The heart has its reasons that reason does not know. ~ Blaise Pascal
Evola and Gentile
During Julius Evola’s youth, Giovanni Gentile was the grey eminence of philosophy in Italy, not just in a university setting, but also close to the seat of political power. He was the epitome of the cultured European, incorporating the whole of philosophy, art, literature, and history into his comprehensive system, which he named “actualism”. So Evola’s attack on Gentile was an attack on the Italian political, intellectual, and educational edifice. Gentile never responded personally to Evola’s critique, but instead allowed his student Ugo Spirito to address the issues raised by Evola. But the first issue to consider is the fundamental aim of philosophy, and this is where the two minds differ. Gentile’s first political post was the Minister of Education, which he used to reform the Italian school system. Evola’s goal was much higher:
If Gentile could truly name the I as the “pure act” of his rationalism, then he would appear not as the university professor, whose “actualism” has the reform of the educational system as its goal, but rather as that cosmic centrality that the esoteric reveals in the types of the rishi, the yogi, Christ, and the Buddha.
So Evola’s real objection is that Gentile sells himself short; the I, in its self-actualization, should have as its goal to become a rishi, yogi, Christ, or Buddha. This, then, is the logical development of actualism that Gentile somehow missed. While Evola’s system has some defects, the goal is worthy.
To describe that goal, Evola has to incorporate elements of Oriental thought, for example, if Atman is Brahman, then how does that affect philosophy? The influence of Friedrich Nietzsche is also strong, since it is now impossible to be a philosopher without dealing with his withering critique of the decadence of Western thought and spirituality. This we will address in the next section.
Ultimately, Evola never developed the philosophy of magical idealism, certainly not to the point of developing more Christs and Buddhas. Even during the fifties and sixties, when allegedly there was a stream of young men who consulted with him, no one arose to carry on that philosophy. By then, I suppose, idealism was a non-starter as the basis for a philosophical system, and people were looking for less abstractions, turning instead to political and religious solutions to the problems posed.
Evola himself, having first promoted a philosophy of action, resorted to passivity as in the aristocrat of the soul and riding the tiger. Of course, while every Tom, Dick, and Harry nowadays claim to be an aristocrat of the soul, the rishis are still hard to find.
The Philosopher of the Future
If magical idealism is not the philosophy of the future, then we are still waiting for the philosopher of the future. Those with a sound intellect should aspire to this, and not be content with the comfortable life of writing clever and erudite journal papers. Aside from Kant, the great philosophers developed their view of life in their twenties. So start now, you can always revise it.
Now there are three claimants to the knowledge of ultimate reality: the Priest, the Philosopher, and the Prophet. Borrowing an insight from Valentin Tomberg, we can say that the philosopher works in the day through the light of reason, the prophet in the night through direct illumination from God, and the priest is the mediator between the light and the darkness. The philosopher of the future will probably be in tension with the other types, while still needing to incorporate their insights.
The philosopher must first deal with facts, then an understanding of the facts, and finally indicate how that affects our lives. The fundamental facts have been summarized by Arthur Schopenhauer: the world as will and idea. Here we find the Traditional doctrine of the two worlds of being and becoming. The “world” referred to is that of becoming, and the “idea” is the world of being. Here are some examples.
Plato, and the line following him, called the will “eros”, i.e., the drive or “love” of wisdom. Wisdom, for him, is to know the world of being. For Nietzsche, this overvaluing of the “other” world in Plato and in the Christianity which built on Platonic ideas, led man away from his true calling of being fully loyal to the earth. There is no other worldly afterlife beyond this world, but only its endless repetition. The Will to Power replaced eros. In denying the world of being, Nietzsche denies God, or better, God, for him, is yet to come.
As a Traditional thinker, Evola opposed Nietzsche’s biologism, while incorporating his more important insights. While not denying the world of being, he changed man’s relationship to it. First of all, he retained Nietzsche’s emphasis on will and action; this, as we have seen, brought him into conflict with Rene Guenon. Now action can be understood in two ways. The conventional way is to see it as “horizontal”, i.e., as activity wholly in the world of becoming. A deeper way is to understand it “vertically”, i.e., as the actualization of potentialities. In this way, Evola can claim that it is insufficient to know the truth, one must also will the truth. This implies absolute freedom.
The philosopher of the future can build on this. A rishi, or a seer, is more like a prophet than a philosopher. Hence, he must learn to think with his heart as well as with his head. If the goal of philosophy is to bring God’s presence into the world, then he must learn to do that himself. To be free means to have no sufficient reason outside oneself, so the philosopher must be free. Since for God, essence and existence coincide. Hence, the philosopher of the future must actualize all his possibilities. Now we mean the philosopher is God-like in the relative, not the absolute sense. How that is so, will be the task of this philosopher to explain.
The Religion of the Future
The religion of the future will be based on gnosis. This is not a new religion, but rather a deeper understanding of what religion is and means. In other words, it is the actualization of religious or spiritual understanding. This is reflected in various states of consciousness, both psychological and spiritual. I am not making this up and have amply documented how this has always been the case.
There are two false claimants to the religion of the future: one is to alter it to bring it into conformism with modernity, the other is to repeat the religious forms of the past. Now there is no problem with the second option for those who are satisfied with it. But the prophet of the future will write a large book on the phenomenology of the soul.