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.
10. TRADITION - CATHOLICISM - GHIBELLINISM
Catholicism is perceived by many to be the pinnacle of Tradition. Evola accepts that it contains many Traditional aspects, but goes on to say that in order to be seen as a legitimate form of authority and sovereignty it must become fully integrated within the sphere of Tradition itself. Catholicism alone is inadequate and represents only a minimal current of a far wider Tradition. Here, Evola opts to discuss the implications of this fact in both a political and contemporary context, despite using examples from the past.
Religion falls into various categories and cannot match the supreme and unitary nature of Tradition. In fact religion is simply an exoteric version of a deeper, esoteric undercurrent. Christianity, for example, panders to the masses, whilst Tradition is reserved for the spiritual elite: "In effect, nobody with a higher education can really believe in the axiom 'There is no salvation outside the Church' (nulla salus extra ecclesiam), meaning the great civilisations that have preceded Christianity (the still-existing millennia-old non-European traditions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and even relatively recent ones such as Islam) have not known the supernatural or the sacred, but only distorted images and obscure 'prefigurations' and that they amount to mere 'paganism', polytheism, and 'natural mysticism'." This statement would undoubtedly arouse in the more "traditional" Catholic a feeling of revulsion and anger, perhaps even accusations of "ecumenicalism." However, Evola is not advocating the unification of all religions, but the acceptance that there is a common Tradition which lies in each. He goes on to say that for a Catholic "to persist in the sectarian and dogmatic exclusivism about this matter would amount to being in the same predicament of one who wished to defend the views of physics and astronomy found in the Old Testament, which have been made obsolete by the current state of knowledge on these matters." Catholicism, then, is only "traditional" in the sense that certain aspects tend to accord with Tradition itself. The same can be said of Islam or Judaism.
We now turn our attention to the centuries-old debate concerning Catholicism and Ghibellinism. The Ghibellines (like their Guelph rivals) were a political force in northern and central Italy between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. These opposing groups began in Germany as partisans in a struggle for the throne of the Holy Roman Empire between two dynastic houses: the Welfs on the one hand (who were dukes of Saxony and Bavaria), and the Hohenstaufens on the other (who were rulers of Swabia). During the thirteenth century the Welf leader, Otto of Brunswick, was involved in a fratricidal struggle for the imperial crown against Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, and the all-German battle soon moved south to Italy. The name Guelph is derived from Welf, whilst Ghibelline is a corruption of Waiblingen, an area of land belonging to the emperors of Hohenstaufen. According to the Ghibelline view of the world, as elucidated by Evola, "the Empire was an institution of supernatural origin and character, like the Church. It had its own sacred nature, just as, during the Middle Ages, the dignity of the kings themselves had an almost priestly nature (kingship being established through a rite that differed only in minor detail from Episcopal ordination). On this basis, the Ghibelline emperors - who were the representatives of a universal and supranational idea, embodying a lex animata in terris (a living law on earth) - opposed the hegemonic claims of the clergy and claimed to have only God above themselves." The struggle between the Ghibellines and the clergy is usually discussed in political terms, but was actually a form of spiritual combat waged at the very highest level. Humanity, during the medieval period, was caught between two distinct paths: action and contemplation. Evola tells us that this relates to the Empire and the Church respectively: "Ghibellinism more or less claimed that through the view of earthly life as discipline, militia, and service, the individual can be led beyond himself and reach the supernatural culmination of human personality through action and under the aegis of the Empire. This was related to the character of a non-naturalistic but 'providential' institution acknowledged in the Empire; knighthood and the great knightly Orders stood in relation to the empire in the same way in which the clergy and the ascetic Orders stood in relation to the Church." This sounds like an analogy of the political soldier, but Evola is keen to demonstrate that such Orders "were based on an idea that was less political than ethical-spiritual, and partially even ascetic, according to an asceticism that was not cloistered and contemplative, but rather of a warrior type. In this last regard, the most typical example was constituted by the Order of Knights Templar, and in part by the Order of the Teutonic Knights." This subject is discussed at length in Evola’s Revolt Against The Modern World, during which the author explained how the Emperor waged a calculated holy war against the pro-Guelphist clergy and how even the Crusades became an active consolidation of the imperial idea; just as the Empire had been in times of peace. The Ghibellines, he said, were engaged in an occult struggle "against papal Rome that was waged by Rome itself" (p.300). Indeed, the head of the Church is known as pontifex maximus; a title which is taken directly from the leaders of early Rome. Indeed, according to Evola the Emperor Julian opposed Christianity due to its "upholding of an anarchical doctrine; with the excuse of paying homage to God alone, they refused to give him homage in the person of those who, as legitimate leaders of men, were his representatives on earth and drew from him the principle of their power. This, according to Celsus, was an example of impiety."
Evola’s whole point is that in ancient times the religious clergy were answerable to the Emperor himself; not simply from a political perspective, but also in a theological capacity: "It was only during the Middle Ages that the priest nourished the ambition, not of being king, but of being the one to whom kings are subject. At that time, Ghibellinism arose as a reaction, and the rivalry was rekindled, the new reference point now being the authority and the right reclaimed by the Holy Roman Empire." But this does not presuppose that religion must be at the service of the State like those of "a Masonic, anti-clerical character," on the contrary, this leads to totalitarianism and the Concordats which were conveniently arranged in both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The separation of the spiritual and political spheres is epitomised by the Christian maxim "render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s," something which was quite unknown in ancient times. Needless to say, throughout history the Catholic Church has played a very large role in secular affairs by using politics as a mere wing of the religious establishment. Although in the later Middle Ages the Church did recognise the divine right of kings, Evola considers these "atheistic" monarchs to have been at the forefront of the liberal ideas which later found expression in the French Revolution of 1789. Once the State had vacated the domain of the spirit and become secular, however, it turned against the Church. But this was different to the rebellion of the Ghibellines, because this current "did not pursue the subjection of spiritual authority to temporal powers, but rather upheld, vis-а-vis the exclusivist claim of the Church, a value and a right for the State, different from those that are proper to an organisation with a merely human and material character." However, lest one wrongly imagine that Evola somehow wishes to revive the Ghibelline struggle against the Church, the author carefully points out that the key point is to resist the secular State in all its forms. Only in this way can politics be ascribed to a higher level.
Catholicism today is in great decline. Not least because it is always forced to compromise with the prevailing ideologies among which it finds itself. Liberalism is gradually eroding the last vestiges of Catholic tradition in the same way that it is eating away at the edifice of Tradition in general. The likes of the Protestant Reformation and Vatican II have taken their toll, and we now see modernist popes tolerating bastardised currents like Liberation Theology, supporting the burgeoning New World Order and kneeling before the might of International Zionism. Evola tells us that "the decline of the modern Church is undeniable because she gives to social and moral concerns a greater weight that what pertains to the supernatural life, to asceticism, and to contemplation, which are essential reference points of religiosity." It is certainly not fulfilling any kind of meaningful role, either: "For all practical purposes, the main concerns of Catholicism today seem to turn it into a petty bourgeois moralism that shuns sexuality and upholds virtue, or an inadequate paternalistic welfare system. In these times of crisis and emerging brutal forces, the Christian faith should devote itself to very different tasks." In the medieval period the Church possessed a more traditional character, but only due to the fact that it had appropriated so many Classical elements and, by way of Aristotle, lashed them firmly to the theological mast being constructed by Thomas Aquinas during the thirteenth century. Catholicism, however, will never reconcile itself with the problem of how to deal with politics and the State because it relies upon separation and dualism. Tradition, on the other hand, is integralist and unitary.
Evola notes that certain individuals and groups have sought to incorporate the more traditional aspects of Catholicism within the broader and far more encompassing sphere of Tradition itself. Evola’s French philosophical counterpart, Rene Guenon, for example. Catholics, however, are far too dogmatic and would merely seek to make Tradition "conform" to their own spiritual weltanschauung. This, says Evola, is "placing the universal at the service of the particular." Furthermore, of course, the anti-modernists who are organised in groups such as The Society of St. Pius X and the Sedavacantist fraternity do not speak with the full weight and authority of the Church. They are, therefore, powerless because "the direction of the Church is a descending and anti-traditional one, consisting of modernisation and coming to terms with the modern world, democracy, socialism, progressivism, and everything else. Therefore, these individuals are not authorised to speak in the name of Catholicism, which ignores them, and should not try to attribute to Catholicism a dignity the latter spurns." Evola suggests that because the Church is so inadequate, it should be abandoned and left to its ultimate doom. He concludes by reiterating the fact that a State which does not have a spiritual dimension is not a State at all. The only way forward, he argues, is to "begin from a pure idea, without the basis of a proximate historical reference" and await the actualisation of the Traditional current.
Troy Southgate submitted this work to PRAVDA.Ru
To read Part 1, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/11/28502.html
To read Part 2, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/13/28609.html
To read Part 3, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/15/28798.html
To read Part 4, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/16/28859.html
To read Part 5, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/18/28937.html
To read Part 6, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/20/28995.html
To read Part 7, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/21/29064.html
To read Part 8, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/22/29122.html
To read Part 9, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/23/29201.html