rivolta contra il mondo moderno * 1934
In 2002 I wrote an article about Julius Evola (1898-1974). I hadn’t read much of the man, nor did I know much about his background. It was a request, what can I say? Now that I have delved more into ”Traditionalism” I thought it was time to read one of the classics of this genre. “[…] my intend was to offer a bird’s-eye view of history” Evola writes on page 327 of this translation. This he did. Revolt Against The Modern World starts magnificently. The starting point seems to be similar to Guénon, but Evola is more clear about ‘what Traditionalism says’. He keeps talking about “the world of tradition” and what happened there and how things where looked upon. How Traditionalism can find a place in the reader’s thoughts and lifes. As the book continues it becomes clear that Evola actually doesn’t really stand on the same line as Guénon. He keeps talking about four casts instead of three (page 250 and 296 for example). On page 254 he even writes about Greece: “The tripartition, instead of the traditional quadripartition, must be explained by the presence of an aristocracy that had simultaneously a warrior and a sacred character”. Most Traditionalists follow Dumézil who discovered the tripartition in all Indo-European systems, apparently Evola didn’t agree. However this subject may be food for a discussion, I also started making notes of things in which Evola is more or less clearly wrong. This mostly concerns the Northern European myths in which I regard myself enough informed to question Evola’s remarks. Just a few examples. First small things, such as strange ways of writing, such as “mitgard”, “mjolmir”, “huelgehmir”, “donner” or “woden”, instead of Midgard, Mjölnir, Hvelgelmir, Donar and Wodan. Typos, caused by the Italian language or silly mistakes? More obvious examples then. On page 123 and 293 Evola says that the rune for Tyr is the “Y” and he describes it as “a man with raised arms”. This description refers to the Man/Elhaz rune, which is a “Y” with the ‘middle pillar’ reaching as high as the arms. This isn’t the rune for Tyr either, since the Tyr rune looks like an arrow pointing upwards. On page 191 Evola says that Asgard is located in Midgard. The abode of the gods and fallen warriors on the plain of mankind?!? I came to much different conclusions in my article about this subject. “Odin, the king of the Aesir, falls, and Vidar himself, who succeeded in killing the wolf Fenrir, falls victim to its poison”. Now that is a sloppy summary of the Ragnarok (about which word Evola also has alternative interpretations)!! In fact, Odin falls fighting the wolf Fenrir, and Vidar, his son fights the wolf, who gets away. Thor fights the Midgardsnake and kills it, only to be killed himself by its poison (that of the snake, not of the wolf of course). Just a few examples that I noted down. I liked Evola’s references to the Northern European myths, but when in every reference there is a mistake, he might have thought twice if he wanted to include them. Such things immediately make me wonder how accurate the rest is. For the rest a few surprises (or not). Evola is not-done, because was a fascist and a racist. Reading this most notorious book, I can’t help noticing his critique on nationalism (ch.36), racism, fascism, Nietzsche and his Übermensch (p.362) the neopaganism of the Nazis (p.362), etc. It is only too easy to blackmail the writer without taking notice of his side-notes. Also he seems to be quite critical about Guénons notice that Catholicism is our only hope to return to the true Tradition. He doesn’t mention Guénon, but the subject of Evola’s conclusion is clear.
Like I said, Evola wanted to give a history of the world. He starts with the doctrine of the ages of the Hindus and other Indo-European peoples. The world is in decline, especially the West. Evola gives detailed descriptions of different periods. Too detailed and as the book continues, the structure and information becomes rather boring and the book even starts to remind of for example Blavatsky or Steiner with their ‘prophetic’ stories of times past.
Revolt Against The Modern World is a nice book. It opens wonderfully, has some thought-provoking thoughts and good explanations, but there are large parts of a completely different level. Evola proves himself to be no ‘member’ of the Traditionalist school (in my eyes) and a not too gifted writer in some parts. I can understand why Evola is more popular than for example Guénon under ‘young radicals’. His writing is more accessible, clearer, easier to put on our own day and time, political instead of religious, but personally I can no longer deny that Evola was a mediocre writer with mostly second-hand (and sometimes badly understood) ideas, writing in a bit too popular fashion. Mind you, the book is certainly worth a read, I would even say an obliged read for people interested in Traditionalism. Some ideas and hypotheses are explained well. Keep big reserves though! To people who adore Evola I would say, be sure to also read a few books of ‘real Traditionalist’, such as the books you can find in my Traditionalist book reviews and don’t take everything that Evola writes for granted.
Read quotes of Evola here.