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Julius Evola discusses the perversion of traditional concepts, such as the color red and the term “revolution,” by subversive movements, highlighting the original meanings and contrasting them with their modern usage.

This is an excerpt from Julius Evola’s Recognitions.

Contrary to what the disciples of the myth of progress believe, the revolutionary movements of the modern epoch, far from representing something positive which has given life to autonomous and original forms, have essentially agitated for inversion, subversion, usurpation and degradation of the principles, the forms, and the traditional symbols of the precedent regimes and civilizations. This could be easily illustrated with typical examples taken from various spheres, commencing from a consideration of the “immortal principles” of the French Revolution itself. But for now we wish only to linger on consideration of certain terms and certain characteristic symbols.

Before anything, let us take the color red. This color, which has become the emblem of subversion, previously, as purple, had recurring connection with the regal and imperial function—connection not unrelated to the sacred character recognized in it. The tradition can carry us as far back as classical antiquity, where this color, in its correspondence with fire conceived as the highest of all the elements (that which, according to the Ancients, was the substance of the highest heaven, for which this heaven was called empyrean1), is associated also with triumphal symbolism. In the Roman rite of “triumph,” whose character was more religious than military, the emperor, the victor, not only dressed in purple, but originally dyed himself in the same color, so as to represent Jove, the king of the gods, who was thought to have acted through the emperor’s person, and thus to be the true artificer of the victory. It is superfluous to cite examples of successive traditions which regarded red as the color of regality: in Catholicism itself, the “purple” is sign of the “princes of the Church.”2 Here and now we see this same color degraded in the red Marxist flag and in the red star of the Soviets.

Or let us take the very word “revolution.” Few are aware of the perversion of this word’s proper original sense in its modern usage. Revolution in the primary sense does not mean subversion and revolt, but really even the opposite—that is, return to a point of departure and ordinary motion around a center, for which in astronomical language the revolution of a star is precisely the movement it accomplishes in gravitating around a center, thus obstructing that centrifugal force by way of which it might lose itself in infinity.

But this concept plays an important part in the doctrine and in the symbolism of regality. The symbolism of the pole had a nearly universal character as applied to the Sovereign, the fixed and stable point around which the various politico-social activities are ordered. Here is a characteristic saying of the tradition of the extreme Orient: “He who reigns by virtue of Heaven (or divine mandate) resembles the polar star: he rests firm in his place, but all the other stars direct themselves around him.”3 In the near Orient, the term Qutb, “pole,” designated not only the sovereign but more generally him who gives law and is the head of the tradition of a given historical period.4 It might also be noted that the royal and imperial insignia of the scepter originally had no other meaning. The scepter incorporates the concept of “axis,” analogy to the concept of the “pole.” And this is the essential attribute of regality, the basis of the very idea of “order.” When this is real, there exists always something stolid in a political organism, despite every agitation or turmoil owing to historical contingencies: in this connection, one might use the image of the hinges of a door, which rest immobile and hold the door fast even when it slams shut.

“Revolution” in the modern sense, together with all that it has created, is rather like the unhinging of the door, the opposite of the traditional meaning of the term: the social and political forces loosen from their natural orbit, decline, know no longer any center nor any order, other than a badly and temporarily stemmed disorder.

We have made reference to the star of the Soviets, the star with five points.5 Analogous considerations can be made for this star. We will limit ourselves to recalling that such a sign—the so-called “pentagram”— even after the Renaissance counted as an esoteric symbol of the “microcosm,” that is, of man conceived of as the image of the world and of God, dominator of all the elements thanks to his dignity and his supernatural destination. So too in the legends and the stories of magic (one recalls Goethe’s Faust),56 this star appears as the consecrated sign which is obeyed by spirits and elements. And so, through a process of degradation which it would be interesting to follow in its phases, the pentagram star, from that symbol of man as spiritually integrated being and supernaturally sovereign, has come to be the symbol of man terrestrialized and collectivized, of the world of the proletariat masses aiming at the dominion of the world in the sign of a messianism which itself is inverted, atheistic, destructive of every higher value and of every human dignity.

This degradation of symbols is, for every attentive overview, an extremely significant and eloquent sign of the times.6

Footnotes

1From Ancient Greek ἔμπυρος, “in the flame.” According to ancient cosmology, the empyrean represented the heaven above heaven, which was made of fire. This theme was taken up also in ancient philosophy. Aristotle conceived of the cosmos as composed of spheres, the fourth and penultimate of which was the lunar sphere of fire; see Aristotle, Metaphysics 1073b1–1074a13. Heraclitus held that fire was the fundamental element of all things; see Fragments 30 and 90.

2The “princes of the Church” are the cardinals, whose robes are scarlet during periods of conclave. References are sometimes made to “the scarlet” in speaking of the Catholic orders as a whole.

3Quotation from Confucius’ Analects, 2.1.

4Particularly in the Sufi tradition, in which this word Qutb is taken to indicate the perfect human being. The word Qutb has also astronomical significance. Spiritually, it is taken to represent the axis extending from God to the spiritual leader on Earth. Such spiritual leaders are secret and unknown to the world. For more on these ideas, see the first chapters of Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World, especially Chapter 3.

5The red star which famously accompanies the sickle in Soviet regalia. The red is supposed to represent the blood of exploited workers, and the five points are sometimes taken to represent the five fingers of the worker’s hand, though other interpretations have also been offered. This same star appears in yellow in the Chinese flag.

6Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was one of the most important German cultural figures of all time. His work is famously broad-ranging, from poetry to novels to criticism to scientific investigations. Nietzsche called Conversations with Goethe, the biographical record of Johann Peter Eckermann’s contact with Goethe, the best of German books. Goethe is probably most famous, however, for his two-part dramatic poem Faust, to which Evola makes reference here; Faust imprisons the Devil with the use of a pentagram (only to be subsequently fooled by the Devil into letting him free again). See Faust, Part I, 1385-1405.

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Translated by John Bruce Leonard

Julius Evola

Julius Evola (1898-1974) was Italy's foremost traditionalist philosopher, as well as a metaphysician, social thinker, and activist. Evola was an authority on the world's esoteric traditions and one of the greatest critics of modernity.

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