The Proper Relationship between Worldview and Intellect
By Julius Evola
After mentioning intellectuals and realism, it is still necessary to make one point. I have suggested that the flirtation of some intellectuals with communism is paradoxical, since communism despises the figure of the intellectual, whom it regards as a member of the hated bourgeois. Incidentally, a similar attitude may be shared even by those who are on the opposite front to communism. It is indeed possible to be opposed to any exaggerated appreciation of culture and intellectualism, considering what they amount to in the contemporary world. To make a cult of them, to define their representatives as a higher social stratum, almost an aristocracy — the “aristocracy of thought,” which is believed to be the true one, legitimately replacing the previous forms of the elite and the nobility — is a characteristic prejudice of the bourgeois era in its humanistic or liberal sphere. The truth is that this culture and intellectualism are nothing but the products of dissociation and neutralization within a wider order of things. As this has not gone unnoticed, anti-intellectualism has been almost a biological reaction, playing a relevant part in recent times: unfortunately it has pursued false or problematic directions.
I will not, however, dwell on this last point, as I have already discussed it in another context, when dealing with the error of “anti-rationalism.” Here I only want to point out that if we desire to overcome bourgeois “culture,” there is a third possible reference point beyond both intellectualism and anti-intellectualism: a worldview (the German Weltanschauung). A worldview is based not on books, but on an inner form and a sensibility endowed with an innate, rather than acquired, character. It is essentially a disposition and an attitude, instead of a culture or a theory—a disposition and an attitude that do not merely concern the mental domain, but also affect the domain of feelings and of the will, forge one’s character, and manifest themselves in reactions having the same instinctive certainty, giving evidence of a sure meaning of life. Usually, a worldview, rather than being an individual affair, proceeds from a tradition and is the organic effect of forces that have shaped a certain type of civilization; at the same time, a pane subiecti [from the subject’s perspective] the worldview manifests itself as a sort of “inner race” and an existential structure. In every civilization but the modern one, it was a “worldview” and not a “culture” that permeated the various strata of society; where culture and conceptual thought were present, they never enjoyed primacy, for their function was as simple expressive means and organs in service of the worldview. Nobody believed “pure thought” was supposed to reveal truth and to supply meaning to life: the role of thought consisted in clarifying what was already possessed and what preexisted as direct feeling and evidence, before any speculation was formulated. The products of thought had only a symbolic value, acting as signposts — thus, conceptual expression did not have a character privileged over other forms of expression. In previous civilizations the latter consisted of evocative images, symbols, and myths. Today things may go otherwise, considering the growing, hypertrophic cerebralization of Western man. However, it is important not to mistake the essential for the accessory, and that the above-mentioned relationships are acknowledged and retained; in other words, wherever “culture” and “intellectualism” are present, they may play an only instrumental role, expressing something deeper and more organic, namely a worldview. The worldview may find clearer expression in a man with no formal education than in a writer, just as it may be more strongly represented in a soldier, an aristocrat, or a farmer who is faithful to the earth than in the bourgeois intellectual, the typical “professor,” or the journalist.
Concerning all this, Italy is at a disadvantage, as those with all the power in the media, academic culture, and in critical journals, and who thereby organize real, monopolizing, quasi-Masonic societies, are the worst type of intellectual, who knows nothing of the meaning of spirituality, human wholeness, or thinking that reflects strong principles.
“Culture” in the modern sense ceases to be a danger only when those who deal with it already have a worldview. Only then will an active relationship toward it be possible, because one will already have an inner form enabling him to discern confidently what may be assimilated and what should be rejected — more or less as happens in all the differentiated processes of organic assimilation.
All this is rather evident, and yet it has been systematically misjudged by liberal and individualistic thought: one of the calamities of “free culture” made available to everybody and expounded by this ideology is the fact that in this way many whose minds are incapable of discrimination according to proper judgment, and who still lack their own form and worldview, find themselves at the mercy of similar influences. This deleterious situation, which is flaunted as a triumph and as progress, proceeds from a premise that is exactly the opposite of the truth: it is assumed that, unlike men who lived in the “obscurantist” epochs of the past, modern man is spiritually mature, and thus capable of judging for himself and of being on his own (this is the same premise of modern “democracy” in its polemics against any principle of authority). But this is sheer illusion: never before as in modern times was there such a number of men who are spiritually formless, and thus open to any suggestion and ideological intoxication, so as to become dominated by psychic currents (without being aware of it in the least) and of manipulations belonging to the intellectual, political, and social climate in which they live. But these considerations would take us too far.
My comments concerning the “worldview” supplement the aspects of the problem I have dealt with when I mentioned the new realism; they specify where this problem must be situated and resolved, in an antibourgeois mode — for there is nothing worse than a merely intellectual reaction against intellectualism. If the fog will lift, it will become clear that the “worldview” must be the unifying or dividing factor, staking out spiritually insurmountable barriers. Even in a political movement it constitutes the primary element, because only a worldview has the power to produce a given human type and thus to impart a specific tone to a given community.
With communism there have been situations in which something began to reach such depths. Quite correctly, a contemporary politician spoke of an inner and deep change that, by manifesting itself in the form of an obsession, is produced in those who truly adhere to communism; their thinking and conduct are altered by it. In my view, it is an alteration or a fundamental contamination of the human being: in such cases it affects the plane of existential reality, which is not what happens with those who react from bourgeois and intellectualist positions. The possibility of revolutionary-conservative action depends essentially on the measure in which the opposing idea, namely the traditional, aristocratic, anti-proletarian idea, is able to reach such existential levels — thereby giving rise to a new realism and allowing Tradition, as a worldview, to give form to a specific type of antibourgeois man as the nucleus of new elites, beyond the crisis of all individualistic and unrealistic values.
Excerpt from: Evola, Julius. Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002, pp 221-223.