Men Among The Ruins
JULIUS EVOLA: A RADICAL TRADITIONALIST
1. REVOLUTION-COUNTER-REVOLUTION - TRADITION
In the opening chapter of his work, Evola can be forgiven for appearing to sound like a typical Catholic fundamentalist. According to the Baron, socio-political subversion (eversio) was introduced into
But the word "conservative" can also be very misleading. Evola argues that "it is necessary to first establish as exactly as possible what needs to be 'preserved'". He is also under no illusion that capitalists have long used this term with which to advance the interests of their own class, rather than "committing themselves to a stout defence of a higher right, dignity, and impersonal legacy of values, ideas and principles." This suggests a kind of aristocratic benevolence, a chivalric sense of duty and sacrifice. Evola also believes that the State must not concern itself with economic matters, rather assuming a transcendent role in opposition to the class-oriented obsessions of both the bourgeoisie and Marxists alike. Furthermore, he tells us, "what really counts is to be faithful not to past forms and institutions, but rather to principles of which such forms and institutions have been particular expressions." So, therefore, the success of tradition lies in our ability to create new forms from the etymological drawing-board which inspired those of the past, a process which works its way down through the generations as though divinely inspired. In other words it is not the transitory or - in the case of historical personality cults - even the idolatrous facets which are of value, but those which are everlasting and permanent. Indeed, Evola pours scorn upon the very term ‘historical’ because such matters rise above and beyond the whole notion of history altogether. Mircea Eliade has discussed this idea at length in The Myth of The Eternal Return [Princeton, 1991], echoed here by Evola: "These principles are not compromised by the fact that in various instances an individual, out of weakness or due to other reasons, was able to actualise them or to even implement them partially at one point in his life rather than another." The designers and schemers of the modern age, of course, dismiss these aspects as having been a consequence of the period in which they were apparently expressed. So therefore tradition and historicism are totally irreconcilable. The author’s own homeland also comes in for some criticism, with Evola firmly believing that
Returning to the dangers of revolution - at least in the purely negative sense as defined above - we are reminded of the more positive, Hegelian analysis: "the negation of the negation." In other words, eradicating that which in itself has been the great eradicator is a worthwhile objective. On the other hand, Evola is being slightly pedantic when he criticises the adoption of the "revolutionary spirit," lest it sound too progressive or wild. His denunciation of the unfulfilling legend of technological advancement, however, is very accurate indeed: "Those who are not subject to the predominant materialism of our times, upon recognising the only context in which it is legitimate to speak of progress, will be on guard against any orientation in which the modern 'myth of progress' is reflected." Indeed, there are many such examples, all of which contend either blindly or knowingly that the past must be eradicated for the good of the present. This, says Evola, is "history’s demolition squad." It is rather surprising, therefore, to consider that in his youth Evola offered his support to Italian Futurism. Not, of course, that Marinetti’s pledge to raze libraries and museums to the ground was ever designed to be an attempt to destroy the perennial essence which always transcends the purely anachronistic. The contentious issue of Fascism is also tackled by Evola and is here regarded as being valid only when it concords with tradition. To stand vigorously in favour of Fascism simply for its own sake, is akin to the fulminating negativity inherent within many of its anti-fascist opponents.
2. SOVEREIGNTY - AUTHORITY - IMPERIUM
According to Evola, "every true political unity appears as the embodiment of an idea and a power, thus distinguishing itself from every form of naturalistic association or 'natural right', and also from every societal aggregation determined by mere social, economic, biological, utilitarian, or eudemonistic factors." He goes on to point out that, for the Romans at least, the very idea of an imperium of sovereign power was something perceived to be highly sacred. This functioned by way of a mystical trinity comprised of the Leader (auctoritas), the Nobility (gens) and the State (res publica). Evola-s interpretation of the imperium is certainly supported by those historians who - like Edward Gibbon and Oswald Spengler - have allowed the
The author then turns his mind to judicial matters, stating that, whenever the State rises above the merely temporal laws of the nation, it assumes the role of an independently organic entity. In other words, Evola is basically suggesting that in cases of national emergency, for example, the State can flex its muscles and prove just how transcendent it really is by overriding the laws of the judiciary. This notion will fill the average supporter of democracy and egalitarianism with some horror, but Evola is referring to a central principle of authoritative order rather than advocating that a fascist dictatorship rule over the masses with an iron fist (although he does suggest that a temporary dictatorship can often get things back on track). Indeed, this is rather similar to the way
Evola also refutes the idea that power should rise up to the State from the grass roots, for example in the way that Muammar al-Qathafi explains the concept in The Green Book. As far as he is concerned, the State is not the expression or embodiment of the people at all. This "political domain is defined through hierarchical, heroic, ideal, anti-hedonistic, and, to a degree, even anti-eudemonistic values that set it apart from the order of naturalistic and vegetative life." But this is almost like a paradox. If the State completely transcends the ordinary functions of what most people consider to be the role of a State, then surely Evola-s vision is one of anarchic authority? Evola may have disagreed with the use of the term "anarchy," but surely the State for him is more mystical than fully tangible in the purely ordinary sense? By this, I am implying that the State is present as a guiding authority at the helm of a nation or empire, but absent in terms of the way it is perceived by most people. Anarchy, of course, does not mean that authority is non-existent, it simply refers to the absence of rule. Therefore Evola-s concept of the mystical State may well be altogether detached from the socio-economic version which writers like Peter Kropotkin (The State: Its Historic Role), Michael Bakunin (Marxism, Freedom & The State) or Herbert Spencer (The Man Versus The State) have gone to such great lengths in order to analyse and dissect. Evola makes a profound distinction between the political and social aspects of the State, arguing that it emanates from a specific family (gens) and thus rejecting the idea that states can arise from the naturalistic plane. At first, this appears to be a contradiction in terms, because, surely, the family is a naturalistic phenomenon? On the contrary, Evola is referring to an altogether different interpretation of the term "family," that of the Mannerbunde (or all-male fraternity). Given the nature of the Mafia, of course, Italians should find it that much easier to appreciate the subtle differences in terminology. Evola was also a Freemason and wrote extensively on the Mithraic sun-cult, both prime examples of the Mannerbunde and possessing deep initiatic qualities which - by way of a series of trials and degrees - take the male apprentice way beyond his maternalistic upbringing on the exoteric plane. Thus a significant change takes place both within the man himself and the way he is then perceived by others. But this interpretation is not designed to leave women out of the equation, it simply states that whilst men are the natural frequenters of the mystical, or political, domain, women are the pivotal masters of society. It lies completely "under the feminine aegis." Those readers who are familiar with Evola-s Revolt Against The Modern World [Inner Traditions, 1995] will grasp the higher significance of what Evola is trying to say. Indeed, in the present work he summarises these metaphysical concepts thus: "The common mythological background is that of the duality of the luminous and heavenly deities, who are the gods of the political and heroic world on the one hand, and of the feminine and maternal deities of naturalistic existence, who were loved by the plebeian strata of society on the other hand. Thus, even in the ancient Roman world, the idea of State and of imperium (i.e., of the sacred authority) was strictly connected to the symbolic cult of the virile deities of heaven, of light and of the super-world in opposition to the dark region of the Mothers and the chthonic deities." If we follow Evola-s line of thinking, we soon arrive at the medieval idea of the divine right of kings. This, he tells us, was a development which - contrary to the earlier imperium - was not consolidated "by the power of a rite." Traditional Catholics would disagree wholeheartedly with this conclusion, at least right up until the Reformation and Henry VIII-s well-documented break with
Evola is often portrayed by his opponents as a "fascist," but it may surprise many of them to learn that he relegates "romantic and idealistic" concepts such as the nation, the homeland, and the people to the purely naturalistic and biological level. These issues, he contends, have replaced a political principle that is representative of a far higher and more penetrating tradition. By refusing to accept the legitimacy of feudalism or the authority of the
But what of those nations which have actually followed the political principle to the letter? We are informed by Evola that the nation will always be potentially compromised, whilst "on the one side stand the masses, in which, besides changing feelings, the same elementary instincts and interests connected to a physical and hedonistic plane will always have free play; and on the other side stand men who differentiate themselves from the masses as bearers of a complete legitimacy and authority, bestowed by the Idea and by their rigorous, impersonal adherence to it. The Idea, only the Idea, must be the true fatherland for these men: what unites and sets them apart should consist in adherence to the same idea, rather than to the same land, language, or blood." This is a pretty bold statement, given that Evola is usually - and wrongly - associated with certain elements of the Far Right. Perhaps this is why the Assassins and their Knights Templar contemporaries found that they had so much in common? That which is most important, therefore, is not one-s adherence to a nation or a race - which instantly means that one must love, respect and work for the best interests of his compatriots without question - but one-s loyalty and fidelity to the very essence and spirit of tradition. In Evola-s own words: "The true task and the necessary premise for the rebirth of the 'nation' and for its renewed form and conscience consists of untying and separating that which only apparently, promiscuously, or collectively appears to be one entity, and in re-establishing a virile substance in the form of a political elite around which a new crystallisation will occur." This, of course, is very different to the sheep-like mentality of most nationalist groups. One only has to look at the recent revival in
3. PERSONALITY - FREEDOM v HIERARCHY
In this chapter the author begins by attacking liberalism, the chief scourge behind the French Revolution. Many have tried to define liberalism, including Traditional Catholics like Pope Pius XI [Quadragesimo Anno], Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre [They Have Uncrowned Him], Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany [What Is Liberalism?] and Rev. Fr. Stephen P. DeLallo [The Sword of Christendom], although today the word is wrongly associated with anarcho-capitalists and right-wing libertarians. So how does Evola define the term?: "The essence of liberalism is individualism. The basis of its error is to mistake the notion of the person with that of the individual and to claim for the latter, unconditionally and according to egalitarian premises, some values that should rather be attributed solely to the former, and then only conditionally. Because of this transposition, these values are transformed into errors, or into something absurd and harmful." Egalitarianism - another mainstay of the 1879 Revolution - is completely dismissed by Evola due to its fundamentally ridiculous belief in the equality of all individuals. It not only relegates the person to the level of a mere part within the broader egalitarian mass, which Evola rightly shows to be a contradiction in terms, it obliterates human diversity by suggesting that no one person is significantly different to another. From the judicial perspective, of course, it is surely wrong to establish a form of fake "justice" by ensuring that everybody is legally bound in an unjust manner. It is also entirely out of step with Natural Law. Evola explains: "the lower degrees of reality are differentiated from the higher ones because in the lower degrees a whole can be broken down into many parts, all of which retain the same quality (as in the case of the parts of a non-crystallised mineral, or those parts of some plants and animals that reproduce themselves by parthenogenesis); in the higher degrees of reality this is no longer possible, as there is a higher organic unity in them that does not allow itself to be split without being compromised and without its parts entirely losing the quality, meaning, and function they had in it." When Evola speaks of parthenogenesis, of course, he is referring to those invertebrates and lower plants which engage in a form of sterile self-reproduction. The allegedly "free" individual, therefore, is considered to be inorganic and much lower than its organic superior. Meanwhile, the true person is he who continues to remain "unequal" due to his own distinct features and abilities. Natural individuation is not the same as crass individualism. At the same time, however, Evola does not infer that everyone deserves the "right" to be regarded as a person. Thus, he dispels the liberal myth that all of us possess some form of "human dignity" regardless of who we are. In fact there are several different levels of dignity each contained within a just and specific hierarchy. So once again, Evola is dismissing the egalitarian idea of a "universal right," brotherhood of equality or an automatic entitlement of some kind. In times gone by, however, "'peers' and 'equals' were often aristocratic concepts: in
Moving on, the notion of freedom - a favourite catchword of those engaged in the struggle between classes - is regarded in the same manner. It is something we enjoy as a consequence of who we are as a person, rather than simply because we happen to be a member of humanity. Evola remarks that freedom does not come in any one form, but is actually multifarious and homogenous. He goes on to suggest that the freedom "to do" is quite different from the freedom "for doing." Indeed, whilst the former has to function within a controlled and standardised system of liberal "equality" (which inevitably leads, therefore, to one class disregarding the freedoms of others), the latter has more in common with Aleister Crowley-s often-misunderstood expressions "do as thou wilt" and "every man and woman is a star." In other words, by possessing the freedom "to do," one can follow one-s own unique course and act in accordance with one-s true nature.
So how does the individual relate to society as a whole? Tradition accords with the ultimate supremacy of the individual, or what Ernst Junger has defined elsewhere as "the anarch" or "sovereign individual" [see Eumeswil, Quartet, 1993]. Evola even puts the sovereignty of the person before the State, because he views people not "as they are conceived by individualism, as atoms or a mass of atoms, but people as persons, as differentiated beings, each one endowed with a different rank, a different freedom, a different right within the social hierarchy based on the values of creating, constructing, obeying, and commanding. With people such as these it is possible to establish the true State, namely an anti-liberal, anti-democratic, and organic State." This vision, however, depends upon the advancement of the person through various stages of individuation and self-awareness. Natural inequality, therefore, will lead to an organic structure of society at the very helm of which stands the "absolute individual." This figurehead, says Evola, is completely different to the mere concept of the individual because it encapsulates that which is most qualitative within man. The "absolute individual" is fundamentally opposed to the concept that society itself is the ultimate manifestation of humanity. It is the sheer pinnacle of a transcendental sovereignty which represents the synthesising nature of the imperium. Moreover, of course, the idea can become manifest within the framework of the nation and seems defiantly opposed to present trends like globalisation and multi-racialism: "Thus, it is a positive and legitimate thing to uphold the right of the nation in order to assert an elementary and natural principle of difference of a given human group over and against all the forms of individualistic disintegration, international mixture and proletarisation, and especially against the mere world of the masses and pure economy." To achieve this process, Evola declares that the State must be established from the nation itself.
But if one is seeking to fully align himself with the principles of Evolian thought, a person who is free in the true sense of the word must never be constrained by national, racial or family ties. This does not imply that he should actively seek to turn himself against them, on the contrary, the importance is to follow one-s own path. Indeed, this course - which must lead towards the creation of the New Man - requires great discipline and understanding. Many who try, however, will fall by the wayside: "he who does not have the capability to dominate himself and to give himself a code to abide by would not know how to dominate others according to justice or how to give them a law to follow. The second foundation is the idea. previously upheld by Plato, that those who cannot be their own masters should find a master outside of themselves, since practising the discipline of obeying should teach these people how to master their own selves." People are therefore different, although Evola does make a distinction between the ruthlessness of "natural selection" and that of respect. In ancient societies the people who were most respected and admired were those with special abilities and qualities, not simply animalistic strength and brute force. The secret, of course, is to ensure that "power is based on superiority and not vice versa." It is certainly not necessary to bludgeon people into submission in order to get them to respect true leadership and ability. In the light of what Evola really thinks about such matters, therefore, you have to wonder why on earth Evolian Tradition was ever compared to Fascist totalitarianism in the first place.
The fact that Evola so openly acknowledges that there are various stations in life will outrage liberals, Marxists and advocates of democracy alike. But he is, nevertheless, absolutely correct. Forcing people to accord with a societal conglomeration which has been enshrined in law by a coterie of dogmatists and architectural levellers, is simply not allowing people to discover and thus accomplish their true destinies. Evola believes that historical events have often been determined by the manner in which "the inferior" - which is not used in a derogatory sense - regard their "superior" counterparts. Indeed, to believe that humanity can somehow be subjected to a form of international utilitarianism is naive and misguided in the extreme. Humans are prone to "emotional or irrational motivation" and, inevitably, this will usually be the dominant factor which shapes the course of their lives. The Evolian - and, thus, traditional - approach to organisation lies in what is described as the "anagogical function" of the State and its latent ability to both engender and co-ordinate the individual-s sacrificial capacity to ally himself with a higher principle. The success of man-s organisational capacity, therefore, is not based purely on economics or prosperity but depends on whether the organic hierarchical balance has been maintained effectively. Within the liberal system, of course, the balance is upset by the fact that he "who becomes an individual, by ceasing to have an organic meaning and by refusing to acknowledge any principle of authority, is nothing more than a number, a unit in the pack; his usurpation evokes a fatal collectivist limitation against himself." Liberalism, therefore, may appear to defend freedom but it is actually a means of subverting it altogether. Marxism functions in the same way and both ideologies stem - once again - from the French Revolution: "when Western man broke the ties to Tradition, claiming for himself as an individual a vain and illusory freedom: when he became an atom in society, rejecting every higher symbol of authority and sovereignty in a system of hierarchies." Fascism, by falsely claiming to restore the traditional equilibrium, actually worsened the situation by initiating a crude and materialistic form of totalitarianism.
The worst example of liberalism is its dependence upon economic exploitation. Evola charts the decline of economic stability from the death of the feudal system - when "the organic connection . . . between personality and property, social function and wealth, and between a given qualification or moral nobility and the rightful and legitimate possession of goods, was broken" - and the onset of the Napoleonic Code, right through to the desanctification of property and the arrival of the unscrupulous capitalist. So what, according to Evola, is the role of the traditionalist in light of the modern evils which were unleashed over two hundred years ago? Our response must be founded upon a return to origins: "To go back to the origins means, plainly and simply, to reject anything that in any domain (whether social, political, or economic) is connected to the 'immortal principles' of 1789, as a libertarian, individualistic, and egalitarian thought, and to oppose it with the hierarchical view, in the context of which alone the notion, value, and freedom of man as person are not reduced to mere words or excuses for a work of destruction and subversion."
4. ORGANIC STATE v TOTALITARIANISM
Evola now attempts to make a distinction between the totalitarian and organic State. The democracies have gone to great lengths in order to portray the traditional State "in a heinous way," ensuring that opponents of democracy are instantly equated with brutality and fascism. Totalitarianism, being a relatively modern word, is inevitably applied to past systems in a purely retrospective manner. Evola, however, seeks to approach the question of totalitarianism by examining the way in which the term is actually defined by the democracies. Therefore whenever the author refers to the more positive aspects of "totalitarianism," these components are said to accord with the organic State: "A State is organic when it has a centre, and this centre is an idea that shapes the various domains of life in an efficacious way; it is organic when it ignores the division and the autonomisation of the particular and when, by virtue of a system of hierarchical participation, every part within its relative autonomy performs its own function and enjoys an intimate connection with the whole." It is not difficult to see how this differs fundamentally with the individualism and liberalism of the modern age. Evola rightly points out that more traditional societies were even able to accommodate a loyal opposition. In stark contrast to the representative party system of today, the early English Parliament was far more pluralist and was often heard to refer to "His Majesty-s Most Loyal Opposition."
But the organic State also had a spiritual or religious dimension, whereby the political was formulated in accordance with a more penetrating and unitary outlook. This, says Evola, is what makes the organic synonymous with the traditional. In the minds of the liberals and the communists, of course, this healthy approach to former societies and a more pluralist style of organisation inevitably means that tradition is wrongly equated with "fascism." Evola, on the other hand, is able to counter this fraudulent analogy by explaining that "totalitarianism merely represents the counterfeited image of the organic ideal. It is a system in which unity is imposed from the outside, not on the basis of the intrinsic force of a common idea and an authority that is naturally acknowledged, but rather through direct forms of intervention and control, exercised by a power that is exclusively and materially political, imposing itself as the ultimate reason for the system." Having lived through
The way in which the organic or traditional State is perceived is also important. Fascism and Marxism tend to lead to blind statism, but Evola believes that the organic State must be granted a degree of "Statolatry." In other words, rather than seeking to worship the State for its own sake, "[t]here is a profound and substantial difference between the deification and absolutisation of what is profane and the case in which the political reality derives its legitimisation from reference points that are also spiritual and somehow transcendent." This is the difference between the materialist and the spiritual, the totalitarian and the organic. The spiritual element acts like a societal adhesive, binding together the unitary whole to which the people are willingly attached without coercion or repression. In contemporary Western societies it is considered normal in certain occupations and ceremonies to undertake an oath. But despite being a remnant of the distant past, the oath today has been stripped of its sacred implications and has become empty, meaningless and contractual. This is because the State and various other national institutions have become a merely temporal form of authority, rendering the more spiritual expressions of verbal fidelity completely irrelevant. The gulf between the contractual and the traditional is demonstrated by the way in which the "Official Secrets Act" is designed to secure the loyalty of the individual to the State. In feudal times, of course, the intrinsically transcendent nature of the oath became manifest by way of the sacramenum fidelitatis. This was infinitely more binding than giving one-s allegiance to a company, an institution or a squadron.
But when the traditional State is said to represent a unitary organism it must not be compared, warns Evola, to the humanistic vision epitomised by Hegel-s "
5. BONAPARTISM - MACHIAVELLIANISM - ELITISM
Bonapartism is a rather unusual term and one which Evola borrows from R. Michels, author of the 1915 work Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. Michels demonstrates how representative democracy and "government of the people" leads to the control of the State by a self-interested minority. This view is echoed by J. Burnham in The Machiavellians, who explains that the so-called "will of the people" is eventually superseded by the domination of a bureaucratic clique. Thus Bonapartism begins with a popular demand for more freedom and equality and ends in the totalitarian "dictatorship of the proletariat." Evola likens this process to a people who have catastrophically "led and disciplined themselves." After the decline of its aristocratic nobility, ancient
Machiavellianism - despite its frequent portrayal as an aristocratic notion - is also a highly individualist philosophy. Indeed, although the concept of The Prince rejects democracy and the masses, it makes the fatal mistake of encouraging power and authority to reside in the hands of man. In other words, man is himself the be all and end all of Machiavellian doctrine. Such men are not connected to a chain of Tradition, they are merely interested in deploying their political capabilities to advance their own interests. His very position is maintained by lies, deceit and manipulation, becoming a rampant political monster to which everything must be methodically subjected. This is clearly very different to the way in which traditional aristocracies functioned and indicates that Machiavellianism is a consequence of the general decline. True elitism, argues Evola, degenerates in four stages: "in the first stage the elite has a purely spiritual character, embodying what may be generally called -divine right-. This elite expresses an iddeal of immaterial virility. In the second stage, the elite has the character of warrior nobility; at the third stage we find the advent of oligarchies of a plutocratic and capitalistic nature, such as they arise in democracies; the fourth and last elite is that of the collectivist and revolutionary leaders of the Fourth Estate."
6. WORK: THE DEMONIC NATURE OF THE ECONOMY
When Evola discusses the "demonic nature of the economy," we are instantly reminded of the capitalist free market and communism-s deterministic assessment of man as economic unit (homo economicus). In the modern age economic forces have become the new gods of Mammon, creating a dangerous and cataclysmic antithesis to the spiritual aspirations of the ancient world. We have already examined how Evola warns against the lack of hierarchical authority, and in this chapter he demonstrates how both capitalism and Marxism have completely subverted the organic nature of our whole existence: "as long as we only talk about economic classes, profit, salaries, and production, and as long as we believe that real human progress is determined by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods, and that, generally speaking, human progress is measured by the degree of wealth or indigence - then we are not even close to what is essential." Thus work and the modern economy are depicted as the penultimate goals of human endeavour, rather than man accepting that his natural interests must lie ultimately in the satisfaction of his own material needs. This is not to suggest that food, clothing and shelter are the most important facets of human existence, simply that they are the most basic prerequisites of all. Man also needs to be satisfied both spiritually and as part of a structure which: "neither knows nor tolerates merely economic classes and does not know the division between -capitalists- and -proletarians-; an order solely in terms of which are to be defined the things worth living and dying for. We must also uphold the need for a true hierarchy and for different dignitaries, with a higher function of power installed at the top, namely the imperium." But this vision is hardly being fulfilled today. Everything is geared towards economic production and, inevitably, wage-slavery. Evola does not believe in the formulation of a new economic theory, instead he explains that the current obsession with economic matters can only decline once people change their attitudes completely: "What must be questioned is not the value of this or that economic system, but the value of the economy itself." This is a fundamental part of National-Anarchist thinking, too, a total rejection of the Left-Right spectrum which, once again, ever since the French Revolution has imposed upon us a wholly superficial antithesis between two allegedly opposed economic ideologies. Those so-called "backward" nations which, thus far, have avoided economic development are said by Evola to "enjoy a certain space and a relative freedom." By seizing upon the issue of class, Marxists have deliberately obscured the components of the ancient world by smearing them with an economic grime. In traditional societies, of course, the economy was simply one area within an all-encompassing hierarchical structure. Terms like "capitalist" and "proletarian" did not exist and class struggle was redundant: "Even in the domain of the economy, a normal civilisation provides specific justification for certain differences in condition, dignity, and function." Marxism, says Evola, did not come about due to the need for a resolution to the social question, on the contrary, Marxism itself has exacerbated the problem by creating the myth of the class system. In traditional societies "an individual contained his need and aspirations within natural limits; he did not yearn to become different from what he was, and thus he was innocent of that Entfremdung (alienation) decried by Marxism." Leninists, Trotskyists and other advocates of the class struggle will recoil in horror at this statement, but Evola is denouncing the materialist desires of the common economic agitator rather than supporting the aspirations of the "ruling class." Indeed, economic determinism is considered to be unhealthy and detrimental because "it can legitimately be claimed that the so-called improvement of social conditions should be regarded not as good but as evil, when its price consists of the enslavement of the single individual to the productive mechanism and to the social conglomerate; or in the degradation of the State to the -State based on work-, and the degradation of society to -consumer society-; or in the elimination of every qualitative hierarchy; or in the atrophy of every spiritual sensibility and every -heroic- attitude." There is little doubt, therefore, that the appliance of the economic worldview comes at a great cost. Evola implores us to express our real selves and to unleash our true potential. Each of us has a different function and a unique position to fulfil. Class conflict, therefore, is a diversion which has been thrust in the path of the unitary and the organic. In terms of the way in which we approach work, Evola tells us that an American attempt to extract more labour from a Third World workforce by doubling their wages, was met with "a majority of the workers cutting their working hours in half." Compare this traditionalist attitude with that of the modern-day office or factory worker who perpetually competes for overtime with his colleagues. Indeed, whilst traditional societies are merely interested in satisfying their basic needs, those in the West endure increasingly long hours, exhaustion, bad diets and severe health problems in their pursuit for computers, televisions and cars. Evola notes that, prior to the rise of the mercantile economy and the gradual evolution of capitalism, "the acquisition of external goods had to be restricted and that work and the quest for profit were justifiable only in order to acquire a level of wealth corresponding to one-s status in life: this was the Thomist and, later, the Lutheran view." Work was always designed to satisfy man-s basic needs and provide him with the time he needed in order to pursue more worthy and meaningful pursuits. But when the acquisition of wealth becomes such an obsession that it imprisons the individual within an economic straightjacket, something is clearly very wrong indeed. Success, therefore, is not determined by the credit in one-s bank account or the growth of industry and technology, it relates to the way in which an individual is able to progress in a more spiritual sense. Living in accordance with one-s own intrinsic nature (dharma) is far preferable to pushing oneself beyond the boundaries of normal behaviour through greed and materialism. This trend is epitomised by the restless nature of the capitalistic economy and its exploitative pursuit of new global markets. In the knowledge, of course, that once it has run its inevitable course the lack of available resources will herald its total collapse.
The emergence of capitalism has often been equated with the Protestant work ethic, and is here dismissed by Evola for the simple reason that labour has been transformed from a means of subsistence to an end in itself. It is not only the Right who are obsessed with work, of course, it is the Left too. One thinks of endless marches organised by the likes of Militant Labour and the Socialist Workers Party, during which the only objective is to enslave the proletariat to the employment system: "The most peculiar thing is that this superstitious and insolent cult of work is proclaimed in an era in which the irreversible and relentless mechanisation eliminates from the main varieties of work whatever in them still had a character of quality, art, and the spontaneous unfoldment of a vocation, turning it into something inanimate and devoid of even an immanent meaning." Evola sees this process as the very proletarianisation of life itself. There are certain parallels here with Richard Hunt-s advocation of the "leisure society," in which man can rediscover the natural and qualitative values of his existence. But Evola warns his readers that we must not "shift to a renunciatory, utopian, and miserable civilisation," but rather "clear every domain of life of insane tensions and to restore a true hierarchy of values."
But whilst the individual is inadvertently eroding his own freedoms by viewing work as the ultimate goal in life, the State is also endangering its own existence through the encroaching scarcity of resources to which increasing productivity leads. Evola argues that the way forward lies in "autarchy," and that "it is better to renounce the allure of improving general social and economic conditions and to adopt a regime of austerity than to become enslaved to foreign interests or to become caught up in world processes of reckless economic hegemony and productivity that are destined to sweep away those who have set them in motion." On this point, however, Evola is perhaps forgetting that the decline of capitalistic economies is inevitable and therefore it is futile to postpone their collapse by implementing a policy of protectionism. This strategy may indeed enable a country to stave off the effects of an impending economic catastrophe, but given that all capitalist systems rely on the internationalist system, this simply would not work in the long term.
7. HISTORY - HISTORICISM
Evola now turns his attention to the way in which history is so often presented as a religious tenet of the modern age, representing the switch from a world of being towards that of a world of becoming. Indeed, whilst the former relates to an organic and stable form of civilisation, the latter denotes a chaotic and constantly evolving process in which "rationalist, scientific, and technological civilisation" acts as the pied piper of our rapid decline. Rationalism was perceived by Hegel as reality itself. Likewise, reality is also rational. But traditional values, says Evola, cannot be analysed or defined in this way because they are based on something far beyond the comprehension of mere philosophy. Historicism often regards those episodes which it cannot account for as "anti-historical." This has been said of historical phenomena which appear to obstruct the process of development in accordance with the rationalist worldview. This is why historicists and modernists are fond of portraying conservatives - in the true sense of the word - as "reactionaries" and enemies of progress. Furthermore, it is not men who make history at all. Traditionalists like Evola have learnt to recognise and accept the transcendental forces which are never taken into consideration by rationalist historians: "only an obsolete 'historicism' can be so presumptuous to reduce everything to a linear development." Indeed, both Marxism and Christianity adopt this method and the cyclical nature of the universe is therefore ignored.
8. CHOICE OF TRADITIONS
Whilst the word "tradition" is used to describe Evola-s cosmological stance against the modern world (and that of certain other Traditionalists like Guenon, Nasr and Schuon), he also accepts that during certain key periods of his existence man has often used a series of more commonly known traditions in order to act as a unifying force. These forms of tradition relate to specific "suggestions and catchphrases" which are used to revitalise or regenerate a civilisation, although they can often assume a very "non-traditional" form. Using the example of
By charting the progress of the Italian Renaissance through to its logical conclusion, the so-called Enlightenment, Evola demonstrates that "in the same sense in which Renaissance Italy becomes the mother of geniuses and artists, it also becomes the forerunner of subversion. And just as the communes represent the first rebellion against an alleged political despotism, the civilisation of the Renaissance likewise represents the 'discovery of man' and of freedom of the spirit in the creative individual, as well as the principle of the intellectual emancipation that constitutes the 'basis of human progress'." The Risorgimento is not dissimilar in that it represented a paradoxical alliance between Masonry and patriotism: "The representatives of what at the time was still traditional Europe regarded liberalism and Mazzinianism in the same way as today-s liberal and democratic parties regard communism; the truth is that the subversive intentions of the former were not much different from the latter-s, the main difference being that liberalism and Mazzinianism employed the national and patriotic myth at the early stages of the disintegrating action." The Risorgimento, therefore, was a pseudo-tradition and at the very root of its secret machinations lay the destruction of Tradition itself. The Carbonari was not fighting "
9. MILITARY STYLE - -MILITARISM- - WAR
Evola tells us that militarism is the enemy of democracy. This divergence of beliefs came about as soon as economics had replaced things like Prussianism and the Order of Teutonic Knights. Modern democracy, having originated in
The decline of the warrior ethos, according to Evola, is due to the fact that democracies have diminished the importance of the political in favour of the social. Previously, of course, Evola had referred to the Mannerbund or all-male fraternity. Without this vital heroic element, the modern State has inevitably become very inferior when compared to those of the past like
10. TRADITION - CATHOLICISM - GHIBELLINISM
Catholicism is perceived by many to be the pinnacle of Tradition. Evola accepts that it contains many Traditional aspects, but goes on to say that in order to be seen as a legitimate form of authority and sovereignty it must become fully integrated within the sphere of Tradition itself. Catholicism alone is inadequate and represents only a minimal current of a far wider Tradition. Here, Evola opts to discuss the implications of this fact in both a political and contemporary context, despite using examples from the past.
Religion falls into various categories and cannot match the supreme and unitary nature of Tradition. In fact religion is simply an exoteric version of a deeper, esoteric undercurrent. Christianity, for example, panders to the masses, whilst Tradition is reserved for the spiritual elite: "In effect, nobody with a higher education can really believe in the axiom 'There is no salvation outside the Church' (nulla salus extra ecclesiam), meaning the great civilisations that have preceded Christianity (the still-existing millennia-old non-European traditions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and even relatively recent ones such as Islam) have not known the supernatural or the sacred, but only distorted images and obscure 'prefigurations' and that they amount to mere 'paganism', polytheism, and 'natural mysticism'." This statement would undoubtedly arouse in the more "traditional" Catholic a feeling of revulsion and anger, perhaps even accusations of "ecumenicalism." However, Evola is not advocating the unification of all religions, but the acceptance that there is a common Tradition which lies in each. He goes on to say that for a Catholic "to persist in the sectarian and dogmatic exclusivism about this matter would amount to being in the same predicament of one who wished to defend the views of physics and astronomy found in the Old Testament, which have been made obsolete by the current state of knowledge on these matters." Catholicism, then, is only "traditional" in the sense that certain aspects tend to accord with Tradition itself. The same can be said of Islam or Judaism.
We now turn our attention to the centuries-old debate concerning Catholicism and Ghibellinism. The Ghibellines (like their
Evola-s whole point is that in ancient times the religious clergy were answerable to the Emperor himself; not simply from a political perspective, but also in a theological capacity: "It was only during the Middle Ages that the priest nourished the ambition, not of being king, but of being the one to whom kings are subject. At that time, Ghibellinism arose as a reaction, and the rivalry was rekindled, the new reference point now being the authority and the right reclaimed by the
Catholicism today is in great decline. Not least because it is always forced to compromise with the prevailing ideologies among which it finds itself. Liberalism is gradually eroding the last vestiges of Catholic tradition in the same way that it is eating away at the edifice of Tradition in general. The likes of the Protestant Reformation and Vatican II have taken their toll, and we now see modernist popes tolerating bastardised currents like Liberation Theology, supporting the burgeoning New World Order and kneeling before the might of International Zionism. Evola tells us that "the decline of the modern Church is undeniable because she gives to social and moral concerns a greater weight that what pertains to the supernatural life, to asceticism, and to contemplation, which are essential reference points of religiosity." It is certainly not fulfilling any kind of meaningful role, either: "For all practical purposes, the main concerns of Catholicism today seem to turn it into a petty bourgeois moralism that shuns sexuality and upholds virtue, or an inadequate paternalistic welfare system. In these times of crisis and emerging brutal forces, the Christian faith should devote itself to very different tasks." In the medieval period the Church possessed a more traditional character, but only due to the fact that it had appropriated so many Classical elements and, by way of Aristotle, lashed them firmly to the theological mast being constructed by Thomas Aquinas during the thirteenth century. Catholicism, however, will never reconcile itself with the problem of how to deal with politics and the State because it relies upon separation and dualism. Tradition, on the other hand, is integralist and unitary.
Evola notes that certain individuals and groups have sought to incorporate the more traditional aspects of Catholicism within the broader and far more encompassing sphere of Tradition itself. Evola-s French philosophical counterpart, Rene Guenon, for example. Catholics, however, are far too dogmatic and would merely seek to make Tradition "conform" to their own spiritual weltanschauung. This, says Evola, is "placing the universal at the service of the particular." Furthermore, of course, the anti-modernists who are organised in groups such as The Society of St. Pius X and the Sedavacantist fraternity do not speak with the full weight and authority of the Church. They are, therefore, powerless because "the direction of the Church is a descending and anti-traditional one, consisting of modernisation and coming to terms with the modern world, democracy, socialism, progressivism, and everything else. Therefore, these individuals are not authorised to speak in the name of Catholicism, which ignores them, and should not try to attribute to Catholicism a dignity the latter spurns." Evola suggests that because the Church is so inadequate, it should be abandoned and left to its ultimate doom. He concludes by reiterating the fact that a State which does not have a spiritual dimension is not a State at all. The only way forward, he argues, is to "begin from a pure idea, without the basis of a proximate historical reference" and await the actualisation of the Traditional current.
11. REALISM - COMMUNISM - ANTI-BOURGEOISIE
Intellectuals are often attracted to communism because it claims to be anti-bourgeois, despite communism itself claiming to despise the intellectual for his bourgeois origins. According to Evola, however, this is misleading and such people are deluding themselves. Evola also accepts that the word "bourgeois" relates to far more than economics; something representing a specific cultural niche in which everything is "empty, decadent, and corrupt." The role of the traditionalist must be to overcome these materialist concepts. Indeed, the perennial attraction of communism indicates that it would be a big mistake to combat Marxist values with a "bourgeois mentality and spirit, with its conformism, psychological and romantic appendices, moralism, and concerns for a petty, safe existence in which a fundamental materialism finds its compensation in sentimentality and the rhetoric of the great humanitarian and democratic worlds - all this has only an artificial, peripheral, and precarious life." This is why conservatism has always been so ineffective, and why the adoption of a true anti-bourgeois spirit is so essential in the ongoing replenishment of Tradition. For Evola, the solution lies in realism.
In its efforts to overcome the unreality of bourgeois society, Marxism simply relegates the individual to an even lower level. This results in the systematic spawning of homo economicus, a process in which "we go toward what is below rather than above the person." It represents a collective reduction of the human type, rather than a raising of the individual consciousness. So how does Evola-s realism differ from the kind of "neo-realism" advocated by left-wing philosophers such as Sartre? The latter, of course, brings human existence into line with transient concepts such as psychoanalysis. This is achieved by creating a kind of psycho-collectivisation, whereby man-s various personality traits are said to originate from below. Evola, on the other hand, accepts "that existence acquires a meaning only when it is inspired by something beyond itself." Therefore the political, economic and psychological aspects of Marxism are identical and adhere to a decidedly false sense of "realism."
Given the confusion which has been generated by the Marxists and their misleading interpretation of "realism," perhaps another solution is needed to counteract the unreality of the bourgeoisie; one which seeks to go higher, rather than lower? Evola explains: "It is possible to keep a distance from everything that has only a human and especially subjectivist character; to feel contempt for bourgeois conformism and its petty selfishness and moralism; to embody the style of an impersonal activity; to prefer what is essential and real in a higher sense, free from the trappings of sentimentalism and from pseudo-intellectual super-structures - and yet all this must be done by remaining upright, feeling the presence in life of that which leads beyond life, drawing from it precise norms of behaviour and action." This means that a new breed of individuals must bear the task of combining strong anti-Marxism with a committed opposition to bourgeois society: "Lenin himself said that a proletarian, left to himself, tends to become a bourgeois." It is therefore not necessary to become a communist in order to reject the trappings of conformity and sterility, although the shortcomings of Fascism and its well-documented reliance upon the bourgeoisie suggests that it, too, is incapable of providing real solutions to the problem. Evola also notes that "[e]ven those who call themselves monarchists can only conceive of a bourgeois king."
I have already discussed how communists harbour an ironic grudge towards the intellectual, but Evola demonstrates that the only answer to the intellectual/anti-intellectual debate is to put forward a third option: the Weltanschauung, or worldview. This is "based not on books, but on an inner form and a sensibility endowed with an innate, rather than acquired, character." In other words, a mentality which does not remain fixed in the mind or submerged in theories, but realised in a more practical sense through the deployment of the will. Thought alone is incapable of taking on a life of its own or significantly changing anything. Here we return to the traditional idea of an organic civilisation which is expressed not by culture, but through a deeper understanding of eternal values. Thus, intellectualism and culture are merely used to express the more fundamental worldview, not designed to evolve into determining characteristics of humanity in their own right: "this is sheer illusion: never before as in modern times was there such a number of men who are spiritually formless, and thus open to any suggestion and ideological intoxication, so as to become dominated by psychic currents (without being aware of it in the least) and of manipulations belonging to the intellectual, political, and social climate in which they live." The worldview of which Evola speaks, of course, is Tradition. This represents the basic impetus which must beat firmly within the heart of all those who wish to bring to an end the contaminating era of the bourgeoisie.