Semi-timely Considerations: On Guenon, “Traditionalism” and the Subversive Act of Patience

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11 Responses

  1. Han Fei says:

    Very, very excellent podcast. I’ve long waited for this topic to be dealt with here.

    Somewhere during the course of your session, you defined tradition as quite simply the state of that which is present. Now this “present” may be concealed in human consciousness, the majority of humankind may be virulently opposed to it (without even knowing why), but it’s always that which is the case, regardless of time, space and human faculties. In this light, the notion that tradition can “disappear” and thus in need of reinstatement is absurd, although it is an error in thinking human beings have made since very ancient times (e.g. Wang Mang’s ill fated attempt to resurrect “true” Confucianism). If this were true, then tradition is something that emanates from the people, conceived by the collective consciousness of a tribe and ensconced by those who are in power, as opposed to something about reality that we have the capacity to discover and become attuned with.

    This is the main problem I have with the modern “counter cultural” movements on the right. The emergence of Christ on Earth was not something someone made up and it caught on like a successful software program. It was an event of cosmological significance, meaning that it pulled along with it and assumed the currents of time, events and thinking that existed before it on a chronological scale. Christ not only radically superceded existing social and traditional forms, he preceded them ontologically as well. The entire course of history of the Western World, including the development of philosophy and the emergence of an ecumenic empire was testament to this being the case. The appearance of Christ on Earth WAS that great return of the Golden Age that Evola hints about in his books. That is why when people claim to uphold neopagan traditions of “true” Europe they really have no clue at all what they’re talking about.

    The common means of communication, the etymology behind words and concepts that underscore our daily thought processes emerge as a part of a historical process by which events of significance shape the consciousness of a disparate people into the concrete substance of nations, on the basis of common speech and culture, not merely blood. Christianity is thus a foundation for language. I can’t even begin to describe how much of our understanding of terms and ideas that underlie common social interactions derives from the Christian conception of them. It is impossible to remove Christ from the legacy of the West and have anything meaningful remaining.

    I’ve read Julius Evola voraciously during my university years and I remember him having a profound influence on me at that time. Not only because of his world view being so radically different from everything I was accustomed to believe at that time, but also due to the fact that he provided me with a key to approach historic works, like Dante, Homer or the Bible, not as the products of archaic minds, long superceded by modern scientific fact based thought, but vibrantly alive, intensely relevant and indicative of the true nature of reality. That is why I still hold him as among the most significant thinkers of the 20th century.

    As I got older however, I began to have some strict reservations about the nature and sincerity of his views, many of which you echo in your podcast. I do not think his works should be dismissed lightly however – he had a tremendous knack of providing incredibly profound insights into matters that are not readily evident even to the intellectually sophisticated person. Although his style of writing is insufferably ponderous and obtuse (just like my own), he could, on frequent occasions penetrate to the crux of the matter so as to leave little doubts to the truth of his interpretation, though as mentioned earlier, he was disappointingly oblivious of certain clear implications that this contained. The Mystery of the Grail and the Doctrine of Awakening, in particular, strike me as some of the most profound and powerful texts written on the subject by a Western author. In particular, the most important thing Evola has taught me is that in order to talk about something in any serious way, one has to be something of note. This of course utterly destroys almost the entirety of modern academia, whose thinking is utterly rooted in their bourgeois and “xiaoren” (petty person) generational mindset. A scholar should not merely be a man who studies books and publishes articles, but who internally exhibits the knowledge and legacy of the ancients in his person.

    There is one thing your podcast that I take issue with, and that is the suggestion that Evola was in any way affiliated with the CIA backed right wing terrorist operations in Europe. Evola spent his post-war years as a disabled, embittered man, with a small coterie of followers, largely irrelevant and forgotten by the world outside. In fact, in the latter phase of his intellectual career, he strongly advocated for apoliteia, that is a total detachment from any kind involvement in politics, which seems to be in line with what you uphold here as well. The bottom line is that he was in no position to have influence on radical right movements of the day and any claim of his active participation in their causes strikes me as highly implausible, given his own dismissal of their use and value.

    In conclusion, I agree that using “traditionalism” for the sake of political identification makes no sense, just like “daseinism” or “entelechianism”. My previous use of this word was really just laziness on my behalf, which is why I requested an edit feature.

    I understand that I leave very long comments that are very tedious to get through and I always feel ashamed about it. But if you had the patience to read through this comment, please rest assured that I do find your work valuable enough to provide, with my extremely limited means, a slight bip to your monthly patreon earnings.

    In a future podcast I would like to see you discuss the role of the political in a Christian society as well as how a person who values traditional social forms and structures can bear living among the virtue bereft society of today.

    • Mihai Marinescu says:

      Agree with you on Evola- in the sense that he has also had a profound effect on me (I discovered him before Guenon). The problem is that his influence proved to be a mixed bag, in the end. The positive influences went hand-in-hand with some rather unpleasant ones that did cause me quite a few problems.
      Like Guenon, I highly appreciate him for the “existential” approach to symbolism as well as the clarity with which he not only explains the meaning of certain symbols, but also provides the key to understanding symbolism in general – the first half of the Hermetic Tradition is quite a jewel in this sense.

      However, his overall worldview lacks immensely and many times he’s no better than your average Blavatsky or R Steiner.
      The Mystery of the Grail is precisely such an example. Once again, He displays great erudition and good knowledge of symbolism- but his speculation on the hidden Imperial, Hyberboreean influence that would be behind this epic cycle of the Middle Ages is pure fantasy on his part.- some kind of “myth of the 20th century”, esoteric style.

      • Han Fei says:

        I agree with you that the first half of his books are generally excellent, but the conclusions he draws in the second part leave one flustered. I had that same feeling with Ride the Tiger for instance. I value his book on the Grail because it provides a crucial and to my knowledge, unprecedented approach to interpreting the medieval poets and minstrels which a lot of academics tend to sort of ignore or banally contextualize within their historical period. Cologero Salvo on gornahoor also makes extensive note of this.

  2. Paul Schutz says:

    Greetings Branko and Mihai, and thank you both very much for the quality work that Kali Tribune continues to produce. There are many things in Guénon’s writing that I find fascinating, and it has influenced me (along with Schuon) to follow a Religious path.
    I haven’t read The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times yet, but I find it interesting that he denounces “traditionalism”, which seems to be a counterfeit of what he would rightfully call Tradition. I believe in The Crisis of the Modern World, Guénon goes so far as saying that Tradition is one of the only things that can save the modern West from bringing about its own destruction. I’ve read a lot of Guénon and it’s hard for me to remember where he says what and in which book, but I’ve certainly come across the idea that Tradition is not of a human origin, but is transmitted as Revelation from a metaphysically higher (or Divine) source.
    The faculty required to receive such a Revelation is another fascinating subject for me. Guénon speaks of the “Intellect” (based on an older meaning of the word), which is a faculty in man that comprehends the transcendent. It’s described within many Traditions, being called the “Eye of the Heart” in Islam, the “Heart-Mind” in Daoism, and being that which supports “Gnosis” within the Christian Tradition. Because not everyone is alike in their capabilities with such a faculty, only specific, very gifted individuals can receive a more potent Revelation, such as those that lead to the creation of the world’s great Religions. And because pure Revelation in its essence is directly known and non-discursive, it must be translated into the associated rites, symbols, and doctrine for the benefit of initiates. These rites, symbols, and doctrines, if they are kept pure without deviating from the original Revelation, while being transmitted in an unbroken line, and having as their ultimate goal a “return to the primordial state”, comprise what Guénon calls Tradition, in one of its aspects.
    These Traditions also have both an exoteric or outer teaching, as well as an esoteric or inner teaching, which allows initiates of varying capabilities (always starting with the exoteric) to work their way up through the “knowing” of higher and higher metaphysical degrees, in accord with how much they are able to receive. For those who make it to the highest “degree”, the Traditional form must be transcended altogether in order to complete the process as the Absolute (the Godhead, Dào, Brahma, etc.) is essentially without form or limit.
    Your discussion of the modern workplace and also Mihai’s mention of the term “metier” reminds me of something I first encountered in Guénon’s Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines. On page 147, he defines the term dharma saying that it “simply denotes ‘manner of being’; it is, so to speak, the essential nature of a being, comprising the sum of its particular qualities or characteristics, and determining, by virtue of the tendencies or dispositions it implies, the manner in which this being will conduct itself, either in a general way or relation to each particular circumstance”. In Daoism, we mean the same thing by the word De (德, Te in Wade–Giles), as in Dào De Jīng or Tao Te Ching, which is the innate nature of an object or being as expressed by the Dào through that particular facet. As Daoists we strive to know ourselves, so that we may know our De, and live in harmony with it. In contrast, the modern workplace is set up in such a way for great masses who not only do not know their own true nature, but in many cases are going against it.
    It was also super interesting and enlightening to hear Mihai discussing the symbolic as well as the practical aspects of certain trades and how the work can change a person. This is very helpful and will certainly give me a new perspective from which to approach my own trade.
    I have a request for certain topics that I’d love to hear discussed on this site. I’d love to hear how you as Orthodox Christians see the different levels of the esoteric and the exoteric within your own Religion. It would also be great to hear about the metaphysical concepts that Guénon discusses in The Multiple States of the Being (The Absolute, Being, Non-Being, existence, etc.) and how they are analogous to concepts in Orthodox Christianity.
    Thanks so much again to all the people at Kali Tribune.

    • Malić says:

      Thank you for your kind words. As for esoteric/exoteric dihotomy, I don’t follow Guenon there. Only esoteric aspect of Christianity I can think of – and its quite a stretch – is being initiated deeper into one’s own inner being. But I don’t think Guenon had that in mind. Btw. I am Catholic, Mihai is Orthodox

  3. Robber Chih says:

    Thank you very much for
    A really nice conversation.

    Appropriate to the conclusion i find to mention some essays of Hans Gadamer and his theory/method of hermeneutics which, although as a student of Heidegger I’m sure is not so high on your list to peruse, may at least be relevant to where the conversation may unfold.

    Interestingly Gadamer approaches tradition through the framework of hermeneutics yet not as a methodological framework of transcendence in the Neo-Kantian sense to understand a historical text. Rather he sees tradition as a historically active or real event of the present arrived at by ‘letting’ a real conscious transformation happen by consciously meeting the text. For him, hermeneutics involved discovering the conscious “pre-judgments” which shield us from engaging a text and allowing it to act upon our present consciousness in a way that will bring the meaning to life ie to carry on or live the tradition.
    Of note this hermeneutics becomes possible when one’s narratives or ideologies have become consciously weakened, for example as M. Malìc indicates, the fall of communism or when an age has passed, it’s ideas have weakened and have not yet been replaced, ex. Modernity.

    Idk if the speakers are aware but Sufism is not acknowledged as Islam by mainline adherents today nor historically due to the importance attributed to Mary as well as Christ (who in some sufic traditions is the Anthropos, in a sense) and the symbolic cross. This has led many Sufis throughout history to be ‘martyred’ if you will forgive the term.

    I appreciate the irony of our age when Guennon and the speaker opine that the most important individual event takes place when one discovers the existence of an esoteric element to their own life. And i thank the speaker for noting a point i never cease to make to my post modern colleagues that experience of life and values has not been the same as it is now ie fairly Marxist and utilitarian.
    Indeed can we stress enough the importance of the Christian era on our own ways of being in the west, or globally for that matter? I think we cannot and i find it most perplexing that post modernists reject religion almost out of hand or accept a synthesized (as in Guennons case) version of it as a general phenomenon. We have a legacy here. And not a little one at that. As Pascal remarks (i paraphrase):
    How do people worry about their cup of coffee but not whether the soul is immortal? People are living in reverse under a bewitching of some kind.

    Perhaps it’s always been so! Carl Jung is one who appreciates the value of Christianity on the psyche of the modern European. How can you abandon your own skeleton?

    I think the myth of sisyphus by Camus is the same point made by Dotstyevsky regarding modern work. I love to draw attention to an overlooked influence on Camus of Leon Chestov. I think he is one of the most insightful philosophic writers of the 20th century simply because he can critique the faculty of reason so eloquently and furthermore establish a positive, philosophical value to revelation in relation to such. I’ve always wondered if you were familiar with his work? Metaphysics and what not although as an ‘irrationalist’ he is written off in the mainstream.

    Thank you again for such a rich discussion.

    • Malić says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I am very much aware of Lav Šestov but I am affraid you wouldn’t like what I have to say about him. There is a project I work on with no end still in sight where Šestov is put forward as an epitome of anti-intellectual modernity, especially in the sense of historical reductionism I often talk about.

  4. Robber Chih says:

    I can somewhat anticipate your critique of šestov and look forward to it.

  5. César Oncoy says:

    Por favor realicen versiones en texto de sus podcasts. Se que uds tienen muchos fans latinoamericanos y de habla hispana así como yo, los cuales, no entienden inglés, y les es más fácil traducir directamente el texto de inglés a español

    • Malić says:

      Dear Cesar,

      unfortunatelly, podcasts of this sort are completely unscripted so making a transcript would take ages to do. The podcasts with transcript added are in reality the articles I read aloud to make them available to those who have no time to read.

      However, I ll think about it and see what I can do.

  6. Jon says:

    I haven’t listened to this talk yet, but: Regarding the controversy Han Fei brings up in the first comment, concerning the alleged link between Evola and CIA-backed right-wing terrorism in Europe, what do you gentlemen make of “the baron’s” association with a secret SS-connected “Black Order” (“l’ordre noir”) that he hints about, quite cryptically, in the French-language video interview with him available on YouTube? He mentions certain French authors (conspirologists) who have written about its supposed existence, and so seems to hint that he knows from his own experience this to have a factual basis. What if he remained connected with such an underground order after the defeat of the Axis?

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