Purity as Metaphysical Value

This is the introduction from the article titled “Purity as a Metaphysical Value” by Julius Evola. It was published in Bilychnis, the journal of the Baptist Theological School of Rome. It is dated June, 1925, volume XXV.

Wheel of Fortune
There are two distinct ways that man can try to transcend the contingency and misery of the mundane world in relationship with the divinity. In the first, we presume that God is distinct from man, in a way that the relationship can only be extrinsic as in faith, prayer, devotion, or the observance of determinate moral principles to which one recognizes a higher validity. In the other, we postulate instead an ideal continuity between man and God, in a way that the relationship has the meaning of a real identification, of a joining of man to God, not with words, thoughts, or feelings, but rather by making oneself the God himself. This is the mystical and esoteric way, in contrast to the way of devotional religion. In the latter, therefore, the human state of existence is accepted and kept also close to faith in existence and a higher law; in the other, one would instead desire to truly transform without residue such a state, made of death and darkness, into the glory of a divine life.

In relationship to this difference, there are two absolutely distinct modes of realization of the concept of “purification”. Here we will be concerned only with the esoteric doctrine of purification, a rather impressive doctrine, about which however current culture knows only little or nothing. We will not dwell on the question of sources: it they are essentially connected to the Orient, and in particular to the tantric school and to the magical and alchemical offshoots of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism, allusions to Greek mystery wisdom and pre-Socratic philosophy, elements of neoplatonism and a certain Christian mysticism—beyond formulations by no means different from what is present in the Kabbalistic, Hermetic, and Rosicrucian traditions.

We will not dwell on that both for reasons of space as well as the great difficulty of justifying with fresh cultural references that insofar as it is understood, to that extent a given interior attitude allows one to read between the lines, essentially for this reason: what matters is to present the doctrine in its logico-metaphysical essence, so that it constitutes something standing for itself, independent of beliefs, opinions, and various empirical elements that may have incorporated it.

We will immediately say that in the esoteric field the concept of purification has absolutely nothing moralistic about it. Instead, it is a question of a metaphysical value that, in its naked positivity, brings us back to the very literal meaning of the word. That which is not simply itself and from itself (kath’auto) must be called impure, in general, i.e., it is contaminated by something else. Wherever, there is another, there is impurity: the other adulterates the being and renders it impure.

A passage from Eckhart can make that clear:

Let’s suppose that I take a burning coal and put it in my hand. If I said that it is the coal that burns my hand, I would be wrong. If I must truly indicate what burns me, I must instead say: it is the “nothing” that burns me! Since the coal has something in itself that my hand does not have! Precisely this “nothing” burns me. If my hand, instead, had in itself everything that the coal is and produces, it would entirely possess the nature of fire: and then when I also took all the fire that has ever burned and put it in my hand, it could no longer harm me

That is, the being that is sufficient in the totality of life, would not have another against itself. Enclosed in an intangible unity, he would rest there and would indulge in it, loving himself alone and creating through this solitary love everything that creates. The point of the sufficient fails—then the unity is adulterated, a “nothing” is acknowledged so that, against the identity, the lauton, the other rises, the eteron. This other is not therefore anything real in itself; it is simply the reflection and the symbol of that deficiency that is produced in the being. Its substance being absolutely negative—not living for itself, but through the corruption of the perfect life—it is contingent in itself, that is, it subsists only in as much as, and as long as, the state of privation and imperfection remains in the being or in the I.

From this, the meaning of purifying: to purify means to bring life to the level of sufficient existence, of possession, of autarky, burning the dark privation of which it, at the point of finite and individual existence, is soaked and suffers from violence. From that, the concept of the impure act proceeds, which is clearly borrowed from the Aristotelian concept of the imperfect act: the impure is therefore the act of that power that does not reach actuality from itself, but that are needy of the complicity of the “other”. Such is, in order to immediately provide an example, the visual act, since in it the power of seeing is not sufficient in itself, does not produce vision from itself, but it needs a connection with a sensible object. What we will say below will clarify these points that perhaps now are expressed a little too abstractly.

The point on which, however, it is fundamentally necessary to focus attention, if one wants to understand the true meaning of the need of purification, is this: that the impure (or imperfect) act resolves the deficiency of the agent only apparentlyit in reality reconfirms it. Man, for example, is thirsty: until he drinks, he will continue to be thirsty, since by drinking he confirms the state of one who does not have in himself his own life (to autarkes), but instead asks it from another. But this other—water and the rest—is only the symbol of his deficiency, and inasmuch as he feeds on it, and it demands his life, he in truth feeds only his own privation and remains in it avoiding that pure act, that eternal water through which every thirst, just as every other privation, would be forever expunged. Hence Christ says:

Jesus answered, and said to her: Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again; but he that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever. But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting. (John 4:13-14)

Therefore every impure act is a flight from the perfect life; through it the individual does not endure but surrenders. Innumerable dependencies then condition him and confine him to the realm of contingency and death, of the Platonic “thing that is and is not”, and so he goes, passive to himself, dispersed in procreation and corruptions, in the eternal wheel of periodic, always different, rebirth and forever equal in their misery.

Now that the general meaning of the doctrine of the pure and the impure has been pointed out, we can move on to specify it in relation to particular problems, and effectively to say what the purification of the mind, the will, the word, the breath, and the generative act means in esoterism.

16 thoughts on “Purity as Metaphysical Value

  1. JA

    Do you have in mind any specific work of those three writers?

  2. Paulo, if you haven’t already you should read Aleister Crowley’s writings on chastity, they are in accord with your views. Kenneth Grant is also a good source, as well as Zeena Schreck’s book on sex magic.

    I am waiting to see whether or not Cologero’s Tomberg-based Right Hand Path can give us better results than the left hand way.

  3. Evola in”Riding the tiger”,make clear that we should expect only sex from woman,he says:”The man and woman always remain conscious as two
    beings with distinct paths, who, in the world in dissolution, can overcome
    their fundamental, existential isolation ?nly through the effect ??
    PURE SEXUAL POLARITY”.Of course this exludes all the romantic expectations.This was always the goal for the true men,to be passionless.But now going back to the question of transcendence of sex,i belive is true to overcome sex with sex,since when you are truly living sex instead of thinking,you can gradually break that chain of thoughts.But for this to happen,you have to be totaly present in the sexual act,not allowing your self to get lost in the pleasure!

  4. I am not exactly sure what Evola’s views on sex practices were, aside from gossip about his personal life, but I believe that they were similar to Crowley’s in that he saw sexual magic as a physical act between two people ? Perhaps Cologero can enlighten us.

    What Evola’s beliefs were doesn’t matter though, what matters is the truth. I commented on sex to answer paulo’s question, on the theory that one can transcend sex through sex by trying to explain what Crowley (and Evola ?) thought.

    PS – I’m reading Maria de Naglowska (Baron Evola’s ex girlfriend) now……

  5. “Evola has the same idea I believe.”


    That sounds rather dangerous to me. Are you drawing this conclusion about Evola based upon this and the previous few posts? Perhaps you are seeing something I am not. Sex can be seen in the same light as the burning coal in the Eckart quote above. We want sex and are plagued by lust because we desire something we don’t have. For men, this is a lust for the feminine. As I stated above and as Cologero has expressed in previous posts, the soul in man can be seen as the feminine within. So this lust for sex can be sated by understanding that it is the soul that we truly desire. When we realize “her” within, we no longer lust for her without. Thus, we are no longer burned by the coal because we have that fire within. As Eckart says, it is the “nothing” that burns us. The passions and desires are symbols of deficiencies, which are in turn resolved in unity.

  6. Here’s the thing, OK, we need to silence all our bodily desires so we can hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit (I’m going to speak in Catholic language as that’s what I’m most familiar with) and how can we hear that voice if all we’re doing is thinking about how we wanna get laid tonight ? That’s why monks go out into the wilderness so their thoughts aren’t interrupted by all the hot babes we see in the city; but there’s a problem though, sometimes by abstaining from sex it makes us want sex even more, and so we haven’t conquered the psychological aspect of dependency (it’s like how a junkie can get off smack but he still craves it in his mind) so blokes like Crowley claim that we can overcome thinking about sex by having so much causal, meaningless sex to the point where we cease to think about it anymore and our minds can focus on God, success in this path means I guess if you’re f*$king Angelina Jolie but you’re not even paying attention to her for one second cause all you’re thinking about is how you wanna be one with Christ, you’ve conquered the need for sex. Evola has the same idea I believe.

  7. “I think what is important here is to realize what these desires truly represent. What do you truly thirst for, hunger for, desire? ”

    That is the big question?I dont have clear,what is that i want?I ASSUME THIS!

  8. Paulo,

    I think what is important here is to realize what these desires truly represent. What do you truly thirst for, hunger for, desire? Fasting and or abstinence can bring these revelations to light. I believe Cogero has mentioned before that our lust for sex in actuality is a lust for the soul in its beauty and purity. I’m not sure how one would transcend sex through sex. That sounds like indulgence rather than detachment.

  9. “Man, for example, is thirsty: until he drinks, he will continue to be thirsty, since by drinking he confirms the state of one who does not have in himself his own life (to autarkes), but instead asks it from another.”

    How can one know that the right way is to not indulge in the thirsty?And can somebody transcende the thirsty by indulging in the drinking,like some one that try to transcend sex through sex?

  10. JA, this demonstrates the purity of his mind … he provides examples that support his thesis wherever they come from and is not blinded by prejudices. This no more makes Evola a Christian than a Hindu, Buddhist, or Jew (other sources he uses). Contrast this with the irrational hatred coming from the “neo-traditionalists” of the past 50 to 100 generations of their ancestors, all the while claiming to be true to their past.

  11. Again this is exactly the same as Crowley’s teaching on morality. I agree that the only true good is what helps us transcend and the true evil is what keeps us chained down.

    I think morality has two sources – 1. the forgetting of the original purpose of practices as aids to transcendence to the point where the practices are viewed as self-justifying (very common among Catholics) and 2. the perversion of self-denial into self-hatred (common among Protestants and other milktoasts) .

  12. What amazed me is how the Baron treats Christianity positively and how he quotes Our Lord as a master.

  13. The degree of understanding and living are coincident, different degrees of understanding naturally bring out same degrees of living(or rather to call it being). If one has not lived it, it just represents that he has not truly understood, his understanding only remains in a superficial level, which does not touch his essential layer of being. There is no understanding without living, no living without understanding.

  14. After one has truly understood one expression there exists no chance of misunderstanding, other expressions are just the mirror images of it in various forms. Living and understanding are two sides of one same coin, if there is no real understanding, there is no living, if there is no real living, there is no understanding.

  15. To the contrary, it is precisely in the expression of the same truth through different languages that any chance of misunderstanding them is eliminated so that one comes to an understanding. But then again, until one has lived this truth oneself, all language about it will be lacking in essential meaning.

  16. Evola always goes round and round to use different forms of language to express one thing, if one has really understood one such description all others are unnecessary.

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