This essay was originally published by EA, or Julius Evola, under the title “Esoterismo e Mistica Cristiana” Obviously, Evola was quite interested in the topic since the essay runs to 20 pages and he was quite familiar with the secondary literature. The full translation will appear in several installments.
Note that Evola’s critique is serious and has no similarity with the puerile critiques by some neopagans who pretend to be following his lead. Ultimately, it is unclear what he accomplished, or what he hoped to accomplish. If this critique stands as is, it is a Pyrrhic victory, more like a man sawing off the tree limb he is sitting on than anything constructive. Certainly, there is no “ancient” tradition that can meet the standards he defines here, and of the non-European traditions, there is currently only one that offers a real possibility.
On more than one occasion it was said, in these pages, that Christianity represents a religious system which, if it contains various traditional elements, is nevertheless lacking an esoteric and initiatic counterpart. In comparison with what was typical of ancient, or non-European, traditional principles, this constitutes in a certain way an anomaly and is quite far from corroborating the claim of superiority asserted by the religion that has come to predominate in the West.
As to the traditional elements mentioned, they do not refer so much to Christianity as such, i.e., as the pure evangelical doctrine, but to the corpus of Catholicism, with relation to the symbols, myths, rites, and dogmas by which its orthodoxy is defined. Here more than a few elements also apt to draw from a higher plane and to be catholic in the etymological meaning of the word, that is, universal, assume a merely religious form and validity.
Catholicism lacks an esoterism, because there is no regular elite in its hierarchy, endowed with adequate authority that, in order to be in possession of the corresponding knowledge, is aware of the deepest metaphysical and meta-religious dimension of those elements.
Regarding the experiential side, the rather complex problem of the importance of everything that in Catholicism is rite and sacrament should be confronted, establishing both the similarity and the difference of the religious plane compared to the initiatic plane. Also at the base of a religious tradition, such as the Catholic tradition, there is a spiritual influence and its transmission in an uninterrupted chain through regular and well defined rites. Such continuity in Catholicism is centered in the so-called apostolic succession. In its principle aspect, the transmission is tied to the ordination of priests and bishops. The other sacraments, the first being baptism, are intended to recover, aggregate, and establish the individual in the traditional current, in the middle of the transformation that by virtue of the principle rites would be held to produce in his nature.
Naturally, this structure is characteristic of not only Catholicism, but is found also in every traditional form, even those not specifically initiatic. Only that in Catholicism the claim is more explicit that the rite has the effect of a supernaturalisation and a divinization of human nature, which otherwise, through the effect of original sin, would be corrupted and vain: whence the idea that the Christian represents spiritual man par excellence in respect to whoever is not such, and whose salvation is only in the mystical Body of Christ, which is the same as saying in the Church as community and chain formed by the rite and carried by the corresponding spiritual influence. Objectively, this claim can only serve for “internal use” and is lacking every justification, every regular tradition can propose it with the equal right as Catholicism, because very tradition if likewise formed on the basis of an influence from above, that transforms the naturalistic element of the individual and gives rise to a new current among the forces of the world. In fact, one cannot then see where the Christian shows himself superior to the members of other traditions and has a spiritual dimension that is nonexistent anywhere else.
We need to emphasize, which often is not done, the fact that in Catholic orthodoxy the rite is conceived with the same characteristics of objectivity, independence from sentiment, from “psychology”, and even from the morality that are typical in the magical and initiatic order. That is evident in the rite of baptism, since its effect would be independent of any intention and merit of the baptized (as is quite clear with newborns); so pure in fact that the sacred quality induced in the regularly ordained priest both acquired once and for all and is not even lost in the case or moral unworthiness and also of unbelief. And the same is valid, in terms of principle, for the other rites and sacraments of Catholicism.
Nevertheless, even when the conditions are present for the real efficacy of the rite, and this does not live through itself on a plane of mere devout fervor and mysticism, even when, therefore, one admits a certain non-human and sacralizing power of the Catholic rite and sacrament, one cannot confuse the order to that which is typical with the initiatic order, and even less can one think that the former can take the place of the latter. Guenon indicated the difference, in this regard, in the following terms: the religious rite propitiates a participation in the supersensible order maintaining however the individual limit, while the initiatic rite would realize that of a super-individual character; the former would aim for the “salvation” of the soul of the individual, in terms of a prolongation of his individual existence beyond death; the latter would lead instead to true immortality. The most essential difference regards however the presence or the absence of the theistic premise in the concept of the sacred. Everything that is religion, and especially Christian religion, has as limit the idea of a personal God, distinct, as such, from the creature; for it idea of a plane in which this distance is abolished by the supreme metaphysical identity is unknown, with which both “liberation” and initiatic “awakening” are defined.
In a complete traditional form, religion and initiation are two domains that do not exclude each other but, though remaining firm in their heterogeneity, admit a passage from where the possibility that has religious value to a higher degree, can also assume an initiatic one. But where, as in Catholicism, that does not occur, religious rites appear in a certain way as a useless and misleading parody of initiatic rites, that sometimes almost seems as profanation, while on the experiential side, the highest peak is represented only by mysticism.
Mysticism is one thing, initiation another, this is a point as essential as it is generally unknown. The tendency to reduce the most diverse states to mysticism is widespread. There are certainly cases in which the mystic passes beyond the sphere typical of his path leading to transcendent realizations; but that implies a true metanoia and always represents an exception – even prescinding from the fact that similar realizations indicate, in such conditions, almost always a fragmentary and confused character. Besides, in Christianity mysticism is presented in a characteristic form, constituting itself almost as a closed system, where the noted exceptions are extremely rare. Precisely in Catholicism mysticism is presented as the simple continuation of religious and sacramental experience, and the cognitio Dei experimentalis, the experiential knowledge of God, that would constitute its essence, in spite of the misunderstanding to which one can be led by some expressions, remains in the domain of subjectivity and affectivity, and has little to do with pure intellectuality, with the effective destruction of human nature and real deification.
 Related to one of the “intellectual gifts of the Holy Spirit”, to the comprehension of the deep meaning of the symbols and sacred scriptures that Thomas Aquinas mentioned. That remains however a simple announcement, no concrete example of an interpretation of the type being found in Thomas nor in the other authors of the Church. In patristics, e.g., in Origen, one finds the distinction of three meanings of scriptures, corporeal (historical), psychic (moral) and pneumatic (spiritual), that last of which is to be discovered through “analogy”, with the use of a “spiritual intelligence”. Here he proposed to transform the sensible Gospel to the spiritual Gospel”, on the basis of the principle that “the Saviour has willed to make symbols of his own spiritual actions”. But in the concrete, for the Old Testament this is reduced to an allegorical interpretation that tends of make it a prefiguration of the New; and in this the last word is always the Christian mystery, where the esoteric interpretation should bring back this mystery—as the particular expression—to a metaphysical, universal, and super-Christian plane. The fact that even these authors touch so many points of Judeo-Christian scriptures containing effectively initiatic elements without even realizing it, proves that it would be difficult for them to recognize the gift of “gnosis”.
 In this regard, the expressions of the liturgy of Holy Saturday with reference to the baptismal waters are characteristic: “Deem it worthy, Holy Spirit, to make fruitful with the secret mixture of your divine virtue, this water prepared for the regeneration of men, conceived by sanctification, may emerge from the immaculate womb of this divine font, a celestial race, a renewed creature.” [This is my adaptation of the translation from the the 1962 Missal, modified to match Evola’s translation, which he apparently took from Kremmerz]
 Strictly speaking, in Catholic theory, one even goes beyond the sign, as far as the belief in the magical power of the rite. Regarding that, it is the case, for example, for the power of “dissolving” in the rite of absolution, that would certainly suspend the karmic law of cause and effect.
 After the period of Greek patristics, they are limited almost exclusively to German mystics, starting with Meister Eckhart.