Notes on Heidegger & EvolaGreg Johnson
Translations: Portuguese, Polish, Spanish
Evidence has recently emerged that Martin Heidegger read Julius Evola. In an article entitled “Ein spirituelles Umsturzprogramm” (“A Spiritual Revolution Program”) published in the Frankfurter allgemeine Zeitung, December 30, 2015, Thomas Vasek reports on an important document he discovered:
Julius Evola, the ultra-fascist Italian cultural philosopher, was eagerly read not only by Gottfried Benn, but also by Martin Heidegger as an unpublished note shows.
The keyword of Martin Heidegger’s note is “race”; below that appears, in the handwriting of the philosopher, the following sentence: “Wenn eine Rasse die Berührung mit dem, was allein Beständigkeit hat und geben kann — mit der Welt des Seyns — verloren hat, dann sinken die von ihr gebildeten kollektiven Organismen, welches immer ihre Größe und Macht sei, schicksalhaft in die Welt der Zufälligkeit herab.” [“If a race has lost contact with what alone has and can give resistance — with the world of Beyng — then the collective organisms formed from it, whatever be their size and power, sink fatefully down into the world of contingency.”] The quotation is taken verbatim from the book Revolt Against the Modern World, which was first published in German in 1935; only the spelling of “Being” has been Heideggerized.
The author of the work was the Italian cultural philosopher and esotericist Julius Evola (1898-1974) — a racist and anti-Semite who revered the SS as an elite order, developed a Fascist racial doctrine, and a wrote a Preface to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. After the war, the Italian fascists revered him. To this day he is considered a leading figure of the extreme Right across Europe. [. . .]
The as yet unpublished excerpt could give new direction to the ongoing Heidegger controversy. Evola’s name does not appear in Heidegger’s published writings, and Heidegger scholarship has taken little notice of him. Even the Italian philosopher Donatella di Cesare does not mentions Evola in her book Heidegger, the Jews, the Shoah (2015). Yet textual comparisons suggest that Heidegger had not only read Evola, as this note indicates, but was also influenced by his ideas from the mid-thirties on, from his critique of science and technology, his anti-humanism and rejection of Christianity, to his “spiritual” racism. If this thesis is correct, then perhaps one could view the late Heidegger as a radical fascist esotericist who hoped that rule by a spiritual elite would bring about the reappearance of the gods.
Of course this single note establishes only that Heidegger read one of Evola’s books, not that he read it “eagerly.” Nor does it indicate what Heidegger thought of Evola. But it is still an important discovery. It could lead nowhere. (It could be Heidegger’s sole reference to Evola.) Or it could be the tip of an iceberg. An Evola connection could end up throwing a great deal of light on Heidegger’s interests and associations. No matter what the outcome, Vasek’s discovery is the beginning of an important academic research project. Are there other references to Evola in the Heidegger papers? Did Heidegger read other works by Evola? Did he annotate Evola’s books? Did Heidegger correspond with or meet Evola? (Both thinkers visited one another’s homelands.)
I have long wondered if more mainstream thinkers of the Right like Heidegger and Carl Schmitt were aware of the Traditionalist school of Evola and René Guénon. This suspicion was based less on shared doctrines than on shared concerns. A philosopher’s concerns are, in effect, the questions he is trying to answer; his doctrines are his attempts to answer them. Heidegger and Schmitt shared their Right-wing politics and critical eye on modernity with Evola and Guénon. That alone was sufficient reason to read them, even if they arrived at very different conclusions. Thus I was pleased to learn from Mircea Eliade’s Portugal Journal that Schmitt said, “the most interesting man alive today is René Guénon” and that Eliade agreed, although his conviction sometimes wavered. (Eliade also met Evola, corresponded with him, and read his works.) And now we have positive evidence that Heidegger read Evola.
I am skeptical, however, of Vasek’s assertion that Heidegger was influenced by Evola from the mid-1930s on, specifically on such matters as science and technology, anti-humanism, the rejection of Christianity, and race and anti-Semitism. For one thing, Heidegger had rejected Christianity long before the 1930s. I eagerly anticipate Vasek’s “textual comparisons,” but my fear is that they will be superficial. For although both Heidegger and Evola shared a generally Right-wing political outlook and believed that technological modernity was the culmination of a long process of decline going back to antiquity, their ultimate philosophical premises were very different.
Evola’s “world of Being” is essentially a Platonic realm of eternal, intelligible truth that stands in opposition to the “world of contingency,” which is intelligible only insofar as it reflects the world of Being. By contrast, Heidegger’s concept of “Beyng” (a rendering of his use of Seyn, the archaic spelling of the German Sein) refers to his concept of “Ereignis,” which is actually an unintelligible contingency that establishes different reigning interpretations of man and world. Beyng is a source of historical meaning that can neither be understood nor controlled.
Evola believed that history’s downward trajectory toward technological modernity and cultural decadence was a falling away from the world of Being into the world of contingency. Heidegger, however, regarded Evola’s essentially Platonic outlook as part of the decline itself, indeed as standing very close to its beginning.
For Heidegger, the Platonic distillation of Being as pure intelligibility and intellect as the capacity to intuit the intelligible is false because it is an abstraction that overlooks a more fundamental unity, a mutual belonging of historical man and meaningful worlds. For Heidegger, we are too close to things and to ourselves, too involved in them, to fully understand or control them. He believes that metaphysics posits both intelligible Being and a self-transparent intellect out of a drive for mastery. Thus the will to power that comes to fruition in global technological civilization is present at the very beginning of the metaphysical tradition.
Heidegger claims that we overlooked this fundamental unity because it, in effect, concealed itself. It is a historical event that cannot exist apart from man but nevertheless was not controlled by man either. The self-concealment of Beyng creates metaphysics. And metaphysics inaugurates the downward course of history, culminating in technological nihilism. Contra Evola, the beginning of decline is not a fall from metaphysics, but a fall into metaphysics.
In terms of the topic of Heidegger’s unpublished note, namely race, Evola’s objection to biological racism is that it is insufficiently metaphysical, overlooking “races of the soul” and “races of the spirit.” Heidegger, however, had a very different objection to biological race.
Throughout his philosophical career, Heidegger battled against false concepts of human nature. The common denominator of these false concepts is that they are universal. In the metaphysical tradition, the essence of man is what all men have in common. What reason tells us we all have in common is reason itself. Man is the rational animal.
The rational animal is not, however, a national animal. Because reason is one, humanity is one, so the human community should be one as well. Thus more particular attachments are illegitimate. If man is the rational animal, and reason grasps the universal, then reason is in effect a “view from nowhere” which can take us anywhere. The view from nowhere makes us citizens of everywhere. The rational animal is a citizen of the world; the cosmos is our polis; we have wings not roots.
Heidegger’s word for human nature, however, is Dasein, which means “being here/there.” Dasein is not a view from nowhere, but a view from somewhere. Dasein’s outlook on the world is particular, not universal. It is particularized by space and time, and particularized by language and culture, which it shares with other Dasein in its community—but not with all of humanity. Heidegger is a philosopher of distinct identities, of the concrete, of the local, and of belonging, which is a mutual relationship: We belong to our world, and our world belongs to us. (The name of this concrete mutual belongingness is Ereignis.)
Heidegger’s concept of Dasein is inherently political. We are not the rational animal but the national animal, and nation is defined by a common history, language, culture, and destiny. The politics of Dasein is, therefore, ethnonationalism.
Why not racial nationalism? Heidegger would not deny that race is part of ethnic identity. To be German one must be white. But there is more to being German than being white. Heidegger feared that defining identity in terms of biological race alone was another form of deracinating universalism. Not as universal and deracinating as “humanity,” but with similar consequences. For if whiteness is essential, then it is easy to become indifferent to Germanness and Englishness, which is the road to deracination and homogenization. But for Heidegger this is a form of inauthenticity, a failure to own up to our full identity and carry forward the cultural and linguistic particularities of our heritage.
This is very different from Evola’s metaphysical critique of biological racism. For Evola, biological race is too concrete and insufficiently metaphysical. For Heidegger, biological race is too abstract and metaphysical.
Nevertheless, despite the deep and fundamental rift between Heidegger’s and Evola’s views, Heidegger still chose to copy down Evola’s words. That means something. The fact that Heidegger also changed “Sein” to “Seyn” was probably no slip of the pen. It means something too. Was Heidegger endorsing Evola’s basic schema that the vitality of a people derives from its contact with a power that transcends its understanding and control? By changing Sein to Seyn, was he transposing Evola’s metaphysical version of this theme into his own anti-metaphysical key? Translated into Heideggerian terms, Evola’s schema is that a people, defined not in spiritual but cultural and historical terms, loses its vitality by turning away, not from Platonic ultimate reality, but from its participation in historically evolved practices of meaning—its traditions—and turning toward, not the world of contingency, but the modern mania for certainty and control, expressed in the racial sphere as eugenics and other public health measures. This is certainly consistent with Heidegger’s discussions of race from the 1930s, including remarks from before the publication of the German translation of Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World.
Some take the view that Heidegger’s philosophy was essentially apolitical. Then he blundered into his unfortunate dalliance with National Socialism. Then he returned to an apolitical outlook. This is false. Heidegger’s thought is ethnonationalist to the core. This implies that it never ceased being so. Thus the later Heidegger’s politics simply went underground. It became hidden, occult, esoteric. Which means that Vasek may be on to something when he writes, “perhaps one could view the late Heidegger as a radical fascist esotericist who hoped that rule by a spiritual elite would bring about the reappearance of the gods.”
My view is that Heidegger’s disillusionment with National Socialism, which began in the middle of the 1930s, led him to search for a way of defining a post-totalitarian, ethnonationalist critique of globalizing, homogenizing modernity. In short, Heidegger was the first thinker of the New Right.
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 Greg Johnson, “Mircea Eliade, Carl Schmitt, and René Guénon,” Counter-Currents, July 15, 2013.
 Michael Bell, “Julius Evola’s Concept of Race: A Racism of Three Degrees,” Counter-Currents, February 6, 2011.
 See, for instance, Martin Heidegger, Being and Truth [1933–34], trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), p. 138; Mindfulness [1939–1939], trans. Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), pp. 241–42; Ponderings II–VI: Black Notebooks, 1931–1938, trans. Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016), p. 266; and especially Ponderings XII–XV: Black Notebooks, 1939–1941, trans. Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016), p. 44.
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Bravo! I can always read Evola and Guénon inside Eliade. It would be rather interesting if they are someway inside Heidegger works.
Like all academics, Herr Vasek thinks in terms of “influences” and thinks he has said all that can be said once he establishes “x read y”. I think what we have here is less “influence” than Heidegger, like all of us, being pleased to find some published thoughts similar to his own, and literally “taking note” of them. “See, you doubters! This guy agrees with me too!”
Heidegger may not have said anything else about Evola, but Evola devotes several chapters of Ride the Tiger to Heidegger, the title of which section, The Dead End of Existentialism, gives an adequate notion of his attitude. Obviously, it deals with H qua “existentialist” along with Sartre and others, especially, most interesting to me, Jaspers. Whether H ever was an existentialist, Evola does not seem to deal with, or have an interest in, the “later” H.
For Evola, H and the other existentialist fails to solve or transcend the problems set up by Nietzsche. Like them, whatever his value otherwise, he is simply unable to contact, and thus incorporate into his thinking, real Transcendence. There various more or less desperate attempts to find a modus vivendi without it are judged by Evola as more or less interesting or useful for the man he is interested in, the Differentiated (from the mass) Man, the Man of Tradition, who is both unsatisfied with being fobbed off with “ecstatic” — i.e., constantly receding before Dasein– makeshifts, AND able to do something about it (attach himself to an intitiatic stream found in an authentic Tradition). All are simply repackaging the Christian, specifically Protestant, notion of unworthy man shut out of Paradise and yearning for forgiveness of sin. As such, Jaspers is far more interesting, and far less verbose, than Heidegger, which should displease many (Jaspers being the patron saint of Sinful Postwar Germany, often contrasted with the unrepentant “nazi” Heidegger).
For Evolian Man, Heidegger and the others are mere professors (always a term of contempt with Evola, who completed the requirements but refused to ‘take’ a doctorate lest he be addressed as a “Dr.’) who create various word-salads to convey their obviously uncomfortable position, lost in the meaningless modern world. They are, he says, far from being ‘burned out” or “beyond good and evil.” In terms of being “the first philosopher of the New Right,” the Evola quote Heidegger cites needs to be read against the background of the “new men” of the disillusioned post WWI generation, “men in revolt within the chaotic life of the big cities, or who have passed through the “storms of steel” [note Junger allusion!] … or who have grown up in bombed-out zones,” who, unlike these professors, “possess in greater measure the premises for the reconquest of a higher sense of life, and an existential overcoming, not theoretical but genuine, of all the problems of men in crisis; and these are also the points of departure for corresponding speculative expressions.”
The professors may call this an ad hominem argument, but I find it as refreshing as Sartre did the discovery of Husserl’s method of “the things themselves!” Do we really need yet another philosophical system telling us we should be satisfied with ignorance and death, lest we be “inauthentic”?
Traditional Man knows that the door is open and only needs (big step!) to be entered. “It is characteristic of Western man to substitute the theory of knowledge for Knowledge” — Guenon. And –the point of Ride the Tiger–so does (some of) PostWar Man, who cannot fall back on bourgeois comforts and Christian piety, these having been smashed to bits.
This is a very intriguing development, I will stay tuned for more!
If I am not mistaken, I think Evola and Heidegger had more similar views on metaphysics than you posit here. In Revolt of the Modern World, in the chapter on the Golden Age, Evola argues something to the effect that primordial man, the Hyperboreans or the race of -God-men” that existed at the beginning of time in every tradition were living in the era of pure being;
“As the age of being the first era is also the era of Living in the eminent sense of the word. According to Hesiod, death…made its appearance only during the last two ages..’mortal people lived as if they were gods'”
Evola’s view, which I believe he shares with Guenon and Schuon, was that metaphysics/religion gives the mankind of declining ages access to his primordial state, but religion is itself a signification of a fall from primordial origins. It signifies that man is insufficient in himself, that he has lost the primordial connection.
Well there is no trace of Hyperboreans, Atlanteans, and other myths in Heidegger.
Heidegger does not refer to classical myths like the Golden Age, the Hyperboreans and so on, but he shares with Evola (and other thinkers of the “radical right”) the idea of some kind of “return to origins” as the only way of overcoming the spiritual crisis of the modern world. Also, Evola did not view the Golden Age as a literal, historical fact, but as a myth, precisely. I forget where, but I remember a passage where Evola states that the Golden Age is simply a mythical expression of a distant memory of the primordial life of the Indo-Europeans.
Both thinkers share the idea that recovery from the progressive spiritual decline of the modern world and a “new beginning” cannot, ultimately, be forced into existence by an arbitrary human act. In Heidegger’s famous Der Spiegel interview, he says that “only a god can save us.” We can and must create the conditions through some sort of spiritual rebirth can occur, but then there has to be an intervention of a “force from above”. Evola says the same thing.
This is fascinating and all, and my knowledge of Evola and Heidegger is minimal, but much of what Evola says seems to be far too mystical for me to find relevance in. It sounds great, but it doesn’t really make much sense. I have a hard time buying into philosophical arguments that are not based on empiricism.
“I have a hard time buying into philosophical arguments that are not based on empiricism.”
And rightly so. Evola, unlike the usual academic philosopher, agrees! This is an important part of his appeal to me at least. See “On initiatic knowledge” in his book Introduction to Magic.
Dear mr. Johnson! Thank you for your brilliant essay. Here is my translation of this text into Ukrainian.
“For Evola, biological race is too concrete and insufficiently metaphysical. For Heidegger, biological race is too abstract and metaphysical.”
Brilliantly evocotive summation of the two men’s philosophies and attitudes.
“In short, Heidegger was the first thinker of the New Right.”
I know Greg is no fan of Dugin’s but the above point may well be why Dugin is interested in Heidegger and why he sub-titled his monograph on Heidegger “the philosophy of another beginning.”
RE Dugin, the “other beginning” for Heidegger is not just a political idea but a new cultural historical dispensation in which the truth of Beyng is manifest rather than hidden, which basically means that man becomes aware of his finitude and situatedness, the falsehood of the metaphysical tradition, and the destructiveness of global, homogeneous, technological modernity.
A fascinating essay. I wonder if these ideas lead into the critique of traditionalism that Greg promised a while back. Myself, I appreciate Evola up to a point but I do see in Traditionalism an erring towards the radical universalism that led to Guenon becoming a Muslim. I mean, really, doing so made him a traitor to his homeland and not a French or European traditionalist at all. Similarly with Evola, the way he juxtaposes Islamic Jihad against Nordic myths of Valhalla and Valkyries, as if they were separated only by geography, seems quite absurd. Yes I know he acknowledges some differences, but these are universalised too. Semitic religions are “lunar” while Aryan ones are “solar”–it’s got nothing to do with the specific races involved; they’re just representatives of types that correspond to stages in the vast, empirically unverifiable cycle of decline. Why value being German or English if the sole value of your race is its genetic proximity to the mythical race of Hyperboreans?
According to Evola, the doctrine of “the greater and lesser holy war (jihad)” is not Islamic (Semitic) in origin. It has its origins in Iranian Mazdaism, which means that it is originally an Indo-European (“Aryan”) tradition. That is why he includes it, along with Valhalla, in his exposition of the Aryan doctrine of victory. As always, what interests Evola is not the religious (exoteric) aspect of myth (which is culturally, historically and ethnically determined), but the esoteric (metaphysical) aspect, which, since it is not something human, can only be universal and transcendent.
Guénon converted to Islam because he wanted to be initiated into the Sufi tradition. That had to do with his ideas about initiation, which was one of the points where Guénon and Evola disagreed.
Finally, from a traditionalist point of view, your remark about universalism simply puts the cart before the horse. Are ideas determined by race, and hence relative, without any universal basis? Then there is no non-relative point of view from which it would be possible to establish a hierarchy of races, or even any criterion with which to distinguish between valuable and valueless traits within a given race. Or are races shaped and determined by their different relations to the idea, which is an absolute and universal reference point?
Greg, what would you recommend as reading for the Heideggerian neophyte, particularly with regard to his political leanings?
I would recommend Michael Zimmerman’s book Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics, and Art
Good article. I have found that I can’t understand Heidegger or German philosophy in general unless the ideas are mediated through an interpreter that skilled in conventional expository prose (like you or Richard Spencer). I studied a lot of philosophy as an undergraduate, found it rewarding and feel like it enriched by mental life, but there is no way I could have survived a PhD program in the subject.
Provocative and fascinating. Those of you who do not know the work of Julius Evola must get acquainted with his texts. Well done, Greg Johnson!
To call Evola a platonic may be true in some cases of his written word, but even Plato probably had a deeper understanding of his own words, a practical understanding that Evola in any case also had, just read his Yoga of Power. Which is why I find Evola and Heidegger to match at the deepest, that is esoterical core.
Carl Schmitt not only knew of Evola’s works, the two men were personally acquainted with one another. In a letter to Ernst Jünger reproduced in “L’operaio nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger” Evola writes:
“Mein Namen dürfte Ihnen bekannt sein, weil ich – vielleicht durch Vermittlung von Dr. [Armin] Mohler – unlängst ein gewidmetes Exemplar von ‘Heliopolis’ erhalten habe und auch weil wir im Reich viele gemeinsame Bekannten hatten – z. B. Prof. C. Schmitt und Frh. von Gleichen.”
Thanks for this. Good find.
“My name may be known to you, since I — perhaps through the mediation of Dr. [Armin] Mohler — received a dedicated copy of ‘Heliopolis’ and also because you and I have many common friends in the Reich — for example Prof. C. Schmitt and Frh. von Gleichen.”
Dear Mr. Johnson,
Eliade read not only Evola and reverse, but Evola worked for Eliade over many years or decades (especially after the Second World War), translated some of his books from french and english to italian.
Unfortunately Eliade wasn´t grateful to Evola officially and he had also the opinion that Guénon and Evola were dilletants in opposite to scholars like Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy .
You´re right that Benn read Evola in the thirties and he was really an admirer of the italian thinker.
Heidegger had on the other hand always an bad opinion about the modern western civilisation as you can see on his Antrittsvorlesung (inaugural lecture) on the university of Freiburg/Germany 1933.
He shared the opinion with Evola that capitalism, americanism and communism have the same metaphysical consequences. So, its not a surprise that Heidegger liked some points of view and ideas by Evola. And Benn made 1935 advertising for Evolas most important book >Rivolta contro il mondo moderno< (Revolt against the modern world- in german: Erhebung wider die moderne Welt). There is a study about this book by me (in my first language of course), as you can see here: https://derschelm.com/gambio/buecher-vom-schelm/pletat-rene-julius-evola-und-die-revolte-gegen-die-moderne-welt.html
Best regards from Germany
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