28 janvier 2006

Julius Evola, Men Among The Ruins, Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, (review)

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors" by Dr. H. T. Hansen

1. Revolution -- Counter-revolution -- Tradition
2. Sovereignty -- Authority -- Imperium
3. Personality -- Freedom -- Hierarchy
4. Organic State -- Totalitarianism
5. Bonapartism -- Machiavellianism -- Elitism
6. Work -- The Demonic Nature of the Economy
7. History -- Historicism
8. Choice of Traditions
9. Military Style -- Militarism -- War
10. Tradition -- Catholicism -- Ghibellinism
11. Realism -- Communism -- Anti-bourgeois
12. Economy and Politics -- Corporations -- Work Units
13. Occult War -- Weapons of the Occult War
14. Latin Character -- Roman World -- Mediterranean Soul
15. The Problem of Births
16. Form and Presuppositions of a United Europe

Appendix: Evola’s Autodifesa (Self-Defense Statement)

Men Among the Ruins is Evola's frontal assault on the predominant materialism of our time and the mirage of progress. For Evola and other proponents of Traditionalism, we are now living in an age of increasing strife and chaos: the Kali Yuga of the Hindus or the Germanic Ragnarok. In such a time, social decadence is so widespread that it appears as a natural component of all political institutions. Evola argues that the crises that dominate the daily lives of our societies are part of a secret occult war to remove the support of spiritual and traditional values in order to turn man into a passive instrument of the powerful.

Evola is often regarded as the godfather of contemporary Italian fascism and right-wing radical politics, but attentive examination of the historical record--as provided by H. T. Hansen's definitive introduction--reveals Evola to be a much more complex figure. Though he held extreme right-wing views, he was a fearless critic of the Fascist regime and preferred a caste system based on spirituality and intellect to the biological racism championed by the Nazis. Ultimately, he viewed the forces of history as comprised by two factions: "history's demolition squad" enslaved by blind faith in the future and those individuals whose watchword is Tradition. These latter stand in this world of ruins at a higher level and are capable of letting go of what needs to be abandoned in order that what is truly essential not be compromised.
Men Among The Ruins is a brilliant book. It the second in Evola's core trilogy, which starts with Revolt Against the Modern World and ends with Riding the Tiger. Men Among The Ruins is considered Evola's only "political" tract, as it deals with the questions of modern society, what is shaping it, and how one can live among it. In reading it, I am reminded of bits and pieces from Marcus Aurelius, Max Stirner, and Lao Tzu -- Aurelius and Evola both saw the necessity of man working with the men of his fellow social organism to combat the forces of decay; Aurelius' statement that by knowing the world and the processes which control it one can see the past and the future by looking at the present recalls Evola's principle of Occult War (see below); Stirner's observation that liberal democracy inevitably leads to tyranny and the most extreme denial of all liberty, because it elevates the State above any higher principle, in contrast to the monarchy which alway derived its power from God or on high, mirrors Evola's observations on liberty and the nature of the totalitarian state; Lao Tzu's observation that to act without acting is the essence of Tao again reflects the notion of Occult War.

And the idea of the Occult War is the essence -- the cornerstone -- of Evola's work, though his analysis of the nature of liberty, freedom, individualism and democracy, and how atomization of men, and the treatment of them as egalitarian individuals isolated from each other, rather than differentiated individual parts of a greater whole, is important and inspired. Though we can understand the nature of the world as decadence, it is the manner in which Evola urges us to fight it -- by hidden means, by the secret manipulation of men, media and groups, and by the exposure of the occult plans of our opponents -- which is the truly revolutionary concept in the work.

Evola did not advocate violent revolution, mass murder, or even appeals to the masses. He recognized that power, and the power to change society, never lies in the masses themselves, but in the men who organize, control and manipulate them. He discusses how no revolution from the Bolshevik to the Jacobin was ever achieved through the spontaneous actions of the workers, but were prepared and aided by secret societies and hidden associations who struck at the top of society, and then took control of and organized the bottom. Most people know that Wall Street and several American banking interests, many of them Jewish, funded the Soviet Revolution; most also know that the Freemasons were the driving force behind both the French Revolution and the Italian Reorganization (that united Italy and established the King). What Evola says, quoting Disraeli(!), among others, is that all political, social and economic change is caused by hidden groups of men, working behind the scenes, manipulating various "revolutionary" groups and associations, who then go out and manipulate the masses, and cause the masses to think they want some thing or other. These "hidden" groups of men are "occult" (occult means hidden) forces. He then tells us that there are two groups of occult forces -- the forces of destruction and the forces of creation -- and that we are entering a period when the forces of destruction are proophecied to destroy everything -- including themselves -- and where the forces of creation must regroup and adopt the tactics of occult war to both persevere through the period of destruction and to be prepared to rebuild the Golden Age after society's end.

There are one or two weak points in the book, where Evola leaves the realm of theory and analysis, and attempts to engage in concrete proposals for economic and political restructuring. Evola, not having the soul of a member of the merchant class, should have known better than to lay out detailed economic plans, but one feels he may have been compelled to speculate on such matters by the moving force of the time he found himself in -- the chapter on the guild system is interesting, but inappropriate, and is the chapter on plans for a United Europe. Though it is clear to see what Evola is getting at, the phrasings of things allow for a lower interpretation of both that could be bent into compatibility with such social democratic schemes as the European Union.

But both of those objections are secondary issues related to the very end of the book. The core of the book is genius, and when packaged in the current edition of Men Among The Ruins with a 100 page biography of Evola, including his philosophical and political associations, and his acquittal by an Allied War Tribunal on accusations of "fascism" (with his defense speech appended in the back), makes it a must read and must buy for disciples of the Traditionalist school.


"Disgusted by the cruelty and artificiality of communism, scorning the dogmatic, self-centered fascism of his age, Evola looks beyond man-made systems to the eternal principles in creation and human society. The truth, as he sees it, is so totally at odds with the present way of thinking that it shocks the modern mind. Evola was no politician, trying to make the best of things, but an idealist, uncompromising in the pursuit of the Best itself." - John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis
"Men among the Ruins is Julius Evola’s most notorious work: an unsparing indictment of modern society and politics. Evola rises above the usual dichotomies of left and right, liberal and conservative, through a trenchant critique of the metaphysics that lies at the base of modern values, challenging us to reconnect our lives and our institutions to the timeless spiritual standard that guided our ancestors. Men among the Ruins is not a work for complacent, self-satisfied minds . It is a shocking and humbling text that will be either loved or hated. Evola’s enemies cannot refute him; they can only ignore him. They do so at their peril." - Glenn A. Magee, author of Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition

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