Evola’s Pagan Imperialism: the Pagan Aspect
The true cause of the decline of the political idea in the contemporary West resides in the fact that the spiritual values which at one time suffused the social order have gradually vanished, and no one as yet has been able to replace them with anything.
…the themes of a new realism, of a new Nordic-pagan classicism, of a new freedom in what is essential, in anti-sentimentalism, in the ‘Dorian’ and the objective…
The political institutions of communism, socialism, and democracy were all emphasized in post-Enlightenment western civilization, with the Enlightenment itself arising in large part due to the Protestant Reformation; and largely because of this, these resultant phenomena of the Enlightenment were considered by Julius Evola to be “telluric” and feminine (also semitic and “southern,” i.e. racially Mediterranean). Aristocracy and class stratification, etc., on the other hand, were “solar” and masculine (and Aryan and Nordic). With regard to socialism in particular, in Evola’s own words, “The first root of European decadence is socialism,” which of course has now mutated or degenerated into the emasculated and even more dysfunctional soycialism.
I may as well point out here the perhaps counterintuitive truth that the radical right, even the fascist right, has traditionally been a champion of religion and even of genuine spirituality, unlike the radical left, especially Marxism, which latter has been materialistic and atheistic almost by definition. Leftists may denounce fascism for having spiritual emphases, but the optics of that are pretty bad, and it doesn’t facilitate the left’s claiming of a moral high ground. So most leftists simply prefer to believe the propaganda and to assume that fascism is nothing more, almost by definition, than all that is evil. But I digress somewhat.
Thus unlike Marxist authoritarianism, Evola’s fascism insisted upon spiritual rebirth:
…the modern world has now reached a point where it is useless to delude ourselves about the efficacy of any reaction not originating from a deep spiritual change. We can only free ourselves from the evil which corrodes us by a total negation, by a spiritual impulse which truly makes us into new beings, reopening for us the possibility of grasping a new world, of breathing a new freedom: even if everything in which the West vainly prides itself should also collapse.
In passages like this he speaks like a minor prophet, and could be (briefly) confused with Dostoevsky.
Throughout Pagan Imperialism Evola was contending with the dilemma made so famous by Nietzsche, namely the fact that the death of God in western culture leaves a kind of inspiration vacuum, a rudderless ship of civilization that is doomed to dash against the rocks if something doesn’t replace it—science being too shallow, though broad, and Marxism being so based upon falsehood and silliness as to be untenable, not to mention utterly dystopian even if it actually worked better in reality than it does.
Evola rejected even the egalitarianism and “socialism” of scientific empiricism, with its idea that one objective truth fits all, and applies to all. He believed in the wisdom of superior men, which cannot be shared with inferiors, so that what is true for an exalted god-man may not be true of a lowly peasant, and vice versa. Hence, “The point to be borne in mind is that sacred and sapiential science, since, unlike secular science, is not a ‘knowing’ but a being, cannot be taught by books or universities or transmitted by words: to gain it, it is necessary to be transformed, to transcend common life for a superior life.” One would thus attain to “the natural aristocracy of wisdom.”
His description of this higher awareness is remarkable in its own wisdom, as Evola was an esotericist and a Buddhist scholar of sorts, unlike the utterly shallow materialistic atheists of Marxism, the other radical movement in the west in Evola’s day. Nevertheless he maintained and cherished a strong sense of self or individuality bordering on the Luciferian, in himself and in the elite especially, which in Buddhism is a no-no.
So Evola misconstrues Buddhism to some extent, it seems to me, and seems to misinterpret primordial Aryan society as well, in addition to misplacing their primordial homeland. He evidently believed that the ancient Aryans had totalitarian god-kings, when actually they did have somewhat of a democratic spirit, like the Indian republics of the Buddha’s time, the Greek democracies, the early Roman Republic, the ancient Germanic tribes with an elected king with very limited authority and with chiefs and priests already separate, let alone the American founding fathers. Evola had some damned interesting ideas, but he was more idealistic than realistic—then again, he largely rejected empirical objectivity on philosophical grounds. He was an idealist who despised idealism.
Evola was a worthy forerunner of postmodernism, a sort of quasi-postmodernist in his insistence on a non-uniform understanding of the world and of reality within and among societies. He did not go so far, however, as to insist that all truth is merely a social construct, though he considered much of it to be just that, a mythos that derives its reality from the spirit of the race and the commandments of the ascended deific Emperor who guides the hearts and minds of his people. This is one of many reasons why Evola considered modernism, with its universal truths and universal systems of human liberal values, to be ripe for a fall: he considered the very idea that one truth applies to everyone as just as socialistic, feminine, and essentially semitic as scientific empiricism, equity, egalitarianism, and democracy. Considering science to be inherently feminine sounds strange to me, but that is apparently what Evola thought, at least in its aspect of One Truth Shared By All.
Like a good fascist, maybe, he was willing to blame the Jews for what is lacking and wrong in western society. On the other hand, the Aryan Golden Age that he yearned for is largely a myth, and much of what he decried in society is simple human nature, and some of it even characteristically Aryan. Without empirical objectivity as a foundation, Evola relies predominantly on his own inner certainty, and speaks more or less prophetically, which results in a state in which the strongest, and not the rightest, ideology rises to the top. To be fair though, this is what happens anyway; and the fact that scientific objectivity has tended to rise to the top is because it is a very powerful ideology. Here is a typical example of his own idealism, and its near inscrutability:
And, here, then, if the poisonous fog of the ‘human’ world is dispelled, besides intellectualism, besides psychology, besides the passion and the superstition of men, nature in its free and essential state will reappear. Everything around will become free again, everything will breathe, at last. The great disease of romantic man, faith, will now be overcome through experience. To man, thus reintegrated, new eyes, new ears, new wings, will really and spontaneously open. The supernatural will cease to be the pallid escape of pallid souls. It will be reality and will become one and the same thing with the natural. In the pure, calm, powerful, and incorporeal light of a revived Dorian simplicity, spirit and form, interiority and exteriority, reality and supra-reality, will become and the same thing in the balance of both members, of which none is higher, none is slower than the other. It will thus be an epoch of transcendent realism: in the forces of those who believe they are men and do not know they are sleeping gods, the forces of the elements will awaken, up to the thrills of absolute illumination and of absolute resurrection.
This rejection of ideals by replacing them with a different grand ideal not acknowledged as a mere ideal, may represent some of the political naivety that Evola later acknowledged with regard to this book. Though he was always driven by a subjective inner vision that he himself would agree did not apply to everyone. His was a no-frills spiritual fascist idealism, striving for the superman, for “supra-individual perfection” and “the extra-human.”
Towards the end of Pagan Imperialism Evola critiques the National Socialist German Workers Party, led by Adolf Hitler, which was at the verge of transforming Germany into a (very temporary) world superpower. He approved of the swastika as a Pagan symbol, but disapproved of both Nationalism and Socialism. He did not have any great preoccupation with workers either, German or otherwise.
If the swastika, the Aryan pagan sign of the sun and of the flame, which burns thanks to its own power, belongs certainly to the symbols which, better than others, could lead to a true Germanic rebirth, nevertheless, we have to acknowledge that the name of the political party which has recovered it as emblem, and which today is revolutionizing Germany in a Fascist sense, is most unfortunate. As a matter of fact, leaving aside the reference to the workers’ class, both ‘nationalism’ and ‘socialism’ are elements which match up poorly with the whole German tradition, and it would be clearly necessary to be convinced that what is needed instead by Germany is a counter-revolution against democratic socialism.
This is a powerful indication that Evola’s fascism was much farther right on the political and economic scales than that of Mussolini or Hitler, as he had no use for socialism whatsoever, national or otherwise. He probably would have felt more sympathy with one of the reactionary monarchist groups, aiming to reinstate the Kaiser (German for “Caesar”), that briefly allied with the Nazis before Hitler eventually came to power in Germany. Also, Evola felt that the Nazis placed too much emphasis on genetic racial factors.
Evola disapproved of ethnic nationalism based on biological race, in part because race is passive and thus feminine and “lunar,” not truly Aryan, masculine, and solar. (His seemingly indiscriminate use of “lunar” and “telluric” or earthly in his criticism of effete egalitarianism is something I have never quite made sense of, unless indeed he meant essentially the same thing by them: something humble, passive, superficial, and feminine contrasted with the power and masculine vitality of the sun.) For Evola a traditionalistic Aryan system would be based not on passive biological factors but on dynamic action and the conscious fulfillment of a hierarchical society based on strong leadership, discipline, and loyalty. Also, more importantly to him, it would be based on an inspired relationship to the divine, via the God-Emperor and the worthy demigods of the aristocratic elite.
He agreed with the Nazis that antisemitism was necessary, not as a racial issue however but rather as an ideological and spiritual one. Consequently he felt that the Nazis didn’t go far enough in their resistance to Judaism and its effects on western civilization: “A radical anti-Semitism is possible only to the extent that there is at the same time an anti-Christianism. Only on the basis of an Aryo-pagan spirituality can a universal antithesis to Semitism develop….”
He saw, rightly, that Christianity was itself an immense conduit of Jewish attitudes and ideals in western civilization, and so he insisted upon some sort of Aryan Paganism to replace it, not only in outward ceremonies and superficial beliefs but in the inmost heart and spirit, where he found the most important elements of any civilization. In another of his books, The Doctrine of Awakening, he proposed Theravada Buddhism, or early Buddhism, as a possible replacement, if only for the aristocracy.
Evola appreciated that in the Middle Ages the Church was a cultural universal throughout Europe, doing much to unify society, but he also saw Christianity as socialistic and egalitarian, a semitic forerunner of Marxism; thus he rejected it out of hand as a cultural unifier for his proposed ideal future Europe. It simply was not fascistic enough. He wrote, “…to the extent that Catholicism, in spite of everything, would represent the hierarchical ideal, those forces could find support in the Church,” but that would be a non-Christian, Roman, vestigial pagan aspect of Roman Catholicism. Evola much preferred the presumably Aryan notion of the man ascending to become god to the Christian dogma of God descending to become man in the Messiah, with priests being little more than sanctified slaves.
The principle of inequality, on which the traditional spirit was based, establishes as an axiom that, according to the diversity of men and their natural possibilities, there are very different ways to enter into relationship with the divine. For the best—who will always be a minority—it is possible to develop a link directly to the divine, transforming themselves into it and possessing it as a living and real state of their own experience: this is the solar path, the initiatory ideal. For the others, for the masses, it is not possible to actualize this kind of transformation and realization. In them, the bonds of human nature are stronger. Another path is open to them: to connect themselves by a vow to something which is offered to them in the form of a particular, real, and transcendent being—that is God in the theistic concept. In place of the knowledge of the divine, faith in the divine supplants it; in place of experience, dogma; in place of the technique of overcoming and of real participation, prayer, fear of god, and religiosity; in place of the sense of sufficiency and supra-personality, insufficiency, and dependence upon the Omnipotent.
Going with the idea above, Evola sees Christianity, or rather Catholicism, as appropriate only for the lower orders so long as it remains primarily Christian, that is, a reform movement of Judaism. It could be accepted by the higher orders only if it accepts the principle of inequality and abandons the notion of priest as mere servant of God and not a more Aryan inspired instrument of God, or perhaps even a minor god himself.
The Christian Church might be retained in some form so long as it resumes its proper place below the God-Emperor, with the Eagle above the Cross:
…it remains subordinated to the Eagle. To the extent that the Church cannot do it or does not want it, it immediately places itself in the context of the anti-traditional, destructive and paralyzing forces; it lowers itself to the problematic Semitic-Christian factor, which, as one of the main causes of the decadence of our world, can only find in us anti-moderns implacable and inexorable enemies.
Hence “the Semitic-Plebeian revolt against the ideal of Rome”—Christianity undermining Empire.
Evola was thus emphatically a Ghibelline who considered the Nietzschean superman to be more exalted and more worthy than the humble slave of God. Those who know are higher than those who merely believe, and those who command are above those who serve—male greater than female, sun greater than moon, Aryan greater than Semite. He approved of the fact that as late as the Carolingian Dynasty the Pope still prostrated before the King.
It is not political reform or social upheaval that is needed so much as a re-establishment of primordial Aryan values in the hearts of western men and women, and by “Aryan” he essentially means “fascistic.” I suppose this theme of spiritual rebirth, strenuously embraced in the book, is one reason why in later years he considered it to be somewhat naive. It would take a veritable god-man, presumably a charismatic and Aryan one, to effect that, and that cannot be executed according to some agenda. (I am reminded of Krishnamurti being groomed to be a world messiah, and how well that turned out.)
In Evola’s view, the original, noble Aryans had kings with divinely inspired authority, which authority was eventually usurped by the priests. Later, after kings and priests both had fallen from grace in a degenerating and increasingly feminized civilization, society was vitiated by the merchants and moneylenders assuming control; and potentially it could be wrecked altogether by the vulgar peons of the proletariat in the most perverse case of Marxism. Any truly noble, Aryan system, according to Evola, MUST embrace the supremacy of the elites, especially the nobility…but that leads to Imperialism, the second word in the title of the book, which will be discussed in the next installment.