Yukio Mishima: Man of Pure Action

In Action, Contemplation, and the Western Tradition, Julius Evola writes that action can take on the qualities of ‘Being’ only if the action is ‘pure.’ According to Evola, the pure act does not aim at “contingent and particular fruits, considering as the same happiness and calamity, good and evil, even victory and defeat, looking neither at the ‘I’ nor at the ‘you’, overcoming love as well as hatred and any other pair of opposites.”

Evola sees a man in the motion of a pure act as becoming truly free. In it, such a man breaks away from the bonds of individualism and everything that grounds him to the material order of things. Here, man can act from “the deep and in a way supra-individual core of being” and with a quality that “never varies, divides, or multiplies: they are a pure expression of the self,” as Evola writes in Ride the Tiger.

Evola explains that pure action is taken regardless of the pleasure or pain implied in one of its acts. This does not mean that pure action is devoid of pleasure, but rather it enjoys only heroic pleasure, or the superior pleasure derived from “decisive action that comes from ‘being’.” Evola considers in the realm of ‘heroic pleasure’ the type of pleasure that is derived from “action in its perfection” or actions that require training to the point of becoming an acquired skill.

A popular literary figure who lived and died embodying these principles is Yukio Mishima. Although in no way associated with the Traditionalist school and more of an intellectual than a strict metaphysician, Mishima sought the revival of the Samurai “Tradition” and attempted to live his life by the code and ethics described in the Hagakure, despite his living in an era far more decadent and removed from Tradition than the one Hagakure’s writer, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, lived in and sought to overcome.

Mishima famously committed suicide in the traditional Seppuku way after taking several capitalist governmental figures hostage. Mishima’s obsession with death and his suicide can be interpreted as conformance with the Hagakure’s dictate that the Samurai “decide to die” and the advice that it should probably be done before old age because by that time one would likely have little reason to continue living. Mishima’s suicide should also be seen as an expression of the pure act though.

Scorning modern man’s and Japan’s loss of tradition and contempt for the body, Mishima died not as a martyr for his cause and much less a savior for his people, but instead, he died in service to the pure idea. Mishima overcame petty individuality and in his act died as a Samurai. Mishima himself wrote that he wished to “achieve pure action that admitted of no imagination, either by the self or by others” in Sun and Steel. Mishima clearly acquired Being in its actual sense while making death his heroic pleasure.

Throughout Mishima’s text, other Traditional attitudes can be observed. Mishima explains that the “glorification of individual style in literature” is “no more than a beautiful ‘perversion of words’.” Here, Guenon’s observation that art is first reduced to Quantity through the introduction of “individuality” is seen.

Mishima also saw a universality in man from what was highest in him as opposed to the lowest. Despising the frailty of his youth, Mishima used body building to strip “my muscles of their unusualness and individuality.” Doing this, he realized “the triumph of knowing that one was the same as others.” Using both words and muscles, Mishima did not deny his individuality or being, but achieved the supra-individuality Evola referred to. He used both to “universalize my own individuality” and created a “general pattern in which individual differences ceased to exist.”

Mishima undoubtedly captures the spirit of the warrior in Sun and Steel, but he also has the powers of the spiritual/intellectual class as well. He would fit the mold of Evola’s conception of the early Brahmin. Mishima himself stated that contemplation to the point of discounting the body leads to a “steadily perverted and altered reality.” Instead, through an asceticism of strength, Mishima claimed to have found “a reality that rejected all attempts to make it abstract… that flatly rejected all expression of phenomena by resort to abstraction.”

Here, the problem of the modern notion of spirituality as abstract, renouncing, and soft is solved. Like Buddha, Mishima combated the infernal becoming of the Kali Yuga by developing a spirituality that sought direct contact with reality, overcoming what he saw as the nihilism of this state by living a philosophy of steel and pure action.

 

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