Ascesis as Liberative Technique


For Evola ascesis was disassociated from morbid religious connotations, those negative self-afflictions that Nietzsche found so revolting—a sickness of the soul. What is needed is a return to its original impetus:

The original meaning of the term ascesis – from άσλέω, “to train” – was simply “training” and, in a Roman sense, discipline. The corresponding Indo-Aryan term is tapas (tapa or tapo in Pāli) and it has a like significance: except that, from the root tap, which means “to be hot” or “to glow,” it also contains the idea of an intensive concentration, of glowing, almost of fire. (The Doctrine of Awakening, pg.3)

Like his love for ascending the Mountain peaks, ascesis was a rigorous training of the Mind, a discipline for one of strong focus and temperament. The Buddha would refer to this as Right Action, for the fiery spit of action is necessary in the burning-away of all those adventitious defilements that block the path to spiritual ascendancy.  In this sense ascesis is a Liberative Technique:

We have implied that asceticism, when considered as a whole, can assume various meanings at successive spiritual levels. Simply defined, that is to say as “training” or discipline, an ascesis aims at placing all the energies of the human being under the control of a central principle. In this respect we can, properly speaking, talk of a technique that has, in common with that of modern scientific achievements. The characteristics of objectivity and impersonality. (ibid, pg. 5)

What is paramount in the above quote is placing all the energies at one’s disposal under the ‘control of a central principle’. Within Unborn Mind Zen, for example, this is understood as the Dark Principle, or engaging the unconditional primordial and Unborn Light that precedes and disengages the false light of the senses and thus reveals one’s true face. This is the luminous-trigger that through ascetical techniques, says Evola, one ‘incorporates the highest degree of crystallinity and independence’. This is a matter of developing a “Crystalline Focus”, as in a one-pointed concentration of Mind, what Evola would refer to as fulfilling the ‘heroic endeavor’, or “Ariyan Mindfulness”. ‘An ascetic, whose energies are employed in this direction, achieves the highest form of ascesis’. (ibid, pg.9)

Here we have, then, a new conception of the ascesis, on a higher plane than the last, and taking us to a level above normal perception and individual experience; and at the same time it becomes clear why Buddhism, on this higher level also, gives us positive points of reference such as we find in few other traditions. (ibid, pg.8)

Engaging in Buddhism for Evola was like being a yogin partaking in a Scientific endeavor:

Thus we can fairly claim that in Buddhism-as also in yoga-asceticism is raised to the dignity and impersonality of a science: what is elsewhere fragmentary here becomes systematic; what is instinct becomes conscious technique; the spiritual labyrinth of those minds that achieve a real elevation through the workings of some “grace” (since it is only accidentally and by means of suggestions, fears, hopes, and raptures that they discover the right way) is replaced by a calm and uniform light, present even in abysmal depths, and by a method that has no need of external means. (ibid, pg.7)

There was no room in Evola’s vantage point for the likes of “cheap-grace”, or depending upon any form of sentimental “outside agencies” that in some way, shape, or fashion would do the spiritual work for you. This does indeed cheapen the Spiritual Enterprise, one that, as the Buddha said, could only be discovered and employed by “oneself alone”. Liberation consists in harvesting the clear, cool-light of Buddaic Wisdom—the Real stuff; there is no room for any bargain-brand imitations.

We have now elaborated the first three reasons why Buddhism in particular is so suitable as a base for an exposition of a complete ascesis. Summing up: the first is the possibility of extracting easily from Buddhism the elements of an ascesis considered as an objective technique for the achievement of calm, strength, and detached superiority, capable in themselves of being used in all directions. The second is that in Buddhism the ascesis has also the superior signification of a path of spiritual realization quite free from any mythology, whether religious, theological, or ethical. The third reason, finally, is that the last stretch of such a path corresponds to the Supreme in a truly metaphysical concept of the universe, to a real transcendency well beyond the purely theistic concept. (ibid, pg.12)

What in essence Evola was pointing to was a “system of transcendent spiritual ascesis”—one that pointed directly to Self-Realization; one that can only be realized through ascetical means.

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