Meditations on the Peaks

The following extracts are from Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest by Julius Evola. In this collection of essays Evola describes the metaphysical and transcendent aspects of mountain climbing. He eschews the sentimental, romantic emphasis on “scenery” in favor of a stern inner discipline in the face of elemental power.

“In modern civilization everything tends to suffocate the heroic sense of life. Everything is more or less mechanized, spiritually impoverished, and reduced to a prudent and regulated association of beings who are needy and have lost their self-sufficiency. The contact between man’s deep and free powers and the powers of things and of nature has been cut off; metropolitan life petrifies everything, syncopates every breath, and contaminates every spiritual ‘well.’” (4)

“In the struggle against mountain heights, action is finally free from all machines, and from everything that detracts from man’s direct and absolute relationship with things. Up close to the sky and to crevasses – among the still and silent greatness of the peaks; in the impetuous raging winds and snowstorms; among the dazzling brightness of glaciers; or among the fierce, hopeless verticality of rock faces – it is possible to reawaken (through what may at first appear to be the mere employment of the body) the symbol of overcoming, a truly spiritual and virile light, and make contact with primordial forces locked within the body’s limbs. In this way the climber’s struggle will be more than physical and the successful climb may come to represent the achievement of something that is no longer merely human.” (5)

“There is no real climber who does not display, in the eyes or in the face darkened by the sun’s reflection on the snow, the mark of a race that has transformed beyond that of the people of the plains.” (6)

“Seat of awakening, of heroism, and at times of a transfiguring heroic death; place of an enthusiasm leading toward transcendent states; place of a pure asceticism and of a triumphant solar force that opposes  the powers that paralyze, obscure, and degrade life – these seem to comprise the ancients’ symbolic perception of the mountain.” (15)

“This then is the strength of those who may be said to never return from the peaks to the plains. This is the strength of those for whom there is no longer going out or coming back because the mountain is in their spirit, because the symbol has become reality, and because all dross has been shed. For these people the mountain is no longer a new adventure or a romantic escape or a sensory high, or heroism for its own sake or a sport carried to new technical heights. Rather the mountain is connected to something that has no beginning and no end and that, having become an inalienable spiritual conquest, has become part of one’s nature, something one carries everywhere that bestows a new meaning to every action, every experience, and every struggle in everyday life.” (22)

“By virtue of its primordial nature, its elements, its distance from the petty world of the thoughts and feelings of the domesticated and rationalistic modern man, the mountain also invites people, in a spiritual way, to return to their origins, to the inner realization of something that reflects the simplicity, the greatness, the pure force, and the untouchability of the world of the icy and bright peaks.” (32)

“Talking about a return to the origins and reconstructing human types, forms of civilization, and styles of ancient times is always going to amount to mere intellectualism and to a sterile nostalgia, unless one achieves a direct sense of what is primordial. Only nature can help in this task. I mean nature in whose aspects no room is left for what is beautiful, romantic, picturesque; I mean when nature ceases to speak to man; I mean nature that is substantiated by greatness and pure forces. Therefore, I would not refrain from saying that he who has conquered the mountain, namely, he who has learned to adapt himself to its fundamental meaning, already possesses a key to comprehending the original spirit and the spirit of the Aryan-roman world in its most severe, pure, and monumental aspects” (33).

“Here, where there is only the sky and pure, free forces, the soul participates in an analogous purity and freedom, and in this way one begins to understand what the spirit truly is. The soul perceives all this, and before the calm and triumphant greatness, all sentimentalism, utilitarianism, and human rhetoric disappear. Here, that which in the world of the soul has the character of purity, impersonality, and power finds its equivalent in icy heights, deserts, steppes, and oceans. We experience the breath of everything that is wide as an inner force of liberation” (84)

“It is up here on these peaks, beyond which lies another country – and from similar experiences – that one can truly perceive the secret of that which is imperium in the highest sense of the word. A true imperial tradition is not forged through particular interests, through a narrow-minded hegemony, or through “sacred selfishness;” such a tradition is formed only when a heroic vocation awakens as an irresistible  force from above and where it is animated by a will to keep on going, overcoming every material or rational obstacle… The silent greatness of these dominating peaks, reached at the risk of great dangers, suggests the silence of a universal action, an action that through a warrior race spreads throughout the world with the same purity, the same sense of fate, and the same elementary forces as the great conquerors; this from a blazing nucleus, a brightness radiates and shines forth.” (84)

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