fredag 28 oktober 2022

Review: Pagan Imperialism (Evola 1928)

Evolian resurgence -- Evolian wave -- Evolian spree... that's what we're living in since about 2000. The period after Julius Evola died in 1974 has seen a quiet renaissance; after his death his influence has only grown. Hereby a review of a forgotten gem in his opus, Pagan Imperialism.

One of Evola’s books was Imperialismo Pagano. In a German translation from 1933 it was called Heidnischer Imperialismus. In English it became, in 2017, Pagan Imperialism. This was a translation based on the German edition. And the translator was Cologero Salvo; voilà the edition we base this on.

Pagan Imperialism was originally published in 1928, a time when Fascist Italy was about to sign the Lateran Treaty with the Catholic Church. Evola was against the perceived “maternal and lunar” character of Christianity and wanted a more “masculine and solar” creed for Italy. He was also disappointed with Fascism, seeing it as too bourgeois; in addition, he was against communism-liberalism-democracy. Stating his case against all these enemies, Pagan Imperialism is a rather elegant essay by a radical traditionalist. It is far more belligerent in tone than, say, Revolt Against the Modern World, otherwise seen as his magnum opus.

Rivolta often comes through as a somewhat dull and pedantic lecture about esoteric subjects. Pagan Imperialism essentially says what Rivolta does, but with more punch and verve.

Almost everything that Evola later wrote about as a right-wing preacher we see in this book, Pagan Imperialism: the need for hierarchy, the need for a “polar, northern” tradition instead of the “southern, lunar, feminine” tradition of Christianity; the need for a more mindful Nietzscheanism; the glory of Imperial Rome and the Holy Roman empire; the need for a philosophy that goes beyond mere vitalism and reaches an essential truth – “life, and more than life”.

In Pagan Imperialism the Roman idea, the ancient Roman example, takes the place that “tradition” would take in his subsequent books. He for instance speaks about “a revived Dorian simplicity” (p. 82). Rome, to Evola, in this essay stands for the organism (as opposed to the simple aggregate); it stands for the spiritual (and not the materialist); it stands for everything accomplished by rite and symbol; it stands for truth (and not empty rhetoric).

Pagan Imperialism speaks about a “will to order and to hierarchy, to virility, and to authority” (p. 96); this is the ideal.


Further, in this book Evola for example speaks of the need for a new cadre of leaders, responsible men capable of anything. Men who are born leaders, men willing to risk their life in their role, and not mere babblers.

He speaks about the need to replace profane and materialistic science with a spiritual and interior science – a science that taps the occult forces that govern our being and subdues them.

He speaks about replacing feelings of dependence and lack of will with a feeling of sufficiency; the ideal of equality will be replaced by concepts like difference, distance, hierarchy, aristocracy. Pure will and absolute action are the lodestars, not love and happiness.

The new rigorism, Evola means, will see an existence where every instant of life is a heroic event. And the hero of the new age is Absolute Man, Total Man, Magician Man.


Pagan Imperialism lends itself to extensive quoting. We can, for instance, look at the beginning (p. 6). This is a call to arms for any radical traditionalist, these are words by “a rebel, fighting for tradition”:
The current “civilisation” of the West is expecting a substantial upheaval, without which it is doomed to collapse sooner or later. – It has realised the most complete perversion of every rational order of things. – There is no longer breath, nor liberty, nor light in the realm of matter, of gold, of the machine, of number. – The West has lost the meaning of command and obedience. – It has lost the meaning of Action and of Contemplation. – It has lost the meaning of hierarchy, of spiritual power, of man-gods.
This is just the beginning... and equally strong is the rest (ibid):
[The West] no longer knows nature. This is no longer, for Western man, a living body made up of symbols, gods, and ritual acts – a splendid cosmos, in which man moves about freely, like “a kingdom within a kingdom”: he has instead deteriorated into an opaque and fatal exteriority, the mystery of which profane sciences try to ignore with petty laws and petty hypotheses. – The West no longer knows Wisdom: it no longer knows the majestic silence of those who have mastered themselves, the bright calm of the Seers, the superb “solar” reality of those in whom the idea has become blood, life, and power. Wisdom has been supplanted by the rhetoric of “philosophy” and “culture”, the realm of professors, journalists, and sportsmen – the scheme, the program, the manifesto. It has been supplanted by sentimental, religious, humanitarian contamination and the race of windbags who flounder and madly rush while exalting “becoming” and “practice”, because silence and contemplation frighten them.
Evola talks about the evils of modern life, like sentimentalism, moralism, and simplistic humanism. This must be opposed (p. 8):
To all this, let it be said: 'Enough!', so that some men may return to long-lasting paths, long-lasting risks, long-lasting gazes, and long-lasting silence; so that the wind of the open sea may blow again – the wind of the nordic primordial tradition – and arouse the sleepers of the West. Anti-philosophy, anti-humanitarianism, antiliterature, anti-'religion', this is the premise. 'Enough!' must be said to aestheticisms and idealisms ...
Evola wants to go beyond mere discussion, mere talk (p. 9):
In silence, through hard discipline, self-mastery, and self-overcoming, with tenacious and brisk individual effort, we must create an elite in whom “solar” Wisdom is revived: that virtus which cannot be spoken, which rises from the depths of feelings and the soul and is not proved with arguments and books but with creative acts. – We must reawaken to a renewed, spiritualised, and austere sense of the world, not as a philosophic concept, but as something which vibrates in our very blood: to the sensation of the world as power, to the sensation of the world as rhythm, to the sensation of the world as a sacrificial act. This sensation will create strong, hard, and energetic characters, beings made of strength and then only of strength, open to that sense of freedom and nobility, to that cosmic breath which the “dead” in Europe have babbled a lot about, yet have not even felt its puff.
Modern man needs re-sacralization, a reactivating of myth, of contemplation, of gravitas, of dignitas (ibid):
Against secular, democratic, and material science, always relative and conditioned, slave to phenomena and incomprehensible laws, deaf to the deepest reality of man, we must reawaken – in this elite – the sacred, inner, secret, and creative science, the science of self-realisation and “self-dignification”, the science which leads to the hidden forces which govern our organism and are united with the invisible roots of rate and things themselves, and which creates mastery over these forces; so that, not as a myth, but as the most positive of realities, some men are reborn as beings who no longer belong to “life”, but to “more-than-life”, and are capable of transcendent action.

To guide man into this Brave New World of willpower and vision a new elite is needed, a new breed of leaders (ibid): “There will be Leaders, a race of Leaders. Invisible Leaders who do not speak and do not show themselves, but whose action does not experience resistance and who can do everything.”

Nordic Symbolism

For this re-generation of the West we must look to the North. This Evola also speaks about in Rivolta but here, in Pagan Imperialism, it is more succinct, more stylish (p. 10-11):
We alluded to a primordial Nordic tradition. It is not a myth, it is our truth. Indeed, in the most remote prehistory where the positivist superstition postulated right up until recently cave-dwelling ape-men, there existed a primordial, unified, and powerful civilization, an echo of which still resounds in everything that the past has to offer us as an eternal symbol. – The Iranians speak of the Airyanem Vaejah, located in the farthest North, and see in it the first creation of “god of light”, the origin of their lineage and also the seat of “glory” – hvareno – that mystical force characteristic of the Aryan race, and especially of their divine kings; they see in it – symbolically – the “place” where the warrior religion of Zarathustra would have been revealed for the first time. – Correspondingly, the tradition of the Indo-aryans knows the Shveta-dvipa, the “Island of Glory”, also located in the far North where Narayana, the one who “is the light” and “who stands above the waters”, that is, above the causality of events, has his residence. It speaks also of the Uttarakuru, a Nordic primordial race; what is meant by Nordic is the solar path of the gods – deva-yana – and the term uttara connotes the concept of all that is sublime, lofty, and superior - of what in the figurative sense can be called arya, Aryan – according to the concept of “Nordic”. – Again, the Achaean-Dorian stocks are heirs of the legendary Nordic Hyperboreans: the most characteristic god and hero of this race – the solar Apollo, the annihilator of the serpent Python – came from there; Hercules – the ally of the Olympian god against the giants, the annihilator of the Amazons and of elemental beings, the “fair conqueror”, of whom many Greek and Roman kings later considered themselves so to speak, as his avatars – would have carried the olive tree from here with whose branches the victors were crowned (Pindar).

Nietzsche Lauded

We all know that Nietzsche influenced Evola. For instance, in the 20s he spoke about “Absolute Man” (l’individuo assoluto) – and this figure can be seen as the superman evolved into a more mindful being. Now, overall in his major works Evola tended to be critical of the great Pulverkopf; even in Pagan Imperialism we see traces of this. However, he could also openly praise the great German. We for instance read the following, captivating the spiritual essence of Nietzsche’s opus (p. 85-86):
[T]hose who are still not capable on their own can find a precursor even in these dark times, someone misunderstood, who waits in the shadows: Friedrich Nietzsche. The Nietzschean experience is still not exhausted, since it has not even started. What is exhausted is the aesthetic-literary caricature of Nietzsche, conditioned over time, and theological-naturalistic reduction of some parts of his theories. But the value carried heroically by Nietzsche after much nameless suffering, in spite of the fact that his whole being revolted and yielded, until, without any complaint, after having given everything, it collapsed – this value which is beyond his “philosophy”, beyond his humanity, beyond himself, identical to a cosmic meaning, reflection of an economic force – the hvareno and the terrible fire of solar initiations – this value is still waiting to be understood and assumed by contemporaries. There is already in it the call for arms, the appeal for loathing, for awakening – and for the great struggle: the one in which – as we have said – the destiny of the West will be settled: either to fall into twilight or enter a new dawn. – Freeing the doctrine of Nietzsche from its naturalistic part, we see that the “overman” and the”will-to-power” are not true except as supra-biological qualities and, we should say, supernatural qualities, then this doctrine, for many, can be a path by which the great ocean can be reached – the world of the solar universality of great Nordic-Aryan traditions, from whose summit the sense of all the misery, of all the irrelevance, and of all the insignificance of this world of the shackled and maniacs imposes itself.

The Rest

Hereby some quotes without comment from this gem of a book, Pagan Imperialism.

Quote number 1, p. 11, about solar heroism as opposed to demonic darkness:
These are only some of the harmonious references, traceable in the most diverse traditions as the memory of a primordial Nordic civilisation and fatherland in which, in a more precise way, a transcendent superhuman spirituality is united with the heroic, royal, and triumphal element: towards form victorious over chaos; towards super-humanity triumphant over all that is human and telluric; towards “solarity” as principal symbol of a transcendent virility, as ideal of a dignity which, in the order of spiritual forces, correspond to the sovereign, the hero, the ruler, on the material plane. And, while the traces of tradition go back to a road from the North to the South, from the West to the East, which the races preserving this spirit have travelled, the largest formations of Aryan peoples, in more recent times, testify, through the quality of their purest values and religions, to their most characteristic deities and institutions, typical of this force and this civilisation, as well as to the struggle against inferior southern races, which are tied to the earth and to the spirit of the earth, to the “demonic” and irrational part of their being, to the promiscuous, the collective, the totemic, the chaotic, or the “titanic”.
Quote number 2, p. 12-13, in praise of ancient Rome:
This is why pagan Romanity must be considered as the last great creative act of the Nordic spirit, the last universal attempt, successful to a considerable extent over an entire cycle, to resurrect the forces of the world in the forms of a heroic, solar, and virile civilisation: a civilisation which was closed to mystical escapism; which was true to the aristocratic-Aryan type of the patres, the lords of the lance and patriotism; which was mysteriously confirmed by the Nordic insignia of the Wolf, the Eagle, and the Axe; which was alive above all in the Olympian-warrior cult of a Zeus and a Hercules, of an Apollo and a Mars, in the feeling of owing its greatness and its aeternitas to the divine; in action as rite and rite as action, in the crystal-clear and yet potent experience of the supernatural, which was acknowledged in the Empire itself and culimnated in the symbol of Caesar as numen.
Quote number 3, p. 16, in praise of the rustic North:
We call for a decisive, unconditional, integral return to the Nordic pagans’ tradition. ... Our paganism, our tradition in the middle of the great sea of peoples who brought it from North to South, from West to East, did know it. And whoever today rises up against the European sickness, and against the European religion, is not a denier, but an affirmer – the only one who knows what an affirmation is. – We, therefore, today, bear witness to the Nordic pagan tradition and call for the restoration of its value in a Pagan Imperialism. The person of the speaker and of others who may be joined to him in the spiritual reality – solitary, impassive and uncompromisingly aristocratic in this world of merchants, the caged, and deviants – vanishes the face of this every reality, which, through them, calls to the unbroken and unvanquished of Europe, to those who still offer resistance, to those who still possess the future.
Quote number 4, p. 18, in praise of spirituality:
Just as a living body maintains itself only insofar as there is a soul to dominate it, so every social organisation not rooted in a spiritual reality is precarious and insubstantial, incapable of keeping its strength and identity under the vicissitudes of the various forces; it is not properly an organism, but rather a composite, an aggregate. – The true cause of the decline of the political idea in the contemporary West resides in the fact that the spiritual values which at one time suffused the social order have gradually vanished, and no one as yet has been able to replace them with anything. The problem has been reduced to the level of economic, industrial, military, administrative, or, at most, sentimental factors, without taking into account that all this is just mere matter, necessary as long as you want, but never sufficient, and as little capable of producing a strong, rational, self-supporting order as the simple meeting of mechanical forces could produce a living being.

There you go; this is what we want to highlight in Pagan Imperialism. This is the Evola we will later meet in Rivolta, only more succinct.

Evola, Julius. Pagan Imperialism. Sine loco: Gornahoor Press, 2017. 204 p

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In Swedish: Evola -- några reflektioner
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