I had been reading in Julius Evola’s
book, the Hermetic Tradition
, about the Alchemical image of the Orobouros—the snake biting it’s own tail. I first tried to tackle this ponderous work some 20 years ago, after I saw that Carl Jung cited it as source material for his classic book, Psychology and Alchemy
. I again returned to it recently when I’d heard that the alt right was greatly influenced by Evola’s dark, cyclical view of history, as well as his particular brand of arcane, spiritual racism.
I then saw an article by Maureen Dowd, who compared Donald Trump to the Orobouros. I took this synchronicity as sign I should further meditate on this ancient image of western esotericism as a way to gain a more holistic view of a dangerously polarized political landscape which loomed beyond the hermetically sealed world of the dogfish Bay Marina.
Dowd writes of 45’s isolation by an inner circle who shelter him against the verities of the exterior world, parrot his mad ejaculations, and compound his delusional paranoia. She evokes the Orobouros to point out his self -destructive qualities.
This mandala has long been contemplated by spiritual adepts who sought awakening to ultimate truth of Unity. Evola says it represents not so much a philosophical concept as much as a state beyond the dichotomies of I and not-I, inside and outside. According to the literature, the full realization of this state is the “first matter of the wise.”
In the tradition, this unitary awareness is the beginning of the great work. But in Evola’s dark, elitist, and apocalyptic elaboration, this work is a cyclic process that, after ages of decline brought about by egalitarianism, multi-culturalism, and democratic “leveling,” heralds the triumphant return of the golden age. He views history as a cycle of degeneration and regeneration which turns in a series toward its ultimate realization in the re-establishment of a hyper-masculine, solar king which dawns only after violent revolution upsets the status quo. The losers swept up in this upheaval are expendable, and quaint notions like charity, love, and compassion are jettisoned for the profits of a corporate elite. Evola may have attained some degree of genuine insight into the spiritual truth expressed by the Orobouros, as well as to how that essential unity is not obstructed by its infinite manifestations (dharmas) in the field of space and time. Evola studied the Pali cannon of the Hinayana
(lesser vehicle) Buddhism, which focuses on self liberation from the cycles of existence (Samsara.) In contrast, the Mahayana (greater vehicle) stressed the cultivation of loving kindness as not only ethical, but the means by which we awaken to the ultimate truth of essential unity even while working to aleviate suffering in the relative world of Samsara.
As long as we have not realized that the mode of being of our mind resides in the union of relative truth and absolute truth—a realization that corresponds to awakening—these two truths are seen as separate instead of being seen in their original unity
From the viewpoint of ultimate truth, the dichotomy between positive and negative lacks reality, but from the perspective of relative truth, the karmic results of negative actions are inevitable. The cultivation of loving kindness is essential until ultimate truth is realized.
This fundamental split between the two understandings of the unitary state—symbolized by the Orobouros– is reflected in the polarized debates surrounding health care and immigration. Republicans seem to champion only the needs of those inside the adamant circumference of racial and economic privilege.
One of the strangest aspects of our rancorous, political debate is how these venerable teachings are spun by intellectuals of the alt right; and how Evola’s brand of spiritual fascism provides ideological cover for the rise of global fascism.