The Way of Living Thought (I)

This is Part 1 of two parts of an article that originally appeared in EreticaMente as La via del pensiero vivente come controparte operativa del pensiero di Julius Evola by Fabio Mazza. It is translated and published with the permission of the author.

Julius Evola was involved with various anthroposophists, not only with the Ur/Krur Groups, but even with their active participation in the political life of Italy at that time. Evola respected Rudolf Steiner for his “operative” teachings, but not for the anthroposophical doctrine in itself. Certainly, he liked the idea of a “spiritual science” although Evola gave it the name “metaphysical positivism”. Evola even included two pictures of Steiner in Sintesi as a representative of the nordic-dinaric race. Curiously, the same pictures were not included in the German translation of Sintesi.

Part II ⇒

Among the vast literature regarding Julius Evola, we can say that not many have explored its ties with what is called “The Way of Living Thought” in its Italian form, represented first by Giovanni Colazza and subsequently by Massimo Scaligero and Pio Filippani Ronconi, the one a disciple of the other in a chain that has a direct link to Rudolf Steiner. The notorious and incontrovertible difficult relationships between Evola and such authors lead back to the perplexities that the was exercised over the Baron not by Steiner himself, but rather by anthroposophy understood as a system, inevitably corrupted by its adherents and disciples even while the “Master” was alive. It is necessary to clarify that anthroposophy arose in a period of positivism in the 19th century and undoubtedly feels certain effects of the “signs of the times”, or the password. Moreover, it was inevitable that some of the theories present in Theosophy influenced Steiner (but also quite less than it appears at the first reading). That said, we dare to think that the contrast is more apparent than real and, as we will try to show in this article, that Evola’s work is “completed” by Steiner’s and Scaligero’s and vice versa, knowing that it will generate accusations of heresy by Evolians as well as anthroposophy, and by the orthodox defenders of a “truth” that is defended by itself and certainly does not need to be transformed into a religion or mysticism. What we want to demonstrate is how Steiner and the Scaligero give, with different nuances, the operative instruments for the realization of “states” (or of propedeutic conditions for their realization) that Evola talks about in the “introduction to magic as science of the I”.

The Magical Julius Evola: The Ur Group

The fundamental premise to set out is that there would not exist a certain world, a certain “front” without Evola’s work. He set a limit, gave clarity and power never equaled, to the concept of Tradition – previously formulated in these terms only by Rene Guenon – and created its epic and ethic. One of the first, he criticized modernity and brought into question, in not suspicious times, the concept of progress, evolution, and spirituality as it was understood in the first decades of the 20th century. He was a destroyer, as was Nietzsche in another way, but a reconstruction, a normative foundation, a “having to be” was innate to Evola’s “opus destruens”. If one does not know clearly what Tradition is, first at the dialectic-normative level and then also at the sentimental and emotional level, as it was developed in history, if one has not understood that there exists an opposite front of subversion or counter-initiation, and that in the current state it threatens human civilization like never before, if one does not know clearly the ethos, as preliminary human and existential purification, then he can hardly, in our opinion, have attempted the initiatic path. A much less known aspect of his thought is however that of the “magical”, or better said, “operative”, Evola, which emerged in the experiences of the Ur and Krur groups, collected in three volumes. The Ur Group, the synthesis of men and esoterists from different backgrounds, produced in the 20s and 30s, initially for internal use, a series of articles regarding magic as the knowledge of the Self, and under this name what was necessary was not so much a meditation but rather an intuitive “subtle” effort, almost a “feeling” rather than an “understanding. The most well-known of the personalities that appeared in those volumes were Arturo Reghini, Arturo Onofri, Ercole Quadrelli, Giovanni Parise, and especially important for our purposes, Giovanni Colazza who influenced Eolva in an important way, beyond the individual differences between them.

These texts, the “operative” counterpart to Evolian thought, even if not organically integrated into his bibliography by his commentators, reveal a deep imprint of Calazza’s work, who was Steiner’s closest disciple. He was also Massimo Scaligero’s teacher, who was referred to him by his friend, Evola, after the war. It is however undeniable how Evola, editor of the monographs, bases a good part of the essential framework of “Introduction to Magic” on Colazza’s ideas and exercises, which were straight from Steiner. It is obvious how, particularly in volume one, and even the third volume, the passages by “Leo”, were central and representative , along with those by “Luce” (Parise) and Abraxa (Quadrelli), of the active part of the work, completed by multiple doctrinal articles and general orientation, no matter how fundamental. The efficacy of the practice of thinking became for Evola so evident that, in the edition of 1971 of the third volume, six of Steiner’s exercises were inserted with the title of “Liberation of the faculties”, while also including a personal comment. Besides, he even cites Colazza and Scaligero in Mask and Face of Contemporary Spirituality in the chapter dedicated to anthroposophy, but without naming them, declaring himself perplexed that such personalities, in whom he recognizes undisputed value, were taken by such an infatuation for Steiner. And this is a point that merits an explanation.

Rudolf Steiner and Julius Evola

Rudolf Steiner
In order to understand the relation between Rudolf Steiner and his Italian followers on the one hand, and Evola on the other, Evola’s text, already cited, is fundamental. There he treats at length some spiritual currents of the first decades of the 1900s, up to 1970. The goal is clear: to warn of the risks of an encroachment, of a fall, from the personal to the sub-personal. Be careful, Evola maintains: there exist not only spiritual and superpersonal states beyond waking consciousness, but also demonic and subhuman states, that the imprudent openings of consciousness and aberrational practices can propitiate with devastating effects. In order to do justice to that, it would suffice to consider the Italian esoteric undercurrents and their members, in order to understand how well they had pinpointed the question. Consequently, it is very important to be clear: the greater part of modern spiritual currents, far from propitiating connections with the divine and with transcendent states, instead open wide the door to states of extrasensory powers and passivity (something, among other things, maintained in black and white by Scaligero himself in his works, with reference to the action of the “hinderers”).

Among so many currents cited in the text, there is also Steiner’s anthroposophy, to whom, however, the shows he was not particularly hostile, so much so that Guenon, after reading the text, reproached him for being too soft on the Austrian master. He recognized the value of the personality as well as the validity of specific methods that he proposed, which constitute nothing new, but heavily criticized Steiner’s system for the contents referring to “humanity”, “evolution”, “peace”, etc., in fact, if taken literally, certain of Steiner’s discourses can, to anyone who is accustomed to traditional language and ancient texts, appear as humanitarian and anti-traditional discourses, if not contextualized clearly. It seems difficult therefore that Evola did not know that the whole had to be taken with a grain of salt are raises legitimate doubt that he had wanted to discourage more the adherence to anthroposophy as a “sect”, more than to the entire Steinerian discourse, understood as “science of the spirit”, as much to recognized the positivity of a scientific vocation to the supersensible, beyond romantic mysticism and religious devotion.

In fact, It is toward the end of the same passage, that Evola recognizes that the separation is possible and that the operative part of Steiner’s Rosicrucian doctrine is valid and usable. Evola says of Steiner:

In reality Steiner’s activity was remarkable. He did not properly display the characteristics of a medium or a deranged man. Under certain aspects, on the contrary, one can say that one errs in the opposite direction, that is, of a scientific-systematic spirit at any cost. If many of his conceptions are not less fantastic than the theosophical, one can only say, unlike the latter, that in his madness there is much method. In his work we find the same incomprehension in regard to the law of karma, and transmigration reduced to reincarnation, the same evolutionistic superstitions, etc. Therefore, whoever is able to effect a type of purification of that view from historical temporality, could arrive at something valid. Is it possible to separate this minor part of the doctrine from the rest? That is not easy for a great number of the adherents. They swear by his magisterial word and woe to whoever touches even a single detail of the master’s doctrine. On the other hand, it is very natural that at a certain level it becomes more convenient to set down carefully the visions of cosmic evolution and the rest, than to give oneself practically to the methods of individual initiation. But doctrinally the separation can be made, in the sense that one can recognize that Steiner gave some practical teachings and the criteria of discrimination that are valid, and that can be utilized with full independence from the rest: from evolution, from reincarnation, from Christ now working in us, from the ideals of mystical collectivity and the inevitable love and so on. He understands the fundamental point: it is necessary that man fully realizes the power of clear and distinct perception, of logical thinking, of objective vision. The ideal is an exact science of the supersensible.

8 thoughts on “The Way of Living Thought (I)

  1. Mr. Citadel, Steiner is a frustrating blend of great insights and absurdities. Nevertheless, he has attracted some very intelligent men such as C S Lewis’ friend Owen Barfield, Massimo Scaligero, and up to Valentin Tomberg. I’m not recommending going down that path.

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  3. To be honest, I had never even heard of Steiner, however if Evola gave him time it’s worth looking into him.

    Very interesting that Steiner had a supernatural, life-changing encounter with Christ that influenced his life. Reminds me of the reported encounter that Corneliu Codreanu had with the Archangel Michael, since of course he also had links to Evola.

  4. Anthroposophists are not big on ceremonial magic, to my experience, unless you include the rites of the Christian Community church. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming that the “operative techniques” mentioned are referring to Steiner’s extensive instructions for inner training, rather than anything ritualistic. A very interesting read, thank you.

  5. Jonathan, I put a link to his Philosophy of Freedom, which is a good place to start. It predates his theosophical period. Perhaps then, there is Knowledge of the Higher World.

    However, it may be more interesting to look at Massimo Scaligero’s works, some of which have been translated into English. He tries to balance some (but not all) aspects of anthroposophy with Evolian style Tradition. Unfortunately, a few of his books seem to have been deliberately purged.

  6. Very interesting, Cologero. Thank you for translating and sharing this article, which certainly clarifies many of the questions about Evola’s view on Steiner.

    I have not read any of Steiner’s works, but I know that most of it is translated into English, some of it even into the Scandinavian languages, of which Norwegian is my mother-tongue. Based on your own reading, Cologero, what would be the best place to start for an overview over some of the operative methods described by Steiner?

  7. Tom,

    Did Tomberg involve himself in ceremonial magic? With his background it seems likely that he was active in the theurgy, but I would hesitate to identify theurgy with ceremonial magic. Tomberg does seem to equate the work of MArtinez de Pasqually with ceremonial magic at times, but it seems that Pasqually’s methods are more in line with the sacred magic of the Empress or that described in Mouni Sadhu’s work, Theurgy.

    Here is what Tomberg says about Agrippa:

    Now, we occultists, magicians, esotericists and Hermeticists — all those who want
    to “do” instead of merely waiting, who want “to take their evolution in their own
    hands” and “to direct it towards an aim”—are confronted with this choice in a
    much more dramatic way, I should say, than is so for people who are not concerned
    with esotericism. Our principal danger (if not the only true danger) is that
    of preferring the role of “builders of the tower of Babel” (no matter whether personally or in a community) to watching over “as gardeners or vine-growers the
    garden or the vine of the Lord”. Truth to tell, the only truly morally founded reason
    for keeping esotericism “esoteric”, i.e. for not bringing it to the broad light of day
    and popularizing it, is the danger of the great misunderstanding of confusing the
    tower with the tree, as a consequence of which “masons” will be recruited instead
    of “gardeners”.

    And then the problem that disquieted Agrippa of Nettesheim, author of the
    classic work on magic, De Occulta Philosophia: How could it be that the author
    of this book, in which one finds a multitude of things based on authentic experience,
    how could it be that he, the enthusiastic adept, became the skeptic disenchanted
    with life who wrote De Incertitudine et Vanitate Scientiarum (“On the
    Uncertainty and the Vanity of the Sciences”), which was written during his last
    years of life?

    The answer to this question is that Agrippa had built a “tower of Babel” which
    was later blasted by a “thunderbolt from above”. It was higher reality which made
    all the “sciences of the supernatural”—to which he had devoted the best years of
    his life —appear vain to him. The tower was shaken, but the way of heaven was
    opened. He was free to begin again, i.e. in a condition to enter upon the way of
    growth.

  8. Interesting. What do you make of Tomberg, Levi, Agrippa, etc., who all were deeply involved in ceremonial/operative magic of this type, only to later dismiss it as a vanity (in Agrippa’s case, specifically)? It is never denied that these operations are effective, but many of these authorities seem to indicate that their power is nevertheless insignificant compared to what can be achieved through “standard” devotional mysticism. Although operative magic would seem for these men to have been at the very least a necessary stage through which they passed, they themselves insist to the contrary (again, thinking again of Agrippa in particular, who says that those who practice the arts he described when he was younger are destined to suffer the infernal fate of Simon Magus).

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