The Eternal Race

In The Eternal Race, Julius Evola explains the doctrine of the “race of the spirit“. Unlike the race of the soul, which is contingent and changeable, the race of the spirit is transhistorical. The way to access it is through the originary symbols and myths of a people. Evola describes the method, dangers, and value of this type of research.

Although the context is much different, this is not essentially much different from methods described by Valentin Tomberg; this undoubtedly arises from their deep and comprehensive knowledge of Hermetism. Remarkably, it is not unlike the “phenomenology” of John Paul II in the Theology of the Body. The latter treats the first chapters of Genesis as the myth of the origins of the entire human race.

For Evola, however, the goal is to determine the spiritual roots of specific peoples. He expects a “super race” to arise, which is really Guenon’s “elite” who, by recovering the original spiritual impulse of a people, will inaugurate a new civilization.

What follows is some background information for understanding the text.

Evolutionism

Evola rejects “evolutionism” because it assumes that man evolved from a lower state to a higher state. This is a false metaphysical claim, although most people today assume it as a biological fact. What is too often called the “theory of evolution” is a misnomer; “neo-Darwinism” is a more accurate term (although there are alternatives), since it is based on the addition of Mendel’s work on genes as the mechanism to explain heredity in Darwinism. However, strictly as science, there is no direction or aim to it. Humans can arise from apes just as readily as an ape from a human (and the latter is more observable.) There is only a problem when science oversteps its bounds.

Klages and Jung

Carl Jung is easily misunderstood. In his autobiography, he explains that qua scientist, he can only make psychological claims. This is what Evola objects to. However, Jung also said that the archetypes have more than a psychological significance.

Ludwig Klages is a different story. Lucian Tudor describes Klages’ philosophy of biocentrism in this way:

Biocentrism posited an essential distinction between Seele (Soul?) and Geist (Spirit), which conflict each other in human life. The Geist is the nous, the pneuma, or the logos … what we would call in ordinary speech the intellect, the reason, the spirit, the mind…. The Seele corresponds to the Greek psyche. It is the living principle, the vital spark … and one with the body, soma. Biocentrism is a romanticist and anti-rationalist philosophy which poses the Soul as positive and the Spirit as negative. According to Biocentric theory, human beings had originally – in primordial, ancient times – lived ecstatically in accordance to the principle of Leben (Life, which is held as the ultimate value, to be distinguished from mere existence) and in a harmonious relation to the cosmos and the sensual world of images.

In Biocentric theory, at some point in history the force of the Spirit intruded into life and caused humans to use abstract, conceptual (as opposed to symbolic) thought and rational intellect, thus beginning the severing of body and Soul … Biocentric philosophy also attacked Judeo-Christianity as a Logocentric religion opposed to Life and upheld ancient Paganism (which has a Dionysian character centered around vitalistic, feminine values) as the Biocentric religion of Life.

Obviously, Biocentrism is absurd from a Traditional point of view, so, for Evola, it is not only false but dangerous. However, it is implicit in much of neo-pagan reconstructions, which seeks to live in immediacy with no sense of the truly transcendent.

Positive Sources

Evola mentions Fustel de Coulanges and Bachofen as being of fundamental importance. Evola’s work will be understood better by those who have read those authors.

9 thoughts on “The Eternal Race

  1. Pingback: James J. O'Meara, "Forward -- Into the Past! Circling the Cosmos with Herr Prof. Dr. Ludwig Klages" | Counter-Currents Publishing

  2. Here is an interesting experiment to see if a contemporary political movement can be based on Traditional principles: The Esoteric Voice of Gabor Vona’s Spiritual Mentor

  3. Of interest i believe, the lost/last interview of Evola from french television has been published here;

  4. This is Evola’s alternative to evolution: Esoteric Origin of the Species.

    As we pointed out, the “Theory of Evolution” is a poor choice of words, since it implies a “direction” of evolution, from more primitive to more advanced. That is NOT what science qua science can show. Nevertheless, that is how it is viewed in the popular mind. Obviously, the Traditional viewpoint is that there is a degeneration over time, not a progression. Moreover, science has not proved, nor will it prove, a material cause for the human spirit.

  5. I am unsure as to how completely Evola rejects Evolution. Does he contend that the entire theory and its evidences are junk science, or is his claim more nuanced, positing his own historiography on the eternal race as a more purely metaphysical account rather than one rooted in what scientists would call ‘evidence’?

    I’m leaning towards the former, that Evola considers the theory of evolution to be absolute junk, and affirms man created in present form.

  6. Cologero, I definitely agree that there should be a standard of Paganism; a clear definition of what truly defines Paganism in all of its various forms across the world, which allows one to properly separate it from non-Pagan ideas and religions. What I meant by my remark is that to actually ascertain what Paganism truly is is not a simple task and can only be attained by reading a variety of authors’ works, and attaining the ability to distinguish what is valid and invalid in each author after attaining an understanding of the essence of Paganism.

    I believe that the more Biocentrist authors (Klages, Stachniuk, D.H. Lawrence, etc.) all grasped some truths about Paganism’s defining characteristics, but Biocentrism misunderstands Paganism because it condemns all transcendence in favor of pure Life, whereas, by contrast, at the essence of Paganism is a complex, merged valuing of Life and Transcendence. Therefore, it can help to read authors like Klages to understand Paganism, but just reading these authors ultimately leads to an invalid understanding. Sure, Bachofen and Fustel de Coulanges should included in our list of authors that should be read in the study of Paganism, but recall that these are both academics from the 19th Century (and it is always proper to compare the works of different academics who have disagreements on the facts, as opposed to only reading one academic perspective on a subject) and they are also imperfect because different studies and facts have emerged since that time. It is necessary to include in one’s study of Paganism modern intellecutals/scholars such as Eliade, Gilbert Durand, Nigel Pennick, Christopher Gérard, Alain de Benoist, etc. I cannot imagine a proper understanding of Paganism in the global sense being achieved without studying several different authors to some extent.

  7. Mr Tudor, we would certainly include Bachofen and Fustel de Coulanges as primary sources to understand the pagan mind and spirit. I disagree with your encyclopedic approach of comparing and balancing a variety of viewpoints. Either there is a standard of truth or there is not. Our primary interest, therefore, is whether a particular viewpoint adheres to or opposes that standard.

  8. A more complete and effective exposition of Klages’s thought can be found in the essays (available online) by Joseph Pryce and Lydia Baer. While I believe that authors like Ludwig Klages (or Jan Stachniuk, to cite a somewhat similar thinker) are useful for understanding Paganism as well as Lebensphilosophie, I think it is invalid to view their thought as the only representative form of Pagan philosophy. It is quite clear from Pryce’s work, for example, that Stefan George and Klages had differing focal points for their Paganisms. Furthermore, I believe that more academic authors, historians of religion, such as Mircea Eliade provide the most true understanding of Paganism and its approach to the Sacred. However, it is best to compare and balance out a variety of viewpoints.

  9. Klages philosophy is clearly derived from Nietzsche. ..a lot of neopaganism is just Nietzscheanism as opposed to a revival of Greco Roman thought.

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