Monday, November 08, 2004

Against the Modern World

Mark Sedgwick, a Cairo-based scholar, has written Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century, a wonderful book on Guenonian traditionalism and its influence in intellectual movements led by Julius Evola, Frithjof Schuon and Aleksandr Dugin.

In an interview with Religioscope, Mr. Sedgwick gives an excellent introduction on the subject. I strongly recommend his book, both for its treatment of the subject of traditionalism, and as a window into fringe intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and their continuing influence today.


The basic tenets of Traditionalism are easier to describe, since in working on the movement I’ve had to boil it down to its essentials. Some Traditionalists will object that in boiling it down I’m removing much of the subtlety, but there’s really no way around that. Anyhow, Guénonian Traditionalism — since you’re quite right, and there are all sorts of other traditionalisms that have nothing to do with Guénon — Guénonian Traditionalism is a school inspired by Guénon, and taking various different forms.

What they all have in common, apart from Guénon, is a conviction that the modern world is not the result of progress out of darkness but of descent into darkness, that this — the time we live in — is a last age, a pretty low point of a last age at that. What has been lost — and what needs to be recovered, reinstated even — is "tradition". And tradition can be fairly precisely defined, as the truths that should have been handed down from time immemorial, approximately the perennial philosophy, the original Ur-religion of humanity.

Traditionalists are those who want to recover what has been lost, and who also recognize the "true" nature of modernity. And recognize that one of the most important aspects of modernity is inversion — that the world sees the valuable as worthless and the worthless as valuable, the good as bad and bad as good. Guénon never saw a punk, but it would have made a lot of sense to him. And with that comes "counter-initiation" — religious movements that are actually irreligious, that actually lead away from what religion is meant to lead to. Again, Guénon would have nodded knowingly at certain recent developments in the Catholic Church. Against counter-initiation, the only thing left is real, genuine initiation — into traditional esoterism.


At November 8, 2004 at 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why Guenon thought that in Islam he would find the perennial philosophy, the source of all religions. I thought Mahomet didn't get his religion from "primordial times", but directly from Allah in the cave. Traditionalists are a bunch of wackos, but you can learn something even from wackos. Thanks for the post.


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