The SwastikaJulius Evola
Various authors have written about the symbol that the new Germany has made into its emblem. We take up the subject here only to treat it from a special point of view, essentially considering the primordial traditions and the universal higher meanings potentially contained in that symbol.
First of all, where does the swastika come from? And is it true that it is the symbol of a specific race, namely of the Aryan or Indo-Germanic race? This is what was believed in some circles in the nineteenth century, and some continue even today to assume it to be the case. Ernst Krause and Ludwig Müller argued that the symbol in ancient times was specific to the Indo-Germanic peoples. However, this thesis has proved to be untenable. This is because of the diffusion of the symbol, which has been demonstrated by later research. In 1896, the American Thomas Wilson drew a map which clearly shows that the swastika is to be found even in places – California, Korea, Mesopotamia, Central America, Japan, North Africa, and so on – that certainly do not correspond to the ancient settlements of the Indo-Germanic race as it was conceived at that time. Nor should we forget that the symbol in question is also found in Italic prehistory (engraved, for example, on certain ritual axes found in Piedmont and Liguria) long before the appearance of the Germanic peoples, and appears in Rome, even on some some Imperial coins.
Furthermore, there is a fundamental consideration that must be made, namely, that every true symbol is by nature universal. Thus, however much a symbol may be predominantly used by a particular race or religion, this use can never constitute a monopoly. This applies to symbols such as the circle with a point at its center, the five- or six-pointed star (wrongly believed to be an exclusively Jewish symbol), the simple cross, and so on, including the swastika or hooked cross [German Hakenkreuz], or whatever one wishes to call it. If the problem is now posed concerning which race originally originally adopted the latter symbol, rather than referring to the Indo-Germanic, Indo-European, or (in the general sense) Aryan race, it is necessary to refer to an even more ancient and primordial human race, which some call pre-Nordic and which we term Hyperborean. This race goes back many thousands of years before the Common Era and, in fact, not without reason, some have called the swastika das Gletscherkreuz, the “cross of the glaciers,” this sign already appearing at the end of the Ice Age, when the migrations of the aforementioned Hyperborean race began. These migrations, to the extent that it has been possible to reconstruct them with a certain verisimilitude, partly explain the presence of the swastika in areas which later were inhabited by races that were different from the descendants of that primordial human race. One may therefore assume that the symbol has in some cases has been transmitted, while in other cases, it may have presented itself independently to the human spirit, precisely because of the aforementioned universal and objective character of every true symbol.
And now we come to the meaning of the swastika. According to the most current interpretations, it is a solar symbol and a symbol of fire. As a solar symbol, it is thought to express the rotating movement of the Sun. It is thought to be a symbol of fire because its shape is supposed to reproduce that of the wooden tools with which, by means of friction, fires were lit in ancient times among some Aryan peoples. This is the more external interpretation; it can, however, serve as a basis for higher interpretations, in correspondence with that hierarchy of meanings which every true Traditional symbol always contains within itself.
First of all, the swastika as a solar symbol leads us back to the solar cult. Thus it occurs, for example, as a symbol of Vishnu, and is found on prehistoric ritual objects, linked to “Uranic” (sky) cults such as that of the thunderbolt. At this point, however, we must immediately guard ourselves against the “naturalistic” prejudice – that is, the assumption that the great ancient civilizations, in their religions, were merely superstitiously divining natural phenomena. Precisely the reverse is true: In those ancient cults, these phenomena of nature were mighty cosmic symbols of spiritual forces – and only “positivistic” obtuseness succeeded in making people believe anything else, in spite of the great quantity of precise and concordant testimonies that, in this regard, may be found in the most diverse civilizations.
Starting from this observation, the solar cult should therefore be understood to essentially refer to a luminous spiritual force, to that same force by virtue of which, using an analogous symbolism, one was able to speak of a life which is the “light of men.” And in Romanesque imagery, we find the swastika associated with the “Tree of Life.” This religion of light – with the frequent recurrence of the “solar” motif, and, in its highest forms, of the Olympian motif – is characteristic of all the major Aryan civilizations created by the aforementioned Hyperborean race. The religion of light is opposed to the “telluric,” demonic, or feminine-naturalistic character of the cults of non-Aryan races, which focused above all on the invisible forces symbolized by the elements, by the earth, by the animal world, and by chthonic vegetation.
Let us now move one further step forward, first of all noting that an intimate relationship was always conceived to exist between the Sun and the divine fire, as is confirmed especially by the ancient Aryan testimonies of the East and West. Secondly, let us recall the other relationship conceived between – on the one hand – kingship; the function of sovereignty [imperium] in general; the characteristics of a dominating super-race, race, or caste; and – on the other hand – the solar motif. In primordial traditions, this appears very distinctly: we find a solar “mysticism” of kingship and glory. Like the agni-rohita, the Vedic fire, like the ancient Egyptian ânshûs, is the “royal conquering force,” an igneous fluid of power and life that was an attribute of kings, and like the Aryo-Iranian hvarenô is a celestial flame, a solar fire of which the whole Aryan race is the bearer, but which was above all concentrated in its leaders. Cumont has demonstrated that the small golden statue that was transmitted from one Roman emperor to another as a sign of power is a personification of this same mystical, fateful force, which among the Hellenes had become that of the “destiny” of a city or a nation.
On the basis of these ideas, one of the higher meanings of the symbolism of the swastika immediately becomes clearer: It may refer to a principle that generates fire and flame – but in a higher sense; it is that flame and fire which point back to the Aryan cult of the Sun and of light; it is that symbolic fire which played such an important part in the ancient patrician family cult;, it is the mystical fire, finally, which finds its supreme manifestation in leaders and sovereigns. Therefore, in the highest sense, the swastika, the “cross of the glaciers,” could be called the mysterious seal of primordial spirituality itself, which then manifested itself and ignited in the various dominant castes or races, affirming itself in the face of inferior forces and races in a whole cycle of ancient civilizations. Therefore, it can only refer through distant analogy to the material instrument once used to generate fire and flame. The sacral and spiritual meaning remains in the foreground.
Related to this, we must now say something about the swastika as a “polar symbol.” Let us hasten to warn the reader that, although we have spoken of Hyperborean races and glaciers, we are not speaking of the Arctic regions here. Instead, we are referring to the symbolism of the pole, which, in the Primordial Traditions, is also strictly connected with the idea that one had of the true sovereign function. According to this view, the head represents stability, the immobile point around which the orderly movement of the forces that depend on it occurs. Thus, for example, in a text by Confucius we read: “He who dominates through the celestial virtue resembles the pole star: it stands firm in its place, while all the stars turn around it.” Here, we can see that the Aristotelian notion of the so-called “unmoved mover” takes up the same idea in theological terms (of the one who sets in motion without himself moving): an idea which, moreover, we find again in a particular Aryan doctrine, that of the cakravartî.
The cakravartî represents a kind of limit-form of the Imperial idea. It is the figure of a “universal sovereign” or “king of the world” in general. The term, however, literally means “he who turns the wheel” – which in this context means the wheel of the regnum [kingdom, empire, Reich] – himself appearing as the center, pole, or fixed point that supports the wheel’s regular motion. We have, then, a double motif: on the one hand, the idea of a spinning movement, which in some cases also appears as an irresistible and overwhelming force (according to that ancient doctrine, those who are predestined to sovereignty have a vision of a whirling celestial wheel); on the other hand, the “polar” idea, that is, that of a still point, of something calm, perfectly mastered, “Olympian,” testifying to a superior nature.
In the sign of the swastika we can find precisely these two elements. Guénon has rightly pointed out that if, in a certain sense, it can be considered a symbol of movement, it is not a matter simply of movement, as some claim, but of a rotational movement around a center or an immobile axis: and it is this fixed point that is the essential element to which the symbol in question refers. The same must apply, then, if the movement refers to the Sun: This is not a symbolism having to do with the perennial story of the birth and the decline of light, but a sign that, beyond that cyclical movement of the Sun, conceives of this power as something central, immutable, or Olympian, to the point of being – if you will – a confused anticipation of the modern Copernican view, but arrived at through religious meanings. Apart from this, the meanings already indicated above are confirmed in this symbol. It is also a “polar” symbol. From earliest prehistory, it bore within itself those unmanifested meanings, which had to unfold in the luminous cycle of the Aryan mythologies or sovereignties – or when not Aryan, in any case derived from the aforementioned Primordial Tradition.
Moreover, it may be noted that “polar” symbolism was traditionally also applied to certain civilizations or organizations when they incarnated the significance of “centers” in history as a whole. Thus, as is known to all, for example, the ancient Chinese empire was called the “Middle Kingdom”; Mount Meru, the Mount Olympus of the Indo-Aryans, was, as the seat of the divine forces, considered to be the “pole” of the Earth; the symbolism of the so-called omphalos, which was applied to the center of the ancient Doric-Apollonian tradition of Greece, to Delphi, brings us back to the same meaning; Asgard in the Nordic-Germanic tradition, which was held to be the mystical homeland of the Nordic royal lineages up to the time of the Goths, is identified with Midgard, which means precisely dwelling, or land, of the center. Even the name of Cuzco, the center of the Inca solar empire, seems to express, like the omphalos of the Hellenes, the idea of “centrality.” These elements are susceptible to interesting developments as part of what we might call a “sacred geography.” In any case, it is important to note the close relationship between these various manifestations and a single fundamental idea.
In any case, going back to the double element comprised by the swastika, as well as similar signs (the three-armed wheel of the triskelion and some rose windows of Gothic cathedrals are traces of the same symbolism), we can summarize the highest spiritual meaning of the symbol: The rotating swastika manifests the dynamism of a vorticose and overwhelming force (the wheel), generating light and fire, the “Uranic” flame, the solar flame, while remaining, in its center, a commanding calm, an immutable stability – the latter corresponding, on its plane, to the fundamental condition of every true regere [Latin“to rule,” from Proto-Indo-European root *reg-, “to move in a straight line,” in contrast to the aforementioned rotating movement] and of every great organization of the forces of history.
We can now ask ourselves to what extent knowledge of these higher meanings and, in general, of the traditions to which we have referred here played a part in the choice of the swastika as the emblem of Germanic National Socialism. In this decision, we believe, a “subconsciousness” has above all acted – and this is not the only case in which, today, through an obscure instinct, primordial symbols have come to light again and been brought to new life without any knowledge of the deeper meanings sealed within them. On the contrary, in processes of this kind, entirely contingent elements often play the part of “occasional causes,” a part which, however, only diminishes the value of the result from a very superficial point of view. Thus, in the case of Germany, there is no doubt that the symbol treated here was first suggested by certain anti-Judaic currents, which defended very simplistic and militant political adaptations of the Indo-Germanic and Aryan myth, in a one-dimensional form which has already been rendered antiquated by serious research. Also, as far as meanings go, if Hitler, at the time of writing Mein Kampf, believed that he could use the swastika to symbolize “the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic,” we see that he did not go beyond a quite relative level. Subsequently, in Germany the symbol has been written about from a point of view that is not merely political. It has, however, rarely been considered in its most universal meanings: Indeed, as far as we know, it has not always been the Germans who have highlighted the most interesting aspects of the “cross of the glaciers.” Moreover, to be honest, the same could be said of certain equally primordial symbols, such as the axe in the fasces, which has been taken up by Fascism. Once again, it seems to have been a matter of instinct and “race,” rather than of precise knowledge. It will therefore be interesting to see if circumstances and callings will ensure that the most profound, spiritual contents of the signs in question will awaken corresponding forces, so that the symbols themselves will become active in history.
The Sanskrit name svastika can also be interpreted as a monogram made up of the letters which make up the propitiatory formula suasti. The meaning of this Indo-Aryan formula is the equivalent of the Latin bene est, or quod bonum faustumque sit – that is to say: “may that which is good and auspicious, be.” Thus, the symbol in question also contains the best conceivable auspice in regard to the future developments of the great world movement which the two Axis nations have brought forth, rising again precisely under the sign of the Axe and the “cross of the glaciers.”
Source: Augustea, June 1942
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