The Establishment of a Traditional Society: Priests (II)

⇐ Part I
Part III ⇒


This is the second installment from Guido De Giorgio‘s chapter on the priestly caste from La Tradizione Romana [The Roman Tradition]. He sees the process of the degeneration of the castes as beginning, not from the revolt of the Kshatriya, but rather from the failure of the Priests to fulfill their divine mission. Nevertheless, Tradition may be forgotten, but never lost, so there are always some solitary men who continue to maintain that sacred knowledge. De Giorgio moves on to the topic of faith which, he says, is necessary because a man must believe before he knows.

Therefore, they constitute the caste of the invisible ones because their continuous, untiring, hidden action is of the sacred spiritual order and is spontaneously fulfilled through the very force of the soul, the purity of their life that must be a rite, an offering, a sacrifice. We insist particularly on the character of the priestly caste to determine the modality of the hierarchic power and the efficacy of the revelatory mission entrusted to them. They are the leaders of traditional society, but invisible leaders because the sacred knowledge of which they are the depositaries is not a purely dogmatic system nor a dead body, but a living, perennial fire that they must nourish, living continuously in communion with the spirit of God, acting so that His truth is towering at its peak, in isolation from His profound virtue, in the active and effective development that only the contemplative life allows to be realized.

They are the great hermits and they descend among men, the bearers of the graces of the truth, but, even if living in the world, they are really on the outside and dominate while not dominating, act while not acting, illuminating with their light, they save with their presence, strengthen with their example. Their hierarchy and their organization, the traditional type to which they are tied, the value of the character of their mission are absolutely determined by their having freely and consciously chosen not a career, not a profession, not a job, but the way of God, that by leaving from God leads back to God, and of having chosen it not only for itself, but rather with the precise task of showing it to all. They sacrifice themselves and they sacrifice: it is reflected carefully in the value and in the immense importance of these two expressions when led back to the precision of their etymological meaning [sacrifice=make sacred]. The Priests cannot not be sacred themselves, they cannot not make sacred everything that they touch and go near because they were born for that, they were destined to that and their choice, in embracing the holy ministry, is an absolute match with the inherent possibilities of their nature.

They cannot deviate if they are truly priests, they cannot, if they deviate, not fall into the lowest abjection because they have betrayed God, they failed in their vows, and by abjuring, they contaminated themselves and men. If the value and the height of the task entrusted to the Priests is fixed and well understand, one will reach some conclusions to which the modern world, having become anti-traditional, is no longer capable of elevating itself. Let us outline one of them.

Since the Priests are the holders of sacred knowledge and constitute the insuppressible base of a truly traditional foundation, they are to secure its normality, they are to maintain the unity with their invisible spiritual hidden work and therefore are responsible for the general defection of the traditional spirit, because no one can fall if the priests themselves do not fall, no one can fail if the priests themselves do not fail, no one can be banned against the truth of God if the priests do not betray it first, no one can corrupt the world if they do not corrupt it first, abandoning their sacred mission for the concerns of the temporal order, passing from the contemplative life for which they are destined, to the active life that is not absolutely the place of the development of their activity, with falling short of their caste, their obligations, and especially the divine principles whose radiating virtue they must keep intact. How many are capable of understanding how the current state of abjection is due to the defection of the priestly caste who are responsible for it because they alone, the Priests, maintaining contact with the divine not only by means of their action over men, but above all with the constant realization and efficacy of their interior ascesis? Just as God’s strength is mysterious and invisible, so is the Priest’s occult and hidden: contemplating they act, fulfilled in God, they work in the world, sacrificing themselves they sacrifice, praying they save, although their mission is genuine and not the unholy profanation of God’s laws.

If one can with absolute certainty impute to them the state of current Europe, whatever defection of this caste, whatever decadence of humanity is not attributable to the traditional form to which they are reconnected and of which they could be the authentic representatives. Tradition is invulnerable, inviolable, unassailable, it is God’s truth and is kept intact because, even if betrayed by His ministers, He always finds those who preserve its sacred character, those who, among men not belonging to the priestly caste, become its legitimate and authorized carrier. And almost always those, priests among men, carry out their mission more dangerously than if they belonged to the officially recognized caste, because they have to fight against a profane force that tends to suppress them, that of those who have betrayed the faith, repudiated tradition, abandoning the divine for the human and the sacred for the profane: those are the false priests who are no longer such, i.e., holders of sacred knowledge. Reflect on the importance of what we say, and you will be able to understand how the solitary Ascetics, those who we will be able to call οι εξω [the outside], in all the periods of decadence of the priestly caste, have kept alive the perennial fire of tradition against the deceit, the hatred, calumny of those who failed in their mission.

The self-establishment of ascetic groups outside the priestly caste, the presence of Masters, i.e., of solitary Ascetics, in all the period of decadence is explained precisely by the abandonment of tradition by parts of those to whom its deposit was entrusted, and the necessity—of the divine order, we insist—that others seek to keep contact between man and God, purging the sacred ways of the profane dross that the false priests amassed, i.e., the most ungodly deniers of the supernatural world. Dante docet

It is necessary, to avoid misunderstanding, to insist on the nature and character of this definition, of this contamination that takes place in the ambit of the priestly caste in the periods of decadence. The divine truths that constitute the sacred body of tradition has a purely metaphysical, or transcendent, character: they are superhuman, eternal, and to approach them, it is therefore absolutely necessary to pass beyond the human condition and bring oneself with the intellect into that sphere of pure actuality where the divine reality is developed beyond the domain of Forms and Rhythms in the silence of its ineffability. Faith prepares this transition from the human to the divine, in fact, it is its essential condition, that which cannot elude anyone through the elementary analogy with so many human and contingent situations. It is necessary to believe that one knows, because one knows only by knowing that one can one know before knowing, i.e., before having acquired the wisdom and having already completed the passage from the human to the divine in order to do so that only the divine is.

Faith in whom? In God, in the Master, so say all traditions that insist on this absolutely necessary condition for the effective realization of the divine. One believes in the truth before reaching it, i.e., before being there and being it, and the intensity of faith is in direct relation with the efficacy of the achievement.

Faith is therefore the rail, the bridge, the isthmus between the human and the divine, between what man is not and what he really is when he is no longer, when he surpassed and passed over forever the human condition. But since this is the fruit of ignorance, faith is the necessary condition for the dispersal of ignorance and the reaching of wisdom.

It annuls every human limitation in man, abolishes individuality, opens all the passages of Infinite possibility, considers the chains as untied so that they are really so, it works a type of preparatory radiation of individual faculties, because one believes in things other than oneself, in the sacred text, in the hidden value of the rite, in the minister, in the master, in other words, in whatever passes beyond quotidian reality, the illusion of the world ordinarily experienced in the ambit of all sensible and rational limitations, it denies resolutely the tangible whole and affirms an invisible reality.

To have faith means to believe in what one does not yet know, one does not know, it is the most noble and desperate attempt to bring oneself face to face with the threshold of mystery and to affirm that beyond it there is an unspeakable reality, that which is revealed. Even for those who cannot pass over this threshold, it is enormously positive that they succeed in bringing themselves to the extreme limit connected to their strengths with an act of faith that leaps over error, the visible presence, the world and things, in one stroke, to genuflect in the face of the Invisible Presence, God and His Names still concealed precisely because they are absent, asserted, and believed and not known. Faith is therefore superior to any human knowledge whatsoever, to any conquering activity of the human alone, because it passes beyond it, considers it as ancillary, negligible, negotiable, even nothing in the face of the divine that it recognizes as the invisible venerable root through its invisibility, real through its apparent unreality, divine exactly because not human, not tangible, not discernible with the senses, and analyzable by reason, placed in a sphere of this the good ones, those who believe, will be able to enjoy, if it will be pleasing to God, only after the dissolution of the human compound, i.e., post mortem.

Faith works this miracle that those who cannot reach by an operational effort and aware of the threshold of the divine, attain it with the rapid and direct contact that can be fecund with greater results: compared to those who know, that are beyond the threshold, they find themselves very far, but compared to those who do not believe, to the small men of the small world, the affirmers of the minimum in the minimum and lovers of the shadows, they are in a clearly privileged position because they are distant from just as far as the spirit surpasses the flesh and intelligence surpasses imbecility.


   

16 thoughts on “The Establishment of a Traditional Society: Priests (II)

  1. Yes, the degeneration of the First Caste of contemplatives is at the origin of the regression of the castes. So if one’s true nature, function, purpose and providential destiny (completely without regard for a relative and conditioned, illusory self-will based on forgetfulness) can only be perfectly realized by giving oneself heart and soul, with all one’s might, to this path, and even still one chooses to ignore the call in order to invest one’s energies in false interests and desires, one is failing in one’s true task and responsibility and consequently a serious part of the problem. Too many who potentially (hence not actually) belong to the spiritual caste waste away their lives within profane domains at best producing bourgeois triviality, or at the very worst leading to catastrophic and demonic scientific “advances.” My advice can only be: Leave that to the fallen ones—they are many and have no need for you. IF you do in truth have the nature of a contemplative, your true path should already be mapped out clearly: The example to follow is the sages of old, not the profane functions honoured, respected and admired most highly by the modern system. How many more of us can we afford losing to such games falling short of the unworldly super-caste’s true principles and agenda? The spiritual conquerors of the contemplative life who uphold the bridge between time and Eternity are fewer with each passing year, whereas the profane classes from high to low have a never-ending supply of new recruits ready to feed the monstrous machine of modernity in whatever way. So it should be obvious enough which task is the most important one for our kind, not only in view of our own spiritual destiny, but in view of the needs of humanity as well.

    Indeed, dear De Giorgio is utterly correct regarding Faith. Even a quintessential jnanin-ascetic like Buddha Shakyamuni, founder of a tradition which is as known for its emphasis on Gnosis as any other, many times stressed the great importance of faith, and the superiority of the man possessing unswerving faith as compared to the one who doesn’t. Likewise, he listed DOUBT among the most serious obstacles to progress on the Path. In our absurdly degenerate postmodern world, doubt is not seldom glorified almost as if it were a sign of intelligence. But if one lacks the ability to have complete, unfailing and permanent faith as strong as diamond in the truths that are derived from the very Divine Wisdom of the sagely masters, prophets, and avataras, we will never have sufficient determination to go all the way and attain direct and illuminating Knowledge. As far as orthodox essential principles are concerned, starting with sacred metaphysics, there should be no room for doubt if we are serious about our sacred endeavour—such doubt is nothing but a profane weakness hindering absolute resolve on the upward path, and you hardly need complete illumination in order to attain absolute certainty as to the impossibility of every modernist, profane and materialist worldview, upon which the profanely skeptical scientist unbelief-ideology is based, when recognizing its fundamentally flawed principal assumptions. Doubt must be conquered and destroyed long before we can attain complete integral Knowledge. Without perfect faith, we cannot even begin the journey. And without perfect faith in God, in the Supreme, there is only unreality, not even a distant reflection of light.

  2. Excellent piece! Loved it! Thanks Cologero! I think De Giorgio is very clear so I don’t know why some people are confused. He never says that “Passions are superior to intellectuality” (Per Tosti) and neither does he declare the superiority of Faith over TRUE Knowledge (as claimed by Janus). He says Faith is infinitely (Guenon would object to my choice of word here) superior than any worldly (read Philosophical and Scientific) knowledge but at the same time miles away from True Knowledge (i.e. Gnosis). That’s what he says, and it’s all clear.

    I really loved the passage where he lays the blame for degeneration on the Priestly caste. That’s a simple fact and needs to be acknowledged. Just as blaming women for Feminism is completely inaccurate: For it is the duty of the Best to insure everything is according to Order (and where the teaching is different, there the Best is lacking!

  3. That answers it. I will look into St John Climacos to see if I can clarify my mind on the matter. Thank you.

  4. David, the rephrasing of the question is better since a response can be split. First of all, there is the question of the possibility of “perfect knowledge” or union with God. To that the answer is “yes”, since what the Intellect knows is ideas or possibilities. That possibility has been described over and over, as there is no shortage of literature. Here on Gornahoor, we try to summarize that literature and re-express it contemporary terms.

    Nevertheless, that does not conclude the story, since what you are interested in is the “actuality” of the union (theosis), i.e., its realization, not merely its possibility. But that is a question for the Will, not solely the Intellect. Apart from the various claims, there is no scientific way to determine someone’s “state of realization”. We have the testimony of St John Climacos who says in his Ladder of Divine Ascent that theosis is not complete in this life. So perhaps your opinion is aligned with his. Even De Giorgio admits that the steps on the ladder are infinite, so a finite life cannot achieve it.

    However, if you are called on that path, that is no excuse to not begin. St Mark the Ascetic in the Philokalia mentions three great enemies:

    1. Ignorance
    2. Forgetfulness
    3. Sloth

    Ignorance is the fist thing to overcome, and obviously Gornahoor readers probably have subdues, or are subduing, that enemy, if they refer to the text we write about. We have addressed the topic of forgetfulness over and over. Never forget who you are, why you were born, what you need to accomplish, what your real life is. For the several hundred daily readers here, we hope, if nothing else, to be their reminders to stay on track, although there are many other resources. Of course, most humans prefer to drink from Lethe, the river in Hell that causes them to forget.

    The third enemy is sloth, and in that regard everyone is on his own. No matter how much you know, you cannot expect George to do it for you. So you will never really know what is possible unless and until the right efforts are made.

  5. Well, it might help to remember that this unity is in many ways a process of realization of a reality which already is. “Thou art That”…the singularity of Atman and Brahman. The true Self is the Atman realizing its manifestation and source of being. Thus, a complete awakening, difficult as this might be, should constitute a unity that is total and conscious, and that seems to be whole instead of partial.

  6. My question can be rephrased : how can we attain perfect knowledge if not for perfect being, that is, God, while still here, in the temporal and therefore imperfect realm (on a dualistic gnostic view, or a monistic one) ? I’m just trying to understand, thank you. To me, union with God can be but partial. Or maybe I’m mistaken ?

  7. Not specifically human knowledge about the divine (if there can even be such a thing), but in general. Human knowledge is never more than opinion or a likely story. It does not survive death, as De Giorgio points out, whereas faith certainly does.

  8. This is the passage:

    “Faith is therefore superior to any human knowledge whatsoever, to any conquering activity of the human alone, because it passes beyond it, considers it as ancillary, negligible, negotiable, even nothing in the face of the divine that it recognizes as the invisible venerable root through its invisibility, real through its apparent unreality, divine exactly because not human, not tangible, not discernible with the senses, and analyzable by reason, placed in a sphere of this the good ones, those who believe, will be able to enjoy, if it will be pleasing to God, only after the dissolution of the human compound, i.e., post mortem.”

    Perhaps I’m not understanding it correctly. Is he saying here that faith is superior to human knowledge in terms of “merely human” ideas about the Divine (it might be useful here to think of the Orthodox doctrine that all human attempts to describe God, while they may be good enough for Man, are ultimately lacking)? I doubt he means the higher Knowledge of gnosis, as that contradicts the passage you mentioned and your point about union and perfect knowledge. The passage you mentioned says what I would have expected, that gnosis is greater than faith, which itself is greater than ignorance.

  9. Janus, please show me where you think De Giorgio says that faith is superior to knowledge … it means I need to make the translation clearer. Here is a quote I have in mind, which says the opposite of the impression you have:

    Faith works this miracle that those who cannot reach by an operational effort and aware of the threshold of the divine, attain it with the rapid and direct contact that can be fecund with greater results: compared to those who know, that are beyond the threshold, they find themselves very far, but compared to those who do not believe, to the small men of the small world, the affirmers of the minimum in the minimum and lovers of the shadows, they are in a clearly privileged position because they are distant from just as far as the spirit surpasses the flesh and intelligence surpasses imbecility.

    Specifically, compared to those who know, that are beyond the threshold, they find themselves very far means those who believe are far from those who know, but those who believe are superior to those who neither know nor believe.

    As for your other question, let’s wait until I get the final part up which addresses some of those issues.

    David, perfect knowledge is perfect union as you point out. But I don’t understand the other point: where there is knowledge, there is no need for faith.

  10. @Janus : I cannot answer for De Giorgio, but I don’t think we can ever attain perfect knowledge of Reality without being in perfect union with Reality, i.e. God. That is, faith will always be there, because there will always be knowledge. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

  11. I can see what de Giorgio is saying when he speaks about the central importance of faith. However, I don’t understand how he can say that faith is superior to knowledge. He begins by saying (as I understand it) that faith is good because it allows the one without knowledge as yet to move forward in the path, giving him strength and courage. But surely that means that, when knowledge is attained, then faith has fulfilled its purpose? And this seems to imply that knowledge of that which faith led us to pursue is superior, though no less essential, than faith itself.

    It also makes me wonder how many priests or ascetics need to arise before a turning of orders can begin. Surely there are some left in Europe, in the old monasteries or as hermits who fulfill this role. But apparently, these few have not prevented the decline, any more than did the Russian hermits in the early 20th century before Bolshevism. Does that mean there was a decline or betrayal among these priests? Who knows…but apparently this function must be fulfilled in a specific function or grow to a certain size before its affects are more generally recognizable. Perhaps this is the distinction between Ascetic and Priests proper? “Lord, if there is but one righteous man in the city…?”

  12. Perhaps it was just the general tone. That may be subjective on my part..my Anglo-saxon temperment.

  13. I don’t see where he is saying anything of a sentimental nature or advocating the “passions” as somehow superior to intellectuality. On the contrary he writes:

    Above all, great detachment is necessary, strict intellectuality, the absolute absence of that pseudo-mysticism so much in style at the present time where spirituality and sentimentality are equivalent, where enthusiasm and faith are placed on the same level, where the darkest and murkiest impulsiveness is believed to be an expression of strength, where the external is not only excessive, but tends to destroy the internal, where agenda kills true development, where finally all that is inferior and illegitimate is affirmed with an immodesty which the world has never known before now, even in the most acute periods of decadence.

    The unassailable “reference point” would be the “truths of God” or Traditional teachings; that is the standard to judge by.

  14. As was intimated in your earlier posting passion is clearly evident. Can this passional orientation lead one astray? You are privy to the full work, as yet unpresented so we will have to wait and see but a question arises in dealing with a pure faith as mentioned with regard to the solitary ascetics: are we to assume that Evola’s concept of Initiation is superior to Guenon’s? Will we assume that a solitary ascetic(whose practice may reflect either the exterior or the interior-without the discernment of a traditional caste we can never know) can preserve Tradition without any other reference? How are we to make a determination. And is it possible that there has been a continuity so subtle that those of the second function will have difficulty determining its existence in an extant structure without the help of the first function(who may be already embedded within such an expression)?

  15. I suspect he sees himself this way, as he described:

    Reflect on the importance of what we say, and you will be able to understand how the solitary Ascetics, those who we will be able to call οι εξω [the outside], in all the periods of decadence of the priestly caste, have kept alive the perennial fire of tradition against the deceit, the hatred, calumny of those who failed in their mission.

    Certainly, he understands the nature of the priestly caste. When we get to the warrior caste, we will see that he describes them in terms very much like Evola. However, Evola was tone deaf to the contemplative caste and never understood it or its true role. That is why he saw the Ascetic and the Warrior on the same level. De Giorgio, on the other hand, will make their real relationship very clear.

  16. This is an immensely penetrating article – I can see why Guenon regarded him as a peer. It’s interesting that, like Kukai (the Japanese master), he places those of “faith” far above the secularists and agnostics, as pilgrims on the ladder up to heaven who have begun the ascent, which will bear fruit in time, or out of it. Did Giorgio consider himself part of the priest caste?

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