Julius Evola

Italian philosopher, writer, occultist, and Fascist. Born Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola, into an aristocratic Sicilian family, Evola (1898–1974) rebelled against his family’s strict Catholicism in his teens and became involved in avant-garde circles in Rome. After serving in the Italian army during the last year of the First World War, he began a career as a poet and painter, winning a reputation as the leading representative of the Dadaist movement in Italy. In 1922, however, he abandoned painting and plunged into an intensive study of Oriental philosophy, occultism, and magic. As a student of the famous occultist and Freemason Arturo Reghini (1878–1946), Evola became part of the UR Group, a loose association of Italian occultists, and devoted himself to alchemy and ritual magic. Reghini also introduced him to the writings of René Guénon (1886–1951), founder of the Traditionalist movement.

In 1925 Evola published the first of his philosophical works, Saggi sull’ Idealismo Magico (Essays on Magical Idealism), and a widely praised work on Indian Tantrism, L’Uomo comme Potenza (translated into English as The Yoga of Power). These books earned him a reputation as one of the leading lights of the Italian occult scene, while his right-wing political journalism won him friends not only in Fascist Italy but throughout central Europe, where authoritarian regimes sprouted like mushrooms during the 1920s and 1930s. Later books addressed the Hermetic tradition, the Holy Grail, Pagan religion, politics, and culture, and made him the twentieth century’s most influential Fascist intellectual.

Underlying all Evola’s works was his conviction that the “degenerate” pacifist and egalitarian tendencies of Christianity, and the materialistic mass culture of the modern world, had to be cast aside in favor of a virile new warrior spirituality based on heroic values and hierarchy. In his most influential book, Rivolta contra il Mondo Moderno (Revolt against the Modern World, 1934), he pictured all of history as a vast war between an aristocratic, solar, and masculine Uranian Tradition, which he identified as the source of all cultural creativity, and the opposed Demetrian Tradition, earthy, egalitarian, pacifist and matriarchal, which was the source of all cultural decay and the root of Christianity, communism, and democracy. This theme, the central mythology of many of his books, shows both his knowledge of esoteric traditions and his failure to grasp their deeper dimensions; traditional occult and alchemical lore focuses on the need for a creative fusion of solar and telluric currents (and all other pairs of opposites), while Evola saw instead a power struggle that only one side could win.

His ideas predictably found a ready audience north of the Alps. Evola lectured in Germany regularly from 1934 on, but his relationship with Nazism was complex. He rejected Nazi racism as crude biological determinism, insisting that spiritual and cultural factors trumped genetic inheritance; his theory of an “Aryan-Roman race,” defined by its aristocratic values and spiritual orientation rather than by blood, was actually adopted by Mussolini as the basis for Italy’s race laws in 1938. He disliked other elements in Nazi theory, including its materialism and its insistence that political legitimacy comes from the Volk. For their part, the Nazis considered him an aristocratic reactionary, but allowed his books to be published in Germany.

Evola’s differences with the Nazis did not keep him from fleeing to Vienna as the Allied armies neared Rome in 1943, or accepting a position in the SS, first as a researcher in the Ahnenerbe (the research department of the SS) and later as a liaison officer working with central European fascist leaders. In March 1945, as the Third Reich’s final defenses crumpled, Evola was severely wounded in an air raid and lost the use of both legs. After the war was over, he returned to Rome, where he spent the rest of his life writing further books on politics, culture, and spirituality. His apartment on the Via Corso became a site of pilgrimage for postwar neo-fascists until his death in 1974.

By that time his writings had become required reading on the radical Right throughout continental Europe. Italian neo-fascist groups such as the Movimento Sociale Italiano adopted Evola as their primary theoretician in the 1950s, and the Vienna circle of neo-Nazi occultists around Wilhelm Landig adoted Evola’s Revolt against the Modern World as their Bible during the same years. By the 1980s Evola’s works were being translated into English, first in the pages of neo-Nazi magazines and then in book form, and began to attract a following in the English-speaking world as well. Most currently active neo-Nazi secret societies draw at least part of their ideological basis from Evola’s works.



The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006