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.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Social Action and Reaction

Your first question presupposes that Rene Guenon desired either to return society to a previous state or otherwise cause a radical change within its present structure but this is incompatible with the traditional teachings concerning cyclic laws. In the context of these laws the decadence of humanity as with their social institutions is an inevitable outcome of the progression of the ages leading from a Golden Age or Satya Yuga to the present Iron Age or Kali Yuga. This process can be represented as that of a winding-down or solidification of the world prior to a renewal.

Although the majority of the writings in these books deal with what may be called synthetic assessment rather than analysis with an accompanying remedy, he does speak about the practical considerations to which these ideas give rise, generally toward the end of the volumes. Although I do not have the time to discuss all of the considerations that I have encountered in these pages, there are a few comments pertinent to your questions that I would like to share.

The first is the subject of “reaction” that he treats in Chapter 31 of The Reign of Quantity. Guenon discusses the tendency of those who become privy to the deficiencies of our present situation to take up a direct “reactive” opposition to them. In addition to posing as a diversion to the pursuit of authentic traditional knowledge, such preoccupations, determined indirectly by the perverted institution in question and limited to its field operation, merely add to the existing disorder and in the end contribute toward the chaos and dissolution which they were intended to neutralize. In the words of Guenon, “their reciprocal enmity [i.e. between the individual and what he is reacting against] is therefore no more than an enmity between the various and apparently opposed productions of one and the same modern deviation; thus the final result can only be a fresh increase in disorder and confusion, and that simply amounts to one more step towards final dissolution.”

The paragraph that follows is explicit on his determination of what is the position for one to take on such matters. He wrote, “As between all the more or less incoherent things that are today in constant agitation and mutual collision, as between all external ‘movements’ of whatever kind they may be, there is no occasion to ‘take sides’, to use the common expression, whether from a traditional or from a merely ‘traditionalist’ point of view, for to do so is to be a dupe. Since the same influences are really operating behind all these things, it is really playing their game to join in the struggles promoted and directed by them; therefore the mere fact of ‘taking sides’ under such conditions is necessarily to adopt, however, unwittingly, a truly anti-traditional attitude. No particular applications need be specified here, but it must at least be made clear in a general way that in all this agitation principles are always and everywhere lacking”.

To address the second part of your question, there is definitely an emphasis on contemplation over action. However, this does not necessarily imply the adoption of a posture of passivity or an attitude of aloofness and indifference. Rather than reacting impulsively to modernism and emphasizing its destruction or reform, Guenon suggests rather the affirmation and preservation of those elements of tradition that remain, wherever they may be found. Just as the majority of the deficiencies of the modern world can be accounted for in the gradual decline and eclipse of essential knowledge and genuine intellectuality, so are these the two things that are most in need of preservation. Both East and West and Crisis of the Modern World emphasize this point as well as the catalyzing force that eastern doctrines may (and have) had on the re-establishment of western intellectuality.

It is inevitable in the context of cyclic conditions that the world established upon the principles of modernism will inevitably decline and collapse, but according to traditional teachings, this is only in anticipation of a return to the Golden Age and a renewal of the cosmic process. The preservation of tradition is accomplished not in the aim of overthrowing the established order, but in preparing the seeds for the new one. Guenon’s message, far from the pessimism that is sometimes associated with it, is actually one of hope. “There is therefore no cause for despair,” he writes in the concluding remarks to Crisis of the Modern World, “and, even were there no hope of achieving any visible result before the modern world collapses under some catastrophe, this would still be no valid reason for not understanding a work whose scope extends far beyond the present time. Those who might be tempted to give away to despair should realize that nothing accomplished in this order can ever be lost, that confusion, error and darkness can win the day only apparently and in a purely ephemeral way, that all partial and transitory disequilibrium must perforce contribute towards the great equilibrium of the whole, and that nothing can ultimately prevail against the power of truth; their device should be that used formerly by certain initiatory organizations of the West: Vincit Omnia Veritas (Truth Conquers All).”


  1. Good evening, Desmond!

    There's been a discussion on the TSF regarding "the Decline of the West" ( inspired from reading Oswald Spengler -- )

    And recently I discovered another Spenglerian author who was rather controversial
    but from what I've read (mostly this section on American history) much seems to be reality, so I trusted it enough to share with the forum, but a moment ago I thought perhaps I should ask about it.

    If "Imperium" has really got things right about Western history and the times (as much as a 1940's document can be), it is probable that what this author would have said to the Guenon quote (with which you ended your blog entry) is that it largely is applicable to Europe, but as for America too much seems to be against Tradition largely due to the fact that It has not been prevalent in its history as It has been in the rest of the world (and in America, only for the indigenous tribes); this is my paraphrase of what seems to be the summary. I'm as unsure of how I should take Yockey's thoughts as I was with Evola's philosophy until you had cleared that up for us on the MySpace forum. Currently I am also reading "The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis's Journey to Faith" by David C. Downing, and "Heroes & Hero Worship" by Thomas Carlyle. (As for Carlyle and Yockey I am not sure how to be careful of their philosophy as I said, but as to the C.S. Lewis biography it is right now a clear help in my continuing quest for a faith.)

    Any help is much appreciated my friend. Congrats on the news!

  2. (from Gabriel, btw)