Well, since I’ve spent the last little bit plumbing the depths of abject depravity and horror, I thought I’d swing to the other pole, and discuss a little bit of the more positive alternative.

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.

Action , Contemplation and the Western Tradition

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.

Now, Evola wrote this in 1927 , so he obviously couldn’t relate this to the work of Abraham Maslow in the field of Self-actualization. But the core ideas are much the same, or at least convergent.

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…

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8 thoughts on “Julius Evola on the Western Tradition

  1. Very interesting series of posts. I trackbacked you but to no avail.

    This does touch upon a series of issues I have been trying to make sense of for some time now, to wit: where does power stand in relation to knowledge? What are the ethics of magic? of warfare? It is said that those who initiated the thuggees revealed to them : “There is no Kali, there is only energy.” This gave them the license to kill.

    I reject the view that there is “nothing but energy” but I have no good METAPHYSICAL reason to say WHY I would not stoop to the sorts of activities you mentioned in a previous post RE: counter-initiation either, except for the fact that my own ethics were already firmly in place when I started the path I’m on now.

    Can someone have a commitment to liberation, to freedom for all beings, and also consort with disincarnate entities of a morally dubious nature? How do they keep their bearings? Gurus say that siddhis are dangerous and I can see why.

  2. I like your blog. alas trackbacking is still virgin territory for me…

    to answer you question vis a vis siddha powers: i think the tradtional persepctive is that focussing on the powers for their own sake is like a short circuit.

    I’ve heard of four ways to aquire siddha powers:

    1. devotion to god.

    2. serious concentration and long practice.

    3. intense emotionalism

    4. drugs, but with the disclaimer that you only have the power in the drug state and sometimes not even then.

    the first one is self explanitory. if devotion to god is the source of your power, then what use do you have for power over other people? it’s a contradiction, and if you push it, the ego hardens up and you’re stuck wherever you got to before the wrong turn. it’s quite litteraly an ornament, and my teacher says to ‘back-shelf’ it before it leads you astray.

    the second two are related to the first. the only way to use that power safely is to open up the limitations of the mind. otherwise you burn out or go crazy. intense emotionalism doesn’t open up the mind, and while concentration is not inherently harmfull, if you spend all your time practicing
    siddha powers, you’re not working on your own karma, which inevitably leads to madness and mayhem again.

  3. hmmm… interesting feedback thanks. I wonder how people who are shamen – indigenous witchdoctors and the like – see these issues.

    Ideally someone who does develop certian abilities would only use them to heal or help, or when they were justified for defense, but it seems like a lot of people get these abilities and immediately turn them to selfsih ends. They forget all about God and stop trying to know themselves.

    The part I don’t get is how or why they could do that since these powers do come from God, unless they start expanding their self-vision and shrinking their god-vision until the two beocme identical.

    For example in your post about occult lodges you describe the human sacrifice as the end point of accepting certain talents. But it sounds to me like the scenrio you are describing is basically just shamanism – trance, ritual possession, sacrifice, etc.

    Now plenty of people in indigenous socities do these things and they don’t molest children or kill people. Why would western occultists do that though? Is it because they have no concept of community, because they aren’t part of a tribal structure, because they are selfish, why?

    Maybe tribal peoples have a more sophisticated view of the spirits they work with, they understand that these spirits have their own agendas too and so they shield themselves from being overly influenced by the beings they manipulate.

    Or maybe tribal peoples have more of a sense of collective identity to begin with and are motivated by practical survival needs instead of gluttony for abstract addictions, e.g., money, power, status, etc.

    I don’t see the practices themselves as wrong, maybe its just the agendas people bring to them.

  4. i must admit to a fair bit of cognitive dissonance when dealing with evola, because on one hand you have his fans praising the lucidity and depth of his writings, while on the other hand you have his actual history and actions, and make no mistake, evola was a nazi/fascist conspirator, a virulent racist and sexist, and most likely a pervert and pederast not at all unlike the psychopaths that jeff wells so frequently writes about. in fact evola was quite possibly a product of that same corrupt underground world where intelligence games and warped mysticism meet. guenon too. maybe those are all just ‘conspiracy theories’ but i tend to doubt it. so, ‘positive alternative’? i just don’t see that in evola at all.

  5. this for example strikes me as an extraordinarily stupid and naive idea:

    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.

    really, as the basis of a philosophy of action i don’t think that you could come up with an idea more open and inviting to abuse. its very hard for me to take anybody the least bit seriously whose expressed ideals are at such tremendously glaring odds with their worldly actions. in fact evola strikes me as a PERFECT ILLUSTRATION of the maxim ‘power corrupts.’

  6. well , like i said, I myself am not without my reservations towards evola, but it seems pretty hard to get a clear idea of what he was really like. I admire his sense of aesthetic and trust the rest only because it matches up with so much else that I know to be true. His grounding is in the perrenial tradition, and I know that very well. His views are valid in some ways, highly troubling in others, and that’s about as much as we can say i think.

    and the large quote at the end is not his, but mine, just so you know…

    and i agree it is open to abuse, but no more so than the system we have now. if we’re not prepared to see the good in each other, even in theory, then what chance have we to accomplish anything postive?

    Evola is a challenging and dangerous thinker precisely because he makes such lucid and compelling arguements for the kinds of things that 21st century liberal moderns seem to recoil in horror from even considering.

    I’m fully prepared to accept that he may well be exactly the kind of monster we’re concerned with here. It doesn’t make the ideas he played with invalid neccisarily. It’s not like he invented any of them, after all.

  7. i apologize for the rudeness. man i’m just stepping on toes all over the place with this evola shit arent i? anyhow i’m not doing it just to run down evola. i think evola represents a very remarkable point of contact between the worlds of crypto-occultic conspiracy theories discussed in some corners of these here internets, and the more mundane ‘follow the money’ variety of conspiracy. i’m just not sure what it means (if anything).

    i do find perennial philosophy agreeable, this is in fact the source of my cognitive dissonance re: evola. i have only read portions of his writings, but based on what i have read by and about him, it would appear that alongside his perennial idealism, there is much darker undercurrent within his theoretical work, of a very bigoted and sadistic flavor. in addition to his unsavory political activities and affiliations.

    so i don’t mean to go around hijacking every well-meaning blog thread that cites evola, and i guess i don’t really doubt the guy’s sincerity, but for me, when someone’s stated ideals and intentions are so far from the nature of his worldly actions, i tend to suspect that the exposition of the ideals is not based on genuine experience. maybe i’m wrong, maybe its not for me to say what’s ‘genuine’, but there you go.

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