Apatheia: The Answer To Apathy

With so much blackpilling going on among the dissident right (and not without cause), and with more moderate versions of doomsaying proliferating among mainstream conservatives and liberals, it seems that there is a growing consensus on Decline. For traditionalists, the abhorrent Revolution continues apace, or perhaps gains speed, but is nothing fundamentally new. While the Left perceives a threat to all they hold dear in the rise of Trump and European nationalism, they're also (as ever) dissatisfied in various ways with even the highly-liberal status quo and thus see the global situation as bleak, though for the wrong reasons.

In reality (rather than in the mind of the Left), darkness surrounds us as a Judeo-American secular caliphate rules the globe with an iron fist, and the ostensibly right-wing uprisings are either absorbed by the reigning order (as Trump is appearing to be), or are themselves expressions of liberal modernism (as with the secularist, multiculturalist Le Pen). The only hope for a genuine restoration seems to be on the other side of some global-scale cataclysm, which is a rather odd thing to place hope in (though given the intolerable status quo, not as strange as it seems on its face).

As clownworld daily descends even further into farce, are there any other options besides hoping for cataclysm (or, in the case of accelerationists, working toward one) and being passively content with the demonic ruling order?


In ancient Greece, among the competing philosophical schools there were varying ideas about the nature of the passions or emotions (πάθη). All the schools were basically in agreement that these πάθη were fundamentally negative, but there were disagreements about what to do about them. The Periparetics advocated μετριοπάθεια (metriopatheia), amounting to rational control of the disturbing emotions and keeping them within proper limits. Which was very much in line with the classical Greek notion of virtue as a path of moderation between various extremes. Meanwhile the Stoics advocated απάθεια (apatheia), or rejection of passion and emotion completely, rather than controlling them.

In the Christian tradition the notion of απάθεια is taken up and adopted and even ascribed to God as a divine attribute, though in a qualified manner. God is completely immutable and impassible (απαθής), being beyond all perturbations of the world. Yet throughout the Old Testament He interacts with humans and displays emotions, and He certainly is a personal God who responds to petition and prayer.

The Fathers of the Church employ apophatic modes of theology to account for data such as God appearing and acting angry at various times in the Scriptures. St. John Cassian, for instance, said the acts of punishment don't represent a change in God's demeanor towards humans, rather it is His (unchanging) benevolence and justice being experienced by mutable, sinful humans.1 Other early Church writers2 present a slightly different account, claiming that anger is proper to God, though it is a permanent, immutable anger against sin which humans activate (or not) by their own actions. In either case, God's transcendence and impassibility are maintained, as are the reality of His interactions with the world.

But it is the incarnation and crucifixion, rather than God's actions in the Old Testament, that present the most fertile ground for contemplation on God's nature as it relates to change and suffering. The patristic formula is essentially that the immutable God enters into the flux and change of the created order in the incarnation, and the impassible (απαθής) God suffers in the crucifixion. This is the mystery of the incarnation. While there are technical aspects to how this 'works' (St. Cyril's communicatio idiomatum), the fundamental issue is maintaining fidelity to what has been revealed in Christ, namely that He is fully God and fully man.

It is precisely this which gives humans hope and a pattern of life to follow. Christ, the impassible God, enters into suffering to take it upon and fill it with Himself, so that humans who are buried and rise with Him in baptism, can be united through suffering to the One who is beyond suffering.

Jesus Christ said:

Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith!3

For the Christian, being perturbed by the cares of this life is a mark of faithlessness and unbelief. Yet these words were spoken by the same God-man who emptied himself and entered the lowest depths of human experience and suffering, even to death on a Cross.4 And did so out of compassion for a fallen and sinful world, in order to offer it redemption and life. Clearly the call of Christ to be unperturbed by the cares of this life is not the same as the call of the Stoic to remain distant and detached. Rather, through repentance, suffering is accepted as an act of faith so that it can be transmuted into the stability of divine life.

This is reflected in the ascetic tradition of the Church. The aforementioned St. John Cassian, following Evagrius Ponticus, defined the eight vices or passions5 which should be ascetically eliminated to achieve απάθεια. Yet, for the Christian, the end point of απάθεια is filled with αγάπη (agape), which would be impermissible for a Stoic, for whom agape is just another passion (πάθη).

All of which to say that in the Christian tradition we find the alternative to both an anguished pathos which simply submits to the fluctuations of our fallen, wicked state of human affairs, and blackpilled apathy (akin to a Stoic detachment): the path of Christian apatheia.

Kingdom Stability

Given our dismal descent into chaos, the passion of despair is a powerful temptation. One sees the resilience of the neoliberal order, the intransigence of global capital, degeneracy and decadence run amok, and one wonders where the escape hatch is. But when all the world's chaos is understood as a consequence of sin, and that you're as guilty for it as anyone, our focus can shift to our own repentance. Though it is a repentance with eyes fixed on the triumphant risen Lord who has overcome the world.6 We are thus disabused of the hubris of being able to "change the world" according to some program of reform, and instead locate a place of stability and peace even amidst the chaos.

This is the testimony of the martyrs. Beginning with Christ's own mysterious triumph over evil at the cross, this same inverted victory is multiplied in the lives of the martyrs. Participation in Christ's suffering is the path to participation in his incorruptibility. St. Ignatius of Antioch beseeches the Roman Christians not to interrupt his impending martyrdom, but rather wishes that he be allowed to "be the imitator of the sufferings of my God" thereby, in the words of St. Paul, passing from corruption to incorruption.7 While being torn to bits by the beasts, or being tortured on the rack, the martyrs shared in Christ's sufferings and so also in the peace he brought to them. This can be seen in the iconographic tradition of the Church, where the faces of the martyrs are depicted as passionless and undisturbed in the midst of their torments.

We should be very clear about this: in worldly terms, the triumph of the Cross and the crowns of the martyrs don't just look like defeat, they are defeat. It is folly to attempt to reconcile the terms of the world, for whom the Cross is foolishness8, with the terms of the Kingdom, for whom it is victory and glory.

And it is this attempted compromise with worldly categories and vision that is at the heart of so much blackpilling among those who are of an ostensibly traditionalist bent. The Light of the risen Christ has shone into the darkness of the chaotic and wicked world, and this is the basis of our hope. In the martyrs and saints we see the same light shining. It is precisely in their moment of tragic defeat, according to the world's reckoning, that they shined most radiant in glory. But, in the words of Corneliu Codreanu: "Pain upon pain, suffering upon suffering, agony upon agony, wound upon wound in our bodies and in our souls, fall after fall: in this way shall we conquer."9 The victory of the martyrs, of course, has tangible effects on the world. It inspires faith in the hearts of others and propagates the Church. But the participation in Christ is the ultimate end in itself and any other benefit is of little significance in comparison.

If Christianity is sincerely believed rather than cynically seen as a tool to some other end, then our own hearts become a battlefield of action where victories over enemies are waiting to be won right now. If we don't begin there but rather with our visions for social or political reform, we've put the veritable cart before the horse. This is not to deny the importance of the political realm, but to radically redefine it in the light of the personal realm of spiritual transformation.

We must become aware of our tradition which is not one of worldly reforms, but otherworldly and eternal glory which, for the faithful, is especially near even in the midst of the most devastating defeats. Once we know that the world has no power over us, that we are untouchable so long as we faithfully unite ourselves to Christ, we can sing without reservation: "Understand all ye nations, and submit yourselves, for God is with us!"

  1. St. John Cassian, The Institutes. 8.4.3.

  2. Tertullian, Lactantius, Novatian, and Cyril of Alexandria, according to Paul Gavrilyuk, The Suffering of the Impassible God, p. 58.

  3. Luke 12:22-28.

  4. cf. Philippians 2:5-11.

  5. Gluttony, impurity, avarice, anger, despair, sloth, vainglory, and pride.

  6. John 16:33.

  7. 1 Cor. 15:42-57.

  8. cf. 1 Cor. 1:23-25.

  9. Corneliu Codreanu, The Prison Notes.