Imperium and the Sun: The Strange Case of Augustus Sol Invictus and the New RightShane Burley I Politics & Government I Commentary I January 11th, 2016
In a world where Donald Trump has mobilized the fringes of the neo-fascist right-wing as a foundational base, then used this boost to dominate the GOP race, maybe it should not be a surprise that ripple effects are being felt inside of regional races often dominated by Beltway names.
It may sound hyperbolic to say that a leading Florida political candidate comes from a backyard soaked in the blood of goats and is calling for "LSD and sorcery," but this time it is not a Vice piece of pan-irony. From the same outfit, the Florida Libertarian Party, which former Roy Cohn affiliate and Donald Trump lobbyist Roger Stone may run in, Augustus Sol Invictus has made a name for himself (literally) going in directions that even the fringes of his party never thought of. The basics of Augustus are the points that most outlets have focused on, and for obvious reasons. Invictus is a Thelemite, the pan-pagan religious tradition founded by Aleister Crowley as a semi-reconstructionist project based on Middle Eastern pagan religions and broad esoteric orders. Augustus himself is incredibly open about his paganism, though less open about the Crowley, and this is what led him to take the name that means "majestic unconquered sun" in Latin.
This is not the first time that a candidate has been an open pagan, we have seen Druids and Wiccans run for local office on Green Party and leftist tickets before, but this is not the tradition that Augustus really draws from. Instead, the far-right elements of pagan romanticism come out as his Roman title really reminds us of a pagan empire where strength, hierarchy, and power are fetishized, rather than the nature-worshipping syncretism we see in most incense-drenched New Age shops. His paganism has drawn immediate criticism for public goat sacrifice, though this is becoming more common among militant folkish kindreds inside of Nordic Heathenry. It is that form of Asatru that has been well documented for its fascist connections, but Invictus actually aligns himself with an even more controversial form of paganism from Crowley's occult work at the turn of the century and has crossover with esoteric Satanist groups. This is not uncommon for those on the right-wing of paganism, especially in what is called "Left Hand Path" currents that deride conventional morality.
His claimed Thelemite status is really just a smokescreen that media outlets have grabbed onto merely because of its appearance along with the types of public speeches he gives. In 2013 he gave a speech shouting that he was going to be the start of the Second American Civil War, and in another he called for "total insurrection," though it seems these are clearly rhetorical points and not proclamations of violent action.
"I do not want you to vote, so much as I want you to wake up. I want you to drop out and tune in. I want you to takeLSD and practice sorcery. I want you to listen to trap music and black metal, to learn the law and to break it deliberately, to find your own religion. I want you to learn the use of firearms and subject yourselves to rigorous physical training. I want you to treat your bodies as Holy Temples and to take your girlfriend to a strip club so you can seduce a dancer in the back room. I want you to worship Nature and dance naked in the moonlight 'round the fire, screaming in ecstatic joy. I want you to revolt. Raise Hell. Break your limitations. Renounce your life and go into the Wilderness, that God may speak to you of things to come." (1)
This was a much quoted line, but its purpose is more to "shake things up" rather than to just to be a sideshow, as we have seen with candidates from the Vampires, Witches, and Warlocks Party that he is often compared to.
While these elements on their own are what have garnered most of the attention, it is their association with even more problematic ideas and people that have created a portrait that few are ready to deal with in its entirety. The chairman of Florida's Libertarian Party, Adrian Wyliie, resigned his position after Augustus gained the candidacy. He has openly called him a fascist and said that his radical politics are the "antithesis" of the platform of the LFP. One of his central claims is that Invictus supports Eugenics, which is showed in an older essay he wrote that is still available on his website. In the paper titled "A Declaration on the Failings of the Federal Government" he states his open disgust for the country's rejection of eugenics as a formal state policy.
"It has abandoned its eugenics program & elitist mindset in favor of decadent ideology that rejects the beauty of strength and demands the exponential growth of the weakest, least intelligent, and most diseased." (2)
Augustus has now disavowed Eugenics and said it is an idea he no longer supports, and since he has seemed to rarely avoid controversy for political purposes, he may or may not be sincere. Likewise, even if he does turn his back on Eugenics as a useful process, it is not necessarily because he has grown to see it as a monstrous machine.
"If people like Adrian Wyliie, let's say, they get a hold of a program this it's going to be a dysgenics program. They are going to wipe out my bloodline within a generation, and that's what upsets me about it. And libertarians give me shit for that because they say "Well, you're not disavowing it for the reasons we want you to disavow it. You're not disavowing it because it's a violation of the Non-Aggression Principle. You're disavowing it because it can't work." (3)
Much of this rhetoric has caused a split in the Libertarian Party of Florida itself, where Robert Stone may end up being recruited by the old guard of the party to run against him.
Augustus's history is an interesting one, and, like many on the radical right, is not a straight line through hard right politics. He was born into a repressive, Christian family in Florida, though his attorney father also shared his libertarian political and economic positions. While majoring in philosophy at the University of South Florida he founded a group called the Freethinkers, where he began to develop his affinity for unique religious traditions. When getting his law degree at DePaul in Chicago people reported that he started to take some bizarre turns. An anonymous source told the Washington Free Beacon that he both "had a fascination with Nazism" and that he was a holocaust denier and misogynist. The answer he then gave to the claims of his "dim view of women" was "I have two daughters. I have a fiancée. I am a pagan. I worship the goddess."(4)
As a lawyer, Invictus prided himself in taking on cases involved in terrorism and drug trafficking, both of which played into his later political positions inside the Libertarian Party. With his law practice, which he named Imperium, he garnered a great deal of publicity as he defended neo-Nazi Marcus Faella of the American Front. He spoke out in support of the members of the American Front he knew, said they were great friends of him that helped him move, and that they were not terrorists.
In April of 2013 he sent out an open letter to DePaul Law school graduates calling himself a "genius" and "God's gift to humankind where the English language is concerned." He went on to say that he was abandoning his profession for a spiritual journey:
"As for those in the profession of law: The vast majority of you are nothing more than parasites. The only reason you eat, the only reason you can afford to have roofs over your heads, is that the lives of others have been ruined by the very laws & social order you claim to be legitimate. You feed off others like worms, and were this world & their lives just & in order, you would be out of work. Look upon your lives, and repent.
This modern civilization of which you are all so fond deserves naught from me but the violence of my contempt; and if you were strong enough, you would hold the same contempt & turn your torches upon the world as I shall.
WITNESS YE MY RENUNCIATION:
I hereby renounce my licenses to practice law, my diplomas, my affiliation with Rollins, DePaul, and the University of South Florida, my United States citizenship, my membership in the Roman Catholic Church, my law firm, my publishing company & poetry journal, and all of my material possessions.
To those who believe that this great renunciation is evidence of mental illness rather than the initiation of a spiritual journey: If my example stirs nothing in you, if you can see no further than the confines of what your secular humanism & its hallowed psychiatry allow, then there is nothing I can say to you that would wake you from your slumber. You are less than the beast in man. You are fungi. Would to God that you pass quickly from this Earth." (5)
He then walked 2,500 miles across the country from Florida to the Mojave Desert. This is where he sacrificed the goat to the God of the Wilderness that he was so well known for. He was formally in the Ordo Templi Orientis, a Thelemite organization, but then banned for what he labeled "political reasons." Others, including the Libertarian Party state chairman, said that the act of animal sacrifice is what got him kicked out of the OTO, who did not want to be associated with this kind of public action given their already controversial status. After the sacrifice he drank the goat's blood then put the video online, and despite outrage from groups like PETA calling this behavior "cruel," Augustus has maintained that he never dismembered or tortured the animal like was claimed. (6)
As a part of his candidacy, Augustus has decided to embed himself in neo-fascist media since he is not going to get long-form coverage from the staple Florida outlets. This means going on the Between Two Lampshades segment of racialist podcast The Daily Shoah, which is a "joke" that references the use of Jewish skin to make lampshades during the Holocaust. Here he talked about things like immigration restriction, along with his staple positions: ending the drug war, ending interventionist wars, and abolishing the IRS. He laughed and joked as the hosts made blunt racial jokes and threw out epithets, and he seemed grateful for their friendship. Later, he went on the neo-tribalist and Men's Rights Activism friendly podcast The Pressure Project, which has hosted fascist mainstays like Jared Taylor and Jack Donovan. Christopher Cantwell, the "race realist" ranter that used to write for Cop Block, had him on his YouTube call-in show, Radical Agenda. Here he introduced him by quoting Murray Rothbard on the need for "radicals" who stand against "statism." It is here that his radicalism is celebrated, his opposition to the "system," but his actual politics were only briefly mentioned.
It is easy to dismiss Invictus as more of a publicity stunt that is bent on mere "system destruction" rather than containing a cogent center of a fascist politic. Fascism's key, both during the interwar period and in its resurrectionist manifestations, is syncretic, mixing in aspects of the left to create a shifting, yet totalizing, political system. Libertarianism itself has often been an entry point for these politics because it has the unique ability to mainstream far-right positions, and really to be the only crossover point that organizations with hard-right politics would normally have. Invictus himself seems to maintain very common talking points from the Libertarian Party, but mixes them with a sort of social commentary about the need for dominant leaders, a "cult of violence," and the need to return to the idea of Imperium. The question many are putting front and center is whether or not he represents explicit white nationalism, and with his bi-racial family it is easy to dismiss his associations. Instead, he seems to portray a frenetic and confused political menu that focuses on strength and power and keeps a great deal of open fascist ideals just under the surface.
One of the driving political ideas that Augustus has been bringing openly to his campaign, whether through speeches or in referenced images and written works on his website, is that of Imperium. Those who look at the history of fascism as a philosophical and revolutionary current will find the term familiar as the name of Francis Parker Yockey's racist and nationalist "classic." The term itself means 'power to command' in Latin and came out of Rome as the power that comes when a person can lead a military, possibly in a coup of sorts. In the original context this could mean the extent of power that is given to someone over a region or department of a state or society, but often follows a sense of might or strength that can naturally draw a group capable of violence through their will. This is part of what has given the congressmen-in-waiting a sense of fascist leadership as all of his component parts seem to build a recreation of ancient Rome, just the same kind of palingenetic ultra-nationalism that the original Fascist Party rested on prior to the March on Rome. Invictus's logo even has an image of the Fasces, the image of the interwar Fascist Party, with a bouquet of wooden rods bound together with an axe coming forth from the center. The fasces here is placed on its side with a winged eagle holding it, as if to bring forth something that resonates from the past and to take it into the future. The image itself is largely a re-enactment of what would have been on the Senate chamber in ancient Rome. During the period ramping up to the various fascist party coups we saw Italy re-envisioned as reclaiming its Roman trajectory, even reattaching its pagan warrior religion with heroes leading their people into victory. This Imperium is what determined the course of the 1930s and 40s, yet that spirit is one that continues to rise and fall during times of upheaval and crisis.
In one of his own videos, which is brandished with the fasces inside of a wreath, he allies himself with the "naturalistic" view of the world that is equal parts animism and hierarchy. Like many in the neo-fascist and radical traditionalist camps, he celebrates this sense of hierarchy, yet only when it comes from nature and not from false social systems:
"Throughout history, in all climates and locations, a natural order has prevailed, though with certain remarkable aberrations, such as our own day and age.
With Nature, reason counts for little or nothing: 'the strong do what they can, while the weak suffer what they must.' In Nature, the shrub does not
pretend to be an oak; yet in America, the oak and shrub daily wish to switch places. The most ignorant and pathetic of us wish their voices to be heard, no
matter the cost. They want 'rights,' some amorphous collection of phantasmagorical weapons to be wielded against the powerful in the name of 'humanity.'
And the powerful bend over backwards to see who can fastest become the commoner. Those powerful who do not act thusly abdicate not their power but their
sense of social responsibility, such that their status is taken for granted, and they believe that the rest of the world can go straight to Hell as long as
they get to keep their money.
In attempting to name the nameless, I have named it Imperium. The word *imperium* is a Latin one translating variously as 'command,' 'power,' or 'dominion.' This word seems to capture that blind drive behind all false reason and pretenses to justice. It also defies every holy truth of Democratic Liberalism: inherent egalitarianism, irresponsible individualism, mindless consumerism, et cetera. In evoking the word *imperium* I mean to denominate a political philosophy that recognizes the necessity of hierarchy in human society; the right of the powerful to govern the weak; the responsibility of the powerful to protect and support the weak; the primacy of the individual over the herd; the supremacy of the creative essence over mundane existence." (7)
The open rejection of Enlightenment values, especially democracy and equality, are foundations of a New Right political sphere that attempts to intellectually rebrand fascist ideas by boiling down their essential ideas and repackaging in hip post-modern terms. Invictus is an easy target because of his appropriation of fascist imagery in non-ironic ways, very similar to problematic neo-folk bands, but his ideas fit inside their camp comfortably.
Much of what can be said about Augustus is in his elitism, at least in the way he wants to present himself. His speeches themselves are "designed" to go beyond both conventional political understanding, at least that is the claim he seems to make about them:
"I've deliberately made it difficult for people to judge me on a superficial level…We all bitch about politics being dumbed down, and we hate how everything's a sound bite…And if I start speaking at a third grade reading level instead of speaking how I'm used to, then I'm perpetuating that." (8)
The reality is that most of political speeches say almost nothing about policy except broad platitudes, and talking in vague counter-culture and revolutionary references without analysis or clear ideas is the definition of superficial. Instead, what he is doing is creating a smokescreen, a melding of "left and right" into an incomprehensible mish-mash that is more designed to create a mob than a real insurrection. This is not an uncommon method on the right, or even much of the populist left for that matter, but what it is also designed to do is lead masses of people while providing very little to engage them in conscious politics. The elitism he shows is one that is drawn directly from ideological roots, which may or may not include a support for eugenics, but certainly does fetishize qualities that he sees as "essentialist" rather than relative. This means the need for strength, the essential nature of beauty, the innate inequality of peoples, and the need for strong rulers. These are fundamental ideas that fuel a generalized fascist worldview, which run counter to what they see as "decadent" ideas like beauty and strength being relative, pleasure as being important, and the concept that while people are different, they are equal in the end.
In a certain sense, his fascist qualities are ones that he voluntarily assumes into his manor and aesthetics. Beyond his fashionable "fashy" hair, penchant for imperial insignia along his campaign materials, and an antebellum accent that shows up during prepared speeches yet is vacant during interviews, is a sense of decorum that is intended to give a sense of the Goose-stepping nationalist movements of the early 20th century. He seems to abandon any strict nationalist politics, however, and instead is into creating a cult of power, authority, and strength, one that is both masculine and romantic. This gestures towards an assessment that far-right academic Paul Gottfried made that the only resurgence the right-wing could have was from something that looked more like European fascism, which could be in the form of the "cult of the masculine." This may come when things like race become less and less viable as open fault lines in the culture, where instead gender and sexuality wars could mobilize disaffected male members of the working class to rally around fetishized images of masculinity of the past. Augustus Sol Invictus moves even past this, into an area where it is more "strength" and "power" in its abstractness that is to set a black flame in the populace and head them towards psychedelics and "sorcery." He even joked with The Daily Shoah that many people wanted for him to issue "black shirts" to his campaign supporters, or possibly even "fashionable armbands."
His program includes gutting the Department of Education completely, a notion that would destroy the entire public education system and let it devolve into a mess of charter programs. This is the duality that is often present in populist libertarian candidates who claim to stage "revolution" on the dismal lives of the American working class, yet then raid the few positive institutions they still have. His war on equal access to education is matched with a general attack on the rest of the social services, all of which is coded behind a very vague "end to the drug war." This has been the way that libertarians have crossed over for years, and Invictus largely keeps many of those platform points, yet giving it an edge of militaristic medievalism. While he is not a fan of either gay marriage or abortion rights, he actually does not oppose either on the grounds that it is not a government issue.
This is not to say that he is just part and parcel of the libertarian de-regulation machine. He continuously makes very clear "America first" statements, such as telling The Pressure Project, "We should act in American interests, and not the interests of other powers or interests." (9) He goes on about this in relation to AIPAC and U.S./Israel relations with The Daily Shoah, which they applauded him on. When they said that he should "just call them Jews" he replied, "You can't say that when you're running for office, man!" The degree to which his politics reflect open racialism and nationalism depends on who he is with, and you can see a definite shift to the right when speaking with white nationalists and identitarians.
The Libertarian Party of Florida's response to Invictus has been one of frantic mixed emotions, largely because he violates their sense of decorum rather than challenging their politics. After his calls for insurrection and civil war, the LPF took into consideration dual motions against him, one for violating the Non-Aggression Principle. There is little the LPF can actually do at this point since he has paid his money and turned in his petition signatures.
Invictus continues to pound the digital pavement, though this is less Florida oriented than most local candidates would. He hops from right-wing podcast to web series, yet rarely appears on local media unless it is to gawk at his YouTube farm animal blood-lettings. Even the better known Adrian Wyliie pulled in only 3.8% in a local election, so things are looking even more dismal for a LPF candidate who is best known for eugenics and dead goats.(11) Augustus is pretty open about his marginal status and inability to actually win the office, but with his style of speeches and approach to media and presentation, that seems largely besides the point. Instead, he seems to represent more of a communications project to "stir things up," though this is more delusion than fact since his political program is meager and his ideas are little more than bumper sticker slogans. The project as a whole is more like a social media "troll" than either organizing or propaganda, writhing in futility to find a revolutionary politic that can cut through the party system and restore natural hierarchy through Imperium. This has been common amongst the "Alt Right," where organizing is often derided and instead internet arguments, conferences, podcasts, and endless blog diarrhea are seen as a positive way forward. The argument could be made that this comes from their attacks on materialism and their lean towards idealism, especially in the "if we dream it we can built it" mentality. In this context, the Invictus campaign makes perfect sense, especially as a form of elaborate ritual magick, attempting to build a new world through rousing rhetoric and performance.
When looking at the Imperium in South Florida it is hard to let his religion not distract, though his paganism and eccentricities are his own. This has been enough to make him the number-one strangest political story of 2015, according to CNN, and his appeal as a side-show spectacle rather than a potential political force is obvious.(12) It is the allegiance with fascist projects, the resurrections of the Cult of Strength, and the flying fasces that should raise red flags. Neo-fascist politics are built on logical contradictions, stolen bits from the left counter-culture, and the utilization of themes and philosophy that are hard to find on large Wikis. Invictus represents a complicated piece of this puzzle, not steeped in traditional white nationalism, but playing a role in the resurgence of a frightening politic calling from the vilest areas of human cruelty. He may or may not end up siding with his racist associates on all points, but his mixed position is one that will return again and again as the space has been opened for a flood of previously internet-only right-wing ideologues. For those looking to counter the influx of racialist ideas, they need to look beyond the more obvious signals and see the seemingly invisible subcultural spaces that have seen a slow influx, and libertarianism has acted as this crossover point for years. This time, it just comes with a dash of blood.
1. Cordeiro, Monivette "Libertarian Party of Florida chairman resigns, accuses candidate of goat sacrifice and eugenics" . Orlando Weekly. (October 2, 2015).
2. Augustus Sol Invictus. "Declarations of the Failings of Federal Government." Augustus Sol Invictus for Senate. http://www.invictusforsenate.com/political/indictments.html.
3. "The Daily Shoah! Episode 54: Indigenous Goyim Day." The Right Stuff. Segment: Between Two Lampshades. October 13, 2015. http://therightstuff.biz/2015/10/13/the-daily-shoah-episode-54-indigenous-goyim-day/ .
4. Matthew, Walther. "A Sacrificial Goat in Every Pot." The Washington Free Beacon. November 11, 2015. http://freebeacon.com/culture/a-sacrificial-goat-in-every-pot/.
5. Augustus Sol Invictus. "Political Speech & Modern Exile." Augustus Sol Invictus Linkedin. December 13, 2014. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/political-speech-modern-exile-augustus-sol .
6. Farrington, Brendan. "Florida candidate for U.S. Senate admits to sacrificing goat, drinking its blood" . Orlando Sentinel. (October 5, 2015). Associated Press.
7. Augustus Sol Invictus. "Imperium as Political Philosophy." Video. February 13, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAXqAA6N8yc.
8. "The Pressure Project #201: Augustus Sol Invictus - A Talk With the Pagan Prince of Politics." The Pressure Project. http://www.thepressureproject.com/tpp-201-augustus-sol-invictus-a-talk-with-the-pagan-prince-of-politics/ .
10. The Daily Shoah, Ibid.
11. Blake, Andrew. "Augustus Sol Invictus Stirs Florida Senate Race." The Washington Times. October 6, 2015. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/6/augustus-sol-invictus-stirs-florida-senate-race-ta/ .
12. Krieg, Gregory. "The 10 weirdest political stories of 2015 not including Trump." CNN.com. December 29, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/22/politics/2015-weird-political-stories/index.html?eref=rss_politics .