Evola next makes the distinction between the totalitarian, which he associates with Stalinesque type states, and the organic state of Tradition. The central authority can become degenerate when it tries to control everything, as in the Soviet Union. The Traditional system is based on spiritual values, the importance of the personality, and the hierarchical principle.
The traditional state is “organic”, “differentiated”, and “articulated”. That is, the state coordinates forces, making them a part of a larger unity; however, in themselves, they have a certain amount of liberty. The organic state depends on the voluntary loyalty of the hierarchical levels beneath it, so it does not need to maintain an iron control. Nevertheless, the state is all powerful and ignores the “fetish of the rule of law” in cases of necessity. Of course, that can cut both ways; presumably the positive law of the state is not “all powerful”, since it must be consistent with the transcendent law.
The organic state is divided into regions and smaller subdivisions; however, these must be natural groupings and not merely administrative structures, as apparently was the case in Italy. That would be odd, considering that the different regions had different histories, cultures, languages, and even cuisine.
Evola says the essential task of the true state is to create a general climate in which
liberty is always the fundamental factor that can take form in a way that is virtually spontaneous and which can function in the right way with a minimum of rectifying interventions.
The Ethical State
So the state has three essential roles:
- It is a higher principle or power that gives form to the nation.
- It creates a general climate
- It is the principle of a new way of life
The obvious question, therefore, is how does the state perform these tasks? Evola claims that it is more like a catalyst; he has in mind something like this from the Tao Te Ching: ‘The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.’ Obviously, that is hardly the case for Fascist Italy, since the state was ubiquitous and unavoidable.
In nations with a long history, such as China, roles (1) and (2) may be very natural. However, (3) is of a totally different order. In ancient China, why would there be the need for a new way of life? However, in Italy during the period in question, when it was still amorphous, (3) was necessarily the most essential role. That goal was to be achieved through the “Ethical State”, proposed by Giovanni Gentile.
Here, it seems to me, Evola reveals one of his irrational prejudices, such as described by Rene Guenon in his correspondence with Guido De Giorgio. The ethical state in this conception is a moral reality that “realizes itself in the free and ethical will” of the citizens based on a “religious conception of life.” I don’t see how this differs substantially from Evola’s ideals of liberty and “spiritual values”. Nevertheless, Evola is quite critical of Gentile.
As the first minister of education under Mussolini, it was Gentile’s task to reform education; so Evola’s complaint about reaching into the schools make no sense. Gentile restored religious education to the schools, returned the crucifix to the classrooms. There is a free ebook from Amazon with Gentile’s speech to educators; the tone is nothing like what Evola describes. In many ways, they align, since Gentile emphasized the will, loyalty, the ascetic life, and so on.
Another task of the educator is to maintain the continuity of the cultural life of the nation; for this, Gentile was ideally suited due to his expansive knowledge of Italian art, literature, philosophy, and history. The life of the soul of a nation cannot be neglected. In this regard, Evola was markedly deficient and showed little interest in art, music, literature and all other aspects of High Culture. The notable exceptions were his attachments to Futurism and Dada, both really anti-art and anti-poetry. They are hardly suitable to educate the child or to pass on culture, which is really the meaning of “general climate”. Dada is meaningless in itself and can only be defined in relation to true poetry.
The fundamental point is that if the religious authority and the ethical state do not educate the people, then they will be subject to the random influences of special interests. Evola is inconsistent on this point, both expecting the state to form the nation, but to do it from afar somehow, as if by osmosis.
Evola objected to the “Pronatalist Campaign”, a Fascist program to increase the birth rate, on the grounds that mere quantity does not make a strong nation. This applies to the proletariat whose only contribution to society is their progeny. As birth rates increased and death rates decreased, population increased leading to increased massification. That occurs to the extent that the masses cannot be integrated into the state, or said another way, the state is unsuccessful in their “formation”. On the other hand, as we discussed in an earlier post about Pareto, a strong peasantry keeps the people racially strong. In the years subsequent to Evola’s death, which he clearly did not foresee, the decreasing birth rates of Europe is making them weaker, not stronger. This is not unlike the Spartans whose low birth rate led to their slow extinction.
Concomitant with that, Evola brings up the topic of sexual morality. Italy, at that time, prohibited divorce, abortion, pornography, even contraception, all part of the general category of “sexual morality”. Evola attributes that to the bourgeois aspect of Fascism. As the counterpoint, Evola appeals to the “liberty of the person”. If he means that what someone does in private is not the concern of the state is one thing, actually hardly worth mentioning; however, if he means the hypersexualization of society as exists in the contemporary Western states, that is quite another.
Sexual desire is undifferentiated and egalitarian, and when that is made into the standard of behavior, the hierarchical society Evola desires becomes impossible. E. Michael Jones, in his historical studies like Libido Dominandi, demonstrates the close relationship between sexual liberation and political control. The sexualization of the West does not lead to more liberty, but precisely to its opposite. Evola seems to recognize this, but without putting it in this context:
A people and a nation will go adrift or be reduced to a labile mass in the hands of demagogues skilled in the art of acting on the pre-personal and most primitive strata of the human being.
Sexual desire certainly falls within that strata, so the ethical state, in its function of forming a free people, will want to channel that sexual energy to avoid the dangers expressed above. Hence, it is not necessarily the reflection of a puritanical attitude. Actually, for the proper warrior attitude that Evola praises so much, we can point to Marcus Aurelius, who characterized the sex act as the rubbing together of membranes to produce a spasm.
Evola concludes this chapter with Plato’s notion that the person without a sovereign within will require one without. The related idea today is the distinction between the notions of “freedom from” and “freedom to”, i.e., negative and positive liberty. When modern man has cast off the fetters, he does not know what to do, given “the lack of direction and the absurdity of modern society”. He continues:
In truth, personality and liberty can be conceived only on the basis of the liberation of the individual from naturalistic, biological, and primitively individualistic bonds that characterize the pre-state and pre-political forms in a purely social and utilitarian-contractual sense.
Evola makes an interesting distinction between anagogical and catagogical transcendence, the former toward the higher and the latter toward the lower. The anagogical means that the individual transcends himself, moving beyond his own personal interests.
The catagogical possibility
happens precisely in the “mass States”, in collectivizing and demagogic movements which are fundamentally passionate and sub-rational, and can also give to the individual the illusory, momentary sensation of an exalted, intense life, moreover such sensations conditioned by a regression, by a diminution of the personality and true liberty.
With this, Evola exposes the attraction of Leftism since, by diminishing the personality in the excitement of the mass movement, he feels alive and with a purpose. I need not go into detail here, but readers can find abundant examples of this in the many mass demonstrations and movements today. They are always vulgar, emotional, illogical, even when the cause may seem just. It is nearly impossible to communicate in depth with anyone who has made that catagogical descent into the mass mind.