Ride the Tiger
A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul
By Julius Evola
Published by Inner Traditions/Bear and Company
256 pages, hardback
The latest translation of Julius Evola’s published works by Inner Traditions is one of his most difficult.
It is a perplexing tome and will challenge most who read it. It demands a level of philosophical and esoteric literacy that makes it hard to comprehend and even more impossible to put into context.
To understand Ride the Tiger, one must understand Julius Evola and enter the world of a truly radical traditionalist.
What does it mean to ride the tiger?
Imagine a forest, dark, wet and foreboding. You hear a noise and see a huge tiger running towards you, slobbering, growling and obviously hungry. There is nowhere to hide and nowhere to go. You can try to outrun it, but you will fail. You can try to hide from it, but it will probably catch you. Your death seems certain and it inevitably will be grizzly and violent.
You have a thought, you jump over its head and hold on for dear life, for a while it is touch and go, your life flashes before your eyes, but then you find you are riding the tiger. This is the central motif of this book and indeed all of Evola’s work. But what does it mean?
Julius Evola, like most traditionalists, sees history as cyclic. Sharing this view are most Hindus, Buddhists and many indigenous cultures. History moves from a Golden Age through Silver and Copper to Iron. This process is degenerative, with each Age being less spiritually developed (and hence more materialistic) than it predecessor.
In the current age of Iron (the Kali Yuga), we are in the belly of the beast. Spiritually all we have is decayed. Institutions are shadows of what they once were, and most of humanity is the walking dead, breathing but not thinking.
The Kali Yuga is, however, an alchemical furnace. While it is an Age under pressure, one of high heat and fire, it is also one that transforms. For those who can withstand the temperature, they will change from lead to gold; for all others, they will be consumed in the final conflagration, nothing is really lost.
The only way to survive in the Age of Iron is to fight fire with fire, to ride the tiger. This is an age for heroes, for warriors of the spirit; it is an elitist vision and anyone can apply, but most will fail.
To fully appreciate this worldview we need to appreciate how Evola sees Tradition. Tradition for Evola is the primal knowledge that transforms man from animal into the Divine; it is a praxis, a technology, not a doctrine or belief.
Evola disagreed with the traditionalism of Rene Guenon that emphasised doctrine, beliefs and the primacy of the priest class, positing the path for this age was that of the warrior not the monastic.
Evola believed all the world’s religions had lost their living heart and hence were nothing but shells. He saw the many traditionalists associated with Rene Guenon, for example, as giving credence to exoteric religions which are, in the present, nothing but corpses.
Evola emphasised the esoteric traditions that could lead to awakening – Alchemy, Hermeticism, Magic and Tantra. Evola saw Tradition in a primordial sense, so had little time for petty revivalists such as neopagans, Medievalists, Celtic and Nordic reconstructionists and so on.
He also saw the world’s political systems in much the same way as he viewed religion. He had utter contempt for the reactionary because as he saw it, we have gone a long way down the wrong road and simply walking a few steps backwards won’t help.
Accordingly, for Evola, the world is heading for disaster and we simply have to deal with it. This is not some misanthropic nightmare, but a simple prophetic statement of fact.
Mankind won’t wake up. Most will be fodder for the tiger. Simple, cold, harsh, but true. The Age of Aquarius is ruled by Saturn and Saturn is a dark lord who rules with an iron first. The present age has no real solutions.
When it comes to politics Evola was under no illusions. He saw the Left as wanting to reduce everybody to bland conformity, an endless match of identical people in colourless uniforms. He saw democracy in much the same way, humanity reduced to commodities, consumers, an insipid equality with no individuality, except as defined by advertising!
Evola swayed towards the Right because he hoped that even if these structures were corrupt, there was at least some chance of individuals achieving a sense of awakening, at least some hope that in this culture the true elite could scratch and claw its way to the top.
Later in life Evola seems to have realised the Right was as destructive as the Left and that the only solution was a purely individual form of elite spiritual practise.
While Evola admires the strength of the Will to Power he also saw all totalitarians as reducing man to conformity and hence, ultimately, of little value.
Ride the Tiger offers a practical view of how to be truly awakened in a dark age. It offers an amoral vision which looks beyond the petty morality of moribund faiths and thus has something to offend everyone.
Evola ultimately sees that as an awakened soul one can either withdraw and watch Rome burn or play the game. You may back any side you like, because they will all achieve very little and the best you can do is accelerate the death of the Age.
– Reviewed by Robert
Burns in New Dawn No. 92