Troy Southgate examines late Italian philosopher Julius Evola’s Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist. PRAVDA.Ru will present this summary as a series.
2. SOVEREIGNTY - AUTHORITY - IMPERIUM
According to Evola, "every true political unity appears as the embodiment of an idea and a power, thus distinguishing itself from every form of naturalistic association or 'natural right', and also from every societal aggregation determined by mere social, economic, biological, utilitarian, or eudemonistic factors." He goes on to point out that, for the Romans at least, the very idea of an imperium of sovereign power was something perceived to be highly sacred. This functioned by way of a mystical trinity comprised of the Leader (auctoritas), the Nobility (gens) and the State (res publica). Evola’s interpretation of the imperium is certainly supported by those historians who - like Edward Gibbon and Oswald Spengler - have allowed the Holy Roman Empire its own unique and symbolic niche in both time and space. That it prevailed until its disastrous collapse at Constantinople in 1453, of course, is demonstrative of the way in which the very idea of imperium survived the various cycles of history in which it found itself. Evola also reminds us of De Maistre’s assertion that a "power and authority that are not absolute, are not real authority or real power" at all.
The author then turns his mind to judicial matters, stating that, whenever the State rises above the merely temporal laws of the nation, it assumes the role of an independently organic entity. In other words, Evola is basically suggesting that in cases of national emergency, for example, the State can flex its muscles and prove just how transcendent it really is by overriding the laws of the judiciary. This notion will fill the average supporter of democracy and egalitarianism with some horror, but Evola is referring to a central principle of authoritative order rather than advocating that a fascist dictatorship rule over the masses with an iron fist (although he does suggest that a temporary dictatorship can often get things back on track). Indeed, this is rather similar to the way Cicero analyses Natural Law and the fact that it only applies to those who seek to transgress its permanently entrenched codes.
Evola also refutes the idea that power should rise up to the State from the grass roots, for example in the way that Muammar al-Qathafi explains the concept in The Green Book. As far as he is concerned, the State is not the expression or embodiment of the people at all. This "political domain is defined through hierarchical, heroic, ideal, anti-hedonistic, and, to a degree, even anti-eudemonistic values that set it apart from the order of naturalistic and vegetative life." But this is almost like a paradox. If the State completely transcends the ordinary functions of what most people consider to be the role of a State, then surely Evola’s vision is one of anarchic authority? Evola may have disagreed with the use of the term "anarchy," but surely the State for him is more mystical than fully tangible in the purely ordinary sense? By this, I am implying that the State is present as a guiding authority at the helm of a nation or empire, but absent in terms of the way it is perceived by most people. Anarchy, of course, does not mean that authority is non-existent, it simply refers to the absence of rule. Therefore Evola’s concept of the mystical State may well be altogether detached from the socio-economic version which writers like Peter Kropotkin (The State: Its Historic Role), Michael Bakunin (Marxism, Freedom & The State) or Herbert Spencer (The Man Versus The State) have gone to such great lengths in order to analyse and dissect. Evola makes a profound distinction between the political and social aspects of the State, arguing that it emanates from a specific family (gens) and thus rejecting the idea that states can arise from the naturalistic plane. At first, this appears to be a contradiction in terms, because, surely, the family is a naturalistic phenomenon? On the contrary, Evola is referring to an altogether different interpretation of the term "family," that of the Mannerbunde (or all-male fraternity). Given the nature of the Mafia, of course, Italians should find it that much easier to appreciate the subtle differences in terminology. Evola was also a Freemason and wrote extensively on the Mithraic sun-cult, both prime examples of the Mannerbunde and possessing deep initiatic qualities which - by way of a series of trials and degrees - take the male apprentice way beyond his maternalistic upbringing on the exoteric plane. Thus a significant change takes place both within the man himself and the way he is then perceived by others. But this interpretation is not designed to leave women out of the equation, it simply states that whilst men are the natural frequenters of the mystical, or political, domain, women are the pivotal masters of society. It lies completely "under the feminine aegis." Those readers who are familiar with Evola’s Revolt Against The Modern World [Inner Traditions, 1995] will grasp the higher significance of what Evola is trying to say. Indeed, in the present work he summarises these metaphysical concepts thus: "The common mythological background is that of the duality of the luminous and heavenly deities, who are the gods of the political and heroic world on the one hand, and of the feminine and maternal deities of naturalistic existence, who were loved by the plebeian strata of society on the other hand. Thus, even in the ancient Roman world, the idea of State and of imperium (i.e., of the sacred authority) was strictly connected to the symbolic cult of the virile deities of heaven, of light and of the super-world in opposition to the dark region of the Mothers and the chthonic deities." If we follow Evola’s line of thinking, we soon arrive at the medieval idea of the divine right of kings. This, he tells us, was a development which - contrary to the earlier imperium - was not consolidated "by the power of a rite." Traditional Catholics would disagree wholeheartedly with this conclusion, at least right up until the Reformation and Henry VIII’s well-documented break with Rome. And if the divine right of kings is one step removed from the imperium, the next logical stage of decline is that of Socialism and the demos; which Evola describes as "the degradation and contamination of the political principle." Furthermore, he argues, "[b]oth democracy and socialism ratify the shift from the masculine to the feminine and from the spiritual to the material and the promiscuous."
Evola is often portrayed by his opponents as a "fascist," but it may surprise many of them to learn that he relegates "romantic and idealistic" concepts such as the nation, the homeland, and the people to the purely naturalistic and biological level. These issues, he contends, have replaced a political principle that is representative of a far higher and more penetrating tradition. By refusing to accept the legitimacy of feudalism or the authority of the Holy Roman Empire, he argues, nation-states tried to create their own pockets of authority. Thus, the struggle between popes and princes, kings and noblemen, led a vast centralisation of power which was epitomised by the Third Estate. This is where Evola returns to what he perceives as the crucial - and destructive - role played by the 1789 French Revolution, whereby the final vestiges of tradition were erased from the face of Europe. The process was aided by the 1848 Revolution and the onslaught of the First World War, pitting nation against nation in the name of "patriotism." Furthermore, he says, elevating a national identity or geographical territory to a kind of mystical status completely erodes both authority and sovereignty. Nations are associated with female terminology - Motherland, for example - and therefore "attributed to the Great Mother in ancient plebeian gynecocracies and in societies that ignored the virile and political principle of the imperium." Evola goes on to compare the political unit of the nation with the position of the soul in comparison to the body. In other words, it assumes an "inner form," which totally goes beyond the popular understanding of the way a nation is defined. It is true, after all, that nations do not arise purely by themselves and so the hidden - spiritual - component is the true guiding force. The nation is only perceived as an independent entity with a life of its own once the political aspect has been significantly weakened: "From the political class understood as an Order and a Mannerbund a shift occurs to to the democratic ruling classes who presume to 'represent' the people and who acquire for themselves the various offices or positions of power by flattering and manipulating the masses." This, according to Evola, is due to the lack of real men in contemporary society and - paying his respects to Carlyle in the process - he goes on to warn us that we live in a "world of domestics that yearns to be ruled by a pseudo-hero.' Indeed, there is little doubt that the parliamentary system, for example, never fails to deviate from the idea of the nation as myth, despite the fact that the political sphere is never regarded as being sovereign in itself. Evola attacks universal suffrage because he sees it as the consequence of "the degradation of the ruling class." It is certainly a fact that the reforms of the nineteenth century were achieved at the expense of the ruling classes, but, from an Evolian perspective, the scales were tipped at both ends. The consequence of this formative episode in European history, modern democracy, saw the true political unit replaced with a corrupt and bastardised system based entirely on materialism.
But what of those nations which have actually followed the political principle to the letter? We are informed by Evola that the nation will always be potentially compromised, whilst "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. The Idea, only the Idea, must be the true fatherland for these men: what unites and sets them apart should consist in adherence to the same idea, rather than to the same land, language, or blood." This is a pretty bold statement, given that Evola is usually - and wrongly - associated with certain elements of the Far Right. Perhaps this is why the Assassins and their Knights Templar contemporaries found that they had so much in common? That which is most important, therefore, is not one’s adherence to a nation or a race - which instantly means that one must love, respect and work for the best interests of his compatriots without question - but one’s loyalty and fidelity to the very essence and spirit of tradition. In Evola’s own words: "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 re-establishing a virile substance in the form of a political elite around which a new crystallisation will occur." This, of course, is very different to the sheep-like mentality of most nationalist groups. One only has to look at the recent revival in England of a pseudo-patriotism built upon the most base and plebeian values of modern culture. Aligning oneself with existing national stereotypes, of course, is hardly making an attempt to transcend the sterile values which are embraced by the masses. The Idea that Evola talks about is based upon "strength and clarity, rather than 'idealism' and sentimentality." The nation has to be integrated with the political, so that the whole concept is raised to a much higher level by replacing the degenerative ruling classes with a new, elite aristocracy of cadres.
Troy Southgate submitted this work to PRAVDA.Ru
To read Part 1, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/11/28502.html