The way the world goes – Rene Guenon on The End
Guenon’s thought unravels around insight that this thing we call “the world” is in progressive state of dissolution. This is something most scientific minded people – nowadays meaning those who take what they see on Discovery Channel seriously – would probably, more or less cautiously, agree with, at least until they got struck with Guenon’s explanation why is this so.
One ineradicable feature of human reason is it’s urge to grasp the first and last things – beginnings and the ends, whence and wherefores. Moreover, this is the point where both every day understanding – the so called ‘common sense’ – and high speculatio meet. Most people will readily admit they can’t explain how the gadgets they use every day work, but ask them how the world is going to end and you’ll get more or less final answer. The thought dealing with these original and final realities gives birth both to myth, as a more or less veritable image of truth, and the science of metaphysics. Unfortunately, it also spawns what we call ‘common sense’ in it’s pejorative, modern meaning, i.e., to paraphrase Descartes, ‘the knowledge obviously equally distributed to all, because everybody is certain that he possesses it in ample quantity’. More precise and to the point, everybody has a right to have opinions, not seldom about things he knows nothing about. True epistemological value of such “common sense” was historically best summed up by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry:
What makes it dangerous is it’s all pervasiveness, it’s accessibility and, above all, the origin of it’s curious certitude. This is, in paraphrase, where Harry really nailed that punk:
The opinion is worthless because it is rooted primary, and in fact exclusively, in quantity.
In the lines to follow, we’ll deal with this curious quality of quantity, it’s strange impetus to eradicate every qualification by assimilating it. No one can say that wisdom of Dirty Harry is not common sense, yet it directly contradicts the notion of “common sense” we just put forward. So how can it be: common sense expounding nonsense and quantity expunging quality? One of the best – if not the best – modern minders of this curious riddle was French thinker Rene Guenon, whose crown literary achievement, which we’ll use as a basis of exposition, is a book titled The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. Published in 1945., it is a final part of informal trilogy of Guenon’s books – preceded by East and West (1924.) and Crisis of Modern World (1927.) – dealing with what we are tempted to name “Apocalypse”, i.e. the end of the world. Admittedly the French author deals with both origin and the end. But while the former is discerned only by conjunctions, the latter is expounded, albeit not historically predicted, in astonishing clarity. Everybody has a notion of how the world will end. Some claim to know when. Rene Guenon, on the other hand, realized why it has to end. And in the process of explaining this insight he reminds us of the proper meaning of the term “apocalypse”. Namely great The End is not a catastrophe. It is, strictly speaking, the end to an age old lie.
What is ‘world’? Guenon’s thought unravels around insight that this thing we call “the world” is in progressive state of dissolution. This is something most scientific minded people – nowadays meaning those who take what they see on Discovery Channel seriously – would probably, more or less cautiously, agree with, at least until they got struck with Guenon’s explanation why is this so. Namely, what do we really have in mind when we say “the world”? It is one of those curious expressions everybody understands but when interrogated about them, yields unbelievably banal and vague definitions, showing that he or she in reality does not understand anything at all. And this displays precisely an instance of Dirty Harriesque opinion as illusory knowledge of something that is always present, crucially important, seemingly obvious but, when put to scrutiny, utterly mysterious. According to Guenon, one of the main tendencies of modern world (sic!) is to kill off this mystery, eradicate the paths by which man can walk to clarify it, and replace it with counterfeit; to revoke the transparency of our very horizon and, quite literary, close the shutters over it. This is the tendency at first observable only by it’s symptoms. The modern “common sense” notion of the world, handed down by popular science, is that it is an actually or potentially infinite space, a cosmic sack full of void with occasional crumbs of matter. Are we entitled to call this a world? Guenon is unequivocal in saying no. The world can be understood or, better to say, encountered and lived in only by ascending to it’s principles, i.e. it’s origins, and that means by transcending it. The thing we have on our hands nowadays is a result of both anthropological and cosmological alienation from any semblance of transcendent origin and, at this advanced stage we call “postmodern”, an alienation from it’s effects too. The materialistic notion we just sketched is not even close to being the final world concept man will be forced to endure. On the contrary, it is merely a transitory – nowadays more or less obsolete – stage on the path to final alienation of man, not only from Spirit, Angels, Soul, God and, consequent wise, religion, morality, aesthetics – in a word: from any kind of transcendence, but of matter and it’s incestuous bedfellow, the void, too. This is an epochal fulfillment of what Guenon calls the reign of quantity, a state in which all knowledge and all reality are divided in such a way that the only common denominator of anything becomes pure numerical multitude and spatial extension.
Quality and quantity The quality and quantity are categories, meaning: primordial notions constituting both structure and meaningful expression of all manifest beings. They were for the first time expounded by Aristotle and later systematized and re-interpreted by range of philosophers, from early Aristotelian commentators to Kant. Guenon mostly utilizes original Aristotle’s exposition through it’s reinterpretation by thinkers of High Middle Ages, above all Thomas Aquinas.1)Guenon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. Hillsdale: Sophia Perennis, 2004. 11–31, further: RQ There the relation of quantity and quality is equated with the relationship of substance and essence. Guenon rightly suggests that this latinizing of original Greek expressions is very misleading, but can be used with certain reservations.2)” Understood in this relative sense, and especially with reference to particular beings, essence and substance are in effect the same as the ‘form’ and ‘matter’ of the scholastic philosophers; but it is better to avoid the use of these latter terms because, doubtless owing to an imperfection of the Latin language in this connection, they only convey rather inaccurately the ideas they ought to express, 1 and also because they have lately become even more equivocal by reason of the quite different meaning commonly assigned to them in current speech.” RQ, 12. The other problem is that substance is also a common translation of ousia which is either pure form – as is the case with species – or composite of matter and form, as is the case with every individual being in nature. Either way, to use substance as an umbrella term for matter is highly misleading Namely, in Aristotle categories are not expounded as a system, i.e. closed and complete construction comprising correct scientific inferences. They are “beings said in non-complex way”3)ta kata medemian symploken legomena Aristotle, Kategoriai, 4.1b25, meaning expressions – not descriptions – of things comprising both their inner structure and elements of judgments about them. The quantity or, as Aristotle puts it, answer to a question “how much?” (poson) is the expression of two things: the relation of individuals and magnitude. Something can have quantity in a discrete sense as, for instance, the number, or in continuous sense, as, for instance, the line, difference being that numbers – and curiously enough, things numbered – can only exist individually, i.e. separately from one another. The magnitudes can exist continually, i.e. their ends can meet, as is the case with geometrical elements like the line, where two lines meet in a point. Quality, or answer to a question “in what manner?” (poion), is an expression or, as Guenon would say: manifestation, of form (eidos) which can be taken either as concrete something (tode ti), i.e. “this man” or species, i.e. “the man”. Quality expresses the manner of being as, for instance, is “this man” knowledgeable or is “this man” merely having an opinion. When these “things said in non-complex way” get elevated to an epistemological status, i.e. when they become system of fundamental notions in which we comprehend things methodically, all knowledge gets informed by the way we prioritize the categories. Guenon claims that modern world is a result of an age old tendency to put the quantity in the forefront and express all the other categories – and this means the world as horizon of comprehension – in it’s terms.
Materialism There’s a curious thing about materialist outlook to life: even materialists don’t like being called materialists. Everyday usage of this term serves to denote a man whose main or only purpose in life is to amass some quantity of wealth. And this is something everyone despises, including materialist himself. “Mass” and “wealth” are, however, much broader terms than it seems at first sight. Man can amass wealth of information or he can indeed amass a wealth of followers on Facebook. The science can amass a wealth of different “primordial particles” with exotic names and have them sold to imagination of gullible smart asses via Discovery Channel as existent things, while they are in fact imaginary constructs. There’s a whole lot of amassing to be had in this world. Namely, matter is commonly understood as a fabric of the world or, better yet, fabric of all individual beings. To an extent this common notion is correct in the real common sense understanding, namely common sense as universal, albeit unexamined, premonition of ontological truths every man possesses. Aristotle, who often used it as a starting point of his inquiries, can once again help us understand what this substrate of the world really is. He defines matter (hyle) as a possibility (dynamis) of a form (eidos). Therefore, the matter is not merely perceivable being but anything that underlies some sort of intelligible structure. In that sense we can safely say that letters or voices are matter of the word, where word is a form and as such the origin of qualification of the certain quantity of letters or voices. Rene Guenon expands on this notion by elevating the matter and form to a metaphysical origins, while utilizing Scholastic notions of materia prima and materia secunda.4)RQ, 16 The primal matter in this sense would be the original and all-underlying foundation of the world, enlightened into existence by descent of forms. As such, and taken in itself, this original matter is completely incapable of existence by itself, because anything that is must have some sort of form. Here we must distinguish between form and figure, where form denotes that which we understand to be some being, i.e. the term ‘man’ in sentence ‘this man’, while figure is merely a visible shape, for instance: a geometrical figure. Now, to return to every day existence, it may seem little off-handed to put in the forefront of materialism a man hell bent on amassing something, be it wealth or information, instead of pointing out the one who considers matter to be origin and the end of all that can be known. However, this is precisely where Guenon shines – he demonstrates that scientific and everyday existence are inseparable. If materialism rules the knowledge, it is only because the world of everyday living has already become materialistic, and not the other way around. Guenon, however, doesn’t deny correctness of inferences made by natural sciences in their proper fields. He just points out their worthlessness from the standpoint of truth. For him, at the time of writing The Reign of The Quantity and The Signs of the Times, materialism is already a passé metaphysics – and it is a metaphysics because however it craves to escape the original causes and concentrate on empiricism, it has to employ them in a roundabout manner – which served to prepare the humanity and the world for a final phase of their descent bellow matter. The key to understand this both radical and astonishingly sensible position is the answer to a question: “what is matter?” We already pointed out that as an ontological principle it is a receptacle of a form. In the sense of everyday world, i.e. what Guenon calls manifestation, matter is a foundation of individuum. This is what scholastics called materia secunda, the principle of differentiation of individuals participating in single form or species. While every man is qualified as ‘the man’ by his participation in the human nature, he is quantified as ‘a man’ simply by being the separate body in the collective or aggregate of things we call ‘men’. And this is where things get really interesting. Individuum and individuation are in fact a principle and activity of separation and leveling out the differences because quantity can exist only when there is an equalization of unequal things. Aggregate of individuums is not a unity because there is nothing common among them save for the – absurdly enough – their separateness. To stick to example at hand, if man is taken as individuum then only thing that unites him with another man is that they are bodily separated. This, Guenon argues, is a flip side of metaphysical materialism which makes it inherently contradictory – while matter is completely amorphous pseudo-thing that we must imagine as pure, formless continuum, if we foolishly start to rely on it as a ruling principle of knowledge we end up with infinite separation because pure individuum cannot in any way be unified with other pure individuum – they are logically and ontologically the same, yet we are at the same time forced to imagine them as completely separated. There is infinite tendency to equalize the individuums and at the same time infinite tendency to discern them. For this reason scholastics considered individuum ineffable, unknowable and, in it’s pure form, impossible.
The epochs of, first mechanism, and then materialism, as an introduction into final stage of reign of quantity, were prepared, above all, by Protestant revolution when all spiritual authority, i.e. primacy of the transcendent principles mediated by Church, was rejected. This brought about a kind of “free inquiry” which is in fact counterfeit because it presupposes individual and his will and reason as it’s origin, and matter as it’s final object. Adequatio rei et intellectus remained the proper definition of truth, yet nature of res changed. While Middle Ages still retained the notion of form, as they called it: substantial essence, to be discerned in judgment, the emerging new era counterfeited it into matter. The res became matter and act of discerning the truth became reduction to knowledge of individuum and it was originally made possible by notion that everyone can, and indeed should, discern Revelation and the world, now understood as nature over which looms eternally pissed off Deus absconditus, by his own, individual, devices. The result of this phenomenon, now more and more obvious in dissolution of any semblance of unity of natural sciences, is anticipated in immediate dissolution of Protestant Reformation in sects imagining the original state of Christianity which was to be completely simple, bereft of all content man cannot explain on the grounds of his own individual needs and brought down to meta-democratic criteria of being acceptable for everyone’s individual taste. Descartes’ founding of all certainty within reflexive consciousness is the fulfillment of this process and it is only made worse by his postulating of God as an infinite guarantee of knowledge and existence of res cogitans. Postulating the God means projecting one’s own need and, willy-nilly, one’s own image in order to reach Archimedean point of knowledge. It may seem odd, even preposterous, that modern materialism, and it’s correlate the rationalism, is in fact founded on imagination, the image of world as a mechanical being extending to infinity. But Descartes own writings prove it. Throughout all his endeavors in mathematics, geometry and physics, the true certainty is to be found in ego cogito – therefore in himself. Does this mean that Descartes’ discoveries in natural sciences are merely products of his imagination? Yes, it means precisely that. The objectivity of knowledge, from Descartes onward, is forever conditioned by subjectivity. While bashing one’s head on the wall will produce rather objective effect of smashing the head, it still tells nothing about wall aside from the fact that it is thicker than one’s head. It is almost unbelievable that for hundreds of years arguments such as this served to prevent humanity from exploring the non-material, i.e. qualitative domain, which was for men of antiquity self-evident realm of truth. By ‘qualitative domain’ is meant everything that cannot be quantified and therefore unique. Guenon gives some examples of this in the qualitative dimension of space as is, for instance, expressed in the division of the world into East and the West based on quite real, by human intervention ineradicable, essential differences. The undersigned, albeit modern man, can vouch for this from his own experience of growing up in typical modernist planned state, seated right around the Theodosiuses border between Eastern and Western Roman Empire. It cannot be elaborated here, but suffice it to point out that the war that tore it apart in fact had a lot to do with this ignorance of some essential principle of carving out the social space still exercising it’s effects on gullible moderns, of which the architects of modern states were obviously completely ignorant. On the other hand, Descartes notion of space is the pure extension of matter functioning mechanically, which is in itself contradictory because mechanism is a manifestation of individuum, i.e. it presupposes separation and not extension. But flip it however you like it, the argument of epistemological materialist will always be: “Look, if you don’t believe it, bang your head against the wall”. It’s no argument, rather a reminder that the great thing about the walls is that they treat all heads equally, so we can always test the hypothesis in concreto on materialist himself.
However, not for long yet. Now we have posthumanists who seek to employ the pinnacle of contemporary science to change this necessary fact of material world, so instead of grasping the truth there is a real chance of fulfilling the need for more humane walls. Nothing strange about that as a real function of materialism is in fact fulfillment of basic human desires and that’s why, while everybody declaratively abhors it, people embrace it en masse. The materialism as doctrine by which the world has no origin outside of it’s matter serves above all to provide man with a sense of metaphysical certainty. It serves to ward off fear of something that lurks bellow it. And this fear is, as we shall see, very well founded.
Solidification of the world When reflecting on materialism, one encounters a strange contradiction. While materialist principles, when taken to their logical extremes, retain dark and pessimistic implications in accordance with the being they reflect, the materialist outlook to life is optimistic to a point of insanity. Moreover, everybody shares in it to an extent, whether consciously or unconsciously. Everything we nowadays call humane, all those UNICEF tailored declarations of human rights, all those martyrs of science and progress are being presented as a pinnacle of optimism, while at the foundation lays the amorphous abyss. One of the reasons for this is the fact that image of, say: Bertrand Russell, as a paragon of humanist morality, was created by members of his class and hence does not reflect the fact that man was occasionally quite malevolent lunatic, only that he protested nuclear weapons which he formerly endorsed. However, there is a deeper reason for this. For Guenon the age of materialism proper is strictly a period from second half of the nineteen century, until the First World War; the era we in Europe call Belle Époque. And it was belle because it was a time of unbridled optimism and faith in progress on completely materialist principles; the progress that actually did happen. It was, in a word, an age of certainty. The lurking danger was perceived only by few who were willing to look behind the appearances as the prophet of Nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche. Here’s what this myzosopher saw lying in store for us, distant descendants of Gott ist Todt generation:
”(…) the ‘true’ world – an idea not good for anything anymore, even obsolete – a useless, superfluous, hence refuted, idea: let’s finally do away with it (…) So we ditched the true world: what world remains then, an illusory one perhaps? But, no! By ditching the true we discarded the illusory world as well.” 5)Nietzsche, Wie die “Wahre Welt” endlich zur Fabel Wurde
Few Nietzsche’s contemporaries could chew on this thought, but today we should know better. The age of materialism was a successful attempt to enclose the world in matter which means to deny man any knowledge of it’s original principles, save the lowest. One property of matter is precisely that it provides illusion of stability – it is that stubborn thing keeping us from doing what we want, fettering us in it’s confines, making as finite yet at the same time curiously safe. You know, there’s no ghosts, no demons, no real fears in it’s night – and deep starless night is probably the best metaphor for matteria prima. So let’s light it up with electricity and everything will gradually become fine! Well, tough luck. That won’t work. As Joseph Conrad summed it up in his Heart of Darkness (1911.), where novel’s narrator Marlowe describes last words of dying Kurtz, the man who tried to bring enlightenment to murky depths of matter by vehicle of serving as an agent of ivory trade in Congo:
„Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn’t touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror—of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:
‘The horror! The horror!’“6)Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. Planet PDF: 145-146.
Those are the final words of the epoch of materialism, the faint cry of man who is an epitome of modern Western civilization; the man that descended into jungle to light it up by electricity and ended his career by becoming local native’s deity and dying of malaria. Indeed, the horror. Because there is no escape from what Guenon calls “solidified world”. When it’s security starts to give way – when it starts to crumble or waver, like a mirage, both epistemologically and existentially, there is no use invoking the heavens for protection from shadowy shapes that start to slip in through the cracks. The heavens are closed or, to be true to form, they are infinite quantity of atoms and void. No sound can travel there. So what can a poor boy do then to, as Sigmund Freud famously advised, sing “Acheronta movebo!”. “If I can’t reach gods, I’ll try to move Underworld to pity”7)Virgil, Aeneid, VII 312: flectere si nequeo superos, A acheronta movebo
The phrase to repeat here is, obviously:
Initiation and counter-initiation Freud and his psychoanalytic movement serve as a good illustration for mysterious Guenon’s term ‘counter-initiation’. To understand what it means, we must for a moment shift our attention from cosmology and metaphysics to everyday life of what he calls “traditional society”. Namely, initiation designates the process of man becoming qualified for enacting some kind of activity. At first sight it may seem like mere apprenticeship and, in Guenon’s view, this is not far from truth provided we are talking about apprenticeship in the real craft which is in itself something we don’t really see in our day and age. Namely, traditional society is an organization of human relations nourished by permanent connectedness to what he calls “primordial tradition” or simply “Tradition”. The term must be unequivocally taken in it’s original meaning of tradere, i.e. “to pass on”, because it, most emphatically, does not mean clinging to historical past, but permanent inner relation to metaphysical Origin both of society and world itself. In this respect, Tradition is sacred in all it’s forms and the society true to It doesn’t delineate sharply between sacred and profane. Guenon is very vehement to point out that so called “traditionalism” or teachings endeavoring to preserve or, more precisely, return to previous modes of historical existence, have nothing to do with Tradition. Reason is simple. Primordial Tradition is eternal Being and not historical sediment. In such society apprenticeship is both professional and religious initiation, therefore initiation of man into his vocation through which he can actualize his own inner potentials as a participant in greater whole of society and Being in general. To be initiated into some craft – and that can be almost anything beneficial to society while observant of it’s moral and metaphysical foundation – means to be ontologically uplifted. The undersigned considers himself a member of perhaps the last generation which was still to some extent provided with the glimpse of this opportunity, only to lose it afterwards. Namely, it was still possible to discover one’s own calling and to seek out a master to initiate you in it’s proper performance. One, for instance, could still realize that school teacher or writer were not merely a jobs that anyone can perform, but callings to which appropriate people must adhere and be rigorously thought in. However, there were already no more employers who could realize that good teacher is one who, in order to teach, has to have inborn ability to read emotional states of his students and no publishers who gave a damn about the fact that proper interweaving of words and sentences presupposes a special, painful, sensibility. Both examples illustrate what Guenon means by “being qualified”. It is an activity of realizing and expressing the form. Contemporary society, on the other hand, is non-initiatory in a sense that everybody should be able to do anything. While this was perhaps not so obvious in his age, nowadays everybody is supposed to be able to change jobs in the matter of few years or even months, while methods of doing them constantly change. In previous, materialistic, era this was displayed in industrialization of work-place, and epitomized above all in Taylorism which sought to create a perfect optimization of workers as completely individualized units. The reason is of course the tendency of quantity to individualize and equalize everything, and this tendency is directly opposed to any kind of qualified individuality. While traditional craftsmen observed the rule of anonymity as a sign of elevation of individual to higher – trans-individual – principle through his activity, the modern concept of anonymity is a necessary residuum of being bereft of all qualifications and becoming the number in the sequence. This drift of any semblance of quality is recognized by materialists at the end of their tether and spawns whole bunch of “traditions” people long for or try to re-establish. For instance, the journalism – a modern profession if there ever was one – is progressively dying out and there are people who mourn it’s passing. However, true journalism is based on correct transmission of information – correct reflections of material facts – through simulation of senses, turning journalist into a mediator between the world and the public. But there are no more self-sufficient material facts. Everything that happens in postmodern world is caused by more than material agents and it’s significance on the side of public nowadays cannot be appropriated without virtualization. The reality, as Nietzsche said, is no more. There is no point in simply discovering more and more information about misdemeanors of rich and powerful to public of poor and powerless when both ends of communication channel are progressively dissolving in a quagmire of virtuality. The good journalist never discovered the truth. He merely dug up the dirt. But now the dirt is dissolving too. And this brings us to the scariest part of Guenon’s exposition, his concept of counter-initiation.
Namely, there is only one Primordial Tradition and we can find it’s origin only through adherence to it’s historical modes passed down through religious and/or metaphysical teachings of pre-modern world. The tradition of journalism is only one of the pinnacles of modernity which is now passé and it very well deserves to be passé. Society bereft of initiation cannot provide opportunity to attain to the truth, because the truth is not in matter but in Spirit, and reign of quantity passed the phase of materialism exactly to make people forget this fact. This however, awoke a strange thirst for, what now became called “spirituality”. Guenon notes that his contemporaries started hailing the end of materialism as a great awakening to truth, by appropriating the dissolution of the image of crude matter in new physics and corresponding philosophies as an advent of metaphysics. For the third time, we must repeat: “Tough luck”. The way downwards leads not to supra- but sub-physics, not to supra-naturalis but to sub-naturalis. While initiation served as an entry to a higher realm of supra-individuality, where man opens himself for, literary, touches of Heavens, now we are provided with very real opportunity of counter-initiation, i.e. opening of oneself to touches of Underworld. In this sense counter-initiation is not simply a pseudo-initiation where the real initiation is imitated to no effect but delusions, as is the case for the most part in New Age movement. It is, on the contrary, very real descent into what lies beneath the matter, the effort – and as considerably hard as real initiation – to reach the subhuman levels of spiritual existence. Guenon is vague about historical instances of counter-initiation – which, incidentally, are the objects of what we now call “conspirology” in non-pejorative sense – but indicates to, in his age budding, psychoanalytical movement. Not withstanding Freud’s appropriation of Virgilian verse about invoking the Underworld, qualification of psychoanalyst required the candidate to be analyzed himself. As the aim of this technique is precisely to descend into depths of sub-conscious and in some way deal with it’s muddy bottom, it is clear as a day that initiation into it is a kind of depersonalization or at least dissolution of waking consciousness that keeps man rooted firmly in the everyday world. However, while in mysticism – which properly presupposes an initiation into reality of one’s soul – dissolution of ‘I’ is not it’s shattering, but illuminating it from a standpoint which was hitherto not perceived but nevertheless ever present, psychoanalysis denies any higher standpoint, except as a reflection of ego. The only way open is downwards. Never mind that C.G. Jung rejected Freudian materialism. As far as Guenon is concerned, this makes matters only worse. The inhabitants of Underworld are opposite of inhabitants of Heaven. The materialism enclosed the world towards upward, and whoever is trying to get in behind appearances oblivious to this fact is heading downwards, towards the cracks opening at the bottom. This means that while world is bereft of Spirit, it is not bereft of Soul, the being able to project and imagine itself in all kinds of ways, hence being capable of delusions. It is therefore no coincidence that cracks are emerging precisely in the realm of psyche. While most of the Freud’s followers denied it’s existence, they could not escape it’s reality as to give their craft some other name. From the standpoint of Tradition, those among them who discovered something immaterial and indeed alive and conscious at it’s bottom are by far the worst.
But, as much as psychoanalysis is a good example of terrible practice, it is all old news now. The work of counter-initiation proper has a definite purpose in aping the initiation, hence bringing about counter-quality and un-form. It strives not to bereft world of Tradition and truth, but to affirm counter-Tradition and a Lie. It is the activity of subversion. In conclusion we will depict how this subversion ensues to bring about the end of the world and ends up only ending itself.
Counterfeit and The End Whether the world will go with a bang or with a whimper is a big question of modernity. T.S. Eliot’s famous sentence on “broken jaw of our lost kingdoms” and the world as “a valley of dying stars” is pretty close poetic image to what Guenon calls deviation. The existence of Tradition implies that civilization which turns away from It, necessarily deviates to a point when it begins to develop counter-Tradition, i.e. becomes consciously opposed to it’s Origin. This process is pushed forward by counter-initiation, by which Guenon means activity of producing qualifications for exercising first and foremost the mock spirituality. Intrinsic need of human soul to be illuminated by Spirit gets transformed into thirst for spiritual experience, and who ever can provide it is welcomed by the masses. This is an instance of what Guenon calls counterfeit – the being bearing closest possible resemblance to something real but inverting it’s sense and purpose, i.e. it’s essence, while retaining the appearance. So, for instance, we have a practice of experimenting with religions – some people change confessions as socks or, if the money is involved, as jobs – or striving to reach religious experience. This is counterfeit because experimental method does not proceed from principle and is essentially meant to master something – to gain control over it through understanding. However, religion expresses that which is ultimately higher and cannot be conceived in the terms of lower, as should be the case in experiment, because the experiment is a method of dealing with matter in controlled environment for the purpose of control. There is no way to control Spirit, therefore there’s no way to experience it too. Counterfeit is essentially pseudo-something, a parasite festering on a dead body of what was once a living tradition. One curios aspect of it is it’s tendency to eradicate the past existence and keep the consciousness of it’s recipients in the present. In this regard it is quite similar to a term simulacrum, only it presupposes deliberating will as it’s creator. Namely counterfeits exist in order to bring about anti-Tradition, i.e. pseudo-Spirit and pseudo-quality to the world. They are therefore fruits of inverted, but quite deliberate, spirituality endeavoring to mimic reawakening of religion and metaphysics. How would this false dawn look like is something Guenon declines to describe because he considers it imperative only to describe what will inevitably ensue afterwards. Namely, when subversion reaches the lowest point, releasing, quite literary, hell on earth, things immediately have nowhere else to go but upwards. Once the lie is absolutely realized it loses every ground because it can exist only as a parasite on the body of truth. The end of the world is simply a complete revelation of lie qua lie, therefore nothing else but a revelation of truth. Once the absolute power is reached it turns against itself, not seldom in the form of unintentional parody and satire on it’s own expense. So we can safely conjecture that the end of the world will be very much like a final joke the Devil plays on himself, a mockery of the professional mocker. One can notice this in crucial anti-Traditional move of our times – the affirmation of homosexual marriages. As the opposition to legalization of this practice intended to bring down fundamental discernment of sexes and open the flood gates for eradicating any semblance of human image handed down by Tradition is forfeit, the opponents are nevertheless left with infinite opportunities to ridicule the consequences of legalization of homo-marriages. And ridicule is picking up steam, especially unintentional self-ridicule on behalf of those promoting this part funny, part grotesque piece of social engineering. Once they can’t hide behind sporadic violence enacted by opposition they can’t help but show what they truly are, too: a tedious bunch with insidious intent, naked for everyone to see, including themselves. Exemplary counterfeit called “political correctness” that served as a tool for deluding the people into belief they are ‘humane’ and ‘just’ by approving of homosexual marriage, displays this unmistakable sign of it’s “pseudo” nature – it is essentially a parody of morality, and once it succeeds in abolishing it’s object it has nothing else to parody but itself.
But these are only some observations on the present state of affairs. The real horror is probably still on it’s way and we can safely conjecture only that it will necessary be at the same time horrible and hilarious.
Everybody knows the world is going to end yet rarely does anyone know what the world is. Rene Guenon’s explanation as to why this have to come to pass is entirely consequent: the world as we know it is a lie within a lie. The only possible end imaginable is therefore the end of the lie: dissolution of it’s counterfeits and reestablishment of order in a way we have no means to imagine in a positive way. Guenon expressed it through Hindu schema of cyclic Yugas or “Ages” of the world which express the true quality of time, i.e. time as a being with innate telos. As we are living out the end of Kali Yuga or Dark age, it’s necessary end must be the shattering of darkness at the darkest hour; a rooster’s croak in the night just before the dawn. Taking all the contemporary madness in consideration we can at least affirm one sure thing about how it’s going to sound like:
Like a hell of a laugh.
So, if we are living out the great The End, let’s give it a laugh. For, as things accelerate to freefall, in all due panic – generally masked as euphoria as well as the freefall is masked as progress – that necessary ensues, one cannot help but notice how progressively hilarious it all becomes. So, why not mock the great mockery until it dissolves into nothing from which it came? Come to think of it, when all is said and done, there is not much else left to do. Although it’s no small feat to redeem the world by laughing out it’s counterfeit at the end of it’s tether.
Anyways, if Guenon is to be believed, there really won’t be much choice. When whole cosmos realizes that emperor has no clothes … well … that’s really going to be a hell of a laugh.
So what else remains then to wish everybody a merry Apocalypse and happy new Cosmic Year.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Guenon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. Hillsdale: Sophia Perennis, 2004. 11–31, further: RQ|
|2.||↑||” Understood in this relative sense, and especially with reference to particular beings, essence and substance are in effect the same as the ‘form’ and ‘matter’ of the scholastic philosophers; but it is better to avoid the use of these latter terms because, doubtless owing to an imperfection of the Latin language in this connection, they only convey rather inaccurately the ideas they ought to express, 1 and also because they have lately become even more equivocal by reason of the quite different meaning commonly assigned to them in current speech.” RQ, 12. The other problem is that substance is also a common translation of ousia which is either pure form – as is the case with species – or composite of matter and form, as is the case with every individual being in nature. Either way, to use substance as an umbrella term for matter is highly misleading|
|3.||↑||ta kata medemian symploken legomena Aristotle, Kategoriai, 4.1b25|
|5.||↑||Nietzsche, Wie die “Wahre Welt” endlich zur Fabel Wurde|
|6.||↑||Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. Planet PDF: 145-146.|
|7.||↑||Virgil, Aeneid, VII 312: flectere si nequeo superos, A acheronta movebo|