Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Exploitation of Lost Traditions

I can certainly appreciate the desire to foster pride in one's culture and origins by embracing indigenous practices and perspectives, but I would be very wary of those who would exploit an essentially positive intention in order to amass wealth and prestige under false pretenses. I have witnessed a pastiche of various scientistic, new-age, and haphazardly presented occult doctrines exploiting the reputation and imagery of a noble and once-thriving traditional civilization. Much discrimination will be necessary to rectify the unfortunate situation of anyone who attaches himself to this or any similar movement or organization.

While we may certainly state that Hunbatz Men can be more aptly described as a new age writer than as a Traditionalist one -- for whom human endeavor and ingenuity, in a word caprice, overshadows the rightful place of the Divine -- the case of Julius Evola is a little more subtle. Julius Evola, a very intelligent author with a prodigious memory, acquired his understanding of traditional doctrines through his association with Arturo Reghini. From the latter he was to learn but not necessarily understand fully many of the teachings of René Guénon unfortunately colored by the perspectives of the Scuola Italica, Reghini's esoteric order that romanticized imperial Rome.

Evola consistently denigraded both religion and the exoteric point of view. For him authentic spirituality was limited to the esoteric dimension possessed by the Regal Warrior Elite. On the contrary, all of those identified with the Traditionalist School, while acknowledging the centrality of esoterism and the important role of the spiritual elite in our present age, consistently defend both the dignity and necessity of exoteric religion both in itself and as a necessary foundation for the pursuit of esoterism. This is one of the key perspectives that Evola shares with the various modern pseudo-spiritual movements and accounts for his popularity among various schools of occultism. Thus, although he expressed some important traditional ideas, he cannot be considered as an exemplary figure of the Traditionalist School.

Socrates once stated that any author will say something to the point. That is to say that (generally speaking) every book, however flawed or incompetent, will generally have at least one thing that is useful or interesting. Unfortunately, the accumulation of contemporary writing, especially with widespread access to the internet, is far too voluminous to read everything always looking for that "something to the point". Again there is the need for discrimination.

Or rather than discrimination, perhaps it would be better for me to say that discernment is necessary, because while the former implies a decision to choose that which is real over that which is false (a decision that has already been made), the latter refers to a keenness of insight and judgment. In other words, it refers to the ability to recognize which sources and individuals are authentic and which are not. Authenticity only comes into consideration when a given teaching is communicated on behalf of something greater than itself. For example, in the case of Hunbatz Men, he attempted to state that his teachings represented true Mayan religion and science, a situation immediately calling their authenticity into question.

An important distinction must here be made between a movement (in this case, a reform movement) and tradition. Reform movements desire a return to the past. Nonetheless, they are wholly modern phenomena, and the past that they desire to return to is generally a romantic fantasy developed in the imagination of the present. Tradition on the other hand implies a transmission which carries the past into the present through an uninterrupted chain of transmission. Cultural customs and practices may support this transmission but it is the presence of the sanctifying influence of the saint that causes it both to blossom and to revive in times of decline.

It may well be that living representatives embodying the ancient traditions of Mexico are still living amongst the people. Rest assured that they will not be writing popular occult manuals. Herein lays the need for discrimination. Three things can be used as a touchstone for determining authenticity. These are intelligence, dignity, and orthodoxy.

By intelligence is meant the expressed mental capacities of knowledge, reason, and understanding. By dignity is implied nobility of character. In this we can see the wisdom of the biblical aphorism, “He who lives the life shall know the doctrine.” These first two criteria of judgment are, to a certain degree, limited by one’s own possession of them. It is only by virtue of possessing a modicum of intelligence and nobility oneself that one is able to judge those qualities in others. To the base and ignorant man, that which is common achieves the status of dignity, but its worth is generally unrecognized, for in the achievement of that recognition the base man would already have begun to lift himself up as it were to that level.

Orthodoxy is a different issue altogether for it transcends the limited capabilities of human judgment. Orthodoxy, to which we may add its counterpart orthopraxy (literally right thinking and right action), concern originality in the sense of proximity to the origin as opposed to its modern connotation of individuality of expression. All elements of a traditional civilization have their origin within the divine principle. All religions, for instance, are rooted in the phenomenon of revelation, that is to say that the Absolute has entered into the world and revealed itself to man simultaneously revealing the Truth, the Law, and the Spiritual Path which joins them together. Orthodoxy consists in faithfulness and conformity to the revelation, an idea that is inherently antithetical to the pursuit of individuality.

The problem with false teachers such as Hunbatz Men and with occultism in general lies in the fact that the nature of the Absolute has been distorted if not lost sight of altogether, commonly being replaced with a kind of glorified material energy. The natural consequence of this is as follows. If reason, capable of apprehending the workings of matter, is exalted over the intellect which alone penetrates to realization of the Absolute, ethics becomes the province of human as opposed to divine judgment and all subsequent practice loses its proper foundation in the Law. The traditional principles of ethics which govern individual and collective behavior in conformity to the divine reality no longer serve as the support of a discipline leading to the Truth. All that remains is the vestiges of a spiritual method without foundation or aim, leading only to the pursuit of power and the vain glorification of the ego.

Hunbatz Men summarizes this great deviation of modern occultism and his perversion of Mayan Tradition on page 132 when he states, “These words help us develop our occult powers and become true reflections of Hunab K’u. This is the path to become Quezalcoatl or Kukulcan.”

The perspective of a purely rational and scientific origin of religion as opposed to divine revelation is given on page 28 when he states, “This introduction was intended to outline how the Maya created a religion based on secrets gleamed over many centuries from nature – from our earthly planet in union with cosmic laws.”

Again, Hunbatz Men describes the materialization of the Absolute and its subjection to purely rational formulation in the following quotation on page 24: “Our pre-conquest Mayan ancestors, through deduction and synthesis, came to a monotheistic conclusion, with a mathematical sense. Their concept of the Absolute was defined as measure and movement – measure of the soul and movement of the energy which is spirit.”

Many more examples can be given to illustrate the situation but I think that these are sufficient. I also hope to have demonstrated just how subtle these errors can be, especially for the inexperienced reader, and how far reaching the implications of improper foundations.

A significant plight of the modern world is the exaltation and idolization of quantity and the subordination of quality. Quantity consists of the amount of a thing as with its characteristics. quality consists of its level of excellence. In a secular worldview, the standard of quality is established through the judgment of an individual. Thus, in this situation value is determined through caprice or individual whim. In a traditional worldview this same standard is established based upon the conformity of the subject to the Divine Reality of the Absolute. Such a subject possesses a higher degree of quality in so far as its essential nature more adequately reflects the nature of the Absolute.

Once entered into consciousness as a perceived reality, the existence of the Absolute may thus serve as the key to the solution of all problems and the definitive answer to all questions of ultimate importance. Likewise, when it is absent, confusion ensues, there is a disruption of order in the world, and false gods are elevated to its place.

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