Archangels of Our Darker Natures

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Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby American Dream » Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:31 pm ... er_natures

Archangels of Our Darker Natures
Gary Lachman


The following is an extract from my new book, Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen (Quest Books 2008). It's taken from the penultimate chapter, in which, among other things, I discuss the work of the Italian esotericist and fascist sympathizer Julius Evola, and his influence, as well as that of other Traditionalist thinkers, on the historian of religion Mircea Eliade. I also look at Eliade's own involvement with far-right politics in the 1930s and 40s in his homeland of Romania. Reality Sandwich regulars might recall an earlier extract from the book, "An American Fascism," which ran this summer. This chapter precedes that section, and my remarks here about the American Christian Right anticipate the reflections found in that previous post. The fact that this is an extract from a larger work will, I trust, excuse the few obscure references to earlier parts of the book.

One very important follower of Evola's ideas also believed in the necessity of political violence. In Ordeal by Labyrinth, a series of interviews with the writer Claude-Henri Rocquet, the historian of religion Mircea Eliade remarked that he became "politically aware" during his time in India, where he witnessed the same repression that angered people like the theosophist and Indian Home Rule advocate Annie Besant. Eliade remarked that "One day I heard an extremist talking and I had to admit he was right. I understood perfectly well that there had to be some violent protestors too."[1] India, however, isn't the only country in which Eliade's name is associated with political violence. In his homeland of Romania, there were links between the two that, as many of his detractors believe, Eliade did his best to obscure. Although the Eliade that most readers know is the tolerant, multicultural scholar of the world's religions, in a younger guise, Eliade was a fiercely nationalist writer, motivated by the same intolerant views that informed Schwaller de Lubicz and Eliade's Traditionalist mentor, Evola. In an article written in 1937, "Hungarians in Bucharest," the thirty-year old Eliade complains that over the recent Christmas holidays, three Hungarian plays were staged in his nation's capital. But this wasn't all. In the film Dracula's Daughter-an admirable sequel to the Bela Lugosi classic-some of the characters call for a Hungarian Transylvania. "I would have loved to hear the audience jeer for the entire duration of the movie," Eliade wrote. "I would have loved to see a group of students tear the film to pieces and trash the equipment."[2] Like many Romanians at the time, Eliade resented what he saw as Hungarian incursions into his nation, much as the British Nationalist Party is troubled by the "economic migration" of Eastern Europeans into Britain today, made possible by the European Union. Eliade made his strident remarks in print, in a national newspaper, at a time when in Germany many "patriots"-and not only students-were doing precisely the kind of thing he yearned to do, not solely to film projectors and movie screens but to people, mostly Jews, the universally unwanted guest.

That Eliade, like Schwaller de Lubicz, might want to forget such an injudicious past -- and might want others to also -- is understandable. Yet the kind of esoteric politics that Evola linked to Traditionalist thought remained a part of Eliade's sensibilities. In the same series of interviews, speaking of the political power of cultural activities like literature and art -- he calls them "political weapons" -- Eliade echoes Schwaller de Lubicz's and Guénon's calls for an elite. "It is no longer the politicians who stand at the concrete center of history," he told his interviewer, " but the great minds, the ‘intellectual elites.'" Eliade had in mind a small number of "great minds," five or six, but, exaggerated or not, "those 'five' or 'six' are inordinately important."[3] Although Eliade would speak critically of Guénon, and would never publicly voice his debt to Evola, his Traditionalist roots show through the camouflage of half a century.


In the late 1920s and early '30s, Eliade was a "distant follower" of Evola's and Reghini's UR group; exactly how he made contact with them is unclear, but Eliade became acquainted with Guénon's work through Reghini, as had Evola.[4] Eliade carried on an extensive correspondence with Evola-Evola even sent him copies of his books during Eliade's time in India-and although there is little direct trace of Evola's influence in Eliade's oeuvre, in his early years he was clearly a follower of his thought.[5] In 1930, Eliade published an essay in which he spoke of Evola as a great thinker; in the same essay he also praised the work of other racist philosophers, like Arthur de Gobineau, Huston Stuart Chamberlain, and the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. Eliade was so taken with Evola's ideas-and so eager to avoid a public declaration of that interest-that in 1941, at the age of thirty-four, he started writing a novel in which Evola features as a character, an occultist named Tuliu, a close approximation of Evola's own first name, who espouses an esoteric faith which he calls "traditional metaphysics." Tuliu lives in a small scholar's dwelling where the bookcases are filled with "the complete works of René Guénon and J. Evola" as well as "complete collections of Ur, Krur [the name of another Evolian journal] and Études Traditionelles." Tuliu recommends Guénon and Evola to his friends, but a haphazard pile of books by Blavatsky, Steiner, Papus, and Annie Besant suggests the lack of importance these thinkers have for him. In the journal Eliade kept while writing the novel, he remarks that he must devote a special chapter to Tuliu's "philosophy," "lest the reader believe he is a case of a simple scatter-brained 'occultist.'" "Actually," he continues, "his theories are not completely foreign to mine," and Eliade remarks that he will use Tuliu to "say, for various reasons about which there is not room to dwell here, things I have never had the courage to confess publicly." "Only occasionally," he goes on, "have I admitted to a few friends my ‘traditionalist' beliefs (to use René Guénon's term)."[6] Given remarks like these, it isn't difficult to see Eliade as a kind of "closet Traditionalist."

Why in his own journal Eliade didn't have room to "to dwell" on his reasons for never publicly "confessing" to his adherence to Traditionalist beliefs is unclear, unless we recognize that he didn't want a record-even a private one-of his own admission to a kind of intellectual cowardice. What Evola himself thought of this is unknown-the novel was never finished and the journals came to light only years later -- although he did once ask Eliade about his reticence to refer to him in any of his books. Eliade replied that he wrote for a general audience, not for "initiates."[7] As in the case of Jung, Eliade seems to have to taken steps to see that his interest in questionable occult matters didn't hamper his having a respectable career.

Eliade met his secret mentor in 1937. Following his visit to Vienna, where he lectured at the Nazi Kulturbund, Evola carried on to Hungary and Romania. Here he met Eliade, and his Romanian disciple introduced him to Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, leader at the time of a far-Right Christian "chivalrous" society, the Legion of the Archangel Michael, later known as the Iron Guard. It's his association with this spiritual elite, and his "fellow traveling," or worse, with Romanian fascism, that, as his detractors claim, Eliade tried to keep hidden.

Much of the responsibility for Eliade's "outing" is credited to the research of his Romanian student, collaborator, and later literary executor, Ioan Culianu. Like Eliade, Culianu was a brilliant historian of religion, magic, and the occult and was himself thought to display remarkable powers of prediction and fortune-telling. Culianu was also an outspoken public critic of both the Ceaucescu regime, and that of Ion IIiescu, which followed the downfall of Romanian communism. In 1991, Culianu's body was found in the bathroom of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, where Eliade taught until his death in 1986. He had been shot once in the back of the head, execution- style. Culianu's murderer or murderers were never caught. Although Chicago police initially thought Culianu's death might be the work of some occult group unhappy with his research, the most plausible explanation is that it was the work of Romanian nationalists, unhappy with his criticisms of political developments in his homeland. It's also possible that a revived Iron Guard, unhappy with Culianu's research into Eliade's past, retaliated and used his murder as a warning for other Romanian expatriates.[8]

Some of Eliade's "secret," however, was already known to many at the university and to the academic community in general, although it wasn't until his last years that the full details of his other life became widely available. In 1969, Gershom Scholem made it known that Israel could not welcome Eliade, who, like Scholem, was one of the "star" lecturers at the Eranos conferences; the reason was Eliade's past. In 2000, the novelist Saul Bellow published a book, Ravelstein, a thinly disguised account of the last days of his friend the philosopher Allan Bloom, who died in 1992, from complications arising from AIDS. Bloom, a student of Leo Strauss, came to nationwide prominence in the late 1980s when his book The Closing of the American Mind, criticizing the decline of university education under the rule of leftist professors, became a surprise bestseller. Like Eliade and Bellow, Bloom taught at the University of Chicago, and in the novel Eliade appears as the "Romanian nationalist" Radu Grielescu, who wants to mitigate his anti-Semitic past by making friends and being seen with Bloom/Ravelstein, a Jew. Bellow, no stranger to esotericism -- his novel Humboldt's Gift is heavily influenced by Rudolf Steiner, and he once carried on a kind of "correspondence course" in anthroposophy with the philosopher Owen Barfield -- makes no bones about Grielescu's "secret." "The man was a Hitlerite," Bellow writes, who likened the presence of Jews in Romania to a case of social syphilis, a reference to an article written by Eliade in 1937 in which he spoke of Romania being "conquered by Jews and torn to pieces by foreigners."[9] Even Eliade's countrymen, like the playwright Eugene Ionescu, criticized Eliade for creating a "stupid, dreadful, reactionary Romania."[10]


The Legion of the Archangel Michael was established in Romania in 1927 by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Codreanu had studied law at the University of Iasi, on the Russian/Romanian border, where he became involved in anti-Semitic and anti-communist activities. In 1923 a plan to murder several Jewish bankers and politicians was aborted when Codreanu was arrested, although he did later murder the police prefect of Iasi, a crime for which he was acquitted. This murder became the prototype for later political assassinations associated with the Legion, whose philosophy embraced a kind of death fanaticism that included martyrdom, communication with the dead, and a contempt for the body --all aspects, incidentally, of the shamanism Eliade would later become associated with. Before forming the Legion, Codreanu had been a follower of Alexandru C. Cuza, a political economist at the University of Bucharest who had founded a League of National Christian Defense. Cuza's violent anti-Semitism was seen as insufficient by Codreanu, who looked to the movement to bring about the "moral rejuvenation" of Romania, which would nonetheless include its "purification" of Jews, Hungarians, and other undesirables -- an early twentieth century version of ethnic cleansing. This would come about through the creation of a "new man," a version of the "regeneration" we have encountered throughout this book. In this sense the Legion was as much a spiritual and religious movement as it was a political one. Its ideology was based on a fundamentalist form of Orthodox Christianity, and it took its name from the icon of the Archangel Michael. If Mussolini's Fascism had the state as its center, and Hitler's Nazism had race, for Codreanu and his followers, Christ, paradoxically, was the heart of their vicious and intolerant creed.

Like much else in Eliade's "hidden" past, the exact nature of his relationship with the Legion is still unclear. Detractors argue that he was a "card-carrying" member and enthusiast, while supporters claim his dallying with the Legion was a regrettable youthful faux pas, and that he left before the violence associated with the later Iron Guard appeared.[11] Yet Eliade's newspaper articles praising Codreanu's elite clearly and publicly linked him to it. As with Evola's association with Fascism, the fact that he may never have literally joined the Legion seems overshadowed by his clear sympathies with it.

Most English-speaking readers are unaware that in his early career, Eliade was a kind of all round public intellectual and that his first essay into Romanian nationalist politics was a series of articles he wrote under the heading "Spiritual Itinerary." In these he focused on political ideals favored by the far Right. Like Evola, Eliade rejected liberalism, democracy, and modernization; he also praised Mussolini, an early sign of the admiration for "strong" leaders that he would also have for Spain's Franco and Portugal's Salazar, something he shared with Jung. Eliade approved of an ethnic nationalist state founded on the Orthodox Church; for all his interest in Oriental and "primitive" (read "primordial") religions, Eliade remained a lifelong devotee of Orthodox Christianity. The Legion of the Archangel Michael was a kind of vanguard for an Orthodox revolution which Eliade hoped for in Romania. Eliade's celebration of the Legion suggests that his Traditionalism followed Evola's emphasis on the Kshatriya, warrior, caste rather than Guénon's more Brahmin version.

According to some accounts, Eliade was introduced into the Legion in 1935 by his friend and fellow writer Emil Cioran.[12] By 1937, the year he introduced the Legion's leader to his mentor, Evola, Eliade was recognized as one of its leading propagandists, a position acquired through his enthusiastic newspaper articles. Its aims were impressive. The Legion, he believed, would spark a Christian revolution aimed at creating a new Romania, and its leader, Codreanu, would reconcile Romania with God. The Legion's victory was part of Romania's destiny, Eliade declared, and, as mentioned, it would "bring forth a new type of man" and the "triumph of the Christian spirit in Europe."[13] Like Evola and Guénon, Eliade believed in a geographical "supreme spiritual center," a "repository of primordial tradition," a kind of Romanian Agartha or Shambhala, which in his case was located in Dacia, the Roman province from which Romanians claim they have descended. Part of the Legion's mission was to cleanse this "primordial" "sacred space" of unwanted intruders. Linked to this was the cult of Zalmoxis, a Dacian deity at the center of a monotheistic "death and resurrection" religion like Christianity, with which it could easily be assimilated. Disturbingly, notwithstanding its esoteric and occult overtones, much of Eliade's rhetoric about the Legion of the Archangel Michael has surprising echoes with similar ideals advocated by the current American Christian Right.

Along with Cioran, who professed an admiration for Hitler (and who, unlike Eliade and Heidegger, later publicly repented of it), other figures close to Eliade were involved with the Legion, most significantly his philosophy professor, Nae Ionescu, with whom Eliade and Evola lunched after their meeting with Codreanu. Like Eliade and Cioran, Ionescu was part of the influential Criterion group of new Romanian intellectuals, and Ionescu's curious philosophy, which he called "Trairism"-a blend of existentialism, Romanian nationalism, and Christian mysticism-also advocated a regime aimed at "purifying" Romania of foreign elements. While many were inspired by Eliade's "legionary spirit," others were less enthused and saw his polemics as "mystical, dense and stifling," promoting "noxious practical consequences" which boiled down to "the elimination of Jews through acts of physical repression and persecution."[14]

One reader of Eliade's articles was Romania's King Carol II, who, alarmed at the Legion's growing power, took control of it in 1938, arresting Condreanu and other members, including Eliade. Codreanu and his twelve closest supporters were strangled in their cells -- an event that brought Evola to tears -- and Eliade spent some weeks in prison but was eventually released. King Carol II then handed control of the Legion over to Horia Sima, a Nazi sympathizer, who transformed it into the notorious Iron Guard, a "chivalrous" order whose atrocities rivaled those of the SS, and who the Allies would recognize as the Romanian Nazi Party.


After his arrest, Eliade refused to sign a declaration of dissociation with the Legion; he later argued that doing so would only put him on its "hit list" were they to return to power. But his association with fascism didn't end there. Through the help of his student Michel Vâslan, who had joined a separate Traditionalist group led by Vasile Lovinescu and would later become a follower of Guénon, Eliade was given a post as a cultural attaché to the United Kingdom; he was later transferred to Paris, and then to Portugal, which was then under the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, for whom Eliade had high regard. For the next several years Eliade functioned as a cultural envoy for Romania, which in 1940 formed a pro-Nazi government under the new king, Michael I. Until the end of World War II and its coming under Soviet rule, Romania had a succession of fascist governments, including the short-lived National Legionary State, which had the vicious Iron Guard in near complete control. In 1941, after a failed and bloody Legionary Rebellion, when the Iron Guard made a bid for absolute control, Romania came under the fascist dictatorship of Ion Antonescu. That same year, Romania officially joined the Axis powers. At that point Eliade became the cultural attaché of one fascist dictatorship, in league with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while residing in the capital of another, Salazar's. Part of his job was to distribute propaganda supporting Antonescu's totalitarian regime.

If this wasn't enough to give Eliade's apologists headaches, and his detractors an excuse for righteous indignation, in Paris after World War II Eliade started an anti-communist journal called The Morning Star (its Romanian title, Luceafârul, suggests the connection with Lucifer more clearly.) This was funded by Nicolae Malaxa, a Romanian industrialist and financier of the Iron Guard who had been a corporate partner of the high-ranking Nazi Hermann Goering; at one point Malaxa and Goering collaborated on a scheme to seize the assets of a Jewish businessman, and during the war Malaxa had put his considerable industrial empire behind the Nazi effort. (Curiously, although a known Nazi, Malaxa was later allowed into the United States, with the support of the government and the help of a young Richard Nixon.)[15] Eliade was also known to have high regard for Alain de Benoist, founder of the French New Right, who is a professed pagan, highly influenced by Julius Evola, and also for the Nazi jurist and political theorist Carl Schmitt, whose ideas, along with those of Leo Strauss and Eric Vogelin, inform some aspects of American conservatism today.


In The Politics of Myth, Robert Ellwood argues that Eliade later repented of his youthful fascist sympathies and embraced a more tolerant, "modern" vision of religion and society. Yet as he was in his thirties by the time he was a diplomat, how "youthful" Eliade sympathies were is debatable, and Eliade never made a public recantation of his controversial activities. Scholars have combed Eliade's later, more well-known work for its Traditionalist sources and for traces of his political philosophy, finding in his widely regarded academic works elements of his early "legionary spirit." That Evolian ideas might inform some of Eliade's later works doesn't necessarily detract from their value. Some critics, however, have taken the "hard" view that in the work that made him famous, Eliade peddled a Traditionalist ethos under the guise of "objective" scholarship.

Yet it isn't difficult to see that although much more open to modern ideas, Eliade's later vision is still one of the primacy of the past, of what we can call "ontological roots," as a look at the book that made his reputation in the English-speaking world, The Myth of the Eternal Return, makes clear. Eliade's "eternal return" isn't Nietzsche's notion of an eternal repetition of events but a vision of myth and ritual as a means of re-enacting the original, "primordial" acts that give life its sacred character. For Eliade, "archaic" or "traditional" man had no interest in history, in the ceaseless flow of becoming, only in being, which he entered into by returning to the mythical "first time." History for traditional man existed in what Eliade calls "profane time," a time devoid of meaning, escape from which was granted only by entering "mythic time," the once-and-once-only of the original, primary rites. Indeed, Eliade speaks of the "terror of history," "primordial man's" fear of being swallowed by the relentless flow of meaningless events, and we recall Guénon's lack of interest in the last two thousand years (Evola, too, showed a haughty disdain for "becoming"). Eliade is interested not in a past associated with history but in a past embraced by myth, and an ungenerous view might suggest that Eliade's later philosophy provides a justification for his own lack of interest in his own historical past. As his critic Adriana Berger writes, for Eliade "the past is not valid because it represents history but because it represents origins."[16] This fascination with origins, with beginnings, is linked to the search for Aryan -- or in Eliade's case, Dacian -- roots. It's at the bottom of most racist ideologies, including that of Eliade's mentor, Evola. In essence, it's a kind of snobbery. It argues that where you come from is more important than what kind of person you are or what you make of yourself. Among aristocrats, nobility, and "old money," the self-made man (or woman) is always a kind of upstart and not really "one of us." Sadly, for much of Western history, the Jew has been cast as the perennial upstart, but others have played this role as well.

Although as Ellwood argues, the vision of the past embraced by Eliade (and by Jung and many others) is really a romanticized modern vision of what this mythic time was like -- if it ever existed -- it still functions as a powerful attractant for those unhappy with modernity. The vision of a "homogenous, largely rural, and 'rooted' society'" with a "hierarchical superstructure," possessing a "religious or mystical tendency able to express its unity ritually and experientially,"[17] is in many ways attractive, given our own "atomistic" world of "rootless cosmopolitanism," and the idea that such a "sacred" society existed sometime in the immemorial past is seductive. But the idea of the past as preferable to the present isn't new. Indeed, the urge to return to some great good time seems as old as humanity itself: ever since Adam and Eve we've been trying to get back to the garden. And the notion that the future will be better than the past -- the essence of modernity -- is, quite rightly, only a relatively recent idea.

As the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski points out, the essence of conservatism is the belief that there are some things worth conserving[18], the recognition that "in some of its aspects, however secondary, the past was better than the present"[19] and that the relentless flow of the "terror of history" in an uncertain progress may not always be desirable. Many of us, myself included, dizzied by the unending stream of technological advance and social change, may agree with this. Yet while the attraction of origins is great, there is something to be said for what the neo-Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch called the "not-yet," the possibilities and potentials that lie ahead, the promise of the new. To be sure, the "not-yet" view of history has problems of its own; witness the wreckage left by the many attempts to, in Eric Vogelin's phrase, "immanentize the eschaton," to violently wrench history in order to bring about the millennium. Strangely, forces in far-Right politics in the United States of recent years seem to combine the worst elements of the two opposing views: a return to some better time in the past and an imminent apocalypse that will bring about a new age.



1. Mircea Eliade and Claude-Henri Rocquet, Ordeal by Labyrinth (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 55.

2. Marta Petreu, An Infamous Past (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005), p. 72.

3. Eliade and Rocquet, Ordeal by Labyrinth, pp. 80-82.

4. Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, p. 109.

5. An indication of the regard Eliade had for Evola is seen in his diary entry on hearing of Evola's death. "Today I learn of the death of Julius Evola. . . . Memories surge up in me, those of my years at university, the books we had discovered together, the letters I received from him in Calcutta.

. . ." Mircea Eliade, Journal III (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 161.

6. Liviu Borda_, "The Secret of Dr. Eliade" in The International Eliade, ed. Bryan Rennie (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007), pp. 101-30. See also Natale Spineto, "Mircea Eliade and ‘Traditional Thought,'" pp. 131-47, in the same volume.

7. Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, p. 111.

8. See Ted Anton's Eros, Magic, and the Murder of Professor Culianu (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1996).

31. "Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania,"

10. Petreu, Infamous Past, p. 55.

11. On the side of the detractors, the most forceful is Adriana Berger, for whom Eliade is "one of the most influential intellectuals of his generation and an active Fascist ideologue." See "Mircea Eliade: Romanian Fascism and the History of Religions in the United States" in Tainted

Greatness: Anti-Semitism and Cultural Heroes, ed. Nancy A. Harrowitz (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), p. 51. On the supporters' side there is Bryan Rennie, editor of several books dedicated to Eliade's work. For Rennie, "Eliade's rightist leanings may be seen as lamentable, but they have not been proven culpable." See Reconstructing Eliade (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996), p. 161.

12. Petreu, Infamous Past, p. 60.

13. Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, p. 114.

14. Petreu, Infamous Past, p. 61; Adriana Berger, "Mircea Eliade," p. 60.

15. Berger, "Mircea Eliade," pp. 64-65.

16. Ibid., p. 57.

17. Robert Ellwood, The Politics of Myth: A Study of C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), p. 29.

18. This applies to areas other than politics. In this sense, anyone interested in "saving the planet" is a conservative.

19. Leszek Kolakowski, Modernity on Endless Trial (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 5.
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Postby thurnundtaxis » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:17 pm


Gary Lachman has far exceeded his importance to our culture. What a way to go, from legendary pop-musician to one of the foremost fortean scholars of our day.

Kudos! (as is now the lingo once again)
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Re: Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby American Dream » Mon Feb 20, 2017 8:51 am ... liade.html

Mircea Eliade

More on Mircea Eliade and Jews, from the Journal of Mihail Sebastian, from selections published in the New Yorker October 2, 2000:

September 25, 1936
He [Eliade] is able to work comfortably with the anti-Semitic Vremea [a newspaper], as if there were nothing untoward about it. Nevertheless I shall do everything possible to keep him.

February 25, 1937
Yesterday evening, there was a little party at our place. Mircea, [his wife] Nina, Marietta, [her husband] Haig, Dinu [Noica].

I wonder if this won't be the last time I ask them round. I don't feel I can stand the duplicity that our friendship has required since they went over to the Iron Guard. Is friendship possible with people who have in common a whole set of alien ideas and feelings - so alien that I have only to walk in the door and they suddenly fall silent in shame and embarrassment?

September 20, 1939
Titel Comarnescu tells me of a political conversation he had recently with Mircea, who is more pro-German than ever, more anti-French and anti-Semitic.

"The Poles' resistance in Warsaw," says Mircea, "is a Jewish resistance. Only yids are capable of the blackmail of putting women and children in the front line, to take advantage of the Germans' sense of scruple. Rather than a Romania again invaded by kikes, it would be better to have a German protectorate."

Now I understand perfectly why he is so reticent with me when it is a question of politics, and why he appears to take refuge in metaphysics to escape "the horrors of politics."

Just look at what he thinks, your ex-friend Mircea Eliade.
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Re: Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby minime » Mon Feb 20, 2017 10:59 am

Good stuff.

Read some things by Eliade. History of Religious Ideas.Youth Without Youth. Read the book; saw the movie by Coppola. Enlightning. He was in the thick of it for sure. Any suggestions for further reading?
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Re: Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby American Dream » Sun Dec 24, 2017 10:06 am

The Great Work and the Compromised Man: An Interview with Norman Manea

Carla Baricz interviews Norman Manea

You say in your essay, “The Incompatibilities” that Sebastian’s Journal is an account of the “rhinocerization” of certain Romanian intellectuals, whom Sebastian counted among his friends. You discuss Mircea Eliade, E. M. Cioran and Constantin Noica. Can you elaborate on the term “rhinocerization?”

The word comes from one of Eugene Ionesco’s plays, and Ionesco is an interesting case. He was not very political. In fact, he was one of the very few intellectuals in this group who did not condone this sort of right-wing nationalism. He said somewhere that when he left Romania, around 1939, and reached the Hungarian border, he felt that he was finally saved. At the end of the war, in ’44, he wrote in his diary that he would never shake hands with Eliade, Ionescu, Cioran any of those people. Of course, later they became friends. That’s exile. In exile, they suddenly felt like Romanians in Paris. And they were reconciled, and they started talking again. But as I said before, Ionesco felt differently during and right after the war. He says in his diary that “I could have become anything — I could have become a legionary, I could have become a dog, I could have become a base beast in that atmosphere.” And then he wrote this play, Rhinoceros, which discusses the slow transformation of human beings into rhinoceros, meaning beasts. The only person who remains human is the guy who is not virtuous, who is a drunk, who is lazy, who doesn’t work. All these other guys who display great principles, moral principles, become rhinoceros. But this man, who is human in his defects, remains human. This is the metaphor of the play.

The play was presented in the late ’60s or early ’70s in Romania, in a wonderful production with [Radu] Beligan in the leading role. For us, of course, it was anti-totalitarian and anti-communist, but it applies to all totalitarian systems. It’s about the slow degradation and loss of real humanness. Up to the very end, the rhinoceros maintain that they are the very best, that they are patriots. It should be said that, in Romania, the right-wing movement that gained support in the ’30s was very different from Nazism and fascism. Nazism and Fascism were atheistic movements, movements against the church. The Legionary movement was religious — Christian Orthodox. It was a different thought process: “The Jews have to be eliminated because we have to have this pure life, the life God wants us to lead, or Jesus, or whatever.” In that way, it was similar to what the communist movement advocated. The communist utopian ideology was based on the idea of “the new man.” This was a very dangerous idea, because real life is imperfect, we are imperfect, and when you ask us to be perfect, well, that’s the first step towards terror and tyranny.

Of course, Eliade’s Hooligans is also all about creating the “new man.” That’s the goal of all the young people in the novel. They want to embody “the new man.” And to do that, they constantly refer to Nae Ionescu.

The Romanian extreme right emphasized the cult of death. Death was seen as man’s greatest achievement. The moment of culmination was death. All in all, this was very different from the hypocritical, humanist socialist ideology. The left borrowed its humanism from the French Revolution. The right was completely against it; they had a much darker view of things. The Legionaries were the only ones who resisted in the communist jails and didn’t compromise. Similarly, the communists were the only ones who survived the Nazi jails and didn’t compromise. Both the far left and the far right had beliefs to which they fully dedicated themselves, for better or for worse. We, in a democracy, are told every day to be pragmatic, to find a way to get by, to compromise between the Democrats and the Republicans. And now, when both parties have become extremely ideological, they cannot reach an agreement. That’s a problem. Nevertheless, even though democracy is not perfectly pure or moral, it is more human.

I want to broaden the scope a little and ask about the many intellectual figures that you name in your work, people who made terrible, unforgivable compromises. I’m thinking of the young Mircea Eliade, of Emil Cioran, of Constantin Noica, and under communism, of Paul Georgescu, “the flying elephant.” Do you think the work can stand independent of the writer? Or is aesthetic merit undermined by ideological compromise?

The work can and should stand independently, in my opinion. There are cases when the work still has merit, despite the shortcomings of its writer. Human beings are not perfect, and there is something redeeming in the human being who, imperfect as he or she is, nevertheless struggles for a perfect work and creates a masterpiece. In my opinion, this redeems the flawed person a little bit. I think that the work should be judged for itself, and the defects of the writer should never be ignored. We can think of the writer as a teaching example. He or she can help us understand difficult periods in human history; what the writer has to say should be dealt with, it should be debated. The great work and the compromised man are a human contradiction, and I am always for contradictions. They’re more interesting than coherences. Of course, sometimes, it’s very difficult to separate one from the other.

Does this view hold up when pressure is exerted by those in power? I am thinking of the physically and mentally tortured woman in your short story, “The Interrogation.” She agrees to the subject she is to paint because, otherwise, she will not be allowed to paint. Is this a different type of compromise?

There is a big difference, in my opinion, between the choices you make as a free man and the choices you make under a totalitarian system. Eliade made his choice freely. At that point, Romania was still governed by a parliamentary system, the liberal bourgeoisie parties still existed; you could be in the Liberal party, or in the Peasant party. Or you could still choose to be completely apolitical. Eliade had a choice. If you are living under a totalitarian system, the decision is different. Your hand is forced. This is why I don’t point fingers at people who were coopted by the communist government, because I can understand human weakness, and I can understand the difficulties of a human life in that type of system. What I cannot forgive or forget are the people who did terrible, horrifying things to other people. But if you compromised simply by going along, if you had a family, or sick brother, or mother, or a child, or you desperately needed a job, and you didn’t hurt anyone, then that’s something else. In my opinion, people are not destined to be heroes, and you should never force people to be heroes. We are human beings. Heroes make up a very small percentage of humanity, and even then, they’re not human, they’re one-dimensional. Not all people are courageous. I had this discussion a number of times in Romania. What do you ask of a poet? You ask him to write good poems. You don’t ask him if he’s betrayed his wife, or what political party he’s voting for, or where he’s having dinner. If he’s a good poet, that’s it. What do you ask of a human being? That’s a hard question.

If you live in that type of society, then your choices are limited. If you are in jail, if you are under interrogation, it’s very hard … I can tell you that I had a couple of meetings with the agents from the Securitate [the secret police], and they pressured me to collaborate, and I behaved well and resisted. But, when I went out into the street, I thought: “My God, if this would have gone on another 10 minutes, I would have broken down. I would have given them what they wanted.” As a frail human being, you don’t always know your limits. The main thing is not to put people in that kind of situation. Life is a continuous compromise, and when you impose rigid criteria, you cannot judge anything properly. There are some criteria that only computers can fulfill. In Romania, I heard the following definition of what a computer is: “A computer is that thing which cannot deal with vague ideas.” But we should deal with vague ideas and compromises. For better or worse, we are not computers, or we aren’t yet. Thank God, I won’t be around if and when that happens.

Can you tell me a little bit about the walking contradiction Paul Georgescu?

He was an extraordinary man, and we were close friends. He was a great gossiper, and he always told me, “Look, I’m going to be remembered in the history of Romanian letters for the nicknames I’ve given to people. This is my greatest achievement.” Of course, that’s not true. He wrote some great books. We were not of the same generation, and he called me “the British liberal.” We had wonderful discussions, and he was an extraordinary reader — a very sarcastic, cultivated man, who also happened to be genuinely funny. I met him through his wife, a truly beautiful woman. Their marriage was a contradiction in terms: she was this frigid, brilliant woman, and he was a complete hedonist. He liked to eat and to drink and to joke.

He was very fat, a kind of Falstaff, and he had a mistress, and he took a taxi to see her. His wife would order the taxi and help him down the stairs! He moved with great difficulty, so she would even have to put him in the car! And his mistress is still alive! You can find her in the Guinness Book of World Records. She is the oldest woman to have been artificially inseminated and to have given birth to a child at, I think, 61 or 62! She was in the papers two or three days ago; she lost her home and bank account. I have no idea why. All the papers sent out appeals for donations, because she is an octogenarian, and because she is this special case … She shared Paul Georgescu’s insane courage, and she did something special with her life.

I met Georgescu through his wife. I was in his wife’s literary circle, not in his (he had his literary salon at his mistress’ house). She read an article I wrote on Radu Petrescu, and then she called me. “I am Dina Georgescu, I read your article, you are a wonderful writer, I am a great admirer, etc. You should come over on Saturday evening, I usually have friends over.” I began to go over monthly, and it was awful. Mainly because of her mother. Her mother was a Jew, from Bessarabia, who spoke Romanian with a very thick accent. At every literary meeting, she would bring out this cake, and the cake was so sweet that you could faint.

Were you expected to eat it?!

Yes! She usually placed a glass of white wine before each of us — it was an extremely sweet white wine. When I went home, I always said: “Now, I’m in desperate need of an onion!” It was very difficult to bear. Her circle was totally apolitical, artistic. She was very beautiful, but very cold. A great reader. She told her husband about me. And then, one time, she invited me over when Paul was at home. She said: “He wants to meet you.” Later, I saw him from time to time, every month or so. From time to time, he would ask me to take him out of the city in my car, in my small Trabant. It was very hard to move him around.

I had long discussions with him about leaving or not leaving. He said, “Norman, yes, you were hurt terribly as a child, but don’t go, you won’t be happy. What will you do there, in that crazy American world?” He cursed me after I left, he said I was an American agent, but after a few years, he became sentimental and came around. He called my wife’s mother and asked about me in a very friendly manner. He became more compassionate over the years. He was a wonderful, extraordinary man, though a dogmatist. He always told me: “Norman, I am not a Stalinist, I am with Trotsky.” This was not better in my opinion; Trotsky was a bit more intelligent than Stalin, but that was about it. Anyway, his case is very different from Sebastian’s. Paul was completely Romanian, he was Orthodox, but almost all his friends were Jewish. That’s how he became a Communist! A wonderful character. He couldn’t drink, his health prevented it, especially in his last years, so he got drunk with coffee. He drank 10 to 20 cups of coffee a day, until he propelled himself into a state of mania. Politically we were complete adversaries, and we couldn’t talk about politics, he considered me a bourgeoisie, Liberal Democrat, but otherwise we were friends.

I remember that you told me once that you had some qualms about being included in that 1970 Hebrew anthology, Jewish Writers in Romanian. Do you see yourself as a Jewish Romanian writer? Or just as a Romanian writer? Or do the labels seem completely unhelpful?

When I came here I was shocked to see the bookstore shelves: women writers, gay writers, Jewish writers, Catholic writers, all the tags. In my opinion, a writer is defined by the language he or she uses. Language is the tool. This is what defines the writer. You are an American writer — gay, black, Hindu, whatever — if you write in English. The topic about which you write is your own business. So, in my opinion, I was a Romanian writer, and my ethnicity was my own business. Of course, it’s not an easy problem to deal with, but it’s my problem. Leave me alone with it. Even if I only write about Jews, as long as I write in English, I am still an American writer. I had this discussion at a conference in Brussels last year. The conference was entitled “How Do We Save Europe?” and I was on a literary panel. I said then what I am saying now. I am not a politician, but I think that, in order to give back to Europe its essence, you have to go back to the Napoleonic definition of citizenship. Napoleon was the first person to introduce the idea that you can be a citizen regardless of ethnicity or religion. This is also the American idea. The only thing that you are asked here is to respect the Constitution. Otherwise, nobody cares what you do, what you think. Everything else is your problem. Anyway, you can apply this to the writer. The writer’s citizenship is his or her language. So, my homeland is the Romanian language. Of course I live here, and we’re speaking in English, and I have an American passport, but I am still a Romanian writer. So, when I saw Jewish Writers in Romanian, I said, “What is this?! Did Moses send me here to write in Romanian? This is my home. I speak Romanian. I’ve never negated the fact that I am Jewish, but my writing belongs to the Romanian literary tradition.” Since then, I’ve grown older. I’ve begun to question myself. I’ve gone through a lot of unpleasant experiences in my life, and maybe there is a point to the tags after all. Maybe we can have sub-shelves within the main shelf of American literature, and that can be a way of sorting things, too. Now I have no idea what I think, and I am very pleased that I don’t know.

So, then, do we dismiss the idea that Jewish writers, writing in Romanian, are the inheritors of a “minor literature?” Does this term not apply?

It depends who they are. You need to think of specific cases. You can’t generalize. What’s Jewish about me? I’ve been asked this a number of times. I am not a religious person, and sometimes I really wish that I was, I think it might have helped me. There are, of course, a number of definitions: one is Jewish if one’s mother is Jewish — the father doesn’t matter, ever, because who knows anything about the father, really — and if one is circumcised. Well, I can say “yes,” on both counts. My mother was Jewish, and I apologize for confessing to the latter requirement as well. Anyway, does this make me a Jew? I grew up in a Jewish house, with certain Jewish habits. My parents were not very religious, but we went to the synagogue two times a year. I spoke Romanian with my parents and with my grandparents. So, am I a Jew? One definition of Jewishness that I do accept — and this is from the Talmud, as I’ve understood — is that a Jew is someone who is against idolatry. I accept this! And, I must say, I like it! I would like to be able to be in the category of people who have an ideal, but who do not become idolaters, who do not let their ideal become idolatry. So, perhaps, in this sense … ... rman-manea
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Re: Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby Jerky » Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:45 am

My copy of Politics and the Occult has been sitting on a shelf since 2010, waiting to be read.

You better believe it just moved into my "must read" pile, very much near the top.

Thanks for the jostle!


PS - Anybody else here read In the Dust Of This Planet by Eugene Thacker? I just finished reading it a while ago, and it's one of those short books that takes a long time to read, due to its density and its assumption that the reader is well versed in academic philosophy (Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Heidegger in particular). I will be posting my reading notes here shortly, for those interested.
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Re: Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby American Dream » Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:03 pm

Bring on the Western Philosophy! I have no serious grounding in any of it but always want to learn more.
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Re: Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby American Dream » Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:17 am

Mircea Eliade and Antisemitism: An Exchange

By Philip Ó Ceallaigh, Bryan Rennie

“Eliade’s relationship with the Romanian fascist movement, the Legion of the Archangel Michael, and its viciously antisemitic arm, the Iron Guard, has long been debated,” writes Professor Bryan Rennie.

Professor Rennie seems to misunderstand both the nature of the Iron Guard and Mircea Eliade’s relationship to it during the years of antisemitic psychosis.

Firstly, the Iron Guard was not a “wing” of The Legion of the Archangel Michael. The two terms refer to the same organization. The Legion of the Archangel Michael was established in 1927 and changed its name to the Iron Guard on April 12, 1930 (though it would continue be referred to as the Legion also). The Legion was not a solely anti-Marxist or nationalist (the Romanian Communist Party was then an insignificant force) or the result of territorial losses (the post–World War I treaties left Romania with its territory and population doubled). Professor Rennie’s contention that “there is a distinction between the prewar politics of the right and antisemitism” is true of Italy. It is certainly not true of Romania. Antisemitism was the very life-blood of Romanian fascism, taking as its starting point resentment of the Minorities Treaty of 1919, which obliged Romania to grant citizenship to its minorities, including Jews, in return for recognition by the major powers of a generous territorial settlement. In other words, if you want a country huge enough to encompass minorities, we require you to behave as a modern, democratic state where all are equal.

This unacceptable foreign interference in the Romanian way of doing things is the context for Mircea Eliade’s embrace of the Iron Guard. Romania at the time had the third largest Jewish population in Europe (after the Soviet Union and Poland). Though they made up only four percent of the country’s population, it was they — and not, say, the Bulgarian minority — who in the eyes of the Guard Jews were undermining the Romanian state from both within and without. For the fascists, democracy was the means by which the Jew exerted his influence and only by the violent overthrow of the liberal democratic state could the Jew be vanquished. “If there was ever a good idea that had fatal consequences for a nation, it is, in the case of Romania, democracy,” wrote Eliade in an article in 1937. And the same year: “Can the Romanian people end its days […] wasted by poverty and syphilis, invaded by Jews and torn apart by foreigners? […] The Legionary revolution has the people’s salvation as its supreme goal.”

Mac Linscott Ricketts, Eliade’s biographer, identifies as many as 14 explicitly pro-Legionary articles written by Eliade between January 1937 and February 1938. But it was at dinnertime that Mircea really let himself go. Mihail Sebastian dined with him in March 1937 and records some of the banter:

I can’t deny that it was entertaining. In his opinion, the students who carved up Traian Bratu last night in Iasi weren’t Guardists […] As Regards Gogu Radulescu […] the liberal student who was beaten with wet ropes at the Iron Guard headquarters, that was all well and good. It’s what should be done to traitors. He, Mircea Eliade, would not have been content with that; he’d have pulled his eyes out as well. All who are not Iron Guardists, all who engage in any other kind of politics, are national traitors and deserve the same fate.

One day, I may reread these lines and feel unable to believe that they summarize [Mircea’s words]. So it is well if I say again that I have done no more than record his very words — so that they aren’t somehow forgotten.

Eliade was the acknowledged intellectual leader of his generation. Among the intellectuals who supported the Guard, he was the brightest star. By 1937, he was involved in the Guard at an organizational level.


Professor Rennie is incorrect in stating that Eliade’s passion for fascism had burned itself out by 1938. The tricky aspect of agitating for a Jew-crushing dictatorship is you might not get exactly the one you want, and Eliade’s spell of imprisonment in 1938 under the Royal dictatorship certainly cooled him down for a spell. But at that point the ideology he espoused had prevailed, and it was a question simply of which rightist faction would dominate; the repression of Jews was fully underway under Hitlerist-Guardist lines. Eliade was appointed cultural attaché to the Romanian Embassy in London in April 1940, a position he retained when the Guard came to power in September 1940 in alliance with the Romanian Army (the National Legionary State), and even after Antonescu repressed the Guard in January 1941. Eliade was transferred to the Romanian embassy in Lisbon in February 1941.

Romanian fascists shared the Nazi narrative that the war against the Soviet Union was a war against the Jews, who had succeeded in overturning the Russian Empire, just as they had succeeded in infesting the Hapsburg Empire (hollowing it out like termites, as Hitler would have it) and forcing its collapse. Nations, were they to have any hope of survival, would have to be as ruthless as the Jews/communists had been. Mihail Sebastian records on June 24, 1941 — the week of the outbreak of the war in the East — the appearance of propaganda posters in the capital that asked, “Who are the masters of Bolshevism?” above a cartoon of the guilty party: “[A] Jew in a red gown, with side curls, skull cap, and beard, holding a hammer in one hand and a sickle in the other. Concealed beneath his coat are three Soviet soldiers. I have heard that the posters were put up by police sergeants.” The presumption was that Romanian Jews were Soviet sympathizers and were treated accordingly. The war began with an order to “cleanse” the area behind the front. As many as 14,000 Jews were killed in the city of Iasi in the very first days of war. Legionary elements in Iasi — used as agitators by the Romanian secret services — had circulated rumors that Jews were signaling to the Soviet air force or staging attacks on the Romanian army. (Though Antonescu had suppressed the Iron Guard as an organization, many of its supporters had been absorbed into the state.)

Had there remained any doubt that war had been declared against the Jews, an official communiqué, reprinted in all the Bucharest newspapers on July 2, 1941, would have dispelled it:

In recent days there have been incidents of hostile alien elements opposed to our interests opening fire on German and Romanian soldiers. Any attempt to repeat these vile attacks will be ruthlessly crushed. For each German or Romanian warrior, fifty Judeo-Communists will be executed.

It was a promise kept when the city of Odessa was taken in October 1941 when Antonescu retaliated for the stiff resistance by “Jewish commissars” by slaughtering the Jewish civilian population.

Eliade was not a minor diplomat. The purpose of his job was propaganda and he served as a personal contact between Portuguese dictator Salazar and the top reaches of the Romanian government. When he visited Bucharest in the summer of 1942 he met personally with Foreign Minister Mihai Antonescu (no relative of Ion Antonescu), the man who had proclaimed that his policy toward the Jews would be that of Titus, the Roman commander, later emperor, who subjugated Judea and destroyed the Second Temple. And there is little doubt, knowing Eliade’s support for political violence and his championing of a Romanian victim-narrative, that he thought Romania was fulfilling its destiny to save civilization. “Mircea Eliade wanted this war,” wrote Sebastian in his diary in December 1943. “He waited for it, wished for it, believed in it, still believes in it — but he is in Lisbon.” Indeed he was, and busy theorizing on the racial destiny of the Romanian people. Though Sebastian may not have been aware, Eliade had published a slim volume in Portuguese earlier that year in which he explained how Romania had performed an inestimable service to Europe by guarding the continent’s fringes for centuries against barbarian hordes. In the present war against Russia, he argued, Romania’s role was no different, and was in defense of “European Christian values.” There is nothing particularly extraordinary about this assertion, even as the regime was doing its best to kill 50 Jews for every Romanian soldier, and only failed because there were soon no Jews left in the area of Ukraine under its control — it was one of the banalities of the time. Back in Bucharest, patriarch Nicodim of the Romanian Orthodox Church put a more firmly theological spin on matters; he termed the war a “holy Crusade,” describing the Bolsheviks as “despicable lackeys of Satan, who are mainly […] the people that has brought a divine curse on itself ever since it crucified the son of God.”


From the time he settled in the United States in 1956 until his death 30 years later, Eliade was a philosopher and historian of religions. He had nothing to say about his fascist past. Silence meanwhile prevailed in communist Romania, where there was an official policy of Holocaust denial, or rather, Holocaust non-discussion. It was as though it had never happened. E. M. Cioran, who was every bit as compromised as Eliade, and living after the war in Paris, adopted a similar strategy of silence, and even claimed that Antonescu had “saved” Romania’s Jews from Hitler. In 1936, he had written “the Jew is not our fellow man, our kind,” and “if I were a Jew, I would instantly kill myself.” Yet his writings are suffused with remorse and attack the folly of belief in any ideology or system. Toward the end of his life, senile, he would revert to speaking Romanian and clutch at the sleeves of friends and protest: “I am not an antisemite!” ... -exchange/
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Re: Archangels of Our Darker Natures

Postby Jerky » Sat Sep 15, 2018 12:36 am

Reading this one now, myself. To call it a "must read" for Rig Int'ers is one hell of an understatement.

Full DDD-style concordance forthcoming for thems that wants it.

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