A man among the ruins. An aristocrat of the soul. The original radical traditionalist.
- Julius Evola
- Against Conservatism
- Radical Tradition
- Rites of Passage
- Quality or Equality?
- Our Atomized Society
- Aristocrats of the Soul
- Recommended Reading
- Letters to the Editor
Evola’s thought can be considered one of the most radically and consistently antiegalitarian, antiliberal, antidemocratic, and antipopular systems in the twentieth century.
He says that like it’s a bad thing.
If you haven’t had the pleasure, allow me, gentle reader, to introduce the wild and startling mind of Sicilian Baron Julius Evola (1898–1974), the original radical traditionalist. Evola’s core trilogy comprises
- Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga (1934; PDF here),
- Men among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist (1953; PDF here), and
- Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul (1961; PDF here).
Would that every author had the Baron Evola’s gift for subtitling.
A young Julius Evola
The regular reader may recall how Evola’s political theory of radical traditionalism helped us to better understand traditional masculinity (not to mention Fight Club) through the Baron’s concept of the Männerbund (Radish 1.9) from Men among the Ruins. Evola showed up again two weeks ago, in poster form (Radish 2.4), to speak out against materialism and so-called political progress — later on we’ll see these passages, which are also from Men among the Ruins, in their proper context:
… [M]odern capitalism is just as subversive as Marxism. The materialistic view of life on which both systems are based is identical… And as long as we only talk about economic classes, profit, salaries, and production, and as long as we believe that real human progress is determined by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods… then we are not even close to what is essential…
(You begin to see Evola’s radicalism.)
Recently, various forces have attempted to set up a defense… against… the disorder of our age… [T]his is a useless effort… unless the disease is dealt with at its very roots. These roots… are to be found in the subversion introduced in Europe by the revolutions of 1789 and 1848. … The subversion has long since taken root, so much so as to appear obvious and natural in the majority of existing institutions.
(And now you see his traditionalism.)
… [T]he various aspects of the contemporary social and political chaos are interrelated and there is no real way to effectively oppose them other than by returning to the origins. To go back to the origins means, plainly and simply, to reject everything that in any domain (whether social, political, or economic) is connected to the “immortal principles” of 1789…
Radical and traditional: in this issue of Radish, we’ll be exploring Julius Evola’s political theory through a series of key concepts he describes in Men among the Ruins.
The Heritage Foundation has an awfully nice building for such a useless organization.
In Chapter 1 of Men among the Ruins, ‘Revolution — Counterrevolution — Tradition,’ Evola takes conservatives to task for being utterly useless. Harsh, I know. But necessary.
Recently, various forces have attempted to set up a defense and a resistance in the sociopolitical domain against the extreme forms in which the disorder of our age manifests itself. It is necessary to realize that this is a useless effort, even for the sake of merely demonstrative purposes, unless the disease is dealt with at its very roots. These roots, as far as the historical dimension is concerned, are to be found in the subversion introduced in Europe by the revolutions of 1789 and 1848.
Today, meanwhile, in one of the Carlyle Club’s favorite examples (Radish 1.4), the eminently conservative (and often sensible) Heritage Foundation worries President Obama will “reframe” America’s founding and drag the country “backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people” (January 2013). In other words, these conservatives are worried that Obama might undo the revolutions — French and American both — that started us down this path of “progressive radicalism.”
Heritage suggests instead that in the name of tradition, — but also equality, individualism, popular government, and for all we know some other founding principles of progressivism (oh, of course: diversity, too), — we must… let’s see… ban homosexual marriage (January 2013). For freedom. Thanks, Heritage, that’s not confusing at all.
These are not the sort of people Evola had in mind “to set up a defense and a resistance in the sociopolitical domain against the extreme forms in which the disorder of our age manifests itself.”
The disease must be recognized in all of its forms and degrees; thus, the main task is to establish if there are still men willing to reject all the ideologies, political movements, and parties that, directly or indirectly, derive from those revolutionary ideas (i.e., everything ranging from liberalism and democracy to Marxism and communism). As a positive counterpart, these men should be given an orientation and a solid foundation consisting of a broad view of life and a stern doctrine of the State.
And do such men still exist in this foul year of Our Lord, two thousand and thirteen? Better yet, is there someone out there to give them the orientation and solid foundation they need? (Other than the esteemed Carlyle Club’s wildly enthusiastic Orientation Squads, of course.) Sure there is: try Mencius Moldbug, Nick Land, James A. Donald, Nick Steves, Foseti, and the whole gang over at Occam’s Razor, for starters.
Strictly speaking, the watchword could then be counterrevolution; however, the
revolutionary origins are by now remote and almost forgotten. The subversion has long since taken root, so much so as to appear obvious and natural in the majority of existing institutions.
Remember, that subversion includes (so-called) liberty, equality, diversity, and democracy, so you begin to see what Evola meant by “obvious and natural in the majority of existing institutions.”
Thus, for all practical purposes, the formula of “counterrevolution” would make sense only if people were able to see clearly the last stages that the world subversion is trying to cover up through revolutionary communism. Otherwise, another watchword is to be preferred, namely reaction. To adopt it and call oneself “reactionary” is a true test of courage. For quite some time, left-wing movements have made the term “reaction” synonymous with all kinds of iniquity and shame; they never miss an opportunity to thereby stigmatize all those who are not helpful to their cause and who do not go with the flow, or do not follow what, according to them, is the “course of History.”
As Thomas Carlyle wrote in Shooting Niagara (1867), his last great reactionary pamphlet (Radish 1.1): “It is indeed strange how prepossessions and delusions seize upon whole communities of men; no basis in the notion they have formed, yet everybody adopting it, everybody finding the whole world agree with him in it, and accept it as an axiom of Euclid; and, in the universal repetition and reverberation, taking all contradiction of it as an insult, and a sign of malicious insanity, hardly to be borne with patience.”
By now, the reader must be familiar with the sad cases of James Watson, Phil Rushton, and John Derbyshire. The ongoing Jason Richwine affair (Alternative Right, May 2013) is another good example. (Warning: official press or ‘mainstream media’ coverage of the Richwine affair may cause intense frustration for readers who value truth, honesty, reason, etc.)
The eminently conservative Heritage Foundation (above) just released a study of the economic effects on the United States of its ongoing colonization (Radish 1.2) by Mesoamerica. Co-author Jason Richwine came under attack almost immediately (Chuck Ross) for having pointed out in his 2009 dissertation (for a public-policy Ph.D. at Harvard) that Mestizos are less intelligent, on average, than Caucasians, which is of course an uncontroversial scientific fact.
That race differences in intelligence exist and are undoubtedly part genetic is clear from general evolutionary principles and simple observation (hbd chick). The problem is, human biological diversity contradicts the progressive doctrine of equality, and as a result is spectacularly not helpful to their cause. No chance the official press would miss this opportunity to stigmatize someone who didn’t follow the “course of History” (see, e.g., Townhall).
Take the reliably egregious New York Times (May 2013): “‘Whether you agree or disagree with the Heritage study, what their co-author believes is downright insulting and shameful,’ said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a group that has mobilized support for the bill. ‘Heritage has really become an outlier. The rest of the country is having a 21st-century conversation about immigration reform, and Heritage is caught in 1800. I really think their entire credibility is in question.’” Oh no, the Heritage Foundation somehow got “caught” in the past!
(Note that in September 2009, the “Idea of the Day” at the very same New York Times was the very same Jason Richwine’s “suggestion for managing the immigration driving so much diversity: screen to admit smarter immigrants.”)
As Evola wrote in his definitive Revolt Against the Modern World: “Nothing is further from the truth than the claim that the American soul is ‘open-minded’ and unbiased; on the contrary, it is ridden with countless taboos of which people are sometimes not even aware.”
Now, again, for Heritage to have adopted this supposed slur, even to have called themselves “reactionary,” would have been a sign of courage. But don’t bet on it, Evola would say:
While it is very natural for the Left to employ this tactic, I find unnatural the sense of anguish that the term often induces in people, due to their lack of political, intellectual, and even physical courage; this lack of courage plagues even the representatives of the so-called Right or “national conservatives,” who, as soon as they are labeled “reactionaries,” protest, exculpate themselves, and try to show that they do not deserve that label.
Predictably, Heritage promptly capitulated, firing Jason Richwine (American Renaissance) and releasing a statement explaining that “Dr. Richwine did not shape the methodology or the policy recommendations in the Heritage paper,” and the Harvard paper’s “findings do not reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation or the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to U.S. taxpayers, as race and ethnicity are not part of Heritage immigration policy recommendations” (May 2013). They should be (Radish 1.5), but they’re not.
That act of cowardice didn’t stop a former Heritage official from accusing the Foundation of “not standing by the principles of Ronald Reagan” (Salon): “I’m puzzled why they came out with this study and I’m more puzzled why they seem to be against immigration.” Puzzling indeed, when Heritage stands for such revolutionary ideals, — such murderous insurrectionary slogans, — as liberty, equality, diversity, etc., etc.
Even worse are the reactions of some so-called conservatives. (What have they ever managed to conserve?) One Matt Dabrowski writes: “Glad to see they’re naming and shaming this Jason Richwine character. These cockroaches need to be run out of the conservative movement.”
The reactionary known only as Avenging Red Hand replies (May 2013): “Indeed they do. All people of sense need to leave the ‘conservative movement’ any way possible to make way for reaction.” Precisely.
Remember: a reactionary is not a conservative (Radish 2.4). We don’t read the National Review; we read the Latter-Day Pamphlets, Popular Government, and The Bow of Ulysses. We don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh; we listen to the Brandenburg Concertos. We don’t vote Republican, because we don’t vote. We opposed the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the American Revolution too (Radish 1.4). We’re not fighting “gay marriage rights” or “abortion rights” or “civil rights” or even “human rights,” because we’re too busy fighting the concept of rights. No, we don’t want Hitler back — Hitler was too democratic. We want Augustus and Frederick, Castlereagh and Wellington. And no, we don’t want society “to go back to the ’50s,” unless you meant the 1750s. In that case, yes.
Remind me, conservatives: what exactly is worth “conserving” in this world?
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
“What is the Right expected to do?” Evola asks in Chapter 1.
While activists of the Left are “acting” and carrying forward the process of world subversion, is a conservative supposed to refrain from reacting and rather to look on, cheer them on, and even help them along the way? Historically speaking, it is deplorable that a “reaction” has been absent, inadequate, or only half-hearted, lacking people, means, and adequate doctrines, right at the time when the disease was still at an embryonic stage and thus susceptible to be eliminated by immediate cauterization of its infectious hotbeds; had that been the case, the European nations would have been spared untold calamities.
Again, the “embryonic stage” in Europe comprised the original French Revolution of 1789 (inspired by the American Revolution) and the European Revolutions of 1848. And what exactly would the “immediate cauterization” of these “infectious hotbeds” have entailed? We recall the Duke of Wellington’s great insight: “Pour la canaille, il faut la mitraille.” For the rabble, the grapeshot.
Carlyle touches on the same point in Shooting Niagara, with characteristic pessimism (my emphasis): “you will in vain attempt, by argument of human intellect, to contradict or turn aside any of these divine axioms, indisputable as those of Euclid, and of sacred or quasi-celestial quality to boot: if you have neglected the one method (which was a silent one) of dealing with them at an early stage, they are thenceforth invincible; and will plunge more and more madly forward towards practical fulfilment.”
Well, supposing they are not invincible, what then are we to do, Baron Evola, at this late stage in the game?
What is needed, therefore, is a new radical front, with clear boundaries drawn between friends and foes. If the “game” is not over yet, the future does not belong to those who share in the hybrid and crumbling ideas predominant even in groups that do not belong to the Left, but rather to those who have the courage to espouse radicalism — namely, the radicalism of the “absolute negations” or of “majestic affirmations,” to use expressions dear to Donoso Cortés.
Speaking of hybrid and crumbling ideas: in his important essay ‘America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution’ (July 2010), Angelo M. Codevilla noted that “while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well.” Suffice it to say, the future does not belong to Republicans. (Have I mentioned that a reactionary is not a conservative?)
Naturally, the term “reaction” intrinsically possesses a slightly negative connotation: those who react do not have the initiative of action; one reacts, in a polemical or defensive way, when confronted by something that has already been affirmed or done. Thus, it is necessary to specify that reaction does not consist in parrying the moves of the opponent without having anything positive to oppose him with. This misperception could be eliminated by associating the formula of “reaction” with that of “conservative revolution,” a formula in which a dynamic element is evident. In this context “revolution” no longer signifies a violent overthrow of a legitimate established order, but rather an action aimed at eliminating a newly emerged disorder and at reestablishing a state of normalcy.
Recall Alex Kurtagić’s speech to the National Policy Institute conference of September 2011, entitled ‘Masters of the Universe’ (Radish 2.3): “The new nationalism looks like an establishment in waiting. Not like fearful cynics who are waiting for a collapse, but like people who are building something new and important, that makes the collapse desirable because it opens the way for what comes afterwards, because it opens the way for a golden age. Rather than looking like conservatives fighting the tide of progress, we have to be the tide — the tide that sweeps away the old and decrepit left, that sweeps them out of power, sweeps them into the landfill of history, never to rise again.”
But what should this “establishment in waiting” look like? America in the ’50s? Germany in the ’30s? Victorian England? Ancient Greece?
Obviously, it is necessary to first establish as exactly as possible what needs to be “preserved”; today there is very little that deserves to be preserved, especially as far as social structures and political institutions are concerned. … [Y]esterday’s conservatives (not unlike the contemporary ones, even though the former were of an undeniably higher caliber) limited themselves to defending their sociopolitical positions and the material interests of a given class, of a given caste, instead of committing themselves to a stout defense of a higher right, dignity, and impersonal legacy of values, ideas, and principles. This was indeed their fundamental and most deplorable weakness.
Today we have sunk to an even lower level; therefore, the “conservative” idea to be defended must not only have no connection with the class that has replaced the fallen aristocracy and exclusively has the character of a mere economic class (i.e., the capitalist bourgeoisie) —
Call it a beige oligarchy (Moldbug, February 2013).
— but it must also be resolutely opposed to it. What needs to be “preserved” and defended in a “revolutionary fashion” is the general view of life and of the State that, being based on higher values and interests, definitely transcends the economic plane, and thus everything that can be defined in terms of economic classes.
In regard to these values, what refers to concrete orientations, positive institutions, and historical situations is just a consequence; it is not the primary but rather the secondary element. …
Moreover, what is needed is not to artificially and coercively perpetuate particular forms tied to the past, despite having exhausted their vital possibilities and being out of touch with the times.
For the authentic revolutionary conservative, what really counts is to be faithful not to past forms and institutions, but rather to principles of which such forms and institutions have been particular expressions, adequate for a specific period of time and in a specific geographical area. And just as these particular expressions ought to be regarded as changeable and ephemeral in themselves, since they are connected to historical circumstances that are often unrepeatable, likewise the corresponding principles animating them have a value that is unaffected by such contingencies, as they enjoy a perennial actuality. New forms, corresponding in essence to the old ones, are liable to emerge from them as if from a seed; thus, even as they eventually replace the old forms (even in a “revolutionary” manner), what remains is a certain continuity amid the changing historical, social, economic, and cultural factors.
Here we should recall the French counter-revolutionary Joseph de Maistre’s Considérations sur la France (1796), written near the end of the French Revolution (Radish 2.4): “I will simply point out the error of principle that has provided the foundation of this constitution and that has led the French astray since the first moment of their revolution. The constitution of 1795, like its predecessors, has been drawn up for Man. … This constitution is capable of being applied to all human communities from China to Geneva. But a constitution which is made for all nations is made for none: it is a pure abstraction, a school exercise.”
In order to ensure this continuity, while holding fast to the underlying principles, it is necessary to eventually throw away everything that needs to be discarded, instead of stiffening, panicking, or confusedly seeking new ideas when crises occur and times change: this is indeed the essence of the true conservative spirit. Therefore, conservative spirit and traditional spirit are one and the same thing. According to its true, living meaning, Tradition is neither servile conformity to what has been, nor a sluggish perpetuation of the past into the present. Tradition, in its essence, is something simultaneously meta-historical and dynamic: it is an overall ordering force, in the service of principles that have the chrism of a superior legitimacy (we may even call them “principles from above”). This force acts through the generations, in continuity of spirit and inspiration, through institutions, laws, and social orders that may even display a remarkable variety and diversity.
Here we find the essence of radical traditionalism:
With this is mind, we can see the ultimate premises of two opposing attitudes. The axiom of the revolutionary-conservative or revolutionary-reactionary mentality is that the supreme values and the foundational principles of every healthy and normal institution are not liable to change and to becoming: among these values we may find, for instance, the true State, the imperium, the auctoritas, hierarchy, justice, functional classes, and the primacy of the political element over the social and economic elements. In the domain of these values there is no “history,” and to think about them in historical terms is absurd. Such values and principles have an essentially normative. character. In the public and political order they have the same dignity as, in private life, is typical of values and principles of absolute morality: they are imperative principles requiring a direct, intrinsic acknowledgment… These principles are not compromised by the fact that in various instances an individual, out of weakness or due to other reasons, was unable to actualize them or to even implement them partially at one point in his life rather than another: as long as such an individual does not give up inwardly, he will be acknowledged even in abjection and in desperation.
History — and pre-history — abound with all-male warrior bands, or Männerbünde. (Artwork by Z. Burian, A. Yezhov, and O. Anton.)
In Chapter 2, ‘Sovereignty, Authority, Imperium,’ Evola introduces his conception of the Männerbund.
According to an old view, the State derives from the family: the same principle responsible for shaping the family and the gens, having been integrated and extended, allegedly gave rise to the State.
See, for example, Sir Robert Filmer’s classic Patriarcha: The Natural Power of Kings (1680), whose first chapter is titled: ‘That the First Kings Were Fathers of Families.’
Whether or not this is the case, it is possible, from a logical point of view, to trace the origins of the State to a naturalistic plane only by committing an initial mistake: to assume that in ancient civilized areas, and especially those populated by Indo-European civilizations, the family was a unity of a purely physical type, and that the sacred, together with a well-articulated hierarchical social system, did not play a decisive role in it. … But if the family is thought of in naturalistic terms, or in the terms in which it presents itself today, the generating principle of the properly political communities must be traced to a context that is very different from the one typical of the family: it must be traced to the plane of the so-called Mannerbunde.
Männerbund (plural Männerbünde): German. Literally “band of men.” All-male warrior band or gang.
Among several primitive societies, the individual, up to a certain age, being regarded as a merely natural being, was entrusted to the family and to maternal tutelage, since everything related to the maternal, physical aspect of existence fell under the maternal-feminine aegis.
“We’re a generation of men raised by women.” — Tyler Durden (Radish 1.9).
However, at a certain point what happened, or better, what could happen, was a change of nature and status. Special rites, known as “rites of passage,” which were often preceded by a period of detachment and isolation,
“If the applicant is young, tell him he’s too young; old, too old; fat, too fat. If the applicant then waits for three days without food, shelter, or encouragement, he may then enter and begin his training.”
and which were accompanied by harsh trials,
“This is a chemical burn. It’ll hurt more than you’ve ever been burned, and you will have a scar.”
generated a new being according to a scheme of “death and rebirth” who alone could be regarded as a “man.”
“The first soap was made from the ashes of heroes, like the first monkey shot into space. Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.”
In fact, prior to this initiation, the member of the group, no matter what his age, was believed to belong to the same category that included women, children, and animals. Once the transformation occurred, the individual was incorporated into the Mannerbund.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
It was this Mannerbund, in which the qualification of “man” had simultaneously an initiatory (i.e., sacred) and a warrior meaning, that wielded the power in the social group or clan. This Mannerbund was characterized by special tasks and responsibilities; it was different from all other societies to which other members of the tribe belonged.
“Like the monkey ready to be shot into space — space monkey! Ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good.”
In this primordial scheme we find the fundamental “categories” differentiating the political order from the “social” order. First among these is a special chrism — namely, that proper to “man” in the higher sense of the word (vir was the term employed in Roman times) and not merely of a generic homo: this condition is marked by a spiritual breakthrough and by detachment from the naturalistic and vegetative plane.
“Stay with the pain; don’t shut this out. Look at your hand! … This is your pain, this is your burning hand. It’s right here. … This is the greatest moment of your life…”
Its integration is power, the principle of command belonging to the Mannerbund. We could rightfully see in this one of the “constants” (i.e., basic ideas) that in very different applications, formulations, and derivations are uniformly found in the theory or, better, in the metaphysics of the State that was professed even by the greatest civilizations of the past. Following the processes of secularization, rationalization, and materialization, which have become increasingly accentuated in recent times, those original meanings became obscured and attenuated; and yet, wherever they are entirely obliterated, even though they exist in a transposed form, without an initiatory or sacred background, there no longer is a State or a political class in the specific, traditional sense. In reference to this, someone was able to say that the “formation of a ruling class is a divine mystery”; in some cases, though, it could be a “demonic mystery” (e.g., the tribunes of the people; demagogy; communism), but never something that could be defined in mere social or, worse yet, economic factors.
“You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.”
The substance of every true and stable political organism is something resembling an Order, a Mannerbund in charge of the principle of the imperium, comprising men who see loyalty as the basis of their honor (as the saying of the Saxon Code goes). But in time of crisis and of an overall moral, political, and social disintegration (as is the case in our day and age), a generic reference to the “nation” does not suffice for reconstructive work unless such an idea assumes a revolutionary overtone, including elements of a properly political order, weakened to various degrees. The “nation” will always be a promiscuous entity; in the above-mentioned situation what needs to be done is to emphasize the fundamental duality of the origins: on the one side stand the masses, in which, besides changing feelings, the same elementary instincts and interests connected to a physical and hedonistic plane will always have free play; and on the other side stand men who differentiate themselves from the masses as bearers of a complete legitimacy and authority, bestowed by the Idea and by their rigorous, impersonal adherence to it.
“Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. … We are all part of the same compost heap.”
The Idea, only the Idea, must be the true fatherland for these men: what unites them and sets them apart should consist in adherence to the same idea, rather than to the same land, language, or blood. The true task and the necessary premise for the rebirth of the “nation” and for its renewed form and conscience consists of untying and separating that which only apparently, promiscuously, or collectively appears to be one entity, and in reestablishing a virile substance in the form of a political elite around which a new crystallization will occur.
If I may address the white nationalists in the audience: to my mind, the degree to which large numbers of Caucasians — not nearly all of them Jewish — support the radical anti-European program of anti-racism (Radish 1.2), and worse, colonization, in the guise of immigration reform (Radish 1.5), is proof enough that blood and soil alone are not sufficient (but see ‘Race: The First Principle,’ Counter-Currents, May 2013).
I call this the realism of the idea: realism because what are needed for this work are strength and clarity, rather than “idealism” and sentimentality.
“First you have to know — not fear, know — that someday you are going to die.” — Tyler Durden.
This realism, however, is opposed both to the coarse, cynical, and degenerate realism of politicians and to the style of those who abhor “ideological prejudices”; the latter, in fact, are capable only of reawakening a vague feeling of “national solidarity” (a herdlike spirit) by means that do not really differ from the general techniques employed to arouse the excitement of the masses.
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
All this falls below the level of what politics is, in the virile, traditional sense; moreover, it is inadequate for the times.
“We’re the middle children of history, man — no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.”
In this way, too, we can see the insufficiency of the simple notion of “nation” as a guiding principle, and the need for its political integration, in terms of a higher idea that alone must be the standard, uniting and dividing factor. The essential task ahead requires formulating an adequate doctrine, upholding principles that have been thoroughly studied, and, beginning from these, giving birth to an Order. This elite, differentiating itself on a plane that is defined in terms of spiritual virility, decisiveness, and impersonality, and where every naturalistic bond loses its power and value, will be the bearer of a new principle of a higher authority and sovereignty; it will be able to denounce subversion and demagogy in whatever form they appear and reverse the downward spiral of the top-level cadres and the irresistible rise to power of the masses. From this elite, as if from a seed, a political organism and an integrated nation will emerge, enjoying the same dignity as the nations created by the great European political tradition. Anything short of this amounts only to a quagmire, dilettantism, irrealism, and obliquity.
Whether or not we agree with Evola on all of these points, I believe he demands our careful consideration.
From Joseph Meyer’s ‘The Races of Man’ (1885): We are not identical. We are not interchangeable. We are not equal.
In Chapter 3, ‘Personality — Freedom — Hierarchy,’ Evola distinguishes between the individual and the person.
The essence of liberalism is individualism. The basis of its error is to mistake the notion of the person with that of the individual and to claim for the latter, unconditionally and according to egalitarian premises, some values that should rather be attributed solely to the former, and then only conditionally. Because of this transposition, these values are transformed into errors, or into something absurd and harmful.
Let us begin with the egalitarian premise. It is necessary to state from the outset that the “immortal principle” of equality is sheer nonsense. There is no need to comment on the inequality of human beings from a naturalistic point of view.
There is indeed no need to comment, but I cannot resist quoting the great Lothrop Stoddard (Radish 2.4) on the matter. From Chapter 2, ‘The Iron Law of Inequality,’ in his 1922 classic, The Revolt Against Civilization (PDF here): “The idea of ‘Natural Equality’ is one of the most pernicious delusions that has ever afflicted mankind. It is a figment of the human imagination. Nature knows no equality. The most cursory examination of natural phenomena reveals the presence of a Law of Inequality as universal and inflexible as the Law of Gravitation. The evolution of life is the most striking instance of this fundamental truth.”
And yet the champions of egalitarianism make equality a matter of principle, claiming that while human beings are not equal de facto, they are so de jure: they are unequal, and yet they should not be. Inequality is unfair; the merit and the superiority of the liberal idea allegedly consists of not taking it into account, overcoming it, and acknowledging the same dignity in every man. Democracy, too, shares the belief in the “fundamental equality of anything that appears to be human.”
Here we should recall Thomas Carlyle’s take on the democratic revolutions of 1848, from ‘The Present Time’ (Radish 1.1), first of his Latter-Day Pamphlets: “How decipher, with best fidelity, the eternal regulation of the Universe; and read, from amid such confused embroilments of human clamor and folly, what the real Divine Message to us is? … All the world answers me, ‘Count heads; ask Universal Suffrage, by the ballot-boxes, and that will tell.’ Universal Suffrage, ballot-boxes, count of heads? Well, — I perceive we have got into strange spiritual latitudes indeed. Within the last half-century or so, either the Universe or else the heads of men must have altered very much. Half a century ago, and down from Father Adam’s time till then, the Universe, wherever I could hear tell of it, was wont to be of somewhat abstruse nature; by no means carrying its secret written on its face, legible to every passer-by; on the contrary, obstinately hiding its secret from all foolish, slavish, wicked, insincere persons, and partially disclosing it to the wise and noble-minded alone, whose number was not the majority in my time!”
But let’s get back to Evola on egalitarianism and that fundamental equality of anything that appears to be human.
I believe these are mere empty words. This is not a “noble ideal” but something that, if taken absolutely, represents a logical absurdity; wherever this view becomes an established trend, it may usher in only regression and decadence.
As the late Dr. Samuel T. Francis put it, in his outstanding essay ‘Equality As a Political Weapon,’ featured in the collection Shots Fired (2006): “The doctrine of equality is unimportant because no one, save perhaps Pol Pot and Ben Wattenberg, really believes in it, and no one, least of all those who profess it most loudly, is seriously motivated by it.”
And returning, for a moment, to the matter of the useless conservatives (above): “The real meaning of the ‘doctrine of equality’… cannot be grasped and its real power as a social and ideological force cannot be countered merely by a purely formal critique such as that traditionally mounted by the Old Right. The real meaning of the doctrine of equality is that it serves as a political weapon, to be unsheathed whenever it is useful for cutting down barriers, human or institutional, to the power of those groups that wear it on their belts; but, because equality, if nothing else, is a two-edged weapon, to be kept well away from the hands of those who merely want to fondle it.” In other words: the Heritage Foundation (minus Dr. Richwine) and the like.
Sam Francis also cites the Italian social theorist Vilfredo Pareto (once known, rather intriguingly, as “the Karl Marx of Fascism”). From Pareto’s Treatise of General Sociology (1916): “The sentiment that is very inappropriately named equality is fresh, strong, alert, precisely because it is not, in fact, a sentiment of equality and is not related to any abstraction, as a few naïve ‘intellectuals’ still believe; but because it is related to the direct interests of individuals who are bent on escaping certain inequalities not in their favor, and setting up new inequalities that will be in their favour, this latter being their chief concern.”
Now, this was all perfectly obvious to Evola, so he thought it would be more productive (and we think more interesting) to explore the political consequences of inequality and an anti-egalitarian stance:
Conversely, to posit inequality means to transcend quantity and admit quality. It is here that the two notions of the individual and the person are differentiated. The individual may be conceived only as an atomic unit, or as a mere number in the reign of quantity; in absolute terms, it is a mere fiction and an abstraction. And yet it is possible to lean toward this solution, namely to minimize the differences characterizing the individual being, emphasizing mixed and uniform qualities (what ensues from this, through massification and standardization, is a uniformity of paths, rights, and freedoms) and conceiving this as an ideal and desirable condition. However, this means to degrade and to alter the course of nature.
From Radish 2.4
An equality may exist on the plane of a mere social aggregate or of a primordial, almost animal-like promiscuity; moreover, it may be recognized wherever we consider not the individual but the overall dimension; not the person but the species; not the “form” but “matter” (in the Aristotelian sense of these two terms). I will not deny that there are in human beings some aspects under which they are approximately equal, and yet these aspects, in every normal and traditional view, represent not the “plus” but the “minus”; in other words, they correspond to the lowest degree of reality, and to that which is least interesting in every being. Again, these aspects fall into an order that is not yet that of “form,” or of personality, in the proper sense. To value these aspects and to emphasize them as those that truly matter is the same as regarding as paramount the bronze found in many statues, rather than seeing each one as the expression of distinct ideas, to which bronze (in our case, the generic human quality) has supplied the working matter.
These references clarify what is truly a person and personal value, as opposed to the mere individual and the mere element belonging to a mass or to a social agglomerate. The person is an individual who is differentiated through his qualities, endowed with his own face, his proper nature, and a series of attributes that make him who he is and distinguish him from all others — in other words, attributes that make him fundamentally unequal. The person is a man in whom the general characteristics (beginning with that very general characteristic of being human, to that of belonging to a given race, nation, gender, and social group) assume a differentiated form of expression by articulating and variously individuating themselves.
Also from Radish 2.4
Any vital, individual, social, or moral process that goes in this direction and leads to the fulfillment of the person according to his own nature is truly ascending. Conversely, to give emphasis and priority to that which in every being is equal signifies regression. The will to equality is one and the same with the will to what is formless. Every egalitarian ideology is the barometric index of a certain climate of degeneration, or the “trademark” of forces leading to a process of degeneration. Overall, this is how we should think about the “noble ideal” and the “immortal principle” of equality.
You’d think the French Revolution would have taught us not to let fanatical madmen stir up violent mobs and overthrow the government. But no, we had to flush Russia down the toilet too.
Later in Chapter 3, Evola traces the evolution of individualistic political theories.
… [N]ot only ideally, but historically too, liberalism and individualism are at the beginning and at the origin of the various interconnected forms of modern subversion. The person who becomes an individual, by ceasing to have an organic meaning and by refusing to acknowledge any principle of authority, is nothing more than a number, a unit in the pack; his usurpation evokes a fatal collectivist limitation against himself. Therefore, we go from liberalism to democracy: and then from democracy to socialist forms that are increasingly inclined toward collectivism.
For that reason, a reactionary is about as enthusiastic about the American Revolution (Radish 1.4) as he is about the French and Russian — just one of the many ways in which a reactionary is not a conservative (above).
For a long time Marxist historiography has clearly recognized this pattern: it has recognized that the liberal revolution, or the revolution of the Third Estate, opened a breach and contributed to erode the previous traditional sociopolitical world and to pave the way to the socialist and communist revolution; in turn, the representatives of this revolution will leave the rhetorics of the “immortal principles” and the “noble and generous ideas” to naive and deluded people.
In other words: Leave all that nonsense to the useful idiots (American Thinker, May 2012; Jewish World Review, September 2000). We communists — I mean, we progressives are in the business of acquiring power — sweet, sweet power (Moldbug, November 2008).
Since every fall is characterized by an accelerated motion, it is not possible to stop halfway. Within the system of the predominant ideologies in the West, liberalism, having absolved its preliminary task of disintegration and disorganization, has quickly been set aside — thus, the claim of some of its contemporary epigones to be able to contain Marxism, which represents the last link in the chain of causes, rings hollow indeed and is indicative of lack of wisdom.
Evola expands on this crucial insight a little later:
Thus, it is of paramount importance to recognize the continuity of the current that has generated the various political, antitraditional forms that are today at work in the chaos of political parties: liberalism, constitutionalism, parliamentary democracy, socialism, radicalism, and finally communism and Sovietism have emerged in history as degrees or as interconnected stages of the same disease. Without the French Revolution and liberalism, constitutionalism and democracy would not have existed; without democracy and the corresponding bourgeois and capitalist civilization of the Third Estate, socialism and demagogic nationalism would not have arisen; without the groundwork laid by socialism, we would not have witnessed the advent of radicalism and of communism in both its national and proletarian-international versions.
The fact that today these forms often appear either to coexist or to be in competition with each other should not prevent a keen eye from noting that they sustain, link, and mutually condition each other, being only the expression of different degrees of the same subversion of every normal and legitimate institution. It necessarily follows that, when these forms clash, the one that will prevail will be the most extreme, or the one located on the lowest step.
That indispensable reactionary Mencius Moldbug provides a Carlylean point of view on the democratic origins of socialism and demagogic nationalism, not to mention their infamous synthesis — and takes conservatives to task — in ‘Carlyle in the 20th century: fascism and socialism’ (July 2009) and Part 8 of his ‘Gentle introduction’ (March 2009).
Meanwhile, Evola traces everything from parliamentary democracy to Soviet Communism right back to radical individualism:
The beginning of the process is to be traced to the time when Western man broke the ties to Tradition, claiming for himself as an individual a vain and illusory freedom: when he became an atom in society, rejecting every higher symbol of authority and sovereignty in a system of hierarchies. The “totalitarian” forms that are emerging are a demonic and materialistic counterfeit of the previous unitary political ideal, and they represent “the greatest and most savage slavery,” which, according to Plato, arose out of formless “freedom.”
Economic liberalism, which engendered various forms of capitalist exploitation and of cynical, antisocial plutocracy, is one of the final consequences of the intellectual emancipation that made the individual solutus — that is, lacking the inner, self-imposed bond, function, and limit that are found instead in every organic system’s general climate and natural hierarchy of values.
Now watch the conservative Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute get it all hopelessly wrong: “She may be a social networker, but the conservative woman’s identity isn’t dependent upon a group. … Her allegiance is to individual liberty and Individualism, the salient characteristic of Western Civilization, and to its economic system, free-market capitalism.”
Indeed: “Democracy and free-market capitalism are inextricably linked. Both are rooted in individual liberty,” — Well then, that’s where we should attack them: at the root! — “and each acts as a guarantor of the other.” You say guarantor, I say accomplice, but clearly we’re on the same page here — oh, wait. You’re conservatives. You actually believe in democracy and individualism — in fact, you believe in every murderous insurrectionary slogan from every violent mob uprising against the hierarchy essential to civilization, as long as the mob isn’t rising up in your lifetime. Plus, you bear allegiance to a *%#^@$! economic system. Never mind. Forget I said anything.
Please continue, Baron Evola.
Moreover, we know that in more recent times, political liberalism has become little more than a system at the service of laissez-faire — namely, economic liberalism — in the context of a capitalist-plutocratic civilization; from this situation new reactions arose, pushing everything lower and lower, to the level of Marxism.
Thus Evola manages to connect libertarianism and laissez faire capitalism to Marxism and redistribution, through radical individualism and the rejection of hierarchy.
It was only natural that in the end the right to private property came to be disputed; whenever there is no higher legitimization of ownership, it is always possible to wonder why some people have property and others do not, or why some people have earned for themselves privileges and social preeminence (often greater than those in feudal systems), while lacking something that would make them stand out and above everybody else in an effective and sensible manner. Thus the so-called “social question,” together with the worn-out slogan “social justice,” arose in those conditions where no differentiation is any longer visible other than in terms of mere “economic classes” (wealth and property having become “neutral” and apolitical; every value of difference and rank, of personality and authority having been rejected or undermined by processes of degeneration and materialization; the political sphere having been deprived of its original dignity). Thus, subversive ideologies have successfully and easily unmasked all the political myths that capitalism and the bourgeoisie have employed, in the absence of any superior principle, in order to defend their privileged status against the push and final violation by the forces from below.
In the simplest possible terms: Property is racist! cry Bolshevik.org, SocialistRevolution.org, etc., etc. No it’s not! Capitalism.org protests. Okay, good luck with that, pal. Let us know how it goes.
Evola critiques economic systems in detail in Chapter 6, ‘Work — The Demonic Nature of the Economy’:
Nothing is more evident than that modern capitalism is just as subversive as Marxism. The materialistic view of life on which both systems are based is identical; both of their ideals are qualitatively identical, including the premises connected to a world the center of which is constituted of technology, science, production, “productivity,” and “consumption.” And as long as we only talk about economic classes, profit, salaries, and production, and as long as we believe that real human progress is determined by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods, and that, generally speaking, human progress is measured by the degree of wealth or indigence — then we are not even close to what is essential, even though new theories, beyond Marxism and capitalism, might be formulated.
The starting point should be, instead, a firm rejection of the principle formulated by Marxism, which summarizes the entire subversion at work today: The economy is our destiny. We must declare in an uncompromising way that in a normal civilization the economy and economic interests — understood as the satisfaction of material needs and their more or less artificial appendices — have always played, and always will play, a subordinated function. We must also uphold that beyond the economic sphere an order of higher political, spiritual, and heroic values has to emerge, an order that neither knows nor tolerates merely economic classes and does not know the division between “capitalists” and “proletarians”; an order solely in terms of which are to be defined the things worth living and dying for. We must also uphold the need for a true hierarchy and for different dignities, with a higher function of power installed at the top, namely the imperium.
That, I think, is enough of an introduction to the Baron’s way of thinking. Remember, his books (below) are free to all. But let us return once more to Chapter 3 for a brief statement of the true essence of the radical traditionalist or reactionary.
Again, we can see that the various aspects of the contemporary social and political chaos are interrelated and there is no real way to effectively oppose them other than by returning to the origins. To go back to the origins means, plainly and simply, to reject everything that in any domain (whether social, political, or economic) is connected to the “immortal principles” of 1789, as a libertarian, individualistic, and egalitarian thought, and to oppose it with the hierarchical view, in the context of which alone the notion, value, and freedom of man as person are not reduced to mere words or excuses for a work of destruction and subversion.
Thank you for reading this introduction to Evola — which, for some of you, has been an introduction to radical traditionalism in general. We hope you feel inspired to peruse one or two of the Baron’s books.
We close with a few words from the Baron himself, discussing Ride the Tiger in an interview late in life:
The good fighter does what has to be done and does not let himself be troubled by any skepticism. … Given the ineptitude of the existing political groups, which, as is well known, have often forced qualified elements to move away from them, and given that what would have been desirable did not occur, which is to say, a political party as a mere force of maneuver in the present time, but absolutely disciplined and controlled by a superordinated group, owner of a precise inner doctrine not to be paraded in the common political struggle — given these things, the only possibilities seem to me to be those of more diffuse activity: to win, and influence with direct contacts, personalities, if possible, holding a post of command, not so much in the world of the political schemers as in that of the army, of officialdom and of business.
Want to learn more about the topics covered in this issue of Radish? We highly recommend the following resources. (We do not, however, necessarily endorse all opinions expressed in them: some are not nearly extreme enough.)
Evola’s Core Trilogy
- ‘Remembering Julius Evola: May 19, 1898–June 11, 1974,’ a Counter-Currents collection, including:
- ‘Julius Evola on Tradition and the Right’ (Occidental Quarterly)
- ‘Can Fascism be Critiqued from the Right?’ (American Renaissance)
The Richwine Affair
- ‘The Jason Richwine Affair’ (Richard Spencer)
- ‘Science vs. progressivism: the Richwine affair’ (nydwracu)
- ‘The Bitter Taste of Richwine’ (Jim Goad)
- ‘why human biodiversity is true…and why jason richwine is right’ (hbd chick)
- ‘Half-assed wishful thinking’ and ‘Dark arguments on immigration’ (Foseti)
- ‘Mestizos and National Wealth’ (James A. Donald)
- ‘Jonathan Chait speaks power to truth,’ ‘Jennifer Rubin is never satisfied,’ and ‘American Dream v. Israeli Dream: Jennifer Rubin and Mickey Kaus debate‘ (Steve Sailer)
- ‘Jason Richwine and Goring the Media’s Ox’ (Education Realist)
- ‘Jason Richwine “Resignation” Marks The Surrender Of Conservatism, Inc. To Cultural Marxist PC’ and ‘“This Isn’t A Free Country”: The Heritage Foundation And The Fate Of Jason Richwine’ (Peter Brimelow)
- ‘The Heretic at Heritage’ (Pat Buchanan)
- ‘Jason Richwine, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” And The Long War Of Larry Auster’ (Susie Green)
- ‘Richwine Roundup’ (Chuck Ross)
- ‘How did Jason Richwine Get a PhD from Harvard?’ (the typically insane Daily Kos)
- ‘You Can’t Wish Away the Facts About Immigration Amnesty’ (David Frum)
Assorted, Tangential & Miscellaneous
- ‘In a Mirror Darkly: Marxism and Libertarianism’
- ‘Radical Traditionalism and Nihilism’ (A.N.U.S.)
- ‘The Moral Disaster of Benghazi, Obamacare, and Universal Suffrage’
- ‘Race: The First Principle’ (Gregory Hood)
- ‘Meanwhile on the Left Coast’ (The Gods of the Copybook Headings)
- ‘The Dark Enlightenment and Me’ (Education Realist)