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The Approach to the East and the ‘Heathen’ Myth

It is not easy to place appropriately in the various periods of my activity the following books, because their date of publication does not coincide with the period to which they actually belong. As I said, I had finished writing ‘Teoria e fenomenologia dell’Individuale Assoluto’ (‘Theory and phenomenology of the Absolute Individual’) around 1924. But ‘Fenomenologia’ could only come out in 1930, when two other books of mine, ‘L’Uomo come potenza’ (‘Man as Power’) and ‘Imperialism[o] pagano’ (‘Heathen Imperialism’), had already been published.

Not chronologically, but in terms of content, L’Uomo come potenza served, in a certain way, as a connecting link between the systematic speculative period and the next. It contained residues of the former, but, in essence, this was the presentation of doctrines which are neither philosophical nor accidental, the Hindu doctrines of Tantrism.

The subtitle of the first edition was precisely: ‘I Tantra nella loro metafisica e nei loro metodi di autorealizzazione magica’ (‘The Tantras in their metaphysics and their magic self-realisatory methods’). To a certain extent, the writing of the book was agreed with the publishing house Atanor, that counted on good sales on account of the suggestive and novel nature of the argument, whereby they did not hesitate to publish it in 1927.

A second, completely revised, edition of this work was published by Bocca in 1949, under a different title: Lo Yoga della potenza (The Yoga of Power) and with a simplified subtitle: ‘Saggio sui Tantra’ (‘Essay on the Tantras’).

Only in this second edition did I indicate the proper place of the Tantras in the development of the Hindu tradition. Their basic themes refer back to the substrate of aboriginal traditions and cults predating the Aryan conquest, to a cycle of civilisation that was essentially ‘gynecocratic’, which means that it identified the essence and the sovereign power of the universe with a female principle, a goddess. On the cultural and mythological plane, the goddess had both terrifying and destructive, luminous, beneficent, and maternal characters. Correspondences with the great goddesses of similar cycles of the archaic Mediterranean world are evident. But, in the symbiosis that followed the Aryan conquest of India, these original themes underwent a metaphysical transposition. As the goddess possesses the essential character of Shakti, which also means ‘power’, there emerged the doctrine according to which power is the ultimate principle of the universe, and from there Tantrism. It is at that time that it caught my attention in some of its particular forms, that is, as Shakti-tantras.

The first edition of my book began with a section that was removed from the second edition, the latter having been developed in the period in which I had come to clarify conclusively all these problems. It was called ‘Lo spirito dei Tantra in relazione ad Orient e Occidente’ (‘The spirit of Tantras in relation to the East and the West’) and consisted in a study of the relationship between the Eastern spirit and Western spirit aimed at ‘defining clearly the point of view from which the doctrine of the Shakti-tantras is examined (in the book) and the order in which it may possibly be used for a development of the value inherent to the most recent European culture.’ To this end, as a method (fortunately only applied in part) I decided to translate in terms of speculative thought the foundations of the Eastern system that drew their evidence not from a speculation, but from spiritual experiences, and were expressed mostly in images and symbols; only in this way – I said – could the East act creatively on the West.

As can be seen, certain whims persisted that were due to a culture from which I had not yet fully freed myself. As for the problem of East and West, I examined the theories of Hegel, of Steiner, and of Keyserling on the relations between the Eastern and the Western worldviews and their related ideals. Although some of the points that I developed were intrinsically valid, it was clear that it was inappropriate to refer to writers, such as Steiner and Keyserling, not worthy of being taken seriously. However, the result of the discussion was the elimination of the banality that the whole East would have escapistically denied the world, whereas the West would have instead affirmed it and would have offered the ideal of self-conscious and domineering personality. No doubt, I later deemed completely absurd some of the concessions I had then made. For instance, I spoke of a ‘progress of Western spirit beyond Christian pessimism and dualism’, with the gradual emergence, first humanistic, and then immanentist and active, of man, which would only be awaiting an integration by means of an Eastern input. But, apart from these whims, the antithesis, which I established, between two fundamental ideals, that of ‘liberation’ and that of ‘freedom’, remained valid, with the reservation that, if India has especially cultivated the former, and the West the latter, the Tantric system, with its view of the world as power, is opposed to any abusive generalisation of this antithesis and that, as regards the path to a transcendent affirmation of the I, it has been known to a far greater extent by the East, so that, in comparison, one should speak of an ‘unrealism’ with regard to the contemporary Western man and his seemingly active and affirmative civilisation.

Besides, it could have been pointed out that the East also includes Iran, then China and Japan, civilisations that in many aspects do not show at all these ‘escapist’ characters which are related, at most, to certain aspects of India. However, I noted that the Tantras depart decisively from the Vedantic-type doctrines of the world as illusion. In Shakti these have seen a kind of ‘active Brahman’, instead of the pure infinity of consciousness. Maya gives way to Maya-Shakti, that is to say, the ‘power’ that manifests and affirms itself, like a magic cosmogony. There is also a kind of Tantric historiography, according to which this system has put forward the claim that it presented the truths and the ways appropriate to the end times, the last of the four ages of traditional teaching, the so-called Kali-yuga, or ‘dark age’. Because of a profound change, general existential conditions in this age are different from the original ones, in relation to which the wisdom of the Vedas had been expressed. Elemental forces now predominate, man is united to them and he can no longer retreat; he must confront them, dominate them, and transform them, if he wants liberation, and even freedom. The way to achieve this cannot be the purely intellectual, ascetic-contemplative, or ritual one. Pure knowledge must lead to action, whereby Tantrism has defined itself as a sādhana-Shastra, that is, as a system based on techniques and realisatory effort. According to its view, knowledge must serve as a means to the real realisation and the transformation of the being. A text says: ‘Every (doctrinal) system is a mere means: it is useless, if one does not yet know the Goddess (i.e.: if one is not yet united with Shakti, with power), and it is useless to the one who knows her.’ Another text  says : ‘It is in the nature of woman to strain to establish superiority through discursive arguments and it is in the nature of man to conquer the world with his own power.’ The analogy with medicines is recurrent: the truth of a doctrine must be proven by its fruits and not by concepts. As can be seen, the ‘East’ in question is absolutely different from the stereotypical one pictured by many Westerners. I was the first to make it known and promote it in Italy, developing a work parallel to that to which Sir John Woodroffe had devoted himself in the English language.

As a rule, the Tantras emphasise a fundamental orientation of Eastern metaphysics, namely an experimentalism that is not limited to sensory and empirical experience. Here I encountered precisely the widening of the ‘possible experience’ of Kant which I had sought to found speculatively in the books I have previously mentioned. In this respect, in L’Uomo come potenza I formulated the main themes of my critique of the knowledge of the modern scientific type and of power based on its technical applications, declaring both of them illusory and irrelevant: a knowledge and a power assorted to a utilitarian and democratic ideal, not based on any inner superiority of the individual, on any transformation of his existential state, of his actual, direct relations with the world and of the meaning of his life. ‘Rhetoric’, in the Michelstaedterian sense, of power in the modern civilisation: man remains the same, or rather he is ‘alienated’ more than ever, a mere shadow that has his principle outside himself, even if knowledge focused on the physical and phenomenal world were to allow him to destroy a planet at the mere pressing of a button. These were the issues which I was to resume and develop in the course my critique of civilisation, but which, in those formulations of 1927, anticipated in part what various thinkers acknowledged only later, even though they lacked the positive points of reference capable of giving a real bite and a solid basis to that critique. To have them, it would have been and still is necessary to refer to a world that goes completely beyond their horizons.

Tantric literature is extremely vast and multifaceted. As I said, my attention was brought essentially to the Shakti-tantras, to the Tantras of power. Here, in the so-called Left Hand Path, in the circles of Kaula, Siddha, and Vira, the aforementioned general worldview was combined with a supermanism that would have made Nietzsche turn pale. The East had generally ignored the fetishism of morality: on an higher plane, to the East, any morality is only a means to an end. Typical is the Buddhist image of law as a raft that is built to cross a stream, but is not carried further.

For the Vira, for the ‘heroic’ Tantric type, it was about breaking all ties, overcoming any opposition of good and evil, honor and shame, virtue and guilt. It was the path of absolute anomia, of the shvecchacarî, a term that means ‘the one whose law is his will’. Here, what was proposed was a special interpretation of the symbol of washing or undressing, as well as that of the ‘virgin’: the ‘virgin’, as pure will, detached, through special disciplines, from all that is not itself, inviolable and invulnerable. There were Tantric texts which indicated the main bonds to be broken: piety, the tendency to be disappointed (equanimity in the face of success and failure, of happiness and misfortune, etc.), shame, sense of sin, and disgust, all that is connected to family and to caste, every convention and ritualism, the domain of sex being no exception (a Kaula, it is said, must not shrink even before incest). This revealed how little the East – a certain East – had to learn from the Western ‘free spirits’ and ‘superatori’ [‘those who go beyond’]: with the difference that, here, none of this remained confined to a circle of anarchist individualism, of a Stirnerian ‘Unique’: it was instead directed at an actual self-transcendence, or presupposed it. Even liminal forms of ‘immanentism’ developed in the East, and specifically in the Tantras. While, in the West, given Christian-theistic and creationist premises, the theme of ‘self-deification’ appeared as blasphemous and luciferian, in the East the identity of the deep I, the Atma, with Brahman, with the absolute principle of the universe, and the related formula ‘I am Brahman’ or ‘I am him’ (so’ham, which, in Tantrism, became sa ham = ‘I am her’, i.e., Shakti, power) – as truths of the path of knowledge and of the destruction of that ‘ignorance’ (avidya) which alone leads man to believe that he is only human – were almost commonplace, in a context devoid of any tenebrous and titanistic colouring.

In both editions, my book was divided into two main parts. The first was entitled ‘La dottrina della potenza’ (‘The doctrine of power’). This was the metaphysical part: it described the process and the succession of stages, states, and modifications that, starting from the top, from the unconditioned, through the world of the elements and nature (considered not only in its physical aspects), has to limit the human condition. One of the terms for this process is pravrtiti-marga, the path of attachment, of identification with forms and determinations. It is followed by nivritti-marga, the path of detachment, of revulsion, of transcendence, with man as a starting point. With which we moved from metaphysics to practice and yoga.

In essence, the general pattern of my phenomenology of the absolute individual had not been different. As to the first part of my book, I believe that the attempt to consider the whole complex Hindu and tantric theories of elements – tattva – led to an intelligibility of the subject rarely found in Orientalist presentations. In the correspondence I had with him, Woodroffe, who had spent thirty years in India in direct contact with several tantric pandits, even happened to acknowledge the validity of some interpretations that I proposed.

As to the second part, in the first edition it was entitled ‘La tecnica della potenza’ (‘The technique of power’), in the second, ‘Lo Yoga della potenza’ (‘The Yoga of Power’). Perhaps the former title was more appropriate, since actual yoga was only part of the matter, a set of preparatory disciplines, as well as the so-called ‘secret ritual’, with particular forms of sacralisation and of transformation of naturalistic and constrained existence, were also considered. In the field of yoga, I expounded essentially that particular form, regarded as closely related with Tantra, which is called Hathayoga (or violent Yoga) and Kundalini Yoga. Unlike dhyana-yoga, or jnana-yoga, this yoga does not have a purely contemplative and intellectual character. Although it presupposes an adequate psychological and mental training, it takes the body as the basis and instrument: not the body as known by Western anatomy and physiology, but the body in relation to its deepest, transbiological, energies, which are usually not apprehended by ordinary consciousness, especially by that of the man of today, and which correspond to the elements and the powers of the universe, studied by that thousand year-old hyperphysical physiology whose development was no less systematic in the East than the study of human organism in the West. As to the designation ‘kundalini-yoga’, it is indicative of a method that uses kundalini, i.e. ‘power’, Shakti, present, albeit in latent form, at the root of the psycho-physical organism, for deconditioning and liberation.

About the spirit of Tantrism, one of its significant formulas is that of the unity of bhoga and yoga, explained as that of enjoyment (enjoyment of experiences and possibilities offered to man by the world) and of liberation, or asceticism. Tantric texts state that in the other schools the two things are mutually exclusive, that he who enjoys is not a liberated one, or an ascetic, and he who is a liberated one, or an ascetic, does not enjoy. This is not the case in Tantrism. ‘In the path of the Kaula enjoyment becomes perfect yoga and the world itself becomes the place for liberation.’ The texts add: ‘Without power liberation is a mere joke.’ It is about a paradoxical opening to the world and the experience of life, including in all its most intense and dangerous aspects, while remaining detached. Finally, the texts speak of the ‘transformation of poison into medicine’, that is, of the use, for the purpose of liberation and enlightenment, of all the forces and experiences which in any other case would lead to greater attachment, ruin and perdition. So it is in this complex that the ideal, not of ‘liberation as escapism’, but of real and immanent freedom, which, in the West, was cultivated and proclaimed in every way, but, basically (in comparison) either only in abstract, intellectualised, or degraded, materialised and trivial forms.

In the second edition of the book I added much more material: for example, with respect to the so-called Vajrayana, Tantric Buddhism, which I overlooked in the first edition, because, when I wrote it, I knew little about it. Several points were corrected or clarified, various ‘critical’ appendages removed, certain parts greatly developed. This applies, for example, to the long chapter of the second edition dealing with Tantric sexual practices, which had been a cause of scandal to many Western ‘spiritualists’, including Blavatsky, who, because of this, was to define Tantrism as ‘the worst kind of black magic’ (this is one of the examples of what the Theosophists, and Anthroposophists, know of the Eastern doctrines). This chapter already contains some basic ideas that I was to resume and develop in one of my latest works, The Metaphysics of Sex.

Finally, it is worth mentioning one aspect of the overview peculiar to the second edition, which involved a certain shift of the center of gravity away from ‘power’. Actually, referred to the supreme principle, the use of the term Shakti could give rise to a misunderstanding. It is true that the texts often speak of Maha-Shakti, the Great or Supreme Power, as the ultimate basis of everything, but, in reality, this principle rather represents something like the Plotinian One, embracing all possibilities. In general, in keeping with any sapiental and esoteric teaching, Shakti, or power, in Hindu metaphysics and mythology, is taken as the eternal feminine principle, whose counterpart is the eternal masculine principle, in Tantrism is symbolised mainly by the figure of Shiva: a still, bright, detached, principle, just as Shakti is instead dynamic, productive, changing. Just as, in the cosmogonic myth, the universe is born out of a symbolic union of the two principles, of Shiva and Shakti, so the mystery of the transformation of the human being and the principle of greater freedom are referred to the union, in man, of the two principles, and not to his self-abandonment to Shakti as pure unrestrained power.

The practical significance of this relativisation of Tantric perspectives was evident: it involved an ‘olympianisation’ exorcising any ‘titanic’, pandemic, and vaguely ecstatic deviation. It prevented guidelines likely to lead to a catastrophe. Only for those who had the nature of Shiva, the Path of the Left-Hand and of Kaula was not that of destruction and regression. For my part, in this way, a continuity was then established with values already forefelt when I first presented Lao-tzu, and even Dadaism, as I had interpreted it.

Misunderstandings and dangers that have just been mentioned, on the natural non-Western ground of the disciplines which I considered, were quite reduced by means of particular existential premises and a system of checks and positive traditions. In general, the guidance of a spiritual teacher, of a guru, was presupposed, although it was also stated that, at the end of his path, the Tantric disciple ‘must have the master under his feet’, i.e. make himself free. The dangers concerned rather those Westerners who were introduced to this wisdom, which, oddly enough, apparently met their demand. I must admit that, in this respect, I had not taken the necessary precautions in writing the conclusion to L’Uomo come potenza, in the original edition of the work. Indeed, I praised therein almost in Nietzschean terms the vision of life of the Tantric adept, opposing it especially to Christianity. I wrote: ‘In contrast to the conception of countless beings that, out of an unconscious despair, seek each other, love each other, huddle together like children in the storm, seeking in the common bond and in the forgiveness of the Lord Almighty the semblance of that value and that life they lack, there is the conception of free beings, of the Saved from the Waters, of the Race without King, of Those-Who-Breathe, solar and self-sufficent beings who trample on the Law and “exist by themselves”, who do not ask but give abundantly power and light, who do not stoop to equal and to love, but, autonomous, in a resolute life, head for an increasingly dizzying existence along a hierarchical order that does not come from above but from the dynamic relationship of their intensity. This race with a fearsome gaze, this race of Lords does not need consolations, needs no gods, does not need a Providence . . . It moves freely in his world “no longer stained by spirit” – that is, free from the crust of feelings, hopes, doctrines, beliefs and values, sensations, words and passions of men, and led back to its nude nature made of pure power. And, in front of it, who does not see how weak and cadaverous is the wisdom and the « virtues » of the « servants of God », of these creatures that get depressed by « sin » and a « guilty conscience » and have only one aim: to level everything, to pool and to tie everything together?’ And so on.

All this was quite ‘Western’ and reflected some very problematic aspects of the ideal of the Absolute Individual. In the second edition of the book I recognised the opportunity to make, in this regard, ‘specific reservations’, recalling that an anagogic (= upward) and ‘transfiguring element’ and a metanoia, a change of polarity, were the essential premise all this system.

It is in these terms that the limit, albeit  extrinsic and contingent, of this group of my writings, remains given. If Western man, who, if not intellectually, at least existentially, is less qualified for this adopted directly, other than as mere theories, doctrines like that, the almost inevitable effect would be a destructive short circuit, madness and self-destruction. With adequate reservations, it is in the same way that I was inclined to explain the fate of Nietzsche, Michelstaedter, Weininger and others, although they had not even assumed these truths in their extreme content. More generally, my three philosophical books could give rise to the erroneous idea of a possible continuous development almost in time (the ‘progressivity’, to which, for systematic reasons, I had attached much value) even with eschatological traits: while the main thing was basically an existential break in level; it was the return to a doctrine of the multiple states of being, a change of polarity. Even in the following period, in my works on traditional sciences, it is only little by little that I indicated these basic points with all the required clarity.

The limit of this problematic radicalist, almost Nietzschean, development can be indicated by one of my writings which first came out in French under the title ‘Par delà Nietzsche’ in the second volume (1926-1927) of 900, published by La Voce and edited by C. Malaparte and M. Bontempelli (who, at that time, flirted with ‘magical realism’), and which then formed the second part of the book L’Individuo e il divenire del mondo (The Individual and the Becoming of the World), excerpts of which were included in the anthology of contemporary Italian philosophers by A. Tilgher.

The essay had been written in a kind of intellectual lucid vertigo; so that, despite a strained style, questionable from a literary standpoint because of the abuse of terms and excessive images, it contained ‘charges’, for I read it as a conference – gradually evoking in me the state I was in when it was written – and someone happened to have visions or hallucinations. This writing developed first the Nietzschean ideas about the positive solution, under the sign of ‘Dionysus’, of absolute nihilism. I accepted to a large extent the Nietzschean interpretation of Apollo and Dionysus that I was to reject later wherever it did not have a simple agreed value, but wanted to be based on the actual and deeper meaning that those two gods had in the ancient world. What followed, as a ‘myth’, was a special interpretation of the fall: the individual who is born in the act of breaking away from being, from immortality, from life (from ‘God’), and of asserting himself as the highest value, as the ‘Lord of yes and no’, or of the ‘Two Natures’, of he who ‘is superior to the gods because, with the immortal nature, to which these are bound, he combines the mortal one, and with the infinite the finite.’

But of this act, which ‘represents the collapse of a whole world’, the individual was incapable. He was gripped by a fright that overwhelmed and broke him: only then his act became a ‘fall’. From this terror and fall, I figured out the main forms in which the world was to present itself to him: it is these that create space, visual exteriority, the objective limit of things, of ‘reality’ in space (‘an incorporation, almost a syncope of fear that stops and blocks the incapable being on the edge of the abyss of Dionysian power’), then the dependance on this reality, which creates time and becoming, the system of ‘causality’ and of ‘finalities’, and so on – all are creations of the original fear, of the horror for the void, and of the lenitive Apollonian illusion.

In contrast to this, what was however proposed was the path of the one who destroys that fear, regains his original will, eliminates all creations and symbols of his incapacity. In that direction, everything which is sin and infringement may even acquire for him a positive value, that of a test; in my writing, I also alluded to ancient sacrificial killings, then to the transposition on an inner plane of the tragic act of the sacrificer, in terms of progressive action on oneself, on the root of one’s own life; I also referred to the techniques employed to eliminate, in the perception, the ‘Apollonian’ guise of things, and, once broken, the limit set by the original terror, to make contact ‘dionisycally’ with elementary forces, in accordance with the absolute freedom that caused the whole thing.

A characteristic feature of this writing was the referring to mysteric wisdom the truth of those who have not been broken by the fall, and who intend to stand up, as well as the violent antagonism, Nietzschean in an increased sense, between this wisdom and Christianity; not without a historical reference (the alternative that would have arisen in Antiquity between Christianity and the mysteries of Mithra). Everything was pretty one-sided and not without distortions. Most useful footholds were provided to those who would have wished to stigmatise as Luciferianism, or worse, the mysteric tradition (although the aforementioned theory of the power on the two natures is actually evidenced in some of its branches). Then, from an inner individual standpoint, to assume, in the spirit that pervaded this writing of mine, initiatory teachings, in most cases, could in fact have had the catastrophic effects I mentioned before. Nevertheless, leaving aside what was accessory, rhetorical and excessive, some basic meanings retained their validity; these were those that characterised the aforementioned ‘Left Hand Path’, which I later discussed adequately. As for the rest, it was a strong dramatisation of the fundamental ideas whch had already appeared in my speculative books.

Completing the retrospective examination of what in my writings felt the effect of similar limitations, I should speak here also of ‘Imperialismo pagano’. But this book already leads to another domain, that of experiences on the margin of political ideologies and requires some preliminary clarifications. Besides, as I mentioned, the books of those years cannot be put in their proper place from an outer standpoint. Indeed ‘Imperialismo’ came out when the ‘Ur Group’ was alredy organised, while I still had not been able to have Fenomenologia published.

At that time I came to be acquainted with some other personalities, among whom was Arturo Reghini, a curious and interesting figure. Older than me, a pure blood Florentine, he had also been close to the Lacerba group, and it seems that contacts with him resulted in the frivolous attempt which Papini mentions in his autobiography Un Uomo finito (A Finished Man), when he told he had retired to a lonely place ‘to become God’ – by means of a two-week crash course. When I met him, Reghini was a 33rd degree Freemason of the Scottish Rite, had written a remarkable book on the sacred words and passwords of the first degree of this sect, in which he demonstrated an uncommon qualification. A mathematician, a philologist and a critical mind, he applied to the study of the initiatic heritage a seriousness and objectivity absolutely nonexistent in the ramblings of ‘occultists’ and Theosophists, at whom he never get tired of lashing out with the most biting sarcasm. It is to my contacts with Reghini (and soon after with Guénon, to whom he called my attention) that I owe firstly the final liberation from some slag derived precisely from those milieux, and secondly the final recognition of the absolute heterogeneity and transcendence of initiatic knowledge with respect to all secular, especially modern, culture, including philosophy.

Reghini had cherished the idea of a Western (and even ‘Italic’, due to certain problematic references to Pythagoreanism) esoteric tradition, and, on that basis, he had also strove to revive Masonic symbols and rituals. In addition, he was an exalter of ‘pagan’ Rome, in which he refused to see a merely political and legal reality in the framework of superstitious cults and practices, as in most current opinion; instead he had set himself to highlight the sacred, if not outright initiatic, background of various aspects of it; in this way he defended a Roman wisdom and vision of life and of the sacred, and contrasted it in the most drastic way to Christianity. Given that context, such contrast had obviously a very different character than that peculiar to an anti-Christianity of the Nietzschean kind. To Reghini, Christianity was an exotic belief, founded on an ambiguous spirituality, appealing to the irrational, sub-intellectual and emotional layers of the human being; it was the religion of a ‘spiritual proletariat’, inseparable from Judaism, entirely foreign to the style, ideals, ethics, severe sacredness of the best Romanity.

As is known, a similar synthesis had been highlighted by other authors, for example, and in a masterly way, by L. Rougier in the broad introduction to his edition of the preserved fragments of Celsus’ work Against the Christians. In Reghini there was, in addition, the reference to the sapiental and mysteric dimension discoverable in classical antiquity, should it be studied in its inner aspects. But what was also clear, even though I did not quite realise it when I followed Reghini on that line, was a certain ‘idealisation’ of Romanity itself: which would not have succumbed to Christianity, had it not been, at the rise of the latter, already undermined, had cults, conceptions and orientations also of non-Roman, Asian origin not already increasingly taken hold in its area.
The ideas of Reghini, in part I already shared, in part found a suitable ground in me. It is in this context that the first descent of the Absolute Individual occurred from the rarefied stratosphere of pure ‘value’ in the domain of history, traditions, and philosophy of civilisation. In ‘heathenity’ as interpreted in this way an ideal congenial to it was embodied. Finally, with the attempt of Imperialismo Pagano, there was a quite chimerical effort to act on the political and cultural currents of the time.

Until then I had kept myself completely out of the political world. With all the existing political parties in a country like Italy, I could not have anything in common (up to the time of writing these notes, I have never joined a political party, nor have I ever voted in any election). My first political writing resulted from an invitation of Duke Giovanni Colonna di Cesaro, with whom I was in friendly relations, to put down something in writing for his magazine, that, if my memory serves me right, was called L’Idea democratica. I replied that I could only write a demolition of democracy – and he accepted, saying that the privilege of ‘democratic freedom’ consisted precisely in this.

Among the troubles of the First World War Fascism had taken shape. The March on Rome occurred and Mussolini came to power. Of course, I could not but sympathise with anyone who fought against the forces of the Left and against the democratic regime. It was, however, about seeing in the name of what exactly such a fight was undertaken. When talking about the period of my early youth I mentioned how I abhorred nationalistic infatuation. Then there were certain prejudices not unrelated to those that the so-called ‘noble corps’ – artillery and cavalry – in which I had served, had harboured during the war for those assault troops, often made up of very suspicious elements, that resurfaced in the ‘black shirts’. The real revolution to make would have been to me the ‘revolution from above’, led by the sovereign, who should not have allowed Mussolini to present himself as the exponent of ‘the Italy of Vittorio Veneto’, but should have claimed that dignity and acted decisively in consequence to restore the state and curb rampant subversion.

Apart from the socialist and proletarian origins of Mussolini, the republican and secular tendencialities of pre-march Fascism are known. The fusion with nationalism on one side corrected these tendentialities, on the other curtailed the revolutionary vis of Fascism, gentrifying it greatly, because Italian nationalism was only an expression of the middle class and of a sluggish Catholic-oriented and conformist traditionalism. A strong Right with an aristocratic, monarchical and military basis, such as that which, for example, had estabished itself in Central Europe, was absolutely nonexistent in Italy. However Mussolini had avoided the worst, and, when he subsequently sought to espouse the ideal of the Roman state and imperium, when he thought of opposing those forces that had come to predominate in Europe as a result of the upheaval of the war and of shaping a new kind of Italian, disciplined, manly, and combative, the critical point seemed to have passed.

Imperialismo Pagano arose from my relationship with Giuseppe Bottai. He was my age, and had served as an artillery officer in my own regiment and had also participated in the Futurist movement (which, as is known, adhered to Fascism immediately after the war). He cared about being one of the ‘intellectuals’ of the movement and led the magazine Critica fascista, which allowed itself a fairly wide freedom of speech. It is in some of my conversations with Bottai that the idea was born of ‘getting things moving’ by launching a revolutionary program that would invest the plane of the Fascist vision of life and would lead to tackle the problem of compatibility between Fascism and Christianity. Bottai found the idea exciting. So I wrote for his magazine articles to that effect. But as soon as the ultimate goal of the move became visible and the idea of a ‘heathen imperialism’ was formulated as the only conceivable approach to a consistent and courageous Fascism, a true ruckus arose. Given the unofficial character of Bottai’s magazine, the organ of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, asked categorically explanations about the extent to which such ideas were tolerated in Fascism. What immediately followed was a veritable avalanche of attacks from a chain printing [a number of newspapers that receive news from the same agency and publish simultaneously or in rapid succession the same items], while the scandal was echoed abroad. For similar disproportionate reactions there was a reason: the Concordat had not been signed yet and it was feared that someone, behind the scenes, wanted to spoil the game.

Given that the going got tough, Bottai even then showed me the same loyalty he was to show Mussolini later, during the crisis of fascism: he left me in the lurch, did not even give me any chance to respond to the most absurd accusations from the Guelph press, and washed his hands of the whole matter, saying that those articles, ‘while reflecting the Fascist travail’ (?), engaged the sole responsibility of their author.

So I faced things alone. In a book – precisely in Imperialismo Pagano, published in 1928 – I reaffirmed and developed the thesis of those articles, responding also to all my opponents. The book, now unobtainable, was subtitled ‘Il fascismo dinanzi al pericolo euro-cristiano – con una appendice polemica sulle reazioni di parte guelfa’ (‘Fascism before the Euro-Christian Peril – with a polemical appendix about the reactions of the Guelph party’). Its prologue was in the sign of ‘Antieuropa’, an approximate anticipation of what I was later to call properly the ‘revolt against the modern world’. Here are some of the sentences of the first pages:

Current Western civilisation awaits a substantial upheaval, without which it is bound, sooner or later, to collapse. It has realised the most complete perversion of every rational order of things. Reign of matter, of gold, of machine, of number, there is neither breath, nor freedom and light in it. The West has lost the sense of command and obedience. It has lost its sense of Contemplation and Action. It has lost its sense of values, of spiritual power, of men-gods. It no longer knows nature . . . nature has lapsed into an opaque and fatal exteriority whose mystery profane sciences seek to ignore with petty laws and petty hypotheses. It no longer knows Wisdom . . . the superb reality of those in whom the idea has become blood, life, power . . . it no longer knows the state: the state-value, the Imperium as a synthesis of spirituality and royalty . . . What war – war desired in itself as a superior value and a path to spiritual realisation – is . . . these formidable ‘activists’ in Europe no longer know . . . who do not know warriors but only soldiers . . . Europe has lost its simplicity, has lost its centrality, has lost its life. Democratic evil corrodes it in all its roots – whteher in law, in sciences, or in speculation. Leaders – beings that do not stand out through violence, through gold, through skills of exploiters of slaves, but instead through irreducible qualities of life – there are none. It is a big anodyne body, which throws itself here and there driven by dark and unpredictable forces which inexorably crush anyone who wants to oppose it or only to escape the gear. All this Western ‘civilisation’ has been able to do. This is the vaunted result of the superstition of ‘Progress’, beyond Roman imperiality, beyond bright Hellas, beyond the ancient East – the great Ocean. And the circle tightens ever more around the few who are still capable of disgust and the great revolt.

After other considerations, I asked myself this question : ‘Can fascism be the beginning of an anti-European restoration? Has Fascism enough strength to be able, today, to assume the awareness of this responsibility?’ I recognised that ‘Fascism arose from below, from confused needs and brutal forces unleashed by the war in Europe’, that it ‘has fed on compromises, fed on petty ambitions of petty people. The state organism that it has built is often uncertain, clumsy, violent, unfree, not without ambiguity.’ (it should be noted that, in the deprecated atmosphere of dictatorial Fascist ‘oppression’, similar things could be said and printed). But I observed that, if we turned our gaze around, we could not find anything that could be ‘a basis and a hope’. So: would Fascism assume a similar task?

In the book, in what followed – I must acknowledge – the impetus of a radicalist thought making use of a violent style combined with a youthful lack of measurement and political sense and with an utopian unawareness of the state of affairs. In the various chapters, I thus pointed out the conditions whereby Fascism could be a true and necessary revolution, not simply in the political-social field, but above all in the field of the general view of life, of the world, as well as of the divine. So not only was an attack launched against any democracy and any egalitarianism, while the negative tendencies (such as the merely nationalistic one, the Mazzinian one, the neo-Hegelian one) that Fascism had for me were not spared, but the values to be opposed to the type of modern economy, science, and technology, and of ‘Faustian’ activism, were also indicated: castes were tackled, there was even a reference – a quite inappropriate and counterproductive reference, given the cultural horizons of the milieux which I intended to approach – to spaiental or Oriental ideas.

But the bite of the book consisted mainly in the religious problem, and the clear consistency of my thesis was what aroused many alarmed reactions. I asked to what extent the essential values of ‘Fascist’ ethics were compatible with Christian ethics: whether it was not an obsolete rhetoric to recall Rome and its symbols without reviving also their inseparable counterpart, the spirituality of ‘paganism’, irreducible to Christianity. I rejected in the clearest manner the identification, dear to Guelphism, of Roman tradition with Catholic tradition, denouncing instead, in this respect, an usurpation (‘Catholic Romanity’). And I reiterated the thesis of my scandalous articles in Critica Fascista: ‘The assumption is that, in its purest strength, Fascism identifies with a will to empire; that its recalling of the Eagle and the Fasces cannot be merely rhetoric, that, in any case, this is the condition for it to represent something new, not a laughable (sic) revolution, but an heroic resurrection.’ Once these premises were given, I stated: ‘If Fascism is a will to empire, by reverting to the heathen tradition, it will truly be itself, it will ardere di quell’anima [untranslatable poetic expression, literally: ‘burn of a soul’] which it still lacks and which no Christian belief can give it.’

With a final dilemma, I already became a champion of ‘Ghibellinism’: ‘Fascism is confronted with this dilemma: either to stop at the empire as a raw material organisation – and then there is room for the Church in it, it can tolerate it, thus confirming the prerogative of those things of the spirit that are alien to the empire, which therefore, in this respect, will be subordinate to it. Or to reach the true idea of empire, which, in primis et ante omnia, is an immanent spiritual reality – and then the Church is deprived of authority, subject to the state within the limits of the generic tolerance that such state may grant temporally international associations of that kind.’ This was the political aspect. The other aspect was the inherent and unavoidable antithesis in terms of values and worldview. Evidently, the center, passing through Ghibellinism and Romanity, was already shifting toward what I was to call later, in general, the ‘traditional’ state, bringing together at its summit both political power (imperium) and an actual spiritual authority.

The lack of these broader points of reference and the accentuation of the anti-Christian polemic constituted one of the essential limits of that combat booklet of mine, limits which were already visible in its title, because, in reality, it was not appropriate to speak of ‘imperialism’, since this modern term designates a negative trend almost always associated with an exasperated nationalism, and because ‘heathen’; a derogatory term used by Christians, is to be dismissed. Rather, I should have spoken, in terms of historical reference, of a ‘Roman traditionalism’. No less ambiguous was the reference to a poorly defined ‘Mediterranean tradition’: an idea which, however, I soon abandoned or rectified.

The appeal constituted by Imperialismo Pagano was, practically and politically, as if it had not been launched. Of course, Mussolini did not read the book: someone must have provided him a fleeting and tendentious overview of it. One preferred to silence it, so, in a regime-controlled press, the few reviews or repercussions appeared only in second-rate newspapers and periodicals. Since the book was more or less sold, the direct adhesion of some independent Fascist circles could have been expeected: but that was the case only to a very small extent. Reghini himself was very reserved, and disapproved of my having taken up and developed, also, some of his ideas, although, in this respect, there had been a tacit agreement between us.

Nevertheless, the repercussions were different abroad, especially in Germany. It was assumed that the book was the product, not of a kind of captain without troops, but of an important current of Fascism, whose leader I was, a current akin to some of those which, in Germany, increasingly tended to set the ‘struggle for the worldview’; at the center of the political battle, finding there a far more suited soil than the Italian soil. I then gained the reputation of being the leader of ‘Ghibelline Fascism’. This fame was consolidated in 1933 when Imperialismo Pagano was published in German translation (by Armanen-Verlag in Leipzig), but in a greatly expanded, revised and even modified text, many basic ideas being formulated so as to apply also to Germany (the translator warned that ‘theses with a general value and which therefore can act as creative forces even within German culture, were highighted’): Ghibellinism, too, was highlighted with a more concrete reference to Swabian tradition, and the problem of the relationship between the two civilisations, between Roman civilisation and Germanic civilisation (Ghibellinism, the real Nietzsche, and the hierarchical idea were the three main points mentioned by the publisher of the book as a suitable ground for a constructive discussion) was tackled. The symbol of the ‘anti-European’ revolt was broadened: as a basic myth for the restoration I pointed to the ‘Two Eagles’, the Northern Eagle and the Roman one and, more specifically, a return to what had already appeared with the Triple Alliance. This could seem like an anticipation of the idea of the Axis. But also, irrespective of the fact that the German translation of my book came out before National Socialism and Hitler came to power, to think so would be simplistic and inaccurate, given the great diversity of the planes. At this point in these notes, there is no need to discuss the parts of Imperialismo Pagano added and changed in German, because in many respects these are an anticipation and adaptation of ideas from one of my main works, which I started to write only after 1930 and that was published only in 1934, Revolt against the Modern World. Of these ideas, as well as of the true meaning of the Roman-Germanic myth for me, and, finally, of the corresponding activities that I was to play, I will therefore speak later.

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Youth, Beats and Right-Wing Anarchists

In an interview conducted and published by the Italian paper Ordine Nuovo in 1964 (found in English translation on our website), Evola mentioned that some people have more or less rightly spoken of ‘Ride the Tiger’ as ‘a manual for the right-wing anarchist’. This label, used by Evola for the first time in that interview, seemed to have appeared to him even more relevant in 1968, when he used it himself positively as the title and focus of the present article.

The type of man Evola has in mind in this text is one who is able to give himself a precise, yet free discipline and form at the very heart of a society that is ever-increasingly formless. Diametrically opposed to this type is the figure of the beat, who indulges in a promiscuous and degenerate lifestyle, thus reflecting desperation to find a meaning and form to his life. The value of the right-wing anarchist becomes all the more clear when we put it in contrast with the romantic and escapist attitudes of so-called traditionalists. The naive make-believe of traditionalism is shattered and replaced by a world of actual and concrete realities. Right-wing as a sentimental affinity for obsolete historical forms becomes an immediate and immanent disposition of character and temperament. The social counterpart to this temperament is an attitude of revolt against injustice and compromise—an attitude characteristic of chivalric orders down to the Freikorps in the last century. Thus sport and physical activity are fostered in view of developing a natural attraction to exact forms and objectives, but also because they develop an efficient intelligence and character through discipline and self-control—intrinsically solar attributes. In Evola’s words: ‘I want only realism, lucidity’.

Finally, we can add that although this article is mainly addressed to youth, its premises and directions are perfectly applicable for older generations as well. This is all the more true as youth as understood by Evola is first and foremost a spiritual quality, not defined by age, but by a disposition of the soul.

H.

 

Much, all too much, has been written on the issue of the new generation, and ‘youth’. In most respects, the question does not merit the interest it has received, and the importance sometimes granted today to youth in general, associated with a sort of devaluation of all who are not ‘young’, is absurd. There can be no doubt that we are living in an age of dissolution : so much so that people approximate to the condition of the « rootless », for whom ‘society’ no longer makes any sense, and nor do the norms that used to regulate life – laws of the age immediately receding our own, that still persists in various places, and which represent merely the morals of the bourgeoisie. Naturally, this situation has been felt especially strongly by the young, and raising certain issues in this regard can be legitimate. However, the type of response that is limited to simply suffering from all of this, unable to free oneself by virtue of any active initiative of one’s own, as might have been possible for the few intellectual individualist rebels of the previous century, has to be isolated and considered first and primarily.

If this is all, then the new generation is merely subjected to the state of things ; it raises no real issue, and makes a thoroughly stupid use of the ‘liberty’ at its disposal. When this type of youth pretends that it is misunderstood, the only answer one can give it is that there is simply nothing to understand about it, and that, under a normal order, it would only be a matter of putting such youth back where it belongs without delay, as is done with children when their stupidity becomes tiresome, invasive and impertinent. The so-called anti-conformism of some of their attitudes, which in other respects are quite banal, follows in addition a sort of trend, a new convention, such that the result is exactly the opposite of a manifestation of liberty. Other phenomena that we have considered in the preceding pages, such as the taste for vulgarity and some novel forms of manners, one may, on the whole, regard as characteristic of this type of youth ; some provide the fans of both sexes for prize-fighters, or for the epileptic ‘singers’ of the moment, or for the collective sessions of puppets represented by the ‘yeah-yeah’ sessions, or for such-and-such a ‘hit record’, and so on, with the corresponding behaviour. The absence among them of any sense of the ridiculous makes it impossible to exert any influence upon them, so really one should leave them to themselves, and to their own stupidity, and consider that, if by some chance, some polemics regarding, for example, the sexual emancipation of minors, or the sense of family, appear among this type of youth, these polemics will necessarily possess no substance. As the years pass, the necessity, for the majority among them, of facing the material and economic problems of life, will no doubt ensure that such youths, having become adult, will adapt to the professional, productive and social routines of a world such as the actual one ; in fact, this type of youth thereby passes from one form of nothingness to another form of nothingness. No problem worthy the name is raised by any of this.

This type of « youth », defined by age alone (for, in this context, it would be out of the question to speak of certain possibilities characteristic of youth in the inner, spiritual sense) is heavily established in Italy. Federal Germany presents a very different case : the stupid and decomposed forms of which we have already spoken are much less prevalent there ; the new generation seems to have calmly accepted the fact of an existence in which no problems should be raised, of a life in which neither purpose nor good should be sought ; they think only of using the resources and facilities that the recent development of Germany has acquired. We may refer to this type of youth as being ‘without concerns’, and it has gradually left many conventions behind, and acquired new liberties, without strife, but all within a two-dimensional realm of ‘factuality’, for which any higher interest, in myths, in a discipline, in an idée-force, is unknown.

For Germany, this is most likely a transitional phase, because we turn our attention to nations that have gone further in that same direction, where the ideal of the « welfare state » is nearly achieved, where existence is taken for granted, where all is rationally regimented – we may in particular refer to Denmark, to Sweden, and, in part, to Norway – eventually, intermittently, reactions in the form of violent and unexpected eruptions take place. These are stirred up mainly by youth. This phenomenon is already interesting, and it might be worth examining (1).

But in order to study its most typical forms one should concentrate on America, and, to some extent, England. In America, phenomena of spiritual trauma and revolt by the new generation have already emerged very clearly, on a large scale. We refer to the generation that acquired the name ‘beat generation’, and about which we have already spoken in the preceding pages : ‘beats’, or ‘beatniks’, or even ‘hipsters’, to quote another variation. They have been the representatives of a sort of anarchistic and anti-social existentialism, of a more practical than intellectual character (leaving aside certain literary manifestations, of the lowest order). At the moment we write these lines, the movement’s golden, thriving period has already passed ; it has practically disappeared from the scene, or has dissolved. Nonetheless, it retains a unique significance, because this phenomenon is intrinsically linked to the very nature of the present civilisation ; so long as this civilisation persists, it is to be expected that similar manifestations will appear, albeit under varying forms and denominations. More particularly, American society, representing, more than any other society, the limit and the reductio ad absurdum of the entire contemporary system, the ‘beat’ forms of the phenomenon of revolt have gained a special, paradigmatic character, and, therefore, should not be considered as belonging to the same level as that stupid youth, of which we have already spoken when considering the case of Italy, in particular (2).

From our point of view, a brief study of these phenomena is justified, because we share the opinion, expressed by a number of ‘beats’ : namely – and in opposition to what psychiatrists, psycho-analysts and ‘social workers’ think – in a society, a civilisation, like ours, and, especially, like that of the USA – one must in general admit that the rebel, the being who does not adapt, the a-social being, is in fact the sanest man. In an abnormal world, values are inverted : whosoever appears abnormal, in relation to the existing milieu, is most probably precisely the ‘normal’ person, in the sense that in him there still subsist traces of integral vital energy ; and we do not follow those who want to ‘rehabilitate’ such individuals, whom they consider to be sick, and ‘save’ them for ‘society’. One psychoanalyst, Robert Linder, had the courage to admit that. From our point of view, the only problem concerns the definition of what we might call the ‘right-wing anarchist’. We will examine the distance that separates this type from the problematic orientation that nearly always characterises the ‘non-conformism’ of ‘beats’ and ‘hipsters’ (3).

The starting point, that is to say, the condition that determines the revolt of the ‘beat’, is evident. A system is accused, despite the fact that it does not employ ‘totalitarian’ political forms, of strangling life, attacking personality. Sometimes the issue of physical insecurity in the future is brought up, in the form of the view that the very existence of human kind is put in question by the probability of an eventual nuclear war (blown up to apocalyptic proportions) ; but what is chiefly felt is the danger of spiritual death, inherent in the adaptation to the current system and to its externally imposed conditioning forces ( its ‘heteroconditioning’). America is described as « a country rotten with a cancer that proliferates in every one of its cells » and it is claimed that « passivity (conformity), anxiety, and boredom are its three characteristics. » In such a climate, the condition of the rootless being, the unit lost in the « lonely crowd, » is very vividly experienced ; « society, empty voices, meaninglessness. » The traditional values have been lost, the new myths are debunked, and this « demythologisation » undermines all new hope : « liberty, social revolution, peace – nothing but hypocritical lies. » « The alienation of the Self as ordinary condition » – such is the menace.

However, one can already note here the most important difference from the ‘right-wing anarchist’ type : the ‘beat’ does not react or rebel by starting from the positive – that is to say, by having a precise idea of what a normal and sane order would be, and firmly basing himself in certain fundamental values. He reacts instinctively, in a confused, existential way, against the prevailing situation, in a manner similar to what occurs in certain forms of biological reaction. On the other hand, the ‘right-wing anarchist’ knows what he wants, he has a basis for saying ‘no’. The ‘beat’, in his chaotic revolt, not only lacks such a basis, but would probably reject it, too, were it to be indicated. That is why the phrases, ‘rebel without a flag’, or ‘rebel without a cause’, could actually appeal to him. This implies a fundamental weakness, in that the ‘beat’ and the ‘hipster’, despite their fear of being ‘heteroconditioned’, that is to say, subjected to externally imposed conditioning forces, actually run precisely that danger, because their attitudes are motivated by, in the sense of being mere reactions to, the existing situation. Accepting everything, impassability, cold detachment, would be a more consistent attitude.

Therefore, when the ‘beat’, beyond his outwardly directed protest and revolt, considers the actual problem of his inner personal life, and seeks to resolve it, he inevitably finds himself on slippery ground. Lacking a concrete inner centre, he throws himself into the pursuit of thrills, obeying impulses that make him regress rather than develop, as he seeks all possible ways to fill the vacuum and obscure the nonsensicality of life. One precursor of the ‘beats’, Henry Thoreau, took up Rousseau’s myth of the natural man, of flight into nature, to propound a solution that is illusory ; a formula that is all too simple, and essentially insipid. Yet there are those who followed this path, towards a neo-primitive, bohemian lifestyle, nomadism, and vagabondism (such as Kerouac’s characters) ; who sought disorder, and the unforeseeable character of an existence that abhors every pre-ordained line of action, and all discipline, in favour of an attempt to seize at every moment the fullness of life and existence (one could refer to Henry Miller’s more or less autobiographical early novels : « ‘burning consciousness of the present, with neither a ‘good’ nor an ‘evil’ »).

The situation is further aggravated by resort to extreme solutions : that is to say, one seeks to fill the inner vacuum and to feel ‘real’, one seeks to prove oneself worthy of a superior liberty (« the I, without law and without obligation »), by means of violent and criminal actions, which are then given the sense of an affirmation of oneself, as opposed to merely the sense of acts of extreme resistance and protest against the established order, against what is normal and rational. Thus one generates a ‘moral’ basis for unrestrained criminality, without material or passionate motives, driven solely by a « desperate need for value », because one has « to prove to oneself that one is a man », that « one is not afraid of oneself », by « dicing with death and the beyond. » The use of everything frenetic, irrational and violent – the « frenetic violence to create or destroy » – can come into play.

Here, the illusory and equivocal character of solutions of this kind emerges quite clearly. It is obvious, in essence, that in such cases the search for intensified vital sensation serves nearly always as an illusory substitute for a real sense of Self. In discussing extreme and irrational acts, we will, in addition, show that this is not only, for instance, a matter of going out into the street and shooting passers-by at random (as André Breton proposed once to the ‘surrealists’), or of raping one’s young sister, but also, perhaps, giving away, or destroying, everything one owns, or risking one’s life to save a stupid stranger. One must therefore be able to discern whether what one sees as a ‘gratuitous’ extreme act is not perhaps directed by hidden impulses, whose slave one is, rather than by something attesting to, and realising, a superior liberty. In general, there is considerable ambivalence within the anarchist individualist : « to be oneself, free from bonds » even while remaining slave to oneself. Herbert Gold’s observation of such cases, lacking in self-examination, is doubtless right : « The hipster is a victim of the worst form of slavery, the slave who, unconscious and proud of his condition of servitude, calls it freedom. »

There is more to this. Many intense experiences that could give the ‘beat’ a fleeting sensation of ‘reality’ make him in essence even less ‘real’, because they condition him. Wilson brings this situation very clearly into light, by means of a character in his previously mentioned book. This character executes, in a rather ‘beat’ setting, a series of sadistic assassinations of women, in order to feel himself ‘reintegrated’, to escape frustration, « because he has been frustrated in his pursuit of his right to be a god », and ends up revealing oneself as a broken and unreal being. « Like a paralytic who always needs stronger stimulants and for whom nothing matters … I thought murder was but an expression of revolt against the modern world and its ambushes, because the more one speaks of order and society, the higher the crime rate rises. I thought his crimes were but an act of defiance …that was far from being the case – he kills for the same reason that drives an alcohol to drink : because he cannot do without it. » The same applies, naturally, to other extreme experiences.

We may, in passing, recall, so as to again establish precise distinctions, that the world of Tradition was also familiar with the ‘Left-Hand Path’ – a path of which we have spoken elsewhere (4), that includes breaking the law, destruction, and orgiastic experience of various forms, but starting from a positive, sacred and ‘sacrificial’ orientation, « towards what is above », towards transcendence of all limitation. This is the opposite of searching for violent sensations merely because one is internally beaten and inconsistent, merely in order to prolong the sense of existence in one way or another. This is why the title of Wilson’s book, ‘Ritual in the Dark’, is very appropriate : it describes a mode of celebration, within a realm of shadow, without light, what could have had the sense, in a different context, of a rite of transfiguration.

In the same way, the ‘beats’ have often made use of certain drugs, seeking thereby to induce a rupture, an opening, beyond ordinary consciousness. And that, with the best intentions. However, one of the movement’s main representatives, Norman Mailer, has come to recognise the ‘dice game’ implied in the use of drugs. Aside from the ‘superior lucidity’, from the ‘new, fresh and original perception of reality, now unknown to common man’, to which some aspire by the use of drugs, there is the danger of ‘artificial paradises’, of surrendering to forms of ecstatic voluptuousness, intense sensation, and even visions, devoid of any spiritual or revealing content, and followed by depression once one returns to normality, which only aggravates the existential crisis. The determining factor here is the underlying attitude assumed by one’s being itself : this nearly always decides the effect of such drugs, in one sense or another. In attestation of that, one might refer, for instance, to the effects of mescaline, as described by Aldous Huxley (an author already acquainted with traditional metaphysics), who felt able to draw an analogy with certain experiences of high mysticism, as opposed to the totally banal effects described by Zaehner (the author whom we have already cited in our criticism of Cuttat), who wanted to repeat Huxley’s experiences, with the aim of « controlling » them, but starting from a completely different personal equation and attitude. However, given that the ‘beat’ is a profoundly traumatised being, who has thrown himself into a confused search for ‘kicks’, one must not expect anything much positive from the use of drugs. The other alternative will almost certainly prevail, thus reversing the initial apparent gains (5). Moreover, the problem is not resolved by sporadic escapist openings into ‘Reality’, following which one finds oneself plunged back into a life deprived of meaning. That the essential premises for venturing on this ground are inexistent is obvious from the fact that ‘beats’ and ‘hipsters’ were for the largest part youngsters, lacking the necessary maturity and avoiding all self-discipline on principle.

Some people have claimed that what the ‘beats’, or at least some of them, have obscurely sought, is in essence a new religion. Mailer, who said : « I want God to reveal me his face, » radically affirmed that they are the harbingers of a new religion, that their excesses and revolts are transitional forms, that « could give birth tomorrow to a new religion, like Christianity. » All this sounds like empty talk and, today, now that an assessment can be made, there are no such results to be seen. It is quite clear that what these forces lack are precisely superior and transcendent points of reference, similar to those of religions, able to provide a support and a right orientation. « They quest for a creed that saves them », as someone said, but « God is under threat of death » (Mailer, referring to the God of Western theistic religion). This is why the one who was called the ‘mystic beat’ looked elsewhere, became attracted to oriental metaphysics, and especially in Zen, as we have already mentioned in another chapter. However, regarding this last point, there are grounds to question the motivations involved. Zen exerted an influence on the individuals in question, especially, because of the illuminatory, sudden, free openings into Reality (through satori), which the explosion and rejection of all rational superstructures, pure irrationality, the ruthless demolition of every idol, and the eventual use of violent means, could produce. One can understand that all this would greatly attract the young, rootless Westerner, who cannot tolerate any discipline, who lives adventurously, and who is in a state of rebellion. But the reality is that Zen tacitly presupposes a previous orientation, linked to a secular tradition, and very difficult trials are not excluded. It may suffice to read the biography of certain Zen masters : Suzuki, who was the first to introduce these doctrines in the West, has literally spoken of a « baptism of fire » as preparation to satori. Arthur Rimbaud expounded a method of becoming a seer, through « the systematic derangement of the senses », and we do not rule out the possibility that, in an absolutely, mortally, adventurous life, even without a guide, proceeding alone, ‘openings’ of the sort alluded to by Zen could happen. But these would always be exceptions, that, in fact, embody a certain miraculous character, as if one were predestined, or under the protection of a good daemon. One may suspect that the reason behind the attraction that Zen and similar doctrines are able to exert on ‘beats’ is this : the ‘beats’ suppose that these doctrines give a sort of spiritual justification to their disposition towards a purely negative anarchy, towards pure disorder, allowing them to elude the initial task, which, in their case, comes down to giving oneself an internal form. That confused need for a higher, supra-rational point of reference, and, as someone already said, a means of seizing « the secret call of being », is also completely deviant, when that ‘being’ is confused with ‘Life’, following theories such as those of Jung and Reich, and when one sees in the sexual orgasm, and in the surrender to the sort of degenerate and paroxystic Dionysianism sometimes offered by Negro jazz, other suitable paths for ‘feeling real’, for coming in contact with Reality (6).

With regard to sex, we repeat what we have already said above, in chapter XII, when examining the perspectives of the harbingers of the ‘sexual revolution’. One of the characters in Wilson’s already cited novel wonders whether « the felt need for a woman is not merely the need in us for that intensity », whether a higher impulse, towards a supreme liberty, is not obscurely manifested in the sexual impulse. This question could be legitimate. We have already recalled that the non-biological and non-sensational, but, in a sense, transcendent conception of sexuality, has, in fact, precise and non-extravagant antecedents in traditional teachings. However, we need to refer to the discussion we have already presented on this subject in ‘The Metaphysics of Sex’, where we highlighted the ambivalence of the sexual experience, that is to say, the either positive or negative ‘derealising’ and de-conditioning possibilities that it contains. Nonetheless, when the starting point is a sort of existential anguish, to the point where the ‘beat’ appears obsessed with his incapacity to attain ‘the perfect orgasm’ (as described in the aforementioned views by Wilhelm Reich, and, partly, by D.H. Lawrence, who claimed to see in sex a means to integrate oneself in the primordial energy of life, taken for Being or the spirit) – in such cases, there are grounds for thinking that the negative and dissolutionary contents of the sexual experience will predominate, also because the preliminary existential conditions required for the opposite to be true are inexistent : sex and the over-flowing force of the orgasm will possess the I, and not vice versa, as should be the case if all this was to serve as a path. Likewise for drugs : a wasted young generation cannot deal with experiences of this kind (which are also considered, incidentally, by the Left-Hand Path). As for full sexual liberty, as simple revolt and non-conformity, it is dull, and has nothing to do with the spiritual problem.

The negativity becomes more pronounced when ‘beats’ make of jazz a sort of religion, and see in it positive means to surmount their ‘alienation’, to seize moments of liberating intensity. The Negro origins of jazz (which do not cease to provide the basis for even the most elaborate forms of these rhythms, in the framework of ‘swing’ and ‘be-bop’ sessions), instead of serving as grounds for caution, are valorised. In an earlier chapter, we have already discussed, as an aspect of the spiritual ‘negrification’ of America, the fact that Mailer, in a famous essay, was able to assimilate the position of the ‘beat’ to that of the Negro, and to speak of the former as a ‘white negro’, and thus to admire certain aspects of the irrational, instinctive and violent Negro nature. Moreover, there has been among ‘beats’ an open tendency to promiscuity, including, on the sexual level, young white girls who have challenged ‘prejudices’ and conventions by giving themselves to Negroes. As for Jazz, one can identify in these circles a more serious appreciation than the mania of that stupid non-American youth mentioned at the beginning of this chapter ; but it is precisely for this reason that the matter is so much more dangerous : there are grounds for thinking that, by means of identification with frenetic and elemental rhythms, forms of ‘downward auto-transcendence’ (to use this previously explained expression) are induced, forms of sub-personal regression, into what is purely vital and primitive, partial possessions, that, following moments of paroxystic intensity and outbursts of semi-ecstatic openness, leave one even more empty and unreal. If we consider the atmosphere of Negro rites, and of the collective ceremonies that jazz in its origins and earliest forms represents, that direction seems quite evident, because it is obvious that we are dealing, just as in the macumba and in the candomble practised by Black Americans, with forms of demonism and trance, with obscure possession, far removed from any openness to a superior world.

Unfortunately, there is little more to extract from an analysis of what the ‘beats’ and ‘hipsters ‘have sought, on an individual and existential plane, as a counterpart to a legitimate revolt against the present system, to fill the vacuum, and resolve the spiritual problem. The situation of crisis continues. In exceptional cases only, one may find something of positive value in the case of a ‘right- wing anarchist’. To be sure, the problem is a problem of human material. As regards practical non-conformism, demythologisation, cold dissociation vis-à-vis all bourgeois institutions : there can be no objection, if such a course is seriously followed by the new generation. Following the wish of some representatives of the ‘beat’ generation, we have not dismissed their movement as a passing trend. We have only considered it in its typical aspects ; its characteristic problem is a natural expression of the current epoch. Its significance remains, even though its forms have actually ceased to exist in America, or to exhibit any particular allure to the youth.

We would now like to consider the concerns of young generation a little more specifically. There are youths who revolt against the socio-political situation in Italy, and who are at the same time interested in what we call, in general, the world of Tradition. While, on the one hand, they oppose the leftist forces and ideologies that dangerously encroach on the practical plane, on the other hand, they look towards spiritual horizons, and take some interest in the teachings and disciplines of ancient wisdom, if so far only theoretically, then still in more practical terms than the confused approaches of the ‘mystic beat’. We thus have forces that are potentially ‘on guard’. The problem is to come up with directions that are able to give a positive orientation to their activity.

Our book ‘Ride the Tiger’, considered by some as a ‘manual for the right-wing anarchist’, resolves the problem up to a certain point, insofar as it deals essentially – a thing that has not been stressed enough – only with a quite specific differentiated type of man, with a high level of maturity. Consequently, the orientations that are offered in that book are not always adapted, or, generally speaking, realisable, for the category of youth to which we have just alluded.

The first thing to recommend to those youths is prudence regarding all forms of interest or enthusiasm that might be of merely biological origin, that is to say, due to their age. It remains to be seen whether their attitude will remain unchanged with the coming of adulthood, when they will have to solve the concrete problems of existence. Unfortunately, our personal experience has shown us that this is rarely the case. By the turn of, let us say, their thirties, only a few maintain the same positions.

We have already spoken of a youth that is not only biological, but that also has an internal, spiritual aspect, necessarily not conditioned by age. That superior youth can however manifest itself in the other youth. We will not say that it is characterised by ‘idealism’, because the term is worn-out and ambiguous, and because the capacity to ‘demythologise’ ideals. by nearing the ground level of conventional values, is a quality that these youths share with other currents of an ultimately quite different orientation. We would rather speak of a certain capacity for enthusiasm and élan, unconditional devotion, and detachment from bourgeois existence and from purely material and selfish interests. However, the first task is to assimilate those dispositions that, among the best, thrive in parallel to physical youth, to make of them permanent qualities, resisting all the opposing influences to which one is fatally exposed with age (7). As regards non-conformism, the first thing required is a lifestyle that is strictly anti-bourgeois. In his first period, Ernst Jünger was not afraid to write : « Better be a delinquent than a bourgeois » ; we are not saying that this formula should be taken to the letter, but it indicates a general orientation. In daily life one must also be careful of traps presented by sentimental affairs such as marriage, family, and everything belonging to the residual structures of a visibly absurd society. That is a fundamental point. On the other hand, for the type in question, certain experiences, the whole problematic character of which we have seen in the case of ‘beats’ and ‘hipsters’, might not offer the same dangers.

To counterpose to the weight of self-discipline as such, such a youth has to develop a taste for self-discipline which is free-form, detached from every social or ‘pedagogic’ need. This is the problem of youth’s formation, in the most objective sense of the word. The difficulty is caused by the fact that all such formation presupposes, as a point of reference, certain values, while the rebellious youth rejects all the values, all the ‘morals’, of current society, and of bourgeois society in particular.

However, here, a distinction has to be made. There are values that have a conformist character, and an entirely external, social justification – apart from certain ‘values’ that remain such because their original foundations are irrevocably lost. On the other hand, certain other values are offered merely as supports, to guarantee a being a true form and firmness. Courage, loyalty, straightforwardness, the disgust for lying, the inability to betray, the superiority to all petty egotism and to every inferior interest, can be counted among values that, in a sense, rise above ‘good’ as much as ‘evil’, and that stand on a non-‘moral’, ontological, plane : precisely because they provide the basis for a ‘self’, or reinforce it, against the condition presented by unstable, fugitive, amorphous nature. Here there is no imperative. The natural disposition of the individual alone must decide. To use an image, nature presents us with as many substances that have attained a complete crystallisation, as it does ones that are imperfect and incomplete crystals, mixed with flimsy gangue (the mineral or earthy substance associated with metallic ore – ed.). Of course, we will not call the former ‘good’ and the latter ‘bad’, in a moral sense. They are rather different degrees of ‘reality’. The same holds true for the human being. The problem of the formation of the youth, and his love for self-discipline, should be measured on that plane, beyond all the criteria and values of social morality. F. Thiess has justly written : « There is vulgarity, meanness, baseness, animality, perfidy, just as there is the stupid practice of virtue, bigotry, the conformist respect for the law. The former is worth as little as the latter. »

In general, every youth is characterised by a surplus of energies. The question of their use arises in a world like ours. In this respect, one could first consider the external, physical development aspect of the ‘formation’ process. We would do well not to recommend the practice of modern sports in their quasi-totality. Sport is in fact one of the typical factors of the brutalisation of the modern masses, and a vulgar character is nearly always associated with it. But certain particular physical activities could be admitted. One example is offered by high-altitude mountaineering, providing it can be restored to its original form, without the

technical aids and the tendency towards sheer acrobatism that have deformed it and rendered it somewhat materialistic in recent times. Parachuting can also offer positive possibilities – in these two cases, the presence of the risk factor is a useful support for inner strengthening. As another example, one could mention Japanese martial arts, provided that there is the opportunity to learn them according to their original tradition, and not under the forms nowadays so widespread in the West – forms deprived of that spiritual counterpart, thanks to which the mastering of these activities could be tightly linked to subtle forms of internal and spiritual discipline. In recent times, certain student corporations of central Europe, the Korpsstudenten that practised Mensur – that is to say, cruel but non-fatal duels, following precise norms (with facial scarring for marks) – with the goal of developing courage, firmness, intrepidity, resistance to physical pain. While certain values of a superior ethics, of honour and of camaraderie were privileged, without avoiding certain eventual excesses, those corporations offered various possibilities. But the corresponding socio-cultural contexts having disappeared, anything of this sort today in Italy is unthinkable.

The overabundance of energies can also lead to various forms of ‘activism’ in the socio-political domain. In these cases, a serious examination is essential, in the first place to ensure that the eventual engagement with ideas opposed to the general climate is not just a way of wasting energy (all the more as, in different circumstances, even very different ideas could likewise serve the same goal) : that the starting point and the motor force are a true identification with these ideas, arrived at on the basis of thoughful acknowledgement of their intrinsic value. That being said, in relation to any sort of activism, the difficulty is that, although the type of youth to which we refer may already have understood what ideas are worth fighting for, he could hardly find, in the current climate, any fronts, parties, or political groups truly and uncompromisingly defending ideas of that type. Another circumstance – namely, that, given the stage at which we currently are, the fight against the political and social movements that nowadays dominate has little chances of achieving appreciable global results – has little weight in the final analysis, because here the norm should be to do what must be done, while being ready to fight, eventually, even on lost positions. At any rate, to affirm today a ‘presence’ by action will always be useful.

As for anarchist activism of mere protest, this could range from certain violent manifestations labelled as ‘pertaining to the underground’, such as those of the youth of certain nations (we have already discussed the case of Northern European countries, where reigns the ‘welfare state’), to terrorist acts, such as those used by old-school, nihilistic, political anarchists. We must exclude the motives of certain ‘beats’, that is to say, the desire for some violent action just because one needs the sensation it brings – even in the context of a mere outlet of energies, such an activism seems unfounded. Surely, if there could be organised today a sort of active ‘Holy Vehm’, able to keep those mainly responsible for contemporary subversion in a status of continuous physical insecurity, that would be an excellent thing. But that is not something that the youth can organise, and, moreover, the defence system of the current society is too well-built for such initiatives not to be intercepted from the start, and paid for at a too-high price.

One final point has to be considered. In the category of the youths that we are presently discussing, who, in the context of the current world, can be defined as ‘right-wing anarchists’, we find some individuals on whom, simultaneously, the perspectives of spiritual realisation that have been presented by serious proponents of the traditionalist movement, with references to ancient sapiential and initiatic doctrines, exert an attraction. This is something more serious than the ambiguous interest exerted by the irrationalism of a misunderstood Zen among some American ‘beats’, if only because of the different quality of the sources of information. Such an attraction is understandable, if we consider the spiritual vacuum that has been created, following the decadence of the religious forms that have dominated in the West, and the questioning of their value. Distinct from these, it can be observed that there is an aspiration towards something really superior, and not to worthless substitutes. Nonetheless, when speaking of youth, we must not nourish aspirations too ambitious and removed from reality. It is not only necessary to have the required maturity ; what must also be taken into account is the fact that the path which we have indicated in the previous chapters (XI and XV) requires, and has always required, a particular precondition, something similar to what is known as a ‘vocation’, in a specific sense, in religious orders. It is known that in these orders a certain amount of time is left to the novice so that he may verify the authenticity of his vocation. Here, we must repeat what we have said before about the more general vocation that one can sense as a youth : one has to see whether it strengthens rather than weakens with age.

The doctrines to which we refer must not be allowed to give birth to the illusions sponsored by the many impure forms of contemporary neo-spiritualism – theosophy, anthroposophy, etc. – that is to say, to the idea that the highest goal is within the reach of all, and realisable by this or that expedient ; it should rather appear like a distant watershed, to be reached only by a long, difficult and dangerous path. In spite of that, we could always indicate, to those who nurture a serious interest, certain preliminary and momentous tasks. In the first place, they could devote themselves to a series of studies regarding their general view of life and of the world, which is the natural counterpart of these doctrines, so as to acquire a new mental formation, that corroborates on a positive basis the ‘no’ they must pronounce to all that exists today, and to eliminate the various severe intoxications caused by modern culture. The second phase, the second task, would be to surpass the purely intellectual phase, by making ‘organic’ a certain set of ideas, that determine a fundamental existential orientation, and give thereby the sentiment of an unalterable, indestructible security. A youth that would gradually arrive at that level would have already gone a very long way. One could leave undetermined the ‘yes’ and the ‘when’ of the third phase, in which, while maintaining the original tension, certain ‘deconditioning’ acts could be assayed in respect of the human limit. In that connection, imponderable factors come into play, and the only reasonable thing to achieve is an adequate preparation. To expect any immediate results in a youth is absurd.

Various experiences have convinced us that these final brief considerations and clarifications are not unnecessary, even though they obviously concern a highly differentiated group within non-conformist youth : the group of those who have accurately perceived the specifically spiritual problem. We have thus gone well beyond what is commonly called ‘the problem of youth’. The ‘right-wing anarchist’ can be conceived as a sufficiently distinct and comprehensible type, as opposed to the stupid youth, the ‘rebels without a flag’, and those who offer themselves to adventure, and undertake experiences that provide no real solution, no positive contribution, since they do not already have an internal form. In all rigour, one could object that this form is a limitation, a form of bondage, and that it contradicts the initial claim, the absolute liberty of anarchism. But since it is quite unlikely that anyone who makes such an objection has in mind transcendence in the real and full sense of the word – the sense this term has, for example, in high ascesis – one need only answer that the other alternative concerns a ‘burned-out’ youth, so much so that, no solid centre having resisted the trial represented by the general dissolution, it may well be considered as a pure existential product of that same dissolution, such that this youth greatly deludes itself in thinking that it really is free. Such a youth, whether rebellious or not, draws little interest from us, and there is nothing to be done with it. It can only serve as a case study within the general framework of an epoch’s pathology.

Julius EVOLA

(*) This text figures as chapter XVI of L’Arco e la Clava, published in 1968 by Vanni Schweiwiller.

(1) Most prophetic words considering that « reactions of violent and unexpected eruptions » in Scandinavian countries would manifest, over two decades after the publication of this article, in perhaps their most extreme form, in the underground musical movement known as Black Metal, which took a radical stand against Judeo-Christianity, most often in confused and instinctive forms, going as far as committing a series of crimes, starting with the arson of the Fantoft stave church on June 6, 1992, soon followed by attacks on several other Norwegian churches, and including several murders, often associated with a spurious Satanic ideology. It is also interesting to observe the prominence of (extreme) right-wing ideology in the Black Metal underground in recent years, a tendency which was initiated by the Norwegian one-man-band Burzum (alias for Varg Vikernes, who has been sentenced to a maximum prison sentence for murder and church arson) and which has grown into an entire sub-genre commonly called NSBM (National-Socialist Black Metal). Interestingly enough, in a recent interview, Vikernes, who in recent years has authored many books on Norse paganism, said that he « thinks highly of authors such as Julius Evola, F.W. Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler » – the strong influence of whom one can easily recognise in his other answers in that interview.

(2) At the time of this writing, a certain foolish and carnivalesque section of Italian youth has taken to describing itself as ‘beat’, and applies this term to everything. On the level of engagement, there can be no comparison between the American ‘beat’ movement, problematic as it might have been, and the preposterous attempts at ‘protest’ by those epigone Italian ‘beats’.

(3) In what follows we will make some use of the testimonies and essays collected in the anthology by S. Krim, ‘The Beats’. The most important essays are those by H. Gold, Marc Reynold and N. Podhoretz ; we may also mention the book by Norman Mailer, ‘Advertisements for Myself’. Mailer has also been a spokesman of the ‘beats’ and ‘hipsters’, and it seems that he did not stop at mere

theory, going so far as to stab his wife, as an ‘acte gratuit’. As for the general climate, we may refer to the novels of Jack Kerouac, ‘On the Road’ and ‘The Dharma Bums’, to which we may also add the novel by the Englishman Colin Wilson, ‘Ritual in the Dark’, which tackles the same issue to some extent ; in a book that provoked a lot of interest, ‘The Outsider’, Wilson had studiedgenerally the figure of ‘the outsider’ to society and to ‘normal’ people.

(4) Eros and the Mysteries of Love, Inner Traditions, 1991, § 28.

(5) One beat, Jack Green, has provided some interesting descriptions of his experiences with a particular drug, peyotl, in the above-mentioned anthology. He concludes by recognising that this substance can give « euphoria, but not the great liberation », and that, had his « eye been trained, he wouldn’t have needed peyotl. » Moreover, he has gathered a few positive elements in his quest, which show that he is aware of the satori doctrine of Zen. Finally, he accounts that for a long period he « has not lived authentic experiences » and that « he rarely seeks them. » He recognises, in addition, the diversity of possible effects. He writes, among other things : « It is possible that intense preparation and, in part also, the unconscious preparation that comes from contemplative life, provoke a sudden fracture that is felt as an unexpected unity. » Despite the decline of the ‘beat’ movement, American youth, university youth in particular, is far from abandoning the path of drugs. At the moment we write these lines, worry caused by the constantly increasing diffusion among the youth of LSD 25 (Lysergic acid diethylamide), confirms their continuing interest.

(6) Such facile claims as this by Mailer are typical : « The hipster has an incidental respect (!) for Zen, he does not discard the mystic’s experience because he has known it himself (?), but prefers to draw the experience from a woman’s body. »

(7) In this connection, a reference to ancient Arabo-Persian civilisation might be of some interest. That civilisation possessed the word ‘futâwa’, derived from ‘fatà’, meaning youngster, which indicated the quality of ‘being youthful’ precisely in the indicated spiritual sense, not defined by age, but by a particular disposition of the soul. Thus the ‘fityân’ or ‘fityûh’ (the youth) were conceived of as an Order, and a particular rite (with a ritual libation) consecrated this quality of ‘being youthful’, and provided at the same time a sort of solemn rite to maintain it. A similar terminology has been used among the followers of Ali, and in Sufi circles.

Varieties of Ascesis

In ‘The Doctrine of Awakening’, « Julius Evola sets himself the task of bringing to light the true nature of Buddhism in its original form, from which it was to undergo incredible alterations subsequently, when, owing to its dissemination and diffusion, it became more or less a religion. In reality, the essential core of the teaching had a metaphysical and initiatory character. The interpretation of Buddhism as simply a moral system, based on compassion, humanitarianism, and the craving to flee from life because « life is pain », is highly external, secular and superficial. Buddhism actually derived, on the contrary, from a will to the unconditioned, which asserted itself most radically in the search for what is beyond death, as well as beyond life. What has to be overcome is not so much « pain » as the agitation and contingency of all conditioned existence, whose origin, base, and substratum is desire – a thirst which, by its very nature, will never be able to satisfied by ordinary life ; an intoxication or ‘mania’ ; an ‘ignorance’ ; the confusion which drives one to a hopeless, crazed and insatiable identification of the ‘I’ with one form or another of the ephemeral world, in the eternal current of becoming, the ‘samsâra’. » (Jean Varenne)

Completed at the end of 1942, ‘La dottrina del risveglio’ was printed by Laterza, after long procrastinations, in September 1943, in the darkest and most democratic hours of European history. Julius Evola received a copy of the book only after the war. Since then, ‘La dottrina del risveglio’ has gone through three more editions : the second edition, revised, was published in 1965 by Scheiwiller – All’insegna del Pesce d’Oro ; the third, unchanged from the second, was issued by the same publisher in 1973 ; the fourth, a corrected edition, was brought out in 1995 by Edizioni Mediterranee.

In 1951, an English translation of ‘La dottrina del risveglio – saggio sull’ascesi buddhista’ was published in London by Luzac, under the title ‘The Doctrine of Awakening – A Study on the Buddhist Ascesis’. It was translated by H. E. Musson (1920-1965), from the first edition of ‘La dottrina del risveglio’. Here, we offer a translation of the first chapter of the fourth edition.

 

The word ‘ascesi’ – from ‘askésis’, ‘to train’ – originally meant only ‘training’ and, in the Roman sense, ‘discipline’. The corresponding Indo-Aryan is ‘tapas’ (‘tapa’ or ‘tapo’ in Pâli) and means the same except that, because of the root, ‘tap’, which means ‘to be hot’ or ‘to glow’, it also contains the idea of an intensive concentration, of glowing, almost of fire.

With the development of Western civilisation, however, the word ‘ascesis’ has, as is well known, taken on a particular meaning which differs from the original. Not only it has assumed an exclusively religious sense, but, because of the general tone of the faith which has come to predominate among Western peoples, asceticism has become connected to ideas of mortification of the flesh and of painful renunciation of the world : thus, it has come to indicate the path that this faith thinks the most suitable for ‘salvation’, and the reconciliation of the creature, corrupted by original sin, with his Creator. As early as the beginnings of Christianity the word ‘ascesis’ was applied to those who practised exercises of mortification such as auto-flagellation.

Asceticism in this sense became the object of clear aversion with the growth of specifically modern civilisation. If even Luther, with the resentment of one who was unable to understand or to tolerate monastic discipline, disowned the necessity, the value, and the usefulness of any ascesis, to oppose to it an exaltation of pure faith, then humanism, immanentism, and the new cult of life were brought from their standpoint to bring discredit and scorn upon asceticism, which those tendencies associated more or less with ‘medieval obscurantism’ and with the aberrations of ‘historically outdated ages’. And when asceticism was not explained away purely and simply as a pathological manifestation, a transposed form of auto-sadism, all sorts of incompatibilities and oppositions to ‘our way of life’ were claimed for it. The best known and the oldest of these is the antithesis supposed to exist between the ascetic, renouncing, static East, hostile to the world, and the active, assertive, heroic and creative Western civilisation.

Unfortunate prejudices such as these succeeded in gaining a foothold in minds such as that of Friedrich Nietzsche, who sometimes believed seriously that asceticism was merely something for the « pallid enemies of life », the weak and disinherited, and those who, in their hatred of themselves and the world, had undermined with their ideas the civilisations created by a higher humanity. Lately, ‘climatic’ interpretations of asceticism have even been tried. Thus, according to Günther, when the Indo-Germans found a enervating climate in the Asiatic lands they had conquered, to which they were not accustomed, they gradually became inclined to consider the world as suffering and to turn their originally life-affirming energies towards the pursuit, by means of various ascetic disciplines, of ‘liberation’. It is not worth discussing the level to which asceticism has been brought by the new ‘psycho-analytic’ interpretations.

A tight net of misunderstanding and prejudice has thus been drawn around asceticism in the West. The one-sided meaning given to asceticism in Christianity, and the fact that it is often associated therein with actually deviated forms of spiritual life, has produced reactions which bring out – not without a certain anti-traditional and profane animus – only the negative effect of this particular sort of asceticism on the modern spirit.

However, our contemporaries, by a sort of inversion, have again taken up expressions of the previous terminology, though adapting them to the entirely materialistic plane which is peculiar to them. Thus, they speak of a « mystique of progress », a « mystique of science », a « mystique of labour » and so on, and likewise of an « ascesis of sport », an « ascesis of social service », and even of an « ascesis of capitalism ». In spite of the confusion of ideas, here a certain return to the original of the word ‘ascesis’ reveals itself : this modern use of this word actually implies the simple idea of training, of intensive application of forces, not without a certain impersonality, a neutralisation of the purely individual and hedonistic element.

However, it is appropriate that nowadays the most qualified minds should be enabled to understand once again what asceticism means in more comprehensive terms, and what it can mean within a framework of hierarchically organised planes, independently of both the merely religious conceptions of the Christian type and the modern desecrations ; with reference, instead, to more original traditions, and to the highest conception of the world and of life peculiar to other Indo-European civilisations. As we wish to discuss asceticism in this sense, we asked ourselves : what historical expression can furnish the most suitable basis for the exposition of a comprehensive and objective system of asceticism, clear, unattenuated, in tested and well-structured forms, true to the spirit of Aryan man, and yet capable of relation to the conditions of modern times?

The answer to this question at which we finally arrived is the following : more than any other, the ‘Doctrine of Awakening’, in its original form, satisfies all these conditions. The ‘Doctrine of Awakening’ is the real signification of what is commonly called Buddhism. The word ‘Buddhism’ is derived from the Pâli designation ‘Buddha’ (Sanskrit ‘Buddha’) given to its founder, which, however, is not so much a name as a title. ‘Buddho’, from the root ‘budh’, ‘to awaken’, means the ‘Awakened One’ ; it is thus a designation applied to one who has reached this spiritual realisation – assimilated by analogy to an ‘arousing’ or ‘awakening’ – which was pointed out by Prince Siddharta. It is thus Buddhism in its original form – so-called ‘Pâli Buddhism’ – which shows as very few other doctrines do the required characteristics ; that is, (1) it contains a complete ascetic system ; (2) this system is objective and realistic ; (3) it is purely Aryan in spirit ; (4) it is practicable within the general conditions of the particular historical cycle of which the present humanity is part.

We have spoken of various meanings which asceticism considered as a whole can have within a framework of hierarchically organised planes. In itself, that is as ‘exercise’, as discipline, asceticism aims to subject all the forces of the human being to a central principle. In this respect we can speak of a true technique, which has in common with that of the present mechanical achievements the features of objectivity and impersonality. Thus, eyes trained to separate the accessory from the essential will easily manage to recognise a ‘constant’ beyond the multiple variety of ascetic forms adopted by this or that tradition.

In the first place, all the religious conceptions or ethical interpretations with which asceticism is associated in very many cases can be regarded as accessory. Leaving these aside, we can conceive of and systematically describe asceticism, so to speak, in a pure state, that is to say, as an ensemble of methods aimed at the production of an inner force, whose use, in principle, remains completely undetermined, like the use of the arms and the machines created by modern technique. Thus, if ‘ascetic’ reinforcement of the personality is the premise of every transcendental realisation, whether the latter is determined by one or another historical tradition, it can likewise be of great value on the plane of those temporal realisations and struggles which completely absorb modern Western man. Furthermore, we could even conceive an ‘ascesis of evil’, since the technical conditions, as we may call them, needed to achieve important results in the direction of ‘evil’ are no different from those which must be realised by those who strive instead to reach for instance ‘sainthood’. Did not Nietzsche himself , who, as we have said, partly shared the prejudice against asceticism widespread in many modern circles, take into account disciplines and forms of self-control which, basically, have an ascetic character, when forming the concepts of the ‘superman’ and the ‘will to power’? Thus, at least within certain limits, the saying of an old medieval tradition might be quoted : « One the art, one the material, one the crucible ».

We find specifically in the ‘doctrine of awakening’, that is, in Buddhism, as in few other great historical traditions, the possibility of isolating clearly the elements of ascesis in the pure state. It has been quite accurately said that, in it, the problems of asceticism « have been posed and resolved so clearly and, one could almost say, so logically, that, in comparison, other mysticisms appear incomplete, fragmentary and inconclusive, and that, as opposed to any obtrusive emotional and sentimental element, a style of intellectual clarity, rigour and objectivity predominates, which reminds one of the modern scientific mentality » (1). We want to bring out two points specifically.

First, the Buddhist ascesis is conscious, in the sense that in many forms of asceticism – and in the Christian ones almost without exception – the accessory is inextricably interwoven with the essential, and ascetic realisations are, so to speak, indirect, because they result from impulses and movements of the soul determined by suggestions or by religious raptures, while in Buddhism they result from direct action, based on a knowledge which is conscious of its aim and develops itself through controlled processes from beginning to end. « Just as a practised turner or turner’s apprentice, when turning quickly, knows ‘I am turning quickly’, and when turning slowly, knows ‘I am turning slowly' ». And « as a practised butcher or butcher’s apprentice who butchers a cow, takes it to the market-place and dissects it piece by piece ; he knows these parts, he looks at them and examines them well and then sits down » – here, two efficacious similes, among many others, are typical of the style of consciousness of all of the ascetic and contemplative procedures in the doctrine of awakening (2). Another is that of clear and transparent water, through which everything lying on the bottom can be seen : the symbol of a soul which has eliminated all unrest and confusion (3). And it will be seen that this style is reasserted everywhere, on every plane of Buddhist discipline. This is why it has been stated rightly that « this path through consciousness and awakening is as clearly described as a road on an accurate map, along which every tree, every bridge and every house is marked » (4).

In the second place, the collusions between asceticism and morality are avoided in few other systems as in Buddhism, and one is thus made conscious of the purely instrumental value of the latter for the former. Any ethical precept is regarded here solely according to the consideration of the positive ‘ascetic’ effects which result from following it or not doing so. It can thus be said that here not only all religious mythology, but also all ethical mythology, are left behind. In Buddhism, the elements of sîla, that is, of « right conduct », are considered purely as « instruments of the soul » (5) : it is not a question of ‘values’, but rather of ‘instruments’, instruments of a virtus, not in the moralistic sense, but in the ancient sense of virile energy. Hence the well-known simile of the raft : the one who, having built a raft to cross a dangerous river, would be a fool if, to go further, he were to put it on his shoulders. Buddhism  teaches this also of what is good or evil, just or unjust, according to purely ethical views (6).

Thus it can be affirmed with good reason that in Buddhism – as in Yoga – asceticism is raised to the dignity and impersonality of a science : what is elsewhere fragment here becomes system ; what is elsewhere impulse or transport becomes conscious technique ; the spiritual labyrinth of souls which attain only through ‘grace’ (since it is only by means of suggestions, fears, hopes, and raptures, that they are led accidentally onto the right way) is replaced by a calm and even light which prevails even in abysmal depths, and by a method which does not need external supports.

All this, however, refers only to the first aspect of asceticism, the most elementary in the hierarchical order. Once ascesis is understood as a technique for the conscious production of a force which can be applied, in principle, to any level, the disciplines considered in the doctrine of awakening appear to us with a degree of crystalline independence which is hard to surpass. However, a distinction between the disciplines which ‘apply to life’ and those which apply to what is beyond life is encountered within the system itself. The use which is made of ascetic achievements in Buddhism is essentially an ‘upward’ one. Here is how the canon gives the sense of such achievements : « And he reaches the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the will, the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the energy, the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the soul, the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the investigation – with a heroic spirit as the fifth. » And it adds : « And thus attaining these fifteen heroic qualities, he is able, O disciples, to achieve liberation, to achieve awakening, to attain the incomparable sureness. » (8). Two possibilities are considered in this connection in another text : « Either certainty in life, or no return after death. » (9). If, in an eminent manner, ‘sureness’ is linked with the state of ‘awakening’, then, referring to a more relative plane, the alternative can be more mundane, and can be thought of as a sureness in life, created by a first group of ascetic disciplines and able to give proof of itself in any field, but which, however, is regarded essentially as a presupposition for an ascesis of a transcendent character. Thus, the tradition speaks of an « intensive application », conceived of as keystone of the whole system, which, « developed and often practised, leads to two-fold health, health in the present and health in the future. » (10). ‘Sureness’ in ascetic development – bhâvanâ – is connected with unshakeable calm – samatha – which can be considered as the highest aim of a ‘neutral’ discipline, and which can be pursued even by one who yet remains, in the essence, a « son of the world » – putthujjana. Beyond this there is the unshakeable calm – samatha – which, associated with knowledge – vipassanâ – leads to the « Great Liberation » (11).

Here we have, then, a new concept of ascesis, hierarchically superior to the previous one, which takes us to the supra-sensual and supra-individual order ; and, at the same time, the reason why, in this higher order also, Buddhism gives positive points of reference, as few other traditions do, becomes clear. The fact is that Buddhism in its original form is distinguished from all mere ‘religion’, all mysticism in the most widespread sense of the word, all systems of ‘faith’ or devotion, and all dogmatic rigidity. And even when dealing with what is no longer of this life, what is ‘more-than-life’, Buddhism, the ‘Doctrine of Awakening’, appears to us to possess those features of severity and unadornedness which characterise all that is monumental, the atmosphere of clarity and strength which is peculiar to what can be called, in general, ‘classical’, and a virility and courage which could seem Promethean were it not essentially Olympian. But, to be able to realise all this, various additional prejudices must be removed. Once again, there are two points to be made.

Some have claimed that Buddhism, in its essence and in its original form – leaving aside, thus, the later popular Buddhism characterised by the deification of its founder – is not a religion. This is true. However, we must be quite clear as to what we consider this assertion to imply on the plane of values.

From a general point of view, Western peoples are so accustomed to the religion which has come to predominate in their own countries that they regard it as a kind of unit of measure and model for every other religion. If the result of this has been that the most ancient Western traditions – to start with the Hellenic and the Roman – were no longer understood in their real significance or their effective value (12), it is easy to imagine what was to happen to older and often more remote traditions, such as those created by Indo-European races in Asia. Really, however, this attitude must be reversed : as ‘modern’ civilisation represents an anomaly when compared with previous civilisations of a traditional type (13), the significance and the value of the Christian religion should be measured according to what might subsist in it from a vaster, clearer, more primordial and less human conception of the supernal.

Without dwelling on this point, which we have already dealt with in other occasions, we will only indicate the arbitrariness of the identification of religion in general with theistic religion based on faith (14). The term ‘exoterism’ can well be applied to this type of religion, and if one considers the sentimental, sub-intellectual, irrational and passive elements in it, which no scholastic systematisation will ever manage to resolve fully, and which are rarely absent even from the rarest mystical attainments, it may well seem the height of presumption to claim for this system the character of a higher religion, and even of the ultimate religion (15).

It is certainly to be acknowledged that in some cases such religious forms are necessary ; the East itself has known them, in later times, in, for instance, the way of devotion, or bhakti-mârga (from ‘bhaj’, ‘to adore’), of Râmânuja, certain forms of the Shakti cult, and an altered form of Buddhism itself, Amidism (16). But in any normal and complete civilisation these devotional forms will be conceived solely for the mass, and other points of reference, other paths, will be indicated for those who have a different vocation and qualification. Such is the case of Buddhism, and it is in this sense, and only in this sense, that it can be said that – as long as it remains in the original and authentic form, to which our treatment and our interpretation will be limited – it is not a ‘religion’.

In this respect, it should be noted that the central concept of Buddhism, that of ‘awakening’, has a metaphysical rather than religious character, which maintains an extremely precise difference from everything which is ‘religious’ in the narrow, devotional, and, especially, Christian sense. We are in front of a doctrine for which the human condition is something to be overcome, and is not in any way the effect of a ‘sin’, of a transgression – this is the fundamental motive of religion – to be redressed by ‘repentance’ and waiting for, or praying for, gratuitous ‘grace’ or ‘salvation’. Buddhism is part of the central tradition of Hindu metaphysics, in that it considers the average human condition to be the result of ‘ignorance’, of not-knowing, not of ‘sin’. A darkening or oblivion arisen in the being (here, it is needless to examine its causes and its modalities) determine the human condition in its caducity and contingency. The aim is solely to destroy this ignorance, this oblivion, sleep, or blackout, it being given that one does not accept the state of existence in which one finds himself. Likewise, the Hellenic initiate drinks from the fountain of memory in order to recover his original nature, similar to that of the gods. Any moral mythology is thus excluded on this path. An attitude of the centrality of the subject persists in it. The ‘sinful’ creature, placed in front of the theistic divinity or ‘saviour’, has no part in it. This is a typical feature, which can be considered to be among those which define ‘Aryanity’, i.e., the aristocratic nature of the doctrine preached by Prince Siddhartha.

This suffices to cover the first point. The second point does not concern the orientation of the individual, but the place which, doctrinally, must be ascribed to theism, or to theistically-based religion. Here however the situation is analogous. The theistic conception corresponds to an incomplete vision of the world, because it is devoid of its supreme hierarchical apex.

Metaphysically, the conception of being in the terms of a personal god is not such that, beyond it, there is no longer anything of which one can gain knowledge. To conceive of what lies beyond both such being and its opposite, non-being, as the supreme summit, is peculiar to a spirituality of a higher type, and to those ‘internal doctrines’ which, in any complete tradition, rise beyond the cult of the masses. These latter do not deny the theistic point of view but, recognising its right hierarchical place, subordinate it to a really transcendent conception.

This conception, on the other hand, was not unknown to the West itself. Leaving aside the Platonic ‘hen’, placed beyond the ‘on’, a certain mysticism, concerned with so-called « negative theology » can be mentioned, and so can Dionysius the Areopagite and, to a certain extent, Scotus Origenus ; one can refer to the abysmal and shapeless divinity, the Gottheit in the neuter, above the theistic Gott of German mysticism (which corresponds to the neuter Brahman, above Brahmâ, or Ishvara, the personal god, of Hindu speculation). However, the doctrine of the Christianised West was far from according to this transcendence its proper dignity and its proper hierarchical place. It had little or no effect on the essentially ‘religious’ orientation of the Western soul ; its only effect has been to carry a few men, via confused attempts and scattered intuitions or transports, beyond the frontiers of ‘orthodoxy’.

This is the clarification which it is necessary to make when one finds a doctrine accused of not being a religion, if not bluntly being accused of being an atheism, because it is not a theistic religion. The considerations which we have just offered apply to a wide range of instances, and with exactitude to the original Buddhism. An absolutely unique example is to be seen in it. Basically, the ground most conducive to metaphysical conceptions and to such an inner orientation as we have just described is that of an ‘esotericism’, an internal doctrine reserved for a limited circle of initiates. In Buddhism we find the same considerations, instead, at the origin of a great historical tradition, with unmistakable features, in spite of the fatal alteration which, like many teachings, they were to undergo in subsequent forms, both philosophical or popular.

To amplify the last point we have examined, the recognition of that which is « beyond both being and non-being » opens to ascetic realisation possibilities unknown to the world of theism. The perception of this apex, in which the distinction between ‘creator’ and ‘creature’ becomes metaphysically meaningless, allows the creation of a whole system of spiritual realisations which turn out to be difficult to understand on the basis of ‘religious’ categories ; and, above all, it permits what, in mountaineering jargon, one would call a direct ascent, that is, an ascent up the bare mountainside, without supports, without deviations to one side or another. This is exactly the meaning of Buddhist ascesis, no longer seen as a mere discipline generating strength, sureness, and unshakeable calm, but as a system of spiritual realisation. Buddhism – and this too we shall see clearly later – carries the will for the unconditioned to limits which are almost beyond the imagination of the modern West. And in this ascent alongside the abyss it rejects any ‘mythology’, it proceeds by means of pure strength, it drives away any mirage, it rids itself of any residual human weakness, it maintains the style of pure knowledge. This is why the Awakened, buddho, the Victor, jina, could be called he whose way is unknown to men, angels, and to Brahmâ – which is the Sanskrit name for the theistic god, equivalent to Ishvara – himself. Certainly, this path is not without dangers, yet it is the one which suits the virile soul – viriya-magga. The texts say very clearly that the doctrine is meant « for the wise man, the expert, not for the ignorant, the inexpert » (17). The simile of the cutting grass is used : « As kusa grass when wrongly grasped cuts the hand, so the ascetic life wrongly practised leads to infernal torments » (18). The simile of the serpent is used ; « As a man who wants serpents goes out for serpents, looks for serpents, and finding a powerful serpent grasps it by the body or by the tail ; and the serpent striking at him bites his hand or arm or other part so that he suffers death or mortal anguish – and why is this? Because he wrongly grasped the serpent – so there are men who are harmed by the doctrines. And why is this? because they wrongly grasped the doctrines » (19).

It must thus be quite clear that the doctrine of awakening as such is not opposed as one particular religion to other religions. Even in the world in which it was born, it respected the various divinities and the popular cults of religious character which were linked with them. It understood the value of ‘works’. Virtuous and devout men go to ‘heaven’ – but the path taken by the Awakened Ones differs from theirs (20). They go beyond as « a fire which, little by little, consumes every bond » (21), both human and divine. And it is basically the innate style of a superior soul which brings it about that, in the texts, no sign of abandon, no sentimentalism, and no devout effusion, no private conversation with a god, so to speak, is found, although everything gives the feeling of a strength inexorably directed toward the unconditioned.

We have thus clarified the first three reasons why Buddhism in particular is recommended as the basis for the exposition of a complete system of ascesis. Summing up, the first reason consists in the possibility of extracting easily from Buddhism the elements of an ascesis as objective technique for the achievement of a calm, a strength and a detached superiority, each one capable in itself of use in any direction. The second reason lies in the fact that in Buddhism the concept of ascesis can at once develop into that of a path of spiritual realisation completely free from any ‘mythology’, whether religious, theological, or ethical. The third reason, finally, is that the ultimate term of such a path corresponds to the Supreme of a truly metaphysical conception of the universe, to a transcendence asserted well beyond the simply theistic conception. Thus, while the Buddha considers the tendency to dogmatise to be a bond, and opposes the empty self-sufficiency of those who proclaim : « Only this is truth, foolishness is the rest » (22), he still maintains firmly the awareness of his own dignity : « perhaps you may wish, disciples, thus knowing, thus understanding, to return for your salvation to the rites and the fantasies of the ordinary penitent or priest? » – « No, indeed » is the answer – « Is it thus then, disciples : that you speak only of that on which you yourselves have meditated, which you yourselves have known, which you yourselves have understood, » – « Even so, Master. » – « This is well, disciples. Remain, then, endowed with this doctrine, which is visible in this life, timeless, inviting, leading onward, intelligible to all intelligent men. If this has been said, for this reason has it been said » (23). And again : « There are penitents and priests who exalt liberation. They speak in various manners glorifying liberation. But as for that which concerns the most noble, the highest liberation, I know that none equals me, let alone that I may be surpassed » (24). This has been called, in tradition, « the lion’s roar ».

Julius EVOLA

* In the foreword to ‘The Doctrine of Awakening’, written in 1948, H.E. Musson stated : « Of the many books published in Italy and Germany by J. Evola, this is the first to be translated into English. The book needs no apology ; the subject – Buddhism – is sufficient guarantee of that. But the author has, it seems to me, recaptured the spirit of Buddhism in its original form, and his schematic and uncompromising approach will have rendered an inestimable service even if it does no more than clear away some of the woolly ideas that have gathered around the central figure, Prince Siddhartha, and the doctrine that he disclosed.

« The real significance of the book, however, lies not in its value as a weapon in a dusty battle between scholars, but in its encouragement of a practical application of the doctrine it discusses. The author has not only examined the principles on which Buddhism was originally based, but he has also described in some detail the actual process of « ascesis » or self-training that was practised by the early Buddhists. This study, moreover, does not stop there ; it maintains that the entire doctrine of the Buddha is capable of application, even to-day, by any Western man who really has the vocation. But the undertaking was never easy, and the number who, in this modern world, will succeed in pursuing it to its conclusion is not likely to be large ».

H. E. Musson, who had converted to Buddhism in the meantime and taken the name Ñânavîra Thera, expressed « considerable reservations » about the book in a letter dated the 21st February 1964, in which he definitely sounded more ‘detached’ : « I have just received a letter from London. It is from a man who has read my translation of Evola’s book, The Doctrine of Awakening (which, however, I cannot now recommend to you without considerable reservations). Since he seems to have a certain liking for samatha bhâvanâ I encouraged him to go on with it – I think it will do him more good than harm, and it is an excellent way of occupying the later years of his life (he is now past sixty, I think). How many people promise themselves that they will spend their retirements profitably, and then find that it is too late to start something new! »

More on H. E. Musson’s work, and life, at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/9366/nanavira.htm

(1) B. Jansink, ‘La mistica del buddismo’, Bocca, Turin, 1925, p. 304.

(2) Majjhima-nikâya, 10.

(3) Cf., e.g., Jâtaka, 185.

(4) E. Reinhold, in the introduction to the works of K.E. Neumann quoted by G. De Lorenzo, ‘I discorsi di Buddho’, Laterza, Bari, 1925, vol. 2, p. 15.

(5) Majjhima-nikâya, 53.

(6) Ibid., 22.

(7) Cf., e.g., Majjhima-nikâya, 53.

(8) Majjhima-nikâya, 16.

(9) Ibid., 10.

(10) Anguttara-nikâya, 3.65 ; 10.15. Cf. Samyutta-nikâya, 35.198, where the disciplines are stated to be valid for this life since, in it, they create self-possession, while building a solid base for the destruction of the âsava, that is, for the transcendent goal.

(11) In Anguttara-nikâya, 4.170, it is said that the bonds vanish and the path opens when samatha is combined with vipassanâ.

(12) Cf. W.F. Otto, ‘Die Götter Griechenlands’, 1935, 1, 2 and passim.

(13) Cf. R. Guénon, ‘Orient et Occident’, Paris, 1924 ; ‘La Crise du monde moderne’, Paris, 1925.

(14) P. Dahlke, ‘Buddhismus als Religion und Moral’, Munich-Neubiberg, 1923, p.11.

(15) Cf. J. Evola, ‘L’arco et la clava’, Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 1995, chap.4 (N.d.E.).

(16) Cf. J. Evola, ‘Lo yoga della potenza’ (1949), Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, chap. 15 (N.d.E.).

(17) Majjhima-nikâya, 2.

(18) Dhammapada, 311.

(19) Majjhima-nikâya, 22.

(20) Dhammapada, 126.

(21) Dhammapada, 31.

(22) Cf., e.g., Suttanipâta, 4.12 ; 13.17-19.

(23) Majjhima-nikâya, 38.

(24) Dîgha-nikâya, 8.21

The ‘Worker’ in the Thought of Ernst Jünger (extract)

Upon his return to Italy in 1948, Julius Evola sought to reestablish contact with authors with whom he had had epistolary relations before the Second World War in order to suggest that some of their works be translated into Italian. René Guénon replied favourably to this proposition, while Mircea Eliade, Carl Schmitt and Gottfried Benn declined. Ernst Jünger did not even reply.

Born in 1895 in a bourgeois family, Ernst Jünger joined the Wandervogel (‘Bird of Passage’) movement while young. In November of 1913, attracted to Africa, which he considered the “summum of the savage state and of primitivity”, he ran away from home to Verdun to join the French Foreign Legion, only to be expelled some weeks later on his father’s intervention. A year later, “seized by the intoxication of the moment,” he joined the Imperial German Army on the first day of the war. In his war diaries he evoked life in the trenches, the bombardments, the fighting, the fear and the courage of the combatants. Wounded fourteen times, he was decorated with an Iron Cross, 1st Class, in September of 1917, and some months later, with the medal Pour Le Mérite, the highest Prussian military distinction. On his return from the front, he began to shape his wartime journals, from which he wrote four novels that had an immediate success in Germany : “In Stahlgewittern” (“Storm of Steel”) (1920), “Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis” (“War as an Inner Experience”) (1922), “Das Wäldchen 125” (“Copse 125”) (1925), “Feuer und Blut” (“Fire and Blood”) (1925).

Four great figures appear successively in Jünger’s work : the Lansquenet ; the Worker ; the Rebel ; and the Anarch. The Lansquenet, confronted with a new type of warfare, where technics overpower, crush and reduce man to nothing, embodies the possibility of reconciling man and technics, heroic war and technical warfare.

In the 1920s, Jünger published numerous articles in the newspapers of the “Bundisch” movement, the hard core of the youth movement whose origins went back to the Wandervogel and the national-revolutionaries, from which it picked up the protest against bourgeois thought, and the will to return to nature. Deeply marked by the experience of the front lines, profoundly revolted by the defeat of 1918, attributed to the incompetence of the German political class of the day, the Youth League aspired to the spiritual, political and social renewal of the German nation. Ernst Jünger sees in this young generation a new human type, completely opposed to that of the bourgeois : the Worker.

Jünger begins by pointing out how technics invades the world and affirms that it is futile to refuse it, and that, in his own words, “there can be no going back.” “On the contrary, one must enable its development so that from the chaos it engenders, a new world may arise. In modern times, nothing exists outside of work, everything exists through technics.” The Worker ignores morals, but possesses an ethic founded on self-sacrifice. Effectively, technics do not afford material comfort, but power. His satisfaction resides in work. He does not presume to freedom but to work. His happiness is accomplished in sacrifice to war or to work – and work itself becomes a war against matter.

The Worker [is] a titan who uses the planet and submits matter to his will. Master of technics, he maintains nevertheless a link with the elemental forces that grant him his power. In him is abolished the traditional opposition of nature/culture.” (1)

Even though the Worker differs from the Marxist proletarian insofar as his revolution does not target private property but bourgeois culture founded on reason, morals and individualism, Goebbels had his reasons for thinking that “the Worker” could constitute a covert apology for communist society. On the publication of “the Worker” in 1932, the Nazi party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, declared that with this book, Jünger had approached “the zone of bullets in the neck”, a macabre and ironic allusion to the no less macabre epigraph to the work : “Writings have their destiny – like bullets!”

However, his past of war veteran and his patriotic writings gained him the sympathy of Adolf Hitler, and the national-socialist party was not long in surrounding him with solicitude. (2) They also allowed him to become one of the leaders of the “new nationalism”. Jünger retired from politics, though, when the national-socialists took power. Mobilised on the 30th of August 1939 in the Wehrmacht with the rank of captain, he was assigned to Paris, where he mixed with the then fashionable writers, including some whom he knew had joined the resistance, and where the Bible became his bedside reading. It was also in the French capital that he got wind of von Stauffenberg’s plot against Hitler. There, he corrected the proofs of “Auf den Marmorklippen” (“On the Marble Cliffs”), which he had started in February 1939, when he lived in Überlingen, near Lake Constance, and which he had completed in July of the same year in his new home of Kirchhorst, near Hanover. The story takes place in an imaginary land, Marina, a land of vineyards and culture, surrounded by the sea to one side, and to the north by marble cliffs which separate it from Compagna, a land of large pastures and shepherds. The intrigue occurs seven years after the war of Alta-Plana, a territory located on the other side of the sea. The narrator and his brother, who had both fought in the war, work in the midst of a vast hermitage situated on the marble cliffs. Occupied with their library and herb garden, living peacefully in the contemplation of nature, they witness the rise of the Head Forester, lord of Mauretania, a forest country to the north of Compagna. The hordes of the Head Forester wreak havoc on Compagna and threaten Marina itself. The narrator and his brother end up exiling themselves in order to escape. Some have seen this story as a thinly veiled critique of national-socialism, beginning with the Reichsleiter Bouhler, who took Jünger to court.

Jünger’s next work, “Der Waldgang” (“The Forest Fleer” or “The Retreat into the Forest”), is an essay that marks a reversal. “The Worker embodies the man of the masses, who has, in the meantime, lost the heroic and aristocratic virtues which Jünger had endowed him with. The Rebel is, on the contrary, the individual of the elite who resists being press-ganged into the collective machinery. “Heroic realism” no longer consists in placing oneself voluntarily at the disposal of the totalitarian work-machine, but on the contrary, while recognising its presence and predominance, to resist by a return to the transcendent and inalienable substance of the human being.” (3)

Der Waldgang” bears a subtitle that is paradoxal, to say the least, considering how modern barbarity had been personified under the name of “Head Forester” in “Auf den Marmorklippen”: “The Retreat into the Forest.” “The return to the forest, writes Jünger, represents a new answer of freedom… Free men are powerful, even if they are but a tiny minority.”

Even the title itself is no less contradictory. Effectively, in the ancient Nordic community : “The heaviest punishment was expulsion from the family ; and banishment, the crown of sorrow for a German”. The “Waldgang”, the “Forest Fleer”, “The wretched victim of such a fate [,] was cut off from all protection of law and order, and renounced the benefits of civilization. Thus at the other extreme of fortune from the proud head of a proud and powerful clan stood the clanless man, the exile, the outlaw, who had no protecting relative, no strong kinsman, no « gold-friend and lord.” (4) Any “Waldgang” thus became the last among men, while Jünger makes him into the member of an elite. Every “Waldgang” accepted his fate, conscious of having become an outlaw by his own doing, whereas the Jüngerian “Waldgang” is “resolved to resistance and plans to continue the struggle, even were it hopeless.” This proscription signified, ipso facto, the loss of freedom, whereas Jünger’s “Waldgang” “is placed by the law of his nature in relation with freedom”. Yet this is more of alienation rather than being placed in relation with freedom, in the deepest core of his being, since he does not choose to be excluded and to isolate himself, but is “isolated and deprived of his fatherland” by an external force : “by the workings of the universe.”

Julius Evola, for his part, was not mistaken when he labelled “Der Waldgang” as belonging to Jünger’s “minor writings with ideological pretentions”, whose content “signals a notable intellectual weakening”, with their “themes close to “democratic” re-education, “humanist” at the very least, like those proned in Germany after the war, themes openly opposed to those [Jünger] had upheld in the preceding era.” (5) Already in 1956, in his review of “Der Gordische Knoten” (1953), Evola had warned the reader against “the confused ideas, the unilateral and debatable presentations” which he had judged to be those of the German writer following the end of WWII, reiterating with characteristic frankness the implicit judgement he had passed on Jünger’s work in a letter he had sent him in 1952, and to which he never received a reply : I am especially interested in those works of the first period, say, until “Auf den Marmorklippen”.” “Eumeswil” (1977), in which appears the fourth figure, the Anarch, “the positive counterpart of the anarchist”, is not lacking in the confusion which already characterized Jünger’s views since “Der Gordische Knoten” ; for instance, this extract which illustrates the author’s vacillation between true and false ideas : “The free man is anarchic, the anarchist is not.”

It is therefore unsurprising that the book by Ernst Jünger that Julius Evola proposed to translate was a novel from what he considered to be the German author’s first period : “Der Arbeiter” (“The Worker”). “But, while rereading it, I convinced myself, Evola says, that it would not be by a translation that I would achieve the goal I had fixed myself. Effectively, the worthwhile parts are mixed with others which, to an undiscerning reader, would only be a hindrance, since they are influenced by the situation in Germany at that time, and do not take into account the experiences whose problematic nature has become apparent in the meantime… I therefore abandoned the idea of a translation in favour of a vast synthesis largely based on quotes from the book, leaving aside the redundant or false parts, in order to set forth the essential and immutable, by reducing to a minimum the critical and explanatory presentation.”

L’“Operaio” nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger” (“The “Worker” in the Thought of Ernst Jünger”), whose first edition dates from 1960 and which has been twice since republished, making it the least read of Evola’s works, has not yet been translated, not even in France – the veritable Jüngerolatry which reigns in French Evolian circles, and to a larger extent in French nationalist circles – prevents anything that may be even remotely considered critical of the idol from being published.

We hereby propose a translation of the first two sub-sections of the first part. The excerpts from “Der Arbeiter” quoted by J. Evola in “L’“Operaio” nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger” were translated from the German original. The French translation, however, is most faithful, and has been our preferred source for the quotations by Jünger. The page numbers in brackets refer to the French edition of “Der Arbeiter”, “Le Travailleur” (Christian Bourgeois Editeur, 1989).

 

THE FIGURE OF THE WORKER

The Face and Limits of Bourgeois Civilisation

Jünger, proceeding from an examination of the era of the Third Estate, i.e. the bourgeoisie, sheds light on the apparent nature of its power, speaks of the crisis of its civilisation and of its fundamental ideas, and thus sketches out the figure of a new human type which he proposes to “make visible… like a grandeur in action that has already powerfully intervened throughout the course of history and which decisively determines the forms of a metamorphosed world.” (p. 35) This has less to do with “new thoughts or a new system than with a new reality” (ibid.) which must be grasped without prejudice and whose deepest revolutionary nature comes from the mere fact of its existence. The ability to recognise this new representation as a pure reality on the existential level, avoiding all judgement and conforming actively to it, is mentioned as being one of the essential characteristic traits of the spirit of “heroic realism”.

The world of the Third Estate is presented as a world of artificial and precarious superstructures, whose “Domination… has never been able to affect… the deepest core which determines the richness, the power and the fullness of a life” (p. 39). In this era, “in all those places where people have thought with the greatest depth and boldness, felt with the greatest vivacity, fought with the greatest bravery; it is impossible to not recognise the revolt against the values that the grand declaration of the independence of reason has hoisted aloft” (p. 39-40) by means of the rationalist belief that became strengthened with the coming of the Third Estate, after having been choreographically prepared by the Jacobin cult of the goddess Reason, beyond the abstract conceptions of the Encyclopaedists. “But never had those bearers of the immediate responsibility we call ‘genius’ been isolated; never had their work and their actions been exposed to more risks; and never had the hero found such an unfruitful ground for his deployment. The deepest roots had to plunge into the parched earth to reach those sources where resides the magical unity of blood and spirit that makes speech irresistible.” (p. 40) “That is why that era was so rich in great hearts whose ultimate revolt consisted in repressing their nature; and so rich in noble spirits to whom the silence of the universe of shadows seemed welcome… rich in battles where blood tested itself to other battles and other defeats as did the spirit.” (ibid.) “Honour to those dead, broken by the frightening solitude of love or knowledge, and to those that the steel laid low on the burning hills of combat!” (p. 42-43)

The bourgeois world is characterised by a special concept of liberty, that of an abstract, general and individualist liberty: “a measure, fixed once and for all, intrinsically deprived of any substance”, which “can be applied to whichever heights it is subordinated” (p. 41). This is the opposite of the idea, which we shall see later, “that the importance of the freedom enjoyed by a force corresponds exactly to the strength of the bond to which it is submitted, and in the extent of this freed freedom manifests the extent of the responsibility that confers to this will its justification and validity.” (ibid.) The bourgeois may be “freed from something” but not “free for doing something” (therein lies a well-known distinction, one which is already found in Nietzsche); he does not know the world where “freedom manifests itself with a maximum of power everywhere it is carried by the knowledge of having been granted in fief” (p. 41); he does not know that “obedience is the art of listening; and that order is the receptiveness to speech, the receptiveness to commands, which, like lightning, leave the summits to reach the deepest roots.” (p. 42); he does not know those situations in which “the leader is recognised by his being the first servant, the first soldier, the first Worker” (ibid.); finally, he is ignorant of how “we reach the supreme point of our force when there no longer remain any traces of ambiguity towards commands and obedience.” (ibid.)

Freedom and service, freedom and order, are one and the same thing. “The Age of the Third Estate never recognised the wonderful power of this unity for pleasures all too human and all too affordable seemed to deserve its efforts.” (ibid.) The counterpart to the abstract and individualist notion of freedom is the social concept, the system defined by the social contract. The nature of the bourgeois is to eventually dissolve all organic unity; “to transform all ties of mutual responsibility into contractual relationships.” (p. 50), following the aforementioned concept of abstract freedom. The specific and normal form of the bourgeois representation of the state of collective life is the concept of “society”, as opposed to the political concept of the State, and that is why the State is conceived of as being a “society”. Jünger is here referring to the rather coherent theory of the German political authors on the opposition between the systems which take “society” as their fundamental reference point, and those whose foundation and ideal are, on the contrary, “the State”, the State here considered as a superior principle real in itself and which is not reducible to the accumulated empirical experiments and material interests of the inorganic and atomic mass which it contains.

That is why, in a bourgeois civilisation, everything is conceived of as a “society” in a rationalist and moralist context. The most subtle means are employed to reduce all greatness to this form. Society was almost considered as “the entire population of the world”, which lent itself to conceptualisation as the ideal image of humanity, whose divisions into States, nations or races, rested on no more than an error of judgement. This error of judgement was to be corrected over time by “contracts”, by the “Enlightenment”, by a general moralisation, or simply by the further development of means of transport. (p. 50)

Specifically, “the bourgeois knows only the defensive war, that is to say, he does not know war in the slightest, partaking by his very nature of nothing of the warrior.” (p. 49) “And even though it be in the most obvious personal interest, he calls to the soldier for help, or dresses up as a soldier himself, he never ceases to swear to his great gods that it is only as a last resort, to defend himself, if possible, to defend humanity.” (p. 49)

The most precious discovery of the bourgeois mentality “as well as the unending source of its power of artistic creation” (p. 50) has thus been a “bizarre and abstract notion of man” (ibid.): the individual. “Nevertheless, in practice, the “individual” does not see himself opposed to humanity but to the crowd, his true reflection… For the crowd and the individual are but one, and this unity engenders this stupefying twin image of the most colourful and most disconcerting anarchy, tied to the down-to-earth regulation of democracy…” (p. 50-51) Jünger takes up a theme well-known to political thought of a traditionalist bent: at the very moment the abstract notion of freedom transforms the concrete person by reducing it to an atom, a numerical unit, by depriving it of all organic ties, the inevitable counterpart, the crowd, purely and simply the reign of quantity, is born at the same time, in a dialectic process. We shall see that, according to Jünger, the crisis of the bourgeois civilisation touches both its poles; the individual as well as the crowd, and that new categories shall be fated to dominate over the one and the other.

This contractual conception of social unity means that the preferred regime of the bourgeois, that is, the regime he feels is necessary for his own existence and that of his system, is that of discussion, of compromise and of negotiation. The bourgeois is at his ease as long as he can discuss and negotiate; and that is why he seeks to eliminate whatever may be a danger to the system within the conflicts inside “society”, namely in class conflict. He is capable of reaffirming the principle of “society” even against all attacks directed against it, by ensuring that these attacks come from this principle and of the corresponding idea of freedom; and any seizure of power ends up thus appearing as a particular modification of the social contract.

In distinction to the virile nature of the State, the feminine nature of “society” betrays itself in that it does not seek to eliminate any opposition, but rather attempts to assimilate them. Wherever it may encounter a firm demand, its most subtle tactic consists in denaturing it; it explains it as a manifestation of its concept of liberty and legitimises it under this form on the forum of its basic law: that is, rendering it inoffensive.” (p. 52)

We have indicated that this entire system, for Jünger, stems from the concepts of rationality and morality; to these concepts is added the idea of safety in a bid to remove from the vital space the “elemental” and danger: this last point is essential in the global vision of “The Worker”. Jünger, nevertheless, does not omit another accessory element, to wit, the domination exerted by the economy in the bourgeois sphere. “The attempt by arithmetic to transform destiny into a greatness that may be resolved by means of calculation… goes back to a time when the original image of man was discovered on Otahiti and Mauritius, reasonable, virtuous, and thereby happy, where the spirit began to concern itself with such dangerous secrets as the right to a tax on wheat, and where mathematics was one of those refined games with which the aristocracy amused itself on the eve of its fall. There was created the model that then found its unequivocal economic interpretation when the demands for freedom proper to the individual and the crowd fused as economic demands in the heart of an economic world.” (p. 56-57) “The ideal image of the world, reasonable and virtuous, coincides here with a global economic utopia, and it is from economic demands that all challenges stem.” (p. 57) This is an important point to understand what Jünger is getting at: for, by allowing any shock provoked solely by the economy to enter into the world of the civilisation of the Third Estate, it can be seen that the social revolutionary dialectic, as conceived by leftist groups themselves, is but revolutionary in appearance, and thus insignificant, and we take for principle that the figure who, according to Jünger, would characterise the new era, belongs to a different sphere. It is thus inevitable: inside this world of exploiters and the exploited, there remains no room for any greatness that is not decided by the supreme authority of the economy. There are here two kinds of man, two kinds of art, two kinds of moral – but one does not need any deep insight to see that they both flow from the same source. It is one and the same progress invoked as justification by those who support the economic struggle: they find themselves amidst a fundamental conviction, claiming for themselves the role of agents of prosperity; and they believe it possible to upset their opponents position to the degree they succeed in refuting its pretention to play that role.” (p. 57) Jünger concludes: “Enough! Any participation in this discussion is the same as facilitating its pursuit. What is important to discern is the existence of a dictatorship of economic thought in itself, which engulfs any possible dictatorship and thus limits its decisions. Inside this universe, it is impossible to even budge without stirring up the troubled waters of interests, and there are no positions from which to accomplish a breakthrough. No matter which of these parties manages to seize the disposing power, it will depend on the economy as the disposing power. At the same time, Jünger clarifies this important point: “by denying to the economic world the status as a power apt to determine life, and thus, as a force of destiny, we challenge its rank, but not its existence. For the goal is not to turn the spirit away from all economic struggle; and it would even be desirable that the economic conflicts are of the “utmost harshness”.” (p. 58) However, this does not happen if the economy determines the rules of combat; it must be subordinated to “a higher law of combat.” (ibid.) The overcoming of the bourgeois world demands “a declaration of independence by the Worker in relation to the economic world” (ibid.), a declaration which “does not mean some renunciation of this world, but its submission to the demands of a more global submission.” (ibid.)

For the moment, these ideas are only exposed by Jünger in order to illustrate that the reduction of all revolutionary authority to the economic sphere is one of the tactics employed to keep alive the principle of “society”, to reinforce, in spite of everything, the world of the Third Estate.

The irruption of the elementary in the bourgeois world

The concept of the elemental plays a central role in Jünger’s book. As with other German writers, Jünger does not use the term ‘elemental’ in the sense of ‘primitive’; instead, he uses it to mean the deepest forces of reality that escape the rationalist-moralist intellectual structures, and that are characterised by an either positive or negative transcendence with respect to man: in essence, it consists of the elemental forces of nature. In the inner world, it refers to those forces that may burst forth into personal or collective life from a deeper psychic layer.

When Jünger speaks of the exclusion of the elemental from the bourgeois world, it is obvious that he is here joining the controversy started by various strands of contemporary thought; from irrationalism, intuitionism, the religion of life, to psychoanalysis and existentialism, against the rationalist-moralist view of man that has predominated until recent years. We shall see, however, that Jünger’s position is original; he conceives of the relationship between man and the elemental in active, lucid, non-regressive forms, which differentiates his view from the problematic approach taken by the aforementioned tendencies.

The constant concern of the bourgeois world has been to “hermetically seal the space in which it lives against the irruption of the elemental” (p. 79), “to erect a barrier to protect itself”. Safety has been a demand of this world, one that the cult of reason has had to consolidate and justify: a reason that “goes so far as to confuse the elemental with the nonsensical” (p. 47). To integrate the elemental, along with all the problems and risks that that implies, has seemed inconceivable to the bourgeois; an aberration that must be prevented by adequate educational methods. Jünger writes: “The bourgeois will never feel the need to willingly challenge fate in the midst of combat or danger, for the elemental is beyond his sphere, it is irrational, and thus, immoral. He will always keep a safe distance away from the elemental, whether it appears to him as power and passion, or as the four original elements of fire, water, earth and air.”

“Seen from this angle, the large cities of the turn of the century appear as the ideal bastions of safety, the absolute triumph of the wall that, for over a century, abandoning fortified castles to the past, now grips life into a hive-like structure, with its blocks, asphalt and glass, penetrating into its most intimate organisation, so to speak. The victory of technics is here a victory of comfort, and the entry of the elements [into this world] is regulated by the economy.” (p. 80)

However, for Jünger, the abnormal nature of the bourgeois era has less to do with the desire for security, “than with the exclusive nature of the means by which this security is reached. This is due to the elemental being here considered as absurd, and that the surrounding wall of the bourgeois order seems to coincide with that of reason.” (ibid.) It is within this perspective that Jünger’s anti-bourgeois critique lies. He distinguishes the rationality of the cult of reason and challenges the view that order and a rigorous formation of the personality might only be possible, or even conceivable, within the rationalist system, by sealing off existence from the elemental. One of the tactics used by the bourgeois is “to unmask any attack against the cult of reason as an attack on reason itself, and thus to condemn it as irrational.” (p. 80-81) In fact, both attacks may be identical, but only from the perspective of the bourgeois world, following “a specifically bourgeois reasoning characterised by its incompatibility with the elemental”. This antithesis cannot be considered as valid by a new type of man: furthermore, it does not apply to such characters as “for example, the believer, the warrior, the artist, the navigator, the hunter, the criminal, and also… the worker,” (p. 80), characters for whom, without even considering the second-last one, the bourgeois has a distinct aversion, because “they carry the whiff of danger round with them on their clothes, right into the heart of the city” (ibid.), because they represent, by their sole presence alone, an indictment of the cult of reason.

But “battle is for the warrior an event that occurs in a supreme order, conflict is for the poet a state in which he might seize with particular clarity the meaning of life”; a lucid rationality might manifest itself in delinquency, “the believer takes part in the greater sphere of a meaningful life. Thanks to misfortune and danger, thanks to a miracle, fate places him directly into a more powerful form of action… The gods like to manifest themselves in the elements, in the incandescent stars in thunder and in lightning, in the burning bush that the flame never consumes.” (p. 81) The crucial point to recognise is that “The relations between man and the elemental may be of a higher or lower degree, and there are many levels in which safety and danger are included in one and the same order. On the other hand, the bourgeois must be considered as the man for whom safety is the supreme value that determines the course of his life” (p. 81). “… the state of ideal safety towards which progress tends forcefully consists in the world Domination of the bourgeois reason that seeks not only to reduce the sources of danger but also to eliminate them completely. The form of this undertaking consists in showing the dangerous act to be, under the light of reason, an absurdity, stripped of any pretentions to reality. What matters in this world is to see danger as absurd, vanquished from the moment it appears as an error in the mirror of reason.” (p. 82)

“This may be demonstrated in detail within the factual and intellectual order of the bourgeois world,” (ibid.) continues Jünger. “Generally, this consists of an effort to consider the State built on hierarchy as a society whose fundamental principle is equality and which is based on an act of reason. This consists in the elaboration of an ample system of guarantees by which the risks of both external and internal politics, but also those of private life, might be fairly divided with a view to making them subordinate to reason – in an attempt to substitute probabilities to destiny.” Furthermore this consists in various complicated attempts to reduce the life of the soul to a series of causes and effects, and thus to render the unpredictable predictable, and to include it under the domain of the Domination of consciousness.” (p.81-82) In all fields, the tendency is to avoid conflict, to demonstrate that conflict is avoidable. But as conflicts do happen, all the same, for the bourgeois, “it is important to prove that this was the result of a mistake, one that can be avoided in future thanks to education and the light of reason.” (p. 83)

All of this would be but a world of shadows, and the philosophy of the Enlightenment would overestimate its power, thinking it can maintain itself. In reality, “danger is ever-present, like a force of nature eternally attempting to break down the dykes surrounding order. According to an incorruptible and secret mathematics, it is all the more threatening and devastating insofar as it has been excluded from this order. This danger not only wants to participate in order, it is also the father of the supreme safety that the bourgeois will never be a part of” (p. 82). As a rule, if we can eliminate the elemental from a certain type of existence, “there remain nonetheless precise limits to this process, given that the elemental not only belongs to the external world, but also constitutes part of the existence of each ‘individual.’” (p. 83) Man lives according to the elemental insofar as he is at the same time a natural being as well as a being that is spiritually driven by deep forces. “No syllogism can replace the beating of a heart or the function of a kidney, and there is no greatness, were it reason itself, that does not stoop to the low or proud passions of life” (p. 84). Finally, on the subject of the economic world, Jünger notes that “no matter how subtle the calculation of happiness may be, there will always be a remainder that eludes all definitive solution and which manifests itself in the human being in the shape of renunciation or a growing desperation.” (p. 61)

Thus, the elementary has two sources. “On the one hand, they are to be found in the world that remains dangerous, like the sea that contains the danger within itself, even during moments of perfect calm. They are to be found, secondly, in the human heart that aspires to daring and adventure, to love and hate, to triumph and dizzying falls, that feels just as much a need for danger as for safety, and to whom a state of basic safety appears as an imperfect condition.” (p. 84) It is obvious that Jünger is here referring to a human type different from the one on which the bourgeois world is based, and which, in turn, it produces.

We can thus measure the extent of the domination of bourgeois values “from the distance that the elemental seems to back off to”. Jünger says “seems”, because the elemental, using many masks, always finds a way to hide within the very centre of the bourgeois world, undermines the more or less rational order, and appears as soon as a crisis occurs.” For example, Jünger recalls the bloody wedding between the bourgeoisie and power in the past, under the sign of the French Revolution. Danger and the elemental have asserted themselves. “Still, the danger is always present and triumphs over the most cunning plans to catch it out; it even goes so far as to implicate itself in these plans, to take on their mask, which gives a double face to moralism – the close relationship between fraternity and the scaffold, between the rights of man and the murderous battles, are only too well known.” (p. 46) It is not that the bourgeois himself wishes for such a contradictory situation, because when he speaks of rationality and of morality, he takes himself terribly seriously: “all this resembles a terrifying sarcasm of nature when subordinated to morals, a furious celebration of blood at the expense of the spirit, once the prelude to the lofty speeches is over” (p. 47). On the other hand, what merits attention is that “it is here that we fully encounter the elaborate art of his concepts and his politics, and the entire universe itself are for him a mirror where he expects to find anew a confirmation of his virtue. It would be instructive to observe him untiringly filing away at the edges of words, to remove the rough necessity of their coinage, until appears, implicitly, a morality of the universally binding kind.” (p. 49) This attitude is clearly visible, for example, on the international level, “it identifies the conquest of a colony to a peaceful penetration, the annexation of a province to the right of auto-determination of the people, or the pillaging of the vanquished to compensation.” (ibid.) It is obvious that further examples may be added to those provided by Jünger. Among the most typical cases, we could mention the new “crusades”, victors’ tribunals, “aid to developing countries”, and so forth.

In the same order of ideas, Jünger is right to point out that it is precisely during the era in which the bourgeois values of “civilisation” are officially and noisily propagated that we have seen the kind of events taking place that we would not have thought possible in an enlightened world: acts of violence and cruelty, organised delinquency, the unleashing of instincts, massacres. All these events represent “the manner in which the utopia of bourgeois safety pushes its consequences to absurdity.” (p. 317) Jünger gives as an example the effects of Prohibition in the United States: this moralising tendency, advocated by the literature of a social utopia, seemed to be a clear example of a safety measure; in actual fact, it only served to stir up the most inferior of all elemental forces. There where the State, strictly following the bourgeois principle, refers to the categories of the abstract, the rational, the moral, and eliminates the elemental, it allows, in fact, the elemental to intensify itself outside of its frame. As morals and the rational are not “original laws, but laws of an abstract spirit, says Jünger, any Domination that would seek to base itself on these categories is but an apparent Domination in which the utopian nature of bourgeois safety will soon manifest itself.” (ibid.) It would be difficult to challenge the reality of this dialectic, even in the period of time immediately following the writing of “The Worker”. It is linked to one of the prime factors of the crisis of the bourgeois world, and to the other side – formless, dark and dangerous – of modern social structures, which, ordered in a superficial manner, have no more a superior sense than they have roots in deeper psychic layers.

During the period when “The Worker” was written, following the First World War, it became clear that the application of these principles, in particular the bourgeois concept of abstract freedom, had provoked a backlash on the international level: insofar as the principle of national democracy has been accorded a universal and absolute validity, it has contributed towards worldwide anarchy by creating new causes of crisis within the old order, as in the case of the uprisings by the colonial peoples as well as those forces, in Europe and elsewhere, who were accorded a right to self-determination, even when they consisted of ethnic groups and peoples “who until then we may have read about in works of ethnography but not in the histories of great States. The natural consequence is the irruption of purely elemental forces into the historic sphere” of “greatness that has less to do with history than with natural history” (p. 305). Today, more than ever, is this true.

We consider it more important to examine the crisis of the system under its spiritual aspects. Jünger especially writes of the mechanisms of defence or of compensation that have arisen on the fringes of bourgeois society with the romantic phenomenon. “There are eras when the relations between man and the elemental come to light in the shape of a romantic disposition where the breaking point has already been foreseen. Fate will decide whether this rupture will take shape in a distant decline, drunkenness, madness, utter misery or death. In any case it consists of forms of escape where the individual gives up, having sought an exit in vain in the spiritual and corporal realms. Sometimes this surrender may appear as an offensive, in the way a sinking vessel may blindly loose forth a last salvo.” (p. 86)

“We have once more learned to recognise the value in these guards who have fallen occupying hopeless positions,” continues Jünger. “There are many tragedies attached to great names, but there are others, anonymous, where entire classes have succumbed as though asphyxiated by poisonous gases which have deprived them of their life’s breath.” (ibid.) The next part, of an autobiographical nature, reflects those experiences of youth to which we have alluded: “The bourgeois had almost managed to convince the adventurous soul that danger did not really exist and that an economic law regulated the world and its history. Those young people who, in the night and fog, leave their family homes; their feelings tell them that they must go further afield in search of danger, beyond the oceans, to America, to the Foreign Legion, to those countries where pepper plants grow. Thus we find characters who barely dare speak their own language, superior though it may be, whether that of the poet who compares himself to an albatross whose powerful wings, built to weather the storm, evoke nothing but curiosity in a foreign environment where the wind has fallen; or that of the born warrior, who comes across as a good-for-nothing because the life of a shopkeeper fills him with disgust.” (ibid.)

For Jünger , the breaking point was the onset of the First World War. “In the enthusiasm with which the volunteers welcome it (Jünger writes, clearly referring to his own experience), there is something greater than the deliverance of those hearts, to which, from one day to the next, was revealed a newer, more dangerous life. There is also hidden therein a revolutionary protest against the old values, whose validity is now permanently outdated. Since then, a new trace of the elemental has coloured the flow of thoughts, feelings, and acts.” (p. 87) But the most important is to notice how, by force of circumstance, a new attitude has begun to form. Jünger also notes the part played by the enthusiasm, ideals, and values of a conventional patriotism linked to the bourgeois world, and how they have been adopted by the fighting youth, dragged into the complexity of this war. But it became rapidly clear that this war demanded reserves of strength of a very different nature from that to be found in these sources: and that this difference was precisely that which existed between the enthusiasm of troops leaving for the front, and their subsequent actions among the funnels in a battle of equipment.” (p. 88) It is at this moment, a kind of trial by fire, that is revealed the extent to which the romantic rebellion is justified. This protest, writes Jünger, “is condemned to nihilism, insofar as it is only an escape, a simple opposition to a dying world to which it is thus inextricably linked. But inasmuch as a genuinely heroic heritage is hidden within, inasmuch as love is hidden therein, it leaves the romantic space to accede to the sphere of power.” (ibid.)

Thus is sketched out the central theme of “The Worker”: to cross a zone of destruction without being destroyed. The same experience had completely different effects on members of the same generation: “The war broke some of them, while the close presence of death, gunfire and blood endowed yet others with a hitherto unknown good health.” This difference may be explained by the fact that some were relying solely on the bourgeois values based on the individual and a rejection of the elemental, while the others were capable of living a new form of freedom. Jünger could have applied to this first group the words with which Erich Maria Remarque prefaces his famous novel “All Quiet on the Western Front”: “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession… It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.” The others prefigure what Jünger calls the “type”: a man who is standing because he enables himself to an active relationship with the elemental, combined with superior forms of lucidity, consciousness and self-mastery, disindividualisation and realism; because he rejoices in total engagement and in the maximum of action coupled with the minimum of “Why?” and “What for?” “Here intersect the lines of passion and of mathematics” (p. 93); a landscape where the enlarged consciousness reigns makes possible “a mutual exaltation of the means and the forces of life in such a way that has been as yet unsuspected and unknown.” (p. 92)

“It is here that we encounter, writes Jünger, in the centre of those secret powers from whence comes the mastery over the zone of death, a humanity which has developed due to the constraints of new and unusual demands” (p. 147). “In this landscape where the individual is difficult to discover, fire has consumed all that does not possess the character of an object.” (ibid.) The nature of the mechanisms at work are such that any attempt to put them into accord once more with romanticism or individual idealism lead directly into the absurd. To overcome “the force of inertia of those few hundred metres over which rules the magical power of mechanised death” (ibid.), abstract moral or spiritual values, free will, culture, enthusiasm, or the intoxication of the disdain for death, are not enough. A new, precise energy is needed, while the fighting strength of the individual “is of a functional, not individual, value”. (p. 148) Furthermore, we discover correspondences between the moment of destruction and the spiritual summit of an existence; it is here that the absolute person becomes conscious of itself. The relationship to death becomes modified and “the individual suddenly encounters destruction at those precious moments when he is subject to a maximum of demands on his life-force and spirit” (p. 148). All this eventually naturally becomes an integral part of a new style of life, one that has been willed in advance. At last appear “the images of a supreme discipline of heart and nerves… evidence of an extreme coldness, one that is objective, and so to speak, metallic, that allows the heroic consciousness to consider the body solely as an instrument, one that can be made do, beyond all instinct of self-preservation, all sorts of complex manoeuvres. In the whirlwind of flames of shot-down planes; in the water-tight compartments of a submarine sinking to the bottom of the sea, is accomplished a task, which, in truth, is beyond the circle of life, and which no reports mention at all” (p. 148). The two factors that are thus combined in this “type” are the elemental in action – both within and without oneself – and discipline, extreme rationality, extreme objectivity, that is to say, an abstract and absolute control over the total realisation of the self.

Thus, according to Jünger, a new “inner form” has declared itself since the First World War, and we have already noted that he has seen in this “inner form” that which, outside of the warrior-like manifestations and the exceptional achievements we have mentioned, will be decisive for a becoming humanity. For Jünger, the ultimate crisis of the bourgeois world and all the old values is due to the civilisation of technics and the machine, and to all the elemental forms that are linked to it. And the type that, spiritually speaking, presents himself not as the vanquished but the victor, whether on the modern battlefield or in a world completely subjugated to technics, would be identical in substance. The kind of overcoming and inner formation required in both cases would also be identical in substance. Thus is sketched out the outline of what Jünger calls “The Worker”, who is linked by an ideal continuity to the “soldier of the Great War, true and unvanquished.” (p. 92)

Julius EVOLA

(1) http://www.pcn-ncp.com/Junger%20biblio.htm.

(2) The judgements expressed by Ernst Jünger on Hitler varied over the years : “That man is right”, then “That man is ridiculous” or “That man is worrying” or “sinister”. In 1925, Jünger still thought that the figure of Adolf Hitler indubitably recalled, like Mussolini, “the foreboding of a new kind of leader”. After Jünger received from Hitler a copy of his autobiographical programme, Jünger sent him copies of his war books. “Feuer und Blut” bears an inscription dated the 9th of January 1926 : “To Adolf Hitler : Führer of the German nation! – Ernst Jünger”. Later that same year, Hitler announced a visit to Jünger in Leipzig, but the meeting never took place due to a change in itinerary. In 1927 Hitler supposedly offered him a place as NSDAP deputy in the Reichstag. Jünger refused.

The relations between the two men cooled considerably afterwards, especially after Hitler took the “oath of legality” in October 1930 before the Reich’s Court in Leipzig. “I hereby take this oath before almighty God. I tell you that when I legally come to power, I will create State tribunals under the auspices of a legal government so that those responsible for the misfortunes of our people may be judged according to the law.” Jünger criticized Hitler and his movement, as they were not radical enough; a few years later, the writer judged the political condottiere as a “Napoleon of universal suffrage”. Even so, they remained in agreement as to the final goal: the unconditional struggle against the Diktat of Versailles and against liberal decadence, which implied the destruction of the Weimar system. But when a national party really took power, Jünger assumed the right to say yes or no on a case by case basis in the face of what was unfolding in front of him. And that right was accorded to him.

(3) P. Barthelet, Ernst Jünger, Lausanne : L’Âge d’Homme, p. 378.

(4) F. B. Gummere, Germanic Origins : A study in primitive culture, D. Nutt, 1892, p. 171-72. Two types of outlawry are prevalent in the sagas. A « lesser outlaw, » a fjorbaugsmadr, had three summers after the judgment to find passage out of Iceland. He had to ask at least three shipowners for passage each summer; a shipowner who refused was fined three marks of silver. While the outlaw stayed in Iceland, the fjorbaugsgardr, which is best translated as sanctuary, was in effect. It meant that the outlaw was limited to three domiciles not more than a day’s journey apart. He could travel the roads between them, but if people came along he had to leave the road for a distance greater than a spear’s throw in order to remain heilagr, or protected by the sanctity of the law. Once abroad, he had to stay for three years, during which he enjoyed the same rights as other travelling Icelanders. If the fjorbaugsmadr did not leave Iceland after three summers, he became a skogarmadr, or full outlaw. A man could also be declared a full outlaw by a court sentence or a private sentence sanctioned by the Iogretta. A skogarmadr was not to be harbored by anyone, nor could he be helped out of the country. When the settlement was a private one, there were sometimes mitigating circumstances. For instance, a man might be given a certain amount of time to settle his affairs before leaving the country. If the normal skogarmadr did manage to leave Iceland, he lived without the rights of a traveling Icelander and could never return. He could not have a Christian burial and his children had no inheritance rights.

“An outlaw who did not abide by the terms of his outlawry was considered oheilagr (unprotected by the law [literally: “unholy”] and could be killed or wounded with impunity. Similarly, a man could be declared by a court to be, or to have died, oheilagr (ohelgr), literally unholy or profaned. Being in the state of ohelgi meant that an individual’s protection under the law was forfeited and that heirs would be left without the right to seek legal redress.” (J. L. Byock, Feud in the Icelandic Saga, Berkeley and Los Angeles : University of California Press, 1993, p. 219-220).

Everything leads to believe that the Christianisation of the Nordic peoples affected this proscription in its motives (the worship of pagan gods was henceforth one), but not in its execution.

The Two Faces of Nationalism

Nationalism is a doctrine based on the exaltation of the idea of fatherland or nation, and a political movement of individuals who are aware of constituting a national community by virtue of the factors, whether of the cultural or the linguistic order, which bind them.

Although everyone more or less accepts this minimal definition of nationalism, nevertheless, nationalism has still assumed various forms in different times and places, which turn out to be difficult to classify. Basically, « such categories are not mutually exclusive and many nationalist movements combine some or all of [the] elements [which characterise nationalism] to varying degrees. » In general, their classification is based on the distinction between the liberal-democratic nationalism which asserted itself in Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century, and the nationalism of the second half of that century. The former conceived the nation as a community coexisting on the basis of peace and equality with other nations (this view is typical, for example, of Mazzini), whereas the latter, linked to the reaction against parliamentary democracy and against democratic and liberal ideology in general, promoted a national identity and culture and implied a belief in the superiority of one nation over others.

The French revolution is universally considered to have been a turning point in the affirmation of the idea of the nation as a political and cultural unity, no longer based on the power of the monarch, but on popular sovereignty, and thus, no longer on the fidelity to a dynasty, a ruling house, we would even say to a blood, and on local and regional loyalties, but to the country conceived of in the abstract. With the declarations of ‘human rights’ and the rights of the citizen, the nation was invested with a political power, in which sovereignty, once possessed by the king, passed to the people as sovereignty of the nation. The idea of the nation thus became a historical force able to mobilise millions of Frenchmen for the defence of the principles of the Revolution. In this first stage, even though the fact of belonging to a specific nation was exalted and used as a factor of cohesion for the people, nationalism had a patriotic and cosmopolitan character and was conceived of as an affirmation of popular sovereignty in a missionary context of solidarity and fraternity between peoples. This ‘civic nationalism’ is often seen as originating in Rousseau’s theory of the social contract, and, more generally, in the liberal and rationalist thought of the late eighteenth century. Liberal nationalism (Burke, Guizot, Cavour), which focused on national sovereignty in a context of guaranteed individual, political and economic liberties, and economic nationalism, based on the concept of national economic self-sufficiency, whether along liberal lines (Renan, Mills) or protectionist lines (List), can be considered to a certain extent as its offspring. A form of economic nationalism is found nowadays in some Far-Eastern countries, whether capitalist or communist : it is centred on the feeling of vanity caused by the economic success of the country, exalted as a huge company. Lately, political theoreticians have upheld the contradictory idea of a non-xenophobic form of nationalism compatible with the democratic and liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights.

In Italy, nationalism appeared first as an elitist movement, in which the figure of Gabriele D’Annunzio stood out, before passing onto a more specifically political phase, linked to the name of Corradini, with a program which aimed at the strengthening of State authority as a remedy against political particularism, and at war for the affirmation of Italian prestige. This movement merged with Fascism in 1923. This form of nationalism, often called ‘State nationalism’, « is very often combined with ethnic nationalism. It implies that the nation is a community of those who contribute to the maintenance and strength of the state, and that the individual exists to contribute to this goal. Italian fascism is the best example, epitomised in this slogan of Mussolini : « Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato » (« Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State ») ». In 1930’s Portugal and Germany, nationalism played a fundamental part in the formulation of the ideologies of, respectively, Salazarism and National-Socialism, tinged, here, with pan-Germanism, militarism, and racism.

Julius Evola summarised this distinction between liberal-democratic nationalism and reactionary nationalism, which may be called, respectively, catagogic nationalism and anagogic nationalism. His criteria, however, were neither civic, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious or ideological. His criteria were of the spiritual and traditional order. (*)

 

It is a statement of fact that the World War, rather than having exhausted the process of actualisation of European and extra-European nationalism, has brought this process to a critical phase. An analysis intended to clarify the meaning of this fact is therefore imperative today.

What is the meaning of nationalism in the context of the philosophy of culture? This is the question we wish to pose, and to answer along the following lines : nationalism admits two ideally distinct and antithetical possibilities, although, in practice, they often appear in combination. One contains elements of degeneration and regression, the other leads instead to superior values – it is a prelude of revival.

Let us see how this sort of approach, which, even in summary terms, appears rich in consequences, can be made more intelligible.

A phenomenon like nationalism cannot be understood without being put into the framework of a comprehensive view of history which is itself based on solid criteria of values.

Now, to this view, what appears as a definite given is the progressive fall of political power from each of the planes which, in ancient civilisations, marked the qualitative differentiation of human possibilities, to the next lower. This process extends from the earliest ‘historical’ times to our days, and has special implications for Western political history (1).

It is well known that ancient tradition sees an analogy between the political organism and the human organism. In any superior form of corporeal organisation, there is a hierarchical connection of four distinct functions : at the inferior limit, there are undifferentiated energies of pure vitality ; but the functions of trade and of general organic economy rule over them ; and these, in their turn, find in will what moves and directs the whole body in space. Finally, at the top, there is a power of intellect and freedom, which functions as the centre and light of the whole organism.

There are traditions according to which the great body of the State requires a division and hierarchisation of strictly corresponding classes and castes, producing almost spiritualised bodies, not creatures of necessity and temporal contingency. Corresponding to vitality, organic economy, will and spirit, there were the four distinct classes of the slaves (workers), of the merchants, of the Warriors, and finally of the bearers of a simultaneously royal and priestly authority. Each caste was constituted hierarchically above the other : the masses were under the control and government of the experts in commerce and the use of natural and economical resources ; these were under the authority of warlike aristocracies, which in their turn were organised around those who, by their achievement and dominating stature, testified in a way to something in man which goes beyond him.

The ancient East (India) and Far East had social organisations of this sort, which ancient Greece and ancient Rome somewhat resembled, and which resurfaced in the political doctrines of Plato and Aristotle, and finally experienced a social revival in the Catholic-feudal Middle Ages.

It is important to point out that this kind of organisation implied qualitative hierarchy, and marked the actualisation of superior forms of interest and of individuality. In the ancient East, the two superior castes were called ‘reborn’, a term which implied that they constituted a spiritual élite, and that the Warrior and the Aristocrat had a ‘sacred’ rather than just a ‘political’ significance. All hierarchy based merely on economy, work, industry and collective administration was confined to the two inferior castes, the equivalent solely of the physical-vital part of the human organism.

In this way, the hierarchy of the four castes represented sensitively the progressive degrees of elevation of the individuality, through adherence to forms of activity superior to those characteristic of day-to-day life. With respect to the anonymity of the mass, to mere everyday life, the organisers of work and wealth – the third caste – to some extent represented the outline of a type, of a ‘person’. But, in the heroism of the Warrior and in the ethos of the Aristocrat – the second caste – the form of something ‘more than life’, of a being who gives himself a law surpassing natural, instinctive, collective and utilitarian law, could be more clearly perceived. If, finally, in the primordial notion of the Leader, Ascetic, King and Pontiff joined in one being, this designated a universal and almost supernatural accomplishment of personality, the entire expression of what, in the common man, does not have the strength to free itself from contingency and achieve its own selfhood. To the extent that such rulers, achieved individuals, acted as axes of the whole social organism, this organism was like a body led by spirit, temporal power and spiritual authority coincided, and hierarchy was legitimate, in the absolute sense of the word.

Once this scheme – which, as an ideal and basis of value, is independent of the forms and extents to which any society of the past may have realised it – is borne in mind, the process of progressive ‘fall’ of power in historical times becomes rawly obvious. The era of ‘Sacred Kings’ – of simultaneously imperial and priestly natures – is perceived at the threshold of ‘mythical’ times. This peak disappears, and power is transferred to the immediately inferior degree – to the caste of the Warriors, monarchs of the secular type, military captains or lords of temporal justice.

In the second stage, great European monarchies fall, aristocracies decline – through revolutions (as in England and France) and the development of constitutionalism they become powerless vestiges as far as concerns the ‘will of the Nation’. Within parliamentarian, republican and bourgeois democracies, the formation of capitalist oligarchies consequently expresses the fatal passage of political power from the second to the modern equivalent of the third caste – the caste of the merchants.

Finally, the crisis of bourgeois society, the proletarian revolt, the despotism of the masses, as purely collective, economical and international entities, foreshadows to us the final collapse, in which power will pass to the last caste of all – that of the nameless and faceless ones, with the consequent reduction of all criteria of life to the plane of matter and number.

This is like the case of a person who, no longer able to bear the tension of spirit, and then unable to bear even that of will – the force which moves the body – collapses altogether, to reappear as an almost soulless, hypnotised body under the control of another force, which emerges from the depths of mere bodily impulse.

It is time to recognise the illusion of all the myths of ‘progress’ and to open our eyes to reality. It is time to recognise the dire destiny of spiritual destruction which has come to bear upon the West, the ultimate fruits of which are ripening today.

For the purposes of our specific problem, it is necessary to stress that, at the centre of the involutionary process which has just been described, there is a shift from the individual to the collective, which is closely related to the reduction of the interests from which the superior castes drew their legitimate hierarchical authority to the interests peculiar to the inferior castes.

It is only by adhering to his freedom of action that man can be true to himself. The pure action (heroism) and pure knowledge (contemplation, ascesis) of the two superior castes, supported by an aristocratic regime, allowed man to participate in the ‘supernatural’ order, which is the only way in which he can belong to himself and grasp the full and universal sense of personality. When all interest in that order is destroyed, and practical and utilitarian purposes, economic achievements, and the rest of the interests of the two inferior castes are focused on, man disintegrates, moves off-centre, and opens himself up to stronger forces which drag him from himself and return him to the irrational and pre-personal energies of collective life, above which any truly superior culture would have endeavoured to raise itself.

Thus, in the social forms of recent times, the collective becomes more and more over-bearing, and now it is about to bring back to life the totemism of primitive communities. Nation, race, society, humanity are elevated today to the status of mystical personalities, which demand unconditional devotion and subordination from the individuals who make them up, while, in the name of ‘freedom’, hatred is stirred up for those superior and dominating individualities in whom alone the principles of subordination and individual obedience were made sacred and justified. And this tyranny of the group does not confine itself to affirmations of a political and social character in the life of the individual : it assumes moral and spiritual rights, and, claiming that culture and spirit are no longer disinterested forms of activity or paths for the elevation of individuality, but have now become organs subordinate to the temporal collective entity, it proclaims that the morality of those who uphold that spirit has sense and value only as an instrument in the service of the body. Man, before feeling he is a personality, a Self, is required to perceive himself as member of a social group, faction or nation – this is one of the specific commandments of the ultimate subversive ideologies, and it is precisely by this means that the relation which the primitive feels himself to possess to the totem of his tribe or clan reappears.

In the reawakening of the Russian race, and in its assumption that via Sovietism it has a prophetic universal mission, we see a confirmation of this regression to primitive forms of social life, which is found in many modern variants. Those who see in the new Russia the definitive revolt of a barbaric Asiatic race, which rejects the attempts made over two centuries by the Tsars to achieve European civilisation, and attempts instead to ally itself to the forms of social decomposition of the European world, are exactly correct. Bolshevism is the institutionalisation in a modern form of the ancient spirit of the Slavic race : a race without tradition, which, in its social mysticism, in its amalgam of sensuality and spirituality, in the predominance of pathos over ethos, of instinctivity over rationality, brings us back to the forms of pre-personal lack of differentiation and communist promiscuity characteristic of primitives.

The great upheaval of the War has restored this element to its free state, and has made it into a dreadful ferment of decomposition for the still healthy parts of Europe. ‘Soviet civilisation’, when announcing the coming of the ‘proletarian era’, dedicates itself openly to the destruction of the ‘leprosy’ of personality and freedom, « venoms of middle-class society », principles of every evil ; to the abolition, in addition, of private property, of all independent thought, and of every « motive which is supernatural, or, in any sense, foreign to the interests of the [working] class » (Lenin) ; to the advent of the « omnipotent mass-man », who alone must survive and give shape to the way of life and thought of all individuals. The modern side of Bolshevism is only in the ‘method’ : mechanisation and rationalisation are the means chosen to realise, in a universal social regime based solely on economics, the ‘Mass Man’, who already lived mystically in the Slavic soul. And, thus, Soviet civilisation converges in aim – consciously – with another race, which also falsely claims a regenerating universal mission and presumes to represent the last word of civilisation : America.

In America, the process, rather than expressing the vigour of a people which has remained in the pre-civilised state, follows an inflexible determinism according to which man, as he closes his mind to all forms of spirituality and gives himself over to the will of temporal things, ceases by this very act to belong to himself, and becomes a subordinate part of an irrational collective authority which he can no longer control. America, by the sanctification of the temporal and the secularisation of the sacred started by the Protestant heresy, has arrived at this exact point. By carrying through with thoroughness the ideal of the materialistic conquest of the world which Europe had first proposed, it has ended up – almost without realising it – with the materialisation in practice of every sense of power, sanity, activity and personality, thus building an even more dreadful form of barbarism. Here asceticism is considered a waste of time, and the ascetic an anachronistic parasite ‘useless to society’ ; the Warrior is considered a dangerous fanatic, whom opportune humanitarian-pacifist prophylaxes should eliminate, and replace, perhaps, with the boxer. The perfect type, the spiritual champion, is instead the ‘man who works, who produces’, and every form of activity, even spiritual, is assessed only in terms of ‘work’, ‘productive work’, ‘social service’ : nothing could show more typically that at the top of such a society is precisely the representative type of the last of the ancient classes, that of the slaves who work. Once again, since he has renounced his spiritual personality, man ceases to have any value other than that imposed by the collective organisation, overcome by the fever of producing, of ‘realising’, of ‘moving about’ : conditions which, moreover, usurp all moral and even religious values, and tend to standardise the souls themselves into a collective, levelled, forma mentis, and even smother the capacity to sense the level of degeneracy to which the whole thing adds up.

These are the forms by means of which the cycle closes, and the fall is completed. Russia and America are two indicators and two converging faces of the same thing. From a human organism, as it was when it was led by the light and by the authority of superior castes, the body regresses to the type of a sub-human acephalous organism. Coming of the faceless animal (2).

And now we have all the elements to tackle seriously the question : what is the meaning of nationalism in the modern world?

One type of nationalism can already be clearly discerned from what has been said : it is the degree immediately preceding the international forms of economic-proletarian collectivism.

In this nationalism, what is really important is not the exaltation of one particular national consciousness over others, but the fact that ‘the nation’ becomes a person, an entity, as such, and the incapacity to go beyond the law of blood and soil, which concerns only the natural and infra-intellectual aspect of man, the inability of the individual to increase his standing except in terms of a given collectivity and tradition, are raised to ethical values. The mere fact of being ‘national’, here, confers a true mystical aureole on everything, which protects its inviolability and compels respect towards it. This infra-intellectual ethnic element not only does not grant any authority to superior principles, but reduces such principles to its service : ‘nation’ demands the first tribute – it is only subsequently, and in a subordinate manner, that there is room for reality, truth and spirit. Furthermore, in certain forms of nationalism, a further step is made : any disinterested and objective criterion is regarded as a mere abstraction, and it is claimed that, for reality, truth, and culture, as well, national tradition and political interest cannot be left aside : thus they start to speak in favour of our scientific, philosophical, and, even, religious tradition (3), and an unfavourable presumption of valuelessness, or, at least, a suspicious indifference, is expressed against all which is not ‘ours’ and does not ‘enhance the nation’.

Just as they will not tolerate the free manifestation of superior activity, which might create a reality superior to that which is conditioned ethnically, so, in the context of such a nationalism, there is respect for the superior personality only insofar as it is ‘representative’ of the nation. Having come to birth within the revolutions which overwhelmed what was left of the aristocratic-feudal régimes, this nationalism thus expresses a pure ‘mob spirit’ – it is a variety of the democratic intolerance for any leader who is not a mere organ of ‘the popular will’, completely subordinate to the sanction of the latter. Thus, it is easy to see that, between nationalism and Soviet-style or American-style anonymity, basically there is only a difference of degree : in the first, the individual is dissolved back into his ethnic-national roots, in the second the differentiation peculiar to these ethnic roots is overstepped, and a larger collectivisation and disintegration in the mass element occurs. To go from one degree to the other, the mysticism of race has to give way to a structure of the purely economic-mechanical type. In such a structure, owing to its impersonal nature, the last residues of qualitative difference are in fact rooted out, and, with the rationalisation and mechanisation of social life, the path for the advent of the ‘Mass Man’, without fatherland, is virtually open. Now, given that civilisation today is precisely on the plane of economic-mechanical power, and that all criteria of value and greatness are more or less directly reduced to this plane, perhaps shiftings of this type will be only a matter of time.

One may ask : can nationalism also take on another meaning? We think that an affirmative answer can be given to this question. We have said that nationalism appears as a transitional form, accompanying the passing of political rule to the hands of the third caste, but before the rule of the last caste. Now, this allows it to have a double meaning, because, if this transitional form can occur on the downward path, it can also be met in the direction of a putting to rights, of a potential restoration. Assuming that the bottom has been reached, anyone who finds the strength to rise will again encounter nationalism – but another nationalism! Like ‘vectors’ in physics, the definition of this phenomenon must include the factor of direction.

In the first nationalism, the direction is towards collectivisation, realised in the degree of ‘nation’ – in the second, it proceeds instead from collectivism towards the construction of a new aristocratic hierarchy.

To express the premises of this second nationalism, the words of Paul Lagarde, the well-known known representative of German nationalism (4), fit perfectly : to be ‘human’ is less than to be ‘national’, and to be ‘national’ is less than to be ‘personal’ – in other words : to the quality ‘humanity’, the element of difference ‘national’ adds an extra value, X, and the element of individual personality adds to this X a further extra value, Y. We observe therefore the idea of a hierarchy, which from the abstract goes towards the concrete, and the abstract is the collective, the general ; the concrete is the difference, the individual. With respect to the amorphous mass ‘humanity’, the reviving of national consciousnesses can therefore constitute a first step upward : but national consciousness, the ethnic trunk, should represent in its turn mere formless matter compared to the individuals who, by accomplishing themselves, by becoming themselves, by developing into forms of life superior to those which are simply conditioned either by blood or by collective needs, lead it from the state of chaos to that of cosmos, from potentiality to actuality. Thus relations change : the nation is no longer the purpose of the individual, but, rather, the individual, as aristocratic and spiritual personality, is the purpose of the nation, even though the latter remains, as it were, its mother ; just as, in a sense, the soil represents the material condition with respect to a tree, which nevertheless frees itself from it in its upper parts and rises towards the free heights.

This is the fundamental nature of the difference. To explain it definitively, it is necessary to recall the qualitative sense of the ancient hierarchy of the castes. A nationalism which is the prelude of revival – not the onset, but the over-coming, of the mechanical-collectivist state – is only possible if the fundamental requirement is met, of restoring an order of values which is irreducible to the practical, ‘social’, and economic, and this order of values receives supremacy and direct authority over all the rest. Otherwise, there is no hierarchy, and, without hierarchy, the return to a superior, spiritualised type of State is not possible. In fact, hierarchy does not mean simply subordination, but means subordination of what has an inferior nature to what has a superior nature, and whatever can be measured in practical, self-interested, mundane terms is inferior ; what is superior is what expresses a pure and disinterested form of activity. Every other criterion is illusory or corrupting. All hierarchy thought in the context of mere economics, and thus on the basis of differences of money, of political or bureaucratic rank, of class in the Marxist sense, and so on, is illusory. It is only in the light of interests superior to the entire economic plane that the principle of a true hierarchy can be born : it is necessary to work on the basis of the idea that we do not live to develop an economy, but that the economy is means to an end, and this end is inner elevation, the display of the personality in the full and ‘supramundane’ sense. Hierarchy is thus an absolute ‘perversion’ when it expresses the subservience of what is not practical to what is practical, and the spirit becomes an organ of the body – and, unfortunately, with the ‘pragmatism’ ruling on all planes, even on that of science, with plain machiavellianism and general social climbing, this occurs today in the vast majority of cases. Nothing can be more anti-hierarchical, or rather more anarchist, than such fictitious types of hierarchies.

For a restorative nationalism, the problem is therefore as follows : first of all, to shape and organise all that corresponds in the social whole to the bodily, vital, or animal part of a human organism, and that was the domain of the two inferior classes – work, economy, political organisation in the strict sense – and to bring about an ‘economic peace’ which, ‘depressurising’ the society, will allow energies of the superior type to free themselves and to act on a higher plane. Then, work for the reconstruction of the second caste, that is, that of the warlike aristocracy, can begin, with the first of the aristocrats, the Monarch. It is in immediate aristocracy that the ideal of the superior formation of the personality can be fulfilled. Let us not look at the corrupt and degenerate stumps, against which easy demagogic criticism is usually exercised : let us look at the original type of the Lord, a being in which self-command, keenness, unselfishness, culture, honour, loyalty, and above all the qualities of leadership, have become a conquest consolidated on the reliable basis of the blood itself. Aristocracy is the necessary extension of positive nationalism, because if nationalism outlines the boundaries of a blood, an ethnic trunk, aristocracy operates a selection and a further differentiation within these boundaries, carrying the process from the general to a higher degree, from the collective toward the individual, which is the sense of all true progress.

Once the reconstruction of the aristocratic tradition is achieved, the first glimmer of spirit will have been infused into the body of the State, and nationalism, once it has carried out its task, will be able to give rise to higher forms, corresponding to the types of States which were ruled by the second caste. This will be characterised by an absolute personalisation of all relations, by the change from the mechanical to the organic, from constraint to freedom. For example, in other times, there were no soldiers, but warriors, and people did not fight for ‘nation’, or for ‘right’, but for their King ; they did not ‘obey’ ‘social law’, but they were ‘faithful’ to their Lord. The one who submitted knew to whom he submitted, and he did so almost with pride. Responsibility was directly assumed by Leaders, by Monarchs, and not shuffled off onto faceless entities and ideological fetishes. Authority derived from greatness of personality, and from the capacity to devote oneself to what no longer belongs to ‘life’, but already to what is ‘more than life’, and could neither be bought, nor sold, nor measured in terms of what is ‘useful’.

This in turn will be the basis for a State of an even higher form, too distant for it to be appropriate to even sketch here. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that, just as a plurality of men are able to remain free and distinct as bodies, but to be united in a single idea, so, when the élites of the various stocks have managed to put themselves on a plane of true spiritual superiority, the road will be open toward a new universal culture. This does not mean ‘internationalism’, and even less, levelling humanitarianism, both creatures of a materialist mentality ; the States are real and politically distinct at the level of bodies, and we do not propose a unity of bodies, but rather a unity of culture, a genuinely supra-individual conjunction. The Catholic Middle Ages, as well as the Roman Empire and India, show us examples of this universality : they show us the possibility of a deep unity of culture and spirit within an often struggling plurality of States or ethnically distinct races. If it is appropriate to speak of a future European consciousness, it is only in this sense.

But this already goes beyond the task which we set ourselves, to outline the two contrary meanings of nationalism. We think we have made these meanings sufficiently clear. To examine the degrees to which the varieties of nationalism currently present and struggling in the various States conform to the spirits of the respective nations, is a problem of empirical character, which goes completely beyond our analysis.

Julius EVOLA

(*) This essay was published in ‘La Vita Italiana’, March 1931.

(1) The idea of the regression of the castes was first expressed in our ‘Imperialismo pagano’ (Roma-Todi, 1928) ; we have found it again, described in greater detail, in the ideas of V. Vezzani, which, however, have not received a final written formulation yet. Finally, R. Guénon has expressed it in a systematic form in ‘Autorité spirituelle et pouvoir temporel’ (Paris, 1929)

(2) This is the main theme of the essay ‘Americanismo e bolscevismo’, in ‘Nuova Antologia’, May/June 1929, which will become the conclusion of ‘Revolt against the Modern World’

(3) When, as here, we speak of tradition in a negative sense, we mean to refer to that concept of it which does not imply any truly intellectual, and thus supra-ethnic, element, and which, as Chesterton puts it, represents an extension in time of what, in the present moment, is called the will of the majority – the right of the dead on the living, based on the mere fact of being the dead of the same race.

(4) P. de Lagarde, ‘Deutsche Schriften’, vol. I, p. 164.