In Section II, Julius Evola offers a critique of Emile Coué‘s explanation for the successes of his method, and then provides his own explanation.
Making the connection between the “deep conviction of the subconscious” and “faith”, Evola then relates it to the “vexed question” of “grace”. In other words, why do some have faith and others do not? Or, in more practical terms, why are some healed by couism while most are not? However, Evola here is interested only in a psychological explanation, not a metaphysical one. So “grace” means only that its origin seems to come from outside rather than from one’s own powers. This is a different question from the metaphysical meaning of grace.
First of all, while faith is the belief in something unseen, it is more than that since it reaches deeper that our everyday I that we consider to be conscious. This I, however, is engaged embroiled in dualisms: subject-object, true-false, right-wrong. The deeper I, on the other hand, is non-dual: it simply is and it wills one thing. There is a certain seemingly “heroic” attitude that sees doubt as concomitant with faith. But that is to remain perpetually at the level of that “I of awakening” while never penetrating to depths.
Rather, the proper development of faith is gnosis, i.e., the direct realization that has been mentioned several times in Evola’s essay. In this regard, Valentin Tomberg is a more reliable guide as we have shown in The Elements of Sacred Magic.
To his credit, Evola does not deny the numerous preternatural and miraculous accounts of the saints, and, growing up in Italy, he would have heard of many. Therefore, he rejects a glib positivism that rejects miracles out of hand. In contrast, he develops a “metaphysical positivism” that would account for the reality described in those stories. Nevertheless, in the final analysis even metaphysical positivism leaves out something essential.
He rightly rejects the claim that the method of couism is sufficient in itself, apart from the person of the patient. Otherwise, if the method worked indifferently, there would be couism centers in every city instead of hospitals. At some point, it is up to the patient to develop faith or the image of his healing. Every suggestion, to be effective, eventually becomes an auto-suggestion. Not only the belief in couism, but also the belief in any ceremonial, ritualistic, sacramental, or symbolic forms have no power in themselves other than to motivate faith in those who need it.
Some, however, do not require any such aids. This would mean, fundamentally, that a man can do without a Tradition. Such a man, however, would not know what to have faith in, and hence would not find gnosis. Typically, he would actually be a secularist. The symbols cannot be discarded so readily. Yet, any psychological explanation can never be complete as long as something supernatural or transcendent remains unaccounted for (which it must, in psychology).
Nevertheless, Evola’s emphasis that a personal realization is somehow always involved and that repetition for its own sake is useless is sound. Yet, there is one miracle that Evola’s purely psychological explanation does not capture. That is Peter’s raising Tabitha from the dead and the dead, presumably, are immune to a hetero- or auto- suggestion.
The great problem that comes into play in couism is that of the construction of faith. In fact, it becomes clear to everyone that that deep conviction of the subconscious that Coué speaks of is nothing other than faith. Fundamentally, it comes back to the vexed theological question of grace. The principle that faith, once reached, is an irresistible power, which immediately realizes what it believes is true, has been known from the most remote times and, at least in a certain measure, has since been scientifically sanctioned by modern psychology. And the significance of faith is not only subjective, it is also objective. The accounts of the miraculous phenomena that envelopes the figures of saints and creators of religion—so lightly discarded by so-called positivism—are in reality take inspiration from. Of the similar phenomena of yoga and magic, the principle, in the final analysis, is faith or, if one prefers, autosuggestion. Explanation:
- At the first level, I can have the simple, empty concept of a thing.
- Beyond that, I can bring it to life in the imagination.
- In the third place I can perceive it exteriorly as a subjective hallucination.
- In the fourth place, I can act on other consciousnesses in a way that they also perceive it (collective suggestion).
- The same power, continued in an ever more intense affirmation that invests the level of physical being, becomes objective and, as such, is a magical act.
As the mage can be defined as the one who knows how, so to speak, to influence the same nature, to communicate his faith to it, with which one is preliminarily put in relationship by means of an act of love or sympathy.
However beyond that, the great question is to know if, and in this case, how, faith can be constructed positively and consciously by the I, and, to tell the truth, beyond any suggestion whatsoever. In the great number of cases, it is to be noted that the I does not possess faith as much as it is instead possessed by it. I.e., in them, faith is realized to the extent it does not flow from an absolute sufficiency, from a pure self-asserttion of the individual, but from the suggestion derived from some idea, close to which the I originally—in the moment in which it was triggered—is passive and unconscious. So that if it is true that no suggestion (hetero-suggestion) succeeds if it does not make itself an autosuggestion, it is also true that, almost uniformly, no autosuggestion (with particular regard to those that can extend the power of the I beyond normal) is actuated if it does not have a preliminary suggestion as a basis for motivation. That is, the I does not succeed in being present, to assert itself at the moment of the initiative. So the person of faith at Lourdes, in as much as it heals, to that extent he believes that it is not he, but divinity, who works the healing; to the extent the hypnotized person carries out miracles, to that extent the initiative, the suggestion, comes to him not from himself, by from the hypnotizer. And that, to tell the truth, can extend to a great number of Coué’s patients, who heal to the extent that they believe either in Coué, or in the efficacy of the “method”, or, at least, in the existence of the “subconscious”, that he, and not themselves in naked individual affirmation, will know how to heal them.
Actually, for example, one would like to see if the healing of so many persons—after Coué’s invitation—as soon as they affirm that they are cured, would have likewise occurred if it were any of the readers who made that invitation to them. On the other hand, we must note that the various miracles of the saints, at least in Western mysticism, were experienced in the spirit of the intervention of a higher and transcendent power. The same magic is related to the whole of ceremonial, ritual, symbolic, etc., manifestations which are only the necessary substitute for those who do not know how to create the powers of the imagination by means of a positive central initiative, but attain them only indirectly by virtue of the suggestion emanating from a complex of extrinsic elements. Nothing other than this absence of oneself from the principle of a positive initiative, this incapacity to create faith kath’auto [in himself], gives the meaning to what is indicated as “grace” in Western theology. However, even if there is grace, conscious autosuggestion is a useless name: for the starting point, it has an unconscious autosuggestion (a hetero-suggestion)—a mystery and a passivity; and then the I appears the instrument of faith, not its creator and the possessor.
Such therefore is the true light under which the requirement emerging from couism must be examined. Now the idea that for the construction of faith an automatic repetition of formula in a state of relaxation is sufficient, is rather ingenuous. First of all, we must note—as was done above—that a great number of persons who succeed with such a method are already hetero-suggested, directly or indirectly, by Coué or by those who tell them about him and his doctrines. In the second place is the fact that the imagination or faith is invariably presumed in itself; i.e., one does not achieve it starting from something different from it, but rather starting from an initiative that resides in it and not in the peripheral faculties of normal consciousness. So that it is said: “The blind man does not have any possibility of making himself a guide.” If the repetition is simply mechanical, if it is not already accompanied by a certain level of interior evidence, it results in nothing, and regarding that, anyone can perform the experiment whenever he wants.
In the East, where these things were studied at their foundation, they likewise recognize the importance of japa (repetition) through the “realization” of the so-called mantra (magical formula); however, it is explicitly said that one can do japa even a million times, but unless the mantra is “understood”, “awakened” (sphota), the japa remains a mere flapping of the lips. This “self-awakening” of the mantra is an illuminative moment; of pure inner evidence (so it is said in the texts that “awakening” the mantra means to realize it in one’s essence “made of light”, Jyotirmaya), which can be propitiated and intensified from repetition, but not generated, for that demands a true spiritual spontaneity, an effective passing of consciousness from one “dimension” to another.
It is a question of the same qualitative heterogeneity that intercedes between the concentration of the fire of a lens over a substance and its sudden burning up—naturally considering the phenomenon not from the physical point of view, but from that of the psychological effect in a spectator. Therefore, it is not necessary to have any illusions of the efficacy of the “method”: one can be certain that wherever it succeeds without a true initiative or inner conversion coming into play to animate it —of which very few are capable—it succeeds not through its own power, but rather through some hetero-suggestion that unconsciously is insinuated into the process. And then, from the practical point of view, the result will be able to be equally good: its spiritual value, in reference to the previously mentioned problem, is therefore nullified.