Tag Archives: julius evola

The Mystery of the Grail

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher] by Julius Evola.

Evola The Mystery of the Grail Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit

It is no surprise to find Julius Evola mounting an opposition to common readings of the medieval Grail legends as Christian sacramentalism and sentimental mysticism. He wrote The Mystery of the Grail after Revolt Against the Modern World, and drew on the earlier book for the framework of degenerative hierohistory that brands his larger Traditionalist project. With a few exceptions, the Grail book takes that context as given, only rarely explaining it, or referring the reader expressly to Evola’s other books for details.

The overall arc of the work is from the general to the particular. After a section on his aims and methods, there follows a set of chapters exploring “Principles and Prior Events,” in which he surveys background and context for the seminal Grail literature, along with principal mythemes which he associates with heroic initiation. The latter is the pattern that he then goes on to chart as fundamental to “The Cycle of the Grail” in its original forms and variants. In the fourth and final section, he discusses related “historical currents” (one might say “traditions,” if that word had not already been enlisted for a more specific duty in Evola’s work): Templarism, Albigensianism, the “Love’s Lieges,” Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism.

Translator Guido Stucco may have provided an accurate text, but it is not a lovely one. His rendering of Evola’s prose makes ponderous English. I can’t say whether that reflects the style of the original Italian. Especially in the early chapters of Part Three, I sometimes felt as if I were reading among the more stylistically impaired of Arthur Edward Waite’s writings. (I’m sure Evola wouldn’t welcome the comparison! Curiously, Waite’s most grueling prose is perhaps in his own book on The Hidden Church of the Holy Grail. I wonder if it reflects some sort of transmission of opacity from the primary materials.)

My reading of the book really took a turn at almost the exact midpoint. In the chapter on “The Test of Pride,” I began to get a much more vivid sense of how Evola saw the initiatory spirit animating the legends. This perception sharpened my interest, and I continued in this manner through the following chapters until “The Grail as a Ghibelline Mystery” which concludes Part Three. Here, he identifies the Grail cycle with an (unmanifested, for the most part) ideal of the Holy Roman Empire as a “movement toward an ecumenical ‘solar’ synthesis” (120), attempting to re-integrate the dissociated kingly and priestly aspects of authority. Part four is very rewarding, supplying many points of contact among various historical phenomena of esoteric interest, and constellating them around the Grail cycle as previously explored.

An appended bibliography would have been helpful. Evola often references prior scholarship in ways too fleeting to allow students or researchers to conveniently follow his trail. Although he sometimes supplies bibliographic references in footnotes, these are generally to the primary literature of the Grail legends and to his own works. An example where bibliographic citation is frustratingly absent: “This was the thesis endorsed by Rossetti and Aroux, taken up by Valli and to a degree by Ricolfi and, more recently, by Alessandrini, though with a heavy emphasis on the merely political dimension” (145).

The epilogue is really the final chapter of the book, covering the most significant organized modern receptions of the medieval and Renaissance “currents” that Evola treats in the fourth section. He has no ideological sympathy for these: Freemasonry and Theosophy he views as anti-traditional purveyors of pseudo-initiation. He supplies a useful review of the points of congruence that, he would say, serve as the means of subverting materials usurped from traditional initiation. But then he goes on to advert to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as a “satanic” conspiracy animating bourgeois societies and global Communism (172-3). Wagner also comes in for abuse on account of his “arbitrary, pseudomystical, and decadent” misrepresentation of the Grail cycle (174).

Evola concludes in a chilling and invidious manner that “the invisible and inviolable center, the king who must awake, and the avenging and restorating hero are not mere fancies of a dead and romantic past, but rather the truth of those who, today, alone may legitimately said to be alive” (175). The final ten words confirm my antagonism for Evola, since I hold in contrast that Every man and every woman is a star.

The Mystery of the Grail

The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit by Julius Evola, reviewed by Julianus, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Evola The Mystery of the Grail

This book originally formed an appendix to the author’s Revolt Against the Modern World, which he later expanded into a book in its own right. Evola’s thesis is that the Grail Cycle forms a Pagan “northern” mystery distinct from the “southern” Christian religion, and that this represented an Imperial “resistance” to the Church in the Middle Ages. I am not entirely convinced of this, but there is much interesting analysis of the Grail legends in here.

Revolt Against the Modern World

Julianus reviews Revolt Against the Modern World by Julius Evola in the Bkwyrm archive.

Baron Julius Evola (1898 – 1974) is the leading Italian representative of the “Traditionalist” school, whose better-known members include Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon. Evola seems to be a “difficult” member of this group, as much because of his popularity among the European far-right as for his championing of the Warrior nature over that of the Priest. As this is one of his more “political” works I was rather surprised to see it translated, although English versions of his books on Tantra and Alchemy are available from the same publisher.

Revolt is divided into two parts. Part one, where he describes the characteristic features of an ideal Traditional society is by far the better. His concept of Royalty as the centering force of a civilisation, combining the Warrior and Religious functions, and the distinction he makes between Empire and mere imperialism, are significant and fundamental. Part two, which is a “meta-history” of the progressive degeneration of Tradition over the past millennia, is rather weaker. Evola presents history as the conflict between the Tradition of the Northern Races of Hyperborea (a masculine, ascetic, individualistic, transcendental, solar, warrior culture) and the anti-Traditional Southern Races (who are feminine, sensual, collectivist, lunar, and dominated by priests.) As the above makes clear, Evola’s thought has a strong dualist tone with (ironically) a reliance on some rather un-Traditional turn of the century anthropology. He also displays a glaring misogyny that any psychologically-inclined critic would have a field day with. Still, there is much in part one to interest any Thelemite, and for anyone this is a good book for rattling your modernist paradigm.

Find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

Initiatic Eroticism

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Initiatic Eroticism: and Other Occult Writings from La Flèche introduced and translated by Donald Traxler from articles in Maria de Naglowska’s La Flèche. This is the fourth volume in the series of Maria de Naglowska material being released by Inner Traditions and Donald Traxler.

Maria de Naglowska Donald Traxler Julius Evola Initiatic Eroticism from Inner Traditions

In common with most Anglophone occultists, my principal knowledge of Parisian sybil Maria de Naglowska prior to the appearance of Donald Traxler’s translations was occasional brief mention as a French translator of some writings by Victorian American sex magician Paschal Beverly Randolph. As it turns out, she occupied a vital node in the esoteric communications of 1930s Paris, maintaining her own small “Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow” while also being actively engaged with Traditionalists, Surrealists, Theosophists, and individual occultists such as William Seabrook. Traxler presents this volume as the fourth of five in his major translation of Naglowska’s work, but it was my starting place, and I would recommend it as a worthy point of entry.

The book presents articles from the twenty numbers of Naglowska’s periodical La Flèche (“The Arrow”), an “Organ of Magical Action,” as she subtitled it. These represent the way in which she chose to express her esoteric ideas to the general public at the time that she was also composing book-length works addressed to formal aspirants and initiates. In addition to expository articles, there are a small number of poetic and narrative pieces, and a final section gives two essays written for La Flèche by Julius Evola. All of this material is quite interesting, and my favorite pieces are probably “The Magic Square,” “The Priestesses of the Future,” and “Masculine Satanism, Feminine Satanism.”

Naglowska’s central doctrine of the “Third Term” is a pristine example of twentieth-century occult neo-Joachimism. In Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the Nineteenth Century, scholars Reeves and Gould demonstrate in the world of modern letters a revival of the medieval Joachim’s trinitarian prophetic theory of history, with proponents such as Yeats and D.H. Lawrence. This phenomenon was so widespread that by the 1930s, when Naglowska was writing, it is hard to know how mediated (and by what thinkers) any specific instance might be, even when it is as clear a reflection as the one found in Naglowska’s Third Term. Her Holy Spirit (the Third Term of the Trinity) is emphatically female, and so her teachings also align with the French Neognosticism of Jules Doinel and his successors.

In Evola’s Metaphysics of Sex, he pairs Naglowska with Aleister Crowley as examples of sexual mystics in the contemporary world. Seeing the errors in Evola’s presentation of Crowley’s ideas, I am leery of his reading of Naglowska, although he was certainly on more familiar terms with her. It seems almost unbelievable that Naglowska and Crowley could not at least have known of one another, and yet I’ve seen no evidence that either took such note. In any case, Naglowska’s “Third Term” teaching of the Golden Mass is, I think, a useful way for adherents of Crowley’s Gnostic Catholic Church to understand the role of our own Mass: a synthesis that transcends the white and black masses of the previous age.

I learned a number of useful things from this book, and it was entertaining into the bargain. I will read further in Traxler’s translations of Naglowska. [via]

Atlantis and the Cycles of Time

Atlantis and the Cycles of Time: Prophecies, Traditions, and Occult Revelations by Joscelyn Godwin, the 2011 softcover edition from Inner Traditions, which arrived courtesy of the author, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Joscelyn Godwin's Atlantis and the Cycles of Time from Inner Traditions

“Atlantis has held a perennial place in the collective imagination of humanity from ancient Greece onward. Many of the great minds of the occult and esoteric world wrote at length on their theories of Atlantis—about its high culture, its possible location, its ultimate demise, and their predictions of a return to Atlantean enlightenment or the downfall of modern society.

Beginning with a review of the rationalist writings on Atlantis—those that use geographic and geologic data to validate their theories—renowned scholar Joscelyn Godwin then analyzes and compares writings on Atlantis from many of the great occultists and esotericists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Fabre d’Olivet, G. I. Gurdjieff, Guido von List, Julius Evola, Edgar Cayce, Dion Fortune, and René Guénon, whose writings often stem from deeper, metaphysical sources, such as sacred texts, prophecy, or paranormal communication. Seeking to unravel and explain the histories and interpretations of Atlantis and its kindred myths of Lemuria and Mu, the author shows how these different views go hand-in-hand with the concept of cyclical history, such as the Vedic system of the four Yugas, the Mayan calendar with its 2012 end-date, the theosophical system of root races, and the precession of the equinoxes. Venturing broader and deeper than any other book on Atlantis, this study also covers reincarnation, human evolution or devolution, the origins of race, and catastrophe theory.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.