This essay, Nascita ed essenza del “mito” moderno by Julius Evola, originally appeared in the March 1936 issue of La Vita Italiana, and will be published in three or four parts. There are a few points to think about in this segment.
- Once again, Evola, following Rene Guenon, brings up caste as the most fundamental division of human types. Hence, caste is more fundamental than religion or race.
- The degeneration of caste is the first step to understand the movements of history. The attempts to interpret history in terms of race (e.g., Aryan vs Jew) or religion (e.g., pagan vs Christian) are all for naught unless the roles of the various castes are first taken into consideration.
- The different castes have differing ways of thinking and being. Specifically, not every caste is capable of understanding metaphysical principles. That is why there are so many unsound interpretations of Tradition.
- In a manner reminiscent of Plato in the Republic, Evola likens the social organization of the castes to the organization of human consciousness.
- Myth and Symbol are objectively designed to represent metaphysical principles. Of the various contemporary movements that claim to be based on Mythos, can any of them make such a claim?
- Myth and Symbol are created by the spiritual elite for the benefit of the lower castes. It also provides a link between them, without which the elite would be isolated.
- Evola brings up the notion of the elite as being the living law on Earth, and mentions Frederick II and Dante in relation to it. Similarly, the Roman popes also claimed to be the final arbiter of the cosmic and natural law, a claim in full compliance with Traditional civilizations. Who today would still accept that claim either by the popes or by some other pretender to the spiritual authority?
For the correct orientation in the matter that we want to treat, we should begin from some general doctrinal premises that do not have for us the significance of personal philosophical construction, but rather that of a rigorously objective matter of fact. It is about the doctrine of the hierarchical quadripartition and the understanding of the most recent history as the process of descent from one to the other of these four hierarchical levels. To make such a view intuitive, let us stop here, first of all, at its social aspect. The quadripartition is therefore presented as that which in all traditional ancient civilization gave rise to four distinct and hierarchically ordered castes: serfs, bourgeoisie, warrior aristocracy, and the bearers of a pure spiritual authority. We must not mean something artificial and conventional by caste, but rather the place that united individuals having in common the same nature and vocation. In every caste a specific mode of existence took form and expression.
The hierarchy turned out normal, when it confirmed the natural dependency of the lower modes of life on the higher, i.e., to those adhering to a purely spiritual point of view and metaphysical reality. That only in such a case did they have the right relations of subordination and participation, that resulted from the analogy with the human organism. In the human organism, in fact, we do not have a normal and healthy condition, when by chance the physical element, i.e., the servile stratum, or the vegetative life, i.e., the bourgeoisie, or finally, the uncontrolled and impulsive will, i.e., the warrior caste, assumes the direct and deciding part. Instead there is a normal condition when the spirit constitutes the central and ultimate point of reference for the other faculties, and this is why a partial autonomy is not denied to them, but that, on the contrary, they remain strengthened and transfigured in the totality of overall unity.
And this is effectively the image of existence corresponding to those primordial times that today in common parlance are called “myths”. Such times were not those of a half-animal or prepersonal life, but rather those of the greatest metaphysical extent. They were times, in which that which in man transcends man is manifested in all its basic vehemence, similar to the free wind from the hills, as an absolutely organizing power, as a force stronger that life and death. Superman or golden age, wild immanence or primordial theocracy, all that is only a pale formula, polluted by the conceptions of a decadent epoch. Those times were superbly Olympic and heroic; a sole purpose animated every activity, freed it and organized it inexorably around a metaphysical axis. One cannot even speak here of religion. Religion is too little, it is a subsequent appearance, a thing already conditioned and already human. Religion, religio, means reconnection. But the question of a reconnecting does not arise where a presence exists, where man does not know the individualistic mutilation, where the “superlife” is, directly or indirectly, the deepest vein and the justification of everything that is life.
We said: directly or indirectly. This distinction introduces us to the meaning that myth and symbol had in this primordial and normal type of civilization. Symbol and myth were not in the least fantastic creations, poetic images, or superstitious transpositions of confused naturalistic representations. Symbol and myth were instead ways of approximation and of participation in metaphysical reality, formulated, according to rigorous and objective laws of analogy, by representatives of this same metaphysical reality for the lower strata of the traditional systems, whose Leaders they were. Symbols and myths included two aspects. The first was constituted by an image suited to produce a galvanization and dynamization of the imagination, through which the appearance of profound energies was produced, an inner shift of the psychic level. The second part of the myth was to give, consciously or unconsciously, to this dynamized energy the right orientation through a higher point of reference, as much to start presentiments, illuminations, or actions beyond everything that has form and that is materially and humanly conditioned. The etymological origin of the very term “myth” corresponds to that.
Guenon recently pointed out that the Greek word mythos comes from the root my, which is found in the Latin mutus, mute, and in the verb myo, to be silent, to keep one’s mouth shut, but moreover in myeo, which means to initiate, and specifically to initiate into the mysteries. In fact, the very term mystery, mysterion, does not have a different origin and reveals the meaning of to teach silently, i.e., exceeding the limit of everything that is nameable, sensible, and tied to a form. Initiatic myths and poetic myths, heroic myths and physical myths, theological myths and myths descending down to the discipline of the most humble corporative community, were only applications of this sole principle to the various domains of knowing and acting. Myth therefore constitutes the articulation and metaphysical potentiality of every form of traditional life. It saw to it that knowledge and action would develop according to the meanings and possibilities that have not been known for centuries, that, on the contrary, are now systematically denied. But by virtue of myth and symbol, the necessary contacts were also established and strengthened so that those elites would not constitute an isolated and hidden vein, but the royal and solar vein of those who know and who are, and who, as such, present themselves, according to the traditional expressions preserved all the way up to Emperor Frederick II and Dante, as “the living law on earth”, lex animata in terris.
Part II ⇒