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‘A Transfiguring Knowledge of Life’
The Forms of Warlike Heroism by Julius Evola

From Metaphysics of War: Battle, Victory and Death in the World of Tradition, 2011, Arktos, pages 21-27

Originally published in May, 1935

Before advancing with my study of the Western Way of War it will be necessary to reexamine and condense for the reader, and for the ordered analysis of the author, Julius Evola’s placement of the warrior in the traditional mythic context of Western Culture. Such reading that I have done on mythology -though voluminous, was largely divorced from war, with the exception of Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, which falls far short of Evola’s work where the warrior is concerned, but will, nevertheless bear rereading.

As I sit writing at her table, my mother hands me a greeting card composed at the same time as Evola’s later essays in this work:

“A greeting for an Army man

To wish him the very best

Of the good luck every Soldier needs

To meet his every test…”

-A Merry Christmas for an Army Man, 1942

Evola would surely place the recipient of this card in the same place the card puts him, low down on the hierarchy of heroes, the capitalization raising the Army as the heroic collective, putting the mere man in the fickle hands of luck and raising up for praise not his self-sacrifice but rather his membership in a heroic collective.

In The Forms of Warlike Heroism Evola begins by making the case for war having materialistic and anti-materialistic “spiritual” values, where modern society sees only material values in the positive and negative sphere. In war, no matter how terrible and fatal, the warrior has become more than a consumer among “trivialities.”

The fact, as Evola points out, is that all civilizations give rise to a four-tiered natural order in the social hierarchy, from the bottom up:


middle class,

the warrior class

and the priestly class

The author furthermore presents these as castes of actuality in those societies that may not have an explicate case system, in that people naturally gravitate to enslavement, manipulation, confrontation or transcendence, and that this natural hierarchy has been reversed by materialistic modernity. The natural hierarchy places the slave where he belongs and the mystic where he may confront the cosmos from a place of elevated contemplation, unworried with the scrambling for material means endemic to the two lowest castes or the strife of the warrior.

The State itself is seen to devolve from:


To monarchial warrior [partially secularized],

To capitalist oligarchies [entirely secular],

To collectivist slave states [atheistic worship of the secular-material]

Finally, at the level of heroic corruption of socialism the warrior is able to strive for what is left to him, for his spirit not to be extinguished by the mechanized society and its vast war machines.

In other words, societies have devolved counter to the heroic hierarchy:

1. Holy war, which might elevate the warrior in life or death above,

2. War for war’s sake, to experience the transcendent in its polluted tumultuous state,

3. War for profit—taking away clan, princely and cultic justifications and replacing these with the abstract nation state and its material expansion, under the oligarchic merchant class, which he places as the steepest fall in this descent,

4. To usher in the slave age, or hive mind, a globalist agenda to enslave all humans under an abstract, materialistic ideology.

What is fascinating about this heroism scale is that various combatants—even on the same side—in a war may be operating at different levels. Evola construes these behaviors in three levels:

1. Holy war in which “supra-personhood” is sought

2. Tragic war, sustaining the greatness of the warrior class but failing to transcend it

3. Collective, irrational, sub-personal war, in which the hero is submerged, and within which the hero may only triumph by maintaining his identity and not surrendering to the collective

Evola suggests in this essay a process of reclaiming the warrior’s heroic status. He does not suggest, but his reasoning points to, combat sports as a surrogate life support system for the ideal of heroism. [1] His core conclusion is that the nation—to big to be gotten rid of without spawning something even more vilely collective—might be elevated to a “warrior nation” instead of just surrendering to man’s basic animal instinct—represented by the avaricious predatory aggression of the merchant class and herd-like cowardice of the slave class—that the ancient heroic will be resurrected to once again put the lower moral orders in their place.

It is suggested at this point that the reader apply Evola’s theory of hero tradition to the verse at the top of the page, placing the Collective, the Soldier and the Man in their true [traditional/spiritual] and fallen [modern/material] contexts and contrasting the two in terms of their reflection upon the individual and the society.


1. In this respect prize-fighting places the moral orders out of place according to the modern collective scheme, with the sacred activity of combat prostituted for material survival of the participants, enrichment of the managerial [merchant] class and diversion of the collective into a passive body, leaving the transcendent aspect of combat within and between the fighters themselves, both trying to survive one another’s attention and at the same time the parasitic actions of the managerial promotors and the vampiric invalidation of the collective mass of spectators. It is no accident that fighters form closer bonds to their ritual “enemy” while becoming evermore estranged from their fans and managers. The potential priestly character in this equation is the trainer, who tends to be so utterly ruled by the manager that he cannot properly fulfill his role, especially when both roles are combined in the same person.

A Well of Heroes

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