The Impossible Bronze Age Mindset

Only A Better Story Can Answer the Post-Christian Right

A specter is haunting American conservatism: the specter of vitalism.

The word, like the orientation it describes, is complex and multivalent. Originally, “vitalism” was a specific term of art—denoting a philosophical current emerging out of German idealism, one that stressed sheer life, in all its glory and chaos, as the ur-principle of the human sciences.1 But while the shadow of that tradition still lingers, its expression is different today.

The new vitalism mostly exists as an online right-wing movement, one that rejects the premises of liberalism, leftism, and religious conservatism alike. Culture critic Tara Isabella Burton has called it atavism, a project of reversion to a primordial way of being.2 Others describe it as the dissident right. But vitalism, for all the word’s historical baggage, seems most apt: in place of Ronald Reagan’s famous “three-legged stool”—free-market economics, military interventionism, and religious conservatism—the new vitalists would burn the place down altogether, and host a festival around the pyre.

This new vitalism is, in short, a profoundly deconstructive project—but not a nihilistic one. At least, not in the exhausted and apathetic sense that adjective connotes. Rather, it is a call for the deepest possible return of all: a breaking of the fetters of secular liberalism and Judaism and Christianity alike, a recovery of a more elemental way of being-in-the-world. The nostalgia of neo-vitalism is for humanity’s most ancient days: for blood and war and shamans and the fierce exultation of the kill.

The best-known example of this life-philosophy is Bronze Age Mindset, a self-published political manifesto combining a Nietzschean-Schopenhauerian worldview with 4chan messageboard argot. Its pseudonymous author, “Bronze Age Pervert,” is clearly well-read, and the volume’s arguments are original. Nonetheless, its defiance of academic, stylistic, and moral conventions have kept it from reaching a mainstream readership, despite its popularity as a kind of samizdat. And—particularly given the (likely) fact that its author was trained as a Straussian theorist—it’s never clear how much of the book should be taken at face value.

But for all that, many of the book’s distinctive turns of phrase (“fake and gay,” “bugmen,” and “longhouse,” to name just a few) have slowly leaked into the political zeitgeist. They now periodically show up in mainstream venues.3 And recent months have witnessed a resurgence of interest in the volume and its influence. For all its supposed crudity, it is a book—and an ethos—that has proven shockingly difficult for “traditional” conservatives to critique on its own terms.

Consider a decidedly mediocre engagement by National Review submissions editor Jack Butler. “This godless, neopagan, will-to-power fantasia is not conservative,” Butler complains. “To dismiss not just Christianity and the American Founding but also morality and family life is not to save our country, but to renounce our best chances for rehabilitating it, thereby ensuring its doom.” He goes on:

This century’s challenges may exceed even those that last century’s conservatives confronted. To meet them, conservatives must not join Alamariu in rejecting the cross, the flag, and the family. But a halfhearted embrace of these causes won’t suffice either. Only a full-throated promulgation of these essential elements can ward off the Bronze Age temptation while also defending American liberty and prosperity from ever-more-clever aggressors, at home and abroad.4

These are banal claims. They are banal because Butler is preaching to a converted choir: no ordinary reader of The Daily Beast or National Review will feel the tug of vitalism on their souls, nor will they ever crack the cover of Bronze Age Mindset. Butler’s readers take the premises of the liberal-democratic order for granted—premises Butler undertakes to “defend,” but never actually does. That’s because Butler never takes his interlocutor’s claims seriously in the first place, except as heresies to be driven from the fold.

But if Nietzsche is the guiding light of today’s vitalists, then it is on Nietzsche’s ground that any engagement must occur. What good is a critique that circularly assumes its own normative values—theological commitments, principles of movement conservatism, or whatever else—and complains that those values aren’t attained? Didn’t Nietzsche insist on the transvaluation of such notions? Butler’s “critique” is no real critique at all, but merely a bleat of protest against a tradition not his own.

Dare it be said? Bronze Age Mindset needs better critics than this.

It was in creativity, not ideology or metaphysics, that Nietzsche found the meaning of human existence.5 And so any true critique of this new vitalism must, at bottom, be a creative and dynamic one.

What would such a life, a life where the flame of pagan days still burns, actually be like? Could it ever be livable?

Such questions must be thought through from both ends of life, from the dawn of youth to the twilight of old age. But first, the obvious question: why would anyone want to rekindle that flame in the first place?

Bronze Age Mindset is a paean to a world before “history” in the modern sense, before “agricultural civilization . . . plunged the majority of humans into a semi-permanent repressive or depressive frame.”6 While its closing pages are filled with advice for today’s would-be demigods, most of the volume levels lacerating critiques of today’s civic pieties. Racial and gender equality, Asian philosophy and culture, traditional religiosity, evolutionary science, the canons of recorded history—the Bronze Age Pervert’s scythe comes for them all. It is this bluntness, this gleeful violation of progressive taboos, that likely accounts for the book’s popularity.

But Bronze Age Mindset is not, properly speaking, a reactionary screed. Its positive project is clear enough, alien though it may be. To be precise: the book takes Mycenaean Greece, a civilization untouched by Jewish or Christian moralism, for its ethical lodestar. “In the Bronze Age men had life and force, and I already see, far on the horizon of our world, but the glimmer is surely there—may it not be a mirage!—I see this spirit returning surely in our time. Piratical bands and brotherhoods will take to the seas, and not just to the seas. ”7

It is possible to read this as an intensification of longstanding conservative critiques. Baby boomer conservatives may look to the Reagan years as a golden age, and right-wing intellectuals often settle on the Founding Era as their halcyon days. Protestant “Christian nationalists” look to early modernity for their cues, and traditionalist Catholics to the years of Christendom. But Bronze Age Mindset says that all of this is bunk: one must go back further still.

Perhaps, Bronze Age Mindset even dares to suggest, the uncanny glories of the Homeric epics can still be reclaimed if today’s Übermenschen would but rise to grasp them. What would such figures, men at the pinnacle of their capacities, even be like? Would the world not bow down before them?

In the Iliad Diomedes in his moment of glory is compared to lion whose spirit has been aroused by anger at wound, and scatters the shepherds and dogs before him. Athena kindled a fire on his head and shoulders and marked him as one possessed by the true inner force inside all things. This burst out of him now and made itself light up above all others. The real man was a man filled by courage and daring that all came from an excess of being.8

Irenaeus once wrote that the glory of God is a man fully alive; the vitalist simply transposes the terms. To be fully alive, in the end, is the glory of man.

Disagreement with these vitalist ideas is one thing. But to deny the objective appeal of such a philosophy, especially to a generation of increasingly alienated young men, is to court disaster. As Claremont Institute fellow Michael Anton noted in a critical review: “Machiavelli intimates that the primary purpose of his Discourses on Livy is to prepare a certain subset of the youth to act, when the time is ripe, to overthrow a corrupt ‘sect’ and restore ancient virtue. It is my impression that Bronze Age Mindset was written with the same intent.”9 In short, Bronze Age Mindset aims to unleash animal spirits, rather than suppress them.

If such a challenge is to be answered, it must be answered on its own terms—the terms of human life. What would it mean to pursue such a life, such a return, such a transcendence of the mundane?

That is an essentially literary question, and it requires a literary answer.

Donna Tartt’s 1992 bestseller The Secret History is an eerie, compelling read that defies easy categorization. For all its sprawling length and character drama, it never drifts into the cultural critique of a Tom Wolfe or Jonathan Franzen, but perpetually hovers in the uneasy space between literary and genre fiction. Offering a highly aestheticized version of the New England college experience, it remains a classic of the “dark academia” TikTok set.

Many of its admirers take it as a Patricia Highsmith-style murder mystery set among the elites, a sort of Dead Poets Society gone horribly wrong. But this is to badly miss the point. At bottom, The Secret History is a story about the possibility of recovering the Dionysiac spirit within modernity—the quest of today’s vitalists.

Set at the fictional Hampden College (a stand-in for Bennington College in Vermont), The Secret History is recounted by Californian academic transplant Richard Papen. As Richard acclimates to his new setting, he falls in with a cadre of strange students—intellectually head-and-shoulders above their louche, dissolute peers. There are the evanescent twins Charles and Camilla, foppish Francis, bookish Henry, and wannabe-WASP Edmund (“Bunny”), and they are devoted above all to the study of the Greek classics.

Set apart from the rest of campus, Richard and his friends take virtually all their classes from the charismatic Julian Morrow, Hampden’s only classics professor. Julian invites them not merely to admire, but to crave, the premodern past—to glimpse its glories and terrors, now lost to today’s deracinated men. “We think we have many desires,” Julian muses, “but in fact we have only one. What is it?” At once, Camilla answers: “To live.”10

What, for a truly reflective classicist, could better exemplify life, in all its sheer stark purity, than the great Dionysian ceremonial rites of the past?  Such rituals require no temples, no doctrines or dogmas—merely free exultation in the majesty of the Real. As Julian puts it,

what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown back, throat to the stars, “more like deer than human being.” To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn. . . . And that, to me, is the terrible seduction of Dionysiac ritual. Hard for us to imagine. That fire of pure being.11

Terrible seduction, indeed—as Richard soon comes to learn.

Shortly thereafter, Richard notices strange behavior on the parts of his new friends, all of whom have long histories with each other. Mysterious cuts and bruises appear on their limbs in the night, strange plants are left to steep on stoves, and troubled glances pass between them. One-way plane tickets—to Argentina—are purchased and then abandoned.

It is Henry—the troubled wunderkind whose hypnotic presence dominates the novel—who finally reveals the truth to Richard. In search of “naked, terrible beauty,” Hampden’s best students have sought to experience those ancient ecstasies for themselves, convening desperate attempts in the cold forests of Vermont. “It was possible, with a great deal of work, to figure out some of the sacred rituals—the hymns, the sacred objects, what to wear and do and say,” Henry confesses. “We tried everything. Drink, drugs, prayer, even small doses of poison.”12

Failure upon failure dogs their work. But then, finally—like the flames of an erupting rocket—they ignite, achieving an act in which they finally throw themselves “back beyond” their own rational selves:

“Do you know,” [Henry] said, “what Julian says about the Divine Comedy?”

“No, Henry, I don’t.”

“That it’s incomprehensible to someone who isn’t a Christian? That if one is to read Dante, and understand him, one must become a Christian if only for a few hours? It was the same with this. It had to be approached on its own terms, not in a voyeuristic light or even a scholarly one. At the first, I suppose, it was impossible to see it any other way, looking at it as we did in fragments, through centuries. The vitality of the act was entirely obfuscated, the beauty, the terror, the sacrifice.” He took one last drag of his cigarette and put it out. “Quite simply,” he said, “we didn’t believe. And belief was the one condition which was absolutely necessary. Belief, and absolute surrender.”13

Yes, they succeed—but such Dionysiac frenzy comes with consequences. Caught in the throes of primeval madness, Henry and Francis and Charles and Camilla encounter a local farmer and—just like Euripides’s Bacchae—literally tear him to pieces.

For a while, they all get away with it. Lacking any obvious connection to the slaying, the Hampden renegades escape scrutiny, with the farmer’s death becoming merely a local news item. But secrets have a way of coming out, and when the hapless Bunny stumbles upon Henry’s diary and learns the truth, it discombobulates him.

Stunned and distraught, Bunny grows increasingly aloof from the group and repeatedly threatens to reveal the truth. With time running out, Henry, with the terrible clarity of a tragic protagonist, devises a plan: Bunny too must die. And so he does—knocked into a ravine by a single blow from Henry, with Richard and Francis and Charles and Camilla all looking on.

Bunny’s death is the crisis that marks the novel’s turning point. What was a chilly story of obsession and death soon becomes a Dostoevskian study in psychological torment. Richard and his surviving friends must bear witness to an agonizingly protracted search for Bunny’s broken body, an FBI investigation, a miserable wake, and finally a funeral service. While the death is written off as an accident, Richard—and his peers—all know better. And in the last moments before Bunny himself disappears from view, they face the reality of what they have done:

The grave was almost unspeakably horrible. I had never seen one before. It was a barbarous thing, a blind clayey hole with folding chairs for the family teetering on one side and raw dirt heaped on the other. My God, I thought. I was starting to see everything, all at once, with a blistering clarity. Why bother with the coffin, the awning or any of it if they were just doing to dump him, shovel the dirt in, go home? Was this all there was to it? To get rid of him like a piece of garbage?

Bun, I thought, oh, Bun, I’m sorry.14

There is no Greek funerary pyre for Bunny, no glorious flaming rite of ascent to the heavens. From here to there, no path leads back to the “fire of pure being” that once seemed to blaze so tantalizingly. In the end, when the furor passes, there is only emptiness and darkness.

Richard is not the only killer seemingly haunted by his actions. Standing over the wet earth of Bunny’s grave, Henry too grasps the truth:

Slowly, slowly, with a drugged, fathomless calm, Henry bent and picked up a handful of dirt. He held it over the grave and let it trickle from his fingers. Then, with terrible composure, he stepped back and absently dragged the hand across his chest, smearing mud upon his lapel, his tie, the starched immaculate white of his shirt.15

Like Lady Macbeth, Henry now stands marked, stained. The Latin word for such a stain—macula—is the same word for mortal sin. Even for Henry, the one who has most become a Dionysian, the way “beyond good and evil” now lies blocked.

Unsurprisingly, the funeral provides no closure to anyone. Their fear and paranoia continue to escalate, especially once Julian learns of their actions and flees Hampden. And in the end, once-timid Charles, having spiraled into alcoholism and despair since Bunny’s murder, confronts Henry with a firearm in a last desperate stand. “You’ve ruined my life, you son of a bitch,” Charles growls.16

A standoff and a fistfight follow, during which Richard is shot and seriously injured. Finally, Henry wrests the gun away from Charles. With consequences closing in around him, Henry realizes that only one real path remains open—and in that moment, he acts.

I think he felt the need to make a noble gesture, something to prove to us and to himself that it was in fact possible to put those high cold principles which Julian had taught us to use. Duty, piety, loyalty, sacrifice. I remember his reflection in the mirror as he raised the pistol to his head. His expression was one of rapt concentration, of triumph, almost, a high diver rushing to the end of the board; eyes tight, joyous, waiting for the big splash.17

And so Henry dies, a pagan to the end. His “high cold principles” are ideals that can be died for, but not lived with. But if Julian is right—that the utter desire of all hearts is to live, to live in vitalistic Dionysian freedom—then there should be no tension here. Why should those old ideals preclude periodic upsurges of chaos, of creative ecstasy?

The truth is that the Hampdenians’ “absolute surrender” to the Dionysian ethos is not so complete as they believe. Their vitalistic rapture is only ever experienced across a vast historical interval, and so is inevitably mediated by that history. It is temporary, provisional, fleeting, a condition out of which they emerge “back” into their own life-world.

And a very different morality dominates their life-world. For it is ultimately guilt, in a decidedly post-pagan sense, that undoes them all—Richard and Henry and Charles and the others alike. In the modern age, all of them—no matter how “premodern” they may believe themselves to be—stand under the terrible shadow of the Jewish and Christian Thou shalt not, which cannot be unthought. Even Henry feels marked by the stain of sin and guilt, a macula that ultimately devours them all.

To be sure, some of today’s vitalists might not see Henry’s fate as tragic. As Bronze Age Mindset argues,

A beautiful death at the right time is the only key to understanding a life, it’s only hidden “meaning.” It is a beautiful death to die after accomplishing a great feat for the glory of one’s city, family and for the gods, but it’s greater still to die in one’s prime, at the height of your powers and at the acme of their discharge. A beautiful death in youth is a great thing, to leave behind a beautiful body[.]18

But is Henry’s end indeed “a beautiful death”? Has any “great feat” actually been achieved? His is not the fate of Leonidas at Thermopylae: it is a suicide in a lonely hotel room, impelled by his sense of the inability of going on according to his supposed convictions. A Jewish or Christian cognizance of moral guilt cannot be squared with the “high cold principles” of the old Greek ways.

The Secret History confronts late-modern vitalists with a harsh truth. There is no psychological escape from this Jewish-Christian shadow, no way of going “back behind” the knowledge of good and evil. The fierce exultation of premodern days cannot be reclaimed through a forgetfulness of what happened after, when a transcendental moral order was discovered. Modern souls carry their conditioning with them.

If The Secret History leaned into melodrama, Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein traffics in hard-nosed realism. And it too questions the life path that vitalism offers, albeit from the opposite end. Where The Secret History is a story of youth, Ravelstein is a tale of old age.

Bellow’s novel is a roman à clef chronicling the last days of political philosopher Allan Bloom, author of the bestselling The Closing of the American Mind and a leading light of the “East Coast Straussian” school. The conservative political philosopher Leo Strauss, with whom Bloom studied, was a complex figure whose legacy remains contested. He is perhaps best known for positing a sharp divide between “ancients” and “moderns”—the same kind of opposition at the heart of contemporary vitalist thinking—and a perpetual tension between philosophical reason and religious revelation.

Strauss is also known for his claim that the greatest philosophers wrote “esoterically,” encoding their true beliefs behind layers of irony and seeming contradiction in their own texts, in order to avoid political condemnation.19 In general, East Coast Straussians have tended to interpret Strauss’s comments on the dignity of religion as esoteric disparagements of it; for them, Strauss’s true teaching ultimately places philosophy—not faith—at the apex of human life. And so a true philosopher stands altogether beyond the pedantic morality of his day, an ethical law unto himself. Just as Socrates and Plato quietly dismantled the dogmas of their age, so too must the contemporary philosopher.20 That, at least, is the portrait Bellow sketches of his protagonist “Abe Ravelstein” (a stand-in for Bloom).

Bellow’s Ravelstein is a nationally-renowned scholar and garrulous old aesthete, with a penchant for non-heteronormative sexual pleasures. And just like The Secret History’s Julian, Ravelstein is perennially absorbed by the theme of desire: “Without its longings your soul was a used inner tube may be good for one summer at the beach, nothing more. Spirited men and women, the young above all, were devoted to the pursuit of love. By contrast the bourgeois was dominated by fears of violent death.”21 And like any good Straussian, Ravelstein is committed to excavating the deeper meanings of classic texts. “[A]ll the great texts had esoteric significance, he believed and taught.”22

As a teacher, Ravelstein is committed to offering his students a glimpse into the wisdom of the classical past, unencumbered by attachments, conventions, or pieties. “He had hated and shaken off his old family. He told students that they had come to the university to learn something, and this meant that they must rid themselves of the opinions of their parents,” the novel’s narrator muses. In place of such suburban banalities, Ravelstein undertook “to direct them to a higher life, full of variety and diversity, governed by rationality—anything but the arid kind.”23 Of course, he is an atheist, “since no philosopher can believe in God.”24

Ravelstein is a very different novel than The Secret History, lacking the former’s twisty gothic plotting. And its central crisis—Ravelstein’s impending death from AIDS, a consequence of his lifestyle—emerges rather more quickly:

He was HIV positive, he was dying of complications from it. Weakened, he became the host of an endless list of infections. Still he insisted on telling me over and over again what love was—the neediness, the awareness of incompleteness, the longing for wholeness, and how the pains of Eros were joined to the most ecstatic pleasures.25

These are lofty concerns to occupy a man in the twilight of his life. But they do not linger. As the reality of Ravelstein’s fate begins to set in, philosophy and aestheticism offer no respite: “On these wheelchair tours of his apartment what he was feeling was stingingly apparent: What will happen to all this when I am gone? There’s nothing I can take with me into the grave. These beautiful objects which I bought in Japan, in Europe, and New York, far and wide, with so many deliberations and discussions with experts and friends. . . .”26 Mortality begins to cast its own shadow.

For in the end, there is a metaphysical terror in the approach of death, a dread no secularity can undo. Though Ravelstein “had had a philosophical training and had learned how a philosophical life should be lived,” his thoughts start to drift elsewhere as the inevitable approaches. “[I]n his last days it was the Jews he wanted to talk about, not the Greeks. . . . It was unusual for him these days, in any conversation, to mention even Plato or Thucydides. He was full of Scripture now. He talked about religion and the difficult project of being man in the fullest sense, of becoming man and nothing but man.”27

What might trigger such a shift? What could draw a man of Ravelstein’s sagacity out of his philosophical tranquility? In the end, the lifeway Ravelstein traces in his dying hours is not the cold classicism of philosophic reason—the Straussian lodestar to which he has devoted his life—but the ethnoreligious tradition of his own people, that which he carries with him despite himself.

‘If you dislike existence then death is your release. You can call this nihilism, if you like.’

‘Yes, American-style—without the abyss,’ said Ravelstein. ‘But the Jews feel that the world was created for each and every one of us, and when you destroy a human life you destroy an entire world—the world as it existed for that person.’28

If The Secret History is about awareness of sin and guilt, then Ravelstein is about awareness of mortality, of the brute finitude of time. And such awareness, unsurprisingly, is also historically conditioned.

The premodern tradition that vitalists revere, with its motifs of eternal recurrence and reincarnation, had a very different orientation: historian of religion Mircea Eliade identified “the chief difference between the man of the archaic and traditional societies and the man of the modern societies with their strong imprint of Judaeo-Christianity” with “archaic man’s refusal to accept himself as a historical being”—that is, to situate himself within a linear temporality.29 And indeed, Bronze Age Mindset makes precisely this point:

All pagans knew the world was eternal, and that its present condition was a result of cycles of birth, rebirth, regeneration, copulation . . . So much of [monotheism] makes time a line and makes matter conditional on a deity or creator that lives outside it[.]30

Ravelstein undoubtedly knows this. Consciously, “[i]f he had to choose between Athens and Jerusalem, among us the two main sources of higher life, he chose Athens,” surely with its concomitant rejection of the Jewish-Christian sense of time.31 And yet, once the reality of history’s irreversibility and one’s own mortality has first broken in as an insight, can it ever be “unthought”? Can a premodern indifference to death be self-consciously reclaimed? Ravelstein, as a novel and as a testament, suggests otherwise.

For Ravelstein, that recognition of death’s truth is rooted in the Jewish tradition that has shaped him. Bronze Age Mindset, predictably, treats such intellectual conditioning as pathological: “There is only this: whether life is stunted and broken by a ‘tradition,’ or whether it is one of the very few, the rare exception, that allows the ascent of life. As a rule, life is stunted and deformed by huemans.”32

But as Hans-Georg Gadamer recognized, no life that is human—no reflective life—can stand apart from the tradition that conditions it: “Verbal form and traditionary content cannot be separated in the hermeneutic experience. . . . However thoroughly one may adopt a foreign frame of mind, one still does not forget one’s worldview and language-view.”33 There can be a refusal of that tradition, but never a forgetting.

This, then, is history’s true pathos, the flaming sword that bars the way back to premodern “innocence.” One can never unthink the modernity, and the Jewish-Christian tradition that undergirds it, from which one’s quest begins.

Friedrich Schleiermacher is mostly known today for his existential-experiential interpretation of Christian faith in terms of “absolute dependence.” But he was also a hermeneuticist before the field properly existed, arguing for a view of interpretation that was essentially reconstructive: “Since we have no direct knowledge of what was in the author’s mind, we must try to become aware of many things of which he himself may have been unconscious.”34 For Schleiermacher, the thought-worlds of the past can be reconstituted anew, recreating long-gone contexts of meaning. And Bronze Age Mindset is an invitation into Schleiermacher’s paradigm: an invitation to trust that, over against the tides of time, the ancient “fire of pure being” can be relit, if one only knows the way.

For some, that is an appealing invitation. Amidst the pathos of late modernity, it may even be a seductive one.

But it is an impossible one, as Gadamer knew:

Reconstructing the original circumstances, like all restoration, is a futile undertaking in view of the historicity of our being. What is reconstructed, a life brought back from the lost past, is not the original.

That which is carried forward, whether from the Bronze Age or any other time, “acquires only a derivative, cultural existence.”35 It can only be grasped across the mediation of time.

A great shadow falls over the new vitalism, in which the twin notions of guilt and mortality coincide, these biblical truths that have been passed down through the Jewish and Christian tradition that first rendered the ancient thought-worlds questionable. Tartt and Bellow, if they show nothing else, drive home that truth with penetrating force.

The vitalists may rage, but they cannot escape the snare. After the interruption of the cross of Jesus Christ, there can no longer be a Bronze Age Mindset. Not anymore.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Show 35 footnotes
  1. See Wilhelm Dilthey, “Awareness, Reality: Time,” in The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present, ed. Kurt Mueller-Vollmer (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1985), 149–51.
  2. Tara Isabella Burton, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World (New York: PublicAffairs, 2020), 201–12.
  3. See, e.g., Lom3z, “What Is the Longhouse?,” First Things (February 16, 2023),
  4. Butler, “Why Conservatives Must Reject the ‘Bronze Age Mindset.’”
  5. See Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950), 414.
  6. Bronze Age Pervert, Bronze Age Mindset (Independently published, 2018), 37.
  7. Bronze Age Pervert, Bronze Age Mindset, 8.
  8. Bronze Age Pervert, Bronze Age Mindset, 58–59.
  9. Michael Anton, “Are the Kids Al(t)right?,” Claremont Review of Books (Summer 2019),
  10. Donna Tartt, The Secret History (New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1992), 39.
  11. Tartt, The Secret History, 42.
  12. Tartt, The Secret History, 164.
  13. Tartt, The Secret History, 165–66.
  14. Tartt, The Secret History, 419.
  15. Tartt, The Secret History, 420.
  16. Tartt, The Secret History, 533.
  17. Tartt, The Secret History, 544.
  18. Bronze Age Pervert, Bronze Age Mindset, 148.
  19. Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), 36–37.
  20. See, e.g., Damon Linker, “Down the Straussian Rabbit Hole,” Notes from the Middleground (February 22, 2023), (discussing these currents).
  21. Saul Bellow, Ravelstein (New York: Penguin, 2000), 25.
  22. Bellow, Ravelstein, 22.
  23. Bellow, Ravelstein, 26.
  24. Bellow, Ravelstein, 138.
  25. Bellow, Ravelstein, 94–95.
  26. Bellow, Ravelstein, 99.
  27. Bellow, Ravelstein, 173–78.
  28. Bellow, Ravelstein, 156.
  29. Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), xxvii–xxviii, 85.
  30. Bronze Age Pervert, Bronze Age Mindset, 44.
  31. Bellow, Ravelstein, 173.
  32. Bronze Age Pervert, Bronze Age Mindset, 109.
  33. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2004), 457–58.
  34. Friedrich Schleiermacher, “General Hermeneutics,” in The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present, ed. Kurt Mueller-Vollmer (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1985), 83.
  35. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 166.
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John Ehrett

John Ehrett is an attorney and writer in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife and son. His work has previously appeared in American Affairs, Public Discourse, and the Claremont Review of Books, among other venues.