When I was in Copenhagen this past April, it was my privilege to meet the Danish philosopher Yggdrasil. His philosophy has a Nordic focus, and looks to Scandinavian traditions as well as those of Greece, Rome, and the European Enlightenment.
The nom de plume “Yggdrasil” refers to the World Tree of ancient Norse mythology, whose roots were in Hel, whose branches reached to Asgard, and whose trunk contained Middle Earth. Yggdrasil was the axle on which the cosmos turned.
Below is an excerpt from some of Yggdrasil’s writings. It was translated into English by the author in collaboration with Phanarath.
Freedom of Speech, the Rule of Law, and Democracy
The Western world is threatened. In some places hard-won principles are no longer functioning
And that will not do: freedom of speech, the rule of law and democracy must be preserved
Freedom of speech
The most important human right is freedom of speech. From freedom of speech flow all the other freedoms.
And where does the idea of freedom of speech come from? In the philosophical system it comes from a very specific place. Consider this:
My dear fellow citizens, in spite of all possible esteem and respect for you, I will continue to follow God’s command and not yours, and as long as I can breathe and am capable, I will not stop my search for truth; I will continue to reprimand and instruct you, and when I meet one of you, I will speak to him in my usual way, maybe like this: Listen dear friend, you are from Athens, which has the reputation of being highest in power and culture. Don’t you think it’s degrading that you only care about money and reputation and honor, and only think about how your fortune can become as large as possible, but don’t care the slightest bit about justice and truth, and never think about how your soul can be as good as possible?
The above quote is from the judicial process the tyrants initiated to stop Socrates — who, as is well known, chose to die rather then keep quiet. They used all kinds of dirty tricks, slander, and accusations against him.
Socrates was the first philosopher and founder of all ancient Greek culture, and with that the founder of democracy, the rule of law, and science. Socrates represents the spirit of freedom of speech, the belief that there is more to gain by searching for truth and justice via debate than there is in old books.
This idea is under threat today.
The rule of law
Socrates’ project has come a long way since he drank his cup of hemlock. One of the results has been the rule of law; you can hear the resonance of his ideas in Jyske lov [the law of Jutland], the first constitution of Denmark. Consider this:
“If there was no law in the land, then he had most who could get the most. Therefore the law is made for everyone’s benefit, so that the just and peaceful and innocent can enjoy their peace, and the unjust and evil can live in fear of that which is written in the law, and therefore will not dare to act out the evil deeds they have in mind.”
“The law must be honest and just, durable, by the custom of the country fitting and useful and clear, so that everyone can know and understand what the law says. The law will not be made or written to any man’s special advantage, but to the benefit of all who live in the country.”
The law of Jutland was inspired by Roman law, which was inspired by Greek culture and science — one can draw a straight line from the law we have today back to the ideas and spirit of Socrates. I also think we can hear it; it’s the same tone.
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In a lawless state the citizens are victims of randomness and tyranny. Dictators can create their own little dictatorships, and dominate everyone around them. Tyranny, oppression, and the random use of power are the agenda of the day. The rule of law protects citizens from tyranny, in that the law is above the tyrant.
In the philosophy of law the nature of law is discussed. As a moral philosopher I believe that courts can bring justice. Justice is the prime value that contains other values; justice can be honesty, tolerance, respect, and openness. This is the ideal Socrates believes in, and with him so do I.
Today the rule of law is a thousand-year-old system, and has developed many good principles — the burden of proof, conviction by the testimony of witnesses, and much more — but the essence of rule of law is that it brings justice.
Socrates lived in a democracy. Socrates was Athenian, and Athens’ mark of nobility was the democracy. To me his example represents the inner life of democracy.
Socrates believed that man can find truth, and the way to a good world is through dialogue. It is naïve to think that justice can only be discovered in old books, since the world is constantly changing. It is much more sensible to find solutions in a reasonable discussion of the reality we find ourselves in. The goal must of course always be “the good”, meaning a better society where people are joyful and happy.
Aristotle, another Athenian, believed that freedom is the essence of democracy — democracy is conceived, along with the rule of law, as a guard against random use of power and tyranny. The citizens can choose to change their rulers if they become corrupt. Politicians are the servants of society.
Today the project of Socrates is threatened. There are places in the West where his project in has in fact been abandoned. That is unacceptable, and it is the duty of our political leaders to make sure that all the people in the entire West can enjoy the rule of law and the protection of democracy.
There are places where a kind of Muslim law, called sharia, sets the agenda. And this law is not the same as Roman law. In practice the areas of sharia develop into small dictatorships, and people who are not in favor of sharia are being intimidated.
Democracy and the rule of law are beneficial for all citizens — Muslims, atheists and Christians — and without it we can not live together in a peaceful and reasonable way. If groups within the population refuse to take part, the whole of society is threatened.
That will not do — our society will dissolve.
A Brief Autobiography of Yggdrasil
Every 200 to 300 years Western civilization goes from decay to rebirth. A civilization riddled with stupidity, arrogance, and corruption turns on its heel, brushes off its feathers, and rises from the ashes. As the phoenix, the West shines once again, bringing reason, science and freedom to shores far away.
I believe the eternal developmental wheel of western civilization is at such a point right now – we have all been corrupted with ideas of no intrinsic value, and our societies are crumbling under the burden of megalomaniacal welfare states or bureaucratic socialist rule. It is time to find our roots once again.
It is an act we have seen numerous times; Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo in the Italian renaissance, Rembrandt and Descartes in the Dutch renaissance, and most recently Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Napoleon in the French renaissance.
And it all comes back the rebirth of ancient Athens: Socrates, Aristotle, Plato. Politics, art, science and philosophy are reinvented — reason descends upon us once again.
And here I enter; the philosopher Yggdrasil — somehow caught in these world-changing events.
Where do I come from? I come from an ancient family of philosophers. My great-great grandfather was a philosopher of some renown, and it has been a tradition in my family to defend Western civilization, and especially democracy. The torch of philosophy has been handed down through the generations from farther or mother to son or daughter. We have lived lives of obscurity for the last thirty or forty years — socialism has been all the rage in Denmark, and there has been no use for us. But now things seem to have changed, all of a sudden people show interest in our ideas again.
What is the main focus of a modern philosopher?
There is one central battle that we have to win, and that is the fight for freedom. Not only freedom in an abstract sense, within the economy or the bureaucracy of the state — but in an unyielding support of freedom of speech, the essence of democracy and science. This is the first and most important barricade of a western state. As soon as we are overwhelmed by the glossocrats, the politically correct, or the Islamists, we are finished — democracy and science will not function any longer.
Secondly, and combined with the fight for freedom of speech, we fight for our physical freedom, the right to remain free from slavery in our own countries. The Islamists have a long tradition of slavery in their culture. It has even been institutionalized, in the organizations such as the Ottoman Janissaries. This is a very real danger, already in effect in many ghettos around Europe. It will continue its development if we do not stop it.
Thirdly, we fight for Roman Law, an ancient Western institution, inspired by the Athenians but with roots going as deep as the pharaohs of Egypt. It includes a faith in justice, given to us by judges, persons with rationality as their prime tool.
The rule of law has so far freed us from the rule of the strongest, the rule of the mob. This institution is threatened by the Islamic legal institution known as Sharia. If we do not defend Roman Law, it will cease to function wherever Islamists are in charge. It is already out of effect in numerous ghettoes around the world, in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, England, France, Germany, Belgium and so on. Roman Law has been swapped for Sharia , a system of law based on the Koran. This will not do.
So what brought a philosopher to the Gates of Vienna?
Well, actually it has been quite a journey, through many a landscape, with choices hard to make.
It all started with the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis — as with many other people around the world, a drama of surrealistic proportions and implications unfolded right in front of my eyes. It seemed weird, and the daily life of most Danes just kept on as it used to. I tried to defend my country the best I could, but at that time I was even more unknown than I am now. So it all came down to a few articles on central Danish blogs. It made me think, however, and I started checking things out on the internet — implications started to dawn upon me, and I realized that this danger of Islamism was for real. Many other things dawned upon me as well: the socialist control of the MSM, academia and government. You all know the drill.
I felt an obligation to do something, I am a philosopher — and freedom of speech was at stake, but I couldn’t really decide what to do. I the summer of 2006 I went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella — the Camino. For three weeks I walked through dense forests, over plains — I climbed mountains and saw eagles soaring over the beautiful plains of Galicia . When you are on a pilgrimage, you are alone with your own thoughts. And my thoughts kept coming back to the issue of Mohammed and his depiction in Jyllands Posten. I had brought a book of Aristotle with me, the “Politics”; I read through it, and discussed it with myself. And at a certain point, I do not really remember when, I decided to join the Counterjihad when I returned home.
Dangerous work, but my duty as a Danish philosopher.
Now the good Baron Bodissey has invited me to write here at the Gates of Vienna, a great honor I will try to repay the best I can. Baron once asked me; how would you want to fight Islamism? And I answered him: Through inspiration. This is my task, as I see it — I will try to inspire you; to explain, in simple words, the beauty of Western culture, the elegance of its ideas. To give you all my enthusiasm for Socrates and Aristotle, to renew what was taken away from us by naïve socialists.