By way of illustration I think I’ll share a chunk of a larger essay by Julius Evola, dealing with what he feels are the true roots of the western spiritual tradition, which he divides into two types which are equal yet distinct.
I mention Evola with the caveat that I do not neccisarily share all or even most of his views, particularly in regards to race and politcs, but along with Ren頇u鮯n forms the most intelligent and spiritually insightfull critique of the modern condition that I know of. At the same time, both of these men present compelling visions of the traditional wisdom in it’s full force, that form the backbone of my life personally, and by extension, the core idea of my writings here.
My particular take on the Perennial Philosophy is informed far more by the works of Ken Wilber , but while Wilber confines his critique mostly to the excesses of deconstructive post-modernism the former two men are by far more comprehensive and clear in their understanding of a possible ‘degeneration’ of the human condition.
So with one further caveat, being that there’s more to my picture than these three men and thier views, settle back and enjoy my take on the religion of heroes.
Esoterically, when we speak of ‘tradition’, we mean the ‘transmission’ (traditio) from generation to generation of a ‘presence’ of ‘transcendent’ nature, just as a flame lights another flame. A chain of individuals thus becomes the mediator of a continuity of contact with metaphysical reality and a non-human force.
This transmission can happen in an elite existing as an hidden vein behind the great historical and ethnic forces. But it can also occur that the occult shows itself and dominates, that is to say, that, in a given civilisation, all activities become organised around this elite, which becomes their manifest centre, the axis from which they draw their meaning and their orientation in a system of hierarchic participation.
All the original civilisations, albeit to varying degrees, have a traditional character in this sense. It must however be noticed that, from a certain point, a law of differentiation comes into play. When it appears as spirit of a given epoch or civilisation, the metaphysical identity bifurcates itself. In its most immediate manifestation, it produces two distinct trunks and gives rise to two fundamental forms.
The two trunks are : action and contemplation.
The two related forms are : royal initiation and sacerdotal initiation – hence there are two types of tradition: warlike-magic tradition and ascetic- contemplative or Brahmanic tradition.
The Two Traditions
Mortal life’s rule is ‘flow’. It does not possess Being, and, caught in varying external fortunes, it moves, restless, in the world of particular things and temporal interests. This law has been pointed out many times in these pages. Above this is the area of Being, according to which life becomes basis, reason and value in itself, gains stability, possesses in itself its own principle. Identical to that of the incorruptible and the eternal, this area can be reached either by means of Action as well as by means of Contemplative Knowledge.
Action can lead to it insofar as it is pure. At the inferior limit, there is the purity of the one who follows faithfully the rule of his own life and gives to his action the meaning of a rite and of a sacrificial offering. On a higher plane, there is the internalisation and development of this bent in the one who acts without aiming at contingent and particular fruits, considering as the same happiness and calamity, good and evil, even victory and defeat, looking neither at the ‘I’ nor at the ‘you’, overcoming love as well as hatred and any other pair of opposites. This man sets himself free from the individual condition ; in the supranatural certainty of a borderline intensity, here ‘life’ is reversed into a ‘more-than-life’ and the contact with a state of light and power is achieved, which surpasses, dominates and carries off everything that is of a merely human or material order, giving way to actions, excitements and visions which would be impossible otherwise. We may summarise this as : heroic state, magic state, state of the Master of the Law. By transposition : warlike caste – warlike-magic and warlike traditions – finally : royal and imperial traditions.
Evola talks of the warrior tradition in two ways. The first resembles what most of us might instinctively understand as heroism: to devote oneself to an ideal, to offer one’s action to the service of a higher reality. In this way, the warrior opens himself to the experience of that higher reality, and may through that door enrich his spirit. Maslow would discuss this in terms of being values, or ordering one’s life by a set of profound internal realites, that absorb the attention of the mind such that involvement in creative process strips impurites and negativity out of one’s character.
To use an example that we’re all familiar with to some extent, this is the artist, the creative or devoted person, who loves what they do or choose to embody so much that it becomes the central focus of their consciousness.
Towards the higher end, Evola speaks of the action that is liberated from the concern for outcomes. Of the ‘perfected’ action that exists for it’s own sake, elevating the actor outside of the limitation of ego, or clinging to desire, or time and space. Which is not to say they are not directed in the world, because they have released the attatchement to outcomes. Indeed such people are supernaturally focussed and the expansion of consciousness inherent in this state thus makes them supernaturally potent in the acts the undertake. A poor, but adequate metaphor would be the athelete who finds himself standing outside of himself watching his effortless perfection of play unfold from a vantage point outside of normal consciousness, perhaps even merging into an effortles perfection, that transcends all normal conditioned experience.
My temptation is to draw on more examples from the traditions of the martial arts, because that’s where much of my experience lies, but I chose to do it this way to stress the aesthetic and spiritual quality of this path, which might get lost in the images of sweat and strain that some people associate to the martial arts because of sports like the ‘ultimate’ fighting championship.
In Evola’s conception, the traditional society would be ordered around people who had achieved states such as this whether it be through the path of fighting, or by extentions of the path of action, such as science, the crafts, or through variation on the twin path of contemplation which is the source of individuals such as jesus and the buddha. A social hierachy would emerge out of a natural gravitation towards examples of higher consciosness and achievement, much as the martial arts are ordered around the figure of the true master, not by fact of the master going out and subjugating people, but simply that others happily submit to his authority to learn to embody a similar state of being.
This relationship of aspirational service forms the basis of the traditional society. Much as the hero devotes himself to god, or the ultimate, as the basis of his growth, others devote themselves to the example of the hero as a basis for their own development, toward perhaps embodying the ultimate reality in their own actions.
The kind of hierarchy we enjoy today is a grotesque parody of this primordial pattern, which goes a long way toward explaining most people’s deep suspicion of authority figures, to the point where americans vote for the semi-literate simpleton who appears to be the most like them, and the least threatening in terms of his example to us.
I’m sure this poses all kind of problems and questions for the thinking person. and well it should. If it doesn’t, I’d respectfully suggest you haven’t been paying much attention to the world these days…