What if Julius Evola had written a samurai treatise? What if Lao Tzu had written a long, systematic book of philosophy instead of the short, poetic chapters of the Tao Te Ching? What if the famed, long-lost book On Nature by Heraclitus – he who was called “The Dark” – were to be found and published?
In each case, the book might look something like Ivan Throne‘s The Nine Laws. Published by Vox Day’s Castalia House imprint, The Nine Laws is unlike any other book I have read in recent years. Its most direct influences would seem to be the philosophical and military classics of ancient Japan and China. As I have written elsewhere, as a long-time student of these traditions myself, I find their study by Westerners to be problematic and full of many potential pitfalls, especially in the current era of Western cultural amnesia and self-loathing. But Mr. Throne does not come across as some sort of xenophilic hippie rambling about cosmic consciousness and oneness. In contrast, he went to Japan as a teenager and spent years learning the art of Ninjutsu. Then he returned to the West, where he has created a successful life for himself, and now wishes to pass on the fruits of his experiences to the younger generations. (Having never met Mr. Throne, I must work on the assumption that the personal details he offers of himself are true – a hazard of this “dark world” that we inhabit.)
In my experience, the Westerners who choose to study Asian martial arts tend to be all-around healthier individuals than those who attempt to practice Eastern religions like Buddhism, Daoism, or Hinduism. The former group still end up absorbing some of the principles and insights of the Eastern spiritual paths, because they are so embedded in the martial traditions of those cultures. But because the martial arts are of necessity a practical undertaking, their practitioners do not tend towards the dissolution of character and identity that certain religious or quasi-spiritual worldviews can bring about or even encourage. A man claiming to be “enlightened” might evade disproof of his claim through sophistry and cunning, and his disciples might be made resistant to any criticism of their master through brainwashing of one sort or another. But a man’s claim to be a warrior is easily challenged, and easily verified or disproven.
The writing style of The Nine Laws reminds me very much of William Scott Wilson’s translations from the Japanese of such classics as Hagakure and The Book of Five Rings. What I have always liked about the Eastern classics – as filtered through competent Western translation – is the terse presentation. Blunt statement of fact overcomes the feeble non-commitment that masquerades as open-mindedness in so much liberal discourse. As G.K. Chesterton said, an open mind is like an open mouth – eventually it needs to close on something.
The Nine Laws is not an easy read, nor is it meant to be. I know that I will read it again, and find something new that I missed the first time around. I might offer that as a criticism – that Mr. Throne moves too quickly through too many points and does not take enough time to elaborate – except that I might offer the same criticism of life itself, and in both cases I would be met with indifference. The dark world, as Mr. Throne terms this realm we inhabit, doesn’t care if you can keep up or not. Fortunately, a book, unlike time, can be studied at one’s own pace.
This is a book that deals in principles, not specifics. As in the teachings of Confucius, one is encouraged to grasp the root of situations in order to understand them deeply and discern the best way to work with them. To do this, a kind of meditative awareness is required, an ability to see things objectively, rather than being swayed by one’s individual passions, hopes and fears.
The foundation of the book is the system of nine laws that the author has created. If, like Nietzsche, you are distrustful of systems (“The will to a system is the will to a lie,” he said) you will be happy to find that the ninth law represents the collapse of the whole system into chaos, like the collapse of the world-order into kali yuga or Ragnarok. One of the paradoxes one must grasp is that the dark world does have laws, and one of those laws is that there are no laws. This section of the book reminded me of Peter Carroll’s writings on chaos magic, especially his notion that laughter is the supreme non-dual emotion.
It’s important that this truth of no-laws is the last of the nine laws. One of the mistakes that people are prone to in these times is jumping into advanced, esoteric views without the necessary foundation. In the martial arts, as in the fine arts, one strives to move beyond technique by mastering technique, not by ignoring it or skipping over it. As the otherwise detestable Aleister Crowley put it, “The way out is through.”
The other formula at the heart of the book is the “dark triad” of the personality traits of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. This was something I initially rolled my eyes at, since many of the discussions of this “dark triad” amount to little more than saying that chicks dig bad boys and therefore men should be jerks, as though the highest form of Western man were Patrick Bateman. However, for the Dark Triad Man, as Mr. Throne calls the ideal that he sets forth, that is not what it’s about.
Throughout the many chapters of the book are elucidations of different aspects of the traits called psychopathy, Machievellianism, and narcissism. In the course of reading, I began to see that, when distilled down to their essences, each of these traits is actually something else. In certain Buddhist schools, there is a teaching that negative emotions such as anger or fear are not inherently negative, but are actually just particular distortions of an energy that in itself is beyond the distinction of positive and negative.
In the case of the dark triad traits, the essence of psychopathy is detachment, which is the necessary basis for clear vision, as well as fearlessness. The essence of Machievellianism is wisdom, since the manipulation of events, for whatever purpose, requires skill and know-how – both of which are additional connotations of the Greek σοφός – as well as understanding of cause and effect, and which outcomes are truly desirable. As for narcissism, its essence is simply love. (This interpretation of the dark triad is my own, and Mr. Throne might disagree.)
This isn’t to say that the dark triad traits cannot become monstrous. They can, and in more ways than just those that the common notions of these words suggest. Detachment can become apathy. Wisdom can become empty, abstracted concepts that bring no profit to the wise. “In much wisdom is much vexation” says the Book of Ecclesiastes. As for love, modern liberalism and society give ample illustrations of the myriad ways that “love” can be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused.
Love is, of course, the supreme virtue and even the identity of God in Christian theology. One question that kept going through my mind as I read the book is how the worldview espoused in The Nine Laws fits into the Christian view of the book’s publisher. While a Christian may differ here and there with certain points or interpretations that Mr. Throne makes, I think that overall his view of “the dark world” is actually very much in accord with the Christian notion of a fallen creation, ruled not by the God of love but by the father of lies.
The Nine Laws is not a book for everyone. It is addressed specifically to men, and specifically to men of the West, especially the final section which addresses the present crisis of European and American civilization. From the traditions that he was raised in, and from the traditions that he sought out in far corners of the world, Mr. Throne has crafted something uniquely his own, which he has now put before the world as something to be learned from. In this reviewer’s opinion, it is well worth the time and effort to engage his words and thoughts.