Nick Rooney conducted a series of interviews with Alexander Dugin for the documentary The Wolf in the Moonlight. Dugin is a controversial Russian intellectual known as “Putin’s Brain.” He is highly influential, but also an unapologetically illiberal figure. He has been called “The World’s Most Dangerous Philosopher.” The short video is from the longer film. Nick offers some thoughts about his documentary below. The Wolf in the Moonlight is coming to Vimeo soon.
The Wolf in the Moonlight
‘To be a philosopher is to be dangerous’, these were the first words Alexander Dugin said to me when I interviewed him in 2018 for my new film The Wolf in the Moonlight. I was soon to learn that his ideas certainly matched his philosophical ambitions.
For those who are not already familiar with Mr Dugin, he is a former adviser to President Putin, the founder of modern Russian geopolitics, and a controversial and enigmatic philosopher in his own right. Indeed, for some he is the most dangerous philosopher in the world. A man who dreams of overthrowing the current world order and carrying out a tumultuous metaphysical and geopolitical revolution.
The Wolf in the Moonlight contains a series of seasonal interviews with Alexander Dugin. Throughout the film we discuss a number of captivating subjects such as nuclear war, the Skripal spy scandal, Ukraine, Putin, beauty, faith, and the ultimate purpose of life, to name but a few. However, there are three topics which might be especially compelling for readers of this blog.
Truth is Local
Firstly, Alexander Dugin’s assertion that ‘truth is local and only a lie is universal’ cuts to the very heart of Western global dominance. To be more specific, he meant that the only thing we can all agree upon is a lie. Whereas, truth depends upon where you are and what your cultural identity is, and is not to be found on the global or individual level, as is popularly believed in the West. Instead, Mr Dugin would describe truth as sitting on the level of either a religious group, a country, or even a small tribe. But his point is that all of these groups should be allowed to have their own individual truth concerning what is God, space, time, being, man, etc. And the West has no right to demand that they adopt its liberal norms and values – to do so would be a lie.
In such a world any political system, ideology, faith or philosophy is acceptable. After pressing him, he admitted that this might have some negative consequences such as increasing instability in the global system. But in any case, he believes it would create a world much richer in variety, and help restore the idea of the ‘Subject’ i.e. a power which is independent, sovereign and can exercise its own free will.
Russia is the Subject
Building on from this idea, Alexander Dugin related an interesting story to me of his first meeting with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the noted American geopolitician, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, and distinguished author of ‘The Grand Chessboard’. During an interlude in their conversation, Mr Brzezinski invited his interlocutor to play chess with him, a simple and polite gesture you might think. However, there was a clear misunderstanding of what to ‘play chess with him’ meant. Mr Dugin imagined for example, that he would be responsible for the white pieces, while Mr Brzezinski would be responsible for the black pieces, i.e. they would both be treated as equal subjects. In fact, Mr Brzezinski was actually asking his guest to sit behind the white pieces and move them in accordance with his wishes and not Mr Dugin’s own, or alternately he wanted Mr Dugin to just sit and watch him move all the pieces himself, i.e. there would only be one subject, Mr Brzezinski.
Mr Dugin was obviously stung by this slight and chose to interpret this episode as emblematic of the current US-Russian misunderstanding. Russia wants to be treated as an equal subject with the US, while America only recognises one subject, i.e. itself, the rest of the world are merely objects. To be sure, some of you might already be familiar with this common Russian complaint, but it is Mr Dugin’s answer to this problem that is intriguing. He realises that Russia on its own is currently not powerful enough to be a full subject, so he proposes that it should work together with China, Iran and others to create a multipolar world which would be full of more or less equal poles (and subjects) with of course Russia (or rather Eurasia) being one of them. In sum, he believes it is the task of Russian geopolitics to turn Russia from the object into the subject by using Halford Mackinder’s ‘Heartland Theory’ against the West and uniting Eurasia, and then building a multipolar world. A world which he considers would be far more just and balanced than the world we currently have.
Modernity vs. Eternity
Whilst we were wondering down one of Heidegger’s Holzwege discussing the meaning of ‘The One’ from Plato’s ‘Parmenides’, Alexander Dugin suddenly articulated a rather extraordinary statement. A statement heavily influenced by his aforementioned favourite German and Greek philosophers and his own mystical religious convictions. He said, ‘I am against modernity because it has forgotten and prohibited the eternal dimension of life, discredited it, mocked it and created a kind of civilisation based on time and on becoming. And in losing this dimension of transcendence we have lost our humanity as well because humanity has its meaning in relation to its source. So, you cannot stay human when you are losing your God.’
Perhaps with this statement and the other two points above Mr Dugin has encapsulated the essence of the current conflict between Traditionalist Russia and the Liberal West, i.e. the battle between truth and lies, subject and object, modernity and eternity. It could be helpful therefore for both sides to focus more on trying to resolve these recondite issues, rather than the more sensationalist and ephemeral ones which currently receive the lion’s share of attention.
Talking to the Wolf
For those interested in a biased and aggressive film full of ‘Punch and Judy’ interviews, this film is not for you. To my mind such an approach is crass and ultimately futile, and reveals more about the interviewer than the interviewee. Instead, The Wolf in the Moonlight provides a deep character study of a complex, subtle and yes dangerous thinker. A man who is in a state of perpetual war, a ‘Ноомахия’ or ‘War of the Minds’ as he likes to call it.
At the heart of The Wolf in the Moonlight lies the question, what price on the global, personal and spiritual level is this man willing to pay to achieve his aims? The film offers a provocative, philosophical and spiritual take on Russia and the modern world, artistically complemented by haunting paintings, wolf hunts, a mystical ballerina and a burning giant Maslenitsa doll, amongst others. It is a philosophical hymn and a mystical riddle which doesn’t pretend to fully answer the question but rather show the searching, and the essence of searching is the act of purification.
Finally, while this film provides the quintessence of my year long discussions with Alexander Dugin, for those hungry for more a book (provisionally entitled ‘Talking to the Wolf’) with the full interviews (around 400 pages worth) will hopefully be published later this year. In it lots of secrets will be revealed and it should make for some stimulating reading, as well as being a great companion piece for the film.