Wet and Dry

Stefano Baldini

Evola was a prolific writer and the depth of his spiritual gnosis is pretty much inexhaustible. His spiritual autobiography (The Path of Cinnabar) is just that, the growth of a mind imbued with the yearning for the undivided truth of self-realization—a realization that is embedded within sundry paths, from Hermeticism with an erudite insight into the Western Psyche, to more esoteric Eastern Paths like Yoga and transcendental Buddhism. He writes in his autobiography:

The goal I had set myself with the book (The Doctrine of Awakening) was that of presenting Buddhism as an example of the ‘dry’, or intellectual spiritual path, based on pure detachment; a path opposite to that which I had outlined in my study of Tantrisim, a discipline based on the (wet—inclusion mine) way of affirmation, assimilation, use and transformation of immanent forces to be freed by the awakening of Shakti—the root-power behind all vital energy, and (in the form of kundalini) all sexual energy. (The Path of Cinnabar pg. 162)

What is contrasted here is the ascetical-path based on pure observation of Mind IN-ITSELF, and the more immanent path of experiencing the inner-transformation that is conferred upon Self through transcendental agencies. The most recent blog series, Notes from the Iron Stupa, is an example of the wet, juicy, path of active assimilation of these agencies through esoteric-tantric techniques; whereas the first work in the Tantric-Trilogy, The Lankavatarian Book of the Dead, although touching upon immanent associational forces—like the exercises with Primordial Qi—essentially concentrates on a more “dry” intellectual-ascent to Mind-Liberation through Transcendent Self-Gnosis of the Awareness Principle. The middle-work of the Trilogy, The Tathagatagarbhatara Tantra, is a nice blend between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. While Evola’s dry-path in The Doctrine of Awakening is more associated with Theravāda vs. Mahayana Buddhism, it would be more correct to assert that his own “unique form of Ascetical-Transcendentalism” is evident upon every page. While not a bona fide Buddhist, his inimitable brand of Transcendental Buddhism had its roots in a defining moment of his life.

Despite a healthy constitution, a young Evola had experimented with “substances that were not common drugs” which while, purportedly opening the door to transcendental exposures, produced a mind-numbing “personal crisis” that at the age of 23 he wanted to commit suicide. He avoided such an outcome with the discovery of an early Buddhist text (Majjhimanikāo I.1):

This text consists of a speech in which the Buddha progressively reveals the forms of attachment which each ‘noble one’ on the path to Awakening must abandon. Buddha begins with attachment to one’s body and feelings, and progresses to attachment to the elements, nature, gods, the All, and so on, climactically, until he reaches absolute transcendence. The last element in Buddha’s sequence, which corresponds to the ultimate challenge, is the very idea of ‘extinction’. The text says: ‘He who takes extinction to be extinction and, having taken extinction to be extinction, thinks of extinction, thinks of extinction, thinks of extinction, thinks “Mine is extinction”, and rejoices in extinction, such a person, I say, does not know extinction.” These words struck me as a sudden ray of light. I then felt that my urge to leave and to dissolve myself was merely a bond, a form of ‘ignorance’ contrary to true freedom. At that moment, I believe, a change took place within me, and I acquired steadfastness capable of overcoming all crises. (ibid, pg. 16)

This was quite a remarkable breakthrough for Evola, and although individual angst continued to flare up now and then, his spirit eventually transcended the narrow sense of the ‘personal I’ as he, through ascetical techniques, conquered the mighty reign of all skandhic associations. In terms of the wet and dry paths he wrote that they both were ‘spiritually equivalent—if followed to the very end.’

For Evola it was all a matter of one’s ‘existential disposition’; although from his autobiographical account one gets the sense that he favored the dry; perhaps that’s why The Doctrine of Awakening is such a landmark text in the ways of Classical, Ascetical Transcendentalism.

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