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Old 08-16-2016   #1
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Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

I have only a peripheral knowledge of these things but I thought it may interest a few here to read (or skim more likely) this comprehensive indictment of such matters by a former 'initiate', if that's the right word.

Interesting Texts Preserved For Posterity: The Spiritual Fascism of Rene Guenon and His Followers
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Old 08-16-2016   #2
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

First impression: I'm disappointed that someone graduates from such influences only to recommend Dawkins as a philosopher!! Alarm bells ring immediately.

“Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 08-16-2016   #3
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

Thanks Malone for posting this as a matter of interest.

Like Qcrisp, alarm bells went off for me immediately. I was only three or four paragraphs in before my mind was saying, "This guy doesn't know ####!" It went downhill from there.

For those interested (and with the time and patience!) to explore the work and sources of the Traditionalist School, authors like Frithjof Schuon, Rene Guenon, A. Coomaraswamy, Hossein Nasr, Huston Smith and yes, even Julius Evola can still provide much of interest, especially to students of esoteric tradition, cosmology and practices.

Glancing back from these violently divided times, it seems quaint or even dissonant to see that once there were sophisticated scholars representing multiple ethnicities and traditions, agreeing on an essential unity of religion, and devoting time and resources to a common metaphysics.

But times have indeed changed and where once the philosophia perennis was esteemed and respected - even when challenged or debated - now all this has been discarded to "the dustbin of history." To suggest that there were or are esoteric traditions, or that they were based on serious thinking, seems insane to current belief systems.

Still, even in this current inflamed environment, repeatedly labelling someone or their writing as deluded, racist, fascist or "cultist," as the author of this piece does, without citing any sources or examples, is not serious scholarship but simply an opinionated rant.

But if I am to be honest, I'm probably speaking from "the wrong side of history" myself.

Last edited by Gnosticangel; 08-16-2016 at 04:50 PM..
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Old 08-16-2016   #4
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

Sample quote from the article:

Quote
The whole notion of the “transcendent unity” was a Guenonian fabrication, though others had thought of it before him. The various religions are social constructions, reflecting different social conditions. Any comparison between them is accidental and merely reflects the fact that humans make similar social arrangements in different cultures. There is no “essential” or esoteric religion: the whole artifice of the so called “perennial” religion involves convincing people of the illusion of each religion being a subset of a larger imaginary entity they call “esoterism” or the “religio perennis”—the perennial religion.
I'll go through this piece by piece.

Quote
The whole notion of the “transcendent unity” was a Guenonian fabrication
Was it? I was under the impression that this idea had been around for a long time, in one form or another, elaborated on differently by different people, as ideas tend to be within the human species.

Quote
, though others had thought of it before him.
Right, so it wasn't a Guenonian fabrication.

Quote
The various religions are social constructions, reflecting different social conditions. Any comparison between them is accidental and merely reflects the fact that humans make similar social arrangements in different cultures.
Care to back that up, or is this whole article going to consist of unsubstantiated assertions?

Quote
There is no “essential” or esoteric religion: the whole artifice of the so called “perennial” religion involves convincing people of the illusion of each religion being a subset of a larger imaginary entity they call “esoterism” or the “religio perennis”—the perennial religion.
Oh, it is going to consist of unsubstantiated assertions, I see.

To cite two people, off the top of my head, who have been interested in what religions have in common, Aldous Huxley, compiler of the Perennial Philosophy anthology, represents a good counter-example to the picture being drawn here, as he could never be mistaken for having the politics that the author of the article seems to believe inextricably linked with an esoteric tradition, and Thomas Merton, who drew links (among other things) between Catholicism and Taoism, seemed reasonably active in politics quite counter to those under discussion:

Quote
In October 1935, in protest of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, Merton joined a picket of the Casa Italiana. The Casa Italiana, established in 1926, was conceived of by Columbia and the Italian government as a "university within a university". Merton also joined the local peace movement, having taken "the Oxford Pledge" to not support any government in any war they might undertake.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Merton

In short, I could go through the entire article in this manner if I had time; I submit that its author is an ignoramus in his framing of the issue, however much he might know about Guenon himself. I'm not a partisan for Guenon myself. I've read only excerpts of his work, though, as it happens, I do recognise something in the author's far from objective assessment that:

Quote
[Guenon's] writings drip with a sneering superiority and elitist pride.


“Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 08-16-2016   #5
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

Quote Originally Posted by Gnosticangel View Post
Glancing back from these violently divided times, it seems quaint or even dissonant to see that once there were sophisticated scholars representing multiple ethnicities and traditions, agreeing on an essential unity of religion, and devoting time and resources to a common metaphysics.
This, in particular, is a fact about the comparative differences of the current age to the age in which some of these scholars were writing, that I think should demand more of our attention. Most (white, at least) proponents of multiculturalism today seem curiously resistant to the idea of actually taking an interest in other cultures.

It's also worth noting some of the interesting cross-pollination taking place in Traditionalist ideas. Coomaraswamy, for instance, was influenced by William Morris. It's not hard to see that in their interest in craft, both Coomaraswamy the traditionalist and Morris the socialist were opposing the alienation of the modern world of mass-production.

“Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 08-16-2016   #6
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

Well, as stated in the OP, I have only ever dipped into this entire topic with plenty of scepticism. I have read a couple of Evola's entertaining condemnations of the modern world, but I do think there is a genuine question buried somewhere in the midst of that dense indictment: what are the Traditionalists actually proposing?

I've personally found that any time I've asked any proponents of this line for what it is they actually believe or propose for society they immediately become elusive, vague and retreat into the shadows. This leads me to think either a) they just don't like the modern world, but have no alternatives, which is fine by me, or b) mutter something about 'secret knowledge' etc etc, all very vague and said with a certain superior air.

The other thing is that if you scratch deep enough, many of them possess a strain of virulent anti-semitism, and in fact on several of their sites this is perfectly explicit. There is no point in denying many of them do embrace the idea of a Fascist social model.
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Old 08-16-2016   #7
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

Quote Originally Posted by Malone View Post
what are the Traditionalists actually proposing?

I've personally found that any time I've asked any proponents of this line for what it is they actually believe or propose for society they immediately become elusive, vague and retreat into the shadows. This leads me to think either a) they just don't like the modern world, but have no alternatives, which is fine by me, or b) mutter something about 'secret knowledge' etc etc, all very vague and said with a certain superior air.
I've definitely felt the same reading about a lot of occult and religious stuff, that I don't have the foggiest about what they really believe. But since I don't know, I'd like to think they're in something a bit more difficult to explain than The Super Cool Secret Club Of Acting Mysterious.

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Old 08-16-2016   #8
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

Thanks again Malone, a stimulating topic!

Re. "The other thing is that if you scratch deep enough, many of them possess a strain of virulent anti-semitism, and in fact on several of their sites this is perfectly explicit. There is no point in denying many of them do embrace the idea of a Fascist social model."

I think that is definitely true of the occultists in the Evola mode, but don't know that it applies the same across the board, as many of them were apparently anti-fascists in their own lives, or came from non-western cultural backgrounds where anti-Semitism was not even a primary topic. And many appear to have embraced the idea of a Socialist social model instead of a Fascist one.

This seems to be what is so hard for some politically identified moderns to wrap their heads around re. Traditionalists - what could those with Fascist leanings and those with Socialist leanings find in common to talk about? How could they could be seen to be associated with one another, or even breathe the same air?

My own understanding is that for many in the Perennial Tradition, they did breathe the same air. Their primary identity as a Traditionalist was often not based on their political identity but on their "cosmological" one ("cosmological" in a metaphysical sense). But non-political identities are increasingly hard for many moderns to comprehend.

If anyone cannot embrace or enjoy occult models of history then so be it. But as I understand it, instead of political activism (fascist or otherwise), the majority of Traditionalists were focused on scholarship intended for discussion with other scholars, or on developing an elegiac commentary describing our disintegrating times (the Kali Yuga perhaps).

I've never understood why I should believe that someone who is politically a Fascist should have less understanding of occult tradition, or have less interesting ideas, or be a worse writer, than a Socialist (or vice versa). I am neither myself; both ideologies murdered millions in the 20th Century (with far more killed by the Socialists if you count Stalin and Mao).

For me the Traditionalists (and many others) offer interesting ways of interpreting humanity and its history. Regarding belief systems in general, I appreciate this this statement of John C. Lilly:

In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits... In the province of connected minds, what the network believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the network's mind there are no limits.
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Old 08-16-2016   #9
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

In spite of many years spent listening to neofolk, I've never really "got" what Traditionalism was about.

The article's comments on Sedgwick seem somewhat strange. If it is indeed from 2008, Sedgwick was at Aarhus University in Denmark, where he still is. The rumours about him converting to some sort of Islam have never been corroborated. There was some attacks on him in Danish media some seven or eight years ago which were never substantiated. He denies being a tradionalist himself. Of course that doesn't mean that the rest of the article is wrong. And I probably wouldn't know either.

But an academic interest in a subject is not necessarily the same as being personally invested in it.
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Old 08-16-2016   #10
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Re: Rene Guenon, Alt Right, Traditionalism etc

GnosticAngel has said most of what needs to be said so I'll give a brief historical response:

Guénon never presupposes a social model in his work although he expresses great sympathy for the Hindu caste system, albeit altered in cultural contexts to allow movement e.g. in the European context the Catholic Church, the Royal powers, the Guilds and then just about everybody else. As far as I know he gives no suggestion of how and if if it is possible to implement such a system in the modern world. He did, and this is of course to his credit, express grave concern that his philosophy would be associated with the sub-theosophical palingenesis appealed to by the Nazis and to a lesser extent the Italian Fascists.

Unfortunately we then have Evola who took many of Guénon's theories and mixed them with the above mentioned sub-theosophical palingenesis e.g. Hyperborean Root Races, Lost Empires and the like, along with a heavy dash of Nietzscheanism.

Traditionalism probably has little to do with the American Alt.Right which is vehemently anti-Muslim and Anti-Ecumenicism. Unfortunately however it has featured as a core element (along with French Theory, an ironic combination!) in the Far-Right geo-political philosophy known as Eurasianism, the founder of which, Aleksander Dugin, has had a considerable influence on the Neo-Nationalist Russian foreign policy. Somewhere online there is an entertaining debate between him and the Americo-phile sic Neo-Conservative Traditionalist Olvao de Carvalho.

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post

I've definitely felt the same reading about a lot of occult and religious stuff, that I don't have the foggiest about what they really believe. But since I don't know, I'd like to think they're in something a bit more difficult to explain than The Super Cool Secret Club Of Acting Mysterious.
The Exterior/Interior aspect of Traditionalism is quite easy to explain.From Guénon onward the exterior aspect is taken to be the particular forms of social institute and ritual associated with a religion as well as its 'mythological' dogma. The Interior aspect is a form of Non-Dualist mysticism complete with meditative praxis emerging within that tradition e.g. Sufism in the case of Islam, Lurianic Kabbalah in the case of Judaism and the works of Meister Eckhart in the case of Christianity.

For what it's worth I think that's a somewhat simplistic assumption, although he probably correct in saying that in any sophisticated philosophical interpretation of a religion the issue of Non-Dualism arises.

Quote Originally Posted by MadsPLP View Post
In spite of many years spent listening to neofolk, I've never really "got" what Traditionalism was about.
Neo-Folk Traditionalism is more likely to be Evola influenced.

What the original Traditionalists proposed can be crudely put as the following: all religions, in their Interior aspect have Non-Dualistic union with the Absolute as their goal - with this in mind dogmatic claims e.g. conversionary obligations, should be taken as secondary to this aim and to resisting the corrupting effects of modernity. (My response is 'great, well how do we do that last bit, aside from trying to ignore the bits we don't like?')
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