This is part of the introductory essay to the American edition of Julius Evola’s Men amid the Ruins. As the essay is very lengthy (over forty thousand words) I’ll be posting it part by part instead of cramming too much information into too small a space. Credit goes to where it is due; notably to the author, Dr H.T. Hansen, and of course to everyone at Inner Traditions.
Part III: The Artistic Experiences
Alongside the philosophical influences (of which the essential ones, such as Seneca, Spinoza, Vico, and the French Personalists, especially Hamelin and Lagneau, cannot be treated here), the artistic influences must be briefly mentioned: briefly, because their influence on Evola’s political views on which we concentrate here was only a secondary one, noticeable only through their radical nature. On the other hand, their influence is of particular importance because it took effect in his early youth.
Besides Novalis, from whom he borrowed the name for his philosophical orientation, “Magical Idealism,” Mereschkowski, Mallarme, and Rimbaud must be mentioned: Rimbaud especially, because he fought against all convention and advocated an uncompromising brand of freedom. We have already discussed Futurism and the reasons for Evola’s departure from its circles. Even more radical, and for Evola more consequential, was Dadaism (“True Dadaism is against Dadaism […]”), whose co-founder Tristan Tzara he knew personally. Dadaism embodied a worldview in which the desire for total freedom tore down all logical, ethical, and aesthetic categories. The Dadaists spoke of a “strict necessity, without discipline or morals” and of the “identity of order and disorder, of Self and non-Self, of affirmation and negation.” They said that the pure individuality could be revealed only after a condition of insanity, and that they looked for the “focused energy; pure, naked, single force; and the void.” But on the other hand Tzara said himself: “Dada is not serious […]” Everywhere, he strove to introduce “idiocy.” Evola was one of the first in Italy to try to write down these theories in his Arte astratta (Abstract Art, Rome, 1920). “Art is egoism and freedom,” he asserts (p. 8, quoted from the new edition published by the Fondazione Julius Evola) and adds: “I view art as a disinterested creation that originates in the higher consciousness of the individual, and is therefore able to transcend and be independent of the passions and the crystallizations based on common experience.”
We can already discern here Evola’s quest for transcendence, for an inner “superiority,” a breakthrough of levels, and release from the world. Because Dadaism ultimately could not provide him these things, Evola terminated this phase abruptly and radically, despite his recognition by others. He was able to exhibit his paintings, which were perceived as having strong parallels to Giorgio de Chirico’s respected “metaphysical painting,” and his poems were published by the leading modern art magazines such as Dada and Bleu, alongside the writings of Andre Breton, Aragon, and Cocteau. After 1922, his twenty-fourth year, Evola never again wrote a poem, and painted no more pictures for more than forty years. In this, he wanted to follow Rimbaud’s example (Cammino, p. 23)
At this point we conclude our discussion of the artists and thinkers important to Evola. It becomes immediately apparent that Evola’s spiritual and philosophical line of inheritance takes a very different course from that of most intellectuals today, whose path leads from Descartes to Hegel, Marx, Sartre, and the Frankfurt School. Evola’s course, on the other hand, would be: Plato, Seneca, Spinoza, Vico, German Idealism, de Bonald, de Maistre (who, like Montesquieu, believed that the feudal regime was the most perfect system of rule that had ever existed on earth, and who through his writings convinced not only Evola of this, but Guénon as well), Donoso Cones, Nietzsche, Weininger, Spengler, and Michelstaedter.
Naturally we are focusing here only on the development of Evola’s political thought; as a result such important thinkers (if not the most important of all in Evola’s life) as Arturo Reghini and René Guénon have hardly been mentioned. The nucleus of Evola’s political views has now been established: the basic attitude toward the leader and the led, toward aristocracy and democracy, toward a spiritually based rule on the one hand and a government geared to general well-being on the other. Out of this, Evola wanted to construct a unified, inter-related, and therefore rigorous worldview that would incorporate all these elements and lead to wholeness. On the grounds of this inner coherence it is hardly possible to remove one element and replace it with a more “agreeable” one. One thing leads logically to the next, forcing one either to accept or to reject this worldview as a whole. It is indivisible.