“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 reactionary writer, Julius Evola (1898 to 1974). I initially described him as a fascist, but it’s been pointed out to be that he was a critic of fascism.

From what little I’ve seen of his writings, he was profoundly antagonistic to democracy (aka “parliamentarian cancer”).

Because the superiority of superior men is expressed, among other things, in the fact that they are capable of discerning what truly is of value, and of arranging the various values hierarchically, that is, as subordinating or superordinating them in relation to each other. Now, the stated democratic principles completely overturn the thing, insofar as they restore the judgement (in respect to election as well as sanction) of the highest value to the mass to decide, that is to say, to the body of those who, by hypothesis, are the least capable of judging, and whose judgement is restricted by necessity to the lower values of the most immediate life.
(From “Pagan Imperialism”)

His preference was for monarchy rather than a dictatorship. In a trial he described himself as a “superfascist.”

Per Wikipedia:

Evola regarded his values as aristocratic, monarchist, masculine, traditionalist, heroic, and defiantly reactionary. An eccentric thinker in Fascist Italy, he also had ties to Nazi Germany; in the post-war era, he was known as an ideological mentor of the Italian neo-fascist and militant right.

The Catholic Herald had this to say about Evola:

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.

3 thoughts 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.

  2. Evola was explicitly not a racist. You appear to have a wikipedia thin level understanding of his work. And he wasn’t a Buddhist or any modern religion as he eventually found them all to be corrupted. He believed we are in the Kali Yuga and I would say tradition was what he was seeking though he acknowledged it was a faint and dying glow at this point. But his concept of a warrior was that of someone who keep seeking tradition regardless of the material reality of the situation.

    As for being a fascist, he was tried on this charge in a court and found not guilty. However, it should be pointed out that nearly every single US political leader and western leader today is in reality a fascist. They practice true fascism of ‘everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state’. Yet, you ignore this reality. All socialist eventually arrive at fascism. Its the natural inevitable conclusion of liberalism and modernity. Evola opposed modernity absolutely. The whole idea of progress, which modernity is built upon was completely antithetical to his beliefs. To Evola (and Spangler and the Buddhist, Hindus, and Vedics) history is cyclical. There is NO progress.

    Evola wrote many chapters on why racism was a self-defeating ideology and how racism is modern and not traditional. And what exactly about Evola do you find offensive? Your attack on his character is very typical of the modern westerner. It has no substance. Its guilt by association. And underneath is a post-WW2 new religious orthodoxy that places all the world’s sins upon the mid-century Germans as scapegoats for the sins of modernity. That is certainly not very Buddhist. You appear to be very much a person of the US establishment, of modernity, of materialism. And that is probably why you dislike him.

    1. “You appear to have a wikipedia thin level understanding of his work.”

      That would be a generous assessment! My interest is in separating fake from scriptural Buddha quotes, not in doing in-depth studies of people who quote the Buddha, whether accurately or inaccurately. However, I dislike sharing inaccurate information, so I’ve corrected the article.

      “And he wasn’t a Buddhist”

      I don’t believe I said he was.

      “Nearly every single US political leader and western leader today is in reality a fascist.”

      There are real fascists, and it’s important to recognize them. Saying that almost all western leaders are fascist is a viewpoint that essentially renders the term “fascist” meaningless. At the same time, many democratic leaders have authoritarian personality traits, and we do need to be aware of that too.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing.

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