Principle and Action 18-21


Chapter 18

The Way was lost
“Benevolence and righteousness” were put in its place
By skill and cunning (having lost original simplicity)
Great hypocrisy ensued
The chain of blood that was tied to the origin was broken
And was replaced with family sentiments
When the kingdoms fell into disorder
“Good ministers” became prominent.

Chapter 19

Remove (petty) wisdom, put prudence aside
And the advantage to the people will be very great
Humanitarianism and morality are not proclaimed
And a spontaneous solidarity [= from the family] will return to rule in society
Utilitarian goals will be devalued, self-absorbed action will be despised
And guilty acts will vanish in society.
(But even) these three particularly
Do not have to be followed to the letter
What is essentially necessary:
To be (oneself) in rough, natural, candour
Detached from particular ambitions, liberated from vain desires.


There is a visible continuity between these two chapters. Proclaiming “virtues” is for Taoism merely the sign of a corrupt society. See Chapter 38: “Superior virtues do not announce themselves as virtues.” It speaks instead of the “non-virtues of virtues”, the latter understood as artificial corresponding to a pedantic exterior that, more than restoring an integral life, will only increase the damage by favouring hypocrisy and cunning. The Taoist argument in that sense, not without reference to a second-rate or poorly understood Confucianism, often went beyond the sign. “Benevolence and righteousness” – ren and yi – are precisely the cardinal Confucian virtues. Even family sentiments reduced to conventional and obligatory behaviour are decadent. (Chapter 18) See Chuang Tzu (XIII,5):

These concerns about benevolence and righteousness recall a man who beats a drum while searching for a fleeing son, with the only effect of making him flee even further… Unite your influence to that of the Principle rather than imposing artificial virtues, and you will be able to achieve something.

From the last line of Chapter 19 the positive reference point is clarified: conduct derives from being oneself, rather than reflecting a norm of society. The elimination of desires, as vain desires, must not be understood here in an ascetic, forced, or renunciatory sense. It is the fundamental idea of Taoism, that in man a complex of desires, tendencies and interests is not at all “natural”, it is an error, it is something artificial and parasitic. One is truly oneself – and one is on the Path – when one is liberated from it. Then true virtues are also manifested. “Morality”, far from restoring this state of natural equilibrium, moves even further from it, adding to a stratification another stratification. An effective image:

The beginning is what I call the thaw (the dissolution of the concretion of the exterior I), after that the stream begins to take its course.” (Chuang Tzu, XXIII, 3)

In a certain way, the same double application is reaffirmed in the chapter that follows. Among the excrescences in respect to the natural state, which one must prune, the world of intellectualism and of the social distinctions between “good” and “evil” is also included. However, in contrast, being oneself is *described that brings you quite far, along the line of the Transcendent Man in his closed and impenetrable form. The reference, as will be seen, is in the first person – it is almost the only passage of the Tao Te Ching where the author speaks of himself: however with the visible intent of sketching out a model.

Chapter 20

The (discursive, reasoning) intellect is the source of sorrow
What consistency do dialectical distinctions have?
What is the difference between “good” and “evil”?
“To act like everyone else” – a norm based on fear.
No! (out of) this squalor.
People are carried away by a simple joy
A festival suffices for them
A panorama of spring which is seen from a terrace
I, instead, am anchored in the bottom of the current of sentiment
I remain serious and calm [beyond joy] like an infant who has not yet smiled
I live like this and go as if I belong to no place.
Everyone desires excess
While I am like one who possesses nothing
(I seem) ignorant, simple, without a practical spirit
Everyone lives in the light
While I am darkness
Everyone needs company
While I love only the solitary height
Indeterminable like the waters of the ocean
Like the wave I turn without pause
Everyone aspires to something
While I seem simple and incompetent
I am different from everyone
But, united to the original productive essence, only I am an I.

Chapter 21

The great Virtue which is manifested
Is only the exteriorization of the Principle
But the substance of the Principle
Is undifferentiated and unintelligible
Undifferentiated and unintelligible
It contains the seeds [the archetypes, the seminal possibilities of beings, constituting their indestructible element, their “heaven”]
Mysterious and incomprehensible
It contains existences [= beings who have passed to the formal state]
Deep and hidden
It contains essences [transformed beings – “spirits”]
As such it is the great Reality
The secure place (of all beings).
From the origin up to the present
It does not change its Name
The animating principle (of each thing) proceeds from it
What is the foundation of such knowledge?


Beings do not cease to live in the Principle and to have in it their “secure place” in the triple state:

  • In the preformal state “being part of Heaven and Earth” as archetypes or seeds (logoi spermatikoi)
  • In formal existence or existence in its proper and limitative sense
  • As pure forms.

Coexistence of the emission, of the eternal movement where those states and the mysterious, unintelligible, unmoved Unity follow each other.

To the unknowability and the unintelligibility which would be in the same way the predicate of the Principle is contrasted, in the last lines, with the form proper to a possible knowledge of its mystery: “this”, the  word refers to direct, metaphysical, and super-rational intuition (it appears again in Chapter 54). The expression tathata may be compared, which, when used with an analogous meaning in Madhyamika Buddhism, designated the content of the supreme, unpronounceable experience.

Principle and Action 14-17

Chapter 14

One looks at it and does not see it, so that it is called invisible
One hears it and does not understand it, so that it is called soundless
One touches it and does not grab it, so it is called incorporeal
These three characteristics of the transcendent
Mix together and say one thing.
It is the negation of the higher luminosity
And of the lower darkness
It is immense and insusceptible of name
It returns to what stands before (and above) being
Its form is the absence of form
Its figure is the absence of figure
Undiscernible profundity
If you look ahead, you will not see the end
If you look behind, you will not see the origin
Primordial principle
In action now [as in every time = perennially current]
One follows the way of the Ancients
And one will know the eternal essence of the Principle

The ninth line can be understood both metaphysically: The Tao is before and above being – as well as in these terms, referring to individual beings: the Tao brings them back from the current of transformations to that which is before and above being (in the pre-formal state).

In the first lines: the Principle, tangible but elusive. Non-being, which is not the not-existent. This passage of Kuan Tze (XIII, 36) will be interesting, for the meeting of the attributes of the principle with the technique of realization:

The Tao is not far, yet reaching it is difficult … Empty and non-being, incorporeity and immateriality, that is called Tao. Heaven is empty, Earth is calm, neither one nor the other struggles. The I is discarded and falls silent: then divine clarity will persist in you. Who understands silence (p’u jen) and immobility profoundly will understand the essential drama of the Tao… If (man) will renounce craving, the emptiness (hsu) will entirely compenetrate him; compenetrated by it, he will remain calm and non-acting; calm and firm, he will take up contact with the vital ether; whoever possesses the vital ether is detached (from terrestrial form); detached, he will radiate light like a god (ming shen).

Chapter 15

The Masters of ancient times
Were free, clairvoyant, mysterious, intuitive
In the vastness of the forces of their spirit they did not know of an I
This unconsciousness of the inner force gave greatness to their appearance.
To characterize them with images:
They were prudent, like those who traverse a stream of water in winter [ice]
Watchful, like those who know the enemy around themselves
Cold, like a stranger
Dissolving [elusive], like ice that thaws
Rough, like rough-hewn wood
Vast, like the great valleys
Impenetrable, like turbid water.
Who today with the greatness of his light could lighten the inner darkness?
Who today with the greatness of his life could reanimate inner death [inertia]?
In those men was Life
They were individuals and lords of the I
And their non-being [their emptiness=non-grasping, taking, or filled up in the figurative sense]
In them was perfection.

The characterization of the Masters of ancient times, models of Taoism, appear associated with the traditional idea of the regressive course of historical humanity, warned in a living way in the Far-Eastern world (a Chinese proverb says: “Antiquity was like a full laughter, we are like empty shells” – see also the reference of Lao Tzu to the “way of the Ancients” in Chapter 14.) It is about a teaching of general importance, and whatever in the Tao Te Ching reflects it, must not be related to merely local Chinese political conditions, to the decadence of the Chou dynasty, under which Lao Tzu would have lived, like the banal interpretation of different commentators or translators.

A living light endangered high antiquity, but some of its rays have reached us. To us it seems as if the Ancients lived in darkness because we see them through the thick fog from which we are emerging. Man is a child born at midnight: when he sees the sun rise, he believes that yesterday never existed” (Taoist text cited by R. Remusat). See Chuang Tzu (XXXIII, 1) “The ancients collaborated with the transcendent celestial and terrestrial influences, with the action of Heaven and Earth” (it is the concept, previously noted, of the Great Triad)

Because of their structure in the original, the last lines of the chapter are controversial. It essentially followed Ular’s reading as that which connects organically such lines with the rest and that maintains them at the level of the whole.

Chapter 16

Whoever realizes extreme emptiness
Finds what exists unmoved and calm (beyond the changeable and the particular)
In the flux of countless beings
He sees them emerging [passing into the formal state] and proliferating
And like everything, they return to the root.
To return to the root means the state of repose
From such repose, a new destiny appears
This is the immutable law (of transformation)
Knowledge of the immutable law brings vision to clarity
Non-knowledge of the immutable law leads to blind and detrimental acting
Knowledge of the immutable law leads to detached impartiality
To be detached means to be superior
To be superior means to be regal
To be regal means to be like Heaven
To be like Heaven means to be similar to the Principle
To the eternal and identical
And he will forever be beyond harm.

The chapter often goes under the title kuei ken = “return to the root”. The two ways of which we spoke in the Introduction are briefly sketched out. On one side, the eternal law of the flux of transformations, of the “entry” and “exit” of beings, happens through what in the comments the image of being exhaled (exiting, being born, in the sign of yang) and inhaled (return, die, in the sign of yin) is also used, or that of the forward and backwards motion of a weaver’s loom (Lieh Tze). On the other side, the contemplation of this law, contemplation that begins detachment, and the perception of the immobile substrate of the transformation, that leads back “to the root”, makes the Real Man similar to Heaven and puts him outside of danger (only in the exoteric interpretation, from dangers and risks inherent in this unique way – esoterically: immunity in respect to that which may initiate the crises tied to the ontological changes of state).

It is good to emphasize that Taoism knows this double possibility, that therefore its horizon is not at all exhausted – as more than one commentary has held – in the eternal monotonous sequence of events of appearance and disappearance, of exiting and returning of beings, with a consequent fatalist indifference as the norm of wisdom. Lieh Tze (I,9) calls this “lower knowledge”. The higher knowledge concerns instead the knowledge of the Principle and reintegration into the root (indicated by Lieh Tze, IV, 2, in these terms: first of all deep union of the body and spirit, then integration of such unity in the forces of the world, brought from “non-being”, that is from transcendence. For whoever succeeds in that, says Lieh Tze (VI, 2), the existence in the current of forms appears like a long sleep, and death as the great reawakening from a dream (Chuang Tze, II, 8 and VI, 8: “You and I who are speaking in this moment, are like two unawakened dreamers.

Chuang Tze himself (XIX, 3, 2) says that those who, having the body and the spirit intact and united to nature, “having absorbed all its powers”, “has reached the starting point of the transformations and continues there”, to the self-production of the dissolution of the form “is capable of transmigrating”. He is not dissolved but, “quintessentially becomes the cooperator of Heaven”.

Chapter 17

The people at the beginning hardly knew that there were (sovereigns)
Their successors (i.e., sovereigns) were loved and exalted
Their successors were feared
Their successors were despised
Their perfidy [lacking loyalty] destroyed all trust
The first, solemn, reserved in speaking
Fulfilled their function perfectly
And the ten thousand beings said:
“We are living according to our nature.”
Up until recent times in China the “invisibility of the Emperor” (because, by custom, he rarely showed himself alone) was an outer symbol of the invisible “not-acting” government. The text indicates the successive forms, always more degraded, assumed by the type of the leader. First of all “distance” fails (the first principle was: “he exercised an influence, only keeping himself distant”). The sovereign is visible and “popular”: he loves popularity and needs it. This prestige is not based on the feeling of distance, but on that of closeness to him of the governed mass; for this reason he is loved. In the third case the type of the prince follows, who governs only because he is feared. We finally reach the leader who is feared and despised at the same time, failing every relationship of loyalism and mutual fidelity, and the structure of a State reaches the limit of instability.

The sovereign of the origins, “whose power derives from that of the Principle”, was called “The Mysterious One” – says Chuang Tze. He transmits the influence of the Principle to all beings, making their natural capacities develop in them; at the origin his “politics” consisted “in leading the individual nature of being back to conformity with the universal acting virtue.” (XII, 1-10) The general idea is summarized rather well by Granet (La pensée chinoise, p 547) in the following terms:

For the benefit of all things, but without charity nor pride, he is limited to concentrate in himself an intact Majesty … this sovereign Majesty is not distinguished from pure Power nor from integral knowledge (i she) … An unknown Autocrat, he does his work without anyone noticing it, and this work is accomplished without affecting in any way the one from which it emanates.

The Race of Rome: Foundations

The racial origins of Rome are surrounded by the mystery that accompanies the birth of every great civilization: fable and history intermix with each other. Beyond the veil of myth, the foundation of the City of Rome presents in its drama the signs of a new history of the West, through a chain of events that are to be considered symbols of a new way of seeing and organizing life and that therefore, in the old and decadent Mediterranean world, herald the Roman conquest of the West. It should be said that the rite of the


The Wolf and the Twins of Rome

foundation is the prelude, in its naked drama, to the eternal virtues of the Empire: the founder is in fact the Lar par excellence, the progenitor of a race of divine origin, and first and foremost achieves a spiritual pact with the gods and with men; then he will proceed to the rite of the foundation.

In order to understand the meaning of a power that initiates the formation of the race, it is necessary to keep in mind that everything in Rome comes from a sacred, supernal sense of life: the foundation of the city is a constructive act that moves from an order of purely spiritual necessity: it is the result of a religious ideal harmony constituted among a group of men, warriors and priests, who seek to establish a new unity, a creative force, and intend primarily to locate the sanctuary of common worship in the city. The foundation, then, is not motivated by economic, topographic, or, in any case, contingent reasons, but by reasons of common aspiration to a higher ideal of a supermaterial, “divine” level. The rite then discloses a universalistic value assigning celebrations of nature, mystical and esoteric meanings, queries to the celestial forces for the choice of location and evocations to demonic powers, the genius of the people, to the chthonic and uranic gods, for the fortune of the city that is going to arise.

While wanting to mention this mystery of the founding of Rome in this paper, it is not possible to linger at this point to give even a brief idea of the essential value attached by the ancients, and especially by the Romans, to the action of the rite. Suffice it to say that, in the same way that a modern with mechanical operations and procedures becomes master of distance, it gives form to matter and organizes its own outer life, so the ancient Roman Empire, through the ritual technique made perfect thanks to the regal-priesthood union that entailed the action of a self-conscious, “solar” will, and the body of a dynamic, mediating, “lunar” force, established an ascending contact with the magnetic forces of the universe and acted psychically through them. There existed a science of such action: unlike the mechanical sciences placing all men on the same levels (since mechanical means can be operated both by the learned and the ignorant), it required a spiritual dignity that was not for everyone; it demanded the presence of psychical qualities, in a dynamic and exceptional sense, and hence connected to a higher morality that was not at all different from that of the mystic, the priest. However, this does not mean for the Roman that the event must be limited to the contemplative and mystical world (as in the ancient rituals of the Mediterranean peoples, Orphism and Pythagorism) but from a spiritually “superhuman” plane, it was necessary to speak in order to give meaning to the “human”, to the real, to everyday life, to organic political unity. It was therefore a highly religious sense of that existence which the rite conformed to: the race was continuously moulded in it, made strong in every aspect: and they were privileged beings, that is, more inwardly complex, far-sighted, “Initiated”, and were entrusted with the task of giving shape and direction to events, through the meticulous technique of the rite. They were priests, flamens, pontiffs. Their wisdom was the Tradition, the very remote legacy of the “solar” race, heroic and spiritual at the same time.

With the founding of Rome, the priesthood resumed to be part of an eternal harmony of the world, becoming a complement of warrior action, that is, no longer limited to the aestheticism of the ancient Western mysteriological communities (Zagreus, Dionysus, Orpheus), nor serving as an instrument for abusive orgies and to matriarchal ”aphroditism” of previous Mediterranean regimes, but compelling the Spirit in a new discipline, that is, to result in precision of acts, assertions, conquests, constraining the Spirit in a new discipline, that is, to result in a precision of acts, affirmations, conquests, obliging the apeiron, the indefinite, to assume form, to be actualized in pèras, in well-defined reality, the archetype of the classical creation and the original inspiration of the imperium, of the new architectonic soul.

We repeat, this is not poetry, nor even myth. Despite the magical resonance of myth in the story of Aeneas, as Virgil relates it, and in that of Romulus, son of a Vestal Virgin and the god Mars, although later than the events of the origins, it represent only a human veil of deep mystery of the foundation. Someone told us that with this legend they wanted make of Romulus an emanation of the “feminine” principle – those who believe that it’s worth the trouble, and attributes value to the similarities, takes into account that, despite the union of Mars with the Vestal Virgin, she is to be considered as the terrestrial symbol of virginity, i.e., of the raw power not actualized in maternity – enlivened by the Numidian force personified in the masculine God.

The essence of the secret can be glimpsed only if, taking advantage of a non-scholastic and non- rationalistic vision of history, we consider that Romulus, while adopting the archaic rite of the foundation, grafted onto it acts which have new meanings. It is not enough to recognize that this rite, although of Etruscan origin, was also common to Lazio and Sabina. In the rite of the mundus the principle of the eternity of the Urbe is realized, since the Spirit again results in action, in hierarchical reality. For those interested in it, we refer to symbols, like the prophetic visions of Romulus on the Palatine, and emphasize that Remus, who is to symbolize the anti-hierarchical element of the decadent period, breached the intangibility of the trench and Romulus punished him.

According to the archaic Etruscan rite, the auguries had to get up after midnight, in silence, and wait for the dawn. Romulus and Remus also rise post mediam noctem: they go up on two hills (tabernacula capiunt, templa capiunt): from this moment the destiny of Rome and of its race is going to be marked. Historians and poets almost totally agree in telling us that Romulus went up on the Palatine and Remus on the Aventine: two different places, two opposed symbols, two traditions that clash, and hence still two races.


Romulus and Remus

It is necessary to decide on the name of the new city: will it be called Rome or Remora? Will the king be Romulus or Remus? All are intent, in anticipation of the verdict of which must come from the same force of destiny. The white disk of the moon sets: it diffuses the light of dawn and here is the most perfect of the auguries: the eagle of Jupiter shows up on the left – it is the symbol of “Olympian” royalty characteristic of the “Solar Race”, which is revealed to the fathers of the future rulers of the West–and while the disc of the sun appears, there is a black flock of birds flying rapidly. The one who had seen the first twelve vultures would reign. First is Romulus, at the brightening of the day; the people rejoice: Romulus is consecrated king and priest, is the first Lar, the father of the new race.

And so it is that an authentic progenitor demonstrates the priestly technique of the foundation. He, informed of the ancient Etruscan ritual and learned through the secret liturgical books–as we read in Cato, Servius, Festus and Gellius–initiated a very spiritual sacred science which integrated in him the warrior and the founder of civilization, he drew the omens, offered the sacrifice, lighted the ritual fire, dug the circular pit, the mundus, and threw on it the handful of earth to which the soul of ancestors was symbolically and actually tied, he began the powerful and mysterious life of the terra patrum, the land of the fathers, the fatherland, that is, of the earth to which the destiny of the race will be linked.

To seal the bond of the needed deity with the spatial center of the new city, that is, in order to link the power of the Spirit to the place, so the place contains his “demonic” forces of the fatherland, the sacred place, the actual eternity, a large stone, the lapis Manalis, closes the mouth of the pit.

The “underworld” is so constituted, that it must accept the souls, not the bodies, of the dead, and hence three times a year they will issue in the world of life. Delivered to the underworld, there are erected a conically shaped column and a pyramid: both are sacred to the manes of the progenitory and are consecrated to his heroisms. It is therefore an immortal strength that goes to the ground, which will therefore also be immortal. After taking in the divine cycle, the founder, living spiritually in the underworld, will be revered by the city as a son of the gods, a god among gods, auctor, hero and kin of the new people.


Romulus digging the trench

With the underworld and the supernal word consecrated, we proceed to the ritual constitution of the topography of the city, always with regard to an ancient ceremonial secret that Romulus knows well. We know only the exterior modality of the ceremonial, but it also has a language for those who can understand it. In a white cloak and his head covered, according to the priestly custom, he yoked an ox and a white robust cow to the plow, he descended down the hill, followed by silent companions, and invoking with mysterious formulas of propitiation the favor of divine forces, began to trace the ritual trench, making sure that inside, on the side of the city, is the cow, the image of fertility, and outside, on the countryside, is the ox, a symbol of strength.

In driving the trench, he lifts the plow where he wants the gates, so that it does not touch the ground. Then he raises the walls of the city limits, following the line of the trench, and outside, hugging the walls, dig the trench of the circumvallation: here and there the two pomeri: one inside and the other outside: two land areas that they can neither plow nor inhabit, purposely vacated and free, for the purpose of lookout and defense. The sacred walls will be raised here and no one will be able to then modify the size and restore them without the permission of the Pontiffs. At the borders the names dedicated to the god Terminus will be placed.

Having traced the borders of the city, he gave houses to the fathers subject to chance, declared the laws, and, followed by all the comrades, climbed back up the summit. Then, he shouted out the divine name of the city, which is repeated three times in a loud voice by the fathers, immolated the white bull with the cow on the altar of the Supreme Jupiter. They then prepared meals and celebrations lasting for nine days. The objects used in the rite of the foundation of the Urbe were put back into the mundus as sacred.

This complex ritual so that Rome, according to Ennius, was founded with an “august omen,” contains the basic reasons that will give the sense of eternity to the race, the city and its empire: it is the ceremonial aspect of a secret technique aspiring to subjugate the events to a single direction, that of the nascent Urbe . It is the initial victory of the race of Rome over fate, for a new cycle of the West. This will be then the meaning of the Dies Natalis Urbis Romae. The founding of Rome is thus a constructive act that moves from an order of inner necessity: while it is the consequence of a religious agreement among those who will live there, since it will represent the sanctuary of common worship, it must be ritually established as cause of causes , as a starting point, as a radical design of a future organism. It is a seed in the womb of the earth and, as a seed, it must contain the force of procreation.

It is essentially an “initiatic” art that intervenes to give direction to destiny, with the rite of the mundus: this small circular pit, dug by Romulus, accepts a handful of earth that he has brought with him from Alba (Plutarch, Dione, Cassius, Ovid, Festus) and welcomes the sod that each of his companions has carried from the land in which it was burning before the sacred fire, which was linked to the souls of their manes. It is therefore land steeped in forces, the soul of races, the land where the dynamics of the genius loci, the spirit of the race is attached. It is not poetry. It is the creation of a powerful condenser of forces gathered according to a process whose modality is not known by many, and indeed must–always in compliance with an esoteric technique–be unknown, just as the secret name of the city, the nomen sacrum, the seminal word, spermaticos logos, the secret word that corresponds to the virtues of the deity of the city. The same force of the rite ensures that the founders are liberated from the “impiety” of leaving the land of their forefathers and promotes a new link between soul and matter, between the spirit of the race and the land chosen for the foundation.

The mundus is, therefore, a sacred place, the central point in which destiny is tied to the earth through ritual strength: the spatial aspect of becoming is thus dominated and bound by virtue of an incident that contains in itself the surpassing of time: if the land is linked to the power of the Spirit, if the Spirit of the deified ancestor is immortal, the land is saturated in a metaphysical virtue, it becomes the mystical center of eternity. Mundus means, in ancient esoteric language, the region of the Manes, moundos (Plutarch, Festus, Servius); and because the worship of the Manes is uninterrupted due to burning the sacred flame in front of the domestic lararium, it also clarifies the meaning of the fire. The sacred fire of the city will be lighted on the prophetic pit, which will be the fire of Vesta, always lit in the temple: it will not be an element of deified nature, as historical criticism has always believed, but will represent the earthly symbol of a divine force that , on the celestial plane, will always symbolically correspond to the sun and in the sense of human physiology, the heart, the seat of superhuman intelligence according to ancient spirituality (Cicero, Plotinus, Iamblichus, Emperor Julian). Thus as an eternal flame of divinity burns in the heart of the hero and the ascetic, the fire of Vesta will burn inside of the temple.

But who in Rome first lit this fire? Romulus. He then is the founder, but also the primigenial Lar of the city, the spiritual father of the Roman race: and being divine in human life, his death will only be a total reuniting with the divine plane. The myth dramatizes this story.

What is necessary to emphasize is that the divine element constitutes the essential part of the birth of Rome, it is only the religious aspect of the mastery of events, of inevitability, obtained through the possession of transcendent energy that was familiar to the ancient Initiate, as the control and mastery of physical energies is to the contemporary engineer and mechanic.

From La Razza di Roma, by Massimo Scaligero (1939)

Principle and Action 11-13

Chapter 11

Thirty spokes converge in the hub
But the essence of the wheel is the emptiness of the hub.
The vessels are made of clay
But it is the inner emptiness that makes the essence of the vessel
The wall with windows and doors form a house
But it is their emptiness that makes its essence.
In general: the being serves as the useful means
The essence lies in non-being [in emptiness].

Various images are used to express the idea that the essence of the material and the sensible lies in the immaterial and the invisible, that the “fullness” is ordered to “emptiness”: a reference to the metaphysical plane (“emptiness”=transcendence) and a reference concordant with the nature of non-acting. The wheel with thirty spokes was that of an ancient sacred chariot.

In the esoteric interpretation typical to operative Taoism this chapter was also put in relation with the distillation of the subtle from the dense, the second being ordered to the first and having to be resolved in the first (in the yang soul) in the “solution of the form”.

For the ambivalence of the Tao, see the expression: “It is as heavy as a stone, as light as a feather.”

Chapter 12

The vision of colors blinds men’s eyes
The perception of sounds deafens the ears
The taste of flavors dulls the mouth
Identifying in action darkens the mind
Prurient desire destroys the possibility of motion (being tied to the desired object)
Therefore: the True Man
Does not lose the I in the not-I
He keeps out of the exterior, he consists in the interior.

Aphorisms with possible initiatic significance, in relation to the discipline of avoiding the duress of impressions of the external world (see, also, the “closing of the gate”) so that to develop a subtle sensibility (that, which in the first lines is said to be muffled or prevented) and to consolidate inner freedom, so that it is equivalent to a gradual movement of the center from the level of the p’o soul to that of the hun soul. It is indeed Taoist teaching that the natural use of the senses can be detrimental, when it is a question of protecting and preserving intact the “original simplicity” (p’u): the bursting of the multiplicity of sense appearances into the mind.

As an example of the distance, in the Chinese text, between the literal meaning of the characters and their abstract meaning: literally the penultimate line would sound more or less like this: “The True Man is for the belly and not for the eye”. If it is that the eye is considered as the gate through which the external world penetrates into the I, it alters it and transports it, muffling the inner senses, while the belly is taken as the “empty” part of the body, therefore, transposing (according to the ideas espoused in the preceding chapter), to symbols of the essential and transcendent part of the human being.

The preeminence of the belly over the eye therefore signifies that the True Man does not lose himself in the world that is revealed to the eye, i.e., in the outer world, in the not-I. Something generally unknown in the West, obesity, the “great belly” with which “Immortals” and Taoist sages, but also certain Chinese and Japanese Buddhas, were often portrayed, has a symbolic character based on the idea just explained: it alludes to the development that has precisely the “empty” principle in such beings, or the dimension of “emptiness” – the immaterial or transcendent element. The lower belly – in Japanese: hara. On its significance of the center in Japanese esoteric schools existing to this day, see K. Durckheim, Hara, Vital center of man according to Zen and its problems that are connected there in our essay: The Japanese Hara-theory in its Relation to East and West (in East and West, number 2, 1958).

Chapter 13

Favors received injure as much as disgrace
Greatness weighs down the body.
What is meant by: “Favors received injures as much as disgrace?”
Favors received entails its own reduction
There is anxiety in waiting for it
There is anxiety in losing it.
What is meant by: “Greatness weighs down the body”?
To have a body [person] means to offer a hold
The body is the principle of heaviness
If you did not have it
There would not be possibilities.
Therefore: whoever is detached from greatness
Can freely rule the empire
Whoever is attached to the body as little as the empire
Can be entrusted with the empire.

The text of this chapter is somewhat corrupt. Thus there have been divergent translations. Instead of “favors received” one can also read: fortune, honors received; it refers, then, to depending on the cause of that, with the implicit lowering of its own more intimate dignity, which is “disgrace”. The ideogram for the body can also be rendered as “person”; then the possibilities given as terms of comparison for that to which the outer profane greatness shows, there are those inherent to being person, in the limitative sense: by varying this, with which the whole can agree equally by creating minor modifications, preserving the comprehensive interpretation given to the chapter.

Principle and Action 8-10

Chapter 8

The transcendent quality resembles water
Without resisting it assumes the form of each thing
It takes the lowest position that men scorn (because they are seeking the heights)
The farther one is from acting in common, the more one is close to the Way
Thus the True Man in the material domain holds remaining in the place he has as good
In the domain of feeling he holds the depth of the abyss as good
If he gives, he holds (impersonal) generosity as good
Speaking, he holds the truth as good
Governing he holds ordered development as good
Acting, he holds the watchful realization of the end as good
In the practical domain, he holds being at the right place as good
Really, even thanks to adapting without conflict
Nothing changes his being

Classical Taoist comparison of water for subtle acting and the “higher virtue” (shang shan). Adapting himself exteriorly to things and situations, he does not exalt but descends below (which means: beyond superficiality) in order to exercise the desired influence. According to another aspect: in this context the saying “fracture but do not bend” is tied to the mania of the I; “bending myself (=water) it fractures” could be contrasted. The whole of the behavior illustrated in this chapter is designated as I hsing (which is equivalent to “ease of nature”). The positive counterpart is also recommended: a spontaneous and essential mode of working, beyond opposites.

Chapter 9

To preserve when one is filled up to the brim
Is not possible
To keep a blade very sharp
Is not possible.
One cannot, at the same time,
Possess and conserve.
Goods and power united to pride
Prepare your own ruin
To act and pull back [= to pass into the shadow]
Is the Way of Heaven

References, through images, to the law of converting everything that is joined at the extreme into the opposite. Decadence begins at the peak. For essential mastery and for control of the transformations, it is necessary to know how to abandon at the right point what is brought to completion. To be tied to, and especially to be associated with, the pride of the I, means to plummet. The inner meaning of these maxims must be placed before the social and political meaning, where it usually ended in banal terms (for example: not to accumulate riches and goods because they cannot be made secure – or rather: to retreat to an obscure life after having realized or gathered honors).

Chapter 10

Conserving the One to which spirit and body are joined
And are no longer separated
To make the fresh and subtle breath circulate (in the body)
Begetting the embryo.
To polish the secret mirror excluding every complex thought
To which the mind does not wear itself out
In relations with the others and ruling the State
To follow non-acting
The instability [changeableness] of fortune [the opening and closing of the Gate of Heaven]
Is worth developing the receptivity of the soul [= the virtue of the feminine]
With the essential vision that embraces every aspect [the four dimensions]
To eliminate (discursive) knowing [= to seem ignorant]
In order to reach the development
To create without possessing
To act without appropriating
To rise without forcing
This is the Way

The first part of the chapter reflects the ideas of operative Taoism about the elaboration of immortality. The hint about the practice with breathing, vehicle of vital energy that, subtlized, was used as means for the secret unification of the spirit and body in the Origin. Spirit and body, hun and p’o (first line) – technically: yang soul and yin soul, spiritual soul and physical soul. The former is the non-terrestrial luminous principle, the other is the being of life. One could also say: the “being” principle and the “life” principle. The privileged condition of immortality is obtained through the union of the two principles, in the sense of a perfect compenetration of the po by the hun, by “life”, by “being”, overwhelmed and occluded from entering into the current of forms. The integration of the two principles of the One is compared to the formation of an embryo – the embryo of an existence distant from transformation. On these practices, beyond the already cited study of H Maspero, we can see the text also translated into Italian, in the Secret of the Golden Flower.

The starting point of such practices is also sketched out: detachment from the environment, the simplification and the calm of the mind, in order to conserve one’s own completely pure and integral nature. In Chuang Tzu, the “abstinence of the heart”:

Do not listen with the ear nor with the heart, but only with the spirit. To block the way of the senses, to keep the mirror of the heart pure. To keep oneself empty. From the outside, do not let things that no longer have names penetrate inside (impressions liberated from mental translations). (IV, 1)

The transcendent Man exercises his intelligence only like a mirror: he knows without following attraction or repulsion, without leaving any traces. In such a way he is superior to everything and impartial in the face of it. (VII, 6)

The heart of the True Man, completely calm, is like a mirror that reflects Heaven, Earth and all beings. (XIII, 1)

All this, by reconnecting to Lao Tzu’s “polishing the secret mirror”.

The successive operative developments, liking joining the “decoagulant” of body and spirit, are attested also in Lieh Tzu (II,3; IV, 6) in these terms:

The spirit is condensed little by little as the body is dissolved” (one “etherizes”, one “rarifies”).

We note the correspondence with the formula solve et coagula of the Western Hermetic-alchemical tradition, which is known also in the formula ”Flesh out the spiritual, spiritualize the body, make fixed the volatile and volatilize the fixed” (Part II of The Hermetic Tradition, #16)

The second part of the chapter outlines the “non-acting” behavior of the True Man.

Principle and Action 4-7

Chapter 4

The Tao is not substance, it is inexhaustible activity
Acting does not increase it
As it is unfathomable!
It is like the primordial source of all things.
It blunts the sharp
It clarifies the confused
It dims the bright
It orders the elementary parts [“powder”] (of matter)
It is elusive and yet omnipresent
How could it have been begotten?
It is anterior (and superior) to the Lord of Heaven

The insubstantiality (“emptiness”) is emphasized, the pure activity of the Principle, that neither expands nor diminishes it (therefore in opposition both to the theory of “becoming” of the Spirit, and to that of its deterioration through emanation). The Taoist image is also that of a vase that, while turning continually, what it contains remains full and in order to fill itself, still remains empty. “Primordial source” is the abstract meaning of tsung in the text, which is literally ancestor, the original father. If the image is conserved, given the part of the regulator typical of the Chinese head of the family, in the fourth line, following some translations, the idea of an ordering power can also be included. Then a natural connection is established with the four successive lines that are about the action of the Tao.

For Taoist metaphysic, the two last lines are important, where the principle is called “without origin” – wu yuan – superior and anterior to the King of Heaven (the Shangdi), i.e., to the personal God. In this passage a certain circumspect way of expressing itself was emphasized linguistically, due to the part that the Shangdi had in the cult of the State under Chou’s dynasty, when the Tao Te Ching was composed. It is like that through a concern for that conception of exoterism. But in the Introduction, we noted the irrelevance of the personal, theistic and anthropomorphic conceptions of the divine to the primordial tradition of the Far East, taken up in its abstract, metaphysical orientation by Lao Tzu. Chuang Tzu (II,3) makes clear that one can admit the principle of a universal regulator (from which the principle of every unity, family, people, etc. derives through participation) but on condition that one does not make a distinct personal being out of what is intended “as an influence without a comprehensible form”.

Chapter 5

The Universal [Heaven and Earth] is not humane [compassionate]
All things (products) use them as means
True Men are not humane (jen)
Beings use them as means
(Like) emptiness between Heaven and Earth [in its Virtue]
The Principle is like a bellows
It is emptied yet unexhausted
Even if creating inexhaustibly with its motion
(Thus) it is vain to multiply words and projects (in the care for individuals)
Keeping in the middle is the best

In the word translated as “means” (second and fourth lines) is literally “straw dogs” (ch’a kou), likenesses fabricated in ancient China for certain rites and then abandoned, thrown away. It wants to express that the Absolute considers individuals only as a universal function, i.e., as a function of that which transcends them, for every other verse, that is for what are simple ephemeral apparitions in the current of forms, the Principle not taking care of them (non-humanizing), against the religious conception of Providence and the God of Love.

Since he reproduces in himself the detached quality of the Principle, the True Man likewise ignores human concern, even as the Confucian jen (sympathy, sociality), from some Taoist comments called the “small virtue” or the “lower virtue”. In the last two lines, in word and action in view of the particular as such, the action from the “center” is counterposed, that is to say, from a neutrality free from preferences and sentimentality, in view not of part, but of the whole, of the Universal. It makes the virtue of the Tao from the model, which even if producing inexhaustibly remains “empty” (image of the bellows), that is, pure simple, “free from the I”. See Chuang Tzu (V,2) who says, referring to Wang t’ai, whose influences “derive from its transcendence”: Reaching perfect impassability “lf beings evolve according to their destinies and maintains himself as the immobile center of all fates” (as in another passage, II, e, it is said, of the Principle: “The immobile center of a circle on the circumference of which run all contingencies, distinctions, and individuals” since “there are two ways to consider beings, as distinct individuals or as all in a great whole”. It is the imperturbability of a spirit that, “higher than heaven, earth, and all beings, lives in a body. Absolutely independent, he is lord of men”.

There are those who have wanted to see the reflection of a cold Machiavellianism without scruples in the ideas just expressed. Also the descent down to the political plane that could be right only if the reference point was a powerful individual’s will to dominate, that is, the intensification of a particular I who, on the contrary, is the first thing that True Men destroy in themselves.

About the last line, we read also in the Chung Yung: “To maintain the middle path is perfection, but there are very few in the world who can keep it”. That is to say, the metaphysical meaning is opposed to that of moderation, of the practical “golden mean”. About the noted relativity of the divergence of the views of Las Tzu and Confucius, we can cite, still in the same context, the following passage of the latter: “Who rules according to the virtue of Heaven resembles the polar star: it is immobile, but all revolve orderly around it” (Lun you, II, 1 [Analects]).

Chapter 6

The energy of middle space [the valley] is eternal
It is the Mysterious Female
The gate of the Mysterious Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth
Continuous and invariable
It acts and does not exhaust itself

There is a possible interaction in this chapter of the doctrine of the Tao with residues of the archaic conception of the primogenial maternal Feminine (Magna Mater Genitrix, i.e., Great Mother). “The Power of middle space” — literally in images: “vital force (or spirit) of the valley”. The valley, understood as the space between two mountain ranges, goes back to the idea both of Emptiness and of the central space where the virtue of the principle is manifested, in the eternal emanation and transformation (contrary to the meaning of the valley – and of the feminine – in chapters 61 & 66).

The gate with two shutters in some commentaries referred to the Principle that acts through the Dyad, the yin and the yang. The whole does not become clear because here the idea of Virtue is superimposed, in a certain way, onto the idea of the Principle. Finally, it has to do with the etheric fluid (chi). This is one of the more convoluted chapters, explained in various ways. It is also about those things that were made objects of esoteric interpretation in operative Taoism, with reference to the human being occultly considered. Characters were used with technical significance whose meaning is difficult to track down. As a hint to interpretations of this type, the Mysterious Female is the principle or energy of the yin soul (po) from which those who seek corporeal immortality much extract and coagulate the subtle essence. The gate with two shutters alludes to the nose. The allusion to the technique of breath is learned from the last two lines: “for long, long stretches one breathes as if one wished to hold the breath, remaining immobile” (see J J M DeGroot, Universismus, Berlin 1918, pp 110-111). The Mysterious Female is the “interior woman”: “she is continually in us”, says Kuan Tzu.

Chapter 7

The Universal is eternal
It is eternal
Because it does not live for itself
Therefore: The True Man
By retreating, he advances
By remaining outside, he is always present
By not acting for himself, the center
Reaches perfection

Although the characters used in the first line are “Heaven and Earth”, here they express the idea of totality, and it is not the “nameable”, qualified Principle, that is referred to here but to action that makes it eternal: it “is” in the transcendent sense since it is denied.

The word “retreating” = not to put in front of himself. Reproducing in oneself the way of the Tao, the True Man advances, rises transcendentally, as the absolute individual in so far as he does not make his human individuality the center (it can also be translated: not having person – inclinations of person — becomes person, he obtains a persona). Technical Taoist expressions: “to drop the persona like a habit”.

Principle and Action 1-3

In 1959 Julius Evola published a translation and commentary on the Tao Te Ching under the title Il Libro del Principio e della sua Azione [The Book of the Principle and its Action]. His interpretation is based on his knowledge of Tradition.

Here are the first three chapters.

Chapter 1

The Tao that can be named
Is not the eternal Tao
The Name that can be pronounced
Is not the eternal Name
(As the) Nameless it is the principle of Heaven and Earth
With the Name [that is: determined as Heaven and Earth] it is the origin of the myriad particular beings
So: the one who is detached
Perceives the Mysterious Essence
Which is obscured by desire
The gaze is stopped by the limit [he sees only the phenomena of appearances of the Principle]
Now of the two [the Nameable and the Unnamable, being and non-being]
One essence, only the name is different
Their identity is mysterious
It is the unfathomable depth
Beyond the threshold of the ultimate mystery

The two aspects of the Principle are indicated here, the one transcendent (unnamable, without form – equivalent to non-Being, the Emptiness, the unmoved), the other immanent (nameable, with form – equivalent to: Being, fullness, the movable). Other Taoist designations: The “Former Heaven” (hsien t’ien) and the “Later Heaven” (hou t’ien). The first determination of the Tao (called also “the great Mutation”) is Heaven-and-Earth which are cosmic symbols of the Yang and the Yin. This Dyad produces all the modifications, therefore the myrida particular beings, of their paths and of their destinies (“The Great Flux”, the “current of forms”).

The unmanifested and the manifested, the formless and the formal, the Former Heaven and the Later Heaven, are not distinct temporally (as if at a certain moment something similar to a “creation” intervened), but in logico-metaphysical terms. Transcendence is immanent, the fullness coexists with the emptiness, non-being is the source of being: identity, that constitutes the ultimate mystery of Taoist realization.

See the Lieh Tzu: “The chain of productions and transformations is interrupted, the producer and the transformer producing and transforming without it … the producer is unmovable, the transformer comes and goes. And the motionless and the mobile endure always. … Analyzing the production of the universe, the opening up of the sensible from the non-sensible, the seed of the calm generative action of Heaven and Earth, the ancient Sages distinguished these stages: the Great Mutation, the Great Origin, the Great Commencement, the Great Flux”.

Chapter 2

For everything under this heaven, the beautiful conceived
The ugly is born (as correlative)
The good established
The not-good takes form.
Likewise: being and non-being mutually condition each other
The possible and the impossible are complementary differentiations
Large and small characterize each other
The high flips over to the low
Clear sounds and noise complement each other
Before and after [or: ahead and behind] follow each other in a circle
The True Man is like that
He endures in non-acting
He teaches without speaking
He directs without touching [without commanding]
He forms [he makes happen, he leads to development] without taking control
He accomplishes without doing [without calling attention to the one who acts]
Essentially: not residing [in the domain of the correlative where the game of opposites unfolds]
He always participates [in the original force]

In the first lines, referring on one hand to the law of correlation of all human notions; then, on the other hand, to its ontological counterpart, to that which can be called the “dialectic of the real”. Taoistically: the solidarity and action alternating as opposites, Yin and Yang, gives rise to modifications of the phenomenal world that now complete each other, then pass one into the other.

This dynamism, previously in the I Ching given by the circle of the “Figures of Heaven”, that is, the trigrams and hexagrams, does not touch the calm and undifferentiated essence of the Principle. Chuang tze: “The immobile center of a circle on the circumference of which crowns all contingencies, distinctions and individuals”. From this, it describes the non-acting behavior of the True Man, of the sheng jen, insofar he reflects in himself the Principle in its aspect without name.

On the gnosiological plane, from the principle of correlation of opposites is deduced the relativity and the irrelevance of the human distinctions, therefore of all the current values, which correspond to nothing in reality: therefore “only great spirits are capable of understanding.” (Chuang Tze)

Chapter 3

By esteeming in excess
Conflict is provoked [in reaction]
Emphasizing what is rare to possess
Creates guilty desire for appropriation
It weakens that which, in things, attracts
And the soul will remain calm
Thus: the True Man acting as leader
Moves without preference and appetites
He weakens his impulses [the man of desire, the physical I], tempers his inner being [his bones]
Without a [exterior] knowing and without desires the guides the ten thousand beings
He confuses those who know
He avoids acting [centered in the Self]
And society will always live free in its order

Some translators have rendered the line “the sheng jen without knowing or desiring to guide the people” with “the sheng jen ensures that the people have neither knowledge nor will”. In order to ignore the symbolic valence of the respective characters, in a modern Chines translation the “without preference or appetites” then becomes “the real man empties his heart and fills his belly”!!! Along the same line, there are among sinologists those who have even interpreted the rule contained in these lines as “stupefying the people” (the 10 thousand beings) on the one hand and, on the other, as “repressing the most nobly human in heart and will (hsin e chih) and coaxing instead the most vulgarly bestial part – belly and bones (fu e ku).”

The internal logic of the whole chapter corroborates instead the lesson here adopted. Non-knowing and non-desiring (in the sense of discursive knowing and the desiring of the individual) are the traits repeatedly attributed to the True Man of the Tao Te Ching which in him are virtues insofar as they would be the opposite in laymen and the common people, that is, insofar as they would be unattainable (if taken in the positive sense, as virtue).

In other chapters it is said, yes to the utility of keeping the people in ignorance that safeguards their original simplicity (something different from “stupefying”). But for now, it alludes instead to a propitiatory desaturation of size and a distancing of tensions and disordered appetites (first lines of the chapter). As was said, one thinks that with his sole presence the True Man acts in such a direction over the environment, nurturing an ordered spontaneity in social life.

Mohammed and Charlemagne



Julius Evola’s review of the book “Mohammed and Charlemagne” by Henri Pirenne, originally published in 1939.

People have often spoken of this book, especially since the recent release of the French edition: they attributed to him the merit of having upset the current idea of medieval civilization and its origins, thanks to his new and original views. This appreciation seems to us somewhat exaggerated. Certainly, we believe strongly that a history of the Middle Ages and its origins still needs to be written, given the numerous deformations and misunderstandings due to the rationalist and secularizing mentality of last century, which continue to prevail today on this subject. But to tell the truth, it is not in that sense that the Belgian researcher brings us new lights, just the opposite: after having begun his studies in the atmosphere of the economist school, the source of the doctrine of historical materialism, Pirenne depicts a further enlargement of its horizons which still feels the effects of the fundamental limitations of that school. We therefore find again in him an inclination to consider as the determining historical cause what, in our opinion, can have value at most as an accidental cause, so that to emphasize the economic and incidental period, conferring on it the greatest weight in the genesis of the forms of civilization.

This is the fundamental thesis defended by Pirenne in this, his final, work. That admirable construction which was the Roman Empire had an essentially Mediterranean character. The Mediterranean was its base and center. The sea, in all the force of the name Mare nostrum, carried and spread ideas, religions, merchandise; it is the spiritual and material crucible of the North and the South, of the West and the East, under the sign of Rome, while the outer provinces are only a buffer against the Barbarians. The totality of life is concentrated on the shores of the great Roman lake. That said, according to Pirenne, the Germanic invasions did not put an end either to the Mediterranean unity of the ancient world, nor to what one can consider to be the essence of Roman civilization, as it still was in the fifth century, that is, an epoch where the Emperor of the West no longer existed. Byzantium/Constantinople assumes the patrimony of Rome as the Mediterranean capital. In spite of the havoc and diverse losses, that transfer did not determine the appearance of new guiding principles, neither in the economic order nor in the social order, nor in the state of the language, nor in those of the institutions. What remained of civilization was Mediterranean; civilization was conserved along the shores of the sea and it is from there that the new phenomena arise. The establishment of the Germanic barbarians in the Western provinces of the Empire produced nothing original; they did not intend to destroy the Empire nor to exploit it. Far from despising it, they admired it. Starting from the time of their establishment, all the heroic and original traits of the barbarian character have disappeared, according to Pirenne, absorbed by the Roman and Byzantine lands. And again following Pirenne, it is a fable to say that the Germans brought their morality of the young people, that is, of the people in whose heart personal connections of fidelity won over those of respect towards the State and was opposed to the cosmopolitan corruption of ancient civilization. That is the opposite which was produced and was true: the barbarians masterly knew how to adapt themselves to the Byzantine corruption, even contributing to aggravating it. Their structures were secular, they did not furnish any spiritual support. Constantinople remains the equivalent of the fallen Roman center. In the year 600, the world did not take a qualitatively different appearance to what it had in the year 400, and that principally because of the survival of the Mediterranean character of that civilization. The rupture with ancient Tradition and the Middle Ages (as a new civilization) begins therefore later than what is commonly supposed.

It is not the barbarian invasions which constituted an instrument of action, but rather a new phenomenon: the appearance of Islam with its rapid and unexpected progression. The consequence was the separation of the East and the West and the end of Mediterranean unity. Some countries like Africa and Spain, which had continued to be part of western civilization gravitated from that moment around the orbit of Baghdad. Islam represents a new religion and a new, unassimilable, aggressive, and irreducible civilization. By becoming a Muslim lake, the western Mediterranean ceased to be the route of cultural and economic exchanges of the Roman-Byzantine world, and the West found itself blocked and constrained to live folded in on itself. It is thus that the axis of the life of the world was displaced from the Mediterranean towards the North: not because of the effectiveness of spiritual and racial factors, but essentially as the result of that contingency. That provoked the crisis of the Merovingian regime, up until the appearance of a new dynasty originating from the Germanic countries of the North, the Carolingian dynasty. The pope was allied to it, detaching himself from the Emperor of the East, who, absorbed in the battle against the Muslims, was no longer in a position to sustain and protect him. A Rome detached from Byzantine could not avoid looking north. It is thus that the Church prepared the new order of things. It had assumed the symbol of Rome, and its authority became greater than the State, not succeeding in maintaining a strong centralized administration, it let itself be absorbed by feudalism which came to take on a particular importance, for the same reason of the paralysis of Mediterranean commerce and exchanges.

Dominated by the Church and feudalism, Europe is going to take on a new appearance. The Middle Ages begins in a birth which, according to Pirenne, occupies the century between 650 and 750. It was a period of anarchy where the ancient tradition was lost and where new elements got the upper hand. The evolution ceased in the year 800 which sealed the definitive rupture of the West and the East, the former giving itself a new Roman Germanic Empire, now detached from the old Roman Empire prolonged by Byzantium. It constituted a new civilization and a new civil community whose symbol and instrument was Carolingian Europe, on the base of a Germanic element Romanized by the Church. Even when political unity disappeared, there subsisted an international unity of civilization which was followed up to the Renaissance, an essentially Carolingian imprint.

These are the basic theses of Pirenne’s book. This quick and easy note suffices to let the reader take account of the part that the materialist mentality and an extrinsic consideration of history plays in these theses. And, as always in similar cases, what could have been a necessary cause comes to be considered as the sufficient cause and as the conditio sine qua non, from which the aberrant deductions arise. “It is rigorously true,” says Pirenne, “that without Mohammed, Charlemagne is inconceivable.” We have here the image of physical determinism according to which, for example, a thrust contains exactly everything that can explain the movement to which it passively constrained the inert body which receives the brunt of it. Pirenne doesn’t even seem to suspect the active causes of history.

The thesis asserted that the Roman event has survived much longer than believed in the invasion and the influence of the barbarians, that it had not disappeared at the end of the Empire but that the Mediterranean unity had continued to live, under the sign of Byzantium, from the fifth to the eight century, before being finally swept by Islam, and certain flattering for us and something to please us.

But, as the translator correctly points out in the preface, in order to sustain that thesis, it is not necessary to look beyond the façade, that is, to stick to the social and administrative structure of the ancient world, because behind that beautiful relatively intact appearance is found the putrefaction or something else from which the seed of that putrefaction emanates. It is a fact that, in order to assure the survival of the Roman event, Pirenne deliberately confuses it with the Byzantine event. He believes totally seriously that the process of the Byzantification of the Mediterranean world, which is produced up to the time of the Arab invasion, was able to truly assume the validity of the longevity of the ancient heritage.

A heritage which, in fact, had already undergone a fundamental alteration with the Christianization of the Mediterranean world. In order to not take that alteration into account, the author is again constrained to limit his considerations to the exterior, hierarchical, and political part of the Church, neglecting the properly spiritual factor. In reality, the survival of the Mediterranean unity had only a material and economic character, circumstantial for the most part. And it is just for that reason that an equally contingent circumstance, like the Arab invasion and the control by the Muslims of the maritime routes of the Mediterranean, was able to easily break it. That is in fact elsewhere than where one finds the positive forces preparing the coming of the new age, in which something of the purity of the ancient world had to truly survive invisibly.

One must certainly recognize, with Pirenne, the necessity of moving the date of the beginning of the Middle Ages, considered as a civilization having its own appearance, from the instant of the fall of the Western Empire to that of the creation of the Holy Roman German Empire – that is, to move it ahead at least three centuries. These three centuries don’t have a well-defined appearance. One could qualify them as the centuries of the interregnum. They do not yet correspond to a specific type of civilization. It is no longer Antiquity, but not yet the new times. Pirenne is however incorrect in not presenting the forces in gestation which already exercise a muddled action, in order to take ascendancy afterwards. He can be agreeable to us to hear him affirm and to see him struggle to demonstrate that the Germanic races lost their characteristics during their long entry into the Roman world and were “Romanized”. But from nothing he can take nothing. It is not necessary to forget that, for the author, Romanization has often, we repeat, the meaning of Byzantization, consisting of assuming the vices and corruption of Byzantine decadence. At the point that he considers that what happened under the dynasty of the new Romanized barbarian States in the western basin of the Mediterranean was the decadence of a decadence. The author emphasizes almost tendentiously that corrupted, or at least passive and negative, aspect in order to be able to note the purely formal survival of Antiquity, while he ignores, at least in appearance, what there was positive in it.

He purely political deduction of the birth of the Holy Roman Empire is totally insufficient: he can expound it only to some minds located under the narcosis of materialism applied to history. To underline a fundamental point, Pirenne insists, for example, on the purely secular and profane character of the States and dynasties characteristic of the Germanic races up to the end of the Merovingian period – it is only with the Carolingians and by the intervention of the Church which itself had been pushed by considerations of propriety that the royal power had assumed a sacred character. A more inexact affirmation that it was founded on an ambivalence making him believe that secularism exists everywhere where there is no indirect consecration granted by a distinct organization, that is, by the Church. In the same perspective, it would be necessary to deny the sacred character to a great part of the theocratic powers of Antiquity, and today even to those of the Japanese sovereign. In all these cases, it is an effect of tradition that a dynasty given can be sacred in itself and for itself, in virtue of some enigmatic heredity or destiny. Now, Pirenne seems to not know that what had already appeared, at the time of the invasions, in numerous “barbarian” tribes: among the Goths, they called the kings Asen (“divine heroes”) and Amals (“celestials”) because they believed that in the difference from the other tribes (or Sippen), their line drew its origin from the mystical Asgard and that their blood was not of a human nature. Certainly, we find these traditions in a state of involution and degeneration in the course of the period that we have called the interregnum, but not at the point of preventing, under certain conditions, a resumption, an awakening, a galvanization. That is exactly what happened, thanks to the tradition already mentioned and to a certain heroic morality, when an historic conjuncture led to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. Here, the Roman symbol was the common reference of a supernatural order proposed by Christianity, which acted, so to say, as a catalyst on the manifestation and the survival of spiritual and racial forces latent and diverted in the course of the preceding period of Byzantization. Without admitting that latent survival of forces which then had to blossom under the form of a civilization having many affinities with the first Aryan societies, including the primordial Roman society, one could then explain the conflict between the Empire and the Church, between the Roman Ghibelline symbol and the Roman symbol of the Guelph. Or then, in Pirenne’s manner and of so many other myopic historians, one will be obliged to explain that conflict only as the function of temporal interests and ambitions, thus missing the true essence of the conflict, the essence that we have often had the chance to bring to light in several of our works.

What it comes down to, if up until Mohammed the positive element had been only the Roman-Byzantium component, how does he explain that once the Mediterranean unity was swept away, the besieged West did not elaborate a civilization of the same type? Pirenne says that the Carolingians had no concern with a situation created from all pieces, but they drew parts from fortuitous circumstances, and that the coup d’état which replaced the Merovingian dynasty, the only one which survived after the invasions, is explained only by the closing of the Mediterranean by the Saracens. Even if he could truly justify such a coup d’état, that would never explain the genesis of the new type of civilization by which the Middle Ages took its own appearance and which, in its great political-social structures, reproduced essentially the distinctive traits of all the Aryan civilizations of Antiquity.

On this last point, one must likewise note that Pirenne expresses, it would only be incidentally, the judgments which would not receive our agreement: in his opinion, the passage of an almost cosmopolitan economy of exchange, credit and commerce, favored as it was by the Mediterranean routes, to an essentially agrarian and feudal economy which had to leave its imprint on medieval society properly called, signifies regression and decadence. For us, it is on the contrary the civilization not pursuing mercantile objectives which represents a value. And in that case also, the emergency provoked by the irruption of Islam in the Mediterranean acted like a stimulant, but not as a determining cause: as it happens, an exterior contingency served only to compel something superior, which was latent, to become manifest and take over. Beginning with the Carolingian period, the traffic of merchandise and commerce, with the mobility of riches, became the prerogative of the Jews, and only much later, that of the new centers foreshadowing the democratic and oligarchic-bourgeois corruption, so that the healthiest and purest forces of Germanic-Roman Europe separated themselves and developed their possibilities in a normal direction characteristic of a heroic, differentiated, and spiritual civilization.

A Failed Revolution


Whoever today judges political movements that have characterized Germany in recent times, specifically those which began in the in the period after WWI and were developed in various ways during the Weimar Republic leading up to the coming of the Third Reich in the direction opposite to Marxism, frequently encounters simplistic formulations like fascism, crypto-fascism, Nazism, racism: formulations that can be used in common debates, but which do not at all take reality into account, which is much more complex and differentiated. In effect, at that time multiple influences in Germany were in play which moreover were not be identified with national socialism as commonly known. Its principles instead connect back to a movement that can be characterized by the term “conservative revolution”, which appears largely independent of Hitlerism, even if common influences are not lacking and in some cases are conveyed. In general, outside of Germany little is known about all that. For that reason, the contribution given by the young Swiss historian Armin Mohler with a recent very well documented and systematic work is valuable; it is intended precisely to throw light on the exponents and the ideas of the “conservative revolution” in Germany, considering it essentially in the period from 1918 to 1932, i.e., up until the coming of Hitler. A precise account of Molher’s research, we believe, will even interest the Italian reader.

The conservative revolution is a concept that, in  part corresponding to the French counter-revolution (Maurras, De Poncins), cannot be well understood without taking into account the particular historical situation of Germany and, in general, of the countries of central Europe. As Mohler correctly points out, in those countries the whole ideological world which is connected to the French Revolution has never taken hold in most of the remaining European nations. It was on the contrary often felt to be something foreign, perverting their own ancient and straightforward tradition. On such a basis in various environments there was even a reaction—however “reaction” not in the vulgar meaning typical of the class-conscious argument, but rather as the need for renovating by revolution, of removing dross and exogenous and destructive influences, without trying to simply restore yesterday and return to the ancien regime. Nevertheless, in the noted formulation (which seems to have been used for the first time in 1927 by Hofmannsthal) the term “revolution” assumes a meaning quite different from the progressivists. It does not designate a violent evolutive phase, but a restorative action starting from perennial values. To conserve faithfulness to such values and to react by going back to the origins – such is the basic position. Moeller van den Bruck, who was one of the principle exponents of this current, wrote however: “Conservatism has eternity for itself … To be conservative does not mean being attached to what was, but to live from what has always had value.”

Van den Bruck had coined the phrase “Third Reich” which was then employed – abusively and usurpatively, according to various exponents of the “conservative revolution”—by Hitlerism. That was the prevalent word for Wilhelmine Germany (corresponding to the second Reich; the first Reich was the Holy Roman Empire) did not appear as a realization of the idea realized by it. Behind a mere façade of feudalism, and in the rhetoric, multiple economic and social developments in Wilhelminism would have instead created forms far from expressing what some called das geheime Deutschland, or “Secret Germany”.

The rebirth, or better said, the impulse toward a rebirth had to occur only with the first world war and after. In such regard, they ended up saying that the victory of Wilhelm Germany would be the defeat of this secret Germany. The war as experience is interpreted as catharsis, that process of purification and of liberation (Thomas Mann): the destruction of rhetoric, false idealisms, great words (H. Fischer) and only nihilism in that sense (“positive nihilism”); the school of a “heroic realism” that imposes on the person to be brought down to the depth of being, where no destruction can reach (E. Junger). The recovery would therefore have had to follow the defeated military, i.e., the third Reich, the true Reich, based on an almost esoteric tradition, having as its goal not the mere conquest of political power, but a spiritual revolution and fidelity to the pure idea. All that, however, was manifested only in more or less hidden and dispersed traces, in small groups, circles, “Orders”, reviews, publishing centers. Right after the war (1918), spontaneous exponents of the same spirit were already the Freikorps, the voluntary corps—that of the Baltics and of the noted commander Ehrhardt – with their anti-communist battle and their fight to the death in lost positions.

More united formulations were those that had to nourish an already political alliance, like the “Helmet of Steel” (Stahlhelm) of Seldte and Dusterberg. The same group, the Reichswehr, sees in the period of the Weimar republic only a type of interregnum, it was faithful to the legal government, maintaining however a close adherence to the ideas of the “conservative revolution” and its autonomy, that it moreover (together with the elements of the diplomatic corps, professions and industry) did not completely lose in the very period of Hitlerism. On the whole, it tended toward an organic system, unitary but not totalitarian, opposed to a fanatic mass nationalism, surpassing individualism, rationalism, and the Enlightenment through qualitative and hierarchical values. All that, more as an attitude than as a theory or precise political program. Mohler, with reason, reproached a certain “mutism” in the conservative revolution and indicated what had to constitute its inferiority in respect to the method of the party that then won power: the repulsion to turn to the masses and to act by means of it, the repulsion for propaganda and the political battle in the modern sense, the conviction that, as in other times, the strength of charisma and tradition had to be decisive.

Thus, as we said, as more than a few the thought, the national socialist Third Reich represented a supplanting and a forgery rather than the realization of the third Reich hoped for by the conservative revolution. Certainly, in the mixture of ideas and tendencies present together in national socialism are found some that also belong to the “conservative revolution”. Yet, as Mohler correctly notes, the problem is the extent to which a doctrine can be truly held as responsible for the all the results that do not conform to it. If, among the conservative revolutionary alliance, there was those who included national socialism, hoping to achieve the desired results by working within it, there were many others who, after an encounter that disillusioned them, abandoned it, and then those who right from the beginning fought against it, putting themselves on the path of a more or less hidden revolt. And a considerable blood tribute was paid by the conservative revolution because of the defections by the opposing party, because many of its exponents were victims of repression both on 30 June 1934 and in 20 July 1944 (the military plot against Hitler, in which the part played by elements of the above mentioned movement is still little noted).

Mohler in one noteworthy part of his book tried, in particular, to indicate the worldview, or Weltanschauung, more or less common to the various conservative revolutionary movements. His framework, however, presents some misgivings. First of all, it seems to us that the author had focused too much on the ideal plane and too little on the political forms that really could have corresponded to the spirit of the movement. For the part that concerns precisely the political domain, it seems to us the he accentuated too much the separation that might have existed between those currents and true conservatism, comprising a tendency toward monarchy, a separation that in Germany was not actually as great and widespread as who those who read the book would be led to believe. The reverse process against the second Reich was led only by extremist elements, which few seem to remember the part that the Frederick tradition had in the second Reich.

As for the worldview, Mohler takes as its base the opposition existing between two general conceptions, which he called linear and cyclic. In the first, history is development, novelty, evolution, and tends to a final end that justifies it. This is the conception typical of the various progressivist currents, but in Christianity, as well, insofar as it gravitates toward an “end of time”.

The second conception is based instead on the idea of the “eternal return”, of the recurrence of the same forms. That was the basal view of the conservative revolution. In our opinion, the contrast in those terms is not well formulated. If anything, we should speak of historicism and anti-historicism, of civilizations of being and civilizations of becoming. It is not about expecting the return of the same forms (Vico, Spengler), but rather of believing that fundamental values never change; of recognizing a normative order containing a priori and ab initio all the principles, without which a civilization and a normal society are not conceivable.

Then we can draw on another criticism of Mohler’s schema, which too much harks back to a viewpoint of Nietzschean intonation, and to an immanentism that, to tell the truth, is poorly reconciled with the spirit of a true conservativism, revolutionary or not. Mohler attributes an anti-Christian bias to this, because the fundamental need of the movement would be unity or totality (Ganzheit), while Christianity is characterized by dualism, by the separation between two worlds, of which one does not have the same value as the other. Now, here we should distinguish between dualism and dualism, because although a lacerated dualism exists, there is however another that is the presupposition of every formative action in the traditional sense. If we do not distinguish another, higher, ideal, and transcendental world from the contingent world, then we lack the very possibility of conceiving an action from above, a hierarchy, an elevated authority (which Catholicism in its best period up to de Maistre, Bonald, and Donoso Cortes, has recognized). However, the foundation, without which we can no longer speak of conservativism and not even of conservative revolution, but they start onto problematic paths, paths in which actually several of the authors mentioned, followed. And one knows that on a not different line— a not purified and not transfigured immanentism or Nietzscheanism, up to a more than suspect “paganism” —the most negative aspects of the national socialist conception of the world had to take form.

Different views should therefore be introduced in order to characterize spiritually the best currents of the authentic conservative revolution, with a more adequate differentiation. Politically, it is right to recognize in them, with Mohler, a position of triple independence: independence in the face of Marxism, conservatism in the pejorative sense, and national socialism. Once recognized, it is natural that Mohler, if only in a brief notice at the end of the book, asks himself if positions of the type are completely expired, or rather, if they by chance could reacquire actuality because, with the situations today being analogous to those of the post-WWI period, it is probable that they also represent the same needs toward a “third force”—a force that should be kept distant both from communism and from national socialism, from progressivism and reaction, at this time abused terms. In such a case, everything would be in seeing which hands might be capable of directing adequately—without the dangers of sliding, subversion, or supplanting, this time—a reconstructive development in the noted sense, starting naturally above all from moral factors.

This remains, nevertheless, a separate point. Essentially, with these notes we tried to point out a notable contribution to the history of yesterday, which shows us aspects of the least flashy aspects of Germany, more secret but fundamentally also more significant to essentials of which come to the first plane in the recent tragedies whose consequences Europe is still experiencing.

~ Julius Evola, Rassegna Italiana, Rome, June 1952

The Metaphysics of Sex and the One



In general, we do not believe that discussions have a meaning and a seriousness unless it essentially aspires to a clarification in the premises of a common base. If a writer is able to recognize the fundamental premises of his own thought (whether or not tied to a “personal equation”) and sees his fundament difference in respect to those of another writer, the only serious thing is that he follows his own way without trying to insert himself in an intellectual world foreign to him. Unfortunately that happens rarely, due to the lack of such a preliminary self-analysis. That does not limit us to an inescapable criticism of other people’s views (which is of course approvable and fruitful), but is put on a confused argument: precisely because of the heterogeneity of basic conceptions. That demonstrates fundamentally the activity of sub-rational explanations.

For this reason, we would not have considered that a book titled “Io sono te: sesso e oblazione” [You and I: sex and offering] was by Giulio Cogni. The author has certainly believed he included in it an essay on our work, the Metaphysics of Sex. That would not be as important as the fact that in the circumstances grave confusions and distortions weighed on a domain that goes beyond the ideas that we’ve espoused in various places. Hence, the opportunity of a development that, apart every polemic need, intends to highlight some ensemble of ideas which may be of interest for the reader.

The views of I am you reproduce, in its essentials, that which Cogni had already expressed in another book, Saggio sull’amore [Essay on Love], published in 1922. At that time, someone wisely said that Cogni, at that time a Gentilian through the skin, had translated the Gentilian theory of the “spirit as pure act” into a more sapid “theory of the spirit as impure act”, since he recognized in the sexual union a principle concrete form of the identification of the subject with the object postulated by Gentile’s actualism. Moreover, Cogni formulated a phagic or anthropophagic theory: love, would mean eating oneself, devouring oneself. A similar thesis in his new book: where “the famous hunger-sex, hunger-love, equation” is established. Previously, Cogni presented the situation in rather masochistic terms: man eaten by the woman in whom he was absorbed and lost himself as individuality. In the more recent exposition erotic anthropophagy seems to be conceived as reciprocal, turning out however to be little imaginable because, ironically, he would want to think that at the end of the lovers, there remained only two mouths, each being ingested and consumed wholly by the other.

If it all ended here, with phagia, it would be said the Cogni was inspired only by the crudest aspect of sexuality: the “hunger” of bodies, simple lustful longing. But suddenly he proceeds to appositions that are in complete contrast with what, as analogy, might suggest “eating” and hunger. In fact, Cogni always returns again to self-denial, to sacrificial offering, the abandonment of oneself that there would be in eroticism and in sexual union. Carnal pleasure would be “complete renunciation of oneself in order to make oneself the other.”

He moves directly to a type of mysticism: “the sexual act is humility of annihilation and sacrifice of oneself to the universal life that is seen in the body of the beloved”. “Love is phagic because only with the gift of the body and with devouring and making oneself devoured one realizes the more powerful symbol of Unity: every alleged individual separation is removed.” The ultimate goal is “the immersion of the cosmic One without a second.” All this seems to us pure digression, even with a slight paranoid tint.

First of all, about the incongruence between the points of view, it must be pointed out that in hunger and in phagia presented as the keys of sex, there is nothing of this sacrificial orientation, of the abandonment of oneself, and of “sweet” identification (sweet is a word that often recurs in Cogni even in connection to sadomasochistic situations; that would point, to malign him, at the strong preference, usually female, for products of the confectionary industry instead of the prevalent manly taste for spicy and peppered food). indeed, in hunger the need operates by suffering from a deprivation, while eating leads only its own conservation and satiety: exactly the opposite of the abandonment of the sacrificial gift of oneself. Nothing sweet, then, if hunger is absolute, devouring. And since Cogni even makes almost a dogma out of anthropophagy in its proper sense, he does not know that in it, at most, the situation is not different: it is multiply attested that if the savage feeds himself with the flesh of others, he does not do it for a “sweet” identification, but only and darkly because he believed he absorbs the other’s strengths to this own advantage. As for eating the flesh of sacrificial victims, it is a fantasy to say that in it the tendency acts to submerge oneself in the cosmic One. In general, here everything comes down to totemic participation (the victim incarnates the totem), then a rather restricted order, shadowed by sorcery and demonism typical of totemism in general. Therefore, these are very fragile and inconsistent bases for the advocated theses referring to sex. And the Eucharistic symbol, if one does not want to totally contaminate it by discovering in it rather suspect roots, is reduced to a mere allegory.

As far as we are concerned, the fundamental intention of the book Metaphysics of Sex was to highlight the existence of a possible transcendent dimension of sex. We tried to lead the transcendental meaning of eros (in the almost Kantian sense) back to a dark, unconscious impulse to restore an original wholeness, which we referred as the most noted mythical formulation in the West, to the Platonic theory of the androgyne. Besides, we found that phenomena of transcendence could intervene in the erotic-sexual experience of a momentary traumatic removal of the common conditionality of the individual consciousness, we showed that this was the presupposition of practices of some environments, especially the Oriental, in which it was done in a magical, initiatic, or evocatory use of sex. But all that is quite far from Cogni’s mystical-phagic digressions, and every confusion in this regard is deplorable.

First of all, we should not generalize by attributing the strong value of transcendence to that which is typical of almost all sexual unions of human beings. What appears in the metaphysical or transcendental cannot be made of value in the phenomenological. In a phenomenological examination fall all the idealizing and mystical fixations, with the very sweet sacrifice and the sacrificial surpassing of oneself in the flesh of the other which Cogni always comes back to. Factually, in most sexual intercourse, one partner seeks only his own pleasure, making the other the means, so that the situation is not very dissimilar, sit venia verbis, from a “masturbation duet”. Therefore nothing overcomes the individual bond. In the second place, existentially, often, and today more than ever, sex is of value to the individual only as a self-confirmation, only to assert a “need” (Geltungstrieb as Adler would say), or to look for an illusory, turbid substitute for a true sense of existence, of which he is deprived: then, again, no exit from the closed circle of the individual. Finally, as we said and also highlighted in our book, if sporadic phenomena of “transcendence” in the profane experience of sex can sometimes be verified, they often are not experienced as such. They are realized in apical forms to the trauma of the organism which represent, for the most part, a solution of continuity of the consciousness from which one returns emptied, instead of having had the “shining experience of the One”. That, in general, is rarely the case in profane, carnal, or romantic love. It is especially pertinent to the magical and initiatic use of sex, the use that, inter alia, involves a special conduct of sexual intercourse and about which one thing is certain: intensive states of a special destructive intoxication intervene (in an almost ontological, not a moral, meaning), which excludes phagia, the abandonment of the other, the sacrifice of oneself, and all the sweet and pantheistic affectations so dear to Cogni; and they never failed to emphasize the dangerous character of that practice, for anything idyllic, romantic, and idealizing.

Cogni has also noticed the relation, noticeable in multiple forms, between eros and death, between the divinity of sex and the destructive divinity and death, that we did, but without understanding it in its true sense. It is significant that, among other things, the secret Hindu orgiastic rites that aimed at the aforementioned experience of transcendence, was celebrated in the sign of goddesses like Durga and Kali, not in their maternal aspect but in the destructive aspect. Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of love, is also the goddess of destruction and war (her leonine head refers to a beast whose manners are not at all the sweetest). Something analogous applies to the ancient goddesses of the Mediterranean area, starting with Ishtar, also the goddess of the orgy.

The following point is related to that. We indicated the magnetic base of every eros and every intense sexual experience. It is the development of such a base that serves as the basis for those experiences. But it is due precisely to the polarity of the male and the female as ontological principles, something always acknowledged. So Cogni denies that that polarity is an essential requirement of eros, which he believes concerns only the naturalistic plane, like electrical and similar phenomena. That means that for him all the documentation that we have gathered, in an entire chapter, from the most varied cultural areas, regarding the “metaphysical dyad”, might as well not exist because it contradicts his promiscuous pantheism.

Without dwelling on such a, perhaps a little too specialized, topic, let’s indicate in general the horizons between which the erotology proposed by Cogni moves. The theory of eros as pantheistic identification has found nourishment, in Cogni, in his references to India and to Hindu philosophy of the Vedanta. It appears in a clear way that Cogni has seen of India only what, given his temperament, he was capable of, the India that would be immersed in the “dream of the One”, the “hot all comprehensive all justifying sweetness, royally tolerating, loving and accepting of the people and the land of India”. Mother India, discovered by certain useless humanitarian American authoresses like women, with Gandhiism, non-violence, the alleged climate of “loving equality” for the meaning of the One above every illusory difference, would be the true India. But that is an image in part one-sided, in part absurd.

First of all, Cogni seems to overlook the small defect of the beauty present in the “sweet tolerance”, exhibited by the recent massacres between the Hindu and Islamic inhabitants of India, which Gandhi made out as another pleasant event. He then ignores the fact that, if there was a social regime which ruled in the most rigid way the principle of difference for entire millennia, this was the Hindu caste system. To the alleged India all love, abandonment and pardon we contrast the India of the great epochs and of the Bhagavad Gita, a traditional text having the same popularity which the Bible enjoys among the Westerners. It attributed the characteristic of a passion, destructive in its transcendence, to the highest form of the appearance of the divine, while also drawing from it a spiritual and metaphysical justification of the duty of the warrior to fight and kill, sparing neither friends nor relatives who were found on the enemy front. And everyone knows that the Hindu Trimurti, much closer to the Hindu population than the abstractions of Vedantic speculation, considers a divine function in Shiva to whom destruction is proper.

But now it is necessary to repeat myself that Cogni is visibly affected by spiritual scotomas which prevent him from seeing whatever does not support his inclinations. So Buddhism interests him only in its late and popular exoteric forms of a religion, with “love for all creatures”, Amitabha the god of love, etc., in contrast to the serious individual ascetic techniques of the Buddhist doctrine of “awakening” of the authentic texts of the original Buddhist canon, that we showed with strict reference to the texts in a book that Cogni says he was familiar with. From that canon it becomes obvsious that, among other things, if love and compassion figure (however with an instrumental function) as preliminary stages in the sequence of the four phases of the highest Buddhist contemplation, of dhyana, they are left behind, since the summit is constituted by a state of sovereign, disincarnated impassibility and imperturbability that, pleasing or not to Cogni, has something of the Olympic quality and nothing of a week humanitarianism.

In fact, our author does not stand at the peaks but in the trash heaps of India. The current devotion has had a part in India, but in the lower popular strata, not unrelated to a pre-Indo-European substrate of the country. Only relatively recently has it corresponded with a philosophic system, that of Ramanuja. Earlier, it was considered a “path of devotion” and love, bhakti-marga, but it certainly did not stand at the first level, the dignity of a spiritual “regal path”, raja-marga, which was instead attributed to the path of knowledge”, jnana-marga and jnana yoga.

That character was mainly attributed to the Vedanta, which Cogni is enthusiastic about, seeing in it however only the theory of absolute Identity, of non-duality, of the One-All, of “thou art that”, the theory that serves him as the basis for his ideas of eros that embraces and reunites everything.

Well, here we can first of all say that the Vedanta in the primitivistically pantheistic key does not at all exhaust the Hindu spiritual world. We can point out, especially, that a radical monism was not attested in its origins, in the Vedas, which present us with a clearly articulated pantheon. In the second place, India has known great speculative systems, like the Samkhya, which has instead emphasized a primordial duality, that of Purusha and Prakriti, and like metaphysical tantrism, which argued against the “illusionistic” Vedanta (the world is maya) and along with the school of Kashmir formulated a well differentiated cosmological doctrine.

We will not dwell on these factual data about India. The essential point is that Cogni exchanges the metaphysical One with the pantheistic One, with that One which, according to the expression Hegel used in regard to the philosophy of identity of the later Schelling, is “the night in which all the cows are black”. It is not about the One that dominates a well-articulated order of differences (a cosmos, in the Hellenic sense) but rather of a promiscuous “naturalistic” unity to be related, rather, to “Life”. This is Cogni’s spiritual horizon.

From that confusion, much more serious confusions arise in the practical realm. Cogni has no sense of the fact that just as an “integrative ascending self-transcendence” exists, so a divisive descending self-transcendence also exists for the true personality. That is, there are possible openings of the I both toward the higher as well as toward the lower, which also means toward “nature”, toward the unconscious, toward the vital formless bottom. Only the former correspond to the high ascesis, to initiation, to authentic yoga. The ancient wisdom already distinguished and counterpoised the higher waters from the lower waters, the first illuminating, the latter intoxicating and divisive, and this basic doctrine, taken up again by thinkers around the period of the Renaissance, was opportunely recalled by one of the few people today truly qualified in this field, by Rene Guenon, to alert us about the danger and deviations of a certain contemporary spirituality.

To return to the field of eros, Cogni recalled in passing the ambivalence that is present, from the spiritual point of view, in sexual experience. If the woman was seen as a danger, if one could say foemina mors animae in Latin so as to recommend continence, that is not attributable to a moralistic attitude, to the “theological hatred for sex” that Vilfredo Pareto spoke about or to the “sexophobia” on which L De Marchi insists. They also had in view the possibility that the experience of sex, when it was not about curbing mere mortals and moralizing, but for those who had supernatural aspirations, that it could even lead to the negative direction of a “descending self-transcendence”. And if we examine the use of sex predominant in the most recent generations, we find a reflection of that even on a quite profane plane: other than a “sweet” sacrifice of oneself, a “carnal offering”, that redeems and leads to the One, but couplings used on the same life of drugs (to be precise: of the current profane pandemic use of drugs) to draw from the extreme sensations of the orgasm the illusory confirmation of the sense of oneself (the exact opposite of the direction toward the higher).

When the One is “the night in which all the cows are black”, every difference is challenged and discouraged, and promiscuity in the name of that One becomes a norm even in the forms more repugnant for every well born person. In that regard, Cogni is explicit and demonstrates, if nothing else, the courage of coherence. He asserts, for example that “every doctrine that starts from the absolute and not relative point of view, from inferiority or hierarchal superiority, is erroneous at its base, if it is true that the One is all and identical to Brahman”. Note that these words are said in regard to the difference between the species, between men and animal species, for example. We are not talking about how it relates to the human environment. Cogni will certainly not object, to the greater glory of the Vedantic One, if a young Nordic girl beds a Zulu or an Australian aborigine whose morphological and mental level corresponds to the stone age. He is certainly an egalitarian to the bitter end, a fanatic integrationist (he rushed to make an act of contrition, keeping to date in relation to a past error because in the fascist period he was a racialist, albeit of a dubious racial theory), an admirer of “unisex” and the “third sex” and so on. But the last straw is in the area of carnality. As a more audacious form of identification, phagist or not, in the name of the One, he actually admits not only homosexuality and pederasty, but even sex with animals, sodomy with women, and so on. His theory explains how “many people have so much attraction for such relationships commonly judged against nature”. “Only by accepting in principle the ordinarily most repugnant areas of the other (for sexual use), is one certain of having reached absolute identity.” At this rate, we believe that Cogni would, in the same way, value even coprophagia (the eating of feces as a form of eroticism) and would sanctify the disgusting events where even coprophagia figures abundantly as the decisive erotica along with the other horrors, described in the 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade.

Naturally, in denouncing similar aberrations of Cogni, we do not appeal to any conformist moralism but to what is called normal in a higher, not social, sense. For example, pederasty at the most can be tolerated when if arises from special constitutional situations of imperfect sexualization but must be stigmatized as a vice, deviation, and perversion in all other cases, denying also that in this, as in all other case of sexual psychopathy, the necessary objective requirements from a metaphysics of sex are present for the actual experiences of a deconditionalizing intensity. But there is no hope that Cogni has such an understanding for similar things.

Finally, we need to point out another deviation in Cogni, unifying promiscuous sexuality with pantheism. Since, as we have seen, his reference point is not metaphysical reality but rather the promiscuous bottom of “Life”, skirting the unconscious and the subconscious; in his more recent writings, Cogni sympathizes openly with psychoanalysis and metapsychics. He goes so far as to say that parapsychology “remains still the great hope of the future”. He poses himself in a duet of mutual admiration with Emilieo Servadio who had “opened the way”, “knowing India in depth and every type of initiatic thought and psychic depth”. That makes us smile. If Servadio had ever really had some idea of intiatic matters and authentic wisdom that was when, before the war, he was vividly interested in the publications edited by the “Ur Group” which I directed. After the war, at a snail’s pace, he more or less set all that aside and he immersed himself in psychoanalysis. Moreover, that brought on a lucrative professional program and seeking to put himself everywhere before the public, he associated psychoanalysis with parapsychology, in place of initiatic knowledge and wisdom traditions, giving himself however to probe not the psychical depths but rather the slums of the psyche. The connection with psychanalysis and metapsychics took place in Cogni without difficulty through the fact that his One is easily relatable to the “deep unconscious that is one in the entire universe”, by which telepathic phenomena and metapsychics in general can be explained, while it is the field proper to psychoanalysis.

In fact, in these new disciplines the unconscious becomes a sack in which things of every type are placed. One does not think at all about such an elementary and basic distinction, like that between the subconscious (or unconscious) and the superconscious, in part for the simple reason that psychoanalysis and metapsychics have no idea of the latter, and then because in their experimental field, for obvious reasons, it is rather difficult to even imagine. Form this also come aberrant assimilations, like those of C G Jung, in which the homologous figures perceived by psychopaths or oneiric visions of symbols and mythical structures of the initiatic and religious field, reducing everything to the emergence of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Now, it still holds that, apart from psychoanalysis with its murky world, all modern parapsychology embraces only the offal of the extranormal and is outside all that might have an authentically spiritual value. It is only a question of the slums that can impress only the naïve. But the reason for Cogni’s interest in such things appears evident given what is said: it is a question of true elective affinity. At this level is where he locates which he called the “great hope”. Signs of the times.

In conclusion, from the present considerations it turns out that the mentality, the personal equation, the elective affinities, the theoretic referents of Cogni have no point of contact with a spiritual world that we presume is not personal. In cases of this type, as was said at the beginning, discussions have little meaning. However, these notes are less about “arguing” than taking the occasion to make clear certain questions of undoubtable relevance for those readers who might have an interest in the themes treated.