J. Evola: "Dionysus and the Way of the Left Hand"

Evola considers Nietzsche's Dionysus in relation to the so-called "Way of the Left Hand", an initiatory path that involves "the courage to tear off the veils and masks with which Apollo hides the original reality, to transcend forms to get in touch with the elementary nature of a world in which good and evil, divine and human, rational and irrational, just and unjust no longer have any meaning ».

di Julius Evola
taken from Reconnaissance. Men and problems, Postal Code. XII, pp. 79 - 85,
Mediterranean Editions, Rome 1985


Which are outlined in the exhibition of one of the first works, very suggestive, by Federico Nietzsche  The birth of the Tragedy  the concepts of Dionysus and Apollo have little correspondence with the meaning that these entities had in antiquity, especially in their esoteric understanding. Nevertheless, here we will refer precisely to that Nietzschean assumption of theirs as a starting point, in order to define fundamental existential orientations. We will start by presenting a myth.

Immersed in the brightness and fabulous innocence of Eden, man was a blessed and an immortal. It flourished in him the tree of Life" and he himself was this luminous life. But now a new, unprecedented vocation arises: the will of a domain on life, the overcoming of being, through the power of being and not being, of Yes and No. This can be referred to the "Tree of Good and Evil". In the name of it man detaches himself from the Tree of Life, which entails the collapse of a whole world, in the flashing of a value that discloses the kingdom of he who, according to a hermetic saying, is superior to the gods themselves in that with the immortal nature, to which these are abstracted, it also has mortal nature in its power, and with the infinite also the finite, with the affirmation also the negation (this condition was marked by the expression of "Lord of the Two Natures").

But man was not enough for this act; a terror seized him, by which he was overwhelmed and broken. Like a lamp under too intense a shine  it is said in a Kabbalistic text , like a circuit struck by too high a potential, the essences cracked. The meaning of the "fall" and of the same "fault". So, unleash this terror. the spiritual powers that were to be servants immediately rushed and froze in the form of autonomous, fatal objective existences. Sufferedrendered external and fleeting to itself, power took on the species of autonomous objective existence, and freedom  the dizzying peak that would have established the glory of a super-divine living  there was the indomitable contingency of phenomena among which man wanders, trembling and miserable shadow of himself. It can be said that this was the curse cast by the "slain God" against the one who was unable to take on his inheritance.

With Apolloalways understood in Nietzschean terms, what derives from this failure develops. In its elementary function, it must be referred to the will that discharges itself, which no longer experiences itself as a will, but rather as an "eye" and a "form"  as a vision, representation, knowledge. It is indeed the architect of the objective world, the transcendental foundation of the "category of space". Space, understood as the way of being outside, as that for which things are no longer experienced as a function of will but under the species of images and visivity, is the primordial objectification of fear, of cracking and discharging of the will: transcendentally, the vision of a thing is the fear and suffering of that thing. And the "multiple", the indefinite divisibility proper to the spatial form reconfirm its meaning, reflecting precisely the loss of tension, the disintegration of the unity of the absolute act [1].

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But just as the eye is not aware of itself, except as a function of what it sees, likewise being, made external to itself by the "Apollonian" function of space, is essentially dependent, linked: it is a being that it rests, which draws its own consistency from another. This need for support generates the "Limit category": the tangibility and solidity of material things are their incorporation, almost the syncope same fear that stops being insufficient on the edge of the "Dionysian" world. Therefore it could be called the "fact" of this Fear, of which space is the act. As a special case of the limit, we have the law. While he who is by himself is not afraid of infinity, of chaos, of what the Greeks called theapeiron, because indeed he sees reflected in it his own deepest nature as a substantial entity of freedom, he who transcendently fails has a horror of infinity, flees from it and seeks in the law, in the constancy of causal sequences, in the predictable and in the ordered, a substitute for that certainty and possession from which he has fallen. Positive science and any morality could, in a certain sense, fall in no different direction.

The third creature of "Apollo" is there finality. For a god, the end cannot have any sense, since he has nothing beside himself  neither a good, nor a true, nor a rational, pleasant or just  from which to draw norms and to be moved, but good, true, rational, pleasant and just are identified with what he wants, simply as much as he wants it. In philosophical terms, it can be said that of the affirmation of him, the "sufficient reason" is the affirmation itself.

On the other hand, beings external to themselves in order to act need a correlation, a motive for action or, better said, a semblance, a motive for action. In fact, in decisive cases, outside of trivially empirical contexts, man does not want a thing because he finds it, for example, right or rational, but finds it right and rational simply because he wants it (psychoanalysis itself has given, in this regard, some valid contributions). But to go down to the depths where the will or impulse is nakedly affirmed, he is afraid. And here it is "Apollonian" prudence preserves from the vertigo of something that can happen without having a cause and a purpose, that is only for itself, and according to the same movement with which he freed the will in a visual, he now makes appear, through the categories of "causality" and the so-called "sufficient reason", profound affirmations in function of aims, practical utility, ideal motives and morals that justify them, on which they rely.

Thus the whole life of the great mass of men takes on the meaning of an escape from the center, of a desire to be numb and to ignore the fire that burns in them and which they cannot bear. Cut off from being, they talk, agitate, seek, love and mate in mutual request for confirmation. They multiply illusions and thus erect a great pyramid of idols: it is the constitution of society, of morality, of ideals, of metaphysical purposes, of the kingdom of the gods or of a reassuring providence, to make up for the inexistence of a central reason, of a fundamental meaning. All "bright spots to help the eye offended for having stared into the horrible darkness"  to use Nietzsche's words.

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Now the other  the object, the cause, the reason, etc.  not existing in itself, being only a symbolic apparition of the deficiency of the will to itself, with the act in which it asks another for its confirmation, in reality it only confirms its own deficiency [2]. Thus man wanders, like the one who pursues his own shadow, eternally thirsty and eternally disappointed, creating and devouring ceaselessly forms that "are and are not" (Plotinus). Thus the "solidity" of things, the Apollonian limit, is ambiguous; it fails to grasp and recurrently restores to a later point the consistency that it seemed to guarantee and with which it flattered desire and need. Whence, in addition to that of space, the category of time, the law of a becoming of forms that arise and dissolve  indefinitely , because for a single moment of arrest, for a single instant in which he did not act, did not speak, did not desire, man would feel everything collapsing. Thus his confidence among things, forms and idols is as ghostly as that of a sleepwalker walking to the edge of an abyss. [3].

However, this world may not be the last resort. In fact, having no root in anything else, only the I being responsible for it and keeping the causes within himself, he has in principle the possibility of resolving them. Thus a tradition concerning the great Work is attested, the creation of a "second Tree of Life". This is the expression used by Caesar of the Riviera, in his book The magical world of Heroes (2nd ed. Milan, 1605), where this task is associated with "magic" and in general with the hermetic and magical tradition. But in this context it is interesting to consider what is proper to the so-called "Way of the Left Hand". That involves the courage to tear off the veils and masks with which "Apollo" hides the original reality, to transcend forms to get in touch with the elementary nature of a world in which good and evil, divine and human, rational and irrational, just and unfair no longer make any sense.

At the same time, it entails knowing how to bring to the apex everything from which the original terror is exasperated and that our naturalistic and instinctive being non wants; knowing how to break the limit and dig deeper and deeper, feeding the sensation of a dizzying abyss, e consist, to keep oneself in the passing away, from which others would be broken. Hence the possibility of establishing a connection also with historical Dionysism, in this regard entering into question not the "mystical" and "Orphic" one, but the Thracian one, which had some wild, orgiastic and destructive aspects. What if Dionysus reveals himself in moments of crisis and the collapse of the law, even "guilt" can reenter in this existential field; in it the Apollonian veil is torn and, placed in front of the primordial force, man plays the game of his perdition or of his becoming superior to life and death. It is interesting that the German term for crime includes the meaning of a break (ver-brechen).

An act can continue to be called guilty as it is an act of which we are afraid, which we do not feel we can absolutely assume, so we fail to it, which we unconsciously judge to be something too strong for us. But an active, positive fault. it has something transcendent. Novalis wrote: When man wanted to become God, he sinned, as if this were his condition. In the Mithriac mysteries the ability to kill or to watch impassively in a killing (even if simulated) constituted an initiatory test. Certain aspects of the sacrificial rites could be reported in the same context, when the victim was identified with the same divinity, yet the sacrificer had to overthrow him so that, superior to the curse and catastrophe, in him  but also in the community that magically converged in him  was free and passed the absolute: the transcendence in the tragic nature of sacrifice and guilt.

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But the act can also carry on itself, in some varieties of the "Initiatory death". To do violence to life itself, in the evocation of something elementary. Thus the path that in some forms of tantric yoga opens up to "kundaliniIs called that in which "the fire of death blazes." Here the tragic act of the sacrificer is internalized and becomes the practice with which the same organic life at its root is deprived of all support, is suspended and dragged beyond itself along the "Via Regia" of the so-called sushumna, "Devourer of time".

It is known that Dionysism has historically been associated with forms of frenetic, destructive and orgiastic unleashing, as in the classic type of the bacchant and the bacchant (Dionysus = Bacchus), the maenad and the coribante. But here it is difficult to separate what can refer to the aforementioned experiences from phenomena of possession, of encroachment, especially when it is not a question of institutionalized forms linked to a tradition. However it is always to remember that here we are on the line of the "Via della Mano Sinistra", which skirts the abysses, and going on which, it is said in some texts, resembles going on a sword. The prerequisite, both in the field of the (providential) vision of life, and of these behaviors is the knowledge of the mystery of transformation of the poison into a drug, which is the highest form of alchemy.



[1] In this context, we could recall the theory of Henri Bergson, who explains space precisely as "the undoing of a gesture", with an inverse process to that in which multiple elements are gathered and fused together in a qualitative simplicity in a momentum.

[2] To this could be associated the deeper meaning of the patristic doctrine, according to which the body, the material vehicle, was created at the moment of the "fall" in order to prevent the further precipitate of souls (cf. for example, ORIGENE, Mainly, I, 7, 5). Apollo is such a prudent god. Also think of a paralysis due to a fright: it is like a retreat, a throwing back of the Ego, by which what was organically dominated and understood as a living and pulsating body becomes an inert, rigid, foreign thing. The objective world is our paralyzed "great body"  frozen or fixed by the condition of the limit, through fear.

[3] See C. MICHELSTAEDTER, Persuasion and rhetoric, part II and passim.