domingo, 22 de diciembre de 2013

John Morgan - What Guénon and Evola Really Meant by Tradition (...and Why Many Get it Wrong)

John Morgan - What Guénon and Evola Really Meant by Tradition (...and Why Many Get it Wrong)

There is a great deal of confusion about what Guénon and Evola meant by Tradition, and while the terms "traditional" or "traditionalist" are frequently invoked these days, often the evocateur demonstrates in said usage that he does not in fact grasp it. I offer some quotes from Guénon for clarification.
Guénon on the difference between philosophy, in the modern sense, and Tradition (from "Crisis in the Modern World"):

"It is true that the word 'philosophy' can, in itself, be understood in quite a legitimate sense, and one which without doubt originally belonged to it, especially if it be true that Pythagoras himself was the first to use it: etymologically it denotes nothing other than 'love of wisdom'; in the first place, therefore, it implies the initial disposition required for the attainment of wisdom, and, by a quite natural extension of this meaning, the quest that is born from this same disposition and that must lead to knowledge. It denotes therefore a preliminary and preparatory stage, a step as it were in the direction of wisdom or a degree corresponding to a lower level of wisdom; the perversion that ensued consisted in taking this transitional stage for an end in itself and in seeking to substitute 'philosophy' for wisdom, a process which implied forgetting or ignoring the true nature of the latter. It was in this way that there arose what may be described as 'profane' philosophy, in other words, a pretended wisdom that was purely human and therefore entirely of the rational order, and that took the place of the true, traditional, supra-rational, and 'non-human' wisdom. However, there still remained something of this true wisdom throughout the whole of antiquity, as is proven primarily by the persistence of the 'mysteries', whose essentially initiatic character is beyond dispute; and it is also true that the teachings of the philosophers themselves usually had both an 'exoteric' and an 'esoteric' side, the latter leaving open the possibility of connection with a higher point of view, which in fact made itself clearly-though perhaps in some respects incompletely-apparent some centuries later among the Alexandrians. For 'profane' philosophy to be definitively constituted as such, it was necessary for exoterism alone to remain and for all esoterism simply to be denied, and it is precisely this that the movement inaugurated by the Greeks was to lead to in the modern world. The tendencies that found expression among the Greeks had to be pushed to the extreme, the undue importance given to rational thought had to grow even greater, before men could arrive at 'rationalism', a specifically modern attitude that consists in not merely ignoring, but expressly denying, everything of a supra-rational order."

This indicates that Tradition cannot be understood via the means of modern, rationalistic philosophy, and that modern philosophy must always be seen as ultimately incomplete.As for lower-t tradition versus Tradition, one must understand that the former has absolutely nothing to do with the notion of Tradition, which is rooted in the esoteric, not the social or historical - even if there is a relationship. The social world is exoteric, and therefore the least important aspect of Tradition.

From "Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines":

“We have constantly had occasion to speak of tradition, of traditional doctrines or conceptions, and even of traditional languages, and this is really unavoidable when trying to describe the essential characteristics of Eastern thought in all its modalities; but what, to be exact, is tradition? To obviate one possible misunderstanding, let it be said from the outset that we do not take the word “tradition” in the restricted sense sometimes given to it by Western religious thought, when it opposes “tradition” to the written word, using the former of these two terms exclusively for something that has been the object of oral transmission alone. On the contrary, for us tradition, taken in a much more general sense, may be written as well as oral, though it must usually, if not always, have been oral originally. In the present state of things, however, tradition, whether it be religious in form or otherwise, consists everywhere of two complementary branches, written and oral, and we have no hesitation in speaking of “traditional writings”, which would obviously be contradictory if one only gave to the word “tradition” its more specialized meaning; besides, etymologically, tradition simply means “that which is transmitted” in some way or other. In addition, it is necessary to include in tradition, as secondary and derived elements that are nonetheless important for the purpose of forming a complete picture, the whole series of institutions of various kinds which find their principle in the traditional doctrine itself.

Looked at in this way, tradition may appear to be indistinguishable from civilization itself, which according to certain sociologists consists of “the whole body of techniques, institutions, and beliefs common to a group of men during a certain time”; but how much exactly is this definition worth? In truth, we do not think that civilization can be characterized generally by a formula of this type, which will always be either too comprehensive or too narrow in some respects, with the risk that elements common to all civilizations will be omitted or else that elements belonging to certain particular civilizations only will be included. Thus the preceding definition takes no account of the essentially intellectual element to be found in every civilization, for that is something that cannot be made to fit into the category known as “techniques”, which, as we are told, comprises “those classes of practices specially designed to modify the physical environment”; on the other hand, when these sociologists speak of “beliefs”, adding moreover that the word must be “taken in its usual sense”, they are referring to something that clearly presupposes the presence of the religious viewpoint, which is really confined to certain civilizations only and is not to be found in others. It was in order to avoid all difficulties of this kind that we were content at the start simply to describe a civilization as the product and expression of a certain mental outlook common to a more or less widespread group of men, thus making it possible to treat each particular case separately as regards the exact determination of its constituent elements.

However that may be, it remains nonetheless true, as far as the East is concerned, that the identification of tradition with the entire civilization is fundamentally justifiable. Every Eastern civilization, taken as a whole, may be seen to be essentially traditional. . . . As for Western civilization, we have shown that it is on the contrary devoid of any traditional character, with the exception of the religious element, which alone has retained it. Social institutions, to be considered traditional, must be effectively attached in their principle to a doctrine that is itself traditional, whether it be metaphysical or religious or of any other conceivable kind. In other words, those institutions are traditional that find their ultimate justification in their more or less direct, but always intentional and conscious, dependence upon a doctrine which, as regards its fundamental nature, is in every case of an intellectual order; but this intellectuality may be found either in a pure state, in cases where one is dealing with an entirely metaphysical doctrine, or else it may be found mingled with other heterogeneous elements, as in the case of the religious or other special modes which a traditional doctrine is capable of assuming. [...]

In Islam tradition exists under two distinct aspects, one of which is religious—it is upon this aspect that the general body of social institutions is dependent—while the other aspect, which is purely Eastern, is wholly metaphysical. In a certain measure something of the same sort existed in medieval Europe in the case of the Scholastic doctrine, in which Arab influences moreover made themselves felt to an appreciable extent; but in order not to push the analogy too far it should be added that metaphysics was never sufficiently clearly distinguished from theology, that is to say from its special application to the religious mode of thought; moreover, the genuinely metaphysical portion to be found in it is incomplete and remains subject to certain limitations that seem inherent in the whole of Western intellectuality; doubtless these two imperfections should be looked upon as resulting from the double heritage of the Jewish and the Greek mentalities.
In India we are in the presence of a tradition that is purely metaphysical in its essence; to it are attached, as so many dependent extensions, the diverse applications to which it gives rise, whether in certain secondary branches of the doctrine itself, such as that relating to cosmology, or in the social order, which is moreover strictly governed by the analogical correspondence linking together cosmic existence and human existence. A fact that stands out much more clearly here than in the Islamic tradition, chiefly owing to the absence of the religious point of view and of certain extra-intellectual elements that religion necessarily implies, is the complete subordination of the various particular orders relative to metaphysics, that is to say relative to the realm of universal principles.

In China, [there is ] the sharp division . . . [between] a metaphysical tradition on the one hand and a social tradition on the other, and these may at first sight appear not only distinct, as in fact they are, but even relatively independent of one another, all the more so since the metaphysical tradition always remained well-nigh exclusively the appanage of an intellectual elite, whereas the social tradition, by reason of its very nature, imposed itself upon all without distinction and claimed their effective participation in an equal degree. It is, however, important to remember that the metaphysical tradition, as constituted under the form of “Taoism”, is a development from the principles of a more primordial tradition, formulated in the I Ching, and it is from this primordial tradition that the whole of the social institutions commonly known under the name of “Confucianism” are entirely derived, though less directly and then only as an application to a contingent sphere. Thus the essential continuity between the two principal aspects of the Far-Eastern civilization is re-established, and their true relationship made clear; but this continuity would almost inevitably be missed if it were not possible to trace them back to their common source, that is to say to the primordial tradition of which the ideographical expression, as fixed from the time of Fu Hsi onward, has been preserved intact for almost fifty centuries."

Therefore, there can be a relationship between small-t tradition and Tradition, but the latter is not dependent on the former - rather, it is the other way around. The reason Guénon did not see the modern West as a genuine civilization is because, according to the traditionalists, there is no longer a connection between tradition and Tradition. This should highlight the problem inherent in those who use the term "traditionalist," invoking Evola and/or Guénon but who clearly have no grasp of this, and use it however they fancy, and also why tradition isn't exactly irrelevant to an understanding of Tradition, but is certainly woefully incomplete on its own. I offer this note as an attempt to clarify the usage of this term.

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Coalición Global


Colaboradores de La Coalición. Con diversidad de enfoques y posiciones

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  • Daniel Mariano Leiro - Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • David Villena - UNMSM
  • Davide de Palma - Università di Bari
  • Dick Tonsmann - FTPCL y UNMSM
  • Eduardo Hernando Nieto - Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
  • Enmanuel Taub - Conicet/Argentina
  • Gianni Vattimo - Universidad de Turín
  • Gilles Guigues - Université de Provence
  • Hernán Borisonik - Sao Paulo
  • Ildefonso Murillo - Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca
  • Jack Watkins - University of Notre Dame
  • Jimmy Hernandez Marcelo - Facultad de Teologia Pontificia y Civil de Lima
  • Juan Villamón Pro - Universidad Ricardo Palma
  • Lucia Pinto - Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • Luis Fernando Fernández - Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana de Medellín
  • Martín Santiváñez - Universidad de Navarra
  • Piero Venturelli - Bolonia
  • Raffaela Giovagnoli - Università di Roma Tor Vergata
  • Ramiro Pablo Álvarez - Córdoba, Argentina
  • Raúl Haro - Universidad de Lima
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