A Further Look into The Metaphysics of War: Focusing on the Bhagavad-Gita

‘I imagine one day getting to a point in humanity that there is nothing that we have to do. Only things that we want to do. I am so lucky to have made it to where I am right now. There is nothing that I feel I have to do, only things that I want to do.’ (Written on first page of Metaphysics of War book. Jan 9th, 2018) Amazing how fast things changed from this point.

krishna-arjuna-bhagavad-gita

May 17th, 2018

What is interesting to me about the holy books of India is that essentially they are not written as, nor meant to be considered as “true history” or “prophesy” books, but as historical allegories and metaphors that can be “used” at anytime in history, now or in the future. Whereas Jewish and Christian holy books tend to say “this happened and this is what is going to happen” (which is quite worthless in many ways to me), books such as the Bhagavad-Gita and others are written as an example or antecedent that can be followed for “eternity to come.” Thus they are seemingly “eternal books” whereas it seems the Jewish and Christian books are merely for a set time, and afterwards they may be actually “useless” in many ways.

Thus I would like to devote a full post to transcribing a chapter in Evola’s book, The Metaphysics of War, that discusses the Bhagavad-Gita and the special relationship between Krishna and Arjuna, who like I said earlier perhaps never existed, but the story is well written and can be used as a “prescription” for any time period. Afterwards, tomorrow I will release a second post of my recent daily notes and dreams that both have to do in some way with this chapter.

The Metaphysics of War chapter “The Metaphysics of War” by Julius Evola. (Originally published on 13th August 1935 as ‘Metafisica della guerra’ in ‘Diorama mensile’, Il Regime Fascista)

‘We will conclude our series of essays for the ‘Diorama’ on the subject of war as a spiritual value by discussing another tradition within the Indo-European heroic cycle, that of the Bhagavad-Gita, which is a very well-known text of ancient Hindu wisdom compiled essentially for the warrior caste.’

‘The traditions to which we have previously referred offer examples of this: most notably, a common spiritual conception of how to wage war, how to act and die heroically – contrary to the views of those who, on the basis of prejudices and platitudes, cannot hear of Hindu civilisation without thinking of nirvana, fakirs, escapism, negations of the ‘Western’ values of personhood and so on.’

‘The text to which we have alluded and on which we will base our discussion is presented in the form of a conversation between the warrior Arjuna and the divine Krishna, who acts as the spiritual master of the former. The conversation takes place shortly before a battle in which Arjuna, the victim of humanitarian scruples, is reluctant to participate. In the previous article we have already indicated that, from a spiritual point of view, the two persons, Arjuna and Krishna, are in reality one. They represent two different parts of the human being – Arjuna the principle of action, and Krishna that of transcendental knowledge. The conversation can thus be understood as a sort of monologue, developing a progressive inner clarification and solution, both in the heroic and the spiritual sense, of the problem of the warrior’s activity which poses itself to Arjuna as he prepares for battle. ‘

Krishna_arjuna_Mahabharata-Kurukshetra

‘Now, the pity which prevents the warrior from fighting when he recognizes among the ranks of the enemy some of his erstwhile friends and closest relatives is described by Krishna, that is to say by the spiritual principle, as ‘impurities…not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy’ (2:2).

‘We have already seen this theme appear many times in the traditional teachings of the West: ‘Either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore, get up with determination and fight’ (2:37).

‘However, along with this, the motif of the ‘inner war’, to be fought at the same moment, is outlined: ‘Thus knowing oneself to be transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, O might-armed Arjuna, one should steady the mind by deliberate spiritual intelligence and thus – by spiritual strength – conquer the insatiable enemy known as lust’ (3:43).

‘The internal enemy, which is passion, the animal thirst for life, is thus the counterpart of the external enemy. This is how the right orientation is defined; ‘Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims of proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight’ (3:30).

‘This demand for a lucid, supra-conscious heroism rising above the passions is important, as is this excerpt, which brings out the character of purity and absoluteness which action should have so as to be considered ‘sacred war’: ‘Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat –  and by so doing you shall never incur sin’ (2:38).

‘We find therefore that the only fault or sin is the state of an incomplete will, of an action which, inwardly, is still far from the height from which one’s own life matters as little as those of others and no human measure has value any longer.’

‘It is precisely in this respect that the text in question contains considerations of an absolutely metaphysical order, intended to show how that which acts in the warrior at such a level is not so much a human force as a divine force. The teaching which Krishna (that is to say the ‘knowledge’ principle) gives to Arjuna (that is to say the ‘action’ principle) to make his doubts vanish aims, first of all, at making him understand the distinction between what, as absolute spirituality, is incorruptible, and what as the human and naturalistic element, exists only illusory: ‘Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the non-existent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. … that which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul. … Neither he who thinks the living entity the slayer nor he who thinks it slain is in knowledge, for the self slays not nor is slain. … He is not slain when the body is slain. … the material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end; therefore, fight…’ (2:16, 17, 19, 20, 18).

‘But there is more. The consciousness of the metaphysical unreality of what one can lose or can cause another to lose, such as the ephemeral life and the mortal body – a consciousness which corresponds to the definition of human existence as ‘a mere pastime’ in one of the traditions which we have already considered – is associated with the idea that spirit, in its absoluteness and transcendance, can only appear as a destructive force towards everything which is limited and incapable of overcoming its own limited nature. Thus the problem arises of how the warrior can evoke the spirit, precisely in virtue of his being necessarily an instrument of destruction and death, and identify with it.’

‘The answer to this problem is precisely what we find in our texts. The God not only declares, ‘I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. … I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics. … I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men’ (7:11, 9, 10), but, finally, the God reveals himself to Arjuna in the transcendent and fearful form of lightning. We thus arrive at this general vision of life: like electrical bulbs too brightly lit, like circuits invested with too high a potential, human beings fall and die only because a power burns within them which transcends their finitude, which goes beyond everything they can do and want. This is why they develop, reach a peak, and then, as if overwhelmed by the wave which up to a given point had carried them forward, sink, dissolve, die and return to the unmanifest.’

‘But the one who does not fear death, the one who is able, so to speak, to assume the powers of death by becoming everything which it destroys, overwhelms and shatters – this one finally passes beyond limitation, he continues to remain upon the crest of the wave, he does not fall, and what is beyond life manifests itself within him. Thus, Krishna, the personification of the ‘principle of spirit’, after having revealed himself fully to Arjuna, can say, ‘With the exception of you, all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain. Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, [O Arjuna], can be but an instrument in the fight. … Therefore, kill them and do not be disturbed. Simply fight, and you will vanquish your enemies in battle’ (32-34).

‘We see here again the identification of war with the ‘path of God, of which we spoke in the previous article. The warrior ceases to act as a person. When he attains this level, a great non-human force transfigures his action, making it absolute and ‘pure’ precisely at its extreme. Here is a very evocative image belonging to the same tradition: ‘Life – like a bow; the mind – like the arrow; the target to pierce – the supreme spirit; to join mind to spirit as the show arrow hits its target.’

‘This is one of the highest forms of metaphysical justification of war, one of the most comprehensive images of war as ‘sacred war’. To conclude this excursion into the forms of heroic tradition, as presented to us by many different times and peoples, we will only add a few final words.’

‘We have made this voyage into a world which, to some, could seem outre (‘to go to excess’) and irrelevant, out of curiosity, not to display peculiar erudition. We have undertaken it instead with the precise intention of showing that the sacrality of war, that is to say, that which provides a spiritual justification for war and the necessity of war, constitutes a tradition in the highest sense of the term: it is something which has appeared always and everywhere, in the ascending cycle of every great civilization; while the neurosis of war, the humanitarian and pacifist deprecation of it, as well as the conception of war as a ‘sad necessity’ or a purely political or natural phenomenon – none of this corresponds to any tradition.’ All this is but a modern fabrication, born yesterday, as a side-effect of the decomposition of the democratic and materialistic civilisation against which today new revolutionary forces are rising up.’

‘In this sense, everything which we have gathered from a great variety of sources, constantly separating the essential from the contingent, the spirit from the letter, can be used by us as an inner fortification, as a confirmation, as a strengthened certainty. Not only does a fundamentally virile instinct appear justified by it on a superior basis, but also the possibility presents itself of determining the forms of the heroic experience which correspond our highest vocation.’

KRISHNA-6

‘Here we must refer to the first article of this series, in which we showed that there can be heroes of very different sorts, even of an animalistic and sub-personal sort; what matters is not merely the general capacity to throw oneself into combat and to sacrifice oneself, but also the precise spirit according to which sun an event is experienced. But we now have all the elements needed to specify, from all the varied ways of understanding, the heroic experience, which may be considered the supreme one, and which can make the identification of war with the ‘path of God’ really true, and can make one recognize, in the hero, a form of divine manifestation.’

‘Another previous consideration must be recalled, namely, that as the warrior’s vocation really approaches this metaphysical peak and reflects the impulse to what is universal, it cannot help but tend towards an equally universal manifestation and end for his race; that is to say, it cannot but predestine that race for empire. For only the empire as a superior order in which a pax triumphalis (peace through victory) is in force, almost as the earthly reflection of the sovereignty of the ‘supra-world,’ is adapted to forces in the field of spirit which reflect the great and free energies of nature, and are able to manifest the character of purity, power, irresistibility and transcendence over all pathos, passion and human limitation.’

(All quotes come from A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Praphupada, Bhagavad-Gita As It Is.)

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