Men Among the Ruins: Julius Evola – Orientations (1950)

Baron Julius Evola
Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Julius Evola was an Italian philosopher who lived from 1898 to 1974. I was recently introduced to him by the Academic Agent, who devoted a day of programmes to him on his YouTube channel. This article will focus on just one essay that he wrote, which I think Puffins will find interesting and extremely relevant to our times.

Evola is a hard writer to read, but also to sum up.  The belief systems that underpin his work are just so unique and even alien to a modern mindset. At a very high level, we could perhaps describe him as a right-wing Traditionalist with a complete disdain for modernity.

His recent revival on the right is likely explained by just how prescient his works are appearing to be. In books with punchy titles such as Men Among the Ruins, Revolt Against the Modern World and Ride the Tiger – A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul, he seems to predict much of the shit-show we now find ourselves in. His diagnosis and recommendations also sit outside the familiar left/right or collectivist/individualist paradigms, and so appear to offer an alternative as these paradigms are increasingly found wanting.

As you might expect, Evola prompts much pearl clutching from the usual suspects.  As I see it, he is precisely the sort of provocative thinker who highlights the left’s inability to cope with any radical ideas anymore (outside of the marxist tradition, of course).  In line with his elitist philosophy, Evola’s life and writings do not stand up well to the cancel culture routine – he simply did not care about popular opinion. As well as being undeniably right on certain things, Evola is also challenging and somewhat eccentric.

The Academic Agent recommended the short 1950 essay Orientations as a good introduction to some of Evola’s main ideas on politics and society. His other works are very hard reads, but this essay was written to appeal to Italian right-wing youth, and so is relatively more accessible. What follows is my (novice) attempt to summarise and explain the main points in Orientations.

Note: all highlights in quotations are my own to help add emphasis to explanations. Orientations is available in pdf with a quick internet search and also on YouTube as an audiobook.


Give up all optimism

 In typical uncompromising style, Evola begins Orientations by dispelling any optimism readers may retain about the state of the world. He sees society’s ruin as an historical inevitability.

There  is  no  point  in  indulging  in  wishful thinking  with  the  illusions  of  any  kind  of optimism:  today  we  find  ourselves  at  the  end of  a  cycle.

It is important to appreciate that although many traditionalists today hark back to periods such as the 1950s as an idealised time, writing in 1950,  Evola considers the West already lost.  When advocating a return to traditional values he is pointing to much earlier periods in history.

In the face of a world in ruins, Evola focuses on the remaining ‘men of action’ who can resist modernity.

The  problem  to  pose  is,  do  men  on  their  feet still  exist  in  the  midst  of  these  ruins?  And what  must  they  do,  what  can  they  still  do?

The fundamental importance of an inner spirit

Evola sees the root of the problem, and therefore also the solution, as being a failure of inner spirit and personal character. Everything in Evola’s conception of politics and ethics seems to come back to this.

The  first  problem,  the  foundation  of  every other  one,  is  of  an  internal  character:  getting up  on  your  feet,  standing  up  inside,  giving oneself  a  form,  and  creating  in  oneself  an order  and  uprightness.

He goes further by saying that because such inner spirit is what is key in society, the nature of political structures and political parties are largely irrelevant.

If  a  state  were  to  possess  a  political or  social  system  that,  in  theory,  would  count as  the  most  perfect  one,  but  the  human substance  of  which  it  is  comprised  were tainted,  well  then,  that  state  would  sooner  or later  descend  to  the  level  of  the  lowest societies,  while  a  people,  a  race  capable  of producing  real  men,  men  of  just  feeling  and secure  instinct,  would  reach  a  high  level  of civilisation  and  would  stay  on  its  feet  before the  most  calamitous  tests  even  if  its  political system  were  faulty  and  imperfect.

Evola dismisses as the solution to our problems political movements that merely consist of large numbers of people and which are based on emotional factors. We can therefore imagine him rejecting movements such as Brexit and Trumpism as lacking sufficient inner foundations. Instead, he says:

What  we  are  hoping  for,  rather,  is  a  silent revolution,  proceeding  in  the  depths,  in  which the  premises  are  created,  first  internally  and  in individuals,  of  that  Order  that  will  later  have to  affirm  itself  externally  as  well,  supplanting suddenly,  at  the  right  moment,  the  forms  and forces  of  a  world  of  subversion.

Although it might be hard to conceptualise what exactly Evola has in mind when he talks vaguely about internal character, he has a nice way of showing us each the way.  In a simple statement that resonates strongly with me in a world of covid coercion and vaccine passports, Evola says that what must be done is now easier to know because:

We have  clearly  in  front  of  us  the  measure  of what  we  should  not  be. Before  a  world  of mush,  whose  principles  are, ‘You  have  no choice’…,  we  know  how  to  give  a  clear and  firm  response:  ‘As  for  us,  we  cannot  act  in any  other  way.  This  is  our  life,  this  is  our essence.’

He then explains what this new man looks like.

men who  stand  before  us  not  to  recite  talking points,  but  to  be  models:  not  yielding  to  the demagogy  or  materialism  of  the  masses,  but  to revive  different  forms  of  sensibilities  and interests.  Beginning  with  what  can  still  survive among  the  ruins,  and  slowly  to  construct  a new  man  to  be  animated  by  means  of  a determined  spirit  and  an  adequate  vision  of life,  and  fortified  by  means  of  an  iron adherence  to  given  principles.

Evola therefore stands in contrast to most conservative thinking which sees man as irredeemably flawed and assumes the political system must work with this reality in mind. In contrast, the left sees man as capable of being perfected, or at least significantly improved, through central control. For Evola, both premises are wrong. The starting point must be the individual man developing his inner spirit before any mass movements of recovery can ever hope for success. This is similar to what Jordan Peterson says about “tidy your own room first”, but clearly at a much more sophisticated level. Such men will eventually have to “affirm themselves” in the world of ruins bringing a return to order based on tradition. This is a theme he expands on in Ride the Tiger – the idea being that if you can ride the tiger of modernism and survive until it exhausts itself, you will eventually triumph.

Evola’s conception of hierarchies

Given what Evola says about the need for men of action and resolve, hierarchy and elitism are fundamental concepts for his vision. However, he rejects the structures that normally define hierarchies such as class and wealth, be they proletariat or aristocrat. He sees hierarchy as being determined by something akin to a meritocracy and an inner strength from which true leaders who are followed willingly will emerge. This can be seen in a man of any vocation, be he an explorer, farmer, or indeed politician.

a  repristinated  symbol of  unshaken  authority  will  reign  at  the  centre of  new  hierarchical  structures.

Evola sees such hierarchies as forming organically, and it’s quite interesting how he applies an invisible-hand type concept, which the right usually limits to economic factors, to values instead.

The  organic conception  has  nothing  to  do  with  a  state worshipping  sclerosis  and  a  levelling centralisation.  As  for  individuals,  both individualism  and  collectivism  are  really overcome  only  when  men  stand  in  front  of men,  in  the  natural  diversity of  their  being  and their  dignity.

And again, he links it all back to the discovery of the inner self.

an artisan  that  acquits  himself  perfectly in his function  is  without  doubt  superior  to  a  king that  rejects  and  does  not  live  up  to  his  dignity. [Take note Prince Harry]

Democracy and Communism – Two sides of the same coin

Perhaps the idea that has resonated most in the last couple of years is Evola’s view that liberalism and democracy are just as bad as socialism and communism.

The  great  illusion  of  our  days is  that  democracy  and  liberalism  are  the antithesis  of  Communism  and  have  the  power to  stem  the  tide  of  the  forces  of  the  low,  what is  called  the  ‘progressive’  movement…  This  illusion is like  saying  that  dusk  is  the  antithesis  of  night…  or  that  a diluted  poison  is  the  antithesis  of  the  same poison  in  its  pure  and  concentrated  state.

Evola again makes clear that this decline began with the rejection of traditional forms of thought and hierarchy.

The  beginning  of  this process  is  the  point  at  which  Western  man shattered  the  fetters  of  tradition,  rejected every  superior  symbol  of  authority  and sovereignty,  claimed  a  vain  and  illusory  liberty for  himself  as  an  individual,  and  became an atom  instead  of  a  conscious  part  in  the organic  and  hierarchical  unity  of  a  whole.

Globalism and the Cult of the Experts

Evola goes on to explain that the battle between democracy and communism will inevitably result in the same end state regardless of outcome. And he then describes something which looks rather like our own form of globalism.

From  the point  of  view  of  the  idea  that  inspires  them, Russia  and  North  America  can  be  considered as  two  tongs  of  the  same  pincers  that  are tightening  definitively  around  Europe.  In  them we  see  the  same  foreign  and  hostile  force, acting  in  different  but  converging  forms.  The forms  of  standardisation,  conformism, democratic  levelling,  frantic  overproduction, the  more  or  less  arrogant  and  explicit  cult  of the  expert  (‘brain  trust’),  and  the  petty materialism  of  Americanism  can  only  clear  the road  for  the  final  phase,  which  is  represented in  the  same  direction  by  the  Communist  ideal of  the  mass  man.

The Trojan Horse

Evola goes further and complains that whilst communism can be seen plainly as an enemy, what he calls ‘Americanism’ is in fact worse because it acts as a Trojan Horse.

By  thoughtlessly  submitting  to  the  influence  of Americanism  under  the  flag  of  democracy, Europe  is  already  predisposed  to  the  ultimate abdication,  and  this  could  come  about without  the  need  for  a  military  catastrophe, but  more  or  less  the  same  point  could  be reached  in  a  ‘progressive’  fashion  after  a  final social  crisis.  Again,  there  is  no  stopping halfway  down  the  slope.  Americanism,  willynilly,  is  working  for  its  ostensible  enemy: collectivism.

Obsession with Economics

The similarities between individualism and collectivism are also seen by Evola in both sharing an obsession with economic factors rather than higher values.

As  long  as  we  talk  about  nothing  else  but economic  classes,  work,  wages,  and production;  and  as  long  as  we  delude ourselves  that  real  human  progress  and  the genuine  elevation  of  the  individual  is conditioned  by  a  particular  system  of distribution  of  wealth  and  goods,  and therefore  has  to  do  with  poverty  and  ease, with  the  state  of  prosperity  à  la  the  United States  or  with  that  of  utopian  socialism,  we yet  remain  on  the  same  level  as  that  which  we need  to  combat. We  need  to  assert  the following:  that  everything  that  relates  to economy  and  the  view  of  economic  interest  as a  mere  satisfaction  of  physical  needs  has  had, has  now,  and  always  will  have  a  subordinate role  in  a  normal  humanity.

This is reminiscent of how the Brexit debate, and indeed so much of politics, is focused only on weighing up economic questions. Evola sees our real values as the spiritual and the heroic.

[It is the] things  for  which  it  is  worth  living  and  dying, which  establish  a  true  hierarchy, which differentiate  new  ranks  of  dignity.

Poisoned Culture

As you would expect by now, Evola recognises the Yuri Bezmenov-esque subversion of traditional culture that we see today.

young  people  in particular  should  recognise  the  poison  which has  been  given  to  an  entire  generation  by  the concordant  varieties  of  a  distorted  and  false vision  of  life  that  has  affected  their  inner forces.  In  one  form  or  another,  these  poisons continue  to  act  in  culture,  science,  sociology, and  literature,  like  so  many  hotbeds  of infection  that  must  be  identified  and  attacked.

Safety and Security

We mentioned earlier how the ‘new men’ will embody the heroic. Evola despised everything associated with what was called ‘bourgeois’ at the time. He would have been appalled by our current obsession with covid safety and group-conformity, as well as the propaganda that props it up.

They  will be  anti-bourgeois  because  they  despise  the easy  life;  anti-bourgeois  because  they  will follow  not  those  who  promise  material advantages,  but  those  who  demand  all  of themselves;  anti-bourgeois,  finally,  because they  are  not  preoccupied  with  security  but love  an  essential  union  between  life  and  risk, on  all  levels, …his  intolerance  for  every form  of  rhetoric  and  false  idealism,  for  all those  big  words  that  are  written  with  capital letters;  for  everything  that  is  only  gesture, phrase,  effect,  and  scenery.  The  essential,  on the  other  hand,  is  a  new  realism  in  measuring oneself  exactly  by  the  problems  that  will  face us,  and  in  acting  so  that  what  counts  is  not appearance,  but  being;  not  gossiping, but accomplishing,  in  a  silent  and  exact  manner, in  harmony  with  related  forces  and  adhering to  the  command  that  comes  from  above.

The Role of Religion

Evola criticised organised religion, again in terms that will echo with the modern reader.

…the  mediocre  and  essentially  bourgeois  and parochial  level  to  which  practically  everything that  is  confessional  religion  has  descended, and  its  surrender  to  modernism.

However, he recognised the importance of belief.

A  religious factor  is  necessary  as  a  background  for  a  truly heroic  conception  of  life…  It  is  necessary  to  feel the  evidence  in  ourselves  that  beyond  this earthly  life  there  is  a  higher  life,  because  only someone  who  feels  this  way  possesses  a  force that  cannot  be  broken  or  overwhelmed.


The ideas and political strategies in Orientations open up a debate that goes well beyond today’s constrained narratives. Evola’s analysis is at times spookily prescient, which clearly makes him worthy of serious consideration. I think his uncompromising and passionate style can also provide a sense of hope and inspiration to the politically jaded, despite his essentially pessimistic prognosis.

I’ll leave you with a thought-provoking, and disturbing, comment that has been made about Evola’s vision of the future – the eventual rise of men among the ruins and a return to traditional hierarchies. It has been pointed out that this is entirely compatible with traditional Islam.

© JimmySP 2021