on 12 February 2012
Contemplating the exquisite tempera portrait by Maxwell Armfield of John Michell which adorns the cover of this book caused me to cast my mind back in a mood of reverie, to my own fortunate personal encounter with the man and brought back gilded memories of a peregrination which I and my girlfriend (now my wife) undertook in his company through the ritual landscapes and ancient sites of Somerset. As a younger man, I was impressed by his cordial and kind personality and by the calibre and range of his knowledge - it was clear that I was in the company of a veritable sage.
Reading the collected essays which make up the text of `Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist' confirmed the warm memories I have of this great English mystic-philosopher and Christian esoterist. And to be sure these remarkable pieces, anthologized and arranged by Joscelyn Godwin from the `Orthodox Voice' column which John Michell regularly contributed to Richard Ingrams'`The Oldie' magazine are an absolute delight to read, wedding a kind of pleasing curmudgeonly humour, cheerfully contrarian, with a real profundity and wisdom of vision and perception founded upon a deep grounding in Tradition, in Michell's case the archaic Tradition of Albion and the immortal philosophy of the Divine Plato, bringing to mind Rene Guenon's teaching that Hyperborean Apollo was the grand Geometer (Incredible too to recall that John Michell actually wrote a short, admirably lucid article expounding Rene Guenon's ideas about the Holy Grail for the tabloid readership of 'The Daily Mirror'!). What runs through all these marvellous pieces is that Edenic nostalgia for the paradaisal Golden Age which vivifies the sensibility of all true mystics, philosophers, artists, poets and metaphysicians. These short essays are beautiful for their clarity of style and although playful and amusing in tone their import is deadly serious as they hit their marks with an unerring accuracy for all their mischievous `old school' wit. Michell's Radical Traditionalism is nothing less than the knowledge via which is realised that truly human and divine dimension of harmonious living and timeless experience of our integration within the Sacred Order - obscuring and denying this primordial spiritual reality are the hideous creeds of modernism and materialism at which our dauntless philosopher-mystic aims and looses his flaming arrows to deadly effect - felling the miserable pseudo-mythos of Darwinian evolutionism, secular atheism, the false idol of progress, profane quantitative scientism, free-market capitalist economics, corporate uniformity, dreary politically-correct academic ideologies, the contemporary `arts' scene,'whingeing women and moaning Marxists' and the whole disarray and chaotic tyranny of loathsome vulgarity and ghastly mediocrity under which we suffer in this dreadful epoch as he makes a heroic stand against everything which, in Blakean terms, oppresses the spirit and dims the interior eye of the eternal man.
The delightful vigour, provocative fun and light touch of Michell's Platonist discourses act as a refreshing tonic, effectively dispelling the devilish contagions, tulpas and malign thought-forms of the Kaliyuga and awakening the giant Albion from the deathly sleep of materialistic delusion to reveal that truer and transcendent dimension that makes human lives ultimately meaningful, felicitous and worthwhile as he invites us to envision our world as Paradise, as a Pure Land via the renewal of the imaginal faculty, invoking 'Jesus the Imagination'. But what makes the wisdom of this great sage so effective is the oft-times hilarious astuteness of his analyses, for example his sincere and sympathetic commiseration with the Saatchi brothers for having been conned and made such fools of for buying a great pile of rubbish such as Hirst and Emin's dross and for further humiliating themselves by exhibiting the tripe in their pretentious gallery, where Michell sometimes went, as he tells us '...not to laugh but to contemplate, in a spirit of philosophic melancholy, the rare examples of human folly and credulity which the Saatchis so piteously provide.' Moreover he alerts us to the official sanction of the Establishment which this 'edgy' (to use a truly fatuous term) 'Media Art' enjoys and the sinister reasons for this. His evaluation of the vile art of Francis Bacon as `putrid' was much needed as is his frank admission that `We all have our weak spots and mine is that [Lucian] Freud makes me sick.' His straightforward summation of the movers and shakers of the contemporary arts world as 'creeps' comes as a breath of fresh air and sanity, as does his discernment of the Tate Modern as being under demonic patronage, the temple of Beelzebub, Lord of the Philistines. And who but Michell could round off a discussion of poesis and euphonics with the remark: `No wonder English is such a popular language. Next time you hear yobs howling in the street, try believing their roars and wails are spontaneous attempts at rediscovering the primordial speech of the gods.'!
Consider this example of Michell's acute critical insight into the agenda of Western liberal elites and the cultural warfare waged against Islam by the corrupt and propagandistic media, which hits the nail so perfectly on the head:
"Against the spread of secularism, usury and the evils of materialism throughout the world there is only one formidable source of opposition - the religious law of Islam. That is the reason for the hateful anti-Muslim sentiments which are now being stirred up in us.' ('The Crusade against Islam').
Michell continues, in respect of the devout followers of that noble and sublime faith, to give us some very wise advice:
'...we should admire and be grateful to them for standing up to us, for resisting the fads of modernism and holding firm to their conceptions of the divine order on earth'
These superb essays deal with a diversity of subjects skipping effortlessly from the absurd to the sublime, from Enoch Powell and Julius Evola, to fairies, Sir Oswald Mosely, UFOs, multiculturalism, Richard Dawkins, the EU, the increase in our day of demonic intrusion and possession, coincidences, sound counsel against noxious black magic and considerations upon various aspects of apocalyptic eschatology amongst many topics of greatest relevance - but most importantly of all John Michell orientates us throughout to the `Good, the Beautiful and the True' and, trusting serenely in God our Creator, to live in joyful and perpetual expectation of the revelation upon earth of the Heavenly Jerusalem in this Holy Land of Albion, ascending beyond the ephemeral and the illusory toward transcendent realisation and perpetual contemplation of the One, the eternal and the permanent, aligning our existence to the timeless paradigm - Michell invites us to conform our innermost being to the archetypal pattern of the 'dimensions of Paradise'. Assuredly one of the (very) few truly wise individuals I have been blessed by God to encounter in this life, Michell was a genuine heir to the Platonist Thomas Taylor and the Pythagorean Druids, Bards and Vates of this 'White Isle' and the charm, common-sense and integrity which shines through his writing is entirely consonant with the character of the man I met those years ago. `Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist' is certainly one of those rare and unusual books, a brilliant and authentic work which leaves the reader thereof both wiser and happier.