The Life & Writings of Julius Evola
The Life & Writings of Julius Evola
If the industrious man, through taking action,
Does not succeed, he should not be blamed for that –
He still perceives the truth.
～The Sauptikaparvan of the Mahābhārata (2,16)
If we could select a single aspect by which to define Julius Evola, it would have been his desire to transcend the ordinary and the world of the profane. It was characterized by a thirst for the Absolute, which the Germans call mehr als leben – “more than living.” This idea of transcending worldly existence colours not only his ideas and philosophy, it is also evident throughout his life which reads like a litany of successes. During the earlier years Evola excelled at whatever he chose to apply himself to: his talents were evident in the field of literature, for which he would be best remembered, and also in the arts and occult circles.
Born in Rome on the 19th of May in 1898, Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola was the son of an aristocratic Sicilian family, and like many children born in Sicily, he had received a stringent Catholic upbringing. As he recalled in his intellectual autobiography, Il cammino del cinabro [1963, 1972, The Cinnabar's Journey], his favourite pastimes consisted of painting, one of his natural talents, and of visiting the library as often as he could in order to read works by Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Otto Weininger. During his youth he also studied engineering, receiving excellent grades but chose to discontinue his studies prior to the completion of his doctorate, because he "did not wish to be bourgeois, like his fellow students." At the age of nineteen Evola joined the army and participated in World War I as a mountain artillery officer. This experience would serve as an inspiration for his use of mountains as metaphors for solitude and ascension above the chthonic forces of the earth. Evola was also a friend of Mircea Eliade, who kept in correspondence with Evola from 1927 until his death. He was also an associate of the Tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci and the Tantric scholar Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon).
|Sir John Woodroffe|
To this day, the magical workings of the Ur Group and its successor Krur remain as some of the most sophisticated techniques for the practice of esoteric knowledge laid down in the modern Western era. Based on a variety of primary sources, ranging from Hermetic texts to advanced Yogic techniques, Evola occupied a prominent role in both of these groups. He wrote a number of articles for Ur and edited many of the others. These articles were collected in the book Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus, which alongside Evola’s articles, are included the works of Arturo Reghini, Giulio Parese, Ercole Quadrelli and Gustave Meyrink. The original title of this work in Italian, Introduzione alla Magia quale scienza dell’lo, literally translates as Introduction to Magic as a Science of the “I”. In this sense, the 'I' is best interpreted as the ego, or the manipulation of the will – an idea which is also the found in the work of that other famous magician, Aleister Crowley and his notion of Thelema. The original format of Ur was as a monthly publication, of which the first issue was printed in January 1927.
Arturo Reghini was to be a major influence on Evola, and himself was a representative of the so-called Italian School (Scuola Italica), a secret order which claimed to have survived the downfall of the Roman Empire, to have re-emerged with Emperor Frederic II, and to have inspired the Florentine poets of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, up to Petrarch. Like Evola, Reghini had also written articles, one of which was entitled "Pagan Imperialism." This appeared in Salamandra in 1914, and in it Reghini summed up his anti-Catholic program for a return to a glorious pagan past. This piece had a profound impact on Evola, and it served as the inspiration for his similarly titled Imperialismo pagano. Imperialismo pagano, chronicling the negative effects of Christianity on the world, appeared in 1928. In the context of this work, Evola is the advocate of an anti-Roman Catholic pagan imperialism. According to Evola, Christianity had destroyed the imperial universality of the Roman Empire by insisting on the separation of the secular and the spiritual. It is from this separation that arose the inherent decadence and inward decay of the modern era. Out of Christianity’s implacable opposition to the healthy paganism of the Mediterranean world arose the secularism, democracy, materialism, scientism, socialism, and the "subtle Bolshevism" that heralded the final age of the current cosmic cycle: the age of "obscurity" the Kali-Yuga. Imperialismo pagano was to be later revised in a German edition as Heidnischer Imperialismus. The changes that occurred in the text of Evola’s Imperialismo pagano in its translation as Heidnischer Imperialismus five years later were not entirely inconsequential. Although the fundamental concepts that comprised the substance of Evola’s thought remained similar, a number of critical elements were altered that would transform a central point in Evola's thinking. The "Mediterranean tradition" of the earlier text is consistently replaced with the "Nordic-solar tradition" in this translation. In 1930 Evola founded his own periodical, La Torre (The Tower). La Torre, the heir to Krur, differed from the two earlier publications Ur and Krur in the following way, as was announced in an editorial insert:
"Our Activity in 1930 – To the Readers: Krur is transforming. Having fulfilled the tasks relative to the technical mastery of esotericism we proposed for ourselves three years ago, we have accepted the invitation to transfer our action to a vaster, more visible, more immediate field: the very plane of Western 'culture' and the problems that, in this moment of crisis, afflict both individual and mass consciousness […] for all these reasons Krur will be changed to the title La Torre (The Tower), a work of diverse expressions and one Tradition."
La Torre was attacked by official fascist bodies such as L’Impero and Anti-Europa, and publication of La Torre ceased after only ten issues. Evola also contributed an article entitled Fascism as Will to Imperium and Christianity to the review Critica Fascista, edited by Evola's old friend Giuseppi Bottai. Here again he launches vociferous opposition to Christianity and attests to its negative effects, evident in the rise of a pious, hypocritical, and greedy middle class lacking in all superior solar virtues that Evola attributed to ancient Rome. The article did not pass unnoticed and was vigorously attacked in many Italian periodicals. It was also the subject of a long article in the prestigious Revue Internationale des Sociétés Secrètes (Partie Occultiste) for April 1928, under the title Un Sataniste Italien: Jules Evola.
Coupled with the notoriety of Evola's La Torre, was also another, more bizarre incident involving the Ur Group's reputation, and their attempts to form a "magical chain." Although these attempts to exert supernatural influence on others were soon abandoned, a rumour quickly developed that the group had wished to kill Mussolini by these means. Evola describes this event in his autobiography Il Cammino del Cinabro.
"Someone reported this argument [that the death of a head of state might be brought about by magic] and some yarn about our already dissolved 'chain of Ur' may also have been added, all of which led the Duce to think that there was a plot to use magic against him. But when he heard the true facts of the matter, Mussolini ceased all action against us. In reality Mussolini was very open to suggestion and also somewhat superstitious (the reaction of a mentality fundamentally incapable of true spirituality). For example, he had a genuine fear of fortune-tellers and any mention of them was forbidden in his presence."
It was also during this period that Evola also discovered something which was to become a profound influence on many his ideas: the lost science of Hermeticism. Though he undoubtedly came into contact with this branch of mysticism through Reghini and fellow members of Ur, it seems that Evola’s extraordinary knowledge of Hermeticism actually arose from another source. Jacopo da Coreglia writes that it was a priest, Father Francesco Olivia, who had made the most far-reaching progress in Hermetic science and – sensing a prodigious student – granted Evola access to documents that were usually strictly reserved for adepts of the narrow circle. These were concerned primarily with the teachings of the Fraternity of Myriam (Fratellanza Terapeutica Magica di Myriam), founded by Doctor Giuliano Kremmerz, pseudonym of Ciro Formisano (1861-1930). Evola mentions in The Hermetic Tradition that Myriam’s Pamphlet D laid the groundwork for his understanding of the four elements. Evola’s knowledge of Hermeticism and the alchemical arts was not limited to Western sources either, for he also knew an Indian alchemist by the name of C.S. Narayana Swami Aiyar of Chingleput. During this era of history, Indian alchemy was almost completely unknown to the Western world, and it is only in modern times that it has been studied in relation to the occidental texts.
|M is for Mussolini (not Murder)|
Taking issue with René Guénon's (1886-1951) view that spiritual authority ranks higher than royal power, Evola wrote L’uomo come potenza (Man as power); in the third revised edition (1949), the title was changed to Lo yoga della potenza (The yoga of power). This was Evola's treatise of Hindu Tantra, for which he consulted primary sources on Kaula Tantra, which at the time were largely unknown in the Western world. Decio Calvari, president of the Italian Independent Theosophical League, introduced Evola to the study of Tantrism. Evola was also granted access to authentic Tantric texts directly from the Kaula school of Tantrism via his association with Sir John Woodroofe, who was not only a respected scholar, but was also a Tantric practitioner himself, under the famous pseudonym of Arthur Avalon. A substantial proportion of The Yoga of Power is derived from Sir John Woodroofe's personal notes on Kaula Tantrism. Even today Woodroofe is regarded as a leading pioneer in the early research of Tantrism.
Evola's opinion that the royal or Ksatriya path in Tantrism outranks that of the Brahmanic or priestly path, is readily supported by the Tantric texts themselves, in which the Vira or active mode of practice is exalted above that of the priestly mode in Kaula Tantrism. In this regard, the heroic or solar path of Tantrism represented to Evola, a system based not on theory, but on practice – an active path appropriate to be taught in the degenerate epoch of the Hindu Kali Yuga or Dark Age, in which purely intellectual or contemplative paths to divinity have suffered a great decrease in their effectiveness.
In the words of Evola himself:
"During the last years of the 1930s I devoted myself to working on two of my most important books on Eastern wisdom: I completely revised L’uomo come potenza (Man As Power), which was given a new title, Lo yoga della potenza (The Yoga of Power), and wrote a systematic work concerning primitive Buddhism entitled La dottrina del risveglio (The Doctrine of Awakening)."
Evola's work on the early history of Buddhism was published in 1943. The central theme of this work is not the common view of Buddhism, as a path of spiritual renunciation – instead it focuses on the Buddha's role as a Ksatriya ascetic, for it was to this caste that he belonged, as is found in early Buddhist records.
The historical Siddharta was a prince of the Śakya, a kṣatriya (belonging to the warrior caste), an "ascetic fighter" who opened a path by himself with his own strength. Thus Evola emphasizes the "aristocratic" character of primitive Buddhism, which he defines as having the "presence in it of a virile and warrior strength (the lion's roar is a designation of Buddha’s proclamation) that is applied to a nonmaterial and atemporal plane…since it transcends such a plane, leaving it behind." 
|Siddharta's warrior youth.|
"To live and understand the symbol of the Grail in its purity would mean today the awakening of powers that could supply a transcendental point of reference for it, an awakening that could show itself tomorrow, after a great crisis, in the form of an “epoch that goes beyond nations.” It would also mean the release of the so-called world revolution from the false myths that poison it and that make possible its subjugation through dark, collectivistic, and irrational powers. In addition, it would mean understanding the way to a true unity that would be genuinely capable of going beyond not only the materialistic – we could say Luciferian and Titanic – forms of power and control but also the lunar forms of the remnants of religious humility and the current neospiritualistic dissipation."
Another of Evola’s books, Eros and the Mysteries of Love, could almost be seen as a continuation of his experimentation with Tantrism. Indeed, the book does not deal with the erotic principle in the normal of sense of the word, but rather approaches the topic as a highly conceptualized interplay of polarities, adopted from the Traditional use of erotic elements in eastern and western mysticism and philosophy. Thus what is described here is the path to sacred sexuality, and the use of the erotic principle to transcend the normal limitations of consciousness. Evola describes his book in the following passage:
"But in this study, metaphysics will also have a second meaning, one that is not unrelated to the world's origin since 'metaphysics' literally means the science of that which goes beyond the physical. In our research, this 'beyond the physical' will not cover abstract concepts or philosophical ideas, but rather that which may evolve from an experience that is not merely physical, but transpsychological and transphysiological. We shall achieve this through the doctrine of the manifold states of being and through an anthropology that is not restricted to the simple soul-body dichotomy, but is aware of 'subtle' and even transcendental modalities of human consciousness. Although foreign to contemporary thought, knowledge of this kind formed an integral part of ancient learning and of the traditions of varied peoples."
Another of Evola's major works is Meditations Among the Peaks, wherein mountaineering is equated to ascension. This idea is found frequently in a number of Traditions, where mountains are often revered as an intermediary between the forces of heaven and earth. Evola was an accomplished mountaineer and completed some difficult climbs such as the north wall of the Eastern Lyskam in 1927. He also requested in his will that after his death the urn containing his ashes be deposited in a glacial crevasse on Mount Rosa.
"[...] this type can only feel disinterested and detached from everything that is 'politics' today. His principle will become apoliteia, as it was called in ancient times. [...] Apoliteia is the distance unassailable by this society and its 'values'; it does not accept being bound by anything spiritual or moral."
In addition to Evola’s main corpus of texts mentioned previously, he also published numerous other works such as The Way of the Samurai, The Path of Enlightenment According to the Mithraic Mysteries, Il Cammino del Cinabro, Taoism: The Magic, The Mysticism and The Bow and the Club. He also translated Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, as well as the principle works of Bachofen, Guénon, Weininger and Gabriel Marcel.
In 1945 Evola was hit by a stray bomb and paralyzed from the waist downwards. He died on June 11, 1974 in Rome. He had asked to be led from his desk to the window from which one could see the Janiculum (the holy hill sacred to Janus, the two-faced god who gazes into this and the other world), to die in an upright position. After his death the body was cremated and his ashes were scattered in a glacier atop Mount Rosa, in accordance with his wishes.
Gwendolyn Taunton is the editor and sole founder of Primordial Traditions. This article is reprinted from Primordial Traditions (second edition).
 Julius Evola, The Yoga of Power, Shakti, and the Secret Way (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1992) ix
 ibid., x
 Julius Evola, Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2001) ix
 ibid., xvii
 A. James Gregor, Mussolini's Intellectuals (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2005)
 ibid., 201
 Julius Evola, Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2001) xxi
 Julius Evola, The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teaching of the Royal Art (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1992) ix
 ibid., ix
 ibid., viii
 Julius Evola, The Yoga of Power, Shakti, and the Secret Way (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1992) xii
 ibid., xiv
 ibid., xiii
 Julius Evola, The Doctrine of the Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1992) xi
 ibid., xv
 Julius Evola, The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1997) vii
 ibid., ix
 Julius Evola, Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1991) 2
 Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2003) 89
 Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for Aristocrats of the Soul (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2003) 174-175