On detachment, Revolt Against the Modern Worldand his relations with Rene Guenon
Interviewer: Based on your views, and basing my approach on an essential part of your exposition, can one become detached from oneself?
Julius Evola: That is the presupposition of all the ascetic doctrines, even the mystical aspects, but overall, the initiatic ones.
I: Your book Revolt Against the Modern World was published in nineteen-thirty-four and is the foundation of a revolt of Right-wing movements that, based upon your affirmations, is presented in a way that is much more radical than today’s protests which you reproach the value they grant to Herbert Marcuse. Could you explain this? Could you briefly explain to us the subjects and orientations of Revolt Against the Modern World?
JE: The Revolt Against the Modern World, which is extensive and intense, is composed of two parts. One part is called “The World of Tradition,” where I intend to grant that which in philosophy is called a doctrine, based on categories of the traditional world. These are the constant forms by which tradition is presented through diverse modes that are not specified, yet do not hide the identity of the substantial aspects that are present in the fundamental structures of a society. These are, starting with royalty, the state, space, time, war, the relation between sexes, games, et cetera. All this is backed up very powerfully by precious bibliographical references coming from the Far East to pre-Columbian America; from the Middle Ages to the Ancient Mediterranean, et cetera.
The second part: while I call the first part morphological, the second is rather a philosophy of history. Starting with the most distant prehistory I intend to reconstruct, or to reinterpret, if you prefer, the currents of history. A series of currents where, for me, the key is the idea of involution, not of evolution. And in this regard, I found such assumptions not in my personal ideas, but rather in the doctrine of the Four Ages which can be encountered in the most diverse traditions with considerable homogeneity; based on the idea of the four yuga; reaching Hesiod’s consideration of the Four Ages — the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age — until the teachings of the Nordic spirit. Therefore, based on this assumption, I perceive the main phases in Europe of this Western decline. The final point of this interpretation has actually been quite prophetic, since the title of the corresponding chapter is “The Cycle Closes: Russia-America,” and I propose the image of both Bolshevist Russia and capitalist America as two branches of the same thing which, despite some differences, have however the same since of strangling whatever survives of Traditional Europe; which happened thereafter, considering also that the book appeared in nineteen-thirty-three in Italy and nineteen-thirty-four in Germany.
Therefore, given such a structure of the book, one can deduce that the title, “Revolt Against the Modern World,” doesn’t correspond entirely to the actual content since it is not a controversial book, even though the controversy appears on its own since looking at how things actually are, it is quite natural that anyone who cherishes any spiritual sensitivity will say “No!” to the modern world. This is the difference with Marcuse in regards to all these groups of protesters who might be right in their critique, but when one asks them: “Revolt in order for what?” they know absolutely nothing, and it is better for them to do so because when one listens to Herbert Marcuse in relation to what he proposes as a better society, one can’t help but be shocked since his sociology is inspired by the coarsest Freudianism – which is ridiculous! Thus, contrarily to “free love” as the starting point I propose however a starting point of… [?].
I: In regard to Tradition in its most eminent sense, you are considered in Italy as the main theoretician of Tradition. Which are the relations between your ideas and those of René Guénon who also has the same traditional and antimodern orientation?
JE: There is difference which arises from what is called the “personal equation” because my constitution and tradition are different to those of Guénon. Guénon is definitely an intellectual, I am rather focused in the domain of action; in the facet of action; et cetera, and to some extent this difference becomes projected as well in the respective interpretations we grant to all the traditional inheritance. While Guénon emphasizes overall the role assigned to contemplation and knowledge, I rather don’t completely deny the role of knowledge nor that of contemplation, but I affirm that both aren’t possible without that of action, and in my interpretation I very often emphasize the tradition of action. And in the same way, it can be observed the fact that Guénon grants higher priority to the priestly caste as the depositories of contemplation, while I grant pre-eminence to the royal and warrior traditions.
This difference is also reflected in the role we grant both to the Church and to the Empire. Guénon deemed that if the West is linked to Tradition, it is due to the Church and to the Catholic tradition. But I affirm, as Dante would affirm too, that the Ghibelline Imperial Tradition is an exponent of a tradition with the same dignity with a supernatural dimension, which is very clear in the Ghibelline ideology of the Hofenstaufen in the German Empire. I went for the search of the documents and testimonies of the secret vein in the chivalric literature, and most of all in the mystery of the Grail which, as I see it, is absolutely a Ghibelline mystery.
Therefore, by choosing testimonies of imperial spirituality and that of the Ghibelline linked to the chivalric traditions particularly, I interpreted the tradition of the Grail in a book that appeared in France called The Mystery of the Grail and the Ghibelline Tradition, showing how the Grail must be found again in order to flourish the fallen kingdom or wasteland. This is precisely the heritage of this unitary tradition; Royal and Priestly at the same time. Since contrary to Guénon, who thinks and openly admits that both authorities are projected in both spiritual and temporal authorities which still existed even recently in Japan, by considering here a civilization of such kind or in order, to define it as such, and then a division takes place of both powers. But given already this division, he estimates that by being founded in the spiritual authority, it is actually a feasible traditional reconstruction — which is quite an arbitrary and fragmented perception.
Another initiative can be conceived however, emerging from the other side, which corresponds to the royal integration of the spiritual dimension, and from this, several consequences arise. Guénon deemed that today’s Catholic Church could be the starting point in order to re-establish Tradition — but if we consider where the Church is heading to today..! But these are his considerations. Retrospectively, I maintained with Guénon a continuous correspondence where I expressed my rejection of such a conception; to me that was rather an unfounded possibility. However, I was aware that he would not agree with my arguments. The opening to the Left of today’s Church impedes such a restoration.
The other aspect of non-agreement is in regards to Masonry, of Francmasonry [Freemasonry], which he thinks — due to its formal character — could actually constitute an organization of a traditional sort which keeps intact its rites, its ceremonies and all its operations, believing that they still kept their value. But from a practical viewpoint, all of that suffered a degeneration; I’m however not of the same view. I can’t help but see all of these organizations today from an antitraditional perspective, that since the outburst of the French Revolution to the Masonry of recent times as well as a sort of religion, it has promoted the Third Estate. I do however consider that originally, Masonry did actually have an initiatic character, but such a Masonry was further influenced to an extent that impelled it towards a completely different direction.
I: Would you personally agree that the most mysterious book of Guénon’s is The King of the World?
I: What are your thoughts on it?
JE: By resorting to a general observation of a documented nature, he shows how the idea of a supreme center of the world reappears in the most diverse traditions, and he describes these different traditions, and describes as well that there is a function attributed to such a center. In regards to the issue of if such a center exists or not, he believes it exists but he doesn’t venture much on such a dangerous affirmation. The king controlling the destiny of humanity: what can he do about it? Since it’s obvious that after a long time, after the path of decline and our times’ involution, and even that of previous times — what can he do about it? So he can do nothing, or he can’t even intervene; thus we have a dilemma here.