Search

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Coomaraswamy and Crowley

Jonson Miller of Drexel University has provided further information about relations between Ananda Coomaraswamy and Aleister Crowley:

"It is not known how Coomaraswamy and Crowley met, but they had a substantial relationship while Crowley was living in New York City in 1916.

Coomaraswamy asked Crowley to help promote his wife Alice Ethel's performances in 1916. Crowley wrote reviews of her in Vanity Fair and offered letters of introduction for her. She and Crowley quickly became lovers and magical partners, engaging in sexual magic by April of 1916. Alice became pregnant.

Crowley [whose version was of course partial--Ed.] says that Coomaraswamy was quite aware of their affair and had even encouraged it, wanting Crowley to take on her living expenses while in New York. Crowley, in exchange, introduced Ananda to Gerda Maria von Kothek, a prostitute and former Crowley lover. Coomaraswamy and von Kothek were soon living together.

[Again according to Crowley--Ed.], when Alice Ethel's career began to take off, Coomaraswamy wanted her back. Alice Ethel loved Crowley, but, for whatever reason, decided to return to England with Coomaraswamy. She had a miscarriage as a result of sea sickness on the voyage. Crowley blamed Coomaraswamy for the death of his child and hated him for it."

See:
  • Richard Kaczynski, Perdurabo, pp. 241-242, 245, 248-149
  • Lawrence Sutin, Do What Thou Wilt, p. 256
  • Crowley, Confessions of Aleister Crowley
Dr Miller also corrected my description of the Golden Dawn as "Aleister Crowley's occultist group" (Against the Modern World, pp. 53 and 214). He wrote:

Crowley was an important member of the Golden Dawn, which he had joined in 1898, but left the order well before this period.

Crowley served as the right-hand man to the head of the order around 1900, during which time a schism occurred in the order, leaving W.B. Yeats as the head of the London faction. Crowley also experienced a loss of faith in Mathers. This effectively left Crowley out of the GD after 1900. Crowley later claimed to have made legitimate contact with the Secret Chiefs that governed the order, thereby making him the head of the GD. He then claimed to destroy the order as it existed and, in 1906/07, reconstituted it as the AA, a successor order with a very different organization. If you accept Crowley's claims, then he was technically the head of the GD, but not of the group and people to whom you refer. By 1914, the period during which you speak of "Crowley's Golden Dawn", Crowley had long ceased to associate with that group. He was, by then, the head of the AA and the British section of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a masonic group to which Gerard Encause had belonged. So, while Coomaraswamy and Crowley knew one another very well, they did not meet through Yeats or the Golden Dawn.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Traditionalism in Sweden

Ivan Aguéli (born Johan Gustaf Agelii), the Swedish painter who introduced Guénon to Sufism in 1911, is of course the most famous Swedish proto-Traditionalist--"proto" because he died before Traditionalism was really established.

However, there have also been later Traditionalists in Sweden, the only Scandinavian country in which Traditionalism has really developed.

The earliest Swedish Traditionalist was Kurt Almqvist (1912-2001), a poet who joined the Maryamiyya during the 1940s. Almqvist published in Études Traditionnelles during the 1960s, and then in Studies in Comparative Religion during the 1970s and 1980s. He also published extensively in Swedish, both volumes of his own poetry and Traditionalist works such as Den glömda dimensionen (The forgotten dimension, 1959) and Tidlös besinning i besinningslös tid, Ur Frithjof Schuons verk (Timeless meaning in a meaningless time: From Frithjof Schuon's work, 1973).

A later but better known Traditionalist was Tage Lindbom (1909-2001).

Lindbom started as a socialist, working as a theorist and archivist for the governing Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti (Social Democratic Party, SDP) after taking his PhD (on the history of Swedish syndicalism) in 1938. He discovered Traditionalism in the 1960s, published Sancho Panzas väderkvarnar (Sancho Panza's windmills) in 1962, and left the SDP's employment in 1965. He and Almqvist became the center of a small, mostly intellectual, group of Swedish Traditionalists.

Lindbom published numerous books and articles, of which the most important was probably Agnarna och vetet (Chaff and grain, 1974), which has been translated into English, French, Spanish and Turkish. He became increasingly prominent as a Swedish spokesperson for conservatism, with books such as Demokratin är en myt (Democracy is a myth, 1991), translated into English as The Myth of Democracy. Towards the end of his life, the group around him is said to have become less intellectual, and to have divided into two segments: young Swedish Muslims of immigrant origin, and young Swedish ultra-conservatives.

After the death of Almqvist and Lindbom, the two most prominent Swedish traditionalists became Ashk Dahlén (b. 1972) (of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities) and the journalist Mohamed Omar (b. 1976).

For Swedish Traditionalism online, see

General de Gaulle not a Traditionalist (!)

In a post on "More French Traditionalists of importance" (February 02, 2007), I wrote:

According to Dalil Boubakeur [rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris and president of the Conseil français du culte musulman] . . . "General de Gaulle was a personal admirer of Guénonian thought." This is the first I've heard of it, but Boubakeur is not the sort of person to make baseless claims.
Well, the claim seems to have an origin, if not exactly a base. According to Jean-Pierre Laurant in René Guénon: Les enjeux d'une lecture, Jean Robin alleged that de Gaulle had been initiated by Michel Vâlsan in the gardens of the Élysée palace. Robin also alleged, it seems, that Guénon prefigured the Mahdi (pp. 318-19). Laurant describes both, politely, as "adventurous speculations."

We still have Boubakeur himself as a Traditionalist, though.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Valentine de St.-Point

Valentine de St.-Point, Guénon's friend and associate in Cairo, was more important as an artist than I had thought--mostly for her 1917 performance of Metachorie at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and as the only female futurist.

For the 2009 PERFORMA in New York, marking the Centenary of Furturism, Adrien Sina and RoseLee Goldberg are proposing a multi-media symposium, "Valentine de St.-Point: Tragédies Charnelles. Performance, Dance, War, Politics and Eroticism."
Articles that have newly come to my attention include:
  • Günter Berghaus, "Dance and the Futurist Woman: The Work of Valentine de Saint-Point (1875-1953)," Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research 11, no. 2 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 27-42.
  • Leslie Satin, "Valentine de Saint-Point," Dance Research Journal 22, no. 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 1-12.
For the start of an investigation of the relationshop between St.-Point's art and her spiritual life, see:
  • Nancy Gaye Moore, "The Hermetic Dances of Valentine De St.-Point (1875–1953)," Proceedings of the Society of Dance History Scholars Twenty-second Annual Conference, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico10–13 June 1999.
  • Nancy Gaye Moore, "The Convergence of Orientalism and Parisian Occultism in the Dances of Valentine de St.-Point (1875-1953)" Supplement to the Proceedings of the Congress on Research in Dance held at NYU, October 26-28, 2001.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Prince Charles and Rumi

Prince Charles enjoys reading Rumi, according to his office's press release after his second visit to Konya, on November 26, 2007. His other visit was in 1992.

In a speech after the visit, Prince Charles quoted Kathleen Raine, referred to the work of the Temenos Academy, and also (once again) implied fairly clearly that he himself subscribes to some version of the perennial philosophy. Most interestingly, he was also explicit about how he combines this with his ecological views:

If we hope to create a more sustainable way of living with the grain of Nature rather than so destructively against it then, surely, it is only with our innate sense of the sacred intact ... The natural World, indeed the entire Universe, is rooted in and bound together by wholeness... By seeing the external and material world as the only reality, the modern industrialised world view too often considers “the part” to be “the whole.” But, in so doing, not only does it falsify the whole, it also diminishes the part... We, too, are a microcosm of that organism and our separation from it becomes a profane act with profane consequences in today’s fragmented, conventional ideology.
The speech was poorly received by the audience. As a result of confusion in the office of the mayor of Konya, the audience consisted mostly of schoolchildren.

PS for Daniel Pipes, who has been exploring the possibility that Prince Charles is a secret convert to Islam periodically since 2003: it is more complicated than that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

TYR vol 3

Joshua Buckley and Michael Moynihan announce the third issue of TYR (and are asking for pre-orders to elecampane@bellsouth.net).

Contents:

Thomas Naylor on “Cipherspace,” Annie Le Brun on “Catastrophe Pending,” Pentti Linkola on “Survival Theory,” Michael O’Meara on “The Primordial and the Perennial,” Alain de Benoist on “Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power,” Nigel Pennick on “The Web of Wyrd,” Thierry Jolif on “The Abode of the Gods and the Great Beyond,” Stephen Flowers on “The Spear of Destiny,” Joscelyn Godwin on Philip Pullman’s “Dark Materials” trilogy, Ian Read on “Humour in the Icelandic Sagas,” Geza von Neményi on the “Hávamál,” Gordon Kennedy on the “Children of the Sonne,” Michael Moynihan on “Carl Larsson’s Greatest Sacrifice,” Christopher McIntosh on “Iceland’s Pagan Renaissance,” Jónína Berg on Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, Selected Poems by Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, Vilius Rudra Dundzila on “Baltic Lithuanian Religion,” James Reagan on “The End Times,” interviews with the stalwart folk singer Andrew King and the modern minnesinger Roland Kroell, Collin Cleary on “Paganism Without Gods,” Róbert Hórvath on Mark Sedgwick’s “Against the Modern World,” and extensive book and music review sections.
I am told that the book review section contains a review of Against the Modern World by Joshua Buckley which "represents something of a dialogue with" Róbert Hórvath's review, printed in this issue of TYR in "a somewhat amended version" of that which has been on the Internet for some time.

I wonder if Mr Hórvath's review still contains the statement that "Some presume that [Mark Sedgwick] is a kind of Euro-Atlantic spy, whose official task is to hunt for all the anti-modernist conceptions that have fertilised the contemporary Islamic world. According to others he has not been allowed to enter an initiatory order with 'Traditionalist' connections, and has written this book as revenge"?

As a general rule, I don't generally enter into dialogue with such suggestions, though I did think of putting "presumed Euro-Atlantic spy" on my CV. However, for the record I'll just mention that I am not and never have been a spy of any sort, and that I was never refused entry into any initiatory order, and that the speculations about my motives in writing Against the Modern World that are to be found in various places on the Internet are without foundation. I'm just a historian doing the job of a historian to the best of my ability.

More important is Mr Hórvath's statement that "expressing the references to Hungary numerically, it transpires that out of 21 pieces of information 13 are false." He should know! I once emailed him and asked for corrections, but got no reply. I now renew my appeal, to him or to anyone else! I do not know Hungarian, and so could put only a little in my book about Traditionalism in Hungary, but it seems to be important, and it would be good to know more.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dugin accused of "terrorism"--update

Since yesterday's post, the ESM have denied the allegations of involvement with explosives brought against them by the Ukrainian SBU. See «Евразийцы» объявили найденную СБУ взрывчатку «провокацией кровавого режима».

As one comment on yesterday's post suggested, it is possible that "someone - either the Ukrainian security service or the Ukrainian nationalists - was trying to [frame] the ESM."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dugin accused of "terrorism"

Alexander Dugin's Union of Eurasian Youth (Евразийский Союз Молодежи, ESM) has been accused of three acts of terrorism directed against the Ukrainian government in recent weeks.

The immediate context for this is a worsening of relations between Russia and Ukraine after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko decided in mid October to elevate the members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, active during the Second World War against both German and Soviet forces, to the status of national heroes.

  • On October 18, ESM activists climbed Mount Hoverla in the Carpathians. Mount Hoverla is Ukraine's highest mountain, and a national symbol. The ESM activists destroyed some Ukrainian monuments, unfurled the Eurasian flag, and renamed the mountain "Mount Stalin." See photos.

  • On October 30, the ESM launched attacks against the website of the Ukrainian president.

  • On November 2, the Ukrainian security service (SBU) seized explosives from a left-luggage office at Simferopol railway station. According to the SBU, ESM activists intended to use the explosives on November 4, Russia's Day of National Unity.
These ESM accepted responsibility for the first two of these "actions," and has not yet commented on the third.

The first action was described as vandalism. The second might be called either vandalism or cyberwarfare (see "Estonia and Russia: A cyber-riot," The Economist, May 10th 2007). The third, because of the presence of explosives, would probably be called terrorism.

In fact, from the perspective of terrorist theory, the distinction between vandalism and terrorism is relatively unimportant. The political objectives of the use of violence are the same, whatever the type of violence, and whether the violence is used against property or persons. Blowing people up, of course, involves playing for higher stakes than climbing mountains.

It is not known whether or not the ESM was intending to use explosives against persons, but the violence of its "actions" may be increasing and tending in that direction.
  • Escalation from vandalism against property to attacks on persons is a pattern familiar to terrorism analysts. The Baader-Meinhof gang started off by attacking a department store, for example.
  • Fully-fledged terrorist groups have been inspired by Traditionalism before, in Italy in the 1970s.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The underlying dynamic of our era (and questions of responsibility)

In a piece published in 2006 that I have only just read, Arthur Versluis asserts that the "battle between modernism and anti-modernism . . . really is the underlying dynamic of our era." This is one context in which he places Traditionalism.

A bold claim? So it might seem... But then, perhaps he is not actually going too far. A Traditionalist would certainly agree with him. And for non-Traditionalists, what about this? "Antimodernism," writes Versluis, "despite its darker manifestations, also has a bright side that is fundamental to the creative impulse in modernity. What contemporary creative work worth its salt does not reflect the tension between modernity and its critique?" Indeed!

That's the more interesting part of this post. Now for a word on the context in which Versluis makes these comments--a review of my Against the Modern World, published in Esoterica 8 (2006), pp. 184-88 (the whole volume may be downloaded). The review is not always favorable, and makes two criticisms that others have also made, one of which is--I think--more justified that the other. Since both criticisms have been made before, I will use this post to respond.

The first criticism is that the book has relatively little on Traditionalist ideas, as opposed to groups and individuals. That was the result of a deliberate decision I made when writing the book--though the consensus since seems to be that it was not the right decision.

The second criticism is of my category of "soft" Traditionalism. The question that is normally asked is whether I have been sufficiently rigorous. Writes Versluis:
Dugin . . . almost certainly read Guénon’s Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, for example, before creating his own unique kind of anti-modernism, but I do not think Guénon would recognize himself at all in Dugin’s violent exhortations. . . The mere fact that Dugin may have read this or that work does not make such a work or its author responsible for what Dugin becomes.

There are two questions here. One of them is of how important Guénon is to Dugin. The other is of whether Guénon is responsible for Dugin. These two questions are separate.
  • The importance of Guénon to Dugin can be discussed, and in fact I did discuss it in more depth in some additional material I prepared for the (forthcoming and currently delayed) Russian translation of Against the Modern World. In short, yes, Guénon was and is important to Dugin, and to the others who I identify as "soft" Traditionalists. To go over all the evidence for each one again would take a lot of space, however.
  • Whether Guénon is responsible for Dugin is a different sort of question. Was Marx responsible for what Stalin became? Was François Guizot responsible for what Marx made of his ideas? Was Guizot resposible for starvation in the Ukraine? No--causation and responsibility do not work that way. Stalin, however, can hardly be discussed without reference to Marx, and Marx would have developed different ideas without Guizot.

Versluis has another reason for disliking my category of "soft" Traditionalism, one that has not come up before, and one that provided the immediate context for his comments on the dynamic of our era, quoted above:

One might read the book (wrongly, I trust) as asserting that one can and ought to hunt for signs of indebtedness to Traditionalism in influential authors from Eliade and Scholem to Raine or to Charles, Prince of Wales—and that such signs mark these individuals as being somehow outside the rationalist-empiricist pale. But we don’t need more heretic-hunting of any kind.

Versluis knows about heretic-hunting. He is, after all, the author of The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)--a book that, incidentally, has a favorable endorsement from me on the back cover.

Well, yes, I do think Eliade was indebted to Traditionalism, and Charles, Prince of Wales, as well. Not Scholem--I never said that. Not Raine, either--similar sources to Guénon's, as I said in Against the Modern World, but not Guénon himself.

Whether being a Traditionalist, hard or soft, places one outside the rationalist-empiricist pale depends on how that pale is drawn. And how that pale is to be drawn is perhaps--to borrow from Versluis's phrase--one of the central questions of our era. If the pale is drawn very tightly, then yes, Eliade and Guénon, and also Raine and Herman Hesse and Doris Lessing, are all outside it. Along, perhaps, with anyone who goes to church, reads the astrology column in their daily newspaper, or writes poetry. And some have indeed tried to draw the pale very tightly--too tightly, to judge from the current very general reaction against such definitions.

There is always a risk of heretic-hunting, I agree. It happened to Eliade in old age (I actually defend Eliade's memory against many of the charges brought against him). It was to avoid the risk of heretic-hunting that almost no scholars who are still making their careers are identified as Traditionalists in Against the Modern World. But then again, I think it is possible to go too far the other way. I will take the example of esotericism in general. For two centuries, scholars have kept quiet about the esoteric interests of a a staggering array of modern heroes. That is one reason why esoteric interests have not been seen as respectable. If it were better known how common such interests were, could they remain so unrespectable?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Волшебная Гора online

Just found: Волшебная Гора (Magic Mountain) online!

This is the most serious Russian Traditionalist journal. It follows more or less the lines generally taken by Traditionalism elsewhere in the world, not the unusual lines developed in Russia by Alexander Dugin.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Novel on the Soviet Occult

Recommended reading: Константин Серебров, Один шаг в зазеркалье (One step to the Looking Glass). A novel, but a well informed one, about the Soviet occult underground.
Note: in the original version of this post, both the author's surname and the title of the book were incorrect! Many thanks to the informant who corrected me...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Traditionalism and globalization

I ended an article published in 2003 "Vestlig sufisme og traditionalisme,"* by saying that "Traditionalism seems to benefit from globalization." A correspondent in Georgia wrote to question this, arguing that since globalization was the negation of tradition, this could not be the case. An interesting discussion followed.
  • What I mean by Traditionalism is acceptance of the main ideas found in the work of Guénon and others, i.e. the attempt to safeguard or recover a certain conception of tradition. What my correspondent meant by traditionalism was the success of such an attempt, or of a similar attempt.

  • What I meant by globalization was the changes that have happened so far. What my correspondent meant was something like an attempt to adjust the entire globe to current mainstream American norms.

Conclusion: indeed, the success of a project to adjust the globe to American norms would certainly mean the extinction of local traditions, and the defeat of Traditionalism. However, in the absence of its complete success, the perception of such a project--whether it really exists or not--engenders resistance to it, and one form that resistance can take is Traditionalism.

It seems to me that one reason for enthusiasm for Traditionalism in countries such as Georgia (and--more frequently--Russia) is precisely this: perception of a threatening project of globalization, a perception that is strengthened by the changes that have already taken place.

* In Den gamle nyreligiøsitet, Vestens glemte kulturarv, ed. Mette Buchardt and Pia Böwadt (Copenhagen: Anis, 2003), pp. 139-51. No, they don't generally read Danish in Georgia, but there is an English translation of the article.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Traditionalism fading somewhat from the Boutchichiyya

A correspondent has brought me up to date on the Boutchichiyya in France.

The Boutchichiyya is the Moroccan tariqa that is not Traditionalist, but includes among its followers many former and/or semi-Traditionalists, especially in France.

Its most notable semi-Traditionalist member is Professor Faouzi Skali, the creator of the Fes Festival of world sacred music and the author of several books, most notably La voie soufie. Skali is the tariqa's representative in France, but is now less involved, and with this--and as the tariqa is growing--it is becoming somewhat less Traditionalist.


  • The Boutchichiyya now has five groups in Paris and other groups (defined as over four people) in twelve French provincial cities.*

  • Separate groups without Western converts or Traditionalists have come into being. First, in the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil, is a group based around shaykh Hamza’s grandson, Mounir al-Boutchich, who lives there. Then there are non-Western groups alongside the Western groups in Avignon and Marseilles. There is also a purely non-Western group in Vauvert (near Nîmes).

  • Although there are still plenty of Traditionalists, often former Freemasons, in the Western groups, new arrivals are generally moving away from Traditionalist ideas towards the approach of the non-Western groups.

  • Some of Skali's ventures have ceased, including the Rencontres Méditerranéenes sur le Soufisme, the magazine Soufisme d’Orient et d’Occident, and Le Derviche, a tea shop in Marseilles.

  • Soufisme.org is still going strong. Check it for news of coming events in France.

* The twelve provincial cities are Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Bayonne, Bordeaux, Lyons, Marseilles, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice, Strasbourg, Toulouse, and Vauvert (near Nîmes).

Change of name and change of address

The Thomas Merton Foundation, which I recommended for further information on Thomas Merton (see chapter 8 of Against the Modern World) has changed its name to The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living.

The new address of their website is www.mertoninstitute.org

Traditionalism in Turkey

A colleague tells me that Guénon is read with approval by many Nurcus--the followers of Said Nursi. A good fit, I think.

The same colleague also questions my view, expressed in Against the Modern World, that Traditionalism in Turkey is not political. On the contrary, he argues, it has major political implications as a voice against Western culture. This must be right--this is the role that everyone is agreed Traditionalism played in Iran before the revolution, so it could hardly not be the case in Turkey too.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Eurasia on RU Tube!

Alexander Dugin's associates have once again shown their considerable media talents. A number of excellent video clips are available on Ru Tube (not to be confused with YouTube!). Excellent photography, and some very interesting music. A few clashes with the police, some speeches by Dugin, outings in the woods... essential viewing, actually. Try the classic style, and the postmodern style. Also visit Eurasia TV.

Italian scholar visits Guénon's tomb

Another pilgrimage to Guénon's tomb... this time, by Massimo Introvigne (see photo), the director of CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions, one of the leading bodies in the field.

In his account of his visit (in French), Intovigne gives a mobile phone number for those looking for the tomb (+ 20 12 375 6109). But since phone numbers in Egypt change quite frequently, if this doesn't work, see an earlier post on the subject here.

The account also has some good photos.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Opportunity in Amsterdam

There's a "PhD position" going in Western Esotericism at the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. This sort of position is the specialty of certain European countries--instead of the student paying the university to do a PhD, the university pays the student!

Since "the research proposal will focus on a relevant topic in the period from the Enlightenment (18th century) to the present," something related to Traditionalism might be acceptable. Potential applicants see the job ad.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New peer-reviewed Traditionalist journal

Dr Timothy Scott of La Trobe University (Bendigo, Australia) has just announced the creation of a "a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal in the field of Traditional Philosophy and Religious Studies," called The Eye of the Heart.

The announcement of this journal was carried by the ListServ of the Section for the study of Islam of the American Academy of Religion--the #1 body for academics teaching about Islam in US universities, to which many non-American academics also belong.

It's interesting to see further signs of Traditionalist activity in Australia, but it's especially interesting that the journal is peer-reviewed. There are two points about peer-review. One is that it improves the quality of articles. The other is that it gives respectability in university circles. Academics have to report their activities to university administrators, and in this context a peer-reviewed article counts for a lot more than one that is not peer-reviewed. The journal, then, is both a sign of Traditionalism gaining (or attempting to gain) respectability in mainstream academic life, and of Traditionalism "coming out." For years, many academics have been in some sense Traditionalists, but have usually kept this to themselves.

However, the editors have given themselves a let-out. According to the Call for Articles, "articles that do not fit the academic criteria for peer-review but are deemed of value will be published under a non peer-reviewed category."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tavener on the eternal feminine

During June (sorry it's taken me a month to mention it), several newspapers published reports of the premieres of "The Beautiful Names," a setting of the 99 names of God by the leading Maryami musician, Sir John Tavener. The piece was commissioned by the Prince of Wales, and performed in London at Westminster Cathedral, and then in Istanbul at Agia Eirene (see picture).

Among all the press coverage, almost the only article to note a Traditionalist element was in The Economist, which mentioned "a school of thought which maintains that all rigorously followed religious traditions somehow converge at the 'summit.'" No other report got even that far--save for The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins.

Higgins dug deeper, and in a fascinating interview (June 11, 2007) Tavener refers to a vision he once had of Frithjof Schuon and explains about the transcendent unity of religions and the kali yuga (though he doesn't use the terms). Most interesting, however, is what he has to say about "the eternal feminine."

After telling Higgins about "a visionary to whom the Virgin Mary would appear, always naked" (the visionary's name is not given, but it can only have been Schuon), Tavener remarked:

I think our society at the moment - because I am a great critic of modernism - is very masculine-oriented, and the art I see and hear around me has gone beyond masculinity, it doesn't even possess the dignity of being masculine any longer. It is very aggressive and violent. And the feminine dimension is what everyone could do with having a good dose of.
This is somewhat closer to Aristasia than most Maryamis . . .

He added:

Even the prophet Mohammed said that the things that were most pleasing to him in this world were women and perfumes. I think women actually have that effect on me. Every woman I have known has actually deepened my spiritual awareness. Even if I have been a selfish man and treated them badly.

Dances in Bloomington

A correspondent has drawn my attention to what looks like a must-read article that I have so far missed, Hugh Urban's "A Dance of Masks: The Esoteric Ethics of Frithjof Schuon," (in Crossing Boundaries: Essays on the Ethical Status of Mysticism, G. William Barnard and Jeffrey J. Kripal, eds, New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2002, pp.406-40).

According to the introduction, Hugh Urban examines the most controversial of the Maryami practices in Bloomington--dances involving "sacred nudity."

The introduction says,


Urban not only analyzes the symbolism of this ritual and its purported links with the Sun Dance of the Sioux, but also discusses how Schuon legitimized this unorthodox ritual behavior by distinguishing between the exoteric, conventional level of ordinary understanding and morality, and the esoteric, transmoral level of knowledge and action granted to those who have been initiated into a higher Truth.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New Romanian Traditionalist of interest

Marco Toti, in his paper on "La globalisation du ”traditionalisme”. Quelques tendances de la philosophia perennis (États-Unis, Roumanie, Italie)" (given at the CESNUR conference in Bordeaux, June 7-9, 2007) has drawn attention to a previously unnoticed Romanian Traditionalist, or at least semi-Traditionalist, Andre Scrima (1925-2000).

In his youth Scrima was a member of Rugul Aprins, a group of Romanian monks and laymen considered by Michel Vâlsan to be an authentic form of Christian esoterism. Later, Scrima attended the Second Vatican Council as an observer on behalf of Archbishop Athenagoras of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church.

Toti's main source is E. Montanari, La fatica del cuore. Saggio sull’ascesi esicasta (Milan, 2003), pp. 117-128. He is publishing an article, "Morfologia religiosa ed ermeneutica nel "Padre Spirituale" di A. Scrima," in Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 74, no. 1 (2008).

Comments welcome: Marco Toti, marco76toti@yahoo.it

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Russian text archive

A new Russian website with some useful text archives (if you want to read in Russian), which also reminds us that there are Russian Traditionalists other than those who follow Dugin. The owner of this site, Maxim Trefan, follows Haydar Jamal (see photo), and so the selection of texts is especially interesting.

Pride of place goes to тексты Юлиуса Эволы (that is, texts of Evola). Then there's a large Eliade section. Less usual Traditionalist authors include Haydar Jamal (of course), Eliade, and Nukhaev (one text only). Savitri Devi also features.

The collection of texts on Islam includes Schuon and Nasr, of course, but also some non-Traditionalists, including Henri Corbin and (in English) two academic colleagues of mine, Bernd Radtke and Knut Vikor. However, there is no Guénon (!).

Oddities include David Irving and Gustave Le Bon's The Crowd (1895), a book that was extremely influential in its time and is still quite readable, but which I have never before seen in a Traditionalist context.

There's also a music section, available in English, which gives some of Trefan's own music--which is not metal.

Note: You may have to remind your browser that you want to view text encoded in KOI8-R.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Upcoming conference in Tübingen

A conference to be held in Tübingen, Germany, July 19-22, may be of interest.

The title of the conference is "Constructing Tradition: Means and Myths of Transmission in Western Esotericism." "Tradition" as used here has a rather broader meaning than it does for Traditionalists, but even so provides one context in which Traditionalism may be situated.

There will also be some papers that deal explicitly with Traditionalism. Eduard ten Houten will give a paper on "Hanific Traditionalism and the Chechen Exceptionalist Discourse."

Two established authorities on Traditionalism feature on the program, though I'm not 100% sure what the subjects of their papers will be: Jean Pierre Laurant (authority on Guénon, giving a paper on "The Myth of the Esoteric Transmission in the 19th Century: The History of a Transformation") and Hans-Thomas Hakl (authority on Evola, giving a paper on "Die römische Tradition").

Also of interest for general context: Christine Maillard ("Ex oriente lux: Zur Funktion Indiens und zum Indienbild in Texten der abendländischen esoterischen Tradition ") and Mark Sedgwick ("Sufis as Mythic Bearers of Esoteric Tradition").

A pdf version of the full program is available online.

I think this should be a very good conference, but I must declare an interest: this is the inaugural conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, a new learned society with which I am personally involved.

Interesting Traditionalist publisher & bookseller in Europe

My attention has just been drawn to Integral Tradition Publishing, a website that offers a full range of Traditionalist works priced in euros.

It has also started publishing some books itself--the first being Metaphysics of War: Battle, Victory & Death in the World of Tradition, a collection of essays by Evola in which "Evola selects specific examples from the Aryan and Islamic traditions to demonstrate how traditionalists can prepare themselves to experience wars in a way that could allow them to transcend the limited possibilities of life in our materialistic age, entering the world of heroism."'

Integral Tradition Publishing is also of interest because it has a Scandinavian section.

Monday, June 18, 2007

New addresses for Aristasia

It has been pointed out that the addresses I gave for Aristasian websites in the Catalog of Contemporary Traditionalism are no longer working. This is not an isolated problem--the Catalog needs so much time to maintain properly that I may soon have to give up on it.

Anyhow, the main Aristasian address is now www.aristasia.co.uk. Enjoy! And note that sections of the key Aristasian text, The Feminine Universe, are available online.

Traditionalism in Poland

I do not know Polish, and have never been aware of any significant Traditionalist activity in Poland. However, there is a Polish journal, Reakcjonista, as well as a Polish text archive of the writings of Julius Evola. There is also a discussion group, Regnum Forum, which currently seems inactive.


To judge from its table of contents, Reakcjonista is following a formula also used elsewhere--classic Traditionalist texts by Guénon and Evola (especially Evola), with other texts by contemporary local Traditionalists, especially Marek Rostkowski.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Main bands for Scene Traditionalism

A correspondent, Eduard ten Houten, has been kind enough to supply some more information on Neo-Folk Music Scene Traditionalism.

First, there's an article well worth reading (if you know German): Nordolf, "Der Ruf nach den alten Göttern: Zum Zusammenhang zwischen Neuheidentum, europäischem Erbe und Gothic / Avantgarde Musik" (Calling on the Old Gods: Links between Neopaganism, European Heritage, and Gothic/Avantgarde Music). Nordolf traces the interest of these bands in Evola through figures such as Ernst Jünger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ezra Pound, Corneliu Codreanu, and Karl Maria Wiligut.


Then, even if you don't know German, the article ends with a long list of CDs that looks pretty comprehensive to me. Elsewhere, Qvirinvs provides a shorter list of purely Traditionalist[ic?] bands. Given the emphasis on Evola, it is not a great surprise that many of these are Italian:

  • Ain Soph *#
  • Apud Inferos
  • Camerata Mediolanese *
  • Extreme Spite Wing
  • Hirpus
  • Janus
  • Mors Summa
  • Thronus Abyss
  • Viking

Bands with a * featured on the classic compilation CD, Cavalcare la tigre -
Julius Evola: Centenary
.

Bands with a # are ones whose names seem to me (very impressionalistically, provisionally, and unscientifically) to be the most notable and/or interesting.

I've given only links that I know--the absence of a link does not mean there is no website.

Next in importance as a region comes Germany/Austria

  • Allerseelen * (Austria)
  • Orplid * (German)
  • Turbund Sturmwerk (Austria)
  • Von Thronstahl *# (German)
Then there's America (Alraune,* Blood Axis,*# and Waldteufel*), Scandinavia (Gemeinschaft, Green Army Fraction, and Weisse Rose), Great Britain (Death in June,# Herr, and Sol Invictus#), Hungary (Actus, and Scivias*#), Switzerland (Der Arbeiter, and Gibroaltar), and finally France (Lonsai Maikov *) and Argentina (Argentum).

Note: Sol Invictus # isn't on Qvirinvs's list--I'm not sure why.

Finally, here are some lyrics from Ain Soph's Kshatriya:

Die Treue ist stärker als Feuer
Sich erheben, auferstehen
Eine Form und eine Ordnung schaffen
Aufrecht durch die Ruinen
Den schwersten Weg auswählen
Unseren Mut in Metall gießen
Endlich wiedergeboren durch das Blut
Stark durch unsere Ehre
Kshatriya

Source: Nordolf's article.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Kremlin defends Dugin

An indication of what the Kremlin thinks of Alexander Dugin: On June 5, 2007, Dugin was banned from entry into Ukraine (where he was to attend a conference) and deported back to Russia. In honored tit-for-tat style, Russia immediately banned and deported a Ukrainian--Mykola Zhulinsky, a presidential aide. According to the International Herald Tribune, Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Russian ambassador to the Ukraine, explained that this was "in response to Ukraine's treatment of Dugin."

Of course, Ukraine and Russia are not on the best of terms anyhow right now, but it is striking that the Kremlin ranks Dugin with a presidential aide.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Blog!

June 14 is this Blog's first birthday, but I'll be traveling on that day and so will post the birthday message in advance.

The graph below shows visits and page views since the blog was started. Last month (May 2007), for example, 686 visitors viewed 1,505 pages between them.

Most of these visitors came from Europe and North America. The map below shows only the last 100 visitors, but is fairly typical.

(Hello Libreville, Gabon, if you are reading this!)

All these details are kindly provided by Sitemeter. Don't worry--all it reveals to me is your location and sometimes your ISP, and how many pages you looked at--no more.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Traditionalists and traditionalists

I have always made a distinction between Traditionalists (initial upper case, those who are inspired by Guénon and others discussed on this Blog) and traditionalists (initial lower case, those who emphasize tradition in a sense other than that in which Guénon used it). But sometimes there is a link between the two.

One example is Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, the director of the Zaytuna Institute, described by The Guardian as "arguably the west's most influential Islamic scholar," and by an irreverent American Muslim blogger as "the great goeteed demi-god of traditional Islam."

Hamza Yusuf is a fan of Martin Lings. He was a festured speaker at the Celebration of the Life and Writings of Dr Martin Lings held in London in February 2006, and recommends Lings's book Muhammad and (I am told) Charles Le Gai Eaton's Islam and the Destiny of Man. Seyyed Hossein Nasr returns the compliment, endorsing Hamza Yusuf's journal Seasons.

Does this mean Hamza Yusuf is in some sense a Traditionalist (upper case)? I think not. He doesn't recommend "hard" Traditionalist books--but he does recommend Ali Shariati. As well as being endorsed by Nasr, Seasons is also endorsed by John L. Esposito of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.

Conclusion (and disagree in a comment if you wish): Hamza Yusuf's enthusiasm for Martin Lings shows how certain aspects of Traditionalism have passed into the general culture, and no more.

Another well-regarded "traditional" Muslim scholar is Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller. In 1996, Keller took issue with perennialism in "On the validity of all religions in the thought of ibn Al-'Arabi and Emir 'Abd al-Qadir: A letter to `Abd al-Matin." He was explictly critical of a view that
has waited for fourteen centuries of Islamic scholarship down to the present century to be first promulgated in Cairo in the 1930s by the French convert to Islam Rene Guenon, and later by his student Frithjof Schuon and writers under him. Who else said it before? And if no one did, and everyone else considers it kufr, on what basis should it be accepted?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Music Scene Traditionalism

A whole area of Traditionalism that was not dealt with in my Against the Modern World is the intersection between Traditionalism and various music scenes, especially various forms of neo-folk and metal music. For want of a better term, in this post I will refer to Scene Traditionalism.

To discuss Scene Traditionalism adequately would take an entire article, which I am not yet in a position to write. Some mention of it in this blog is, however, long overdue. It is one of the most important and fastest growing forms of Traditionalism in the West today.

Scene Traditionalism is more European than American, and has a certain Northern European and Scandinavian emphasis. It is generally musical, Traditionalist, and neo-pagan; it is sometimes also political, in which case it will be rightist.

One typical figure is an American, Michael Moynihan (born 1969). Moynihan is the musician who established the band Blood Axis. He is also an editor of the Traditionalist journal Tyr: Myth—Culture—Tradition, and a member of the neo-pagan Tribe of The Wulfings.

Another typical band is Sol Invictus, based in England. Their first ever release, in 1987, was entitled Against the Modern World(!).

Neither Blood Axis nor Sol Invictus is well known. The Swedish group Therion, however, is well known--though their debt to Traditionalism is less clear. One track on their recent album Gothic Kabbalah is entitled "Perennial Sophia," but its lyrics would hardly have appealed to Guénon.

One immediate question about Scene Traditionalism is how serious it is: are they really Traditionalists, or do they just use Traditionalism as part of a strategy of deliberate transgression? Moynihan's journal Tyr is certainly serious, but that does not mean the whole scene is seriously Traditionalist.

A starting bibliography would include:
  • Stephen McNallen, "Three Decades of the Ásatrú Revival in America" Tyr 2 (2003-04), pp. 202-220.
  • Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind, Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground (Los Angeles: Feral House; London: Turnaround, 2003).

Savitri Devi and Traditionalism

Dr Greg Johnson has pointed out that there is more of a connection between Savitri Devi and Traditionalism than I thought.

Savitri Devi Mukherji (1905-82, born Maximine Portaz) is a key figure for what is often called "Esoteric Nazism," and was the subject of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism by (New York: New York University Press, 1998).

Savitri's admiration for Guénon is especially evident in her Souveniers et réflexions d'une Aryenne (written between 1968 and 1971), in which she quotes approvingly from five of Guénon's books, as well as from Evola's Chevaucher le tigre.

Souveniers et réflexions d'une Aryenne is is available in PDF format from the excellent Savitri Devi Archive.

Another connection: the Savitri Devi Archive is maintained by Gabriella, a 17-year-old devotee of Ásatrú and metal music as well as Savitri. See my post on Scene Traditionalism.

The books from which Savitri quotes are: Orient et Occident, L’ésotérisme de Dante, Symboles fondamentaux de la Science sacrée, Le Roi du Monde, and Le Théosophisme.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Guénon and Daumal

I've just found an excellent book for those interested in Guénon's impact on French artistic circles, specifically René Daumal's Le grand jeu group and André Breton and the Surrealists.

The book is Kathleen Ferrick Rosenblatt, René Daumal: The Life and Work of a Mystic Guide (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999; 252 pages, ISBN 0791436330).

René Daumal (1908-44) started with Guénon and ended with Gurdjieff. Ferrick Rosenblatt sensitively examines the points where Daumal and Guénon coincided, and where they (and Breton) differed, placing this in the context of the Fremch artistic milieu. Though she is evidentl herself engaged and sometimes reveals her sympathies, the book satisfies normal scholarly requirements--as well as being very readable. Strongly recommended, and available from the traditionalists.org bookstore.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mr Putin is not Stalin?

"Mr Putin is not Stalin," observed The Economist in its report on the supression of the Other Russia demonstration in Moscow on April 14, 2007. Even so, The Economist felt, "the brutal suppression of peaceful protests" showed that "the ruthless paranoiacs who run Russia are utterly unfettered in what they choose to do." A similar line was taken by most Western newspapers, and by some Western politicians.

Little noticed was the role played by Edward Limonov and the National Bolshevik Party (NBP). The Economist did mention him by name ("Eduard Limonov, the leader of another banned organization, was arrested") but did not identify the organization in question--understandably, perhaps, since naming it would have some required rather complicated explanations.

Almost the only publication to examine the significance of Limonov's participation was The National Interest, commenting on a news report in The Washington Post:
In their April 18 article . . . both the text and the photographs present a highly misleading picture. The photographs show Garry Kasparov appealing to the menacing-looking police officers. It also shows the police in anti-riot gear overwhelming a long-haired, bespectacled young man. Talking about the organizers of the marches, [the Washington Post correspondent] refers to Garry Kasparov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov—and nobody else. He does not mention at all that another organizer—and a key ally of Mr. Kasparov and Mr. Kasyanov—was Eduard Limonov, leader of the nationalist and militantly anti-American outlawed National Bolshevik Party. As the photographs accompanying this article show . . . a significant, and the most assertive, part of the demonstrators marched under the Nazi-style banners of the National Bolshevik Party. . . And some of the demonstrators did not just march. . . In a number of instances they also attacked the police.
A summary of recent events:

  • In 2004, the NBP staged an audacious anti-Putin protest/provocation, breaking in to the presidential visitors' room in the Kremlin.
  • In 2005, the registration of the NBP was cancelled by the Supreme Court.
  • During 2006, the NBP staged several more protests, including entering the Finance Ministry, "throwing leaflets and demanding that bank deposits lost in the turbulent 1990s be returned to their owners" and "trying to enter the State Duma building to attend a parliamentary session, citing the Constitution, which says parliamentary sessions are open to the public" (quotes from Novosti). Limonov's sense of humor is evident.
  • On March 3, 2007, the NBP participated in the Other Russia protests in St Petersburg, allegedly attacking police officers. Limonov said afterwards that "the activists of the National Bolshevik Party have fully justified our hopes. They really were on March 3 the avant-garde’s strike battalion, a hot shell, in all confrontations the first and most militant" (quote from The National Interest).
  • On April 14, 2007, the NBP participated in the Moscow protest, police reactions to which might well (as the National Interest alone suggested) have been in anticipation not of the likely behavior of a former chess champion and a former prime minister, but in anticipation of the likely behavior of the NBP.
  • On April 26, 2007, the Moscow City Court declared the NBP an "extremist organization" (a decision which, according to Gazeta, was announced in the government-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta before it was announced in court!). This decision renders members of the NBP subject to a fine of 200,000 rubles or two years in prison merely for belonging to the NBP.
  • On April 28, 2007, Limonov announced he planned a further march.

Although the NBP's provocatons achieved little during its earlier, semi-Traditionalist, anti-Yeltsin phase, then, they seem to be rather effective during its current phase.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Second edition of Against the Modern World NOT coming soon

I've made a couple of references to a second edition of Against the Modern World, and Bob has just posted a comment asking if it will be available in English before too long.

The answer, I'm afraid, is that there are no immediate plans for a second edition in English. For now, it is available in Serbian, and should soon be available in Russian. That's it.

The main differences between the first and second editions are that
  1. errata (noted here) have been fixed, and many of the addenda (noted here and in some early entries to this blog) have been added in to the main text.

  2. the sections dealing with Russia have been entirely rewritten. Chapter 12 has become two chapters, and sections of chapter 13 are different. Some of the extra material concerned will be made available in English in stand-alone scholarly articles; when this happens, I'll announce it here.

Sorry, Bob!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Traditionalism in Israel

A visitor to this blog recently wondered about the possibility of Traditionalism in Israel.

What we find in Israel is not exactly Traditionalism, but more a local version of Dugin's Eurasianism: ЗА РОДИНУ [Za Rodinu]/Be’ad Artzeinu [To our homeland], headed by Rabbi Avraam Shmulevich and--to some extent--by Avigdor Eskin. Both are Israeli citizens of Russian origin, and both were in Moscow for the founding congress of the Eurasia Movement.

Be’ad Artzeinu has a website, www.zarodinu.org, which is mostly in Russian, but also has a Hebrew section and a small English section. Rabbi Shmulevich also has a blog, avrom.livejournal.com.

Avigdor Eskin has a blog, avigdor-eskin.com.

The more famous of the two is Eskin, who responded to the Oslo Accords by laying a death curse (pulsa d’nura or "lashes of fire") on Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin in 1995. This curse is believed generally to work within a period of 30 days. Thirty-two days after Eskin’s curse, Rabin was shot dead by Yigal Amir (neither a Traditionalist nor of Russian origin, but rather a student from Herzliya), and as a result, in 1997 Eskin was sentenced to four months in prison for incitement.

I wrote in the second edition of Against the Modern World:

Be’ad Artzeinu claims several hundred members, mostly of Russian origin. Its leader, Shmulevich, describes himself as "Hyperzionist," regarding the earlier Zionism that led to the creation of the State of Israel as obsolete, a view that is held by many Israelis—Israel, after all, now clearly exists, and Zionism has thus fulfilled its goal. Few Israelis, however, would agree with the ideology that Shmulevich proposes to replace the original Zionism of the founders of the State. Israel, according to Shmulevich, has a global mission: to lead the way into the twenty-first century, molding it as—he contends—Jews such as Marx, Einstein and Freud molded the twentieth century. As a first step, Israel must not only defeat proposals for a Palestinian state and the threat of Islamism, but go on to expand her control to cover the entire Middle East from the Nile to the Euphrates. This control need not be military: the techniques of economic and social control suggested in the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion would do equally well. As a second step, Israel must "reinstate the most primal layer of Tradition [that of Adam, the first Hyperzionist], but any such reinstatement would be also based on fusion with the most modern tendencies found in a post-industrial society."

Although Be’ad Artzeinu is suspected of violent actions against Arabs in the "occupied" territories, it admits only (with one exception) to non-violent protests, though it also admits that its ultimate aim is revolution within Israel to replace the current political class with Hyperzionists. Its protests are colorful: the Hyperzionists wear red shirts and march in ordered ranks, led by a sheepdog called Fritz, who on one occasion ate a salami-laced cabbage painted as the head of Yasser Arafat.

Israeli journalists have suggested to Shmulevich that such paramilitary attire might appear reminiscent of groups such as Hitler’s SA, to which Shumelvich replies (correctly) that it was not only the SA that used such techniques, but also Betar, the youth movement of Revisionist Zionism, the ultimate origin of the present Likud party. Also, he explains, "Revolution has to inspire, not to bore. You have to know how to spread an idea. The uniform and the provocations are parts of the marketing; the wrappings around the goods have to attract attention." Much the same might be said of the NBP and of many of Dugin’s own activities.

Eskin and Shmulevich’s participation in a Eurasia Movement that aims to embrace much of the Islamic world is paradoxical. The alliance with Islam was clearly not the element of neo-Eurasianism that appealed to them. What did appeal was the anti-American elements in neo-Eurasianism, which fit well with many settlers’ view of their own government as betraying them, the Jewish people, and Zionism, under American pressure. Shmulevich’s explanation of this betrayal was the "process of subordination of the political elite to Western influence," against which neo-Eurasianism struggles.

Shmulevich and Eskin are more neo-Eurasianists than Traditionalists, and there is no evidence that Eskin has ever read Guénon. Even their neo-Eurasianism is a consequence rather than a cause of their other activities—Eskin’s stance preceded the development of neo-Eurasianism, and his first known political activity was in 1979, when, at age 19, he and three other young settlers were arrested for breaking into Palestinian houses in Hebron, where they "overturned furniture and assaulted inhabitants." Three years later, in 1981, Eskin was again arrested, this time during a protest in front of the Soviet Airline Aeroflot’s offices in New York, and charged with "rioting, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and attempted criminal mischief."

Monday, April 09, 2007

"Minor Rally In Central Moscow"

Alexander Dugin's first major "anti-Orange" action was something of a disappointment--for Dugin, at least.

"Nationalists Stage Minor Rally In Central Moscow," was the RadioFreeEurope headline. When announcing the rally in mid-March, Dugin spoke of 1,500 marchers (as against the 5,000 anti-Putin marchers who turned out in St Petersburg at the start of March). In the event he gathered only 600-700 (Moscow Times/Kommersant) or 400 (Associated Press, printed in The Herald Tribune), and they were not even allowed to march. Worse still, according to the Moscow Times, "Several participants . . . said they . . . had come to Moscow because they had been offered a free bus ride."

This disappointment is not surprising. As I wrote in the second edition of Against the Modern World (so far published only in Serbian):
Another reason for predicting little final significance for the Anti-Orange Youth Front is that Dugin’s other ventures into practical politics (the early NBP and the Eurasia Party) were never of much significance, and were certainly far less significant than his intellectual interventions (the ideological cement for the Red-to-Brown alliance, and then the Eurasia Movement itself). Dugin himself seems to accept this. When asked why, in that case, he persisted in such ventures, he responded that he had "never abdicated from concrete politics" and that it was necessary to "try to put into practice things that are impossible to put into practice" as a demonstration of faith, since intellectual activity is related to being.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Russian Traditionalism started with Gurdjieff

A recent interview has revealed more details about the origins of Russian Traditionalism in the 1960s: it all started with Gurdjieff.

In chapter 12 of Against the Modern World, I wrote "The attention of Yevgeny Golovin, a Russian poet known only to the circle of dissident or ‘independent’ intellectuals he led, was drawn to . . . Traditionalist writers in 1962 or 1963." Later in the chapter, I wrote that "the closest Golovin's circle came to action was that occasionally they would become very drunk," and mentioned Vladimir Stepanov as "a graduate of the Moscow Institute of Philosophy who belonged to Golovin's circle."

Later research has revealed that I got this somewhat wrong:

  • As I have already written in the revised version of chapter 12 (already published in Serbian and forthcoming in Russian), Vladimir Stepanov was the leader of a circle to which Golovin belonged, not the other way round.
  • It has now become clear that this circle did, in fact, follow a spiritual path: the "Fourth Way" of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff.
Arkady Rovner, who met Stepanov in 1964, explained (interview, Berlin, March 12, 2007) that Stepanov’s interests during the 1960s and early 1970s were principally in Gurdjieff, whose Fourth Way he had encountered in the Lenin Library via a book by Peter D. Ouspensky. Stepanov, Golovin, Haydar Jamal, Yuri Mamleyev and Rovner were among those who for a few years "almost lived" in the Lenin Library, not only reading but also eating and–above all–talking there. They formed a small and very close Gurdjieff group–or, Rovner insists, a "company," as its members were "too individualist" to form a group. They tried hard to do Gurdjieff’s Work, and were in contact with John G. Bennett (and hence, later, with Idries Shah and Robert Graves). Aspiring members of the Gurdjieff "company" were required to pass tests, such as wearing, for one week, one black and one brown shoe. If you read Russian, there is a paper on this by Rovner, "ГУРДЖИЕВСКОЕ ДВИЖЕНИЕ В РОССИИ 1960-х и 1970- ВОСПОМИНАНИЯ И РЕФЛЕКСИИ УЧАСТНИКА."

Rovner left the Soviet Union for the United States slightly before Mamleyev did, in 1973. At that point, the company had no interest in Evola–but did have some interest in Guénon, principally for the sake of the idea of the perennial tradition, which gave them a universalist perspective they could advance against what they saw as the more narrowly dogmatic and Orthodox ideas of people like Valentin Nikitin.

The development of an interest in Evola, then, started after 1973, and involved (especially) Golovin and Jamal–and Alexander Dugin encountered Traditionalism through an offshoot of what had originally been a Gurdjieff group.

Dugin (interview, Moscow, January 2006) recalled Golovin’s bateau ivre, discussed in the revised version of chapter 12. The name refers to Arthur Rimbaud’s poem, but may well also be a development of Stepanov’s Gurdjieffian "ship of fools." This may be a reference to Gurdjieff’s "toast to the idiots," or may be something else: see
here.

Rovner is, since 2001, director of the Institute for Cultivation of Inner States (ICIS) in Moscow, the activities of which are inspired not only by Gurdjieff but also by Traditionalism.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dugin to the rescue?

It is now 18 months since, in September 2005, Alexander Dugin announced the creation of an Anti-Orange Youth Front to help save Russia from a repeat of the Ukraine's Orange Revolution. No Orange Revolution seems immanent in Russia, but on March 3, 2007 an extra-parliamentary opposition organization, Those Who Disagree, did hold a march in St Petersburg that gathered some 5,000 anti-Putin protestors and made national television news. Among the organizers of this protest march was Dugin's former National Bolshevik colleague, Edward Limonov. Read the Komersant report.

Dugin has now announced a pro-Putin counter-march, for April 14, 2007, to be held in Moscow. According to Komersant, he expects to bring together only 1,500 marchers--rather fewer than gathered in St Petersburg. Dugin's marchers will come from the Eurasian Youth Union, the National Bolshevik Front (fomer National Bolsheviks who defected from Limonov to Dugin), and two Ukrainian groups, the Russian Bloc, and the Ukrainian Labor Conference. Guest of honor are to include Alexander Prokhanov, Maxim Kalashnikov, and Mikhail Leontyev.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Dugin and Soviet Civilization

When thinking about Dugin and today's Russia in general, have you ever wondered
if or how far today’s rejection of the rational and reference to irrational and antirational sources represents a radical break with the rational past of Soviet society or to what extent it represents a continuation of the anti-rational reaction to it, and thus a continuation or an intensification of elements in Soviet civilization?

This is the question asked by Professor Birgit Menzel of the University of Mainz, which a number of scholars will be trying to answer at the European Academy, Berlin, from Sunday 11 March to Tuesday 13 March. If you can't make it to Grunewald, the papers are at present available online--and include one in which I will argue that Dugin's Euasianism is more of a continuation of Soviet civilization than a break with it.


The Occult in 20th Century Russia / Оккультизм в России:
Metaphysical Roots of Soviet Civilization

Sunday, 11 March 2007–Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Organized by
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde, 'Russian and East European Culture' working group
in cooperation with
The Harriman Institute/Columbia University

75% of Russians agree with Dugin... at least, up to a point

Some interesting results from a poll conducted jointly by the EU-Russia Centre and the Levada Centre, "Voices from Russia: Society, Democracy, Europe."
  • 75% of Russians consider Russia to be Eurasian (rather than Western or Eastern).
  • 42% of Russians now see Western democracy and culture as either unsuitable (30%) or as positively destructive (12%)--up from 35% in 2000.
  • 15% of Russians see Western European countries as "potential aggressors united by the NATO military bloc" or as "implementers of US policy on the Eurasian continent."
  • 10% of Russians see Western European countries as "centers of cultural and historical values," and 10% of Russians (not necessarily the same 10%) see Russia as Western rather than as Eurasian or Eastern.

The poll covered "a representative profile of the Russian population and socio-demographic mix," among Russians aged over 18 in 130 locations in 46 regions.



Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Prince Charles again

I have been asked to announce a new Yahoo group, the Radical Traditionalists of England. This group, previously known as 'The Social Credit League' [?], at present has six members, who

call for the restoration of true monarchy in England. We look to and take inspiration from HRH Prince Charles, a philosopher king in waiting, and support our Prince in his battles with the forces of wrongness. We see him as the natural heir to the Stuart monarchy, a Stuart in spirit and somewhat in blood. And so we wish for the return of the national arrangements in these islands that existed under the Stuarts where England, Scotland and Ireland sat as independent nations with the same King. We are not Catholic revivalists; we welcome Englishmen of all faiths including Muslims, but we are Perennialists and hope for an England returned to spiritual values, a diverse spirituality profound enough to connect through to the primal religion...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Finding Guénon's tomb


Since I've had a number of enquiries about how to find Guénon's tomb, here are the directions:
  1. Cross Salah Salem from the Azhar to the Northern Cemetery, the Qarafa al Kubra, also known as "the city of the dead."
  2. Look on the left for the mausoleum of the Tawil family (see photo), which is easily identifiable.
  3. Go through the small archway in front of the Tawil mausoleum, and ask someone for the tomb of Shaykh Abd al-Wahid Yahya. It is nearby.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Several new articles in French

Les Éditions du CERF in Paris have just published a new collection of articles, Études d'histoire de l'ésotérisme : Mélanges offerts à Jean-Pierre Laurant pour son soixante-dixième anniversaire, edited by Jean-Pierre Brach and Jérôme Rousse-Lacordaire.

First, we should all wish a happy seventieth birthday to Jean-Pierre Laurant, who started the academic study of Traditionalism in 1971 with the publication of his article on "Le problème de René Guénon" in the Revue de l'histoire des religions.

Second, eight articles in the collection deal with Traditionalism:
  • André Coyné, "René Guénon et Alain Daniélou"
  • Hans Thomas Hakl, "Julius Évola et l'histoire comparée des religions"
  • Philippe Faure, "Regards ésotériques sur les anges, de Méliton de Sardes à René Guénon"
  • Roger Dachez, "René Guénon et les origines de la franc-maçonnerie : les limites d'un regard"
  • Michel Bouvier, "Mystique de l'âge d'or et État dans la pensée politique traditionaliste"
  • David Gattegno, "L'écriture de René Guénon : une aumône des principes à la contingence"
  • Xavier Accart, "'Against the fall of night' : Louis Pauwels face à l'œuvre de René Guénon"

There's also an article by me, "Quelques sources du XVIIIe siècle du pluralisme religieux inclusif," which adds a new aspect to the deep background to Guénon's work.

ISBN 9782204082105. 464 pages. €49.

Friday, February 02, 2007

More French Traditionalists of importance

According to Dalil Boubakeur, interviewed by Abd al-Haqq Guiderdoni in a 2004 documentary on Guénon, "General de Gaulle was a personal admirer of Guénonian thought."

This is the first I've heard of it, but Boubakeur is not the sort of person to make baseless claims. De Gaulle certainly knew, and by all accounts valued, Henri Hartung, who was a Traditionalist and might have introduced him to Guénon.

Boubakeur is the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, and in 2003 was elected president of the Conseil français du culte musulman, the body created by the French state to represent France's Muslims. His re-election to this post in 2005 was controversial, and according to some he now has more supporters in the French government than among the Muslims he is meant to represent. Even so, on the basis of the size of France's Muslim population (something like 6 million), Boubakeur remains technically the leading Muslim in the European Union.

In Guiderdoni's documentary, Boubakeur (b 1940) describes himself as a "disciple" of Guénon, and then corrects himself "because he [Guénon] did not like the word 'disciple.'" He remembers long discussions with Michel Valsan (d 1974), the former disciple of Frithjof Schuon who established an independent and orthodox Alawiyya in Paris, and with other French Traditionalists of the period.

Not as remarkable as de Gaulle, perhaps, but still remarkable.