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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Julius Evola-Varieties of Ascesis

Evola As He Is
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.

Varieties of Ascesis

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

Julius Evola-Presentation of the Jewish Problem

Evola As He Is
Presentation of the Jewish Problem

Between December 1936 and September 1941, Julius Evola published forty articles or so on the Jewish problem in various Italian papers. Thirty-one of these writings, all signed 'Arthos', appeared in La Vita Italiana, and have been compiled by the Italian publisher, Il Cinabro, into an anthology. Of the remaining articles, not included in the anthology, one seems to be lost, namely : 'L'Internazionale ebraica e la profezia della nuova guerra mondiale secondo Ludendorff' ('The Jewish International and the Prophecy of the new World War according to Ludendorff'), which appeared in 1932 and has not been found so far. Another, 'La Guerra occulta - Ebrei e Massoni alla Conquista del Mondo', appears in French translation in the 'Previously unpublished Writings in French' section of this site, as 'La Guerre occulte - Juifs et Francs-macons à la conquête du Monde', and is the first article he wrote on the 'Jewish action' that we know of, dating from December 1936. The title for the anthology is borrowed from a set of three articles published by Evola in La Vita Italiana in 1936 on the subject of the destructive action of Judaism : 'Il Genio d'Israele'  ('Israel's Genius'). This title is a happy and legitimate choice, since, as Il Cinabro recall in their bibliographic summary, Evola himself pointed out, in the first of these three articles, the organic nature of the study of Judaism which he was about to carry out in a long series of articles, 'whose systematic coherence will certainly not escape the attentive readers of La Vita Italiana, 'Il Genio d'Israele' is divided into four sections. They are (1). 'L'Azione distruttrice' ('The Destructive Action') ; (2). 'Guerra occulta e "Protocolli"' ('Occult War and the "Protocols"') ; (3). 'L'Intervento nella Storia' ('The Intervention in History') ; (4). 'L'Antisemitismo' ('Anti-Semitism'). The present article is a translation of 'Inquadramento del Problema ebraico', which is found in the first of these sections. Our readers are strongly advised to take particular notice of an absolutely crucial point made by Evola in this article in relation to the fight against the Jewish influence which has been exerting itself in occupied Europe for a few decades, too often blanked out by those who claim to oppose it, even by those whose good will in this connection cannot be questioned : the Jewish substance, like the French Republic, is, so to speak, 'one and indivisible' ; whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox, Zionist or anti-Zionist, and so on, the Jew, nolens volens, consciously or unconsciously, develops an action which works towards the same effects : denaturation, corrosion, destruction.
A favourite tactic of the emissaries of Judaism consists of accusing their adversaries of 'one-sidedness'. And, we must acknowledge, the anti-Semitic controversy, especially in its political aspects, today, in the transalpine countries, gives rise to examples of one-sidedness, owing to various confusions and too hasty an aggressive spirit, and, for this reason, those who like to think they belong, first and foremost, to the cause of 'truth' and 'justice', readily lend an ear to the hypocritical moanings of the Jews, of that people eternally persecuted, victims, on their own account, of violence of all sorts. 

In Italy, we are privileged to be able to still consider the Jewish problem with coldness and without any urgent necessity. More than for any other people, it is thus possible for us to put things in perspective, to return to everyone what belongs to him and, in the harsh light of an objective vision, to set the vital points which are to be defined and grasped, while avoiding the expedient of a hypocritical humanitarian ideology. 

For a real presentation of the Jewish question, it is necessary to distinguish, in the whole Jewish reality, three elements or aspects. Let's identify them straight away : there is, firstly, the more or less modernised or bourgeoisified Jew of a faceless middle-class ; in the second place, there is the Jew as cultural agent, the Jew as writer, artist, ideologist, sociologist, scientist and so forth ; in the third place, there is the Jew as creature of the Jewish law, and as conscious instrument of the Jewish law. The Jewish problem, and, as a consequence, the anti-Semitic controversy, must be differentiated in relation to each of these aspects or elements. Their distinction, however, must not make us lose sight of the common element which is present, which is to be understood on the basis of the following consideration. Many say that Judaism and racism are, at the end of the day, the same thing, though with an opposite sign. This is not true at all : in its current form, racism is the doctrine according to which it is thought that any value derives from the innate qualities of a blood and of a race which has retained its original purity - racism rules out any idea of a forming from above, from a suprabiological reality, of a biological raw material. We have exactly the contrary in Judaism. What comes first in Judaism is the law, not the blood. It is the law which has given shape and unity to the Jewish people, not a race in the strict sense of the word. Ethnically, and originally, very different bloods have flowed into the Jewish people ; the Old Testament itself speaks of many tribes and races contained in this people and modern race research has come to admit, in it, the presence of elements even of Aryan or non-Semitic origins, as seems to be the case in particular for the Pharisees. It has been said, by a Jew, that, just as Adam was formed by Jehovah, the Jew was formed by the Jewish law, and this truth is not limited to the Judaism of the Old Testament, whose spiritual history has been much more eventful than is assumed, but extends also to the Judaism of the Diaspora, in which it becomes even more emphatically the case, since the Talmud appears as the real essence and the real soul of Judaism.

A first important point which derives from recognising this is that 'Jewishness', before than in the blood, must be sought in the spirit : 'race', here, is essentially a behaviour, a way of being and of thinking, which, in philosophical terms, can be said to be a 'category' of spirit. It is important to establish firmly in one's mind this point in order to be able to identify a field of action of Judaism much vaster than the one that is defined by blood alone. 

In this paper, we have pointed out a process of inverted assimilation which has occurred lately and which was made possible by the fact that the Western civilisation has become spiritually Judaised in important sectors, and is thus affected by a forma mentis of a more or less Jewish type, even where no crossbreeding has taken place and, therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to speak of an influence by way of blood.

To note this, and, therefore, to assert the necessity of identifying Judaism as a spiritual category, does not prevent us from noting also that the persistence of an idea, of an attitude, of a belief through generations ends up finding expression in an instinct, in something which penetrates into the blood, lives and acts in the blood, and, in many cases, completely irrespective of everything that the individual, as reflexive consciousness, thinks and believes he wants ; this is the second aspect of Judaism, this is Judaism, strictly speaking, as 'race' ; race, therefore, in a rather special, non naturalistic, sense.

This having been emphasised, we can get back to our starting point, that is to say to the tripartition of the substance of Judaism. This tripartition, so to speak, refers to three different degrees of intensity. It is either absurd or naive to consider that the thousand-year-old action of the law on a people, which, in accordance with it, has also put up ethical and social barriers which has isolated it for centuries from the rest of humanity, can be entirely scattered or dissipated. We must consider a central core, in which the Jewish substance is found at the highest degree of concentration and as self-consciousness ; within this core are those who are today Jews and are proud to be so, those who, besides, do not forget the promise of the Regnum, in which Israel will rule supreme over all peoples and will own all wealth on earth ; it is from within this central core that originate the mysterious veins of the international and supranational Jewish action, the masked forces which have acted and keep on acting from behind the scene of history and at which we will have a closer look in a further writing, in connection with the problem of the 'authenticity' of the famous 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion'.  

In the second stratum, the Jewish substance is found in a lesser degree of concentration, no longer as true self-consciousness, but instead as instinct, race. Here we find the Jews who are, more or less, 'geniuses' or 'creators' in the various fields of culture and science. There is no doubt that, in most of these cases, each Jew does not subordinate his work to any special intention and that he thinks he does nothing else than what non-Jewish writers, philosophers or scientists do. This does not prevent 'race' from being, without his knowing it, the essential driving factor, and this is how in all the works and the creations of Jews, almost without exception, however 'objective' and 'ideal' the fields to which they refer are, something common, a common character, common tendencies manifest themselves ; an action which, indirectly and unintentionally, is along the same lines. It is very important to set this situation firmly in one's mind. The liberalistic and individualistic way of thinking is prone, here, to absolve the Jew from any fault and make people start bandying words like injustice, fanaticism and barbarism about those who do not respect, in the Jew, the taboos of 'genius', of 'science', of 'art' and so on. Those who, on the contrary, have the sense of the deepest forces of history and thus see the obvious responsibilities beyond the plane of the 'humanistic', know what is, in this respect, true justice and will acknowledge the necessity of a suitable response. It is in the nature of fire to burn, and yet no one sensible will blame the fire for burning ; the fact remains nonetheless that those who do not want to be burnt will take suitable measures and will limit or paralyse the power which proceeds not so much from the 'intention' of the fire as from its nature. It is exactly like this with respect to the cultural exponents of Judaism. It is not, we must emphasise, about animosity, nor hatred, nor clannishness. It is only, let's say it again, about the fact that we consider as naive, limited and irresponsible the 'Humanist' attitude and its related immortal and inviolable values of Thought and Art. We see much further than this nonsense and we adopt the cold attitude which is appropriate with regard to 'influences' which we could ignore only by closing our eyes. The necessity of an action in this connection derives also from the fact that, even if automatically, a connection, an efficient solidarity develops between the Jewish cultural action which, unintentionally, derives from these more or less dispersed Jews and the conscious action which is governed by the central core of Judaism. The former spread a virus of decomposition and subversion in any field, capture and stimulate the most obscure forces in the already disintegrated and intoxicated cultural forms of the Western society and thus unconsciously pave the way for the others, for those who know what they do and are very conscious of the occult means likely to realise their goals.

One will ask how we can justify the assertion that the common element of Judaism in culture has a destructive nature : we will come round to that in our next writing, on the basis of a certain number of typical examples. Let's now consider the third and last aspect of Judaism. As we have said, it concerns the common, modern, Jew without any special function or action, a part of that formless, levelled, mixture of men without faith, without caste and without tradition, which comprises at least two thirds of so-called 'civil society'. Here the Jew seems to be of the same mind as the non-Jew in a common agnosticism with respect to any higher value, in a common profession of liberalistic, bourgeois, conformist, mercantilist faith ; both seem to consider as really important only profession, profit, social position, and the Jew will be prone to consider his law a dead thing just as the 'liberated' non-Jew mocks and refers to as 'medieval superstition' the dogmas, the rites and the sacraments of the Western faith. The Jew of this type will readily make any concession in order to enjoy peacefully the advantages of the modern society in the nation he lives. Baptism itself will not be an insurmountable obstacle for him. Since there are many of these Jews and they are those that people meet most of the time, taking the part for the whole and the appearance for the essence, they do not manage to understand how there can be a 'Jewish problem' at all. On the other hand, the true Jews do not miss a chance to point out these colleagues of theirs as a sort of alibi, which is supposed to confirm the absurdity of the anti-Semitic controversy and thus to protect their hidden action.

Here, as far as we are concerned, it is appropriate to grant that, towards these Jews, who have really come to such a level of agnostic and bourgeois decomposition, we would have no reason to adopt any special attitude. At most, it is here a matter of individual sympathy or antipathy : a common Jewish residue can hardly have entirely disappeared in the way of feeling and of seeing of these Jews, which can turn out to be bearable to some people, unbearable to others. On this level of stupidity to which social relations are reduced nowadays, we do not feel the need to adopt a special attitude a priori towards them and to exclude them more than we would members, equally befuddled in a bourgeois way, of other peoples. To be consistent, we would have to exclude from our circles a far greater range of peoples who exist in this world without castes and without true traditions.

Now that this point is clarified, we must however restrict its validity, by drawing attention to the fact that, in many more cases than it is thought, the agnosticism and the denaturation of the modern Jew are only apparent and that, albeit in a diluted and secularised form, the original influence of the Law and of the formation of the Jewish people according to it, have reached them. As a matter of fact, a sort of solidarity with respect to business, interests and inclinations must still be at work even among these Jews, which has kept them united in the society where they find themselves and which gives to their community, if not the character of a conspiracy, as in the case of the true activist Judaism, at least that of a something resembling a Mafia. In this respect, it is true, not all these Jews behave in the same way and it must be acknowledged that external circumstances and the necessity of a defensive unity in the period of open persecutions have played a part. But, in other cases, the statistics speak for themselves ; the high percentage of Jews who, in some countries, in the liberal-democratic period, rose to positions of responsibility in the liberal professions and in the main branches of public and cultural life speaks for itself and justifies an anti-Semitic response even without any reference to the higher, spiritual, point of view from which we look at things and which must be already known to our readers from our previous writings ; here, indeed, the conviction that, in a given nation, it is just that the members of this nation should hold the main positions and exercise their social activity in preference to any alien element would close the matter. These are practical views with which one can agree or not, depending on whether one is in favour of the modern idea of nation and of national community ; therefore, regardless of the question of whether the Jews behave, in their social and professional activity, differently from the others.

When we say that the Law in a secularised form can be found in this latter stratum of Judaism, we have to say that, here, we also refer to all the forms in which the ancient Jewish longing for worldwide dominion of a sacred race chosen by God, materialising itself, has given rise to the capitalist instinct and cynicism. But here we should recall the distinction already made between Judaism as spirit and Judaism as action, strictly speaking, of members of the Jewish people. Capitalism indisputably reveals the influence of the Jewish spirit, working in conjunction with the equally non-Aryan Protestant and Puritan spirit. This is the case regardless of the direct part that the Jews have or can have in the International of high capitalism and high finance. And this is enough to justify, once again, anti-Semitism. Indeed, what we have already seen in respect of cultural Judaism occurs again here. Even though the power and the instinct for dominion of capitalism, be it Jewish or non-Jewish but Judaised in the sense of having its origin in the Jewish spirit, the Jewish Law, and secularised Mosaicism, does not reveal in every case any direct intention, does not fulfil in each case some part of a general plan, these elements nevertheless inevitably support an action which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether directly or indirectly (as when capitalism causes by antithesis socialist subversion, also Jewish-led), creates the optimal conditions for those who are the conscious and militant bearers of the occult will of Israel and who have maintained as self-consciousness that which appears in others as mere materialistic and instinctive praxis. And the fact that the Jewish capitalist, more or less 'legally' and 'honestly', in the liberalistic meaning of these words, has managed to come to power and to become the master of gold cannot mean anything in this connection, nor be a valid argument against a full anti-Semitism.

These are the terms in which, in general, the Jewish problem is to be presented. In order to justify what has already been said, we must speak of the common, destructive element, peculiar to the Jewish culture, in general, in the modern world, and, then, of the existence or not of general plans of the Jewish action, and this is why we will have to tackle again the famous question of the meaning of the 'authenticity' of the 'Protocols'. These will be the arguments of our two next writings.

Julius EVOLA

Copyright © 2004 Thompkins & Cariou

Julius Evola-Joseph de Maistre

Evola As He Is
Masters Of The Right : 
Joseph de Maistre

It his 'Audodifesa', Evola wrote :

The position that I have defended and continue to defend, as an independent man (...) should not be called 'Fascist', but traditional and counterrevolutionary. In the same spirit as a Metternich, a Bismarck, or the great Catholic philosophers of the principles of authority, de Maistre and Donoso Cortés, I reject all that which derives, directly or indirectly, from the French Revolution and which, in my opinion, has as its extreme consequence bolshevism ; to which I counterpose the 'world of Tradition'. (...) My principles are only those that, before the French Revolution, every well-born person considered sane and normal.

In this all too brief review of the republication in Italian of de Maistre's 'Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg', Evola reveals his indebtedness to and interest in de Maistre. It also shows how to read an author - Evola is able to separate those aspects of de Maistre that are based on the Traditional point of view from those aspects that are merely of contingent interest or based on doctrine and dogma.

It was first published in 'Il Conciliatore' in November 1972, then as 'Joseph de Maistre' in 'Ricognizioni, uomini e problemi', an anthology whose texts were chosen and edited by J. Evola himself a few months before he died.

Masters of the Right : Joseph de Maistre.                                      

The publisher Rusconi, who is performing a service of merit by printing a series of works which provide essential nutrients to the culture of the Right, has just issued a new edition of Joseph de Maistre's 'The Saint Petersburg Dialogues', edited by Alfredo Cattabiani. This is de Maistre's best-known work. However, direct references to the political domain, in which de Maistre shows his worth as a 'reactionary', are scarcer than in his other writings. In fact, he discusses mainly moral and religious problems : the very subtitle of the book, 'Conversations on the Temporal Government of Providence', indicates this line of thought, which does not have much interest for us. Expressly presupposing the existence of a Providence conceived in moral terms, de Maistre confronts the problem of reconciling this with the spectacle displayed by the world and history as they actually are : wicked acts unpunished, virtues unrewarded, and so on.

The solutions to these problems that de Maistre offers cannot be said to be at all convincing, and in fact they seem to us to return to the idea of a divine justice that merely delays just recompense (in his own support, de Maistre includes as an appendix a tract by Plutarch entitled 'De sera numinis vindicta'). However, de Maistre himself reaches a freer and more satisfying view when he compares the ills and accidents that rain upon all types of human being to the bullets that hit an army without making a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. We are led to the conclusion that any conscious being taking on the human state of existence (willing it either ignorantly or rashly, as is said in a Hermetic tract), cannot but be exposed to the contingencies proper to such a state. To look for transcendent moral links, in either case, is natural enough, but to do so displays a continuation of the same ignorance or rashness, as the case may be.

Leaving questions of this sort on one side, let us mention some of de Maistre's ideas which are interesting from the traditional point of view. First of all, we can point to his belief in a Primordial Tradition. It may be that de Maistre was indebted to Claude de Saint-Martin, whom he knew, and who was an exponent of esoteric doctrines in the field of freemasonry, which was sufficiently different then from what it is now, that de Maistre himself took part in it. Then there is his view that the original natural state of humanity was not barbarism. On the contrary, he considers it to have been a thing of light and consciousness, while the savage, the 'primitive' of today, he sees merely as "the descendent of a man detached from the great tree of civilisation, following an abuse of power that cannot be repeated."

In other regards, as well, man finds himself affected by a primeval abuse of power and a consequent degradation : this is the cause of his vulnerability, not only spiritual and intellectual, but also physical. The idea is evidently similar to that of 'original sin' in Christian mythology - the context being, however, vaster and more acceptable. As for his aforementioned thesis on the true nature of the 'primitives', its adoption would probably carry ethnological research to a higher level and avert many blunders.

De Maistre accused the savants, scientists, and such, who, like some cabal, collude together to deny that anyone might acquire greater knowledge than their own, and by different methods. "They dismiss as irrational a time in which men saw cause and effect clearly, but they display the mentality of our current age, in which men can only with difficulty penetrate from effects to causes, and tend to say that it is worthless to concern oneself with causes, or hardly to know anymore what a cause is." He adds : "They propound innumerable clichés concerning the ignorance of the ancients, who saw spirits everywhere : it appears to me that they are much more foolish than these ancients were, because they fail to see any spiritual factors whatever. We always hear talk of physical causes. But what, in the final analysis, is a physical cause?"

For him the axiom, "No physical event in the life of man can have a higher cause," is inauspicious and likely to promote a fundamental superficiality. He rejects the idea of progress. The idea of involution appears rather more plausible to him. De Maistre notes that numerous traditions attest that "Men began already in possession of science, but a science different from ours, and superior to it, because it started from a higher point, which also made it more dangerous. And this explains to us how science, at its beginning, was always mysterious, and was restricted to the temples, where ultimately it burned itself out, when its flame could no longer serve except to burn."

De Maistre attached great importance to prayer and its power. He even wrote : "No one can demonstrate that a nation that prays has not been answered," but, properly, it is the opposite that must be demonstrated, which is not easy. He finds himself confronting the contradiction between prayer and the power which is attributed to it, on the one hand, and the immutability of the laws of nature, on the other - an antithesis that de Maistre tries to reconcile, although not very convincingly. He thinks that if some prayers are not granted, that is due only to a higher divine wisdom.

De Maistre's defence of the executioner as an instrument of God is often cited with horror, and, even more so, his conception of the divine character of war. Unfortunately, these critics of de Maistre's view do not consider that war can really and truly express the highest spiritual values, of heroism and supra-individualistic action ; they see it in dismal terms, as an expiation performed both by and upon a humanity fundamentally guilty and debased. The difference between the just and unjust war, between the war of defence and that of conquest, between the war of the victor and that of the vanquished, is not considered. These views are little in accord with a positive 'reactionary' orientation.

In another of his works, 'Considerations on France', de Maistre, after declaring himself in favour of the restoration of the monarchy, states an important concept, namely, that the counter-revolution must not be a "revolution in the opposite direction", but rather the "opposite of a revolution". We owe to him a new type of theology of revolution ; he highlights something 'demonic' that generally hides itself beneath the revolutionary phenomena. This aspect is responsible for the fact that the revolution drags its makers along behind it, rather than being led by them. Only in the modern epoch did it take on the character of a more of less institutionalised 'permanent revolution', with its technicians and slick manipulators.

The reader will be able to find many other interesting ideas in the 'Saint Petersburg Dialogues', if he takes care to avoid such disquisitions as, for example, the prolix discussion of Locke. We cannot resist the temptation finally to quote what de Maistre said about women : "A woman can be superior only as a woman, but as soon as she tries to imitate a man, she is nothing but a monkey."

Pure truth, whether contemporary 'feminist movements' like it or not.

Julius EVOLA

Copyright © 2007 Thompkins & Cariou

Julius Evola-The Problem of Decadence

Evola As He Is
The Problem of Decadence

It may be in politics that the difference of nature between the ancient Indo-European world and the 'modern world' is most striking. The former is aristocratic, whereas, in the latter, what prevails is the political regime which was considered as the worst of all by Aristotle, democracy, which, as shown by Plato, through the excess of liberty which characterises it, has tyranny as a natural outcome, it being understood that, reassuming in this the traditional Indo-European world-outlook, Plato and Aristotle criticise liberty only in that it is given to all, to people who, by nature, are not made for it, or, at least, not to the same extent. According to this view, man has a specific function dictated by his own nature and man can only fulfill himself by performing this function well. This view is thus a hierarchic one. Aristocracy is based on an objective qualitative fact of life: natural hierarchy. By holding in common a fundamental premise, the equality and freedom of all human beings no matter what their race and their sex, the political theories born out of the Enlightenment deny this natural hierarchy, base of any society worth of the name, and, practically, what this leads to is an inverted hierarchy: in the 'modern world', the best do not rule, it is the worst who rule, or, to put it more accurately, who 'manage', in a chaos that they feed and intensify. Following in Aristotle's footsteps, René Guénon describes and analyses from a metaphysical standpoint this state of affairs in the sixth chapter of 'La Crise du Monde moderne', translated and prefaced by Julius Evola ('La Crisi del Mondo moderno', Hoepli, 1937) : 'Le Chaos social'. This chapter, revised, was to be published in the Fascist paper Lo Stato in April 1936, as 'Suggestioni sociali, Democrazia ed Elite' ('Social Suggestions, Democracy and Elite'). At the end of the 60's, 'the friends of the Ar group' (Ar Edizioni is a publisher of books by Evola) decided to publish it, in an anthology called 'Gerarchia e Democrazia' ('Hierarchy and Democracy'), along with two articles by Evola, also taken from Lo Stato and written atthe same period, 'Sull'Essenza e la Funzione attuale dello Spirito aristocratico', October 1941 ('On the true Essence and Function of the aristocratic Spirit') and 'Il Problema della Decadenza', May 1938 ('The Problem of Decadence'). 'Il Problema della Decadenza' was already translated into English and can be found on various Internet sites, as 'The Secret of Degeneration'. The translation we propose here is a ne varietur one.
One of the most typical dogmas of so-called 'modern thought' in all its scientistic, rationalistic, illuministic and positivistic forms was the myth of 'progress', the interpretation of history as an uninterrupted 'evolution' of humanity, the latter conceived of uniformly, any articulation of mankind according to spiritual ideas, traditions, castes, or hierarchical traditional units being considered by that 'modern thought' as being peculiar to outdated stages of that so-called 'evolution'. It is known that, by force of tragic experiences, such 'myth' has had its day: although it can still often be found in the methodological premises of various scientistic disciplines, the fields of culture and science being the ultimate strongholds of resistance in any outdated cycle of civilisation, the evolutionist and progressive myth, with regard to the political and social reality and the general vision of history, is nevertheless completely discredited ; and among the new forces suffused with the consciousness of these hard and tragic times, there is no lack of tendencies which return to more or less opposed views, peculiar to the greatest ancient traditions, to which this 'evolutionist' myth is totally foreign, for these are characterised on the contrary by the sense of a process of decadence, of a slow darkening or of a fall from a higher, primordial world. The fact that this view is singularly and impersonally shared by the traditions of the most different peoples, and not only in general, but also in detail, is, to a large extent, a proof that this is no mere philosophical attitude: in this connection, the reassumption of ideas of this kind must not be judged, as is erroneously thought in certain circles, as the contingent product of a certain pessimistic state of mind, as a sort of reflection of a state of crisis, but as the foreboding, though confused in most cases, of something far more real.

Anyone who wants to go deeper into this idea, both new and traditional or antievolutionist at the same time, cannot avoid tackling a further order of researches, to begin with those which are related to the mystery of decadence.

In a superficial sense, it cannot be said of this problem that it is new. For instance, in front of the grandiose remnants of magnificent civilisations, whose names sometimes haven't even reached us, but whose very monumental traces often seem to reflect on earth the greatness and the power of supraterrestrial things, there is not a single person who has not posed to himself the problem of the death of civilisations and has not sensed the inadequacy of most of the explanations given in this regard by researchers. To de Gobineau, father of racism, we owe one of the best formulations of this problem and, at the same time, a masterly and documented criticism of all the main theories proposed for the explanation of the phenomenon. However, the solution suggested by de Gobineau, according to us, has no great persuasive power, and the part it contains which is correct needs to be completed by considerations of a higher order. As noted, to de Gobineau, a civilisation develops, lives on, and dominates as long as in its center the race that created it remains pure ; it decays and dissolves as soon as this purity begins to vanish, bloods mix, an ethnic chaos occurs. Somewhere else ( J. EVOLA: 'Revolt against the Modern World',  Chapters X and XXII), we have said why such a thesis is insufficient and basically ends up taking the causes for the effects, since we think that the creative virtues of any superior race cannot be purely and simply explained by the mere biological factor, which is itself only an effect of another cause. Here we will merely point out that in many cases a civilisation declines even where crossbreeding cannot be alleged and the original race has remained substantially pure. This is particularly visible among certain savage populations, caught in a fatal process of slow death, though ethnically they remained closed in upon themselves almost hermetically. There are examples which are closer: Stapel has reminded us that the Swedes and the Dutch, racially, are nowadays more or less what they were two centuries ago, and yet, now, there is no longer even a ghost of the heroic civilisation which was theirs at that time. Other great civilisations and their related states sometimes seem to have survived as mummies ; without any visible alterations, they died a long time ago and they live on in appearance only. The slightest blow is thus enough to reduce them to powder. Among those who are best known to us, a typical case is offered by ancient Peru, this magnificent, immense, 'solar' empire, which a bunch of adventurers sufficed to destroy.
The mystery of decadence becomes even more obscure in a specifically doctrinal presentation of the problem. In this presentation, it is necessary to start from a dualism of types of civilisation, and, consequently, of state. On one hand, there are the traditional civilisations, diverse in form, but identical in their principle; these are civilisations in which spiritual and supra-individual forces and values are the axis and the supreme point of reference of the hierarchic organisation, of the  setting up and the justification of all subordinated reality. On the other hand, there is modern civilisation, antitradition, pure construction made of human, terrestrial, individualist or collectivist factors, complete development of all that life entirely separated from 'supra-life' is capable of. We  owe to René Guénon a classical presentation and a concluding justification of this fundamental view with respect to the morphology of civilisation. On this view, the meaning of history is a decadence, for history shows us a disappearance of previous civilisations of 'traditional' type and the more and more precise and general advent of a new common civilisation of 'modern' type.
Here, the problem we are faced with is double. How is it, in general, that this was possible? Evolutionism is entirely based on a logical impossibility, since it is impossible that the greater comes from the less and the superior from the inferior. But are we not confronted with a similar difficulty when we wish to explain involution? How is it possible that what is superior degenerate?
Certainly, mere analogies are hastily proposed as solutions ; the sane man can indeed get sick ; the virtuous can become vicious ; a natural law, which does not come as a surprise to anyone, sees to it that any organism, after birth, growth and maturity, gets old, weakens, dies ; and so on. But all this is a statement of fact, not an explanation, even assuming that there is a complete analogy between both orders of things, which is doubtful in states and in civilisations, since the forces of will play a very different part in them than in these natural phenomena.
The mystery, we were saying, is double, because we must explain not only decadence within a given world, but also the possibility that this decadence, once it has asserted itself in a given world, may have been able to ruin and implicate all the rest. To express ourselves in a more concrete way, we would say that, for instance, we must not only explain how the ancient Western traditional reality could degenerate and give birth to modern civilisation, but how the latter could get under control almost  the whole earth, perverting the various peoples of any other kind of civilisation, asserting itself even where states with 'traditional' characters seemed to exist - in this connection, let us just cite the Eastern Indo-Germanic civilisations, not to mention Islam and China.
Concerning this, it cannot just be said that it is a matter of mere material and political conquest, and this, for two reasons. In the first place, in the long run, a country materially conquered cannot but be subjected to influences of another order, coming from the type of civilisation of its conquerors, and, as a matter of fact, we see that the European conquest has spread to some extent everywhere a ferment of europeanisation, that is to say of modernisation, of materialism, of antitraditional and individualist spirit. In the second place, and we are coming here onto an essential point, the traditional conception of civilisation and of state is hierarchic, and not dualistic. One who holds this conception could not subscribe without reservation to the 'give to Caesar' and 'my kingdom is not of this world'. Tradition is to us the victorious and creative presence in the world of what 'is not of this world', that is to say of spirit, conceived of as something stronger than any purely material and simply human force. The antithesis between spirit and power, the opposition between strength and authority is only, once again, a characteristic of 'modern' thought.
Once this is admitted, as it must be from a strictly traditional standpoint, it is clear that one cannot speak simply, and almost rashly, of a merely material conquest. The material conquest appears to us as a spiritual 'retreat' when it comes to civilisations which were defeated and lost their autonomy. If in any case the spirit, conceived of as tradition requires, that is to say as the strongest of all forces, had in fact been present, it would not have lacked the means, more or less invisible, direct or indirect, to overcome any technical and material superiority. We must thus conclude that, wherever the West was able to inflict defeat, the traditional appearances hid a degeneration already in progress. The West would then appear as the civilisation in which an already general crisis assumed the most acute form, in which the decadence peculiar to 'modern thought', so to speak, 'became precipitated' and, getting organised, could sweep away more or less easily the other peoples, in which, even though they were at far less advanced stages of involution, tradition did not possess its original force any more, and, for this reason, they were able to be subjected from the outside to the force of events.
On the basis of these considerations, the second aspect of the problem would refer itself back to the first: the only thing left to do would be to explain the sense and the possibility of degeneration from the inside,  that is, the propensity to decadence as a phenomenon likely to occur in a given civilisation or in a given state of traditional type, without the help of external factors connected with other forms of civilisations or of other states.
To arrive at any positive results in this connection, we must firstly make clear an extremely important point, relating to the essence of hierarchy. What we have to do specifically is to deny the idea, tendentiously put into circulation by 'modern thought', according to which the hierarchies peculiar to 'traditional' civilisations would be the product of some kind of pressure, of direct control and of violent domination of what was considered as superior over what is inferior. This view is purely modern, absolutely foreign to the nature of ancient civilisations and, we can even say, of any normal civilisation. Traditional teaching has indeed conceived spiritual action as 'acting without acting', has spoken of an unmoved mover, has always used the symbolism of the 'pole', of the fixed axis around which any movement of the secret things occurs ; has underlined the 'Olympian' attribute of true spirituality and true sovereignty and their direct way of asserting themselves, not through violence, but through presence ; finally, it has sometimes used the image of the 'magnet', in which, as we are about to see, the key of the whole problem lies.
In his work on 'The doctrine of Fascism", Carlo Costamagna has had the merit of elucidating some concepts which are not so far from this fundamental truth. Opposing the theory of the violent origin of the state, Costamagna has attempted to eliminate "the confusion between the idea of force and the idea of violence which has spoiled the whole attitude of modern thought on this subject, because it has prevented it, firstly, from acknowledging that the very content of power is not in any way that of a physical predominance, but in reality of a moral predominance which doesn't have submission as a justification, but, primarily, the agreement of the governed". He has also pointed out that the actual currents of anti-Marxist and anti-bourgeois revolution give more and more value to "the circumstance of acting and sacrificing in the name of something which is not the individual any more, which does not consider the animal instinct to live nor utility any more ; that is to say, of living a life which goes beyond the material fact of living". Such is indeed the central point of the true hierarchical idea, through which the 'superstition' that individual life is the basis of everything is fought and something which is more than life can be assumed as the point of reference of the moral experience and simultaneously as the objective of the political activity. That which Costamagna mentions as principle of a new 'antimodern' order really is the keystone of any traditional social organisation, the political process carried to such a degree that it identifies itself with the development of the human personality itself and the fulfillment of its superior possibilities.
It is absurd to believe that the true representatives of spiritual authority, that is to say of tradition, would set about running after all their subjects in order to grasp them and bind everyone to his own place ; that, in short, these representatives 'act' and have some sort of direct interest in creating and maintaining these hierarchic relations, by virtue of which they could visibly appear also as the leaders. The recognition from the inferior is on the contrary the true base of any normal and traditional hierarchy. It is not the superior who needs the inferior, but the inferior who needs the superior ; it is not the Duce who needs a private, but the private who needs a Duce. The essence of hierarchy lies in the fact that there is in some superior beings, as a presence and as an actualised reality, what exists, in the others, only as confused aspiration, presentiment, so that the latter are irresistibly attracted by the former and they naturally submit to them, submitting in this not so much to something exterior as to their realer 'I'. Here lies the secret of any readiness to sacrifice, of any heroism, of any manly dedication in the world of ancient hierarchies, and, on the other hand, of a prestige, an authority, of a calm power and influence which not even the most heavily armed tyrant could ever have secured.
To acknowledge this also means to see under a different light not only the problem of decadence, but also that of the possibility, in general, of any subversive revolution. Don't we hear constantly that, if a revolution has triumphed, it is a sign that the ancient leaders were weak and the ancient leading strata had degenerated? And so would it be, if ever it had been about chained wild dogs which ended up biting the hands which fed them: this would obviously prove that the hands which had been holding firm these animals were not, or are not any more, strong enough. But things are different when the theory of the violent origin of the true state is rejected and when the starting point is spiritual hierarchy, whose true foundation we have just pointed out. Such hierarchy may decay and be ruined only in one case: when the individual decays, when he uses his fundamental liberty to say no to the spirit, to deprive his life of any higher point of reference and set himself up as a stump. Contacts are then fatally interrupted, the metaphysical tension which united the traditional organism and made of the political process the counterpart of a process of elevation and of integration of the individual loosens, any force becomes  unsteady in its orbit, and, finally, after the vain attempt to substitute the lost tradition for rationalist interpretations and utilitarian processes, frees itself from it: the heights remain pure and intact, but the rest, which was beforehand as it were suspended from them, will look like an avalanche which, in an initially imperceptible, then accelerated movement, once the stability is lost, falls down, to the bottom, to the leveling of the valley: socialism, mass collectivism, Bolshevism.
This is the mystery of decadence, this is the mystery of any subversive revolution. The revolutionary has started by killing in himself hierarchy, mutilating himself of these possibilities to which corresponded the inner foundation of the order, which he has then brought down also externally. Without a preliminary inner destruction, no revolution, in the sense of antihierarchic and antitraditional subversion is possible. And since this preliminary stage escapes superficial observation, the one who, with an obtuse short-sightedness, can only see and appreciate the 'facts', has to get accustomed to considering revolutions as irrational phenomena and even to justify them by referring to materialist and social factors, which, in any normal civilisation, only ever had, contrarily to his view, an absolutely secondary and subordinated function. When the Catholic myth refers the fall of the 'primordial man' and the 'revolt of angels' to free will, it basically relates to the same explanatory principle. It is about the terrible power, inherent in man, to use freedom in the sense of a spiritual destruction, to reject everything that can secure him a supranatural dignity. This decision is a metaphysical one, of which the whole current which has been snaking through history, in the various forms of appearance of the antitraditional, revolutionary, individualist, humanistic, secular and, finally, 'modern' spirit is only the manifestation and, so to speak, the phenomenology. This decision is the sole active and determining cause in the mystery of decadence, of the destruction of tradition.
This being understood, we are able to comprehend the meaning of ancient traditions, of a rather enigmatic nature, related to the leaders who, in a certain sense, already exist, having never ceased to exist, and who can be found again (themselves or their 'faiths') by means of actions described in various ways, but always of symbolic character ; in fact, their search is equivalent to a reintegration, the creation of a certain attitude, whose virtue is similar to the essential qualities by which a given metal suddenly feels the magnet, discovers the magnet and orientates and irresistibly moves towards the magnet. We will limit ourselves to this remark, which anyone who wishes to can easily develop. To deal in detail with this order of ideas and to explain the myths to which we have just alluded and that come from the oldest Indo-European antiquity would lead us too far. We may get back on another occasion to the mystery of decadence, of the 'magic' able to bring back again the collapsed and unleashed mass, more than to temporary forms of order, to the unchanging peaks still suspended, invisible, in the heights.
Copyright © 2004 Thompkins & Cariou