BRIEF HISTORY OF PERENNIALISM, PART II: JULIUS EVOLA
Few Traditional Catholics have ever heard of Baron Julius Evola, an Italian aristocrat born in 1898. They would be surprised to know that many theories of this revolutionary philosopher are embraced and disseminated, albeit clothed in “proper Catholic terminology,” by Traditional Catholic Perennialists. Unlike his friends and fellow perennialists Rene Guenon and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Evola was not primarily interested in the “ancient religious wisdom” of the Sophia Perennis. He did adopt the Perennialist system of rejecting modern civilization in favor of the traditions of the past, but Evola was concerned with ideas that would inspire a social revolution. The main aspects of his philosophy that are gaining ground among Catholics are his belief in the supremacy of the Aryan Race, his vision of the world as the domain of active male virtue (the brotherhood of men), and his belief that women are but aimless generatives who achieve significance solely by their participation in the projects of men. After a rapid glance at Evola’s life and activity, it will be most helpful to summarize his “worldview” and trace the pathway it has traveled and the alterations it has undergone to seduce Traditionalists, particularly those in the United States.
Evola had much in common with his french friend and mentor, Rene Guenon. Both were born to Catholic parents and abandoned the Faith early in life to embrace the occult. In 1927 Julius founded the “Ur Group” to study the esoteric and traditional writings of various oriental civilizations; particularly those influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism. He wrote prolifically and hoped that his pagan Perennialism (which we shall examine at length) would influence the rise of fascism in Italy. Unfortunately for him, Mussolini recognized that refusing some reference to Christianity would be political suicide and so Evola did not exercise any real influence in pre-War Italy. His writings were well received in Germany and he went to work with Hitler. He spent a great deal of time during the War studying the archives of Masonry that were seized by the Reich.
Following the war Evola returned in mourning to his native Italy, devastated by the collapse of the fascist regimes. His Men Among Ruins, and Ride the Tiger bear witness to his profound loathing of the “triumph of the democracies” and the influence of “American egalitarianism” in Europe. He buried himself in seclusion while continuing to write until his death in 1974.The dominating principle of Evola’s thinking was the “superiority of the Aryan race.” According to Evola, this race was set apart primarily by its “transcendent aspirations to a high state of spiritual enlightenment” which kept its members removed, as far as possible, from materialism. For Evola, the Perennial Wisdom was precisely the body of knowledge that enabled the Aryan men to attain, through an ascetic process, the “Awakened” state of self-mastery and discipline that would separate them from the corruption of the world. This process is detailed in his analysis of early Buddhist texts The Doctrine of the Awakening. Evola believed this spiritual superiority was the cause of the differences in races and actually emanated from the original Aryans to generate their physical distinction from the “lower races.”
Evola postulated that the ancient Aryans conquered much of the world and established ordered civilizations in which the “Awakened Ones” would hold the dominant place and be served by the inferiors. He believed that the true homeland of the race is what is now Europe and that the racial high point, that which must be resurrected, was the Patriarchal Roman Empire.
The “racism” of Julius Evola was deeply anti-Christian. In his estimation, Christianity was a Semitic derivative and was essentially anti-Aryan. The introduction of such Semitic cults and cultures was the seed of corruption that brought down the Roman Empire. In the Jewish race, Evola saw the perpetrators of a world-wide plot to destroy the rightful domination of white Aryan males over Jews, the ‘bond races’ and women. Like other Perennialists, He believed that the modern world with all its disorder was due to a rejection of the past. For Evola, this modern world was specifically the triumph of Semitic inspired egalitarianism of races and genders that destroyed the order of the pagan Roman Empire.
In his studies of the ancient Aryan civilizations, Evola was, above all, seeking for the superior characteristics of the Aryan male as well as the specific organization of social life that created and supported such superiority. These, he believed were the ‘traditional reservoirs of vitality that would bring sanity to the world.’ Since Evola held that all life was a metaphysical battle of man over the influences of the world that would debase him through self-seeking and material comfort, it was evident that civil life must be modeled upon the military state, inspired by the warrior spirit. ‘This state would mold young men to be the one thing society needed more than anything else in the modern world…Aryan men.’ He saw the chief elements and virtues sustaining the race as militaristic hierarchy, authority, discipline, and loyalty to the common seeking of Awakening.
Evola’s vision of the Aryan empire rested heavily upon his concept of the “opposing natures” of men and women. Evola believed that the world was primarily the arena in which men achieved spiritual victory over self to become one with the “Absolute Power.” Society is not based on the family, but rather it is a place in which men interact and dominate the forces of material chaos. In this brotherhood of men, women are not logical, intellectual beings, but are “aimless generatives” whose sole function is to emit Aryan males or more “emitters of Aryan males.” The making of Aryan men was to be in the hands of men. Women can, in Evola’s world, attain to a certain actualization of their potential, but only by participating in a male directive that brings order to the universe. The “aimless generatives,” however, are not autonomous, rational individuals capable of individual “spiritual potential.”
Evola’s theory of the roles of men and women are of tremendous significance; in his own “worldview” and in their present influence on Traditional Catholic families infected by his errors. His chief sources of inspiration on these subjects were Johann Jakob Bachofen and a rather demented Austrian who committed suicide, Otto Weininger. The Le Floch Report will examine these “gender theories” and their “Catholic” adaptations in its next installment of “The History of Perennialism.”
The Evolian worldview has inspired many since the Second World War. His fascist writings inspired a host of “third way” activists including Roberto Fiore and Derek Holland, the co-founder of John Sharpe’s IHS Press. Holland’s book The Political Soldier clothes the anti-Semitic racism and male-militarism in terms palatable to Catholics, but differs little in substance from the writings of Evola himself.
Conservative politics in France are influenced by the philosophy and organizations of the New Right. This movement is inspired by activist admirer of Evola, Alain de Benoist. The war between true Traditional Catholics and those who wish to join forces with this Perennialist-inspired political activism rages on. In 2004 these sinister influences led in part to several priests and some faithful disassociating themselves from the Society of St. Pius X in France. This is why it is crucial to understand these false ideas and to be able to identify their manifestations.
Jeanette M. Pryor
February 11, 2006