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News and Commentary

24 October 2010

Spiritual and Structural Presuppositions of the European Union

Julius Evola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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