The World Through a Monocled Eye: Julius Evola’s Men Among the Ruins
ISSUED in 1953, at a time when Europe was still emerging from the dark shadows of the Second World War, Evola’s Gli uomini e le rovine was an attempt to account for the increasing materialism of the modern age. Whilst Evola is often dismissed as a ‘fascist’, however, his work is not afraid to highlight the many shortcomings of the ideology itself and calls for a true revival of the Traditionalist ethos. Tracing the disastrous course of modernism from the liberal values of the 1789 and 1848 ‘revolutions’, each of them notoriously bourgeois in both thought and deed, Evola sought to examine the decline of European values over preceding centuries and present his thoughts on the nature of true hierarchy, sovereignty, elitism and Tradition. It is hoped that the following breakdown of Evola’s text will provide a thorough guide to the work itself.
PART I: REVOLUTION, COUNTER-REVOLUTION, TRADITION
IN THE opening chapter of his work, Evola may be forgiven for appearing to sound like a typical Catholic fundamentalist. According to the Baron himself, socio-political subversion (eversio) was introduced into Europe for the first time with the 1789 and 1848 revolutions. Catholic writers like Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton and a whole array of popes and cardinals would undoubtedly agree with him. Indeed, Evola even suggests that the term ‘reactionary’ should be adopted by those who realise the true extent to which the forces of liberalism, Marxism and democracy are advancing their secret agenda. We are informed that if this term had not been so furiously rejected by the conservative opponents of revolution, our European nations would have been relatively more salvageable. But now that several decades have passed since the book was first published, had the author still been alive he may well have been surprised to learn that his ideas have since found significant expression within the ranks of those who have become known as ‘conservative revolutionaries’.
Whilst some people may view the apparently contradictory and oxymoronic nature of this phrase as something of a misnomer, however, it was used throughout the twentieth century by men such as Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Ernst Jünger, Armin Mohler, Oswald Spengler and Otto Strasser. In fact Evola tells us that ‘conservative revolution’ should not be connected with the term ‘reaction’ because the former has distinctly more positive and energetic connotations. Revolution in this sense, he contends, simply means restoring order and thus avoids completely the more chaotic and tumultuous inferences that the term has acquired today. He even defines revolution (revolutio), not as a departure from prevailing trends, but as a return to origins. Thus revolution, in his evaluation of the term, indicates a replenishment of that which has gone before.
The word “conservative” can also be very misleading. Evola argues that
it is necessary to first establish as exactly as possible what needs to be ‘preserved’.
He is also under no illusion that capitalists have long used this term with which to advance the interests of their own class, rather than
committing themselves to a stout defence of a higher right, dignity, and impersonal legacy of values, ideas and principles.
This suggests a kind of aristocratic benevolence, a chivalric sense of duty and sacrifice. Evola also believes that the State must not concern itself with economic matters, rather assuming a transcendent role in opposition to the class-oriented obsessions of both the bourgeoisie and Marxists alike. Furthermore, he tells us
what really counts is to be faithful not to past forms and institutions, but rather to principles of which such forms and institutions have been particular expressions.
So, therefore, the success of Tradition lies in our ability to create new forms from the etymological drawing-board which inspired those of the past, a process which filters its way through the generations as though divinely inspired. In other words it is not the transitory or – in the case of historical personality cults – even the idolatrous facets which are of value, but those which are everlasting and permanent. Indeed, Evola pours scorn upon the very term ‘historical’ because such matters rise above and beyond the whole notion of history altogether. Mircea Eliade has discussed this idea at length in The Myth of The Eternal Return (1949) and it is echoed here by Evola:
These principles are not compromised by the fact that in various instances an individual, out of weakness or due to other reasons, was able to actualise them or to even implement them partially at one point in his life rather than another.
The designers and schemers of the modern age, of course, dismiss these aspects as having been a consequence of the period in which they were apparently expressed, so therefore Tradition and historicism are totally irreconcilable. The author’s own homeland also comes in for some criticism, with Evola firmly believing that Italy has no material or ideological connection with Tradition and that her only hope lies in a spiritual renewal.
Returning to the dangers of revolution – at least in the purely negative sense, as defined above – we are reminded of the more positive, Hegelian analysis: “the negation of the negation.” In other words, eradicating that which in itself has served as the great eradicator is a worthwhile objective. On the other hand, Evola is being slightly pedantic when he criticises the adoption of the “revolutionary spirit,” lest it sound too wild or progressive. His denunciation of man’s unfulfilling obsession with technological advancement, however, is very accurate indeed:
Those who are not subject to the predominant materialism of our times, upon recognising the only context in which it is legitimate to speak of progress, will be on guard against any orientation in which the modern ‘myth of progress’ is reflected.
Indeed, there are many such examples, all of which argue either blindly or knowingly that the past must be obliterated for the good of the present. This, says Evola, is “history’s demolition squad.” It is rather surprising, therefore, to consider that in his youth Evola offered his support to Italian Futurism. Notwithstanding, of course, the fact that Marinetti’s pledge to raze libraries and museums to the ground was never designed to be an attempt to destroy the perennial essence which always transcends the purely anachronistic. The contentious issue of Fascism is also tackled by Evola and is here regarded as being valid only when it concords with Tradition itself. To stand vigorously in favour of Fascism simply for its own sake, is akin to the fulminating negativity inherent within many of its anti-fascist opponents.
PART II: SOVEREIGNTY, AUTHORITY, IMPERIUM
ACCORDING TO Evola:
every true political unity appears as the embodiment of an idea and a power, thus distinguishing itself from every form of naturalistic association or ‘natural right’, and also from every societal aggregation determined by mere social, economic, biological, utilitarian, or eudemonistic factors.
He goes on to point out that, for the Romans at least, the very idea of an imperium of sovereign power was something perceived to be highly sacred. This functioned by way of a mystical trinity comprised of the Leader (auctoritas), the Nobility (gens) and the State (res publica). Evola’s interpretation of the imperium is certainly supported by those historians who – like Edward Gibbon and Oswald Spengler – have granted the Holy Roman Empire its own unique and symbolic niche in both time and space. That it prevailed until its disastrous collapse at Constantinople in 1453, of course, is demonstrative of the way in which the very idea of imperium survived the various cycles of history in which it found itself. Evola also reminds us of De Maistre’s assertion that a “power and authority that are not absolute, are not real authority or real power” at all.
The author then turns his mind to judicial matters, stating that, whenever the State rises above the merely temporal laws of the nation, it assumes the role of an independently organic entity. In other words, Evola is suggesting that in cases of national emergency, for example, the State can flex its muscles and prove just how transcendent it really is by overriding the laws of the judiciary. This notion will fill the average supporter of democracy and egalitarianism with some horror, but Evola is referring to a central principle of authoritative order rather than advocating that a Fascist dictatorship rule over the masses with an iron fist (although he does suggest that a temporary dictatorship can often get things back on track). Indeed, this is rather similar to the way Cicero analyses Natural Law and the fact that such matters only apply to those who seek to transgress its deeply established codes.
Evola also refutes the idea that power should rise up to the State from the grass roots, for example in the way that Muammar al-Qathafi explains the same concept in The Green Book (1977). As far as Evola is concerned, the State is not the expression or embodiment of the people at all and the
political domain is defined through hierarchical, heroic, ideal, anti-hedonistic, and, to a degree, even anti-eudemonistic values that set it apart from the order of naturalistic and vegetative life.
This is something of a paradox. If the State is said to transcend the ordinary functions of what most people consider to be its particular role, then perhaps Evola’s vision is one of anarchic authority? He may well have disagreed with the use of the term “anarchy,” but surely his interpretation of the State is more mystical than the manner in which it is ordinarily understood? By this, I am implying that the State is present as a guiding authority at the helm of a nation or empire, but absent in terms of the way it is usually perceived. Anarchy, of course, does not mean that authority is non-existent, it simply refers to the absence of rule. Evola’s concept of the mystical State, therefore, may well be altogether different to the socio-economic entity which writers like Peter Kropotkin (The State: Its Historic Role), Michael Bakunin (Marxism, Freedom & The State) or Herbert Spencer (The Man Versus The State) have gone to such great lengths to criticise and dissect.
Evola then makes a profound distinction between the political and social aspects of the State, arguing that it emanates from a specific family (gens) and thus rejects the idea that states can arise from the naturalistic plane. At first, this appears to be a contradiction in terms, because surely the family is a naturalistic phenomenon? On the contrary, Evola is referring to an altogether different interpretation of the term “family,” that of the Mannerbunde (or all-male fraternity). Given the nature of the cosa nostra, Italians should find it that much easier to appreciate the subtle dintinctions in terminology. Evola was also a Freemason and wrote extensively on the Mithraic sun-cult, both prime examples of the Mannerbunde and possessing initiatic qualities which – by way of a series of trials and degrees – take the male apprentice way beyond his maternal upbringing on the exoteric plane. Thus a significant change takes place both within the man himself and the way he is then perceived by others. However, this interpretation is not designed to leave women out of the equation, it simply states that whilst men are the natural frequenters of the mystical, or political, domain, women are the pivotal masters of society. It lies completely “under the feminine aegis.” Those readers who are familiar with Evola’s Revolt Against The Modern World will grasp the higher significance of what Evola is trying to say. Indeed, in the present work he summarises these metaphysical concepts thus:
The common mythological background is that of the duality of the luminous and heavenly deities, who are the gods of the political and heroic world on the one hand, and of the feminine and maternal deities of naturalistic existence, who were loved by the plebeian strata of society on the other hand. Thus, even in the ancient Roman world, the idea of State and of imperium (i.e., of the sacred authority) was strictly connected to the symbolic cult of the virile deities of heaven, of light and of the super-world in opposition to the dark region of the Mothers and the chthonic deities.
If we follow Evola’s line of thinking, we soon arrive at the medieval idea of the divine right of kings. This, he tells us, was a development which – contrary to the earlier imperium – was not consolidated “by the power of a rite.” Traditional Catholics would disagree wholeheartedly with this conclusion, at least right up until the Reformation and Henry VIII’s well-documented break with Rome. Furthermore, if the divine right of kings is one step removed from the imperium, the next logical stage of decline is that of Socialism and the demos; which Evola describes as “the degradation and contamination of the political principle.” Furthermore, he argues,
[b]oth democracy and socialism ratify the shift from the masculine to the feminine and from the spiritual to the material and the promiscuous.
Evola is often portrayed by his opponents as a “fascist,” but it may surprise many of them to learn that he relegates “romantic and idealistic” concepts such as the nation, the homeland, and the people to the purely naturalistic and biological level. These issues, he contends, have replaced a political principle that is representative of a far higher and more penetrating Tradition. By refusing to accept the legitimacy of feudalism or the authority of the Holy Roman Empire, he argues, nation-states tried to create their own pockets of authority. Thus, the struggle between popes and princes, kings and noblemen, led a vast centralisation of power which was epitomised by the Third Estate. This is where Evola returns to what he perceives as the crucial – and destructive – role played by the 1789 French Revolution, whereby the final vestiges of Tradition were erased from the face of Europe. This process was aided by the 1848 Revolution and the onslaught of the First World War, pitting nation against nation in the name of “patriotism.” Furthermore, he says, elevating a national identity or geographical territory to a kind of mystical status completely erodes both authority and sovereignty. Nations are associated with female terminology – motherland, for example – and are therefore
attributed to the Great Mother in ancient plebeian gynecocracies and in societies that ignored the virile and political principle of the imperium.
Evola goes on to compare the political unit of the nation with the position of the soul in comparison to the body. In other words, it assumes an “inner form,” which totally goes beyond the popular understanding of the way a nation is defined. It is true, after all, that nations do not arise purely by themselves and so the hidden – spiritual – component is the true guiding force. The nation is only perceived as an independent entity with a life of its own once the political aspect has been significantly weakened:
From the political class understood as an Order and a Mannerbund a shift occurs to to the democratic ruling classes who presume to ‘represent’ the people and who acquire for themselves the various offices or positions of power by flattering and manipulating the masses.
This, according to Evola, is due to the lack of real men in contemporary society and – paying his respects to Thomas Carlyle in the process – he goes on to warn us that we live in a “world of domestics that yearns to be ruled by a pseudo-hero.” Indeed, there is little doubt that the parliamentary system, for example, never fails to deviate from the idea of the nation as myth, despite the fact that the political sphere is never regarded as being sovereign in itself. Evola attacks universal suffrage because he sees it as the consequence of “the degradation of the ruling class.” It is certainly a fact that the reforms of the nineteenth century were achieved at the expense of the ruling classes, but, from an Evolian perspective, the scales were tipped at both ends. The consequence of this formative episode in European history, the birth of modern democracy, saw the true political unit replaced with a corrupt and bastardised system based entirely on materialism.
But what of those nations which have actually followed the political principle to the letter? We are informed by Evola that the nation will always be potentially compromised, whilst
on the one side stand the masses, in which, besides changing feelings, the same elementary instincts and interests connected to a physical and hedonistic plane will always have free play; and on the other side stand men who differentiate themselves from the masses as bearers of a complete legitimacy and authority, bestowed by the Idea and by their rigorous, impersonal adherence to it. The Idea, only the Idea, must be the true fatherland for these men: what unites and sets them apart should consist in adherence to the same idea, rather than to the same land, language, or blood.
This is a pretty bold statement, given that Evola is usually – and wrongly – associated with certain elements of the Far Right. Perhaps this is why the Assassins and their Knights Templar contemporaries discovered that they had so much in common? That which is most important, therefore, is not one’s adherence to a nation or a race – which instantly means that one must love, respect and work for the best interests of his compatriots without question – but one’s loyalty and fidelity to the very essence and spirit of Tradition. In Evola’s own words:
The true task and the necessary premise for the rebirth of the ‘nation’ and for its renewed form and conscience consists of untying and separating that which only apparently, promiscuously, or collectively appears to be one entity, and in re-establishing a virile substance in the form of a political elite around which a new crystallisation will occur.
This approach, of course, is very different to the sheep-like mentality of most nationalist groups. One only has to look at the recent revival in England of a pseudo-patriotism built upon the most base and plebeian values of modern culture. Aligning oneself with existing national stereotypes, of course, is hardly making an attempt to transcend the sterile values which are embraced by the masses. The Idea that Evola talks about is based on
strength and clarity, rather than ‘idealism’ and sentimentality.
The nation has to be integrated with the political, so that the whole concept is raised to a much higher level by replacing the degenerative ruling classes with a new, elite aristocracy of cadres.
PART III: PERSONALITY, FREEDOM, HIERARCHY
IN THIS chapter the author begins by attacking liberalism, the chief scourge behind the French Revolution. Many have tried to define liberalism, including Traditional Catholics like Pope Pius XI (Quadragesimo Anno), Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (They Have Uncrowned Him), Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany (What Is Liberalism?)and Rev. Fr. Stephen P. DeLallo (The Sword of Christendom), although today the term is usually applied to economic matters. So how does Evola define the term?
The essence of liberalism is individualism. The basis of its error is to mistake the notion of the person with that of the individual and to claim for the latter, unconditionally and according to egalitarian premises, some values that should rather be attributed solely to the former, and then only conditionally. Because of this transposition, these values are transformed into errors, or into something absurd and harmful.
Egalitarianism – another mainstay of the 1879 Revolution – is completely dismissed by Evola due to its fundamentally ridiculous belief in the equality of all individuals. Not only does this notion relegate the person to the level of a mere part within the broader egalitarian mass, which Evola rightly shows to be a contradiction in terms, it obliterates human diversity by suggesting that no one person is significantly different to another. From the judicial perspective, of course, it is completely wrong to establish a form of fake “justice” by ensuring that everybody is legally bound in an unjust manner. It is also entirely out of step with Natural Law. Evola explains that
the lower degrees of reality are differentiated from the higher ones because in the lower degrees a whole can be broken down into many parts, all of which retain the same quality (as in the case of the parts of a non-crystallised mineral, or those parts of some plants and animals that reproduce themselves by parthenogenesis); in the higher degrees of reality this is no longer possible, as there is a higher organic unity in them that does not allow itself to be split without being compromised and without its parts entirely losing the quality, meaning, and function they had in it.
When Evola speaks of parthenogenesis, he is referring to those invertebrates and lower plants which engage in a form of sterile self-reproduction. The allegedly “free” individual, therefore, is considered to be inorganic and much lower than its organic superior. Meanwhile, the true person is he who continues to remain “unequal” due to his own distinct features and abilities. Natural individuation is not the same as crass individualism. At the same time, however, Evola does not infer that everyone deserves the “right” to be regarded as a person. Thus, he dispels the liberal myth that all of us possess some form of “human dignity” regardless of who we are. In fact there are several different levels of dignity, each contained within a just and specific hierarchy. So once again, Evola is dismissing the egalitarian idea of a “universal right,” brotherhood of equality or an automatic entitlement of some kind. In times gone by, however,
‘peers’ and ‘equals’ were often aristocratic concepts: in Sparta, the title homoioi (‘equals’) belonged exclusively to the elite in power (the title was revoked in cases of misconduct).
Moving on, notions of freedom – a favourite catchword of those engaged in the struggle between classes – is regarded in the same manner. It is something we enjoy as a consequence of who we are as a person, rather than simply because we happen to be a member of humanity. Evola remarks that freedom does not come in any one form, but is actually multifarious and homogeneous. He goes on to suggest that the freedom “to do” is quite different from the freedom “for doing.” Indeed, whilst the former has to function within a controlled and standardised system of liberal “equality” (which inevitably leads, therefore, to one class disregarding the freedoms of others), the latter has more in common with Aleister Crowley’s oft-misunderstood expressions “do as thou wilt” and “every man and woman is a star.” In other words, by possessing the freedom “to do,” one can follow one’s own unique course and act in accordance with one’s true nature.
So how does the individual relate to society as a whole? Tradition accords with the ultimate supremacy of the individual, or what Ernst Junger has defined elsewhere as the “anarch” or “sovereign individual” (see Eumeswil). Evola even puts the sovereignty of the person before the State, because he views people not
as they are conceived by individualism, as atoms or a mass of atoms, but people as persons, as differentiated beings, each one endowed with a different rank, a different freedom, a different right within the social hierarchy based on the values of creating, constructing, obeying, and commanding. With people such as these it is possible to establish the true State, namely an anti-liberal, anti-democratic, and organic State.
This vision, however, depends upon the advancement of the person through various stages of individuation and self-awareness. Natural inequality, therefore, will lead to an organic structure of society at the very helm of which stands the “absolute individual.” This figurehead, says Evola, is completely different to the mere concept of the individual because it encapsulates that which is most qualitative within man. The “absolute individual” is fundamentally opposed to the idea that society itself is the ultimate manifestation of humanity. It is the sheer pinnacle of a transcendental sovereignty which represents the synthesising nature of the imperium. Moreover, of course, the idea can become manifest within the framework of the nation and seems defiantly opposed to present trends like globalisation and multi-racialism:
Thus, it is a positive and legitimate thing to uphold the right of the nation in order to assert an elementary and natural principle of difference of a given human group over and against all the forms of individualistic disintegration, international mixture and proletarisation, and especially against the mere world of the masses and pure economy.
To achieve this process, Evola declares that the State must be established from the nation itself.
But if one seeks to align oneself with the principles of Evolian thought, a person who is free in the truest sense of the word must never be constrained by national, racial or family ties. This does not imply that he should actively seek to turn against them, on the contrary, the key is to follow one’s own path. Indeed, this course – which must lead towards the creation of the New Man – requires great discipline and understanding. Many who try, however, will fall by the wayside and
he who does not have the capability to dominate himself and to give himself a code to abide by would not know how to dominate others according to justice or how to give them a law to follow. The second foundation is the idea. previously upheld by Plato, that those who cannot be their own masters should find a master outside of themselves, since practising the discipline of obeying should teach these people how to master their own selves.
People are different, therefore, although Evola does make a distinction between the ruthlessness of “natural selection” and that of respect. In ancient societies, the people who were most respected and admired were those with special abilities and qualities, not those who were merely expressing brute force and animalistic strength and brute force. The secret, of course, is to ensure that “power is based on superiority and not vice versa.” It is certainly not necessary to bludgeon people into submission in order to encourage them to respect true leadership and ability. In light of what Evola really thinks about such matters, therefore, you have to wonder why on earth his interpretation of Tradition was ever compared to Fascist totalitarianism in the first place.
The fact that Evola so openly acknowledges that there are various stations in life will outrage liberals, Marxists and advocates of democracy alike. He is, nonetheless, absolutely correct. Forcing people to accord with a societal conglomeration which has been enshrined in law by a coterie of dogmatists and architectural levellers, is no way to allow people to discover and thus accomplish their true destinies. Evola believes that historical events have often been determined by the manner in which “the inferior” – which is not used in a derogatory sense – regard their “superior” counterparts. Indeed, to believe that humanity can somehow be subjected to a form of international utilitarianism is naive and misguided in the extreme. Humans are prone to “emotional or irrational motivation” and, inevitably, this will usually be the dominant factor which goes on to shape the course of their lives. The Evolian – and, thus, traditional – approach to organisation lies in what is described as the “anagogical function” of the State and its latent ability to both engender and co-ordinate the individual’s sacrificial capacity to ally himself with a higher principle. The success of man’s organisational capacity, therefore, is not based purely on economics or prosperity but actually depends on whether the organic hierarchical balance has been maintained effectively. Within the liberal system, of course, the balance is upset by the fact that he
who becomes an individual, by ceasing to have an organic meaning and by refusing to acknowledge any principle of authority, is nothing more than a number, a unit in the pack; his usurpation evokes a fatal collectivist limitation against himself.
Liberalism, therefore, may appear to defend freedom but it is actually a means of subverting it altogether. Marxism functions in much the same way and both ideologies – once again – stem from the French Revolution and its aftermath. Indeed, the consequence is that
Western man broke the ties to Tradition, claiming for himself as an individual a vain and illusory freedom: when he became an atom in society, rejecting every higher symbol of authority and sovereignty in a system of hierarchies.
Fascism, by falsely claiming to restore the traditional equilibrium, actually worsens the situation by initiating a crude and materialistic form of totalitarianism.
The worst example of liberalism is its dependence upon economic exploitation. Evola charts the decline of economic stability from the death of the feudal system – “when the organic connection […] between personality and property, social function and wealth, and between a given qualification or moral nobility and the rightful and legitimate possession of goods, was broken” – and the onset of the Napoleonic Code, right through to the gradual de-sanctification of property and the arrival of the unscrupulous capitalist. So what, according to Evola, is the role of the traditionalist in light of the modern evils which were unleashed over two hundred years ago? Our response must be founded on a return to origins:
To go back to the origins means, plainly and simply, to reject anything that in any domain (whether social, political, or economic) is connected to the ‘immortal principles’ of 1789, as a libertarian, individualistic, and egalitarian thought, and to oppose it with the hierarchical view, in the context of which alone the notion, value, and freedom of man as person are not reduced to mere words or excuses for a work of destruction and subversion.
PART IV: ORGANIC STATE, TOTALITARIANISM
EVOLA NOW attempts to make a distinction between the totalitarian and organic State. The democracies have gone to great lengths in order to portray the Traditional State “in a heinous way,” ensuring that opponents of democracy are instantly equated with Fascist brutality. Totalitarianism, being a relatively modern word, is inevitably applied to past systems in a purely retrospective manner. Evola, however, seeks to approach the question of totalitarianism by examining the way in which the term is actually defined by the democracies. Whenever the author refers to the more positive aspects of “totalitarianism,” therefore, those components are said to accord with the organic State:
A State is organic when it has a centre, and this centre is an idea that shapes the various domains of life in an efficacious way; it is organic when it ignores the division and the autonomisation of the particular and when, by virtue of a system of hierarchical participation, every part within its relative autonomy performs its own function and enjoys an intimate connection with the whole.
It is not difficult to see how this differs fundamentally with the individualism and liberalism of the modern age. Evola rightly points out that more Traditional societies were even able to accommodate a healthy opposition. In stark contrast to the representative party system of today, the early English Parliament was far more pluralist and was often heard to refer to “His Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.”
But the organic State also had a spiritual or religious dimension, whereby the political was formulated in accordance with a more penetrating and unitary outlook. This, says Evola, is what makes the organic synonymous with the traditional. In the minds of the liberals and the communists, of course, this healthy approach to former societies and a more pluralist style of organisation inevitably means that Tradition is wrongly equated with “fascism.” Evola, on the other hand, is able to counter this fraudulent analogy by explaining that
totalitarianism merely represents the counterfeited image of the organic ideal. It is a system in which unity is imposed from the outside, not on the basis of the intrinsic force of a common idea and an authority that is naturally acknowledged, but rather through direct forms of intervention and control, exercised by a power that is exclusively and materially political, imposing itself as the ultimate reason for the system.
Having lived in Mussolini’s Italy, of course, Evola was more than aware of the shortcomings of the Corporate State. Totalitarian dictatorship also fails to acknowledge the organic chain that runs between the upper and lower poles of Traditional society, replacing pluralism, decentralisation and participation with the fuhrer-princip. Furthermore, the totalitarian State
engenders a kind of sclerosis, or a monstrous hypertrophy of the entire bureaucratic-administrative structure.
The Orwellian ministries of Nazi Germany spring to mind, becoming:
all-pervasive, replacing and suppressing every particular activity, without any restraints, due to an insolent intrusion of the public sphere into the private domain, organising everything into rigid schemes.
But these characteristics are not a purely modern phenomenon, on the contrary, as Oswald Spengler notes in The Decline of the West the
great cultures accomplish their majestic wave-cycles. They appear suddenly, swell in splendid lines, flatten again and vanish, and the face of the waters is once more a sleeping waste.
A similar pattern emerged during the death-throes of Persia and Greece and, according to Edward Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the
demise of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.
Similarly, Evola likens the degenerative process to a living organism which,
after enjoying life and movement, a stiffening sets in when they die that is typical of a body turning into a corpse. This state, in turn, is followed by the terminal phase of disintegration.
The way in which the organic or traditional State is perceived is also important. Fascism and Marxism tend to lead to blind statism, but Evola believes that the organic State must be granted a degree of “Statolatry.” In other words, rather than seeking to worship the State for its own sake
there is a profound and substantial difference between the deification and absolutisation of what is profane and the case in which the political reality derives its legitimisation from reference points that are also spiritual and somehow transcendent.
This is the difference between the materialist and the spiritual, the totalitarian and the organic. The spiritual element acts like a societal adhesive, binding together the unitary whole to which the people are willingly attached without coercion or repression. In contemporary Western societies it is considered normal in certain occupations and ceremonies to undertake an oath. But despite being a remnant of the distant past, the oath today has been stripped of its sacred implications and has become empty, meaningless and contractual. This is because the State and various other national institutions have become a merely temporal form of authority, rendering the more spiritual expressions of verbal fidelity completely irrelevant. The gulf between the contractual and the traditional is demonstrated by the way in which Britain’s “Official Secrets Act” is designed to secure the loyalty of the individual to the State. In feudal times, the intrinsically transcendent nature of the oath became manifest by way of the sacramenum fidelitatis. This was infinitely more binding than giving one’s allegiance to a company or an institution.
But when the traditional State is said to represent a unitary organism it must not be compared, warns Evola, to the humanistic vision epitomised by Hegel’s “Ethical State.” Indeed, when Hegel perceives the individual to be part of a universal code of ethics, he is looking at humanity through rose-tinted spectacles. The unworkable liberalism which pervades this idealistic interpretation will only lead to one thing: totalitarianism in the name of “tradition” and “order.” Therefore the “ethical” State inevitably leads to the “fascist” State, with the destructive multi-party system being replaced with an even more dangerous one-party dictatorship. Muammar al-Qadhafi, whose vision of the “organic” State in The Green Book often conflicts with that proposed by Evola and other Traditionalists, defines the party thus:
It is the modern dictatorial instrument of governing. The party is the rule of a part over the whole.
On this point, Evola agrees, suggesting that once the party has ascended to power it simply tries to advance the interests of its own faction. It is therefore divisive and threatens the stability of that which must be unitary and transcendent. The solution to this problem, it seems, lies in the re-establishment of an elite suited to maintaining the balance of sovereignty and authority. Evola suggests that this can be done from within by both installing and then enduring a period of interregnum, although the preference of the present writer is the foundation of new, decentralised communities on the periphery from which elite cadres can recreate the very essence of true aristocracy.
PART V: BONAPARTISM, MACHIAVELLIANISM, ELITISM
BONAPARTISM IS a rather unusual term and one which Evola borrows from R. Michels, author of the 1915 work, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. Michels demonstrates how representative democracy and “government of the people” leads to the control of the State by a self-interested minority. This view is echoed by J. Burnham in The Machiavellians, who explains that the so-called “will of the people” is eventually superseded by the domination of a bureaucratic clique. Thus, Bonapartism begins with a popular demand for more freedom and equality and ends in the totalitarian “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Evola likens this process to a people who have catastrophically “led and disciplined themselves.” After the decline of its aristocratic nobility, ancient Greece witnessed the same systematically repressive phenomenon. Power simply became detached from a higher, spiritual authority, leading to fear and brutality. Evola then turns to Otto Weininger, who once
described the figure of the great politician as one who is a despot and at the same time a worshipper of the people, or simultaneously a pimp and a whore.
Indeed, by seeking to appeal to the masses the modern leader easily commands their respect and adulation. Not in the way that traditional societies gave their loyalty to the organic State, however, because instead of engendering a healthy diversity between the various levels (not classes) of society Bonapartism forces the politician to become a “man of the people.” Therefore he is perceived as a common man, rather than as someone exceptionally transcendent and symbolic. This, Weininger called “mutual prostitution.” Authority is perfectly useless unless it is attached to a central idea which runs throughout the social fabric and acts as a point of reference. This affects the individual because one
is restricted not so much in this or that exterior freedom (which is, after all, of little consequence) but rather in the inner freedom – the ability to free himself from his lowest instincts.
Bonapartism – which Evola interprets here as a political, rather than militaristic, term – is equated with dictatorship because this is the logical result of its democratic ethos. It completely erodes the values of man’s Traditional existence, refusing to
distinguish clearly between the symbol, the function, and the principle, on the one hand, and man as an individual, on the other.
Instead, it rejects “that a man be valued and recognised in terms of the idea and principle he upholds” and views man simply in terms of “his action upon the irrational forms of the masses.” Similarly, Evola points out the errors which began with Social-Darwinism and consequently found expression in Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman (Ubermensch), explaining that
most people, even when they admit the notion of aristocracy in principle, ultimately settle for a very limited view of it: they admire an individual for being exceptional and brilliant, instead of for being one in whom a tradition and a special ‘spiritual race’ shine forth, or instead of whose greatness is due not to his human virtues, but rather to the principle, the idea, and a certain regal impersonality that he embodies.
Machiavellianism – despite its frequent portrayal as an aristocratic notion – is also a highly individualist philosophy. Indeed, although the concept of The Prince rejects democracy and the masses, it makes the fatal mistake of encouraging power and authority to reside in the hands of man. In other words, man is himself the be-all-and-end-all of Machiavellian doctrine. Such men are not connected to a chain of Tradition, they are merely interested in using their political capabilities to advance their own narrow interests. His very position is maintained by lies, deceit and manipulation, becoming a rampant political monster to whom everything must be methodically subjected. This is clearly very different to the way in which Traditional aristocracies functioned and indicates that Machiavellianism is a consequence of the general decline. True elitism, argues Evola, degenerates in four stages:
[I]n the first stage the elite has a purely spiritual character, embodying what may be generally called ‘divine right’. This elite expresses an ideal of immaterial virility. In the second stage, the elite has the character of warrior nobility; at the third stage we find the advent of oligarchies of a plutocratic and capitalistic nature, such as they arise in democracies; the fourth and last elite is that of the collectivist and revolutionary leaders of the Fourth Estate.
PART VI: THE DEMONIC NATURE OF THE ECONOMY
WHEN EVOLA discusses the “demonic nature of the economy,” we are instantly reminded of the capitalist free market and Communism’s deterministic assessment of man as economic unit (homo economicus). In the modern age economic forces have become the new servants of Mammon, creating a dangerous and cataclysmic antithesis to the spiritual aspirations of the ancient world. We have already examined how Evola warns against the lack of hierarchical authority, and in this chapter he demonstrates how both Capitalism and Marxism have completely subverted the organic nature of our existence, pointing out that
as long as we only talk about economic classes, profit, salaries, and production, and as long as we believe that real human progress is determined by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods, and that, generally speaking, human progress is measured by the degree of wealth or indigence – then we are not even close to what is essential.
Thus work and the modern economy are depicted as the penultimate goals of human endeavour, rather than man accepting that his natural interests must lie ultimately in the satisfaction of his material needs. This is not to suggest that food, clothing and shelter are the most important facets of human existence, simply that they are the most basic prerequisites of all. Man also needs to be satisfied both spiritually and as part of a structure which
neither knows nor tolerates merely economic classes and does not know the division between capitalists and proletarians; an order solely in terms of which are to be defined the things worth living and dying for. We must also uphold the need for a true hierarchy and for different dignitaries, with a higher function of power installed at the top, namely the imperium.
But this vision is hardly being fulfilled today. Everything is geared towards economic production and, inevitably, wage-slavery. Evola does not believe in the formulation of a new economic theory, instead he explains that the current obsession with economic matters can only decline once people change their attitudes completely:
What must be questioned is not the value of this or that economic system, but the value of the economy itself.
This, too, is a fundamental part of National-Anarchist thinking, a total rejection of the Left-Right spectrum which, once again, ever since the French Revolution has imposed upon us a wholly superficial antithesis between two allegedly opposed economic ideologies. Those so-called “backward” nations which, thus far, have avoided economic development are said by Evola to “enjoy a certain space and a relative freedom.” By seizing upon the issue of class, Marxists have deliberately obscured the components of the ancient world by smearing them with an economic grime. In traditional societies, of course, the economy was simply one area within an all-encompassing hierarchical structure. Terms like “capitalist” and “proletarian” did not exist and class struggle was redundant:
Even in the domain of the economy, a normal civilisation provides specific justification for certain differences in condition, dignity, and function.
Marxism, says Evola, did not come about due to the need for a resolution to the social question, on the contrary, Marxism itself has exacerbated the problem by creating the myth of the class system. In Traditional societies
an individual contained his needs and aspirations within natural limits; he did not yearn to become different from what he was, and thus he was innocent of that Entfremdung (alienation) decried by Marxism.
Leninists, Trotskyists and other advocates of the class struggle will recoil in horror at this statement, but Evola is denouncing the materialistic desires of the common economic agitator rather than supporting the aspirations of the “ruling class.” Indeed, economic determinism is considered to be unhealthy and detrimental because
it can legitimately be claimed that the so-called improvement of social conditions should be regarded not as good but as evil, when its price consists of the enslavement of the single individual to the productive mechanism and to the social conglomerate; or in the degradation of the State to the State based on work, and the degradation of society to consumer society; or in the elimination of every qualitative hierarchy; or in the atrophy of every spiritual sensibility and every heroic attitude.
There is little doubt, therefore, that the application of the economic world-view comes at a great cost. Evola implores us to express our real selves and to unleash our true potential. Each of us has a different function and a unique position to fulfil. Class conflict, therefore, is a diversion which has been thrust in the path of the unitary and the organic. In terms of the way in which we approach work, Evola tells us that an American attempt to extract more labour from a Third World workforce by doubling their wages, was met with “a majority of the workers cutting their working hours in half.” Compare this traditionalist attitude with that of the modern-day office or factory worker, who perpetually competes for overtime with his colleagues. Indeed, whilst Traditional societies are merely interested in satisfying their basic needs, those in the West endure increasingly long hours, exhaustion, bad diets and severe health problems in their pursuit for computers, televisions and cars. Evola notes that, prior to the rise of the mercantile economy and the gradual evolution of capitalism
the acquisition of external goods had to be restricted and that work and the quest for profit were justifiable only in order to acquire a level of wealth corresponding to one’s status in life: this was the Thomist and, later, the Lutheran view.
Work was always designed to satisfy man’s basic needs and provide him with the time he needed in order to pursue more worthy and meaningful pursuits. But when the acquisition of wealth becomes such an obsession that it imprisons the individual within an economic straight-jacket, something is clearly very wrong indeed. Success, therefore, is not determined by the credit in one’s bank account or the growth of industry and technology, it relates to the way in which an individual is able to progress in a more spiritual sense. Living in accordance with one’s own intrinsic nature (dharma) is far preferable to pushing oneself beyond the boundaries of normal behaviour through greed and materialism. This trend is epitomised by the restless nature of the capitalistic economy and its exploitative pursuit of new global markets. In the knowledge, of course, that once it has run its inevitable course the lack of available resources will herald its total collapse.
The emergence of capitalism has often been equated with the Protestant work ethic, and is here dismissed by Evola for the simple reason that labour has been transformed from a means of subsistence to an end in itself. It is not only the Right which is obsessed with work, of course, it is also the Left. One thinks of endless marches organised by Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist organisations, during which the only objective is to enslave the proletariat to the employment system:
The most peculiar thing is that this superstitious and insolent cult of work is proclaimed in an era in which the irreversible and relentless mechanisation eliminates from the main varieties of work whatever in them still had a character of quality, art, and the spontaneous unfoldment of a vocation, turning it into something inanimate and devoid of even an immanent meaning.
Evola sees this process as the very proletarianisation of life itself. There are certain parallels here with the endorsement of the “leisure society” by the late Oxford Anarchist, Richard Hunt, through which man can rediscover the natural and qualitative values of his existence. However,t Evola warns his readers that we must not “shift to a renunciatory, utopian, and miserable civilisation,” but rather “clear every domain of life of insane tensions and to restore a true hierarchy of values.”
But whilst the individual is inadvertently eroding his own freedoms by viewing work as the ultimate goal in life, the State is also endangering its own existence through the encroaching scarcity of resources to which increasing productivity leads. Evola argues that the way forward lies in “autarchy,” and that
it is better to renounce the allure of improving general social and economic conditions and to adopt a regime of austerity than to become enslaved to foreign interests or to become caught up in world processes of reckless economic hegemony and productivity that are destined to sweep away those who have set them in motion.
On this point, however, Evola is perhaps forgetting that the decline of capitalistic economies is inevitable and therefore it is futile to postpone their collapse by implementing a policy of protectionism. This strategy may indeed enable a country to stave off the effects of an impending economic catastrophe, but given that all capitalist systems rely on the internationalist system, this simply would not work in the long term.
PART VII: HISTORY, HISTORICISM
EVOLA NOW turns his attention to the way in which history is so often presented as a religious tenet of the modern age, representing the switch from a world of being towards that of a world of becoming. Indeed, whilst the former relates to an organic and stable form of civilisation, the latter denotes a chaotic and constantly evolving process in which “rationalist, scientific, and technological civilisation” acts as the pied piper of our rapid decline. Rationalism was perceived by Hegel as reality itself. Likewise, reality is also rational. But Traditional values, says Evola, cannot be analysed or defined in this way because they are based on something far beyond the comprehension of mere philosophy. Historicism often regards those episodes which it cannot account for as “anti-historical.” This has particularly been said of historical phenomena which appears to obstruct the process of development in accordance with the rationalist world-view itself. This is why historicists and modernists are fond of portraying conservatives – in the true sense of the word – as “reactionaries” and enemies of progress. Furthermore, it is not men who make history at all. Traditionalists like Evola have learnt to recognise and accept the transcendental forces which are never taken into consideration by rationalist historians and
only an obsolete ‘historicism’ can be so presumptuous to reduce everything to a linear development.
Indeed, both Marxism and Christianity adopt this method and the cyclical nature of the universe is therefore ignored.
PART VIII: CHOICE OF TRADITIONS
WHILST THE WORD “Tradition” is used to describe Evola’s cosmological stance against the modern world (and that of certain other Traditionalists like Guenon, Nasr and Schuon), he also accepts that during certain key periods of his existence man has often used a series of more commonly known traditions in order to act as a unifying force. These forms of tradition relate to specific “suggestions and catchphrases” which are used to revitalise or regenerate a civilisation, although they can often assume a very “non-traditional” form. Using the example of Italy, Evola points out that professional subversives from the ranks of liberalism, Communism and Freemasonry have distorted certain words to ensure that they are equated with patriotism and national pride. So to disagree with their objectives, therefore, is to invoke accusations of “treachery” and “disloyalty.” This makes it rather difficult for Traditionalists to adopt traditions of their own without incurring the systematically-engineered confusion that sometimes accompanies them. Due to the fact that national traditions are associated with the historical realities of a specific country’s own development, attempting to place such terminology in its true context will inevitably lead to the adoption of the modern view that a country’s tradition is based on its entire history. This is why Evola recommends the deconstruction of the mythology which surrounds national patriotism itself. Italian pride consists in glorifying the Italian Commune, the Renaissance and the Risorgimento. French patriotism is based upon the principles of the French Revolution and the upheavals of 1848 which followed. An atmosphere of petty-nationalism and xenophobia also fuels the flames of justification for the two destructive world wars which decimated Europe. Revolution and conflict is based on the struggle between diametrically-opposed ideas or economies, not upon racial or national antagonism. Evola suggests that Frederick I, for example, fought against the Italians because he saw it as his imperial duty and not because he simply happened to despise the Italian people or wished to subvert them to his will. Ironically enough, Frederick was committed to the re-establishment of Roman law and many Italians even fought alongside him. This completely demolishes the idea that the aforementioned episodes in Italian history were somehow “patriotic.” The importance of struggle is characterised by the idea and not by the perceived national loyalties of those involved. Think of those Englishmen who fought in Hitler’s SS, for example, or the Muslims who travelled from all over the world to fight in Syria. The “traditions” of those who are committed to the obliteration of the ancient world, then, are highly questionable and – at the very least – intrinsically selective.
By charting the progress of the Italian Renaissance through to its logical conclusion, that of the so-called Enlightenment, Evola demonstrates that
in the same sense in which Renaissance Italy becomes the mother of geniuses and artists, it also becomes the forerunner of subversion. And just as the communes represent the first rebellion against an alleged political despotism, the civilisation of the Renaissance likewise represents the ‘discovery of man’ and of freedom of the spirit in the creative individual, as well as the principle of the intellectual emancipation that constitutes the ‘basis of human progress’.
The Risorgimento is not dissimilar in that it represented a paradoxical alliance between Masonry and patriotism:
The representatives of what at the time was still traditional Europe regarded liberalism and Mazzinianism in the same way as today’s liberal and democratic parties regard communism; the truth is that the subversive intentions of the former were not much different from the latter’s, the main difference being that liberalism and Mazzinianism employed the national and patriotic myth at the early stages of the disintegrating action.
The Risorgimento, therefore, was a pseudo-tradition and at the very root of its secret machinations lay the destruction of Tradition itself. The Carbonari was not fighting
Austria at all, it was engaged in a bitter attempt to topple the Austrian dynasty and, thus, one of the final vestiges of Tradition in Europe. But this is not to suggest that the House of Austria had an impeccable track record. On the contrary, along with Russia and Germany its primary importance lay in opposing the rise of liberalism and modernism. This is demonstrated by the spirit of unity which permeates a letter sent to Wilhelm I by Bismarck in 1887: “The struggle today is not so much between Russians, Germans, Italians, and French, but rather between revolution and monarchy. The Revolution has conquered France, affected England, and is strong in Italy and in Spain. There are only three emperors who can oppose it […] An eventual future war will have less the character of a war between governments, but more so that of a war of the red flag against the elements of order and preservation.
Of course, beneath the surface of all dynasties, churches and governments lie the denizens of the single idea and the common struggle. The main point of this chapter, however, is the undermining of the popular fantasies which surround national “traditions.” Once we can stop focusing on the kind of nationalism served up by the historicists, therefore, it will be easier to accept the validity of an Idea.
PART IX: MILITARY STYLE, MILITARISM, WAR
EVOLA TELLS tells us that militarism is the enemy of democracy. This divergence of beliefs came about as soon as economics had replaced things like Prussianism and the Order of Teutonic Knights. Modern democracy, having originated in England, has led to the rise of a society in which
the primary element is the bourgeois type and the bourgeois life during times of peace; such a life is dominated by the physical concern for safety, well-being, and material wealth, with the cultivation of letters and the arts serving as a decorative frame.
It is the bourgeoisie which is presently in control of the State and, despite the absence of a militaristic spirit in modern society, whenever an “international crisis” looms on the horizon it has no qualms whatsoever about using militaristic techniques in order to advance its own interests. This is precisely the same form of shameless hypocrisy which usually regards warfare as “something materialistic and soulless.” But Evola makes a distinction between the soldier and the warrior. Indeed, whilst the former is a paid mercenary who sees warfare purely as a means of self-enrichment, the latter belongs to a specific aristocratic caste which is altogether superior to the bourgeoisie. In the present climate soldiers are used to maintain “the peace,” although in reality capitalism uses its Establishment shock-troops to crush its opponents and maintain its own position on the economic ladder. This means that the mercenary is employed by the merchant class, rather than a warrior caste which has “its own spirituality, values, and ethics” playing an active role in the nature of the State. But Evola is not suggesting that the military should control the affairs of State, but
rather that virtues, disciplines, and feelings of a military type acquire pre-eminence and a superior dignity over everything that is of a bourgeois type.
Furthermore, he does not believe in the control of one’s everyday affairs by a military clique:
Love for hierarchy; relationships of obedience and command; courage; feelings of honour and loyalty; specific forms of active impersonality capable of producing anonymous sacrifice; frank and open relationships from man to man, from one comrade to another, from leader to follower – all these are the characteristic living values that are predominant in the aforementioned view.
Evola follows this up by explaining that external warfare compliments that which is occurring within the self. This is the spiritual battle waged by the individual in defiance of his own shortcomings, described by Evola in Revolt Against the Modern World as the “big holy war” and the “little holy war”; a jihad which is fought upon two fronts. This also has important similarities to the Hermetic concept “as above, so below.” War against one’s enemies is simply a macrocosm of the microcosmic alternative taking place within the individual. For the man who is born to be a warrior, this kind of asceticism becomes a way of life. It is not a form of mindless violence in which death and destruction become the central pillars of one’s very existence, it is
the calm, conscious, and planned development of the inner being and a code of ethics; love of distance; hierarchy; order; the faculty of subordinating the emotional and individualistic element of one’s self to higher goals and principles, especially in the name of honour and beauty.
Herein lies the difference between the soldier and the warrior.
The decline of the warrior ethos, according to Evola, is due to the fact that democracies have diminished the importance of the political in favour of the social. Previously, of course, Evola had referred to the Mannerbund or all-male fraternity. Without this vital heroic element, the modern State has inevitably become inferior when compared to those of the past like Sparta. Western society is now in the hands of the bourgeoisie and lacks that key ingredient of atmospheric tension which acts as a safeguard against complacency and deterioration. Evola is not implying that warfare and struggle are eternal concepts, but simply that the individual must seek out the active life in opposition to the pacifism and decay that comes with “peace.” Therefore
the nations in which such premises are sufficiently realised will be not only the ones better prepared for war, but also the ones in which war will acquire a higher meaning.
By sheer contrast, the democracies now claim to be fighting against war itself and use a force of their own in a purely defensive capacity. The ranks of those who fight however, are filled not with the bourgeoisie but with the paid mercenaries of the army and police. These soldiers do not fight for an idea or a higher principle, but for
material well-being, economic prosperity, a comfortable and conformist existence based on one’s work, productivity, sports, movies, and sexuality.
Modern warfare is also based upon the war of the machine, rather than on the physical or spiritual combat of warriors. This leads to a complex and technological manifestation of the heroic ideal, rather than offering the prospective warrior a just cause for which to fight. Evola attacks the manipulative propaganda and lies which have been used throughout the process of modern warfare, something which leads to the relativisation and systematic repackaging of the “cause” itself. But what does Evola say about the attitude and motivation of the true warrior?
A warrior tradition and a pure military tradition do not have hatred as the basis of war. The need to fight and even to exterminate another people may be acknowledged, but this does not entail hatred, anger, animosity, and contempt for the enemy. All these feelings, for a true soldier, are degrading: in order to fight he need not be motivated by such lowly feelings, nor be energised by propaganda, smoky rhetoric and lies.
These elements have only come to the fore since the natural warrior caste was replaced by an army of enlisted mercenaries drawn from the ranks of society at large. Mussolini once wrote about the spirit of the trenches in which class divisions were eradicated in the name of a common cause, but Evola believes that today the masses have to be deceived before they will agree to fight for the ruling class. Modern conflicts are irrational, too, in that they are artificially constructed in order to justify the ever-increasing expansion of Capitalism. The wars of the past were quite different, in that they had a sovereign quality as the necessary determining force for the deployment of what Evola describes as “[c]learly defined goals.” Perhaps the antithesis of the just war is the very irrationality which lies at the core of the ultimate form of modern combat we know today as nuclear war.
PART X: TRADITION, CATHOLICISM, GHIBELLINISM
CATHOLICISM IS perceived by many to be the pinnacle of Tradition. Evola accepts that it contains many Traditional aspects, but goes on to say that in order to be seen as a legitimate form of authority and sovereignty it must become fully integrated within the sphere of Tradition itself. Catholicism alone is inadequate and represents only a minimal current of a far wider Tradition. Here, Evola opts to discuss the implications of this fact in both a political and contemporary context, despite using examples from the past.
Religion falls into various categories and cannot match the supreme and unitary nature of Tradition. In fact religion is simply an exoteric version of a deeper, esoteric undercurrent. Christianity, for example, panders to the masses, whilst Tradition is reserved for the spiritual elite:
In effect, nobody with a higher education can really believe in the axiom ‘There is no salvation outside the Church’ (nulla salus extra ecclesiam), meaning the great civilisations that have preceded Christianity (the still-existing millennia-old non-European traditions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and even relatively recent ones such as Islam) have not known the supernatural or the sacred, but only distorted images and obscure ‘prefigurations’ and that they amount to mere ‘paganism’, polytheism, and ‘natural mysticism’.
This statement would undoubtedly arouse in the more “traditional” Catholic a feeling of revulsion and anger, perhaps even accusations of “ecumenicalism.” However, Evola is not advocating the unification of all religions, but the acceptance that there is a common Tradition which lies in each. He goes on to say that for a Catholic
to persist in the sectarian and dogmatic exclusivism about this matter would amount to being in the same predicament of one who wished to defend the views of physics and astronomy found in the Old Testament, which have been made obsolete by the current state of knowledge on these matters.
Catholicism, then, is only “traditional” in the sense that certain aspects tend to accord with Tradition itself. The same can be said of Islam and Judaism.
We now turn our attention to the centuries-old debate concerning Catholicism and Ghibellinism. The Ghibellines (like their Guelph rivals) were a political force in northern and central Italy between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. These opposing groups began in Germany as partisans in a struggle for the throne of the Holy Roman Empire between two dynastic houses: the Welfs on the one hand (who were dukes of Saxony and Bavaria), and the Hohenstaufens on the other (who were rulers of Swabia). During the thirteenth century the Welf leader, Otto of Brunswick, was involved in a fratricidal struggle for the imperial crown against Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, and the fratricidal battle soon moved south to Italy. The name Guelph is derived from Welf, whilst Ghibelline is a corruption of Waiblingen, an area of land belonging to the emperors of Hohenstaufen. According to the Ghibelline view of the world, as elucidated by Evola:
[T]he Empire was an institution of supernatural origin and character, like the Church. It had its own sacred nature, just as, during the Middle Ages, the dignity of the kings themselves had an almost priestly nature (kingship being established through a rite that differed only in minor detail from Episcopal ordination). On this basis, the Ghibelline emperors – who were the representatives of a universal and supranational idea, embodying a lex animata in terris (a living law on earth) – opposed the hegemonic claims of the clergy and claimed to have only God above themselves.
The struggle between the Ghibellines and the clergy is usually discussed in political terms, but was actually a form of spiritual combat waged at the very highest level. Humanity, during the medieval period, was caught between two distinct paths: action and contemplation. Evola tells us that this relates to the Empire and the Church respectively:
Ghibellinism more or less claimed that through the view of earthly life as discipline, militia, and service, the individual can be led beyond himself and reach the supernatural culmination of human personality through action and under the aegis of the Empire. This was related to the character of a non-naturalistic but ‘providential’ institution acknowledged in the Empire; knighthood and the great knightly Orders stood in relation to the empire in the same way in which the clergy and the ascetic Orders stood in relation to the Church.
This sounds like an analogy of the political soldier, but Evola is keen to demonstrate that such orders
were based on an idea that was less political than ethical-spiritual, and partially even ascetic, according to an asceticism that was not cloistered and contemplative, but rather of a warrior type. In this last regard, the most typical example was constituted by the Order of Knights Templar, and in part by the Order of the Teutonic Knights.
This subject is discussed at length in Evola’s Revolt Against The Modern World, during which the author explained how the Emperor waged a calculated holy war against the pro-Guelphist clergy and how even the Crusades became an active consolidation of the imperial idea; just as the Empire had been in times of peace. The Ghibellines, he said, were engaged in an occult struggle “against papal Rome that was waged by Rome itself”. Indeed, the head of the Church is known as pontifex maximus; a title which is taken directly from the leaders of early Rome. According to Evola, the Emperor Julian opposed Christianity due to its
upholding of an anarchical doctrine; with the excuse of paying homage to God alone, they refused to give him homage in the person of those who, as legitimate leaders of men, were his representatives on earth and drew from him the principle of their power. This, according to Celsus, was an example of impiety.
Evola’s point is that in ancient times the religious clergy were answerable to the Emperor himself; not simply from a political perspective, but also in a theological capacity:
It was only during the Middle Ages that the priest nourished the ambition, not of being king, but of being the one to whom kings are subject. At that time, Ghibellinism arose as a reaction, and the rivalry was rekindled, the new reference point now being the authority and the right reclaimed by the Holy Roman Empire.
But this does not presuppose that religion must be at the service of the State like those of “a Masonic, anti-clerical character,” on the contrary, this leads to totalitarianism and the diplomatic concordats which were conveniently arranged in both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The separation of the spiritual and political spheres is epitomised by the Christian maxim “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s,” something which was quite unknown in ancient times. Needless to say, throughout history the Catholic Church has played a very large role in secular affairs by using politics as a mere wing of the religious establishment. Whilst in the later Middle Ages the Church did recognise the divine right of kings, Evola considers these “atheistic” monarchs to have been at the forefront of the liberal ideas which, again, later found expression in the French Revolution of 1789. Once the State had vacated the domain of the spirit and become secular, however, it turned against the Church. But this was different to the rebellion of the Ghibellines, because this current
did not pursue the subjection of spiritual authority to temporal powers, but rather upheld, vis-à-vis the exclusivist claim of the Church, a value and a right for the State, different from those that are proper to an organisation with a merely human and material character.
However, lest one wrongly assume that Evola somehow wishes to revive the Ghibelline struggle against the Church, he very carefully points out that the key point is to resist the secular State in all its forms. Only in this way can politics be ascribed to a higher level.
Catholicism today is in great decline. Not least because it is always forced to compromise with the prevailing ideologies among which it finds itself. Liberalism is gradually eroding the last vestiges of Catholic tradition in the same way that it is eating away at the edifice of Tradition in general. The likes of the Protestant Reformation and Vatican II have clearly taken their toll, and we now see modernist popes tolerating bastardised currents like Liberation Theology, supporting the burgeoning New World Order and kneeling before the might of International Zionism. Evola tells us that
the decline of the modern Church is undeniable because she gives to social and moral concerns a greater weight that what pertains to the supernatural life, to asceticism, and to contemplation, which are essential reference points of religiosity.
It is certainly not fulfilling any kind of meaningful role, either:
For all practical purposes, the main concerns of Catholicism today seem to turn it into a petty bourgeois moralism that shuns sexuality and upholds virtue, or an inadequate paternalistic welfare system. In these times of crisis and emerging brutal forces, the Christian faith should devote itself to very different tasks.
In the medieval period the Church possessed a more Traditional character, but only due to the fact that it had appropriated so many Classical elements and, by way of Aristotle, lashed them firmly to the theological mast that was constructed by Thomas Aquinas during the thirteenth century. Catholicism, however, will never reconcile itself with the problem of how to deal with politics and the State because it relies upon separation and dualism. Tradition, on the other hand, is integralist and unitary.
Evola notes that certain individuals and groups have sought to incorporate the more traditional aspects of Catholicism within the broader and far more encompassing sphere of Tradition itself. Evola’s French philosophical counterpart, René Guenon, for example. Catholics, however, are far too dogmatic and would merely seek to make Tradition “conform” to their own spiritual weltanschauung. This, says Evola, is “placing the universal at the service of the particular.” Furthermore, of course, the anti-modernists who are organised in groups such as The Society of St. Pius X and the Sedavacantist fraternity do not speak with the full weight and authority of the Church. They are, therefore, powerless because
the direction of the Church is a descending and anti-traditional one, consisting of modernisation and coming to terms with the modern world, democracy, socialism, progressivism, and everything else. Therefore, these individuals are not authorised to speak in the name of Catholicism, which ignores them, and should not try to attribute to Catholicism a dignity the latter spurns.
Evola suggests that because the Church is so inadequate, it should be abandoned and left to its ultimate doom. He concludes by reiterating the fact that a State which does not have a spiritual dimension is not a State at all. The only way forward, he argues, is to “begin from a pure idea, without the basis of a proximate historical reference” and await the actualisation of the Traditional current.
PART XI: REALISM, COMMUNISM, ANTI-BOURGEOISIE
INTELLECTUALS OFTEN find themselves attracted to Communism because it claims to be anti-bourgeois, despite the fact that Communism itself claims to despise the intellectual for his bourgeois origins. According to Evola, however, this is misleading and such people are merely deluding themselves. Evola also accepts that the word “bourgeois” relates to far more than economics; something representing a specific cultural niche in which everything is “empty, decadent, and corrupt.” The role of the Traditionalist must be to overcome these materialist concepts. Indeed, the perennial attraction of Communism indicates that it would be a big mistake to counteract Marxist values with a
bourgeois mentality and spirit, with its conformism, psychological and romantic appendices, moralism, and concerns for a petty, safe existence in which a fundamental materialism finds its compensation in sentimentality and the rhetoric of the great humanitarian and democratic worlds – all this has only an artificial, peripheral, and precarious life.
This is why conservatism has always been so ineffective, and why the adoption of a true anti-bourgeois spirit is so essential in the ongoing replenishment of Tradition. For Evola, the solution lies in realism.
In its efforts to overcome the unreality of bourgeois society, Marxism simply relegates the individual to an even lower level. This results in the systematic spawning of homo economicus, a process in which “we go toward what is below rather than above the person.” It represents the collective reduction of the human type, rather than a raising of the individual consciousness. So how does Evola’s realism differ from the kind of “neo-realism” advocated by left-wing philosophers such as Sartre? The latter, of course, brings human existence into line with a kind of psycho-collectivisation, whereby man’s various personality traits are said to originate from below. Evola, on the other hand, accepts
that existence acquires a meaning only when it is inspired by something beyond itself.
Therefore the political, economic and psychological aspects of Marxism are identical and adhere to a decidedly false sense of “realism.”
Given the confusion which has been generated by the Marxists and their misleading interpretation of “realism,” perhaps another solution is needed to counteract the unreality of the bourgeoisie; one which seeks to go higher, rather than lower? Evola explains:
It is possible to keep a distance from everything that has only a human and especially subjectivist character; to feel contempt for bourgeois conformism and its petty selfishness and moralism; to embody the style of an impersonal activity; to prefer what is essential and real in a higher sense, free from the trappings of sentimentalism and from pseudo-intellectual super-structures – and yet all this must be done by remaining upright, feeling the presence in life of that which leads beyond life, drawing from it precise norms of behaviour and action.
This means that a new breed of individuals must bear the task of combining strong anti-Marxism with a committed opposition to bourgeois society:
Lenin himself said that a proletarian, left to himself, tends to become a bourgeois.
It is therefore not necessary to become a Communist in order to reject the trappings of conformity and sterility, although the shortcomings of Fascism and its well-documented reliance upon the bourgeoisie suggests that it, too, is incapable of providing real solutions to the problem. Evola also notes that
even those who call themselves monarchists can only conceive of a bourgeois king.
I have already discussed how Communists harbour an ironic grudge towards the intellectual, but Evola demonstrates that the only answer to the intellectual/anti-intellectual debate is to put forward a third option: the Weltanschauung, or world-view. This is
based not on books, but on an inner form and a sensibility endowed with an innate, rather than acquired, character.
In other words, a mentality which does not remain fixed in the mind or submerged in theories, but realised in a more practical sense through the deployment of the will. Thought alone is incapable of taking on a life of its own or significantly changing anything. Here we return to the traditional idea of an organic civilisation which is expressed not by culture, but through a deeper understanding of eternal values. Thus, intellectualism and culture are used merely to express the more fundamental world-view, not designed to evolve into determining characteristics of humanity in their own right:
[T]his is sheer illusion: never before as in modern times was there such a number of men who are spiritually formless, and thus open to any suggestion and ideological intoxication, so as to become dominated by psychic currents (without being aware of it in the least) and of manipulations belonging to the intellectual, political, and social climate in which they live.
The world-view of which Evola speaks, of course, is Tradition. This represents the basic impetus which must beat firmly within the heart of all those who wish to bring to an end the contaminating era of the bourgeoisie.