Sunday, January 02, 2022

Julius Evola’s impact on the postwar and contemporary radical right

A new-ish article gives a concise account, in English, of Julius Evola’s ideological impact on the postwar and thus also the contemporary radical right. It is “CasaPound Italia: ‘Back to Believing. The Struggle Continues’” by Elisabetta Cassina Wolff, in Fascism 8 (2019) pp. 61-88, available on academia.edu. Not everything in the article is new, but much of the work on which it draws has been available only in Italian, and the story is clearly and convincingly told.

Much of the article deals with Evola’s disciple Pino Rauti and his Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo (New Order Study Group). It then proceeds through later groups (Roberto Fiore’s Terza Posizione, International Third Position, and Forza Nuova, and then Gabriele Adinolfi’s Centro Studi Orientamenti e Ricerca) to Gianluca Iannone and CasaPound Italia. This is one of contemporary Europe’s most important radical right groups. The article reports that in 2018 it had some 230,000 followers on Facebook.

The article’s conclusion is that “all these movements have contributed to the survival and dissemination of typical fascist ideology,” as “there has been a constant evolving of right-wing radical discourse.” I am not sure this really works. How should one conceive of a single “typical fascist ideology” if it has been constantly evolving? In fact, the article shows evolution more than anything else, and also shows that Evola, Rauti, and the Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo were responsible for much of this evolution.

The article argues that Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo was important for its diffusion of Evola’s ideas in Italy and abroad, and through this activity also of a general shift away from “the traditional and national authors of historical Fascism” like Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile to a whole range of new authors, including Evola himself, as well as others from Oswald Spengler and René Guénon to Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and Knut Hamsun. All these new authors are reference points for CasaPound today, and also, one might add, for the broader radical right. Evola, Rauti, and the Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo further reoriented the radical right away from “historical Fascism” (and its “stigma”) to the confrontation with modernity and the consequences of the French Revolution, against “the moral decadence deemed as a con¬sequence of the cultural hegemony of the humanitarian, globalist and Marxist left.” And, perhaps most importantly, they reoriented the radical right away from a focus on a narrowly defined nation (state) to “an ideal nation… [that] transcends physical boundaries and includes all people who are loyal to tradition,” and also away from biological racism to culture and thus to today’s Identitarianism.

The article also comments on the “theoretical distinction” often made by scholars between a mainstream or “institutionalized” parliamentary right and a radical or extremist extra-parliamentary right. In Italy, “the distinction is indeed a theoretical and academic one; the very same people continuously went in and out of the [institutionalized] MSI and the contraposition between parliamentary and non-parliamentary activity was never clear-cut.” I suspect that the same is true of most other countries.

An important article, well worth reading.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Extended article on Aguéli's Sufism and Humanism

The Israeli scholar Meir Hatina contributed a chapter on "Ivan Aguéli's humanist vision: Islam, Sufism and universalism" to the edited collection Anarchist, Artist, Sufi: The Politics, Painting, and Esotericism of Ivan Aguéli. He has now published an extended version of that chapter as "Turning to the East, Rescuing the West: Sufism and Humanism in Ivan Aguéli’s Thought" in the journal Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations. See https://doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2021.1989815.

From the abstract:

Aguéli’s universal humanism, with Sufism as its main lever, is analysed and located within a transnational intellectual landscape through networks of people, ideas and print media. By attracting Western pilgrims, Sufism served as a nexus of cultural transfer from the Middle East to Europe, thus casting doubts on the prevailing paradigm of Western enlightenment as the backbone of global intellectual history. Sufism was presented by Aguéli as a spiritual philosophy that dealt with the liberation of man from materialism and selfishness. The article deals with a number of issues: How did Aguéli transform Islam and Sufism into a cosmopolitan vision? To what extent was his humanism nurtured by anarchist philosophy, which promoted a just society? Did Aguéli reconcile the anarchist perception of human beings as free creatures with the Sufi perception of total submission to a Sufi master?

Monday, October 18, 2021

Tavener and the Musica perennis

Several chapters in a new collection discuss the Traditionalism of Sir John Tavener (1944-2013), the acclaimed British musician who was a follower of Frithjof Schuon. It is Heart's Ease: Spirituality in the Music of John Tavener, edited by June Boyce-Tillman and Anne-Marie Forbes (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2020).

The collection consists of nine chapters and eight “interludes,” preludes or postludes, distinguished from the formal chapters by being more reflective and less academic, and often very short. The opening “prelude,” by Boyce-Tillman, sets the scene with a short biographical introduction to Tavener and his best-known work. This is followed by a chapter in which Stephen Roberts traces “Tavener’s Musical Theology of Religions,” working through Orthodoxy to arrive at Traditionalism. 

Then comes one of two chapters that deal at length with Tavener’s Traditionalism, “In Search of Truth: John Tavener’s Transition from Western Culture to Eastern Tradition” by Andrzej Kęsiak, a Polish theologian and musician who is currently working in the UK on a PhD thesis about Tavener. Kęsiak starts with Tavener’s rejection of modernism, follows through the “Search for Tradition” that led him to Orthodox Christianity, and ends with Traditionalism and the “Musica perennis,” Tavener’s application to music of Schuon’s understanding of the transcendent unity of religions.

Several further chapters deal with particular compositions: Tavener’s “Prayer to the Holy Trinity,” his “To a Child Dancing in the Wind,” his Requiem, and his “Three Hymns of George Herbert.” Then come three chapters dealing with particular issues: his “Search for an English Orthodox Musical Language”, “Sacred Silence,” and finally the use of his music in therapy. 

Of these chapters, the most important for those who are interested primarily in Traditionalism is the chapter on Tavener’s Requiem, written by Bart Seaton-Said, a practicing musician and former Anglican Franciscan. This is mostly a musical analysis, and shows how the Requiem is a “broadening of the parameters of sacred Christian art” and “manifests outwardly Schuon’s theme of the ‘transcendent unity of relations.’”

The book provides a useful study of Tavener’s music, and of the impact of Traditionalism on that music. Tavener’s project of discovering the Musica perennis is one of the most interesting recent developments of traditionalism, and – arguably – one of the most successful.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The later politics of Ivan Aguéli

We know more about the later politics of Ivan Aguéli than I thought. The Swedish journalist Eddie Råbock points to two passages, some notes from 1904 and some comments in a letter from 1917. In both cases, Aguéli had moved far from his early anarchism.

In 1904, Aguéli was calling for democracy under the control of the ulama, i.e. much same system that was meant to be introduced in Iran after the Islamic Revolution (the reality, perhaps predictably, did not quite correspond to the theory). In 1904, Aguéli was still something of a revolutionary, ending his note with "Fight capital through the agrarians, as the King of Italy does. Fight snobbery." The reference to the King of Italy is explained by Aguéli's engagement in Il Convito, which was pro-Italian as well as pro-Islamic. 

Later, letters written in Spain during the general strike of 1917 show that his sympathies were by then definitely not with the revolutionaries, but rather with the king and central government.

These positions fit with the positions that René Guénon later took. Having the ulama in charge, especially, fits with the idea of the primacy of spiritual authority over temporal power.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

New English collection of work by Aguéli

A new book gives English translations of a selection of the writings on Islam of Ivan Aguéli. It is Ivan Aguéli: Sensation of Eternity: Selected Writings, edited by Oliver Fotros. ISBN 978-9151985091, $13.99 on Amazon.

The writings translated are

  • Notes on Islam (from L'Initiation, 1902)
  • Feminism (from Il Convito, 1904)
  • From La Gnose (1911):
    • Pages dedicated to Mercury (incl. Pure Art) 
    • Pages dedicated to the Sun 
    • Universality in Islam
    • Islam and Anthropomorphic Religions
    • Al Malamatiyyah
  • From L'Encyclopédie contemporaine illustrée:
    • On the principles of Architecture and Sculpturing (1912)
    • The 29th Exhibition of Le Salon des Independantes (1913)
    • La Section d’Or – the Exhibition at Gallery La Boétie (1913)
  • Others
    • On Western Art
    • On Europeans and Muslims
The writings from La Gnose were reprinted in French in the collection published by Archè in 1988, and Universality in Islam has now been translated twice into English, and Pure Art once, but all the other articles have never been reprinted, let alone translated. A major achievement for the study and understanding of Aguéli.