Of course, the ongoing institutionalization of the values of the sexual revolution is not without its fierce critics. Predictably, the most strident criticism of sexual liberalism originates from the clerical and political representatives of the institutions of organized Christianity and from concerned Christian laypeople. Public battles over sexual issues are depicted in the establishment media as conflicts between progressive-minded, intelligent and educated liberals versus ignorant, bigoted, sex-phobic reactionaries. Dissident conservative media outlets portray conflicts of this type as pitting hedonistic, amoral sexual libertines against beleaguered upholders of the values of faith, family, and chastity. Yet this “culture war” between liberal libertines and Christian puritans is not what should be the greatest concern of those holding a radical traditionalist or conservative revolutionary outlook.
Sexuality and the Pagan Heritage of Western Civilization
The European New Right has emerged as the most intellectually progressive and sophisticated contemporary manifestation of the values of the conservative revolution. Likewise, the overlapping schools of thought associated with the ENR have offered the most penetrating and comprehensive critique of the domination of contemporary cultural and political life by the values of liberalism and the consequences of this for Western civilization. The ENR departs sharply from conventional “conservative” criticisms of liberalism of the kind that stem from Christian piety. Unlike the Christian conservatives, the European New Right does not hesitate to embrace the primordial pagan heritage of the Indo-European ancestors of Western peoples. The history of the West is much older than the fifteen hundred year reign of the Christian church that characterized Western civilization from the late Roman era to the early modern period. This history includes foremost of all the classical Greco-Roman civilization of antiquity and its legacy of classical pagan scholarship and cultural life. Recognition of this legacy includes a willingness to recognize and explore classical pagan attitudes towards sexuality. As Mark Wegierski has written:
The ENR’s “paganism” entails a naturalism towards mores and sexuality. Unlike still traditionalists, ENR members have a relatively liberated attitude towards sexuality…ENR members have no desire to impose what they consider the patently unnatural moralism of Judeo-Christianity on sexual relations. However, while relatively more tolerant in principle, they still value strong family life, fecundity, and marriage or relations within one’s own ethnic group. (Their objection to intraethnic liaisons would be that the mixture of ethnic groups diminishes a sense of identity. In a world where every marriage was mixed, cultural identity would disappear). They also criticize Anglo-American moralism and its apparent hypocrisy: ” . . . In this, they are closer to a worldly Europe than to a puritanical America obsessed with violence. According to the ENR: “Our ancestral Indo-European culture . . . seems to have enjoyed a healthy natural attitude to processes and parts of the body concerned with the bringing forth of new life, the celebration of pair-bonding love, and the perpetuation of the race.”
In its desire to create a balanced psychology of sexual relations, the ENR seeks to overcome the liabilities of conventional conservative thought: the perception of conservatives as joyless prudes, and the seemingly ridiculous psychology implied in conventional Christianity. It seeks to address “flesh-and-blood men and women,” not saints. Since some of the Left’s greatest gains in the last few decades have been made as a result of their championing sexual freedom and liberation, the ENR seeks to offer its own counter-ethic of sexual joy. The hope is presumably to nourish persons of the type who can, in Nietzsche’s phrase, “make love alter reading Hegel.” This is also related to the desire for the reconciliation of the intellectual and warrior in one person: the reconciliation of vita contemplative and vita activa.1
It is therefore the task of contemporary proponents of the values of conservative revolution to create a body of sexual ethics that offers a genuine third position beyond that of mindless liberal hedonism or the equally mindless sex-phobia of the Christian puritans. In working to cultivate such an alternative sexual ethos, the thought of Julius Evola regarding sexuality will be quite informative.
The Evolan Worldview
Julius Evola published his Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex in 1958.2This work contains a comprehensive discussion of Evola’s views of sexuality and the role of sexuality in his wider philosophical outlook. In the book, Evola provides a much greater overview of his own philosophy of sex, a philosophy which he had only alluded to in prior works such as The Yoga of Power (1949)3 and, of course, his magnum opus Revolt Against the Modern World (1934)4. Evola’s view of sexuality was very much in keeping with his wider view of history and civilization. Evola’s philosophy, which he termed merely as “Tradition,” was essentially a religion of Evola’s own making. Evola’s Tradition was a syncretic amalgam of various occult and metaphysical influences derived from ancient myths and esoteric writings. Foremost among these were the collection of myths found in various Greek and Hindu traditions having to do with a view of human civilization and culture as manifestation of a process of decline from a primordial “Golden Age.”
It is interesting to note that Evola rejected modern views of evolutionary biology such as Darwinian natural selection. Indeed, his views on the origins of mankind overlapped with those of Vedic creationists within the Hindu tradition. This particular reflection of the Vedic tradition postulates the concept of “devolution” which, at the risk of oversimplification, might be characterized as a spiritualistic inversion of modern notions of evolution. Mankind is regarded as having devolved into its present physical form from primordial spiritual beings, a view that is still maintained by some Hindu creationists in the contemporary world.5 Comparable beliefs were widespread in ancient mythology. Hindu tradition postulates four “yugas” with each successive yuga marking a period of degeneration from the era of the previous yuga. The last of these, the so-called “Kali Yuga,” represents an Age of Darkness that Evola appropriated as a metaphor for the modern world. This element of Hindu tradition parallels the mythical Golden Age of the Greeks, where the goddess of justice, Astraea, the daughter of Zeus and Themis, lived among mankind in an idyllic era of human virtue. The similarities of these myths to the legend of the Garden of Eden in the Abrahamic traditions where human beings lived in paradise prior the Fall are also obvious enough.
It would be easy enough for the twenty-first century mind to dismiss Evola’s thought in this regard as a mere pretentious appeal to irrationality, mysticism, superstition or obscurantism. Yet to do so would be to ignore the way in which Evola’s worldview represents a near-perfect spiritual metaphor for the essence of the thought of the man who was arguably the most radical and far-sighted thinker of modernity: Friedrich Nietzsche. Indeed, it is not implausible to interpret Evola’s work as an effort to place the Nietzschean worldview within a wider cultural-historical and metaphysical framework that seeks to provide a kind of reconciliation with the essential features of the world’s great religious traditions which have their roots in the early beginnings of human consciousness. Nietzsche, himself a radical materialist, likewise regarded the history of Western civilization as involving a process of degeneration from the high point of the pre-Socratic era. Both Nietzsche and Evola regarded modernity as the lowest yet achieved form of degenerative decadence with regards to expressions of human culture and civilization. The Nietzschean hope for the emergence of anubermenschen that has overcome the crisis of nihilism inspired by modern civilization and the Evolan hope for a revival of primordial Tradition as an antidote to the perceived darkness of the current age each represent quite similar impulses within human thought.
The Metaphysics of Sex
In keeping with his contemptuous view of modernity, Evola regarded modern sexual mores and forms of expression as degenerate. Just as Evola rejected modern evolutionary biology, so did he also oppose twentieth century approaches to the understanding of sexuality of the kind found in such fields as sociobiology, psychology, and the newly emergent discipline of sexology. Interestingly, Evola did not view the reproductive instinct in mankind to be the principal force driving sexuality and he criticized these academic disciplines for their efforts to interpret sexuality in terms of reproductive drives, regarding these efforts as a reflection of the materialistic reductionism which he so bitterly opposed. Evola’s use of the term “metaphysics” with regards to sexuality represents in part his efforts to differentiate what he considered to be the “first principles” of human sexuality from the merely biological instinct for the reproduction of the species, which he regarded as being among the basest and least meaningful aspects of sex. It is also interesting to note at this point that Evola himself never married or had children of his own. Nor is it known to what degree his own paralysis generated by injuries sustained during World War Two as a result of a 1945 Soviet bombing raid on Vienna affected his own reproductive capabilities or his views of sexuality.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Evola’s analysis of sex is his rejection of not only the reproductive instinct but also of love as the most profound dimension of sexuality. Evola’s thought on this matter is sharp departure from the dominant forces in traditional Western thought with regards to sexual ethics. Plato postulated a kind of love that transcends the sexual and rises above it, thereby remaining non-sexual in nature. The Christian tradition subjects the sexual impulse and act to a form of sacralization by which the process of creating life becomes a manifestation of the divine order. Hence, the traditional Christian taboos against non-procreative sexual acts. Modern humanism of a secular-liberal nature elevates romantic love to the highest form of sexual expression. Hence, the otherwise inexplicable phenomena of the modern liberal embrace of non-procreative, non-marital or even homosexual forms of sexual expression, while maintaining something of a taboo against forms of non-romantic sexual expression such as prostitution or forms of sexuality and sexual expression regarded as incompatible with the egalitarian ethos of liberalism, such as polygamy or “sexist” pornography.
Evola’s own thought regarding sexuality diverges sharply from that of the Platonic ideal, the Christians, and the moderns alike. For Evola, sexuality has as its first purpose the achievement of unity in two distinctive ways. The first of these is the unity of the male and female dichotomy that defines the sexual division of the human species. Drawing once again on primordial traditions, Evola turns to the classical Greek myth of Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite who was believed to be a manifestation of both genders and who was depicted in the art of antiquity as having a male penis with female breasts in the same manner as the modern “she-male.” The writings of Ovid depict Hermaphroditus as a beautiful young boy who was seduced by the nymph Salmacis and subsequently transformed into a male/female hybrid as a result of the union. The depiction of this story in the work of Theophrastus indicates that Hermaphroditus symbolized the marital union of a man and woman.
The concept of unity figures prominently in the Evolan view of sexuality on another level. Just as the sexual act is an attempt at reunification of the male and female division of the species, so is sexuality also an attempt to reunite the physical element of the human being with the spiritual. Again, Evola departs from the Platonic, Christian, and modern views of sexuality. The classical and the modern overemphasize such characteristics as romantic love or aesthetic beauty in Evola’s view, while the Christian sacralization of sexuality relegates the physical aspect to the level of the profane. However, Evola does not reject the notion of a profane dimension to sexuality. Instead, Evola distinguishes the profane from the transcendent. Profane expressions of sexuality are those of a non-transcendent nature. These can include both the hedonic pursuit of sexual pleasure as an end unto itself, but it also includes sexual acts with romantic love as their end.
Indeed, Evola’s analysis of sexuality would be shockingly offensive to the sensibilities of traditionalists within the Abrahamic cults and those of modern liberal humanists alike. Evola is as forthright as any of the modern left-wing sexologists of his mid-twentieth century era (for instance, Alfred Kinsey6 or Wilhelm Reich7) in the frankness of his discussion of the many dimensions of human sexuality, including sexual conduct of the most fringe nature. Some on the contemporary “far Right” of nationalist politics have attempted to portray Evola’s view of homosexuality as the equivalent of that of a conventional Christian “homophobe.” Yet a full viewing of Evola’s writing on the homosexual questions does not lend itself to such an interpretation. The following passage fromThe Metaphysics of Sex is instructive on this issue:
In natural homosexuality or in the predisposition to it, the most straightforward explanation is provided by what we said earlier about the differing levels of sexual development and about the fact that the process of sexual development in its physical and, even more so, in its psychic aspects can be incomplete. In that way, the original bisexual nature is surpassed to a lesser extent than in a “normal” human being, the characteristics of one sex not being predominant over those of the other sex to the same extent. Next we must deal with what M. Hirschfeld called the “intermediate sexual forms”. In cases of this kind (for instance, when a person who is nominally a man is only 60 percent male) it is impossible that the erotic attraction based on the polarity of the sexes in heterosexuality – which is much stronger the more the man is male and the woman is female – can also be born between individuals who, according to the birth registry and as regards only the so-called primary sexual characteristics, belong to the same sex, because in actual fact they are “intermediate forms”. In the case of pederasts, Ulrich said rightly that it is possible to find “the soul of a woman born in the body of a man”.
But it is necessary to take into account the possibility of constitutional mutations, a possibility that has been given little consideration by sexologists; that is, we must also bear in mind cases of regression. It may be that the governing power on which the sexual nature of a given individual depends (a nature that is truly male or truly female) may grow weak through neutralization, atrophy, or reduction of the latent state of the characteristics of the other sex, and this may lead to the activation and emergence of these recessive characteristics. And here the surroundings and the general atmosphere of society can play a not unimportant part. In a civilization where equality is the standard, where differences are not linked, where promiscuity is a favor, where the ancient idea of “being true to oneself” means nothing anymore – in such a splintered and materialistic society, it is clear that this phenomenon of regression and homosexuality should be particularly welcome, and therefore it is in no way a surprise to see the alarming increase in homosexuality and the “third sex” in the latest “democratic” period, or an increase in sex changes to an extent unparalleled in other eras.8
In his recognition of the possibility of “the soul of a woman born in the body of man” or “intermediate” sexual forms, Evola’s language and analysis somewhat resembles the contemporary cultural Left’s fascination with the “transgendered” or the “intersexed.” Where Evola’s thought is to be most sharply differentiated from that of modern leftists is not on the matter of sex-phobia, but on the question of sexual egalitarianism. Unlike the Christian puritans who regard deviants from the heterosexual, procreative sexual paradigm as criminals against the natural order, Evola apparently understood the existence of such “sexual identities” as a naturally occurring phenomenon. Unlike modern liberals, Evola opposed the elevation of such sexual identities or practices to the level of equivalence with “normal” procreative and kinship related forms of sexual expression and relationship. On the contemporary question of same-sex marriage, for example, Evolan thought recognizes that the purpose of marriage is not individual gratification, but the construction of an institution for the reproduction of the species and the proliferation and rearing of offspring. An implication of Evola’s thought on these questions for conservative revolutionaries in the twenty-first century is that the populations conventionally labeled as sexual deviants by societies where the Abrahamic cults shape the wider cultural paradigm need not be shunned, despised, feared, or subject to persecution. Homosexuals, for instance, have clearly made important contributions to Western civilization. However, the liberal project of elevating either romantic love or hedonic gratification as the highest end of sexuality, and of equalizing “normal” and “deviant” forms of sexual expression, must likewise be rejected if relationships between family, tribe, community, and nation are to be understood as the essence of civilization.
The nature of Evola’s opposition to modern pornography and the relationship of this opposition to his wider thought regarding sexuality is perhaps the most instructive with regards to the differentiation to be made between Evola’s outlook and that of Christian moralists. Evola’s opposition to pornography was not its explicit nature or its deviation from procreative, marital expressions of sexuality as the idealized norm. Indeed, Evola highly regarded sexual practices of a ritualized nature, including orgiastic religious rites of the kind found in certain forms of paganism, to be among the most idyllic forms of sexual expression of the highest, spiritualized variety. Christian puritans of the present era might well find Evola’s views on these matters to be even more appalling than those of ordinary contemporary liberals. Evola also considered ritualistic or ascetic celibacy to be such an idyllic form. The basis of Evola’s objection to pornography was its baseness, it commercial nature, and its hedonic ends, all of which Evola regarding as diminishing its erotic nature to the lowest possible level. Evola would no doubt regard the commercialized hyper-sexuality that dominates the mass media and popular culture of the Western world of the twenty-first century as a symptom rather than as a cause of the decadence of modernity.
Originally published in Thoughts & Perspectives: Evola, a compilation of essays on Julius Evola, published by ARKTOS.
1 Wegierski, Mark. The New Right in Europe. Telos, Winter93/Spring94, Issue 98-99.
2 Evola, Julius. Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex. English translation. New York: Inner Traditions, 1983. Originally published in Italy by Edizioni Meditterranee, 1969.
3 Evola, Julius. The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way. English translation by Guido Stucci. New York: Inner Traditions, 1992. Originally published in 1949.
4 Evola, Julius. Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga. English translation by Guido Stucco. New York: Inner Traditions, 1995. From the 1969 edition. Originally published in Milan by Hoepli in 1934.
5 Cremo, Michael A. Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. Torchlight Publishing, 2003.
6 Pomeroy, Wardell. Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
7 Sharaf, Myron. Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich. Da Capo Press, 1994.
8 Evola, Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex, pp. 62-63.
Cremo, Michael A. Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. Torchlight Publishing, 2003.
Evola, Julius. Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex. English translation. New York: Inner Traditions, 1983. Originally published in Italy by Edizioni Meditterranee, 1969.
Evola, Julius. Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga. English translation by Guido Stucco. New York: Inner Traditions, 1995. From the 1969 edition. Originally published in Milan by Hoepli in 1934.
Evola, Julius. The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way. English translation by Guido Stucci. New York: Inner Traditions, 1992. Originally published in 1949.
Pomeroy, Wardell. Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
Sharaf, Myron. Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich. Da Capo Press, 1994.
Wegierski, Mark. The New Right in Europe. Telos, Winter93/Spring94, Issue 98-99.