The Ontology of the Denoted in Traditionalism

What is the semiotic structure of Traditionalism, i.e. of Tradition - or, if you like, of the 'primordial tradition'? This structure represents, with respect to specific traditions, a kind of meta-language that generalises the paradigmatic properties of specific traditions as specific languages. That is, we are dealing with a generalising set of signs, which we can try to ascribe to the field of the signifier.

But look: it is a special signifier that does not coincide with any particular tradition or religion. And here is the interesting thing: what is the corresponding field of signifying, that is, the denotations of traditionalism? Or, in other words, what is the set of connotative signifiers of traditionalism that constitute its 'essences' as discourse?

Does metalanguage in general (and traditionalism in particular) have a denotative or connotative field? If metalanguage is a purely artificial construction, then there is no such field, because metalanguage only serves as a technical description of how real language works. But if we admit (together with Guénon) that traditionalism is not a summarising technical abstraction, but the expression of a permanent and supra-historical eternal structure, then it is there.

Therefore, to speak of the 'Antichrist' outside the Christian context - so that this figure has meaning and significance - we are forced to adopt the primordialist perspective. Otherwise, we will be forced to limit ourselves to comparing the three-level series of the different religions, eliminating the very possibility of dealing with what (ontologically and semantically) is common to them (except in the sense of a posteriori and remotely extraneous - i.e. nominalistic! - observations and generalisations), since, strictly speaking, they have nothing in common (ontologically no, not as a unity of meaning).

The Antichrist in Christianity

Having said this, we must nevertheless return to the Christian context, from which to study the semantics and meaning of this figure.

The Antichrist marks the end of time, the eschatological aeon, the culmination of apostasy (ἀποστασία). He summarises the conditions (historical, social, existential, ontological, etc.) in which salvation is most difficult and complex, and all things in the world and even in religion are turned upside down. The Antichrist pretends to be Christ and God, and so cleverly that many fail to recognise him. This is the essence of his function: he confuses, deceives, perverts, pretends one thing for another; he is a harlequin, an actor, a clown, a jester.

The figure of the Antichrist in the semantics of Christianity can be considered multidimensional. Structurally, he is closely linked to the Christian paradigm of history. This history goes from paradise to the fall into sin, to the turning points in the destiny of the chosen people, then to Christ, then to the Church, then to Satan's release from his chains and the end of the world, culminating in the Last Judgement. The phase of the appearance of the Antichrist is the last before the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. Therefore, the theme of the Antichrist can be taken as a tool to measure Christian time, and much depends on how one calculates time, on one's attitude towards society, the world, even religion. Because - and this is the most important thing! - The Antichrist counterfeits everything, his age is the age of counterfeiting. Counterfeit of what? Everything: the world, religion, society, power, man. It is the age of simulacra, of surrogates, of perverse copies. And so, faced with the element of the Antichrist, the people of the latter period must act and be different from before. Seeing water, a star, a man or a temple, Christians of the pre-Antichrist period treat them accordingly. But Christians of the antichrist period are invited to act differently. Not to trust, to test, to be vigilant before the simplest and most familiar things. The familiar no longer exists. There is a hidden catch in everything. The age of Antichrist is the age of suspicion.

Katechon and the Antichrist

The definition of the Antichrist has a political dimension in the Orthodox tradition.

In full, the following is fundamental to the history of Christianity:

3.Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come, unless the apostasy comes first and the man of sin, the son of perdition, is revealed, 3. μή τις ὑμα̃ς ἐξαπατήση̨ κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθη̨ ἡ ἀποστασία πρω̃τον καὶ ἀποκαλυφθη̨̃ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τη̃ς ἀνομίας ὁ υἱòς τη̃ς ἀπωλείας
4. He who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is holy, that in the temple of God he may sit as God, claiming to be God. 4. ὁ ἀντικείμενος καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενον θεòν ἢ σέβασμα ὥστε αὐτòν εἰς τòν ναòν του̃ θεου̃ καθίσαι ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτòν ὅτι ἔστιν θεός
5. Do you not remember that I told you this when I was still with you? 5. οὐ μνημονεύετε ὅτι ἔτι ὢν πρòς ὑμα̃ς ταυ̃τα ἔλεγον ὑμι̃ν
6. And now you know that you are not allowed to reveal yourself to him in due time. 6. καὶ νῦν τὸ κατέχον οἴδατε, εἰς τὸ ἀποκαλυφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ·
7.  For the mystery of iniquity is already at work, but it will not be accomplished until he who restrains it is taken out of the way. 7. τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας· μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μέσου γένηται.
8. And then the unrepentant will be manifested, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the Spirit of his mouth. 8. καὶ τότε ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος, ὃν ὁ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ἀνελεῖ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ καὶ καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ,
9. And he will destroy, by the manifestation of his coming, him whose coming, by the work of Satan, will be with all power and false signs and wonders [3]. 9. οὗ ἐστιν ἡ παρουσία κατ’ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ σημείοις καὶ τέρασιν ψεύδους.


In Church Slavonic the corresponding places:

6. And now we withhold it, that it may appear to him in due time.

7. The mystery of iniquity has already been dealt with, so that he who resists now will be preserved from Wednesday.

"Keeper" - τὸ κατέχον - is a neuter participle and refers to the "kingdom", the "empire", while "keeper" - ὁ κατέχων - is a masculine participle and indicates the one who holds, i.e. the "King", the "Emperor". Both words are formed from the verb κατέχειν, to hold, to keep, literally; it means 'to have under', 'to possess'. Hence the Russian word for 'globe' and 'power' - that which the ruler, the possessor, 'holds'.

This is how John Chrysostom's commentary on the Epistles of St Paul interprets the theme in question:

'It is right for anyone to ask, first of all, what a withholding (τό κατέχον) is, and then to find himself wanting to know why Paul speaks so vaguely about it. What does 'withholding' mean, that is, 'hindering'? Some say it is the grace of the Holy Spirit, while others say it is the Roman state; with the latter I agree more. Why? If he had wanted to speak of the Spirit, he would not have expressed it in vague terms, but would have said with certainty that the grace of the Holy Spirit, i.e. the (extraordinary) gifts, interfere with his coming. Moreover, it would have been necessary for him to come already, if he came when the (extraordinary) gifts had withered, because they had already withered long ago; but since he (the Apostle) said this about the Roman state, it is understandable why he only hinted at it and spoke about it secretly until then. He did not want to incur unnecessary enmity and unnecessary danger. For if he had said that the Roman state would be destroyed in a short time, then he, as an agitator, would have been immediately wiped out, and (with him) all believers, as living and committed to it.

That is why he did not use this expression, nor did he say that it would soon follow, although he (implicitly) always says so. (...) In the same way he says exactly here: 'now hold fast (ò κατέχων) until Wednesday'. That is: when the Roman state ceases to exist, then he (the Antichrist) will come. This is rightly so, - because as long as this state is feared, no one will soon submit (to the Antichrist); but after it is destroyed, lawlessness will set in and he will seek to steal all power, both human and divine. Just as kingdoms were destroyed before, i.e. the Medes by the Babylonians, Babylon by the Persians, the Persians by the Macedonians, the Macedonians by the Romans, so the latter will be destroyed by the Antichrist, and he himself will be defeated by Christ and will no longer have dominion. And all this is conveyed to us with great clarity by Daniel. "And then," he says, "the unrepentant will appear. And then? This is immediately followed by consolation: (the apostle) adds: 'whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth, and shall abolish with the manifestation of his coming; but his coming is according to the work of Satan. Just as fire, when it draws near, torments and destroys small animals before its coming, which are also far away, so in the same way Christ by His command and His coming will kill the Antichrist. It is enough to appear to Him and all this will be destroyed. The moment He (the Lord) appears, He will put an end to the deception [4].

The removal of the Katechon-Emperor from the environment (ἐκ μέσου) is a sign and simultaneously the mechanism of the coming of the Antichrist. In other words, it is the transition from traditional society (which in Orthodoxy is expressed in the symphony of powers and the Caesar-papist principle [5]) - to the post-traditional society. With this begins the last era of substitution.

Not all Christians will admit it, but in the Middle Ages most Catholics agreed with this interpretation of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (which speaks of the "son of perdition" and the "mystery of lawlessness") as applied to the Emperor and the Western Roman Empire of the Germanic nations [6]. Incidentally, it collapsed in the person of Austria-Hungary in 1917, at the same time as the Russian Empire and the Russian Emperor.

But even those Christians who interpret the passage on catechumens not politically, but metaphorically, are thinking structurally. 'Titling' with them takes on a generalised meaning of 'piety', 'holiness', which abandons society.

[3] Second Letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians (Thessalonians.) 2:3-9.
[4] St John Chrysostom. Works of our holy father John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople. Т. 11. Book 1. Ibid. p. 597-598.
[5] Dugin A. G. Noomakhia. Byzantine Logos. Hellenism and Empire. Moscow: Academic Project, 2016.
[6] De Stefano A. L'idea imperiale di Federico II. Parma: Edizioni all'insegna del Veltro, 1999.