He was born Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola in 1898 to an aristocratic Sicilian family, but little is known of his youth or upbringing. This is due to Evola’s aversion against disclosing the circumstantial details of his life, even in autobiographical writings. As a young man Evola developed an interest in art, and in the writings of Nietzsche, Otto Weininger, and Carlo Michelstaedter. After the outbreak of World War I he joined the Italian army, serving as an officer in a mountain artillery unit; these military and alpine experiences would leave a lasting impression and serve as a strong inspiration for some of his later spiritual writings. Following the war he came into contact with literary and artistic iconoclasts of the time such as Giovanni Papini, F. T. Marinetti, and Tristan Tzara. Through his association with Tzara, Evola became a leading Italian exponent of the Dada “anti-art” movement, producing poetry and paintings. During this artistic period he experimented with drugs and also underwent a period of severe depression; he later claimed to have just barely averted suicide by immersing himself in the early Buddhist text the Majjhima-Nikaya.
In Evola’s subsequent philosophical period he absorbed and built upon the works of the German Idealists, along with more volatile ideas drawn from
Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Max Stirner. These studies resulted in his detailed expositions (1925-1930) of “Magical Idealism” and a theory and phenomenology of the “Absolute Individual.” In these works Evola posited the existence of an Absolute Self—a liberated higher Self which the awakened, active individual may become aware of and identify with only through disciplined ascetic practices that lead to this enlightenment.
Evola’s studies of Tantra (The Yoga of Power, 1925) and Hermeticism (The Hermetic Tradition, 1931) are rooted in a similar perspective, and explore how these doctrines may be understood as symbolic and practical tools for transcendent self-realization. In the latter half of the 1920s he formed associations with figures such as the esotericist Arturo Reghini (who influenced Evola’s 1928 anti-Christian polemic Pagan Imperialism) and the French Traditionalist René Guénon, and involved himself in the UR Group, an eclectic magical order whose membership included a host of significant Italian literary and cultural figures. The profound influence of Guénon resulted in Evola’s resolute identification with the Traditionalist movement, a perspective that would remain with him for the rest of his life. In 1935 he published his own Traditionalist magnum opus entitled Revolt Against the Modern World.
Throughout the Fascist period Evola wrote profusely as a journalist, occasionally coming under fire from various sides for his criticisms of the regime’s shortcomings, which he saw evidenced in its plebian sloganeering and tendency toward compromise, especially with the Catholic Church. Consequently he began to look abroad for ideological allies, lecturing in Germany and engaging in fruitful exchanges with the loosely knit circles of the Conservative Revolution movement.
During World War II Evola published his important study of early Buddhist texts, The Doctrine of Awakening (1943). When the Allies invaded Rome in 1944, he escaped to Vienna where he may have worked briefly doing research on secret societies for a department of the S.S. Amid the storm of a Russian bombardment in 1945 he walked alone through the streets of the city in order to silently “question his fate” and was injured by shrapnel, which damaged his spinal cord and left him permanently crippled.
From 1948 on, his physical condition confined him to an apartment in
Rome where he received visitors, some of them young neo-fascists in search of an ideological guru. They called him il magico barone, the “magical baron,” in reference to his aristocratic title and esoteric pursuits. In these postwar years Evola continued to write, penning critical commentaries on the Fascist and National Socialist era as well as a book entitled Men Among the Ruins (1953) detailing his idealized socio-political visions from a Traditionalist perspective. In 1951 he was arrested for allegedly “glorifying Fascism” and inspiring young extremist groups through his writings; in the ensuing trial he was acquitted of all charges. In Ride the Tiger (1961) he advanced the concept of apoliteia, advocating a detached spiritual bearing that rose above temporal political entanglements. This was one further step in Evola’s revolt against what he considered to be an utterly degenerate and unsalvageable modern world. He also authored an important study of transcendent sexual dynamics entitled The Metaphysics of Sex (1958; the English translation has recently been reissued as Eros and the Mysteries of Love), and completed his spiritual autobiography, The Cinnabar Path (1963). After stoically enduring an extended period of physical pain in his final years, he died in June of 1974. His final request was to be brought to a window overlooking the Janiculum, the hill where a temple to Janus had stood in pagan Rome, in order that he might die upright. For Evola this was emblematic of the heroic manner in which a man should confront his mortal end. In accordance with his wishes he was given no Christian funeral and his cremated ashes were later deposited in an icy crevasse on Monte Rosa.
Evola worked adeptly with occult ideas and Hermetic doctrines throughout his life. It was during his years with the UR Group that such ideas were applied practically in the context of an organized magical order. Much of this work was documented and elaborated upon in the UR Group’s journals, which were subsequently collected into three volumes under Evola’s editorial guidance. These texts reveal the workings and ideas of a European tradition that certainly rivals the better-known doctrines of Aleister Crowley or the Golden Dawn, not just in complexity, but also in its goals and imaginal intensity. In terms of attitude and eclectic approach, it foreshadows contemporary Chaos Magic in many respects. Joscelyn Godwin, a highly regarded scholar of the history of esotericism, has even gone so far as to call the UR Group’s writings “the highest magical teaching ever set before the public.”
The following two essays are slightly revised translations drawn from Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus (trans. Guido Stucco, Inner Traditions, 2001), which is the first volume of the UR Group’s material to appear in English. In the original publications, all of the UR Group members assumed magical pseudonyms. Both of the following pieces (credited to “Ea” and “lagla,” respectively) were almost certainly written by Evola himself.
In order to begin to understand Evola’s perspective, one must step outside of the modernist mindset entirely. This is no easy task. It requires a Nietzschean “re-evaluation of all values” and an heretical break from the humanistic worldview that informs all aspects of the present popular discourse. To a Traditionalist, notions such as “evolution” and “progress” are simply pernicious modern delusions. In contrast, Evola adhered to the traditional doctrine of cyclical ages and was convinced that humanity is now enduring the dark age of the Kali Yuga, as it is called in Hindu terminology. This is equivalent to the ancient Greek “Age of Iron” or the Germanic Ragnarok, in which all social bonds are severed and even siblings turn against one another. It is an epoch of confusion and unchecked egoism, with materialism and scientism in full ascendancy as culture degenerates to little more than crass commercialism and superficiality. For the awakened individual who recognizes that all external institutions are bankrupt and disintegrating, the best option for survival amid the prevailing conditions is the active and disciplined development of one’s own spiritual armor. Evola’s words are directed toward those few he hopes capable of forming a latterday kshatriya, or sacral warrior caste, while the present cycle of destruction inevitably plays itself out.
ON THE MAGICAL VIEW OF LIFE – “EA”
Self-overcoming, aside from being the objective of rituals, is connected to a renewed, heroicized perception of the world and of life, not as an abstract concept of the mind, but as something that pulsates in the rhythm of one’s own blood. It is the sensation of the world as power, or the sensation of the world as a sacrificial act. A great freedom, with action as the sole law. Entities everywhere composed of strength, and, at the same time, a cosmic breathing, a sense of height, of airiness.
Action needs to be liberated. It must be realized in and of itself, disinfected from mental fever, cleansed of hatred and craving. These truths must penetrate the soul: there is no place to go to, nothing to ask for, nothing to hope for, nothing to fear. The world is free: goals and reasons, “evolution,” fate or providence—all that is fog, an invention by beings who did not yet know how to walk on their own and needed crutches and supports. Now you will be left to yourself. You must perceive yourself as a center of strength and know the action that is no longer dictated by this or that object, but for the sake of itself. You will no longer be moved: detached, you will move. The objects around you will cease to be objects of desire for you—they will become objects of action. Gravitating around things that no longer exist, the impulses of an irrational life will finally become extinguished: what will fall away too is the sense of effort, the habit of running around, of doing, the painful seriousness and need, the tragic sentiment and the Titanic bond—in other words, the great disease itself, namely the human sense of life. A superior calm will ensue. From this will come action, pure and purifying action: it is an action ready, at any time and in any place, to assume any direction. It is a flexible action, free toward itself, superior to winning and losing, success and failure, selfishness and altruism, happiness and misery; action released from bonds, from identification, from attachment.
These truths must penetrate the soul: there is no place to go to, nothing to ask for, nothing to hope for, nothing to fear.
In such an action you will be able to find purification, since according to it the “individual” no longer counts and because it takes you beyond both abstract knowledge and the irrational impetus of inferior forces. Not ghosts of concepts and ideas and “values”—but rather a vision without reference points, with reality itself as its sole direct object. Action awakened as an elementary thing, simple, unrestrained. The power to command and the power to obey: both absolute, to be quintessentialized in the requisite manner for evocations and identifications, as for those immediate, immaterial encounters with “presences,” in which some may ascend and disappear, powerful and invisible, while others precipitate into bodily forms.
Hatred tranforms and prevents you from controlling the influence of your opponent; worse yet it opens you to his own influence, which you can instead know and paralyze, if you remain calm, without reacting.
In ordinary life it is necessary to follow a discipline capable of realizing the uselessness of all sentimentalism and all emotional complications. In their place, a clear gaze and an appropriate action. As with a surgeon, instead of compassion and mercy, an operation that solves the problem. As with a warrior or athlete, instead of fear and irrational agitation in the face of danger, the instant resolve to do what lies within one’s power. Mercy, fear, hope, impatience, anxiety—these are all spiritual cave-ins that nourish occult and vampiric powers of negation. Take compassion for instance: it eliminates none of the other person’s misfortune, but allows it to perturb your spirit. If you are able to do so, then act: assume the person of the other and give him your strength. Otherwise, detach yourself. It is the same with hatred: when you hate, you degrade yourself. If you desire, if your sense of justice demands it, tear down and cut away, without your spirit becoming perturbed. Moreover, remember that by hating, you decline. Hatred tranforms and prevents you from controlling the influence of your opponent; worse yet it opens you to his own influence, which you can instead know and paralyze, if you remain calm, without reacting. Those who want the knowledge and the power of good and evil must slay their “passion” for “good” or for “evil.” They need to be able to give as a pure act, as an absolute gift, not for the enjoyable feeling of sympathy or mercy; they need to be able to strike down without hatred. “In the strong ones I am the strength that is free from desire and passion”—balam balvatâm asmi kâmarâgavivarjitam —this is what Krishna says about himself as that force and purity over which nothing has power, before which even the law of action and reaction can no longer take hold.1 As soon as that fever, the dark force of instinct, of craving or aversion, removes one from this central inner disposition, even the greatest of gods meets their ruin.
Detachment, silence, solitude—this is what prepares the liberation of this view of life and of the world.
Distance between human beings. Not to recognize oneself in others: never feeling superior, equal, or inferior to them. In this world, beings are alone, without law, with no escape, without excuse, clothed only in their strength or weakness: peaks, stones, sand. This is the first liberation of one’s view of life. To overcome the brotherly contamination, the need to love and to feel loved, to feel together, to feel equal and connected with others. Purge yourself of this. At a certain point you will no longer feel united with somebody because
of blood, affections, country, or human destiny. You will feel united only with those who are on your same path, which is not the human path, for it has no regard for human ways.
At a certain point you will no longer feel united with somebody because of blood, affections, country, or human destiny. You will feel united only with those who are on your same path, which is not the human path, for it has no regard for human ways.
When you look around, try to perceive the voice of what is inanimate. “How beautiful they are, these free forces that have not yet been stained by the spirit!” (Nietzsche)
Do not say these forces are “not yet,” but rather “no longer” stained with “spirit,” and understand that by “spirit” is meant what is “unreal”—in other words, everything that man with his sentiments, thoughts, fears, and hopes has projected onto nature in order to render it more intimate, or in order to make it speak the same language. Abandon all this and try to understand the message of things, especially where they appear foreign, naked, mute— where they have no soul because they are something greater than “soul.” This is the first step toward the liberation of one’s view of the world. On the plane of magic you will know a world that has returned to its free, intensive, and essential state, a state in which nature is not nature, nor is the spirit “spirit”; in which there are no things, men, speculations about “gods”—but rather powers—and life is an heroic affair at every moment, composed of symbols, illuminations, commands, ritual and sacrificial actions.