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4/11/2017 8:39 pm  #1



Does anyone on this forum have strong opinions about the so-called Traditionalists--Rene Guenon, S. H. Nasr, Wolfgang Smith, Julius Evola, Ananda or Rama Coomaraswamy...

I say so-called, because none of them really liked that name, as it appears to imply a sentimental attitude towards what came previously, which is not what they advocate.

I personally love Rene Guenon and have been reading through some of his books, and was curious what others thought.


4/12/2017 5:02 am  #2

Re: Traditionalism

I've certainly been influenced by people sometimes called Traditionalists. I come from a Platonic perspective, and one very much open to the mystical and Hermetic aspects of Platonism, and the Traditionalists are major twentieth century exponents of this position. Influenced by this sort of Platonism, and by the thought on Henri Corbin (who I don't count as a Traditionalist per se), I tend towards a universalism reminiscent of the Traditionalists and Perennialists, and I am interested in their ideas in this, but I wouldn't simply equate my position with theirs.
There are other recent exponents of my kind of Platonism, such as Corbin, Kathleen Raine, Philip Sherrard, René Schwaller de Lubicz, John Michell, William Butler Yeats, Peter Kingsley, Mircea Eliade, Joscelyn Godwin, Jean Cooper.

To carry on what you say, I don't think there is a united school of Traditionalism per se, despite what is sometimes implied by followers of Schuon. There are nuances amongst the figures. And then there is Evola, who seems to be outside even the loose connection of proper Traditionalists (two of the major Perennialist sites have nothing on him).

Like you, I much admire Guenon. He is a very interesting philosopher and writer in my opinion. Ananda Coomaraswamy is a profound writer on Hinduism, as well as art and myth. Burckhardt is very good on art and spiritual alchemy. Lings has very interesting works on Shakespeare. Marco Pallis is a rare Western writer who tries to understand the true spiritual nature of Buddhism. Lord Northbourne has some very interesting work on the relationship between the soil, land, and spirituality - reminiscent of H. J. Massingham or Wendell Berry, but with an even clearer spiritual focus. Dr. Nasr is one of the most important expositors of Islamic philosophy and theology to the West. Wolfgang Smith has some very interesting writings on science and tradional philosophy.

I share with the Tradionalists, and the other figures mentioned, a much greater interest in traditional philosophy and spirituality than post-Cartesian philosophy.

I notice you left Schuon off the list, Brian? Any particular reason?

​I actually did that too. He is perhaps the most controversial of the Traditionalists, except perhaps for some of his followers, for various reasons. Interestingly, Corbin preferred Schuon to Guenon. He thought Guenon was too rigid, cold, and intellectual. He had a positive opinion of Schuon and the emphasis he gave to beauty and imagination. ​I'm wary of the worship that some of Schuon's followers give to him. But as a spiritual writer he can certainly be profound, and he does have that balance that Corbin admired, and though he doesn't attempt the systematic depth you find in Guenon (in Guenon's major works on Hinduism, you get perhaps the most accessible distillation of Hindu and Vedanta metaphysics, cosmology, and anthropology available in the West), he often shows penetrating philosophical and metaphysical acuity.


4/15/2017 12:43 pm  #3

Re: Traditionalism


You name a number of figures you have been on my to-read list for a while.  The reason I did not mention Schuon is because I have never been able to enjoy his writings.  A number of respectable people have told me to keep trying with him, but for whatever reason I find him to be much less satisfying than Guenon.  

I don't think what I'm about to say is completely accurate, but it seems to me almost like Guenon, Schuon, and Evola (those being perhaps the 3 most popular) start from the same basic idea, but all view themselves differently.  Guenon seems to be interested in pure metaphysics, as far as possible, and thus views himself as a genuine intellectual or Brahmin.  Evola seems to be interested ultimately in the metaphysical as it is applied to the temporal, and thus views himself as a warrior or Kshatriya.  Schuon, especially at the end of his life seems to view himself as a prophet or an avatar or something, and I have always found this very weird.  Like I said, this is not completely accurate, but I don't think it is dishonest either.  Does this seem a fair characterization?

I also am sympathetic to the Platonist position, influence by Hermeticism.  I am curious if any of the Christians or more traditional Thomists have any strong feelings about these figures, seeing as they, especially Guenon, speak openly and positively of Thomas Aquinas quite often as an authentic source of wisdom for Western civilization.

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