Mercury Rising: The Life and Writing of Julius Evola
If we could select a single aspect by which to define Julius Evola, it would have been his desire to transcend the ordinary and the world of the profane. It was characterized by a thirst for the Absolute, which the Germans call mehr als leben – “more than living”. This idea of transcending worldly existence colours not only his ideas and philosophy, it is also evident throughout his life which reads like a litany of successes. During the earlier years Evola excelled at whatever he chose to apply himself to: his talents were evident in the field of literature, for which he would be best remembered, and also in the arts and occult circles.
Born in Rome on the 19th of May in 1898, Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola was the son of an aristocratic Sicilian family, and like many children born in Sicily, he had received a stringent Catholic upbringing. As he recalled in his intellectual autobiography, Il cammino del cinabro [1963, 1972, The Path of Cinnabar], his favourite pastimes consisted of painting, one of his natural talents, and of visiting the library as often as he could in order to read works by Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Otto Weininger. During his youth he also studied engineering, receiving excellent grades but chose to discontinue his studies prior to the completion of his doctorate, because he “did not wish to be bourgeois, like his fellow students.” At the age of nineteen Evola joined the army and participated in World War I as a mountain artillery officer. This experience would serve as an inspiration for his use of mountains as metaphors for solitude and ascension above the chthonic forces of the earth. Evola was also a friend of Mircea Eliade, who kept in correspondence with Evola from 1927 until his death. He was also an associate of the Tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci and the Tantric scholar Sir John Woodroofe (Arthur Avalon).
During his younger years Evola was briefly involved in art circles, and despite this being only a short lived affair, it was also a time that brought him great rewards. Though he would later denounce Dada as a decadent form of art it was within the field of modern art that Evola first made his name, taking a particular interest in Marinetti and Futurism. His oil painting, Inner Landscape, 10:30 a.m., is hanging today on a wall of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. He also composed Arte Astratta (Abstract Art) but later, after experiencing a personal crisis, turned to the study of Nietzsche, from which sprang his Teoria dell, individuo assoluto (Theory of the Absolute Individual) in 1925. By 1921 Evola had abandoned the pursuit of art as the means to place his unique mark on the world. The revolutionary attitudes of Marinetti, the Futurist movement and the so-called avant-garde which had once fascinated him, no longer appeared worthwhile to Evola with their juvenile emphasis on shocking the bourgeoisie. Likewise, despite being a talented poet, Evola (much like another of his inspirations – Arthur Rimbaud) abandoned poetry at the age of twenty four. Evola did not write another poem nor paint another picture for over forty years. Thus, being no longer enamored of the arts, Evola chose instead to pursue another field entirely that he would one day award him even greater acclaim.