By Nigel Jackson
In 1950, Julius Evola wrote Orientations, a pamphlet for a number of his young political associates, intended as a compendium that would set down the most important core values of a traditional rightist group. This pamphlet then led to the writing of Evola’s main political book, Men Among the Ruins (1953).
Dr. H. T. Hansen, in his 100-page introduction to this first English translation of Evola’s work, explains that Men Among the Ruins was written in the hope of influencing Italian politics of the time, but was not successful in that regard. Despite that, it was reprinted several times in Italy and was Evola’s most commercially successful book.
Hansen’s claim that „it probably was and has remained the only ‘practical’ handbook for a truly traditional right wing“ may be an excessive claim. It is as much theoretical as practical; and an abundance of books of a traditional conservative bent have appeared in the same period, such as Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind and Eric Voegelin’s The New Science of Politics.
Hansen states that Evola himself felt that Men Among the Ruins was a failure. At much the same time he also wrote a companion book, Riding the Tiger, in which he preached a gloomy doctrine of apoliteia (withdrawal from active politics). „Today there is no idea, no object, and no goal that is worth sacrificing one’s own true interest for,“ he declared.
Hansen, who rarely intrudes his own views in his brilliantly researched analysis of Evola’s life and intellectual career, finally lets loose a severe judgment about the impracticality of Men Among the Ruins:
„Evola’s Traditionalism cannot be used by modern political movements.“
According to Hansen, Evola’s teachings „are too aristocratic, too demanding, and too much directed against progress and modernity.“ In the 1930’s and early 1940’s Evola strove in vain to influence Italian Fascism and German National Socialism, which provided more „fertile ground“ than the postwar era.
„Traditionalists must hold on to ideas and principles, not institutions,“ Hansen adds. He suggests that Evola would probably have held that his Traditional doctrines should serve as centers of intelligence, around which groups might slowly form which in the future might be nuclei in a providential transformation of society.
In the 20th century Australian right-wing political movements have enjoyed little success and sometimes proved to be fiascoes. Senator George Hannan’s 1970’s National Liberal Party never got off the ground. More recently, Graham Campbell’s Australia First has sunk amidst a cruel media silence, while Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, although enjoying a degree of media puffing and some electoral successes, never lost the unhappy image of a slightly tawdry political circus. Perhaps a study of Men Among the Ruins might help the Australian Right achieve something more fruitful in the future. This article is offered as a contribution to that end.
First we will look briefly at Evola’s life and the kind of person he was. Next we will survey his intellectual career, relying on Hansen’s substantial and succinct introduction. Finally we will study the 175-page text of Men Among the Ruins itself and consider how it might be practically applicable in the Australian political arena today.
Evola the Man
Baron Julius Evola was born into a family of the Sicilian gentry on 19th May 1898, about a year and a half after Prince Giuseppe di Lampedusa, author of the plangent historical novel The Leopard, whose theme is the decay of the Sicilian aristocratic class.
He received a strict Catholic upbringing which he soon discarded. „His was not the spirituality of piety and mysticism,“ comments Joscelyn Godwin in a brief foreword, „but the aspiration to what he understood to be the highest calling of man: the identity of Self and Absolute.“
Evola also developed „an unconditional and militant antipathy toward everything bourgeois,“ Hansen tells us:
„The fact that he never married, never wanted children, never had a middle-class job, and broke off his engineering studies before the last exam in spite of his excellent record (so he would not be a Doctor or Professor) can be traced back to this sentiment.“
There was plainly an austerity in Evola’s make-up. It could be seen in his personal style of impeccable suits and monocle (reminiscent of the defiant wearing of dinner suit and bow tie in the Soviet Union amidst the „Red terror“ by another of his contemporaries, the novelist Mikhail Bulgakov). It can equally be noted in his extraordinary reticence about his upbringing and personal life, which are hardly mentioned even in his autobiography, and in his attitude to personal property (all his life he owned very little and even habitually gave away his books and paintings). It would be tempting to view him as a partly repressed personality with an unduly negative attitude to femininity; but there is evidence against this. For example, we learn from Hansen that, after the fall of Rome to the Allies in 1943, his mother kept their secret service operatives at bay while he made his escape. He evidently enjoyed good relations with her, despite having renounced Catholicism in his teens. Evola also wrote a whole book on Eros and the Mysteries of Love. Moreover, the second last chapter of Men Among the Ruins (The Problem of Births) shows that he did not have a puritanical attitude towards sexuality.
Evola seems to have been a knightly man with leanings towards the brahminic lifestyle. On March 12, 1945, he was seriously wounded during an air strike on Vienna and his spinal cord was damaged. He remained paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. This disability was not allowed to curtail his dedication to Tradition and his prodigious literary career. He wrote twenty-five books (Men Among the Ruins being the ninth to appear in English), around three hundred long essays and over a thousand newspaper and magazine articles. He translated into Italian many notable works including Oswald Spengler’s Decline and Fall of the West, the Taoist classic, the Tao Te Ching, and René Guénon’s The Crisis of the Modern World.
Evola also introduced many notable European writers to the Italian public, including Gabriel Marcel, Ernst Jünger and Gustav Meyrink. Close personal friends from youth onwards included comparative religion authority Mircea Eliade and Tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci. After spending a year and a half in hospital in Austria, Evola returned to Rome and thenceforth rarely left his apartment. He was arrested in 1951 on the preposterous charge of „glorification of Fascism,“ detained for six months, proved innocent and acquitted. His famous Autodifesa (self-defence testimony) is included as an appendix in Men Among the Ruins.
He chose to die standing upright (as much as he could), since he wished to emulate forebears like Roland of France. (It will be recalled that Zorba the Greek died in the same fashion in Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel.) Plainly there was much that was heroic in Evola’s life; but was there also something of the quixotic?
Hansen points out that for Evola, from his mid-twenties onwards, the centre of all things was not man but rather the Transcendent, the eternal „One without a second.“ Evola was a Traditionalist in the sense made famous by Guénon, father of the „Perennialist“ school. Everything had to be appraised from the standpoint of the principles which form the foundation of our world and remain forever the same – that is to say, Tradition.
Evola’s awareness of the vertical dimension of human existence was based on personal experience which gave him keys to the mysteries of self-transformation. As Guido Stucco noted in his translator’s preface to Evola’s masterwork, Revolt Against the Modern World (1995), Evola was not first and foremost a right-wing, reactionary political thinker, but an esoterist. His socio-political views sprang from his religious and metaphysical convictions. Evola upheld the primacy of Being (as did Martin Heidegger). For him there was an immortal nature as well as a mortal nature, a superior world of being as well as an inferior world of becoming.
Evola considered human beings to be fundamentally and inherently unequal, so that they do not have and should not have, nor should they enjoy, the same dignity and rights. Therefore a sociopolitical hierarchy is best suited to express the differentiation between them.
Evola tended to reject dialogue with the apostles of modernity as a waste of time. He favored self-questioning and the cultivation of one’s soul. Stucco viewed Evola’s whole oeuvre as a quest for, and as an exposition of, the means employed in Western and Eastern traditions to accomplish that noble task.
The titles of Evola’s other books available in English, but not yet mentioned, support this claim: The Doctrine of Awakening (analyzing Buddhism), The Yoga of Power (investigating Hinduism), The Hermetic Tradition, Introduction to Magic, The Mystery of the Grail and Meditation on the Peaks.
An apologetic tone appears periodically in Hansen’s introduction, denoting a strong conviction that he has to deal with a largely uncomprehending if not downright hostile readership. So, for example, he states that Evola’s mindset was formed in „a relatively recent intellectual climate that seems to belong to a whole other world in its incisive questioning of what we regard today as self-evident ‘humanism’: a different world whose utterances seem barely publishable today.“ However, perhaps modernity is only standing tall on feet of clay – as its well-known tendency to discourage and even suppress antithetical political and historical theses testifies.
Important early influences on Evola’s thought were the mediaeval Christian mystics Meister Eckhart and Jan van Ruysbroeck. Hansen includes pertinent quotations from Eckhart, whom Evola respected throughout his life:
„Being is God. […] God and existence are identical. Should I then be able to recognize God in an immediate way, then I must become he and he must become I, pure and simple […] so completely at one, that this he and this I are one and will become and be one. […] Coarse-natured people must simply believe this, but the enlightened must know it.“
Plainly this is equivalent to the Hindu doctrine tat twam asi, which proclaims the ultimate identity of the Self and the Divine Source.
A number of secular writers also influenced Evola in his youth. From Carlo Michelstaedler (1887-1910) he learned the vital importance of personal authenticity, of following „the path of conviction, which has no road-signs or directions that one can share, study or repeat,“ of not „surrendering to contentment with what has been given to one by others.“
From Otto Weininger (1880-1903), author of Sex and Character, Evola derived his sense of the importance of manliness, his attitude towards woman as the metaphysical and political opposite of man, his dislike of populist „Caesars“ and his hostility to the decadence of modernity.
Plato played an important role in arousing Evola’s antidemocratic views, as did Nietzsche, although Evola always cautioned against the hubris implicit in Nietzsche’s ignoring of transcendence.
Oswald Spengler alerted Evola to the fundamental decadence of modernity, despite its boasts about „progress“ and „the advances of science.“ From Spengler he learned that it is a sure sign of corruption of the body politic when the economy wins the upper hand. He agreed with Spengler’s analysis of the onslaught of money against the spiritual in Western culture: „Only high finance is completely free, completely unsusceptible to attack. Since 1789, the banks and thus the stock exchanges have come into their own as a power, feeding off the credit needs of an industry growing into monstrous proportions. Now they, and money, want to be the sole power in all civilizations.“
From The Crowd by Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931) Evola absorbed a pessimistic attitude towards the masses, whose natural tendency is to follow strength rather than virtue. And from Johann Jakob Bachofen came the identification of the age of female rule with the age of earthbound, chthonic deities, against which Evola proposed the superiority of a solar, manly and Olympian rule. There is definitely error in Evola’s analysis here, as anyone who appreciates Robert Graves’ The White Goddess and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance will agree. There is a Graeco-Roman bias in Evola which leaves inadequate room for the Celtic.
Evola was deeply influenced by texts of the non-dogmatic Eastern religions, including Buddhist Pali scriptures and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. From Taoism he derived his understanding of the nature of power. The Tao Te Ching tells how „the awakened one“ achieves self-fulfillment because he is selfless, and praises the superior man who „leads and yet does not lord it over“ his fellows.
Thus Evola differentiated power from mere brute force.
„Superiority does not rest on power, but power rests on superiority. […] The path of renunciation can be a condition for the way to the highest power. […] A true ruler has access to this higher quantity of being, a different quality of being, and imposes himself through his mere presence.“
Evola was twenty-four when Mussolini entered Rome at the invitation of King Victor Emmanuel III. He thus lived the years of his prime under Fascism and naturally had hopes of influencing it, correcting it and steering it into aristocratic channels.
In 1927 in his first political book, Imperialismo Pagano, he expressed concern at the direction Fascism was taking:
„Caught up in the struggles and worries of concrete politics, Fascism does not seem to be interested in creating a hierarchy in the higher sense, based on purely spiritual values and knowing only disdain for all pollutions due to ‘culture’ and modern intellectualism, so that the centre might again shift to a position that lies beyond secular and religious boundaries alike.“
His critique applied to Western nations generally:
„In the same way that a living body stays alive only when a soul is present to govern it, so every social organization not rooted in a spiritual reality is outward and transitory, unable to remain healthy and retain its identity in the struggle of the various forces; it is not really an organism, but more aptly something thrown together, an aggregate.
The true cause for the decline of the political idea in the West today is to be found in the fact that the spiritual values that once permeated the social order have been lost, without any successful efforts to put something better in their place. The problem has been lowered to the plane of economic, industrial, military, governmental, or even more sentimental factors, without considering that all this is nothing more than matter: necessary if you like, but never enough by itself, and unable to create a healthy and reasonable social order.“
Relying on Dante’s De Monarchia and other authorities, Evola saw a monarchy as the „natural gravitational and crystallizing point“ of the true Right:
„This ideal implies the affirmation not only of the concept and right of the nobility, but also of the monarchy. […] It must be renewed, strengthened, and dynamized as an organic, central, absolute function that embodies the might of power and the light of the spirit in a single being; then the monarchy is truly the act of a whole race, and at the same time the point that leads beyond all that is bound by blood and soil.
Only then is one justified to speak of an Imperium. When it is awakened into a glorious, holy, metaphysical reality, the pinnacle of a martially ordered political hierarchy, then the monarchy once again occupies the place and fulfils the function that it once had, before being usurped by the priestly caste.“
As Hansen observes, with this emphasis on a spiritual monarchy presiding over an imperial order, Evola stood in sharp contrast to the principle of the leaders of Fascism and National Socialism, both of whom derived their legitimacy, they claimed, from the people. Inevitably he remained without political influence on either movement.
He saw Fascism as „a degenerate child of Tradition.“ It appeared to him as „the last chance of the West.“ From his standpoint, the visible alternatives were much worse, explains Hansen.
„There were only liberalism paired with capitalism (‘Anything goes!’) and communism, both of which worshipped a world of machines and limitless materialism. […] Fascism at least strengthened the State and the hierarchical concept […] and praised honour, bravery and loyalty.“
Evola believed that it was Italy that had failed Fascism, rather than the other way around. The nation
„did not have enough men on the necessary plane of certain higher qualifications and symbols […], capable of further developing the positive possibilities that could have been contained in the system.“
Hansen explains how National Socialism came to have greater appeal to Evola, partly because of its concept of a State ruled by an Order, which he felt was embodied in the SS. Yet he strongly warned against the inadequate respect for the transcendent:
„National Socialism has forsworn the ancient, aristocratic tradition of the Empire. Being nothing but a semi-collectivist nationalism and equalizing in its centralism, it has not hesitated to destroy Germany’s time-honoured division into duchies, counties and cities that all enjoyed a measure of independence.“
An extract from a lecture he gave in Berlin in 1937 shows how Evola saw Hitler’s National Socialism as a caricature of a true conservative order:
„According to the Aryan primordial conception, the Reich is a metaphysical solar reality. The Nordic heritage is not semi-naturalistic, only conceivable on a blood-and-soil basis, but rather constitutes a cultural category, an original transcendent form of the spirit, of which the Nordic type, the Aryan race, and the general Indo-Germanic moral being are only outward manifestations.
Race is a basic attitude, a spiritual power, something primal and creative. […] This is the true level to which the motifs and symbols that the new Germany has called forth must be elevated if it really wants to stand at the forefront of the resistance and attack against the dark powers of world revolution.“
Hansen stalwartly presents and assesses Evola’s attitudes to race and to the Jewish question – intellectual minefields over which he steps delicately and honorably. He stresses that Evola’s position regarding race was a consequence of his worldview. Evola wrote:
„Our racial doctrine is determined by Tradition. Thus the traditional view of the human being is our foundation, according to which this being has a tripartite nature; that is, it consists of three principles, spirit, soul and body. […] Race is a deeply embedded force that reveals itself in the biological and morphological realm (as race of the body), the psychical (as race of the soul), as well as in the spiritual (as race of the spirit).“
And in 1928 he stated that races deteriorate when their spirits deteriorate.
„That is why for us the return to the race cannot be merely the return to the blood – especially in these twilight times in which almost irreversible mixtures have taken place. It must mean a return to the spirit, not in a totemistic sense but in an aristocratic sense, relating to the primordial seed of our ‘form’ and our culture.“
As Hansen remarks, Evola not only fought vehemently against a purely physical racism, but also understood the term ‘race’ differently from its general usage. His studies of Buddhist scriptures that continually mention the arya and understand the arya as „the noble“ affected his employment of the word „Aryan.“ The Sanscrit word arya has a fourfold meaning:
- spiritually, „the awakened ones“;
- aristocratically, membership of a higher caste;
- racially, as of the light-skinned Nordic conquerors. (Varna, caste, originally meant color.);
- stylistically, as of a crystalline clarity, lack of passionate emotion, ascetic manner, and detached attitude.
Hansen condemns some of Evola’s obsessions and utterances critical of Jewry, especially an appendix he wrote to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which demonstrated „sheer carelessness, a lack of serious research, and the reckless assimilation of prejudices that happened to coincide with his own views.“
On the other hand, Hansen points out that Evola’s writings never spoke out against orthodox, religious Judaism. „There are elements and symbols in the Old Testament,“ Evola commented, „that possess metaphysical and therefore universal value.“ He also praised Kabbalah as one of the few initiatory paths that can still be followed successfully in the West today.
His attacks were directed against the Jews as a symbol of the rule of economic-materialistic individualism and the hegemony of money. A Jewish critic, Adriana Goldstaub, agreed that Evola did not deem all Jews, or the Jews exclusively, as responsible for the decline of the modern world.
It is true, Hansen notes, that Evola was attracted to the theory of a ‘global conspiracy’ by Jewish and Freemasonic circles, with the intention of toppling Christian and traditional state institutions; but he considered such circles not so much movers as instruments of other forces, not necessarily human.
In summary, Evola ‘engaged’ himself for almost sixty years in the fight to defend his principles. He embodied, says Hansen, the ‘legionary spirit’, which was a phrase he took both from the greatness of the Roman army and the Legionary movement of one of his most admired heroes, the Rumanian Corneliu Codreanu. Evola defined the legionary spirit as „the attitude of him who can choose the hardest life, who is able to continue fighting even when he knows that the battle is materially lost, who holds to the ancient precept that ‘loyalty is mightier than fire’ and who carries the traditional idea of honour and dishonour within.“
Evola was something of a universal man. Amongst other pursuits, he found time as an alpinist for several difficult climbs; he felt at home among the mountains; and the mountain remained a potent and inspiring symbol for him of an arena where direct experience of the transcendent can occur.
He requested in his will that after his death the urn containing his ashes be deposited in a glacial crevasse on Monte Rosa; and this was faithfully carried out by his executors and friends.
Beyond doubt Baron Julius Evola was a man of destiny and a great man. The closest figure for comparison in the English-speaking world is surely the Traditional poet, dramatist and essayist, T. S. Eliot. It seems likely that Evola will exert more influence on the world after his life than in it.
In Men Among the Ruins Evola begins by considering what needs to be preserved (or re-instated) by a truly authentic counter-revolution; he identifies his enemy as „the subversion introduced in Europe by the revolutions of 1789 and 1848.“
In a passage remarkably reminiscent of words of T. S. Eliot in his 1917 essay „Tradition and the Individual Talent,“ Evola defines the Tradition that needs to be defended: „Tradition is neither servile conformity to what has been, nor a sluggish perpetuation of the past into the present.
„Tradition, in its essence, is something simultaneously meta-historical and dynamic: it is an overall ordering force in the service of principles that have the chrism of a superior legitimacy (we may even call them ‘principles from above’).“
Thus, as Eliot, Russell Kirk and others also did, he warns against the error of a worldly, but short-sighted and partial, conservatism, involving merely the defence of the „sociopolitical positions and the material interests of a given class, of a given caste.“
He stresses, too, the need to be faithful not so much to past forms and institutions as to the principles of which they were particular expressions.
„New forms, corresponding in essence to the old ones, are liable to emerge from them as if from a seed.“
In Australia, undoubtedly, imperfect forms and movements have come into being since Federation (of which One Nation is currently the most notorious), which were not sufficiently rooted in traditional principles because their leaders lacked adequate understanding.
„The conservative revolution must emerge as a predominantly spiritual phenomenon,“ Evola insists. In Australia some movements have paid insufficient attention to this fundamental (Graham Campbell’s Australia First fatally lacked such vision, for all its pragmatic and sensible socio-political positions).
Others have been too closely attached to outdated and inadequate religious forms, such as the National Civic Council and National Action (to different strands of Catholicism) and the Australian League of Rights (to an Anglicanism mediated through the particular mind of Major Clifford Douglas, founder of Social Credit).
Evola, naturally, focuses especially upon Italy, as he looks for historical forms that might be the „basis for an integration that will immediately leave them behind.“ For him, these are the „ancient Roman world“ (the world of Cato, not of Nero!) and „certain aspects of mediaeval civilization“ (mainly the Ghibelline movement which supported the Holy Roman Empire).
This prompts the question of what forms we in Australia should seek as supports; and immediately it must be stressed that for us Australian history cannot be viewed as beginning with the brave seamen who discovered our continent only a few centuries ago.
For us, despite the barrage of contemporary propaganda to the contrary, Australia remains a fundamentally British nation (it retains the British Crown, a constitution and laws essentially inspired by Britain, and the language of the British people).
Thus our history extends back to the foundations of Britain itself, and its four kingdoms of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (the best Irish tradition is that of Tara and the High Kings). Our supports will be found from a period of two millennia.
The Basis of Sovereignty
Evola’s second chapter („Sovereignty, Authority, Imperium“) is one of his most important. He proceeds from the conviction that the principle of the „true State“ (a principle expressed as sovereignty, authority and law) is itself founded upon transcendence.
As soon as Evola moves downwards from this metaphysical point of origin, his formulations require careful critical examination. For example, he admires
„the pure power of command, the almost mystical power and auctoritas inherent in one who had the function and quality of Leader: a leader in the religious and warrior order as well as in the order of the patrician family, the gens.“
Here, already, is a possible weakness in Evola. Himself by nature a kshatriya (knightly man of honor), he tends (in my view) to wrongly annex for his caste the superior authority of the brahmins (the sages, those who know) – just as, in places, he demeans the brahmins by confusing them with „priests“ who he sees as usurpers of the original royal authority.
Of the principle of sovereignty, Evola writes that „it is also necessary to recognize its attribute of absoluteness.“ Such an absoluteness can only belong to the One Divine Source („There is no God but God.“), irrespective of what name is given to this source („God,“ „Allah,“ „Brahman,“ „The Goddess“ or whatever).
Evola tends, however, at times, to transfer this absoluteness to forms which appeal to his strongly masculine, knightly and warrior temperament. Yet, no matter how valuable they may be, such forms remain contingent and limited, not universal. This tendency to absolutize the contingent is the „occupational hazard“ of the modes of dogmatic religion which have proceeded from the Middle East.
We can observe among the three „Peoples of the Book“ three forms of this error: the absolutization of a people (Judaism), of a prophet (Christianity) and of a sacred scripture (Islam). (We may compare the theological mistake, noted by Maurice Nicoll and Frithjof Schuon, of absolutizing Hell, an error deriving from the mistranslation of the Greek word aionios as „eternal“ instead of „age-long.“ Just as „there is no God but God,“ so there is no eternity but eternity.)
Evola correctly identifies the principle of sovereignty as „the point of stability“ and „the natural centre“ of the entire organism. The essential political task in Australia at the present time is to safeguard and then strengthen and even re-establish the only centre we possess, which is the monarchy, Christian and British, which we currently share with the mother country and some other nations.
The republican presidency which is being vigorously promoted by powerful (and sometimes sinister) influences, as well as by numerous wiseacres (sincere as well as opportunistic), cannot provide such a centre, because it is not authorized by a transcendent origin.
Princeps a legibus solutus („the law does not apply to the one who acts as Leader“) is a maxim quoted approvingly by Evola; but it, too, needs qualification.
Royal dynasties, emperors, houses can lose their te; and then it becomes right that they be replaced by fresh blood. Unlucky the generation on whom the burden of replacement falls, however, as such transitions are fraught with instability and danger.
Evola rejects emphatically the modern heresy that the State is the expression of ‘society’.
„The anagogical end (namely, of a power drawing upward) of the State is […] completely denied by the ‘social’ or ‘communal’ view of its formation.“
Evola places much store on the theory of ‘the regression of the castes’ and the claim that we are living in the last phase of the fourth and darkest age. He sees the decline as having begun when the rulers lost their authorizing link with the worlds above.
„Later in history, this line leads, if not to the imperium, to the divine right of kings; where there were no groups created by the power of a rite, there were orders, aristocracies, political classes defined by disciplines and dignities. […] Then the line was broken, and the decadence of the State idea […] ended with the inversion through which the world of the demos and the materialized masses emerged on the political horizon, engaging in the struggle for power.“
This picture of deterioration is important for us, because it reminds us that even the monarchical political orders of the period of European greatness and expansion were themselves seriously deficient. This suggests that Australian monarchists today need to recover a concept of royalty that exceeds in dignity anything recorded in British history. It may be that such a concept can be found in the ancient cultures of Egypt, India and China.
Much more questionable is Evola’s attempt to unite his image of the State to manliness.
„The State is under the masculine aegis, while ‘society’ and, by extension, the people or demos are under the feminine aegis.“
Evola’s attempt to justify this from mythology appears to depend on a selective approach to ancient myths.
His approach parallels that espoused by Melbourne psychologist Ronald Conway in The Great Australian Stupor and Land of the Long Weekend. Conway takes over from historian of sexuality Gordon Rattray Taylor the model of four psychological modes into which human beings, their behaviors and communities formed by those behaviors, can be classified. He idealizes the patrist-conservative at the expense of the patrist-authoritarian, the matrist-permissive and the fraternalist-anarchic.
It seems likely, however, that a fifth mode should be included, which I designate as the matrist-creative; and that normality (in the sense of rightness and good health) should be seen to reside in the wedding of the patrist-conservative and matrist-creative.
Both Conway and Evola are clearly very aware of the gulf between the Higher Masculine (the sage, the warrior) and the Lower Masculine (the profiteer, the mobster), but each, through some fault of temperament, has failed to acknowledge a corresponding dichotomy between the Higher Feminine (well symbolized by the goddesses in many pantheons) and the Lower Feminine (the nymph, the courtesan).
Thus, when Evola asserts that „both democracy and socialism ratify the shift from the masculine to the feminine and from the spiritual to the material and the promiscuous,“ he has in mind the Lower Feminine only and has temporarily forgotten the comparable imperfection of the Lower Masculine (which is clearly just as much implicated in „the revolt of the masses“).
Evola also warns against an insufficient kind of patriotism. „The notions of nation, fatherland and people, despite their romantic and idealistic halo, essentially belong to the naturalistic and biological plane and not the political one.“ He contrasts „the masses,“ who can be easily mobilized by patriotic motifs, with „men who differentiate themselves […] as bearers of a complete legitimacy and authority, bestowed by the Idea (of the true State) and by their rigorous, impersonal adherence to it. The Idea…must be the true fatherland for these men.“
Evola tends to disparage adherence „to the same land, language or blood.“ Perhaps stock and „blood“ are more important than he admits, being the bodies in which the ‘soul of the State’ can incarnate. Even Evola, writing only eight years after the end of World War II, may have been traumatized by the intense anti-Nazism of that time.
His rejection of democracy is trenchant:
„When a sovereignty is no longer allowed other than one that is the expression and the reflection of the ‘will of the nation’, it is almost as if a creature overtook its creator.“
He traces the „inconsistency and, most of all, the cowardice“ of those who in our time constitute the political class to the shift from monarchical and aristocratic orders to „demagogues and to the so-called ‘servants of the nation’ […] who presume to ‘represent’ the people and who acquire various offices or positions of power by flattering and manipulating the masses.“
Then occurs the phenomenon of action through pseudo-myths, „formulas lacking any objective truth and that appeal to the sub-intellectual dimension and passions of individuals and the masses.“ The current campaign for „Aboriginal reconciliation“ is an example.
Fantasy novels, such as The Lord of the Rings and Terry Goodkind’s „Sword of Truth“ series, represent a yearning in the souls of modern people to escape from democratic degradation back to the clear air of the true State. Russell Kirk also noted the importance of modern fantasy literature in Enemies of the Permanent Things.
Evola also noted the attempt to create a counter-State by the forces of subversion: „A realization of the Idea is already present on the other front.“ He had in mind the recently formed United Nations Organization, which he correctly saw as lacking authorization by transcendence. Half a century later the danger of the „New World Order“ is much greater, as Australia’s ratification of the International Criminal Court has just recently shown. Those who will not be ruled by kings will end up being ruled by tyrants.
Person, Justice, and Freedom
Evola names liberalism as the origin of the various inter-connected forms of global subversion. He sees the essence of liberalism as individualism. „It mistakes the person for the individual.“ The nonsensical theory of egalitarianism depends upon this confusion.
Evola defines a person as „an individual who is differentiated through his qualities, endowed with his own face, his proper nature, and a series of attributes that make him who he is […] that make him fundamentally unequal.“
This leads to a consideration of „natural rights“ or „human rights.“ Evola points out that „the principle according to which all human beings are free and enjoy equal rights ‘by nature’ is truly absurd, due to the very fact that by nature they are not the same.“
There may be such a thing as „the dignity of the human person,“ but it „admits to different degrees.“ Thus, justice means „to attribute to each and every one of these degrees a different right and a different freedom.“ Evola is a champion of discrimination, a just discrimination that recognizes the ancient principle „to each his own.“
Defence of personhood against the atomization of humanity into faceless individuals requires the recognition that man comes before society and not the reverse. Evola also places personhood as superior to membership of a nation.
„The perfection of the human being is the end to which every healthy social institution must be subordinated. […] This perfection must be conceived on the basis of a process of individuation and progressive differentiation.“
At the top of the pyramidal structure of the true State Evola rather vaguely imagines ‘the absolute person’, the „supremely realized person who represents the end, and the natural centre of gravity, of the whole system […] a dominating super-personality.“ Here he is in danger of forgetting the pre-eminence of the transcendent. The lives of sages such as Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sheikh Alawi indicate that the „top of the pyramid“ lies outside this world.
Evola upholds the right of the nation over ‘humanity’, over and against „all the forms of individualistic disintegration, international mixture and proletarization.“ As regards the question of property, he castigates economic liberalism for engendering „various forms of capitalist exploitation and cynical, antisocial plutocracy,“ but also castigates the French revolutionaries’ attack on the ancien régime because it broke the organic connection „between personhood and property, social function and wealth, and between a given qualification or moral nobility and the rightful and legitimate possession of goods.“
These developments enabled the communist attack on the very principle of private property, since „whenever there is no higher legitimization of ownership, it is always possible to wonder why some people have property and others do not, or why some people have earned for themselves privileges and social pre-eminence […], while lacking something that would make them stand out and above everybody else in an effective and sensible manner.“
By contrast, „ancient and primitive man essentially obeyed […] those in whom he perceived a saturation of mana (that is, sacred energy and life force).“ The lesson from this part of Evola’s book is that the Australian Right must courageously champion discrimination, hierarchy, caste and personhood – and find ways (a rhetoric, a discourse) of showing ordinary persons how a society based on such principles will bring them more real benefit than the utopian dreams of egalitarians.
Evola points out the fundamental distinction between the traditional, organic State, based upon transcendent authority, and the modern totalitarian state.
A State is traditional and organic „when it has a centre that shapes the various domains of life in an efficacious way […] when, by virtue of a system of hierarchical participation, every part within its relative autonomy performs its function and enjoys an intimate connection with the whole.“
Such a state is sympathetic to pluralism and decentralization, which „can be accentuated in proportion to the degree to which the centre enjoys a spiritual and even transcendent character, a sovereign equilibrating power and a natural prestige.“
In such a State there is „an inner order of single freedoms, an immanence of general law that guides and sustains people without coercing them.“ Evola notes the importance of oaths in traditional societies. „The oath of loyalty […] was regarded as a true sacrament […] in the feudal world.“
By contrast, a totalitarian state is a counterfeit of the organic ideal. Unity is imposed from the outside by a power that is exclusively and materially political. There is a tendency towards uniformity and intolerance of any partial form of autonomy and any degree of freedom, for any intermediate body between the centre and the periphery.
This in turn engenders „a kind of sclerosis […] a monstrous hypertrophy of the entire bureaucratic-administrative structure,“ leading to „an insolent intrusion of the public sphere into the private domain.“ A super-organized, centralized economy makes totalitarianism „a school of servility,“ in which there is „a sort of intrinsic and gloomy enjoyment of this relentless levelling process.“
Thus, totalitarian rule destroys „quality, articulated forms, castes and classes, the values of personhood, true freedom, daring and responsible initiative and heroic feats.“
Democrats tend to publicize an alleged antithesis between liberal democracy and totalitarianism; whereas the truth appears to be that such democracy is a phase in the decline from the true State into the tyranny of totalitarianism.
Thus, democrats (and their hidden promoters) are happy to give much publicity to George Orwell, whose Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four brilliantly expose the evil of totalitarianism; but they tend to be much less enthusiastic about Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose series of great novels culminating in The Red Wheel (parts of which are still, mysteriously, unavailable in English) not merely rivals Orwell’s depiction of the horror, but also advocates a return to traditional verities including religious orthodoxy. The Australian Right needs to note the difference between the two writers (for Orwell never recovered from his early rebellion against Tradition) and to stress that the Sovereign, acting in the service of God, is a better protector from tyranny than the democratic politician.
„Sons of the People“
Evola sees another extreme consequence of democracy to be Bonapartism, which he defines as „a despotism based on a democratic view, which it denies de facto while fulfilling it in theory.“ Many a modern dictator, large or small, comes under this heading.
The danger of such figures is well indicated by Evola:
„Since he personifies the will of the people, which is conceived as the political ultima ratio, the leader ends up claiming for himself an unlimited authority and regarding all the intermediate political bodies and all the branches of government as completely dependent on the central power, which alone is believed to legitimately represent the people.“
Orwell’s portrait of Big Brother attacked this kind of dictatorship.
Evola further distinguishes the true king from the Bonapartist despot by considering their relationships with those whom they rule:
„While the traditional view of sovereignty and authority sees it characterized by distance from the people, and the feeling of distance induces in the inferiors a sense of veneration, a natural respect and disposition to obedience and loyalty towards the leaders […], the Bonapartist despot is […] enslaved to the complex of ‘popularity’ and […] appeals to the lowest levels of human beings.“
Bread and circuses – or the modern equivalents!
In considering dictatorship, a mode of rule he finds but rarely justified in history, Evola points out that, according to traditional thought, „what matters is that a man be valued and recognized in terms of the idea and the principle he upholds, and not vice-versa.“
Thus, within a properly constituted aristocratic order, we should admire a noble „for being one in whom a tradition and a special ‘spiritual race’ shine forth […] whose greatness is due not to his human virtues, but rather to the principle, the idea and a certain regal impersonality that he embodies.“
In this context Evola dismisses Machiavelli’s prince as one whose authority no longer comes from above, its foundation being mere worldly strength.
„Here the leader does not consider the higher faculties that can be reawakened in his subjects; he harbours contempt and a fundamental pessimism towards people in general, on the basis of an alleged political ‘realism’.“
Such a leader also lacks a true respect for himself and his own dignity.
In Australia, the kind of adulation felt in some quarters for people as diverse as Paul Keating, Pauline Hanson, and Sir William Deane reminds us of the temptations the general populace may experience to draw towards themselves the „son“ or „daughter“ of „the people.“
Evola does not, by the way, neglect to pay respect to the military genius and achievements of Napoleon Bonaparte, but associates these with the heroism of the dux or imperator, a figure carefully distinguished in ancient Rome from the rex.
The lesson for the Australian Right here is that it must seek a national leader who embodies the aristocratic sense of quality that comes hand-in-hand with a sense of humility before the awesome presence of God. A populist leader will be insufficient.
A Demonic Economy
„Nothing in excess!“ (the Delphic Oracle)
„Substine et abstine!“ („Stand firm and hold back!“)
These are two of the traditional sayings Evola invokes in his examination of the modern glorification of work in our demonized economy.
In traditional societies „individuals still lived in the station allotted to them by life. In those societies an individual contained his need and aspirations within natural limits; he did not yearn to become different from what he was, and thus he was innocent of that alienation decried by Marxism.“
Evola also refers to the Thomist and Lutheran teaching that the acquisition of goods should be restricted and that work and the quest for profit are justifiable only in order to acquire a level of wealth corresponding to a person’s status in life.
He compares this traditional lifestyle of restraint and modesty with the pathological behavior of the modern world in which the importance of the economy is grossly exaggerated, so as to exercise a hypnotic tyranny over consumers whose appetites have been artificially inflamed.
„The true antithesis,“ Evola insists, „is between a system in which the economy rules supreme […] and a system in which the economy is subordinated to extra-economic factors, within a wider and more complete order, such as to bestow a deep meaning upon human life and foster the development of its highest possibilities.“
Evola counters the utilitarian argument that the development of modern commerce and industry has improved the standard of living by pointing out that „the qualities that matter the most in a man and make him who he is often arise in harsh circumstances and even in conditions of indigence and injustice, since they represent a challenge to him, testing his spirit.“
Evola sees the task ahead as being „to deproletarize the view of life“ and calls for a metanoia, an inner transformation that will strike at the heart of the hegemony of work and regain for man his inner freedom.
As regards the State itself, he suggests that autarchy may be an ethical precept.
„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.“
This, of course, was a key position taken by the great Portuguese leader Dr. Oliveira Salazar, whose life and philosophy deserves careful study. The overthrow of his successor, Dr Marcello Caetano, by the Spinola coup in 1974 was one of the tragedies of modern Europe – and of southern Africa. The full story has perhaps not yet been told in English.
Evola also makes an important distinction between work and action. It is action that is performed by those of the kshatriya class – by ascetics, rulers, artists, explorers, warriors, scientists, diplomats, philosophers and theologians.
The challenge for the Australian Right, in the context of this tyranny of a mercantile outlook, is to articulate a comprehensive vision for Australians which will have the capacity to win their hearts away from hedonism and the lust for wealth, which is currently symbolized so effectively by the domination of gambling facilities of all kinds.
History and its Misuse
Evola attacks a tradition of historicism, originating with Hegel, which has given an abnormal emphasis to history, to the advantage of subversive forces.
He laments „the disastrous shift from a civilization of being (characterized by stability, form and adherence to super-temporal principles) to a civilization of becoming (characterized by change, flux and contingency).“ He also points out that the ideas of History, progress and evolution have been closely associated.
Monarchists will enjoy his observation that „the anathema of being ‘anti-historical’ and ‘outside history’ is cast against those who still remember the way things were before and who call subversion by its name, instead of conforming to the processes that are precipitating the world’s decline.“
From this discussion, Evola moves to a consideration of the „different histories“ that exist within the history of nations. What is required is a wise choice of traditions. Evola condemns a pseudo-patriotic historiography in Italy which, „due to its partisan spirit, suggestions and catchphrases, precludes the objective comprehension of many aspects of the past.“ He even writes of fabricated history: „the alibi that revolutionary liberalism, democracy and the thinkers of Freemasonry and the Enlightenment have created for their own benefit.“
The Australian Right needs to rescue much from the history of the British and of Australia which has been overlooked, while contending intelligently with partisan accounts of (for example) the treatment of the Aborigines, which are designed to enable political change leading to a republic (in name) which will be a province (in fact) of the New World Order.
Warrior and Bourgeois
Evola’s most self-revealing chapter is his study of the different ways of looking at war and the role of the warrior found in traditional „heroic“ societies and in modern bourgeois societies. It was only in reading it that I realized how much I myself am a product of mercantile politics, and why men like Sir Walter Scott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote novels like Quentin Durward and Sir Nigel.
Evola points out that „militarism“ is the bête noire of many democrats – and that it is a word at times misapplied to noble warrior behavior. His account, in this context, of modern democracies seems, in the light of September 11, to be remarkably up to date!
He notes that their view „is that in society 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.“ The military is a mere instrument. Democratic ideology proclaims that armies should be used „only as an international police force“ to maintain „the peace.“ Evola dryly comments that „in most cases this amounts to allowing wealthy nations to live undisturbed.“ The armed forces are used „to impose or retain an economic hegemony; to gain new markets and to acquire raw materials; and to create new space for capital seeking investment and profit.“ This explains „the deep, widespread mistrust toward the ideological background of the recent wars, a background shaped by many lies and much propaganda.“
In short, the bourgeois-democratic lifestyle leads to hypocrisy and deceit: corruption on the grand scale.
Evola contrasts such a civilization with that of which the ancient Order of Teutonic Knights and the Prussian tradition were recent examples. In such a world the warrior (as opposed to the mercenary soldier) was not at the service of the merchant class but ruled over it.
His lifestyle had its own spirituality and ethics:
„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.“
In such a climate of heroic integrity war did not have a merely negative meaning. Evola points out that there is an identity between spirit and superior civilization and the warrior’s role.
„In the traditional world we encounter the interpretation of life as a perennial struggle between metaphysical powers, between Uranian forces of light and order […] and telluric, dark forces of chaos and matter. […] Traditional man yearned to fight this battle and to triumph in both the inner and outer worlds.“
Evola adds that there is an interdependence between the warrior idea and that „of a certain ‘asceticism’, inner discipline and superiority toward or control of one’s self.“ This was „the foundation of a specific ‘style’ that has largely been lost.“
He also reminds us that in many civilizations „even the hierarchies with a spiritual foundation either relied on hierarchies that were more or less warrior […] or reproduced their form.“ Then, „when the original spiritual level could not be maintained, hierarchical structures of a warrior type constituted the armature of the major States, especially in the West.“
Thus, „since the sensibility for purely spiritual values and dignities has become mostly atrophied among Western populations […], the model of a military hierarchy […] is almost the only one that can still supply the basis“ for an upwardly striving lifestyle. „That model still retains a certain prestige,“ since „there is a heroic dimension in the Western soul that cannot be extirpated.“
One advantage of a heroic, as opposed to a bourgeois, civilization is its readiness to fight. There is „a certain continuity of spirit and attitude, a common denominator in peace and in war that facilitates the shift from one state to the other.“ Thus, „when a war breaks out, a nation is ready for it, and fights with a sufficient number of men who reproduce in a new form the warrior type.“
Evola also addresses the question of what role can be played by the heroic spirit in modern, „total“ wars, in which science and technology have so drastically changed the human conditions of combat. Here he writes with a bleakness that he probably absorbed in part from Ernst Jünger.
Essentially, he calls for a quality of endurance through warfare that is comparable to „elementary and unavoidable natural phenomena.“ Man must „remain spiritually upright“ through „extreme trials and destructions“ by developing in himself „a new inner dimension […] of cold, lucid and complex heroism“ including „a sacrificial disposition.“
It seems clear that in Australia an effective movement of the Right will need to honor the warrior lifestyle in both its deeds and its words. Ways must be found to rouse our manhood from „the great Australian stupor“ that has perhaps resulted primarily from the bourgeois atmosphere.
Ronald Conway pointed out that Australia most nearly approached an aristocratic political order in the two decades before World War I, when there was a society of quality that Martin Boyd (a member of it) captured well in his novels, which merit close study.
Hindu tradition teaches that there are four states in which human beings can exist: deep sleep, sleep, awakening and enlightenment or attainment. What we normally think of as our waking state is in fact sleep; and what we regard as sleep is deep sleep.
Evola does not mention this tradition in Men Among the Ruins, although he no doubt discusses it elsewhere. It is vital to an understanding of religion and, most especially, initiation – the processes of esoteric sacred tradition designed to wake initiates up. In my view, initiation is the prerogative of the brahmin caste; and René Guénon was correct to state that „the modern disaster“ had befallen Western Europe because the Church had lost its power to initiate. That loss is the greatest difficulty with which modern Europeans and Australians who seek to restore traditional society must contend. It has created a void which can only be filled by a new impulse from the „worlds above.“
In another very important chapter („Tradition / Catholicism / Ghibellinism“) Evola begins by stressing that by Tradition he does not refer to religious traditions in general or to the Catholic Christian tradition in particular, but „to something wider, more austere and more universal than mere Catholicism.“
He acknowledges that in the past some conservative forces have been inspired by Catholicism, which „gave a special chrism to the principles of authority and sovereignty.“ However, „the true traditional spirit acknowledges a superior, metaphysical unity beyond the individual religious traditions.“
That position has been most succinctly and effectively expressed by Frithjof Schuon in The Transcendent Unity of Religions. Representatives of Catholicism (such as James McAuley, the Australian poet, in The End of Modernity) and of Orthodoxy (such as Monk Damascene Christensen in Not of This World) have tried in vain to disprove this perennialist thesis.
Evola correctly warns that foolish persistence in religious exclusivity will impede efforts to engage in the restoration of traditional political order. Evola needs to be quoted at length here, as too many Australian Christians are resisting the essential metanoia (not „repentance,“ but fundamental change of orientation – as Maurice Nicoll stressed).
„Despite the fact that every religious form has the right to a certain exclusivity in the area of its pertinence, the idea of this higher unity […] should be acknowledged by its most qualified representatives.
The exclusivist position may not be maintained without the danger of discrediting the traditional Catholics (and other Christians) who rigidly adhere to it. […] Nobody with a higher education can really believe in the axiom: ‘There is no salvation outside the Church.’ This is a matter not of ‘faith’, but of either knowledge or ignorance. […] The current state of knowledge in matters of comparative religion, mythology and even ethnology requires a revision and an adequate widening of the intellectual horizons.“
Muslims should heed this warning as well as Christians.
Evola also gives his attention to „the problem of the relationship between the principle of sovereignty and the religious principle in general,“ but his adherence to the Ghibelline cause may have led him astray. He argues that, according to Ghibelline theology, the Holy Roman Empire was „an institution of supernatural origin and character, like the Church.“
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).“
The Ghibelline emperors opposed the hegemonic claims of the clergy and claimed to have only God above themselves. The realization of the human person was believed to consist either in the path of action (represented by the Empire) or in the path of contemplation (represented by the Church). This was Dante’s view. Thus, 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.
Evola also points out that the title of Pontiff, originating from the Latin word pontifex („bridge-builder“) and denoting one who mediates transcendence into this world, was the title of Roman emperors.
Thus, in the first few centuries of the current era, as well as in the Byzantine Empire, the clergy were subjected to the Emperor in the theological domain, as is proved by the fact that it was to the Emperor that the formulas of the church councils were submitted for their final decision and ratification.
Evola clearly prefers this pre-eminence of Empire over Church to the model of the Guelph opposition, which sought to ensure that the Church was the supreme power. In my view, however, neither faction was completely right.
By nature, the brahmin is superior to the kshatriya. The latter needs the guidance of the former, not vice-versa. Unfortunately, the Church (as noted above) lost its brahminic capacity and thus forfeited any right to give directions to kings and emperors. Nevertheless, kshatriyas continue to need guidance; an Arthur needs his Merlin, an Aragorn his Gandalf.
It is very doubtful whether the Byzantine and Ghibelline emperors were initiated men; in which case their claims to „have only God above them“ were of very dubious standing.
The probable truth is that both Church and Empire were „shells,“ in the sense in which Idries Shah uses the term in his book The Sufis. That is to say, they preserved forms from former initiatory groups without possessing the capacity of initiation itself.
Hence in the world of European kingdoms that emerged out of the Middle Ages there was no perfect solution to the dilemma over which institution should have supreme power, Church or State; and, inevitably, there was a continuing tug-of-war.
Evola also developed further his critique of the Catholic Church, arguing that its „capability of providing adequate support for a revolutionary-conservative and traditionalist movement must be resolutely denied.“ He enumerated various failings of Catholicism and concluded that the direction it has taken „is a descending and anti-traditional one, consisting of modernization and coming to terms with democracy, socialism and progressivism.“
Thus, „the norm that must be followed […] is to travel an autonomous way, abandoning the Church to her destiny, considering her actual inability to bestow an official consecration on a true, great, traditional and super-traditional Right.“
My own view is that Australians of the Right should be a little more magnanimous in their attitude to the Catholic Church and other churches and even other religions. These may have their faults, but we will have our faults too; for we cannot at present claim to be initiates, to be awakened men. All of us are like travelers lost in the dark; we can use what intelligence we have to help each other, but must remain honestly aware of the tentative nature of our own efforts. Let us pray that Heaven will send down some future light to us or our descendants!
Finally, Evola comments on the apparent discrepancies between what he misguidedly calls „the nihilist teachings“ of Jesus in the Gospels and the kind of understanding necessary for effective rule of a kingdom or empire. Here, he seems to give insufficient weight to the obvious initiatory nature of much of the Gospel message, tending to respond to texts as though they are to be taken literally when beyond doubt they are to be taken symbolically.
For example, he objects to the famous exhortation: „Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.“ He sees this as promoting a separation between human institutions and supernatural order which the Guelph faction was able to exploit. However, it surely refers to the fundamental difference between this world (Caesar’s world, the world of those asleep) and the worlds above (those of the awakening and the enlightened). The essential message is that the two worlds should not be confused.
It is only if the profound initiatory teaching of the Gospels is taken literally that it tends to conflict with practical common sense in our ordinary conduct in this mundane world!
In his eleventh chapter Evola considers a variety of unsatisfactory responses to the unappealing and conformist world of the bourgeois.
He rejects neo-realism as „the mistake of those who regard only the inferior degrees of reality as real“ and condemns psychoanalysis as „a doctrine that divests and brands as unreal the conscious and sovereign principle of the person, considering as ‘real’ instead the irrational, unconscious, collective and nocturnal dimension of the human being, every higher faculty being seen as derived and dependent.“
He gives a particularly adroit and succinct summary of existentialism. It „proclaims the primacy of ‘existence’ over ‘being’, instead of acknowledging that existence acquires a meaning only when it is inspired by something beyond itself. […] In this philosophy, ‘existence’ is identified with the most shallow forms of life; this kind of existence is separated from any superior principle, made absolute and cherished in its anguished and lightless immediacy.“
That is an apt diagnosis of Albert Camus’ interesting but poisonous novel The Outsider, but would not be fairly applied to the nobler novel The Plague, in which the failed Algerian metaphysician struck a truly tragic note.
Evola also notes that the bourgeois pettiness can even infect monarchs, churchmen and communist demonstrators. Another inappropriate response to the bourgeois mentality that he identifies is an exaggerated appreciation of culture and intellectualism, associated with „the growing, hypertrophic cerebralization of Western man,“ who has given too privileged a position in recent centuries to conceptual thought.
In response to these false alleys, Evola calls for „a more realistic opposition to the bourgeois spirit“ which is „oriented upward“ and includes „a revival of the heroic and aristocratic virtues.“
We must „remain upright, feeling the presence in life of that which leads beyond life.“ We need to recover a worldview based on „an inner form and a sensibility endowed with an innate character“ which expresses „instinctive certainty“ and a sense of „a sure meaning of life.“ This is the premise for „the emergence of new men and leaders“ capable of establishing a new political climate.
This suggests that any effective political movement of the Right in Australia will need to promote inner exploration in its followers – not merely pious prayer, but deeper forms of meditation and contemplation.
The Corporative Workplace
As a necessary step to the reassertion of control over the economy by the State, Evola recommends an end to „classism“ and class struggle.
His ideal is a corporative principle involving „a community of work and productive solidarity, based on the principles of competence, qualification and natural hierarchy, with the overall system characterized by a style of active impersonality, selflessness and dignity.“ He recalls the mediaeval artisan corporations, guilds and craft fraternities, whose members „enjoyed the status of free men and also were very proud of belonging to their association.“ Such men „felt love for their work, which was regarded as […] an art and an expression of one’s vocation.“ They readily upheld „the code of honour of their corporations.“
That world was turned upside down by the industrial revolution, which went hand-in-hand with the rise to power of usurious financial groups. Thus, says Evola:
„today the truly relevant and serious problem is that of the restraint that needs to be placed on the wild and unscrupulous struggle among various monopolies, and especially among the monopoly of goods and materials (co-operatives), the monopoly of money (banking, finance, stock speculations) and the monopoly of labour (trade unions).“
Evola is certain that „only the State can effectively […] limit the power of these groups“ and that this can only happen „where the State appears as a super-ordained power, capable of facing and defeating any subversive force.“ Australians should note here the overwhelming case for the retention of our monarchy. Yielding to the agitation for a republic will mean handing ourselves over to those who control these great monopolies – the „barons“ or „giants“ of the age. Our task, then, must be to breathe life back into the monarchy, by finding ways to rekindle heartfelt loyalty to the Crown, and later in our history to effect the inauguration of a truly Australian monarchy, seeded, as it were, from the parent tree in Britain.
Evola is emphatic that the struggle against a degenerate and arrogant capitalism must be waged „from above.“ As regards solutions, he is opposed to forms of worker co-ownership, which he sees as tending to fatal inefficiency, particularly in the management of large companies, which are like large armies. However, he suggests that „ways should be devised through which the worker could gradually become a small ‘owner,’ by making him possessor of non-transferable stocks of his company corporation.“
Evola calls for the suppression of „the worst type of capitalist, who is a parasitical recipient of profits and dividends.“ Instead, in a new corporative system, the owner of the means of production should „assume the function of responsible leader, technical manager and capable organizer of the business he runs, being surrounded by loyal workers who are free from trade union control.“
Evola understands well that „in the varieties of what is essentially mechanical work it is very difficult to retain the character of ‘art’ and of ‘vocation’ and for the results of production to show any signature of the personhood of those who worked to manufacture them.“ This poses a problem similar to that encountered earlier in the phenomenon of „total war“ caused by modern scientific, technological and industrial advances.
Evola adopts a similar solution, seeking „the emergence of a new type, characterized by a certain impersonality“ who will incarnate „new forms of the anonymity and unselfishness that characterized ancient corporativism.“ Clearly such a phenomenon could only appear in a noble and just State whose population as a whole had faith in the goodness and purposes of that State.
Evola also favored a reconstructed parliamentary system in which the Lower House is filled with representatives of the business, professional and trades corporations, whose task would mainly be the management of the State’s economic affairs.
Political concerns would largely be dealt with by the Upper House, which would consist of men who embodied and could defend spiritual and national interests of prestige and power. One should belong to this superior House „by designation from above and for life, almost as if it were an Order, on the basis of one’s natural dignity and inalienable qualification.“
Such discussions will make Australian men and women of the Right aware of the magnitude of the challenge that lies before them; but certainly we cannot rest content with the current political structures as they operate.
In his thirteenth chapter, in which Evola rightly acknowledges his considerable debt to René Guénon, the question is asked whether „it is necessary to identify influences of a higher order“ behind the disastrous collapse around the world of traditionally articulated societies.
Evola reminds us of how, for example, Catholic historiography „used to regard history as […] the unfolding of divine Providence, to which hostile forces are opposed […], „forces of evil“ […], „forces of the Antichrist“ […], forces of the cosmos against forces of chaos.“
This is potentially sensational copy! However, Evola does not develop any kind of detailed and documented enquiry into the mystery of iniquity. Many readers may agree with me on the basis of their own personal experience that there does seem to be active in our world a superhuman being of evil, whose presence can be felt on occasions as not merely one of enormous and elemental power, but also one of a devastating hatred and conscious malignity. Evola carries out no research into this matter, perhaps preferring to keep metaphysics out of what is largely just a primer for political action.
Instead, he uses the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, of whose authenticity he is clearly very skeptical, to allow him to raise another question, that of „whether or not the disorder of recent times is accidental, since it corresponds to a plan, the phases and fundamental instruments of which are accurately described in the Protocols.“
Thus, he focuses wholly on the question of whether or not there has been a worldly political conspiracy behind the world’s calamities. He produces a fairly convincing case that there has been, but avoids the cliché of placing blame on „the Jews“ and „Masonry.“ Rather, he surmises that these groups themselves may have been used by a more concealed source.
Evola also considers carefully the various instruments by which „occult war“ appears to be waged: „scientific suggestion and positivist propaganda, the tactic of replacement, the tactic of counterfeits,“ the encouragement of a useless traditionalism (the tares and chaff of Tradition), the tactic of inversion, the tactic of ricochet, the scapegoat tactic, the tactic of deliberate misidentification of a principle with its representative and the tactic of replacement infiltrations (in „shell-like“ organizations which have, as it were, lost their soul and so can become possessed by alien forces).
Evola sensibly warns us against quixotic gallantries in this dangerous situation.
„Those movements of the past that intended to react against and stem the currents of national, social and moral dissolution […] often upheld dangerously unilateral positions, due to the lack of adequate discernment; this was a weakness that […] played into the enemy’s hands.“
He concludes this chapter by adding:
„There is little hope that anything may be saved when among the leaders of a new movement there are no men capable of integrating the material struggle with a secret and inexorable knowledge, one that […] stands […] on the side of the luminous principle of traditional spirituality.“
The Roman Ideal
Related to Evola’s discussion of the need for a choice of traditions within a nation’s history is his comparison of the two dominant temperaments within the Italian soul: the Roman and the Mediterranean. A discussion interesting in itself, it also suggests that the Australian Right may need to undertake a comparable analysis of the Australian soul.
Evola begins by presenting two unexpected historical perspectives. He first argues that the „heroic-sacred“ world of early Rome and Sparta „was not perpetuated in the following ‘Classical’ civilization, from which, in turn, the ‘Latin spirit’ and the doctrine of the ‘unity of the peoples of Latin civilization’ derived.“
Next, he replaces the „democratic“ image of the Axis pact between Italy and Germany (a little clown joining a big devil) with a much more dignified interpretation. Arguing that Germany retained aspects of the „heroic-sacred“ world longer than Greece or Italy, he suggests that the Axis could have spiritually strengthened both peoples with a „reciprocal integration,“ if it had not been sabotaged – partly by elements in Italy itself, even Fascist cadres misled by the myth of the Risorgimento.
Evola’s depiction of „the original Roman spirit“ deserves to be quoted at length, since it clearly reflects his own personal ideal and the temperament which gave him his perspective on life. Australians might be wise to draw up a similar inventory of „the British spirit“ as the better part of their own national soul.
Evola saw the Roman spirit as based on a human type characterized by „self-control, an enlightened boldness, a concise speech and determined and coherent conduct, and a cold, dominating attitude exempt from personalism and vanity.
„To this Roman style belong virtus, in the sense not of moralism, but of virile spirit and courage; fortitudo and constantia, namely spiritual strength; sapientia, in the sense of thoughtfulness and awareness; disciplina, understood as love for a self-given law and form; fides, in the specifically Roman sense of loyalty and faithfulness; and dignitas, which in the ancient patrician society became gravitas and solemnitas, a studied and moderate seriousness.“
The Roman spirit preferred
„deliberate actions, without grand gestures, a realism that is […] love for the essential […], clarity […], an inner equilibrium and a healthy suspicion of every confused form of mysticism; a love for boundaries; the readiness to unite, as free human beings and without losing one’s identity, in view of a higher goal or for an idea […]; religio and pietas, which […] signify an attitude of respectful and dignified veneration for the gods and […] of trust and re-connection with the supernatural, which was experienced as omnipresent and effective.“
By contrast, Evola characterized the Mediterranean style much less favorably, seeing it as consisting of
„love for outward appearances and grand gestures; concern to be noticed by others and to make an impact on them; the choreographic-theatrical and spectacular, comparable to the French grandeur and gloire; the tendency toward a restless, chaotic and undisciplined individualism; intolerance of any general and strict law of order; the fireworks of a creativity disjoined from any higher meaning and tradition; the pseudo-genial hypercritic, expert in eluding a law; the cunning and malicious fooler of others; a gesticulating, noisy and disordered exuberance; a manic effusiveness; excitability and verbosity; a flaunted and conventional sense of honour; immediacy of desire or affection; and a public cheeriness masking an inner hopelessness.“
There is an element of caricature, of course, in this comparison of two poles; and Evola’s „ideal Roman“ is not the only fruitful way of being human: it is not a universal requirement of man. Nevertheless, Evola’s discussion can alert us to the ways in which propagandists and agitators promote various stereotypes of „the typical Australian „ or „the Aussie bloke and Sheila“ which may, in fact, be inadequately attuned to reality as well as psychosocially demeaning. The Australian Right needs to determine its own modes of „the ideal Australian character,“ based on scrupulous examination of our history and culture; and to promote these coolly and calmly in the public forums.
As Evola also noted, there is no need to suppress passion; rather, we should heed Nietzsche’s warning „against every morality that tends to dry up every impetuous current of the human soul instead of channeling it.“ What matters is „to organize one’s being in an integral way around the capability of recognizing, discriminating and adequately utilizing the impulses and the lights that emerge from one’s deep recesses.“
For Evola, the „myth of Rome“ was Italy’s most desirable model. „In the rectifying and formative action the key role will always be played by the political myth […] a galvanizing idea-force. The myth reacts on the environment, implementing the law of elective affinities: it awakens, frees and imposes those possibilities of single individuals and the environment to which they correspond.“
Sex and Population
Evola believes in the need for humanity to control the world’s population growth.
„Overpopulation exacerbates the problem of how to employ the workforces; it also unavoidably intensifies production processes, which in turn, due to their determinisms, strengthen the demonic nature of the economy. The result is the increasing enslavement of the individual and the reduction of free space and of any autonomous movement in modern cities.“
Evola also mentions the „congestion that in turn produces critical international solutions,“ a theme that Jean Raspail later took up in his novel The Camp of the Saints and a reality that now poses headaches for the Australian Government as regards immigration policy.
Evola takes up a number of controversial and uncompromising positions. In the first place, he endorses the view that some peoples are superior to others and that the political order of the State should appropriately reflect this.
„Every true empire is born from a race of conquerors who overcame lands and peoples […] on the basis of a higher calling and qualification, which allowed them to rule as a minority in foreign lands […] the Romans, the Achaemenids, the Franks, the Spaniards, the early Islamic hosts and the British.“
In the second place, he rejects as outdated and in fact immoral the Catholic religion’s embrace of the biblical principle of the multiplication of the human species and the Church teaching that sexual union and marriage are legitimate and sanctified only when they are aimed at procreation.
Evola acknowledges the good sense of a Vatican II declaration that love, too, may be a legitimate foundation of marriage. In referring also to the libertine, „who elevates pleasure to an art,“ and the Dionysianism „that in antiquity enjoyed a religious sanction,“ Evola clearly insists that birth control measures should be widely employed so that sexual satisfaction of various intensities can be obtained without worsening the population problem.
A third controversial position (very personal to Evola himself) concerns the identification of „the cult of children“ with the bourgeois spirit. Evola calls for men to join the revolutionary-conservative movement who should almost look upon creating a family as a betrayal of the cause. He perhaps mistakes a personal preference for an ideal. Such men are not necessarily to be ascetics.
„I believe that in the personal domain the right to an ample degree of sexual freedom for these men (the warriors) should be acknowledged, against moralism, social conformism and ‘heroism in slippers’.“
A degree of personal feeling has clearly entered the discourse here, confirmed by Evola’s approving quotation of Nietzsche’s infamous dictum that „man should be trained for war and woman for the recreation (or rest) of the warrior.“
At the same time Evola must be commended for his courage and frankness in tackling such difficult subjects in defiance of taboos old or new. The Australian Right will need to show similar integrity in determining policy on immigration and population issues for our future.
A True European Union
Evola’s last chapter considers the daunting task of bringing about a united Europe in accordance with the principles of Tradition. This is of great interest in a time when a quite different kind of European Union is being more or less forced on the peoples of the traditional European nations; and when Britain is moving towards its fateful referendum on whether or not to accept the Euro as its unit of currency.
Evola begins by outlining the organic character that his ideal Europe would possess.
„Fatherlands and nations may exist. […] What should be excluded are nationalism, imperialism, chauvinism – every fanatical absolutization of a particular unit.“
Such a European Empire would safeguard the principles of both unity and multiplicity.
„Individual states would have the character of partial organic units, gravitating around a one that is not a part.“
Transcending the political sphere would be an idea, a tradition and a spiritual power.
„The limitations of the sovereignty of the single national units before an eminent right of the Empire will have as their sole condition this transcendental dignity of the Empire […] an organism composed of organisms.“
Thus, „the elementary presupposition of an eventual united Europe appears to be the political integration of the single nations.“ A healthy whole cannot be made up of unhealthy parts.
In such integrated nations, quite different from the current bourgeois democracies, the elites of each nation „could understand one another and co-ordinate their work,“ rather in the manner of the royal houses and their supporting aristocracies in the Old Europe.
Evola does not fudge the „disheartening magnitude“ of the task, which seems almost utopian. He notes that the problem of finding a spiritual foundation for such a European Empire is quite unresolved. Neither Catholicism nor „a generic Christianity“ (which would be too weak and diffuse) would serve the purpose. Moreover, Europeans have largely lost contact with the highest meaning of Europe itself; and „European tradition“ and „European culture“ are too confused and too contaminated by false ideas.
Evola is aware that the „general leveling of cultures“ of the world has been used as an argument by those „who do not want a united Europe but rather a unified world, in a supernational organization or World Government.“ Today’s European Union, brought about by massive deceit in recent decades, is perhaps a step in that direction. It would, of course, lead to an anti-traditional world in which the majority of human beings would be drugged and driven serfs.
Evola adds that „a radical European action finds its major obstacle in the lack of something that could represent a starting point, a firm support and a centre of crystallization.“ He proposes the creation of an Order whose members would work in the right direction in the various nations.
Such an order could include members of ancient European families, warrior types (especially those trained in elite combat units) and other persons in whom a distaste for „the modern disaster“ has aroused a yearning for a traditional political order, together with the will and character to strive for it.
„The personality of an authentic leader at the centre and head of the Order is of the utmost importance.“
No such person was visible to Evola in Europe as he wrote those words. For members of the Australian Right, this chapter reminds us of the kind of political order in Australia towards which we should work, together with the attendant difficulties. To date it seems that no suitable leader arose during the five decades after the Japanese collapse; but perhaps that reflects the fact that individuals and groups on the Australian Right lacked the wisdom and understanding to create the necessary atmosphere in which such a leader could appear and act.
The most arresting question to be asked of Evola is whether or not he ever wrote as an initiate, as an awakened man, as a brahmin. Judging by Men Among the Ruins, I believe the answer to be no.
A not altogether friendly critic of Evola, Richard Drake, in Chapter 7 („Children of the Sun“) of his Revolutionary Mystique and Terrorism in Contemporary Italy (Indiana University Press) has written of Evola’s period of magical studies with the Ur group in the 1920’s as follows: „Evola proposed a philosophy of utter wakefulness and vigilance on this plane of existence, the only one with which he was seriously concerned.“ This was after Evola had left the Ur group.
And Dr H. T. Hansen, in „A Short Introduction to Julius Evola“ published in Theosophical History noted of Evola: „Since he does not regard himself as master, he can recognize no student.“
Evola’s behavior in 1945 is also inconsonant with that of a wise initiate. Hansen reported:
„During air attacks, Evola had the habit of not going to the bomb shelters but instead went on working in his office or walked about the streets of Vienna. He wanted, as he said, ‘calmly to question his fate.’“
In fact it was foolish negligence – and he suffered terribly for it.
Robin Waterfield, the biographer of Guénon, published „Baron Julius Evola and the Hermetic Tradition“ in Gnosis Magazine. About the Ur phase, he tersely commented:
„Their attempts to form a ‘magical chain’ in order to exercise supernatural influence on others were soon abandoned.“
Waterfield felt that Evola had, however, performed a service by bringing back to European attention the concept of theosis, personal deification – that level of attainment known as jivanmukta in Hinduism, „the superior person“ in Chinese tradition, „the liberated one“ in Buddhism and the saint or sage in Christian tradition.
„This notion has been fiercely opposed by the hierarchical Christian Church, whose clergy have seen unmediated access to divine grace as a threat to their influence and power.“
They have also, of course, found it at odds with the Pauline doctrine of the „one atonement“ by the blood of the crucified Jesus.
In my view Evola is a man of very similar character and achievements to the great Russian writer P. D. Ouspensky (1878-1947), who searched diligently (or thought he did) for a school of initiation, but never succeeded in becoming initiated. There seems to have been a degree of gloom at the end of each man’s life, the gloom of hamartia, of having had one’s arrow fall short of the target. Yet, in the world of us ordinary men, the unawakened, each of these writers is a towering figure of integrity, independent thought and intellectual achievement.
Their work has to be read critically, however. British psychiatrist and devotee of the Cathar tradition, Dr. Arthur Guirdham, would surely have diagnosed each man as a typical modern obsessive. Obsession is indeed a psychological failing, but it can drive its victims to lifetimes of intense labor and magnificent achievements. In my case, my main criticism of Evola is his undue depreciation of the feminine side of human nature, his unfair identification of femininity with the will-to-sleep, to give up the struggle to achieve wisdom. Evola appears to me to have been a very highly strung person; and his adherence to a „path of virility“ was a means by which he kept his own nature from collapsing. It was a noble path, but it is not the only path.
Books by Julius Evola available in English and published by Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, USA, unless otherwise indicated, are:
- Eros and the Mysteries of Love (1983)
- The Yoga of Power (1992)
- Revolt against the Modern World (1995)
- The Hermetic Tradition (1995)
- The Doctrine of Awakening (1996)
- Meditation on the Peaks (Feral House) (1997)
- The Mystery of the Grail (1997)
- Introduction to Magic (2001)
- Men among the Ruins (2002)
Nigel Jackson was born on September 4, 1939, in Melbourne, Australia. He holds a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Melbourne and has been a secondary school teacher for thirty-five years. He published four books of poetry in the 1970’s and The Case for David Irving in 1994. For two decades he has publicly defended the principle of intellectual freedom and, consequently, the right of revisionist historians to publish in national forums without defamation, harassment or punishment. This review-article on Julius Evola’s Men Among the Ruins was accepted for publication in three parts by the Australian New Dawn Magazine and the first part appeared in its September-October 2002 edition. Mysteriously, the other parts never appeared and the magazine was deaf to several letters of enquiry by the author.