“Spiritual and structural presuppositions of the European Union” by Julius Evola

“Circumstances have rendered the need for European unity imperative on our continent. Until now, this need has been fuelled principally by negative factors : the nations of Europe seek a defensive unity, not so much on the basis of anything positive and pre-existing, as because of the lack of any other choice in the face of the threatening pressure of non-European blocs and interests. This
circumstance makes it difficult to see the inner form of any possible
real European unity very clearly. Thought seems not to go much beyond the project of a coalition or federation, which, as such, will always have an extrinsic, aggregative, rather than organic, character. A unity which would really be organic could be only conceived on the
basis of the formative force from inside and from above which is
peculiar to a positive idea, a common culture, and a tradition. If we
look at the European problem in these terms, it is clear that the
situation is painful, and that problematic factors prevent us from
indulging in an easy optimism.

Many have drawn attention to these aspects of the European problem. In this respect, a significant work is that of U. Varange, entitled Imperium (Westropa Press, London, 1948, 2 vol.). A further
examination of the difficulties which we have mentioned can be based upon this book.

Varange does not propose to defend the project of European unity in
purely political terms ; rather, he bases himself on the general
philosophy of history and civilisation which he derives from Oswald
Spengler. The Spenglerian conception is well known : according to it
there is no singular and universal development of ‘culture’, but
history both builds up and crushes down, in distinct and yet parallel
cycles, various ‘cultures’, each of which constitutes an organism and
has its own phases of youth, development, senescence, and decline, as do all organisms. More precisely, Spengler distinguishes in every
cycle a period of ‘culture’ (Kultur) from a period of ‘civilisation’
(Zivilisation). The first is found at the origins, under the sign of
quality, and knows form, differentiation, national articulation and
living tradition ; the second is the autumnal and crepuscular phase,
in which the destructions of materialism and rationalism take place
and the society approaches mechanicalness and formless grandeur,
culminating in the reign of pure quantity. According to Spengler,
such phenomena occur fatally in the cycle of any ‘culture’. They are
biologically conditioned.

Up to this point, Varange follows Spengler, considering the European
world, in accordance with Spengler’s conception, as one of these
organisms of ‘culture’, endowed with its own life, developing an idea
which is its own, and following a destiny which is specific to it.
Moreover, he follows him in stating that the phase of its cycle
through which Europe and the West is currently passing is that
of ‘civilisation’. However, in opposition to Spengler, who had
accordingly launched the new formula of ‘the decline of the West’, he
tries to turn the negative into the positive, to make the best of
things, and to speak about new forces which would follow an
imperative of rebirth, invoking values irreducible to materialism and
rationalism. This cyclical development, beyond the ruins of the world
of yesterday and the civilisation of the nineteenth century, would
push Europe towards a new era : an era of “absolute politics”, of
supernationality and Authority, and therefore also of the Imperium.
To follow this biological imperative in the age of civilisation, or
to perish, would be Europe’s only alternatives.

Accordingly, not only the scientistic and materialistic conception of
the universe, but also liberalism and democracy, communism and the
UN, pluralistic states and nationalist particularism – all these
would be relegated to the past. The historical imperative would be to
realise Europe as a nation-culture-race-state unit, based upon a
resuscitatory principle of authority and upon new, precise,
biological discriminations between friend and enemy, own world and
alien, “barbarian” world.

It is necessary to give a good idea of what Varange calls “culture
pathology”, because this will be useful to our aims. The
accomplishment of the inner and natural law of culture-as-organism
can be obstructed by processes of distortion (culture-distortion)
when alien elements within it direct its energies towards actions and
goals which have no connection to its real and vital needs and
instead play into the hands of external forces. This finds direct
application in the field of wars, since the true alternative is not,
according to Varange, between war and peace, but between wars useful and necessary to a culture, and wars which alter and break it up. The second is the case, not when we go to the battlefield against a real enemy, which threatens biologically the material and spiritual
organism of our culture, in which case only a ‘total war’ is
conceivable, but when a war of this type bursts within a culture, as
has actually happened to the West in the two last cataclysms. In
these cataclysms, leaders of European nations themselves have
favoured the ruin of Europe and the fatal subjection of their
homelands to foreign peoples and “barbarians”, of the East and of the
West, rather than intending to co-operate in the construction of a
new Europe which would go beyond the world of the nineteenth century and reorganise itself under new symbols of authority and of
sociality. The fatal, and now quite visible, effect of this has not
been the victory of some European nations over others, but that of
anti-Europe, of Asia and America, over Europe as a whole.

This accusation is aimed specifically at England, but is extended by
Varange to America, since he maintains that the whole system of
American political interventionism developed as a result of
a “culture distortion”, directing itself towards purposes devoid of
organic relation to any vital national necessity.

Given this state of affairs, and the increasing tempo of
disintegration, the challenge for the West is that of recognising the
biological imperative corresponding to the present phase of its
cycle : that of going beyond division into states and of bringing
about the unity of the European nation-state, and combining all its
forces against anti-Europe.

This task, in its first stage, will be internal and spiritual. Europe
must get rid of its traitors, parasites, and “distorters” (1). It is
necessary that European culture cleanse itself of the residues of the
materialistic, economistic, rationalistic and egalitarian conceptions
of the nineteenth century. In its second stage, the renewed unity of
Europe as civilisation or culture will have to find expression in a
related political unity, to be pursued even at the cost of civil wars
and of struggles against the powers which want to maintain Europe
under their own control. Federations, customs unions, and other
economic measures cannot constitute solutions ; it is from an inner
imperative that unity should arise : an imperative which is to be
realised even if it appears to be economically disadvantageous, since
economic criteria can no longer be considered as determinative in the
new era. In the third stage, it will become possible and necessary to
attack the problem of the necessary space for the excess population
of the European nation, for which Varange sees the best solution as
an outlet towards the East, where currently, under the mask of
communism, the power of races biologically, immemorially, hostile to
Western culture gathers and organises itself.

This takes us far enough into the ideas of Varange for our current
purposes. Let us now evaluate them.

The fundamental symbolism Varange evokes is that of the Imperium, and of a new principle of authority. Nevertheless we do not think that he sees quite clearly what this symbolism involves, if it is to be
adopted as it should be ; he does not discern the discrepancy between this symbolism and the inherent character of the late phase
or ‘Zivilisation’ of a culture, in our case of the European one.

In our opinion, Varange is certainly correct when he announces the
inadequacy of every federalist or merely economic solution of the
European problem. As we have already said, a true unity can only be
of the organic type, and for this the plan is quite well-known : it
is that already realised, for example, in the European medieval
oecumene. It embraces both unity and multiplicity and is embodied in
a hierarchical participatory system. What this requires us to
overcome and to leave behind is nationalism, in the sense of
schismatic absolutisation of the particular ; we must overpass, or
retreat from, this to the natural concept of nationality. Within any
national space, a process of integration should then occur –
politically – which would co-ordinate its forces into a hierarchical
structure and establish an order based on a central principle of
authority and sovereignty. The same thing should then repeat itself
in the supra-national space, in the European space in general, in
which we will have the nations as partial organic unities gravitating
into a “unum quod non est pars” (to use the Dantesque expression),
that is to say into the field of a principle of authority
hierarchically superior to each of them. This principle, to be such,
should necessarily transcend the political field in the narrow sense,
should be based upon itself alone, and should legitimise itself by
means of an idea, a tradition, and a spiritual power. Then only would
arise the Imperium : the free, organic, and manly European unity,
really free from all levelling, liberalistic, democratic,
chauvinistic, or collectivistic ideologies, presenting itself, by
virtue of this achievement, in a precise separation from both ‘East’
and ‘West’, that is to say from the two blocs which, like the arms of
a single pair of pincers, are closing themselves around us.

Therefore, the premise of an eventual development of this type is not
the dissolution of the nations into a single nation, in a sort of
socially homogenous single European substance, but the hierarchical
integration of every nation. True organic unity, as opposed to mere
mixture, is realised not through the bases, but through the summits.
Once the nationalistic hubris, which is always accompanied by
demagogic, collectivistic, and schismatic forces, is broken, and the
individual nations are configured hierarchically, there will exist a
virtual unification which will extend itself beyond the nations,
while nevertheless leaving them their natural individuality and form.

In this way everything would proceed ideally. The trouble, however,
is that the natural context for such an accomplishment is that of a
world which is in the phase of ‘Kultur’, not of ‘Zivilisation’ – to
use the Spenglerian terminology. Writers such as Varange mix things
belonging to distinct planes, falling into a mistake to which
Mussolini also once exposed himself. Mussolini, probably not knowing Spengler’s major works, read his ‘Jahre der Entscheidung’ and was struck by the prognosis of a new caesarism or bonapartism : this is why he wanted the book to be translated into Italian. However, he did not understand the position in which, according to Spengler,
formations of this type fall in the cyclic development of cultures :
it is when the world of tradition collapses, when ‘Kultur’ no longer
exists, but only ‘Zivilisation’, when the qualitative values have
fallen and the formless element of the ‘mass’ takes the upper hand.
It is only then, in the autumnal or crepuscular phase of a cycle,
that the nations disappear and great supranational aggregates are
born, under the mark of a pseudo-caesarism, of a centralised personal
power, in itself formless, lacking a superior chrism. All this is
only a twisted and inverted image of the Imperium in the traditional
and genuine sense ; it is not empire, but “imperialism”, and, in the
Spenglerian view, it represents a last flash, which is followed by
the end – the end of a culture, which may be followed by a new and
different one without any link of continuity with the precedent.

Now, when Varange speaks of the new period of “absolute politics” and of the blocs which, once the nations of the same culture are absorbed into a single organism, should have as their sole desideratum that of the absolute, existential distinction of enemy and friend (a view taken from Carl Schmitt, who had defined in these terms the essence of the purely political modern units) and of the pure biological imperative, we still remain on the plane of ‘Zivilisation’ and of collectivistic, ‘totalitarian’ processes, to be judged more as subnational than as really supranational, whose closest and most consistent realisation today can be found in the realm of Stalinism.
Now, it is clear that if the unity of Europe can realise itself only
in these terms, i.e., by means of its own brute strength, then the
West can perhaps resist the world and reassert itself materially or
biologically, as against the extra-European imperialistic powers,
but, at the same time, it will have renounced its own interiority,
and this will be the end of Europe, of the European tradition ; it
will become a facsimile of its opponents, a mere product of the plane
of the struggle of a brute will to existence and power, under the
sway of the general factors of disintegration peculiar to the
technicist-mechanicist ‘Zivilisation’ which will subsequently
overtake all. This is more or less the prognosis made also by Burnham
in his consideration of the eventual results of what he calls “the
managerial revolution” at work (2).

What other possibilities are there? It is not easy to say. As far as
the nations are concerned, each can maintain its actual individuality
and the dignity of an organic ‘partial whole’, while at the same time
subordinating itself to a superior order, only under the conditions
already indicated : that is, if a really superior authority, one
which is not simply political, and which cannot be monopolised by any individual nation in terms of ‘hegemonism’, is directly recognised by it. The alternative which is defined in material terms of usefulness
and external necessity is merely extrinsic and quite trivial. The
current ‘authorities’ speak willingly of European tradition, of
European culture, of Europe as an autonomous organism, and so forth, but unfortunately, when we consider things as they really are, in the light of absolute values, we see that there is little more to this
than slogans and sententiousness. Where, then, can we find an avenue of approach to the higher possibility?

On a higher plane, the soul for an European supranational bloc would
have to be religious : religious not in an abstract sense but with
reference to a precise and positive spiritual authority. Now, even
leaving aside the more recent and general processes of secularisation
and of laicisation which have occurred in Europe, nothing like this
exists today on our continent. Catholicism is merely the belief of
some European nations – and besides we have seen how, in an
incomparably more favourable period than the present one, namely the post-Napoleonic one, the Holy Alliance, with which the idea of a
traditional and manly solidarity of the European nations dawned, was
such only nominally, it lacked a true religious chrism, a universal,
transcendent, idea. If in the same way the ‘new Europe’ were to offer
only a generic Christianity, it would be too little, it would be
something too shapeless and uniform, not exclusively European, which could not be monopolised by European culture. What is more, some doubts cannot but arise regarding the reconcilability of pure
Christianity with a “metaphysics of the empire”, as is shown by the
medieval conflict between the two powers [of emperor and pope – ed.], if this conflict is understood in its true terms.

Let us leave this plane and pass to the cultural plane. Can we speak
today of a differentiated European culture? Or, better, of a spirit
which remains unique throughout its various and syntonic expressions in the cultures of the individual European nations? Again, it would be foolhardy to answer in the affirmative, for the reason C. Steding has shown in a well-known book entitled “The Reich and the Disease of European Culture” (3). This reason lies in what this author calls the neutralisation of the present culture, a culture no longer
appropriate to a common political idea, confined to the private
realm, transitory, cosmopolitan, disorientated, anti-architectonic,
subjective, neutral, and formless overall because of its scientistic
and positivistic aspects. To ascribe all this to a “culture
pathology”, to an outward and fleeting action of “distortion” by
alien elements, as Varange would hold to be the cause of this state
of affairs, not only for Europe, but even for America, is rather
simplistic (4). In general, where can a cultural base differentiated
enough to be able to oppose itself seriously to the “alien”,
the “barbarian”, be found today, in this phase of ‘Zivilisation’, and
where could it be found in the case of previous imperial spaces? We
would have to go a long way back, in our work of cleansing and of re-
integration, to arrive at such a base, because, although we are
certainly right to judge aspects of both the North-American and the
Russian-Bolshevik civilisations as barbarian and anti-European, we
cannot lose sight of the fact that these aspects themselves
represent, in both the former and the latter, the extreme development of tendencies and evils which first manifested themselves in Europe. It is precisely in this that the reason of the weak immunity of the latter against them lies.

Finally, in the situation we are reduced to today, even as far
as ‘tradition’ is concerned, there is a misunderstanding. It has
already been a long time since the West knew what “tradition” was in
the highest sense ; the anti-traditional spirit and the Western
spirit have been one and the same thing since as early as the period
of the Renaissance. ‘Tradition’, in the complete sense, is a feature
of the periods which Vico would call “heroic ages” – where a sole
formative force, with metaphysical roots, manifested itself in
customs as well as in religion, in law, in myth, in artistic
creations, in short in every particular domain of existence. Where
can the survival of tradition in this sense be found today? And,
specifically, as European tradition, great, unanimous, and not
peasant or folkloric, tradition? It is only in the sense of the
levelling ‘totalitarianism’ that tendencies towards political-
cultural absolute unity have appeared. In concrete terms,
the “European tradition” as culture has nowadays as content only the
private and more or less diverging interpretations of intellectuals
and scholars in fashion : of this, yesterday, the “Volta Congresses”
(5), and, today, various initiatives of the same type have given
sufficient and distinctly unedifying proofs.

>From these considerations and others of the same kind, we reach a
single, fundamental conclusion : a supranational unity with positive
and organic features is not conceivable in a period
of ‘Zivilisation.’ In such a period, what is conceivable, at the
limit, is the melting of nations into a more or less formless power
bloc, in which the political principle is the ultimate determinant
and subordinates to itself all moral and spiritual factors, either as
the ‘telluric’ world of the “world revolution” (Keyserling), or as
the world of “absolute politics” in the service of a biological
imperative (Varange), or again as totalitarian complexes in the hands
of managers (Burnham), all of which have already become matters of
common experience. Unity in function of ‘tradition’ is something very
different from this.

Should we then reach a negative conclusion regarding the situation
and content ourselves with a more modest, federalist, ‘social’ or
socialistic idea? Not necessarily, because, once the antithesis is
noted, all we really need to do is to orientate ourselves
accordingly. If it is absurd to pursue our higher ideal in the
context of a ‘Zivilisation’, because it would become twisted and
almost inverted, we can still recognise, in the overcoming of what
has precisely the character of ‘Zivilisation’, the premise for every
really reconstructive initiative. ‘Zivilisation’ is more or less
equivalent to “modern world”, and, without deluding ourselves, it is
necessary to acknowledge that, with its materialism, its economism,
its rationalism, and the other involutive and dissolutive factors,
the West – let us say Europe – is eminently responsible for
the “modern world”. In the first place, a revival needs to take place
which would have an effect upon the spiritual plane, awakening new
forms of sensibility and of interest, and so also a new inner style,
a new fundamental homogeneous orientation of the spirit. To this
effect, it is necessary to realise that it is not just a matter of,
as Varange would have it, going beyond the vision of life of the
nineteenth century in its various aspects, because this vision is
itself the effect of more remote causes. Then, as regards the
biological interpretation of culture by Spengler, precise
reservations must be made ; above all we must refrain from believing,
with the author that we have considered, in an almost inevitable
revival which would be heralded by various symptoms. In fact, we must avoid leaning beyond measure on the ideas of the revolutionary and reforming movements of yesterday, since the fact is that different
tendencies, sometimes even contradictory tendencies, were present in them, which could only have attained any positive form if
circumstances had allowed these movements to develop totalistically, whereas in actuality they were crushed by their military defeat.”

Overall, politically speaking, the crisis of the principle of
authority seems to us to constitute the most serious difficulty. Let
us repeat that we speak of authority in the true sense, which is such
as to determine not only obedience, but also natural adherence and
direct recognition. Only such authority can lead the elements within
a nation to overcome individualism and ‘socialism’, and, in the pan-
European area, to reduce the nationalistic hubris, the “sacred
prides”, and the stiffening of the principle of individual state
sovereignty, in a manner better than mere necessity or circumstantial
interest can do. If there is something specifically peculiar to the
Aryo-Western tradition it is the spontaneous joining together of free
men proud of serving a leader who is really such. The only way to a
real European unity is via something which repeats on a large scale
such a situation, of a ‘heroic’ nature, not that of a
mere ‘parliament’ or a facsimile of a joint stock society.

This brings into view the mistake of those who admit a sort of
political agnosticism to the European idea, thus reducing it to a
kind of formless common denominator : a centre of crystallisation is
needed, and the form of the whole cannot but reflect itself in that
of the parts. On a background which is not that of ‘civilisation’,
but that of tradition, this form can only be the organic-hierarchical
one. The more integration along those lines occurs in each of the
partial – that is, national – areas, the more we will approach
supranational unity.

The fact that numerous external pressures are now clearly
perceptible, so that for Europe to unite is a matter of life or
death, must lead to the acknowledgment of the inner problem which
must be resolved to give to an eventual European coalition a solid
base, which as explained above has a double aspect : on one hand, it
is the problem of the gradual and real overcoming of what is
characteristic of a period of ‘Zivilisation’ ; on the other hand, it
is the problem of a sort of ‘metaphysics’ by which an idea of pure
authority, at once national, supranational, and European, can be

This double problem brings us back to a double imperative. We must
see what men are still standing among so many ruins who are able to
understand and accept this imperative.”

Julius EVOLA


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