Pantheism does not admit the existence of individual beings.
Pantheism offers only the perspective of letting oneself be lulled by the undulation of the ocean of deified nature. ~ Valentin Tomberg
There is a photo of Giulio Cogni in Julius Evola’s Sintesi di dottrina della razza with the following caption:
An Italian Nordic-Aryan type of the body with an Amazonian race of the spirit. Actually, it is a matter of a person, in whose theories an external energetic and almost Promethean aspect is mixed with a Demetrian-Lunar pantheistic vision of the world with a special recognition given to the feminine element.
Giulio Cogni was a philosopher, music critic (a specialist on Wagner), and an author of books on Eastern spirituality. After the German-Italian alliance in the 1930s, there was a scramble among Italian intellectuals to outline a Fascist understanding of race, in opposition to the German’s. The consensus was a more spiritual understanding of race. Thus Julius Evola published several works on the topic. His young friend, Massimo Scaligero, published a book on race based on some ideas from Anthroposophy. Giulio Cogni, who was a follower of the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, tried to reconcile Alfred Rosenberg with the situation in Italy. From the snippets I’ve found, Cogni denied the notion of racial superiority and, not unlike Evola, claimed that “Aryan” referred to a spiritual quality rather than a biological quality.
After the defeat of WWII, Evola more or less abandoned the topic. Scaligero and Cogni, on the other hand, managed to rebrand themselves: Scaligero as an Anthroposophist and Cogni as a Vedantist. As an indication of their success, some of their articles have been republished in the American Yoga Journal, with no mention of their Fascist past.
After the war, Evola’s and Cogni’s life paths diverged. I did find a rather long review by Evola of Cogni’s book “Io sono te: sesso e oblazione” (“You and I: sex and offering”), which highlights the differences between the two thinkers and would explain Evola’s evaluation of Cogni.
In that book Cogni proposes a pantheistic worldview based, as he claims, on the Vedanta: “we are all one”. That logically leads to an undifferentiated view of the human situation, which includes promiscuous sex, self-sacrifice, and androgyny.
Since Cogni articulates in an intelligent and sophisticated way many of the commonly held views in the modern world, the review is an apt essay for discussion. Nevertheless, due to the rather controversial nature of Evola’s objections, I have decided to make this essay private. Those who have been participating in previous meetings will be give the password to unlock the text. If you are interested in reading the review please send me a private email in the next few days.
Cogni bases his ideas on the notion of the Vedantic One, as he understands it to indicate the overcoming of all distinctions. Quoting Hegel, Evola describes this view as “the night in which all the cows are black”. I noticed this years ago when I participated in a Nisargadatta discussion group. The consensus view in that group was that, as an enlightened being, he more or less disappeared into the “One”. Nevertheless, as I pointed out, he spoke, responded to his name, etc., but that had little impact on the discussion.
In that view, there is only undifferentiated Being, so the beings we experience are illusions. “Whose” illusions they are, or why those “illusions” take such a specific form, or why do different people experience a similar world, was never made clear if only the One exists.
Jacques Maritain, in The Degrees of Knowledge provides a more satisfying answer. When I know Peter, I judge him to be a man, but even more fundamentally, I have an intuition of Peter as a being. This intuition is found everywhere, it “saturates all things”. Maritain explains our experience of Being.
Being is a primordial and general conceptual object which is at once and from the beginning essentially diverse in the diverse subjects in which the mind discovers it. What is primarily known, and in which every object of thought is resolved for the intellect, is being. But nothing can be added to it extrinsically to differentiate it, for all its differentiations issue from its own depths.
In other words, Being is known through beings. Pace Cogni, Being is already highly differentiated. In the Western tradition, this is expressed as the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Logos with Being. Evola expresses the same notion in a slightly different way:
The One dominates a well-articulated order of differences (a cosmos, in the Hellenic sense).
So, “Illusion” has a much different connotation. For Cogni, the illusion is the separateness and distinction of beings, which are ultimately part of Brahman. However, illusion is actually much more subtle, and hence, more difficult to eradicate. The illusion arises from our failure to grasp the meaning of the Whole and how the parts are interconnected. This is due to the weakness of the intellect and erratic emotional reactions.
Descending and Ascending Movements
Evola claims that Cogni fails to distinguish between the subconscious and the superconscious, with the following consequence:
Cogni has no sense of the fact that just as an “integrative ascending self-transcendence” exists, so a divisive descending self-transcendence also exists for the true personality. That is, there are possible openings of the I both toward the higher as well as toward the lower, which also means toward “nature”, toward the unconscious, toward the vital formless bottom.
In an early essay, The Holy Spirit & the Sophia, Tomberg describes that downward movement in these steps.
First the Logos descends to the conscious I. If the I is oriented to the Logos above, it is ascendant. This supersensory “Temple of Wisdom” or “House of Sophia” is the knowledge of the Whole (but not of every individual fact).
However, that movement can continue downward in these stages, each with its own type of intelligence:
- Hunger. The stream of the Logos is brought down to the level of digestive activity. This leads to a logic in which the stomach and its interests determine logic and conclusions. This is the level of Marx.
- Sex. The stream is brought down to the instinctive life. This is the level of Freud and psychoanalysis.
- Nature. The stream descends to the subterranean spheres. This logic may seem quite convincing. At its lowest point, the individual no longer thinks independently, but thoughts arise through him.
Tomberg distinguished between theism, pantheism, and naturalism, which are valid on different planes:
- Naturalism: only what is experienced through the senses is real
- Pantheism: thought alone can grasp the world. Existence is illusory, only the Absolute, One, Brahman, or God is real
- Theism: Transcends rational thought. Existence not strictly logical, i.e., cannot be derived from thought.
Evola offers something similar in this comment:
So Cogni denies that that polarity is an essential requirement of eros, which he believes concerns only the naturalistic plane, like electrical and similar phenomena. That means that for him all the documentation that we have gathered, in an entire chapter, from the most varied cultural areas, regarding the “metaphysical dyad”, might as well not exist because it contradicts his promiscuous pantheism.
Thus, on the naturalistic plane, any sexual experience is worthwhile in its own right if it is observed in natures. Neither electricity nor eros depends on a anything higher. For pantheism, the male-female polarity is just a form of thought with no ultimate reality. It is no more than one particular expression of sexuality.
Not to forget that the young Evola’s first book was a translation and commentary of the Tao Te Ching, he understands that, on the metaphysical level, the Yin-Yang, male-female, dyad is fundamental. Hence, sexual expression on the physical plane needs to mirror that.
Postscript on Sexual Intelligence
The flip side of Evola’s critique is that Cogni has empirical experience and contemporary mores on his side. As we saw above, the sex instinct has its own logic and intelligence. Those who have “transcended” the self in the descending direction will be baffled by appeals to sexual restraint based on higher principles.
The occultist Alice Bailey seemed to have had an intuition of this, making predictions that have largely come to pass. In Esoteric Healing, she wrote:
Inter-marriage between nations and races, the fusion of bloods for hundreds of years—due to migration, travel, education and mental unity—has led to there being no really pure racial types today. This is far more certainly the case than the most enlightened think, if the long, long history of mankind is considered.
The European wars of last century, not to mention more recent turmoil, have certainly exacerbated those four factors. Eros, or the sexual drive, is potent, even to the point of overcoming barriers:
Sexual intercourse knows no impenetrable barriers … The urge to mate becomes peculiarly strong when men are removed from their familiar settings and experience the novelty of complete loneliness, when the normal inhibitions and customs imposed by family relationships and national standards are removed, when danger of death is constantly faced and the larger value submerges the lesser values and the usual conventional attitudes
Appendix on the 120 Days of Sodom
Curiously, Evola accuses Cogni of tending towards the sexual excesses of the Marquis de Sade. This may not be so far-fetched, given the tendency of some on social media to associate the “right” with bondage, domination, and so on. They are not to be taken seriously.
Nevertheless, the Italian communist film director Pier Paulo Pasolini created a work based on de Sade’s book, but situated it in the Salo Republic. Perhaps he derived that association from Cogni, but certainly not from Evola who rejected such practices. Paradoxically, it was Pasolini himself who advocated sexual experimentation. He was murdered by an underage hitchhiker who objected to Pasolini’s proposition to sodomize him with a broomstick.
This post is intended as notes for the online discussion of Evola’s review of Cogni’s book on 15 Oct 2015. The complete essay is The Metaphysics of Sex and the One.