovici: The Lost Philosopher. Ludovici was a British philosopher, who lived from 1882 to 1971. Ludovici would be an interesting study for anyone interested in the alternate right or radical traditionalism. Although some of his material is dated, the majority of his material is still germane today. The first chapter is on religion. Ludovici immediately goes to the topic of ‘Nature’ to prove that the religion of Christianity is unnatural and why.
Ludovici gives several interesting quotes in regards to life’s processes in both plants and animals. Speaking of the natural world Ludovici says, “They give fair field or no favor to all alike, no matter what kind … from the amoeba to man there is probably no animal which is not attacked by some parasite…” Ludovici points out to his readers that there is no fairness in the attacks of the parasite and all creatures are preyed upon. Young or old, rich or poor, deserving or undeserving, there is no discrimination when it comes to nature. You survive or you don’t. The often used words, “It isn’t fair!” would be a very apt description of life.
Ludovici continued with another train of thought in regards to the “will to survive.” Ludovici indicated that there is more going on in nature than just the desire to live. Ludovici says, “… They do not merely sustain their own lives; they obtrude themselves on other lives, even other lives belonging to their own species. They all assault, invade and trespass on alien territory … the need to discharge their strength, to make something else pay .. Their first concern … is enjoy using an expressing energy, if possible at the cost of some other life …” Ludovici then continued on by giving several examples to prove his point that life forms seek to invade and dominate all they can reach. Ludovici is saying that survival is not enough, all life has a drive to expand and conquer.
At this point, one might be inclined to assume that man is not an animal and what applies to nature does not apply to man, in other words man is supernatural above nature. Ludovici continues, “It is a false dichotomy to think of Nature and man. Mankind is that factor in Nature which exhibits its most intensive form of the plasticity of Nature.” In other words man can not be removed from the Nature that is within him. A great deal of man’s behavior could be explained by the following quote, “So there appears to be substantial grounds for the view that a striving after supremacy or power is the basic trend of all nature.”
Lodovici then tackles the concepts of liberal idealism of man’s nature when he states, “What can be the good, then, of speaking of ‘eternal peace’ or a future of ‘loving concord’ for all mankind, or any state in which rivalry of some kind, violence, high-handed apportion … wholly eliminated …That in all of nature there is no trace of any such morality. On the contrary every kind of thuggery, deception, fraud, duplicity and mendacity finds its ablest and most unscrupulous exponents in nature … It is hopeless to seek the sources of human morality in nature … In the social life of man, morality becomes a means … of regulating customary conduct that made communal survival possible …” Therefore that which promotes community or group cohesion and survival is moral; and that which does not is immoral.
While reading all of this, this writer’s mind began to wander making connections with Ludovici’s words and the writer’s previous experiences. And of all things, the movie Conan the Barbarian came to mind. Conan the Cimmerian was a character created by Texan Robert E. Howard. The movie Conan the Barbarian was loosely based on Howard’s character, but did not mirror the original. The movie script was written by John Milius and Oliver Stone. The movie opens with a smith hammering a glowing sword repeatedly on an anvil hardening the steel as the movie is introduced. The opening reminds one of Siegfried forging his sword.
The movie moves to a conversation between a young Conan and his father, the tribal sword smith and possibly the tribal king. Conan’s father explains to Conan, the Cimmerian myth of the beginning of the world and how during a battle with the giants, the Gods accidentally left steel on the battlefield allowing man to purloin steel angering the Gods. Conan’s father said, “The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle Conan. You must learn it’s discipline. For no one- no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts.” Conan’s father points to the sword and continues, “This you can trust.” Enemies and dangers are everywhere, one must trust in himself. It sounds very much like something out of the Havamal.
The die is cast from the beginning, although the norns are unseen. The opening sequence of hammering the steel to make it hard, sharp and dangerous is an allegory for Conan’s future life of being hammered by adversity making him hard, sharp and dangerous. Conan’s village comes under attack by the warriors of Thulsa Doom, who are seeking Conan’s father’s sword. Steel is rare and valuable, equating to power. Conan watches Thulsa Doom behead his mother and take his deceased father’s sword. All of the tribe is murdered except for the children, who are taken away as slaves. If possible, Conan must now avenge the murders of his father, mother and people to properly secure their place in the next world.
Conan is now a nonperson, a slave without any rights or any expectation of survival or worth. Without a tribe, what value does he have? Conan is taken to a great mill that is reminiscent of the World Mill of Germanic mythology. Conan slaves away turning the mill like the giantesses of old, until he is a man and the only one left alive at the mill. Conan has been hammered and he has grown strong and hard, but he is not sharp. Conan is taken from the mill and used as a gladiator for the enjoyment of the mob. Conan is awkward at first, but his sheer strength prevails and he survives. Conan fights in many gladiatorial contests and kills without discrimination or remorse. Conan is a talented killer.
Conan is taken to a sword master for training to make him sharp. Conan is taught poetry and tactics and he is used for breeding stock like a herd bull. Conan appears to be in the service of a Genghis Khan type warlord. Hammered strong and sharp, Conan is miraculously set free by his handler. Conan now runs for his freedom pursued by hungry wolves. With the wolves on his heals, like the wolves Skoll and Hati chasing the sun and the moon, Conan seeks refuge on top of a burial mound.
Conan falls through the top of the mound into the tomb. Inside of the tomb there is a dead Cimmerian king sitting on a throne holding a great sword. If one is familiar with heathen lore, one concludes immediately that Conan has entered the tomb of one of his ancestors. Conan takes the sword from the hand of the dead king and becomes himself. Conan was the king in a previous life. Conan has experienced a mystical experience and he realizes that he has the soul of a king. Empowered Conan emerges from the tomb as his true self, an uncrowned Cimmerian king. Conan then slays the two wolves waiting for him and wears their skins like a úlfheðnar (wolf skin warrior).
Conan’s next adventure is with a witch, who unsuccessfully tries to slay Conan after seducing him. The following day Conan meets his first companion, Subotai a Mongolian style archer. Subotai has been chained to a rock to be eaten by wolves because he is a thief. Conan sets Subotai free and they travel together to the town of Shadizar, where the witch told Conan that he could find Thulsa Doom. Conan and Subotai determine that Thulsa Doom has a temple devoted to his god Set in the town. Conan and Subotai decide to break into the Temple of Set and in the process of the burglary; they come into contact with Conan’s second companion the beautiful Valeria, who is also in the process of burglarizing the temple. The trio complete the burglary together after Conan slays Thulsa Doom’s snake, reminiscent of Sigurd slaying the dragon Fafnir. The burglars make off with many jewels and valuables including the “Eye of Set.”
The trio celebrate their successful burglary by going on a drunken spree. Valeria falls in love with Conan and she becomes totally devoted to him. The trio is too conspicuous and are arrested by the city guards before being taken to King Osric for judgement. Instead of being punished by King Osric for the burglary, he rewards them with jewels. King Osric is a fellow Northmen and king by his own hand; however King Osric is now too old for war. King Osric reveals that he hates Thulsa Doom and his cult of Set. King Osric explains to the trio that the cult of Set is not about love and peace, but about murder and control. King Osric then hires the trio as mercenaries to return his daughter, who has runaway to be with Thulsa Doom.
After being set free, Subotai and Valeria want to leave with what they have and not pursue the sorcerer Thulsa Doom. Conan must follow his desire for revenge and he sets out alone. During Conan’s journey to Thulsa Doom’s main stronghold, Conan comes into contact with his third companion, the wizard Akiro. Akiro, who lives alone as a caretaker at an ancient battle site, becomes friends with Conan. Conan leaves his horse and armor with Akiro and travels in disguise as a “love and peace” type follower of Set in order to enter the strong hold. Conan enters the stronghold, but he is recognized as an “infidel.” Conan is arrested and taken to Thula Doom, where is beaten to get Conan to reveal the location of the items he had stolen from the temple at Shadizar.
When Thulsa Doom confronts, Conan about the theft, Conan replies, “You killed my mother, You killed my father. You killed my people! You took my father’s sword!” Thulsa Doom, who did not recall the murders, sighed and replied, “It must have been when I was younger. There was a time boy when I searched for steel. And steel meant more to me than gold or jewels.” Conan replied to Doom, “The Riddle of Steel.” Thulsa Doom replied to Conan, “Yes! You know what it is don’t you boy? Shall I tell you? It is the least I can do. Steel isn’t strong, boy, flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks; a beautiful girl. Come to me my child.” The girl obeys, steps forward and falls to her death.
Thulsa Doom exclaims, “That is strength boy! That is power! The strength and power of flesh! What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength of your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this! Such a waste. contemplate this on the Tree of Woe! Crucify him!” In the next scene, we see Conan nailed to a tree similar to Yggdrasil. Conan’s hanging from the tree is Conan’s second mystical experience, similar to that of Odin hanging from the World Tree, Yggdrasil. Conan like Odin, reaches into the depths of his soul to examine all things.
In a near death state, Conan is rescued from the tree by Subotai and taken to the wizard Akiro. Valeria convinces Akrio to contact the neither world and make a deal for Conan’s life. Akiro advises Valeria the Gods would require a heavy price to save Conan’s life. Valeria says that she would pay any price. Akiro works his magic and Conan is saved. Conan slowly recovers and the trio make their plans to return to the stronghold and kidnap King Osric’s daughter.
The trio sneak into Thulsa Doom’s stronghold undetected and make a startling discovery, when they enter the inner sanctum. They find the insiders in the middle of an orgy and a feast of human flesh. While the outer members of the cult believe the cult is about peace and love, the cult insiders are indulging themselves in violence, cannibalism and sex. The trio attack the cult with overwhelming violence and abduct the princess. While the trio are escaping, Thulsa Doom fashions a snake into an arrow and shoots Valeria.
Valeria dies from her wound paying her debt to the Gods for saving Conan’s life. Conan burns Valeria’s body in a scene somewhat reminiscent of Odin burning his son Baldr’s body. Because of Valeria’s love for Conan, she becomes a flygia or follower/protector of Conan. Conan, Subotai and the wizard Akiro prepare for a counter attack from Thulsa Doom. Soon enough the battle begins, as Thulsa Doom, his lieutenants, Rexor and Thorgrim along with a troop of cavalry arrive. Conan negates the advantage of superior numbers and cavalry by fighting from among the rocks and the use of traps. Conan, Subotai and Akiro kill everyone but Rexor and Thulsa Doom.
Rexor, who is wielding Conan’s father’s sword, attacks Conan and defeats him. As Rexor is about to deliver Conan a death-blow, Valeria appears and blocks the sword stroke, much like a Valkyrja from the lore. Valeria momentarily blinds Rexor giving Conan time to recover. Valeria urges Conan to get up and fight when she says to Conan, “Do you want to live forever?” Valeria then disappears. Conan gets to his feet and attacks Lexor. Lexor is trying to block Conan’s sword cut with his sword and Conan breaks Lexor’s sword. Conan then slays Lexor and recovers his father’s broken sword. When Conan breaks his father’s sword, he symbolically destroys his father’s ascendancy over him.
Thulsa Doom, who has watched the battle from afar, fashions a snake into an arrow and shoots at the Princess to keep anyone else from having her. Subotai blocks the arrow with his shield saving the princess. Thulsa Doom flees the battlefield back to his fortress. When Thulsa Doom tried to kill the princess, he broke the spell he had over her and she could see him for what he was. When Thulsa Doom returned to his fortress, he assembled his followers in the darkness. As Thulsa Doom was urging his followers of “love and peace” to return to their homes and kill, “washing away all that has gone before;” the princess was helping Conan sneak into the fortress.
As Thulsa Doom is addressing his followers, Conan confronts him from behind. When Thulsa Doom sees Conan, he looks into Conan’s eyes with a hypnotic gaze as he says, “My child, you have come to me my son. For who now is your father if it is not me? I am the wellspring from which you flow. When I am gone, you will never have been. What would your world be without me?” Thulsa Doom reaches out and touches Conan on the shoulder as he says, “My son, my son.” Conan was momentarily hypnotized by Thulsa Doom, but he overcame Doom’s mind control. Conan used his father’s broken sword to slay and behead Thulsa Doom. Conan holds up Doom’s severed head for all of the cult members to see, before he tosses it down the temple steps. Thulsa Doom’s spell over the cult is broken and they quietly leave the temple as Conan drops his father’s broken sword on the steps.
Many people hate this movie saying that it is racist, sexist, and violent. You have the hated Aryan looking white male overcoming and slaying the black male playing Thulsa Doom. And it is easy to see that the “Cult of Set” represents liberalism. The rank and file followers of the cult believe in universal love and peace, while the inner circle use mind control techniques to control the masses of the their followers (I believe they have a saying, “The masses are a**es”). For the cult, violence is cloaked in a rhetoric of love giving rise to power. Thulsa Doom is urging his followers to go forth and “Wash away all that has gone before.” Is that not the goal of liberalism, to destroy the foundation of traditional western culture?
Conan, representing the traditional pre-Christian western values of strength, honor and loyalty; overcomes the cult of liberalism. Conan has not been feminized, he is a man. Conan is a natural man, he does not resist the urge to expand, overcome opposition and conquer. Many Christians do not like the movie, because they do not understand the subtleties of pre-Christian motifs. The script writers did some research and with a superficial understanding of heathen lore, they produced a script that is heathen tolerable.
The Riddle of Steel is never directly answered in the movie. Thulsa Doom indicated that he had evolved beyond steel and he used mind control (sorcery) to dominate and get what he wanted. “What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?” However, when mind control did not get Thulsa Doom what he wanted, he quickly resorted having his problems solved the old-fashioned way with steel or violence. The riddle is probably in the synthesis of flesh and steel, but that is a guess. Would Anthony Ludovici liked the movie? I don’t know, but I do know that he would have understood it.