This is the final installment of Julius Evola‘s essay on Emile Coué. Section I was an overview of couism, Section II dealt with it from the psychological point of view, and Section III analyzes it from a metaphysical or spiritual point of view.
The spiritual level overcomes all dualities, so force cannot be understood as working against an “outside” object. Rather, the unmoved mover “acts without acting” in the Taoist and Aristotelean sense. Therefore, in conceiving or imagining something, it brings this about “without effort”. Thus, Evola claims that couism needs to be raised up from the unconscious. The “imagination” is a higher faculty (it is one of the “wits” or internal senses. See, e.g., The Phenomenology of the Medieval Mind).
In this state, Evola claims, one will have power not just over the body and its vegetal functions, but even over physical nature. Unfortunately, couism itself is just a tool and not a road to get to that state. For that, “faith” is necessary. But faith in what? Does the “I” simply believe whatever it wants, or is there really a transcendent revelation that is necessary? Here Evola seems to fall short. As long as the quicksand of the subconscious is full of “obscure and murky” ideas, the I cannot lift itself by its own bootstraps from that trap.
In order to specify the meaning of that change of interior level, we can add the following observations. A rather profound truth stands behind the opposition of the will and imagination. We are accustomed to consider force as a near synonym to coercion, to reduce the will to mean muscular, but that however presumes an antithesis, a resistance (whether physical or moral), which the I faces and struggles against. All of so-called Western “activism” is based essentially on the concept of tension and effort. Now such a concept of action is fundamentally inferior. Referring precisely to this idea, Lao Tzu was compelled to indicate the mode of spiritual power as wei-wu-wei, or acting without acting. It is important to understand this point well.
It finds its best illustration in the Aristotelian concept of akineton kinoun, i.e., of the unmoved mover. The one, who is really the cause, does not move: he remains firm at the point of pure creative initiative. Movement takes place only in the effect, in what proceeds from him and of which he remains the master and calm director. In this sense he, properly speaking, does not act: he conceives—he only produces the movement, he causes action without being dragged into the movement and passion, without engaging himself, but effecting it and dominating it. Such is the meaning of wei-wu-wei.
The same idea is found in the Shakti Tantra. The moment of the permanent (Shiva) is in the positive or masculine power, and the negative, or feminine is that of the dynamic and active power (Shakti). This is in open contrast with the western views which, having lost at this point any trace of the higher mode of the spirit, consider action relating to the simple demiurgic force, passion, manias, mere actuality or spontaneity as positive and masculine, i.e., having its own principle outside itself (and such is the truth of the “evolutionistic” doctrines such as those of Bergson and Gentile). This is, actually, to be called passive and feminine. Hence, even the deep sense of the opposition, in Christian Gnosticism, of the “pneumatic God” to Yaldabaoth, the demiurge God and creator.
The spiritual, by hypothesis, is superior to every antithesis or polarity; the material is instead formed in it and for this reason, its principle is struggle. The same concept of force—just as Guyau correctly noted—arises outside of the relationship to a resistance, so that it, in an absolute way, does not indicate potency, but impotency. Instead, the spiritual never needs to “struggle”, it unfolds in a calm way without fighting. Hence, the profound meaning of the paradoxical aphorism of Lao Tzu, that “truly victorious army is the one that has never fought.”
It is a matter of an inner and subtle action that is irresistible since it is part of the level of a principle, that has nothing against itself, that is entirely and hierarchically superior to every antithesis and polarity of the material or moral plane. This “creative indifference”—as Friedlander-Mynona calls it—that is pure, subtle conceiving, is referred to again, in the Kabbalistic tradition, and the eleventh Arcanum of Force in the Tarot, in which the symbol of a woman holds tight the jaws of a furious lion without any effort, exhibits, precisely the manner of spiritual causality, the mistress of every violent force and every physical determinism. On the other hand, the Lodge, it is in the curious words: “he walks with a stick; therefore rifles discharge with a wave of his hand.”
Now, it is precisely such acting without acting that it is necessary to refer to when Coué speaks of the “imagination”: the world of this imagination, just as we expressly mentioned, is indeed not an acting in the proper sense, but instead a self-representation, a pure, interior apperception—something that becomes, insensibly and subtly, almost from nothing. The will is, to tell the truth, a principle connected to the physical being and the environment, a product of biological contingencies: it therefore necessarily submits to the limits and the conditions of the life of relation and the material plane. In the “imagination”, the reflection of “acting without acting” is instead expressed, or acting without effort for higher spiritual spontaneity. In it, the I can therefore have a true magical organ, an organ by which it can assert itself over whatever eludes the willpower in the strict sense: over its emotivity and over its physiological being, and not only, but even— this affirmation does not seem too audacious—over physical nature.
The day will come in which one will realize that everything that man realizes by means of positive science over nature is only an illusion of power: in fact, it does not truly dominate in the various mechanisms devised by technology, but makes itself the slave and always more dependent on the various natural laws that it presupposes, recognizes, and exploits. And that is because the scientific attitude is essentially extroverted and separative and because its level is that of the I opposed to the non-I and not that of the principle that understands this duality and is interiorly superior to it. The secret of our impotency is precisely this: that we are preoccupied by things, that our action is almost magnetized by them, that it never truly draws its determination from its own interiority. We put ourselves on the same plane of phenomena or the outer world, although we are subject to its laws. Should one instead place himself for an inner conversion at the level of that which rules phenomena, what external thing could no longer be resisted? Now in “faith”, “imagination”, etc., there is precisely a suggestion of such a level. If we would know that we do not see or act relying only on a pure affirmation or inner certainty, then we would unlock the realm of the only real power. This is active faith: the popular saying that faith is blind is spot on. But such blindness is not a privation, it is instead a perfection; it symbolizes the pure freedom where the “seeing” here would signify it was tied, it was subject to the law and the principle of the “other”.
Coué’s merit is therefore to have brought to light the inferior, negative character of the will properly (or improperly) called, in general, that of violent and antithetical action against the subtle mode of a realization without effort that, to tell the truth, stops being “sensible”. His defect is not having understood “imagination” as a higher level of the spirit, but of having substantialized it superstitiously in a type of distinct entity opposed to the conscious I, to be used via small expedients. His method acutally does not center on the I in the role of the “imagination”, but seeks instead to excite it from the outside through the technique of relaxation and repetition. Thus, in order to empower the conscious individuality, to elevate its pure energy to the luminous peak of a pure act, couism estranges the I from itself, doubles it in a type of hysterical dissociation. Then the imagination adopts the obscure murky power of the subconscious, studied by psychoanalysis that, in such cases, has this advantage over cousim: it seeks to penetrate and resolve it in clear consciousness, where cousim does not care about that, but only to make it work. And such a scission, admitted in principle, brings a serious consequence. If the subconscious then comes about as a distinct entity, man will also be able to dominate with it this or that element that previously eluded him, he will also be able to make his warts and his asthma disappear, but never will he be able to guarantee an autonomy to what he wants and that he can only be the effect of obscure subconscious processes, which he does not know, nor can he know anything about them.
The same reasons in the name of which he could use or subject the subconscious—given also that he succeeds in it—would be able in their turn to be just the symbols of subconscious impulses: every freedom could be only the peripheral appearance of the instrument of an irrational and impenetrable force.
This essay on couism and its problems that arise from it suffices for now. Everyone sees that it is a matter of passionate questions, which would merit being considered and amplified rather more than what has so far been done.