Evola during 1920s
|Born||Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola
19 May 1898
|Died||11 June 1974
|Cause of death||Respiratory-hepatic problems|
|Notable work||Le Parole Obscure du Paysage Interieur (1920)
The Hermetic Tradition (1931)
Revolt Against the Modern World (1934)
The Mystery of the Grail (1937)
Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race (1941)
The Aryan Doctrine of Battle and Victory (1941)
|Institutions||School of Fascist Mysticism|
|History, religion, esotericism|
|Fascist mysticism, spiritual racism|
Evola was a highly controversial figure, mostly because of his affiliations with the Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, who, as one of the defeated leaders during World War II along with Adolf Hitler, has been described in a highly negative light since World War II, though Evola was often highly critical of fascism during Mussolini's reign. Evola also remains controversial because of views that are now largely considered politically unacceptable, such as his views on gender roles, race, and left-wing politics on the whole, as well as making some antisemitic statements.
According to the scholar Franco Ferraresi, "Evola’s thought can be considered one of the most radical and consistent antiegalitarian, antiliberal, antidemocratic, and antipopular systems in the twentieth century. It is a singular (though not necessarily original) blend of several schools and traditions, including German idealism, Eastern doctrines, traditionalism, and the all-embracing Weltanschauung of the interwar konservative Revolution with which Evola had a deep personal involvement."
Historian Aaron Gillette described Evola as "one of the most influential fascist racists in Italian history." Evola was admired by the Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini. He idolized the Nazi SS. He admired the SS head Heinrich Himmler, whom he knew personally, and spent World War II working for the Nazi SD. In a trial in 1951, Evola, who denied being a Fascist, referred to himself as a ‘superfascist’. Concerning this statement, historian Elisabetta Cassina Wolff wrote that "It is unclear whether this meant that Evola was placing himself above or beyond Fascism."
Evola was the "chief ideologue" of Italy's terrorist radical right after World War II. He continues to influence contemporary neofascist movements, as well Steve Bannon, a leader of the Alt-Right movement.
Many of Evola's theories and writings were centered on his idiosyncratic mysticism, occultism, and esoteric religious studies, and this aspect of his work has influenced occultists and esotericists. Evola also advocated domination and rape as a component of his proposed sexual magic practices; this misogynist outlook stemmed from his extreme right views on gender roles, which demanded absolute submission from women.
- 1 Biography
- 1.1 Early years
- 1.2 Occultism and Esotericism
- 1.3 Misogyny and Sexual Magic
- 1.4 Racism and Mystical Aryanism
- 1.5 Elitism and Relationship to Fascism
- 1.6 Post-World War II
- 1.7 Death
- 2 Influence
- 3 Selected books and articles
- 4 See also
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola was born in Rome to a minor aristocratic family of Sicilian origins. He was occasionally attributed with the title "Baron". Little is known about his early upbringing except that he considered it irrelevant. Evola studied engineering in Rome and was involved in the Italian social and artistic Futurist movement until he broke with a leading figure. He did not complete his studies on the grounds that he "did not want to be associated in any way with bourgeois academic recognition and titles such as doctor and engineer." He joined the artillery as an officer in the First World War. Returning to civilian life, Evola was a painter and poet in the Dada movement.:3
A keen mountaineer, Evola described the experience as a source of revelatory spiritual experiences. After his return from the war, Evola experimented with drugs and magic until, around age 23, Evola considered suicide. He claimed that he avoided suicide thanks to a revelation he had while reading an early Buddhist text, which dealt with shedding all forms of identity other than absolute transcendence. Evola would later publish the text The Doctrine of Awakening, which he regarded as a repayment of his debt to the doctrine of the Buddha for saving him from suicide.
Occultism and Esotericism
Thomas Sheehan wrote that "Evola's first philosophical works from the 'twenties were dedicated to reshaping neo-Idealism from a philosophy of Absolute Spirit and mind into a philosophy of the "absolute individual" and action." Accordingly, Evola developed the doctrine of "magical idealism", which held that "the Ego must understand that everything that seems to have a reality independent of it is nothing but an illusion, caused by its own deficiency." For Evola, this ever-increasing unity with "absolute individual" was consistent with unconstrained liberty, and therefore unconditional power. In his 1925 work Essays on Magical Idealism, Evola declared that "God does not exist. The Ego must create him by making itself divine."
According to Sheehan, in further developing his theories, Evola discovered the power of metaphysical mythology, leading to his advocacy of supra-rational intellectual intuition over discursive knowledge, since for him, discursive knowledge separates man from Being. Sheehan stated that this was a position which is a theme in certain interpretations of Western philosophers such as Plato, Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Heidegger, which Evola exaggerated and actualized. Evola would later write:
The truths that allow us to understand the world of Tradition are not those that can be "learned" or "discussed." They either are or are not. We can only remember them, and that happens when we are freed from the obstacles represented by various human constructions (chief among these are the results and methods of the authorized "researchers") and have awakened the capacity to see from the nonhuman viewpoint, which is the same as the Traditional viewpoint. ... Traditional truths have always been held to be essentially non-human.
Evola developed a doctrine of the "two natures", the natural world and the primordial "world of 'Being'", which he believed imposes form and quality on lower matter and creates a hierarchical "great chain of Being." He considered "spiritual virility" to signify orientation towards this postulated transcendent principle. And he held that the State should reflect this "ordering from above" and consequent hierarchical differentiation of individuals according to their "organic preformation" which "gathers, preserves, and refines one's talents and qualifications for determinate functions."
Evola was introduced to esotericism by the early supporter of fascism Arturo Reghini, who sought to promote a "cultured magic" opposed to Christianity. Reghini introduced Evola to the traditionalist René Guénon. In 1927, Reghini and Evola, along with other Italian esotericists, founded the Gruppo di Ur (the Ur Group). The purpose of this group was to attempt to bring the members' individual identities into such a superhuman state of power and awareness that they would be able to exert a magical influence on the world. The group employed techniques from Buddhist, Tantric, and rare Hermetic texts. The group aimed to provide a "soul" to the burgeoning Fascist movement of the time through the revival of ancient Roman Paganism, and influence the fascist regime through esotericism. Articles on occultism from the Ur Group were later published in the text Introduction to Magic. Reghini's support of Freemasonry would however prove a bone of contention for Evola; accordingly, Evola broke with Reghini in 1928. Reghini himself broke from Evola, accusing Evola of plagiarizing his thought in the book Pagan Imperialism. Evola on the other hand blamed Reghini for the premature publication of Pagan Imperialism. Evola's later work owed considerable debt to René Guénon's text Crisis of the Modern World, though he diverged from Guénon on the issue of the relationship between warriors and priests.
Evola wrote prodigiously on Eastern mysticism, tantra, hermeticism, the myth of the holy grail and western esotericism. German Egyptologist and esoteric scholar Florian Ebeling has noted that Evola's text The Hermetic Tradition is viewed as an "extremely important work on Hermeticism" in the eyes of esotericists. In the context of his work in this area, Evola gave particular focus to Cesare della Riviera's text Il Mondo Magico degli Heroi, which he later republished in modern Italian, and which he held to be consonant with the goals of "high magic" - the reshaping of the earthly human into a transcendental 'god man'. He held that through this text the alleged "timeless" Traditional science was able to come to lucid expression in spite of the "coverings" added to it in order to prevent the accusations of the church and other "scoria." The psychologist Carl Jung described Evola's The Hermetic Tradition as a "magisterial account of Hermetic philosophy", though Evola rejected Jung's interpretation of alchemy. The philosopher Glenn Alexander Magee, in Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, favored Evola's interpretation over that of Jung. Carl Jung was the president of the Nazi-dominated International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy. In 1988, a journal devoted to Hermetic thought published a section of Evola's book and described it as "Luciferian."
Evola's subsequent text Revolt Against the Modern World promoted as valid mythology of an ancient Golden Age. He attempted to convey the features of his idealized traditional society, and he argued that modernity represented a serious decline from such a society. He argued in that in the postulated Golden age, religious and temporal power were united, and that society was not founded on rule by priests, but by warriors expressing spiritual power - accordingly he saw in mythology evidence of the alleged superiority of the West over the East. Moreover, he claimed that the traditional elite had the ability to access power and knowledge through a hierarchical version of magic which differed utterly from lower, "superstitious and fraudulent", forms of magic. In this text, Evola dismisses what he calls modern "knowledge" in toto, asserting that he wants nothing to do with what arises from the modern mentality. He insists instead on "nonmodern forms, institutions, and knowledge" as being necessary to produce a "real renewal ... in those who are still capable of receiving it." The text was "immediately recognized by Mircea Eliade and other intellectuals who allegedly advanced ideas associated with Tradition." Mircea Eliade was a fascist sympathizer associated with the Romanian fascist Iron Guard, and one of Evola's closest friends, who was imprisoned in 1938 for his support of the Iron Guard, but managed to avoid execution. Evola was aware of the importance of myth from his readings of Georges Sorel, one of the key intellectual influences on fascism. Famed author Hermann Hesse in a private letter described this text as "really dangerous."
Evola's text The Mystery of the Grail discarded the Christian interpretations of the mythical Holy Grail, maintaining instead that the Grail "symbolizes the principle of an immortalizing and transcendent force connected to the primordial state and remaining present in the very period of ... involution or decadence ... The mystery of the Grail is a mystery of a warrior initiation." He held that the Ghibellines, as opponents of the Guelf merchants and partisans of the Catholic Church who fought against them for control of Northern and central Italy in the thirteenth century, had within them residual influences of pre-Christian Celtic and Nordic initiatic traditions representing the Grail myth. He also held that the Guelf victory against the Ghibellines represented a regression of the castes, since the merchant caste took over from the warrior caste. In the epilogue to this text Evola argued that the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory forgery the Protocols of Zion, regardless of whether it was authentic or not, was a cogent representation of modernity. Historian Richard Barber stated that in this book, "Evola mixes rhetoric, prejudice, scholarship, and politics into a strange version of the present and future, but in the process he brings together for the first time interest in the esoteric and in conspiracy theory which characterize much of the later Grail literature." The Nazi Grail seeker Otto Rahn admired Julius Evola.
In The Doctrine of Awakening, Evola argued that the Pāli Canon could be held to represent true Buddhism. His interpretation of Buddhism is that it was intended to be anti-democratic, that it revealed the essence of an "aryan" tradition that had become corrupted and lost in the West, and that it coud be interpreted in such a way as to reveal the superiority of a warrior caste. Harry Oldmeadow described Evola's work on Buddhism as exhibiting Nietzschean influence. However, Evola criticized Nietzsche's anti-ascetic prejudice. The book "received the official approbation of the Pāli [text] society", and was published by a reputable Orientalist publisher. However, Evola's interpretation of Buddhism, as put forth in his article "Spiritual Virility in Buddhism", is in conflict with the post-WWII scholarship of the Orientalist Giuseppe Tucci, which argues that the viewpoint that Buddhism advocates universal benevolence is legitimate. Arthur Versluis stated that Evola's writing on Buddhism was a vehicle for his own theories, but was a far from accurate rendition of the subject, and he held that much the same could be said of Evola's writing on Hermeticism. Nanavira Thera was inspired to become a bhikkhu from reading Evola's text The Doctrine of Awakening in 1945 while hospitalized in Sorrento.
Evola later confessed that he was not a Buddhist, and that his text on Buddhism was meant to balance his earlier work on the Hindu tantras. Evola's interest in Tantra was spurred on by correspondence with Sir John Woodroffe. Evola was attracted to the active aspect of tantra, and its claim to provide a practical means to spiritual experience, over the more "passive" approaches in other forms of Eastern spirituality. In Tantric Buddhism in East Asia, Richard K. Payne, Dean of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, argued that Evola manipulated Tantra in the service of right wing violence, and that the emphasis on "power" in The Yoga of Power gave insight into his mentality. For Evola,
The ethics of the path of the Left Hand and the disciplines lead to the destruction of human limitations (pasha), forms of anomia, or of something 'beyond good and evil', which are so extreme that they make Western supporters of the theory of the superman look like innocuous amateurs... We are dealing here with a liberty that... has no equivalent in the history of ideas.
Evola advocated that "differentiated individuals" following the Left-Hand Path use dark violent sexual powers against the modern world. For Evola, these "virile heroes" are both generous and cruel, possess the ability to rule, and commit "Dionysian" acts that might be seen as conventionally immoral. For Evola, the Left Hand path embraces violence as a means of transgression.:217
In the posthumously published collection of writings, Metaphysics of War, Evola, in line with the Conservative Revolutionary Ernst Jünger, explored the viewpoint that war could be a spiritually fulfilling experience. He proposed the necessity of a transcendental orientation in a warrior. Like Jünger, who coined the term "psychonaut", Evola was also very interested in the use of hallucinogenic drugs.
A. James Gregor sources the text Meditations on the Peaks for Evola's definition of spirituality as "actually what has been successfully actualized and translated into a sense of superiority which is experienced inside by the soul, and a noble demeanor, which is expressed in the body." Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke wrote of Evola that his "rigorous New Age spirituality speaks directly to those who reject absolutely the leveling world of democracy, capitalism, multiracialism and technology at the outset of the twenty-first century. Their acute sense of cultural chaos can find powerful relief in his ideal of total renewal." Thomas Sheehan wrote that to "read Evola is to take a trip through a weird and fascinating jungle of ancient mythologies, pseudo-ethnology, and transcendental mysticism that is enough to make any southern California consciousness-tripper feel quite at home."
Misogyny and Sexual Magic
Julius Evola believed that the alleged higher qualities expected of a man of a particular race were not those expected of a woman of the same race - that male principles are accentuated between races, while those of women are more alike and less differentiated. He held that "just relations between the sexes" involved women acknowledging their "inequality" with men.
In 1925, Evola wrote the misogynist article "La donna come cosa" (Woman as Thing). Evola later quoted Joseph de Maistre's statement that "Woman cannot be superior except as woman, but from the moment in which she desires to emulate man she is nothing but a monkey." His comment on this statement was "Pure truth, whether or not it pleases the contemporary "feminist movements."" Evola believed that women's liberation was "the renunciation by woman of her right to be a woman". He held that a women "could traditionally participate in the sacred hierarchical order only in a mediated fashion through her relationship with a man." He held, as a feature of his idealized gender relations, the Hindu sati, which for him was a form of sacrifice indicating women's respect for patriarchal traditions. He held that for the "pure, feminine" woman, "man is not perceived by her as a mere husband or lover, but as her lord." Evola believed that women would find "true greatness" in "total subjugation to men."
Evola regarded matriarchy and goddess religions as a symptom of decadence, and preferred a hyper-masculine, warrior ethos. Gillette noted that Evola maintained that:
The ages of a civilization were gendered. The noble stages were masculine. Thus, following Otto Weininger, Evola claimed that these stages harmonized with the hierarchical, heroic, warlike, decisive and classical values that characterized men. The later, degenerate phases were feminine. Societies in these phases indulged in a lust of promiscuity, communism, natural rights, and general equality that were characteristic of women.
Evola was influenced by Hans Blüher, and was a proponent of the Männerbund concept, as a model for his proposed ultra-fascist "Order." Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke noted the fundamental influence of Otto Weininger's misogynist book Sex and Character on Evola's dualism of male-female spirituality. According to Goodrich-Clarke, "Evola's celebration of virile spirituality was rooted in Weininger's work, which was widely translated by the end of the First World War." Unlike Weininger however, Evola believed that women needed to be conquered, not ignored. Evola denounced homosexuality as "useless" for his purposes, but did not neglect sado-masochism, so long as sadism and masochism "are magnifications of an element potentially present in the deepest essence of eros." Then, it would be possible to "extend, in a transcendental and perhaps ecstatic way, the possibilities of sex."
Evola held that women "played" with men, threatened their masculinity, and lured them into a "constrictive" grasp with their sexuality. He wrote that "It should not be expected of women that they return to what they really are ... when men themselves retain only the semblance of true virility", and lamented that "men instead of being in control of sex are controlled by it and wander about like drunkards..." He believed that in Tantra and in sexual magic, in which he saw a strategy for aggression, he found the means to counter the "emasculated" West. Accordingly, Evola advocated rape, the "ritual violation of virgins", and "whipping women" as a means of "consciousness raising", so long as these practices were done to the intensity required to produce the proper "liminal psychic climate." He wrote that "as a rule, nothing stirs a man more than feeling the woman utterly exhausted beneath his own hostile rapture."
Evola translated Weininger's Sex and Character into Italian, but was dissatisfied with this, so he wrote the text Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex, where his views on sexuality were dealt with at length. He referred to this text as the principal book he published in the post-war period. Arthur Versluis described this text as Evola's "most interesting" work aside from Revolt Against the Modern World. This book remains popular among many New Age adherents.
Racism and Mystical Aryanism
For his spiritual interpretation of the different racial psychologies, Evola found the work of German race theorist Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss invaluable. Clauss, like Evola, believed that physical race and spiritual race could diverge as a consequence of miscegenation. Evola's racism included racism of the body, soul and spirit, giving primacy to the latter alleged factor, since, for Evola, "races only declined when their spirit failed." According to Wolff,
Evola's ‘totalitarian’ or ‘spiritual’ racism was no milder than Nazi biological racism. It actually implied far greater consequences because it discriminated not only against the Jews, but all representatives of the modern western world. Evola's ambition was to elaborate an Italian version of racism and antisemitism, one that could be integrated into the Fascist project to create a New Man. Placed in an Italian context, Evola's totalitarian racism was supposed to contribute to a ‘purification process’ that would precede this new type of human being.
Like René Guénon, Evola believed that mankind is living in the Kali Yuga of the Hindu tradition, the Dark Age of unleashed, materialistic appetites. He argued that both Italian fascism and Nazism held hope for a reconstitution of the "celestial" Aryan race. He drew on mythology of super-races and their decline, particularly alleged hyperboreans, and maintained that traces of their influence could be felt in Indo-European man, which he nevertheless felt devolved from those alleged higher forms. Gregor noted:
In 1942, in the course of the Second World War, Fascist intellectuals published excoriating criticism of Evola’s racism. There were reviews of Sintesi di dottrina della razza that entirely dismantled the complex structure of Evola’s exposition. The argument was made that if the spirit of humankind were Evola’s concern, and there were Jews, or perhaps blacks, who displayed the heroic and sublime properties of the Hyperboreans, what difference did it make if that spirit were housed in “non-Aryan bodies”? Of what conceivable importance were physical properties when the real concern is with spirituality? In one of Fascism’s most important theoretical journals, Evola’s critic pointed out that many Nordic-Aryans, not to speak of Mediterranean Aryans, fail to demonstrate any Hyperborean properties. Instead, they make obvious their materialism, their sensuality, their indifference to loyalty and sacriﬁce, together with their consuming greed. How do they differ from “inferior” races, and why should anyone wish, in any way, to favor them?
Concerning the relationship between "spiritual racism" and biological racism, Evola put forth the following viewpoint, which Furlong described as pseudoscientific:
The factor of 'blood' or 'race' has its importance, because it is not psychologically - in the brain or the opinions of the individual - but in the very deepest forces of life that traditions live and act as typical formative energies. Blood registers the effects of this action, and indeed offers, through heredity, a matter that is already refined and pre-formed, such that through the generations, realisations similar to the original may be prepared and may be able to develop in a natural and almost spontaneous way.
Of the Jews, Evola endorsed the views provided by Otto Weininger, and viewed Jews as corrosive and anti-traditional, though he described Adolf Hitler's more fanatical anti-Semitism as a paranoid idée fixe which damaged the reputation of the Third Reich. In this conception, "The Jews were stigmatized, not as representatives of a biological race, but as the carriers of a world view, a way of being and thinking—simply put, a spirit—that corresponded to the ‘worst’ and ‘most decadent’ features of modernity: democracy, egalitarianism and materialism." Evola took seriously a number of antisemitic canards and argued that the anti-Jewish and anti-Masonic forgery The Protocols of Zion, which he believed to be true in principle if not specifically, accurately reflected the conditions of modernity. He believed that the Protocols "contain the plan for an occult war, whose objective is the utter destruction, in the non-Jewish peoples, of all tradition, class, aristocracy, and hierarchy, and of all moral, religious, and spiritual values." He also wrote the forward to the second Italian edition of the Protocols published by the Fascist Giovanni Preziosi in 1938. Following the murder of his friend Corneliu Codreanu, the leader of the Fascist Romanian Iron Guard, Evola expressed anti-Semitic sentiment in anticipation of a "talmudic, Israelite tyranny." However, Evola believed that Jews only had this "power" because of European "decadence" in modernity. He also believed that one could be "Aryan", but have a "Jewish" soul, just as one could be "Jewish", but have an "Aryan" soul. Among such Jews of "sufﬁciently heroic, ascetic, and sacral" character to fit the latter category were, in Evola's view, Otto Weininger and Carlo Michelstaedter.
Evola otherwise spoke of "inferior non-European races" and as noted by Merkl, "Evola was never prepared to discount the value of blood altogether, and he later wrote: "a certain balanced consciousness and dignity of race can be considered healthy, especially if one thinks of where we are going in our time with the exaltation of the negro and all the rest, with the anticolonialist psychosis, and with the 'integrationist' fanaticism: all parallel phenomena in the decline of Europe and the West."" In Mussolini's Intellectuals, A. James Gregor stated that: "[In the German rendering of Imperialismo pagano, Heidnischer Imperialismus], Evola argues that it is out of the creativity of an 'ur-Aryan' and 'solar-Nordic' blood that world culture emerges. Conversely, culture decline is a function of the feckless mixture of Aryan, with lesser, 'animalistic' blood."
Evola's dissent from standard biological concepts of race had roots in his aristocratic elitism, since Nazi Völkisch ideology inadequately separated aristocracy from "commoners." He maintained that "Only of an élite may one say that it is 'of a race,' 'it has race' ... the people are only people, mass."
In Revolt Against the Modern World, Evola developed a "general objective law: the law of the regression of the castes", claiming that "[t]he meaning of history from the most ancient times is this: the gradual decline of power and type of civilization from one to another of the four castes - sacred leaders, warrior nobility, bourgeoisie (economy, "merchants") and slaves - which in the traditional civilizations corresponded to the qualitative differentiation in the principal human possibilities."
As noted by Furlong,
It was this caste-based perspective that was developed in the 1930s and during the war in Evola's extensive writings on racism; for Evola, the core of racial superiority lay in the spiritual qualities of the higher castes, which expressed themselves in physical as well as in cultural features but were not determined by them. The law of the regression of castes places racism at the core of Evola's philosophy, since he sees an increasing predominance of lower races as directly expressed through modern mass democracies.
Furlong also noted Evola's frequent use of the term "Aryan" to denote the nobility imbued with traditional spirituality prior to the end of World War II, after which he used it very rarely. Wolff noted that:
From 1945 the issue of race disappeared from Evola's writings. Nonetheless his ongoing intellectual concerns remained unchanged: anthropological pessimism, elitism and contempt for the weak. The doctrine of the Aryan-Roman ‘super-race’ was simply restated as a doctrine of the ‘leaders of men’, while the Ordine Fascista dell'Impero Italiano was simply relabelled the Ordine, or ‘male society’: no longer with reference to the SS, but to the mediaeval Teutonic Knights or the Knights Templar, already mentioned in Rivolta.
While not totally against race-mixing, in 1957, Evola wrote an article attributing the perceived acceleration of American decadence to the influence of "negroes" and the opposition to segregation. Furlong noted that this article is "among the most extreme in phraseology of any he wrote, and exhibits a degree of intolerance that leaves no doubt as to his deep prejudice against black people."
Evola has been described as "one of the most influential fascist racists in Italian history." Benito Mussolini read Evola's Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race (Sintesi di Dottrina della Razza) in August 1941, and met with Evola to offer him his praise. Evola later recounted that Mussolini had found in his work a uniquely Roman form of Fascist racism distinct from that found in Nazi Germany. With Mussolini's backing, Evola launched the minor journal Sangue e Spirito (Blood and Spirit). While not always in agreement with German racial theorists, Evola traveled to Germany in February 1942 and obtained support for German collaboration on Sangue e Spirito from "key figures in the German racial hierarchy." Fascists appreciated the palingenetic value of Evola's "proof" "that the true representatives of the state and the culture of ancient Rome were people of the Nordic race." Evola eventually became Italy's leading racial philosopher.
Elitism and Relationship to Fascism
Julius Evola has been described as a "fascist intellectual," a "radical traditionalist," "antiegalitarian, antiliberal, antidemocratic, and antipopular,” and as having been "the leading philosopher of Europe's neofascist movement." Julius Evola wrote for fascist journals, and his racial theories received warm reception from Mussolini in 1941. Yet, while acknowledging Evola's place among fascist intellectuals, his racism, his anti-semitism and his antipathy towards democracy, A James Gregor wrote that "Evola opposed literally every feature of Fascism". In a trial in 1951, Evola, who denied being a Fascist, referred to himself as a ‘superfascist’. Paul Furlong wrote that "The complete Evola held views that it is fair, if somewhat summary, to categorise as elitist, racist, anti-semitic, misogynist, anti-democratic, authoritarian, and deeply anti-liberal."
Relationship to Fascism
Evola's first published political work was an anti-fascist piece in 1925. In this work, Evola called Italy's fascist movement a "laughable revolution," based on empty sentiment and materialistic concerns. He expressed anti-Nationalist sentiment, stating that to become “truly human,” one would have to “overcome brotherly contamination” and “purge oneself” of the feeling that one is united with others “because of blood, affections, country or human destiny.” He also opposed the futurism that Italian fascism was aligned with, along with the "plebeian" nature of the movement.
Evola saw Mussolini's Fascist Party as possessing no cultural or spiritual foundation, and was passionate about infusing it with these elements in order to make it suitable for his ideals of the alleged Übermensch culture which, according to Evola, characterized the imperial grandeur of pre-Christian Europe. In 1928 Evola wrote the text Pagan Imperialism, a violent attack on Christianity, which proposed the transformation of Fascism into a system consonant with ancient Roman values and the ancient Mystery traditions, and which proposed that Fascism transform itself into a vehicle for re-instating the caste-system and aristocracy of antiquity. This text was a diatribe in the name of Fascism against the Catholic Church, which nevertheless led to Evola being criticized by the Fascist regime, as well as by the Vatican itself. A. James Gregor argued that this text was an attack on Fascism as it stood at the time of writing, but noted that Benito Mussolini made use of it in order to threaten the Vatican with the possibility of an "anti-clerical Fascism" for political advantage. On account of Evola's sentiment, the Vatican backed right-wing Catholic journal Revue Interlationale de Sociétés Secretètes published an article in April 1928 entitled "Un Sataniste Italien: Julius Evola." Aleksandr Dugin translated the 1933 version of Evola’s Pagan Imperialism into Russian in 1981 and distributed it in samizdat.
Evola developed a complex line of argument, synthesizing and adapting the spiritual orientation of Traditionalist writers such as René Guénon with the political concerns of the European Authoritarian Right. Evola applauded Mussolini's anti-bourgeois orientation and his goal of making Italian citizens into hardened warriors. However, he criticized Fascist populism, party politics, and elements of leftism that he saw in the Fascist regime. Accordingly, Evola launched the journal La Torre (The Tower), to voice his concerns and advocate for a more elitist Fascism. Evola's ideas were poorly received by the Fascist mainstream as it stood at the time of his writing. Finding Italian Fascism too compromising, Evola began to seek recognition in the Third Reich, where he lectured from 1934 onward. He held hope in the Nazi SS, but took issue with Nazi populism and biological materialism. SS authorities initially rejected Evola's ideas as supranational, aristocratic, and thus reactionary, though Evola found better reception from members of the Conservative Revolutionary movement.
Evola idolized the Nazi SS and admired Heinrich Himmler, whom he knew personally. However, he had reservations about Adolf Hitler because of Hitler's reliance on Völkisch nationalism. Evola spent a considerable amount of time in Germany in 1937 and 1938, and gave a series of lectures to the German–Italian Society 1938, but these were poorly received, and the Nazi Ahnenerbe reported that many considered his ideas to be pure “fantasy” which ignored “historical facts.” Himmler's SS kept a dossier on him, and in dossier document AR-126 described his plans for a "Roman-Germanic Imperium" as "utopian" and described him as a "reactionary Roman," with a secret goal of "an insurrection of the old aristocracy against the modern world." It recommended that the SS "stop his effectiveness in Germany" and provide no support to him, particularly because of his desire to create a "secret international order". However, Evola was able to establish political connections with pan-Europeanist elements inside the Reich Main Security Office.
Evola subsequently ascended to the inner circles of Nazism as the influence pan-European advocates overtook that of Völkisch proponents due to military contingencies. Evola wrote the article "Reich and Imperium as Elements in the New European Order" for the Nazi backed journal European Review. Evola spent World War II working for the SD. The SD bureau Amt VII, a Reich Main Security Office research library, helped Evola acquire arcane occult and Masonic texts.
Italian Fascism went into decline when, in 1943, Mussolini was deposed and imprisoned. At this point, Evola fled to Germany with the help of the SD. Evola, although not a member of the Fascist Party, and despite his apparent problems with the Fascist regime, was one of the first people to greet Mussolini when the latter was broken out of prison by Otto Skorzeny in 1943. Subsequently, Evola helped welcome Mussolini to Adolf Hitler's Wolf's Lair. Following this, Evola involved himself in Mussolini's Italian Social Republic. It was Evola's custom to walk around the city during bombing raids in order to better 'ponder his destiny'. During one such raid, 1945, a shell fragment damaged his spinal cord and he became paralyzed from the waist down, remaining so for the remainder of his life.
In May, 1951, Evola was arrested and charged with promoting the revival of the Fascist Party, and of glorifying Fascism. Defending himself at trial, Evola stated that his work belonged to a long tradition of anti-democratic writers who certainly could be linked to fascism—at least fascism interpreted according to certain (Evolian) criteria—but who certainly could not be identified with Fascism, namely, the Fascist regime under Mussolini. Evola then declared that he was not a Fascist but a ‘superfascist’. He was acquitted.
After WWII, Evola's writing evoked interest among the neo-fascist right. Evola was considered, especially after 1945, as the most important Italian theoretician of the Conservative Revolution, and as the "chief ideologue" of Italy's terrorist radical right after World War II. Regarding Evola's concerns during this time period, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke took note of:
Evola’s 1945 essay “American ‘Civilization,’” which saw America as the final stage of European decline into the “interior formlessness” of vacuous individualism, conformity and vulgarity under the universal aegis of money-making. Its mechanistic and rational philosophy of progress combined with a mundane horizon of prosperity to transform the world into an enormous suburban shopping mall. This anti-American theme was extended by Evola’s ideas on a unified Europe’s need for a spiritual and supranational basis. Only by opposing the current Westernization of the world could Europe challenge both superpowers for global hegemony.
Goodrich-Clarke noted that "Evola’s contempt for America as the most advanced center of Western alienation from Tradition also interacted with a widespread mood of anti-Americanism during the 1980s."
Egil Asprem and Kennet Granholm describe Evola's primary political texts during this time period as Orientamenti and Men Among the Ruins. Orientamenti was a text against "national fascism", advocating instead for a European Community modeled on the principles of the Waffen-SS. The Italian Neo-fascist group Ordine Nuovo adopted Orientamenti as a guide for action in postwar Italy. The Francis Parker Yockey affiliated "European Liberation Front", in the April 1951 issue of its publication Frontfighter, referred to Evola as "Italy's greatest living authoritarian philosopher."
Evola's occult ontology exerted influence over post-war neo-fascism. Nevertheless, Evola attempted to dissociate himself from totalitarianism, preferring the conception of the "organic" state which he put forth in his text Men Among the Ruins. Evola sought to develop a strategy for the implementation of a "conservative revolution" in post World War II Europe. He rejected nationalism, advocating instead for a European Imperium, which he desired to be expressed in various forms according to local conditions, but be "organic, hierarchical, anti-democratic, and anti-individual." Evola endorsed Francis Parker Yockey's neo-fascist manifesto Imperium, but disagreed with it because Yockey had a "superficial" understanding of what was immediately possible. Evola also believed that implementation of the proposed neo-fascist Europe could best accomplished by an elite of "superior" men operating outside of normal politics.
Giuliano Salierni, an activist in the neo-Fascist Italian Social Movement in the early 1950s, recalled Evola's calls to violence. Roberto Fiore and his colleagues in the early 1980s helped National Front "Political Soldiers" forge a militant elitist philosophy based on Evola's "most militant tract", The Aryan Doctrine of Battle and Victory, which called for a “Great Holy War” fought for spiritual renewal paralleling the physical “Little Holy War” against perceived enemies. Wolff attributes extreme-right terrorist actions in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s to the influence of Julius Evola.
Thomas Sheehan has argued that Evola's work is essential reading for those seeking to understand Eurofascism, in the same way that knowledge of the writings of Marx is necessary for those seeking to understand Communist actions.
Post-World War II
After World War II, Evola continued his work in esotericism. He wrote a number of books and articles on sexual magic and various other esoteric studies, including The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way (1949), Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex (1958), and Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest (1974). He also wrote his two explicitly political books Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist (1953), Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul (1961), and his autobiography, The Path of Cinnabar (1963). He also expanded upon critiques of American civilization and materialism, as well as increasing American influence in Europe, collected in the posthumous anthology Civilta Americana.
Wolff noted that in Ride the Tiger,
Evola argued that the fight against modernity was lost. The only thing a ‘real man’ could just do was to ride the tiger of modernity patiently: ‘Thus the principle to follow could be that of letting the forces and processes of this epoch take their own course, keeping oneself firm and ready to intervene when “the tiger, which cannot leap on the person riding it, is tired of running”. He chose, in other words, a sort of inner journey and ‘inner emigration’ from the world—using an expression borrowed from Heidegger—that removed him completely from active political engagement. However, he did not exclude the possibility of action in the future.
Wolff also noted that "as Anna Jellamo declared in 1984, Evola's apoliteia in Ride the Tiger was in truth only ‘an adjustment and improvement’ to his ‘warrior theory’." Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke notes that here, "Evola sets up the ideal of the “active nihilist” who is prepared to act with violence against modern decadence." Furlong considers this text, in the context of Evola's work contemporary to its writing, as a proposition that a potential elite immunize itself from modernity as they attempt to rebel against it via "right wing anarchism."
This section focuses too much on specific examples without clearly discussing its abstract general subject.(February 2017)
The Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, the Nazi Grail seeker Otto Rahn, and the Romanian fascist sympathizer and religious historian Mircea Eliade admired Julius Evola. After World War II, Evola's writings continued to influence many European far-right political, racist and neo-fascist movements. He is widely translated in French, Spanish and partly in German. Amongst those he has influenced are the American Blackshirts Party, the "esoteric Hitlerist" Miguel Serrano, Savitri Devi, GRECE, the Movimento sociale italiano (MSI), Falange Española, Gaston Armand Amaudruz's Nouvel Ordre Européen, Guillaume Faye, Pino Rauti's Ordine Nuovo, Troy Southgate, Alain de Benoist, Michael Moynihan, Giorgio Freda, the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (Armed Revolutionary Nuclei), Eduard Limonov, Forza Nuova, CasaPound Italia, Tricolor Flame and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia. Giorgio Almirante referred to him as "our Marcuse—only better." According to one leader of the neofascist "black terrorist" Ordine Nuovo, "Our work since 1953 has been to transpose Evola’s teachings into direct political action." The now defunct French fascist group Troisième Voie was also inspired by Evola. Jonathan Bowden, English political activist and chairman of the New Right, spoke highly of Evola and his ideas and gave lectures on his philosophy. Evola has also influenced today's Alt-right movement, which has its "origins" in “thinkers as diverse as… Oswald Spengler, H.L Mencken, Julius Evola, Sam Francis, and… Pat Buchanan.” Additionally, Evola has influenced Vladimir Putin advisor Aleksander Dugin. The Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn includes his works on its suggested reading list, and the leader of Jobbik, the Hungarian nationalist party, admires Evola and wrote an introduction to his works. Umberto Eco referred to Evola as the "most influential theoretical source of the theories of the new Italian right", and as "one of the most respected fascist gurus". President Donald Trump's chief adviser Steve Bannon noted Evola's influence on the Eurasianism movement; accordingly, he has been praised by Alt-right leader Richard B. Spencer, who said “it means a tremendous amount” that Bannon is aware of Evola. Some members of the Alt-right have expressed hope that Bannon might be open to Evola's ideas, and that through Bannon, Evola’s ideas can express influence in a possible period of crisis.
Evola influenced the musicologist and esoteric scholar Jocelyn Godwin, who wrote in defense of Evola. The novelist and essayist Marguerite Yourcenar of the Académie française, paid homage to Evola's text The Yoga of Power, writing her opinion of "the immense benefit which a receptive reader may gain from an exposition such as Evola's", and concluded that "the study of The Yoga of Power is particularly beneficial in a time in which every form of discipline is naively discredited." Nanavira Thera was inspired to become a bhikkhu from reading Evola's text The Doctrine of Awakening in 1945 while hospitalized in Sorrento. Famed author Hermann Hesse in a private letter described Evola's text Revolt Against the Modern World as "really dangerous."
Selected books and articles
- Arte Astratta, posizione teorica (1920)
- La parole obscure du paysage intérieur (1920)
- Saggi sull'idealismo magico (1925)
- L'individuo e il divenire del mondo (1926)
- L'uomo come potenza (1927)
- Teoria dell'individuo assoluto (1927)
- Imperialismo pagano (1928; English translation: Heathen Imperialism, 2007)
- Introduzione alla magia (1927-1929; 1971; English translation: Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus, 2001)
- Fenomenologia dell'individuo assoluto (1930)
- La tradizione ermetica (1931; English translation: The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art, 1995)
- Maschera e volto dello spiritualismo contemporaneo: Analisi critica delle principali correnti moderne verso il sovrasensibile (1932)
- Rivolta contro il mondo moderno (1934; second edition: 1951; English translation: Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga, 1995)
- Tre aspetti del problema ebraico (1936; English translation: Three Aspects of the Jewish Problem, 2003)
- Il Mistero del Graal e la Tradizione Ghibellina dell'Impero (1937; English translation: The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit, 1997)
- Il mito del sangue. Genesi del Razzismo (1937)
- Indirizzi per una educazione razziale (1941; English translation: The Elements of Racial Education 2005)
- Sintesi di dottrina della razza (1941; German translation: Grundrisse der Faschistischen Rassenlehre, 1943)
- Die Arische Lehre von Kampf und Sieg (1941; English translation: The Aryan Doctrine of Battle and Victory, 2007)
- Gli Ebrei hanno voluto questa Guerra (1942)
- La dottrina del risveglio (1943; English translations: The Doctrine of Awakening: A Study on the Buddhist Ascesis, 1951; The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts, 1995)
- Lo Yoga della potenza (1949; English translation: The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way, 1992)
- Orientamenti, undici punti (1950)
- Gli uomini e le rovine (1953; English translation: Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, 2002)
- Metafisica del sesso (1958; English translations: The Metaphysics of Sex, 1983; Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex, 1991)
- L'«Operaio» nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger (1960)
- Cavalcare la tigre (1961; English translation: Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul, 2003)
- Il cammino del cinabro (1963; second edition, 1970; English translation: The Path of Cinnabar: An Intellectual Autobiography, 2009)
- Meditazioni delle vette (1974; English translation: Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest, 1998)
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