“Traditionalism as a Theory: Sophia, Plato and the Event” – Alexander Dugin (2013)

Author: Alexander Dugin

Translator: Jafe Arnold

Chapter 8 of In Search of the Dark Logos: Philosophico-Theological Outlines

(Moscow: Academic Project/Department of the Sociology of International Relations, Faculty of Sociology, Moscow State University, 2013).

***

 

Mark Sedgwick and his hypothesis on Sophia Perennis

In his book, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century [1], the contemporary scholar and historian of Traditionalism, Mark Sedgwick, based on research into the philosophical sources of the worldview of the founder of Traditionalism, René Guénon, advanced the hypothesis that the Traditionalist movement, in its assertion of Sophia Perennis (Philosophia Perennis) and the “Primordial Tradition” as its foundational theory, is based not on some “mythical”, exotic, “Eastern” sources, but on none other than the Western philosophical tradition, whose roots can be traced back to the Renaissance Platonism of Gemistus Plethon, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Agostino Steuco, etc. The current which took shape in this circle elevated the figure of Sophia and the corresponding notion of “Primordial Theology” (as in Steuco’s Prisca theologia), and the content of this “primordial theology” boiled down to Platonism, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism, which were rediscovered in Western Europe thanks to translations from Greek of a broad spectrum of these currents, whose texts were brought by the Greek Gemistus Plethon from Byzantium in the final period before its final fall. Although Sedgwick’s thesis has seemed to many Traditionalists to be “disrobing”, overall this analysis of the intellectual circles of the Renaissance Neoplatonists and their ideas demonstrates a considerable convergence with Guénon’s views and those of his followers. 

In turn, the works of the English Dame Frances Yates dedicated to these very same intellectual currents of the European Renaissance and Modernity [2] have shown just how enormous of an influence Platonism exerted on the formation of the philosophical, scientific, and political views of this transitional epoch. Both Sedgwick and Yates show how a significant number of the founding fathers of the modern scientific view of the world were in fact largely inspired by mystical-religious ideas and Neoplatonic theories, even though only one side of their works – that tied to empiricism, rationalism, mechanism, etc. – would make it into the scientific canons of Modernity, while the mysticism and “Perennialism” of the Renaissance would be left “behind the scenes” or alternatively interpreted in naturalistic, pantheistic, or deist directions. A prominent example of this is Issac Newton, who was both an alchemist and a Kabbalist on the one hand and, on the other, the founding father of mechanistic physics and rationalist, empiricist natural science. The historian of religions Mircea Eliade, who in his youth participated in the Traditionalist movement, developed this perspective with the proposal that we view the rational-scientific and progressist topography of the philosophy of Modernity as a product of the secularization of European Hermeticism. 

These considerations led Sedgwick to reconsider the influence of Traditionalism on philosophy, science, and to a certain extent politics in the 20th century. This movement, lying at the heart of Modernity and appearing in new form as the philosophy developed by René Guénon, Julius Evola, and a broad circle of thinkers on which the former had decisive impact, was much more significant and important than can be judged on the basis of mere superficial familiarity with the subject. At the same time, they appear to be somewhat more modest and even, to a certain extent, marginal. At the source of Modernity lies Platonic universalism, which became the ideological grounds for proclaiming the universalism of the rational philosophy of post-Medieval Europe. Gradually, the bulk of attention came to be drawn towards the technological side of this movement, towards pure empiricism and rationalism, while the metaphysical dimension was neglected and written off as one of the costs and remnants of “Medieval irrationalism.” However, following this scheme, it turns out that with the exhaustion of the technocratic, rationalist philosophy, Baconist scientism, and Cartesian dualism of the epoch of Modernity, this second side, which had long since receded to the periphery, began to make itself known again. Guénon’s Traditionalism became its developed manifesto. Hence the growth of Traditionalism’s significance in correlation with the ever broader and deeper consciousness of the “crisis of the modern world.” Thus, in the transition to Post-Modernity, Modernity has once again remembered its “occult roots.” The Enlightenment, now called into question, has turned towards its “Rosicrucian” beginning. 

This hypothesis of Sedgwick and Yates, shared by a number of other authors, is productive. In the very least, it raises the status of Traditionalism to that of one of the most important philosophical currents to emerge in the critical moment of the exhaustion of the agenda of the classical scientific rationality of Modernity and with the formation of the first Post-Modern theories subjecting Modernity to deconstruction. If we recognize that at the very heart of Modernity, which claimed rationalism and the theory of progress to be the foundations of its universalism, there lies a set of irrational views that appeal to deep antiquity for substantiation, i.e., the Platonic-mystical and Hermetic universalism of the Perennialist and Sophiological shade, then Modernity itself appears under a completely different light, and Post-Modern critics thereby acquire yet another argument, namely, that Modernity was not at all what it claimed to be, but was merely a poorly disguised, masked version of the traditional society which Modernity sought to overcome, annul, and dismantle. 

On the other hand, Traditionalism itself thereby appears to be a phenomenon that is critical of, but nonetheless related to Modernity. It is not simply the “continuation of Tradition” by inertia, but an altogether specific and original critical philosophy which refutes Modernity and subjects the latter to merciless critique on the basis of a special, complex set of ideas and theories which, taken together in their sum, constitute a “Perennialism” or “universal esotericism” which, it ought to be noted, does not coincide with any one single really existing historical tradition. Thus, we are only one step away from recognizing Traditionalism to be a “construct.” The revolutionary, critical, and modern potential of Guénon’s philosophy was rightfully noticed by the Traditionalist René Alleau, who proposed to consider Guénon alongside Marx as one among the constellation of radical revolutionaries and critics of modern civilization.[3] 

From Prisca theologia to René Guénon

A number of various, altogether interesting conclusions can be extracted from Sedgwick’s analysis.[4] Here we will fixate on merely one point, that of the conceptual unity of 20th century Traditionalism (Guénon, Evola, etc.) and Renaissance Platonism (Plethon, Ficino, Steuco, etc.). Both of these philosophical currents can be generalized with the notion of “Perennialism.”

If we can historically trace Guénon’s philosophical inspirations back to the Renaissance, which Guénon himself harshly criticized for misunderstanding the sacred civilization of the Middle Ages, and if we can find there the first formulations of Sophia Perennis or the Prisca theologia which compose the foundation of Traditionalist philosophy, then in it becomes completely obvious that these currents came to Western Europe in the Renaissance from the much deeper past and, to a certain extent, from a different cultural context (more specifically, the Byzantine-Greek). Of course, Platonism was well known in Medieval European Scholasticism, but it had long since yielded to Averroism and Aristotelianism enshrined virtually dogmatically in the realism of Thomas Aquinas. Hermeticism had existed in the form of alchemical currents and esoteric fraternities, but in the Renaissance these tendencies surfaced in rather vivid and magistral form, such as in the forms of open Neoplatonism and philosophically-formulated Hermeticism (with numerous direct or indirect polytheistic elements), which claimed to be not merely a secret tradition parallel to the dominant Scholasticism, but a foundational, universal worldview. Renaissance Platonism and Hermeticism directly opposed Catholic Tomism and formulated the agenda of Renaissance Humanism. This humanism was magical and sacred: man was understood to be the “perfect man”, the Platonic philosopher, the Angel-Initiator. 

The Renaissance Platonists appealed directly to the works of Plato, Plotinus, Hermes Trismegistus, and the broader corpus of Neoplatonic and Hermetic theories, many of which were freshly translated from Greek. Platonic humanism was reformed into a conceptual, theoretical bloc and began its offensive against previous philosophical and theological constructs. The Neoplatonists justified their claims to truth by emphasizing the antiquity of their sources and by claiming to propose a philosophical paradigm which could generalize different religious confessions, and as such was more universal and more profound than the Catholic religion of Europe. This synthesis came to include, in the very least, Byzantine Orthodoxy, but the reform program of Gemistus Plethon was even broader, proposing a restoration of “Platonic theology” as a whole and a return to certain aspects of polytheism. Platonism, like Hermeticism, was seen not simply as one philosophical or religious tendency among many others, but as “universal wisdom” capable of serving as a key to the most diverse philosophies and religions, as a common denominator. This idea of a meta-religious generalization became the most important notion of the Rosicrucian movement and, later, European Masonry (as shown by Yates). 

This universalism was substantiated by references to “Perennialism”, to the existence of some kind of exclusive instance in which all of world wisdom, independently of historical peripeteia, is present and preserved in its “paradisal”, primordial state. This “perennial wisdom”, Sophia, was the point of departure that allowed one to examine specific religions and philosophies as individual and historically conditioned constructs, thus laying claims to a universality transcending any and all individualities. This Sophia was knowable and, as follows, he who participated in her, loved her, and identified with her received access to “absolute knowledge.” Renaissance Humanism was therefore Sophiological. Sophia was treated as the Angel of humanity, the latter’s living and eternally present, eternally youthful archetype or eidos. 

It is by all means possible that European Modernity’s claims to the universalism of its values are to be sought in precisely this source. As Catholic ecumenism was abandoned, the cultural messianism of the West demanded new substantiation, and such was found in “Perennialism”: the new Europe, post-Medieval Europe, conceived itself to be the privileged region of the revealed, eternal Sophia, and on these grounds the Europeans of Modernity acquired their mandate to newly master and conquer the world, seeing themselves as not merely raptorial colonizers, but as the bearers of higher universal knowledge. This explains the special incandescence of the era of geographical discoveries and (Francis Bacon’s) call to discover Atlantis not only in the new colonies, but in the Old World itself. Thus, Renaissance Platonism and its corresponding Perennialism ought to be considered a most important factor in the formation of the structure of Modernity as a whole. The profane universalism of progressist and rationalist Europe has its roots in the sacred super-rationalism of the Renaissance Platonists oriented towards eternity and deep antiquity. 

The construct of Sophia 

The “constructivist” character of Renaissance Neoplatonism is obvious to us. We can easily trace how and on what sources it was constructed. The Hermetic Poimandres and Asclepius attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, as well as the cosmological and anthropological dialogues of Plato (the Timaeus, the Republic, the Laws, the Symposium, etc.) were taken to be universal and interpreted in the spirit of the Neoplatonic systematizations of Plotinus and his followers. Neoplatonism situated Sophia as its main content, its systematized philosophical hologram. And it is through this prism that other religions and philosophical systems were interpreted as individual cases of a generalized perennial(ist) paradigm. René Guénon acted in approximately the same manner as he employed a system of definite metaphysical, cosmological, and anthropological views to examine various traditions, religions, and the modern world itself as a denial of these views and, in its final phase (the opening of the egg from below) a parody of them. Not a single religion, theology, or philosophical system contains the paradigmatic matrix with which Guénon operated. But it is with the aid of this matrix, taken from somewhere else, that historical religions, theologies, and philosophers were altogether successfully treated and interpreted by him. Guénon based himself on the “Primordial Tradition”, sanātana dharma, or Sophia Perennis, and he drew his knowledge directly thither. The Renaissance Platonists acted in precisely the same way. 

With Sophia, both the Renaissance Platonists and Guénon in the 20th century deconstructed everything else. The very algorithm of their deconstructions was, in turn, represented by a construct: the construct of Sophia.

The “Dark Logos” of Neoplatonism

The artificial character of Renaissance Perennialism is rather transparent. But here the question should be posed: how does this Renaissance Platonism, which lies at the origins of 20th century Traditionalism, relate to the Platonism on which it was constructed? In other words, was this constructivist nature a quality of the Renaissance anticipating Modernity, or did the very material upon which Renaissance Sophiology was constructed lend any definite grounds to this approach and display any convergent qualities?

With regards to Neoplatonism (from Plotinus and Porphyry through Iamblichus to Proclus and Damascius), this is nearly obvious: Neoplatonism presented a construct developed on the basis of the main ideas of Plato, but in synthesis with other Hellenistic and Middle Eastern philosophical, religious, and mystical systems. This Neoplatonism was distinguished by its extraordinary inclusivity: it selectively incorporated Platonic re-interpretations of Aristotle (and accordingly, a re-thinking of the Stoa), Orphism, Pythagoreanism, Egyptian Hermetism, cults from Syria and Asia Minor (theurgy, the Chaldean Oracles), and Iranian dualist doctrines and Chaldean astrology. On the basis of Plato’s Parmenides and his main hypotheses, Proclus constructed an elaborate “Platonic theology” which was carried on and substantially re-interpreted by Damascius. The latter’s commentaries on the Timaeus thoroughly and in great detail described a synthetic cosmology built on the principle of noocentrism. 

The system that the late Neoplatonists of the Hellenistic era built with their open metaphysics and apophatic, dialectical Logos can, without a doubt, be fully considered to be an earlier version of the “Perennialism” which we encounter in the Renaissance. In Proclus’ works, particularly his exegeses, we can see the skeleton of all the later derivations of Neoplatonism, both religious and philosophical. His theories and methods can unmistakably be sensed in the Areopagites and, further, in the whole tradition of “mystical theology” which became so widespread in the West (from Scotus Eriugena to Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, and Jakob Böhme) as well as in the East. We can find the dialectic of the uncreated One developed by Proclus in the works of the Islamic thinkers of Al-Falasifa, in Ibn Arabi and the Ishraq school, whereby it defined the dramatic picture of Ishmailite theology and eschatology. Moreover, the classical method of Kabbalistic interpretations of the Zohar and early Kabbalah fully reproduced Proclus’ fixation on certain words and phrases (and their numerological equivalents) in Plato’s dialogues which at other times seemed only secondary. Henry Corbin rightly noted that the Parmenides was for Proclus the Theogony, on the basis of which he would later develop his Platonic Theology. Plato’s Parmenides was a kind of Bible or Sacred Scripture for negative, Neoplatonic, apophatic theology.[5] Every word of Plato’s was subjected to detailed and comprehensive hermeneutics. The idea that Plato was the “sail” of the Divine became a Neoplatonic dogma in its own right.

Neoplatonism conceived itself to be a universal tradition on the basis of which one could interpret all existing religions and philosophical systems. It was the religion of the Logos, a noocentric cosmology and apophatic metaphysics claiming the ability to interpret any and all forms of polytheism, symbolism, and theurgic rites. Following the Greek Neoplatonists, this idea penetrated other religious environments as well, such as in the works of al-Farabi and Ibin Sina, the Sufis, the philosophers of the Ishraq school, the initiatic verses of Rumi and the diaries of Ruzbehan Baqli, to the synthetic doctrines of Haydar Amoli or Mulla Sadra. Something analogous can also be encountered in Kabbalah, as well as in Christian mysticism (with some reservations). Everywhere we look, we encounter the idea of Sophia Perennis and spiritual universalism, reproducing in one form or another the noocentric, and at times paradoxical and dialectical, “Dark Logos” of the Neoplatonists. This Logos is “dark” because it postulates the pre-existential nature of the Principial (the One), the vertical of the Logos is opened upwards, and because it constantly and repeatedly upturns the strict laws of Aristotelian reason with its foundational principles of triumph, denial, excluding the third. Instead of logical clarity, we are dealing here with a paradox, an aporia, or a super-rational ambiguity (amphibole) which is evasive, demanding of the high art of dialectics, and which leads the “philosopher” (whether the Sufi, the adept, or the initiate) through the dizzying chain of insights and initiations, upon each new link of which consciousness collapses and is recreated anew. 

Having established this state of affairs, we can easily extend the history of Renaissance Platonism and its Perennialist construct of Sophia even further back than a millennium. Gemistus Plethon and his Neoplatonic reform in Mystras on the eve of the fall of the Byzantine Empire can be seen as a link in the direct transmission of this tradition from the last Diadochi of the Athenian Academy expelled by Justinian, to Michael Psellos, to the unsuccessful Neoplatonist deemed heretic John Italus, and to the Florentine circle established by Marsilio Ficino around Prince Cosimo Medici. In addition to the Greek branch, we can also consider the “Islamic trace”, where the Dark Logos of apophatic “Platonic theology” became the common denominator of a wide range of different currents representing the heights of Muslim philosophy, theology, and culture. Another route ran through Jewish Kabbalah, which was structured according to the very same algorithm. Finally, in the Latin world, we can see the numerous streams of Hermeticism, alchemy, mysticism, as well as all Gnostic sects and millenarian currents (in the spirit of the doctrine of the Three Kingdoms of the Calabrian Joachim de Flore) which flowed into the revolutionary ocean of the Reanissance. Still further from the Renaissance, following Sedgwick and Yates and numerous other authors studying modern mystical and occult orders, lodges, and sects, we can trace the line of the dark Logos through even more reliable and well-researched material, from Giordano Bruno to the Rosicrucians, Masons, mystics, and the representatives of “occultism” among whom Guénon discovered it and laid it at the heart of his completely original and extremely influential Traditionalist philosophy. 

Thus, tracing the genesis of this construct of Sophia leads us to the history of the Logos  as it has unfolded in the periphery of Western European culture and, as Corbin has shown, in the center of the Islamic spiritual tradition (where the “Dark Logos” was not exclusive and one, but was adjacent to and sometimes sharply rivaled rationalist kalam, Asharite atomism, Fiqr, and Salafist purism). The difficult reception of Kabbalah in the Jewish world and its nearly full and final acceptance as a flawless orthodoxy make up yet another page in this history. Jewish Kabbalah fell into the sphere of interests of the Renaissance Neoplatonists, and in the works of Pico della Mirandola and Reuchlin (and later of Knorr von Rosenroth) we can detect the outlines of a project to establish a “Christian Kabbalah.” Further, once again through Masonry and Hermeticism, Kabbalah reached Fabre d’Olivet, Eliphas Lévi, Papus, Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, and Guénon himself. In Guénon and in his “revolutionary” Perennialism, all of these numerous streams come together to compose the most modern, capacious, and systematized worldview. 

Theory as Homeland

Now we are left with posing a final question, namely: To what extent did the Neoplatonists of the first centuries of our era create something completely unique and original out of the texts, ideas, and traditions associated with the name of Plato, and to what extent can we find something similar in the works of Plato himself? Here the works of the great scholar of Plato, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism, the French curé André-Jean Festiègere, come to our aid.[6] Festiègere draws our attention to the meaning imbued in the notion of “Theory” (θεορία) in Plato’s era and in his own philosophy. Originally, this notion meant an “inspection”, “survey”, “contemplation”, “meditation”, or “observation.” In Ancient Greece, in philosophical milieus, it bore two subtle terminological nuances: 

  1. A “theory” was a survey of the cultures and societies of different peoples, among whom the philosopher should travel and dwell as part of his preparation for a new life (hence why we constantly read of the travels of philosophers to other countries: “traveling” is a purely philosophical occupation). 
  2. By analogy with the survey of different nations, societies, and their religious and ritual systems, a “theory” was a survey of different systems and ideological connections leading to a higher principle.

This connection between traveling and theoretical contemplation is extremely important. Theory is the contemplation of that which is different, taken to culminate in a common, universal model. Plato’s doctrine of ideas itself is directly associated with contemplation. The contemplation of ideas is active “theorizing”, or the distinguishing of common and unchanging paradigms as well as constantly changing phenomena. Just as the Hellenic philosophical traveler studies the religions and customs of different Mediterranean societies, seeks correspondences with the Greek religion and Greek traditions, establishes analogies and, when necessary, replenishes his own religious views and his language, so does the Hellenic philosopher contemplate ideas, the universals of the infinite order of things and phenomena. There are many societies, religions, and cults, and the contemplative traveler strives to deduce from his survey that which is common, that which he has already identified in the places he has been and in the new, still unknown countries and lands in which he finds himself. The case is strictly the same with immersion into the world of ideas and in the process of comparing them with the world of phenomena. Contemplation and theory are the construction of the common, the culmination of a model. 

In Plato, this acquires a distinct and salient character. Theory as construction is simultaneously illumination, enlightenment, and absorbing the rays of the Good. Ideas are indifferent to things, but they are not indifferent to those who strive to theorize, whom they passionately rush to meet, in excelsis. The field of theory thus transforms into the space of epiphany, where ideas are not only reflected, but acquire a specific being and are embodied in the theoretical existence of the philosopher. By traveling to temples and shrines to various gods and by being present at different rituals, the theoretician (the one who contemplates) prepares to meet with the real God for whom all the different gods of different cults serve as masks, names, and messengers (angels). In different rites and sacred ceremonies, the philosopher rushes to the main philosophical rite, the rite of rites, where the main realization to be accomplished is the discerned merger of the noetic cosmos with the aesthetic cosmos, the “fulfillment of all fulfillments”, the magical meeting of God with the raging sea of multiplicity. Later, this ritual of all rituals would be conceptualized by the Neoplatonists as theurgy. 

Plato’s Theory is therefore not simply a preparation for something – for political activism or sacred rites – but is a higher form of reality, the ultimate expression of concentrated praxis. Contemplation is thus the work of the gods, and is their blissful rest and the source of higher pleasure. Theory is the place where being, dispersed into multitude and elusive in difference, is tied together into the knot of intense concentration, finding in itself elastic unity and bright clarity. The contemplative philosopher stands above the priest and the king, for he rises to the zone of pure divinity, un-diluted by any additional functional burdens and completely free from multiplicity, both temporal (the change of moments) and spatial (the change of places). The culmination of this journey is the return to the philosophical Homeland, where there is no more time or relative forms. Theory is the Homeland. None other than nostalgia for it pushes the philosopher to travel through both countries and the networks of light-like ideas in search of the point of Sophia, whom the philosopher loves with all his being. 

This understanding of Theory illustrates how Plato’s philosophy was that very synthetic universalism which generalizes different philosophical systems and knowledge just as the traveler generalizes the experience of the societies he witnesses. Plato’s works therefore present not one point of view to one or another question, but always several; they become material for contemplation and, like steps, they lead to a higher synthesis. At the peak of this synthesis, ideas begin to live beyond the discursive Platonic text and reveal themselves directly to those who have followed Plato and the personages of his dialogues to the very end, where the stairs leading to the sky end. There dialogue ends, but theory does not. Now the philosopher must take one more step, this time without Plato and texts – this is the step of thought, the step of illumination, the step of contemplation. The step into the sky. Only there does real Platonism – the “secret doctrine” – begin. It has not been transmitted to anyone; it can only be discovered independently, through the sacred experience of theory.

Open Philosophy 

As the formulator of theory, as the guide to the geography of ideas, Plato created a consciously open philosophy, in which the main point is not uttered, but must be sought and experienced independently. Hence the term “philo-soph”, or “lover of Sophia”, of Wisdom. If the question at hand was simply who bears this Wisdom, we would be dealing with a closed system, that is, something individual. Wisdom cannot be learned, it is not a given. One can only break through to it upon enormous labor and at the cost of incredible efforts. Philosophy is the realm where minds and hearts gather together in passionately thirsting for Wisdom, whey they are fallen in love with Sophia and are excited contenders for her hand. No one has any guarantees. There is only Love. Led by Her, they embark on their journey, towards contemplation, towards theory. They settle in the vicinity of Sophia and inch ever closer to her. They seek the universal, and thereby themselves become more and more generalized, eidetic, and less and less individual. Philosophers construct themselves in the vicinity of Wisdom. Purifying themselves in Her rays, they reveal evermore distinct contours. 

In the case of Plato, this means that we are dealing with the Logos as such, for the Logos is in its nearly original form, is still undefined, and is open to being opened or closed, understood in one way or another, or conceived and outlined in one or another vector. In Plato, philosophy is the sharp impulse of nearing Sophia Perennis, the leap into the ocean of eternal light, it is contemplative and divine praxis. In this sense, philosophy is higher than religion and myth, insofar as religions and myths are but testimonies to the main actor – Saint Sophia. Therefore, Plato himself can be called a “Perennialist” and, correspondingly, a Traditionalist. It does not matter whether Plato adhered to Greek civil piety and offered sacrifices to the gods and heroes of his polis. Such was part of a much more important and significant philosophical cult: the cult of Sophia, the cult of the pure Logos. 

Plato as an Event

Let us pose the final question. Did “Perennialism”, Traditionalism, universalism, and the philosophical cult of Sophia all begin with Plato’s Theory? With his doctrine of ideas? With his Timaean cosmology? 

For Guénon and Traditionalists, such a personification would be a scandal. But upon fully recognizing Plato’s direct connection to the “Primordial Tradition”, Traditionalists would undoubtedly begin to see Plato as a link in the golden chain of initiates which stretches back to the dawn of creation, to the earthly paradise, and which has become increasingly difficult to access, closed, and exclusive in our time, the Kali Yuga, the “end times”, the era of the “great parody.” Traditionalists understand “perennialism” literally and even somewhat naively. Such can by all means be seen as a symmetrical response to the just as literal and even more naive historicism which predominates in Modernity. Yet in the vicinity of eternity, “before” and “after”, “now” and “then” are not so important. Indeed, they have no meaning. What is important is what. Plato, like Zarathustra in Iran, might have been both an historical figure and a sacred personage, like al-Khidr or the Angel-Initiator. Perhaps there are multiple Platos. And this means that Plato’s spirit can be called upon (as Plotinus did in the temple of Isis); he can be appealed to. His return can be awaited, for there is no irreversibility in eternity. In eternity, everything is reversible – everything has even already been reversed. In the most rationalized form, one could accept that Plato merely transmitted knowledge that he had acquired along the chain of initiation, and in this sense was their ordinary re-translator who became world famous only by virtue of the importance of the truths he voiced, as a kind of philosophical prophet. 

Yet Plato can be approached in other ways as well, for example, as an Event in the spirit of the Heideggerian Ereignis. This would distance us from both the “Perennialists” and the “historicists.” Plato happened and philosophy happened. Sophia was designated and the philosophical geography was marked. If this was supposed to have happened, then it would have happened no matter what – whether by way of Plato or someone else, should we be reproached on this matter. But perhaps it would be better to think differently: if Plato did not exist, there would be nothing else. In particular, there would be no notes in the margins of his texts. There would be no philosophy. If Plato was in fact divine, then he cannot be subordinated to any mechanical necessity. Nothing can oblige him to be. Further, if he had not risked everything to become Plato, his philosophy would have been negligible. Thus, Sophia might not have been. Or in other words: instead of Sophia, instead of the secret bride of the order of lovers, something else could have been revealed to Plato.

Plato’s exceptionality (although perhaps this is just as wrong and does not correspond to the truth) is more existentially attractive and productive than his link in the chain, even if it is the golden one. Plato’s divinity lies in that he was human.

Modern Traditionalism is, of course, more adequate than profane academic philosophy and is more prosperous than Post-Modernity. But all the signs of Traditionalism’s transformation into a convention, a routine, into a “scholasticism”, of its conscious quenching of any living movement of the soul or heart, are glaring. Here it is discovered that “Perennialism” is a construct and always was such from the very beginning. The appeal of a Traditionalist towards really existing tradition decides nothing, just as Plato’s reverence for his paternal gods did not exhaust his philosophy. 

Traditionalism is something other than tradition. It is a breakthrough to that which is the tradition of traditions, the secret grain, the theory. But being a theory, a construct, it needs to be continuously recreated. A construct is not so bad if the matter at hand is something rooted in the light nature of man himself. By creating, man creates himself. Therefore, Traditionalism must either happen or disappear. Its claims are too enormous and its bar has been set too high by Guénon and the Sophiologists on whom he constructed his doctrine. “Perennialism” means that Sophia is Perennis: she is here and now. But how can we relate the fact of the Kali Yuga, our God-forsaken “now” and the dustbin of the modern Western-centric global world, our vile, desolate “here”, with the rays of the Angel-Initiator, the light of Great Love, and the nature of man as a winged divine being? The Gnostics offered a dualist answer which often seems to be the only one acceptable and applicable to us. But is this not simply a recognition of our own weakness, of our own personal inability to transform the “Cover” into the “Mirror”, Absence into Presence, apophany into epiphany, and occultation into revelation? Is this not the signature on the warrant for the death of the Logos, the insuperability of Western nihilism, or the recognition of the closed, self-referential world to be the only possible and real? 

Traditionalists frequently speak of the “great parody” that is the modern world. This is true, but are they themselves not a parody? After all, not only Guénon, but the Neoplatonists, and Plato himself can all be parodied. 

The discrepancies between Traditionalism and Heidegger did not hinder Henry Corbin from engaging Neoplatonism in Islam with love and delicate refinement over the course of his life. Such is the behavior of a living person who responds to Sophia’s whisper no matter where it resounds.

Today this whisper is more silent than ever. But it cannot be so quiet as to be indistinguishable at all. We must learn to listen to silence, for silence sometimes conveys extremely meaningful things. 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Saint Petersburg: 1997); Ibidem., The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (Moscow: Aleteia, Enigma, 1999); Ibidem., Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2000). 

[3] Réné Alleau, De Marx à Guénon: d’une critique ‘radicale’ à une critique ‘principielle’ des societés modernes (Paris, Les dossiers H., 1984).

[4] Some aspects of this question have already been treated in Alexander Dugin, Postfilosofiia (Moscow: Eurasian Movement, 2009).

[5] Henry Corbin, Le paradoxe du monothéisme (Paris, 1981).

[6] André-Jean Festugière, Contemplation et vie contemplative selon Platon (Saint Petersburg: Nauka, 2009).

Alexander Dugin – “Counter-Initiation: Critical Remarks on Some Aspects of the Doctrine of René Guénon” (1998)

Author: Alexander Dugin

Translated by Eurasianist Internet Archive

Originally published in the journal Mily Angel #3 – Konets Sveta (‘Sweet Angel: The End of the World’, Moscow: Arktogeia, 1998). Subsequently republished as an appendix to the second edition of the book Puti Absoliuta (“The Ways of the Absolute”) in the Absoliutnaia Rodina trilogy (“Absolute Homeland”, Moscow: Arktogeia, 1999).

***

Preliminary remarks: the necessity of correcting Traditionalism

The question of “counter-initiation” is the most shrouded and ambiguous in all of Traditionalist thought. Perhaps this is a consequence of the very reality which Traditionalists, following Guénon, denote with the term “counter-initiation.”

The meaning of counter-initiation is set out by René Guénon in his book The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. In brief, we can say that Guénon understands counter-initiation to be the sum of secret organizations which, although in possession of initiatic and esoteric data, nonetheless direct their activities and efforts towards a goal which is the direct opposite of normal initiation. In other words, instead of striving towards the absolute, they head towards fatal disappearance and dissolution amidst the “reign of quantity” in its external twilight. In line with Islamic esotericism, Guénon called the hierarchs of counter-initiation Awliya es-Shaytan, that is to say the “saints of Satan.” In Guénon’s point of view, representatives of counter- initiation stand behind all the negative tendencies of modern civilization and are secretly administering the course of affairs down the path of degradation, materialization, and spiritual perversion.

According to Tradition, the logic of the cyclical process inevitably boils down to a trajectory of degradation, from the Golden Age to the Iron Age. As follows, there should be various conscious forces contributing to this process just as, conversely, the forces of true initiation and genuine esotericism try to impede this fatal decline by all means. This historical dualism of Guénon’s in no way affects the metaphysical unity of the Principle, insofar as it belongs to the sphere of manifestation, where the main law is that of duality. This duality at the very heart of manifestation is overcome only upon going beyond the manifest into the sphere of the transcendental. We cannot discard the dualism within the world. Thus, the role of counter- initiation is partly justified insofar as it is rooted not in arbitrariness, but in the very providential necessity tied to the laws of the universe.

 

This purely theoretical aspect of the doctrine of counter-initiation is completely flawless from a logical point of view and is confirmed by all the various doctrines of sacred traditions dealing with “demons”, “the devil”, “evil spirits”, the “Antichrist”, etc. But everything becomes much more complicated when we attempt to move from theory to practice and name specific organizations or secret societies as examples of counter-initiation. This is only part of the problem. Before we can clarify this subtle question, it is necessary to attentively examine what René Guénon meant by “initiation” and “esotericism.”

According to Guénon, the historical variance of sacred forms – religions, traditions, etc. – is a consequence of the differing qualities of the human and historical environments into which the rays of the One Non-Human Truth are projected. In other words, for Guénon, all traditions, as one approaches their center, transcend confessional differences and almost always merge into something unified. Guénon called this the “Primordial Tradition” (la Tradition Primordiale). It is this Tradition, according to Guénon, that constitutes the secret essence of all religions. In a certain sense, this is true. Any careful study of the symbolism of Tradition, its rituals and doctrines, leads one to the idea that all sacred teachings have some kind of common element or paradigm which is somewhat lost sight of when one arrives at more narrow dogmatic aspects and matters of detail. The thesis of the “unity of Tradition” is particularly convincing in current circumstances, as the modern world has built a civilization whose basis strikingly contrasts everything that might be called Tradition(al). In other words, Integral Traditionalism and the appeal to the One Tradition are reliable to the extent to that they contrast the modern world to all those civilizational forms that are founded on sacred elements. Indeed, there are many more similarities than differences between the various traditions and religions when compared to the contrasting backdrop of modern, completely de-sacralized civilization. This postulate is obvious. The question is: to what extent is this convergence in the face of a common enemy a consequence of esoteric unity?

In other words, is the difference between the most sacred traditions merely the result of faults in the cosmic environment at certain moments in the cycle? Are there not some deeper reasons behind this?

One glaring example of the relevance of such doubt can be seen in Guénon’s hesitation as to whether Buddhism should be counted an authentic tradition or not. Guénon initially relegated Buddhism to the category of antinomian heresies, but later recognized it to be a genuine tradition. The question at hand is not even that of Buddhism, but the fact that Guénon’s very own uncertainty exhibits a certain conditionality of his method whenever the matter at hand concerns concrete historical traditions and their dogmatic principles. If even Guénon could be mistaken on the question of Buddhism – which remained for him largely an abstraction, for the analysis of which Guénon relied on the opinions of his Hindu informants who, like all Hindu Traditionalists, are distinguished by their acutely anti-Buddhist orientations – then it cannot be excluded that such errors may occur in the case of other religions as well.

 

Our own studies have led us to the conclusion that Guénon was not quite right in his analysis in two other cases. Firstly, when Guénon denied the Christian Church an initiatic dimension – and he dated the loss of this dimension, present in early Christianity, to the era of the first Ecumenical Councils – he was clearly relying exclusively on the history and historiosophy of the Catholic branch (with the later deviation of Protestantism). Guénon clearly ignored the metaphysical and initiatic reality of Orthodoxy, which differs from Western Christianity sharply and on the most fundamental positions. Guénon equated Christianity with Catholicism and inappropriately projected the proportions of the Catholic organization, including the mystical nature of its rituals and theological specifics, onto Christianity as a whole. This rendered his views on the matter completely incorrect. [1]

Secondly, Guénon was quick to recognize Jewish Kabbalah to bear the quality of genuine esotericism which, in his opinion, is distinguished by universalism and is beyond any particularisms. But in fact, Kabbalah insists on the ethnic specialness of Jews, the uniqueness of their fate, and their metaphysical opposition to all other peoples and religions no less (if not more) than the Talmud and exoteric Judaism. This clearly contradicts Guénon’s definition of esotericism, according to which principles of universal unity and the merging of all spiritual and religious forms into a common concept should predominate. Even in its most transcendental aspects, Kabbalah affirms not unity, but a radical and indelible metaphysical-ethnic dualism.

Moreover, on a more general plane, Guénon’s assessments of certain peoples – such as the Ancient Greeks, the Japanese, the Germans, Anglo-Saxons, and Slavs – were at times so subjective and arbitrary that Guénon’s striving to base some of his conclusions as to the orthodoxy or non-orthodoxy of various traditional forms on these appraisals calls into question everything in Traditionalism related to the application of theoretical considerations to the practical sphere.

The absence of universal counter-initiation

The differences between religious forms can constitute far more of a profound factor than the conditions of exotericism, and can be rooted in metaphysics itself. If, by virtue of the specificity of their traditions, synthesis can be accomplished rather easily with Hinduism and Islamic esotericism (while all other traditions are interpreted in terms exclusively peculiar to them), then the matter stands somewhat differently with other religions. Hinduism and Islam allowed Guénon to construct a logical and non-contradictory picture, but one which becomes less apparent when we try to apply it to different religions and their specific approaches to metaphysics.

For Guénon and the Traditionalists who follow him, the situation is thus: the One Metaphysical Tradition, which constitutes the essence of universal esotericism, is the inner kernel of all orthodox traditions. Dogmatic religions and other forms of exoteric traditions are external shells covering in diverse ways this unity of content (esotericism and initiation). On the pole opposite of universal esotericism is “counter-initiation”, which entails not simply the rejection of this or that religious or exoteric form, but universalism itself. Thus, the very notion of “counter- initiation” is inseparable from the postulation of the esoteric unity of all traditions.

 

However, outside of esoteric Islamic and Hindu contexts, such logic cannot be accepted unequivocally, as the metaphysics of other traditions do not recognize any esoteric solidarity with other religious forms. In fact, the universalism of Sufism and Hinduism is not so obvious as it may seem at first glance. The price of recognizing the orthodoxy of other religious forms is affirming that they are “distorted”, and treating their dogma in the spirit and letter of the specific esotericism peculiar to Hinduism and Sufism. For example, the Hindu approach to Christology practically equates Christ with an avatar, which, in a purely Christian dogmatic framework, is equivalent to the “monophysite” view. Islam, on the contrary, proceeding from a strict monotheism, adheres to a “Nestorian” (“Arian”) Christological scheme. In both cases, the Orthodox Christian formula which ultimately leads to its own, altogether different metaphysical perspective is denied [2]. Thus, the universalism proclaimed by Traditionalists turns out to be not so total and unambiguous as one would like.

Furthermore, Hinduism bases its tradition on a formula that is inverse to that of the Iranian tradition, despite deriving from the same source. As is well known, even in the very names for gods and demons, there is an inverse analogy between Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. Moreover, Hinduism considers Buddhism to be a heterodoxy (a view to which Guénon himself adhered for quite a long time). As follows, these three Eastern Indo-European traditions cannot reach agreement with one another and seamlessly establish esoteric unity. Indeed, it is quite difficult to recognize any “esoteric rightness” on the part of those who call one’s gods “demons” and vice versa (the Devas and Asura in Hinduism and Zoroastrianism are of directly contradictory elements), or who radically deny the authority of the main sacred source (as Buddhists reject the Vedas, castes, and all the foundational doctrines of Hinduism).

The situation is even more severe in the Abrahamic context. If Islam recognizes some kind of legitimacy among the traditions of the “peoples of the Book” (Judaism and Christianity) and believes Muhammad’s mission to be the last word of “Abrahamism” which corrected all previous errors, then neither Christians nor Jews recognize even the slightest authenticity of other versions of Abrahamism, which are considered heresies, lies, and evil.[3] The example of the Zohar, the highest authority of Kabbalah, easily lends towards the conviction that hostility towards Islam and Christianity is not only the case on the metaphysical and esoteric level, but here it attains the highest metaphysical tension. Accordingly, Orthodox esotericism relates to Judaism (both exoteric and esoteric) just as harshly, seeing it not only as an Otherness of external religious form, but as the embodiment of metaphysical evil and the “tradition” of the Antichrist.

Thus, beyond Sufism and Hinduism (whose universalism is also not unlimited), there is no common esotericism. This means that traditions understand “counter-initiation” to be those sacred forms which openly contradict their own metaphysics. If the exoteric evil in this case is represented by the negative points stemming from the ethical-dogmatic specifics of a given religion, then the esoteric evil (counter-initiation) would be the metaphysics of a tradition that contradicts such. All of this incredibly complicates the question of counter-initiation, which ceases to be so obvious and transparent, and in fact becomes extremely confusing.

 

From the point of view of Orthodox esotericism, Judaism and Kabbalah are undoubtedly counter-initiatic.[4] From the Zohar’s point of view, the esotericism of the Goyim, especially the “descendants of Ishmael and Esau” (Muslims and Christians), is “the false teaching of the demon Samael” who “leaps on the serpent Lilith.” From the point of view of Hindu esotericism, Iranian dualism is rooted in the fact that Zoroastrians worship demons, the Asura, (Iranian Ahura), whom they (Hindus) call “gods.” Buddhist esotericists, meanwhile, are convinced that the initiatic doctrines of Hinduism are the ultimate evil, insofar as they only increase the attachment of beings to Samsara – after all, the higher divine worlds are distinguished in the Buddhist perspective by an even greater illusory quality than the worlds of humans, as the absence of suffering only alienates the prospect of achieving Nirvana. In Islamic civilization, the most radical representatives of manifestationist esotericism – such as al-Hallaj, Suhrawardi, etc. – were executed as malicious heretics.

How, in such a situation, can one discern any universal counter-initiation, trace its origins, and recognize the forces and organizations serving as its cover? If the universality of esotericism (in the very least, in our cyclical situation) is not obvious and proven, then how can we speak of any universality of “counter-initiation” being the inverse projection of such?

Inter- and intra-religious contradictions

On the one hand, there exist deep contradictions between traditional religious systems which pertain to the higher realms of metaphysics. On the other hand, these traditional forms are not immutable, but are subject to cyclical laws. Traditions pass through difficult periods of historical embodiment, among which, besides the natural stages of rise and fall, there exist even more paradoxical moments entailing the amendment of internal nature, alienation, and transformation into something essentially different while maintaining external attributes.

More often than not, these disturbing moments cannot be reduced to some “triumph of negative tendencies” as seen by the exoteric tradition and morality derived from the letter of sacred forms. For example, the Islamic tradition can degenerate without its authorities publicly denying the principle of monotheism or the mission of Muhammad, and Christians by no means need to worship other gods (or Satan) in order to break with the source and spirit of the Church. If everything were so simple, history would be an elementary, mechanical device with predictable functioning and an easily foreseen future. In fact, this is how many things are seen by those people distinguished by a naive (if not to say idiotic) view of the world, no matter whether they are “conservatives” or “progressives.” Only a deep understanding of the internal kernel of tradition, the real realization of its higher levels, allows us to isolate and grasp what is foremost and most essential, and that means accurately discriminating between the true axis of orthodoxy and alienation, deviation, simulation, and degeneration. There are no purely external criteria to this question. One should not overestimate the “devil” – if he were as simple as moralists think, he would hardly have been able to participate in human history so actively, for so long, and, most importantly, so unrecognizably.

For example, the schism of the Christian world into the Eastern and Western Churches was far from a purely exoteric event. Behind the schism lurk the most profound metaphysical reasons. The same is true for the Islamic world and the division into Shiites and Sunnis. The Sunni tradition (especially Wahhabism) believes in the high authority of Sultan Yazid, who killed Ali, i.e., Muhammad’s cousin who is the spiritual pole (qutb) for Shiites, the first Imam. Behind this contradiction lie much deeper discrepancies of a purely metaphysical nature. [5]

In a certain sense, things are no smoother in the case of Hinduism, in which Vishnuism and Shaivism are not so harmonious with relation to one another as might appear to be the case at first glance. For example, the traces of such a dualism can be seen in the Mahabharata, whose editing was, without a doubt, the work of Vishnuist circles. The Kauravas, the enemies of the Pandavas and the inveterate villains, are portrayed as inspired by Shiva and his retinue to the point that Shiva is considered to be a “subtle essence” in contrast to the metaphysical and purely spiritual nature of Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu. The parallel with the “devil” begs itself in this case, especially if we take into consideration Guénon’s indication that the “devil” belongs to the “subtle plane.”[6]

 

If we apply the Traditionalist approach to other sacred forms beyond Hinduism and Sufism, we find ourselves in a situation in which it becomes impossible to speak of counter-initiation as something universal and opposed to universal esotericism without falling into mythomania or moralistic dualism which, theoretically, should have been overcome insofar as we are considering the sphere of esotericism. In other words, every sacred form endowed with metaphysical uniqueness formulates in its own way its own theory of what “counter-initiation” is for it (and not only for it). At the same time, the positions of different traditions can coincide in some aspects, while in others they may diverge. Thus, we arrive at the affirmation of an absence of any one counter-initiatic doctrine or organization. Everything that is habitually included in the notion of “counter-initiation” turns out to be a plural, complex, and multipolar reality. The definition of the nature and form of a counter-initiatic doctrine thus derives from the metaphysical particularity of each concrete tradition.

There is no denying the fact that, in recent centuries, there has been a glaringly overarching, broad process which undoubtedly represents a clearly pronounced tendency towards the construction of an anti-traditional society based on principles which are radically opposed to the sum of those which constitute the basis of any tradition.

But there is one exception here: Judaism. In the religious and metaphysical perspective of Judaism, the last centuries, starting in 1240 and especially since 1300, are seen as the prelude to messianic triumph. The fall of Christian civilization and the political liberation of Jewry (not to mention the contemporary successes of political Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel) are seen as none other than the greatest metaphysical progress. Thus, on a matter over which the majority of traditions fully concur with one another, there is the exception of Judaism.

The external revival of confessional religions in recent years, following several centuries of active processes of de-sacralization and secularization, also fits poorly into Traditionalist logic. Although this [renewed] interest in religion is not as easily exposable of a parody as Neo- spiritualism and “New Age”, it is clearly not a true spiritual rebirth.

 

In short, the problem of the “deviation of esotericism”, or counter-initiation, is complicated not only by inter-confessional contradictions, whose origins can be traced back to metaphysics, but also internal transformations within these traditions relative to the stages of their history.

On top of all of this, there exist anomalous cases (Judaism, the new interest in religions in the West, etc.) which seemingly contradict the quite obvious tendency of progressive secularization on the basis of which Guénon attempted to substantiate his theory of counter-initiation and the latter’s planetary plan to prepare the “reign of the Antichrist.”

Counter-initiation and initiation are in solidarity with one another up to a certain point

Guénon’s concept of counter-initiation is based on a scheme to which he adhered in relation to more general questions pertaining to the structure of Tradition. Guénon constantly bore in mind the following tripartite model:

[Принцип-Периферия]

 

1. Principle

2. Intermediary space

3. Periphery

In the center of the circle (or at the top of the anthropological and cosmic hierarchy, the vertical) is initiation, authentic esotericism, the Primordial Tradition, the one metaphysics. This is the inner sphere, the sphere of the initiated beyond confessional differences – the sphere of those who are to be found beyond the threshold of genuine esoteric organizations.

On the periphery (the horizontal plane) are the profane and the un-initiated. For them, the oneness of truth is hidden behind a variety of forms and labyrinths of moral and ethical standards. These are ordinary people who are not conscious of the true nature of things and events.

Finally, lying beyond the periphery, at the lower point of the vertical axis, is a kind of “anti-center.” This is counter-initiation, the place of the “saints of Satan.” Counter-initiation unites various tendencies not in a light synthesis, but in a dark mixture of infernal parody.

This model is obviously transparent and convincing. But the first difficulties with it arise when we attempt to explain the historical and geographical localization of counter-initiatic centers. At this point, it turns out, it is quite difficult to distinguish such centers from properly initiatic societies and orders. Determining on which side of the periphery – the inner or outer, the upper or lower – can be found this or that initiatic organization reveals itself to be extremely difficult (if not altogether impossible), and all external criteria can easily be simulated. Guénon specified that true esotericism is always metaphysically oriented, while counter-initiation remains on the level of cosmology or the “subtle world.” However, an enormous distance separates the profane world and the world of metaphysical principles. In the early stages, it is absolutely impossible to predict for sure whether an initiate will reach the end of this path to the actual metaphysical levels, or whether they will get stuck in the intermediary spheres. And if they “get stuck”, then how do they then differ from those who represent “counter-initiation”?

In other words, up to a certain point, and rather far from the sphere of the competence of the profane, the paths of initiation and counter-initiation are not only parallel, but essentially one. With respect to the orientations of “above” and “below” (which at first might seem to be convincing criteria) it should be noted that they are not indicative in direct initiatic experience, since ascent in the borderline sphere between the worldly and otherworldly is often accomplished by means of descent, a departure which leads straight into the abyss.[7]

If one makes it to the end of this path, the adept attains effective metaphysical realization. If one goes astray, all the attributes of counter-initiation will be glaring.

 

In other words, out of this simple tripartite scheme arises a more complex and less edifying picture, in which the main emphasis is put not on the orientation of movement, but on the reality of the achieved result. Thus, the problem of counter-initiation boils down to an incomplete and imperfect esoteric realization, not some kind of primordially and strictly “Satanic-oriented” secret society aiming to create and strengthen an anti-sacral civilization. The anti-sacral civilization which indeed has been built and is being built today, should be seen as the result of the overlapping of many incomplete realizations, first and foremost of an esoteric nature, the solidarity of which is obvious to all those who have been left half-satisfied with incomplete tendencies in their own sacred form.

The preponderance of profanism, fed by overall degeneration, is only a consequence of the degeneration of initiatic organizations themselves which, contradicting their primordial orientation, are now content with intermediate surrogates and unrealized potencies instead of unceasingly and heroically striving towards the center of metaphysics. At the same time, that very “demonizing” force commonly referred to as “devilish” and “satanic” can hardly be held responsible for participating in this entire process. In fact, the most terrible and formidable results of perversion and de-sacralization are those achieved by people who have the best intentions and are convinced that they are orthodox bearers of the most obvious good. Every initiate who treats their spiritual path with affection, every cleric who considers his tradition and its dogma to be an ethical or moral convention, and every Traditionalist who settles down with reciting the phrases of their master, which are in appearance correct but rendered meaningless by the mental laziness of their followers – all of these types little by little build the structures of counter-initiation and sever the metaphysical apex from the pyramid of initiatic realization.

Those whom it is easiest to single-out as being “representatives of counter-initiation” on the basis of purely external criteria – e.g., open “Luciferians” or “Satanists” – sometimes exhibit tragedy, pain, non-conformism, and the ability to stare the terrible truth of apocalyptic reality straight in the eyes. Hence why they cannot fulfill the role of the main “scapegoats” for Traditionalists. Of course, some of them may be in solidarity with processes of de-sacralization, but this is more of an exception. More often than not, at least among those who take the matter seriously, the point is that, on the contrary, these types are still about rising up against de- sacralization; they stand against conformism with the degenerate world – a world to which many representatives of “orthodox” traditions, oddly enough, easily adapt and in which they manage to perfectly comfortably arrange themselves. More often than not, religious non-conformists (“heretics”, “Satanists”, etc.) are seeking the totality of sacral experience which the representatives of orthodoxy cannot offer them. This is not their fault, but their misfortune, and the true fault lies with those who have allowed authentic tradition to be turned into a flat facade behind which there is simply nothing. Perhaps it is none other than these “dubious” forces and groups who are grimly, desperately, perplexedly, stubbornly, yet heroically pursuing esotericism and initiation deep within reality, while the profane and the moralizing conformists who remain on the periphery of initiation are the ones hindering this path by all means.

 

If initiation and counter-initiation can be distinguished only in terms of the concrete experience of spiritual realization, then no external criteria can help on this matter. This conclusion begs itself especially if we recognize the universality of esotericism, a point on which Guénon insisted. This conclusion remains valid when we apply it to the esotericism of one sacred form taken individually. When we take into consideration the metaphysical contradictions which exist between different forms, then the matter becomes even more complicated.

From the Red Donkey to the Roman Pope

The main examples of counter-initiation to which Guénon pointed included the cult of the Egyptian god Set, whose remnants have survived since the most ancient times along with multiple snake cults in the Middle East. In Guénon’s perspective, the mysterious brotherhood of the Red Donkey (or Red Dragon) exists to this day and is secretly directing the main processes of civilization in an infernal vein. If we digress from the “detective” flavor of this conceptualization, another consideration presents itself: How could an esoteric group of people engaged in the sacred – albeit in such an infernal, serpentine, and possibly fragmentary dimension – have provoked the modern world’s complete ignorance of the sacred, and contributed to the widespread assertion of the primacy of quantity and the radically anti-initiatic approach characteristic of the modern way of life?

Compared to the maniacal system of global lies which we see in the modern mass media, secular utilitarian culture, and everyday lifestyles, any “snake-worshippers” would be an exotic and quite sympathetic group of romantic marginals. There must be a reality behind the anti-sacral aggression of the modern world which is much more formidable and much more thorough than the machinations of some exotic “black magicians.” It is hardly likely that the scraps of ancient cults, even the most sinister ones, could be responsible for the anti-sacral collapse of the modern world. It is hardly likely that a dark and obviously minute sect wields such universality to the point that, in theory, it is capable of effectively influencing the most important events of world history and, most importantly, shaping the prevailing intellectual climate. If something of this sort really has taken place, then such an organization could not possibly have remained unnoticed, and there would be in circulation certain information about it which, although distorted, approximate, and amiss, would nonetheless be extensive.

It is still another matter if we take the bearers of some kind of metaphysical tradition that is radically opposite to the dominant religious culture to claim the role of counter-initiation. For example, an altogether respectable and pious Pars (Zoroastrian) could end up in India and, in one way or another, gain access to influence over the most important spheres.[8] In the context of Hinduism, he would fulfill an openly counter-initiatic function, insofar as Zoroastrian metaphysics is founded on the principle of Dvaita, whereas the metaphysical axis of Hinduism is Advaita. Such metaphysical subversion would be much more destructive than, say, the antinomies posed by radical Shaivist sects who, while being ethically questionable for their ritual devouring of people, sinister necromantic practices in wastelands and cemeteries, their Tantric orgies, etc., do not call into doubt the main metaphysical line of Advaita-Vedanta – on the contrary, they strengthen, affirm, and defend it.

The activities of a Kabbalist Jew within, say, the Islamic tradition or a Christian country, would bear the same counter-initiatic character, and the (negative) efficiency of such would be higher in relation to the depth and sophistication with which the Kabbalist understands the metaphysics of his own tradition (and vice versa).[9] Strictly speaking, an Orthodox metaphysician who is perfectly conscious of all the metaphysical implications of the dogma of the Trinity and who understands the whole depth of the contradictions between the Christian Gospel and the alienated creationism of Judaism and Islam, would by the will of fate become involved in the most important cultural-religious questions in the countries and cultures associated with the strict Abrahamic tradition, and could all together deal irreparable damage to their official ideology (and its limits in culture and politics) – naturally, this would be “damage” from the point of view of the stability and preservation of Abrahamic creativity in its older form. In practice, the presence of such overt or covert religious (and esoteric) groups in different states is an obvious fact, while the “snake-worshipers” are either completely unknown or are extravagant marginal oddities.

Now let us turn to Western civilization, which is the cradle of anti-sacral tendencies. In the West, the counter-initiatic tendencies which produced the monstrous result that we see today developed in several stages. The first stage, associated with Orthodox eschatology, was neglected by Guénon, who had a clearly inadequate opinion of the Christian tradition. This first stage consisted of the fall of Rome from Orthodoxy, the changing of the Symbol of Faith by Charlemagne, and the transition from the Orthodox and eschatological concept of the “symphony of powers” (associated with the metaphysics of the “withholder”, the Katechon) to the Papist (Guelphian) model, against which stood the Ghibelline Emperors of the Hohenstaufen who were just as dear to Guénon as they are to us. [10] Thus, the main sources of counter-initiation in the West should be sought in Catholic Scholasticism and the Vatican.

 

Unlike Orthodoxy, Catholicism lost its esoteric component, and this unleashed a whole spectrum of initiatic organizations of various stripes (Hermetic, proto-Masonic, etc.). Given that these initiatic organizations stemmed from an extra-Christian context (from pre-Christian cults and the Islamic and Jewish traditions), any alliance with the exoteric church was founded not on synthesis and organic unity, but on conformism and conventions. This Catholic civilization was so inorganic and unstable that even in its better periods (such as the Middle Ages), it harbored a number of dubious and at times openly counter-initiatic elements.

This unsustainable compromise was ultimately shaken, and both components of the Western tradition came into open contradiction. Catholicism rejected non-Christian esotericism and finally descended to the level of contradictory, secularized Judeo-Christian morality. Autonomous esotericism, in the form of Freemasonry, became a destructive, rationalistic apparatus in essence anti-Christian and anti-esoteric. These halves of the disintegrating ensemble were marked by counter-initiatic features: in the very least, in the majority of cases the spiritual path towards metaphysical realization could not be stopped at the first stages, but it was simulated, forged, alienated, and turned into its opposite. The very first and most significant chord of such degeneration was the rejection of the completeness of Orthodox metaphysics. This was the most decisive step in the direction of counter-initiation within the Christian world.

 

After having remained for quite some time within the realm of fully-fledged, unified (at once Orthodox and Catholic) Christianity, which had preserved the fullness of its authentic metaphysics and initiation, the peoples and states of the West eventually, in one catastrophic moment, severed this chain. This was enshrined in the introduction of the dogma of the Filioque and in the sacredly-unauthorized conferment of the status of “Emperor” to the Frankish kings before their kind – this destroyed the symphony of powers in the West. Catholic (and later altogether secularized-Protestant) moralism, plus the anti-clerical, bureaucratic, philanthrophic- demagogic rationalism of Masonry – all of this was much more counter-initiatic from the standpoint of fully-fledged Orthodox metaphysics than any splashes of anti-Church, pagan, or even “Luciferian” cults in the West, which perhaps represented but paroxysms of nostalgia for the complete and total Tradition, not even a hint of which had remained in the West since time immemorial.

This combination of Western anti-metaphysical Christianity (Catholicism and especially Anglo-Saxon Protestantism) with rationalistic Masonry (with the active participation of the Jewish factor, which played a significant conceptual role in the degradation of the West – after all, the fall of Edom, the “Christian world”, is the condition of the triumph of Judaic messianism [11]) is what lies at the heart of the poisonous paradigm of the modern world. The role of “Satanists” or “representatives of the Order of Set” in all of this is not only negligible, but generally naught, especially since the very fact of such an order’s existence is presumptive and based on extremely dubious evidence. Guénon cited the illustration of an artist from Cairo depicting a strange monster, the statue of which he allegedly saw in a secret sanctuary.[12] What would Guénon have said about the paintings of Dali, Ernst, or thousands of other avant-garde artists who depicted monstrous creatures on their canvases and told thousands of hallucinatory and narcotic tales?

Very telling in this regard is the story of Léo Taxil, the scandalous author of the late 19th century who was behind the forged revelations of the machinations of “Satanists.” For the Catholics, Leo Taxil described the secrets of “Satanic Freemasonry”, while for Masons he exposed the “perversions” and “black book magic” of the Catholic clergy. In fact, beyond his clearly adventurous personal aims, Taxil quite cleverly showed how representatives of both Western organizations (one embodying exotericism, the other esotericism) were not so much “devil- worshipers” as gullible fools. This grotesque idiocy on the part of both conservatives and progressives is perhaps the most expressive sign of the parody which Guénon himself called the easily recognizable “seal of the devil.”

In fact, Traditionalists and Guénon’s followers have not been able to avoid the same fate, as they uncritically repeat various (and often frankly disputable) maxims of the master and have reached the very same “scholastic parody”, the signs of which were clearly noticed by the much wiser and non-conformist, although no less controversial Baron Julius Evola.

 

The absence of counter-initiatic symbolism in the Primordial Tradition

Now a few words about the Primordial Tradition. From our point of view, the contours of this Tradition were outlined with amazing clarity in the works of the German Professor Herman Wirth, a review of whose book Guénon published in Études traditionnelles.[13] According to Wirth, all existing mythological plots, symbols, religious dogma and rituals, and moreover all human languages and alphabets, evolved from a single calendric proto-form: the Sacred Circle, accompanied by an arrangement of proto-runic signs.[14] This proto-form was a description of the natural phenomena observed by humanity at the North Pole on the ancient disappeared continent of Hyperborea (or Arktogaa). Thus, out of an abstract concept, the Primordial Tradition became a tangible and concrete reality of a paradigm whose main contours were extremely convincingly and voluminously revealed by Herman Wirth.[15]

What interests us in the Hyperborean calendric proto-form is that realm which is associated with the dark, nocturnal sectors, corresponding to the Polar Night and its related symbolism. This is the period of the winter solstice, or Great Yule, the main festival, symbolic and ritual center of the whole structure of the Primordial Tradition. Counter-initiation, according to Guénon’s definition, is related to the negative aspects of universal symbolism and, as follows, in the Hyperborean complex corresponds to those realities describing the state of the Polar Night, the decline of the sun, and other symbolic analogues of this event. The snake and wolf often function as such symbols, frequently imagined as swallowing the sun in the polar winter. This darkness is also identifiable with Mother Earth, from which all living beings come and whither all return to be reborn again.

This primordial picture, which is strictly cyclical and harmonious, preceded the division of this symbolic complex into positive and negative elements. The snake, the wolf, darkness, the underground realms (where the sun descends), death, and night do not have strictly negative significations. All aspects of the cycle are equally important and necessary – the sunset is just as sacred as the sunrise, and without the sun’s “dying” there can be no spring, no rebirth in the New Year. Therefore, the same symbols have both negative and positive aspects. This is an essential point: at hand is not an artificial theological concept seeking to consciously identify positive in negative and negative in positive (like the famous Chinese symbol of Yin-Yang), but rather a special state of consciousness which, in principle, does not know the very idea of negative.[16] It is precisely by virtue of this state that Tradition is indeed Primordial and Integral, that is, preceding any particular interpretation. The possibility for different interpretations of this primordial symbolism is embedded in the overall picture, and such interpretations are what constitute the content (and background) of historical religions and mythologies which evolved into stable symbolical and doctrinal complexes at the cost of metaphysically and ethically emphasizing only certain aspects of the one Hyperborean proto-form to the detriment of others.

 

It can be said that the “Hyperborean Tradition” was simultaneously dual and non-dual, trinitarian and unitary, monotheistic and polytheistic, matriarchal and patriarchal, sedentary and nomadic. Only later did it split into several branches separated from and opposed to one another.

The Primordial Tradition does not annul the metaphysical differences between traditions, since it is in this regard strictly neutral. It provides a general context; it employs a system of correspondences and symbolic series which allow one to explain the most mysterious and darkest aspects of symbolism, mythologies, religious doctrines, and sacred tropes. With regards to metaphysics, this Primordial Tradition is limited to being a mere statement of fact. The metaphysical question attains its real intensity in completely different conditions, those removed as far as possible from the Golden Age of the polar civilization. This, in fact, is why it is impossible to agree with Guénon on the esoteric unity of traditions, since they are not unified on a metaphysical level, but rather unified in the sense of descending from a single sacred cult-symbological complex, a universal language, the basic element at the origins of all the varieties of human culture and human religion. The use of this language can serve to express the most diverse theological and metaphysical constructs, but they all concern one and the same archetypal structure, which they merely interpret and whose metaphysical accents they re- arrange in different ways.

As follows, the symbolic complex which would be associated with counter-initiation, in its most universal aspect, should be that relating to the Hyperborean mystery of Yule. Strictly negatively interpreting this complex might lead to grotesque distortions, to the point that the most important and sacred aspects are treated as “counter-initiatic.” This, according to Herman Wirth, is what happened with the Christian tradition when it equated various “solar-thresholding” Hyperborean tropes with demonic realities, even though their symbolisms are strikingly reminiscent of the calendric history of the birth of the Son of God (the winter solstice). For instance, the demon’s tail was a vestige of the solar-solstice rune connoting the lower part of the polar year and the roots of the world tree. The cauldrons in which the demons cooked sinners were derived from the trope of the winter cauldron (or vessel) of the gods – the cauldron of the Celtic god Dagda which never runs empty. This is a typical winter-solstice motif (and the New Year rune itself was still called Dagda in the Normans’ time, and was depicted as a bowl or cauldron). The horns of the “devil” are a symbol of the spring Resurrection of the sun, as they are the symbolic analogue of the two raised hands – the spring rune “Ka.”[17] And so on.

These considerations show that it is impossible to judge the counter-initiatic character of one or another symbol or symbological complex on purely formal grounds, since in Hyperborean symbolism, which lies at the heart of all sacred symbolism, there are no such symbols.

Conclusion

Summating our brief analysis, it should be clear that it is necessary to radically reconsider Guénon’s theory of counter-initiation and carefully consider the various standpoints involved in this matter. This problem is closely connected to other theses of Guénon’s which, upon attentive study and application to concrete historical religions and initiatic schools, turn out to be too rough, inaccurate, or frankly erroneous. At the same time, this revision in no way tarnishes the high authority of René Guénon. Without his works and most important theses and interpretive models, the whole picture of esotericism and metaphysics would be hopelessly confused today. The point is not to debunk the master, as some of his ungrateful students, such as Frithjof Schuon, have sought to do. On the contrary, it is necessary to refine and hone the great intuitions of this genius human being in order to cleanse his teachings of all that has turned out wrong, and in order to make shine with new strength and freshness those aspects which are expressions of the purest truth. Guénon bequeathed to us an invaluable tool, an excellent methodology for studying Tradition. Thanks to him, we can determine the common denominators of the enormous materials of theology, the history of religions, initiation, etc., with which we have to deal, and which would otherwise remain hopelessly contradictory fragments defying any systematization (not to mention neo-Spiritualist reconstructions or the theories of profane historians and ethnologists).

 

Guénon remains the main and key author. But if, following serious reflections and the results of careful research, we arrive at conclusions which do not concur with his views but correct them, then it is pointless to try to hide and pretend that everything remains unchanged. The question of counter-initiation is highly important and extremely relevant. So is the question of the existence (or non-existence) of a real metaphysical unity of traditions. This text is merely an introduction to this problem, but as an outline for further research it is of colossal significance. We hope to develop this topic in subsequent works.

In the meanwhile, let us remark that an adequate view of counter-initiation, a clarification of its nature, essence, and “localization”, will lead us to the most horrifying secrets which, while hidden behind the dubious myth of the modern world, are ready to find their nightmarish, chilling incarnation in front of a hopelessly slumbering humanity drowsily wandering towards slaughter. Contrary to the naive stories of the “Order of the Red Donkey” and exotic and relatively harmless “Luciferians”, the true mission of counter-initiation is dizzyingly large-scale, effective, and ubiquitous. It is preparing a terrible fate for all peoples and civilizations. But in order to recognize this approaching catastrophe, it is necessary to look at things soberly and intently beyond the romantic haze of residual occultism and the “detective plot” of cheap horror novels.

Nothing rejoices the “enemy of humankind” more than the deafening stupidity of those who hastily decide to embark on the path of struggle against him without seriously weighing all the circumstances and assessing the whole volume of that unfathomable and terrible problem which St. Paul the Apostle called the “mystery of iniquity.”

 

Footnotes:

[1] We addressed this topic in detail in: Alexander Dugin, Metafizika Blagoi Vesti. Pravoslavny ezoterizm (The Metaphysics of the Gospel: Orthodox Esotericism, Moscow: Arktogeia, 1996). This work contains a detailed scrutiny of Guénon’s Christological views arising from his confessional belonging to Islam, not from any correspondences between their “univocal esoteric truth.” Generally speaking, despite the fact that Guénon wrote very little about the Islamic tradition, the majority of his theses on the esoteric question arose precisely out of his Islamic views on things. Hindu Advaita-Vedanta and Sufi Islam were most dear to Guénon. The specific approaches to esotericism proper to these two traditions considerably shaped Guénon’s preferences and analyses in the sphere of historical religions and their dogmas. Regardless of how logical or harmonic these two systems might be, they still far from exhaust all the possible variations of esoteric and initiatic doctrines.

 

[2] See: Dugin, Metafizika Blagoi Vesti.

[3] Christianity is counted among the Abrahamic traditions only in the Islamic perspective and some Judeo-Christian currents. Orthodoxy cannot recognize such a title insofar as it is clearly conscious of its internal spiritual nature as a Melchizedekian, pre-Abrahamic, and supra- Abrahamic tradition.

[4] Dugin, Metafizika Blagoi Vesti, chapter 41. [5] Ibid. `

[6] Is this too really the case? The logic of our analysis suggests that the matter is somewhat more complex.

[7] We can recall the case of Dante’s initiatic journey where, at the very bottom of the crater of hell, he began to descend down Satan’s body even lower, ultimately reaching not the center of the abyss, but the surface of the earth near Purgatory and the hill of earthly paradise. This category also contains a number of symbols which situate paradise under the earth, demons at the tops of the mountains, etc.

[8] For example, the husband of Indira Gandhi was a Pars (Zoroastrian).

[9] This is the case with the Dönmeh, the followers of the Jewish pseudo-messiah Sabbatai Zevi, who outwardly followed their leader in adopting Islam, but who, when heading the Turkish state in the 20th century, immediately abolished Islam as the state religion and proclaimed the creation of a “civilization of the Western type” in Turkey. Even though they were absolutely traditional with regards to their esoteric Kabbalist community and loyal to the general context of the Jewish Diaspora, the Dönmeh carried out what is from a purely Islamic perspective an anti-Islamic, profane mission.

[10] See Dugin, Metafizika Blagoi Vesti.

 

[11] See the article “The Messianism of Kabbalah: The Metaphysics of the Nation, the Messiah, and the End Times in the Zohar” in Mily Angel 3 (1998).

[12] Here is a fragment from Guénon’s letter to a certain Hillel in 1930 which describes this history: “Here behind al-Azhar (a university in Cairo) there is an old gentleman who strikingly resembles the portraits of Ancient Greek philosophers and produces strange paintings. He once showed us a drawing of a dragon with the head of a bearded man in a 16th century hat with six small heads from various animals protruding from his beard. It is especially curious that this figure clearly resembles an image found in Revue internationale des sociétés secrètes as an illustration of the book L’élue du dragon. This illustration is supposed to have been taken from some ancient book…But the real gem is that this gentleman claims to have seen this head elsewhere and painted it exactly like the original!”

[13] See: Mily Angel 1 (1991).

[14] See: Herman Wirth, “Das Heilige Jahr” in Der Aufgang der Menschheit (Jena: Eugen Diedrichs, 1928). Translated into Russian by Alexander Dugin as “Sviashchennyi God” and published in Mily Angel 3 (1998). See also Alexander Dugin, “Kosmicheskii Spasitel’” (“The Cosmic Savior”) in the same number.

[15] See Alexander Dugin, Giperboreiskaiia teoriia (“The Hyperborean Theory”, Moscow: Arktogeia, 1993).

[16] Contemporary linguistics divides types of thinking into two main varieties – “digital” and “analog.” “Digital” thinking precisely corresponds to profanism and materialism, operates with the abstract categories of “there is” and “there is not”, and functions according to the laws of formal logic (the law of the excluded third, the law of identity, etc.). Philosophers call this “classical rationality.” Analog thinking became a scientific category over the course of the study of archaic “primitive” peoples, cultures, and mythologies. Analog thinking corresponds to the world of Tradition and retains connection with traces of the Hyperborean tradition. It knows no “pure negation.” “Not” therefore means “another yes.” Pure absence is unimaginable, as the very concept of “absence” immediately evokes the image of “another presence.” Analog thinking first affirms the whole image, and only then deconstructs it into categories of “presence”, “absence”, “positive”, “negative”, and even “male”, “female”, “big”, and “small.” In analog thinking, there is no strict distinction between the subject of action and the object of action, between the substance and the attribute, the action and the substantive. Thus, in our example, the sun, its disappearance, and its absence act as something whole and integral. The affirmation of the sun already contains its negation (setting in winter), and the negation of the sun (winter darkness) is an affirmation which testifies to the meaning of the sun. On the basis of this logic, the primordial symbolism in principle was not subject to moral interpretation. It was a system of interrelated, integral, sacred elements, none of which is endowed with a value-priority. Everything in it was an expression of the one sacred Being, the Light of the World, at different stages of its cyclical pulse.

 

[17] See Dugin, “Kosmicheskii Spasitel’”, op cit.

Revealing Traditionalism

Author: Alexander Dugin

Translator: Jafe Arnold 

The preface to the second edition of Puti Absoliuta [The Ways of the Absolute] published in Absoliutnaia Rodina [Absolute Homeland] (Moscow: Arktogeia, 1999/2000). 

 

The Ways of the Absolute was written in 1989. Its main task was presenting the foundations of Traditionalism, exhibiting how Tradition understands the most important metaphysical problems, and on what philosophical principles the sacred worldview is built. We considered the present work to be a kind of introduction to Traditionalism, as transmitting into the Russian context the main lines of such eminent modern Traditionalists as René Guénon (the founding father of this tendency), Julius Evola, etc. We pursued an altogether definite purpose, and it predetermined the topics selected, the methods of presentation, and the emphases. It was extremely important for us to at once put Traditionalist through in its proper context, and show its radical non-conformism, its rigid alternity to academic, “humanitarian” and profane philosophical trends in modern culture. Traditionalism is not a history of religions, not a philosophy, not a structural sociological analysis. It is more of an ideology or meta-ideology that is totalitarian to a considerable extent and places rather harsh demands before those who accept and profess it. Either man breaks with the totality of the worldview cliches of modernity diffused throughout his environment, completely revises his views and positions, investigates the profane genesis and then rejects them all at once in order to accept the norms of Tradition with perfect confidence and strict conviction, or he will remain essentially outside of it, outside the sacred fence, in the Eleusinian swamps of the modern world in which there is no fundamental difference between highbrow professors, philosophers, and the obedient, absolutely unreflective mass of laymen, including even those intellectuals who for “academic” reasons are interested in various “extravagant” subjects, such as theology, rituals, symbolism, traditional societies, etc.

The ambition to emphasize this aspect of Traditionalism with maximal clarity determined the structure of The Ways of the Absolute.

In the preface to the first edition of The Ways of the Absolute, we wrote the following on this matter: “‘Total Traditionalism’ arose in 20th century Europe as a special ideology standing for a complete and uncompromising return to the values of traditional, sacred civilization whose absolute negation is the modern materialist and secularized civilization – the “modern world” as such. Unlike those people who naturally belong to Tradition, the Traditionalists of the West found themselves surrounded by anti-tradition, and in order to affirm their position, they had to first and foremost reveal the elements and principles of Tradition, and declare them openly – something which would be superfluous in sacred societies and impossible in totalitarian, atheistic societies (such as communist ones, for example).”

Russian readers’ first acquaintance with the ideas of Traditionalism has, in our opinion, been quite adequate. We have succeeded in anticipating the opportunity to usurp this topic from irresponsible profane and neo-spiritualist circles.

Since the first edition of The Ways of the Absolute, the first Russian translations of the classics of Traditionalism have appeared and this trend will clearly continue. Readers can gradually, sufficiently familiarize themselves with the wholeness of the Traditionalist worldview, and then arises the new task of adequate applying such to our own tradition, to explaining what aspects of it are applicable to our reality to a full extent, and which aspects are subject to certain adjustment.

Ten years ago, the preface said: “The ideas of Guénon, whose works have hitherto been completely unknown to Russian readers, compose the foundations of this book. We have deemed it possible to avoid direct quotations of his works and chosen to freely present how we have grasped his ideas and how we have subsequently applied them in the sphere of traditional metaphysical doctrines and symbols. The present work contains a presentation of Guénon’s basic principles and concepts, whereas a detailed account of the divergences between such and our views on certain points of metaphysics would make sense only after the publication of Guénon’s main works in Russian. No matter what, it is Guénon who was and remains our spiritual guide and teacher.”

Today it can be said that this indeed happened, and in parallel to Russians’ fuller acquaintance with Guénon’s work, those aspects which were lost in the overall context of presenting the foundations of Traditionalism in The Ways of the Absolute have come to stand out. In our opinion, the gap that separates orthodox “Guenonism”, or literal adherence to Guénon’s thought in all major and minor issues, from the slightly different version of understanding metaphysical questions to which we ourselves adhere, is evermore clear. Before Guenon’s worldview became known to us in its general contours, it was premature to insist on the quality and essence of this gap, and by and large meaningless insofar as such would resemble a comparison between two unknown values. With the development of one of these values, the more prominent became the second, closely related to the first.

In The Ways of the Absolute, we based ourselves on a particular metaphysical tradition whose main lines were developed in a very closed and discrete intellectual milieu associated with such thinkers at Geydar Dzhemal, Yuri Mamleev, and Evgeniy Golovin. Having inherited from them a taste for paradoxical pivot in metaphysical intuition, we tried to combine this with orthodox Traditionalism, subjecting the latter to corrections arising out of the spirit of the above-mentioned school. The result was this book.

Intensive development of certain ideas has led the author to a whole series of new metaphysical conclusions which have been expressed in our other works, first and foremost in The Metaphysics of the Gospel.

We have decided to introduce some minor edits (mostly in the citations) in the text of this second edition of The Ways of the Absolute, since some suspicions have gradually been reborn as convictions, and certain arguments in orthodox Guénonist terms are so inadequate that we have resolved to withdraw them from the text or, in the very least, substantially correct them. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to consider the chronology of the writing and first edition of this book, as such was the first step in what was in its own right a “Traditionalist revelation.” 

 

© Jafe Arnold – All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed permission. 

Christian Metaphysics: The Essence of the Problem

Author: Alexander Dugin

Translator: Jafe Arnold

Introduction/chapter 1 of Metafizika Blagoi Vesti [The Metaphysics of the Gospel] (1994) in Absoliutnaia Rodina [Absolute Homeland] (Moscow: Arktogeia, 1999). 

Christianity is that tradition whose metaphysical dimension has been studied least of all. This is quite a paradox since one would think that such a deep study of Christianity, the religion of the West, would attract all those interested in metaphysics and who, following Guénon, are trying to make sense of the most profound aspects of Tradition. Nevertheless, the disputes surrounding Christianity in Traditionalist circles are, as a rule, limited to fairly secondary, practical issues regarding the virtual initiation of the sacraments, the absence of an idea of cyclical time, etc. In all of this, one can see a tacit consensus among Traditionalists that Christianity is nothing more than a reduced, incomplete tradition whose esotericism has been practically lost, and whose metaphysical content cannot be detached from the dense veil of exoteric scholastic theology and the hazy subjective intuitions of mystics. All attempts to identify any consistency between the basic principles of Christianity and the conceptual categories of other, more metaphysically developed traditions (primarily Hinduism) have yielded rather poor results and have been based on strained interpretations and biased urges to arrive at any cost at conclusions which match Guénon’s own ideas (this is clearest of all in the book by Abbot Henri Stéphane, Introduction à l’ésotérisme chrétien [1]). 

These circumstances, however, can be explained quite simply. The problem is that the Guénonian approach has spread only in narrow circles of the intellectual elite of the West, where by Christianity is usually understood, in the best case, Catholicism. But the specificity of Catholicism is such that, from the moment that the Western Church fell away from the Eastern Church, Catholicism built its dogmatic and intellectual foundation on a conscious rejection of the metaphysical content of Christianity. All the scholastic constructs were essentially an ambition to develop a slender theological doctrine while completely ignoring the ontological and metaphysical elements which were in fact present in the Christian tradition before the schism and preserved even afterwards. Of course, they survived exclusively in the Eastern Church, i.e., in the bosom of Orthodoxy. But Catholics, and even the most profound among them, seem to be unaware of this.

Orthodoxy, for its part, despite having preserved ontological and metaphysical wholeness, from a certain time onward could no longer assert its metaphysical content (i.e., actual Christian metaphysics) in clear categories. Shortly after the “Palamite disputes” when Orthodox esotericism experienced its last dazzling rise in history, this line was somewhat marginalized and “frozen”, as priority was given to the exoteric sides of the Church. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Russian theologians and even secular philosophers, intuitively surmising the special metaphysical nature of Orthodoxy, attempted to formulate certain principles for reviving the forgotten dimension of this tradition. However, most of these attempts did not yield serious results since none of them were familiar with the works of Guénon. Hence why only now, in our opinion, is it possible to acquire adequate knowledge of the most important proportions of the structure of fully-fledged metaphysics.

It can be said that although Western Traditionalists had the intellectual apparatus developed by Guénon, they did not have an adequate object for applying such, since Catholicism fundamentally prohibits one from going from the exoteric to the esoteric and metaphysical levels and, moreover, places insurmountable obstacles along the way. The Orthodox had and have a fully-fledged object, the Orthodox Christian Church Tradition and a full, irreducible dogma, but they have hitherto lacked an adequate metaphysical apparatus. Thus, for two opposite reasons, both in West and East the most widespread, well known, familiar, and close tradition – Christianity – has remained the most unknown, mysterious, and closed, all the while as Traditionalists rather well mastered Islamic metaphysics, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and even some archaic cults. The distant and exotic paradoxically became dearer to modern scholars nominally belonging to Christian civilization than “their own,” the familiar and close.

Be that as it may, Russians’ first acquaintance with the ideas of Guénon [2] now allows us to chart our way out of this impasse and to try to compare the overall metaphysical picture with the dogma of Orthodox Christianity. One should not be mistaken as to the simplicity of such a study. The near complete absence of references to Orthodoxy among Traditionalist authorities makes this task extremely difficult and risky. Nevertheless, without claiming final truth on this matter and all the while leaving the way open for alternative pursuits, we will try in this work to understand the metaphysical nature of Orthodoxy and, as follows, arrive at a formulation and recognition of the essence of Christian metaphysics.

 

Footnotes: 

[1] abbe Henri Stéphane, Introduction à l’ésotérisme chrétien, Paris, 1979.

[2] At the present moment, the following books of R. Guénon have been published in Russian: The Crisis of the Modern World (Moscow, 1992), The King of the World in the journal Voprosy filosofii from 1993; The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (Moscow, 1994), Fundamental Symbols of the Sacred Science (Moscow, 1996), and articles in the journal Milyi Angel No. 1, in the journals Voprosy filosofii, Literaturnoe obozrenie,  and Volshebnaia Gora (chapters from the books An Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines, Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, and The Symbolism of the Cross, etc.)

 

© Jafe Arnold – All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed permission.