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.
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.
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.