On studying Arturo Reghini

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 | 2 comments

On studying Arturo Reghini

Every time somebody asks me what ideas the field of my doctorate really tackles, I tremble at the thought of having to explain the basic characteristics of the wider domain of Western esotericism. Nobody, no matter how well read, seems to really understand what I’ve been researching for the last years of my life. When I want to make it sound exciting and glamorous I try to explain Yates’s out-dated, but ultimately fascinating, theories, but I usually get a blank, vacant look back and further confused questions. And when it gets to discussing about the actual thesis, things go from bad to worse: occultism and modernity and their interplay in early 20th century Italy, focusing on the figure of Arturo Reghini as a case study.

The first reaction is usually the question: ‘Who on earth is Arturo Reghini?’ Never mind the elusiveness of the many theories on modernity, or the definitions of ‘occult’, which are being redefined constantly by valiant scholars. Forget about the complexities of early 20th century Italy, with the failing appeal of the Catholic church, a budding dictatorship on the rise, and more avant-garde movements than any other period of Italian history. ‘Who on earth is Arturo Reghini?’ is the question that has been plaguing me for the past two years.

Of course, this applies outside of the Italian borders. In Italy Reghini is a well respected figure of modern esotericism, two biographies are dedicated to his life and works, some cultural and religious organizations have studied him in great depth, and scholars like Gennaro d’Uva or Sandro Consolato can without a doubt be cited as Reghini experts. But outside of Italy, Arturo is virtually unknown. The only possible encounter the non-Italian speaker can have with this fascinating and enigmatic figure is through Dana Lloyd Thomas’s entry in the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism1 and an article by the same author on a 1997 issue of Gnosis2. And of course Evola. Although few have actually taken time to read his books and understand his complex theories, most people who deal with esoteric matters have heard of Evola because of his maudit status as the bad-boy of Traditionalism, links with the Nazi and Fascist governments and his all too peculiar ideas on race.

To those who nod vigorously when I mention the Baron’s name, I usually quote a passage from his biographical Il Cammino Del Cinabro, and since most of the readers will have heard about Evola, whilst ignoring Reghini and his oeuvres, I will refer to the revelatory passage in full:

A mathematician and philologist, as well as a highly critical mind, Reghini was devoted to the study of initiation with a seriousness and objectiveness unknown to “occultists” and Theosophists (which were ever the victims of the man’s caustic sarcasm). It is thanks to my encounter with Reghini (and Guenon, who Reghini first mentioned to me) that I decidedly broke with what “occultist” or Theosophical tendencies I still possessed, and came to acknowledge the complete separateness and transcendence of initiatory wisdom with respect to all profane culture, and particularly modern.

Reghini was fond of the idea of a Western esoteric tradition (which might be also termed an “Italic” tradition, given Reghini’s often problematic references to Pythagorean doctrine). Consequently, Reghini had sought to revive Masonic rites and symbols. Reghini also praised ‘pagan’ Roman culture, which he refused to interpret merely as a political and juridical reality set in a framework of cults and superstitious practices, as was common at the time. Rather, Reghini emphasized the sacred, if not initiatory character of many aspects of Roman culture, and on this basis argued in favour of Roman wisdom and of the Roman way of life and holiness- something he explicitly contrasted with Christianity. Reghini argued that Christianity was an exotic belief founded on a dubious spirituality that appealed to the irrational, sub-intellectual and sentimental side of man. Christianity, in the eyes of Reghini, was a religion of the ‘spiritual’ proletariat’, both inseparable from Judaism and utterly foreign to the style, ethics and austere sacredness of Roman culture3.’

This fleeting description of Reghini really encapsulates many of the reasons why I consider his figure to be most useful, when analysing the impact of modernity on the occult milieu of early 20th century Italy: active in the anticlerical querelle of his day, vigorous in his collaboration with the most revolutionary avant-garde movements of the 1900s and 1910s, indefatigably pouring out his views of a Roman pagan world on most of the occult reviews published in the 1920s, a rigorous mathematician and follower of Pythagorean ideals, Reghini perfectly incarnates the prototype of modern man coming to grips with a present he could not be satisfied with. Walking on the thin line between the Modern and the Traditional, Arturo Reghini definitely deserves wider recognition outside of his beloved Italian sacra limina.

This, I will aim to do through translations, articles and presentations, many of which will be shared and/or summarised through on this site.  If you use Facebook, you can also follow any updates through the Reghini page I have set up there.

1 Thomas, Dana Lloyd, ’Arturo Reghini’, in DGWE, ed. by Wouter Hanegraaff, Antoine Faivre, Roelof van den Broek, Jean-Pierre Brach (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 979-980.

2 Thomas, Dana Lloyd, ’A Modern Pythagorean’, in Gnosis Magazine, 44 (1997), 52-59.

 

3 Evola, Julius, The Path of Cinnabar: an Intellectual Autobiography of Julius Evola (London: Integral Tradition Publishing, 2009), 79.

 

2 Comments

  1. Great to see this site up and running Christian! I am looking forward to your research and translation posts. All the best. KMH

  2. I’m very interested to learn about other members of the Gruppo di Ur. I will have to keep a close eye on your thesis!

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