If our contemporaries as a whole could see what it is that is guiding them and where they are really going, the modern world would at once cease to exist as such, for the rectification could not fail to come about through that very circumstance. ~ Rene Guenon
A day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach out their hands amidst the stars. ~ H G Wells
Rene Guenon appeared in the world process at the time of the spiritual emptiness of the West. With all of history and geography pretty much known, it had become impossible to ignore the vast differences in spiritual experiences in the world. Guenon was able to sort them out and to reveal their deep similarity in terms of social organization, inner experience, and metaphysical principles. Yet his voluminous works are just a beginning. The logical consequences of his writings still need to be explicated. He himself suggested several areas for further research in those writings.
Although we don’t always make them explicit, we conform to the core of Guenon’s principles. That is not a slavish following, a “Guenonian scholasticism” as Evola called it. Evola himself, although calling Guenon the Master of the Twentieth Century, challenged Guenon on certain points. Sometimes he was mistaken but on other times he made key contributions. Furthermore, we need to distinguish between metaphysical principles which are apodictic and personal judgments which are at best informed opinions.
If worship of providence were forbidden, the natural consequence would be their fall, for a nation of fatalists or casualists or atheists never existed in the world, and we saw that all the nations of the world believe in a provident divinity, and have embraced only four principle religions: paganism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam. ~ Giambattista Vico
We are not out to “prove” any Guenonian principles; for that, his own works need to be consulted. Rather, we accept them, even if provisionally, and draw out their consequences as if they are true.
First of all, the modern world is an anomaly in the world, as no civilization has ever been based on its principles, or, better said, anti-principles. Instead, they have all been based on what he calls Tradition, whose basic principles have been described throughout Gornahoor. Tradition means “handed down”, not a nostalgic return to some idealized past. Hence, it is not necessarily Luddite, as the example of the City of the Sun shows.
Traditional societies are hierarchical with specific functional areas and daily life was centered around the rites and rituals of an exoteric religious tradition. Beyond that, there is an esoteric tradition related to, but different from, the exoteric tradition. The esoteric tradition comprises various practices and metaphysical teachings that lead to higher states of being.
Exoteric and Esoteric
The relationship between the exoteric and the esoteric is expressed in this principle: every exoteric religious or theological statement is equivalent to an esoteric metaphysical statement. That is why we don’t get involved in theological disputes since they can’t be resolved at that level without appealing to faith or authority. Esoterism, on the other hand, results in gnosis, or certain knowledge. In other words, what the believer believes, the knower knows.
For example, the religious idea of monotheism is the metaphysical idea of the Absolute, i.e., there is one foundational principle of the world. Polytheism, hence, means competing principles with no underlying unity. Atheism is the denial of an underlying principle so everything that happens is the result of determinism or chance events. As Vico pointed out, no society based on atheism, fatalism, or chance events could survive for long. The modern mind considers atheism as simply another defensible opinion, but for the traditional mind the atheist is an enemy of the people and a danger to the state. He would have no more right to free speech than a quack physician who prescribes harmful and ineffective treatments.
Guenon’s next point is that the esoteric component has been lost in the West. We accept that, but not absolutely since it is an opinion not a metaphysical truth. Nevertheless, it is pointless to criticize bishops, popes, and so on, for that reason. The task, for us, is to delineate the features of a Western esoteric Tradition to prepare the way for its return.
A further point is that the esoteric should not be seen in opposition to the exoteric. Rather, those capable of and interested in pursuing and esoteric path should do it in the context of an exoteric path. These would be, at the risk of over-simplification, one of the many paganisms or one of the Abrahamic religions as Vico noted. The normal choice, however, is to choose the exoteric religion of one’s land. Hence, Guenon did not fully embrace Islam as a lifestyle until he migrated to Egypt.
The notion of picking and choosing and shopping around for one’s religion is absurd from the Traditional point of view. Religious pluralism is a liberal and modern idea. The opposite Traditional view is called “Integralism”, i.e., the nation as an organic unity. Evola’s solution of avoiding any commitment to a Tradition was an unfortunate choice and serves as a bad example.
A writer can praise the virtues of loyalty and fidelity in the abstract, but they must be tested in practice. Hence, a commitment to an exoteric religion can be a serious challenge to one’s loyalty and fidelity. However, we accept all its dogmas and rites as an act of will. (Faith is an act of intellect commanded by the will.) The point is that we are not out to reform the exoteric religion but rather to bring to light the latent esoterism in it.
We often hear the complaint that the exoteric teachings are not good enough or that there is not esoteric teaching, and on and on. That, for us, is simply too passive; if you are not finding anything better, then you probably don’t deserve anything better. A more active approach is to stifle the complaining while mining the hidden gold nuggets of esoterism.
As a reminder, anyone who is thriving under the exoteric religion does not need anything here. Esoterism is purely optional and is intended for those to whom the exoteric religion, as conventionally expressed, lacks all power and meaning.
As we have seen, pagans considered that there was a semi-divine founder of their tradition who established the spiritual, religious, and political practices that dominated their everyday life. By maintaining the worship of the ancestors, and appeasing or propitiating the gods, providence would continue to guide the people. Hence, we see that the Indo-Aryan Brahmans could trace their lineage back to 21 rishis, each Greek city had its own divine founder, and Rome was founded by a few noble families.
Hence, any attempts to revive Western paganism are counter-traditional, unless a demigod arrives to start a new family. It is not possible to just jump into an existing stream. The other issue is that in a pagan society, the bulk of the population would be serfs, slaves, or shudras. No revivalist cares to mention that.
Part 2 is forthcoming