Acedia—The Underlying Affliction of White Civilization

“It is also good to recall what Abba Moses, one of the most experienced of the fathers, told me. I had not been living long in the desert when I was troubled by listlessness [i.e., acedia]. So I went to him and said: Yesterday I was greatly troubled and weakened by listlessness, and I was not able to free myself from it until I went to see Abba Paul. Abba Moses replied to me by saying: So far from freeing yourself from it, you have surrendered to it completely and become its slave. You must realize that it will attack all the more severely because you have deserted your post, unless from now on you strive to subdue it through patience, prayer and manual labor.” --John Cassian, Sayings of the Desert Fathers

In his recent speech at NPI, Richard Spencer referred to White people as "the Children of the Sun.” It was a wonderful speech, perhaps the best Spencer has ever given. But something about this line troubled me. If it is true that we are the “Children of the Sun,” then how is it that we are so afflicted by sloth, despair, and spiritual dissipation? By what dark art has the pervasive sense of purposelessness penetrated the White soul, which once contemplated the great mysteries of the cosmos and produced unequaled beauty as it stretched out towards God?

We are today a people utterly consumed with sportsball and pornography, a restless craving after novelty, and a distaste for honest labor. We import millions of brown immigrants to “do the jobs that White people won’t do,” while we idle our time away admiring the athletic prowess of football players or tittering over the latest degeneracy out of Hollywood. The Children of the Sun have become butthole worshippers and dildo connoisseurs.

Not all of us, of course. Certainly not the gentle readers of this website. But far, far too many, enough that that our civilization as a whole seems on the verge of suicidal collapse.

There are geopolitical, ethnic, and economic reasons, to be sure. Those are well-covered elsewhere. Here, I hope to offer a spiritual explanation, for there is always a spiritual dimension to our earthly struggles; evil does not operate on merely the physical plane. It is my belief that we are beset as a people by what the desert fathers called “The Noonday Demon,” or acedia.

What is acedia? We seldom hear of it these days (which itself ought to arouse suspicion). Pre-Christian writers like Cicero and Empedocles used the word to denote the failure to bury the dead among some “low cultures,” who would simply leave the bodies to rot under the sun or be picked at by wild animals. Translated literally, it means “lack of care.”

The desert fathers considered it the most deadly of the demons. It attacked them during fasting and prayer, causing them to leave their cells and monastic life in despair. It turned their love of their brothers into disgust. It rendered them lazy, careless, and minimalist in their devotions.

For St. Thomas Aquinas, it was characterized by two main symptoms: a) sadness or revulsion about that which is spiritually good and b) disgust with activity. It struck unexpectedly against even the most devout, robbing them of their joy and their productivity.

The old monks knew all too well the symptoms of acedia in individuals: distaste for manual labor, disgust at the signs and symbols of holiness, restlessness, purposelessness. But I wonder if they could have imagined an entire society under its thrall. I doubt it.

Modern Western civilization has gone further than Evagrius or Cassian could possibly have imagined, for we have not merely fallen victim to acedia, we have enthroned it at the very heart of our culture. We would worship it as a god, if only we believed that gods could exist.

Consider our symptoms:

1) Purposelessness Our civilization lacks anything resembling a transcendent organizing principle. We are atomized, de-spiritualized. We seek restlessly after pleasure and avoid suffering at all costs. An individual might find “purpose” in anything ranging from adopting shelter pets to “saving” the environment, but these are mere imitations of a broader unifying purpose that binds us together.

Anomie and alienation—from labor, from religion, from anything transcendent and true—these are the signs of our times. We aim only for temporary relief from our state of purposelessness through sportsball and various entertainments. We have lost all hope for a cure.

2) Aversion to holy things Nowhere in our popular media can one find any hint of religiosity, unless it is held up as an object of ridicule. TV families never attend church, never pray together, and never engage on anything approaching a spiritual level. An alien civilization trying to understand planet Earth based on TV transmissions would conclude that we have no sense whatsoever of the divine.

Our “holidays” have been de-consecrated and transvalued as consumerist bacchanals.

Even our churches have come to resemble brutalist tombs or highway rest stops. Gone are the icons and statues, the ornate altars, the soaring spires and the meticulously wrought stained glass windows. Catholics no longer keep Holy Water in their homes. They no longer hang pictures of Mary and Jesus and the Saints—such things are maudlin, kitschy reminders of an oppressive past from which we constantly flee.

3) Pornography and sexual libertinism 1/3 of young American men are addicted to pornography. Over 2/3 of all American men view pornography on at least a monthly basis. Imagine for a moment a society in which these numbers of people were addicted to, say, meth or crack cocaine. How long could such a society lumber forward pretending that all was well?

Pornography attacks people at the vocational level, at the point of their connection to God and their specific purpose in life. For singles, it directs them away from the healthy and productive pursuit of a mate. For married people, it utterly destroys the basis of marriage, substituting ephemeral pleasure for loving and generative conjugality. For priests and religious, it pulls them into selfishness and revulsion towards “real people,” thereby destroying their ability to serve as a “pontifex” or bridge to the divine.

4) Moral relativism In the modern world, truth is an illusion or, worse, a form of bigotry. To assert Truth boldly is to invite scorn and to risk dismissal from polite society. Ironic detachment is the safe intellectual and social position. If all truth is relative, then the very quest for truth becomes absurd and pointless. Man is thereby cut off from the divine and restricted in his operations to a domain of pure will. The natural law is an illusion, as man cannot trust even his own attraction towards the good. This is the complete overthrow of the Thomistic conception of human nature in favor of epistemology; things have no meaning in and of themselves, but only in their relationship to other things.

Purposelessness is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism.

5) Despair Over 15% of US adults are now taking prescription anti-depressants, and the number continues to climb rapidly. An even larger percentage "self-medicates.”

For us moderns, despair is becoming the baseline condition of life, something that can be treated pharmaceutically and hedonically but never cured. Despair in the Christian sense is the belief that one is beyond all salvation, cut off from the sanctifying grace of God through the Holy Spirit. “Salvation is for others, not for me,” says the man in despair, “for surely my sinfulness is so great that God Himself cannot redeem me.”

6) Transhumanism One of the features of acedia on the individual level is a sense disgust with our physical bodies. The elites of our culture now openly advocate “transhumanism” as a means to immortality, perfect health, and even moral perfection. We have come to despise our own nature to such an extent that we want to extinguish it.

The “hero’s path” of personal sanctity, self-sacrifice, and spiritual exertion towards sainthood is too difficult. How much better, then, would it be to substitute machine logic for moral thinking? If it is inherent in human nature to sin, to suffer, and to need redeeming grace, then the solution must surely be to change human nature itself!

This is a form of cowardice and self-loathing. It is a resentment towards God that justifies satanic rebellion. If we are too disillusioned by our shortcomings to indulge in Pride, then we will eliminate those shortcomings and become God.

7) Perpetual need for change In a society governed by acedia, the relief of boredom is the ultimate good. We dart from one novel pursuit to another in order to “kill time.” Our politics is dominated by Current Year-ism in which all accumulated wisdom is tossed out in favor of stimulating intellectual fads.

Nothing can remain fixed or stable, for a thing that is fixed and stable too closely resembles God. No; We must have constant, churning chaos. All that was once true and beautiful must be replaced and demonized. Perpetual revolution in thoughts, fashions, morals, and politics is the rule.

8) False humility The monk who was in the early stages of acedia was often overcome with a sense of false humility. “I do not seek spiritual greatness,” he would say. “I seek only to be content with the small things within my grasp.” He aimed for mediocrity and nothing more. This led of course to a certain moral laxity, a minimalism with respect to his devotions, and a festering resentment of those who remained on the “hero’s path” toward sainthood.

The modern religion of virtue-signalling stems from a kind of false humility and spiritual mediocrity. Personal sanctity is too inconvenient, too taxing for most moderns. But even the most recalcitrant sinner is aware of his own disobedience to natural law. We know that we must “be good,” even when we are doing evil. How then can modern man atone without actually having to sacrifice anything? By having “the right thoughts” and broadcasting them as loudly as possible, of course. Virtue signaling is an ersatz morality, a form of cheap grace by which the signaler hopes to find a shortcut to sainthood.

When did all of this begin? It is hard to say, but Acedia is called the Noonday Devil for a reason. Alone among the denizens of Hell, it dared to venture forth under the mid-day sun. I think it is likely, therefore, that acedia began its long campaign against us at the “mid-day” of our cultural development, that is to say in the late Middle Ages. However unintentional and unforeseen, the Reformation created an opening for the subversion and distraction of Christendom.

The great German thinker Max Weber wrote about the process of “dis-enchantment” (Entzauberung in German) in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism:

“The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental…

"After Nietzsche’s devastating criticism of those 'last men' who 'invented happiness,' there is probably no need for me to remind you of the naïve optimism with which we once celebrated science, or the technology for the mastery of life based on it, as the path to happiness. Who believes this, apart from a few overgrown children occupying university chairs or editorial offices?”

The thrust of German Protestantism was towards rationalism and economy, towards dis-enchantment. To the Calvinists and their descendants, mystical science was not only inadequate to the task of explaining the world, it stood as a primary obstacle. Therefore, mysticism itself had to be shattered and replaced with pure reason. Imbued with this revolutionary zeal, Calvinist man marched boldly into the forest, casting the light of his intellect among the trees and chasing away the sprites and elves, the dryads and nyads, the very demons themselves. The concept of external evil itself became a matter of some dispute. Could not good and evil be better explained by the contradictions of man’s own psyche? What if they were not independent forces acting upon us, but rather projections of our own primitive mind?

It is a straight path from dis-enchantment to disillusion, from Calvinism to acedia.

But what can we do about it? Mere awareness of some evil is enough to chase it away, but not so with the Noonday Devil. We turn again to the Desert Fathers, whose long struggle with acedia gave them unique insights into its cure. Evagrius and Cassian give us 5 remedies:

1) Tears before God What does this mean? Is it manly to cry? Is it not a sign of weakness?

In a sense, yes. For Evagrius and the Desert Fathers, tears had “an essential meaning.” They were an acknowledgement that we need to be saved, that we cannot go it alone. As a child who is injured approaches a parent in tears, so can we approach God with our lament over the state of our people.

Tears before God signify humility and obedience. Given the forces arrayed against us—political and spiritual—we cannot do this by ourselves. We cannot save ourselves from genocide and extinction without divine intervention.

2) Prayer and Work (Ora et Labora) All schoolchildren used to learn that “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” This is a kind of inoculation against acedia.

For the mature man or woman, it is about being prayerful and intentional in all things. Prayer and work go together. This is true both in our daily labors and in our great efforts to resist our own genocide and displacement. We must make our efforts holy by offering them up to God. If we are purely self-willed, we will fall into error and despondency. If we focus on the material and temporal without addressing the spiritual condition of our people, we will end in acedia and failure, for de-sanctified, atomized activity of any kind is doomed to failure.

Our resistance to the designs of the Jews against us must therefore be spiritual, mental, and political. We must be penitential warriors, like our Crusader ancestors.

3) Contradiction Passivity in the face of evil is not a virtue. In the Rule of St. Benedict, postulants and brothers were commanded to “dash evil thoughts against Christ, as soon as they come into your heart.” Evil left unchecked would flower and multiply in the heart.

This was a reflection of the Christian re-interpretation of Psalm 137:9:

“O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one! How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the Rock.”

For the Jews, this disturbing verse had been but one of the numerous calls to genocide and infanticide in the name of vengeance. The Church, however, understood it in the light of the Gospel. Babylon represented the evil of worldliness. Her “little ones” were the small evil thoughts that constantly harassed and tempted the Christian penitent. To dash them against “the rock” was a reference to taking them before Christ and destroying them before they grew to maturity.

We might say today that we must resist pozz in all of its forms. When we encounter it, we must be ruthless in breaking it against the rock of the Lord. Don’t toy with it. Don’t tolerate it. This is the only way to deal with degeneracy.

4) Meditation on death Older rosaries and chaplets often had a small skull bead attached to them near the cross. These beads were called Memento Mori, or reminders of death. The idea was to contemplate one’s own mortality as one worked through the mysteries of the Rosary. By maintaining an awareness of one’s own mortality, one was better able to focus on transcendent truth, the “last things.”

What is true for the individual is also true for the tribe. We must maintain an awareness of the fragility of our condition. We can be genocided. We can go extinct. The future of our children is not secure. We must not delude ourselves into believing that things will always be as they once were or are now. Many, many peoples throughout the unhappy history of this world have consoled themselves with such falsehoods, only to be extinguished in their weakness.

5) Perseverance We are not defeated until we surrender. Our enemies never rest. They plot constantly for our destruction. It is tempting, given the overwhelming strength arrayed against us, to give up and accept defeat. This temptation will never go away because it is one of the main spiritual weapons our enemies use against us.

By the simple act of perseverance—of continuing to resist and exist—we win small victories.

Acedia is a terrible enemy, perhaps the greatest enemy our people face in the modern age. But the ancient writings of Evagrius not only teach us how to fight it, they give us great consolation. For Acedia is also the last enemy for the penitent warrior:

“No other demon follows close upon the heels of this one when he is defeated but only a state of deep peace and inexpressible joy arise out of this struggle.”

After acedia comes the beatific vision, the mysteries of the cosmos in all its splendor and the confidence that one has, in the words of Paul, “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.” Acedia is the Devil’s final solution, as it were. He has nothing left to throw at us if we resist it.

Dane Alighieri experienced this firsthand in the Divine Comedy, which might itself be interpreted as a meditation on acedia. It opens with the poet saying:

“In the middle of my life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered off the straight path. How hard it is to tell what it was like, this wilderness savage and stubborn (the very thought of it brings back all my old fears). A bitter place! Death itself could scarce be bitterer. But if I would show the good that came of it, I must talk about things other than the good.”

Dante represents all of us in this passage. He had lost his sense of purpose and his desire for action. He was bewildered and depressed. Virgil came to him and showed him all of the cosmos, from the depths of the Inferno, through the purifying fire of Purgatory, and finally Paradise itself. The voyage was painful—even terrifying—at times, and Dante was sorely tempted to give up and return to his life of dissipation. He did not. His reward was wisdom and life everlasting. He had defeated acedia and found the “peace and inexpressible joy” promised by Evagrius.

Brothers and sisters—this struggle is a gift. It is our opportunity for purification and redemption and final victory. Yes, we face terrible enemies both political and spiritual. Haven’t we always? Surely, we could not claim to be the Children of the Sun if we were not called to defeat the darkness?