The New York Times in a profile behind the thought of President Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon highlighted a thinker near and dear to many Alt Righters: Julius Evola.Why is this important?
Julius Evola and some others were instrumental in the development of fascist thought post WWI. Most people think of fascism as a political ideology, which it is, of course. But that is only the trunk of the tree. Fascisms are neither homogenous nor monolithic. Different approaches are based on philosophies having many roots, branches and twigs.
One stream of the fascist tradition is dark, based on "occultism" in the pejorative sense. While evidence suggests that Hitler was uninterested in such matters, the Nazis are known for it and evidence supports the view that Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfürher in charge of the SS, was deeply involved in it. Under Himmler, the SS grew to a million-man paramilitary force.
Himmler had a lifelong interest in occultism, interpreting Germanic neopagan and Völkisch beliefs to promote the racial policy of Nazi Germany, and incorporating esoteric symbolism and rituals into the SS. — WikipediaThis became the basis for the SS Nazi mystique that still exists.
While Evola was not closely connected with German fascism, his ideas were close enough to be noticed by the leadership and he work was brought to Himmler's attention. While they noticed a similarity, the divergence was great enough for them to discourage Evola's influence in Germany. It would not be correct to call Evola either a Nazi or a strong influence on its development and expression.
Evola's influence was more significant on the development of fascism in Italy, which is not much-known anymore in the West. But it also had a dark side and Evola's ideas were deeply involved in influencing it, even though Evola did not consider himself a fascist and rejected nationalism as non-traditional.
This makes Evola distant enough from historical fascism to make some cohorts of the contemporary right open to his ideas without incurring the charge of being fascists for that reason.
Where Evola's importance with respect to some cohorts of the contemporary right is his orientation toward the dark side.
What is the "dark side"? In the literature of comparative spirituality and religion, there is a common tradition of "ways," for example, the right-hand path and the left hand path, and the middle way. The left or "sinister" path — sinister is Latin for left or left-handed — is also the called "dark" path. It is the path of power.
This is also associated with Nietzsche's concept of the hero and the will to power, which can also be viewed as an expression of the dark side, where the hero's life — Das Heldenleben — is held up as an ideal for emulation.
This is the warrior's path based on power and its noble use. Nietzsche hero is "beyond good and evil." Himmler subscribed to this position, for instance, and it became a key fundamental in the worldview of the SS. In this view, what the weak and servile see as evil, the hero views as necessity and does the necessary while remaining above it.
Nietzsche's views contributed to the development of German fascism and the traditionalist right. But that doesn't make Nietzsche himself a fascist, although he was a traditionalist and anti-liberal. Indeed, Nietzsche can also be viewed as a precursor to Ayn Rand's philosophy of the "capitalist as hero," as embodies in her character
While Nietzsche was not an occultist like Evola, his ideas also exhibited a fascination that perpetuates them, perhaps because they are rooted in what Carl Jung called the collective unconscious and its archetypes, which are expressed here interns of the warrior-king and sage-magician. For example, these archetypes are fundamental to the contemporary myths expressed in the Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter tales, and the Star Wars series, on which George Lucas consulted mythologist Joseph Campbell. Such motifs are also found widely in gaming.
Without going into details that would go beyond the scope of this post, the takeaway is that there is a fascination associated with these ideas centering around power and its use that has imbued this worldview with staying-power historically.
This view has many expressions that have been been around since prehistory. Some of the views are from the dark side and some from the light. But even in the sagas based on the light, the dark villains are also archetypes that have acquired a sort of immortality in literature and myth. While the modern manifestations are garbed in contemporary language and culture, the views are "traditional" and can be found in the world's literature and mythology, including spiritual and religious.
The upshot is that there is a basis for a worldview underlying the alt-right that most are likely not aware of and many that are aware of it dismiss it as nonsensical or absurd. However, it is a social political worldview based on a coherent metaphysical, epistemological, ethical and aesthetic presumptions, making it capable of exerting a strong psychological influence on susceptible people.
I am not claiming either than this view is that of the alt right as whole, or that anyone that has not expressed them holds such views. The point is that there is a dimension that has been alluded to that fits this mold. Therefore, it is something that people should be aware of as a potential factor.
Steve Bannon has mentioned Evola, for example, but he has given no indication, of which I am aware anyway, about the depth and breadth of what he thinks important or at least significant in Evola's wide-ranging and multifaceted work. On one hand, opponents are likely to run away with his reference to it and attribute views to Bannon that he doesn't necessarily hold or promote. On the other hand, some are likely to find much of what Evola has written to be significant in today's context, and Evola (and others) can be taken in many ways. "The situation is evolving," as they say.
Who’s Afraid of Julius Evola? The New York Times