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Julius Evola and Russian Traditionalism

By Alexandre Douguine

1) The Discovery of Evola in Russia

Julius Evola’s works were discovered in the 1960s by the very esoteric group of anti-communist
intellectual thinkers known as “the dissidents of the right.” They were a small circle of people who had
conscientiously refused to participate in the “cultural life” of the USSR and who had instead chosen an
underground existence for themselves. The disparity between the presented Soviet culture and the
actual Soviet reality was almost entirely what made them seek out the fundamental principles that
could explain the origins of that evil, absolutist idea. It was through their refusal of communism that
they discovered certain works by anti-modernist and traditionalist authors: above all, the books by
Rene Guenon and by Julius Evola. Two central personalities animated this group – the Islamic
philosopher Geidar Djemal and the nonconformist poet Eugene Golovine. Thanks to them, these
“dissidents of the right” knew the names and the ideas of the two greatest traditionalists of our century.
In the 1970s, one of the first translations of an Evola work (The Hermetic Tradition) appeared and it
was distributed within the group according to the methods of Samizdat [note: Samizdat was the system
in the former USSR through which officially “impermissible” books made their way around the
country; generally these were copies of copies and not well-produced, but they tended to get their point
across.]. However, the original translations were particularly bad in quality because they were made by
incompetent amateurs far removed from the group of authentic intellectual traditionalists.
In 1981, a translation of Heidnische Imperialismus appeared in a similar manner as the only book of its
type available from the Library of Lenin in Moscow. This time around, the distribution through
Samizdat had become much larger and the quality of the translation was much better. Little by little,
they moved the true current of traditionalism away from anti-communism and towards anti-modernism
by extending their complete refusal of Soviet existence to a rejection of the modern world, very much
in accordance with the integral traditionalist vision. It should be noted, though, that the ideas of the
traditionalists in question at this particular point in time were very far-removed from the other
“dissidents of the right” who were generally orthodox Christians, monarchists, and nationalists. Evola,
then, was more popular among those who were interested in spiritualism in a broader sense: yoga,
theosophy [note: a religious/philosophical school of thought founded by Russian occultist Helena
Blavatsky], psychism [note: a theosophic concept relating to all mental phenomena; C.G. Jung
discussed it occasionally as well], and so forth.

Throughout Perestroika, all forms of anticommunist dissidence manifested themselves and from the
“dissidents of the right” came the current political and cultural ideologies of the Right – nationalist,
nostalgic, anti-liberal, and anti-Western. In this context and after the development of strict traditionalist
ideas as a result of Glasnost, the names of Guenon and Evola were introduced into Russia’s cultural
ensemble. The first works of Evola’s appeared in the 1990s in widely-read parts of the press known to
be “patriotic” or “conservative” and the subject of traditionalism became the theme among virulent
polemics and was a very big issue in the Russian Right as a whole. Papers like Elementy, Nach
Sovremennik, Mily Anguel, Den, etc., began to publish fragments of Evola’s writings or articles
inspired by him or ones in which his name and quotes were referenced. Little by little, the
“conservative” camp came to have an ideological structure that produced a separation between the old,
nostalgic, monarchist Right and the other more open, non-conformist, and less-orthodox Right –
sometimes referred to as the “novye pravye” in Russian, one may be inclined to draw parallels to the
“nouvelle droite,” but it was a quite separate and altogether different phenomenon from the European
ND. One could categorize this second group of “patriots” as being part of the “Third Way” or “national
revolutionaries” and so forth. The breaking point came exactly over the acceptance or rejection of
Evola’s ideas or perhaps more appropriately over parts of Evola’s ideas that could not be considered
“conservative” or “reactionary” in nature, as in the idea of the “Conservative Revolution” and the
“Revolt Against the Modern World.”

Recently, the first book – Heidnische Imperialismus – had 50,000 copies published. A television show
devoted to Evola has even been made for a popular channel. Thus, one can see that Russia’s discovery
of Evola has taken place on a rather broad scale. He who once constituted the hypermarginal
intellectual nucleus of Russia before Perestroika has now become a significant political and ideological
phenomenon. But it is clear that Evola wrote his books and formulated his ideas in a very different
temporal, cultural, historical, and ethnic context. This, therefore, poses a problem: what parts of Evola’s
philosophy are relevant to modern Russia and what parts need to be reworked, improved, or even
rejected in these circumstances? This requires a brief analysis comparing and contrasting the sacred
traditionalism of Evola and the strictly Russian political phenomenon.

2) Against the Modern West

From the very beginning, it is obvious that the rejection of the profane and venal modern world that
manifested itself in Western Civilization in the last few centuries is common to both Evola and the
entirety of the intellectual tradition of Russian slavophilia. Russian authors like Homyakov, Kirievsky,
Aksakov, Leontiev, and Danilevsky among philosophers as well as Dostoevsky, Gogol, and
Merejkovsky among novelists criticized the Western world in almost the exact same language as did
Evola. One can see that they all had the same hate for the rule of the mob – that is to say, the modern
democratic system – and that they regarded it as spiritual degradation and total profanity. Similarly, one
can also see the same diagnoses for the sickness of the modern world – profane Freemasonry, deviant
Judaism, the advancement of the plebeian, the deification of “reason” – in Evola and the “conservative”
Russian culture. Obviously, the reactionary tendency here is shared, and thus Evola’s criticism of the
West is totally in-step with and acceptable to the party line of Russian conservatism.

More often than not, one can see that Evola’s criticisms are more closely related to the Russian
mentality rather than the broader European one – the same type of generalization, the frequent
evocation of mythological and mystical goals, the distinct notion that the internal spirit world is
organically separated from the immediate modern realities of perversion and deviance. In general, the
Russian conservative tradition of contemporarily explaining historical events in a mythological sense is
somewhat obligatory. The appeal of the supernatural/irrational level here is in perfect step with the
Russian mindset that renders rational explanation the exception rather than the rule.

One may also note the influence that Russian conservatives exercised on Evola: in his works, he often
cites Dostoevsky, Merejkovsky (whom he personally knew) and several other Russian authors. On the
other hand, the frequent references he makes to Malynsky and Leon de Poncins partially carry on the
counter-revolutionary tradition so typical of being European. One can also cite his references to Serge
Nilus, the compiler of the famous Protocols of the Elders Of Zion, which Evola reedited in Italy.

At the same time, it’s clear that Evola knew relatively little about the Russian conservative milieu, and
in fact he was not even particularly interested in it owing to his antichristian idiosyncrasy. A propos of
the Orthodox tradition, he only made a few insignificant comments. Yet the similarity between his
position towards the crisis of the modern world and the anti-modernism of the Russian authors is due
largely to the community of organic reactions – Great Men and ‘individuals’ in the case of Evola and
heroes in the case of the Russians. But thanks to this spontaneity of anti-modern convergences, the
gravity of Evola’s deviation is made all the more interesting and all the more critical.

At any rate, this interpretation of Evola’s ideas fits perfectly within the framework of the modern
“novye pravye” ideology to the extent that the latter actually brings more to his vision of the
degradation of modernity by sometimes applying his ideas more globally, more radically, and more
deeply. In this regard, Evola’s theories are very much accepted in modern Russia, where anti-
Westernism is an extremely potent ideological and political factor.

3) Rome and Third Rome

One particular layer of Evola's thoughts is felt by the Russians to be of imminent and extreme
importance: his praise for the Imperial Ideal. Rome represents the focal point of Evola's worldview.
This sacred living power which had manifested itself all across the Empire was to Evola the very
essence of the West's traditional heritage. To Evola, the ruins of Nero's palace and of Roman buildings
were like a direct testament to a physical, organic sanctity whose integrity and continuity had been
shattered by the Kafkaesque "castle" of the Catholic Vatican Guelph. [NOTE: For those not familiar
with Kafka's work, this is a reference to his book entitled "the Castle," which is about a man who takes
what should be a relatively simple job in a distant place surveying the land of a local noble, but who is
unable to begin -- much less complete -- his job owing to the opposition from the bureaucracy of his
own employer (whom he never meets in-person and only through a proxy or a proxy of a proxy) and
who is further frustrated by the fact that the Count's huge, oppressive castle is always visible from any
part of the town but that he can never actually go there to begin his task. Obviously this is a
metaphorical indictment against the overall judeo-christian system and how it relates to seemingly
unattainable salvation. Similarly, Guelph refers to a German/Italian coalition of the Middle Ages that
supported the royal house of Guelph against the Imperial German Ghibelline dynasty that was hostile
to the Pope and to Catholicism.] His Ghibelline train of thought was clear: Imperium against Church,
Rome against the Vatican, the immenent and organic sacrality against the devotational and sentimental
abstractions of faith, implicitly dualist and Phariseean.

But a similar line of thought is seemingly naturally felt by the Russians, whose historical destiny has
always been profoundly tied to that of Imperium. This notion was dogmatically rooted in the Orthodox
Concept of staret [NOTE: the starets were spiritual advisers, but not priests: Rasputin could be
considered one of these] philosophy - "Moscow: the Third Rome." It should be noted that the "first
Rome" in this cyclic orthodox interpretation was not Christian Rome, but rather Imperial Rome,
because the second Rome (or the "new Rome") was Constantinople, the capital of the Christian
Empire. Thus the same idea of "Rome" held by the Orthodox Russians corresponds to the
understanding of sacrality like the importance of that which is Sacred and such as the necessary and
inseparable “symphony” between the spiritual authority and the temporal realm. For traditional
orthodoxy, the catholic separation between the King and the Pope is simply unimaginable and close to
blasphemy, and this very concept is actually called the “Latin heresy.”

Again, one can see the perfect convergence between Evola's dogma and the commonplace mindset of
Russian conservative thought. And still again, the clear spiritual exaltation of Imperium in Evola's
books is of inestimable value to the Russians in terms of what they view as their true and traditional
identity. The "symphonic imperialism" of the Orthodox Russians easily brings to mind Julius Evola's
concept of "pagan imperialism," or rather "Ghibelline imperialism."

There is one other important detail that bears mentioning here. It's known that the "author of the Third
Reich," Artur Mьller van den Bruck, was deeply influenced by the writings of Feodor Dostoevsky, for
whom the concept of "the Third Rome" was vitally significant. One can see van den Bruck's same
eschatological vision of "the Final Empire," born from a metaphorical convergence between the ideas
of the paracletic montanists [NOTE: montanists were the ancient forerunners of the contemporary
pentecostal sects, i.e., the ones who believe in personal divine revelation and speaking in tongues] and
the prophecies of Joachim de Flora [NOTE: de Flora was the abbot of Corazzo who authored a very
prescient essay about the "age of reason" around the year 1200 in which he wrote "in the new day, man
would not have to rely on faith, for everything would be founded on knowledge and reason."]. Van den
Bruck -- whose ideas were sometimes cited by Evola -- adapted the concept of the Third Rome from
the Russian Orthodox tradition and applied it to Germany, where it was subsequently elaborated upon
spiritually and socially by the National Socialists. One interesting fact is that Erich Mueller, the protegй
of Nikisch [NOTE: Ernst Nikisch, a German nationalist of the same era] -- who was greatly inspired by
van den Bruck -- once remarked that if the First Reich had been Catholic [NOTE: ie, the Holy Roman
Empire], the Second Reich Protestant [NOTE: ie, Prussia under Friedrich the Great], the Third Reich
would have to be exactly Orthodox! But Evola himself participated largely in the intellectual debates of
German conservative-revolutionary circles (he was a member of von Gleichen's "Herrenklub," which
itself was a continuation of the "Juniklub"founded by van den Bruck) where similary subjects were
discussed in a very lively manner. It's now easy to see another way in which the Russian conservative
mindset is linked to Evola's theories. Obviously, it's not possible to say their ideas on these particular
issues were identical, but at the same time, there are extraordinary connections between the two that
help to explain the assimilation of Evola's ideas into Russia's mindset, where its views are far less
"extravagant" than those belonging of traditional conservative Europe, which is by and large
contemporarily Catholic and Nationalist, and is quite rarely Imperialist.

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