Evola is a name of which more and more people have heard, but not too many people know something about. When you try to find books of the man, you will have a hard time on the European continent, but in the USA or UK you may succeed. The internet is the best solution when you want to learn something about Evola. When you try one of the bigger search engines, you will have found some good pages pretty quickly, many are in Italian, but in German or English is enough to be found. That the attention and familiarity of Evola starts to increase lately, is mainly caused by the fact that the American publisher Inner Traditions started to release English translations of different books for the first time. Until now 13 books and several articles are available in english. This is only a small part of Evola’s bibliography which is a book of it’s own.
Because the information you will find is often very one sided (either totally in favour or against), I tried to make a balanced overview of Evola’s life and work which can be a starting point for you own investigations.
When I name a title that hasn’t been translated, I tried to give an english translation of it. I don’t speak Italian though!
Further you will see links in the texts of people that I mention. I tried to link to good biographies in English, but I didn’t always find the perfect page. Just follow the links if you are interested.
In the beginning…
Baron Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola was born on 19 may 1898 in a Catholic and aristocratic family in Rome (Italy). At a fairly early age he turned out to be an original thinker with a predilection for Nietzsche (1844-1900), but also as a fanatic mountaineer. In WWI he joined the mountain-division of the Italian army. His star rose fast and soon he was an officer.
After WWI Evola has a short period in which he experimented with drugs and he came in contact with the aristocratic avant-garde of the Dadaists. His first books (“Arte Astratta, Posizione Teoretica” (“abstract art, position and theory” 1920) and “La Parole Obscure Du Paysage Interieure” (“obscure words of an inner journey” 1925) were books about art.
Inquisitive as he was, Evola started to read books about occult matters in this period. He came in contact with Theosophists and Freemasons and became befriended with the neo-Pythagorean occultist (and confirmed fascist) Arturo Reghini (1878-1946) and the French esotericist René Guénon (1886-1951). In 1925 Evola’s first book about magic was released under the title “Saggi Sull’ Idealismo Magico” (“tests of a magical idealism”). Further Evola wrote the article “L’individuo E Il Divenire Del Mondo” (“the individual and genesis of the world”) for the periodical “Ultra” of the unusually tolerant lodge of the Theosophical Society in Rome in 1926. In this article Evola writes about the similarities between the Mithras-religion and the Hermetic Tradition1. Later Reghini invited Evola to become member of the “UR-group” (1927-1929) which released a newsletter (first “UR”, later “KRUR”) for which Evola soon started to write and of which he became editor. Under influence of the extremely individualistically oriented UR-group the book “Teoria Dell’individuo Assoluto” (“theory of the absolute individual”) was released in 1927. In 1928 the book “Introduzione Alla Magia Quale Scienza Dell’io” saw the light of day. This book was recently released in English under the title “An Introduction To Magic” (the second half of the original title means: “the science of the self”).
Also Guénon had his influence on Evola. This Frenchman already was a respected expert on Eastern thinking, but also of other religions and traditions at an early age. He spoke 11 languages and the most striking about this man is that he got all his knowledge (and initiations) from the sources itselves. He had stayed in the east for a long time where he was a student at the Buddhist school of Adi Shankara (788-820). He was a student of the Islamite Sheikh Abder Rahman el-Kabir (??-??); of the son of the Caodaist/Taoist Tong I am Luat2 (??-??) and of other spiritual leaders. Guénon had come to the conclusion that all religions and traditions came from the same source, which he called the “primal tradition” (“ur-Religion” in German), an idea that Evola would take over from him. Guénon died in 1951 as Shaykh’ Abd al-Wâhid Yahyâ in Cairo were he lived the last 20 years of his life.
It was mainly Reghini who introduced Evola to the more occult matters. In his autobiography Evola writes about him that he lent all alchemical scriptures that he knew from Reghini or at least heard about them from him. Also from the periodicals “Athanor” and “Ignis” (1924-1925) that Reghini put out for a short time, Evola learned a lot about the subjects.
The combination of ideas of Guénon and Reghini formed Evola’s ideas about alchemy, or as he liked to called it “Ars Regia” (“Royal Art”). Alchemy for Evola was synonymous with the Hermetic Tradition. Not the Alexandrian version, but the “Ur-Tradition”, the source of all religions and traditions.
Evola saw an ‘involution’ in the world, a sliding away from the Ur-Tradition. In this regard he stood on one line with many other so-called “traditionalists”. These traditionalists have a “Weltanschauung” (‘worldview’, the German word is popular) which is heavily influenced by the eastern idea of cyclic times. This doctrine is popularised by the Romanian theologian Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) with who Evola corresponded and who he met on several occasions. The Evola traditionalist view is as follows: The primal situation is called ‘Golden Time’ or ‘Swordtime’. In this time the high priest and king are still one person. The priests revolted against this king and took away spirituality from the masses and kept it exclusively for the priest-caste. Guénon said that there were more initiates who ruled the country and it were the warriors who revolted. In either case, the land was in decline. A short revival of the original situation took place in the middle ages when knights were the rulers. This situation was taken over by the ‘economic revolution’ in which merchants and business-people (the third position) became the real rulers. The power of money and numbers took over and this resulted in democracy (the number of votes is more important than quality of leadership). This is the time we live in now. In the eastern doctrine this time is called the “Kali-Yuga” (or “black time”), but the term that is often used in connection with Evola is the Germanic term “Wolfzeit” (“wolftime”). Evola saw a return to the original situation of spiritual leadership in fascism.
It is most likely that it was Reghini who introduced Evola to fascism. However Evola never joined any political party, he recognised the heroic ideals from his youth in fascism. Also he enjoyed the protection of the Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) administration when he ruled Italy and with whom Evola had become friends. Still Evola could never find himself in the “biological racism” or “egocentric fascism” of Mussolini and the nazis in Germany. In contrary to the materialistic ideas of Mussolini and Hitler (1889-1945), Evola always had a more spiritual view of humanity. He spoke of race after body, soul and spirit of which of the last is the most important. The only form of fascism that Evola could find himself in was that of the Romanian “Iron Guard” (‘the legion of the archangel Michael’) of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (1899-1938) who Evola was befriended with. Codreanu said that there are three principles, being form, vital energy and spirit. A (nationalistic) movement can’t properly develop if it concentrates on only one of these principles. An idea that Evola could only agree with.
Evola’s spiritual fascism gave him problems with the traditional fascists. The future secretary of the Italian fascist party -Achille Starace (1889-1945)- forbade Evola’s magazine La Torre because he pleaded for a rectification of fascism and complained about the fact that fascism had become nothing more than state-worship in it. Eventually Evola became so tired of Mussolini and Italian fascism that the two met for the last time 1941.
In the meantime Evola had started writing political books. “Imperialismo Pagano” (“pagan imperialism”) would immediately become the first book that was translated in another language which was “Heidnischer Imperialismus” (1933 Leipzig, Germany). Evola -by the way- spoke besides Italian also fluently German and French, but his earlier works (and also most of his later books and articles) are written in his native tongue.
“Imperialismo Pagano” was also the first impulse for Evola’s ‘project’ to overthrow Catholism and replace it by a neo-pagan religion and state. A project that he would be associated with for a long time, but of which he distanced himself somewhat later. Evola had come to the conclusion that Christianity is so deeply rooted in western society that it a total rejection wouldn’t be too smart. Instead he tried to bring back together spirituality and politics and tried to lift Christianity back up to the level of the UR-tradition.
Before Evola came up with such ideas, people had been working on a ‘conservative revolution’ in which mostly Bolshevism (Russian communism) and the Americanisation of Europe were (are) the biggest enemies. Fighting is for a ‘new Europe’ or the foundation of “Eurasia”, a state which is ruled by religious and political leaders which are of course the same. It is this ‘new right’ thinking that makes Evola dangerous in the vision of many people even today. Evola is usually named in line with writers like Gottfriend Benn (1886-1956), Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) (about who he wrote a book in 1960), writers who in this regard had similar ideas.
When you read something about Evola that does not come from the camp of supporters, you will besides the term “fascist” pretty quickly read the word “antisemite”. However Evola indeed wrote some antisemitic works, this is only a minor part from his total oeuvre. Still you can’t ignore titles like “Tre Aspetti Del Problema Ebraico” (“three aspects of the Hebrew problem” a book from 1936), “Psicologia Criminale Ebraica” (“Jewish criminal psychology” from “La Difesa Della Razza” “the defence of the race” 1939) or “Il processo ebraico di Berna e l’autenticità dei “Protocolli”” (“the Jewish process at Bern3 and the authenticity of the “protocols”) an article from 1937 in the earlier mentioned periodical “Ultra”).
Evola also cooperated on an Italian version of these “Protocolli” (“the protocols of the elderly brothers of sion”). This text is a so-called account of a meeting of Jews and Freemasons at which they discuss plans to take over the world. Ever since the Russian secret service “Ocrana” distilled this text from the book “Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu” (“dialogue about hell between Machiavel (1469-1755) and Montesquieu” (1689-1755) of Maurice Joly, Brussels 1864), it is used as an excuse to make the lives of Jews and Masons miserable. In 1937 Evola pleaded for the authenticity of the protocols and as far as I know, he wrote 12 articles about/against the Jews. Evola claimed to support a more spiritual antisemitism.
After saying farewell to Mussolini Evola moved Vienna (Wien, Austria) where he came in contact with Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945 and leader of the SS) for who he started to translate Masonic writings. This is a project that almost costed Evola his life. In 1945 the allied forces bombed Vienna and just when Evola was in the library looking for Masonic scriptures, it was hit. Evola got seriously injured and had to spend quite some time in a hospital. He would never fully recover and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair paralysed from the waist down.
All at once
Evola had an interest in a wide range of subjects and in his writings it is impossible to see what his main interest had in a certain period. In the years 1930 the following books appear: “Fenomenologia Dell’individuo Assoluta” (“fenomology of the absolute individual” 1930), his well-known “La Tradizione Ermetica” (1931, in 1995 released in English as “The Hermetic Tradition”), “Maschera E Volto Dello Spiritualismo Contemporaneo” (“mask and face of modern spirituality” 1932), the best known and notorious, at the same time being Evola’s ‘Grand Opus’ “Rivolta Contro Il Mondo Moderno” (1934, “Revolt Against The Modern World” 1995), “Tre Aspetti Del Problema Ebraico” (see above), the quite well-known book “Il Mistero Del Graal E La Tradizione Ghibellina Dell’impero” (1937, translated as “The Mystery Of The Grail” 1996; the second half means “and the ghibbeline4 tradition of the empire) and eventually in 1937 “Il Mito Del Sangue. Genesi Del Razzismo” (“the myth of the blood. the genesis of racism”).
After these titles follow books to which Evola owes his bad name. Books about the doctrine of the races (in the preface of one of these books he says that it is not a handbook for the SS), the Aryan doctrine of struggle and conquest, etc.
After the war
When the war is barely over, Evola has his ‘eastern period’ with books about Yoga, Tantra, Zen, Buddhism, Tao and ancient eastern texts. Already in 1930 he proved to be familiar with the Upanishads and Vedas and “The Hermetic Traditions” is full of quotes from these ancient texts.
From 1960 to his death Evola writes several books about how he thinks a state should be, the mistakes made by Hitler’s fascist regime, books about the problem called ‘humanity’ and quite a lot other cultural, psychological and political texts. Also he rewrote or edited earlier released books.
Evola died in 1974 in his apartment. Since he saw it coming, he wanted to die standing upright, like a warrior, a “Kshatriya”.
Shortly after his death, numerous articles were published (again) and in the end the man left us about 25 books, 300 essays and over a 1000 articles for magazines in several languages. Just recently texts are becoming available in English and for a larger audience and as mentioned, there are now also books available in English, mostly released by Inner Traditions. However this mostly deals with the less or not controversial texts, Evola is so ‘not-done’ that here in Europe you can hardly get these books in normal shops. When you want to read something of Evola, you better check out Amazon.com. In America and the United Kingdom things seem to be a little easier.
I want to recommand anyone to do some investigation yourselves. When you are able/prepared to read German and Italian texts, there is quite a lot to read of Evola online. There are also English texts, but not too many. After this you can decide whether or not you are daring to read the man’s books. Of course we have to keep in mind that Evola lived in a time in which fascism and antisemitism was normal and even the way of thinking of people ruling countries. Besides, inspite of the political colour of the Baron, his occult books or not the least less interesting!
1 The Hermetic Tradition is a Western esoteric movement founded in Alexandria (the Greek city in Egypt) a few centuries after the birth of Christ. It is based on the Egyptian cult of Hermes (Thoth) and enriched with some Gnosticism (pre-Christian esotericism). More about this later.
2 Caodai is an in 1919 founded Vietnamese religion. It was founded by Ngo Minh Chieu (1878-1932) and based on Taoism and Chieu’s visions of the great spirit Duc Cao Dai. This was mixed with Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity. Nowadays Caodai is Vietnam’s biggest religion. The only thing about Luat that I could find is that he was most likely the same Luat who wrote the “New Law”, a sacred Caodai text. Of his son I couldn’t even find the name.
3 In 1935 a man was brought in court in Bern, Switzerland with as accusation the propagation of the “protocols”. In this trial the judge said that he regards the “protocols” to be a forgery.
4 A Ghibbeline was a member of the 12/13th century Italian or German aristocracy who was in favour of the state and against the papal influence (the Guelfs).