The Thunderbolt & the Grail

For some time now I have had several works by both Julius Evola and René Guénon that deserve more of my time than I have had to give. Therefore, in this essay, I would like to consider the thought of Julius Evola, and that of René Guénon as a counterbalance; the former — unlike the latter — was more interested in the Western Tradition.[1]

First, I wish to explore Evola’s work, The Path of Enlightenment in the Mithraic Mysteries, to draw from it some observations pertaining to esoteric principles and its initiatic character. Through a second work of his, The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit, and in light of what we have observed in the first, could it be possible to see a transmission of Traditional spirit from the early first millennium to the Ghibelline Middle Ages? My hypothesis is whatever part of the Primordial Tradition Mithraism contained was lost and it was through other means that it was passed to the Middle Ages. I have mentioned the Grail legend previously[2], but it was only tenuously linked to Guénon. I would also like to take some time in this essay to consider his thoughts on this in more detail. Therefore I shall examine his works, Insights into Christian Esotericism, The King of the World, and the invaluable Symbols of Sacred Science.

In the introduction to the Mithraic Mysteries, details pertaining to Evola’s thought are made. For instance, his classification of the esoteric and exoteric domains into heroes, the kings, the men of knowledge (priests and ascetics), and the multitude.[3] Of course these strata are lost to us now,[4] however, through esotericism we can return to the prisca theologia[5] and a society founded upon Tradition. Evola’s command of Taoism is mentioned which reminds us of his faults — the result of his prejudices[6] — hence one reason for the addition of Guénon here. Similarly, it is noted that Evola’s knowledge of the Christian tradition — while coming from a long-established Christian background — was not equal to the erudition he displayed in other subjects.[7] I would caution those who wish to use Evola to oppose Christianity as he did by trading experience for faith, heroic and ascetic action for devotion, and liberation and enlightenment for the God of theism. In doing so he is striving to fill the vacuum, which while admirable, shows his lack of understanding.[8]

It is pleasing to see mention of Saint Bonaventure, Saint John of the Cross, Jacob Boehme and Saint Teresa of Avila as persons who are noted to have wrote in a mystical style, and may I add Saint Bernard to the list also.[9] There is definitely a desire on my part to delve further into the writings of these persons, who as both Christians and mystics, fit wonderfully into the transmission of Traditional discussion. It is curious to note that The Most Reverend Robert Barron, in his book, Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, uses both John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila as examples. In his poem, “The Living Flame of Love” John eloquently describes the soul of man,[10] and in her most famous work, The Interior Castle, Teresa explains how she found Christ dwelling at the very bottom of her soul.[11] These two examples are surely esoteric in nature, and we shall see this more clearly after examination of the Mithraic Mysteries et al.

A fairly straightforward proposition is that Mithras — the man who initiates aspire to emulate — is both divine and human at the same time; as Evola puts it, he is a “man-god,” and this is not through grace but is inherent within himself.[12] It then follows that only those descended from the race of the gods could participate in the mysteries, mirroring Indo-European, Germanic and Celtic warrior aristocracies, from whom kings, priests and such were chosen. It is clear that Evola’s intention is to present the mysteries in this light for he states plainly,

The Mithraic mysteries lead to the very heart of the magical Western tradition — a world characterised by self-affirmation, light, greatness, regal spirituality and spiritual regality.[13]

A further point that links to the above proposition occurs when Mithras as Self dares to do violence to the Tree of Life, and thus snatch away from the Universal principle a certain amount of cosmic power and to dominate it. In the immediate vacuum a force arises in the form of a flame, a “projection of fire.” Does this not sound extremely similar to Prometheus stealing the secret of fire from the gods? Francisco Albanese’ article “Goethe’s Prometheus” goes some way to outlining the concept of the “Promethean man” who, “…embodies the nexus of divine creation re-situated in the human condition and human creation endowed with divine aspirations.”[14]

It is a desire of modernity to be associated with “the Architect, the Shaper of Humanity, the Deceiver, the thief of fire.” This acceptance of Lucifer is a rejection of Christ. To quote Fr. Seraphim Rose, “…Nietzsche, in calling himself Antichrist, proved thereby his intense hunger for Christ.”

To return to the topic at hand, the mysteries can be seen as essentially part of what one would call “magic” — a rather broad term that encompasses Inner Jihad, Hermeticism and alchemy — the transmutation of the leaden spirit into pure gold.[15] Furthermore, from the following comparison, we see a clear aim to return to a spiritual centre through the practice of the mysteries. Guénon notes that Plato called the Tree of Life the “luminous axis of diamond” linking to one aspect of the Vajra, i.e. diamond. The essential immutability of the axis is predicated upon diamonds being sources of luminosity, indivisibility and inalterability.[16] Evola writes of the final stages of the Mysteries,

A … divine life … permeates the whole body … [recreating] the body ab imo, as an entity of pure activity, as a glorious body of immortal splendour; this is the “radiant body,” the augoeides, the Hvareno, the Vajra, the Dorje. These are all the different names recurring in various Eastern and Western traditions, describing the same force.[17]

This force is the luminous body or cloud, the lightning or thunderbolt, the trident or sceptre — the latter three symbolising the male aspect of the spirit. Thus Guénon, in comparing the Vajra — the masculine principle of universal manifestation and lightning — with the hammer of Thor, Parashu-Rama and the Gaulish “God of the Mallet,” shows us the symbolic meaning behind the gods of our pre-Christian ancestors.[18] Guénon elaborates on are the association of the above with the idea of “divine paternity” given that frequency across Western antiquity that these images are to be found;

…insomuch as the thunderbolt is the principle attribute of Zeus Pater or Ju-piter, “the father of gods and men” … According to Caesar, the Druids maintained that Dis Pater, whose name is very close to Zeus Pater, was the father of the Gallic race.[19]

Our aim is to reconnect with Tradition, to find what was lost that to our ancestors was commonplace. In looking at the Mysteries et al., we have come to some conclusions; the spirit of European man is inherently masculine, although with a strong feminine element — the source of inspiration in art, architecture, life itself — that is more present than in any other race or culture.[20] So long as the masculine is recognised as a distinct sphere from the feminine then some semblance of order is maintained; modernity increasingly blurs the two together. Add to this the symbolic nature of the sceptre, trident, hammer and the sword and we find the notions of kingship and the transition from pre-Christian to Christian. For example, Christian kings, most notably Charlemagne, in the Early Middle Ages had swords forged for them — so it was said — by Wayland the Smith.

It seems we have here laid the groundwork for the second part of this study; we have explained the relevant concepts to this study that appear in the Mysteries we have praised Evola whilst distancing ourselves somewhat, and we have commented on other notables that deserve further study. Guénon’s works on the subjects we have discussed are invaluable to a deeper understanding of the symbolism present, and it is my contention that upon comparison of the collected works covering the Grail legend, his thought will continue to be at the forefront.

To give some preliminary conclusions and further hypotheses, I believe the ultimate way forward for a spiritual revival may be to undertake a similar re-imagining of Tradition in the same way that it was transferred from Celtic pantheism to Christianity via the Grail Legend. We see this in the metaphysical tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, elegantly examined by Survive the Jive, Mark Citadel and New Troy through the film Excalibur (1981).[21] Guénon also wrote about how the Sacred Heart of Jesus could be anachronistically applied to Celtic pantheism through the Grail legend which in turn is synonymous with a vase and the Egyptian hieroglyph for heaven.[22] To Guénon these symbols are variations on the theme of the “Holy Land,” to Plutarch this was both Egypt and heaven, and ultimately the “Centre of the World.”[23] Further study into the Grail legend may bear fruits.

[EDIT: For more information on Mithraism, please see this article.]

[1] A summary of their differences can be found here.
[2] See “Because My Heart is Pure.”
[3] Guido Stuccco, “Introduction,” in Julius Evola, The Path of Enlightenment in the Mithraic Mysteries (Sequim, 2011), p. 8.
[4] See my hypothesis on the elements of Western Civilisation and a traditional civilisation in my article “Spirit of the Occident.”
[5] A thought-provoking article by Hotherus.
[6] See comments by Logres and Cologero here.
[7] Stuccco, “Introduction,” p. 9.
[8] See Cologero’s article here; Although Absolute Idealism has its merits.
[9] See “Because My Heart is Pure” and Rene Guénon, Insights into Christian Esoterism (Hillsdale, 2004), Chapter 10.
[10] Robert Barron, Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (New York, 2011), p. 234.
[11] Barron, Catholicism, pp. 240-1.
[12] Julius Evola, The Path of Enlightenment in the Mithraic Mysteries (Sequim, 2011), p. 13.
[13] Evola, Mithraic Mysteries, p. 11.
[14]Goethe’s Prometheus.”
[15] Julius Evola himself recommends here the anonymous work of the Ur Group, Introduction to Magic.
[16] Rene Guénon, Symbols of Sacred Science (Hillsdale, 2004), p. 318.
[17] Evola, Mithraic Mysteries, p. 18.
[18] As a Christian and a Traditionalist I recognise that one cannot deny pre-Christian religions and symbols. One way to consider it is to follow the teachings of the Nostra Aetate that there are “rays of light,” echoes of the fullness of truth, in all of the non-Christian religions.
[19] The symbol of the mallet found on an altar in Mainz and upon various coins has led to the above god being termed “the blacksmith pontiff.” Guénon, Symbols of Sacred Science, pp. 170-1.
[20] See for instance the ideal of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Nature explicated by Barron, Catholicism, Chapter 4. For indeed we as men have a duty to care for both nature and women as stewards, without this they are quickly ruled by their passions and become wild.
[21]Excalibur (1981) – An Esoteric Analysis.”
[22] See “The Sacred Heart and the Legend of the Holy Grail” and “The Holy Grail,” in Guénon, Symbols of Sacred Science (Hillsdale, 2004), Chapters 3 and 4.
[23] Guénon, Symbols of Sacred Science (Hillsdale, 2004), p. 81-82.

Auld Wat

Delving into the depths of Medieval Europe; the last great Traditional Aryan civilisation.

2 thoughts on “The Thunderbolt & the Grail

  1. Duncan,

    I appreciate your articles which are full of annotations, lengthy, and erudite. However, in this one regarding esoteric subjects, you seem to be (perhaps unconsciously) writing in an esoteric fashion. You delve into the Mithraic mysteries and other aspects of Perennial circumspection. But I really think you should have been more specific and should have stuck with one subject at a time, given that this is Part 1. For instance, you don’t even explain anything about Mithras or the very image you used for the article! So much symbolism to be examined and yet you give no lens for the uninitiated.

    Please don’t take this as an insult, but as constructive criticism. Your grasp of esotericism and your intellectual identity really shows in your writing and I find it very unique. But if you want to be seriously considered for your writing, it must be digestible to those not fed on Honeydew and drunk on the Milk of Paradise.

    1. CygnusX

      I am extremely grateful for this genuine feedback. I had hoped that my writing would be stimulating, in this regard I have been partially successful. Your critique is certainly justified so I shall endeavour to make revisions.

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