Friday, January 25, 2019

The Roots of Modern Traditionalism

Donald Trump is a kind of natural born chaos magician. Certainly chaos is something many people associate with him. And one of the odd coincidences I came across is that positive thinking and chaos magic share one central element - they are both results driven; they each want to make things happen.

One of the odder things following Trump’s election was an article published in the New York Times in February 2017, about a speech Steve Bannon had given to a select group of Vatican churchmen in 2014. Amidst the usual rhetoric about the Global Tea Party movement, the war on Islamic Fascism, and the immigration crisis, the Times reporter noted that Bannon had mentioned Julius Evola. Julius Evola was an Italian esoteric philosopher who had far right political leanings. In the 1920s and 30s, he tried to ingratiate himself first with Mussolini and then with Hitler, with modest success. Post WWII he was a kind of intellectual eminence grise for different Italian neo-fascist groups. Today he is one of the ideological heavy weights the alt-right point to, to differentiate themselves from white power skinheads and rednecks. He is an incisive thinker and is the most readable of the Traditionalist school.

Traditionalism was founded in the early twentieth century by the French scholar René Guénon. It’s central belief is that, in the dim past, mankind was given a fundamental revelation about the nature of reality and the relationship between God, man, and the cosmos. This revelation is at the heart of all the great religions, but over time it has been obscured until by now it is practically forgotten. History, Guénon believed, has been all downhill since that initial revelation. We have declined from the Golden Age to the Age of Iron. In Hindu terms, we are smack in the Kali Yuga, a very dark time. Guénon loathed the modern world and so did Evola. But where Guénon was a priest, Evola was a warrior – or at least he liked to think of himself as one. He wanted to actively help bring the west down – the liberal, democratic west – and build a Traditionalist society in its place. This would be based on an organic, caste-like vision of society, a true “body politic,” rather than the atomized self-seeking decadent democracies of the modern world. 

Oddly enough, Evola practiced a kind of mental science or New Thought himself, and he also tried to have a magical influence on contemporary events. In the 1920s he contributed several articles under different pseudonyms to the UR journal, the publication of the UR group, an esoteric society to which he belonged. Evola contributed several articles about how the mind can alter and even create reality, through sheer will and imagination. And he and others in the group performed rituals with the intent of instilling the ancient Roman virtues into Mussolini’s fascists – Evola thought they were frankly rather poor material to work with. So just as Spencer, a reader of Evola, is supposed to have used magic to help Trump, Evola did the same in order to help Mussolini.

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