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Rene Guenon english pdf book packBear in mind that Sophia Perennis might have changed slightly the content of some books in its english. Full text of "Rene Guenon english pdf". See other formats. The Crisis of the Modern World Rene Guenon COLLECTED WORKS OF RENE GUENON THE CRISIS. René Guénon. Metaphysics, Tradition, and the Crisis of Modernity. Edited by John Herlihy. Introduction by. Martin Lings. T he Essential R ené G uénon. Herlihy.


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Guenon, Rene. [La crise du monde moderne. English]. The crisis of the modern world I Rene Guenon ; translated by. Arthur Osborne, Marco Fallis, Richard C. René Guénon and Sri Ramana Maharshi Two Remarkable Sages in Modern Times Part Two SAMUEL BENDECK SOTILLOS D espite the fact that Guénon and. Introduction René Guénon is recognised, along with Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon, as one of the founders of what is often referred to as the.

We have now to show more fully in what the anti-traditional outlook, which is really the modern outlook, consists, and what are the con- sequences that it bears within itself and that we see unfolding with a pitiless logic in present events— but before we pass on to this, one further remark is necessary.

In any case, no Easterner who is faithful to his own tradition would view matters differently, and it is certain that there are far fewer opponents of the West as such— an attitude that makes no sense— than of the West insofar as it has become identified with modern civilization. For our own part, we ask no more than to contribute, as far as our means permit, both to the reform and to the understanding, if indeed there is still time, and if any such result can be attained before the arrival of the final catastrophe toward which modern civilization is heading.

From one point of view— the one that is most important— this conflict reveals itself in the form of an opposition between contemplation and action, or, more strictly speaking, in a difference of opinion as to their relative importance. There are several different ways in which the relation between them can be regarded: Such are the various aspects of the question, and these aspects correspond to so many points of view, which, though far from being of equal impor- tance, can all be justified in some respects, since each one of them corresponds to a certain order of reality.

We will begin with the shallowest and most outward point of view, that which consists in treating contemplation and action as being purely and simply opposed to one another, as contraries in the true sense of the word. It is beyond dispute that such an opposi- tion does to all appearances exist; and yet, if this opposition were absolutely irreconcilable, there would be complete incompatibility between contemplation and action, and they could never be found 34 THE crisis of the modern world together.

But in fact this is not so; there is not, at least in normal cases, a people, nor possibly an individual, that can be exclusively contemplative or exclusively active.

What is true is that there are two tendencies, the one or the other of which must almost inevita- bly predominate, so that the development of the one seems to take place at the expense of the other for the simple reason that human activity, in the widest sense of the term, cannot exert itself equally in all realms and all directions at the same time.

It is this that gives the appearance of opposition; but a reconciliation must be possible between these contraries, or so-called contraries; as a matter of fact, one could say the same for all contraries, which cease to be such as soon as they are viewed from a higher level than the one where their opposition has its reality.

Opposition or contrast means dishar- mony or disequilibrium, that is to say something which, as we have already made clear, can exist only from a relative, particular, and limited point of view. To regard contemplation and action as complementary is there- fore to adopt a point of view that is deeper and truer than the fore- going, since the opposition is reconciled and resolved, and the two terms to a certain extent balance one another.

It would therefore seem to be a question of two equally necessary elements, which complete and support one another and constitute the twofold activ- ity, inward and outward, of one and the same being, whether this be each man taken in himself or mankind viewed as a whole.

This con- ception is certainly more harmonious and satisfying than the previ- ous one; however, if one held to it exclusively, one would be tempted, in virtue of the correlation so established, to place contem- plation and action on the same level, so that the only thing to do would be to strive to hold the balance between them as evenly as possible, without there ever being any question of the superiority of one over the other; but it is clear that this point of view is still inade- quate, given that the question of superiority is and always has been raised, no matter in which way men may have tried to answer it.

Doubt- less, recognition of superiority in one of the two tendencies will lead to its maximum development in preference to the other; but in practice it is nonetheless true that the particular capacity of each person has to be taken into account, and the places held by contem- plation and action in the life of a man or a people will therefore always be to a great extent determined by his or their nature.

It is obvious that the aptitude for contemplation is more widespread and more generally developed in the East, and probably nowhere more than in India, which can therefore be taken as representing most typically what wb have called the Eastern mentality. On the other hand, it is beyond dispute that the aptitude for action, or rather the tendency resulting from this aptitude, is predominant among the peoples of the West, at least as far as the great majority of individuals is concerned.

Even if this tendency were not exaggerated and perverted as it is at present, it would nevertheless continue to exist, so that in the West contemplation would always be bound to be the province of a much more restricted elite; it is for this reason that it is commonly said in India that, if the West returned to a nor- mal state and had a regular social organization, there would be many Kshatriyas, but relatively few Brahmins.

Why is it otherwise in modern times? Is it because Westerners have come to lose their intellectuality by over-developing their capacity for 1.

Contemplation and action are in fact the respective functions of the two first castes, the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas; the relationship between them is the same as that between the spiritual authority and the temporal power; but we do not pro- pose to go into this aspect of the question here, as it would require separate treat- ment.

In both instances— and if, as is probable, the truth lies between the two— the results are exactly the same; things have reached a point at which it is time to react; and this, be it said once more, is where the East can come to the help of the West assuming the West is willing , not by thrusting upon it conceptions that are foreign to its mentality, as some persons seem to fear, but by helping it to recover the lost meaning of its own tradition.

The present antithesis between East and West may be said to con- sist in the fact that the East upholds the superiority of contempla- tion over action, whereas the modern West on the contrary maintains the superiority of action over contemplation. In this case, it is no longer a question of points of view, of which each may have its justi- fication and be accepted as the expression of a relative truth, as was the case when we spoke of contemplation and action as being sim- ply opposed or complementary to one another— with a consequent relationship of coordination between them.

Relations of subordina- tion are by their very nature irreversible, and the two conceptions are in fact contradictory and therefore exclusive of one another; if, therefore, one admits that there really is subordination, one concep- tion must be true and the other false. But before proceeding to the root of the matter, let us note one more point: This impression is confirmed by the exaggeration into which the modern Western mentality falls through following its own inherent tendency, so that, not content with proclaiming on every occasion the superiority of action, men have come to the point of making action their sole preoccupation and of denying all value to contemplation, the true nature of which they ignore or entirely fail to understand.

Those who doubt the very real, though relative, importance assigned to action by the traditional doctrines of the East, and notably of India, have only to refer for evidence to the Bhagavad Gita , which, as it is important to remember if one is to grasp its meaning aright, is a book destined especially for Kshatriyas. It is in virtue of this relationship that the Brahmin is said to be the type of the stable being, whereas the Kshatriya is the type of the mobile or mutable being; thus, all beings in this world, depending on their nature, are in relation principally with one or the other, for there is a perfect correspondence between the cosmic and the human orders.

On the contrary, it should be noted that results in the realm of action, owing to its essentially momentary nature, are always separated from that which produces them, whereas knowledge bears its fruit in itself. This is precisely what modern Westerners overlook: Absorbed by action to the point of denying every- thing that lies beyond it, they do not see that this action itself degen- erates, from the absence of any principle, into an agitation as vain as it is sterile.

This indeed is the most conspicuous feature of the mod- ern period: It is dispersion in multiplicity, and in a multiplicity that is no longer unified by consciousness of any higher principle; in daily life, as in scientific ideas, it is analysis driven to an extreme, endless subdivision, a veritable disintegration of human activity in all the orders in which this can still be exer- cised; hence the inaptitude for synthesis and the incapacity for any sort of concentration that is so striking in the eyes of Easterners.

These are the natural and inevitable results of an ever more pro- nounced materialization, for matter is essentially multiplicity and division, and this— be it said in passing— is why all that proceeds from matter can beget only strife and all manner of conflicts between peoples as between individuals.

The deeper one sinks into matter, the more the elements of division and opposition gain force and scope; and, contrariwise, the more one rises toward pure spiri- tuality, the nearer one approaches that unity which can only be fully realized by consciousness of universal principles. What is most remarkable is that movement and change are actu- ally prized for their own sake, and not in view of any end to which they may lead; this is a direct result of the absorption of all human faculties in outward action whose necessarily fleeting character has just been demonstrated.

Here again we have dispersion, viewed from a different angle and at a more advanced stage: The same trend is noticeable in the scientific realm: We refer here of course to speculative science, insofar as this still exists; in applied science there are on the contrary undeniable results, and this is eas- ily understandable since these results bear directly on the domain of matter, the only domain in which modern man can boast any real superiority.

It is therefore to be expected that discoveries, or rather mechanical and industrial inventions, will go on developing and multiplying more and more rapidly until the end of the present age; and who knows if, given the dangers of destruction they bear in themselves, they will not be one of the chief agents in the ultimate catastrophe, if things reach a point at which this cannot be averted? Be that as it may, one has the general impression that, in the present state of things, there is no longer any stability; but while there are some who sense the danger and try to react to it, most of our contemporaries are quite at ease amid this confusion, in which they see a kind of exteriorized image of their own mentality.

This leads us to repeat an essential point on which not the slight- est ambiguity must be allowed to persist: But the moderns, knowing nothing higher than reason in the order of intel- ligence, do not even conceive of the possibility of intellectual intu- ition, whereas the doctrines of the ancient world and of the Middle Ages, even when they were no more than philosophical in character, and therefore incapable of effectively calling this intuition into play, nevertheless explicitly recognized its existence and its supremacy over all the other faculties.

This is why there was no rationalism before Descartes, for rationalism is a specifically modern phenome- non, one that is closely connected with individualism, being noth- ing other than the negation of any faculty of a supra- individual order. As long as Westerners persist in ignoring or denying intellec- tual intuition, they can have no tradition in the true sense of the word, nor can they reach any understanding with the authentic rep- resentatives of the Eastern civilizations, in which everything, so to speak, derives from this intuition, which is immutable and infallible in itself, and the only starting-point for any development in confor- mity with traditional norms.

Not only is this true of social institutions, but also of the sciences, that is, branches of knowledge bearing on the domain of the rela- tive, which in such civilizations are only regarded as dependencies, prolongations, or reflections of absolute or principial knowledge. Thus a true hierarchy is always and everywhere preserved: Thus, as regards science, there are two radically different and mutually incompatible conceptions, which may be referred to respectively as traditional and modern.

These readaptations are no more than changes of form, which do not touch the essence of the tradition: The case is different however when one passes to the realm of applications: Logicians are apt to regard a science as being defined entirely by its object, but this is over-simplified and misleading; the angle from which the object is envisaged must also affect the definition of the science.

The number of possible sciences is indefinite; it may well happen that several sci- ences study the same things, but under such different aspects and therefore by such different methods and with such different inten- tions that they are in reality different sciences. This is especially liable to be the case with the traditional sciences of different civiliza- tions, which though mutually comparable nevertheless cannot always be assimilated to one another, and often cannot rightly be given the same name.

The difference is even more marked if instead of comparing the different traditional sciences— which at least all have the same fundamental character— one tries to compare the sci- ences in general with the sciences of the modern world; it may sometimes seem at first sight that the object under study is the same in both cases, and yet the knowledge of it that the two kinds of sci- ence provide is so different that on closer examination one hesitates to say that they are the same in any respect.

A few examples may make our meaning clearer. This however is only the most outward side of the ques- tion, and it is not to be supposed that by joining together all these particular sciences one would arrive at an equivalent of ancient physics. The truth is that the point of view is quite different, and therein lies the essential difference between the two conceptions referred to above: It was however only in the nineteenth century that men began to glory in their ignorance— for to proclaim oneself an agnostic means nothing else— and claimed to deny to others any knowledge to which they had no access themselves; and this marked yet one more stage in the intellectual decline of the West.

By seeking to sever the connection of the sciences with any higher principle, under the pretext of assuring their independence, the modern conception robs them of all deeper meaning and even of all real interest from the point of view of knowledge; it can only lead them down a blind alley, by enclosing them, as it does, in a hope- lessly limited realm.

It should be noted that an analogous rupture has occurred in the social order, where the moderns claim to have separated the temporal from the spiritual. We do not mean to deny that the two are distinct, since they are in fact concerned with different provinces, just as are metaphysics and the sciences; but due to an error inherent in the analytical mentality, it has been forgotten that distinction does not mean separation.

Rene Guenon english pdf

Because of this separation, the temporal power has lost its legiti- macy— which is precisely what can be said, in the intellectual order, of the sciences. It must also be remarked that it is not for its own sake that, in general, Westerners pursue science; as they interpret it, their foremost aim is not knowl- edge, even of an inferior order, but practical applications, as can be deduced from the ease with which the majority of our contempo- raries confuse science and industry, and from the number of those for whom the engineer represents the typical man of science; but this is connected with another question that we shall have to deal with more fully further on.

In assuming its modern form, science has lost not only in depth but also, one might say, in stability, for its attachment to principles enabled it to share in their immutability to the extent that its sub- ject-matter allowed, whereas being now completely confined to the world of change, it can find nothing in it that is stable, and no fixed point on which to base itself; no longer starting from any absolute certainty, it is reduced to probabilities and approximations, or to purely hypothetical constructions that are the product of mere indi- vidual fantasy.

Moreover, even if modern science should happen by chance to reach, by a roundabout route, certain conclusions that seem to be in agreement with some of the teachings of the ancient traditional sciences, it would be quite wrong to see in this a confirmation— of which these teachings stand in no need; it would be a waste of time to try to reconcile such utterly different points of view or to establish a concordance with hypothetical theories that may be completely discredited before many years are out.

Since we have been led to speak of experimentalism, the opportu- nity may be taken to answer a question that may be raised in this connection: It must be clearly understood that we are not saying that any kind of knowledge can be deemed illegitimate, even though it be inferior; what is illegitimate is only the abuse that arises when things of this kind absorb the whole of human activity, as we see them doing at present.

One could even conceive, in a normal civili- zation, of sciences based on an experimental method being attached to principles in the same way as other sciences, and thus acquiring a real speculative value; if in fact this does not seem to have hap- pened, it is because attention was turned for preference in a differ- ent direction, and also because, even when it was a question of studying the sensible world as far as it could appear interesting to do so, the traditional data made it possible to undertake this study more advantageously by other methods and from another point of view.

It would be easy to give examples of this: There are even some modern sciences that represent, quite literally, residues of ancient sciences that are no longer understood: This seems to call for further explanation. But there is a certain difference in this case, for whereas one of the parts, namely that representing the more material side of the science in question, has taken on an inde- pendent development, the other has on the contrary entirely disap- peared.

A measure of the truth of this lies in the fact that it is no longer known today what ancient astrology may have been, and that even those who have tried to reconstruct it have managed to create nothing more than parodies of it. The case of chemistry is perhaps even more clear and characteris- tic; and modern ignorance concerning alchemy is certainly no less than in the case of astrology. It is not from this alchemy, with which as a matter of fact it has nothing in common, that mod- ern chemistry has sprung; the latter is only a corruption and, in the strictest sense of the word, a deviation from that science, arising, perhaps as early as the Middle Ages, from the incomprehension of persons who were incapable of penetrating the true meaning of the symbols and took everything literally.

It should be added that the so-called restorers of alchemy, of whom there are a certain number among our con- temporaries, are merely continuing this same deviation, and that their research is as far from traditional alchemy as that of the astrol- ogers to whom we have just referred is from ancient astrology; and that is why we have a right to say that the traditional sciences of the West are really lost for the moderns.

One could show for instance that psychology as it is understood today— that is, the study of mental phenomena as such— is a natural product of Anglo- Saxon empiricism and of the eighteenth century mentality, and that the point of view to which it corresponds was so negligible for the ancient world that, even if it was sometimes taken incidentally into consideration, no one would have dreamed of making a special sci- ence of it, since anything of value that it might contain was trans- formed and assimilated in higher points of view.

We will now return to considerations of a general order concerning the purposes served respectively by the traditional sci- ences and the modern sciences, so as to show the profound differ- ence that exists between the real purpose of the one and of the other.

According to the traditional conception, any science is of interest less in itself than as a prolongation or secondary branch of the doc- trine, whose essential part consists in pure metaphysics.

The Symbolism of the Cross Rene Guenon

It remains of interest only, so to speak, as a function of 4. This is expressed, for example, in such a designation as upaveda, used in India for certain traditional sciences and showing their subordination to the Veda, that is, sacred knowledge. These are the two complementary functions proper to the traditional sciences: The co-existence of the two roles we have just mentioned does not imply a contradiction or a vicious circle, as those who take a superficial view of the question might suppose, but it is a point call- ing for further discussion.

It could be explained by saying that there are two points of view, one descending and the other ascending, one corresponding to the unfolding of knowledge starting from princi- ples and proceeding to applications further and further removed from them, and the other implying a gradual acquisition of this knowledge, proceeding from the lower to the higher, or, if preferred, from the outward to the inward.

Soil Microbial Functions After Forest Fires Affected by the Compost Quality

The question does not have to be asked, therefore, whether the sciences should proceed from below upward or from above downward, or whether, to make their exist- ence possible, they should be based on knowledge of principles or 5.

However, when these sciences have been so established, their teaching may follow an inverse order: The ways leading to knowledge may be extremely different at the lowest degree, but they draw closer and closer together as higher levels are reached. This is not to say that any of these preparatory degrees are absolutely necessary, since they are mere contingent methods having nothing in common with the end to be attained; it is even possible for some persons, in whom the tendency to contemplation is pre- dominant, to attain directly to true intellectual intuition without the aid of such means ; 6 but this is a more or less exceptional case, and in general it is accepted as being necessary to proceed upward gradually.

This is why, according to Hindu doctrine, Brahmins should keep their minds constantly turned toward supreme knowledge, whereas Kshatriyas should rather apply themselves to a study of the successive stages by which this is gradually to be reached.

What is true of the sciences is equally true of the arts, since every art can have a truly symbolic value that enables it to serve as a support for meditation, and because ks rules, like the laws studied by the sci- ences, are reflections and applications of fundamental principles: This is the purpose, for example, of the astronomical symbolism so com- monly used in the various traditional doctrines; and what we say here can help to indicate the true nature of ancient astrology. The art of the medieval builders can be cited as a particularly remarkable example of these traditional arts, whose practice moreover implied a real knowl- edge of the corresponding sciences.

The Symbolism of the Cross Rene Guenon

To see the truth of this, it is sufficient to note facts such as the following: Irremediably enclosed in the relative and narrow realm in which it has striven to proclaim itself independent, thereby voluntarily breaking all connection with transcendent truth and supreme wisdom, it is only a vain and illu- sory knowledge, which indeed comes from nothing and leads to nothing.

That is not to say, of course, that this outlook is entirely new; it had already appeared in a more or less pronounced form in other periods, but its manifestations were always limited in scope and apart from the main trend, and they never went so far as to overrun the whole of a civilization, as has happened during recent centuries in the West. What has never been seen before is the erec- tion of an entire civilization on something purely negative, on what indeed could be called the absence of principle; and it is this that gives the modern world its abnormal character and makes of it a sort of monstrosity, only to be understood if one thinks of it as cor- responding to the end of a cyclical period, as we have already said.

Individualism, thus defined, is therefore the determining cause of the present decline of the West, precisely because it is, so to speak, the mainspring for the development of the lowest possibilities of mankind, namely those possibilities that do not require the inter- vention of any supra-human element and which, on the contrary, can only expand freely if every supra-human element be absent, since they stand at the antipodes of all genuine spirituality and intellectuality.

It would seem, indeed, as if the philosophers are much more interested in creating problems, however artificial and illusory they may be, than in solving them; and this is but one aspect of the irrational love of research for its own sake, that is to say, of the most futile agitation in both the mental and the corporeal domains.

In a traditional civilization it is almost inconceivable that a man should claim an idea as his own; and in any case, were he to do so, he would thereby deprive it of all credit and authority, reducing it to the level of a meaningless fantasy: The logical outcome of the modern deviation is precisely the negation of truth, as well as of the intelligence of which truth is the object. As we are speaking of philosophy, we shall mention some of the consequences of individualism in this field, though without enter- ing into every detail: This limitation of intelligence was however only a first stage; before long, reason itself was increasingly relegated to mainly practical functions, in proportion as applications began to predom- inate over such sciences as might still have kept a certain speculative character; and Descartes himself was already at heart much more concerned with these practical applications than with pure science.

More than this: By this means, however, rationalism was to bring about its own destruc- tion: This is in fact the position taken up by one form of evolutionism, namely Bergsonian intuitionism, which in fact is not less individualistic and anti-metaphysical than rational- ism itself; indeed, although it is just in its criticism of the latter, it sinks even lower, by appealing to a faculty that is really infra-ratio- nal, to a vaguely defined sensory intuition more or less mixed up with imagination, instinct, and sentiment.

After this there remained but one step: But we have dwelt long enough on philosophy, to which it would be wrong to attribute overmuch importance, whatever place it may appear to hold in the modern world; from our point of view, it is interesting mainly because it expresses, in as clear a form as possible, the tendencies of this or that period, much more than it actually cre- ates them; and even if it can be said to direct them to a certain extent, it does so only secondarily and when they are already formed.

Thus, for instance, it is certain that all modern philosophy has its origin in Descartes; but the influence exerted by him, firstly on his own time, and then on those that followed— an infhiehce not confined to philosophers alone— would not have been possible had his conceptions not been in agreement with already existing tenden- cies which, as a matter of fact, prevailed among his contemporaries in general; the modern mentality is reflected in Cartesianism and, through Cartesianism, it acquired a clearer knowledge of itself than it possessed before.

Moreover, if a movement in any domain is as conspicuous as Cartesianism has been in that of philosophy, it is always rather more as a result than as a cause; it is not something spontaneous, but the result of a wider underlying activity.

If a maij like Descartes is especially representative of the modern deviation, so that to some extent and from a certain point of view one can say that he personifies it, it remains nonetheless true that he is not its sole or first originator and that one would have to go much further back to trace its source. In the same way the Renaissance and the Reformation, which are usually considered to be the first great man- ifestations of the modern mentality, completed the breach with tra- dition rather than provoked it; for us, the beginning of this breach is to be found in the fourteenth century, and it is at this date, and not a century or two later, that the beginning of modern times should be fixed.

This, indeed, is in perfect accord with what has already been said, since it is intellectual intuition and pure metaphysical doctrine that constitute the very principle of every traditional civilization; once the principle is denied, all its conse- quences must be denied also, at least implicitly, and thereby every- thing that really merits the name of tradition is destroyed at one blow.

We have already seen how this process has worked in the case of the sciences, and we shall therefore not return to them but pass on to another province, in which the manifestations of the anti-tra- ditional outlook strike the eye perhaps even more immediately, since the changes produced have had a direct effect on the great mass of the people in the West.

Actually, the traditional sciences of the Middle Ages were confined to a not very numerous elite, and some of them were even a monopoly of strictly closed schools, and therefore constituted an esoterism in the true sense of the word; but there was also a part of the tradition that belonged to all without distinction, and it is of this outward part that we now wish to speak. At that time, the tradition of the West bore outwardly a specifically religious form, being in fact represented by Catholicism; it is there- fore in the realm of religion that we shall have to consider the revolt against the traditional outlook, a revolt which, when it had acquired a definite form, became known as Protestantism; it is not difficult to see that this is a manifestation of individualism; indeed one could call it individualism as applied to religion.

Protestantism, like the modern world, is built upon mere negation, the same negation of principles that is the essence of individualism; and one can see in it one more example, and a most striking one, of the state of anarchy and dissolution that has arisen from this negation. Individualism necessarily implies the refusal to accept any authority higher than the individual, as well as any means of knowl- edge higher than individual reason; these two attitudes are insepara- ble.

This is what in fact did happen: What hap- pened in the realm of religion was therefore analogous to the part to be played by rationalism in philosophy: As it was impossible under such conditions to come to an agreement on doctrine, this was soon thrust into the background, and the secondary aspect of religion, namely morality, came to the fore: There thus arose a phenomenon, paral- lel to that to which we have referred in the case of philosophy, as an inevitable consequence of the dissolution of doctrine and the disap- pearance from religion of its intellectual elements.

From rational- ism, religion was bound to sink into sentimentalism, ancHt is in the Anglo-Saxon countries that the most striking examples of this are to be found. Actually, religion being essentially a form of tradition, the anti- traditional outlook cannot help being anti-religious; it begins by denaturing religion and, when it can, ends by suppressing it entirely.

Protestantism is illogical: It does not dare carry its negation to the logical conclusion but, by subjecting revelation to all the dis- cussions resulting from purely human interpretations, it does in fact reduce it to next to nothing; and seeing, as one does, people who persist in calling themselves Christian even though they deny the very divinity of Christ, one cannot avoid the supposition that they are much nearer to complete negation than to real Christianity, although they may not realize the fact.

Such contradictions, how- ever, should not occasion too much surprise, for they are in every field one of the symptoms of the disorder and confusion of our times, just as the incessant subdivision of Protestantism is one of the many manifestations of that dispersion in multiplicity which, as we have shown, is to be found everywhere in modern life and sci- ence.

Once started, the revolt against the traditional outlook could not be stopped halfway. An objection might here be raised: No doubt other civilizations may possess organizations of very different form to fulfill the corresponding function, but it is the civilization of the West, with all the conditions peculiar to it, that concerns us here. It would be to no purpose therefore to plead that there is no institution comparable to the Papacy in India; the case is quite different there, in the first place because its tradition does not take the form of a religion in the Western sense of the word, so that the means by which it is preserved and transmitted cannot be the same, and secondly because— the Hindu mentality being quite different from the European— the Hindu tradition possesses within itself an inherent power such as the European tradition could not enjoy without the support of an organization much more rigidly defined in its outward constitution.

We have already said that the Western tradition has necessarily borne a religious form since the introduction of Christianity. It would take too long to explain here all the reasons for this, reasons that could moreover not be fully understood without entering into rather complex considerations, y but it is an actual fact with which one cannot refuse to reckon ; 1 and once admitted, one must also admit all the consequences it entails with regard to an organization suited to this kind of traditional form.

It is moreover quite certain, as we showed above, that it is in Catholicism alone that all that may still remain of the traditional spirit in the West has been preserved; but does this mean that in Catholicism at least one can speak of an integral conservation of tradition completely untainted by the modern spirit? Unfortunately this does not appear to be the case; or, more precisely, if the deposit of tradition has remained intact, which is in itself much, it is doubt- ful whether its deeper meaning is fully understood, even by a restricted elite, which, if it existed, would doubtless show itself 1.

Most probably therefore there is only what might be termed a preservation of the tradition in a latent state, in which state it is always possible for those who are capable of it to redis- cover its meaning, even though no one may be fully aware of it at the present time; moreover, outside the religious domain, scattered here and there in the Western world, there are also many signs or symbols descended from ancient traditional doctrines and pre- served without being understood.

In such cases, contact with the fully living traditional spirit is necessary to awaken what has thus fallen into a kind of sleep, and to restore the lost understanding; and, be it said once more, it is mainly in this respect that the West will require help from the East if it is to recover knowledge of its own tradition. What we have just said refers to the possibilities which Catholi- cism, through its principle, faithfully and unalterably contains; with Catholicism, therefore, the influence of the modern outlook is unable to do more than prevent certain things from being effectively understood, at least for a certain time.

Thus, doc- trine is in fact forgotten or reduced to almost nothing, which gets close to the Protestant conception, since it is an effect of the same modern tendencies, which are opposed to all intellectuality; and, what is even more deplorable, the teaching commonly given, instead of reacting against this state of mind, favors it by adapting to it only too well: The digression into which we have been led by our review of the manifestations of individualism in the religious field does not seem unjustified, for it shows that the evil, in this domain, is even more serious and widespread than might at first sight be supposed; more- over, it is not really foreign to the question we are considering, upon which our last remark directly bears, for it is individualism that everywhere sponsors the spirit of debate.

It is always possible to hold discussions within the realm of individual opinion, as this does not go beyond the rational order, and it is easy to find more or less valid arguments on both sides of a question when there is no appeal to any higher principle. Indeed, in many cases, discussion can be carried on indefinitely without arriving at any solution, which is the reason why almost all modern philosophy is built up on quibbles and badly-framed ques- tions.

Far from clearing up these questions, as it is commonly sup- posed to do, discussion usually only entangles or obscures them still further, and its commonest result is for each participant, in trying to convert his opponent, to become more firmly wedded to his own opinion, and to enclose himself in it more exclusively than ever. Their function is not to compromise doctrine by taking part in strife, but to pronounce the judgement which they have the right to pro- nounce, if they effectively possess the principles that should infalli- bly inspire them.

Indeed, if a reconstitution were to be attempted at this level— that is to say, working backward and starting from conse- quences rather than from principles— it would be bound to lack any real foundation and would be completely illusory. Nothing stable could ever come of it, and the whole work would have to be begun anew because the prime necessity of coming to an agreement on essential truths would have been overlooked.

As we have already pointed out, under the present state of affairs in the Western world, nobody any longer occupies the place that he should normally occupy by virtue of his own nature; this is what is meant by saying that the castes no longer exist, for caste, in its tradi- tional meaning, is nothing other than individual nature, with the whole array of special aptitudes that this carries with it and that predisposes each man to the fulfillment of one or another particular function.

The part he plays in the community is determined, not by chance— which does not in reality exist 1 — but by what might appear to be chance, that is, by a network of all sorts of incidental circumstances: It would be quite easy to show that equality can nowhere exist, for the simple reason that there cannot be two beings who are at the same time really dis- tinct and completely alike in every respect; and it would be no less easy to bring out all the ridiculous consequences arising out of this fantastical idea, in the name of which men claim to impose a com- plete uniformity on everyone, in such ways for example as by met- ing out identical teaching to all, as though all were equally capable of understanding the same things, and as though the same methods for making them understand these things were suitable for all indis- criminately.

What men call chance is simply their ignorance of causes; if the statement that something had happened by chance were to mean that it had no cause, it would be a contradiction in terms. If these sug- gestions were to disappear, the general mentality would come very near to changing direction; and this is why they are so assiduously fostered by all those who have some interest in maintaining the con- fusion, if not in making it worse, and also why, at a time when it is claimed that everything is open to discussion, they are the only things that may never be discussed.

Moreover, it is not easy to judge the degree of sincerity of those who become the propagators of such ideas, or to know to what extent they fall prey to their own lies and deceive themselves as they deceive others; in fact, in propaganda of this sort, those who play the part of dupes are often the best instru- ments, as they bring to the work a conviction that others would have difficulty in simulating, and which is readily contagious.

But behind all this, at least at the outset, a much more deliberate kind of action is necessary, and the direction can be set only by men fully cogni- zant of the real nature of the ideas they are spreading. However, without dwelling any longer on these points, let us return to the consequences involved by the negation of all true hier- archy; it must be noticed that not merely does a man, in the present state of affairs, fulfill his proper function only in exceptional cases and as though by accident— his not doing so being the exception— but it also happens that the same man is called upon to fulfill successively completely different functions, as though he could change his aptitudes at will.

If the competence of specialists is often quite illusory, and in any case limited to a very narrow field, the belief in this competence is nevertheless a fact, and it may well be asked why it is that this belief is not made to apply to the careers of politicians and why, with them, the most complete incompetence is seldom an obstacle.

A lit- tle reflection, however, will show that there is nothing surprising in this, and that it is in fact a very natural outcome of the democratic conception, according to which power comes from below and is based essentially on the majority, for a necessary corollary of this conception is the exclusion of all real competence, which is always at least a relative superiority, and therefore belongs necessarily to a minority.

Some explanation may be useful here to bring out, on the one hand, the sophistries underlying the democratic idea and, on the other, to show the connection between this idea and the modern mental outlook as a whole. It need hardly be added, considering the THE SOCIAL CHAOS 73 point of view at which we place ourself, that these observations will remain entirely aloof from all party questions and all political quar- rels, with which we will have nothing whatsoever to do.

We regard these matters in an absolutely disinterested way, just as we would any other subject of study, and wish only to bring out as clearly as possible what lies behind them; to do this is indeed necessary— in fact the one thing necessary— if all the illusions that our contempo- raries harbor on this subject are to be dispelled.

The most decisive argument against democracy can be summed up in a few words: And it should be remarked that this same argument, applied to a different order of things, can also be invoked against materialism; there is nothing fortuitous in this, for these two attitudes are much more closely linked than might at first sight appear. It is abundantly clear that the people cannot confer a power that they do not themselves possess; true power can only come from above, and this is why— be it said in passing— it can be legitimized only by the sanction of something standing above the social order, that is to say by a spiritual author- ity, for otherwise it is a mere counterfeit of power, unjustifiable through lack of any principle, and in which there can be nothing but disorder and confusion.

This reversal of the true hierarchical order begins when the temporal power seeks to make itself inde- pendent of the spiritual authority, and then even to subordinate the latter by claiming to make it serve political ends. This is an initial usurpation that opens up the way to all the others; thus it could be shown, for example, that the French monarchy was itself working unconsciously, from the fourteenth century onward, to prepare the 74 THE crisis of the modern world Revolution that was to overthrow it; it may be that we shall have the opportunity some day to expound this point of view adequately, but for the moment we can only refer briefly to it in passing.

One must guard against being misled by words: The relationship of ruler and ruled necessitates the presence of two terms: Guenon did develop these points later in his Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power. THE SOCIAL CHAOS 75 as the majority, on whatever question it may be called on to give its opinion, is always composed of the incompetent, whose number is vastly greater than that of the men who can give an opinion based on full knowledge. This now leads us to elucidate more precisely the error of the idea that the majority should make the law, because, even though this idea must remain theoretical— since it does not correspond to an effective reality— it is necessary to explain how it has taken root in the modern outlook, to which of its tendencies it corresponds, and which of them— at least in appearance— it satisfies.

Its most obvious flaw is the one we have just mentioned: Even supposing there were some question upon which all men were in agreement, this agreement would prove nothing in itself; moreover, even if such a unanimity really existed— which is all the more unlikely in that, whatever be the question, there are always many people who have no opinion at all and have never even thought about it— it would in any case be impossible to prove it in practice, so that what is invoked in support of an opinion and as a sign of its truth amounts merely to the consent of the majority— the majority of a group moreover that is necessarily very limited in space and time.

In this domain the bankruptcy of the theory is even more obvious since it is easier to remove from it the influence of sentiment, which almost inevitably comes into play in the field of politics. But let us probe still more deeply into the question: It is simply the law of matter and brute force, the same law by which a mass, carried down by its weight, crushes everything that lies in its track.

It is pre- cisely here that we find the point of junction of the democratic con- ception and materialism, and here also is to be found the reason why this conception is so firmly rooted in the present-day mentality.

By this means, the normal order of things is completely reversed and the supremacy of multiplicity as such is upheld, a supremacy that actually exists only in the material world ; 3 in the spiritual world on the other hand— and more clearly still in the universal order— it is unity that is at the summit of the hierarchy, since unity is the principle out of which all multiplicity arises. Furthermore, the allusion to weight that we have just made has more significance than that of a mere comparison, for in the field of physical forces— in the commonest meaning of the word— weight effectively represents the downward and compressive tendency, which involves an ever increasing limitation of the being, and at the same time makes for multiplicity, represented here by ever greater density: It should also be noted that matter, 3.

In this case, as in all others, the analogy between one order of reality and another applies in a strictly inverse sense. This tendency is the one that the Hindu doctrine calls tamas and assimilates to ignorance and darkness.

From what we have just said about the inverse applica- tion of all analogy, it will be seen that the compression or condensation in question is directly opposed to concentration of the spiritual or intellectual order, so much so that it is in reality correlative with division and dispersion in multiplicity, how- ever strange this may appear at first sight.

The same applies to uniformity obtained, according to the egalitarian conception, from below and at the lowest level, which is the direct opposite of the higher and principial unity.

This establishes a connection between the questions we are dealing with now and our earlier remarks about individualism: The law of such a community is literally that of the greatest number, and it is on this that the democratic idea is based. We must pause here to clear up a possible misunderstanding: In reality however it is not so, because the collectivity, being nothing other than the sum of the individuals within it, cannot be opposed to them, any more than can the State itself, conceived in the modern fashion, and viewed as a simple representation of the masses— in which no higher principle is reflected; and it will be recalled that individualism, as we have defined it, consists precisely in the nega- tion of every supra-individual principle.

Therefore, if conflicts arise in the social sphere between tendencies, all of which equally find their place within the modern outlook, they are not conflicts between individualism and something else, but simply between the 6. We will even add that wherever they came to assume too great a role and became predominant, they have invariably been a cause of degeneration and deviation. If the more 3. To this day, the Companions of the 'Rite of Solomon' have preserved the memory of their link with the 'Order of the Temple'.

This way of seeing things is in large part shared by Aroux and Rossetti in their interpretation of Dante, and it is also to be found in many passages from Eliphas Levi's Historyof Magic. The example of certain Islamic organizations, in which political preoccupations have as it were stifled the original spirituality, is very clear in this respect. Nor is this something specific to builders, for certain writers, Boccacio and Rabelais in particular, and many others besides, have worn the same mask and employed the same means.

And it must be acknowledged that this stratagem has worked well, since in our day doubtless more than ever before, the profane are still taken in by them. If we wish to get to the bottom of things, we must see in the symbolism of the builders the expression of certain traditional sciences related to what can in general be called 'Hermeticism'. But in speaking here of 'sciences' it should not be thought that we mean something comparable to profane science, almost the only science known to modern people.

Such an identification conforms to the mentality of Bedarride, who speaks of 'the changing form of the positive knowledge of science' -an observation that applies clearly and exclusively to profane science-and who, taking purely symbolic images literally, believes he finds therein 'evolutionist' and even 'transformist' ideas, ideas which stand in absolute contradiction to all traditional teachings.

In several of our works we have developed at length the essential difference between sacred or traditional science and profane science, and although we cannot repeat it all here, we thought it well at least to draw attention to this important point.

In closing, let us add that it is not without reason that among the Romans Janus was both the god of initiation into the mysteries and the god of the artisans' guilds; nor is it without reason that the builders of the Middle Ages kept the two solstitial festivals.

This same Janus then becomes in Christianity the two Saint Johns, of winter and summer; 6 and when we once know the connection of Saint John with the esoteric side of Christianity, do we not then immediately see that, making due allowance for circumstances and 'cyclical laws', what is involved is the same initiation into the mysteries that is in question?

See Symbolsof SacredScience,chaps. Indeed, as we have noted on other occasions, structures were generally built in wood before being built in stone, and this is why, notably in India, no trace of them is found beyond a certain age, wooden buildings obviously being less durable than those of stone; in addition, the use of wood among sedentary peoples corresponds to a state of lesser fixity than that of stone, or to put it another way, a lesser degree of 'solidification', which accords with the fact that it has to do with an early stage in the course of the cyclical process.

It goes without saying that the role of the 1. See what we have said on this subject in The Reignof Quantity and the Signs Naturally, the change in question cannot be regarded as having been produced simultaneously among all peoples, but there are always corresponding stages in the course of the life of each people.

The only difference is one of secondary adaptation, as is always the case with translation from one language into another.

Of course when one is dealing with 2. It is understood that professions like those of Cartwright and cabinet-maker must be regarded as only particular forms or later 'specializations' of that of carpenter, which in its most general and at the same time most ancient meaning includes everything having to do with the working of wood. Even if these beams were replaced later still in certain cases by 'ribs' of stone we are thinking especially of the Gothic vaults , this changes nothing in the symbolism.

It is unfortunately untranslatable into French, where however one does commonly speak of 'rays' or 'spokes' of a wheel, which in relation to the latter's hub play the same role as do the beams in question with respect to the 'eye' of the dome.

A particularly important point in this connection is that the Greek word hyle originally meant 'wood', but at the same time designated the substantial principle, or materiaprima, of the cosmos, and, by derivation from the former, all materia secunda,that is to say all that which in a relative sense plays a role analogous to that of the substantial principle of all manifestation.

Indeed, since it is from 'wood' that the elements of cosmic construction are drawn, the 'Great Architect' must be regarded above all as a 'master carpenter', as he effectively is in such a case, and as it is natural that he be so, when the human builders, whose art from the traditional point of view essentially 'imitates' that of the 'Great Architect', are themselves carpenters.

It is rather curious that in Spanish the word madera,derived directly from materia, still designates wood, and even more particularly wood used for the framework. It is perhaps not without interest to note that in the 22nd degree of Scottish Masonry, which according to Hermetic interpretation represents 'the preparation of the materials necessary for the "Great Work';' these materials are represented not by stones, as in the grades that properly constitute Masonic initiation, but by construction wood.

One might see in this grade, whatever may in fact be its historical origin, a sort of'vestige' of the initiation of the carpenters, all the more so as the ax, which is its symbol or chief attribute, is essentially a carpenter's tool.

Let us recall also the symbolic relationship that the ax has, generally, with the vajra cf. As we have often said, historical facts are in the final analysis merely the reflection of realities of another order, and it is that gives them all their value; here is a much deeper symbolism than is ordinarily thought if indeed the great majority of Christians even entertain however vaguely the notion that there may be any symbolism whatever.

Even if it only be an apparent filiation, it is still required by the coherence of the symbolism, since it is a matter of something in keeping with the external order of manifestation only, and not with the principial order.

It is exactly the same in the Hindu tradition, where Agni, insofar as he is the Avatara par excellence, has Tvashtri as his adoptive father when he is born in the Cosmos; and how could it be otherwise when that Cosmos itself is nothing else, symbolically, than the very work of the 'master carpenter'?

The question itself seems to have been badly framed, for regularity is always taken to be based on purely historical considerations, on the real or supposed proof of an uninterrupted transmission of authority from some more or less distant period. Now we would of course have to admit that from this point of view a degree of irregularity could easily be found in the origins of all the Rites practiced today, but we think this a far less important point than some have for various reasons wished to imagine, for we see true regularity as residing essentially in Masonic orthodoxy.

And this orthodoxy consists above all in faithfully following tradition, in carefully preserving the symbols and ritual forms that express and as it were clothe it, and in resisting every innovation that smacks of modernism.

We have intentionally used the word modernism here to designate a tendency-all too widespread within Masonry as well as everywhere else-characterized by a misuse of criticism, a rejection of symbolism, and a negation of everything that constitutes esoteric and traditional science.

We do not wish to say, however, that in order to remain orthodox Masonry must enclose itself in a narrow formalism, or that ritualism must be something absolutely immutable, to which nothing could either be added or taken away without this amounting to a sort of sacrilege; such would be proof of a dogmatism completely foreign and even contrary to the spirit of Masonry.

Changes in details of ritual matter little, provided that the initiatic teaching which emerges suffers no distortion; and the multiplicity of rites need present no serious drawback-it could perhaps even offer certain advantages-however unfortunate it has in fact all too often proved itself to be, serving only as a pretext for dissension between rival Orders and thereby compromising the unity of universal Masonry, which though ideal, if one wishes, is nevertheless real.

It is especially regrettable that so many Masons display complete ignorance of symbolism and its esoteric interpretation, and forsake the initiatic studies without which ritualism becomes nothing more than a collection of ceremonies devoid of meaning, as in exoteric religions. From this point of view, there exist today certain truly unpardonable cases of negligence, particularly in France and Italy; we may cite as an example the Masters who have ceased to wear their apron, which is in reality the true Masonic garb, the cord merely being its ornament, as T:.

Dr Blatin recently showed so well in a paper that must still be fresh in the minds of the FF:. Even more serious is the absence or oversimplification of the initiatic ordeals, and their replacement with the recitation of virtually insignificant formulas.

In this regard we can do no better than reproduce the following lines, which also give an apt general definition of symbolism: Masonic Symbolism is the sensible form of a philosophical synthesis of a transcendent or abstract order.

Concepts represented by the Symbols of Masonry cannot lead to any dogmatic teaching; they escape concrete formulas of spoken language and cannot be translated into words. They are, as is most rightly said, Mysteries veiled from profane curiosity, Truths that the mind can only grasp after judicious preparation. This preparation for understanding of the Mysteries is staged allegorically in Masonic initiations by the ordeals of the three fundamental grades of the Order.

Here let us take this occasion to protest strongly against a campaign more ridiculous than odious that for some time now has been waged in France against French Masonry by people affecting rather dubious Masonic qualities, all on behalf of a so-called spiritualism that has nothing to do with this case; if these people, to whom we do not wish to give the honor of mentioning by name, believe that their methods will assure the success of the pseudo-Masonry which they vainly attempt to disseminate under various labels, they are strangely mistaken.

We do not wish to address here the question of the G:. In the last issue of L'Acaciathis question was the subject of a most interesting discussion between FF:.

Oswald Wirth and Ch. Limousin, but, unfortunately, the discussion was interrupted by the death of the latter, whose passing was a cause of mourning for all of Masonry. Be that as it may, we shall only remark that the symbol of the G:. It is regrettable that French Masonry should be mistaken on this subject, but in all fairness it must be recognized that it has thereby only shared in a rather common error. Should this confusion be dispelled, all Masons would 1.

Oswald Wirth has said, with whose conclusions we entirely agree. We can only hope that the day will come, and that it is not far off, when agreement will be established once and for all on the fundamental principles of Masonry and the essential points of traditional doctrine.

All branches of universal Masonry, certain of which have deviated, will then return to true orthodoxy, and all will unite together at last to labor toward the realization of the Great Work, which is the integral accomplishment of Progress in every domain of human activity. Albert Pike, 'is the essence and marrow of Freemasonry. Esoteric doctrines can be transmitted only through initiation, and every initiation necessarily comprises several successive phases, to which there correspond as many different grades.Though first published in , The Crisis of the Modern World bears reprinting unaltered and unannotated at the beginning of this new millenium, for it rests upon principles that stand outside — indeed determine — the conditions of time and space.

Changes in details of ritual matter little, provided that the initiatic teaching which emerges suffers no distortion; and the multiplicity of rites need present no serious drawback-it could perhaps even offer certain advantages-however unfortunate it has in fact all too often proved itself to be, serving only as a pretext for dissension between rival Orders and thereby compromising the unity of universal Masonry, which though ideal, if one wishes, is nevertheless real.

Even supposing there were some question upon which all men were in agreement, this agreement would prove nothing in itself; moreover, even if such a unanimity really existed— which is all the more unlikely in that, whatever be the question, there are always many people who have no opinion at all and have never even thought about it— it would in any case be impossible to prove it in practice, so that what is invoked in support of an opinion and as a sign of its truth amounts merely to the consent of the majority— the majority of a group moreover that is necessarily very limited in space and time.

Even if it only be an apparent filiation, it is still required by the coherence of the symbolism, since it is a matter of something in keeping with the external order of manifestation only, and not with the principial order. Modern persons in general cannot conceive of any other science than that of things that can be measured, counted, and weighed, in other words material things, since it is to these alone that the quan- titative point of view can be applied; the claim to reduce quality to quantity is very typical of modern science.

Nasr observes that the use of the Aristotelian language of form and matter is here transposed into the spiritual domain to symbolize the inner experiences of the traveller. In certain Middle-Eastern guilds, the chest containing the 'treasure' was provided with three locks, the keys to which were entrusted to three different officers, so that all three had to be present to open the chest.

GERTRUDIS from Salt Lake City
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