Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).

Delusional Dugin

The Danger of Esoteric Traditionalism

Frank Visser

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Dugin
Vladimir Putin and Alexander Dugin
To understand how this view of geopolitics can completely run amok, we need to dive into Dugin's more esoteric views.

In one of my early essays on the Russo-Ukrainian war I mention Alexander Dugin as one of three Russian philosophers that have influenced Vladimir Putin (the other two being Ivan Ilyin and Lev Gumiljov).[1] Since Dugin is the only of the three that is still alive, and he is an extremely productive author and speaker, it is time to have a closer look at this enigmatic figure. It is always difficult to assess how much influence a thinker has on Putin and the war he has launched upon Ukraine, and the case of Alexander Dugin is no different, but it is clear that there is considerably resonance between this flamboyant philosopher and the much more cautious politician. Dugin has been called "The most dangerous philosopher in the world"[2] and "Putin's brain"[3], but it remains to be seen to what extent this is accurate.

This ties in to a more practical and relevant question given the current war: what drives it and how expansive is Putin's military programme really? If he is able to take over Ukraine, or what has remained of it, will his territorial appetite be satisfied, or will he proceed to conquer Georgia, Moldavia, the Baltics? And what NATO country will be next? Or will he be content to create unrest in these countries by destabilizing and infiltrating their public domains? Much depends on an answer to that question. The current view is that Russian is on an imperialistic track, to restore the grandeur of past Russian empires (the Sovjet and Tsarist), given Putin's statement that he is only "taking back what already belongs to us." Or does he "just" want to create a demilitarized zone between Russia and NATO, so he can keep all perceived threats at bay?

I can see several options here:

How expansive is Putin's military agenda?
Putin wants to protect all ethnic Russians
Putin wants to reclaim East Ukraine
Putin wants to reclaim all of Ukraine
Putin has invaded Ukraine, to stop NATO expansion
Putin wants to restore all territory lost in the past
Putin wants to expand even beyond these borders


The (paid) podcast by Konstantin Kisin gives a good flavour of Dugin's mind set. From the intro to Part 2:

A state or group of states on the Eurasian continent will always naturally seek to expand their control to the entirety of Eurasia from Dublin to Vladivostok.
If Russia doesn't, someone else will and since Russia is the centre of Eurasia if it doesn't attempt to secure control of the continent whoever does will inevitably want control of Russia.
The Russian saying Dugin quotes to explain this basic rule of geopolitics is “a holy place is never empty”, a way of saying that a good thing will never go unclaimed, if it's good, someone's coming to take it.
We should not expect other people to leave Russian lands be out of respect for our sovereignty. Russia must not only rebuild its Empire by recovering its former territories, it must secure alliances with, neutrality of or military control over all of Eurasia.
Even the slightest hesitation about building Russia's new empire will be taken by our competitors as an invitation to expand into our lands. This will obviously provoke a Russian reaction and lead to a disastrous intra-continental war that would have no positive outcome given that a non-Russian Eurasia will require the annihilation of the Russian people, which, as history has shown, is not just difficult but impossible.
The Russian people have a special mission. They are a messianic, imperial people. To relinquish this would mean spiritual castration. The only way to avoid this disaster is for the Russian people, who have a “special civilisational mission”, to secure control of the entire continent for the benefit of all Eurasians.[4]

This is still within the bounds of regular geopolitics, especially when seen from a "realist perspective". Yet, I have noticed a trend of radicalization in Dugin's utterances, with a huge discrepancy between polite and diplomatic public statements and his more personal, esoteric views. It is one thing to argue for a multipolar world, in opposition to a perceived US hegemony, and a mutual respect between different "civilizations" (think of Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations). It is totally something else to paint a picture of the Russian people as essentially different, destined to fulfill a special mission, and paint other cultures (most notably the West) as black, decadent, nihilistic and even satanic. What to think of this?

Dugin: The West is an absolute evil

What is left of tolerance and mutual respect here? How is this not a caricature of what Western civilization, and liberal democracy in general, stands for? In integral terms, Dugin seems to harp back to an idealistic version of the mythic-membership, traditionalist society, in which the population is totally subservient to the state, the church and the strong leader, in this case Vladimir Putin.

His statements about modernity and postmodernity come across as superficial, schematic and without felt meaning. He seems to be fixated on the disasters of these cultural historical periods, instead of their dignities, to use Wilber's terminology. For him, leaving the mythic stage of cultural and individual development is a recipe for disaster. We are without any rules for life, will degenerate into consumerist beings, and deny any higher values in life.

What he doesn't notice, if he has ever experienced it himself, is that modernity makes individual human beings responsible for their own lives and worldviews. Instead of blindly accepting a pre-given system of meaning, they have to venture by themselves to find it. Postmodernism too is seen by Dugin through the extreme right-wing lens that abhors the Woke mentality. He is basically clueless about healthy and non-healthy versions of this more developed mentality. But it explains why conservative Tucker Carlson resonates with (a mild version of) Dugin's philosophy, as his recent interview shows.[5]

Another philosophical gem of Alexander Dugin:

Dugin: Ukrainians are a race of degenerates

Again, Ukrainians choosing a more Western course are framed as degenerates, addicts, perverts and what not. It is the end of all serious and sane debate. But it aligns with Putin's grim view of this "brotherly people", who are expected to return to his fold, even welcome him as a liberator. That Ukraine hasn't received him as liberator at all is testament to grave miscalculations and delusions on the side of Putin and his intelligence team.


To understand how this view of geopolitics can completely run amok, we need to dive into Dugin's more esoteric views. Dugin has been influenced by "traditionalists" René Guenon and Julius Evola, among others. In this context, "Traditionalism" (with a capital T) means something much more extreme than just a conservative outlook on life. It denotes a view usually called perennialism, which means that certain truths are seen as being present in all great religions, but only available for those who are initiated. Its view of history is not progressive or evolutionary, but on the contrary reactionary and degenerative. Compared to an utopian past, in which orthodox religion determined all aspects of life, the modern cultural period is seen as a low point in terms of morality and wisdom.[6] Think: the Kali Yuga.

Ken Wilber started out as perennialist in his writing career (one of his earliest essays was called "Perennial Psychology"), but later on he opted for the label "neo-perennialism" to describe his decidedly optimistic and evolutionary view of history. Hence the title of one of his early books: Up from Eden (1981). In Wilber's view, human beings develop through perpersonal (mythic), personal (rational) and—when development continues—transpersonal (mystic) stages, each of which have their blessings and their challenges. Where Dugin dreams of a reactionary past, where a "conservative revolution" has ended all modern and postmodern accomplishments, Wilber looks to the future.

In the hands of reactionary mavericks like Alexander Dugin, such a regressive view is a great obstacle to healthy development, culturally and individually. When politicians like Putin are under the influence of such grandiose world schemes, things can get even worse. Arguing for conservative and traditional values in society is one thing, but eagerly awaiting a violent and even nuclear Holy War in which orthodox religion mixed with esoteric sentiments will win out over an open and free society is definitely a scenario to avoid at all costs.[7] The fact that Russia has aligned itself strategically with North Korea, China and Iran is a bad omen of what is too come when Russian traditionalists have their way. Especially the Iranian theocracy fits Dugin's idea of an ideal society perfectly, where the individual means nothing, the collective, sanctioned by clerics and pundits, everything. Dugin is a big fan of Ayatollah Khamenei.

I have not touched upon Dugin's more dubious affiliations, especially in his younger years, where he openly praised fascism and national socialism (minus its racism, we are to believe), but his Wikipedia page gives ample information about that. Also, his excursions into philosophy, which range from Plato to Heidegger and many more, have met with criticism from professional philosophers. Dugin seems to have done a very selective reading into these sources to fit his preconceived notions of a collectivist-reactionary society. Where he praises Plato, he is silent on the independent thinker Socrates. Where he likes Heidegger's anti-modernity, he is blind for nuances that stress the value of independent individual thought, especially under social pressure. As said, his abstract dealing with the many -isms like communism, liberalism and fascism lacks any personal experience, which makes him in the end a dangerous dilettante.[8]

To give just one example: Dugin believes that the mythical Hyperborea was a divinely blessed country, a homeland in the far North, linked to the Eurasian civilization, a very popular idea among neo-Nazis. Wikipedia:

The influential Russian philosopher, mystic, and radical political theorist Aleksandr Dugin has "touted ancient legends about the sunken city of Atlantis and the mythical civilisation Hyperborea" in defense of his vision of a Russian Empire that might span from Vladivostok in the East to Dublin at the Western edge of Europe. "He believes Russia is the modern-day reincarnation of the ancient 'Hyperboreans' - who need to stand at odds with the modern-day 'Atlanteans', the United States. Dugin long demonstrated a belief in "Hyperboreans" having published The Hyperborean Theory (1992).

Perhaps there is a reason Putin keeps his distance from this esoteric-Traditionalist philosopher after all. Yet, even as a myth, it aligns fully with his military and political agenda.

Dugin: Africans are the bestial race


[1] Frank Visser, "Putin's Dark Ideology of a Sacred Greater Russia",

[2] Paul Ratner, "The Most Dangerous Philosopher in the World",, December 18, 2016.

[3] Andreas Umland, "Don't Take 'Putin's Brain' Dugin at Face Value", The Moscow Times, Nov. 8, 2023.

[4] ""Russia Must EXPAND to Survive" - Alexander Dugin" and "Russia Needs an Empire! Our Fight for Global Supremacy is NOT Over" - Alexander Dugin, Part 1 and 2 of our Deep Dive into the Man They Call "Putin's Brain",, March 31, 2023

[5] Tucker Carlson, "The Tucker Carlson Encounter: Aleksandr Dugin", Apr 29, 2024.

[6] See also: Frank Visser, Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (2003), p. 276, "The Perennialists".

[7] Gary Lachman, "A War Of All Against All?",, March 7, 2023.

[8] Victor Kal, Poetins filosoof, Alexander Doegin, Prometheus, Amsterdam, 2023.


More On Traditionalism

Mark Sedgwick: ‘Dugin is not Putin's brain, they are not even close to eachother.’

A good introduction to Traditionalism, by British historian Mark Sedgwick, the author of "Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century" (2004) and the more recent "Traditionalism: The Radical Project for Restoring Sacred Order" (2023). At 43:00 Alexander Dugin is discussed. At 36:00 mention is made of "integralists", but this is a conservative Catholic movement in the US, not to be confused with Wilberian integralists. See Integralism on Wikipedia.

More on Perennialism
Keith Woods: ‘There is serious commonality of teaching between these traditions.’

A nice overview of the perennialist landscape, both academically and spiritually, is given by YouTuber Keith Woods. At the very end (31:00) Wilber shows up, as a structuralist with "a kind of Hegelian perspective of Spirit experiencing itself", a "very different take from the esoteric traditionalist school that would say, Kali Yuga, things are declining, time is cyclical... But he still has a kind of perennialist perspective in that religions are all manifestations of these kinds of deep structure".

Comment Form is loading comments...