“America ... has created a 'civilization' that represents an exact contradiction of the ancient European tradition. It has introduced the religion of praxis and productivity; it has put the quest for profit, great industrial production, and mechanical, visible, and quantitative achievements over any other interest. It has generated a soulless greatness of a purely technological and collective nature, lacking any background of transcendence, inner light, and true spirituality. America has [built a society where] man becomes a mere instrument of production and material productivity within a conformist social conglomerate” –Julius Evola
Baron Julius Evola, Italian aristocrat, esotericist, mountaineer, Traditionalist and fascist ideologue, is one of the more interesting and controversial Western mystics of the 20th century. Like Aleister Crowley and G.I. Gurdjieff, Evola was an influential early example of a Westerner who looked Eastward for inner enrichment in a cultural milieu that had been made barren for mystics by the West’s embrace of rationalism, materialism and exoteric religiosity. Like Crowley and Gurdjieff, Evola’s mystical dissent from the orthodoxies of modernity has made him something of a cult figure, whose influence only seems to grow with time. Like Crowley and Gurdjieff, Evola sought to actually become the kind of spiritual superman prophesied by Nietzsche, rather than to merely philosophize about it, via disciplines like Tantric Yoga, Hermeticism, mountaineering, esoteric Buddhism and Taoism. Like Crowley and Gurdjieff, Evola is often considered a somewhat sinister figure for his esoterically-enhanced Will to Power and rejection of Judeo-Christian moralism. Such has long been the fate of mystics who walk the lonely road of mental liberation and inner empowerment in the Western world!
However, thanks to the pioneering work of people like Crowley, Gurdjieff and Evola, who paved the way for the massive influx of esoteric and Eastern ideas into the West starting in the 1960’s, Eastern mysticism and esoteric practices have gained a foothold in our culture that seems unstoppable. The spiritual hunger that Evola felt, which led him to support fascism as a means of overthrowing the mediocrity of spirit which is so epidemic in our civilization, is no longer limited to a few eccentric men of privilege. Yoga is now mainstream, part of the curriculum of every Young Men’s Christian Association chapter, and self-improvement gurus promoting ideas based on Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism are frequent best-sellers. The ancient esoteric idea that each human being has within her the potential for godhood was quite a radical and subversive idea not long ago, but has become almost a cliché in our time. Since the New Age explosion, the stranglehold of science and exoteric religion has been broken in the West, probably forever. In fact, the West is well on its way to becoming the new East, and vice versa!
Julius Evola’s life is fascinating because it reminds us that esotericism is not, and should not be, a path to emasculated, feel-good, New Age navel-gazing. On the contrary, Evola’s “Yoga of Power” is a path of self-mastery which taps into the power of the shadow self, leading naturally to other-mastery when applied to the outer universe, and which find its most natural political expression in hierarchy, esoteric theocracy and fascism – or what Evola called “Traditionalism.”
Traditionalism is a critique of the modern world more radical than anything offered by Voltaire or Marx, for it is an ideology that seeks nothing less than the overthrow the entire Enlightenment project and a return to the divine orders of the Pharaonic God-Kings, Islamic Caliphs, Christian Holy Roman Emperors, Hindu Brahmins and Tibetan Lamas. To a modern steeped in Enlightenment values, Evola’s ideology seems shocking and misguided, but I would argue that in the longer view, history and human nature are on the Baron’s side. After all, the Pharaohs reigned for 3000 years and the Brahmins and Roman Emperors are still with us after more than 2000, while our post-Enlightenment democracies are less than a tenth as old and already seem to be coming apart at the seams.
One of the first things all mystical paths must do is decondition the mind, and when a Westerner does so, he will soon discover, as Evola did, that he has been programmed with a whole array of ideas that have no deep basis in the human psyche – ideas which are really shallow cerebrations to satisfy the rational mind, but which fail to inspire the deeper levels of the unconscious mind which are the source of our greatest power.