“It is better to die fighting than to live as one vanquished”

I was asked about this quote some time ago, but got sidetracked and never wrote it up.

This is an interesting one, because it’s from a book by the Italian fascist writer, Julius Evola (1898 to 1974). Evola wasn’t very keen on Christianity. The Catholic Herald had this to say about him:

In 1928 he wrote Pagan Imperialism, a tome urging fascism to drop its connection to Catholicism and become a full-blooded pagan mystery religion. His most famous work appeared in 1934: Revolt Against the Modern World. In it, he postulates the previous existence of an “Aryan” Golden Age, in which aristocratic warrior-priests had wielded both spiritual and temporal power, and argued that this perfect state had been corrupted by various factors – foremost of which was Christianity, which weakened and finally destroyed the caste.

The same source describes him as an “extraordinarily bizarre and colourful individual,” which is way too mild. He was a truly horrible person.

Wikipedia gives a flavor:

Evola advocated for Fascist Italy’s racial laws, and eventually became Italy’s leading “racial philosopher”. Autobiographical remarks by Evola allude to his having worked for the Sicherheitsdienst, or SD, the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party. He fled to Nazi Germany in 1943 when the Italian Fascist regime fell, but returned to Rome under the puppet Salò government to organize a radical-right group. In 1945 in Vienna, a Soviet shell fragment paralysed him from the waist down.

I don’t wish harm on anyone, but the final sentence don’t overly displease me.

Evola did like Buddhism. Or at least he had an idea about Buddhism that he liked. He thought that Buddhism was a warrior religion. After all, while Christ was a common tradesman, the Buddha was from warrior stock.

Of course you have to get rid of all the love and compassion stuff from Buddhism in order to end up with what Evola thought Buddhism should be like. And since Evola was in favor of the caste system, you have to ignore or distort all of the Buddha’s egalitarian teachings.

Given all that, you might well assume that the quote in question is fake. But it’s not.

However, this isn’t the Buddha giving some kind of warrior teaching for people to follow. He wasn’t encouraging them to go into war or to commit violence. This is a statement he’s said to have made just prior to his awakening. It’s from the Mahavagga of the Sutta Nipata, where the Buddha is telling Mara/Namuci of this determination to find enlightenment.

shame upon life
defeated here—better to die in battle now
than choose to live on in defeat

So the Buddha’s talking about his spiritual struggle against the forces of delusion as they manifested in his own mind. This has nothing to do with Evola’s racist conception of establishing a racially pure, hierarchical, authoritarian society.

It’s good to remember, as fascism and authoritarianism is on the rise around the world, that Evola’s philosophy is just another force of delusion.

One thought on ““It is better to die fighting than to live as one vanquished””

  1. Interesting that Evola had to go to Buddhism to get that, when the European tradition had Milton’s “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” from Paradise Lost.

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