This is part of the introductory essay to the American edition of Julius Evola’s Men amid the Ruins. As the essay is very lengthy (over forty thousand words) I’ll be posting it part by part instead of cramming too much information into too small a space. Credit goes to where it is due; notably to the author, Dr H.T. Hansen, and of course to everyone at Inner Traditions.
Part I: Introduction
This essay can be traced back to the fact that as Julius Evola’s works have achieved wider recognition, his relations to Fascism and National Socialism have prompted many to dismiss his body of ideas as a whole and without further inquiry. This has also affected his purely esoteric writings, which have nothing to do with political questions. Nevertheless, a portrayal of EvoIa’s political activities unearths new, often unsuspected aspects that can contribute to a greater and better understanding of the complete oeuvre of this cultural philosopher.
In order to facilitate the reader’s independent judgment of Evola’s political work, it seems most fitting to let Evola speak for himself as much as possible and to be cautious with value judgments and interpretations. In doing this, we have placed special value on documents of the different epochs and the various creative phases. It was also our intention to include extensive quotations from the thinkers who most influenced Evola. However, this method unfortunately leads to a mounting number of references and bibliographical notes that can tire the reader. This road has already been travelled by Philippe Baillet on the occasion of the colloquium on René Guénon and Julius Evola at the Section of Religious Sciences at the Sorbonne in 1986 (see Actes du Ileme colloque de Politica Hermetica: “Metaphysique et Politique: René Guénon – Julius Evola,” Paris, 1987).
Above all, the purpose of our study is to show how Evola arrived at his frequently “scandalous” seeming statements; what part of them can be attributed to the prevalent Zeitgeist; where the parallels to other thinkers can be found; and what part can be traced back to his own “personal equation” (one of Evola’s favourite expressions for someone’s nature and personality). Therefore, this study aims to hand an additional interpretive tool to the reader of Evola’s writings to facilitate a clear judgment.
But from the beginning we want to emphasize a single point: to Evola, the center of all things is not Man but rather the Transcendent. Regardless of the question that concerns him, he is always searching for the direct relationship to the Absolute – that is, that domain which lies beyond the merely human – because human affairs are one way today but tomorrow may be quite different. According to the view of Tradition, on the contrary, the principles that form the foundation of our world remain forever the same. He is not interested in what is bound to time, but instead in that which is above time, the “eternal.” Therefore, one cannot expect from Evola the now prevalent Western “humanist” values, but must reckon with a total inversion of the standpoints that one is used to. The question of whether such an altered viewpoint can serve to solve today’s countless problems cannot be debated in this context. We are exclusively concerned here with the examination of Evolian lines of thought. (This absolute stress on the spiritual realm can also be found in other intellectuals of this time – for example, in Martin Heidegger.)
We will show, in the process, that even Evola, although very seldom found in the “lowly regions” of everyday politics, was subject to a development of his political views that related to different stages of his life, even though his underlying principles always remained the same. The leap made from his 1928 book Imperialismo pagano (Pagan Imperialism; German edition: Heidnischer Imperialismus, Leipzig, 1933), written in youthful exuberance, to the “apoliteia,” an attitude totally removed from politics that he preached in his old age, is certainly immense.
The immediate occasion that inspired the present essay was the first German edition of EvoIa’s only manual of political doctrine, Men among the Ruins, as well as the new edition of Revolt Against the Modern World (English edition: Rochester, Vt., 1995), and the anticipated reactions to them. The German reader has already been introduced to Evola’s relationship to Fascism and National Socialism through various newspaper and magazine articles, by my earlier introduction to Revolt Against the Modern World, and by Eduard Gugenberger’s and Roman Schweidlenka’s book Mutter Erde, Magie und Politik (Vienna, 1987). The latter two authors devote an entire and generally fair chapter to Evola, although their many quotes from him could be misunderstood without their larger context. However, Umberto Eco has also taken aim at Evola several times, as he did at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and in a surprisingly spiteful manner that would not normally be expected of such an intelligent and humorous author. Does an author who feels the calling to “enlighten” have to resort to slander in order to elevate his own standpoint as the right one?
Every reader will have to judge for himself the amount of distance he wishes to keep from Evola after working through the materials offered here. We will add some comments on the structure of this study. A lot of space has been given to the influences of Evola’s youth, because the intellectual foundations of his later far-reaching teachings (twenty-five books, around three hundred long essays, and well over one thousand newspaper and magazine articles) were already in place by the time he was twenty-five. When selecting quotes from his “teachers,” we have consulted only those works of which we know, via his own statements, that he did indeed work through them in his youth. The identical tone of these quotes and Evola’s core statements (especially in Men among the Ruins) will then be obvious to all his readers. This should not cast any doubts regarding Evola’s uniqueness, but instead seeks to document a relatively recent intellectual climate that seems to belong to a whole other world in its incisive questioning of what we regard today see as self-evident “humanism”: a different world, whose utterances seem barely publishable today. The difficulties that apparently obstructed the uncensored edition of Nietzsche’s Collected Works by Colli and Montinari in recent years can be traced to exactly that. Next follows the treatment of the main theme: Evola and Fascism, as well as National Socialism, and then his views on racism and the Jews. Notes about Evola’s effect on Italian neofascism as well as a short treatment of the “moral” question will conclude this study.