In The Hermetic Tradition, Julius Evola mentions two competing views of history:
- History is the continuous upward evolution of collective humanity.
- Civilizations arise, mature and die in a series of epochs and disconnected cycles.
The first, he rejects out of hand. The second has some merit yet is inadequate. When making distinctions or categorizing, we need to take care to determine whether the category is real or just an abstraction. The second view, whose premier representative is Oswald Spengler, is an abstraction. That is, it is a mental construct derived from contingent and empirical factors by abstracting out common elements. An abstraction may be useful or convenient for a given purpose, but it is an error when taken as a real category. When this is forgotten, the result will be unclear thinking and the perpetuation of ignorance.
Standing firmly on Rene Guenon’s groundbreaking work, The Crisis of the Modern World, Evola then makes the distinction between the modern world and the world of Tradition. This distinction is a real metaphysical category as opposed to a mental construct or abstraction. Evola is very precise:
for the West, we can put the dividing line at the end of the Middle Ages.
For the Traditional man in the West, therefore, what is “ours” comprises the Vedic civilization, the ancient Hellenic, Roman and Germanic civilizations and the Medieval civilization. Any attempt to draw the line elsewhere, or to split and oppose those civilizations can be based only on artificial, arbitrary, incomplete and misleading considerations. In particular, the Hermetic Tradition draws on elements from the entirety of those Traditional civilizations; hence it cannot be understood apart from all of them. The failure to embrace the Traditional worldview in its entirety can only lead to confusion. Evola explains:
Who undertakes this study [of alchemy and Hermetism] without having acquired the ability to rise above the modern mind-set or who has not awakened to a new sensitivity that can place itself in contact with the general spiritual stream that gave life to the tradition in the first place, will succeed only in filing his head with words, symbols, and fantastic allegories.
The heart of the matter is to re-evoke, by means of an actual transformation of consciousness, the older [Traditional] basis of understanding and action.
For those of us today, for whom the world of Tradition may still be a dim memory struggling to come to full light, whom do we look to for guidance, who are our “own”? Besides the Hermetic Tradition and the other figures mentioned in Gornahoor, Evola singles out specifically Plotinus and Patanjali for their metaphysical writings. In his Saggi sull’Idealismo Magico, Evola lists as the examples for his philosophical system:
The “I”, the “pure act” would appear as that cosmic centrality that the esoteric indicates, as examples, the type of the rishi, the yogi, the Christ, and the Buddha.