New Book: Julius Evola in the Third Reich

New Book: Julius Evola in the Third Reich

Alexander Jacob’s book on Julius Evola as seen by four intellectuals in the Third Reich. From the Amazon blurb:

How was Julius Evola viewed in the Third Reich? This book presents assessments made by 4 leading intellectuals of the regime: Walther Wüst, Joseph Otto Plassmann, Wolfram Sievers and Kurt Hancke. Translated with an Introduction by Alexander Jacob, this scholarly work is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in Evola or the history of National Socialist Germany.

Amazon link.

Julius Evola in the Third Reich
Alexander Jacob
Uthwita Press, 2023

Introduction to Julius Evola in the Third Reich, Uthwita Press, 2023

Julius Evola (1898–1974) is today known as a major exponent of the movement that has come to be called Traditionalism and the author of several important works on Hermeticism, Buddhism and Yoga. However, in the thirties, he also published pamphlets on subjects that had come into prominence since the establishment of the Third Reich, namely, the Aryan mythos and the Jewish Question. Evola was not a Fascist and in his earliest publications on politics, such as notably the Imperialismo pagano of 1928, he criticised the Italian Fascist state as a soulless entity that did not rise above petty populism and nationalism to the transcendental sources of an ideal hierarchical society. The pagan imperialism that Evola admired was that of ancient Rome, which he believed had been ruined by the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, which assumed an undue power alongside the state and thereby separated the state from the church. However, when he published a German translation of this work in 1933 (Heidnischer Imperialismus), he made radical changes to it. For instance, the Roman paganism of the Mediterranean world pointed to in the Italian edition was replaced by a Nordic Aryan one emanating from the Hyperborean North of a legendary Thule. While he had shown little sympathy for Italian Fascism, he now evinced an unusual interest in the racialist ideology of National Socialism.

Mussolini, for his part, had initially encouraged public denunciations of Nazi racial doctrine and Evola’s two major contributions to this campaign appeared in late 1933 and early 1934. The first article (‘Osservazioni critiche sul “razzismo” nazionalsocialista’)[1] presented, as Staudenmaier puts it,[2] some ‘critical observations’ on the excessively ‘naturalistic’ components of Nazi racial ideology:

Here Evola outlined his philosophy of ‘spiritual’ racism and contrasted it to the ‘materialist’ racism that predominated within National Socialism. While the materialist ignored the ‘metabiological’ aspects of race, Fascism had pointed to the ‘higher reality’ proper to the ‘Aryan peoples’ … The second article (‘Razza e Cultura’)[3] applauded Nazism’s revival of ‘Aryanism’ and its contrast between ‘superior races and inferior races,’ but cautioned that biological theories of race were not aristocratic enough and did not grasp true racial nobility. Evola insisted that standard forms of ‘materialist’ racism were not equal to the task of confronting the ‘Jewish menace’ in its full depth and breadth since race was ‘not merely physical.’[4]

Then, in 1936, Evola wrote a pamphlet on Tre aspetti del problema ebraico (‘Three Aspects of the Jewish Problem’) which betrays his main concern in all racial discussions — namely, to exonerate the Jews of the various racial, cultural and economic accusations made against them by anti-Semitic thinkers in Germany and within the National Socialist regime. According to Evola, the Jews are indeed guilty of various crimes of social and political subversion in Europe — however, they are not the major force of corruption but only a small part of a larger metaphysical force of evil working against the pure original realm of Tradition.

Like the philo-Semitic Nietzsche,[5] Evola believes that the most ancient Jewish cult was manly and warlike whereas the later cult revolving around the prophets degenerated into a Messianism that culminated in the servile religion of Christianity.[6] Similarly, he considers Jewish subversion of the culture of Indo-European countries not due to any plan of the Jews[7] but as part to a larger process of degeneration in which the racial character of the Jews only plays a small though important role. Thus, a spiritual change is needed that will not allow the Jewish element to benefit from the natural tendency towards decay that is apparent in Western societies. Populist solutions, mass deportations, etc. are plebeian ways of viewing a problem that is metaphysical in essence.

The fact that Evola wrote this pamphlet just before his lectures to the Germans on the Aryan question and the fusion of National Socialist ideology with Fascism suggests that his visits to Germany were not accidental but impelled by an urgent desire to soften the anti-Semitism of the Reich by pointing out its supposed metaphysical shortcomings.

In 1941, Evola published a work detailing his own racial ideology, Sintesi di dottrina della razza, which decried all biological racialism and raised the notions of spiritual race and of racial souls above it. In his discussion of degenerate races, he significantly does not specify the Jewish race but generally designates the ‘Semites’ — along with sub-Saharan Africans — as inferior racial types. Evola concludes by suggesting that the National Socialist racial doctrines are a hopeful sign of the possible recreation of the original superior race that inhabited the lofty world of Tradition. We see therefore that the sources both of racial perfection and of corruption are pushed back by Evola to an ideal realm that is so far removed from the present world that it is virtually impossible to alter the current course of the latter. And Evola’s professed hopes of the rise of a new type of enlightened humanity out of the realm of Tradition are, consequently, somewhat fantastic.

In the late thirties and early forties, Evola undertook frequent trips to Germany, going on speaking tours, meeting with SS officials, and attending conferences. For him, the climax of a 1934 visit to Germany was a speech he delivered at Berlin’s Herrenklub, the conservative political establishment inspired by Moeller van den Bruck’s book Das dritte Reich (1923).[8] As he later recounted in his autobiography — ‘Here I found my natural habitat. From then on a cordial and fruitful friendship was established between myself and the club’s president, Baron Heinrich von Gleichen … That was also the basis for certain activity in Germany, grounded on common interests and objectives.’[9] German editions of his works that appeared at this time included Heidnischer Imperialismus (1933) and Erhebung wider die moderne Welt (1935).

Further, as Staudenmeier informs us,

In 1937 he took part in an international antisemitic convention in Erfurt and wrote a report for Italian readers. A lecture tour in spring 1941 took Evola to Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Cologne, and Berlin. This was followed by lectures on race in April 1942 in Hamburg and Berlin, depicting a shared Aryan heritage that bound Italians and Germans together.[10] 

Everything in Evola’s doctrine is based on the primacy of spirit so that the racial question too cannot be determined by reference to biological realities but rather to spiritual ones. He considers race itself to be a spiritual condition first, then a question of ethnic identity (Clauß’ racial soul), and finally an individual biological phenomenon. The effort to recreate the primal perfect race that is characteristic of the original realm of tradition should be undertaken, according to Evola, not through biological discrimination but through spiritual elevation.

Evola is quite ambiguous regarding the materialistic and socially degenerate aspects of Jewry. It is true that he wrote the Preface to Giovanni Preziosi’s 1921 translation of the Protocols as well as an enthusiastic endorsement of Codreanu’s anti-Semitic campaign in his 1938 article, ‘La tragedia della ‘Guardia di Ferro.’[11] But he cannot accept that every Jew is biologically bound to be materialistic and degenerate just as every Aryan is not a superior being — as he declared in his 1937 lecture reproduced in the present edition:[12]

We shall repeat: race is the secondary element, spirit and tradition are the primary because, in the metaphysical sense, race — before it is expressed in the blood — is in the spirit. If it is true that, without racial purity, spirit and tradition are robbed of their most precious means of expression, it is equally true however that the pure race robbed of spirit is doomed to become a biological mechanism and to eventually die out. Spiritual degeneration, ethical weakening, and the slow death of many tribes that have not however committed any of the sins of the blood pointed to by a certain materialistic racial doctrine are a proof of that, and here we are thinking not only of primitives but also of Swedes and the Dutch. It follows therefrom that, without the revivification of the higher spiritual power latent in the Nordic character, even all measures for biological racial protection would have a very relative and limited effect with regard to our higher task of a reconstruction of the West.

In his enumeration of the tactics of subversion employed by the enemies of Tradition, Evola tellingly criticises those — like the National Socialists — who manifest a monomaniacal hostility to the Jews and Freemasons. As SS Obersturmbannführer Hancke paraphrased Evola in his report of June 1938:

In this way National Socialism overlooks its real opponents as a result of its monomaniacal concentration on Jews and Freemasons.

This is perhaps the clearest indication of Evola’s dubious defence of both Judaism and Freemasonry.

While Evola continued to appeal to the Germans to unite on the question of Nordic or Aryan civilisation and racial differences, in Italy, he aroused staunch opposition from Fascist quarters. As Staudenmaier puts it, ‘His long sojourns in Germany provoked contrary assessments. Some saw him as an unreliable fascist due to his strongly pro-German stance, while others cast him as excessively critical of Nazi policy and an irritant to the Axis partnership.’[13]

The Germans too were in general not fully sympathetic to Evola’s views and the union between National Socialism and Fascism did not come about in any deep philosophical sense before the forced incorporation of Italy in 1943 led to the implementation of the Reich’s uncompromising anti-Jewish measures. During this period of the Italian Social Republic, Evola remained mainly in contact with Giovanni Preziosi, who was like Evola a spiritual anti-Semite, and Roberto Farinacci, whose strict enforcement of the anti-Jewish measures of 1938 were also not based on any biologically based racialism.[14]

In official SS circles, Evola’s lectures were subjected to close scrutiny and a more or less negative evaluation. According to Goodrick-Clarke,[15] already in early 1938, the SS started to investigate his ideas and Karl Maria Wiligut (also known as Weisthor when he joined the SS in 1933) — the seer who became Himmler’s spiritual ‘guru’— was asked to comment on a lecture delivered bv Evola at Berlin in December 1937. Three further lectures were given by Evola in June 1938 and again Himmler referred the matter to Weisthor, with the additional request that he review Evola’s book on pagan imperialism from the perspective of his own traditions. As Goodrick-Clarke recounts, Weisthor replied that:

Evola worked from a basic Aryan concept but was quite ignorant of prehistoric Germanic institutions and their meaning. He also observed that this defect was representative of the ideological differences between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany and could ultimately prejudice the permanency of their alliance.[16]

Both on the basis of Wiligut’s report and the reports presented in this edition, the SS ordered that Evola’s activities in the Third Reich should be discouraged.

Even after the initial period of his lectures in Germany, Evola faced opposition from both Germans and Italians. Thus, as Staudenmaier relates, when Evola proposed to Mussolini and his German contacts in 1941 the founding of a bilingual journal on racial questions, Werner Hüttig, the racial scientist, ‘submitted a detailed critique of Evola’s racial theories in September 1942, and faulted Evola’s treatment of scientific issues and his obscure mixture of incongruous sources, from ancient Aryan tradition to modern esoteric lore.’[17] In Italy too, ‘The occult aspects of Evola’s spiritual racism were a source of particular controversy. Anonymous denunciations sent to the fascist leadership had warned for years of ‘an epidemic of esotericism’ afflicting Italy.’ In a March 1942 letter to Mussolini, Telesio Interlandi, the scientific racialist, protested against ‘occultist’ perversions of the racist idea.‘ The Jesuit priest, Pietro Tacchi Venturi, too insisted that ‘Evola’s project would lead to problems with the church, which viewed spiritual matters as its rightful territory and frowned on the pagan overtones of Evola’s approach.’[18]

Evola’s critiques of Christianity as a Semitic corruption of Traditional order would naturally be opposed by Italian Catholic priests like Tacchi. The German nationalists equally warned against Evola’s subtle subversion of the Reich by his Traditionalist doctrine and discouraged his influence on German ideological and political programmes.

In general, Evola’s idealistic political system posits a radical dichotomy between ‘traditional’ society and historical ones. The former is an ideal condition whereas the latter are only increasingly corrupt deviations from the former that have culminated in the horrors of modernity. The race closest to the ideal world of tradition is, according to Evola, the Aryan. Even though he had first celebrated the Mediterranean culture as the highest, by 1933 he had changed his views considerably to adapt them to the rise of Hitler’s German racialist party. Henceforth, Evola sought to wed the two concepts of Nordic and Roman supremacy so as to present a glimpse of ideal social organisation in historical times. Thus, the Roman Empire and the Ghibelline Empire were exemplary moments in the history of the modern West.

The means of understanding and reviving the original world of tradition in modern life are, according to Evola, myths and symbols. It is in these that one recognises the ideal templates that are to be followed. Hence Evola’s interest in the Grail myth in particular, where the crux of the legend is located by him in the restoration of the original ideal empire by the Grail King. The mythological orientation of Evola’s thought is obviously of dubious value since no polity can be directed by constant recourse to ancient myths even as symbols.

A champion of spiritual imperialism, Evola is particularly opposed to nationalism such as those initiated in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe by Liberal forces since he believes that it hinders the attainment of a universal spirituality. As Hancke pointed out:

For E. the idea of the nation belongs, according to its origin in the 18th century, to the ideational world of the degenerate modern world. It is therefore to be overcome in the imperialistic, that is, the supra-national, sense in such a way indeed that the Aryan race of Germanic-Roman stamp would have primacy.

Apart from the dangerous proximity of this doctrine to universalist schemes such as those of Theosophy and Freemasonry, its utopian quality too was quickly noted by Hancke:

That which separates him especially from the National Socialist worldview is his radical neglect of the concrete historical data of our racial past in favour of an abstract-spiritual and fantasy-based utopia.

Plassmann/Sievers too, in their response to Evola’s lectures reproduced in this edition, made it clear that:

Evola does not seem quite familiar with the pragmatic political forces and so he could easily associate in good faith with orientations that represented this idea only apparently but in reality employed it against the racial idea (Othmar Spann)[19] or do not have any political dynamism of their own (Goga).[20] In general, when one attempts to organise such an idea, there arises immediately the danger of a certain ideal cosmopolitanism that must lead to unforeseeable consequences.

Along with nationalism, Evola also denounces the tendency to populist demagogy that was evident in both Italian Fascism and National Socialism. Evola posited instead a rule by an elite ‘Order’ that would represent the world of Tradition and assert its innate authority regardless of the masses. As Hancke put it:

After E. had earlier rejected the idea of the Volk, in the same way he now champions an ‘ethnic community,’ which in turn, as the principle of spiritual realisation, works against every collectivity. The real community, by contrast, is for E. the caste of rulers, an elite of the spirit, bound together in the battle for Tradition against the modern world.

These objections to Evola’s political views do not however mean that Evola’s missionary work on behalf of Traditionalism was wholly lacking in intellectual merit. His notion of universal spirituality that is not the rule of a single religion has a certain idealistic allure. For example, in his lecture of December 1937 reproduced in this edition, he suggests that:

It is necessary to arrive at a solidarity which should be as trans-nationalistic and spiritual as, for example, the Bolshevist-Communist is anti-nationalistic and materialistic. The first and indispensable precondition for that is, however, the determination of a universal worldview whose principles and values should be valid as a uniform, shared and unchangeable axis for all those who declare that they are against the enemies exposed by us.

However, it is clear that such an ideal international policy is marred by its impracticality. Apart from the difficulty of the implementation of such a spirituality among the diverse peoples of the world, the acceptance of a Nordic Aryan spiritual hegemony over the world is also a matter of uncertainty. Yet, Evola does clarify in his 1937 lecture that his Aryanism is not limited by biological differences:

The Nordic tradition is not half-naturalistic, that is, to be conceived only on the basis of blood and soil, but as a cultural category, as a primordial transcendental form of spirit of which the Nordic type, the Aryan race, and the general Indo-Germanic ethos, are only external phenomenal forms. The idea of race itself is, according to its higher tradition-bound significance, something that cannot and must not have anything to do with the rationalistic ideas of modern biology and mundane science. Race is above all a basic attitude, a spiritual power, something that is formative in a primordial way, of which the external, positively tangible forms are only a final echo.

With such a loose definition of Nordic Aryanism, Christianity too may be regenerated if reoriented to the original spirituality of the ‘Nordic Hyperborean’ realm of Tradition:

It is possible to intervene in a creative way against Christianity if one has fulfilled the tasks already pointed to, that is, if one has raised the Nordic idea and the idea of the Reich to a level of true spirituality that is universal and solar, then we would really have something more authentic than Christianity, encompassing the heroic and the sacral, the worldly and the otherworldly, the regal and the spiritual, that is, something that leads decisively beyond every worldview that is merely religiously Christian. Our principle should, moreover, always be: not to reject but to overcome. Even in regard to the Catholic and the pagan question, the task of the new elite should consist in fixing the chief principles of the general worldview from the Nordic spirit on a fully metaphysical and objective, thus ‘supra-religious,’ level. These principles would then be able to extract, clarify and intensify that which is valid in the Christian tradition itself.

Evola’s ideal society is a heroic one based on what he calls the solar and manly character of the ‘Nordic Aryan’ tradition that is opposed to the lunar and womanly quality of the ‘Semitic’:

Two fundamental attitudes are possible with regard to the supra-natural reality. One is the solar, manly, affirmative one corresponding to the ideal of the sacred royal power and knighthood. The other is the lunar, womanly, religious, passive one corresponding to the priestly ideal. If the second attitude is chiefly characteristic of the Semitic southern cultures, the Nordic and Indo-Germanic lordly man, on the other hand, has always been solar; the subjection of the creation and the pathos of its fundamental distance from the Almighty was fully unknown to him. He felt the gods to be like him, he considered himself to be of a heavenly race and the same blood as them. From that arises a conception of the heroic that is not exhausted in the physical, soldierly, or even tragic-choreographic and a conception of the higher man that has nothing to do with the Nietzschean-Darwinistic caricature of the handsome blond beast because this Nordic higher man exhibits at the same time ascetic, sacral and supra-natural traits and culminates in the type of the Olympian ruler, of the Aryan Chakravarti as the commander of the two powers and king of kings.’

This classification of Aryan as solar and Semitic as lunar is, however, vague and not grounded in historical reality since the East Semitic Akkadians worshipped the sun god, Shamash, in the third millennium B.C. long before any solar worship was attested among the Indo-Europeans.

More important is Evola’s firm dismissal of all immanentist pantheism and pseudo-philosophical glorification of science and technology:

We therefore have to free ourselves from every this-worldly mysticism, every worship of Nature and of Life, every pantheism. At the same time we should reject that significance of Aryan initiated by the dilettante Chamberlain[21] that is connected to a purely rationalistic eulogy and glorification of profane science and technology.’

Evola’s elite should be capable of penetrating to the origins of corruption in history and reconstruct the West in a traditional manner:

And this should at the start be the work of an elite who, with the same impersonality and strictness of an ascetic Order, raise the principles and the symbols of the Nordic primordial tradition to a level of spirituality, universality and clear knowledge and put an end to every dilettantish mythic and distorting interpretation.

In closing, we may state that Evola’s doctrine of a universal spiritual politics directed by an enlightened elite is indeed a commendable intellectual exercise, but the mythologizing tendencies of his thought and his reluctance to deal with the concrete realities of the Jewish Question expose the practical compromises upon which any Evolian political project must flounder.

[1]Vita Italiana, November 1933, 544-9.

[2] I am indebted in this summary to Peter Staudenmaier, ‘Racial Ideology between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany: Julius Evola and the Aryan Myth, 1933-43,’ Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 55, No. 3 (2020), 473-491.

[3]Rassegna Italiana, January 1934, 11-16.

[4] Staudenmaier, ibid. 

[5] “After Wagner, in the late 1870s and early 1880s, Nietzsche developed intense relationships with several ethnic Jews, all of them atheists, and made explicitly positive pronouncements about Jews.” Nietzsche even wrote: “The Jews, however, are beyond any doubt the strongest, toughest, and purest race now living in Europe.” (Soros, Alex. “Nietzsche’s Jewish Problem: Between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Judaism, by Robert Holub.” Intellectual History Review 28, No. 2 (2018): 344-348.)

[6] Cf. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 52: “The Jewish ‘Old Testament,’ the book of divine justice, has people, things, and speeches in such grand style that it is without parallel in the written works of Greece and India … Perhaps he will still find the New Testament, the book of mercy, more to his liking (it is full of the proper, tender, musty stench of true believers and small souls).” (Tr. Judith Norman)

[7] Cf. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 251: “The fact that the Jews, if they wanted (or if they were forced, as the anti-Semites seem to want), could already be dominant, or indeed could quite literally have control over present-day Europe — this is established. The fact that they are not working and making plans to this end is likewise established.” (Tr. Judith Norman).

[8] See Ferraresi, Franco. “Julius Evola: Tradition, Reaction, and the Radical Right.” European Journal of Sociology/Archives Européennes de Sociologie 28, No. 1 (1987): 107-151.

[9]Il cammino del cinabro (1963), 137.

[10] Staudenmaier, ibid.

[11] In La vita italiana, 309 (December 1938).

[12] The present edition by Gerd Simon ( presents the December 1937 lecture of Julius Evola as well as the commentaries of Joseph Plassmann/Wolfram Sievers and Kurt Hancke on Evola’s 1938 lectures in Germany.


[14] See A. James Gregor, Mussolini’s Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political Thought, Princeton, NJ, 2005, p.258n.

[15] See Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany 1890-1935, Wellingborough, 1985.


[17] Staudenmaier, op.cit.


[19] Othmar Spann (1878-1950) was an Austrian philosopher who developed an idealistic doctrine of ‘universalism’ to counter the individualism of liberal sociology and economics. As an Austrian nationalist and Catholic, he was not fully favoured by the German National Socialists.

[20] Octavian Goga (1881-1938) was a Romanian politician and man of letters. He was a member of the Romanian National Party in Austro-Hungary and joined forces in 1935 with A.C. Cuza’s anti-Semitic National-Christian Defence League to form the National Christian Party. In 1937 Goga served briefly as Prime Minister of Romania and enacted several anti-Semitic measures to maintain the electoral support of Corneliu Codreanu’s Iron Guard.

[21] Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927) was a British philosopher who became a naturalised German and wrote many works extolling the spiritual superiority of the Aryan race and of the Germanic peoples in particular.

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