I first noticed Evola's work on Amazon.com when I found his name coming up repeatedly in the "Customers who Bought this Book also Bought..." section when I reviewed a book by an author that I liked, such as Rene Guenon or Frithjof Schuon. Since he obviously appealed to people with interests like mine, I decided to give him a try.
Since there are so many glowing reviews on line for Evola's work, I suspect that this book may not be the best introduction to him. It was written during World War II, when Evola's was very much still a hard-line apologist of Mussolini's regime. As such, the fascist rhetoric is rather thick at times.
I would like to say that I could treat Evola's Aryan falderal as mere window dressing and distill out the wisdom between the lines, but I found that the effort was too much for me. Evola believed that at its inception Buddhism was a renewal of the original Aryan religion, encouraging a belief in one's own ability to break through to liberation. As such it is inherently better than other religions, whether it be Christianity, which we would be led to believe relies on lukewarm pieties that sap an individual's inherent virtue, or Islam, which substitutes obscurantism and a herd instinct for a genuine approach to reality, or even Mahayana Buddhism, with its emphasis on showing benevolence to beings that are obviously inherently inferior to real Aryans.
The conclusion I came to was that Evola "discovered" Buddhism, liked what he saw, and developed a rationale of it to suit his overall Weltanschauung. His claim that early Buddhism resurrected the Vedic religion (i.e., the religion of the original Aryans) strikes me as nothing so much as a piece of revisionist history.
Still, I can't bring myself to give the book only one star, since I must admit that Evola is certainly an interesting read, and his views are worth airing, whether you agree with him or not. But if I read him again, I think I'll try one of his post-war books.
Buddhism has been called by western scholars "a path of annhilation", a "route of destruction", and a "system of nihilistic life-denial". Modern translators and teachers, such as Lama Surya Das and Robert A.F. Thurman, have attempted to portray Buddhism in a modernistic light, as a progressive route of compassion and evolution. However, according to Evola, both interpretations are incorrect.
Evola digs through the earliest texts of the Pali Canon to expose a tradition of "ascesis"- not life-denying, repressive asceticism as we know in the west, but a tradition of detachment and training towards enlightenment through proper thought, reflection, and action. He puts Buddhism in historical perspective, showing it as a movement that started with the intention of renewing the Brahmanical tradition, one based not on modern equality and humanitarianism but on spiritual elitism and the favoring of a spiritual elect known as the Ariya. Lastly, he tries to show how those of us living in the modern world can attempt to follow the tradition of liberation.
Although I don't accept some of Evola's interpretations or conclusions, he brings up many valid points and exposes a spiritual tradition that still holds validity today- and will perhaps for the rest of the age as well.