Metaphysics of War : Battle, Victor & Death in the World of Tradition
Metaphysics of War: Battle, Victor & Death in the World of Tradition
by Julius Evola, Integral Tradition Publishing, 2007
Reviewed by David J. Wingfield - Ex: http://www.rosenoire.org/
Metaphysics of War: Battle, Victor & Death in the World of Tradition by Julius Evola
Reviewed by David J. Wingfield
METAPHYSICS of War is the first publication of the Integral Tradition Publishing team and is the first stage of a projected endeavor to make Julius Evola’s thought and works more accessible in the English language. As such it represents a continuation of the spirit of the Inner Traditions publishing house, which first made Evola’s social writings Revolt Against the Modern World and Men Among The Ruins available in English back in the 1980s.
The book consists of a collection of sixteen essays on the spiritual and heroic aspects of war and combat, all but one of which appears in English for the first time. The material spans the fifteen turbulent years between 1935 and 1950, with the majority being written during the high tide of the European fascist experiment in the nineteen thirties up to nineteen forty three. The final piece of the collection, The Decline of Heroism written after the post war dust had settled, is a rallying call to the human spirit against the impersonal mediocrity of the encroaching cold war. It shows all the hallmarks of Evola’s post-war social Traditionalist thought, as expressed in the great manifesto Men Among the Ruins. Metaphysics of War therefore spans the period between Evola’s two major “political” works, starting as they do a year after the publication of “Revolt” and should properly be read against the philosophical bedrock of these books.
This is the voice of the political Evola, written during the time of his much maligned engagement with Italian fascism and German National Socialism, when he still considered these movements, despite their shortcomings, to be potential vehicles for a Traditionalist renewal across Europe. This will account for the rhetoric of fascism that permeates some of these essays. As such, it represents a personal period of passionate change and development in Evola’s philosophy. The metapolitical theme is a continued exhortation for the European peoples to transcend their stagnant bourgeois societies and the turbulence of their war ravaged times, by a sustained appeal to embrace the heroic traditions of their ancient heritage. In fact, despite his tacit support, Evola fell foul of the authorities in both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy for his “reactionary” opinions and repudiation of purely scientific reductionist racism and was only able to publish outside the beady eye of the censors due to the patronage of some time National Fascist Party chairman Roberto Farinacci. Seven of the essays in this work appeared originally in Evola’s Philosophical Dioramas column of Farinacci’s newspaper “Il Regime Fascista”. This is a series of articles elaborating on Evola’s theory of sacred war mentioned in Revolt. The essay “The Greater war and the Lesser war” is taken almost Verbatim from the chapter in Revolt of the same name for a July 1935 edition of the “Regime” . Others appeared in the state organs La Difesa della Razza (The Defense of The Race) and La Vita Italiana. Others, such as the controversial Aryan Doctrine of Combat and Victory and The Meaning of the Warrior Element for the New Europe were produced during Evola’s abortive flirtation with Heinrich Himmler’s SS.
As always in his writings, both esoteric and social, Evola’s preoccupation is with the transcendent esoteric spiritual virility that he saw underpinning all traditional social and philosophical systems. As such he takes examples from medieval Europe, Islam, ancient Imperial Rome and Indo-Aryan traditions to underline his thesis. This is, that through the extreme existential existence of a warrior in protracted combat, an individual may overcome the limitations of human existence and partake in a level of human consciousness bordering on the divine. Thus parallels are drawn between the Nordic conception of Valhalla and the idea of the “Heavenly Jerusalem” envisaged by the Frankish crusaders, as a state of “immortal” being for heroic souls. The true warrior ethos and life can be seen in this view as a method of, or extension of an initiatory process. Evola deplores the mass soldier armies of the twentieth century and emphasizes the path of Holy War as an interior as well as exterior struggle.
Throughout the series of essays, The Baron outlines a theory of Holy War which goes beyond individual historical and religious concepts. For Evola, heroism could take two forms. The experience of battle could awaken “sub-human” animal instincts of savage ferocity and self-destructive bravery which transmutes the individual into a beast of prey, devoid of spirit and individuality. Evola notices that this heroism was notably present during the First world conflagration and is well expressed in the characters of Remarque’s famous novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” , where the protagonists of the book are dehumanized by their experience, despite acts of blind valour. This highly collectivized heroism is also a characteristic of the primitive “Races of Nature” and is evident in the behavior of Russian soldiers fighting for the Soviet Union in the early 1940s. For a member of a “Race of the Spirit” such as those of Roman-Germanic heritage, this form of heroism should really be seen as an involutionary process. Contrary to this is the second form of heroism, whereby the warrior accesses the root spiritual strength of his race in an exultation of victorious self-sacrifice and overcoming. Here a theory of holy war is developed, paralleled in both medieval Christianity and Islam, where the “Lesser Holy War” against external enemies mirrors the “Greater Holy War” against internal enemies with the same perceived characteristic traits. In this Weltanschauung of ecstatic and victorious self-overcoming even death itself is a laughable impossibility, for the hero achieves a divine immortal dynamism in the “hall of heroes” outlined by Evola in several Aryan traditions. Throughout Metaphysics, the author also delves into the idea of the divine feminine as initiatrix in the guise of the Germanic Valkyries and the Fravashi of the Aryo-Iranian Mithras cult. This is interesting to read alongside Evola’s exposition of the spiritual aspects of medieval knighthood in Revolt. Clear parallels can be made between the “true love” of medieval romance and the initiating spirit of divine wisdom she represents and the Roman and Teutonic “Goddess of Battle”, through whom the higher aspects of the warrior/initiate are “given birth”. Throughout his explorations, Evola is consistent in presenting the ancient warrior ethos as a viable initiatory ‘modus operandi’ for his contemporary world and presents a vision of how “warlike” ethics and a heroic spirituality can revitalize a moribund society.
Metaphysics of War is a lucid translation, which allows the reader to access Evola’s fervently intense prose and encyclopedic knowledge of Tradition with relative ease. However, this is not a book I would recommend as a starting point for those without a general familiarity with Evola’s life and ideas or grounding in the historical context in which the essays were given birth. Being a series of essays written over a wide span of years and journal issues, each offering contains a fair degree of recapping and repetition of core themes and material common to serializations. Saying that, however, this collection is by no means a dry assembly of “Evoliana” or apocryphal relics. Rather, these writings contain meta-historical insights and inspiration that are still valid and interesting, over sixty years after their writing. Interesting comparisons are drawn in John Morgan’s introduction between the aristocratic self-sacrifice of the Japanese Kamikazes of World War Two and aspects of the cult of martyrdom evident in present day resurgent Islam. Certainly the living Tradition revealed by Evola still offers food for thought in the fragmented world of the 21st century west, much as it did when this book was written. To conclude simply, this book is well worth a read and I look forward to future Evola related publications from this company.