Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Julius Evola: Hetrodyne Apotheosis

Julius Evola the Hetrodyne* Apotheosis 

  Joscelyn Godwin’s discussion about Julius Evola (1898-1974) in relation to theosophy1 (interview posted here ) inspired me to take up the subject of Evola again after dropping it several times over the years.  Lately there has been a flurry of interest regarding Evola due to reports [now disputed] that well known political consultant Steve Bannon is said to have been influenced by Evola.2
Writers in the areas of the Western Spiritual beliefs and the study of symbolism have included Mr Evola in the Traditionalist school and some seem to conflate that with Perennialism.  Evola can loosely fit the latter due his interest in Imperial Rome, however, his contemporaries would more appropriately be in the area of Traditionalism as a more generic cross cultural eclectic practice associated with Guénon and others.
Evola,  Guénon, and many in their generation sought out the darkest caves and crevices of Western occultism looking for a critique of their culture which was dominated by Roman Catholicism.  Yet it is not difficult to imagine that studying the occult for purely academic reasons can be a pretext for an attempt to amplify ones own personal power, a common practice of the occultist.
In some quarters of the Establishment merely whispering the name “Evola” evokes a spasm of reflexive emotion dredged up from the WWII era.  The victors in that war (as all victors do) set about to write history to suit their own taste and whether justified or not whack anybody tainted with the stain of the vanquished enemy.
Such is the case for Mr. Evola an eclectic philosopher, artist, and poet who has left us a large body of work to sift through.  After having had an on and off quixotic flirtation with German National Socialism and his native Italian Fascist powers of that era Julius settled in the camp of the defeated Axis powers.   At once the ideologue and starry-eyed follower then the next moment a Romanesque visionary caught in a pagan daydream. When the hard power politics of the Nazi SS and Mr Mussolini’s battlefield setbacks collided with the mind of an artist, poet, and philosopher something alchemical happened.
One of the procedures of alchemy is taking matter and stressing it with heat, acids, oxidation, and then repeating the process over and over in a prescribed sequence. This protocol when done properly will ultimately yield something unique and wondrous.  Indeed Evola endured the great stresses of war and political upheaval in the XXth century and while abiding this devastating century he was able to maintain an enlarged perspective of history and philosophy.
Godwin uses Evola’s association with philosopher Rene Guénon (1886-1951) aka Sheikh Abd al-Wahid Yahya (his Arabic name), as a launching point to illustrate certain facts about Evola, “Evola’s engagement in politics...Evola’s heroic path of the solitary “special type of man” working to realize the transcendent in himself and become an “absolute individual...”3 In this contrast with Rene Guénon, the Islamic convert, we see a glimmer of light coming from Evola which is filled out in his writing career that spans some of the most turbulent decades in human history.  These two men in their own way contributed to a renewed interest in the philosophia perennis.  Yet one ended up with paganism and the other with Islam while searching the antediluvian mysteries for the common root in a clouded pre-history where everything is possible.
Godwin also makes a good distinction about theosophy in regards to Evola but it also can be apply in other areas.  “What has been said [about theosophy] explains why this question cannot be answered with a simple Yes or No. If the person asking it associates theosophy only with the Theosophical Society, the answer is No. If on the other hand the question is based on an appreciation of the distinction between that society and the theosophical tradition, then the answer is Yes. Evola was certainly engaged on a search for the Absolute, and he recognized that this search had been pursued by many different routes, at many different periods. In point of fact, he had more in common with Blavatsky than he would have liked to admit, because the goal of his sophia was, like hers, an impersonal one. Both were more sympathetic to the Eastern traditions, especially Buddhism, than to the monotheistic or Abrahamic religions. In reading the Christian theosophists and alchemists, both looked beneath the surface, at the metaphysical doctrines and experiences that transcended dogmatic and biblical modes of expression. Also, the very idea of “tradition,” of a primordial wisdom that has reappeared in different forms throughout the ages, was mediated to Evola’s generation by the Theosophical Society. The Renaissance had known this as the theory of a prisca theologia, a wisdom possessed by pagans as well as by Jews and Christians, but it was the Theosophical Society that publicized it, and widened its scope by including the wisdom of the Near and Far East, even privileging the latter. By the time Evola came of age, the idea that the ancient East possessed a wisdom superior to that of the modern West had entered the general fund of ideas, attracting people who were disillusioned both by Christianity and by atheistic materialism.”4

On to Egypt

Another piece in the Evola puzzle is Martin Lings (1909-2005) who lived in the same period as Evola and Guénon.  “Lings was born in Lancashire, England, in 1909 and received both his BA (1932) and his MA (1937) from Oxford University in English literature was a leading member of the “Traditionalist” or “Perennialist” school and an acclaimed author, editor, translator, scholar, Arabist, and poet whose work centers on the relationship between God and man through religious doctrine, scripture, symbolism, literature, and art. He was an accomplished metaphysician and essayist who often turned to a number of the world’s great spiritual traditions for examples, though he is probably best known for his writings on Islam and its esoteric tradition, Sufism.“
“In 1935 Lings discovered the writings of Rene Guénon, the French philosopher and went to Cairo to study with Guénon. Lings like Guénon was smitten with Islam and lived in Cairo until Guénon died in 1951 and shortly thereafter Lings and his wife were kicked out of Egypt by some of his fellow adherents of Islam during a wave of Jihadism in the early 1950’s which did not approve of his English genetics. He returned to England where he lived the life of an academic. He wrote several books while working at the British Museum.”5
Following in the path of Guénon and Evola, Lings was a critic of Christianity which was an intellectually fashionable position to take in the XXth century that nearly ensured at least some approval from the bookish nabobs in the intellectual glitterati.  His path also mirrored Guénon’s in that they believed Islam was the last bastion of Traditionalism in the face of the modernist onslaught. Unwilling to fight it out in the mean streets of the academy they sought “refuge” in Cairo (of all places) and became pets for the mullahs and muftis who were quite proud of their converts. [read more at the Famous Converts to Islam section].
Cairo was an interesting choice for Guénon.  He had been a profound Roman Catholic and had flirted with offshoot orders of the Church and was married to a devout Catholic.  He also actively participated in many of the occult and dark arts in early XXth century France. It seems that the date he actually converted to Islam is in doubt although certainly by the late 1920’s he had converted to Islam “...but he didn’t converted to orthodox Islam, he chose the highly occult Sufi sect known as Shadhilites.” 6

In the same time period Guénon was in Cairo it was the incubator for radical Islamic revolutionaries.  Perhaps the most famous in the West is the Muslim Brotherhood (1928 to present). “According to founder al-Banna, ‘It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.’  Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood opposes secular tendencies of Islamic nations and wants a return to the precepts of the Qur'an. The Brotherhood firmly rejects all notions of Western influences... Brotherhood members organize events from prayer meetings to sport clubs for socializing.” 7
It is clear that from the beginning the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) goal was domination of the Islamic world but also the “...entire planet”. This was the desired end of the organization.  No one can ever say that Arabs lack intellect or are deficient in excellent political instincts.  The culture demands a single minded focus on one god and that is Allah.  This practice sets the tone for their other pursuits.  World domination being one of those pursuits.  The MB had laid out a manifesto or declaration of war and everything goes in war including armed conflict but also subversion and non-leathal destabilization of ones enemies.

Mufti of Jerusalem with Adolph Hitler 

With WWII raging in the background while Evola was oscillating back and forth between Mussolini and Hitler concurrently Evola’s associate Mr Guénon was ensconced in Egypt. The Islamic world was watching from the sidelines in Cairo waiting for the “colonial” powers of Europe to kill each other off lending assistance towards that end whenever possible.  If the Europeans continued to weaken themselves with endless wars and Christianity, the backbone of their culture, could be undermined, then a divided and co-opted Christendom would fall to the single minded plans of Arab Islam.
Meanwhile Sheikh Abd al-Wahid Yahya (Guénon) spent his days in hot revolutionary Cairo down playing his ties to a dark occult past in France. At the same time organizations like the MB were spreading a revival of Islamic fundamentalism in the universities, mosques, and throughout the educated classes in the Egyptian bureaucracy.  A number of insurrections broke out in Egypt and it was being torn apart by radical forces.  “In 1952, members of the Muslim Brotherhood were accused of taking part in the Cairo Fire that destroyed some 750 buildings in downtown Cairo – mainly night clubs, theatres, hotels, and restaurants frequented by British and other foreigners”8

Imperial Paganism

To his credit Evola did not succumb to the Adhan (call to prayer) and the Sujud or putting ones face on the ground three times a day as an element of Islamic prostration pointing to the Black Rock at Mecca and saying Arabic prayers.  Instead he rejected Roman Catholicism in his native Italy and dug into Hinduism, the Veda, the Kali Yuga, and its ancient roots in Zoroastrianism trying to absorb the origins of his own Euro-Iranic culture.  He was more akin to embracing classic Roman Imperial paganism rather than the upstart desert craze offered by Islam.

"Dynamic Synthesis" Julius Evola, 1918

Yet he would be plagued by contradictions which were foreshadowed in his efforts as an oil painter. In my opinion he was a talented and creative artist involved in the abstract Futurist movement but a look at his work reveals that he would not be boxed in a commercial style.  Yet more important he seemed to be working out philosophical problems on his canvases.  This was not the point of the Dada abstractionists and he soon move away from painting.

He seemed to always be in a transcended mood although distracted with the pesky confines of “reality” swirling about him,  Somewhere his intuitions had to make sense to him but the impact of cataclysmic event shrouded his view.  The answers were not “...blowing in the wind...” the answers were howling in a hurricane.  Consequently, the abstract (philosophical) paintings in his soul could not conform to the ones in his mind nor could they find coherence in his writings. These are not new issues for the artistic intellectual but for Evola caught in the crossfire of modernism he became the archetype of today’s unmodulated spiritual hetrodyne.
Mr Evola had a curious mind and some of his thinking was original. He had a penchant for viewing mythology in the light of metaphysics.  He saw the myth structure of the West as the operating system for culture.  Yet the stressful times and inability of his Roman Catholic Church to come to grips with modernism skewed his vision.  So whatever might have been good about his ideas were bent into the same dark anti-Western mirage that plagued Sheikh Abd al-Wahid Yahya.  The fall of Christendom for what?
Evola’s work was suppressed after WWII due to his support for the Axis. Lings would be rewarded with a prestigious university position writing brilliant works exposing the underpinning of modernism yet leaving us with a longing for an alternative.  Guénon became the darling of the global ecumenical cadre of the Left who is always inspired by strategies of personal power.
Evola continued to dabble in Nazism believing it was the force that would rekindle the flames of paganism.  During an air raid in the Spring of 1945 while living in Vienna working on occult research for the Nazis a Soviet bomb exploded nearby and a chunk of steel shrapnel hurdled through the streets and slammed into his spine paralyzing him from the waist down for the remainder of his life.  In his earlier research into Eastern Philosophy he became aware of the Kali Yuga or the devolved “Age of Iron” which was given a new meaning that day in Vienna when an iron fragment paid a karmic visit to his Kundalini channel.
The alchemical Work is capable of turning that which is common into something precious. The operations involved are relentless and brutal rending matter apart and smelting soul and spirit in the furnace of our material world. The Work attracts many; some succeed, some fail, while others kibitz.  It can produce things unique and wondrous. In Evola’s case it produced something unique and enigmatic. 

  David S. Reif



3 Ibid,







*In radio communications two or more broadcasts on the same frequency causing an audio dissonance is a hetrodyne signal.


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