Il mondo magico de gli heroi

Discussion in 'Esotericism' started by Olavsson, 3 February 2015.

  1. Olavsson

    Olavsson First Lieutenant Staff Member
    1. Lumine Boreali Gentlemen's Club
    2. Neoplatonism

    I discovered this fascinating little article by Alexander Dugin. I found it particularly interesting because this intriguing and mystical Hermetic work from Renaissance Italy, Il mondo magico de gli heroi – or The Magical World of the Heroes , authored by Cesare della Riviera – is referred to extensively in a couple of books I have had the pleasure to read recently, one for entertainment, the other for serious study: the esoteric author Joscelyn Godwin's curious little novel The Forbidden Book (certainly recommended, despite the portrayal of the radical traditionalist right as villains), and Julius Evola's The Hermetic Tradition. I assume that the latter work would be known to anyone on here claiming an interest in Evola's esotericism.

    Let this thread be dedicated to Cesare della Riviera and Il mondo magico de gli heroi. Do not hesitate to share material concerning this, or overlapping topics, such as Evola's The Hermetic Tradition.

    Now keep in mind that the article below is worded quite obscurely in symbolic language. As I have not come far in my study of the Hermetic Tradition yet, I cannot comment with great certainty upon the precision or correctness of the following commentary. But it is interesting and brief reading that might inspire the public to investigate this subject further.

    There are even some questionable political statements of Dugin in there that are not very central to the subject that is della Riviera's esoteric lineage.

    1. An Open Entrance to the Occult text of Cesare della Riviera

    "The Magical World of the Heroes" (Il mondo magico de gli heroi), the book by Cesare della Riviera, was published in 1605. Later, in the 20th century, Julius Evola republished it with his comments, asserting that in this hermetic treatise can be found the most open and clear statement of the principles of spiritual alchemy and hermetic art. Rene Guenon notes in his review, however, that the work of della Riviera is far from being as transparent as asserted in Evola's commentary.
    And indeed, "The Magical World of the Heroes" is enigmatic to the limit - first, by its literary form, and second, because the concepts with which the author deals are something extremely mysterious in themselves, not clear, and having no equivalent in concrete reality.
    But, maybe the difficulties in understanding the given theme arise because the very "heroic principle", the figure of the Hero, is far from the sphere of what is surrounding us today? Perhaps this difficult text is crystal clear for the true heroes and does not require any further decoding?
    It is crystal clear and transparent as ice...

    2. Cosmogony of Ice

    In Evola's books, devoted to the differing problems of tradition and politics, there is always an appeal to the principle of Cold. The theme of Cold emerges here and there, irrespective of if the matter concerns tantra or the existential position of the "solitary man", Zen-Buddhism or knightly mysteries of medieval Europe, modern art or autobiographical notes. "Cold" and "distance" are the two words which, perhaps, are found most often in the "Black Baron's" lexicon.
    The hero, by very definition, should be cold. If he will not separate himself from those around him, if he will not freeze the warm energy of daily humanness within himself, he will not be at a level of performing the Impossible, i.e. at the level that marks a hero from the merely human. The hero should leave the people and travel beyond the limit of social cosiness, where penetrating winds of an objective reality, severe and nonhuman, roar. The soil and stones rise against the animal and vegetal worlds. The aggressive vegetation corrodes minerals, and wild animals ruthlessly trample down the obstinate herbs. The elements outside the society show no mercy. The world in itself is a triumphal banquet of substance, whose bottom level merges with the lumps of cosmic ice. The hero is cold, because he is objective, because he accepts the relay race of spontaneous force, furious and unkind, from the world.
    The character of all heroes - from Hercules through to Hitler - are identical: they are deeply natural, elemental, abysmally cold and distanced from social compromise. They are the carriers of the abyss of objectivity.
    In his strange, hermetic manner Cesare della Riviera thus interprets the word "Angelo" ("angel"):
    ANGELO = ANtico GELO, i.e. the "Angel = Ancient Ice".
    This is connected with the next phase of the heroic deed, not a voyage toward reality, but an escape from its limits - escape from the ice bonds.
    The Alchemy and Cabbala know much about the secret of the "ice stronghold". It is a border separating the "lower waters" of life from the "upper waters" of Spirit. The phrase of della Riviera has a strict theological sense: leaving the sphere of emotional life, the hero becomes a small crystal of ice, a luminous angel, in the glassy sea of Spirit, on which a heavenly throne of Kings is founded. The Snow Queen from Andersen's fairytale has forced the boy Kai to shape pieces of ice into a mysterious angelical word - 'Ewigkeit', but the warm forces of Earth ("Gerda" means 'Earth' in old German) have returned the unfortunate hero to a poor and hopeless life. Instead of an angel, he subsequently becomes a red-faced Scandinavian burger with beer and sausages. Cold is an attribute of a corpse and the initiated one. The bodies of yogi freeze in the process of awakening the sacred snake energy - the higher the Kundalini rises, the more lifeless the corresponding body parts become, until the initiated one turns into a statue of ice, an axis of spiritual constancy.
    Each hero necessarily travels to the Pole, into the heart of midnight. There he learns to love that dark and obscure substance, which is called "our Earth" by the alchemists or the "philosophers' magnesia". The urn holding the ashes of Baron Evola is buried in the thickness of an Alpine glacier, on Monte Rosa peak. The mountain was probably named so in honor of the sacral beloved of Friedrich II Hohenstauffen, the one who has not died. La Rosa di Soria. The polar rose.

    3. The Voyage of the Polar Nymph

    Cyliani, a mysterious 19th century alchemist whose pseudonym was determined only with the help of Pierre Dujols (Magaphon), friend of Fulcanelli and... a secret Valois, wrote that his heroic travel into the "magical world of the heroes" began with a strange visit from the "nymph of the polar star"...
    Where do her footsteps lead?
    They lead inside. Inside the earth, where a fantastic matter named "sulfuric acid of the
    philosophers" is hiding. Visitabis interiora terrae rectificando invenies occultum lapidem. The stone is completely black, as a soul, shrouded in "antimimon pneuma" of the Gnostics. There, from the blackness of personal uncertainty, from undifferentiated "I", slipping away from any name, the magic feat begins. If the hero will not question that which constitutes his apparent essence, he is doomed. Even the divine parents do not give the answer to a problem of an origin of "I".

    4. The Secret of the Heavenly Dragon

    The search for the nymph is connected to an original problem of the definition of the pole star. The heavenly pole spins around, like "Atalanta fugiens". Once a slender creature was hiding in Ursa Major's fur near Arcturus. She calls herself "Shemol". In 12 thousand years she will say of herself - "I am Vega". But what is this Axis, that the dance of millenia goes round?
    Black dot in the northern sky. Dragon coils around it, tempting the steadfast observer, offering doubtful fruits of knowledge. The polar nymph has given to Cyliani the key to victory over this Dragon. Hermeticists consider it a question of the primal matter. Heavenly Dragon, the true north of the ecliptic. He is guarding the boreal heart of black expanses, as a spiral outlining the absent centre.

    5. The Second of Betelgeuse

    Orion is the most mysterious of all constellations. Time is hiding on his right shoulder. He is the main hero of the subterranean (and not only subterranean!) world. "Betelgeuse" means "hero's shoulder" in Arabic. It is on that very shoulder that is kept the secret of a book which Fulcanelli at first gave to Canseliet, and later withdrew, forbiding its publishing. The matter concerns the "Finis Gloria Mundi", third book by the adept. When Virgo's milk touches the brawny shoulder of the "black god", and he thus loses his hands under ruthless executors' knives, a world fire is coming, the sphere is overturning. The sky falls. It is made of stone, as everybody knows. The heroes are secretly preparing terrible shocks to society. A society which consoles itself with the fact it has banished them from history, but where is the precise border between literary and nuclear range, between a dark corner for meditations and carpet bombardments?
    To our information, the agents of Betelgeuse, inhabitants of the "magical world of the heroes", disguised as state officials, have made their way to the engine-room of authority. There is only the certainty of heavenly sequence and processional cycles in their minds. A nuclear fire of the Northern Hemisphere is a way to Olympus, the fire of Hercules for them.
    Besides the external Evola had a secret mission...

    6. The Forest of Rambouillet

    "The forest of Rambouillet is a forest of blood" - Jean Parvulesco hypnotically repeats in his novel. A white deer with its throat cut is found there, then a corpse of a naked woman with identical wounds. The magic wood in which Dante has lost his way. "Philosophers' Forest". On a certain engraving, illustrating the "Tabula Smaragdina" of Hermes Trismegistus, the man with an elk's head is giving the Moon to Eve. Later, if we'll believe Parvulesco, they will meet again in a garden of Rambouillet.
    A joyless rendezvous.
    "One day Apollo will return, and this time for ever", - says the last prophecy of a Delphian pythoness in IV century A.D.

    /Alexander Dugin
    Translation: Andrey Bogdanov
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  2. Boreas

    Boreas Senior Member Staff Member Sustaining Member

    Interesting, to say the least, thanks for sharing the article, Olavsson! Ever since I read Evola's The Hermetic Tradition - which has been a very inspirational book for me for years - I've been trying to find more material concerning the book of Cesare della Riviera; apparently there doesn't exist any English translation of the book? It seems that the symbolism of it is in line with other mysterious hermetic treatises, shrouded in mystery and complex symbolic allegories that need to be deciphered. At least the dragon symbolism is quite clear, as is the sidereal symbolism; the forest reminded me of a buddhist symbolism of "the forest of passions" that needs to be "cut down" by the initiate of the mysteries.
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  3. Olavsson

    Olavsson First Lieutenant Staff Member
    1. Lumine Boreali Gentlemen's Club
    2. Neoplatonism

    Thank you for the very appropriate reply, Boreas.

    Even I have looked for an English translation of Il mondo magico de gli heroi, but without luck. Seems like I will have to wait until I learn fluent Italian. But Evola's Hermetic book is of course deeply inspired by the aforementioned Renaissance work, so that would be the most informing book to consult readily available in the English language for the time being, or so I am lead to believe.

    I might mention as an anecdote that there are several quotes from Cesare della Riviera's work, translated into English, featured in the Joscelyn Godwin novel that I mentioned, The Forbidden Book.
  4. Boreas

    Boreas Senior Member Staff Member Sustaining Member

    The symbolism of ice could perhaps also be a reference to "the dry path" (the path of intellect) of alchemy contra "the wet path" (the path of emotions). What caught my interest is that will the forest of Rambouillet transform itself into the garden - like the garden of Hesperides that is the sacred land in alchemical symbolism - as the initiate succeeds in transforming the vegetal ground of passions into a more elevated form? This would be in line with other magical symbolism where the wild and ferocious animals transform into non-violent form of "magical pets" as the initiate / magician learns to master his/her animalistic tendencies.
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  5. Olavsson

    Olavsson First Lieutenant Staff Member
    1. Lumine Boreali Gentlemen's Club
    2. Neoplatonism

    That is quite clear. But there seems to be little doubt that such a deciphering, highly intuitive, needs to transcend the limitations of rational analysis. The deliberate strangeness typical of much of this arcane and mysterious symbolism is a sign that what it attempts to achieve is pushing your intuitive mind to the limits in order to liberate it from the conventional workings of the mind and reach a new experience and a new outlook that is more than human. A radically different approach compared to common human thought and experience is called for. We are having to do with a path whose instruction for guidance cannot be explained straight forward, its task is to hurl you into another mindset where the experience of direct higher/inner knowledge must be found without supporting oneself upon old and safe patterns of thinking. It is a quest for new horizons and new and strange landscapes that may get one into touch with the underlying subtle dimensions of the world and its unity, inner and outer. The cryptic wording may also be a measure intended to keep the secrets from falling into the hands of those who are not ready for it, or who are not worthy.

    Here follows a short article that may be of some interest to those who haven't read (or started reading) Evola's The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art. This article is a foreword to the English edition published by Inner Traditions, and it is written by Dr. H. T. Hansen.

    For Julius Evola (1898-1974) alchemy was not – as is generally believed – a single specialized subject concerning itself exclusively with metals and their correspondences in man, but rather a comprehensive physical and metaphysical system embracing cosmology as much as anthropology (in the sense of a complete knowledge of man in body, soul and spirit). Everything – nature and super-nature – can be found in it. To Evola, hermetism and alchemy are one and the same.

    The goal of this system is the understanding and experiencing of an ensouled "holy" organism, replete with living powers, in whom everything is wonderfully interwoven, connected to and communized with everything else. Man stands in the middle where he is microcosm in analogy to the whole macrocosm. As above, so below – in the words of the Emerald Tablet. The alchemical symbolic language as the expression of this universal system must therefore also have correspondences in all the other mysteriosophic spheres and can consequently serve as a universal key in these spheres, just as, vice versa, any other mystery teaching has the power to fill in the lacunae of esotericism in alchemy.

    Alongisde Arthur Reghini (1878-1946) – and surely also at his suggestion – Evola was one of the few in those years who were aware of this parallel, especially to ancient theurgical practice. In 1926 Evola published an article in Ultra (the newspaper of the unusually liberal Theosophical lodge in Rome) on the cult of Mithras in which he placed major emphasis on the similarities of these mysteries with hermetism. In the UR group (1927-29), of which Evola was a member, specific alchemical symbols were employed in the teaching of "Magic." It is this practical aspect that is emphasized here, for alchemy cannot be grasped by abstract thought alone, much less is it just a psychic process in the unconscious (C.G. Jung's theory), but much more than that: it is an exercise of the soul and spirit in the best Platonic tradition.

    Where did Evola's early preoccupation with alchemical symbolism come from? After his Dadaist and philosophical period, Evola came in contact with Theosophical and Freemason circles. Here we can especially point to Reghini, of whom Evola writes in his autobiography, that he either lent him the essential alchemical texts or at least informed him of them. Through the very significant esoteric magazines, Athanor and Ignis (1924-25), edited by Reghini, Evola became acquainted with a whole series of contributions to alchemy that were enough to give him his first hints of knowledge. Reghini's influence must have been decisive because so many of his quotations are also favourite quotations of Evola's. In his autobiography Evola quotes from early translations of Rene Guenon's Le voile d'Isis (later the Etudes traditionelles), which also gave him suggestions for his vision of alchemy.

    Jascopo da Coreglia writes that it was a priest, Father Francesco Oliva, who had made the most far-reaching progress in hermetic science and who – highly prizing the keen spirit and intellectual honesty of the young seeker – gave Evola access to records strictly reserved for adepts of the narrow circle. These were concerned primarily with the teachings of the Fraternity of Myriam (Fratellanza Terapeutica Magica di Myriam), founded by Doctor Giuliano Kremmerz (pseudonym of Ciro Formisano, 1861-1930). Evola mentions in the notes to chapter 11 that the Myriam's "Pamphlet D" laid the groundwork for his understanding of the four elements. Where this group in turn got its knowledge remains a secret. In its own view, and Jacopo da Coreglia also shares this opinion, the Myriam (which seems to have split into many groups) is the last torch-bearer of a tradition that has been handed down – under constantly changing names – from the classical times of Pythagorean paganism and it is independent of the Freemasons or similar contemporary movements. In his Pour la Rose Rouge et la Croix d'Or Count J.P. Giudicelli de Cressac Bachellerie reveals its inner structure and grading process.

    In addition, there is the decisive influence of Ercole Quadrelli, who under the pseudonyms of Abraxas and Tikaipos, made some especially important contributions to the UR group. And it should be mentioned in this regard that Quadrelli was trained by Giuliano Kremmerz and the Myriam.

    The freely accessible works of Kremmers – I dialoghi sull'ermetismo and his magazine Commentarium (1910-12) – also did much for Evola's spiritual development in the realm of alchemy. His acquaintance with the Chymica vannus and with the alchemist Pilalethes probably go back to these works.

    The strongest and perhaps decisive influence on the Evolian conception of alchemy is probably Cesare della Riviera's Il mondo magico degli heroi (The magical world of the heroes), (Mantua, 1603; Milan, 1605). This is one of the few texts of the time that helps itself to a hermetico-alchemical language, but is of an unequivocally holo-cosmological character. Alchemy is always placed in perspective with the other hermetic disciplines – such as magic and astrology – and is not regarded as an autonomous and specific teaching. For an alchemical book the unusually many references to the Abbot Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) in this work point also in this direction.

    The first tangible result of these studies was shown in the periodical Krur (sequel to UR). There Evola presented a first shot at discussing the hermetic tradition and anticipated the essential content of the later book. The alchemical tradition was still portrayed as pagan and not as a royal tradition, an attribute that in the final edition received so central a position that it brought Evola into conflict with other representatives of the traditional weltanschauung.

    A broader and altogether different influence on Evola at this time came as a result of his meeting the Indian alchemist C.S. Narayana Swami Aiyar of Chingleput, who expounded on the great importance of the breathing techniques in alchemy and how it helped to ingest certain substances.

    In 1930 Evola wrote 'The Doctrine of Transmutation in Medieval Hermetics', for Bilychnis (no. 275). In abridged form, the article contained the fundamental precepts of La tradizione ermetica, which was published by Laterza in 1931. (The 1931 edition was significantly altered and expanded in 1948. This was followed in 1971 by Evola's last revision, which is the basis for this [English] translation.)

    It is interesting in this regard that Benedetto Croce was instrumental in helping Evola to make contact with this eminent publishing house. In the archives of Laterza are several of Evola's unpublished letters that refer to The Hermetic Tradition, and in which Croce's mediation appears again and again. One letter in particular is important, for in it Evola seems to answer the publisher's reproaches that the work was overloaded with annotations and had too little public appeal. Evola argued that it was written for public appeal but only and simply to show for the first time that alchemy was not just the beginning of chemistry, but a profound and forgotten mystery-science; and without the abundance of quotations Evola would be marked as a visionary and the publisher criticized for not being serious.

    Evola's conviction that alchemy was a universal system clarifies his endeavour to see this work as the completion and synthesis of all his earlier works in philosophy, magic, and Tantrism. Hence his emphasis on the pre-, or more correctly, super-Christian character of the hermetic tradition.

    Naturally, Evola's belief in the all-inclusive nature of hermetism did not go unchallenged. Certainly his most important critic was the great herald of Tradition, Rene Guenon, to whom Evola, nevertheless, was indebted for outstanding insights.

    In his review of The Hermetic Tradition in the Voile d'Isis in April of 1931, though basically positive, Guenon rejects quite strongly the idea that alchemy is a complete metaphysical doctrine and reduces it to the status of a mere cosmological system. According to him, a true tradition could never have come from an Egypto-Hellenic origin, then passed on to Islamic esotericism, and from there to Christian esotericism. In addition, alchemy had always been integrated into these various currents, whereas a pure and complete tradition has no need for some other tradition serving as an auxiliary vehicle. Moreover, it is an indication of the special character of alchemy that this path of knowledge in traditional societies should be a domain of the second caste, of the Kshatriyas (warrior caste), whereas only the Brahmins were truly dedicated to metaphysics. The last argument was correct, as far as Evola was concerned, for he had always seen himself as Kshatriya and for him alchemy and the possibility of continuing to experiment on the spiritual plane – the "art" aspect – were extremely important. Nevertheless, the present work and its representation of alchemy is no willful or special interpretation on Evola's part, although on the ground of his "personal equation" some aspects may have been given a stronger emphasis – especially the active and the inner alchemy (nei-tan).

    Guenon's opposition was consistent; it is known that the "Redness" represents the highest stage in alchemy and is above the "Whiteness." The Red (or Purple) embodies an active state, which naturally stood in contrast to the White, which the contemplative Brahmin exhibits. (Evola points this up quite clearly in chapter 23). Against Guenon's view that the "white" Brahmin caste unequivocally held the highest place in the traditional world, Evola sets the "purple" king as "pontifex" (bridge-builder) uppermost between Heaven and Earth. With the priority of the symbolic colour red over white in hermetism, Evola seems to have a point. But Guenon could only call alchemy a specialization and he could never assign it the universal character that Evola did.

    In spite of Evola's decided rejection of Jung's psychological interpretation of alchemy, Jung described The Hermetic Tradition as a "detailed account of Hermetic philosophy," and he cites approvingly an entire section in translation. Evola never saw himself as a shaper or creative interpreter of alchemy, but only as one who did no more than deliver this knowledge, clarifying it, to be sure, but broadcasting it unchanged.

    Guenon repeated the reproach against universality in his review of Evola's 1932 edition of della Riviera's Il mondo magico degli heroi (published with Evola's commentary). Guenon also blamed Evola for the assimilation of alchemy by magic.

    To be sure, Guenon's authority to judge alchemy has now and then been questioned, considering that he himself had never written a work on the subject. Eugene Canseliet, for example, the alleged disciple and publisher of the works of Fulcanelli, doubted Guenon's competence on this matter. On the other hand, neither does Guenon hold his criticism back from Fulcanelli's, especially his Freres d'Heliopolis.

    Evola's work after the publication of Mondo magico degli heroi was more and more politically defined, and aside from the significant changes in the revised editions of The Hermetic Tradition and single reviews and articles, Evola was silent about alchemy. Mention is found of course in his Eros and the Mysteries of Love, where the sexual background of alchemical symbolism is illuminated.

    An essential complement of Evola's alchemical work was his interest in Chinese alchemy, revealed in his editions of two Chinese alchemical treatises. This interest is also evident in the title of his spiritual autobiography, Il cammino del cinabro (The Path of Cinnabar). In Chinese alchemy the path of liberation is the journey from the "lower" to the "higher" cinnabar; chemically as well as alchemically cinnabar derives from the union of Sulfur (the masculine principle) and Mercury (the feminine principle). [Hansen didn't mention that cinnabar even represents the colour red, which alludes to the highest "royal" state of alchemy and Evola's kshatriya-identity, but this would be a relevant point. /Olavsson].

    Despite the widest coverage in the present work by the author himself, one point must also be emphasized here again: if we are now really to understand the following – not just intellectually, but also spiritually and in body and soul, in a word, completely – our consciousness must risk a leap. In its profundity the metaphorical world of alchemy is simply not accessible to the contemporary abstract understanding. [Hence Dugin's statement: "maybe the difficulties in understanding the given theme arise because the very "heroic principle", the figure of the Hero, is far from the sphere of what is surrounding us today? Perhaps this difficult text is crystal clear for the true heroes and does not require any further decoding?" /Olavsson]. We must, for once, turn off the continual din of reason and listen with the "ear of the heart" if we want to have the symbols strike responsive chords in ourselves. Two worlds are met with here: on the one hand a timeless world, lying beyond reason, prehistorical, and beyond history, and on the other, a time-bound, historical world that is chained to dialectical reason. Between them there is now no gradual passage, but an abyss, which we must leap over. What does Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling say? "Accordingly historical and prehistoric times are not merely relative differences between one and the same time, they are two essentially different kinds of time completely removed from one another, and mutually exclusive. We call it completely different time . . . full of events, but of quite another sort, and conforming to quite a different law."

    Since modern man is so slow to lay aside his belief in progress, which stamps his thought patterns and distorts his yardsticks - it seems to him almost monstrous that there also exist completely different ways of thinking - and that is why the astronomer does not understand the astrologer (in the ancient sense), the modern priest does not understand the Egyptian hierophant, the philosopher does not understand the initiate, and the chemist does not understand the alchemist Alchemical symbolism has now admittedly been found to have widely influenced literature, painting, and sculpture in the past. Literati and art historians concern themselves about the interpretation of this work. They can immediately discover worthwhile suggestions in this book, if they wish to penetrate this other world.

    H. T. Hansen​
  6. Boreas

    Boreas Senior Member Staff Member Sustaining Member

    Yes, this is true. As it says in the back cover of 'The Hermetic Tradition': "Throughout the exposition of this sacred tradition the reader is encouraged to listen with the "ear of the heart"; a leap of consciousness is required to leave our time-bound and analytical world and enter the timeless realm of nature's continuous creation."

    I have to look into that book of Godwin's.
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