Esoterism and Christian Mysticism (4)

This is part 4 of 5 of an essay originally published by EA, or Julius Evola, under the title “Esoterismo e Mistica Cristiana” from the third volume of Introduction to Magic. Here he discusses the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the tollhouses after death and the many correspondences between early Christianity and the mystery cults.

Part 3   Part 5 ⇒

According to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the fundamental phases of Christian mysticism were the purgative, illuminative, and the unitive ways, a schema that in form can be also counted in the setting of the initiatic way. As a reality, however, things were quite different. Therefore, concerning the first phase, Guenon’s comment is absolutely correct, when he points out the confusion due to the use of the terms “union” and “unitive way” by mystics.

This union does not have the same meaning as Yoga or its equivalents, so that there is only a wholly outward similarity. It is not illegitimate to use the same word, because even in current language, one speaks of union between beings in many different cases where there is obviously no degree of identification between them, but it is necessary only to take the greatest care not to confuse different things under the pretense that a single word is used to designate them both.[1]

Moreover, the frequency of the use of the symbolism of matrimony for the mystical union is significant. It does not mean a unity that maintains the distinction that occurs in uniting a man and a woman, in the same way that the relationship of an “I” and a “Thou” exists in prayer, even in its highest levels. Only by analogy can one speak of a cognitio Dei experimentalis—experiential knowledge of God—in Christian mysticism. A condition of “eccentricity” (in the sense of non-centrality) is essential, almost without exception. That, moreover, is indicated by the term “ecstasy” which means “to go out from oneself”. Initiatically, it is more about the opposite, i.e., of a coming back into oneself, of making oneself “central”, through which someone correctly spoke of enstasy, instead of “ecstasy” for the states of Yoga.

The phase of the illuminative way could induced by putting it in relation with the effects of the gifts of the intellect of the Holy Spirit that are six [sic] in the Thomist conception:  to be able to discover

  1. the substance behind accidents;
  2. the inner meaning behind the words of sacred texts;
  3. the truth behind the symbol;
  4. the spiritual reality behind the sensible types, i.e., behind the phenomena which appear to common experience, and consequently also the hidden effects of a cause and the hidden cause of specific effects. [Joret, Op. cit., p 274]

Formally, it would be a question of powers of an effectively initiatic character, connected more or less to “intellectual intuition”. But it suffices to read the same examples made by St Thomas in order to see that there is none of that, or rather that is does not go beyond a theoretic framework.

Concerning the purgative way, again with the goal of indicating the reflections of initiatic views, let us reproduce this citation:

Many writers of Christian antiquity affirm that the souls, when leaving this world, must pass through various tollhouses of the demons of the aerial region. They examine the soul to see if they can find something in it that belongs to them … The soul is not able to continue its voyage before it has been purified from all its dross. At the same time, beyond purification, the soul is also instructed by good angels in every divine science, so that it is capable of understanding the Mysteries of God. This whole process of purification and instruction is repeated until the soul has arrived at perfect purity and the fullness of knowledge. [This gradual purification after death] generally is no longer admitted [by Catholic theologians] in all its particulars. It was however practical to the anticipation of our asceticism that is confirmed in the life of prayer, and in such applications, the aforementioned doctrine expresses some absolutely indisputable truth. [AC, 128-129]

Now, in all that, the reflection of the mystery doctrine is quite visible, such as the Mithraic, with the passage through the septenary or planetary hierarchy, which does not have to do with the world of prayer, but with that of initiation, in which, as the same “purifications”, were often distinguished by exactly seven grades.

Other “residues” not lacking interest are the views that, in the ancient Christian writings, were about the restoration of the Adamic state, understood as before the goal of Christian regeneration, because in patristics they insist exactly on the continuity on the fact that one must achieve the perfection characteristic of the primordial state, by embarking on the search for the lost terrestrial paradise. It was the ancient Christian idea, maintained moreover up until the 16th century, that this place, from which our first parents were driven away, still exists, in a higher region, inaccessible to men, unless they are helped by exceptional divine grace, as would have been the case for Elijah, Enoch, and even Saint Paul (II Cor 12:1-5). This inaccessibility was expressed with the symbolism of desolate and impassable places, equivalent to that of the angel on watch with his flaming sword or a fire zone that encircles paradise. That copies the initiatic doctrine of the “center” in its relation with the primordial state: always present from the metaphysical point of view. And the symbolism of passing through the wall of fire is not different from that of baptism of fire, referring in that way also to the theme of Hercules who achieved immortality (he ascends Olympus to marry Hebe, the perennial youth) only after the fire consumed his human nature on Mount Oeta: a theme that refers to still many others of initiatic origin, e.g., that of a virgin enclosed in a circle of fire, who will belong to whoever can pass through it without perishing. Obviously, in projecting it to an afterlife, the Catholic conception of “purgatory” reflects the most general theme of purification.[2] Moreover, there is also an allusion to the initiatic idea that paradise and the kingdom of Heaven represent two distinct “places”.[3]

In the ancient Christian views, there was always a mingling also with magic, when, once admitted that the adamic state can be re-achieved through the other levels of mystical contemplation, they indicate the prerogatives of that state. The first is the gift of knowledge, or gnosis–through which the fact is recalled that Adam had given the animals “their names”—the name, according to the ancient conception, expressing the very existence of a thing or a being. In relation to that, St. Thomas also writes:

This rectitude of man in his original and divine institution consisted in the fact that the lower part of his being was subjugated to the higher part and this was not obstructed by the other. Therefore the first man did not find in exterior things an obstacle to pure and steady contemplation of intelligible effects, perceived by means of an irradiation of the first truth. [TM, 89]

That, however, is also related to the second gift, which is apatheia in the most general sense of being undisturbed in respect to passion, of not being preoccupied by impulses, and of a natural sovereignty over instincts.[4]

[1] Guenon, Rene: Direct contemplation and reflected contemplation, from “Initiation and Spiritual Realization”.

[2] It is said: Only who is purified through fire can enter paradise. St. Ambrose (In Ps. 118, serm. XX,12)

[3] TM, 25-6. Where this passage from St. Ambrose is cited: ‘Paradise is a permanent region of heaven, but it is, so to speak, the ground floor of the kingdom, the foundation on which the kingdom of heavens properly called is constructed at the summit; it is the lower region of the invisible heaven, from which the elect, each according to his own merits, will ascend sooner or later toward the different higher regions or heavens.” In Christian terms, the distinction is also expressed by saying that the grace of Christ is superior to the grace of Adam and leads to a perfection that is beyond the ordinary paradisiac state.

[4] St Augustine’s (De civ. Dei, XIV, 15) view is of interest, according to which at the very point in which the soul separated from the divine world, the body ceased in its turn to be subject to the soul and to obey it, and came under the state of passivity defined by concupiscence.

41 thoughts on “Esoterism and Christian Mysticism (4)

  1. In answer to your question about whether I practice any particular religion, I will have to abstain from answering, mainly because I would need to qualify my response with too much information, some of it not really suitable for ‘public consumption’.

  2. Just a quick self-correction of a mistake in my statement above, for the sake of posterity:

    “The ‘impersonal’ Absolute, taken as the Infinite itself, or looking only at its reflection in the indefinite potential of formality that is Being…”

    ‘Being’ is actually the principle of universal manifestation, which includes formal AND non-formal possibilities, which is to say individual and supra-individual states. So the latter part of the above sentence should say “…the indefinite potential of manifestation that is Being…”.

  3. I’d like to round out my participation in this discussion with a final comment, since, ironically, I am prone to becoming mired in discursive reasoning.

    If I understand your position properly, there are a couple of important points (and please correct me if I’m wrong):

    1. Any God that can be deduced to exist through natural reason is different from the God of Revelation in decisive ways, perhaps most decisively in being a ‘that’ and not a ‘who’.

    2. Since natural reason is a reflection of the Logos, all true reasoning begins with Christ, even when this is not explicitly understood by the reasoner.

    These are axiomatic points, and I would not attempt to disagree. The teaching under discussion, properly understood, is in agreement with them as well. The teaching was formulated in a context where Protestants, and modernists within the Church, were attempting to disconnect Faith from reason, making of them two separate worlds with two separate truths. In addition, the philosophy of phenomenalism – incipient even in Hume and Kant – was attempting entirely to discredit the ability of natural reason to arrive at any certain conclusions whatsoever. In the face of that, the teaching affirms the inherent nobility and power of natural reason (as a reflection of the Logos), and its contiguity with Faith and Revelation. In no way does it suggest that Faith and Revelation are unnecessary to anybody, be they lofty philosopher or humble worker.

    Thanks V.O., I hope the exchange was useful.

  4. Hello Matt, thank you for your response.

    the basic doctrinal thesis is this and i apologize if i dont phrase it acutely: Personal God must be a revealed God; the personal God cannot be arrived through only reason, that is, without revelation, because this presupposes that God has not revealed himself as person, which therefore means that he is not a personal God. The personal God is the God who in his agape to the world reveals himself to the world, one cannot rationally conclude this personal aspect of God without God “giving” himself personally: And Christ precisely is the revelation of the personal God.

    Now, the point that one can arrive at the personal God, insofar as part of the person of God is also as you phrase it “analogous to our intellect”, would render revelation superfluous, or rather, revelation would only be germane for those who did not rationally arrive at God. This once again trivializes revelation, and creates a hiearchy of sorts of ways to arrive at God, as though the philosopher is more entitled to God than the drug addict who needs revelation because of his “inferior” being. That the philosopher does not need revelation in the Christian context is equivalent to stating that the philosopher does not need Christ to arrive at God and this is therefore not Christianity in any Orthodox sense. Such an arrival at God through reason reduces revelation to a “mode of being”, reducing it to a way of being, when the apophaticity of God and the non-worldliness of revelation is this very irreducibility of God to being or the world. (in short apophaticity is misunderstood if it only considered as an epistemological claim about God).

    The question about what happens with those souls before Christ or during the time of Christ is a particular linear way of looking at the revelation of Christ, essentially historicizing this revelation – into a before or after – when the latter is more fundamentally eternal than historical, insofar as Christ as the New Adam transforms the entire world, which means that it a fortiori transforms the time of the world. This before and after of time is defined by death and finitude, which Christ annuls. Human beings can even get a sense of this failure of linear time, in so far as an event that happened 100 years ago or something in the future can have more influence on your life than something that happened now; This was Heidegger’s philosophical critique of linear time.

    The way the revelation of Christ transforms time is consistent wtih the eternal absolute of Christ, viz., the non-temporality of God; what happens to these souls is part of the eschatological mystery, which cannot be doctrinally formulated because “no one knows the hour”, whereas the very question of what happens to these “historicized” souls, viz., the soul is posited “historically”, is also the worldly way of looking at this eschatology.

  5. “But the personal God can only begin from the revelation of the personal God by definition, i.e, that there is Christ.”

    I think it’s important to be clear on what is meant by the personal God – what personal is referring to. If it is the definition given by the classical theist tradition (as opposed to theistic personalism) – that there is something of God that is analogous to the intellect and will within us – then God conceived as such can indeed begin from natural reason. If it could not, pre-Christian thinkers, as well as thinkers alive during the arrival of Christianity who had no prior contact with the religious tradition, would have no such concept, but in fact various thinkers under those two categories did conceive of God in that way. So the question arises, if natural reason is incapable of this, did these thinkers also experience a revelation?

    Hopefully I haven’t mischaracterised what you were trying to get at V.O.

  6. Thank you Graham for your response.

    The problem if we cite scripture for one side or the other, without reference to the tradition of the Church Fathers and how they interpreted scripture, is that we then descend into a protestant hermeneutics. So in my comment, I tried to articulate the Orthodox position.

    “But I think it’s plain that conceptions of God arrived at by natural reason, and which are in keeping with the intellectual humility that natural reason itself urges upon us, leave open the possibility of Christ, while remaining certain that the God of Love does exist.”

    This natural reason still has to begin from the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Someone thinks about Christ in this rational way, and then it somehow makes “sense” according to the particular normativities of reason – for example, Seraphim Rose i believe, one of these former spiritual tourists, also rejected Buddhism and came into Orthodoxy, because the former did not have a concept of a personal God. But the personal God can only begin from the revelation of the personal God by definition, i.e., that there is Christ.

    This is an example of reason once again functioning as a defence of Orthodoxy, the latter becoming all the more clear as eternal and absolute within the world.

    Perhaps this is the same type of conflation active in a misconception of revelation – could one not argue that revelation is also consistent with rationality in its positivist and scientific forms, in so far as revelation could then be reduced to an empirical event within the world – i.e., revelation becomes true becuase it is empirically true? But this is only one dimension of revelation, its inferior aspect as it were, because fundamental to revelation is its transgression of the logic of the world, rationality, empiricism, etc. Revelation in other words annuls one’s “faith” in the latter series and then displaces it into the heart of the revelation itself.

    One either accepts Christ as God or not – for the Christian, there’s no in-between. And even this is a false dichotomy becuase only one side is and can be absolute. Such an absolutism is of course unacceptable for the modern world and is for them the highest form of primitivism. Yet Christ was rejected in his life and will be rejected a million times more. Trying to preserve the “choice” of whether to accept Christ or not is an example of the gnomic will; the natural will is the acceptance that transforms the world, and is the pure freedom of the pilgrim walking aruond with only his salt and his bread in this new open universe, all the mundane institutions having collapsed before him.

    How one comes to this acceptance, for example, through some type of sadness or misery or rational elimination of other religion’s “inferiority”**** still does not mean that this “initial” step determines “the way, the truth and the life” of Christ, but rather the opposite: the illusions of the world dissolve – the world anyway decomposes on its own, since it is not the absolute – and what is left is the truth of Christ that was revealed to this same world but also transcended it. Without seeing this revelation amidst this dissolution, there is only such dissolution, which is nihilism.

    ****and i mentioned this in a previous comment, but this seems especially an affront to the intellectual and elistist inclination of some traditionalist writers, i.e., that someone who is simply sad can come to God, without any intellectual labour -: this is, for “intellecutalism” the scandal of Christianity, but this is the way of the Cross itself, a total sadness, Akra Tapeinosis Christ the man of sorrow))

  7. You apparently misunderstood many things I said.

    When I called out some of Guenon’s tendencies towards generalizations and simplistic solutions I did not refer to his exposition of the Vedanta or of Oriental metaphysics in general, which I believe are the best expositions ever made for the Western world.

    What I did call into question was his pretense that every spiritual tradition either must conform to the view of these doctrines regarding ultimate realities, and that if they do not they are simply cast aside as “exoteric”. Such is a gross over-simplification since even within the confines of the Hindu Vedanta, there are views which differ from that of the school of Shankaracharya, whom Guenon and his emulators follow.
    So I discover systems not in the Vedanta as such, but in Guenon’s pretense of trying to make of the Vedanta (actually of Shankara’s view of the Vedanta) the procroustean bed in which everything must fit.

    As a further proof to what I mean by this tendency to over-generalizations see Introduction to the study of Hindu doctrines, where everything partaking to the Western world, from platonism to Christianity, is relegated to a mere curiosity, sometimes closer, sometimes further away from Oriental thought, the only place one can find “real intellectuality”. In any case, all the West has done can be no more than a footnote to what the Orientals did for a long time.

    The same point can be made regarding some passages from East and West.

    I will end this discussion here, because there is really little point in going over and over again over the same points.
    But I really want to ask you, since for my part, you know my stance, or religious “affiliation”, that is of course if you are willing to share this information with me: do you practice any particular religion/tradition ?

    Also, I apologize if my tone has offended anyone. My phrases always tend to come out harsher and more polemical than I intend them to be.

  8. “Pure rational path to God denies this.”

    In a nutshell, this is the misunderstanding I spoke of. The point of the teaching is that natural reason can bring us to the doors of the Church, not that it can reveal everything the Church contains.

    “The thesis that “one could deduce God from the creation” is problematic for various reasons”

    Is that so? St. Paul, speaking of heathens:

    “God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.”

    And this must be, otherwise judgment would be unjust.

    “hypothetical postulations of rational deduction without Christ by definition reject that Christ is God”

    I disagree that this is so by definition. Proud and overreaching systematizations will do this. But I think it’s plain that conceptions of God arrived at by natural reason, and which are in keeping with the intellectual humility that natural reason itself urges upon us, leave open the possibility of Christ, while remaining certain that the God of Love does exist.

  9. Graham I will continue your theme from an Orthodox perspective:

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

    Pure rational path to God denies this.

    And this denial also fails on rational grounds. The thesis that “one could deduce God from the creation” is problematic for various reasons:

    1) What one would be deducing is the impersonal God, not the personal God – but the “impersonal” God here would be Godhead itself, and that cannot be grasped through reason, without, as the Fathers note, making God an object of knowledge. That the human can objectify God is antichrist. Rather the personal God is – what is to a degree made known to humans through the hypostasis of Christ. The only God the Christian knows is the personal God expressed in the mystery of the hypostatic trinity.

    2) Revelation would, as it were now, be merely supplemental to human reason, completing human existence, instead of revelation informing human existence itself. God in this sense would be something which merely fills the lack within human existence. God is the absolute, namely, not that which “seals” a privation in human existence, but creates human existence itself.

    3) To say that one could deduce the existence of God without revelation perhaps infers a hypothetical situation, where there is no Christ – i.e., the question becomes: could one then logically conclude from nature without Christ that there is God? But here one is denying Christ, the word made flesh, the eternal hypostasis of the Son. Its a rational game based on a hypothetical situation where there is no Christ – this is therefore by definition not Christianity.

    The Church Fathers state that one starts from revelation, faith, Christ. Christianity cannot start from reason, but only from Christ.

    Such emphasis on rationality is most explicity formualted in the following contentious statement from the First Vatican Council, i.e., the Roman doctrinal formulation that is the corollary of centuries of scholatiscism:

    “that God, the first cause (principium) and last end of all things, can, from created things, be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason ”

    This is problematic because of the very objections made above, which can be summarized as follows: such a statement denies the beginning of human thought, human existence from Christ. This is incoherent from Christian perspective, or in other words, an example of non-Christian luciferian knowledge of God over love.

    The Orthodox patristic position is that one starts from Christ, and reason is only the wholly worldly inter-human defence of Orthodoxy. The numbered examples given above are proseuctions of such rational defence of Orthodoxy. Christ is eternal; hypothetical postulations of rational deduction without Christ by definition reject that Christ is God.

  10. “I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world…”

    “Actually I regard the exasperating rationalism of Catholicism, which began with medieval scholastics and of which the above statement is typical, as the beginning of the degeneration of the West that eventually opened the way to the modern world.”

    Most of the discussion is over my head, but I’d like to offer a clarification here, because I think there is a misunderstanding. This is a completely traditional teaching which has nothing to do with rationalism, and everything to do with the ‘natural theology’ that was practiced even among the Fathers of the Church. It does not suggest that the higher things of God, such as the mystery of the Trinity, can be known with certainty through natural reason. What it means is that the existence of ‘the God of the Philosophers’, the supreme cause, the unmoved mover, the Good, and other formulations, can be known certainly to exist through deductive and inductive reasoning. The idea can be understood in conjunction with St. Severinus Boethius: “For this power, whatever it is, through which creation remains in existence and in motion, I use the word which all people use, namely God.”

  11. Well, I am certainly not going to tell those who find value in this school of thought to abandon their learning simply because they practice a religion; to desire studying Perennialism is reason enough on its own.

    Thank you all for sharing your reasons and thoughts.

  12. “Traditionalism, however, should be criticized precisely becuase of what appears to be its initiatic fetishism, as made explicit in Guenon and Evola. The image of sinister men in cloaks in darkened basements – the esoteric is seductive to these writers….”

    There are legitimate critiques to be offered with respect to Guenon’s and Evola’s writings, but I don’t think fetishizing the intitiaic is one of them – nor is it a fair critique of the traditionalist writers. I seriously doubt Coomaramswamy, Gunenon, Schuon, Evola (even he)etc. had the image of a satanic black mass in mind when they spoke of the process of initiation.

    But I do think that is a legitimate obversation with respect to the various neo-trad followers of some of these writers.

  13. Mihai, is your main objection then to theories of non-dualism? How can this be a problem when even Orthodox Christianity believes in a single God, which is the only principle necessary to deduce non-dualism? Either God is one and therefore ultimately everything, or He is not. Does anyone else have trouble with this formulation? Your observations about Catholicism and the West may be on point, and I should probably learn more about Orthodoxy Xianity; yet I could never dismiss the utility of reason in matters divine to a great extent, even if only to preserve Boethius’s consolation at the hands of Philosophy.

    I disagree that the critique of modernity by the Perennialists was totally divorced from the vivifying influence of Eastern metaphysical doctrines, including non-dualism and suprahuman perspectives. Those who can discern their influence will see.

    As for my explanation of the assimilability of Christianity, and all orthodox traditions, into non-dualism, the only thing one really need know is whether a tradition can be considered properly monotheistic. The rest is derived from this as an ultimate consequence. Where God is one, that which is non-God is illusory, hence there is no true dualism. See my first paragraph. None of this should be taken to impose non-dualism on anyone who does not wish it – there is no question of uniformity of outcomes here.

    So, frankly, you were never above all forms, you merely thought you were, and have now found a home in Christianity, taking inspiration from Perennialism. This is good for you, and cause for joy. Once more I remind all concerned that there is no mutual exclusiveness between a tradition like Christianity, understood to its fullest extent, and pure metaphysics of the Vedantic type; see Santiago’s comments.

    If you find expositions of pure metaphysical doctrine to be “simplistic generalisations”, you are either a man of formidable genius, or (more likely) you approached such works without the requisite inner formation and ‘depth’ that is necessary to gain something more than the impression of a ‘dead letter’.

    To support my previous paragraph, lest I appear unkind, and to counter some of your earlier dismissals of Guenon, I will quote from the Preface of his ‘Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta’, where he quite explicitly deals with a mentality such as yours, apparently somewhat typical:

    “As for an exposition of the entire [Vedantic] doctrine, such a thing would be a sheer impossibility; either it would involve an interminable labor, or it would require to be put in so synthetic a form as to be quite incomprehensible to Western readers. Moreover, in a work of that sort, it would be extremely difficult to avoid an appearance of systematization which is incompatible with the most essential characteristics of the metaphysical doctrines; doubtless, this would amount to no more than an appearance, but nonetheless it would inevitably be productive of extremely serious errors, all the more so since Western people, by reason of their mental habits, are only too prone to discover ‘systems’ even where none exist.”

    Below you wrote that your main objection to Guenon was his “tendency to systematization”. Perhaps you are discovering systems where none exist, because you are attempting to make sense of that which to you is only a collection of textual abstractions.

    “For understanding doctrines such as those we are expounding here, a study undertaken merely ‘from the outside’ is of no avail; as we have already remarked, it is not a question of history or philology or literature; and we will add, at the risk of repeating ourselves to a degree which some may consider fastidious, it is not a question of philosophy either.”

    Words alone are intellectual preparation at best.

    “From the preceding remarks it should also be clear that the doctrines we propose to discuss refuse to lend themselves, owing to their very nature, to any attempt at ‘popularization’; it would be foolish to try ‘to bring within everybody’s reach’ – to use a common phrase of our time – conceptions which can only come within the grasp of an elite, and to attempt to do so would be the surest way of distorting them.”

    Let those who do not grasp them therefore mind their judgement, neither distorting nor slandering the doctrines.

  14. Since this conversation appears to be developing towards the question of the relation between revelation, doctrine, and man, “The Way of the Pilgrim” I think best phrased what this relation (and perhaps also applicable to for example, the relation of Qu’ran, hadith, and the Muslim, etc.,); at once, it abrogates all sola scriptura, in its protestant and other forms :

    “The sun is the greatest, the most resplendent, and the most
    wonderful of heavenly luminaries, but you cannot contemplate and examine it simply with unprotected eyes. You have to use a piece of artificial glass that is many millions of times smaller and darker than the sun. But through this little piece of glass you can examine the magnificent monarch of stars, delight in it, and endure its fiery rays. Holy Scripture also is a dazzling sun, and this book, The Philokalia, is the piece of glass which we use to enable us to contemplate the sun in its imperial splendor.”

  15. Santiago – I understand your remark, and “innovation” was a poor choice of words on my part, since in revelation what is of course at stake is the eternal. As you aptly pointed out, the conceptual language in this case is the attempt for the finite creation to contemplate the revelation, which is beyond it.

    The “language” argument in this case is a weak argument, since the differences in language is merely a symptom of that which is more fundamental regarding the existence of man, i.e., finitude of the creation. Yet at once the assertion of a common conceptual language across revelations (i.e., the method of comparative religion) does not speak to this fact of the finite creation, but instead, in a sense, completely denies it through the attempt to syncretically collapse the revelatory experiences of man into themselves.

    This is not to suggest a total relativism, but rather to defend Orthodoxy in terms of how the interpretation of revelation unfolds during the eschatological life of man. This reality of the cacophony of interpretations does not negate the reality of Orthodoxy, as only the latter is committed to the absolute.

  16. August: thank you for your response.
    I will again refer to the absence of a doctrinal formulation of eschatology in the history of the Church as decisive for an interest in traditionalism: whereas this absence itself indicates the Church’s acknowledgement of the limitations of the creation, it does of course not mean that the Christian has no concern with eschatology, nor that theologians have had no concern with eschatology, in so far as what is at stake in eschatologiy is the very salvation of the soul, viz., theosis.

    The finite creation exists, of course, in the world and the rejection of the world here does not mean a unilateral rejection. Only God can in the last instance “eschatologically” prosecute this unilateral rejection. The example of Christ shows a rejection of the world but at once a cognizance of the world

    To suggest that the particular tradition offers everything that one needs, and that this therefore disqualifies the engagement with everything that is outside of doctrine is a denial of how the finite creation itself lives; the absolute anchorite surrounded by grasshoppers and wolves is surrounded by the same lack of doctrinal knowledge as the Christian who lives amidst the unfortunate nihlist narcoman.

    To be interested in traditionalism is, in this sense, to be interested in various forms of human historical revelation, whatever their accuracies, – i.e., to be interested in how the history of humanity has conceived their relation to the Absolute. This is an interest in cosmos and beyond cosmos and is therefore profoundly human and also non-human at once. Yet to be interested in traditionalism clearly does not mean that one has to accept traditionialism, just like if one is a proponent of M-theory, one can nevertheless read papers about other variations of string theory and learn from them without accpeting them.

    Traditionalism, however, should be criticized precisely becuase of what appears to be its initiatic fetishism, as made explicit in Guenon and Evola. The image of sinister men in cloaks in darkened basements – the esoteric is seductive to these writers (they hate the world for the wrong reasons), despite the death and resurrection of Christ that destroyed the difference between the esoteric and the exoteric.

    The interest in traditionalism as a whole (which is an interest in a cosmologico-metaphysical anthropolpgy) or the fidelity to a particular tradition is not a pure tertium non datur, just as nothing in the world alone is a pure tertium non datur – the only pure tertium non datur is either God or the world, Christ or antichrist.

  17. Actually I regard the exasperating rationalism of Catholicism, which began with medieval scholastics and of which the above statement is typical, as the beginning of the degeneration of the West that eventually opened the way to the modern world.
    The statement above is so alien to the true spirit of the Patristic tradition as to be counted as completely irrelevant.

    Let me also say that I did not arrive to the writings of the traditionalists as a Christian, but I arrived to Christianity as a supporter of traditionalism. Their edifying critique of modernity has nothing to do either with impersonalism, nor with non-dualism, which, in some respects, stand quite in spite of the said edifying critique.

    Since you admit the fact that you do not know very much about the tenets of Christianity, how can you be so sure you can fit it into the non-dualist schema ?

    I used to be “above all traditions” too and made all sorts of generalizations through whatever superficial and exterior knowledge I managed to gather about this or that tradition. However, my situation was not very different from the masses who are bellow any tradition. Aside from some intuitions regarding some universal truths, there was no spiritual path to speak of.

    Having embarked for some concrete undertakings, I find that reality is infinitely more nuanced and complex as to be fit into simplistic generalizations, disregarding from what quarters they come.
    I do not claim I have the answers for ultimate questions, but I know that they can never be compatible with such simplifications.

  18. Actually I regard the exasperating rationalism of Catholicism, which began with medieval scholastics and of which the above statement is typical, as the beginning of the degeneration of the West that eventually opened the way to the modern world.
    The statement above is so alien to the true spirit of the Patristic tradition as to be counted as completely irrelevant.

    Let me also say that I did not arrive to the writings of the traditionalists as a Christian, but I arrived to Christianity as a supporter of traditionalism. Their edifying critique of modernity has nothing to do either with impersonalism, nor with non-dualism, which, in some respects, stand quite in spite of the said edifying critique.

    Since you admit the fact that you do not know very much about the tenets of Christianity, how can you be so sure you can fit it into the non-dualist schema ?

    I used to be “above all traditions” too and made all sorts of generalizations through whatever superficial and exterior knowledge I managed to gather about this or that tradition. However, my situation was not very different from the masses who are bellow any tradition. Aside from some intuitions regarding some universal truths, there was no spiritual path to speak of.

    Having embarked for some concrete undertakings, I find that reality is infinitely more nuanced and complex as to be fit into simplistic generalizations, disregarding from what quarters they come.
    I do not claim I have the answers for ultimate questions, but I know that they can never be compatible with such simplifications.

  19. Hello V.O., thanks for taking up the question. Considering your first reason, most religions already had representatives who had delivered more or less extensive critiques of modernity well before Guenon et al. Here are three examples just from the Catholic Church:

    -Syllabus Errorum; Pope Pius IX; 1864.
    -Lamentabili Sane Exitu; Pope Pius X; 1907.
    -Pascendi Dominici Gregis; Pope Pius X; 1907.

    In any case, since when is it a necessary part of the faith to pay attention to the modern world, beyond its incursions into Christian life, which the above Church documents were adequate responses to? Together with your second reason, also superfluous with regard to religious and sacramental obligations, your views are an expression of intrepid curiosity that is harmless and commendable, so long as it doesn’t inspire inferiority complexes and unnecessary defensive reactions.

    My point here is to show some of you that, for whatever reasons (setting aside speculation for now), you not only noticed the Perennialist critique, but persisted in learning more and actively participating here; this suggests that the corpus possessed some gravity that was lacking in corresponding parts of your religion. Yet, some of you then go on to blast the very aspects of Perennialism that were most responsible for the depth of its critique of modernity in the first place. By all means offer intelligent criticisms and observations, but also be prepared for the time when you recognise that you have had your fill and are ready to leave the table where other guests are still enjoying their course.

    Excuse my divergence, but I couldn’t help being reminded of Mihai’s attack on the limitations of “an abstract and dead rationalism” and how “the Patristic writings do not attempt to resolve the supreme Mystery of God on the plane of human reason and logic” when I saw this excerpt from the ‘Oath Against Modernism’, to be sworn by all Roman Catholic clergy under orders of Pius X in 1910:

    “I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world…”

    Perhaps Mihai may be more a victim of modernism than he knows!

  20. The essence of your, and other Christian commenters’ complaints, is that the exclusivity of your religio-mystical tenets is threatened by the metaphysical exposition of Perennialists, yet you simultaneously consider the expositions valuable for reinforcing the importance of religious traditions on the very same basis. Attributing an ‘inferior ontological level’ to a religious doctrine is not a derogation; it is only the result of a form of investigation originating from a very special perspective, the ‘initiatory’. The contradiction and vexation is only suffered by those who wander beyond the bounds of their faith unnecessarily.

    Some are unable to accept that there will be some few who are above religious forms, as an inverse reflection of the masses who today find themselves beneath revelatory teaching. I do not claim this status, but see no harm in writing about the principles that explain how this can be, as did Guenon, whose expression I found most satisfying when delivered in the stark, mathematical tenor that is his trademark, and was likely inspired by the work of the masters of the East.

    As for Guenon seeing fit to refer extensively to Vedanta, it was perhaps because it most clearly detailed the structure and End of realisation; moreover, why would he not focus on it when he was convinced that there was nothing other than religion in the West while complete intellectuality still survived in the East? Of course, ‘your mileage may vary’.

    Now, given how many times I’ve mentioned the Infinitude of the universe and the manifold natures that inhabit it, it would be foolish of me to dismiss genuine esoteric possibilities within Christianity. This is not for me to do, you probably know more about them; moreover, you might be annoyed by my lack of comment on Christianity and extensive discussion of metaphysical conceptualisations – this is understanble, but it is largely because I do not know Christianity very well. Prior to the singularity of the Ultimate End, there are still uncountable states and worlds, within which Christian esoteric possibilities may perhaps play out. I recall some Guenon and Evola quotes that imply as much; the thrust of their criticism was delivered in comparisons of present Christianity to other spiritual paths, within which esotericism was much more clearly expressed and organised, as opposed to the serendipitous or providential nature of similar achievements within the Christian sphere (cf. Evola’s comments on ‘grace’ in this series), but most of you probably know this already.

  21. Your point on language is well taken. Reality is a mystery to be experienced, not a problem to be solved. Our language should reflect that.Yet the tradition magnetizes to itself and re-defines whatever is useful, including terminology.
    My talk of hypostases was meant to be consistent with the faith, maintaining:
    1) that one cannot transcend a supposed facet of God for another (personality for Absolute) as this is would be to transcend the scaffolding of one’s own reality, 2) that the Absolute is itself personal/subjective.

    As an aside, comparative approaches have their place in showing us that revelation is valuable not primarily as an innovation through a given doctrine, but as a call from God to relationship with Him, establishing a vehicle to this end. In this context it may be pointed out that there are in fact analogues to creation ex nihilo outside Christianity, and of the accompanying notion that creation was an act not of necessity but of Lila, play (in India, to name one). This is not to deny the uniqueness of the faith, however, nor to imply that your post limited the value of Christianity to particular doctrine, I am merely pointing out a danger which comparative approaches can ameliorate.

  22. Might I also add that Guenon’s views on initiation are also affected by this tendency to sweeping generalizations and simplifications.

    The best proof of this is the way in which he treats the Christian Sacraments which he arbitrarily claims have been emptied of all ‘initiatic’ value, once Christianity has turned “exoteric”. All the while his knowledge of Christianity was very limited and his conclusions drawn from very superficial glances; still, his most devout followers believe his word on Christianity should be considered as final and infallible.

  23. “I make no claim to ‘capture’ the Truth in words, and can hardly see why you would take my or similar writings to somehow be a challenge to the ineffability of Truth, in the absence of any claim thus.”

    Yet, you clearly believe that an adequate description,or a representation of the Truth can be expressed through a kind of logical exposition in human terms, where a doctrine such as the Trinity is relegated to an inferior ontological level, acting as a sort of mask for the impersonal Absolute (which, let it be said in passing, is the exact point of view of an old anti-trinitarian heresy called sabellianism) , merely because so it sounds sensible for our limited conceptions.

    “Finally, it can hardly be left unasked, what could be the utility of a site like Gornahoor for people who have in their religion all that is necessary for them?”

    The traditionalist perspective addresses some very important considerations which are of vital importance in today’s world and which the contemporary institutional Church admittedly handles very poorly. This is the relation to other religions and the importance of the inner, mystical (or esoteric as you will) depth of religion as the only possible catalyst for a counter-balance to the destructive tendencies of (post)-modernity.
    Which is why there is great profit to be extracted from some of the traditionalist’s writings, but they have to be taken with discernment not used to replace Revelation and tradition (which would actually defeat the very purpose of these writings).

    Unfortunetly, Guenon was not immune to some of the issues he spoke against: one of them being the tendency to systematization, and this is my main objection to him: when he claims to speak for all traditions, he actually speaks for the Vedanta, which is used as an ultimate standard to which all spiritual expressions must conform. And if some doctrines do not they are either forced to, or else they are simply “exoteric” and of no ‘initiatic’ importance.

    And, I am sorry to say, this is all to what most discussions with annoying neo-traditionalists are reduced to: either you follow non-dualistic mysticism to the letter, or you are just being exoteric and have no understanding of deeper truths.

  24. In response August to your question what is the interest in traditionalism “for people who have in their religion all that is necessary for them?” perhaps 2 main (interrelated) reasons:

    1. a critique of the “modern world” that is explicit in this line of thought from a metaphysical and theological position, i.e., the eschatological emphasis of traditionalism. if the wordly Church does in fact degenerate over time, one of the clear symptoms of this is the complicity with this world as opposed to the emphasis on its eschatological end. The Church has never doctrinally proposed an eschatology, and this is of course in accordance with the revelation (no one knows the hour), but the eschatological mystery in this sense, much like the mystery of God, does not occlude its contemplation.
    2. the exact opposite of syncretism: to think the singularity of the revelation of a particular tradition in light of other “revelations”

  25. Naturally you should keep to your religion and faith, I will not dispute with you about this and your derivative assertions. Let us keep in mind that each man has a unique nature.

    Though let it be clear that my abstract explanations are the only form of expression available in writing. I make no claim to ‘capture’ the Truth in words, and can hardly see why you would take my or similar writings to somehow be a challenge to the ineffability of Truth, in the absence of any claim thus. What fool would construe a description of a beautiful woman’s proportions to somehow amount to possession of her, or suggest that anyone who read it could completely understand what it was to possess her!?

    As for logic substituting for symbols as a ‘simpler’ form of expression, you fail to recall that language, as a human faculty, becomes symbolic when describing that which goes beyond the human, and you unjustly disregard these symbolic and analogical capabilities of language. Note, for example, the extensive use of spatial and quantitative concepts to represent domains where these conditions do not apply. Even then, these things are only aids, never a substitute for the Work.

    Finally, it can hardly be left unasked, what could be the utility of a site like Gornahoor for people who have in their religion all that is necessary for them?

  26. Thank you for your posts August and Santiago.
    I would suggest one of the explicit problems of the comparative religion approach, and thus traditionalism is general, is that it overlooks the conceptual innovations developed in accordance with the particular revelation of a given tradition (and from the position of the latter the content of its particular revelation is the only revelation relevant). In the comparative approach, there is a tendency (or rather, a disciplinary necessity, and thus a presupposition of the methodology) rather to reduce the conceptual language of a tradition to a common conceptual language, and thus terms subject consciousness, etc., which thereby overlook the singularity of a “theology” developed in line with the revelation.

    From the perspective of Orthodox Christianity, this type of reduction, for example, may make Christianity merely an extension of Neoplatonism; Lossky was the foremost defender of Orthodoxy against tis reduction to Neoplatonism in the last century. Hence, regarding the debate about the absolute and the relation to the absolute, perhaps the conceptual “innovations” of Orthodox Christianity can be delimited as follows: 1) the Immanent Trinity, which entails the central role of the concept of hypostasis, and 2) the particular economical relation of God to the world, above all structured in line with the creation’s total lack of ontological necessity, i.e., in the form of the creatio ex nihilo. Both have no analogues in any other tradition, although Islam can be said to appropriate point 2.

    The Immanent Trinity as three hypostases means that God in this regard is always a personal God, as these hypostases are delimited as particular hypostases and there is at once agape between the hypostases – this is decisive, since it once again emphasizes that God does not need the world for agape – this averts the satanism which is basically founded on any notion of some necessity read into the world, which is furthermore developed by the advancement of creatio ex nihilo. At the same time the hypostasis preservers the absolute One of God. This is a clear advancement on neoplatonism, and is doctrinally developed by the Church Fathers following the revelation of Christ.

    Yet at once the very existence of the world despite its essential non-existence is God’s agape towards the world. All thinking of the economony between God and the world has to be thought in terms of the “unilaterality” of the relationship, which notes the world’s total non-necessity: this is also present in the revelation of Christ, even showing that the apparent law of the world, death, is unnecessary, and thereby inviting the mystical contemplation of the “Absolute”.

    This contemplation is mystical, since it is directed toward the mystery of God; as Zizioulas mentions, the mystery of God does not mean that God cannot be contemploated, but one is invited to think about God, even though he cannot be thought since he is absolute in regards to the finite creation. This is the theosis of Athanasius and Orthodoxy: not that man would literally be God, but that man or teh creation is not what is fundamental to man; rather it is God that is fundamental since he is the creator of the creation. The “hypostasis” of a created being is groudned in realizing that the hypostasis is precisely dependent on God and therefore the “symptom” of the agape that is God’s creatino of the world, an instance of agape (although not the only agape), because in a very real sense, or in the most real sense, this existence should not and could not be.

    I apologize for the length of the post, but the basic point, to re-iterate, was to indicate that the general conceptual language of comparison misses the uniqueness of, in this case, Christian revelation and theology.

  27. A footnote: the above does not take personality as only the hypostases/emanations, rather it begins with the Absolute at its most unconditioned, since the first thing must be a subjectivity, as subjectivity is irreducible (unexplainable as an epiphenomenon).

  28. In your description of the Absolute, which is that of the traditionalists, there is really very less which can be termed esoteric and very much which is clearly the result of an abstract and dead rationalism.
    There is here something clearly contrary to any genuine esoterism, and contradictory to what they have, otherwise, tried to point out: namely that Truth is ineffable.
    Guenon wrote somewhere that logical relationships are inseperable from ontological ones. Which means that abstract logic can in some measure point us the way as long as we are on the plane of Being. Beyond-Being points to something which is beyond all ontology and, as such, and with which no logical methodology is co-extensive. You can guess from this how coherent Guenon is on this score.

    As such the rationalistic schema above is completely null and void because it tries to fit the Infinite into the limited conceptions of human understanding. It seems to me that, to the traditionalists, Truth must adhere to some verbally constructed schema. Also, I sometimes really ask myself: since it is so easy to talk about the Absolute in logical terms and since the human mind alone can reach and understand in such simplistic concepts the ultimate realities, I really am not sure what we have symbols, myths and mystical methods for.

    This, of course, has nothing to do with genuine apophatism, nor esoterism or higher wisdom, but is only the result of modern prejudice which always feels the need for a radical simplification, in order that the individual may feel comfortable and secure, with a formulation that the mind by itself is able to grasp.

    In the Christian East apophatism is taken to a whole new, dynamic level. In complete adherence to the ineffability of God, the Patristic writings do not attempt to resolve the supreme Mystery of God on the plane of human reason and logic. In keeping true to the apophatic spirit and to genuine esoterism, or mysticism, the only claims they make of God are antinomian, mutually exclusive formulations: God is Three and One, the Three are equal, yet the Father is supreme etc. It is here a Mystery which transcends all notions of human coherence and before which the human mind finds itself on slippery ground, completely impotent before the Ineffable- and this is the kind of experience which human weakness detests, hence the tendency of simplistic rationalizing.
    If we look at the history of different heresies regarding the Trinity, we can see at their origin the same tendency- the attempt to reduce the real Mystery to the simplistic conceptions of human logic.
    The same goes to the Christian idea concerning Divine Personality, which should be understood not as a limitation, but its very opposite.
    (By the way, Guenon’s claims that the Absolute manifests because it is a possibility, so it simply must manifest. I really wonder what “kind” of Infinite we are talking about here, when manifestation simply bursts forth from it mechanically, without it having any control and certainly without any intelligence involved. Such a notion of the Absolute is even inferior to what we humans are capable of).

    Besides this, I see in this insistence on impersonalism and the optionality of “adherence” to the personal, Self-revealed God, which is somehow inferior compared to some verbally constructed abstraction, not the slightest trace of any perennial wisdom but actually another manifestation of modern prejudice, where human personality is dissolved into the atomism of an impersonal and mechanistic universe and where the individual has the satisfaction of holding on to this individuality all the while claiming that he is above all paths and doctrines, because he sees “beyond” such “petty human concerns” and therefore succeeds in getting rid of the danger of actually having to face his own ego and let go of it through real submission to spiritual discipline.
    As far as I am concerned, all this is only an excuse to do nothing and take no spiritual path seriously while pronouncing “infallible” judgements on whether this or that author is esoteric or not, or if Christianity, a religion for the masses, actually deserves even the slightest glance from such “elitists” as themselves. ( And in this whole paragraph I have been referring not to the traditionalists as such, but to their pedantic followers who are plaguing the internet these days).

    Like I said, I have profited and still profit immensely from the writings of Guenon “and friends”, but I do not slavishly follow them on every issue. When Guenon says one thing and a most reputed Father says something different, there can be no question regarding my allegiance- and this because I really take Guenon’s work seriously.

  29. A pertinent point indeed, thank you.
    In the final instance, there can be no two irreducibly separate consciousnesses (an insight which, in practice, accompanies the realization that consciousness as such is irreducible – unlike any particular psychology or mode of thought/apprehension, to build on Guenon’s point).
    There is rather a regression to prior hypostases (prior emanations of the One, in Platonic language), which contain one and are realized to be one’s own interior dimensions. It should be noted that this is a cleansing of perception, revealing what is present right here. The manifest world endures, with its different pairs of eyes, so that otherness and community remain, in their way. Thusly can Christ say “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30) and “you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Almighty” (Matthew 26:64), and Krishna can declare “I am the original seed of all existences” (Bhagavad Gita, 7:10), as well as having existed as an individuation forever, along with the individuations of others (BG 2:12), yet maintaining all beings are at One (BG 13:30). At some point one may feel that it ceases to be helpful to refer to a personal God other than the Absolute, rather than of the Absolute exercising a given faculty – paradoxical as such a formula may seem, it emphasizes a continuum, from God to the lilies.

    What I’ve referred to as God’s personality are such hypostases. Any of these, prior to me, cannot be done without in favor of its more fundamental antecedents, anymore than I can dispense with eating plants in favor of the soil minerals those plants feed on. Each has its place.

    A definitional note: Some theological speculations may refer to a personal god who is merely another being, simply more powerful then us as we experience ourselves, but not more fundamental (this is the case if it is conceived of as entirely distinct from our being). This is idolatrous, such a god cannot claim “before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58) but, at best, “before Abraham was, I was”.

  30. I am pleased by your recognition Jason-Adam, and you are always welcome to express whatever intelligent objections or questions should arise in your mind.

    Now the question you ask here equates knowledge with experience, but this equation is not exclusive. Speculative knowledge is like a light that serves to manifest the path upon which experience will develop, yet for it to do so effectively it must still be real, correct knowledge, even if it is only speculative for now. From our discussions here it is obvious that we have described extremely broad vistas, to the extent that if I were to claim full experience of them, you could reasonably demand that I exert some unexpected influence on the world that you can subsequently confirm, or predict the future, or more, for such should my capabilities theoretically be if I were both an adept conforming to my speculative propositions, and present in the here and now.

    That said, my knowledge and understanding is not derived exclusively from scholarship. I cannot offer you advice about a specific path, but suffice to say that instead of seeking initiation (assuming you want to go beyond simple religion), most of you could perhaps turn your attention to whatever remnants of the traditional sciences you can find and study (i.e., practice). There are real dangers, no doubt, but unlike initiation, the benefits to be gained here are not contingent upon rare, unexpected intercessions or unfamiliar organisations, and the goal would be to learn about oneself as a symbol of the Universe and the True Self, from which deeper understanding would blossom. This is, for example, the real value of yogic practice, for those who are granted to know.

    In the end, do not despair, for you will eventually possess all that is allotted to you.

  31. A valuable clarification Santiago. It serves to neatly bridge the gap between theology and metaphysics for those who wish to do so.

    I wish to offer one comment, however, concerning the translation of ‘chitta/cit’ as ‘consciousness’, which leads you to later attribute consciousness to God (“especially since God is conscious and blissful”), and assert that the distinction between such a God and the Absolute is only relative. Although I understand your proper meaning, the expression might suggest that consciousness, as we comprehend and experience it, is a definitive attribute of the Absolute and not only of the particular God conceptions, yet this is not the case. The danger of this conflation is that we might take our understanding of a particular God to be the boundary of the Absolute, and thereby implicitly narrow the scope of our metaphysical understanding. For example, we might consequently envisage an encounter of irreducible consciousnesses when we speak of ‘realising the Absolute’, and this image establishes a false separativity proper to religious conceptions, but invalid in the context of metaphysical return to Self. Of course, this is ultimately only a speculative danger; the Absolute will not resist revealing the partiality of this natural human illusion, along with any others, to a being, when the time is right.

    Here is Guenon laying out the matter, in ‘Multiple States of the Being’:

    ” For us, consciousness is something entirely different from what it
    is for the psychologist; it does not constitute a particular state of
    being, and, in any case, is not the only distinctive characteristic of
    the individual human state…Consciousness is more a condition of
    existence in certain states, but not strictly in the sense in which we
    speak of the conditions of corporeal existence, for example. It would
    be more accurate to say that consciousness is a ‘raison d’etre’ for the
    states in question, however strange this may at first seem, for it is
    manifestly that by which the individual being participates in univer-
    sal Intelligence (Buddhi, in Hindu doctrine); but naturally in its
    determined form (as ahankara) it belongs to the individual mental
    faculty (manas), so that in other states the same participation of the
    being in universal Intelligence may express itself in an entirely dif-
    ferent mode. Consciousness, of which we do not claim to give a
    complete definition here–which would doubtless be of little use–
    is therefore something particular, whether in the human state or in
    other individual states more or less analogous to it, and conse-
    quently is in no way a universal principle; if it nevertheless consti-
    tutes an integral part and a necessary element of universal Existence,
    it does so only by exactly the same right as do all conditions proper
    to any states of being whatsoever, and it possesses no more privilege
    in this respect than do the states to which it refers with respect to
    other states.”

  32. On the question of God’s personality, the following does not necessarily contradict anything below, and may simply serve as a perspective/clarification:
    The Absolute must contain everything latently, yet this does not deny It a character (Logos). In the same way as God cannot create a stone so heavy He cannot lift it (a mere trick of language describing nothing), there are universes which cannot come about: Evil can never be other than apparent privation. Evil is precisely the denial of God, the stone too heavy for Him, an impossibility. It should not be assumed that things experienced ‘down here’ (in states of misapprehension), such as hatred, correspond to something fundamental and are not, like the concept of God’s unmovable stone, a simple trick of language, nullified from higher vantage points. One must rely on one’s own experience in discerning what can be thusly nullified, yet it may be useful to note that anger/hate/sorrow/anxiety/neediness at their root rely on an existential conflict with some other, resting upon an ontology of violence (ultimate opposition, denying an Absolute unity), whereas love/bliss/contentment point to unity, assuming an ultimately unproblematic existence. Therefore the nature of reality is such that some subjective experiences reveal it and others obfuscate it.
    To attribute personality to God is simply to make this observation (especially since God is conscious and blissful, for the depth-dimension of things is subjectivity, as I mentioned previously). Is the Absolute distinct from such personality? No more then the sun is distinct from light and warmth, the former are just descriptors of its substance. The Patristic understanding appears quite tenable in this regard.

  33. August, you certainly posess a great deal of knowledge and in the spirit of humility I am not going to argue with you as I admit your learning is superior to mine.

    However I will ask you if you actually KNOW (from experience) that what you described is correct and if you do know, tell me how I may reach the state of being you’ve risen to ?

  34. Your response is good. Evola’s statement was part of a critique of the proposition that love of an Other (God) is a superior condition to the merging of Lover and Beloved (really the closing of an illusory distance), which in your post is described under points 3 and 4. There is no question of the elimination of virtues in a higher synthesis, but their full possession as pure states or potentialities, beyond their initial development as vectors between illusory limits.

    Mind, the Vedanta is not the only inspiration for this metaphysical speculation, Taoism is also typical.

  35. Even if we admit that Evola was not initiated, I was asking about your statement “…what he should be doing is actually trying out both yoga and Christian mysticism…”.

    Since neither of these disciplines are strictly initiation, your response does not address how you know that he didn’t try out yogic or Christian mystical techniques in some capacity. To me, his writings indicate a more than casual or academic knowledge of these matters.

  36. Then let us take this opportunity to establish the superiority, or otherwise, of the super/impersonal Absolute vis-a-vis the personal/particular God, under the assumption that the reality of either is not denied (the one who admits a personal God as the absolute limit does not need to consider questions of rank).

    In my post above, I have Evola saying “…it is absolutely absurd to claim for the latter [personal God] preeminence over the former [superpersonal Absolute].”

    Why should this be so? The reason is simple. The less determined a being is, the more superior from the universal point of view, because it has a greater potential and hence more freedom. The limit of this scheme is the Absolute, with its Infinite potential, and this is our Great Unity. The superpersonal Absolute can ‘contain’ the possibilities of a particular personal God, and other possibilities that fall outside of the defined scope of this God; but the inverse is absurd.

    To clarify some related terms, the ‘subpersonal’ we might define as the negation of the person, and therefore something less; the ‘impersonal’, or if you like ‘superpersonal’, is an order of possibility that espouses the personal and more beyond; it is therefore something greater. This most elementary point is one of the first lessons in Guenon.

    Thus, the highest goal for any particular being is to attain the maximum freedom, for its own nature to flourish, and this is possible insofar as its very reality is inseparable from the Absolute. The presence of any other independent beings acts as a limit and a threat to this freedom, but only once the being has gone beyond a certain point (the rectifying catharsis of self-awakening, often catalysed by faith in personal God and experiences in the round of existences). As an experiment to determine the implications of total freedom, consider the idea of sin; it is senseless wherever there is nothing other than Self, therefore total freedom under only-Self is the supreme moral station. The ‘impersonal’ Absolute, taken as the Infinite itself, or looking only at its reflection in the indefinite potential of formality that is Being, allows for the possibility of a particular being to be entirely itself; a being cannot limit or compete with the Infinite, but it can readily be, apart from all that is non-self, within the bosom of the Infinite, where it need not be limited. In doing so, it does not in any way ‘blaspheme’ against the true God, that is, the Great Unity, against which the only conceivable blasphemy would be the actualisation of something impossible, which cannot be done; and this is not a limit of Great Unity, but a logical negation that was never even a possibility in the first place. Nor can any personal God protest against a being that manages to actualises such a state, by depicting such transcendence as transgression, except under one condition – and this brings us to the next point, where I anticipate an objection that digresses slightly from our primary task of establishing rank.

    One might object that God, as conceived exoterically in a particular religion, say Christianity, is entirely the Great Unity (and not only a representative of it for this world), and that He either cannot be transcended, or that an attempt to do so is ‘heretical’. But then, if He is ascribed any particular quality aside from being Unlimited (excluding, of course, impossible postulates), He must also carry within him the complementary and opposite qualities. For example, say this God created this world and gave his only Son to redeem it. Can we deny that He also created another world that did not require redemption? Or deny that He forsook the creation of a world with such-and-such characteristics? To do so, while identifying the Christian God with the Great Unity, would be to arbitrarily limit Universal Possibility from within a segment of it, thus simply returning the Christian God et al. to the status of absolute limit and negating this whole issue on the basis of faith; in such a case the question of rank, as I said, doesn’t even arise. To admit it would be to go beyond Christianity and bring us back to the original issue.

    Now, there is another way to look at this, and that is from the strictly human point of view, choosing not to give primacy to metaphysical doctrine. From this point of view, we can emphasise that it is exceedingly comforting to have a God in whose image we are made, and to honour and serve him faithfully in return for the love and care that He bestowed upon us with this life, and in recognition of His majesty. Why should we want anything beyond Him? Indeed, to look beyond Him could even inspire a cold dread. This view is wholly legitimate, and describes the dynamic of Salvation. Salvation is no trifle, and there is good reason to trust one’s future destiny entirely to Him who raised you on this world, by seeking nothing beyond the ‘exoteric’ that is not bestowed by God. Such faith can be the limit one sets for oneself, as mentioned above, or it can persist in the presence of learning about metaphysics, initiation, etc., in which case such studies constitute intellectual preparation for potential self-realisation in the future. But none of this allows anyone endowed with a correct understanding to propose an Absolute that is dominated by a particular God – this formulation is evidently senseless.

  37. “love, faith, and all the rest…at bottom conditioned…which the preliminary process of catharsis and entasis should have burnt without leaving remainder”.
    This is true if love means passionate attachment to spurious sentiment. It isn’t true if love means love.
    1. If consciousness is the depth-dimension of the objective/phenomenal, and
    2. the nature of consciousness is interiority/experience, then
    3. the unconditioned experiencer is an unconditioned experience.
    4. This experience, according to the traditions, is bliss. Pure being is pure consciousness is pure bliss (sat cit ananda). No tradition conceives of God as insecure and anxiety fraught, but as content. Thusly is sorrow a misapprehension, and the virtues (which are closer to Bliss) have a greater degree of Being then the vices, the latter characterized by lack.

    It would seem, then, that the fact that some traditions distinguish between the supra-personal and personal God (His ineffable and accessible aspects, respectively) does not at all equate with these traditions disassociating Him from love and virtue, as some authors seem to assume.

  38. “for the simple (though disturbing to religious exclusivists) reason that a part of him quite clearly saw beyond the specific theology and form of God in Christianity.”

    Actually, in regards to Christianity, Evola never saw beyond anything, because, like I mentioned in the comments to a previous article, he was totally unaware of the most profound doctrines of Christian mysticism, as preserved in the East. At best, he considered some of their points here and there, but he considered them as somewhat “copied” from other more ancient mystery traditions, as if Christianity were no more than some fragmentary bits collected from here and there and artificially put together.
    In other words, his view of Christianity was quite profane, and the fact that he only cites for references some book of a modern scholar, and never some actual material of Patristic writings, proves that he merely wanted to be done with the thing as quickly as possible, since it never constituted any interest to him.

    Regarding some other parts of your post, it is really a good time to put into question an issue which many people take for granted (serious seekers, not only pseudo-esoterists): namely that an impersonal Absolute is somehow superior to the Personal. This is really a mere arbitrary postulate without any serious support, since “impersonal’ is a negation of the person, making it something less, not something more.

    Anyway, both these conception of the Absolute, and Evola’s understanding of “genuine” initiation is an attempt to fit all spirituality into the procroustean bed of what represents the view of just some spiritual “schools”, mainly the Vedanta.
    The same point can be made, in some measure, about Guenon as well.

  39. I judge Evola’s experiences based on what he wrote in Introduction to Magic plus the fact that 20 years later he was trying to get information on possible western initiatory groups out of Guenon. If he was initiated why would he be searching for it ? Also later in life he said initiation was impossible in this present day.

  40. It is not quite clear what the method of St Aquinas is. While his texts can serve as preparation or support for initiation, it is not without reason that the initiatory undertaking is described as a ‘Work’. Even most yogic techniques are merely preparatory. In any case, it would be difficult for Evola to have really tried any mysticism that required him to be genuinely devotional, for the simple (though disturbing to religious exclusivists) reason that a part of him quite clearly saw beyond the specific theology and form of God in Christianity. Devotion to a God with attributes is always a choice, never a necessity. “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” Scary, but true. By the way, how could you know what Evola did and did not try? It was not customary to write in the first person in those circles.

    It just so happens that a very interesting translation of one of Evola’s journal articles has been published at Counter-Currents, and it sets forth the limitation of the theistic perspective and its pretensions to exclusivity quite clearly. I select two key extracts below.

    “It would be consistent to assert that it is impossible to conceive an impersonal Absolute beyond the personal one, by declaring that all doctrines based on such a conception are delusions and aberrations. But unless this is done, if one admits as conceivable a superpersonal and impersonal God beyond the theistic God, a principle anterior and superior to the Divinity conceived in the image of the human figure, then it is absolutely absurd to claim for the latter preeminence over the former.”

    “…the distinctive feature of the view upheld by Cuttat and attributed to “Western” spirituality, consists solely in conceiving of a split between the two phases: the line of a true realization stops at the center; the being does not rise above the center following the vertical direction; as though brought to a standstill by impotency or by fundamental anguish, he (the being) objectivizes all the other states in the form of a transcendent person, the unattainable theistic God, retroceding from the plane of metaphysical and intellectual realization to that of emotion, love, faith, and all the rest, giving new life to all those purely human motives, at bottom conditioned, socially and affectively…which the preliminary process of “catharsis” and “enstasis” should have burnt without leaving any remainder. Undoubtedly, metaphysics also recognize that between the concentric and the vertical realization there is a rupture of continuity, a hiatus; but it is just the ability to surmount this hiatus actively that gives to the real initiate his chrism. This is the essential point.”

  41. Evola seems to be engaging in nit picking over words – what he should be doing is actually trying out both yoga and Christian mysticism to experience for himself the differences and similarities.

    The part about the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to St Thomas is the clincher of this piece – Evola admits that theoretically St Thomas is speaking about initiation. We can ignore the judgements he makes afterwords but aside from a personal prejudice I see no reason why one can not use Aquinas as a pathway to realisation.

    Another issue is Evola is so opposed to any notion of a God apart from the Self, but that is a belief not only to Christians but also to Muslims. Evola’s self-focus seems to me to be based on modern teachings. It sounds similar to Crowley.

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