Julius Evola was an Italian esotericist and philosopher who was one of the primary proponents of René Guénon’s Traditionalist School of thought, and his philosophy has become one of the biggest influences on the modern New Right, radical traditionalist, and neo-reactionary movements.
Evola believed in the Hindu doctrine of the four Yugas that says we currently live in the spiritually lowest of these ages, the Kali Yuga or Dark Age. But in the Satya Yuga or Golden Age, there were Traditional societies organically organized by transcendent principles. It is through this lens (or transcendent connection) that Evola examines the state of modern society, politics, war, and the religions of the world.
In the following guide, I’ve divided Evola’s books that are in print in English into three main categories: general introductions to Evola’s thought, religion, and politics. There are links at the bottom to some additional pamphlets by Evola, articles about radical traditionalism from Aristocrats of the Soul, as well as other online resources for works by Evola.
Books that Provide a General Introduction to Evola’s Thought:
Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga
1995: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1934)
Revolt Against the Modern World is the best introduction to Evola’s thought and I’d recommend it as the first of his books to read. Its subject matter is influenced by Guénon’s Crisis of the Modern World, first published in 1927. Evola starts by talking about how there is not only a physical, but also a metaphysical order of things, and the man of Tradition is one who sees beyond physical reality to a wider dimension of being.
Evola discusses how in early ages, concepts like regality, the state, and religious rites were all ordered from a higher plane, and practices like initiation and societal rules like the caste system were ordered from above to align with the transcendent order. He discusses the differences between man and woman, along with the current dysgenics caused by the stronger animal-like impulse toward procreation that’s found in the lower classes. Also in Revolt Against the Modern World Evola presents a theory of root races that echoes the ideas of Theosophy.
Revolt Against the Modern World is the classic textbook on Evola’s thought and should be read by everyone who is concerned about the decadent forces currently at work within Western civilization.
Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul
2003: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1961)
Ride the Tiger’s subtitle as a “survival manual” is apropos. In this book Evola speaks directly to the Man of Tradition who feels lost in the modern world, and outlines strategies for dealing with living during the Kali Yuga. It’s much easier to read than Evola’s other books and talks about more worldly and concrete issues rather than abstractions. He discusses the rise of nihilism and the decline of Europe and examines the philosophies of several existentialists. Evola also delves into the decadence of modern music and jazz, drugs, modern art, and society in general, specifically marriage, the family, and the relations between the sexes.
The Eastern concept of “riding the tiger” is synonymous with walking on the edge of a razor. In this context, it refers to a Tantrik attitude of fully embracing the modern world in all of its degeneracy. Yet the type of person Evola is talking to is completely anti-bourgeois: This is a much different attitude from those who want to hold onto what’s left from the “habits, institutions, and customs from the world of yesterday (that is, from the bourgeois world).” He writes in The Path of Cinnabar that the book is “intended for all those people who cannot or do not wish to abandon the contemporary world, but are ready to face it and to experience it even in its most feverish aspects, all the while preserving a differentiated personality and avoiding any capitulation.” With all of this in mind, it’s not surprising Ride the Tiger is a favorite Evola book among his younger fans.
The Path of Cinnabar: An Intellectual Autobiography
2009: Arktos Media
(First published in 1963)
Anyone looking for an actual autobiography of Evola won’t find it. He considered the mundane aspects of one’s life: the details of childhood, dating and romance, and hidden emotional hopes and dreams, to be unworthy of discussion. Instead, The Path of Cinnabar is Evola’s intellectual autobiography, tracing his younger years when he was interested in Dadaism to his more mature philosophical viewpoints. For example, in the first chapter of the book, “Personal Background and Early Experiences,” Evola doesn’t talk about his family home, childhood, or school days. Instead, he discusses transcendence, the Indian kshatriya caste, and Nietzsche’s opposition to Christianity and the bourgeois world.
In The Path of Cinnabar Evola explains his early Essays on Magical Idealism, as well as his interests in Eastern religion, Paganism, Hermeticism, and the world of Tradition. Evola discusses his time with La Torre magazine, his attempt “to enter the political and cultural arena,” and the issue of race. He discusses many of the philosophers and thinkers who influenced him, as well as his intellectual mindset at the time of writing many of his popular books.
The Path of Cinnabar will be most interesting for those who’ve already read some of Evola’s books and are seeking to know more about the thoughts and forces that guided the Italian esotericist throughout his life.
Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex
1991: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1958)
Evola doesn’t deal with sex and love solely on the planes of instinct, emotion, or sensual pleasure. Instead, in Eros and the Mysteries of Love he delves into the transcendental aspects of love. His starting point is not that mankind evolved from apes, but one of involution, meaning humans have degenerated from a higher state where things like sex and love had much different meanings than they do in the modern world. His views also are not aligned with the subsets of radical traditionalism who view the family and having children as the most important aspect of life. On the contrary: “Man can indeed fall if he allows himself to be unnaturally overwhelmed by the daemon of bios, and it is at this level that procreation takes place.”
Evola discusses the different levels of being at which sexual desire occurs, homosexuality, the love-pain-death complex, erotic vs. mystical ecstasy, the metaphysics of modesty, and sex and the left-hand path. One chapter discusses love and sex in Eastern and Western mythology, and another delves into sacred ceremonies—any form of sex that is outside of the profane, such as marriage, asceticism, the role of sex in Christianity, sacred prostitution, and Medieval chivalric love. The final chapter of Eros and the Mysteries of Love is titled “Sex in the Realm of Initiation and Magic” and discusses kundalini yoga, the Eleusinian Mysteries, Kabbalah, Tantra, sexual practices in Taoism and the Arab world, and sex magick.
Eros and the Mysteries of Love is one of my favorite books by Evola. The interplay between the sexes, love, marriage, and family play a central role in modern society, and Evola presents an esoteric view on these topics that is rarely discussed.
Books by Julius Evola on Religion:
Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus
2001: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1927)
At the end of the 1920s, Evola helped found the UR Group, whose goal was to explain esoteric doctrines, record participants’ actual experiences, and translate and publish rare esoteric texts. Evola also hoped the group would be able to connect individuals with genuine higher influences so that “one may perhaps have the possibility of working behind the scenes in order to ultimately exert an effect on the prevailing forces in the general environment”—in short, to perform occult warfare.
Evola’s pseudonyms in this volume are Ea, Iagla, and Agarda, and perhaps the essays signed Arvo. This volume is valuable for his insights into the nature of initiatic knowledge, the Self and immortality, the immortal body, counter-initiation, magical powers, mantras, and some of the negative effects he experienced when starting magical practices. His essay “On the Magical View of Life” is excellent; it talks about the heroic life and true freedom, being free from the lust of result, going beyond good and evil, and detachment. This volume also includes a translation of the only ritual of the Ancient Mysteries to have fully survived the millennia, the Greek “Mithraic Ritual of the Great Magical Papyrus of Paris,” as well as selections from Iamblichus and Buddhist and Tibetan works.
This is not the typical modern book on Magick, by any means, given that many of the essays and ideas are abstruse. However, both the experienced seeker and sincere student can find much of value. There are three volumes of Introduction to Magic; only the first volume is included in this book. We can hope as interest in Magick and Evola’s thought continues to increase that more volumes will be published in English.
The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art
1995: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1931)
Evola’s book on alchemy is excellently done, and a must-read for students of the subject. The first section of the book gives the reader an overview of the Royal Art and delves into its symbolism. The second section explains the meanings behind practical techniques of alchemy.
Evola discusses the meanings of Mercury, Salt, Sulfur, the Waters, the Cross, the Rose, the Four Elements, Gold, Ashes, and the seven Planets. In part two, he elucidates the meanings behind the Separation, the Black Work, the White Work, the Red Work, the Dragon, the Dry and Wet Paths, and the Body of Light. Although Evola states his views clearly, the book is more complex than others on the Art, and Evola is more esoteric in his interpretations than some modern authors. The Hermetic Tradition is a great resource, especially considering the many books on alchemy that psychologize or otherwise water down the process.
The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit
1996: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1937)
The Mystery of the Grail originally was published as an appendix to Revolt Against the Modern World. It was later reworked and expanded into this book, and to Evola the Grail is highly important and relates much to Western civilization and the Western esoteric tradition.
Evola examines the mythology of Ireland, Hyperborea and the implications of a polar center, and various stories from the Arthurian cycle and its symbolism. He makes an impressive case that the Grail legend is not simply a story, but describes the initiatory journey. The “promised land of the Grail” refers to the primordial center, and the hero or knight’s quest represents the path of the initiate as he conquers his lower self and connects with the transcendent.
Evola also discusses the reconnection with tradition that occurred in the Ghibelline Middle Ages at length, as well as the Knights Templar, Cathars, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism as they relate to the Grail. In this book he often refers to the warriors and kings as the highest caste. The Mystery of the Grail is a great choice for anyone interested in King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Celtic-Nordic mythology, or initiatory organizations in the Middle Ages.
The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts
1996: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1943)
In The Doctrine of Awakening Evola discusses the intellectual and ascetic path of detachment of Theravāda Buddhism. Also called Pāli Buddhism, it is based on the original teachings of the Buddha and his disciples and emphasizes traditional interpretations of the Noble Eightfold Path.
The first part of the book includes Evola’s comments on the caste system, both its original intent and how it had degraded by the time of the Buddha. In the traditional world, the ascetic was “above caste,” meaning he could come from any caste and was free from the obligations of that caste. In The Doctrine of Awakening Evola gives many examples of what it means to be a truly noble person, how a noble spirit reacts when it finds itself within samsāric existence, and the correct mindset to have in relation to the world. The second half of The Doctrine of Awakening delves into practical exercises for the ascetic and descriptions of the stages of Buddhist meditation.
Given that a recent movement within secular Buddhism claims to be based on the original words of the Buddha, yet hopelessly mangles those teachings, The Doctrine of Awakening is more relevant than ever for those wishing to find an authentic original Buddhism.
(Please also refer to my review of The Doctrine of Awakening, as well as my articles on meditation techniques derived from this book and the differences between Secular Buddhism vs. Traditional Buddhism.)
The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way
1993: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1949)
The Yoga of Power discusses Hindu Tantrism and Shaktism, focusing on the Vāmācāra school (the left-hand path). It provides a great introduction to Hindu philosophy, including the tattvas, the three gunas, prana, and hatha yoga. Evola discusses the importance of visualization and the imagination and goes over a number of specific techniques for meditation. He also elucidates the differences in right-hand morality as opposed to the moral system in most Tantrik philosophy, and touches on the use of words of power and sexual magick.
Unfortunately, Evola’s views on Tantra are very Western, and this book is filled with a number of misinterpretations about Tantra. In this regard, it reads very much like Arthur Avalon’s The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga, published in 1919 and on which Evola relies heavily as a source. Given the intense scholarship in Evola’s other books, I’d guess he had very little access to Tantrik material and that any failures of this book are due largely to access and not Evola himself. A better source for learning about authentic Tantra is Christopher Wallis’ Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition.
(Please see my article on the differences between Neotantra vs. Tantra.)
Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest
1998: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1974)
In the collection of essays published as Meditations on the Peaks Evola examines the associations of mountains with divinity throughout world cultures. He clarifies true spirituality as opposed to what is generally called “spiritual” in popular discourse. As opposed to modern civilization, where “everything tends to suffocate the heroic sense of life,” the mountain “requires purity and simplicity; it requires asceticism.”
Evola was an avid mountain climber, tackling peaks in the Alps, Tyrols, and Dolomites. The second part of the book delves into some of Evola’s experiences mountain climbing, as well as the potential for spiritual practices on the peaks, even giving specific practices, and the first appendix contains an essay on the painter Nicholas Roerich.
In one essay, Evola elaborates on why he didn’t view alpine skiing with high regard, although he acknowledged benefits like health, bravery, and getting young people out of the suffocating metropolis. The reason is the difference between ascending and descending: In mountain climbing, reaching the peak represents the conquest, while in skiing it is the opposite, requiring a very modern type of boldness.
Meditations on the Peaks is a great read for those interested in the myth of mountains, breathing techniques, and Evola’s views on heroicism and nature.
Books by Julius Evola on Politics:
2007: Thompkins & Cariou
(First published in 1928)
Heathen Imperialism starts with a critique of Europe and the West in the current age and also discusses the primordial Nordic-Solar tradition of many cultures. Evola says the same forces that caused the fall of Rome have now destroyed Europe—by crushing all hierarchy, exalting the weak, and hating strength and aristocracy—and all of this largely was caused by Christianity. In response to this degeneration he says: “We invoke a determined, unconditional, complete return to the Nordic heathen tradition.”
Evola says the democratic representative system and anything socialist or collective must end and calls for a reawakening of true monarchy. He elaborates on the failures of liberalism and democracy, and the irrationality of equality. In addition, Evola discusses at length how socialism and anti-hierarchical views are the root of the decline of Europe and have consequently led to: the regression of the castes, the illusion of mechanical power, a belief in science over wisdom, and the restless obsession with activity and “activism” that is so common today. In a chapter on Nietzsche, he discusses the superman and will-to-power as not biological but transcendent concepts. Heathen Imperialism unfortunately appears to be currently unavailable in print, both on Amazon and Arktos.com. Let’s hope a new edition is in the works.
Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist
2002: Inner Traditions
(First published in 1953)
The first 100 pages of Men Among the Ruins are devoted to a lengthy essay on “Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors” by Austrian esotericist H. T. Hansen, which does a great job of putting Evola’s political thought into a historical perspective. In the book itself, Evola discusses the current world subversion, undertaken primarily by the Left. Ideas touched on include counter-revolution, the feminization of the State, and individualism. He advocates abandoning any use of the phrase “totalitarian state” which has been hijacked by the Left, and suggests instead the use of “organic state” as a term that is more Traditional.
So much of this book remains relevant today in terms of assessing politics and society. For example, one chapter talks about “the demonic nature of the economy” that has created a counterfeit hierarchy no one seems to question. Evola discusses a united Europe and the problem of the world’s overpopulation. The appendix of the book contains Evola’s self-defense statement when he was arrested in 1951 for what he called the “ideological crime” of trying to revive Fascism (he was fully acquitted of the charge).
It would be a mistake to classify Men Among the Ruins as solely a political book, since it covers many aspects of society and culture. I’d recommend this book to those who are already familiar with an overview of Evola’s thought and looking to delve a bit deeper.
Fascism Viewed from the Right
2013: Arktos Media
(First published in 1964)
In this short work, Evola presents a case both for and against fascism. Evola was never a member of the Fascist Party, though he was the editor of the opinion page of Il Regime Fascista for a number of years, during which time he mostly used it to promote Traditionalist thought. “We should call ourselves Fascist (if we decide to do so) in relation to what was positive in Fascism,” he says, “but not Fascist in relation to what was not positive in Fascism.”
In this book Evola looks at writings on fascism, as well as Mussolini’s speeches and policies, to criticize the movement based on his more transcendent ideals. Much of Fascism Viewed from the Right is relevant even to today’s political climate, as he talks about trade unions and the “social justice” movement. The last chapter of the book details the characteristics of the true state, which will be “organic and unified without being ‘totalitarian.'” He discusses how it will be based on loyalty, free subordination, and honour rather than a social contract.
Fascism Viewed from the Right is more narrowly focused than many of Evola’s other books. Those interested in his views on fascism will find it appealing, as well as those concerned with modern liberal democracy and the decline of the West.
Notes on the Third Reich
2013: Arktos Media
(First published in 1974)
Evola was not a fan of National Socialism! This book may be a shock to the many Neo-Nazis who have tried to distort his views to align with Hitler’s ideology. It’s true Evola was somewhat of a fascist (with some caveats, as mentioned above), but Notes on the Third Reich clearly reveals his many criticisms of Nazi Germany. Some of these criticisms include the Nazi’s focus on just one leader; its Christianity; its paranoid fixation on anti-Semitism; and, most importantly, its conception of biological race, which is simply a materialist type of biological reductionism that applies to animals but not to humans, who have a transcendent dimension. Like other members of the Conservative Revolution (such as Ernst Jünger and Oswald Spengler), Evola believed “race” referred to only the elite of particular peoples, not the entire race in biological terms.
Evola was eventually investigated by the SS, to find out if he could be of any use to National Socialism. The report read, in part: “His political plans for a Roman-Germanic Imperium are of a utopian character, and moreover very apt to cause ideological confusions. Since Evola is also only tolerated and barely supported by Fascism, it is tactically not necessary to accommodate his tendencies from our side.” Notes on the Third Reich is a great resource for anyone interested in Evola’s thoughts in National Socialism, a general introduction to Nazi ideology, or the ideas of the Conservative Revolution.
Metaphysics of War: Battle, Victory and Death in the World of Tradition
2011: Arktos Media
(First published in 2007)
The collection of essays published as Metaphysics of War were written between 1935 and 1943, and the last in 1950. Evola talks about the Crusades, the Greater War and Lesser War in Islam, the Roman conception of victory, and the Bhagavad-Gita, a “text of ancient Hindu wisdom compiled essentially for the warrior caste.” In “Soul and Race of War” Evola discusses the quadripartite social hierarchy of Indo-Aryan and Nordic-Romanic societies, and how we also can use these divisions to assess civilizations, their values, and their types of heroism and war.
In another essay, Evola discusses war as a means to awaken the hero within: “The moment the individual succeeds in living as a hero, even if it is the final moment of his earthly life, weighs infinitely more on the scale of values than a protracted existence spent consuming monotonously among the trivialities of cities.” Because war awakens people to the “more-than-life” and the relativity of human life, it has a spiritual value. The essay “The Meaning of the Warrior Element for the New Europe” is especially apropos today. Although focused on the theme of battle, Evola ties it in with so much more in terms of societal organization and religion, making Metaphysics of War a good introduction to his ideas, especially those who identify as the kshatriya caste.
A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism
2015: Arktos Media
A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism is valuable for Evola’s essay “Orientations,” which gives a lucid and concise summary of his thought. It starts with Point 1—that there is no use “indulging in wishful thinking with the illusions of any kind of optimism: today we find ourselves at the end of a cycle.” He goes on to say that since a state’s success depends not on its organization but those who comprise it, he advocates for men to be models of the new spirit in order to keep it alive during the current degenerate period.
Also of interest in the book is a 1938 conversation he had with Corneliu Codreanu, Captain of the Iron Guard. Codreanu discusses their desire to make a spiritually new man, and talks about practices such as fasting, prayer, and chastity for the elite Assault Corps.
The first part of the book includes essays on Italian Fascism and the Right in other lands. The second part features essays on National Socialism, including Hitler’s Table Talk, fact and fiction about the Third Reich, and supposed Nazi ties to secret societies. A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism will be of interest for those with an interest in Rightist political theory or history.
Pamphlets and Essays by Julius Evola:
Numerous other works are published in English by Evola. The following are a few small booklets I own, and there are probably others available online as well:
- Taoism: The Magic, The Mysticism (First published in 1972)
- The Path of Enlightenment in the Mithraic Mysteries (First published in 1977)
- Zen: The Religion of the Samurai (First published in 1977)
- Rene Guenon: A Teacher for Modern Times (First published in 1984)
A full bibliography of Evola’s work is available at juliusevola.net.
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For more on Julius Evola and radical traditionalism from Aristocrats of the Soul, please see the following articles:
- Julius Evola’s The Doctrine of Awakening: Book Review
- Julius Evola on Meditation: Four Techniques for Controlling the Thoughts
- Julius Evola: Paintings and Artistic Career
- Julius Evola Paintings: Infographic
- A Handbook of Traditional Living by Raido: Book Review
- The Plumed Serpent: D.H. Lawrence on Radical Traditionalism
- Julius Evola on the Virtues of the Grail
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A number of Evola’s works are published online in English. See the following: