Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola, better known as Julius Evola, was an Italian philosopher, painter, and esotericist. Evola regarded his perspectives and spiritual values as aristocratic, masculine, traditionalist, heroic and defiantly reactionary.
Evola believed that mankind is living in the Kali Yuga, a Dark Age of unleashed materialistic appetites, spiritual oblivion and dissolution. To counter this and call in a primordial rebirth, Evola presented his world of Tradition. The core trilogy of Evola's works are generally regarded as Revolt Against the Modern World, Men Among the Ruins, and Ride the Tiger. According to one scholar, "Evola’s thought can be considered one of the most radically and consistently antiegalitarian, antiliberal, antidemocratic, and antipopular systems in the twentieth century." Much of Evola's theories and writings is centered on Evola's own idiosyncratic spiritualism and mysticism—the inner life. The philosophy covered themes such as Hermeticism, the metaphysics of war and of sex, Tantra, Buddhism, Taoism, mountaineering, the Holy Grail, the essence and history of civilisations, decadence, and various philosophic and religious Traditions dealing with both the Classics and the Orient.
He was never a member of the Italian National Fascist Party or the Italian Social Republic. Evola criticized fascism and declared himself an anti-fascist. He regarded his position as that of a sympathetic right-wing intellectual, saw potential in the movement and wished to reform its errors, to a position in line with his own views. One of his successes was in regard to the racial laws; his advocacy of a spiritual consideration of race won out in the debate in Italy, rather than a solely biological reductionism concept popular in Germany. Since World War II many Radical Traditionalist, New Right, Conservative Revolutionary, Fascist, and Third Positionist groups have taken inspiration from him, as well as several apolitical occultists, such as Thomas Karlsson and Massimo Scaligero.
Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola was born in Rome to an aristocratic Sicilian family. During his youth, he studied engineering and received excellent grades, but did not complete his studies because he "did not want to be bourgeoisie". In his teenage years he immersed himself in painting, which he considered to be one of his natural talents, and literature including Oscar Wilde and Gabriele d'Annunzio, and served as his first introduction to philosophers such as Nietzsche and Otto Weininger. He served during World War I as an artillery officer on the Asiago plateau. After the war, attracted to the avant-garde, Evola briefly associated with Filippo Marinetti's Futurist movement, but became a prominent representative of Dadaism in Italy through his painting, poetry, and collaboration on the shortly published journal, Revue Bleu. In 1922, after concluding that avant-garde art was becoming commercialized and stiffened into academic convention, he reduced his focus on artistic expression such as painting and poetry.
Around 1920, his interests led him into spiritual, transcendental, and "supra-rational" studies. He began reading various esoteric texts and gradually delved deeper into the occult, alchemy, magic, and Oriental studies, particularly Tibetan Lamaism and Vajrayanist tantric yoga. He had also used hallucinogenic drugs to experience altered states of consciousness during this period, but later came to criticize such drugs in Ride the Tiger, as he did not consider stimulation as a means to transcendence.
In 1927, along with other Italian esotericists, he founded the Gruppo di Ur (the Ur Group). The group's aim was to provide a "soul" to the burgeoning Fascist movement of the time through the revival of an ancient Roman Paganism.
Evola never joined Mussolini's National Fascist Party, he considered himself an anti-fascist, and catalogued fascist squadristi as peasants.Mussolini considered Evola one of the "hysterical fanatics" who could serve the fascist interests. According to Daniel McCarthy:
“ At one point, il Duce or one of his underlings asked Evola why he hadn’t joined the Fascist Party proper. Evola replied that the continued existence of the party proved the failure of fascism. After all, if the state had become all and absorbed all lesser allegiances, how could there be such a thing as a “party,” which, as the word indicates, represents a partial or special interest? ”
Evola was one of a number of right-wing intellectuals who opposed Benito Mussolini's Lateran Accords with the Roman Catholic Church and rejected the Fascist party's nationalism and its focus on mass movement mob politics; he hoped to influence the regime toward his own variation on fascist racial theories and his "Tradionalist" philosophy. Early in 1930, Evola launched La Torre, a bi-weekly review, to voice his conservative-revolutionary ideas and denounce the demagogic tendencies of official fascism; government censors suppressed the journal and engaged in character assassination against its staff (for a time, Evola retained a bodyguard of like-minded radical fascists) until it died out in June of that year. From 1934 to 1943, he edited the cultural page of Roberto Farinacci's journal Regime Fascista.
Mussolini read Evola's Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race (Sintesi di Dottrina della Razza) in August 1941, and met with Evola to offer him his praise. Evola later recounted that Mussolini had found in his work a uniquely Roman form of fascist racism distinct from that found in Nazi Germany. With Mussolini's backing, Evola launched the minor-journal Sangue e Spirito. While not always in agreement with German racial theorists, Evola traveled to Germany in February 1942 and obtained support for German collaboration on Sangue e Spirito from leading Nazi race theorists.
Evola consistently and publicly criticized Fascism, but has often been wrongly accused of being a Fascist himself or a Fascist supporter, because he critiqued Fascism from the right rather than from the left. When World War II broke out, he volunteered for military service in order to fight the Communists on the Russian front; he was rejected because he had too many detractors in the bureaucracy. Italian Fascism went into decline when, during the midst of the war in 1943, Mussolini was deposed and imprisoned. Evola, although not a member of the Fascist Party, and despite his apparent problems with the Fascist regime, was one of the first people to greet Mussolini when the latter was broken out of prison by Otto Skorzeny in 1943.
After the Italian surrender to the Allies on 8 September 1943, Evola moved to Germany, where he spent the remainder of World War II, also working as a researcher on Freemasonry for the SS Ahnenerbe in Vienna. The research on Freemasonry resulted in a document titled "Freimaurerei: Geschichte und Mythos", published by the Ahnenerbe in limited copies with his name as editor-in-chief.
It was Evola's custom to walk around the city during bombing raids in order to better 'ponder his destiny'. During one such Soviet raid, in March or April 1945, a shell fragment damaged his spinal cord and he became paralyzed from the waist down, remaining so for the remainder of his life
After World War II, Evola continued his work in esotericism. He wrote a number of books and articles on sexual magic and various other esoteric studies, including The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way (1949), Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex (1958), Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest (1974), The Path of Enlightenment According to the Mithraic Mysteries (1977). He also wrote his two explicitly political books Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist (1953), Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul (1961), and his autobiography The Path of Cinnabar (1963).
In the post-war years, Evola's writings were held in high esteem by members of the neo-fascist movement in Italy, and because of this, he was put on trial from June through November 1951 on the charge of attempting to revive Fascism in Italy. He was acquitted because he could prove that he was never a member of the Fascist party, and that all accusations were made without evidence to prove that his writings glorified Fascism. Ride the Tiger, Evola's last major work, which saw him examining dissolution and subversion in a world in which God was dead, saw him rejecting the possibility of any political/collective revival of Tradition due to his belief that the modern world had fallen too far into the Kali Yuga for any such thing to be possible. Instead of this and rather than advocating a return to religion as Rene Guenon had, he crafted what he considered an apolitical manual for surviving and ultimately transcending the Kali Yuga. This idea was summed up in the title of the book, the Tantric metaphor of "Riding the Tiger" which in general practice, consisted of turning things that were considered inhibitory to spiritual progress by mainstream Brahmanical society — for example, meat, alcohol, and in very rare circumstances, sex — were all employed by Tantric practitioners into a means of spiritual transcendence. The process that Evola described involved potentially making use of everything from modern music, hallucinogenic drugs, relationships with the opposite sex, and even substituting the atmosphere of an urban existence for the Theophany that Traditionalists had identified in virgin nature.
Evola died unmarried, without children, on 11 June 1974 in Rome. His ashes were deposited in a hole cut in a glacier on Mt. Rosa.