In order to illustrate some of the points made recently, we have invited an old friend, Tony Ciapo, to provide translations, with commentary, of some of Evola’s works from Sintesi di dottrina della razza,Defesa della razza, and Evola’s commentary on the Fascist movements of the first half of the 20th century. By exploring certain movements from the perspective of Tradition—which are far from any modernist misunderstandings—, we expect to point who are in Solidarity with the few remaining men of Tradition left today and which viewpoints are in Continuity with Tradition itself. Tony will continue this task as long as interest is expressed and intelligent discussion ensues. The initial section is the fourth in the chapter “La razza aria e il problema spirituale”. His commentaries will appear inside boxes or between square brackets. There is no implication that either Evola or myself would have accepted all such. (Cologero)
The Misunderstanding of the new racist Paganism
Having made the problem clear in such a way, it is perhaps appropriate to point out the misunderstanding—a misunderstanding of no small moment—characteristic of those contemporary extremist racist currents that believe that have resolved it in terms of a neo-paganism. Such a misunderstanding, in truth, is already apparent precisely in the use of terms such as “pagan” and “paganism”. We ourselves had at one point adopted them and sincerely regret it.
This section follows the section “Ex Occidente Lux – The Religious Problem” (to be translated next), which is alluded to in the first sentence. There he discusses Catholicism, in particular its teaching of a primordial revelation of the Fathers. Attentive readers of Gornahoor will recall that Catholicism regards itself as the latest manifestation of the primordial religion. Evola digs deeper to the pre-Christian religion of the Ancient City, whose lineaments we have been at pains to point out. In order to avoid the ambiguities and attendant misunderstandings of the term “paganism”, we will henceforth refer to it as the “Old Religion“. It should be obvious that the “contemporary currents” he opposes include the amalgam of racism and neo-paganism associated with the theoreticians of National Socialism. There is no need to name names, as Evola means all of them. The book he sincerely regrets is Pagan Imperialism.
Certainly the word, paganus, appears in ancient Latin writers such as Livy with no special purpose. But this does not alter the fact that with the arrival of the new faith, the word paganus took on a decidedly pejorative meaning, adopted for use in early Christian apologetics. Paganus derives from pagus, meaning a village or slum, so that paganus means what is characteristic of a country hick or an uncultured, primitive man. In order to profess and glorify the new faith, a certain Christian apologistics, following the the vice of overvaluing themselves through the discrediting of others, proceeded to a systematic and often conscious disparagement and misrepresentation of almost all the earlier doctrines, forms of worship, and traditions, which were made to correspond to the combined and pejorative designation “paganism”. Naturally, with this goal, it took care to highlight everything that, in the pre-Christian religions and traditions, lacked any normal or primordial character, rather than the clear significance of degenerate and decadent forms. Such a polemical animus then led, in particular, to attributing indiscriminately an anti-Christian character to everything that, prior to Christianity, could also simply be non-Christian and could not constitute an irreducible antithesis.
Evola is making the point that the Old Religion, much older than Christianity, was not, and could not be, explicitly anti-Christian. Therefore, we have to distinguish the former from the paganism prevalent at the beginning of Christianity. By then the Old Religion had been largely forgotten and even when its rites and traditions were followed, it was done with little understanding. The Roman priesthood had been reduced to a formalism, while the aristocrats were more likely to adopt one of the many prevalent Greek philosophies or dabble in the so-called mysteries. As was recently pointed out, it was the plebs, initially without a religion, who were the “pagans” of the era. The first Christians came either from among the Hellenized Jews or the Romans who had converted to Judaism whether formally or by adopting their beliefs and ways. (Note that the Judaism at the time was quite different from the contemporary religion that goes by that name.) These would have been predominantly the third caste working as artisans, traders, and other pecuniary occupations.
Of course, the neo-pagans, following Nietzsche, now return the favor, by claiming it was really the Christians who were the “hicks”. Such mutual name-calling is unhelpful and pointless. Instead, pace the early apologists and neo-pagans, we follow Valentin Tomberg ‘s Hermetic maxim, we must love our pagan past, provided we understand by that the Old Religion.
On such a basis, it is therefore necessary to think that there is a “paganism”, meaning something essentially and tendentiously constructed. That is, it lacks any true correspondence to historical reality. We mean, correspondence to what the pre-Christian and especially Aryan world always was in its “normal” forms, and not only in decadent aspects or that were refashioned from the degenerate residues of older civilizations or inferior races.
Recommended background material:
Fustel‘s The Ancient City is, by his own admission, indispensable to understanding what Evola means by the pre-Christian Tradition.
For the history of the Early Christians and Jews, I rely upon the works of Ernest Renan.