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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guénon and Agarttha

Just published: Marco Baistrocchi, "Agarttha: A Guénonian Manipulation?" Theosophical History, Occasional Papers, vol. 12. This is a translation by Joscelyn Godwin of three articles originally published in Italian in Politica Romana in the 1990s, by an Italian diplomat. An "engaged" author rather than a scholarly one, but still worth reading.

The whole question of Agarttha and Guénon's Le roi du monde (The King of the World, 1927) is puzzling. In Le roi du monde, Guénon endorsed views about the existence of "Agarttha," a hidden subterranean initiatic kingdom, that were highly imaginative. Guénon did not always check his sources as painstakingly as is required in academia, but on no other occasion did he devote so much energy to something quite so unlikely. Why?

Baistrocchi provides a useful introduction to, and summary of, the problem. He also more or less excludes one possible answer to the question. Guénon can hardly have actually believed the imaginative accounts he endorsed in Le roi du monde. He knew, as Baistrocchi shows (p. 22 and passim), one of the main sources for the imaginative account of Agarttha, Louis Jacolliot's Les Fils de Dieu (1873). But...  Jacolliot was writing not about Agarttha, but about Asgard, the abode of the Norse gods!

So what was Guénon up to? Baistrocchi's suggestion, that Guénon was joining in a conspiracy to combat the interest in Asiatic religion awakened by the Theosophical Society for the sake of maintaining public interest in Catholicism and Islam, seems to me unlikely.

The puzzle, then, still awaits solution. But at least one possibility now seems to have been excluded.

9 comments:

Uroboros said...

Guenon had several sources for his claims about Agarttha.

In "The King of the World", Guenon quotes Ferdinand Osendovski, who (in the book "Beasts, humans and gods") writes about the King of the world, hidden in the underground kingdom Agarttha.

Maybe first to bring idea of kingdom hidden in Himalayas to Europe is Saint-Yves d'Alveydre ("Mission de l'Inde") and it is most likely that Guenon knew about Saint-Yves work.

Mark Sedgwick said...

Yes. And according to Baistrocchi, Guénon also knew Jacolliot's work, and Jacolliot was a mis-used source for the other sources, and would therefore normally have made Guénon question them. That is the essence of Baistrocchi's argument.

Julianus said...

I'm fairly certain that Guenon was serious about Agarttha. No matter how much he tried to deny it (and no matter how uncomfortable it makes his followers) Guenon remained essentially an occultist all his life. For another example, see his many references to what are plainly old-fashioned Secret Chiefs in Perspectives on Initiation.

Anonymous said...

See: Mircea A. Tamas, Agarttha: The Invisible Center

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Baistrocchi cannot be trusted. If the name "Agarttha" is replaced with "Earthly Paradise" all the discussions are futile, aren't they? Even today in India the idea of the center gradually disappearing underground is alive. An occultist Guenon is much easier to accept, but no matter how uncomfortable it makes the "traditionalists," he was no such thing. Hitler used the swastika sign; are the today Hindu temples, which have the same sign at their entrance, nazi buildings? The majority of the Hindu worshipers, who are common people, have no idea who Hitler was. Only an arrogant "ego" is ready to accept this confusion about occultism and Guenon.

Charles Baatz said...

I am not sure I understand the expression "a hidden subterranean initiatic kingdom." What an "initiatic kingdom" could be? Guenon never said such a nonsense; and, of course, if subterranean, it is hidden.... And "highly imaginative"?
I think a more serious understanding of various myths, legends and fairy tales from various countries would help to see that this problem has nothing to do with "imagination." On the other hand, if the "imagination" is accepted as a factor or the source for myths, etc., then it is not possible to talk about tradition, and even "traditionalism," and this blog should have a different name.
And, we insist, it is highly unprofessional to use the word "initiatic" in such a curious way, ignoring its real meaning.

adhar said...

Guénon states in this book that he has *other* sources than those that he uses as merely means of exposition... You can think for yourself what this might mean. "Secret Chiefs" or shall we not rather say "Unknown Superiors" are "old-fashioned", certainly, older than occultism to be sure...

Anonymous said...

"The King of the World" does not necessarily affirm the historical existence of a subterranean community that lives in a series of tunnels connecting all the continents of the Earth. Agarttha is more important as a symbol for the spiritual center of the world, the place of divine manifestation on Earth that is the fount of all spirituality (not unlike Guenon's Primordial Tradition). "The question as to where the 'supreme country' was actually situated has been left to one side until now ... because it has been peripheral to the point of view we wished to express," (Ch. 11); "Should its setting in a definite location now imply that this is literally so, or is it only a symbol, or is it both at the same time? The simple answer is that both geographical and historical facts possess a symbolic validity that in no way detracts from their being facts, but that actually, beyond this obvious reality, gives them a higher significance," (Ch. 12). In other words, the actual existence of Agarttha is secondary next to the principle it supposedly represents. Not taking a definitive stance on a specific geographic location for Agarttha might be seen as somewhat of a cop-out, though as usual Guenon is not particularly interested in historical actualities but rather symbolic realities. Still, certainly one of Guenon's strangest works.

Anonymous said...

Hardly strange.

Guenon was no lucid madman.

Guenon was a metaphysician of the forgotten meta-logic (ontological, cosmogonic and cosmological in nature, for lack of better words) underlying "exoteric" religiosity.

Guenon clearly said whether "Agarttha" existed in the dismal pedestrian sense at the current epoch precisely was immaterial. Guenon engages the realm of the PRINCIPIAL.

The accidental sensationalist happening was only the occasion for Guenon to attempt to try to point out the HIGHER meaning of such things... (His words, uncomprehended.)

~And to those who are immersed in the outer encrustations of things, missing the point, focusing on the contingent, on "empiricist, peer-reviewed" consensual-reality truth (truth is truth only if ratified by our modern clerisy!), a hint: Agarttha is a name with many variations. The Ur-Aryan/proto-Indo-European root signifies "fortress; stronghold; metaphorically extended, barrier against chaos/entropy"...

To the contingent: Do you think it a random meaningless coincidence Aryavarta/"Iran" had as its ancient capitol, "PASARGARDAE"...? Related geographic designations abound in those regions during the time... Do you think the Nordic-Germanic "ASGARD" is unrelated to these matters? Phonetics change -- the meaning is clear, whether PASARGARDAE, AGARTHA, AGHART(T)(H)A, ASGARTHA, ASGARD, ASGAARD, etc.

Pure metaphysics, of Arctic ontological crystallinity, as Guenon exposits, moderns simply cannot understand...